Stage 3 was an upending of the status quo. Triple-tank, triple-support is dead, or at the very least, it has competition. Rather than trying to out-do the top 3-3 teams, the rest of the league looked inward to try to find new hero compositions that better fit their personnel. This period of experimentation led to the emergence of two rival hero lineups to 3-3.
The first, 3-2-1 (Brigitte, Lúcio, Zenyatta, Reinhardt, Zarya, and Sombra), was a common team composition before Stage 3, but was forcefully made relevant by the NYXL’s sudden pivot and success with the lineup. The second, SombrAna (Ana, Brigitte, Lúcio, Reinhardt, Zarya, and Sombra), became one of the league’s winningest hero compositions following Houston’s upset of San Francisco in Week 2.
What does the meta shift look like from a pure hero usage standpoint? See below:
Meta change doesn’t happen overnight, nor is change consistent or even pretty. A few 3-3 heroes declined throughout Stage 3, while Sombra and Ana’s usage climbed, but each day told a different story as each team tried to find their identity in the new meta. It was a messy process, and usage only tells one part of the story. There are reasons why teams change their approaches, and those reasons largely revolve around wins and losses. Let’s also take a look at how well these compositions performed from a teamfight win rate perspective:
This chart demonstrates teamfight win rates over time for each of the three meta compositions (3-3, 3-2-1, and SombrAna) while also showing their rise and fall in usage. 3-3 started off strong in usage but low in win rate; SombrAna was barely used at all at the beginning of the stage; and 3-2-1 was used often and was incredibly effective right off the bat.
In the first week of Stage 3, 3-2-1 looked as though it was exploiting an inefficiency in the meta. In the blue-highlighted portion of the chart, the composition averaged a 55% teamfight win rate, with a brief dip to 34% on June 8, thanks to Guangzhou and Chengdu both failing at 3-2-1 in their matches that day. This was still in Week 1, and consulting the usage rate chart, we can see that Sombra’s usage did not begin to spike across the league until Week 2, after the early successes of teams like New York and Paris.
As we move along the timeline, we see that Weeks 3 and 4 marked the time where SombrAna rose to dominance, averaging a teamfight win rate of about 54% across a two-week period by exploiting a new meta inefficiency: D.Va, or the lack thereof. Thanks to the NYXL popularizing 3-2-1 as a viable option, there was suddenly a lack of D.Va in play*, which opened the door for Ana to shine. This came to a head on June 27, where 3-3 saw its worst leaguewide teamfight win rate, thanks in part to the Shock’s devastating loss to the Hunters, who won largely with SombrAna versus the Shock’s 3-3.
* By June 20, D.Va had dropped below 50% usage.
In the final weeks of the stage, none of the three comps were used as much as when at their meta peaks, and 3-3 actually had its own teamfight win rate rebound. However, this was mostly non-playoff teams like the Reign beating up on other non-playoff teams like the Justice and Defiant.
As we look ahead to the Stage 3 Playoffs, I don’t see these three compositions as rock countering scissors countering paper, but more like three different types of a single weapon—each best-suited to different teams and different personnel. If you’re a team with a talented Sombra player, maybe you steer clear of 3-3. If you’re an amazing 3-3 team like the Shock, you can probably still do fine against 3-2-1 or SombrAna. If you have an Ana savant like the Titans or Valiant do, SombrAna might be your best hero composition.
The current meta hasn’t produced a new dominant composition. Instead, it has produced something that’s been rare in the Overwatch League: options. And I can’t wait to see which philosophy wins out this weekend.
The Stage 3 Playoffs start on Thursday, July 11, when the Outlaws take on the Titans at 6 p.m. PDT, immediately followed by a clash between the Dragons and the Excelsior. Watch all 2019 season matches live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.