Season 4 in Overwatch is now live, and it’s brought the usual array of slight balance tweaks and changes with it.
But it’s actually an older nerf dating back to early January that’s having the biggest effect on Overwatch’s meta right now, while dramatic changes to Bastion haven’t quite shaken up the meta as expected.
Here’s how Overwatch’s meta is changing with Season 4:
January’s Ana nerf means ‘Triple Tank’ is dead
When Blizzard buffed Ana for the first time since her release, it took a while for the community to spot her synergy with tanks. Once they did, it gave rise to the dreaded ‘Triple Tank’ line-up.
Ana’s biotic grenade was at the heart of it all. By giving allies an immediate health boost and increasing incoming healing by 100%, Overwatch players realised Ana’s biotic grenade was a fantastic tool to keep tanks alive. Not only could tanks could survive burst damage thanks to their huge health bars but with Ana’s healing prowess, they could also survive sustained engagements from flankers. They became really hard to kill.
As an added bonus, the larger size and slower mobility of tanks meant Ana had a much easier time healing them in battle, versus skittish characters like Genji or Tracer (who were often away flanking and out of Ana’s sight anyway).
Triple Tank meant Reinhardt, Zarya, Roadhog, and Ana were almost always the first four characters picked by top teams, with often Lucio picked as the second support. Every team looked the same except for the last character slot, and even that slot often went to Soldier 76 thanks to his Ultimate’s synergy with Ana’s Nanoboost.
The meta was getting stale
Blizzard nerfed Ana’s biotic grenade back in January, reducing incoming healing by 50%, and we’re starting to see the impact now. Ana is still close to an auto-lock character for most top teams – her kit is too versatile and effective for her be dropped – but the nerfed biotic grenades means teams are no longer prioritising characters with huge health bars.
As Triple Tank has died off, this is also making other characters more viable again.
Teams are now experimenting and rolling out the likes of Widowmaker, Winston, Sombra, and others. Ana’s nerf has shuffled the meta around and no dominant line-up has emerged from the chaos yet.
Bastion is OP… or is he?
The biggest balance change for Overwatch season 4 is the buff to Bastion. Bastion was previously a niche pick whose only practical use was shredding through shields in Sentry mode. Now, incoming damage is reduced with his Ironclad passive in Sentry and Tank mode.
As an example of how this helps him, it takes five direct hits from Pharah’s rockets to kill him now rather than three. More importantly, Bastion can also heal himself on the move in Recon.
Bastion’s damage output was high but his big problem was survivability. These changes mean it’s much harder for mobile characters like Pharah or Tracer to eliminate him, as Ironclad means he has more time to react to critical damage while healing on the move means he can safely recover his health. He has almost no weakness in his current form.
Or so the theory goes.
Despite cries of Bastion being OP, and Blizzard’s own Jeff Kaplan admitting Bastion is a “little too powerful right now”, he hasn’t seen much play from top teams yet. The only tournament taking place is APEX Season 2 while EnVyUs and the top Korean teams are preparing for the Bastion meta, it doesn’t seem to have fully landed yet.
Although Bastion is currently seeing a lot of play outside of tournaments, he hasn’t proved quite as popular a tournament pick as many feared. He’s still a massive target thanks to his huge hitbox and one of the less mobile characters in the game, making him vulnerable to a coordinated team effort to eliminate him.
Jeff’s announcement is also likely to nip the Bastion meta in the bud before it fully forms, as Bastion will be nerfed sooner rather than later.
Reinhardt and Zarya are still in almost every team
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Reinhardt and Zarya have been auto-lock characters since the beginning and they’ve been left alone for Season 4. Reinhardt’s Earthshatter is arguably the best Ultimate in the game and the only practical counter for it is Reinhardt’s shield. Reinhardt’s shield is still one of the best moves in the game, allowing teams to safely poke without taking damage.
Zarya’s bubbles make her useful in all game modes while her Graviton Surge Ultimate is an incredibly powerful move, particularly for how it makes other fairly redundant Ultimates quite useful (Pharah, McCree, etc). She works with teams that want to poke and dive comps as well, where she can bubble Winston’s diving on backline support.
It’s hard to see what Blizzard can do to dislodge them from the meta, or if Blizzard even wants to. Tweaking Reinhardt’s Earthshatter could be enough to make this change happen – one of the most common community suggestions is giving his Earthshatter a start-up time players can react too, which opens up more counterplays than a Reinhardt shield.
How will Orisa change things?
Overwatch’s latest character Orisa is live on PTR. The big robot guardian has a mini-Graviton Surge in Halt!, can defend herself with Fortify, and buff allies attacks with her Supercharger Ultimate.
But the ability that will dictate Orisa’s place in Overwatch when she goes live in Competitive is her Protective Barrier, a shield she fires out that absorbs 900 points of damage. In comparison, Reinhardt’s shield absorbs 2,000 points, while Winston’s absorbs 600 and Symmetra’s absorbs 1,000.
It’s likely one of the following two things will happen:
- Orisa could replace Reinhardt in the meta, as the Barrier could be a like-for-like replacement for Reinhardt’s shield in team strategies. Orisa has the advantage over Reinhardt in that she can shoot at distant threats, use her Halt! move to support the team, and so on. However this depends on the value of having Reinhardt’s moving shield in the team, which can protect them from mobile threats, and how good Supercharger is as a replacement for Earthshatter. As a guess, Earthshatter will prove too valuable for teams to give up.
- Orisa could team up with Reinhardt to create an impenetrable wall. Protective Barrier starts its cooldown as soon as it’s fired. Players have already worked out that by firing the Barrier straight up into the air, it’s shaving valuable seconds off the cooldown before the Barrier is even active. With Symmetra and Torbjorn receiving buffs to their respective turrets, we could even see a rise of ultra-defensive teams on maps with two capture points, turtling behind their barriers, shields and turrets, daring teams to break through.
If Orisa replaces Reinhardt, it’s likely this will make characters like Pharah and Genji more important, as they’ll be able to move past the barrier and attack the team from behind.
Reinhardt’s big advantage over Orisa is that he can move the shield to help protect against those characters. But in the second scenario, if Orisa teams up with Reinhardt, it’s possible that shield-shredding characters will rise as teams try and blunt force their way through the barriers and shields.
Bastion is an obvious candidate for shield-shredding but there’s another character that fits this mould that everyone has forgotten about: could this finally, finally, be the chance for Junkrat to join the meta? Unlikely but stranger things have happened…