Instead of having different hero pools for the Overwatch League, Contenders and competitive plays, Overwatch will now have a unified draw banning the same heroes for everyone. Moreover, there will be no more map pool from April 15.
One hero pool for Overwatch League, Contenders and competitive
At the beginning of the Overwatch League 2020 Season, Overwatch introduced a new system: hero pools. Each week, random heroes are banned from the hero selection menu and cannot be played until the next hero pool. Until today, these hero pools have been different for the Overwatch League, Contenders and competitive games.
We’ve got an important update to Hero Pools as you know them 👀
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) April 9, 2020
Starting next week, every player in Overwatch will have the same hero pool. This change will allow Overwatch League and Contenders players to train with the same heroes in scrims, competitive games, and official matches. Moreover, this provides spectators of the Overwatch League and Contenders with a show closer to their own games, giving the entire Overwatch community a common experience.
The hero pool will be determined the same way it is currently happening in the Overwatch League. Blizzard will take into account play rates from high-level competitive plays from the preceding two weeks. All heroes with a minimum play rate threshold will be eligible to be banned. The higher their play rate, the more likely they are to be removed, following the weighted hero pool rules.
The first unified hero pool will be announced on Sunday, April 12, during Watchpoint, right after the game between San Francisco Shock and Los Angeles Gladiators. This hero pool will be effective in competitive games, Overwatch League and Contenders from Monday, April 13.
The issue with different hero pools
When Overwatch implemented the hero pool system, the goal was to allow more diversity in-game, and prevent some metas from overstaying their welcome. Role lock may have dramatically ended the reign of GOATS, but games still often include the same heroes. The core of Overwatch is flexibility, and this couldn’t happen with unbalanced heroes.
To fix this issue, Blizzard forced players to change their habits by banning some heroes each week. While the Overwatch League’s banned heroes were picked randomly among the most played heroes of the previous couple of weeks, the same rule didn’t apply to competitive games. Hero bans happened entirely randomly. There was no rule as to the number of total heroes banned or their role in the game. One week, two DPS heroes were banned alongside one tank and one healer, the next it would be two support heroes, and another week a total of six heroes would be benched. These decisions were not explained, leaving players wondering what would happen the following week.
Moreover, having different hero pools for professional and amateur games bring the issue of practicing. How could professional players train for their official matches, without being able to select a character from the same hero pool? Let’s take the example of a main tank. If Reinhardt is not in the Overwatch League’s hero pool, the player may need to train Orisa. But what happens if Orisa is banned from competitive games? This discrepancy between professional and amateur games led to confusion at best, frustration at worst.
By unifying hero pools for the Overwatch League, Contenders and competitive games, Blizzard gives all players the same gaming experience.
Goodbye, Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony
Redefining hero pools is not the only change happening in the Overwatch League and overall competitive games. The map pool is also gone.
The map pool is a collection of available maps, changing each season. The initial goal is this map pool was to give each competition season a unique feel and identity. However, players were not entirely satisfied with this experience, removing maps for two months and preventing them from exploring and training in more places.
Moreover, Blizzard admitted that the short-term objective of the map pool was to reduce the number of matches played on Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony. These maps are among the most criticized by the community, who consider them unbalanced between Attack and Defense.
To fix this issue, Overwatch will now remove Paris and Horizon Lunar Colony from all competitive matches until further notice. In the meanwhile, Blizzard will rework these maps to provide players with a better competitive experience. Map pools will officially disappear on April 14.