Hero Pools are here – Another OWL format change

The Overwatch League has always been in flux – there have been all sorts of changes both in-between seasons and during. It’s the latter that’s happening now – in the middle of Season 3, Blizzard is introducing the Hero Pool Overwatch setting – or rather, system.

It features a weekly rotation of playable heroes – four heroes will be removed from play each week. Two DPS characters, and one tank and healer each. With each new week, a new set of four heroes will be banned and the old ones reinstated.

The Hero Pool is here

The very first week that will use the Hero Pool system will be week 5 of the OWL – matches are happening in the Washington Justice homestead this weekend, but they’ll have to make do without some of the most popular heroes in the game.

For its first run at the filtered OWL, Blizzard has chosen to remove DPS characters McCree and Widowmaker from play, as well as tank Reinhardt and healer Moira. These are some of the most popular characters in the game – in fact, they were selected based on play-rate data from the previous two weeks of matches.

Hero Pool Overwatch

© Blizzard Entertainment

That’s also how future Pools will be determined – heroes that are being played in 10% of matches or more are eligible for removal, and no hero will be unavailable two weeks in a row. This means that next week, in week 6 of the Overwatch League, fans will be able to watch their favorite teams use McCree and Widow again – and someone else will be removed from the Overwatch Hero Pool instead.

Why the change?

Systems like this aren’t that unusual – League of Legends also uses a system of picks and bans to allow the removal of certain characters from official matches. It’s done to shake things up a little and most importantly keep things interesting – with a historically somewhat stagnant meta, Blizzard is now taking great care to avoid fans getting bored while watching.

As there is and has been a strong selection bias when it comes to team combinations, this new change will force teams to alter their strategies – and one-trick-pony players might just struggle if the horse they’re betting on doesn’t make it to the track.

In other words, the Overwatch Hero Pool is going to make each week feel unique. By banning some of the most-played heroes, things are sure to pan out differently.

Read Also: How to get OWL tokens 2020

Selecting the Pool

As mentioned, heroes will be selected weekly, never two weeks in a row and only if they meet a certain popularity threshold. The group that meets these criteria will then have heroes chosen randomly for the weekly ban.

The first week’s bans were picked by the Watchpoint team on the post-show event on March 1st – they used a bingo tumbler and slips of paper in order to randomly pick the excluded heroes.

The impact

The biggest impact of the Hero Pool ban will undoubtedly be Reinhardt. He has been played in as many 87.2% matches in the last two weeks – only one tank has been played more, and that’s D.Va, who boasts a 94.4% play rate. Despite this, Rein’s elimination makes a huge difference – in contrast, Moira’s will hardly matter at all. She was only in 10.8% of the matches, so her loss won’t hurt too much.

Widowmaker had a similarly low rate – 10.4%, yet she is popular on certain maps. McCree will hurt a little more than her – 59.5% play rate, the hitscan DPS players are going to miss him dearly. Expected replacements include Pharah – the flying hero is an ideal choice now that two of the best snipers in the game are excluded!

See also: Overwatch Betting Sites
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