Overwatch

How will hero pools impact the future of the Overwatch League?

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▲ The San Francisco Shock skins. Image via Blizzard Entertainment.


A huge announcement broke the internet a couple of Thursdays ago. Jeff Kaplan, the lead designer of Overwatch, announced several changes to Overwatch. One of those changes is rotating hero pools. Think of it like map pools rotating each season in competitive, except it is on a weekly basis with heroes. Not only are map pools rotating in competitive, but also heroes. As soon as the developer update released, Overwatch League released a blog detailing how hero pools are going to work for the league. 

An effect of rotating hero pools

 

A summary of how it is going to work is that the league has the decision (based on analytics) to make one tank, one support, and two damage heroes unavailable every week. Not only does this change the meta of Overwatch League in a huge way, but it also puts an emphasis on the general manager and coaches for every team. For example, if you have a player who specializes at a specific hero, do you sub him in for one week for a player who is an all-star caliber talent? The catch is that the all-star caliber player might not be as good with that specific hero as the sub. This is where coaches come into play. 

As a coach, you need to know how your team works with one another, how skilled each player is with certain heroes, and make high-pressure decisions like substituting players. It is a possibility to see teams like the London Spitfire surprise many people this season with former New York Excelsior coach, Hyeon-sang "Pavane" Yu, who took NYXL to multiple first-place finishes during the previous two seasons. Not only is a coach pivotal to a team's success this season, but the general manager plays a vital role as well. 

▲ New York Excelsior after a map win. Image via Robert Paul.


One role of a general manager is finding the right player to fit with the team's dynamic. Last season was a good test for GMs. If a team is struggling to work together to find wins, there is obviously some disconnect. It is up to the GMs job to work with coaches to fix those issues. Whether it is finding fresh players from free agency or Contenders or try to work with their current players in order to regain their confidence or work out some kinks in their play. San Francisco Shock's GM, Chris Chung, did an amazing job with the team's dynamic, rising from what was a mediocre inaugural season to last year's world champions. Although there is going to be more attention to GMs and coaches this season, there are possible reasons why rotating hero pools are enforced. 

The landscape of the meta


Some reasons why this change is taking place now can vary depending on who you ask. Right off the bat, a singular dominant team composition reigned supreme throughout Overwatch League last season, which was GOATS. The GOATS meta put a huge priority on teamwork and limited DPS players substantially. If you were a DPS player, there was not much you can do except either play Brigitte or try to be a flex support or off-tank player. If you were not any of the above, then riding the bench was the only option.

▲ Vancouver Titans after winning the stage championship. Image via Robert Paul.


Rotating hero pools this season allows for flexibility in the meta, where you can see dive in one week, then hitscan heroes for another. When GOATS was dominant in the Overwatch League, fans had to sit through the same matchup each week, which became stale over time. Due to the everchanging hero pool, it's possible you will also see bench players get their chance on the main stage this season, as there were not many substitutions last season because of the GOATS meta. In the long run, rotating hero pools can be a positive change for the Overwatch League. 

Change is a good thing


Many fans and analysts are skeptical about weekly hero pools due to a lack of practice time with a packed schedule as it is. On the other hand, players have mixed reactions to it. One player can address the possible issues with rotating hero pools, while others can find optimism behind rotating hero pools.

 
 
 



It is great that we are finally seeing a change in the Overwatch League. If rotating hero pools are not a thing, we would just see double shield metas every match, or Mei and Reaper to continue being a meta pick for at least half a year. Fans were already sick and tired of seeing GOATS every match last season. This is the change that the Overwatch League needs to sustain its audience and grow from there. 



Follow me on Twitter @itsjustchris for more coverage on Overwatch League and various games.

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