Houston’s Overwatch League team has had a disappointing start to its season. They lost both of their first two matches with the lowest map win/loss ratio of any team. There has never been a meta that suited the Outlaws and 2020 is no exception. In the 2018 Dive meta, Outlaws preferred slower compositions and they never looked comfortable in the GOATs meta of 2019. This year they again find themselves missing key skills to excel in the current meta.
Here’s how the Outlaws are struggling in each of the three roles.
All statistics used in this article are taken from the Overwatch League Stats Lab.
The two most-played Damage heroes in the current meta are Mei (84% playtime) and McCree (43%). Houston Outlaws are underperforming on both those heroes. The issue is that neither of their main Damage players specialize in these heroes. Both of Houston’s starting damage dealers, Jeffrey “blasé” Tsang and João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles are more known for their projectile and Doomfist play than Mei or McCree.
What makes the decision to run blasé more puzzling is that one of the star hitscan players of the entire league, Jiri “LiNkzr” Masalin, is sitting on Houston’s bench.
The key issues with the Outlaws tank play is Muma overextending on Reinhardt, dying and leaving his team defenseless. Muma has the fourth-highest first death rate on Reinhardt (18%), and the Outlaws never win fights when Muma dies first. In a meta where McCree and Widow are so popular, the Outlaws can’t afford to lose their only shield tank this often.
The Outlaws have been running a variation on the current Lucio/Ana support meta. In an apparent throwback to GOATS, they frequently choose Brigitte instead of Ana. Only one other team has played Brigitte for more than 15 minutes, the Florida Mayhem. Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty performs better on the hero (in terms of eliminations, hero damage, and healing) for the Outlaws than Mayhem’s Jun-soo “Kris” Choi.
This could be a bold attempt to redefine the meta in Houston’s favor… If it was working.
Even the best Brigitte in the world can’t do enough to make up for losing the utility that Ana provides, the sleep dart that can cancel enemy ultimate’s and initiate fights, or the nano boost that combos so well with other ultimates.
Perhaps the Outlaws will perform better once hero pools are introduced, where the extra practice with an off-meta composition will give them an edge. However, for the current state of the game, this composition likely puts the Outlaws at a disadvantage, and then they seem reluctant to readjust when it doesn’t work for them.
What can the Outlaws do?
The reasons that the Outlaws are struggling right now are straightforward. Firstly the skill sets and hero pools of the Outlaws roster do not match up well with the current meta. This is a smaller issue as the meta will change over the season. The changes will be faster this year, with rotating hero pools and more frequent balance changes.
More surprising, and more concerning, is the decision to keep some of their best players from playing heroes they excel on that are strong in the current meta — Rawkus on Ana and LiNkzr on Widow or McCree.
There are clear steps Houston can take to improve and that analysts and fans have been calling for. Reign in Muma’s aggression, get LiNkzr off the bench and clicking heads, and to run a more meta support lineup. With these changes, the Houston Outlaws have the raw talent to be a force to be reckoned with this year.