Why Reinhardt is about to swing his way back into the Overwatch meta

Something has been missing from the Overwatch League so far. For the duration of stage one, Reinhardt—Overwatch's most iconic tank—saw very little play outside of Control Center on Lijiang Tower, where the low ceilings and tight hallways were ideal for his wide shield. As loved as he is by fans and pros alike, Reinhardt's immobility just did not mesh well with the map rotation or dive-centric Mercy meta from stage one. But things are changing. Let's take a look at what's new in stage two, and why pros and an expert analyst are saying that now it's time for Rein to drop the hammer.

The meta has shifted 

Stage one gave us a lot of really good Overwatch—that cannot be denied. For all the problems that came with her overpowered Valkyrie ult, one could argue that Mercy did allow for a very diverse selection of viable hero picks. Except Reinhardt, of course. Rein didn't see a lot of play last stage because Mercy needs to be able to fly around to stay safe, and she needs tanks that can get to her quickly if she's targeted by an enemy dive. 

"Reinhardt is an anchor tank," says Winston's Lab analyst Peggy Forde. "You need to build and form around him to be effective, which I think clashed with Mercy's needs in the previous patch. Mercy was all over the place, and that called for more mobile tanks than Reinhardt."

According to Forde, Winston and D.Va enjoyed 88 percent and 77 percent pick rates respectively in the last patch because they were so efficient at protecting Mercy when Valkyrie wasn't active. It's useful to think of group compositions holistically, whether you're playing yourself or watching a league match. Winston and D.Va are known for diving the enemy, but their mobility also allows them to pull back and defend their supports with the press of a button.

Alas, Mercy is now dead. OK, not quite—but she's much more healthily balanced, which has opened the door for other support heroes to share the spotlight. In turn, that has given Reinhardt an opportunity to dust off the ol' armor and get back into the fight.

"Mercy's nerfs lead to a higher pick rate of the 'Lúcio + Moira' combo," says Dongjian "MG" Wu, tank player for the Shanghai Dragons. He went on to add that with Reinhardt back in the mix, the Dragons will be able to use deathball compositions on certain maps that don't have a lot of high ground, such as King's Row. Here's the Dragons giving us an example of what that can look like on point A of Hollywood:

These clips show both the support combo and deathball MG was talking about in action. Lúcio can speed boost four tanks onto the point in seconds, and Moira's AoE heal spray and orbs can keep them up with relative ease. Reinhardt and Roadhog stay up front for shield and hooks, while Zarya and D.Va protect the healers in the back. As you can see, the Fuel have four squishy targets and almost no burst damage that can deal with the Dragons' massive health pools. Once Weida "Diya" Lu is done wrecking on Zarya, the Dragons fall back and get the payload moving.

It's worth mentioning that Sound Barrier and Coalescence are perfect for triple- and quad-tank pushes. The HP buff from Lúcio complements Moira's extra healing perfectly to keep all those clustered tanks in the fight. 

A new map rotation for stage two 

Another big reason we're seeing more Reinhardt now is because the map pool for stage two is a little friendlier to the hammer-wielding crusader. One of the new maps is King's Row, which MG and Forde both point out has been one of Rein's stronger maps since the game's inception. With its many chokes and narrow streets, the map is perfect for Reinhardt's shield and conal Earthshatter ultimate:

Both the Houston Outlaws and Boston Uprising ran Reinhardt in their King's Row match in week one, and you can get a sense of how much area a good Earthshatter can cover from Austin "Muma" Wilmot's whiff in green. Right after that, YoungJin "Gamsu" Noh sends his own ult down the opposite street, nailing all of his targets and leading to a team wipe. Fielding a Reinhardt on King's Row might not be a necessity, but doing so definitely makes navigating the streets phase a little easier.

Between King's Row, Hollywood, and Lijiang Tower, we're sure to see a lot of Reinhardt at least for the duration of stage two. Other maps like Route 66 and Nepal aren't bad for Rein either, so don't be surprised if he pops up there as well. Remember—if there isn't a lot of high ground, it's probably safe for Rein. 

Old ult combos make a return

You can't talk about Reinhardt without mentioning some of the sick setup potential he brings to the table. There's something so satisfying about hearing Rein's legendary "hammer down" voiceline followed by several helpless enemies hitting the floor. It might not do much direct damage, but Earthshatter has a ton of follow-up potential. An old favorite comes courtesy of Pharah:

Things weren't looking great for the Los Angeles Gladiators as they approached point B of King's Row with a deficit in the ult bank against the Dallas Fuel. Sure enough, Felix "xQc" Lengyel drops three of them with a devastating Earthshatter, allowing Dylan "aKm" Bignet to send the Gladiators packing with a nasty Barrage. 

We saw another nasty Earthshatter combo from the San Francisco Shock to close out week two. Approaching the end of King's Row, David "Nomy" Ramirez and Wenhao "Roshan" Jing squared off their Reinhardt shields. 

Nomy's Shock teammate Andrej "BABYBAY" Francisty launched a D.Va bomb over the Dragons' heads, causing Roshan to spin his shield to block it. Nomy seized the opportunity, landing a huge Earthshatter on the Dragons' frontline, sealing the round for the Shock.

It's a good time to be a fan of precision German engineering.