Sometimes it do be like that. In a Blizzard forum post made today the publisher announced that the much-maligned and changed Hero Pools rule—which allows players to only pick certain characters while others get temporarily “banned”—for Competitive Play mode is gone until further notice. Meanwhile over in The Overwatch League, hero pools will stick around but go through some changes which include a massive reduction in how often said pools rotate the available Heroes. Hero Pools were introduced to the game as a way to encourage play variety while also curbing some of the game’s harsher, most powerful meta compositions. While primarily used as a way to freshen up The Overwatch League and keep matches from being the same Mei/Reaper/Reinhardt composition every week, the Hero Pools were added to casual play in order to lessen the peer pressure-like demands of adhering to the meta while in Competitive mode.
The change is a mixed bag in regards to player reactions. While Hero Pools ensured that Competitive Play saw a variety of Heroes, including ones who often get ignored for the sake of “playing the meta,” it was also seen as stifling and punishment for dedicated players. The same can be said for Overwatch League and its Hero Pools, as the players often criticized the rule due to it making week-to-week practice difficult and required teams to constantly play musical chairs with the meta-game. However, that shift did make for more exciting play and forced players to use heroes that may otherwise never get used. Now on top of the meta as the best hit-scan damage dealer, Ashe was at one point called the worst Hero in the game by Overwatch League commentators and one could argue the shift may never have happened without Hero Pool bans on McCree, Widowmaker, or Soldier 76.
Will Hero Pools return? Does this open the door for a bans system akin to what’s used in MOBAs like Heroes of the Storm and League of Legends? For now, it seems as though that Blizzard’s dedication to more frequent patch changes is doing enough to keep the meta-game fresh, but it’s also hard to look at the dampening of Hero Pools in Overwatch League as a complete good, even if it helps keep teams from burning out and quitting en masse.