The post-Mercy meta has treated many teams well in stage two of Overwatch League. Risky plays aren’t getting erased by Valkyrie anymore, and Lucio has found his way back into the meta along with Moira, the game’s newest support with a conal healing ability. Another thing you’ve probably noticed is that multi-tank compositions are starting to be used more often. For several teams, a huge part of that meaty deathball is Roadhog – the big man with a chain. He’s sometimes impossible to kill, and he does pack a punch, but how are some of the world’s best players using him at the highest level of tournament play? Let’s take a look at what we’ve seen so far to find some answers.
The looming threat of a hook
First and foremost, it’s important to understand the psychology behind a Roadhog pick. Unlike other tanks, hog’s presence immediately forces the other team to focus on their positioning because of his Chain Hook ability. This skill shoots a hook projectile at enemies, and provided it connects before they break line of sight, brings them back to Roadhog for a mouthful of scrap.
As you can see from this clip, Timo “Taimou” Kettunen grabs Je-Hong “Ryujehong” Ryu with a hook right as he attempts to stall the payload with with a Transcendence. After keeping Ryujehong away and subsequently killing him with his own ultimate, Taimou lands yet another hook onto Jin-Hyuk “Miro” Gong for his second kill. Even though this particular play was very dramatic, it gives you a sense of what someone with good aim and game sense can accomplish with Roadhog.
Positioning is everything in professional Overwatch. Overextending or simply not being where you need to be could be the difference between losing a team fight, or living long enough to give your squad a chance. Once Roadhog enters the equation, even adequate positioning is sometimes not good enough – especially if someone like Taimou is on the opposing team.
Too much HP to deal with
Sometimes just throwing a huge mass of HP at the enemy is enough to give your DPS players the space they need to unleash hell. Where Winston and D.Va often fall short here, Roadhog delivers. With an insane 600 HP, hog is often too much for any one player to deal with alone. This goes double if you don’t have burst damage, which is why you’ll see teams often field a Pharah or McCree to help deal with Roadhog.
Roadhog’s health pool usually becomes more of a nuisance the longer a fight drags on. His Take A Breather ability nerfs his damage taken by 50% while restoring 300 HP per second. Take standard support healing and ultimates like Sound Barrier into account, and you can easily see why Roadhog stays in it for the long haul. If a team is unable to deal with this, it can be disastrous for the health trade game. Think about it in terms of this – DPS try to deplete health, tanks try to mitigate that damage, and supports essentially erase that damage all in as little time as possible. Roadhog exists in a middle ground where he can actually deal a ton of damage, all while tanking his own incoming damage and disrupting enemy supports by dragging targets out of position.
If you aren’t prepared to play with hog in mind, he can create a lot of chaos. That’s why some of the best teams actually play around the Roadhog pick, like when the London Spitfire put DPS star Jun-Young “Profit” Park on the big guy. When London pushes into point A of Hanamura with a tank deathball, it’s with Profit in mind because he’s going to be the one that disrupts the enemy the most, and that’s invaluable on Assault maps where defenses can’t get comfortable.
The “Ult Battery”
Even though Roadhog seems to satisfy multiple requirements on the field, he can often get caught in tricky situations. If you’ve ever watched an Overwatch League game, you’ve probably heard one of the casters refer to him as an “ult battery.” What this means is that because of his high HP and quick recovery time, ranged heroes can usually stay at a safe distance while damaging Roadhog to farm their ultimate charge. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot a retreating hog can do in this situation since he’s so big and slow.
Next time you watch a game where one of the teams runs Roadhog, pay attention to how fast the opposing team builds ultimate charge. In most cases, they’re frequently ahead in “ultimate economy”, or having ultimates available for any team fight. That’s the gamble teams take when running Roadhog, which is why they will sometimes switch him out after he’s served his purpose even if the player controlling him is performing well.