Role dynamics in Competitive Overwatch: Lúcio, the standard
Lúcio has been a staple of competitive Overwatch since the very inception of the scene. He was hit by a string of nerfs on overall damage and ult charge rate and yet he’s probably the only support that featured on every single metagame, barring the double zenyatta/double genji comps and the contemporary defensive comps that run only one healer (usually Mercy) on first point. Lúcio is also, after the Zen nerfs, the only support left that often sees duplicate play.
And there’s actually a legion of reasons for that. Contrary to Mercy being defined by her res, and Rein by his screen (and so they could lose some power in the rest of their kits without that damaging their presence much) Lúcio has several impactful points that make him an excellent pick. So, why do teams play Lúcio?
1.- Running speedboost keeps you safe from static stats. This is by a mile the main reason to pick Lúcio and, with Rein’s screen, the single skill that has shaped the evolution of the metagame the most. The fact alone that Lúcio exists is the primary reason why static build defenses (Bastion, Torb) see little success in competitive.
When the offense attempts their take they usually comm to each other the position of the defenders before rushing the point so they can run them over with the speedboost; the defense falls back, tries to pick someone off in return, attempts to retake the point. Static defenders have to either set up in low impact positions or they get killed in the starting rush because they are the priority target, and then the defense fights with less heroes.
And the best counter to the enemy Lúcio’s speedboost is your own, since it allows your team to reposition without missing a beat, so not running the hero when the enemy has it is doubly punishing. That’s why a lot of teams (especially in EU) would rather shed the defensive Symmetra before the Lúcio when fielding 3 DPS heroes in first point defense.
It is also an excellent enabling skill, mostly because it’s the only skill in the game that gives artificial mobility to heroes that don’t have it. McRee’s or Reaper’s kill range is vastly increased (in fact, speedboosting up to him to flashbang is still the highest success strat versus offensive Bastion) and it outright changes the nature of some other heroes and skills, like Harmony did. Genji’s Dragonblade with speedboost (and sound barrier if available) behind it goes from a pick to a wipe tool with little counterplay but speedboosting back and praying.
2.- Lúcio can not be missplayed. This is a tricky concept that deals with a lot of stuff inherent to FPSs and competitive games with multiple options, but to summarise, every hero, weapon, and skill is in a sliding scale from “reliable” to “binary”. The gap in impact on the game and contribution to the team between the optimal perfect possible play and anything below it. Stuff like snipers and aim-reliant but high damage skills are binary by nature; while auras, permanent stat boosts, and autoaim damage are all reliable power.
Usually but not always these games are balanced so that the optimal scenario for binary playstyles surpasses that of reliable play, so as to give high skill players a reason to take the risk. Widow is by far the greatest example here, Widowmakers that consistently hit their shots have enormous impact and usually break pushes or holds by themselves. She has both the highest possible consistent damage output and the highest pick potential, but if she isn’t up there or close, the team is probably better off fielding something else.
The point here is that almost all of Lúcio’s power is deep in the “Reliable” end of the scale: Lúcio is hard to missplay and the gap between his average and top contributions to a team is small. Barring some wallrunning that is seldom seen in the competitive scene and his primary fire, Lúcio’s contribution for a team is either aura play, displacement with a melee-range ability, or two high impact abilities (sound barrier and speedboost) that don’t have to be called by the Lúcio player himself. These are team-wide boosts that can be warned and set up and called on command by other people on the team if necessary because they can be popped at any moment the Lúcio is alive and in range of his team.
There are few windows of opportunity for Lúcio to miss, barring countering enemy skills with his own. Similarly, there aren’t many times when Lúcio is alive and not actively contributing to the team because he is missing shots or unable to get where he wants to. He might do less, but he always “does”. Lúcio is a stable factor, and that coupled with his unique strengths makes him a good pick in most situations.
3.- He is tailored for Control. Alright, so this has to do as much with the hero as it does with Blizzard’s map design, but the point stands. The way control/koth maps are set up, and barring “glass” pure flanking comps (that aren’t nearly as common after the Symmetra shield nerfs anyways) the team that wins the starting fight has a massive ground and ult% advantage to win the subsequent ones.
So teams really can’t afford not running Lúcio, at least out of spawn, for the ground advantage. Hell, double Lúcio is massively popular here because being able to chain speedboosts all but guarantees the high ground/defender’s advantage for the starting fight against teams that aren’t. Add to that that the way the control maps are designed massively benefits displacement/knockback abilities and Lúcio is the only support with one.
The grouped nature of the fights makes his aura play highly efficient, and voice comms allow double Lúcio to coordinate their auras, having both of them active at all times and nullifying the handicap of them not stacking. Teams also coordinate the healing so that a Lúcio gets his sound barrier up as soon as possible and from there onward that one stays on speed aura so that the other can charge ult, chaining barriers and making the retake that much harder.
And there’s another point, but that’s hardly control-exclusive...
4.- Lúcio is extremely resilient. Last but not least, Lúcio is the only support that is also a hard assassination/pick target. Barring Guardian Angel he is the fastest moving support; and on top of that he has high burst regeneration, a self-peel tool at melee range, erratic movement patterns around walls, and his hitbox is inconsistent and visually confusing when strafing and jumping.
Adding to his reliability kit-wise, Lúcio is also the support that “is still there” after the fight breaks out. Mercy often hides to avoid getting picked off before the res, and Zenyatta (when there’s one, let’s be real) is usually far back enough to be considered a sniper unless he’s popping ult. But Lúcio has active teamfight presence, is a threat and a priority target and not an easy one to take down, he’s usually the hardest target to down after the tankline.
At 200 health he can tank a Widowmaker bodyshot to pop the health boost right after and be back at over 150 before the second one. He can effectively stall melee range ultimates on startup (Winston/Genji/Reaper) and unlike Mercy, there isn’t a beam telegraphing his position for the enemy team to pick off before the clash. Lúcio just far outlives any other support hero in the game.
And with that, comes another boon: Lúcio has almost unparallelled objective pressure. This also interacts with the way the contest/overtime rules work in Overwatch, but essentially characters with staying power that are able to just “survive” in or around the objective have inherent value. Hence the desperation Dva rushes, the Tracer touch-blink-touch patterns, the likes. Lúcio is just inmensely sticky and can delay objective takes or lenghten his team’s control around them, by himself, for far longer than most other heroes.
I’d say the only other non-tank character with comparable objective delay and pressure is Mei (she has been in fact used to stall objectives with different degrees of success in a few metagames), but she has a ton of range/mobility issues and so she’s almost never played in competitive environments.
So yeah, Lúcio. Tools that no other character gives, gameplay with little room for error, the outright best hero in the game in a lot of maps, and lots of resilience and objective pressure. No wonder.
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