ana

We recently learned that Ana’s ultimate, Nanoboost, will be receiving a nerf from Blizzard in the coming patch. Perhaps this means we won’t see the three and four tank strats that are so ubiquitous in the Western scene when the teams come to face off against the Koreans in OGN’s new Overwatch league.

As of this writing, the Western teams have invented a few variants on the strategy. On non-King of the Hill maps it is ubiquitous. If we look at Korean games from the Danawa Overwatch Battle, we see that teams have followed the trend to some degree though I will note key differences in the way they are playing the game right now. These differences reveal how Koreans approach the competitive game. The major difference is their willingness to take risks. Almost every team can and will run McCree on all maps, they rely on their mechanics to turn a teamfight, and pocket Bastion and Widowmaker players are not uncommon. Based on these differences we can get an idea of what the international teams need to look out for against the Korean teams in OGN’s new league.

McCrees Everywhere

As of September 20, Korean teams have adopted the 3x2x1 tank meta and if the Danawa OW Battle is any indication, it is the only one. Teams run 3x2x1 on defense and sometimes on offense, though not on every map. During the Danawa tournament, no 4×2 or 3×3 strats have been played. The odd addition to the 3x2x1 strat for Korea is McCree as the main DPS. Western teams have attempted this to varying degrees of success, but a Tracer or mobile DPS like Pharah can shut down the McCree given proper positioning.

Korean teams disagree. They run the McCree as the all-around DPS in their 3x2x1 comps. Pharah, Tracer, Mei, or Genji might come out depending on the situation or map. The fact that all teams run McCree makes it a safe pick in some instances except that they don’t make the switch when a Tracer or Pharah comes out. They’re willing to rely on their mechanics to get the stun off and headshot the Tracer. You need only watch players like Esca, Pine, OXO, and Kariv to know that they’re right.

It seems that this mechanical skill is Korea’s greatest strength as a region right now. Since the tank meta, you never see a single player 1v6 an entire team to turn a teamfight in your favor. In EU/NA, if you have the most ults and decent positioning, then you’ll win the fight. Korean teams look to mechanics to solve a lot of problems. Watch Pine of LW Red massacre TS Mitt from the front lines of his team. That said, Western teams need to look to these cocky players as potential weaknesses. McCree’s shouldn’t be allowed to play so near the frontlines. This will continue to be relevant as the meta shifts from being so Ana-centric. We may see a return to 2x2x2 styles that create more targets for mechanical outplay. 

The cheese tastes good in Korea

My favorite aspect of Korea’s Overwatch style is their use of cheese comps and pocket picks to cap any given point. We all remember the cheese strats from Starcraft 2 and if you’ve been around long enough you remember all the games that international players lost to Korea because of cheese. You almost never see Bastion in Western team compositions. Why not? He has obvious weaknesses that a single change in hero can take advantage of and most importantly cheese compositions aren’t given as much value. However, given the element of surprise and a team prepared to fight around him, Bastion can roll through an opposing team for a point cap.

TakeThis of AfreecaFreecs Red even has Bastions’ golden weapon. He brought out the pick on Lijiang Tower and with his team’s support, lasted long enough to contribute a win. The downside to this tactic is that it doesn’t continue to work. On the next map, Hollywood, he tried it on offense and failed miserably. Only a couple weeks later however, Lunatic Hai ran a Bastion offense to cap the first point of Dorado.

International teams have never played against the likes of this. Since late June, Bastion hasn’t seen the light of day in EU and NA. His play rate since Season 2 has hovered between 0.1% and 0.65%. Bastion won’t be the only character to show his face either. Widowmakers come out from the top fraggers. Mighty AOD’s Kariv is especially devastating on Gibraltar. Four tanks might not be able to deal with her or switch quickly enough to hold the first point. Ana might kill her. Then you risk losing the most vital character in your composition to kill a disposable pocket pick. Hopefully this won’t matter with the incoming nerfs, but opposing team compositions won’t stop Kariv from pulling out the pick.

Matching Up

We will see how these styles clash when the league begins. Given the new patch, we should have time to see how both the Korean and EU/NA metas progress until the start of the new OGN league. Despite any changes in changes in the meta these stylistic differences will continue to have an impact as EU and NA battle with the best of the Koreans. We can assume Korea will stick with what they do best. If they decide to change their play significantly it will be because they lost too many scrims. So if nothing changes from them we must see how EU and NA will respond. 

Even with the nerfs Ana received, I would hesitate to say 3×3 is dead. It is perhaps less viable on certain maps, but Ana’s ult is still among the fastest charging in the game. She also received a range buff to her Biotic Grenade which wombo-combo’s with Graviton. I will wait for ELEAGUE and post patch games before considering team compositions in October. I hope these differences in style have given you a more macro perspective of what you can expect in two weeks.

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