Looks like Blizzard are starting to realise that most Overwatch players aren't all in the Top 500, as they've removed hero pools for lower competitive ranks. Players from Bronze up to Diamond will no longer have to deal with the weekly hero bans because, let's face it, those of us at these levels never use the same compositions as the Overwatch League, do we?
"Competitive play at lower skill tiers already sees a tremendous amount of hero composition diversity in their matches, and we don’t think they need a system like hero pools to encourage even more," the devs say.
As someone who recently ranked in Platinum, this is a pretty welcome change. Players at my rank (myself included) struggle to counter a lot of heroes as is without a bunch of them getting banned every week.
Having said that, there are some concerns that this might encourage "smurf" players. If you've not heard of smurfing before, it's got nothing to do with little blue people (though I make that joke every time). It's when a high skilled player uses an alternate account to play amongst lower ranks. The worry here is that, if their favourite hero is banned at their actual level, they'll just hop onto their alt to play who they want to dunk on lower ranked players. It's a dirty thing to do, and unfortunately something Overwatch has struggled with for a while.
For those of you in Masters and above, you'll now have hero pools based off of Overwatch League data, rather than general online competitive play data. As Blizzard state, the meta has changed a lot recently due to the introduction of Echo, as well as a recent patch that nerfed a lot of crowd control abilities (things like stuns and sleep darts, etc).
The main reason for the change, however, is mostly because Reaper and Mei were being used loads in OWL matches, but not in regular comp, so they're almost never getting banned. As you can imagine, it doesn't make for great watching when players are using the same damage characters every match. Once this season is over it'll go back to using the general online data to select those hero bans, though.
It's stuff like this that serves as a reminder that hero pools aren't really to make normal competitive better, but to make the Overwatch League more interesting to watch. And for as much as I enjoy OWL, it's a shame Blizzard have chosen improving their shiny esport over making the game better for the majority of their playbase.
Overwatch is at least getting a new addition to help players talk to their teammates soon. The devs are revamping the communication wheel so you can say things like "sorry", "fallback" and
"why does Jeff love the Overwatch League more than me" "press the attack".