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The case against hero pools in Overwatch

There’s been a heavy debate over the validity of hero pools in Overwatch. While Overwatch League viewers can enjoy a fresh new meta every week, it’s also difficult for pro players and coaches to scramble to adjust to each week’s ideal compositions. Recently, Overwatch removed hero pools in its competitive game modes for those under a 3500 skill rating. However, Overwatch players and coaches took to social media to address the need for further change at the professional level.

Here are two potential solutions to amend the current debate against hero pools.

A. Rework hero pools

The biggest issue with hero pools is the fact that they constantly refresh every week. This gives little to no time for competitive players and teams to learn and adjust to the new compositions. Moreover, once coaches and players can finally play the game at an adequate level, the metagame shifts once again, causing more stress and disarray. 

A good warrant to the suboptimal play that results from rapid hero pool selection can be seen within the case of the Shanghai Dragons and the Seoul Dynasty. The Dynasty, who had suffered from a horrendous loss streak, somehow toppled the strongest team in the League. Many believed that the surprise victory was not a testament of Seoul’s strength, but rather the advantage that they may have had over the Dragons by quickly learning the specific meta of that week.

One solution could be slowing down the refresh rate of the hero pools. If bans were decided every other week or month, this would give enough time for players and coaches to find and master the most effective composition. Additionally, this would still allow for a fresh viewing experience for Overwatch League fans. And finally, by keeping these time frames consistent with the competitive ladder, professional and semi-professional players could benefit more from ranked ladder games to further their skills within that specific meta.

B. Remove hero pools

Some of the more extreme arguments against hero pools call for its removal entirely. Many proponents of this idea prefer to go back to 2/2/2 in its most raw form— or even the removal of role locks as a whole.

Prior to hero pools, the metagame was nearing an ideally diverse state; dive comps were played on control maps, brawl comps were used on payload and hybrid maps, and a variety of bunker, dive, and brawl comps were all being played on assault maps. This would have resulted in a meta variance (despite Mei’s overtuned multi-freeze at the time) had it not been for the start of hero pools.

There have been arguments calling for a pick/ban system in place of hero pools, but most can agree that there are simply not enough playable characters in the game for this format at the moment.

However, one thing is clear: hero pools have been detrimental to players’ careers. Professional Overwatch players and coaches have been burnt out by the frequent changes in the meta, and ‘specialist’ players have lost viability in fear of their signature heroes being banned every other week. Competitive play is often unable to reach the highest caliber due to the constant need to learn a new meta, rather than perfecting an existing one.


As Blizzard continues to experiment with changes to the game, understanding the future health of Overwatch and its competitive scene will be difficult. However, with efforts to balance the game becoming much more significant, hopefully there will be an adequate solution. One thing is clear: hero pools in its current state possess many issues, and hopefully these problems can be alleviated through necessary adjustments.

Stephen No

Stephen "Steph" No is a communications major and esports journalist. Currently covering the LCS and the OWL, Steph is aiming to become a prominent Asian-American voice in Western esports media. You can follow his twitter @kdpanthera for more LCS and Overwatch League related content.

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