Despite his penchant for crashing into the thick of things and leaving craters in his wake, Wrecking Ball has yet to make a huge impact on Overwatch's meta. Then again, he only just got added to the game. Last night, though, the hamster hero showed squeaky inklings of his potential in two Overwatch Contenders playoff matches.
Overwatch Contenders is Blizzard's official minor league. It includes many players who are nearly Overwatch League-calibre, some of whom are on "academy" teams fielded by OWL organisations. Two matches went down yesterday evening: Fusion University (the farm team of OWL's Philadelphia Fusion) versus Toronto Esports and Team Envy (Dallas Fuel's Contenders team) versus Last Night's Leftovers. Hammond the hamster made an appearance in both.
This was not the first, first time Hammond appeared in pro play — he made his debut a few days earlier, in a show match between Australia and Hong Kong's Overwatch World Cup teams — but this was his first time on a high-stakes stage.
Last night's first match wasn't a great showcase for Wrecking Ball. Fusion University brought out the mechanised trash genius on Oasis, but player Adam "Beasthalo" Denton didn't look entirely comfortable with Hammond's suite of manoeuvrability options and he ended up feeding Toronto's ult charge more than anything.
It was in the Envy-LNL match, though, that things got extremely hammy. While Envy tried rolling out Hammond on a couple occasions, it was Last Night's Leftovers who made eye-opening use of him: First, Dominik "Nexx" Scheerer pulled off a huge play on Lijang Tower, catapulting into Envy's backline from on high and deploying his minefield to knock everybody out of position.
His team then charged in behind a Reinhardt ult for a swift clean-up.
LNL did not end up taking the map, but the play was an excellent example of just how disruptive a well-timed Hammond ult can be if it's part of a coordinated effort. Conversely, if a team running Hammond isn't ready to back up their chubby cheeked mammal-mecha murder monstrosity, well, things don't tend to go well at all.
The real star of Last Night's Leftovers' Hammond show, though, was Jørgen "Decod" Myrlund, who spent a large portion of the match on the new hero. Despite the high-stakes nature of the playoffs, Decod and his team were not afraid to run less-than-proven comps like one revolving around Hammond and Doomfist — the idea being that they'd use both heroes' plethora of knockback abilities to turn King's Row into a deadly bounce castle.
Unfortunately for them, it didn't really work out, because Envy kept picking off their Doomfist. LNL ended up taking the map, but only after switching to a series of more traditional comps.
Decod had his best and worst Hammond moments on the match's third map, Volskaya. At one point, he managed to apparently lose control of Hammond's ball mode and go careening off a ledge right at the start of a round, putting his team at a big disadvantage during a crucial opening engagement.
It was embarrassing, to say the least, though LNL ended up recovering. Decod even managed to pull off a big play after having his minefield ult nano-boosted by Ana's ult. There was also this masterful setup and clean-up job, where Decod swung in, crashed down and got a phenomenal flank on Envy's frontline, bouncing them around and taking them completely by surprise.
He and his team made short work of them after that.
Hammond's arrival in the Overwatch Contenders playoffs has not been without controversy. The regular season took place on patches that didn't include the new hero or balance changes that accompanied his release and now teams have to acclimate to something new and different just before reaching the season two finish line.
Still, Hammond is already opening up some fun strategic possibilities and if nothing else, he certainly ups matches' entertainment factor. In short, hamster good. Well, in certain situations.