OWL Grand Finals Meta Preview
As is their custom, Blizzard introduced sweeping changes to the Overwatch League meta in the 2020 playoff patch. The patch instituted hefty nerfs to barrier characters like Orisa, Sigma, and Brigitte, and brought some buffs to Pharah and Zenyatta. The changes caused a significant shift in the Overwatch hero meta. Orisa, who previously enjoyed a significant role, was essentially eliminated. The new meta is dominated by Winston and Roadhog centric compositions, with only occasional appearances from more traditional barrier compositions.
Although there is some overlap between team strategies, there is also a decent amount of diversity in how the top four teams have gone about preparing for this playoff meta. As a result, we can expect an interesting and complex clash of strategies from the four teams scheduled to compete in the Overwatch League Grand Finals weekend on October 8th.
Winston Dive compositions continue to headline the meta
Although all the teams have shown off a variety of looks, Winston dive is by far the most popular strategy in the playoff meta thus far. Winston dive compositions have been the dominant strategy for the Dragons, Shock, and Fusion throughout their playoff runs thus far, leaving out only Seoul who we will talk about later. The prominence of this composition is likely due, in part, to the fact that these teams have been practicing and playing with the Winston dive composition throughout the latter part of the 2020 season. They are already warmed up on it, and earned their high seeds in the playoffs using it.
The playoff version of the Winston dive composition is slightly different from the dive composition which dominated the second half of the 2020 season. The tank line consists of Winston and either D.Va, Sigma, or Zarya. The most popular version is still the traditional Winston and D.Va, but the specific off tank selection is much more flexible than it was earlier in the year. The typical support core for Winston dive remains Lucio and Moira, but some teams have substituted in Mercy and Zenyatta for their backline. But it’s the DPS who are paired with the dive that have changed the most from the regular season. Instead of the typical Genji/Tracer, the playoff dive meta favors variations of Tracer/Ashe, Hanzo/Widowmaker, and Reaper/Sombra.
The Dragons showed a heavy preference for this dive strategy during their playoff matches thus far. During their match against the New York Excelsior, Dragons almost exclusively relied on Winston dive compositions to pull off a 3-1 victory. In their next match, they tried the dive against Seoul, but Seoul’s strategy was too good a counter, forcing Shanghai to eventually switch to another comp.
Shanghai is likely to run the Winston dive composition because it capitalizes on their players’ strengths. Eui-Seok “Fearless” Lee has been absolutely dominant on Winston in the APAC region all year and Jun-woo “Void” Kang is widely considered to be one of the most flexible off tank players in the league. On top of that, the viability of a double sniper DPS line in this strategy is a big advantage for Dragons, since both Jae-won “LIP” Lee and Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim are both world class snipers.
San Francisco is in a similar boat to Dragons. Winston dive is a composition they have practiced for many hours and already have established their specific strategies for. One key distinction between Shock and the other teams who are running Winston dive is that they have been known to run a Mercy and Zenyatta backline with their dive compositions. Running this support line is a puzzling decision since most dive compositions are built to take advantage of Lucio’s speed boost. Another unique aspect to Shock’s dive composition is their preference for putting Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon on Tracer, when the other teams are running Sombra.
Last but not least, Philadelphia Fusion leaned heavily on the Winston dive strategy in their run to the Grand Finals weekend and are likely to continue to use it in the upcoming competition. Fusion’s dive strategy is very strong, both because Su-min “SADO” Kim is an incredible Winston and because Hee-Su “Heesu” Jeong and Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee are so deadly while playing Sombra and Reaper. You can bet that the Fusion will be pulling out all the stops with this dive strategy in pursuit of their first championship next weekend.
The Seoul Special brings Roadhog into the mix
Seoul has excelled during the 2020 playoffs, due in no small part to their mastery of the new metagame. Despite entering the APAC playoffs as a relatively low #5 seed, Dynasty were able to sweep three out of four of their playoff matches to advance to the final four. They accomplished this impressive feat by theorycrafting The Seoul Special, an offbeat Roadhog centric composition which has proven to be nearly unstoppable. The composition is so strong, in fact, that Shanghai was forced to mirror it in order to defeat Dynasty in the APAC Winners Bracket grand finals.
The Seoul Special relies primarily on a Roadhog/Sigma tankline to set up and finish teamfights. The double off-tank set up is backed with a Mercy and Ana support line, who are both considered main healers. While Seoul plays this strategy almost exclusively with a Mercy/Ana backline, Fusion opted for a Mercy/Zenyatta support line when they used this strategy against Justice. Popular DPS picks in this composition include Reaper/Sombra, Pharah/Sombra, Pharah/Widowmaker, and various versions of double sniper.
This strategy is Seoul’s best bet to win the Finals for a few different reasons. Most notably, it moves Jae-hee “Gesture” Hong off the main tank role, which he has struggled with throughout the 2020 season. Moving Gesture to Roadhog has made a huge difference in Dynasty’s in-game performance. When Gesture’s Roadhog meshes correctly with Min-seo “Marve1” Hwang’s top tier Sigma, Seoul’s unconventional strategy counters dive compositions quite nicely because the tankline is capable of high burst damage and has bountiful access to stuns. When you add Joon-yeong “Profit” Park’s legendary Pharah to the mix, you have a dangerous combination on your hands, a combination that is very hard to overcome by using the gradual damage abilities of Winston or D.Va.
Shanghai very nearly lost to the Seoul Special in the Winners Finals against Dynasty. In the end, the only thing that saved them was mirroring the strategy themselves. This speaks to the powerful nature of the composition. Coming into the final weekend of the 2020 Overwatch League season, teams will either need to learn how to make their dive strategies work against Seoul’s outlandish strat, or they too may have to mirror the composition to stay alive in the playoffs.
Fusion was the only North American team to test out Seoul’s composition for themselves. While using the strategy, they accomplished a 3-0 sweep over the Justice in the NA Losers Bracket Final. Up until that point, Justice looked pretty unstoppable running their own offbeat Zarya/Roadhog composition which was centered on Gui-un “Decay” Jang’s elite Zarya play. Philadelphia was able to defeat Washington’s composition with relative ease using the Seoul Special.
Considering how dominant both Seoul and Philly looked on this comp, we can definitely expect to see more of this strategy from both teams Finals weekend. Seoul in particular is unlikely to stray from the strategy they invented, since it is by far the strongest composition they have run all year.
Although the two major strategies we can expect to see during the Grand Finals weekend are the Winston Dive and variations on Seoul’s Roadhog composition, there are some other strategies which are also bound to show up here and there.
Although Shock haven’t run Seoul’s version of a Roadhog composition, they have shown proficiency in two different Roadhog centric compositions of their own. They paired Hyo-bin “ChoiHyoBin” Choi’s Roadhog with both Zarya and D.Va at various points. Shock’s Zarya/Roadhog combination was a mirror of Washingtons’ aggressive playoff composition, and featured a Mercy/Ana support line with a Widow/Sombra DPS line. They also showed off a Roadhog/D.Va composition which featured an Echo on DPS, but they are unlikely to play it again, since their results were more impressive using the Justice off-tank composition. Of course, it is also entirely possible that San Francisco will adopt Dynasty’s Roadhog strategy.
Reinhardt/Zarya compositions are generally out of the meta, but the classic Overwatch strategy is still viable on a few maps, including Lingjang Tower and Havana. The current version of this composition features Mei on DPS and Lucio on Support. Shock subbed in Matt “super” Delisi to play his specialty main tank Reinhardt against Washington Justice in the third round of the NA playoffs, while Dragon’s pulled this strategy out against Seoul in the final map of the APAC winners final. It is probably that we will continue to see this strategy utilized situationally during the Grand Finals by multiple teams.
The final major composition we can expect to see in the Grand Finals weekend in Seoul’s Hammond/Roadhog strategy. This is the alternate strategy Seoul has been using when a map requires a dive composition. While Winston dive is the dominant dive strategy for the other teams, Dynasty has insisted on running Marve1 on Hammond, rather than take the risk of moving Gesture back onto the Winston maintank role. Luckily for Seoul, Wrecking Ball is a decent option in the current low-barrier meta.
With three or four high quality compositions to choose from, the Overwatch League playoff meta is quite diverse this year. All the teams have already shown a preference for dive and roadhog compositions, but there is so much variation even within those strategies. It will be interesting to see what strategic decisions these four teams make while the 2020 Overwatch League championship hangs in the balance.