Wednesday, June 29, 2022

3 Thoughts After 2 Weekends of OWL

There’s a lot of things to take away from the past few weekends of the Overwatch League. Most people are caught up with the shaky broadcast quality and the fact that people still don’t have access to the same game that the pros are playing. (Well, soon it will be that everyone is going to be shut out from the Overwatch 2 multiplayer beta, but that discussion is for another time.) But there are more important matters to discuss when it comes to the opening weeks of the OWL.

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The meta right now is everchanging, with a few key exceptions in the damage and support roles. The teams are finding out that Push is just as coin-flippy as 2CP at times. Viewers are still looking for !drops. There might not be enough time in this piece to break it all down, but there is time to focus on three of the most interesting bits from the start of the 2022 Overwatch League season.

Ana Is a Perma Pick, and That’s a Good Thing

Maybe people will disagree, but Ana is one of the best characters to watch at a professional level. The support role can sometimes be a boring role to spectate, especially in slower metas. Ana is vastly different from other supports in the way that she can completely reshape the fix with her basic abilities. Yes Mercy can resurrect a fallen ally and Lucio can wall ride into heaven, but they don’t bring the same type of “wow!” factor that a timely Sleep Dart or Bio-Grenade can bring to a match.

Ana is also just an incredibly fun character to watch in the hands of incredibly talented players. Getting a first-person POV of an Ana player mixing in damage shots in between healing low health allies is fascinating stuff. Viewers have seen Sleep Darts completely neuter an attack or the entire round by sleeping a Sombra mid-ultimate. Then there is her own ultimate, which allows other teammates to steal the spot light for a few seconds. Nanoboost is a fun ultimate for viewers, and an absolute nightmare for opponents.

The current meta demands a tone from a team’s Ana player. Teams need to both focus the opposing flex support while defending their own, but with Overwatch 2’s smaller team size, it becomes increasingly vital the the Ana can protect themselves. This push-and-pull of defense and offense offers a unique situation in games where multiple players are hellbent on killing the Ana player, and seeing the Ana ultimately avoid death and turn the fight around.

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With the Overwatch 2 beta, the support role was a bit of the forgotten child. DPS and tanks received some major changes, while the supports were relatively unchanged. This makes it even more impressive that Ana players can still steal the show away from all the new updates to Overwatch. For as long as Ana remains meta, there will still be plenty of highlights coming out from the back line.

Pros are Learning Overwatch 2 With Us

Competitive players love to watch the pros to see exactly what they think is the best way to play the game. Often times the ranked ladder will be dictated by the Overwatch League meta in the highest ranks. And really it makes, if it is their job to win games, wouldn’t they play the most optimal composition? If the best of the best thinks it’s good, then it hath to be the proper way to play. The funny thing about the OWL being played on Overwatch 2 is that the pros are still working through their theories in real time.

Pros have only begun playing Overwatch 2 a few months ago on the alpha version of the game. Due to it’s unpolished state, players were really only trying to get a feel of how the game would play without that 6th member of the team. Shortly there after the beta was released and teams now could really get a grip on what potential comps would succeed in a more spaced-out version of Overwatch. At the moment it feels like teams have decided on more high-tempo dive compositions to practice, but fans have already seen multiple variations of the familiar playstyle.

Teams are moving away from insta-locking dive characters on every map, and are finding success in varying their play patterns throughout matches. It’s interesting to see the different changes teams make in the small time between their first and second matches. Players and coaches are finding new ways to approach certain problems, constantly reevaluating what they believed was the proper way to play. Nothing is close to being solved this early in the year. The pros are working through it all right alongside the average player.

The Game Will Look Nothing Like This in a Month

The operative word for all of the Overwatch 2 discourse is ‘”beta”. Overwatch 2 is in its beta phase, meaning it is still undergoing changes and it is not at it’s final state. The PVP beta was created to allow the average player to experience the game first hand, and for the developers to hear feedback on what’s working and what isn’t. The game received three patches in the few weeks it was available to players, some of which came with changes to characters abilities.

Now that the beta gameplay is put on pause, the Overwatch League will be the only group playing Overwatch 2. Changes could be made behind the scenes but more likely than not the game won’t be updated for the pros for quite some time. Competitive integrity and all that.

But fans can expect that the game will change rapidly in the near future. Whether it be the constant shifting of the meta, or maybe even a new character or map, the Overwatch League won’t be the same then as it is now. APAC teams will get their change to shine this weekend, and viewers can only guess at what their localized meta will look like. For all we know, they could be pioneering some Wrecking Ball strategies the western teams were too scared to test.

Overall Overwatch is a game that always evolves. Even in the dark-times of the GOATs era, there were teams willing to give counter-strats a shot when they knew they couldn’t mirror the best teams. Overwatch playsr adapt and create new ways to gain advantages over their opponents. With a new game still in the works, viewers can only expect that something will shake up the league in a short time. Let’s all just hope it’s for the better.

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Featured image courtesy of the Overwatch League

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Follow Bryan on Twitter @esportsbrock for more updates on Overwatch, VALORANT, and the LCS

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