Overwatch

Overwatch announces first hero pools for competitive Season 21

by Scott Robertson
Blizzard Entertainment

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The newest competitive season for Overwatch has begun on March 5, and has introduced the first-ever hero pools into the game. Here’s a full rundown of the temporarily banned heroes.

After a long wait and after much speculation, the hero ban pools have finally been officially added to Overwatch.

The hero bans begin on March 5 for all players, and will take effect in professional Overwatch League matches starting on March 7, at the week five homestand hosted by the Washington Justice.

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Which Overwatch heroes are banned?

The Overwatch team declared they would be banning one tank, two DPS heroes, and one healer. On March 5 they announced that Orisa, Hanzo, Mei, and Baptiste would be the first heroes to be temporarily banned and removed from the competitive hero pool.

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In the original announcement from Blizzard regarding the introduction of hero pools, game director Jeff Kaplan said “maybe” the heroes Orisa, Sigma, Mei, and Moira would be excluded from the hero pool, but only Orisa and Mei ended up getting pulled from the rotation.

Principal game director Scott Mercer spoke about the decision making that goes into deciding who gets temporarily banned:

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"When we look at these things—low SR (skill rating) vs. high SR vs. professional play—there are a lot of different factors there. We want to mix it up. Some weeks might not affect the highest level of play that much, and some weeks will. We’re not relying on Hero Pools alone to change the meta—it’s a tool for us to use, and we’ll adapt to things as they change."

Why are Overwatch heroes getting banned?

In the Overwatch Developer Update released at the end of January, game director Jeff Kaplan said that the developer team wanted to experiment with more drastic changes to the meta.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbEagP5ebzY

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The face of Overwatch’s development team said that changes like this are in a response to direct calls from the community, who wanted the developers to “target the meta” and “balance more frequently.”

Kaplan announced that hero pools would be introduced officially to competitive matches in Season 21, and that initially, it would rotate the pool of banned heroes every week. He hopes this will prevent more “stagnant play” from the competitive mode.

The four heroes out of rotation will return on March 12, as Blizzard said that no hero would be banned for two straight weeks. The heroes that will be removed temporarily from OWL are based on a random pick of heroes with a minimum play percentage, and haven't been announced yet.