Bans of Tracer, Sombra, Reinhardt, Zenyatta shake up OWL strategy

The upcoming June Joust qualifiers and tournament matches will mark the first time in the 2021 Overwatch League season that games are played under Hero Pools.

This system was first implemented in the 2020 OWL season, in which one tank, one support and two damage characters were banned for a period of a couple weeks. The first hero pool bans of 2021 has been drawn as such:

Damage — Tracer, Sombra
Tank — Reinhardt
Support — Zenyatta

Let’s take a look at how this will shake up the meta ahead of the June Joust.

First and foremost, the Reinhardt ban means that most of the teams in the Western Region will have to move off of brawl compositions.

Reinhardt is bar none the best main tank in the game for brawl compositions. Without the big damage and shield teams get from Reinhardt, there’s little point to run a traditional brawl composition. Most of the sides in the Western Region have shown a tendency to play brawl, but that will have to change for the next few weeks.

The question then becomes, “What will teams play instead of brawl?”

So far this season, Winston-led dive compositions have looked incredibly effective. Variants with and Zarya as the off-tank have worked well, see the Dallas Fuel’s May Melee tournament run for proof of that. However, those team composition styles get heavily impacted by the other bans.

Interestingly, while Lucio is traditionally a brawl staple, some teams have been playing Lucio-Moira support lineups in dive compositions. Outside of those cases, though, Reinhardt’s absence should cause Lucio to see a severe dip in play rate.

The ban of Tracer and Sombra are going to seriously shake up the meta, possibly more so than the Reinhardt ban.

Most teams throughout the league rely on Tracer as a comfort pick, since she can effectively function in almost any team composition and find value. She’s not ideal in brawl, but in dive compositions she’s the primary DPS threat most times. Meanwhile, Tracer sees play in poke compositions as someone who can follow up on damage dealt at range, confirming kills and getting out safely.

Sombra introduces wrinkles into every game she plays in. Teams have gotten particularly good at running Sombra and finding value with the pick even without her EMP ultimate, which is one of the most impactful ultimates in the entire game. In fact, the Fuel won the May Melee in part because of the Sombra play of DPS Dong-ha “Doha” Kim. Dallas ran a lot of Sombra-Tracer DPS looks, something that other teams had done in small doses.

With Tracer and Sombra gone, it might be time for long-range sharpshooters like Hanzo, Ashe and Widowmaker to make their return to the scene. Ashe and Hanzo had already had some play, but they required a support such as Mercy to pocket them against the constant harassment from flankers such as Tracer and Sombra. With the threat of these flankers gone, though, teams might rely on these ranged characters to get work done.

Of course, there is the possibility that teams lean into dive with Genji compositions, but Genji is still not in a good spot ever since his round of nerfs during last season. Some teams probably will try anyway to make Genji work, and it might be all right without Tracer and Sombra to foil those plans, but the reliability of ranged damage dealers such as Hanzo and Ashe might force Genji to take a back seat.

Of note, none of the bans take away from the fact that Echo is incredibly powerful and probably will continue to see a lot of play, if not take over the DPS role. Simply put, Echo can effectively fit into any team composition and excel regardless of whether or not she has a dedicated support pocket. Look for Echo to be the main DPS going into the June Joust.

Finally, Zenyatta is an interesting ban in that it removes a huge damage source from historic double-shield poke compositions. Zenyatta’s high damage and Orb of Discord would give poke comps a reliable way to break enemy shields and burst down enemy tanks. His ultimate, Transcendence, isn’t as important as it has been in the past since Baptiste’s Immortality Field accomplishes basically the same thing without having to use an ultimate. Still, Zenyatta’s absence should cause some small ripples in the meta.

For one, with Zenyatta unavailable, dive and poke compositions will have to find bonus damage from other sources, which could lead to the rise of Mercy. Mercy’s Damage Boost on damage characters such as Ashe, Hanzo and Echo, who already have respectable play rate, will make them even better at shredding through opposition.

Other flex support heroes, namely Ana and Baptiste, should see more play now that Zen is on the bench. Poke compositions without Zenyatta can still exist, especially since Baptiste is still strong.

In total, these are some of the compositions that probably will be run for the next couple of weeks. Look for teams to build around Winston dive, with some teams playing double-shield poke compositions as well.

Comp 1: Winston,, Echo, Hanzo, Brig, Ana/Baptiste (dive)
Comp 2: Winston, Zarya, Echo, Ashe/Hanzo, Mercy, Ana (dive)
Comp 3: Orisa, Sigma, Hanzo, Ashe, Mercy, Baptiste (poke)
Comp 4: Orisa, Sigma, Hanzo, Widowmaker, Brig/Mercy, Baptiste (poke)

Look for dive to dominate the June Joust, with teams playing some poke compositions with anti-dive components to pop up.

–By Noah Waltzer, Field Level Media

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