Overwatch Compositions Explained: ZOATS
Thu 6th Jun 2019 - 12:56pm
If you have tuned into the Overwatch League this season, you likely have noticed that almost all teams are running similar compositions. The 3-3 meta (three tanks and three supports) has come to define the meta thus far in the 2019 Overwatch League season. In the vast majority of cases, this 3-3 lineup consists of Reinhardt, Zarya, D.Va, Lucio, Brigette and Zenyatta. Collectively, this composition has come to be known as ZOATS, a variation on the original GOATS composition, which was identical, except for Moira instead of Zenyatta. The two best teams in the league currently, the San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans, have dominated the past two stages largely thanks to their expertise in running ZOATS. This guide aims to explain how each of the heroes in ZOATS contributes to the composition.
As one can expect, the greatest asset that Reinhardt brings to ZOATS is his massive shield. Like he does in most compositions he is in, Reinhardt takes up the role of the tip of the spear. That is, he will find himself at the front of almost every engagement that ZOATS takes. Due to the inherently short-ranged nature of the composition, it is largely up to the Reinhardt to keep his team protected until they are at their optimal fighting range. Therefore, shield management is an absolute must need skill for the Reinhardt player in ZOATS. The last thing your team wants while playing this composition is to have the Reinhardt shield shredded to zero hit points when the enemy is still 50 meters away. Although Zarya and D.Va have their own damage mitigation abilities, neither of them do the job as well as Reinhardt’s shield.
However, it is through the use of Zarya’s bubbles and D.Va’s Defense Matrix that one can properly manage their shield. You should be using Zarya’s secondary bubble to not only give her charge, as she is the main damage source in ZOATS, but also to give your shield a momentary respite from enemy spam damage. In addition to the bubbles, calling for D.Va to use her Defense Matrix if your shield is about to break can be an effective strategy as well. Especially on maps with long stretches of space before you hit the enemy, your team may need to halt their advance to wait for the Reinhardt shield to recharge. In these instances, D.Va can use her Defense Matrix to eat the incoming damage while your team takes cover and waits for the shield to recharge.
Although shielding is perhaps the most important role of Reinhardt in ZOATS, he is also particularly useful in the brawling style of teamfighting that the composition lends itself to. Especially in the competitive ladder where people cannot run ZOATS as cleanly as professional teams, the fights ZOATS gets into can become incredibly chaotic. Enemies will be zipping all around you in a fight and the wide arc that Reinhardt’s hammer swings in can then be used to your advantage. During teamfights, Reinhardt should also be looking for opportunities to land an Earthshatter as well as an opportunistic Charge.
However, both abilities should be used carefully as the former can be easily blocked by a barrier and the latter makes yourself vulnerable for an extended period of time. Another note about Charge, in many cases, if you never attempt a Charge during a teamfight, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What many Reinhardt players mistakenly do is attempt a Charge, miss it and then find themselves completely out of position, which more often than not results in their death or the death of their now unshielded teammates. It is better to play more conservatively, staying in an optimal position to shield your team, rather than going for a, more often than not, risky Charge.
With ZOATS lacking a true damage hero, the DPS burden typically falls onto the Zarya player. Thanks to the tightly grouped and brawl nature of ZOATS, Zarya does not have a difficult time maintaining a high level of charge, meaning that she is almost always outputting large amounts of damage. The trick, especially when playing against other ZOATS compositions, is to not be dealing your damage into a Reinhardt barrier. Although breaking Reinhardt shield has value in itself, Zarya can get much more value out of her damage by dealing it to actual heroes.
In order to accomplish this, Zarya players must learn where and when they can leave the protection of their team during a fight to get a better angle on the enemy. You won’t be going on any insane flanks like Widowmakers and Hanzos sometimes do, but rather you need to just take a slightly different angle of attack from the rest of your team in order to get around the enemy barriers. If one was to watch professional Zarya players, such as Jay “sinatraa” Won or Minsoo “Seominsoo” Seo,” you will notice them walking a handful of steps away from the bulk of their team every so often during teamfights in order to shoot their beam at an enemy not covered by the Reinhardt shield.
Typically, it is smart to take this mini-flank when your personal bubble is off of cooldown as you are putting yourself in a more vulnerable than usual position and might need your bubble in order to stop from dying. In addition, when taking these actions, you should make your supports aware of the fact that you are doing it. They might need to commit more resources than usual to you in order for you to get the most value out of your action.
In addition to being the main damage dealer in ZOATS, Zarya also has one of the most impactful ultimates in the composition. Even in this lineup of heroes, Graviton Surge does not lose its ability to swing teamfights. If anything, it becomes even more important of an ability. Especially when playing in a mirror matchup, the winner of a teamfight will typically be decided by who has their Graviton Surge up. However, as most Zarya players know, there is one major threat to completely negating their ultimate: D.Va's Defense Matrix. Therefore, playing around the cooldown of that particular ability becomes important for the Zarya player in ZOATS.
There are two major ways to get around the Defense Matrix. The first, and more difficult, is to watch the D.Va, wait for her to use her Defense Matrix, thus putting it on cooldown and then use your Graviton Surge immediately afterward. However, in higher ranks of play, D.Va players are very proficient in saving their Defense Matrix when they know the enemy Zarya has her ultimate. In these cases, it is better to go with option two to lay down your Graviton Surge. In order to essentially negate the D.Va’s ability to eat your Grav, you can place it directly onto a map surface. For example, you can put it directly onto the ground, a wall or even the payload, making it almost impossible for D.Va to eat it.
If one were to categorize D.Va in the ZOATS composition, it would be as a utility tank. She does not serve as a significant damage source or space occupying frontliner, but rather does everything else that those two roles do not do. Although the Reinhardt shield acts as the primary ability to block damage, D.Va’s Defense Matrix works well in tandem with that ability. As previously discussed, whenever the Reinhardt barrier needs a break, it typically falls on the D.Va to make sure that her Defense Matrix isn’t on cooldown and has enough charge to eat damage for as long as necessary.
Defense Matrix also plays an important role in countering enemy ultimates that are effective against the tightly packed ZOATS composition. For example, ZOATS is particularly susceptible to Graviton Surge, Blizzard, and Barrage, all of which can be eaten by Defense Matrix. It is the job of the D.Va player to be vigilant in tracking such ultimates and be ready to activate her Defense Matrix to counter them. The latter can be most easily accomplished by simply watching the hero you know has an ultimate during the teamfight. By focusing your eyes on that hero, you can more quickly react with your Defense Matrix to eat the ultimate.
D.Va also plays an important role in contesting high ground in ZOATS. A quick glance over the cast of heroes in this composition and one can see that accessing high ground is a slow process for most of them. However, D.Va can use her Boosters to quickly get up to the high ground. Although she should be staying with the main bulk of her team for the majority of the time, there are several instances where her leaving momentarily to contest high ground is beneficial. For example, if an enemy damage hero has an advantageous position that ZOATS cannot easily get up to, D.Va should use her Boosters to fly up to that hero and either assassinate him or force him to reposition. The main point of that action is to make the enemy damage hero unable to free fire onto your team and make them play from a worse angle.
Another instance in which Boosters can be used to contest high ground is to push enemies off of it. Because ZOATS likes to fight up close, certain compositions will intentionally play long sightlines utilizing hard to access high ground. In such instances, sometimes it is worth it to send your D.Va to the enemy and use her Boosters to boop one or two of the enemies off of the high ground and into the waiting jaws of your team.
Finally, even D.Va’s Self-Destruct should be used in a very utility-like manner in ZOATS. Unlike some compositions where the ultimate can be saved until an opportune moment to kill as many enemies as possible, D.Va should be saving Self-Destruct for other things when played in ZOATS. Among the more important moments that she can use it is to counter an enemy Graviton Surge. A tactic that has been gaining in popularity in the past stage of OWL, D.Va players will attempt to keep themselves distanced from their team when they know the enemy Zarya has her ultimate. Because professionals have become so proficient in placing Graviton Surge in places that D.Va cannot eat it, D.Va players are opting to instead just not be caught in the ultimate and instead launch their Self-Destruct at the enemy when their team gets caught in the Grav.
This is what is known as a zoning ultimate as it creates a zone where the enemy does not want to walk up to, thus keeping your team safer. When it comes to applying this strategy to the competitive ladder, it can certainly work at any rank, but will likely see the most use in Masters to Top 500. In lower ranks of play, enemy Zarya’s are not quite as good at placing their Gravitons in un-counterable places. Therefore, you can still use this strategy if your team gets caught in the ultimate, however, you will also have an easier time using your Defense Matrix to counter it instead.
Although supports typically exist to primarily heal the team, the same cannot be said for Lucio in the ZOATS composition. By contrast, it is the utility value of Lucio that makes him among the most important components to the lineup. More specifically, Lucio’s speed boost serves as the great enabler for his tank line to do their job effectively. The most prominent purpose it serves is to help his team initiate fights. Unlike other compositions such as Dive which use leaps and dashes to close the gap on the enemy, ZOATS finds itself largely without those. Although D.Va has her Boosters, in no way should she be solo initiating into a fight with them.
Therefore, it comes down to Lucio’s speed boost in many situations to be the engage tool. Speed boost allows the ZOATS death ball to traverse the map much faster and engage onto an enemy in a timely manner. The speed of engagement is important because you do not want to eat too much poke damage on the way to your target. The slower you engage, the more poke you eat. Thus, speed boost helps to decrease this damage and deliver ZOATS to its optimal, close quarters, fighting range. In order to properly use speed boost, the Lucio player must have an adequate understanding of tempo during the game.
Speed boost must be used at the correct moments when the tempo of the fight is in favor of your team. For example, you do not want to use speed boost to engage if your tank line is already at half health. Instead, you should wait, heal them up and then use speed boost to pounce on the enemy. Various other factors affect tempo, but the general idea is that you want to engage a fight when it appears to be in your favor. This does not necessarily mean that your team is up a person, but could even be when the enemy has been chipped down by your poke damage or numerous other advantageous situations for your team.
The other two major parts of Lucio’s kit that get the most value in ZOATS are his Soundwave (boop) and Sound Barrier. Soundwave works as both a form of peel and initiation. Against compositions that attempt to use multiple angles of attack to beat ZOATS, Soundwave can be used to boop away diving tanks and flankers from Zenyatta, who on his own has little self-peel. Soundwave can also be used in a pinch to move the enemy a small distance away from the bulk of your team, earning you a valuable couple seconds that can be used to heal up to full strength. As a form of initiation, Soundwave can be used to boop an enemy into the meat grinder that is your team. ZOATS thrives in close quarters engagements and Soundwave can help to bring the enemy to you. In mirror matchups, booping in the enemy Reinhardt can sometimes be a team fight winning move because if he dies, the other team then has no frontline to stand behind.
Regarding Sound Barrier, this should be used in a mostly defensive fashion. We have already talked about ZOATS being vulnerable to area of effect ultimates and Sound Barrier can be a great counter to them. Saving this ultimate and using it as a reaction to an enemy play will typically grant you the most value. However, the timing of Sound Barrier is crucial. Depending on where you cast it from, the ultimate can take a long time to go off. Thus, you should be as close to the ground as possible when casting it in order to minimize the chance the enemy has to stop you and also to get the shielding onto your team as quickly as possible.
Brigitte occupies an interesting role within ZOATS. Technically speaking, the frontline of ZOATS consists of the three tanks. However, Brigitte, with her personal shield and brawling play style, acts as a fourth member of sorts to that frontline. Among her top priorities is keeping her Inspire ability active, which requires her to constantly be hitting things with her flail. Therefore, Brigitte will want to stay close to her frontline and thus close to the action. She wants to be in the thick of the fight, connecting with as many people as possible with her left click.
You could also think of Brigitte as a gatekeeper to her team’s backline. As previously mentioned, Zenyatta cannot do much to peel for himself so he is forced to rely on his team for protection. This is where Brigitte comes in, using her flail, Shield Bash and Whip Shot to keep Zenyatta safe. This duty becomes particularly important when your Zenyatta is close to or has his Transcendence. In such situations, the difference between winning or losing a team fight can come down to keeping Zenyatta alive.
Due to her ability to make space, despite being a support, Brigitte can also be seen controlling and watching the flanks in a ZOATS composition. While it is true that she typically wants to be at the front of the action, there are some instances where controlling the flanks must be prioritized first. Because ZOATS wants to fight in a very compact manner (fight in a phone booth if you will), keeping the enemy in front of you is a must. Brigitte acts like a cattle dog, corraling the enemy into the tight space your team wants to fight in.
In the context of a team fight as a whole, Brigitte earns the most value during the mid-fight. At this point in the fight, your team should be at her optimal fighting range. Thus, she is able to simultaneously provide constantly healing in addition to constant damage. The one caution here is to not overextend. Many Brigitte players in ZOATS will blindly push forward, swinging their flail and then find themselves in too exposed of a position without the support of their team. It is important to communicate with your team when they should be moving up in a fight so this problem can be avoided. Because of her importance in the mid-fight, you will commonly see in mirror matches that if one team’s Brigitte is picked off early, the other team will aggressively push forward, knowing that they will have a large edge in potential healing output.
Among the supports in ZOATS, Zenyatta might have the biggest impact on the game as a whole. Zarya might dominate the damage numbers in the composition, but not too far behind her is the Omnic monk who enjoys constantly spamming orbs into the tight quarters ZOATS fights in. Especially when fighting in a mirror matchup, Zenyatta operates in relative safety on the backline because the enemy has no easy way of getting there. Therefore he can continuously pour damage into the enemy team while his frontline gives him ample space to work with.
In addition to dealing damage, Zenyatta’s Orb of Discord is as important as ever in ZOATS. Due to the lack of mobility in the composition, ZOATS commonly engages first onto the frontline of the enemy team. Although by no means an easy task, once the frontline of the enemy falls, the floodgates of ZOATS are then unleashed as the enemy backline stands little chance against the death ball. Thus, in order to quickly get past the front line, Zenyatta should make it a habit of attaching discord orb onto the enemy main tank. Now taking 25% more damage, it does not take long for ZOATS to smash through a discord orbed target. The trick for Zenyatta players is slipping the orb through enemy barriers and also through the large bodies of your teammates in front of you. Although the latter problem cannot really be addressed, the former can be made easier by calling for your team to focus down the enemy barrier. It only takes a moment for Orb of Discord to attach to a target and then it will stay on them for three seconds, or for forever if Zenyatta never breaks line of sight. Ensuring that the orb lands on the proper target is an essential skill for the Zenyatta player in ZOATS.
Finally, Zenyatta’s ultimate finds immense amounts of value in ZOATS. Essentially, Transcendence acts as a more powerful Sound Barrier. Few sources of damage can cut through the 300 healing per second that Transcendence provides, even if your team is stuck in a Graviton Surge. This ultimate should be saved to counter your enemy’s ultimates, of which it can counter almost all of them. However, especially at higher levels of play, the two ultimates in particular you will want to be on the lookout for are Graviton Surge and EMP. Graviton Surge has been covered in various places of this article, but it is worth saying again.
The compact nature of ZOATS makes it susceptible to the hard crowd control of a Grav. With all your team clumped this ultimate, the enemy can output large amounts of damage into you that all your tanks’ damage mitigating abilities cannot handle. However, Transcendence can be used to negate all this damage and allow your team to survive an otherwise deadly ultimate. A couple of caveats with using Transcendence during a Grav, however. You will not want to use it and waste it if your team has all been hit by Ana’s Biotic Grenade because then your healing will not work, thus negating your ultimate. You also do not want to use it too late or be dead when it is needed. Therefore, when you have Transcendence both yourself and your team need to make a concerted effort to keep you alive, especially if you know the enemy is sitting on a Grav.
When it comes to countering EMP with Transcendence, this then becomes a much trickier game. Sombra’s typically pop EMP after coming out of invisibility and are in the thick of your team. It is during this small window of time, after Sombra has come out of invisibility, but before she uses EMP, that you must use Transcendence. Otherwise, you will also likely be caught in the EMP and then be unable to use your ultimate to save your now disabled team. In many cases, you will not even see the Sombra come out of invisibility, but will instead need to rely on the voice line she says when that happens. Upon hearing that, you will want to use Transcendence as fast as possible, before she is able to use EMP. At lower ranks of the competitive ladder, this action is easier as Sombra’s are not quite so quick on the trigger when it comes to their ultimate and leaving invisibility. However, at higher ranks, it is certainly still possible to pull this off. Even at OWL level play, you can see some Zenyatta’s consistently executing this difficult strategy, saving their team and swinging team fights in their favor.
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