As we all watch in awe as the Overwatch League finally has begun, there was one staple hero that has been often substituted; Tracer.
As a anchor hero for most teams, Tracer has been a large source of damage and easy pick potential. The quick and surgical Dive composition that has been a mainstay of the Overwatch metagame, is one that abuses the mobility and quick damage output that heroes like Tracer, Genji, and D.Va all share in common. That said, there are two main perpetrators in the missing case of Tracer; the Dallas Fuel and the Houston Outlaws.
Houston Outlaws Hero Pick Rates
To put this in perspective, the Houston Outlaws have struggled with their Tracer situation for a while now. By “struggle” I mean who actually will play the hero. Will it be LiNkzr? Will it be Clockwork? Could it even be Mendokusaii? They’ve made do by substituting the Tracer for Jake’s Junkrat which has worked well, to a point.
Dallas Fuel Hero Pick Rates
What’s more interesting is the Dallas Fuel’s pick rates. During week one, the Dallas Fuel played more Orisa, than they did Tracer. Let that marinade in your head for a moment. More Roadhog, than Tracer. More Widowmaker, than Tracer. All of that AND they have one of the best Tracer players in the world. We’ve all seen what Effect can do on Tracer, granted he does have other heroes that he is skilled at playing, but this much deviation is odd.
It’s very clear that Dallas used week one to experiment. For evidence look no further than their relatively high use of triple DPS compositions, triple tank, and quad tank compositions. What is worrisome is their middling performance against the LA Valiant. Taking your star Tracer player off of Tracer might not be the best call, but we will have to revisit that concept at a later date. Effect is an amazing talent, but Dallas might need some time to spool up before we see them roar back in the later half of Stage 1.
Now, for overall pick rates we have some interesting numbers to compare to. If we look at the last few tournaments (that we have data for) which would be the APAC Premier 2017 and APEX Season 4. We see the magnitude of difference in Tracer’s pick rates. During The first week of the Overwatch League we saw Tracer picked 64.77% of the time. During the APAC Premier 2017 we saw her picked 76.72% of the time and during OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 4, we saw Tracer picked an astounding 85.22% of the time.
It also doesn’t seem to matter where Tracer is played if we take into consideration Attack and Defense. For the first week of the Overwatch League, Tracer was picked on Attack 63.88% of the time with 5:13:48 of play time and on Defense she was picked 59.64% of the time with 4:53:00 of play time. With only a deviation at around 4.24%, it seems like the side on which she is played doesn’t matter.
We also have to remember when and where new patches took hold. The APAC Premier 2017 was the first tournament to feature the Mercy rework, which happens to be right where the trend begins in Tracer’s falloff which is now at a low of 64.77% which is a drop of 20.45%.
One reason why we could be seeing less and less Tracer is the prevalence of Junkrat. In an interview I did with former Luminosity Gaming and Bazooka Puppiez player Toni “Ube” Häkli he gives his take on why Tracer is being picked less.
“Junkrat is incredibly OP right now, you can just spam pipes at a wall and make space & pressure people without much effort and possibly get random picks. I’d imagine the Overwatch League teams are good at dealing with Tracers making her less impactful, also Junkrat is a really strong pick against Tracer now, you just end up getting one shot by a damage boosted [Concussion Mine] most of the time making Tracer really hard to play.”
Similarly, with the shift over the the LAN client, certain heroes have come in and been slightly buffed by the servers assistance. Heroes like Widowmaker and McCree have not only seen a spike in play, but in success. The San Francisco Shock’s Andrej “Babybay” Francisty mentioned the difficulty in playing Tracer at the highest level in an interview with Winston’s Lab.
“Yeah, it is kinda hard. Especially because Tracer is one of the hardest heroes in the game, even harder than Genji. Simply because your decision making has to be the best. If you want to play Tracer against a good team, you have to have some of the best decision making in the world. My Tracer play is not there yet in regards to game sense, but my aim is really good so it compensates in a way.”
These trends are important to notice because it can help contextualize why teams maybe succeeding while other slump. Take a team like New York for example, they’ve got on of the world best Tracer players in Saebyeolbe. While we have seen him in the past flex to other heroes such as Soldier 76 and Roadhog, most of his career has been spent on Tracer. While the New York support staff has definitely accounted for this by allowing Pine and Libero to fill in the gaps, a team like Florida unfortunately has not.
Logix of the Florida Mayhem was another contender for the title of best Tracer in the world at some point, but now that we’re seeing her slowly make an exit it’s reflecting on the teams performance overall. TviQ can flex onto many different heroes, yes this is true, but that is only one of two players. Sadly TviQ can’t clone himself and play ever role when we see it fit. Given enough time, I’m sure Logix can make the switch and find his footing with other heroes like Widowmaker and Soldier 76, but the change in the metagame is sending shockwaves in Florida and caused the team to stagger down the power ranking.
Tracer is not the only hero to have a change in favor when it comes to pick rate within the Overwatch League’s first week. Widowmaker, McCree and Soldier 76 have all seen fluctuations in their pick rates:
Widowmaker: APEX 4 – 3.09% | APAC – 12.60% | OWL(w1) – 27.11%
Soldier 76: APEX 4 – 23.94% | APAC – 26.69% | OWL(w1) – 17.21%
McCree: APEX 4 – 7.76% | APAC – 21.10% | OWL(w1) – 15.01%
As Stage 1 continues, it will be interesting to see the trends in pick rates continue forward and how certain metagames evolve. Coming into this next patch cycle, Mercy is getting some tweaks done to her kit which may push her out of the game entirely.
With all of that information in mind, I think we are on the cusp of a metagame shift. Where it goes from here? That is certainly anyone’s guess.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLG’s of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment and Winston’s Lab.