Overwatch League Grand Finals -- how the meta played out

Robert Paul/Blizzard Entertainment

The Overwatch League Grand Finals have come and gone, the San Francisco Shock have asserted themselves as the best team in the league for two years running, and the league had its best grand finals yet thanks to the Seoul Dynasty, who took the Shock to six maps. After a year of teams separated into two divisions (Asia and North America) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we finally were able to watch the top teams from each region go head-to-head, each bringing their own flavor to the current metagame.

Meta Overview

The general hero usage has changed significantly since the last meta check-infollowing the first week of playoffs. Back then, the meta shift in progress was the rise of Roadhog and Roadhog-centric compositions, especially paired with Sigma or D.Va.

During grand finals, D.Va continued to fall by the wayside (from a 69 percent pick rate in the first week of playoffs to a miniscule 7.4 percent rate in grand finals weekend) in favor of the likes of Wrecking Ball and continued Sigma priority. The main tank combos were either Wrecking Ball/Sigma, Sigma/Hog, or Wrecking Ball/Hog, creating a lot of interesting setups for hitscan heroes like Ashe and Widowmaker as well as double-sniper combinations with Hanzo.

Philadelphia Fusion

The Philadelphia Fusion entered this grand finals competition as underdogs, just like the Seoul Dynasty, but unlike Seoul they had been consistent throughout the season. Despite a wide variety of meta shifts, Philadelphia always managed to have strong regular season matches, only to fall short in tournaments like May Melee, Summer Showdown, and the Countdown Cup (although in fairness, their Summer Showdown match was remarkably close, effectively a few teamfights away from a win). If there's one meta piece that Philadelphia seemed to lack, it was their Hog play. This is in no way a slight to Kim "Fury" Jun-ho or Kim "SADO" Su-min's individual Roadhog performances, but rather how the team used the hero, or didn't, to make space for Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok or Jeong "Heesu" Hee-su. This actually lines up with Philadelphia's performance for most of the year: a really good, consistent team that unfortunately never perfected one meta look well enough to own a part of the season or a title. The closest they came was definitely in the Summer Showdown during the rise of Genji, when Josue "Eqo" Corona nearly carried them to that title versus the Paris Eternal in the finals.

More: Keep track of the latest moves and trades in our Overwatch League offseason tracker

Shanghai Dragons

One of Shanghai's greatest strengths all year has been their adaptability even in the middle of a tournament or series. There have been several times where it looked like an upstart Asian team would best them, but only the Guangzhou Charge managed to do it in a tournament setting back in June's Summer Showdown. Regardless of what they were going to play, Shanghai seemed to have the tools to do so, especially where DPS was concerned. With the rise of Widowmaker, it became Bae "Diem" Min-seong's time to shine. Interestingly enough it was Lee "LIP" Jae-won who appeared more coordinated at times than Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun in the specific Hanzo-Widowmaker setup with Seo "Stand1" Ji-won's Roadhog making space and clutch Sleep Darts from Kim "Izayaki" Min-chul.

If anything, the Shanghai Dragons were eliminated by a team that played more around their Roadhog directly in the Seoul Dynasty rather than their own approach of facilitating their remarkable DPS line.

Seoul Dynasty

I'll be the first to admit that I did not believe in the Seoul Dynasty. Yet, this year's Dynasty stuck to what worked for them in the current metagame (Hong "Gesture" Jae-hee's Roadhog) despite external doubts that other teams like Shanghai or San Francisco would find their way around it or be able to perform better in a mirror match.

They not only made it through the four-team bracket to the actual grand finals, but they did it by playing around Gesture's Roadhog specifically. While the Shock and Fusion flexed their Roadhog player between main tank and flex tank, both Shanghai and Seoul stuck to one player (in both cases a main tank) and used their Roadhog in different ways. On Seoul, Gesture was the star, even with the DPS stylings of Park "Profit" Joon-yeong wowing audiences and analysts alike.

Again this is in no way a slight against Seoul's DPS line - Kim "FITS" Dong-eon played well and Profit used this grand finals to further prove why he's one of the best DPS players the game has ever seen - it's just a difference in where the focal point was for Seoul specifically and, in many ways, it made sense for Seoul to stick to this Hog-centric approach. It's what got them to the grand finals in the first place.

San Francisco Shock

The San Francisco Shock have the wonderful (or horrid, depending on if you're a team going up against them) ability to be so flexible that they can overcome any meta shift or compositional focus. This began last year and has lasted this year through losing one of their DPS superstars to another game and the volatile nature of hero pools, especially at the beginning of the 2020 season.

Kwon "Striker" Nam-joo and his Tracer took center stage for the Shock this past weekend, earning him the grand finals MVP award. What's more important about his Tracer is how the rest of the Shock made it work, by creating space for him to flank opponents, or by stopping opponents' flanks so Striker could then dart in and do his thing.

Another big hero difference for the Shock was how they favored Park "Viol3t" Min-ki on the Zenyatta over Ana. Zenyatta offers different, somewhat less straightforward, buffing approaches than the Ana, but also gives a team more damage, showcased by Viol3t's ability to aid in picking off opponents alongside Shock's snipers or wearing down enemy shields.