Overwatch is a game where a few balance changes shift the meta drastically. A cycle of buffs or nerfs can add or remove a hero from the competitive pool. The most recent example would be the support hero Zenyatta. After he saw little to no play in competitive for several months, Blizzard gave Zenyatta drastic buffs that have made him a staple in the current meta.
To understand more about why Zenyatta is so strong, his impact on the meta, and the overall status of support heroes, Slingshot’s Colin “CD Mangaka” Nimer reached out to professional support players Jackson “Shake” Kaplan of Complexity, Sebastian “Chipshajen” Widlund of Team EnVyUs, and Tim “Dummy” Olson of NRG Esports for insight.
Colin “CD Mangaka” Nimer: Zenyatta seems to be a character that either sees a lot of play or no play competitively. Is that because of the design of his kit or Blizzard’s approach to patching?
Jackson “Shake” Kaplan: I think that’s mostly the result of balancing by Blizzard. Before the recent patch he had 150 HP and no mobility, which made him way too easy for other teams to pick off with characters like Winston, Genji, Tracer, etc. His kit was quite strong at that time, but it was just really difficult to make him work against top level teams because he was so easy to kill. On top of that, Mercy’s rez was overpowered last patch and that combined with Zen’s weakness is the reason why he was never picked. With the patch, Blizzard buffed Zen AND nerfed Mercy, which is why we’re now seeing a lot of Zen and very little Mercy. Mercy is balanced right now in my opinion, but Zen is overpowered.
Sebastian “Chipshajen” Widlund: I think it’s mostly due to how the patching has been done. Back in the beta, teams ran a lot of Zenyatta with Symmetra for that extra HP. Then they nerfed Zen’s orbs, which was completely justified, but they also nerfed the shields from Symmetra, which just made him slightly too squishy. With this patch, they buffed a lot of things with Zen, while at the same time reducing how often Mercy could resurrect. Just need to tune down Zen slightly and I think we’re good.
Tim “Dummy” Olson: I think with the limited amount of actual supports in the game the meta shifts pretty drastically. One small nerf or buff can make or break Zenyatta, and the only other hero it usually competes with for viability is Mercy.
CN: How does a support meta with Zenyatta differ from other metas, and how does that affect your play style?
TO: the current meta changed a lot in terms of hero compositions. Now you see a lot of heroes that have great synergy with Zenyatta like Tracer/Genji because they are highly mobile heroes that can still be healed by Zenyatta orb, and also go all in on the back line to burn down discorded targets. My main role is actually DPS/Flex, so it’s all a learning experience either way in terms of finding the right play style.
SW: With how crazy good discord orb is, you need to be very careful about your positioning. And since there’s rarely a Mercy there to resurrect people, you can blow off a lot of ultimates fast just to get some kills. No need to worry about them coming back to life.
JK: I think Zenyatta getting buffed has sped up the game a lot and resulted in much more aggressive comps. Last meta was much more about getting picks or gaining positional advantage, whereas this meta you see a lot of teams just hard engaging on a discorded target with speed boost and aggressive heroes like Genji, Tracer, Reaper, Winston, etc. I don’t think any heroes have really disappeared entirely this patch, but Pharah and Roadhog definitely struggle against Zenyatta. In terms of my play style, it’s definitely very different going from Mercy to Zenyatta. Aim and target calling are very important as a Zen player and both those things are completely irrelevant as Mercy. That said, I’ve been playing him since the start of beta so I’m pretty comfortable.
CN: To diversify the support pool, does Zenyatta need nerfs or do other supports need buffs? If so, how would you like to see Zenyatta nerfed, or which other supports would you liked to see buffed?
TO: I would just like more supports in the hero pool in general. Ana was a good start. The meta shifts back and forth from Mercy and Zenyatta as a result of a lack of support heroes.
JK: I think the other supports are more or less balanced right now. I do think Zen needs some nerfs. I’d like to see discord nerfed to something like 25 percent or 30 percent increased damage down from 50 percent, but if a change is made to discord I would want his orb damage to be increased to compensate. I think the damage Zenyatta deals himself is perfect right now. It’s just the amount of damage his team can do with a 50 percent buff is pretty insane. I think with that change he would be more or less balanced. I don’t think any other supports need buffs right now. If Zen was nerfed I think you would definitely see more Mercy play and possibly more Ana play as well.
SW: I think discord orb might need some adjustments, and his ult might be charging slightly too fast. This might be enough. Teams, including us, just need to experiment more with different supports. Everyone had been saying that Pharah + Mercy was dead for weeks, but both us and Cloud9 used it with a lot success in the finals of the Gamescom qualifier. Maybe Mercy + Ana is sleeper OP.
Photos courtesy of Blizzard.