Blizzard is trying out something new in Overwatch for the game's 21st Competitive season by experimenting with something it calls "Hero Pools." These Hero Pools consist of a rotating selection of playable heroes that'll change each week, but only for the game's Competitive mode. This means that one week you could be playing your main, but that hero could be banned the following week only to return the week after. This change will help keep the meta fresh, Blizzard hopes, and task players with creating more innovative strategies.
Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan discussed the new Hero Pool system that's being tested for Competitive play in the latest developer update video. Kaplan said this change, while experimental, should keep the meta from stagnating.
"Season 21 of Competitive, we are going to try something that's going to be very new and very different to help move players off of the meta or to prevent players from stagnating on any one meta too long," Kaplan said.
He equated the Hero Pools to the Map Pools players may already be familiar with and explained how they'd work. Certain weeks may see a grouping of heroes like Mercy, Reaper, Orisa, and others banned by Blizzard from Competitive play only for the next week to have yet another set of playable and banned heroes.
"This is targeted at keeping the meta fluid, or the meta from stagnating, and really getting to more hero diversity," he said. "Now, we know there are some challenges with this concept. This is what I would consider to be something that we would be willing to change if we don't feel like it's going correctly. We could make the Hero Pools last longer, we can make the Hero Pools move faster, we can make the Hero Pools change every match. There are all sorts of ways that we could adjust on this, but, starting with Season 21, we're going to start it with a weekly Hero Pool."
The Overwatch League where the pros compete against one another will adopt a version of the Hero Pools as well, though it's unclear how it'll differ from the one we'll see in Competitive play.
Overwatch has seem similarly large shakeups to its meta in the past. Role Queue was one of the biggest changes that was introduced last year, a system that saw players choosing which role they want to play before a game instead of scrambling to get their favorite hero first. The matchmaking system forcing players into picking two tanks, two supports, and two damage heroes is another example of Blizzard forcing its hand to break up the meta.