Will Overwatch’s new PTR patch change the meta?

Shield meta isn't dead, but it may morph into something quite different.

Image via Blizzard Entertainment

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Change is good, but will it be enough to uproot a stale meta?

The Overwatch developer team added a hefty patch to the game’s Public Test Realm (PTR) yesterday. Players are already hoping the patch, which includes heavy nerfs to shields from heroes like Orisa and Sigma, will change the barrier-focused state of the game. Despite extensive changes, shield heroes will still be a core part of the game.

Shield meta, but make it better 

Overwatch’s current gameplay is all about the shields. The current meta, or most popular team composition in a competitive setting, is often referred to as “shield meta” by players. Orisa and Sigma’s barriers can insulate high-damage heroes like Bastion along with healers like Moira and Baptiste, creating a “bunker” that’s hard to break. Mei, Reaper, and Pharah have become popular DPS choices because of their effectiveness against Orisa and Sigma.

The entire competitive game has, essentially, focused around breaking barriers for months. Players have been frustrated. In this newest PTR patch, Overwatch developers have made significant changes to the barriers that have plagued players.

All large shields have had their health slashed. Orisa’s Protective Barrier is down to 600 health from 900, Reinhardt’s Barrier Field has 1,600 health instead of 2,000, and Sigma’s Experimental Barrier got a huge cut to 900 health from 1,500. To many players, these changes may look like the death of the shield meta. But uprooting a meta takes more than a few health cuts.

Shield meta as we know it will be gone, but in its place will be a meta that focuses on shield heroes.   

Each of the three shield heroes received a significant buff to their personal defensive or movement abilities. Orisa can now use Fortify more often and her base armor has been increased from 200 to 250. Sigma’s Kinetic Grasp, which allows him to absorb projectiles and turn them into personal armor, has had its cooldown reduced by three seconds. He also gains 20 percent more armor from those projectiles. 

Reinhardt may now be a more viable hero after his changes. While he lacks the defensive abilities of Orisa and Sigma, he’ll now be a speedier and stronger tank hero. As he holds up his shield to protect teammates, he incurs a movement penalty. This penalty has now been halved, so Reinhardt can keep up with quicker heroes. His passive, Steadfast, allows him to ignore a percentage of knockback effects, like D.Va’s Boost. This has been increased from 30 to 50 percent. Reinhardt will be able to stand tall against nearly every effect after this change. 

What these PTR changes do is refocus players’ attention on the shield heroes instead of their barriers. Shields from Orisa, Sigma, and Reinhardt will be easier to break, but the heroes themselves will be more difficult to eliminate. Players will now have to work together to eliminate individual shield heroes instead of their barriers. 

Toronto Defiant DPS Lane “Surefour” Roberts described the new direction of the meta, as well as the thoughts of many players upon reading the PTR changes. The reliance on shields may be gone, but the presence of shield heroes is far from over. 

Moira isn’t dead yet 

Nobody gets rid of Moira that easily. The healer has been a must-pick for support players for the past few months due to her abundant healing and ability to ignore shields. Her ultimate, Coalescence, cuts right through any shield or tank hero. In response to this, Overwatch developers have nerfed her healing output. Her primary healing, Biotic Grasp, has had its healing reduced from four to 3.25 or from 80 HP per second to 65 HP per second.

This doesn’t take Moira out of the game, as much as players on social media have begged for it. Moira’s healing output may be reduced, but the fact that her ultimate and healing orbs ignore shields still makes her a viable pick. Her ability to Fade away from constricting ultimates like Mei’s Blizzard and Sigma’s Gravitic Flux will keep her here for a while. 

Other healers may come back into the fray, however. General armor damage reduction has increased from three to five, so Brigitte’s secondary abilities have become more powerful. As shields become easier to eliminate, talented Ana players will be more valuable. After a shield drops, a well-placed anti-healing grenade could eliminate an entire team. 

Small tweaks, big changes 

In the near future, DPS heroes like Mei and Reaper are unlikely to be displaced. Their ability to immobilize or eliminate large tank heroes makes them incredibly valuable, no matter how much shields change. The same can be said for Pharah and Bastion, who will now be able to break shields faster. 

Zarya, who hasn’t been seen very often in the competitive scene since Sigma came around, might be back in business. Her Particle Cannon secondary fire now does more explosive damage and costs 20 energy instead of 25. While these seem like small changes, Zarya now has the chance to fire five explosive grenades in sequence instead of four. That one extra piece of damage could finish off enemies more quickly. 

Don’t “dive” in quite yet 

Every single patch update, Overwatch players insist that “dive is back.” Classic “dive meta” relied on speed boosts from Lúcio to send in nimble heroes like Genji, Tracer, Winston, and D.Va to eliminate a specific target. As one of the most-loved metas in Overwatch history, players want it back. While we hate to be the bearer of bad news, dive probably isn’t back in vogue just yet.

Genji gets an important buff in the form of increased ammo reserves, from 24 to 30. This allows him to finish off enemies before his lengthy reload time. It’s important, but it only makes him more powerful against enemies he already counters, like Bastion and low-health healers.

Similarly, D.Va’s Defense Matrix has a lower cooldown, returned to its original 1.5 seconds from two seconds. It’s an important change, but Sigma’s Kinetic Grasp is doing the same thing with the added bonus of a shield. These heroes will be more viable in teamfights but aren’t ready to carry the DPS or tank line by themselves the way they did in dive. 

Overall, shield meta as Overwatch players know it will be over if this entire patch goes to the live servers. In its place, a meta focused on shield heroes and selective elimination of powerful targets will rise. The multitude of changes included in this PTR patch will be tested over the next few weeks and tweaked as necessary. If all goes well, this patch should be live on the Overwatch servers in two weeks.