Starting on March 7, the Overwatch League will be implementing a new mechanic to the game in the form of hero pools.
Rumors about hero bans have been swirling for weeks to the point where Blizzard exec Jeff Kaplan addressed the discussions directly. Though he declared that hero bans were not something the development teams was considering, he alluded to some manner of change being in the pipeline.
In a recent developer update, Kaplan discussed the implementation of hero pools in Season 21 of competitive play and noted that the OWL would have its own version of this feature in Season 3.
Hero pools will eliminate one tank, one support, and two damage heroes each weekend. The heroes will be randomly selected from the most popular of each class. No hero will be unavailable for more than one weekend, and hero pools will not be implemented for mid-season tournaments, play-ins, playoffs, or the Grand Finals. Teams will be notified which heroes will be unavailable one week in advance.
Another major change that is coming to Overwatch League is a new approach to the implementation of gameplay updates.
In an effort to make it easier for pro players to practice throughout the season, Overwatch League has been slow to bring new patches to the stage. This has left fans watching the pros play with older versions of the game, even as some heroes underwent significant changes. Season 3 will move balance updates through as quickly as possible from the live game service to OWL matches.
In fact, patches will be implemented just two weekends after they hit live servers. Smaller updates will be implemented the following weekend.
The response to the news has been staggering. The OWL community is wondering how players will perform with both the rapid changes and the hectic travel schedule that OWL Season 3 brings.
WIN.gg spoke with Guangzhou Charge support player Alberto “neptuNo” Gonzalez Molinillo to ask about the combination of a quick turnover in meta and the demanding travel. “I think it would be better if every team is in the same place for [a set amount] of months, play the homestands and move on to the next place in the world. But I’ll tell you after [Season] 3 if I am burnt out.”
While some fans are excited about the change and excitement it will bring to the highest level of professional play, others also think it is a lazy way to get around good balance. It’s hard to look at the introduction of hero pools as anything other than a shortcut to a more compelling metagame.
Blizzard concludes by stating that it will listen to the players and fans, and notes that both hero pools and the new approach to patches could be revised at any point in the season.
Season 3 starts on February 8 with matches hosted by the New York Excelsior and Dallas Fuel.