The Greatest Six - The Best Main Tank Of Overwatch 1
Whenever the discussion is raised on the best or greatest of all time, there are two common grievances shared in comment sections. Either a representative amount of the community feels that it is too early to say or that the roles in Overwatch are so sufficiently different, that figuring out a fair method between each player’s contributions is just always going to be unsatisfying to them. Taking those into account, I sliced differently here.
With the end of top tier competition in Overwatch 1 as we are likely to consider the impending pre-OW2 patch different enough from what we have been playing before, with the downsizing of teams from six to five players alone being likely a much more significant change than either role lock or hero pools, we can set a hard stop time in the present and side-step the 'of all time' qualification.
When asking who the best player of Overwatch 1 in a particular role was, I’m looking at the following criteria:
- Personal awards
- Performance evaluation
Trophies are a decent method of telling how good a player was, but from history, we know that they aren’t always telling the full story. While a player like WhoRU has two APEX trophies and an Overwatch League title under his belt, he only really played a vital role in one of those achievements. Other qualifiers are therefore required. For reasons outlined in this article, I will count two APEX titles the same as one OWL title.
Personal awards are another solid indicator of performance. However, as snotty as that may come off, especially in earlier seasons in the Overwatch League, the process of awarding personal trophies was far from rigorous only countered by the eventual recipients of for instance the MVP trophy being fairly straightforward with one candidate shining bright. Nevertheless, aggregated opinions make for a strong predictor of actual performance and should weigh heavily.
Longevity I expect to be a divisive point. My reason to weigh it heavily is based on the large number of big changes Overwatch 1 has experienced in its time. A player who was able to stay on top through different competitive formats, heavy balance changes and hero reworks, fundamentally different meta archetypes, role lock, hero pools, and more is simply a different beast to a player who even has achieved the most for a year or two. Winning the biggest trophy is a gamble you won, being among the best for five years or more is a statement.
Flexibility and playtime go hand in hand. A player who was able to mainly coast on a single hero (like Tracer) being prevalent in the meta shouldn’t be punished for her strength, but when they aren’t fielded when other heroes are the flavour of the month, it needs to be considered. A player who has to play the entire hero pool for his team has a fundamental disadvantage in every given game against a specialist who can sit on the bench and hone their one-trick-pick.
Performance evaluation is both the eye test of experts and pundits shared with me and a rough estimation of statistical performance over the length of Overwatch 1 esports. While the personal award criterion accounts for some eye test qualifications, it’s an imperfect view of performance. After all, a player like Profit (who many call the GOAT) has so far only gotten two personal achievements and has only been nominated for season MVP once.
In terms of their weight, I did not consider performances of year one of Overwatch to be considerably less important than of year five. While it is true that the level of play increases a lot during a game’s life cycle and that competition generally gets more serious as it professionalises, I believe that players need to be evaluated in the context of the time their play takes place in. Would you not consider chess legend Garry Kasparov one of the greatest players of all time after having been the world no.1 for almost 19 consecutive years, even though he’d likely lose against a lot of top chess professionals who learned the game after the AI revolution of the sport? The answer feels obvious.
Best Main Tank Considerations
We are going to explore each role independently while looking at what categories make sense. For some roles like main tank and off-tank, the distinction of who is playing which hero was defined enough to delineate two sub-roles in the role of tank. Not only have players been generally categorised this way in common parlance, but coaches also seem to hire in these categories and use players as such.
For the main tank role in particular, the requirements of the role have skyrocketed with it now arguably being the role with the widest skill range on active rosters between the best performing and worst performing main tanks. While it was sufficient to just play Winston and Reinhardt for a lot of Overwatch 1’s competitive history, eventually the hero pool blew up significantly, adding a hard to master Wrecking Ball, and high-coordination-requiring Orisa.
While specialisation was valuable initially, eventually having a wide hero pool became important especially in Overwatch League season 3 and 4. A player worthy of the title of the best tank of Overwatch 1 would need to display both the ability to peak during specialist metas as well as have some breadth to them later on.
The Best Main Tank of Overwatch 1 - Pan-seung "Fate" Koo
- 3x Overwatch League Stage Wins
- 1x Overwatch League Win
- 1x Contenders Win
- 1x World Cup Win
On the surface, Fate doesn’t look like a contender for a best in class title. He has got no individual awards to show for himself and has only very recently won his first Overwatch League title with the Shanghai Dragons. Not even chosen for RoleStar in any year and far outside MVP discussions for any Overwatch League season, he seems like an unlikely candidate.
And yet, Fate has been around for a long time in Overwatch esports, starting his career with Mighty AOD in OGN’s APEX under coach Moon. Going over to Immortals, he enjoyed decent success with the team in Contenders Season Zero: North American, the team would eventually become the Los Angeles Valiant for Overwatch League season 1. During this period, he was considered one of the best Winston players in the game and one of the few scary Primal users. Celebrating his first stage title in stage 4 there, Fate remained arguably the best player on the squad for the majority of the season.
Admittedly his career dipped briefly in the wake of Valiant’s underperformance in season 2, which lead to a trade to the Florida Mayhem. After initial struggles to get it together for the second half of the season, the team came back with a bang for season 3, with Fate once again being one of the driving forces behind the success while remaining rock-solid in the tank position and covering the entire hero pool. At the latest, his value became clear in the absence of him during Florida Mayhem’s fourth season as the team struggled to find consistency both in their main tank position as well as their overall performance.
Meanwhile, Fate remained a top performer for Shanghai and covered all the bases for them during their dominant season 4, replacing Fearless relatively seamlessly and became a big reason why Shanghai appeared to have Fuel’s number after stage 1, by him being able to cover Wrecking Ball effectively.
Fate’s career isn’t marked by him being the absolute best player in his role at any given point. One could even argue that his peaks never put him above his peers. However, for the majority of his long career, Fate has remained a top 5 main tank in the Overwatch League, covering a wide range of heroes and bringing that assurance to each team he joined.
Fate Vs Other candidates
When looking at direct competitors for the title, the following players were considered close enough to discuss: Smurf, Super, Mano, Fearless, Gesture.
In the case of Smurf and Super who both had more individual and team achievements than Fate, their placement suffered from having to share as much playtime as they did with one another. Being able to focus on particular heroes while sharing playtime during their title runs has to be weighed against them. The fact that both of them stayed with one team and one system for the majority of their career makes it hard to contrast their performance while Fate remained a top performer on three different teams in the Overwatch League. Both of them also only considerably arrived at the top level after Overwatch League season 1, a full year after Fate was already considered world-class.
In the case of Mano and Gesture, both were top contenders for the majority of their career but also declined noticeably towards the end of it, not reaching the level of consistency through a wide range of heroes as Fate did. Particularly Mano had a long career at the top starting on AF Blue in APEX, which provided a compelling argument over Fate who only stepped into the spotlight in season 4 of APEX. That said, it has to be weighed against him that he was never able to win the biggest titles in any competition he was part of. For Gesture, a decline in performance against his excellent run in OWL season 1 marked his career with notable exceptions during the Roadhog meta in season 3.
Fearless claim certainly suffered through the catastrophic Shanghai Dragons’ first season and the resulting stint outside the Overwatch League. While he can be reasonably argued to have been the best tank throughout the last two seasons, it wasn’t enough to put him ahead of Fate over the game’s entire history.
Season 2 of Fate’s career remains a blemish on his record, but the circumstances of those seasons were taken into account and by the eye test, he never appeared to be the issue for either of his teams. While it may feel wrong to see a player who was likely never the best at his role at any given point the best main tank of all time, Fate’s ability to stay on top of the Overwatch world through several metas without any significant backup makes him a worthy recipient of the acknowledgement.