Why exactly has Genji dashed back into vogue during the Summer Showdown?
Patches come and patches go, and with that - hero changes are inevitable. However, one fan-favourite hero has dashed his way back into the eyes of the audience after seeing a much-needed facelift. Week 21 of the Overwatch League not only saw the final qualification matches for the Summer Showdown but it also gave us the return of Genji, a hero that had been written off as 'dated'. Is it his recent buffs, the heroes he is paired with, or perhaps the map pool that has allowed Genji to see a revival during the Summer Showdown?
Why Has Genji Arrived Now?
After seeing some changes in a recent patch, Genji has made his dynamic entrance back into the Overwatch League metagame as a premier brawler that brings mobility - both vertical and horizontal. A flat damage increase on his Shurikens, having a spread reduction on his secondary fire, and with the ability to manually cancel his Deflect, Genji is oddly a nice pairing with the double-shield setups that have been popular as of late. In the same way that Tracer and Echo have been receiving a lot of support from Brigitte’s Armour Packs, Genji can also fill this same niche, and at times can be better than his peers.
Echo receiving nerfs forces her to commit farther into a fight which could cause her to be picked off early. While she is mobile, the player now stands at a crossroads; do they engage with her Flight or does she use it to escape? Genji in this metagame isn’t forced to commit as heavily and if he choices to he also has a defensive cooldown that has just been buffed. So comparisons to Echo feel valid as the hero fills a vaguely similar role to Genji, but seems to be mitigated to a comfort or stylistic pick at the moment. However, there is another hero that has recently seen a ton of playtime that also shares a similar role to Genji as well.
Coined by teams like the Los Angeles Valiant and the Florida Mayhem, Tracer paired alongside Ashe has been the go-to combo for weeks now, and that won’t be going away anytime soon. That said, Genji does offer two big benefits in his kit. Vertical mobility alone will see him played over Tracer. On maps like Hollywood Point B and Watchpoint, Gibraltar has key positions that Tracer is going to struggle to reach in a timely fashion. With Wall Climb and Dash, Genji simply doesn’t have that problem.
On top of that, he also brings a fair amount more finishing potential to team fights. The obvious one lies in his ultimate, Dragon Blade, and its damage potential, but we should not discount the synergy between Orisa’s Halt and Genji’s Swift Strike. Being able to either group together many low-health targets or isolate someone on the enemy team and remove them from cover is going to allow Genji a fair amount of versatility with his kit. Inversely, we’ve seen a team like the Houston Outlaws do something similar with Tracer’s Pulse Bomb, but generally speaking, she is a bit more limited due to her kit being mostly about her mobility.
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The Justice Case
A great example of the versatility that Genji brings is showcased during the Washington Justice’s recent game against the Los Angeles Gladiators. Here the Justice feature Genji in both a traditional Dive setting as well as in a double-shield composition.
Down approximately three team fights on the first point of Volskaya Industries, Stitch is having a difficult time finding a good target to dive, hasn’t done much in the way of damage, and it has been forced out a lot. After overextending to attempt to finish TTUBA, OGE is punished and needs Nano Boost to safely retreat. This opens up the map to allow for the Justice to use Nano Boost for their Genji’s Dragon Blade.
In the following map, TTUBA shifts his playstyle to be more of a frontline threat playing alongside his tanks, while Stitch anchors on the Widowmaker. This not only gives the Justice massive pick potential but also gives Genji possible dash reset targets if Stitch isn’t able to secure the kill. This works extremely well on the first turn on Rialto due to the amount of vertical space TTUBA has to poke the enemy team down with. Compare that to the fact that the Gladiators have to shove their Tracer through narrow chokes and send their Ashe on flanks to create openings. It’s a night and day difference, but again, it’s not only map dependant but it’s also dependant on if your roster has a strong Genji player to pilot the hero well.
The Eternal Case
The Paris Eternal showcased a much more nuanced approach to Genji in their most recent match against the Los Angeles Valiant. One that saw a slight variance in how their ultimates were paired together.
Often the team will pair Dragon Blade with Brigitte’s Rally to encourage the tanks to follow the Genji as he dashes into the fight. Obviously they can’t dive too terribly deep, but the extra armour given to the team allows them to mitigate more of the damage which allows them to gain extra ground. With these added early fight wins, they often find themselves able to properly set up on a map, which makes them incredibly dangerous.
What the Eternal does so well is put the enemy team in a bind. Here, the Valiant are rotating to recontest the point on Nepal, but Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han locks them into the underpass by abusing Genji’s vertical mobility and increased damage. To chase him away, the Valiant is goated into using key cooldowns like Halt and Accretion, which SP9RK1E expertly dodges. This makes it extremely difficult for the Valiant to take a direct engagement with the Eternal tank line now that they are down in resources. If, for example, they choose to ignore the pesky ninja, SP9RK1E can easily slip behind the tank line and assassinate a support or bait out an even more important cooldown like Immortality Field. Neither is ideal, but that’s the key; the Eternal milk every advantage they can when given the opportunity.
Where Do We Go From Here?
With such a reliance on the armour given by Brigitte, we have to wonder; once the Overwatch League catches up to the live patch, will this strategy still be viable? Sadly, it doesn’t seem likely, and Genji’s pick rate should diminish quite a lot. The safety that Armor Pack gave him and other flankers will be sorely missed, as without it life is much more difficult if you’re constantly in the mix, trying to brawl your opponents. Ultimately it depends on the overall metagame and who else is being picked, but with that, Genji needs some specific heroes around him to really shine. That’s not to say that he’ll disappear forever, but Genji will more than likely become more niche and return to being a viable pocket pick for some teams.
Speaking of, there are plenty of teams that either have the potential to or have already showcased some interesting Genji play. The New York Excelsior recently signed one of the best Genji’s in the world, Kim "Haksal" Hyojong. While he has also been featured at support as of late, New York has put him on his signature pick and found massive success. The Hangzhou Spark also have made a recent acquisition that should allow them to run Genji compositions incredibly well. Former San Francisco Shock DPS player Park "Architect" Minho was transferred to the Spark earlier this year and brings them a massive amount of flexibility, if you’re looking for ace Genji plays, these are just a few teams to keep your eye on.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment