In two weeks, Hero Pools will arrive in the Overwatch League and bring some much-needed chaos.
The feature, which will also begin in Overwatch’s competitive mode on March 5, will effectively “ban” four heroes from play each weekend. One tank hero, one support hero, and two DPS heroes will be disabled per weekend beginning March 7.
While competitive Overwatch’s Hero Pools will be decided by the developer team each week, Overwatch League’s “bans” will affect the most-played heroes of the past two weekends. Using official Overwatch League data provided through the Stats Lab, we can easily predict which heroes are most likely to get the banhammer. The official list of disabled heroes will be announced on the Watchpoint Post-show on March 1.
The data table provided by the Stats Lab shows the most-played heroes of the past two weeks of competition. This specific data represents all heroes played by all teams in the league. While there’s still another weekend of play that will feed into this data, the usage statistics are extremely unlikely to change, especially for tanks and supports.
D.Va will most likely be the first tank disabled using Hero Pools with a whopping 95.3 percent play rate over the past few weeks. While Reinhardt is creeping up in the data pool with 88.7 percent, the two heroes are often played together. No other tanks come anywhere close to the play rate of these two heroes.
As far as support heroes are concerned, Lúcio is likely to feel the brunt of Hero Pools. He has an extraordinarily high play rate of 90.8 percent, second only to D.Va. Ana, however, is nipping at his speedy feet with an 88.4 percent play rate. Again, the two heroes are often played together, so the data should keep steady.
Since two DPS heroes are disabled with Hero Pools, this one is much easier to call. Mei and McCree are overwhelmingly the most-played heroes of the season so far. Mei has been played in 86.8 percent of matches in the past two weeks, so players are probably ready to be free of her Blizzard. McCree has shown up in 66 percent of matches. The next closest DPS hero is Reaper at a mere 8.3 percent playtime, so Mei and McCree are definitely getting the boot.
The addition of Hero Pools creates another problem for Overwatch League teams to solve. Each week, they’ll have to develop new strategies that don’t revolve around heroes that have carried them through previous matches. The first round of Hero Pools, which will affect the Washington Justice homestand on March 7, may be extremely difficult for teams as they try to adjust.
Damage is the easiest adjustment many teams will make. While Mei has been an overwhelmingly popular choice by Overwatch League teams, they’ll have to make do with another hero that can stop or stun enemies. Doomfist or Sombra could make a return in her place. McCree, as a mid-range pseudo-sniper, could be replaced by Hanzo or even Reaper. With many more damage heroes to work with, teams have a much bigger cushion in this regard.
Tank and support adjustments will vary widely since they affect different player roles. If D.Va is banned, off-tank players will have to pick up another hero or step aside to allow double main tank compositions. We’ll most likely see Reinhardt with another tank hero, like Sigma or Orisa. If Reinhardt is banned, that creates a much more interesting problem. Orisa or Sigma are obvious replacements, but teams could go full off-tank and play D.Va alongside Wrecking Ball or Roadhog.
The same issue arises in the support role. Lúcio is exclusively used by main support players, who will likely replace him with another high-output healer like Moira or Mercy. Both replacement options lack the aggression and environmental kill potential of Lúcio, so main supports may seem more passive after March 7. Ana is played by flex supports, who might bring out Zenyatta to replace her. Brigitte, however, has seen a surprising amount of playtime and could be extremely popular after Hero Pools begins.
Overall, teams will likely have to focus on a more sniper or dive-based strategy after Mei and possibly Lúcio are disabled for a week. Right now, teams are relying on Mei’s primary fire and Ice Wall to isolate enemies and eliminate them. Teams benefit from a Lúcio pushing those enemies towards the rest of the team. Without those two, and especially without a Reinhardt, we may see a meta that pushes for individual eliminations from snipers or flanking DPS.
These Hero Pool changes go into effect March 7 at the Washington Justice’s second homestand of the year.