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I have played Overwatch since it was first released back in 2016, and I have followed the competitive scene for just as long. I have seen the game forcibly changed time and time again to alter the stale metagames that Overwatch is prone to. Finally, almost four years later, Blizzard is giving us a reasonable solution to the problem: Hero Pools.
What led up to this?
Before we talk about Hero Pools, it’s important to understand how we got to this point. Overwatch has always moved very slowly, inching its way from one meta to the next while being driven by the competitive scene.
The community, including professional players and personalities, spoke out many times about how boring these stale metas made Overwatch. This led Blizzard to make some bold decisions regarding the game. Some of these choices were probably good, while others were decidedly not.
Perhaps Blizzard’s most notorious attempt to alter the meta happened just last year when they introduced the 2-2-2 role lock. This decision effectively killed the GOATs meta and was probably necessary to do so. At the same time, it left players sitting in queues that frequently last over 10 minutes. And it introduced yet another stale meta.
What are Hero Pools and how can they help?
Hero Pools are pretty simple to understand. As it stands right now, every week, four heroes will not be available for play. One of these heroes will be a tank hero, one will be a support hero, and the other two will be damage heroes. Currently, Blizzard plans to bring Hero Pools to both Overwatch‘s retail servers and the OWL in early March.
I believe that Hero Pools are a great solution for the stale metagames in both competitive play and the OWL. With the importance of specific heroes to team compositions and different maps, even having one hero banned will force teams to adapt.
The impact of Hero Pools will be even more noticeable in the OWL, where team compositions are typically very rigid, with little variety. Lucio, Reinhardt, and Mei saw playtime on almost every map during the 2020 OWL opening weekend. If one or two of these heroes become unavailable, we could see very different team compositions.
Hero Pools will prevent professional teams from being able to practice and perfect only one composition, like what happened with GOATs. Teams will need to prepare to play multiple heroes and compositions, and professional players who specialize in specific, less popular heroes will become more important.
Hero Pools will also help regular players like myself. Playing the game on a daily basis gets boring when each match feels the same. While this probably won’t have as much of an impact on the average player as it does the pros, it will undoubtedly spice things up. I know that I, for one, am more excited to watch OWL and play the game now than I have been in a while.