Overwatch League Stage 4 has seen some of the strangest changes that the league has ever experienced. During Stage 4, the league decided to place a 2-2-2 restriction for all team compositions. This meant that every team was forced to play two tanks, two damage, and two supports.
Stage 4 of #OWL2019 will be played with a Role Lock where all team compositions consisting of two damage heroes, two tanks, and two supports.— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) July 18, 2019
Which damage specialist & hero combo are you looking forward to seeing back on stage?
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This change saw the death of the GOATS meta, which involved an oppressive team composition of three tanks and three supports, using occasional replacements for tanks with heroes like Sombra. The composition effectively demonstrated that the power creep in Overwatch had become so strong to the point where playing damage characters was pointless if you can have tanks and supports that can do their job even better with more sustainability and versatility than a damage hero.
GOATS was the meta that dominated the first three stages of the Overwatch League. Some teams were notoriously strong during the meta, such as the Vancouver Titans, New York Excelsior, San Francisco Shock, and Hangzhou Spark. There were also teams who were so terrible at playing the meta, that they were eliminated before the fourth stage even began. These teams, of course, were the Washington Justice and Florida Mayhem.
It was not until the end of stage three, that a non-GOATS composition was able to prevail. The Shanghai Dragons were able to just barely nudge out a win against the San Francisco Shock during the stage three finals, playing a triple damage composition with a Wrecking Ball. The Dragons provided tremendous resources to their Pharah player, Jin-hyeok "DDing" Yang, to win the series. However, now that the role lock restriction had been implemented, any previous performances during the GOATS meta were obsolete and outdated, and this stage has clearly shown that to be the case.
Some teams that have been relatively mediocre during the GOATS meta have seen a tremendous rise in performance. Teams such as the Atlanta Reign, Los Angeles Gladiators, and Guangzhou Charge, who have stellar damage players, have been able to showcase their superior abilities in the 2-2-2 meta that they could not previously demonstrate.
On the other hand, some teams who were dominant during the GOATS meta have seen a dramatic drop in performance. The New York Excelsior, for instance, was defeated 3-1 by the Los Angeles Gladiators during the first week of stage four. During week two, the team suffered a massive loss against the Chengdu Hunters, a relatively inconsistent and mediocre team, who decimated NYXL 4-0. Additionally, Hangzhou Spark, who were considered one of the best teams during the third stage, were brutally destroyed by the Atlanta Reign and Guangzhou Charge, who beat the Spark 3-1 and 3-0 respectively.
The most shocking, however, has been the meteoric rise of the Washington Justice and the Florida Mayhem, the first two teams to be eliminated from playoff contention. The Justice recently played against the Vancouver Titans, the winners of the first stage, who at the time only had one loss during the regular season which they suffered against the Los Angeles Valiant.
The Justice managed to destroy the Titans, arguably the best overall team in the league, in an extremely convincing score of 4-0. The Justice's damage duo of Corey "Corey" Nigra and Ethan "Stratus" Yankel ran a clinic against the Titans in the most dominant damage performance by any team in the history of professional Overwatch. Stratus outclassed Hyojong "Haksal" Kim easily in the Mei 1-v-1 matchup, and Corey managed to achieve the second highest final blow count on one map in the league's history, with a total of 34 final blows during Map 3 on Hollywood.
Additionally, the Florida Mayhem, perceived to be the worst team in the league, were able to take two games off of a Washington Justice who just beat the Vancouver Titans. They were also able to upset the London Spitfire 3-0 in a convincing fashion. London, a team that was perceived to be a strong but inconsistent team during the GOATS meta, was thought to be one of the best teams in the world coming into the 2-2-2 meta, yet they looked incompetent when facing against the Mayhem.
However, some teams remain in the same state as before. The San Francisco Shock, one of the best teams during the GOATS meta, is still perceived to be one of the best teams in the 2-2-2 meta, with an arsenal of damage players at their disposal. Yet, there are still teams who look horrendous during stage four even after disappointing runs during the GOATS meta, such as the Dallas Fuel, Boston Uprising, Houston Outlaws, Toronto Defiant, and Paris Eternal. Some teams have experienced some decreases in performance overall, such as the Los Angeles Valiant, Philadelphia Fusion, Seoul Dynasty, and Shanghai Dragons who have all fallen from former grace.
All that can be certain about stage four is that it has been the most electrifying change the league has ever seen. Be sure to keep track of upcoming Overwatch League matches on the official Overwatch League match schedule.
Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment