Main Tank Shuffle: A Closer Look at Stage 3’s Player Changes

As we rapidly approach the start of Stage 3 of the Overwatch League, evidence is mounting that the meta we know and (not quite) love is here to stay. One of the focal points of a team in a GOATS meta is the strength of their main tank. Top teams like the Titans and Shock have succeeded in large part due to the excellent performances of main tanks
Sang-Beom “Bumper” Park and Matthew “Super” DeLisi. Other teams on the opposite end of the standings have main tanks that leave much to be desired.

Coming into Stage 3, a few teams have made changes in the main tank department. As a leader and shotcaller, main tanks have the potential to dictate the game for the team. These new faces on main tank are therefore worth taking a look at. Let’s take a look at what these signings mean for the players and their teams.

Dallas Fuel

First, the somewhat puzzling move that kicked off the stage break. Ahead of Stage 2 Playoffs (you may remember Dallas as Vancouver’s first victims in a 0-3 quarterfinal match-up), Dallas announced the signing of main tank Ashley “Trill” Powell from their Academy Team (Team Envy) to the Dallas Fuel.

Now the move is puzzling not because Trill isn’t a fantastic main tank player. In fact, he would be an upgrade over various teams’ main tanks. Dallas Fuel, however, does not appear to be one of these teams. Amongst main tanks with over 1 hour of playtime in Season 2, Dallas’ current main tank player, Min-Seok “OGE” Son ranks among the top. He is is tied for 4th in eliminations per 10 minutes (16.78, tied with NYXL’s Mano) and 5th in damage per 10 minutes (8085).

Tank statistics per 10 among main tanks with over 1 hour of playtime this season

By most accounts, OGE is a more than serviceable main tank, and has been a bright spot for the Fuel. In all likelihood, it seems like Trill would not be an upgrade over his Korean counterpart. Without the synergy that OGE has likely built with his team in the past year, Trill seems like a subpar choice out of the two, and may likely be benched as a back-up for OGE.

On the other hand, removing Trill from their academy team has left Team Envy with no main tank ahead of the Atlantic Showdown. Crippling Envy in order to fill the bench on the Fuel has been a choice that has left many (myself included) scratching their heads. While we are certainly celebrating the second Australian in the league, and an extremely deserving player claiming that title, it remains a mystery where Trill slots into this roster. Unless Dallas intends to make more moves in the future, this overall move is a puzzling one.

Verdict: Not an apparently meaningful addition, and frankly quite puzzling.

Los Angeles Valiant

Just a few days later, the biggest trade of the season would be announced. Valiant traded their main tank Pan-Seung “Fate” Koo, in exchange for Florida Mayhem’s off-tank Caleb “McGravy” McGarvey, and Mayhem Academy’s main tank Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell and hitscan DPS (read: Zarya player) Johannes “Shax” Nielsen. The 3-for-1 trade alone speaks to the perceived value of Fate. Indeed, he has been with the team since they were known as Immortals, and was integral in the Valiant’s success in season 1. In this trade, Valiant looks to replace their current main tank player with FCTFCTN.

One thing worth noting about the Valiant is despite being 17th place, they don’t look mechanically bad. Valiant ranks 3rd overall in damage done per 10 (below Shock and Vancouver), but only 11th overall in eliminations. Similarly, their main damage dealer Kyle “KSF” Frandanisa ranks 7th overall in the league damage per 10, but compared to his Zarya counterparts with similar damage stats, he has on average 3 less eliminations and 1 less final blow per 10 (This stat was compared with Seoul’s FITS and Dallas’ aKm, with damage stats within 100 of KSF). This points to a general inability for Valiant to focus targets and finish kills, despite being perfectly capable of hitting their shots – a problem with coordination and communication rather than mechanical skill.

A comparison of damage and elimination stats per 10 across all teams

Arguably, this is also why Valiant have looked better with Kariv in the flex support role over Izayaki. The latter is mechanically very skilled, boasting 3rd highest damage stat among Zenyattas with over 1 hour played (behind Viol2t and Jjonak), and 2nd overall healing per 10 among all players (behind Viol2t). The fact that Valiant finds more success with Kariv suggests that what is holding them back has been communication, target focus and synergy, rather than mechanical skill.

Perhaps for this reason, it makes sense that Valiant wanted to pick up 2 players from Mayhem Academy, rather than just 1. FCTFCTN alone may find it hard to gel with the Valiant in this short time. We assume he will be starting as Valiant seems unlikely to go with the only other main tank on the roster, Dae-Kuk “Kuki” Kim . By pairing him with a Zarya player he has built synergy with in Contenders (on a rather successful Mayhem Academy), Valiant preserves some of this pre-existing synergy. A Western main tank may also help the now majority Western starting line up communicate better (even though Fate’s English was by no means bad).

Whether this trade works out for the Valiant, therefore, will not rely on just the mechanical skill of these new players. Rather, it will rely on whether the team can gel with these new pieces, and will depend heavily on strong shot-calling from FCTFCTN to improve target focus.

We haven’t yet addressed McGravy’s pick up, but in all likelihood he will play back-up to current off-tank Indy “SPACE” Halpern, and has admitted as much on his stream. Nevertheless, he remains a strong player to have on the bench behind one of the best western off tanks in the league. At least on the Valiant bench, he might see some playtime when the meta calls for more flexibility from the off-tank role, which he would not likely have on the fully-Korean Mayhem.

Verdict: A hopeful signing that identifies Valiant’s weakness in shotcalling and tries to correct it.

Florida Mayhem

We now turn to the other side of the puzzle – the Mayhem. After deciding to go fully Korean at the beginning of Stage 2, they look to further improve their roster with a new (but familiar to the audience) face on the main tank role, with the aforementioned pick up of Fate. As an aside, the Mayhem have also signed Seong-Ju “Byrem” Lee, and released McGravy, Apply and TviQ (aka the non-Korean players)

A quick comparison between the two reveals some preliminary facts – Fate is doing much more damage than Swon, but lags behind in eliminations and final blows. Among all main tanks, Fate ranks 4th in damage/10, but ranks 5th last for eliminations/10. If you scrolled up to compare this number to OGE, you may realize that despite doing roughly the same damage, the damage is translating to approximately 17% less kills (about 3 less eliminations per 10 minutes). As discussed above, this is a problem that has plagued many Valiant players.

4.06Final Blows/10

Perhaps also worth noting is that Fate dies less than Swon. Swon is the main tank in the league with the 3rd highest deaths/10 statistic. Despite dying more, he is still getting enough eliminations to have a higher eliminations/deaths ratio than Fate and a higher final blows/deaths ratio. Do these numbers suggest that Swon should still be starting as main tank over Fate? Perhaps not. Fate’s high damage numbers may suggest more aggressive play, while his low elimination stat suggests that his aggression isn’t directed at the appropriate target. Despite being more aggressive, he manages to die less than Swon. This may suggest a better understanding of positioning and higher mechanical skill on Fate’s part. If Fate’s plays can be more focused through better communication (this is where being fully Korean is a boon for Mayhem), they truly have a skilled main tank player with huge potential in their hands.

However, while the pick up looks optimistic for Mayhem, I would advise very cautious optimism. Fate’s ability to perform will come down to Mayhem’s ability to enable him with protection and healing. Fate has historically been someone to play around, rather than a player who is self-sufficient – a fact that can be seen by how his performance dipped when his healer and Zarya players were changed between Season 1 and Stage 1 of Season 2. On Mayhem, Fate is seeing a significant downgrade in off-tank (from SPACE to Xepher). As a reference, SPACE is ranked 6th lowest deaths out of all players while Xepher ranks 23rd (There are only 20 teams in OWL). With an off-tank that is in the fight significantly less because he’s walking back from spawn, Fate might be looking at significantly less protection, which will limit his ability to perform on this team.

With the additional possible change in Zenyatta player, from Hyeon-Woo “HaGoPeun” Jo to Byrem, it remains even more unclear how much the Mayhem can work as a cohesive unit to enable Fate’s aggression. It seems more than likely that Fate will either have to temper his playstyle, or see his deaths/10 stat shoot up.

Verdict: A great pickup on paper, but may not work in practice due to play styles and aggression levels.

Toronto Defiant

It has become increasingly clear that Yakpung is not cutting it as a main tank for this team. At 6.47 deaths per 10 minutes, he ranks 4th highest in the league. He is beaten only by Benbest (who has been benched for the better part of stage 2), Swon (who as discussed above, will likely be benched) and Sado (long come under fire for playing overly aggressive and dying at inappropriate times with alarming frequency). It’s time to face facts – something about Yakpung’s playstyle is not clicking, and he is dying far too much. What compounds this problem is that the Defiant’s win rate after losing a player first is a whopping 7.38% (3rd lowest in the league). As main tanks are typically the main focus in a GOATS composition, Defiant will have to look to keep their main tank alive in order to keep their hopes of winning the fight alive.

A comparison of deaths/10 for main tanks

Enter Normundus “Sharyk” Faterins, former main tank player for Montreal Rebellion (Defiant’s Academy Team), and the newest signing to Toronto Defiant. Interestingly, Defiant has also chosen to sign Daniel “Gods” Graeser, his off-tank counterpart on Montreal Rebellion. While Defiant is not lacking in the off-tank department (a role very adequately filled by Envy), it seems the addition of Gods is intended to complement Sharyk, and leverage the synergy between both players.

It is also worth noting that the addition of Sharyk and Gods makes the Defiant the first roster to go from fully Korean to mixed (a reverse Mayhem, if you will). Only time will tell whether there will be resultant communication issues, which Gods appears to be there to alleviate. Nevertheless, with bilingual players like im37 and players with experiences on mixed rosters like Neko (previously on Boston), we could see the start of a new Toronto Defiant. Overall, this seems like a good, timely pick up on paper, but its success hinges on the newly mixed roster to communicate effectively.

Verdict: Great in theory for replacing (arguably) the weakest link on Defiant, but introduces a new language barrier.

All this speculation balances upon the belief that the meta remains the 3-3 we’ve seen in the past 2 stages. However, with no significant patch since the end of Stage 2, it’s almost a sure thing. Main tanks are integral in this meta, and with teams like LA Valiant and Florida Mayhem lagging behind in the standings, they will turn to their new in-game leaders to hopefully shake things up.

With half the season already behind them, they’ll be hoping it’s not too late.

Overwatch League returns with Stage 3 this Thursday, 6th June 2019. Get involved in fantasy tournaments on DraftBuff ahead of the stage. Featured title image from Robert Paul via Blizzard Entertainment.