Someone Wrote a 71-Page Guide to the Winning 'Overwatch' Strategy Players Hate

Overwatch’s metagame, the preferred strategies among players at any given moment, ebbs and flows. Popular team compositions change as developer Blizzard Entertainment adjusts the game's balance, tweaking the different characters' power and abilities to make it fun, interesting, and fair. If players discover a certain strategy that is so strong it makes any other way to play the game not viable, Blizzard can pull some levers behind the scenes, push out a patch, perhaps "nerf" a certain ability or character, and force players into new strategies.

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There’s a concerning amount of resignation surrounding the whole thing, like there’s nothing that Blizzard can do to truly “fix” it, and the only choice is to eke out any amount of nuance left in a strategy that doesn’t have much room for interesting play-making.

To play armchair game director for a minute: I really believe they need to overhaul the existing team structure of classes. Limit healers and tanks to 1 each, shuffle around the more offense-oriented heroes into DPS (with small alterations to their kits), and make the remaining ones better able to tank/heal by themselves (Reinhardt, Mercy, and Lucio were already really good models for this).

It doesn’t even need to be something that broad, but the idea that eventually the competitive level players will stop picking the most consistently effective-but-boring strategy, is deeply misguided and it’s going to steadily eat away at the game.


Reminds me of combo decks in card games, Like Storm in Magic. An incredible skill testing deck that requires a lot of knowlege of how to play matchups and the intricasiys of your own deck. But when you watch it, its just a bunch of nothing until you either suddenly win or lose.

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given blizzard’s record with balancing their games this’ll take about 2 years to start fixing

I still point towards Dota 2 as a gold standard example of a game that avoids big round numbers in stat-tweaking, and is willing to overhaul entire systems when the common strategies become too stale.

Going from The International 4 to 5, the design team totally changed the way gold was payed out kills, once because the dominant strategy had become unstoppable early-game momentum, and then twice because games could swing too easily to one bad decision.

If you’re running a live service game and a multi-million dollar competitive tournament, you can’t get cold feet about making executive decisions about the structure of the game when things are going awry.

i’ve dropped off dota but from my chats with friends who still play it hasn’t been in a great place for a while either

I’ve thought about this a bit more, and I guess it is a little satisfying to know that consistsently balancing based on the demands of the hardcore competitive players actually isn’t good for a game’s long term lifespan or the happiness of the general player base (Where my Mercy mains at?)

No, GOATS probably won’t be the dominant meta forever, but @miscu is right that comp players will always, always, find the most surefire path to victory regardless of how dull that may be to look at

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The general playerbase of players platinum and below don’t actually ever play GOATS though. 2-2-2 (not necessarily, and actually rarely, Dive comp) is still the predominantly played composition there, and in quickplay, 4DPS is also still very common. The general playerbase don’t pay attention to what happens in GOATS and is largely oblivious to anything other than the biggest balance changes. I’ve had gold players complain that we don’t have a “main healer” (Mercy) when we had Moira and Ana already, who both currently consistently outheal Mercy.

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I can 100% understand the dev reticence to making a nerf in order to legislate some kind of change to the meta. Who knows if some outlier team has a potentially really effective counter they’ve been working on that just hasn’t clicked on an execution level yet but could get there with enough practice.

I would think where possible you would want to avoid making those people who’d invested time trying to come up with a counter feel like their time was wasted. Lest no one even bother trying to come up with a counter when the next dominant archetype emerges.

IMO an ideal meta means that if one archetype dominates, it is played and played against so much that someone will be able to assess its weaknesses and come up with a counter and the cycle renews itself without the need for intervention.

This whole GOATS thing reminds me of the sneering contempt for so-called “Chinese DOTA” from a few years back. It was just as toxic then too.

I don’t play Overwatch, and I understand game balancing is a tough perpetual process, but I do sympathize with those who get tired of seeing a very sticky meta.

I’m curious if any others feel similar and are kind of turned off by metas in general? I’m a firm believer in the ol’ “variety is the spice of life” adage, so hearing that there’s a “right” way to play in order to stand a chance in competitive play reflexively makes me wanna go against it. This is especially true for me in fighting games or games where the meta focuses on picking specific characters (so I’m guessing I wouldn’t fare well in Overwatch either).

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From what I remember, Overwatch was designed around having each team contain 2 support, 2 tank, and 2 dps. I actually think that’s a really neat approach because you’re ultimately saying “we want a meta where you can generally play as your favorite class, and each class has a role on the team”. Not that that’s perfect-- you run into issues with people canonizing who the twos have to be. But I like trying to make a particular form of variety standard

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The 2-2-2 composition that you see in public matches arise more or less due to redundancy. You want to make sure that someone on the team can still heal, or still peel/CC when someone dies.

“Dive” was a 2-2-2 composition but that had more to do with specific character synergies than anything else. D.Va and Winston are the most mobile tanks (before Wrecking Ball was a thing) and were able to just pounce on any single enemy hero who was slightly out of place, while Genji and Tracer are also mobile and can chase down anyone trying to flee. Zenyatta can heal allies without line of sight, and discord orb was also useful for quickly removing the isolated target that Winston and D.Va picked out. Mercy was always picked just for consistency of healing and mass rez when it was a thing, and was also mobile enough to be able to follow the Dive.

The initial design of Overwatch back when it first came out expected teams to have just 1 healer and 1 tank, although eventually the in-game tooltips nudged people towards 2-2-2. The “offense” and “defense” categories for the DPS heroes also never made much sense. McCree was “offense” even though his lack of mobility and ability to stun people made him a more defensive hero, and the snipers were categorised as “defense” even though in competitive play, they were almost exclusively used as wall-breakers due to their high single-target damage. Double sniper was often seen in OW League on the attackers side on some maps, particularly King’s Row. However, most players aren’t really aware of the higher level of play in any sense, and I often saw players who picked a sniper on attack being accused of “throwing” even though the competitive meta has shown that one or more snipers on attack can be extremely useful. The offense/defense classification was eventually removed and merged into one big DPS hero class, and it’s kinda funny that the current competitive meta more or less ignores the largest category of heroes.

If nothing else, having a quick ban phase before official matches would probably go a long way towards stymieing the frequency of repetitive compositions.

When a lead designer is shrugging and saying “well no one really likes any meta so buckle up”, that would be a big warning sign for the health of any competitive game.

i can’t speak with any authority on overwatch, but i do feel like competitive games benefit from constantly evolving and adding new things which disrupt strategies, even if they lead to a temporarily unbalanced meta. i’m thinking in particular about my time with netrunner, where fast advance NBN was consistently stronger than anything else, but where the constantly shifting meta meant that the individual decks and how they played never got stale.

on a more general note, i always love when big guides like this get written, because they’re such a specific cultural artifact. anything this detailed which is outdated within a few weeks of being written should be immediately preserved in a museum imo.

@superhiero speaks the truth. GOATS doesn’t even get much play in Masters and Diamond. From watching some of the more popular streamers nowadays, even GM and top 500 players don’t run it as much since the last big balance update heavily nerfed Brig. It’s only pro play where it still dominates.

I will say that being an OWL fan, I’ve watched fewer games because of GOATS and only really enjoy it when teams of equal skill clash. I miss the hero plays by DPS stars on Widow, Genji, and Tracer going off. God bless the Chengdu Hunters and Shanghai Dragons trying wild shit. But I totally understand how a composition that relies almost entirely on coordination and be successful 99.99% of the time would get played the most.

There have been rumors swirling around about forced 2-2-2 being a thing for pro and ranked play coming soon. I’m torn about it since I would love to see the end of GOATS in OWL and I would also love to never see 3-4 players in ranked insta-lock DPS, but it would certainly be the death of unexpected, innovative team comps that sometimes make “serious” Overwatch exciting. Also, it could very well just make it so OWL will just be nothing but Dive forever and ever.