[Meta Analysis] How no hero limit lets Tracer dominate the meta
For the past few weeks we have seen one hero limit become somewhat standard across many tournaments, with pro players loving it following the latest patch, and according to the latest GosuGamers poll on the matter, a large portion of normal viewers liking it too. But the first six-figure prize pool and Blizzard-sponsored tournament is coming up, the Overwatch Atlantic Showdown, and that event will use a no hero limit and competitive mode format, prompting other tournaments to return to the no hero limit format.
In theory, there is nothing wrong with no hero limit. Some very interesting strategies arise when teams are able to duplicate heroes. This week showed off one such example in the finals of the Weekly NA #14, with team Nubris running a triple D.Va strategy on Volskaya Industries offense and absolutely crushing their opponents in a very quick round. While these isolated cases show how fun no hero limit can be and how much depth it can add to the game, there are certain heroes that ruin it for everyone else. One of these, and indeed the biggest offender, is Tracer.
In the no hero limit meta of this week, Tracer sat as queen with an insane 130% pickrate, meaning that it was almost guaranteed that there would be at least two Tracers in a game across both teams, and there was a good chance of one of the teams running a second Tracer in their lineup. While on offense this chances were less, with Tracer’s pickrate on offense being a much lower 54%. However, on both defense and in King of the Hill her pickrate breached the 100% range, with King of the Hill even showing a pickrate of 201%, meaning that it was near guaranteed that both teams would be running double Tracer in their compositions. The reason why Tracer saw such a massive bias in picks under no hero limit is quite simple. Two Tracers is just too much.
Think back for a second to the pub matches you’ve played against Tracer and just how annoying it can be to deal with just a single Tracer, even one played mediocrely. You’re constantly under threat and she is a major distraction even if she isn’t getting kills. She’s hard to kill too outside of some really good aim or misplay on the Tracer’s part, as there are no heroes that explicitly counter her. Even ZP, the filthy Tracer main that he is, had difficulty coming up with a hero he found it hard to play Tracer against when put on the spot in the grand finals between Nubris and Cloud 9. Now, while you could kill that single Tracer through good aim or predictions fairly easily, once there are two of them, and once they’re playing at a pro level, the situation becomes a lot worse.
When double Tracer is run at a high level, it isn’t as chaotic as it may appear while watching. Communication is key in professional teams, it’s what separates pubstars from pros. With two Tracers, the game of communication makes them near unkillable and even more lethal than they are already. The dynamic of good communication opens so many more avenues. The first and most obvious one is hero focusing. While Tracer does decent damage alone, it’s not as stellar as some other heroes can do. But once you have two communicating with each other, they can both zip in, focus the same target, and bring them down before they can even do much to react.
But where things get really interesting though, and where double Tracer really becomes hard to deal with, is when Tracer tagging is introduced. This is something that isn’t really talked about much in relation to Tracer, but it’s certainly one of the things that makes double Tracer so strong. The idea is that your two Tracers work kind of like a tag team in wrestling, with them both going in at the same time, and then when one drops low backing off to heal. Without the backup of the second Tracer, the other one will be focused a lot harder, but it doesn’t really matter much as by the time that Tracer has to back out, the other one will come in and pick up the slack. This essentially allows the two Tracers to constantly be covering each other, and for there never to be a downtime in the damage and harassment that a Tracer provides. With the use of this technique which is only possible in a no hero limit environment Tracer’s strength is boosted through the roof, never giving teams a moment of rest and making the already hard to kill hero even harder to kill.
This becomes an even bigger problem with more Tracers of course, and with the way certain mechanics in Overwatch behave. As mentioned earlier, Tracer maintained a 200% pickrate on King of the Hill this week. The reason for that is because of how strong Tracer tagging works when coupled with overtime and contesting mechanics. Tracer is of course, one of the most mobile heroes in the game, and this comes heavily into play when you look at the point mechanics of defense and King of the Hill. On defense, a point is contested so long as there is someone on it. So if a team is about to lose a point, they obviously want anyone on it at all costs to keep it contested for as long as possible and allow the team to potentially catch up and retake it. Tracer is the prime candidate for this, as she can constantly dip in and out of the point, keeping it contested near instantly. On top of this, if she dies she can get back to the point quickly, causing her team not to lose much time. This leads to teams running 5 Tracer and 1 Lucio final defenses because it lets them stall for so long and gives them the possibility to gradually whittle down the opposing team to the point where they can re-establish their defense.
A similar problem exists on King of the Hill, although to an even greater extent. In King of the Hill, so long as a point is contested, the timer still ticks. This means that teams can effectively spam Tracers onto the point to contest, not really even kill anyone while they do it, and still get within one point of winning the map. On top of this, overtime is refreshed whenever a hero gets onto the point, and as I discussed earlier, Tracer is amazing at getting onto the point and staying on it. This leads to a game where you have multiple Tracers constantly tagging the point, refreshing the overtime and allowing their teammates to flow in until they could potentially reclaim the point.
Finally, one of the biggest issues with double Tracer is that you almost need double Tracer to counter it. There are few heroes in the game that can keep up with a single Tracer’s mobility, and even less that can keep up with two of them. This leads to a situation where teams need to run a double Tracer on their own to be able to hunt down the opposing double Tracer, leading to a game of cat and mouse, and more importantly, to 4 heroes just being Tracer.
Because of no hero limit, Tracer can absolutely dominate the meta, as while dealing with a single Tracer is fairly simple, dealing with more than one suddenly becomes a lot harder, especially when you take into consideration the communication and coordination of teams at the high end. More than one Tracer is just way too strong and difficult to play into with very few heroes other than Tracer themselves that can really do with this. With no hero limit in play, Tracer is near guaranteed to sit at the top of the meta simply because of just how strong it is to have many of them.
If you’re interested in analysis of the Overwatch meta, I make a weekly video series devoted to analysing and breaking down the previous week of competitive to form a stats-based tier list, show this week’s strategies, and break down every hero’s place individually before summing up the state of the meta. Here’s the latest episode, so be sure to check it out if this article was interesting to you.
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