It's widely accept that the professional scene heavily influences players on Overwatch's competitive ladder. The highest skilled players in the world know the ins and outs of Overwatch, including what heroes can be brought together to make a full 6-hero team composition. These ideas are refined by fire through intense tournaments, where these pro players compete at the highest level. It's then up to the fans to determine which of the new pro-meta ideas make it into competitive ladder play. Which begs the question: "What are the big differences between the current pro-scene hero meta and the meta found on competitive ladder?"
The Differences between Professional and Competitive Ladder
First off, a big shoutout to CaptainPlanet for letting me use his
pro-scene hero usage data for this article. CaptainPlanet does
fantastic work for the Overwatch community including pro-scene hero meta
reports, Esports analysis, and his podcast "Around the Watch". You can
find his work on Overbuff, and follow him on Twitter.
For this analysis, we look at hero usage for both PC competitive ladder and PC professional Overwatch. To keep the analysis more to the point, we compare professional usage against PC Grandmaster player usage only. Grandmaster players represent the top 1% of all Overwatch players, and is the highest level of competitive play outside of Esports tournaments. The data for PC Grandmaster players s comes from the latest OmnicMeta PC hero meta report, while the PC professional player data from from CaptainPlanet's most recent Pro hero meta report.
The chart above compares Grandmaster players on ladder directly with professional players. As you can see, there are a ton of differences in each of the categories. The next chart sorts by these differences, so we can quickly zone in on which heroes are being played more or less.
The above chart shows the difference between pro-scene and competitive ladder hero usage. Positive values mean that the hero is more popular on PC competitive ladder, while negative values mean that the hero is more popular in the professional scene. Note that there are a large number of positive values, and a small number of negative values in the chart. This indicates that a small number of heroes are mostly being played in the professional scene, while the competitive ladder generally has a wider variety of heroes that are played. This could mean that the meta in general is much more strict in professional play, while more heroes are considered viable on competitive ladder.
All in all, there are huge differences between what heroes are being played in the professional Overwatch and what heroes are being played on competitive ladder.
The heroes with the biggest differences:
These top 5 heroes are the big standouts and difference between the two scenes. For supports, Lucio is king, being played nearly double the rate and found in every match of professional play. It's been well known that speed boost is critical for high-level pro play. On the other extreme is Mercy and Ana being played much more on competitive ladder, likely representing player preference. The extremely high usage of both Tracer and Winston in professional Overwatch demonstrates the prominence of dive team compositions as well as the skill ceiling of those heroes. On the flip side, highly aim-dependent heroes McCree and Widowmaker are much more preferred on competitive ladder while professional players find that they don't fit well into the current meta for team play.
The Two Overwatch Scenes
It turns out there are huge differences in hero usage between professional Overwatch and competitive ladder . The meta on competitive ladder seems to be much more diverse, both in terms of hero usage and in the implied team compositions that fall out from those hero picks. High skill cap heroes and "required" heroes like Lucio find their way into professional play more frequently. However, we can still see the heavy influence of the pro scene on competitive ladder play, which likely will continue for the forseeable future.
Appendix: Hero Role Breakouts
One commonality between competitive ladder and the professional scene is that hero roles are similarly represented. The above chart shows that roughly the same number of heroes from each role are represented in an average match. Nearly two offense, two tank, and two supports are in each match. Note that there is a small number of defensive heroes on PC competitive ladder, but virtually none in the professional matches.