Spring has sprung, and with it comes the third stage of the Overwatch League. Like each season, each stage has its own flavor—maps are rotated in, heroes are changed, and teams update their rosters. We’ve only had one week of play in Stage 3, but we’re already starting to see the effects of these changes. The main shift in strategy that I will focus on today is the Sombra rework and its effect on the league.

Prior to this change, Sombra’s role in the professional scene was often relegated to a loop of:

  • Hack a mega health pack
  • Stealth and run to the enemy’s back line
  • Harass the backline and Translocate back to the health pack

Sombra’s teammates would use the health pack on cooldown to charge her EMP as fast as possible, which often led to EMPs being used nearly every fight on some maps. On the other hand, teams rarely tried to Hack enemies outside of huge EMP plays, because it was difficult to land a Hack without being interrupted.

The February 27 patch made Sombra’s Hack ability faster and more deadly. However, this offensive buff came at a cost: Sombra would no longer gain ultimate charge from health pack healing. The dual nature of this Sombra rework has caused Overwatch League pros to change the way they approach the hero and how their teammates play around her.

Despite some teams seeming under-practiced, there were some noticeable statistical differences that stood out to me within the context of the hero change. Let’s start with her ultimate, EMP.

Stage Average Time to Charge EMP
3 88 seconds
2 75 seconds

Now that Sombra no longer gains ultimate charge from health pack healing, teams have changed their playstyle to better utilize her improved Hack ability. Look no further for evidence than the drastic drop in healing done by Sombra players from Stage 2 to Stage 3:

Stage Healing done/10 minutes
3 1,065
2 4,524

That’s a drop of more than 300%! Suffice to say, teams are definitely not huddled over health packs any more, and this has also led to a decrease in the rate of players being hit by an EMP.

Stage Enemies hit by EMP/10 mins
3 12
2 16.7

While fewer players are being affected by an EMP, the power of the ultimate itself has actually increased now that it’s gained all the benefits of the new Hack ability. In this clip, San Francisco DPS Dante “Danteh” Cruz showed us just how devastating an EMP can be in the Shock’s match against the Los Angeles Gladiators last week:

Sombra players are now enabled to be true-initiation, disabling assassins. While Sombra’s rate of EMP usage has gone down due to the slower ultimate charge time, the number of enemies Sombra players are hacking has stayed relatively constant this stage:

Stage Enemies hacked/10 mins
3 22.5
2 24

Fewer hacks from EMP—but a constant rate of hacking—means Sombra players are utilizing and landing hacks more often in the heat of battle. These “battle-hacks” have even prompted teams to shift Sombra duties to their DPS players instead of their supports, and all the better:Sombra players are now more deadly than ever:

Stage Final blows/10 mins Hero damage/10 mins
3 4.99 5,689
2 3.99 4,770

As Stage 3 progresses, it will be interesting to see which teams fully embrace and master the art of Sombra play. The new Sombra functions as both a dive and counter-dive initiator: she uses her Hack ability to disable and cripple targets—usually tanks. Perhaps, once the dust settles, Sombra’s main impact on the meta of Stage 3 will be felt in an increase of D.Va and Winston deaths.

As avid Overwatch viewers should know: “Everything can be hacked... and everyone.”

Ben "CaptainPlanet" Trautman is the statistics producer for the Overwatch League Global Broadcast. Follow him on Twitter!