[OW] Widowmaker bait was opportunistic, not planned

I like the work Blitz Esports Overwatch does on YouTube in breaking down tactical scenarios, including a look at how Team Korea’s Widowmaker influenced the Hanamura map win against Team Canada. But I disagree with the slant of their take, which seems to indicate that Team Korea’s bait was pre-meditated and intentional. To my eyes, it looked opportunistic. That is, Canada got baited, but Korea did not really go out of their way to arrange or force a bait scenario…they were just quick to capitalize when it appeared. Let’s check out the tactics breakdown, then go into the critique:

The first signs that Korea did not specifically use Widowmaker as bait have to do with the response to the Winston dive on Widowmaker at 1:23. First, Widowmaker when trying to escape actually runs into the corner…she was positioned to peek the angle for headshots, rather than being fully prepped for a bait and run. In response to the Winston leap, D.Va boosts to protect Widow, as is her job, but there was no guarantee that the Winston she pushed would necessarily be in a position to be shoved out the window, though it was good to go for the chance once it arose. Further, the Widow uses her hook to escape at the same time that Winston gets pushed, and didn’t have sight on her reinforcing D.Va until the hook was already cast. These factors make it look to me like Widow was trying to protect herself without expectation of backup.

Then at 1:46, when Widowmaker and Tracer have an inconclusive duel, Widow of course looks for an opportunity to escape as soon as possible. It’s true that the resulting escape leaves Tracer baited and alone outside the point and away from the main fight, but Tracer is advantaged in that 1v1 scenario that appeared before Widow’s hook came back off of cooldown. That’s not a situation a Widow looks to get into intentionally. She missed her shots on the Tracer upstairs beforehand, and ends up in a close range 1v1 against her outside…not a favored situation! It’s lucky for her that she stayed alive long enough to pull herself back up to the ledge.

So there are (at least) four factors that indicate that Team Korea did not premeditate to arrange the baits on Winston and Tracer. First, Widow not being positioned to escape the leap immediately, second the Widow jumping out the window just as her support knocks the monkey outside, third the fortune needed in the timing to knock the monkey out the window, and fourth the unfavorable nature of a close range 1v1 with Tracer that Widow happens to survive. I want to reiterate Blitz Esports Overwatch does really good work, and I love to check it out. Their analysis of the importance of these baits is largely correct, but the slant is slightly off.

Team Canada got baited, but Team Korea did not purposefully “use Widowmaker as bait.”

[All] Don’t position against a wall (without good reason)!

Today we return to the site’s roots, looking at a general strategic idea that exists across the gaming world: “Don’t position against a wall!” I’ve most recently remembered this idea from reviewing and playing Overwatch games, but it has cropped up many times before. Sometimes the wall is physical, sometimes it is metaphorical, but by definition it limits your available moves. This is a gift to the opponent! It makes their job easier. We want to do the opposite. As I’ve put it before, we want to “put the onus on the opponent.*” We want to make their job harder, to give them opportunities to misplay or guess wrong. Let’s look at some examples.

(11:54-12:18) First I’ll take a look at an Overwatch clip, though the ideas extend very naturally to games involving realtime movement prediction. It’s here that the concept of not positioning flush against a wall most recently returned to my thoughts. Here is a brief example that cropped up while I was reviewing and analyzing a set of replays from a player’s run to diamond rank. The Ana, by positioning right up against a wall, takes hits from all 3 of Genji’s shuriken. If she had a little more leeway to play with, she could force Genji to divine her movement, putting the onus on him to guess correctly in order to land his damage:

The example above has analogues in other FPS and also arena games, like League of Legends. For example, a Thresh chasing down a champion towards a wall will wait to hook until the enemy is up against the wall, reducing the directions they have for juking But you might be surprised to realize this idea comes up even outside of real time movement-prediction games. In chess they often say “A knight on the rim is dim,” referring to the weakness of the knight when on the edge of the board. A centralized knight could move to 8 squares, but on the edge will have only two options. It’s so bad that the rim knight can be completely “dominated” by a bishop, as presented by YouTube commentator MatoJelic in this clip:

(19:58-20:26) In the Overwatch example the wall was a physical wall. In the chess one, the wall is almost physical, consisting of the edge of the board. Now let’s look at a Magic: the Gathering example. In this clip from the recent Week 7 of Vintage Super League season 7, Rachel Agnes highlights a good example of a metaphorical wall restricting a player’s options. Rodrigo Togores has only 1 life left, making him unable to pay the alternate cost of Force of Will (card image below clip) without losing the game. Having even one more life would require his opponent to play around the possibility of a no-mana-cost counterspell, but as-is he’s against a wall. The opponent knows that if he does have the Force, he must pay the full 5 mana for it or not use it at all. Rachel goes on to share the amusing tale of a past an opponent of hers who threw away a winning game by needlessly paying their last point of life to counter a spell unnecessarily:

* Aside: In the past, I’ve used the phrase “put the onus on the opponent” to talk about minimizing risk while comfortably maintaining a gamestate where the opponent is disadvantaged, where if nothing changes the status quo will bring you more advantage or a win, forcing the opponent to take on risk in trying to “make something happen” that might upset this trajectory.

[OW] EnVyUs punts a critical moment in Overwatch Contenders Grand Finals

EnVyUs misplayed a critical moment fighting to take Objective B on Temple of Anubis. They ended up winning the map anyways, but the punt give their opponents a window in which to regroup and potentially hold. Times mentioned refer to the video sub-clip below.

The situation: EnVyUs (in blue and on attack) is leading due to victories on prior maps and has just taken Objective A. Eager to wrap up the game, they quickly make a move for the second point. Tracer and Sombra’s mobility puts them well ahead of their team. Working together, the two score a pick on the FaZe’s Sombra (at 14:43 in the clip). Note at this moment that EnVyUs’ Lucio is at 86% of the way towards his Sound Barrier ultimate, a key tool for teamfights. Further, though they don’t know it, their opponents’ SB is at only 52%.

Hungry for blood from the pick, EnVyUs’ Effect (on Tracer) overcommits, quickly dying at 14:48 (aside: Effect overpushed and died alone for no reason a number of times this match, e.g. as Reaper shortly after the end of the portion clipped here). The overcommitment also baits her Winston, who splits from the still-approaching team with leap to die alone on point at 14:51. A mere 3 SECONDS later, their Lucio’s Sound Barrier becomes ready, and he pops it immediately in the 4v5 (though its shield on the far-back Widowmaker is essentially irrelevant, so it’s basically a 3-man SB). The attackers kill Genji at 14:58, then burn D.Va’s Self Destruct at 15:01 for no kills (but the first 1/3 checkpoint of cap time), followed by Sombra’s EMP at 15:07 right before she dies. Despite the hype from the commentators, EnVyUs gains no real traction here and they lose control of the point. The short respawn distance for the defenders means they are able to hold and regroup. The attackers burned many ults while the defenders used only one (a late Self Destruct from their own D.Va at 15:20). FaZe is left with some time to defend in relative comfort with their ult advantage, forcing Envyus has to burn some time before finding another credible opportunity to push.

With better communication and less bloodlust, EnVyUs could have delayed their dive for just a few short seconds and been able to use a 6-man Sound Barrier against the 5 defenders that had no SB of their own available. It almost certainly would have resulted in a clean wipe and a map win. This one mistake cost them time, dragging the game out for an additional 4 minutes. They gifted FaZe a chance to stay in the game. Though EnVyUs did in the end take the map, it’s important to learn from victories as much as from defeats, and the dives from Tracer and Winston before their one-sided Sound Barrier could come up was a key mistake at a critical juncture.

[OW] Maintaining Momentum

In these clips we see early game momentum in action. YouTube and Twitch Overwatch analyst ‘flame’ here reviews map 1 of Runaway vs LW Blue in the APEX Season 2 semifinals. This is a King of the Hill map, where a team wins by possessing the central point for enough total time. For readers unfamiliar with Overwatch, check the wiki for hero abilities.

In the initial engagement, LW Blue’s Saebyeolbe tries to leverage Tracer’s mobility and damage, quickly crossing to the enemy back line looking to pick off Cox playing the squishy support Ana. The tactic fails, as Cox undoes the damage by grabbing a health pack. As you can see in the video, Saebyeolbe desperately tried to deny the health pack, but being at full health was unable to actually pick it up. He pulls out to rejoin the main fight, but the enemy Winston’s Barrier blocks his damage. LW Blue players all wipe. Of note, LW Blue’s own Winston died to a single shot despite his very tanky hit point pool, knocked off the map to his death by Lucio. The tactical shot dodged the need to eat through Winston’s tankiness. Losing both the 1v1 and the 5v5, LW Blue gets off to a rough start:

“Playing McCree into a good D.Va is really hard, like you see right there they just press forward and there’s nothing they can do about it…I like that they just pressed in; they didn’t have to back up…no reason to give them ground. They (Runaway) have better heroes for engaging so they just engage.”

Flame claims Runaway has stronger engaging heros at this skirmish on LW Blue’s half of the map, and in that there’s only one real mirror-breaker to look at. Both teams field D.Va, Winston, Lucio, Ana, and Tracer at the start of the extended skirmish. The mirror-breaker is Genji for Runaway vs. McCree for LW Blue, setting up a tactical aggro vs control situation. McCree is more of a long range stationary firing platform. He has a hard time escaping from multiple opponents at once, but if guarded can lay down consistent high damage from range. Genji’s damage over time is lower, but he has spike potential against squishy targets and is very mobile. The Genji comp has more tools to win in a close up brawl among the squishies, while the McCree comp has better tools to get ahead in a ranged standoff, using their tanks to defend more often than dive.

LW Blue’s Winston, D.Va, and Tracer started in front screening against the push, with McCree, Ana, and Lucio
coming from the base. Runaway blasts past the front line with their movement abilities, closing on the squishy back line and splitting them from their tanks and Tracer. LW Blue’s Winston, D.Va and Tracer, cut off by the dive, go for the point unsuccessfully. The LW Blue back line, relatively immobile and split from their tanks, falls quickly to the dive:

The LW Blue Tracer ran from and survived the fight above. She spots a window to knock out D.Va’s mech suit and possibly finish off Winston, but his shield barrier keeps him alive with a sliver of health and baits Tracer to her death. Flame rightly notes the importance that Kaiser (the Winston) survived with low hp. In Overwatch, heros ultimates charge more quickly based on the damage dealt, shielded, or healed. Winston’s large but mostly empty HP pool lets Ana and Lucio heal him and power out their ults to help keep the steamroll momentum going. And the momentum does keep going, with Ana using Nano Boost on Genji, who pops his Dragonblade and dives for 4 kills and escapes. The dive knocks back LW Blue’s regroup momentum by another respawn cycle while Runaway is ticking up point control time and charging ults:

Following this point, Runaway needs to mess up and throw away advantage to lose. They do try to throw, losing control of the point briefly while at 99% to winning, but they win the teamfight after respawn and finish the game victorious.

[Meta] Statistics only go so far

There was an insightful digression of flame's that I had cut from the curated clips in my recent Overwatch post. In the cut clip, flame shares his thinking on why the recent harsh criticisms levied against Genji-player Ahran may be unfair, with critics looking only at scoreboard performance while missing important context. With some reservations, I ultimately removed the bit from my write-up as it did not fit the theme or flow of the post. However, I recently came across this article by Australian LoL analyst VolSig that caused me to reevaluate the clip's relevance. VolSig's discussion of the limitations of blindly analyzing with statistics brought to mind flame's worthy critique of Ahran-critics. Ultimately, I feel the point made in the clip merits a highlight:

The power and limitations of statistics is a theme that I expect will crop up again, as analysts in gaming and other fields increasingly turn to big data to make decisions. In this particular case, Ahran's performance needs to be understood through more than just the lens of scoreboard results. Performance statistics are aggregated from specific instances of play, and to really understand their meaning one must take the time to understand the component instances. By directly comparing Ahran to other top Genji players, critics fail to account for important differences in context, including differing personal playstyle, support quality, and team strategy.

[OW] Flame reviews C9 vs AFBlue Match

Overwatch player/caster flame critiques C9's play in a match against AF Blue. Here are a few key moments of analysis.

Both teams field tanks Reinhardt and Zarya and supports Lucio and Ana, characters very strong at the top level on king of the hill maps. Team Cloud9 fills out their remaining two slots with with Roadhog for tank/burst/disruption and Tracer as their single DPS. Team AF Blue instead runs double DPS in the form of Genji and McCree. Flame prefers AF Blue's comp for having more options for ranged (McCree) and close (Genji) DPS, and for having more permutations of ability synergy to enable good engages even without Zarya ultimate. Cloud 9 will need to take out the ranged McCree in order for the close-range Tracer to have openings to threaten the supports, and the Roadhog will need to find successful hooks to be relevant:
Continue reading "[OW] Flame reviews C9 vs AFBlue Match"