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September 5, 2017

Season 5 in Review: Comparing US, EU, and Korean Meta

Hero metas can vary vastly between different tiers, but what about regions?  Europe, Americas, and Korean servers are separate, and they have their own hero preferences.  In this article, we look at the hero usage for Season 5 - and end up with very interesting differences.

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The Differences between US, EU, and Korean Competitive Ladder in Season 5
For this analysis, we look at hero usage for Americas (180,000 players), European (100,000 players) and Korean (80,000 players) competitive ladder.  For simplification (and not to overwhelm with too much data), we use the average hero usage across the tiers as our dataset to compare the three regions.  In the appendix article, you can see the full data including tiers Bronze -> Grandmaster.

The above chart depicts the average hero usage across all the competitive tiers for US, EU, and KR servers.  For specific tiers, you can see the appendix page, which has individual charts for Grandmaster -> Bronze tier.  It turns out that US and EU usage is very similar regardless of tier, so we focus the rest of the article on comparing US/EU with Korean servers.  Generally speaking, for Season 5 Offense, Defense, and Support hero preferences were different, and Tank play similar between the two metas.  Dive team compositions were dominant at the highest tiers in US/EU and Korea, defined by Winston and D.Va play, but at lower tiers Reinhardt and Zarya helped provide additional team composition diversity. 

Looking at the hero usage averages, we see eight heroes with very large differences in play - four on US/EU servers and four on KR servers. 

The top 4 heroes with the biggest differences:

The above infographic shows the top 4 heroes that are the biggest standouts and differences between the Korean and Americas hero meta.

Korean players generally prefer Ana (+22% KR) over Mercy (+20% US/EU), with Ana being the most popular Support hero in every competitive tier except Silver and Bronze.  US and EU players on the other hand, Mercy was the most popular Support in every tier except Grandmaster.  With resurrects currenly being a strong ability, the only obvious reasons for choosing Ana consistently over Mercy are the synergy of Nanoboost with other heroes (e.g Genji for Nanoblade), the powerful Biotic Grenade for swinging fights, and a preference for  mechanical demanding heroes.  Rounding out  the big differences is the very strong preference for Zenyatta (+16% US/EU) in US/EU servers.  Dive was a very prominent team composition in Season 5, and Zenyatta/Lucio was a very popular hero pairing, especially at higher tiers.  However, it seems as though Ana/Lucio was the go-to in Korea.

Offense heroes tend to be quite different as well, as Genji (+18% KR) is super-popular at every competitive tier in Korea, and easily the most popular DPS hero in Overwatch (for comparison, the #1 DPS in US/EU is Soldier).  We've heard is said many times, but McCree (+12% KR) is also favored much more heavily in Korea.  Soldier: 76 (+9% US/EU) is more consistent damage for breaking shields / securing kills - and arguably has a more impactful ultimate ability with Tactical Visor.  But, Koreans apparently love his high burst damage (and "dinks" headshots) - a huge reward for players with great aim.   Finally, note that Pharah (+11% US/EU) is not seen as much in Korea.  This may be related to more McCree and popular Genji ("Why play Pharah when I can play Genji?") 

Defense heroes in general are much more popular in Korea.  While Torb, Mei, and Widowmaker are seeing more play in KR and US/EU servers, Hanzo (+9%) is the eye-popping hero that is seeing a lot more play in Korea.  While Hanzo is not seeing much play at Grandmaster or Master regardless of region, we see that for Diamond -> Bronze he is very popular on Korean servers.  He peaks in Bronze at 28% usage average for Season 5 and is one of the most popular DPS in the Korean scene at that tier currently.  It's clear why Hanzo is getting a lot of play: while projectile arrows can sometimes be inconsistent, the high potential for big match impact is a major draw.  Hitting scatter arrows to one-shot characters and aiming at head level near chokes can easily change the course of a match.

In general, Korean players tend to want to play heroes that are very mechanically demanding. The above chart points to another big difference in the two hero metas: Korean players are much less concerned about having two healers on a team - and playing Defensive heroes is much more acceptable.  In other words, while many players in US/EU may want an extra support, for Korean players there are more frequently only 1 support, and a defensive hero instead of a second support. These statistics help reinforce that "Two DPS, Two Tanks, Two Healers please" is a cultural/meta preference, and is by no means the absolute truth. 
 The Two Overwatch Scenes 
There are some pretty big differences in hero meta between the US/EU servers and the Korean servers.  Korean players appear to really love high skill-ceiling heroes as Ana, McCree, Genji, and even Hanzo being very popular.  US/EU players continue to stick by meta mainstays Soldier, Pharah, Zenyatta, and the ever-popular Mercy.  As hero changes (Junkrat, Roadhog, D.Va, and Mercy) are abound in Season 6, these differences are definitely something to keep an eye on.

Check out the Appendix to this article with hero usage for Grandmaster -> Bronze tiers for US/EU/and KR servers.

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Click Here for the PC Hero Meta Report for August 22
Click Here for the Console Hero Meta Report for August 30
Click Here for Hero Change Analysis for Patch 1.13