Ninjas In Pyjamas
The story of the GOATS composition begins with Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP), an EU team from the early days of competitive Overwatch. Half the players on this roster went on to join the Overwatch League and become commonly recognized players, namely Zappis and Zuppeh of Florida Mayhem’s season 1 roster and Fragi, the beloved main tank player for the Philadelphia Fusion.
Ninjas in Pyjamas team took titles in 2016 and 2017 with triple-tank and Zappis as solo dps. Of interest to this piece, however, was an experimental phase during which Ninjas In Pyjamas players used tanks Reinhardt, Roadhog, and Zarya in conjunction with supports Ana, Lucio, and Zenyatta to beat out other teams, who typically used two dps heroes.
Roadhog was a crucial element to their composition because before his multiple nerfs in mid-2017, as he could effectively find important picks using his hook, even when the team was at a 1 or 2-man disadvantage. “Pick potential” was the sought after characteristic in a team composition during this period of Overwatch, whereas today traits such as “ult economy” and “win conditions” are what teams are looking for when constructing their compositions. This doesn’t mean the level of play has changed, but rather that the game has. Damage mitigation was not as extreme in late 2016 and early 2017 as it is today, so ults were not necessarily needed to sway team fights.
Ultimately, the reason Ninjas in Pyjamas gave up on the triple support in late 2016 was the lack of survivability Zenyatta offered against dive. This vulnerability to dive led to Zappis playing as the team’s solo dps for the rest of NiP’s run in Overwatch, with soldier and Mei being his staple picks.
Now we can fast forward to 2018. Dive meta lasted approximately one and a half years, followed by mercy meta for almost another year. In response to community outcry at all levels of play concerning the dominance of dive tanks and tracer, the Overwatch development team announced the release of Brigitte in late February of 2018.
Sporting an array of powerful anti-dive elements to her kit, Brigitte hit the t1 competitive scene with the beginning of OWL stage 4.
Dallas Stage 4
Once expected to be a top 3 team in the Overwatch League, the Dallas Fuel faced a series of challenges leading them to a disappointing first three stages. Under new direction with the introduction of head coach Aero, formerly of FNRGFE and Fusion University, the Dallas Fuel in underwent a transformation and rediscovery in stage 4. With all 12 Overwatch League teams’ coaches scrambling to find a useful composition to incorporate Brigittes heavily loaded kit, Aero struck gold.
Aero realized that Brigitte had more value as third support than as part of a typical 2-2-2 composition. In other words, she was more valuable than dps and off tanks in their respective slots. Mercy, Zenyatta, and Brigitte became the go-to support line for the Fuel in stage 4, with the rest of the composition varying depending on map and Mickie dedicating to the new role.
Having left stage 3 with only a single victory, the Dallas Fuel’s successful use of Brigitte to enable triple-support surprised every other OWL team, with the team going 6 and 4, making the stage’s playoffs.
Brigitte’s full potential wasn’t fully realized in OWL, however. Instead, North American Open Division Season 2 became the testing ground for a novel composition, with the unsponsored team ‘GOATS’ exclusively running a 3-3 composition of Moira, Lucio, Brigitte, Reinhardt, Zarya, and d.va throughout the entirety of the tournament, placing first May 27th. Their convincing victory and 1st place finish in the BEAT Invitational’s 4th season tournament that same week, the tier 3 team’s run in Open Division served as an effective proof-of-concept for now dubbed ‘GOATS comp.”
Overwatch League teams took notice, and occasionally utilized this composition in season 1 playoffs, but not to the extent that the tier 2 scene saw since even with incremental Brigitte nerfs hitting live every month.
Gator has since joined the Atlanta Reign and will be playing in OWL S2. He is known for his skill in micromanaging his team to maximize the main tank-centric playstyle of GOATS.
Contenders Season 2
In the Overwatch League, the typical response to GOATS comp, or ‘anti-GOATS’ involved a Junkrat or Pharah, which offered splash damage from a distance. London demonstrated an effective anti-GOATS in the OWL S1 finals versus Philadelphia Fusion on Volskaya. London Spitfire used Pharah-Mercy to disrupt dive from medium-long range.
Contenders Season saw Ana’s integration into GOATS and maturation of anti-GOATS, which relied on the use of Sombra and Doomfist. The strength of these Sombra-Doomfist compositions lied in both dps’ capabilities to disrupt tanks and combine their ultimates with tank ultimates such as graviton surge, D.Va bomb, or earthshatter. This was accentuated by the weakness of dps ultimates such as high noon, death blossom, tactical visor, barrage, or pulse bomb against GOATS, a comp which could easily stun, eat, trans, or sound barrier their way out of most ults.
Sombra-Doomfist was especially potent at Contenders S2 finals, where dive was made stronger due to a bug affecting Winston’s jump pack
This video shows how jump pack was bugged at the time. Usually, the jump pack damage scales according to the distance from the enemy, but in this video, it deals 50 dmg each time regardless of distance.
While GOATS dominated EU and KR contenders games, NA contenders saw a mix of GOATS and Sombra-Doomfist instead. The North American Contenders Season 2 finals between XL2 and Fusion University this September showed just how capable the Sombra-Doom composition was against lesser forms of anti-GOATS (McCree or Pharah or a combination of the two), as well as how inadequate alternative forms of anti-GOATS were fared GOATS itself.
We saw this in action on Ilios Lighthouse, where both FU and XL2 began with their respective forms of anti-GOATS, FU utilizing Sombra-Doomfist, and XL2 running a triple-support McCree composition. The weakness of XL2’s ‘protect-the-McCree’ composition was, according to Fusion University’s Elk, a very analytical player and in-game leader, a lack of win conditions compared to Sombra-Doom. Beasthalo, FU’s main tank, dives Nenne to secure a kill on McCree, XL2’s only win condition. Nenne picked off Elk at the beginning of the fight, but XL2 was fighting uphill despite the trade due to this inherent weakness. XL2 managed to later retake with their McCree composition, which resulted in FU swapping to GOATS.
The need for Sombra-Doom to counter GOATS became apparent as FU effectively retook the point and pushed to 100% with minimal effort because, despite XL2 swapping to Pharah and McCree, neither dps disrupts tanks as effectively as Sombra Doomfist can. In Seagull’s recent video where he airs frustrations with GOATS, he mentions how these two dps are the only viable solution to the tanky strategy.
In regions like Europe and Korea, GOATS was run almost exclusively as opposed to NA’s anti-GOATS comps such as the previously discussed XL2’s McCree comp or Fusion University’s Sombra-Doomfist. Map specific compositions might be approached, but often teams would rush back to spawn before the first fight of a map and switch to a mirror or counter-comp. This is what pros mean when they refer to a “rock-paper-scissors meta.” We saw this in effect at the grand finals of Korean Contenders season 2. Runaway approached the point on Ilios Well running a very classic Tracer-Genji dive composition with Moira but headed straight back into spawn when they saw Kongdoo Panthera’s classic GOAT’s comp.
GOATS began seeing the most variations in the 2018 world cup, with Zenyatta often taking the place of Moira or Ana, or monkey taking the place of Reinhardt. Players and coaches would use terms like ‘DOATS’ (dive GOATS) or ‘FLOATS’ (flying GOATS) to describe the Winston variation.
Often termed ‘DOATS’ or ‘FLOATS,’ GOATS run with multiple dive tanks saw some success in the 2018 Overwatch World Cup, with Canada’s xQc on Winston.
The Zenyatta variation commonly being run by teams in the world cup seems counterintuitive to a core reason GOATS is so strong: powerful healing. Without Ana or Moira providing a massive healing output, how can three tanks sustain themselves when charging straight into a team running Ana GOATS? The answer was a slower playstyle which revolved around landing a discord orb on the enemy Reinhardt before rushing him. Teams running more conventional GOATS against Zenyatta GOATS or FLOATS/DOATS had to capitalize on small opportunities with heavy initiations, while teams running the Zenyatta variation needed to play a more measured style of kiting back and forth, landing discord, and capitalizing on the support ult advantage running a Zenyatta offered.
A ‘GRACEFUL’ CONCLUSION:
And so, what is the current state of GOATS in professional play? Various professionals have aired their frustrations with Brigitte and her capacity to enable GOATS, which may be to some an inherently frustrating composition to play against. Others have been vocal about their disdain for heroes such as Doomfist and Sombra, some of the few dps which are capable of disrupting GOATS, for their oppressive ultimates and playstyle. With OWL Season 2 on the horizon and the t2 scene pushing the meta forward, I decided to interview Graceful, a highly talented player currently on EU team Young and Beautiful.
What would you say is the current state of GOATS in professional play? Do counter-comps feel effective enough?
Graceful: "Depends, sometimes you try to run counter comps (Doom Sombra or some sort of variation) but most teams tend to go for the goats mirror cause it's more consistent. People are still figuring things out I think but most people tend to lean towards Doom Sombra etc but if it doesn't work for x amount of fights they go goats or a variation of goats."
As one of the more flexible players in Overwatch, do you feel enabled or restricted by the current meta?
Graceful: "After first [point] it usually comes down to ‘do we mirror or counter here,’ and that's basically the entire meta. I feel enabled in this meta for sure, since I get to play a lot of heroes depending on our strats (specifically for 1st points) since that's where you get to put strategies in action more or less. After first [point] it usually comes down to ‘do we mirror or counter here,’ and that's basically the entire meta. The thing is though, I feel ‘enabled’ because of the fact that more heroes overall is viable but I also feel restricted since we all know that goats is more or less the best comp in the game right now. It's like this ‘let’s try to counter, it worked nice lets keep it, or it didn't work damn we should've gone goats mirror’. I am sad to say but playing counter comp takes WAY more effort than just playing goats and playing for time due to its power in sustaining and being able to stall. Kind of sad but hopefully the meta will change soon.”