From GOATS to BOATS: How the Overwatch League meta has shifted

The San Francisco Shock lock in for a map during the Overwatch League Stage 1 finals at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California. Stewart Volland for Blizzard Entertainment

The final verdict handed down by Overwatch League Stage 1 champions Vancouver Titans and runners-up San Francisco Shock was that the triple-tank, triple-support composition (aka GOATS) was superior. Most teams that were trying to find GOATS-breaking compositions -- often revolving around Sombra's EMP -- struggled with the triple-triple composition themselves, with the Chengdu Hunters as a possible exception.

Entering Stage 2, all eyes were on the new support hero, Baptiste, to gauge his viability. He was heralded as a possible break in the GOATS stranglehold due to the fact that his most common pre-stage use was in replacing Brigitte, the default hero credited with triple-triple's dominion over Stage 1. Unlike Brigitte, whose kit naturally trends toward head-to-head teamfight clashes, Baptiste's arrival to the league has given greater viability to ranged compositions.

"[Stage 2] is different," New York Excelsior flex support Bang "JJoNak" Sung-heyon said. "Ult management is different. In GOATs, it's mostly Zarya/D.Va bomb combo thing. Now if you run something like Widow, it's not really a teamwork thing. Usually it's more of a visual mechanic thing."

General consensus among pro players in the league after the first week of Stage 2 is that GOATS is still the staple composition, albeit a template from which to build other compositions, such as including a Baptiste (BOATS) in place of Brigitte or running a Bastion/Baptiste combination, making the most of his Immortality Field.

"When I played Baptiste today, it wasn't our strategy to play him," JJoNak said. "It was when we were contesting the cart. I played him to contest it. But we got a lot of advantages from his Immortality Field, and other than that, it was fun to play a hero that wasn't Zenyatta or Ana."

London Spitfire's Kim "Birdring" Jihyeok used Baptiste in a similarly unplanned situation in their second match of the week, a 4-0 sweep over the Atlanta Reign.

"We had to get on the payload, and we didn't have any ults, so we needed something that could stick to it without dying," Birdring said. "That's why I picked Baptiste in that moment. Right now, I think the team that uses Baptiste to its best potential is the Shock. If we use it in the future, it will probably be similar to how they use it."

More than Stage 1 victors Vancouver Titans, who easily overwhelmed the Hangzhou Spark in their only match of the week, the San Francisco Shock have emerged as the early Stage 2 meta team to beat, according to other players in the league. The Shock have hero flexibility at every position and, according to DPS player Kim "Rascal" Dong-joon, have been using the full strength of their 11-man lineup to internally scrim and prepare for stage matches under the direction of head coach Park "Crusty" Dae-hee and the strong San Francisco coaching staff.

"I definitely think the Shock are going to be a pretty scary opponent," Birdring said. "Not only are they good at regular 3-3, but they are good at BOATs, the Baptiste 3-3, so they're going to be a strong contender for this stage."

Outside of the Shock, the team most content with changes to Stage 2 is the Chengdu Hunters, who were unapologetically stubborn throughout Stage 1 in their general refusal to play standard triple-triple mirror matches. They instead defaulted to DPS compositions, especially around Yi "JinMu" Hu's Pharah and main tank Ding "Ameng" Menghan's affinity for Wrecking Ball over a more standard option such as Reinhardt or Winston. Hunters' main support, Li "Yveltal" Xianyao, and Ameng reiterated during Stage 1 that the Hunters truly believed that if they executed their style at the highest level, they could beat a triple-triple composition every time.

Now in Stage 2, every team has a little bit of the Hunters in them, opting for more DPS compositions using the Pharah and Sombra. Not to be outdone, the Hunters have come up with even more unique hero combinations, such as their Symmetra composition first shown against the Paris Eternal on Hanamura. In their match against the Washington Justice, the Hunters helped set a league record for the most heroes played for more than one minute in a match, with 27 total. Ameng's Wrecking Ball was still the star of the show, making the most of the fact that the hamster's Adaptive Shield is no longer canceled in roll mode. For the first time since their arrival to the league, the Hunters earned a 4-0 sweep and their first 2-0 start to a week.

Flex support Kong "Kyo" Chunting said he wasn't surprised to see other teams now playing some of the Hunters' Stage 1 choices, and he reiterated what the Hunters have been saying since Stage 1.

"I think for Stage 2, because of the patch, it's actually like a buff to our team," Kyo said with a laugh. "The heroes that got buffed are perfect for our champion pool. So I think we can pull out better compositions than GOATs."

Perhaps Stage 2 won't be so different from Stage 1 after all.