(Featured image via Blizzard.)

Overwatch: Season 9 Is Here

Feb 28, 2018
(Featured image via Blizzard.)

Season 9 Has Arrived! Are you ready?

On Sunday, Overwatch’s eighth competitive season came to a close, and after a short off-season, we’re now up and running again for the ninth competitive season. Although it’s only been two days, there are actually a lot of changes to consider. The question is: are you ready to hit the ground running?

What’s So Different?

There are a few big things that are going to make Season 9 look very different from Season 8. The first is a set of balance changes that were made towards the end of Season 8. Prior to the January 30 balance patch, the competitive Overwatch scene was in the midst of something people called the ‘Mercy meta:’ in order to succeed, your team was almost required to have a Mercy player.

This was partially because of her strong healing, but mostly due to her game-changing ultimate ability: in addition to her regular resurrections every 30 seconds, Valkyrie actually reset the cooldown and made her resurrections instant, allowing her to resurrect two players in almost the same time as one before. While other healers could bring a lot to the table, nobody could handle recovering from your team getting hit with a Junkrat ultimate like Mercy could.

However, since Mercy’s wings were clipped in the January 30 patch, life on the competitive ladder has opened up quite a bit. Just a week after the patch, Omnic Meta reported a massive drop of Mercy picks across all levels of competitive, including a ridiculous 73% reduction at the grandmaster level. It also reported a global gain in the other support heroes’ pick rates as they swooped in to fill the void.

The biggest winner here was Moira, but all supports benefited from Mercy’s relative absence. This had several ripple effects, but the most important one was an increase in compositions including three or even four tanks (due to Moira’s ability to rapidly heal many heroes in a small area).

What does all of that mean for Season 9? The meta is rapidly shifting away from Mercy, and that means your success will be partially based on your ability to change your approach and adapt to the new style. If you see your enemy going for a quad-tank setup, for instance, it might be prudent to pick up Reaper or Junkrat rather than somebody like Tracer; moreover, if you were a Mercy main in the past, it might be time to start looking at other supports for the immediate future.

If the January 30 patch wasn’t enough of a shake-up for you, you’re in luck, because there were new changes that came out yesterday. The highlights include a lot of universal buffs across Sombra’s entire kit, faster ammo recovery times for Doomfist, and faster freezing and lower ammo costs for Mei. There’s been a lot of discussion about an incoming Hanzo rework, and even some teasers about Hero 27, and so we can look forward to more changes very shortly.

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How To Ace Your Placements

You might be wondering: “Okay, so we’re going to have a lot of changes, but how does this help me kill my placements and start the season off right?” Good question. Outside of trying to avoid playing Mercy, and having an open mind towards compositions that might include 3 or 4 tanks, there are a few things you can do to optimize your placement performance.

The biggest thing is very simple: Focus more on your individual performance than the team’s performance, or even the outcome of the game. During the regular season, particularly if you’re at Diamond or above where there’s no performance-based SR gains anymore, your performance matters very little compared to your SR total – it’s all about winning more than you lose. However, in your placement matches, the emphasis actually changes a little bit, and your placement score is based more on your individual statistics. That means that, where possible, you should prefer to pick heroes with a tendency to perform well in many statistical categories.

For example, Moira does a lot of healing and damage for a support hero, and will typically get a medal for eliminations because of the ‘tickle’ damage her orbs tend to do to all enemy heroes in the area. For that reason, if you play support, she might be an interesting hero to prioritize during your placements. For DPS, Soldier 76 or Junkrat might be a good choice due to their consistent damage output and high likelihood of having a very high elimination total. Finally, for tanks, it’s usually pretty hard to beat out a Roadhog for individual stats. If you play it right, you can even get a medal for healing because of his ‘e’ ability!

Remember, though, that when going for these heroes, winning the game does still matter in placements, which means if your hero choice doesn’t fit with your team, it’s probably not the right choice!

Finally, placements can be a bit of a volatile set of games, given that the system isn’t confident about everyone’s new ranks just yet. You’re likely to have more games with worse overall matchmaking as a result. Remember that you don’t need to complete all of your placement matches in one sitting! It can also help to bring a friend along in order to help your team’s stability in a very unstable environment.

No matter how placements treat you, just remember that it’s a long season ahead, and these 10 games are only a small part of what’s to come – don’t stress too much!

Good luck with your games, and I’ll see you on the ladder!

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Jordan Burrows
Tech worker at a startup company by day, and fully addicted gamer by night, Jordan has spent a lot of time with a controller in his hands. Whether it's repeatedly getting legend in Hearthstone, healing needy Genji mains in competitive Overwatch, or spending too much time deciding whether it's going to be a Steam night or a Switch night, Jordan's never far away from the gaming scene.
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