Welcome back to the Overwatch League! After a week off, it’s a new stage, a new patch, and just as much chaos. What’s the meta? I have no idea but “bunker comp” seems to be popular so let’s break that down first before turning our attention to how teams are dealing with this strange new world. Unsurprisingly, it’s the already chaotic Chengdu Hunters who seem to be revelling in it.
Fear not, bunker comp is much easier to talk about than Goats. It basically involves getting cheery murder robot Bastion posted up behind other cheery murder robot Orisa’s shield, so that they can rain cheery murder down on the opposing team while being protected from any return fire. Other characters swap in and out, but Mercy is commonly used to give a damage boost to the Bastion, and other damage dealers like snipers are often added to pick off lone heroes.
New healer Baptiste has also proven a helpful addition thanks to his immortality field. Since bunker compositions are so often grouped together and made up of slow moving characters, large area of effect ultimate abilities like D.Va’s bomb were effective counters. But if Baptiste pops down his life-saving lamp, that’s completely negated. Plus, he does plenty of damage himself, adding to the lethality.
Bunker is mostly used by defending teams, especially on the first capture point on maps that take that format. It’s less common on attack thanks to its immobile nature (though Guangzhou Charge tried on Kings Row to little effect), meaning a downtick in mirror matches where both teams are playing identical heroes, and an uptick in variety between maps, since it can’t often be played on modes like control.
It’s likely that the meta will settle more after this first, experimental week, but so far it’s that variety that’s made it hard to establish what the new power combos will really be. Goats is still popping up in some places and damage-focused compositions in many forms are appearing in others. That’s been excellent news for the Chengdu Hunters, who made their name in stage one by playing whatever they fancied regardless of what the best strategies were, and have carried that same energy to total success in this new, unpredictable time. This week they beat both Paris Eternal and Washington Justice, and were a blast to watch doing it. In the latter game, 27 of the 30 heroes made an appearance.
There are more hints that this stage will have the same level of upset as the last one. For starters, Boston Uprising pulled off their third reverse sweep (going 0-2 down and returning to win 3-2) in a row. And team rankings continue to mean little, with London Spitfire struggling against the low-rated Florida Mayhem, before taking a clean 4-0 victory against playoff team Atlanta Reign. Much of this was down to Kim “Fury” Junho’s incredible work on D.Va, absorbing other heroes’ ultimate abilities left and right, including this fake out and 180-degree flick against Atlanta Reign’s Andrej “Babybay” Francisty. Clipping it from the postshow is slightly cheating, but it displays it much better:
Some things remain the same, however, with Vancouver Titans and New York Excelsior continuing to win. It would be remiss of me to not mention that Shanghai Dragons held New York to a draw on Hanamura, which is an achievement in and of itself, but Excelsior did still win 3-0.
San Francisco Shock are also proving to be an underrated team after their narrow loss in the stage one finals to Vancouver. They opened their stage two by going 4-0 against both Los Angeles Valiant (which is perhaps unsurprising considering the latters’ record) and Guangzhou Charge.
Kim “Rascal” Dongjun has proven a boon for Shock. Well known for his versatility and speed picking up new heroes even back before the League began, he’s one of the first players to really get the hang of Baptiste. It turns out that having a damage dealing player able to do that well and also heal your team is pretty effective.
Unfortunately, it’s also been a frankly terrible week for players’ mental heath. Both Hwang “Effect” Hyeon and Daniel “Dafran” Francesca retired recently, from Dallas Fuel and Atlanta Reign respectively, after publicly struggling with depression and the pressure of the League. Another player, San Francisco Shock’s Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews, tweeted about how his anxiety and panic disorders were being exacerbated by some drama conducted by a League team’s general manager that I absolutely refuse to get into here except to say that Sleepy and all players deserve better.
I don’t know what the solution is to making a League that doesn’t make its players feel awful, but from extreme examples like these to the general burnout that’s been affecting players throughout the inaugural season, stage one, and even somehow the offseason, it’s clear that something needs to change. However exciting esports are, they’re not worth the suffering.
Some teams do seem to have evened out their issues, including Shanghai Dragons, who were somewhat infamous last season for their 12-hour practice days. According to Noh “Gamsu” Youngjin, those no longer exist, and he does seem to have plenty of time to take hikes. Taking a look over their social media does also seem to show a team that's got a much better work-life balance, though looks can always be deceiving so who knows for sure.
But it’s clear that structural changes need to be made across the League, and with geolocation kicking in next year, things may get even worse for the 200 or so players who will be expected to drag themselves all around the world on top of the already unsustainable lifestyle.
The schedule ticks on for now, though. Next week, Valiant will continue their attempts to get their first win of the season, including against their Los Angeles rivals, the Gladiators. Shanghai against Chengdu should be a fun game to watch, even if, as a Dragons fan, I have to admit that logically Chengdu appears to have the edge in understanding this brave new meta (or at least can adapt to whatever lawless place they find themselves in). And Spitfire will once again put Fury’s ultimate eating abilities to the test, this time against Philadelphia Fusion.
Until then, here is yet another case of players wandering off the point. The more things change…