Overwatch’s current meta seen through APEX pick data


Overwatch APEX Tournament finished its first season with the grand finals that took place on the third of December. The tournament attracted much attention from fans, being the first major league to invite top-tier domestic pros and match them against renowned Western players.

As a major tournament, it lasted for quite a long time; while APEX was still going on, Season 2 Competitive was coming to an end, which brought with it massive changes to hero balances. These changes produced new team compositions and ult combos, and adjusting to this new meta was the biggest challenge for all participating teams. Failure to adjust to the new meta resulted in a loss for certain teams, some of those being major ones that many people believed would be possible winners.

Competitive Season 3 is now live, and we have decided to go through the most picked heroes in APEX as we thought it could possibly give some insight into effective team compositions in the current season. We arranged them from most picked to least picked, represented by S rank to D rank respectively. With regards to the heroes that the players switched to during the game, we included those that they picked to keep Overtime running, but not those they picked that could not reach the objective in time.


Most picked: Reinhardt-D.Va-Roadhog’s triple tank meta followed by Ana and Lucio

Even major tweaks to hero balances could not break Ana and Lucio’s partnership. The two heroes were the most picked heroes not just among healers but also in the entire hero pool, being selected 136 times and 134 times respectively.


Ana and Lucio form a solid duo, with Ana being the primary healer with her high heals per second and Lucio being the secondary healer with his Healing Aura and Speed Boost. The two allow other heroes to maintain their pressure and firepower with solid support. Biotic Grenade prevents enemies from healing themselves, and Speed Boost allows the entire team to dive in quickly.

The two heroes’ unmatched popularity resulted in nerfing of Nano Boost and Amp It Up, but pros found their way around this nerf by Nano Boosting Soldier: 76 instead. Lucio still remained the most popular support hero as the pros preferred his Speed Boost over other buff skills.


Reinhardt followed Ana and Lucio as the third most picked hero. He remained the most popular tank since he could shield his teammates in the “poke meta” that resulted from the recent Soldier: 76 and Pharah buffs. D.Va followed as the fourth most picked after receiving buffs that allowed her to effectively shield her teammates and deal damage at the same time. Reinhardt and D.Va were a strong combination in APEX, as illustrated by EnVyUs cocco and Mickie’s ult combo in Eichenwalde. 


Roadhog tied with D.Va, as he was also picked 100 times throughout the tournament. Roadhog, despite being a tank hero constituting the triple tank meta, was frequently used as a DPS rather than tank. Those who played Roadhog were mostly DPS players like Taimou and birdring. Once Roadhog successfully Chain Hooked one of enemy heroes and produced a six vs. five matchup, the rest of the team could dive in with Lucio’s Speed Boost and initiate a teamfight right away. Roadhog posed a major threat, especially to those that would be easily solo-killed by Roadhog’s Chain Hook combo, like Lucio. For the viewers watching the tournament, seeing the Pro players land a skilled Chain Hook was a repeated highlight. 


We’re all soldiers now

Ever since the new patch went live at Playoffs, the most popular team composition became the triple tank meta, with Ana and Lucio supporting Reinhardt, D.Va, and Roadhog. The last remaining spot was filled according to what the situation called for, though most would select a DPS hero to make up for the reduced firepower of the triple tank meta.


The popularity of DPS heroes also saw much change with the new meta. Soldier: 76, the hero who was not used as frequently in the past, ranked as the sixth most played in the entire hero pool and the most played among DPS heroes. New patch had given Soldier: 76 an increased damage output that made him a more reliable DPS. HarryHook and DNCE showed remarkable Soldier: 76 plays with proficient aim and smooth tracking, showing how the old dog had become a powerful DPS character.

Soldier: 76’s rise in popularity meant that other heroes had less chance to join the battle. Other DPS heroes had a decline in pick ranking, with Tracer being picked 55 times, ranking 8th in total ranking, followed by Genji as 9th, McCree as 11th, and Reaper as 13th.

The most notable change happened to McCree, who was once popular for having good mid-range DPS; his ranking fell along with Reaper and Genji, who were heroes once popular for their Beyblade combo. Tracer, who has a somewhat higher pick rate in the group, usually came out when teams needed to keep the Overtime meter from burning out, though she was still picked often by those that main Tracer, like Bunny.


Pharah remained at 14th with 20 picks. Pharah’s buffs in the previous patch made it seem like Pharah would be used more frequently, but she was not played as much. It was fairly easy to counter her with characters like Soldier: 76, McCree, and D.Va.

Pharah did, however, have more frequent picks in Temple of Anubis, Numbani, and Nepal where the terrain offers her a more favorable condition. Recry and DNCE were able to pull off some notable Pharah plays when the conditions were right.


The least picked of the DPS heroes overall was Sombra, the new hero who had just made her grand debut at BlizzCon. She was picked only four times, and of those four picks, was only played properly once when DNCE quickly captured Point A. It seems that pros need more time to figure out how they should play with Sombra, and we are looking forward to seeing her more often in the future.

Zero Junkrat picks, and overall low pick rates among defense heroes

Defense heroes, such as snipers and turret heroes, were not so popular in general, probably because they were only favorable in very specific situations. The triple tank meta did not allow much room for DPS heroes to participate, and it seems like defense heroes had even less chances.


Among the defense heroes, Mei was played the most frequently with a total of 27 picks. Ranking 12th in overall pick rate, she was even more popular than Reaper. The new patch made it harder for her to build ult meter, but she still showed solid standing when the team had to cover certain areas. Recry showed some good plays with Mei, landing quite a good number of headshots with Icicle.


Hanzo and Widowmaker ranked 16th and 17th respectively. They were usually replaced by other heroes after the team captured Point A, but Taimou showed how far sniper heroes can go by sticking to his choice even after Point A was taken in King’s Row.


Torbjorn and Bastion were each picked once throughout the playoffs. Kruise played Torbjorn for a short time instead of Lucio in Numbani, but had to change back to Lucio after the team quickly lost Point A. Recry played Bastion once in the last game against nV, but was not able to bring about a favourable outcome, being forced to flee from Mickie’s Self-Destruct.

Symmetra also appeared once when INTERNETHULK picked her in Hollywood to defend Point A. He had to change back to Lucio after the team lost the objective, but Symmetra was still able to make some contribution to the team in the game.

Junkrat was never picked throughout the playoffs. He had already been contributing to the loss of defense heroes’ popularity before the tournament, as he only shines in select situations and had not received any notable buffs in the recent patches. It is very unlikely that Junkrat will be making any appearances in the pro scene, even in the future.


Looking back at APEX and discussing the popular meta in Season 3

The top 6 ranking heroes that received the most amount of picks in APEX form a solid team composition: Ana, Lucio, Reinhardt, D.Va, Roadhog, and Soldier: 76. This is the team composition that nV maintained all the way towards the end of tournament, and other teams struggled to deal with it. This composition is very stable, while timely and wisely used ult combinations cover up the team’s relatively low damage output. For example, nV made it easier for Mickie to get kills through Self-Destruct by combining it with cocco’s Earthshatter. A Nano Boosted Tactical Visor and Whole Hog were other effective ult combos that ripped the enemies apart.

The triple tank meta, or EnVyUs meta, looks like a strong team composition that could also work effectively in amateur Competitive Play. However, this strategy came quite abruptly along with the new balance patch and there is now room for people to be more creative, so we may be seeing some other tactics that are as effective or even better than the current meta. Symmetra’s upcoming rebuild and the new upcoming map Oasis will add other components to the competitive scene, so we are still expecting more changes to the game. Season 3 has so far reduced the gap between popular and unpopular heroes. As the game and its competitive scene grow together, we are certain to see more diversified and creative Overwatch strategies in the future.

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