Heading in, Stage 2’s main attraction was a massive balance patch—1.34, which both introduced Overwatch’s newest hero Baptiste and took a massive swipe at elements of the popular triple-tank, triple-support lineup. Now that I have a week’s worth of juicy Overwatch League data, it’s time to see how big of an effect the release of Baptiste had on the meta and on the world’s top players. It’s time to assess patch 1.34.
Let’s start super high-level by looking at pure lineup compositions. The most-used lineup in Stage 1 of 2019 was by far and away the 3-3 shell consisting of Reinhardt, Zarya, D.Va, Lúcio, Zenyatta, and Brigitte. This particular lineup was used for 58.6% of all time played last stage. However, if we unfocus our gaze to look at all 3-3 lineups—as Reinhardt was sometimes substituted for Winston or, in Chengdu’s case, Wrecking Ball—teams fielded 3-3 comps 73.2% of the time.
Fast-forward to Stage 2, where we can already see a drastic shift in the meta. 3-3 lineups were only used for 47.7% of all time played in Week 1. The second-most common lineup composition? A 3-DPS, 2-support, 1-tank comp. Overall, lineups with at least two DPS heroes accounted for just under 35% of all time played last week. We do need to accept that some of the difference is likely due to the change in map pool from Stage 1 to Stage 2, but it’s still large enough that I believe it can’t be entirely explained by that alone. Triple-triple isn’t dead, but this is a pretty good start.
The most incredible thing about this damage-dealing renaissance is that no single lineup or hero dominated the space. For example, the most common lineup that fit the 3-2-1 description was Sombra, Tracer, Widowmaker, Ana, Lúcio, and Wrecking Ball—but this lineup only saw 35 minutes of time played, or 2.4% of the total. In fact, 27 unique lineups with at least two DPS heroes were played for more than five minutes in the first week of Stage 2—and one of those even had a Symmetra. In terms of raw hero usage, it shook out according to the chart below:
To me, this reeks of a very diverse pool of map geometries, and a population of Overwatch League teams that haven’t fully figured out what the meta is yet. As these teams march deeper into the stage, I expect certain heroes to climb at the expense of others as a more concrete meta begins to crystallize around the DPS comps.
Speaking of certain heroes, let’s take a deeper dive into the actual notes of the 1.34 balance patch and see if we can “feel” the balance changes in the data. There’s one hero I want to focus on specifically here: Winston. Though he received no direct buffs, two global changes to how Overwatch works have had a noticeable effect on the hero.
From the patch notes:
Developer Comments: The damage taken by armor from damage over time effects, such as Widowmaker’s Venom Mine, and beam weapons, like Symmetra’s Photon Projector, varied greatly. Now it will be more consistent and predictable.
- Beam-type damage is now reduced by 20% when hitting armor
- Mei: Primary Fire; Moira: Alternate Fire, Coalescence; Symmetra: Primary Fire, Sentry Turret; Winston: Primary Fire; Zarya: Primary Fire
- Damage-over-time effects are no longer mitigated by armor
- Ana: Primary Fire; Ashe: Dynamite; Hanzo: Dragonstrike; Mei: Blizzard; Moira: Biotic Orb; Widowmaker: Venom Mine; Zarya: Graviton Surge
This change has a lot more to it than meets the eye. Rather than simply reducing all beam damage by 20% against armor, this more accurately reads as “beam-type damage now solely interacts with armor via a 20% reduction in damage."
What does this mean? All beam-type damage used to be reduced by armor according to the way armor interacts with all other damage: a 50% reduction if each chunk of damage was less than six, or a flat decrease of three per chunk if each chunk dealt more than six damage. For Winston, this meant an effective 50% reduction in damage output because his Tesla Cannon deals damage in chunks are all below six. This change reads like a nerf, but for Winston it was a sizeable buff. After all, 20% damage reduction is much less than 50%!
The next question is: can we see this buff in the data? Below, I’ve laid out league-average Winston stats from last stage, compared to Week 1 of this stage, and the change between the two:
|Hero damage done/10 mins||Final blows/10 mins||Avg time to ult (sec)||Ults used/10 mins|
|League avg, Stage 1||7,424.7||4.7||89.7||3.8|
|League avg, Stage 2||7,821.9||4.9||87.6||4.1|
Despite receiving no direct buffs, Winstons are doing 5.35% more damage, earning 4.58% more final blows, and reaching their ultimate 2.35% faster so far in Stage 2, relative to Stage 1. They’re even using Primal Rage 7.09% more often than last stage as well.
These may seem like small increases, but this does not take into account the large change in hero lineups being fielded, as demonstrated earlier. Over my time working with Overwatch statistics, I’ve noticed that things like hero damage and healing are affected in a large way by the hero health pools of opponents. If the targets of one’s damage-dealing ire only have 200 HP, they’re much easier to eliminate than 400–500+ HP tanks. If you eliminate a hero, you’re not doing damage to them anymore, so you’re not increasing your hero damage/10 min total. Recall that 3-3 lineups dropped from 73.2% usage in Stage 1 to 47.7% so far in Stage 2. A typical 3-3 lineup has an average of 375 health*, whereas a 2-2-2 lineup has around 300. It’s entirely possible that Winston’s damage has increased far more than 5.35%—he just has less average health pool to dump damage into.
* if you combine D.Va’s mech and pilot form
What I’m trying to say here is Winston’s damage is officially scary, without any direct changes to his kit. This change double-dips too: not only is Winston dealing more damage against armored targets, his ultimate charge remains unchanged on paper. We can see above that even with the difference in meta, Winston players are reaching Primal Rage slightly faster, using Primal Rage more, and—here’s the scarier thing: it’s much deadlier, too. Another global patch-note change reads:
Developer Comments: Knockbacks are now less affected by how the enemy was moving when they were hit. Instead of having small or large knockbacks that depend on chance, knockbacks will feel similar regardless of the enemy’s movement leading up to the knockback. Allowing flying heroes, like Mercy when using her Valkyrie ability or D.Va using her Booster ability, to be properly knocked back makes for more fluid, realistic gameplay.
- Knockback distance is now more consistent
- Heroes that are flying can now be knocked back and slowed
This change has the effect of making knockbacks more consistent, which makes juggling players easier to control for the Overwatch League’s Winston experts. While the rate of player knockbacks hasn’t changed much from patch to patch, Primal Rage has become 14.5% more deadly, averaging 2.94 final blows/10 mins in Stage 2 compared to 2.57 in Stage 1:
This increase is subject to the same “hero health” phenomenon as hero damage—200 HP heroes are far easier to eliminate with Primal Rage than tanks. However, an increase of this magnitude helps explain why Winston has usurped Reinhardt as the go-to main tank in the Stage 2 meta. Reinhardt-based 3-3 lineups generally beat Winston ones in a mirror even with these new buffs, but the matchup is closer and therefore far more subject to map-based strengths and weaknesses. For example, if you’re either attacking or defending the second point of Watchpoint: Gibraltar, you’re probably going to want to use Winston:
But if you make it past that point and begin to attack the third point, teams prefer Reinhardt because of lack of good cover from their opponent’s suppressing fire:
All of the tanky analysis to this point also has ignored the 600-pound mecha-hamster in the room: Wrecking Ball. If what the Chengdu Hunters demonstrated in the first week of Stage 2 by rolling, beaming, and rocketing their way to a 2-0 start continues to buck other teams, expect others to start trying on some orange (in more ways than one). Please, Ameng, lead us to the perfectly round future that awaits us all.
Ben "CaptainPlanet" Trautman is the statistics producer for the Overwatch League global broadcast. Follow him on Twitter!