Blizzard kicked off the 21st season of competitive Overwatch play this week by implementing its new "Hero Pool" system which was discussed earlier in the year. Through this system, several heroes will be banned from competitive play by Blizzard to prevent them from being used in the game's ranked matches. The first four heroes that are unplayable now that the season has begun are Orisa, Hanzo, Mei, and Baptiste. The chosen heroes follow Blizzard's new strategy of choosing a certain number of characters from each hero category, and these four heroes will be back within the next two weeks when four more characters are banned.
Players quickly took note of which heroes were banned as soon as the season went live and the Hero Pool system was implemented. With those four heroes out, people will have to look to other options when they queue up for a competitive Overwatch match. As Blizzard pointed out previously, these Hero Pools won't affect the other more casual modes outside of the Competitive option.
Regarding the time that these heroes will be unavailable, Blizzard's principal game designer Scott Mercer said heroes will be unavailable for no more than two weeks at a time.
"Every week when players log into Overwatch, it should feel fresh and different."
Competitive Season 21 has begun - with Hero Pools! Learn more about the philosophy and design of Hero Pools from Principal Game Designer, Scott Mercer.March 5, 2020
"We don't want to have a hero be out of rotation for a long time, so you won't see any unavailable for more than two weeks in a row," Mercer said. "Also, when we make significant balance changes to a character, we don't want to make them unavailable—we want players to be able to see how those changes affect the game."
For those who watch the Overwatch League where pro players face off against one another, you'll notice that the four heroes banned there are not the same as the ones banned in the Competitive matches. Analysts will look at the past two weeks of Overwatch League games and will make decisions on which heroes to ban based on that info.
"While we have control over the Hero Pools for online players, the Overwatch League Hero Pools are slightly different," Mercer said. "In the Overwatch League, analysts will look at the previous two weeks of hero play data, and if a hero is played more than 10 percent of the time, they're eligible to be taken out of the rotation."
Overwatch's Season 21 and its Hero Pools are now live.