Stage 2 of the OWL started off with a bang as teams took to the stage with a renewed vigor. The slew of balance changes as well as a new hero introduced between stages had fans tuned in excited by the prospect of seeing their favorite DPS players back on their preferred role. Some teams chose to field the new hero Baptiste alongside the ever underutilized Bastion, forming a rock-solid defense at the first point of assault maps. Others finally let their Widows off the leash to wreak havoc in a head clicking frenzy.
Although this change of pace was refreshing, the 3x3 meta of the last stage had certainly not disappeared yet. Teams that excelled at the comp like SF Shock and NYXL relied on the tried and true strategy to great success. It seems that no nerf bat is strong enough to kill the rolling thunder of the infamous GOATS comp.
Among the more experimental teams was our own Philadelphia Fusion, fielding some of the weirder comps seen this week. D.Va specialist and self-proclaimed one trick Gael “Poko” Gouzerch flexed onto two new heroes in a bid to get ahead of this new meta. After the matches, Poko met with me to discuss the changes to the competitive landscape and what it takes to adapt.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Adam: Can you tell me a little about how your team has adapted to this new meta?
Poko: We are not sure actually (laughs). I feel like there are so many compositions that can be played right now, it's not only GOATS anymore. Really good GOATS teams like NYXL or Shock are obviously going to want to play on GOATS, but they will probably want to put Baptiste in instead of Brigitte.
We are not that good at GOATS, so we tried to find some other option DPS wise. That's tough since we have to change everything to do that, we have to work on everything, and we are lacking in practice time. That's why we got hard stomped against NYXL, but we did play a bit better against Mayhem, so overall I'm happy.
Adam: Tell me a bit more about that transition, because we are still seeing a lot of 3-3 especially after first points are taken. Is this an aspect of comfort or optimization?
Poko: I'm not sure honestly. I think some teams are a bit lazy to adapt or to try new stuff, because why would they? 3x3 is still really strong, so they will only play one comp and try to carry as that comp, or they can play a bunch of comps and try to see what works and what doesn't. I think it's way more difficult to play stuff other than 3x3 right now because there are so many possibilities and so many variables. You have to know where to go and where your teammates going to be, so with more comps you have to think a lot more. It's so much work, that's why I think teams are lazy to adapt to a different style.
Adam: Considering the sheer volume of changes made going into this stage, how long do you think it will take before the meta actually stabilizes?
Poko: I don't know, a few weeks at the very least. However, I think some of the lower teams are going to try to copy some of the stronger teams, so the Shock and Titans for example. Those teams like to play GOATS so people will try to copy that, but it's hard to be as good as them in the composition, so lower teams may attempt some DPS comps and get some upsets, which would push people in that direction. It's really hard to say right now.
(Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment)
Adam: We saw you hit the field this weekend with some interesting hero picks, how did it feel to finally be off D.Va in favor of some DPS Heroes?
Poko: (Laughs) Well, yesterday we were thinking about what we could play on Temple of Anubis, and we didn't know what to do. Then people were like, "Wait, new Torb, is he not good?" and I said I didn't know since I never play him. I checked my profile, and I had like three minutes of Torbjorn play ever (laughs), so I just said, "Eh ... Fine, LET'S GO!" so we tried it and it went surprisingly well. For Sombra, I've played her a few times now, all you have to do is poke shields and try to be annoying.
Adam: You are pretty well known as a D.Va specialist. What is it like expanding your hero pool all this time?
Poko: You play a lot of solo queue to figure out what you can do, and more importantly what you can't do with a character. You have to know your limits before you try it out in a team environment. It's really different in a team environment, people are actually really good. There's actual communication so you can't just do random stuff. So there are two ways to practice, but it's all just playing the game.
Adam: Was there anyone on the team that was particularly helpful in your transition?
Poko: Everyone really, but every time I play Sombra the coaches are watching me a lot closer to help me play better. They give me their opinions on when I should attack versus waiting, they let me know when I should have hacked one target instead of another, they just do everything they can to help.
Adam: After the first week of competition are there any strats or comps that you've seen that deserve closer examination?
Poko: I think the GOATS variation with Baptiste instead of Brigitte is really powerful. At the beginning, we thought it wouldn't be that good, because you can just play Brig and push engagements instead, but we realized the Lucio nerf hits that comp really hard. You can't just boost forward, bash, and kill the Reinhardt anymore, and Baptiste has ultimate like every fight, so it's really tough. Baptiste's E, where nobody dies, it's just ... (Sighs). I just think that 3-3 with Baptiste is going to be the most annoying comp.
Adam: Baptiste ult allows Reinhardt's Fire Strike to one shot squishy targets. Will that be a big consideration when deciding paths of attack?
Poko: Just dodge it (laughs). I mean, it's a hard one to play around, so we just call it and expect everyone to dodge or you're a dead man.
Adam: This week we saw a lot of different DPS comps. Do you think this trend will continue?
Poko: I feel like every team has a counter to DPS comps, some include Monkey, D.Va, Pharah, and Moira. You may run four DPS to counter GOATS, but you can be countered back. I think you can run the Bastion/Orisa on first point, that's petty solid, but that’s about it.