The Overwatch League Countdown Cup hero pools have just been announced and, needless to say, there’s a lot of disappointment in the air. The following four heroes will be removed from play for both the qualifiers and the tournament itself: Ashe, Echo, Sigma, and Lúcio.
The biggest problem with hero pools is that they often end up being counterproductive — they limit creativity and truly inhibit teams from experimenting. They make competitive Overwatch noticeably less exciting to watch, and the viewership numbers prove it, too. Moreover, these are randomized bans which means that Blizzard isn’t targeting any part of the meta specifically; it’s all RNG.
As if that wasn’t enough, heroes like D.Va, Winston, and Wrecking Ball have all seen a lot more play lately. Heck, they’ve been omnipresent. It would make a lot more sense to remove one of them from the equation rather than Sigma, who also happens to be a semi-niche crutch pick for many Western teams. They’ll now almost surely revert back to standard dive comps, whereas APAC teams will still utilize Wrecking Ball whenever and wherever possible.
For some, their most potent strats have now been wholly neutralized. For others, nothing has changed whatsoever.
You cannot usher in a new kind of “micro-meta” (for just a single tournament) without carefully and conscientiously banning out specific heroes. A randomized approach to banning doesn’t make any sense whatsoever as it doesn’t always address the most prevalent picks — the ones that invariably make competitive play a bit too stale.
If the goal is to encourage experimentation, then Overwatch League hero pools also need to last a bit longer than just the Countdown Cup; there’s so much at stake so it should come as no surprise that few are the teams that are willing to theorycraft and risk losing on both money and League Points.
It’s not all doom and gloom, of course, but even if this new meta ends up being a bit more exciting than expected, it’ll still become boring to watch. The reason why is quite simple: once OWL teams realize what the best and most optimal way of playing the game is (in accordance to these bans) they’ll invariably end up picking the exact same mirrored team comps so as to stand the highest chance of emerging victorious.
In any case, we won’t have to wait long to find out whether our assessment is correct or not as the Countdown Cup is scheduled to begin on July 30 with the global tournament taking place on August 19—21! The full schedule can already be viewed on the official website, so make sure to give it a look!