Compositional Struggles In The NYXL’s OWL Post-Season
To say the NYXL were not the best team during this years inagural Overwatch League season would be to discredit a team which over the course of 40+ regular season games proved countless times that they were adaptable to anything that any team and any meta might throw at them .
The success sprung from this adaption and the fact that the talent on the roster was better on certain heroes which had been fixed in the meta for at least 3 stages of OWL’s first season.JJonak’s Zenyatta was the jewel’s in Excelsiors crown. JJonak in particular has become something of a Zenyatta phenom who transformed the hero from modest damage dealer to one of the most destructive forces in the league. Such was the level of skill that JJonak displayed on the hero he was awarded the League MVP award based on his play on that hero and the fact his statistical output on the hero was comfortably better than any other player who played considerable time on the hero.
What I find interesting about New York’s struggles and subsequent loss to the Philadelphia Fusion during the playoffs was that this was a team which was touted as this flexible uber talented monster would could adapt and neutralize an enemy team’s composition with a ease that often times seemed unfair, struggled to adapt to a new playoff meta. There are so many theories regarding what might have happened to what was the best team in the regular season but I want to focus in particular on the idea that the meta in playoffs shifted in such a way that New York’s ace, JJonak’s Zenyatta, was all but neutralized due to the fact that the dominant playoff meta no longer included Zenyatta.
Setting the Regular Season Scene:
The first important thing to do is to set a base standard for what the overall dominant meta was for each 4 patches which the OWL regular season was played on:
Stage 1: Winston, D.VA, Genji, Tracer, Mercy & Zenyatta (23 total hours played)
Stage 2: Winston, D.VA, Genji, Tracer, Lucio & Zenyatta ( 15 total hours played)
Stage 3: Winston, D.VA, Widowmaker, Tracer, Mercy & Zenyatta (27 total hours played)
Stage 4: Winston, D.VA, Widowmaker, Brigette, Mercy & Zenyatta ( 13 total hours played)
While these samples come from across all 12 teams throughout the season they show a very clear pattern that Zen was the dominant healer in the meta throughout. It makes sense considering Zen’s value and toolset are reasonably unique amongst Overwatch heros. He has a regular ability which increases the damage taken by a single target whilst still being able to heal a single target also. Combine this with the fact that a fairly talented Zen could often times generate kills with his alternative fire ability that could set up a advantage in a team fight. This is to also not mention the fact that his ultimate ability outputs 300 healing per second for 6 seconds which often times renders the damage outputted by all non burst damage ultimates(e.g Junkrat, D.VA, McCree) as null.
Zenyatta’s strength become amplified more so when put in the hands of a talented player. In NYXL’s case this was JJonak. Such was JJonak’s ability on the character that there were many cases throughout the season where his damage output was akin to many of his DPS counterparts. It’s because of this that New York’s team was so unique that they orientated their style of play around JJonak’s Zenyatta knowing that they could essentially have 3 DPS in a match at a single point. This created an inherent advantage in potential damage which NYXL could output in any given team fight. Throughout the regular season the metas re-affirmed this choice of play style. New York’s most played team compositions throughout all 4 stages featured Zenyatta. This isn’t to say that other teams didn’t do the same but if a play style is cemented by 4 stages worth of match practice it might be difficult to re-orientate if the meta shifts to such a meta which removes your huge adavantage over every other team.
During the playoffs the meta shifted quite substantially from what it had been for the majority of the regular season thanks to a Hanzo buff which aided in the shift away from a more mobile Winston - D.VA tank meta to a more static a pick focussed Orisa- Roadhog meta that was augmented by Widowmaker’s continued prominence in the meta. Roadhog’s ability to sustain with his self healing allowed the teams to increase their pick potential in a meta which thrived off of the picks generated by the two snipers. The Roadhog replaced the Zenyatta while D.VA maintained her place in the meta simply because her skill set is so strong and offers a direct counter to Orisa’s Halt ability which is one part of the Halt-Hook combination that this meta treasured.This double sniper became the dominant composition of the playoffs and had more time played than any other composition. All but 1 of the 6 playoffs teams had a triple tank with a single healer and double snipers. That one team was the NYXL.
I want to state clearly that I do not think that the shift in the meta was the sole reason for NYXL not doing as well as I think everyone in the OWL community thought that they would. Instead I think it highlighted a couple of things of important things. JJonak’s Zenyatta in a win condition on it’s own and just the ability to have JJonak on Zenyatta gives whatever team has him a massive advantage over any other team which plays a Zenyatta opposite. I think NYXL recognised this strength and wanted to play to much it as much as possible as I imagine any team with that kind of advantage would. It’s just when that advantage was removed(along with plenty of others such as Saebyeolbe’s Tracer being taken out of the meta) .
New York just hit a meta which took away some of their strengths and in one particular case their greatest strength but this is just another case of how a meta can impact a teams performance.
*All statistics pulled from Winstonslab.com