Brigitte was a big worry for some when she was announced and it dawned on everyone that she would soon be played in the Overwatch League. She is a character with huge implications on the game, and at the moment, she’s one of the most-picked characters on the competitive ladder.
If you’ve played with her, you will know she can be a monster on the battlefield who has the ability to counter and make life hard for almost half the roster. Where this is important and why there was trepidation by the Overwatch League community over her is her ability to counter ‘Dive’.
In case you don’t know, Dive is a term used for a composition that focuses on movement above all else. Generally, Winston and D.VA would be on Tank, with Mercy and Zenyatta on Support, alongside Tracer and someone else (usually a Genji or Widowmaker) on DPS. All those heroes have advanced mobility (besides Zenyatta, who is picked because he is just one of the most powerful characters in the game), and it allows the team to “dive”onto the enemy to wreck them before they know what hit them. This composition has been played almost exclusively for around a year and a half at high-level play, and it’s why the teams with the best records in the Overwatch League over its first three stages have been those with god-tier Tracers. Dive has really been the cornerstone of the entire competition since it started.
However, Overwatch is currently going through one of its most seismic shifts in terms of the overall meta ever, spearheaded by the introduction of Brigitte. The character was designed specifically to counter dive as it had become so powerful. She can shut down Genji, D.VA, Winston, and Tracer in equal measure, decimating teams that try to stick to their old ways of doing things. This meant big changes for the Overwatch League, and change always has people worried. If the game doesn’t rely on Tracer and empowers “less-skilled” heroes like Junkrat and Pharah, what will games even look like?
A quick side note that will become relevant momentarily: The meta on the competitive ladder has also shifted dramatically due to the power of the newly reworked Hanzo. The patch with that change never made it to the start of Overwatch League stage 4 though, so teams are still playing with his Scattershot ability.
Despite all the fears over Ms. Lindholm’s introduction to the game, she’s actually been a pretty big breath of fresh air. Tracer is still viable, but only in very specific situations. San Fransisco Shock had success playing her into Brigitte against Seoul Dynasty, but Boston Uprising got styled on when they tried the same thing against the Houston Outlaws. Pharah has become powerful, and those juicy Widow v Widow duels have become even more important.
The meta feels so wild and varied that it really is fascinating to watch. While teams had a lot of mirroring going on in the last three stages, the perspective has changed. The idea of switching to counter your opponents on the fly has become much more integral as teams might swap from dive to Brigitte back to dive and then to Pharah. It’s added a whole new dimension of tactics that wasn’t as prominent previously, making things much more cerebral. The chess board just became 3D.
It’s important to note that Brigitte isn’t an overpowering force in-game either. As I said, she can still lose to a Tracer if she is respected — and on the most recent episode of Watchpoint, it was revealed she was only the 10th most-popular hero in the first week of the stage. Even if she isn’t playing every map though, that doesn’t mean she isn’t having a big impact on all games. Her mere existence is changing the way teams play. Here is a quick example: In Stage 4, Week 2, Florida Mayhem vs Los Angeles Valiant, this was the composition for both teams for the majority of the King’s Row:
Both teams are playing double snipers with Hanzo and Widowmaker (those of us lower down the ladder are screaming internally right now). Remember that Hanzo’s rework hasn’t been implemented and that neither team is running Brigitte in their team. That being the case, Hanzo is still being played. Prior to Stage 4, on King’s Row Hanzo had a 7.03% pickrate on the map (all stats provided by Winston’s Lab), the 17th most picked on the map.
Now fast forward to Stage 4 with Brigitte. Both teams are playing Hanzo and he now has an overall pickrate of 38.70%, and now up to 8th. The only key change between these stages is Brigitte. This is down to the falling out with Tracer. She fell from 36.75% to 6.36% pickrate on the map. She and Hanzo swapped places, and even though Tracer would be safe to use since Brigitte isn’t being played in this match, the threat that a team could just switch onto her and shut Tracer down is too high.
This is an oversimplification of the details as there are other factors at play here, but the underlining point is that these teams are playing comps that just wouldn’t even be played in other Stages, even when Brigitte isn’t chosen.
And honestly, that is super exciting. We are seeing some truly wacky, out-there hero selections this stage while everyone tries to figure out what is the most powerful. Instead of Brigitte making the meta static and boring, instead everything feels unpredictably spicy. I expect we will see teams begin to calm down and solidify a more stable roster pool for maps, but even when it does, I expect things to still be pretty varied across maps.
You could make the argument that the play is less “skill-based” at the moment because we are seeing less Tracer and Genji, but honestly… so what? The league is fresh and exciting at the moment, and all it took was one hero. Even though she is only sometimes picked, she hangs over the game like a spectre, influencing teams who are deathly scared of her. Right now, especially mixed with the playoff ramifications of seemingly every series, the Overwatch League is as exciting as ever.
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