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Examining Overwatch’s Most Powerful Team Composition – Can Anything Dethrone GOATS?

By Jory Hollander in Sports
| May 20, 2019 12:00 am PDT
Examining GOATS in 2019

The GOATS meta is on the forefront of everyone’s minds after the OWL Season 2 Stage 2 Grand Final between the San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans.

Both teams utilized a GOATS lineup to perfection and dominated their respective Stage 2 schedules because of it.

In this article, I’m going to analyze Overwatch’s most powerful team composition, GOATS, decide if it’s good for the future of Overwatch esports, and discuss ways the developers can put an end to it.

Also, be sure to check out our list of the best Overwatch betting sites if you’re interested in wagering on Overwatch esports.

What Is GOATS Composition?

If you’ve watched any matches from Season 2 of the Overwatch League, then you have likely seen GOATS in practice.

The GOATS comp is often referred to as triple tank/triple support, 3/3, or standard composition because of its widespread adoption throughout the league.

The standard GOATS composition utilizes six specific heroes.

  • Reinhardt
  • Zarya
  • Va
  • Brigitte
  • Zenyatta
  • Lúcio

There are some exceptions to this, however. Winston can be swapped for Reinhardt and Moira can be swapped for Zenyatta depending on the map and the opposing composition.

The general strategy behind GOATS involves sticking together as a unit and staying alive long enough to build up an ultimate bank that can neutralize the enemy team.

Earthshatter, Self-Destruct, and Graviton Surge are ultimate abilities with the power to eliminate all six enemy players. Rally, Transcendence, and Sound Barrier give the GOATS composition three support ultimates to either survive an attack or engage a fight.

These six ultimate abilities, when staggered properly, grant the team an endless combination of ways to win fights.

The teams who have the most success using GOATS are clever with the way they manage their ultimate and regular abilities. The best GOATS teams never commit more utility to a fight than needed.

What Makes GOATS so Powerful?

Overwatch players figured out long ago that a team with a larger total health-pool has more chances to win fights.

When Ana was first introduced into the game, her Biotic Grenade’s healing buff allowed tank-heavy lineups to thrive.

Battles became stalemates as each team tried to out-sustain the other to eventually create an advantage.

Tank to Win

The tank meta was ultimately nerfed, but the GOATS meta was born out of the principles that made the tank meta successful. GOATS maximizes a team’s sustainability, which inevitably increases their margin for error.

Overwatch is an objective-based game, and securing eliminations are only one part of a winning strategy. Often times, the best way to play the objective is to stall for as long as possible in order to deplete the opposing team’s time bank.

The GOATS lineup involves a Reinhardt shield, Brigitte shield, Defense Matrix, and Projected Barriers that players must deal with before they can start depleting enemy health pools. All of this defensive utility works best when the GOATS lineup stays in close proximity with each other.

In addition to the defensive abilities are AOE healing from Brigitte and Lúcio, as well as single target healing from Orb of Harmony and Repair Pack.

Enemies must break through all of GOATS’ defensive fortifications and then out-damage healing from three supports in order to win a fight and secure the objective.

Squishy Is Risky

A DPS-heavy lineup that involves multiple heroes with small health pools (squishies) runs the risk of a single hero getting killed quickly and the map becoming a snowball for one team.

GOATS mitigates this risk by maximizing team sustainability and allowing the enemy team little opportunity to pick off a single target.

In the highest echelons of play where high-risk strategies do not always reap the best rewards, teams have defaulted towards the safety of GOATS comp.

DPS lineups require a single player to make big plays, and teams are not always willing to gamble the outcome of a match on the individual prowess of a single player.

Why Is GOATS Meta Bad for Overwatch?

Players and fans love to gripe about the dominance of GOATS meta in high-level play.

The crowd of the Overwatch Arena in Burbank, CA, erupts with cheers when a team chooses anything but a standard 3/3 composition. The general disdain towards GOATS is not unfounded, and there is real concern about the effect that GOATS will have on Overwatch esports moving forward.

Overwatch Was Designed With Replayability in Mind

Blizzard Entertainment designed Overwatch with the goal that each of the game’s thirty heroes could be viable.

The endless number of lineup combinations that can be created with Overwatch’s hero roster helps make each round feel fresh. Adapting to unique combinations of heroes adds to the replayability of Overwatch.

It becomes a problem for the game when one combination of six heroes is dominant over all others.

Players become tired of using the same heroes every round, and fans become weary watching the same six heroes go head-to-head on every map.

GOATS meta removes the strategy behind choosing a winning hero combination and makes the game feel stale to those who encounter it on a regular basis.

Less Jaw-Dropping Plays

Another con of the GOATS meta is the reduction of exciting plays that fans have become accustomed to since the game’s inception.

There is a myriad of heroes requiring a high level of mechanical skill being under-utilized in the GOATS meta.

All heroes in Overwatch require skill, but certain heroes are better at showcasing mechanical ability to a casual audience. Some of Overwatch League’s most memorable moments include star players popping off on heroes like Widowmaker, McCree, or Tracer to secure the victory for their teams.

The GOATS meta limits the number of standout plays that can be performed by an individual player. The resulting war of attrition can make it difficult for fans to know who is winning a fight and which players are contributing the most to their team’s success.

Stars Are Being Underutilized

The rise of GOATS meta has forced many of Overwatch League’s star players to turn their attention towards playing Brigitte in order to remain a useful asset to their team. Brigitte is a fine and interesting hero, but she rewards smart ability management over mechanical skill.

It’s a shame to see some of the most skilled players in the world, signed to Overwatch League teams for their phenomenal mechanics, be pigeon-holed into playing a supporting hero whose main attack is a flail.

Brigitte’s ultimate ability, Rally, is arguably one of the least skill-requiring ultimates in the game.

No matter how crucial Brigitte’s role is to team success, she can’t replace the memorable moments provided by Overwatch’s DPS heroes.

Players and fans dream of a future where star DPS players are able to step out of Brigitte’s shadow and retake the damage-dealing, high-skill roles they were meant to play.

How Is Blizzard Dealing With GOATS?

The developers at Blizzard Entertainment are well aware of GOATS meta’s dominance and have been taking steps to reduce the necessity of triple tank/triple support compositions.

Recent patches have centered around limiting the effectiveness of GOATS heroes while increasing the viability of the other twenty-four heroes.

Why Hasn’t Blizzard Patched GOATS?

Blizzard faces a couple of challenges when balancing their game which makes solving GOATS meta more difficult than it seems.

The first challenge that comes with balancing a game with thirty unique heroes is not breaking individual hero balance.

If, for instance, Pharah gets buffed to the point where she can single-handedly defeat GOATS meta, then Pharah becomes overpowered. Blizzard wants to make every hero viable and limit certain heroes from being deemed “must pick.”

The second challenge that Blizzard faces when balancing their game is the consideration of both the casual and professional players. GOATS is dominant at the highest levels of play, but most casual players who don’t follow esports won’t be aware of the triple tank/triple support meta.

Most all of the hero roster is viable at lower levels of play, and balancing the game around professional players could have an adverse effect on the majority of the player base.

What Are Possible Solutions to GOATS Meta?

Blizzard has discussed possibilities in recent developer updates of ways to kill the GOATS meta. Some of these changes may be implemented sooner rather than later if Blizzard considers them beneficial for all levels of play.

Hero Lock

Blizzard has been playing with the idea of implementing a 2/2/2 hero lock into the game that forces players to choose two supports, two tanks, and two damage heroes.

This is the most likely change to be made, and it could have positive effects on the game in a couple of different areas.

A hero lock would essentially end the GOATS meta because it forces teams to pick damage-dealing heroes in their compositions. Teams would be faced with a multitude of new composition strategies to choose from, but triple tank/triple support would not be one of them.

This change could also benefit casual players because it forces teams to choose a balanced combination of heroes. Overwatch players know the frustration of solo queuing into a lobby of six players where no one wants to play support.

The hero lock system could greatly reduce the number of “throw” comps that casual players encounter on a daily basis.

Ban/Protect System

The ban/protect system is a common way that other esports titles have reduced reliance on a single strategy and promoted variance in their gameplay. We have seen the ban/protect system be successful in popular games like League of Legends and Call of Duty.

The way a ban/protect system in Overwatch would likely work is before a match starts each team would be given a chance to ban a certain hero from the match or protect a hero from being banned.

In theory, the ban/protect system would allow teams to prevent their opponents from choosing the necessary elements of GOATS, thus forcing them to adapt their strategy.

A ban/protect system is the more unlikely option to be implemented.

The system could potentially add more time before matches that players must wait through before actual gameplay starts. Players might also miss out on being able to play their favorite heroes if they become a so-called “meta ban.”

To Conclude

The dominance of teams in the Overwatch League who use GOATS is nothing new, but many players and fans are starting to call for a change.

The GOATS meta is a potential detriment to the growth of Overwatch esports because it reduces variance in gameplay while also limiting the number of jaw-dropping plays that fans have come to love.

There is hope on the horizon.

Blizzard Entertainment is currently testing different ways to kill the GOATS meta. Blizzard is known for being very careful with game-changing decisions, and they will not decide on a solution until they have vetted all possibilities.

Fans of Overwatch should be excited at the possibility of new gameplay strategies rising from the ashes of GOATS meta.

A meta change is long overdue, and it should be fascinating to see how Overwatch League teams adapt to a GOATS-less future.

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