Of all the games with tens of colorful heroes and millions of people playing incessantly, Overwatch is the least overwhelming. Still, it’s not like anything else out there. It’s not a typical shooter, nor a MOBA, nor even a heartwarming point-and-click adventure starring a gorilla in glasses. Here are some tips to help you wrap your head around it.
This post originally ran on 5/26/16. It’s been updated with new tips for every hero, as well as entries for Ana, Sombra, and Orisa.
Read this. For some advice that’ll put you on even footing with everyone else, read Patricia’s post about the 15 things you should know before you start playing Overwatch. That should be your first step. If you’re past the point and want some more specific advice, proceed onward.
When in doubt, switch characters. Don’t wait until the end of a round to do it, even though that’s what a lot of other shooters train you to do. If you’re getting rekt like an old building or a new car driven by former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, try another character. If you’re not sure who to go for, ask your team what they need help with at the moment. If one of your teammates decides to be a dick because how dare you not know everything about the game a few days after it came out, kindly remind them that you’re just trying to help, because that’s how you win in Overwatch. Odds are, your other teammates will have your back on that one.
COMMUNICATE. For a lot of people, this one is tough. They either want to jump straight into the action, or they have crippling social anxiety (like me!). Overwatch, though, a game where communication can make all the difference in the world. Let people know where you’re going, what your plan is. If the other team has you stuck at a chokepoint, suggest a coordinated assault or a specific strategy instead of individually banging your head against an impenetrable defensive wall. I see tons of people only use their keyboard or mic at the end of a match. They say something like, “That was bullshit.” Yeah, of course it was, buddy. And it’s partially your fault. Nobody talked, and everybody died.
Go for the annoying ones first. Turret pissing you off? Sniper ruining your day? Healer turning the enemy tank into an unflinching bullet sponge? Not so coincidentally, that’s probably also a large part of why your team’s not progressing through a level or getting shellacked on defense. If you can identify the biggest threat, don’t assume somebody else is gonna handle it. Switch characters and do your part instead of just hanging back and racking up kills.
Be a team player. Overwatch is a game that tries to put just as much emphasis on completing objectives, supporting, healing, and countering as it does plain old killing. Even if you graduated from high school with a Most Likely To Be A Professional Assassin award, try playing a support, defender, or tank. They’re fun roles that are often faster-paced and more versatile than in other games.
Don’t be afraid to lose. Overwatch is a game where the spoils of defeat aren’t terribly far removed from the spoils of victory. On top of that, the chances of a big comeback are surprisingly high. Just last night, I was in a match where the enemy team needed one more second in a captured location to win a round, but I distracted them with Mei while my team picked them off. Then we held the point all the way from zero and won. It was thrilling. I’d never played with any of those people before, but I wanted to hug each and every one of them. Overwatch is designed to enable those sorts of moments, so don’t lose hope just because things aren’t going your way.
I want to begin this section with a tip that applies to every hero. Overwatch is a team game, and the best thing you can do is pick heroes that complement the rest of your team’s lineup. I don’t just mean in the “not enough defense heroes” or “not enough supports” sense. Some specific characters make for absolutely devilish combos. At this point, Overwatch players aren’t the best communicators, but you can mitigate that by picking a character who naturally pairs well with members of your team. Maybe the best Overwatch tip I can give is always be support, even when you’re not playing a support character. Support is a mindset. In Overwatch, it’s a winning one.
Pairs best with: Zarya, Lucio, Ana.
Genji is close to being a lone wolf. If someone who can buff defense/health (Mercy, Zarya, Zenyatta, etc) or speed (Lucio) has his back, so much the better. Otherwise, though, Genji is quick and punishing at mid and close range. He’s also extremely mobile, capable of traversing levels up high and surprising enemies on the ground. His shuriken hit hard and have surprising range, and his swift strike can be used to close distance, do damage, and escape heavy blows from the Reinhardts and Roadhogs of the world. His deflect skill can counter everything from bullets to exploding mechs, and his ult turns him into a perfect machine of melee fury.
- Genji’s swift strike cooldown resets immediately if you get a kill or an assist. If you pop your ult or have someone with a quick projectile weapon (Soldier 76, Reaper, Tracer, Widowmaker, etc) backing you up, you can become a near-untouchable murder blender.
- Don’t get too high on bloodlust, though. Genji is fairly brittle in the grand scheme of things. If you do a straight berserker rush with your blade out, you’re probably going down. Be nimble and clever. Try to use your ult when flanking or approaching enemies from behind.
- Genji is magnificent at mitigating Overwatch’s most annoying threats. Having turret troubles? Genji can deflect the jackass bullet firehose sometimes known as Bastion and kill him with his own attacks. It’s a risky maneuver (if you don’t aim everything correctly, you’ll be standing directly in front of a turret), but it can pay off bigtime. If your team’s trapped in a Widowmaker’s web, same deal. Go Genji. He can dash through open spaces, climb confined ones, and nimbly ascend to wherever she is. In a close range fight, it’s not even fair. Just make sure to start deflecting when she switches to semi-automatic mode.
Pairs best with: Reinhardt, Lucio.
McCree is at his best as a mid-range damage dealer. He’s a terror behind Reinhardt’s shield or face-to-face with a single opponent in a cramped room/corridor. He can stun with his flashbang, then fan his revolver for rapid-fire shots. It’s a simple but devastating setup, a means of downing opponents in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, he lacks mobility. McCree’s the sort of cowboy who does best with friends at his side. Reinhardt can protect him, Lucio can speed him up. That sort of thing. If you try to be a Lone Ranger, you’ll probably get gunned down.
- McCree’s ult, Dead Eye, can rapidly hit multiple enemies in his line of sight. It has decent range on it, more so than McCree’s other abilities. If someone’s got you pinned down from afar, don’t be afraid to pop it off. If, however, you’re in a team fight, it’s best used from behind a shield. Note, however, that enemy shields and other characters can block it.
- Flashbang, flashbang, flashbang. It’s your best friend. Fan the hammer afterward. It’s one of the best close range combo attacks in the whole game.
- Protect your supports. As a hero who’s at his best doing damage behind a shield, remember that your supports are likely nearby, buffing and healing you, and enemies like Tracer and Genji would looooooove to pick them off. Keep an eye out for harassers and dispatch them as needed.
Pairs best with: Mercy, Zarya, Reinhardt, Roadhog.
Pharah is a high-flying attacker who can make mincemeat of the other team’s frontline. Her rockets cause knockback, which can disrupt placement and sow brief confusion in enemy ranks. Thanks to her jetpack, she’s hypermobile, able to reach vantage points no other hero can. Only downside is, she’s a glaringly obvious target when she’s puttering along in the sky. Always look before you leap.
- Don’t go for direct hits. Pharah’s rockets are not lightning quick. Aim where you expect your enemies to end up by the time a rocket hits. Or aim in the center of a cluster of enemies to do a little damage and knock everyone around.
- Know the map. Pharah’s a force when she’s got a vantage point that a) can’t be reached by the enemy team, b) lets her rain down fury from above, and c) offers solid defense when enemies return fire.
- Mercy is your BFF. If you can get one to up your damage and heal you as needed, you’ll become basically unstoppable. Pharmercy is canon. Never forget.
- If the other team has a bunch of hit-scan characters (think: Solider 76) who can aim decently, you’re gonna want to play defensively, or even switch characters altogether.
- Pharah’s ult is powerful, but don’t fire indiscriminately. Once you begin your rocket barrage, you’re stuck in place. Even if you see the enemy team clumped together in some kind of suicide turtle formation, resist the urge to leap into the air until you’re sure they’re distracted by your teammates or completely not expecting you. Oh, and make sure you’re far off the ground enough that you can’t be yanked by a Roadhog or exploded on by a Junkrat. If there’s a rangier character like Hanzo or Widowmaker in the mix, forget about it.
Pairs with: Reinhardt, Zarya, Zenyatta.
Reaper is, despite his teleporty bag of tricks, a pretty straightforward offensive hero. He uses his Shadowstep teleport to get behind enemy lines, attacks for big close range damage with his shotguns, and then Wraith Forms away, temporarily impervious to damage. He can fulfill many roles (offense from behind a shield, flanking a defensive setup, scouting ahead), but he’s best used for quick, startling assaults that disrupt the enemy team’s plans.
- Reaper is a crappy long-range fighter. If someone’s blasting you from across a big room or map, Wraith Form out of there. Characters with knockback like Lucio are especially dangerous. They can push Reaper away and eat him alive from the outside all day.
- Like Genji, Reaper is great for taking out some of the opposing team’s mightiest pests. He can teleport behind turrets and do serious damage, and he can surprise snipers in their perches. If those gambits don’t work out, there’s always Wraith Form.
- I know it’s tempting, but don’t leap into the middle of an enemy team and deploy Reaper’s ult. It’s a very bad habit to get into. Death Blossom might look awesome with Reaper dancing like a teen edgelord with a secret love of ballet, but you’re an easy target the second it starts. Instead, deploy Death Blossom when enemies are distracted by teammates or, better, stuck in place/knocked down thanks to Mei, Zarya, or Reinhardt.
Pairs best with: Pretty much anyone, especially defensive types like Lucio and Reinhardt.
Soldier 76 is the Mario of Overwatch. He’s decent for just about anything. His rifle does decent mid-to-long-range damage, he’s got rockets with knockback, and he can even heal. Oh, and his ult is basically an aimbot. Way to BE A GODDAMN CHEATER, mister honorable American soldier pants.
- Pair burst fire from your rifle with helix rockets as a finisher. You can maximize DPS this way, especially given that going full auto with your rifle causes its spread to widen. Burst a couple times then fire a rocket.
- Rockets are a great way to take out dangerous targets quickly. You can demolish turrets with them. It’s risky, but you can also take down close range fighters like Tracer or Genji this way. Just be careful with your timing. If you miss, you’re a hearty, USA-born, killed, and cooked chicken friend steak.
- Don’t forget that you are, in many ways, a healer. Soldier 76’s biotic field does its job quickly, so it can make you less squishy in a firefight, but keep an eye on your allies too. If they’re hurting, take care of them.
- Pharah wrecking your team’s day? Don’t think twice: go Soldier.
Pairs best with: Other backline harassers, Zarya, Zenyatta.
It’s Tracer! Good ol’ Tracer. Despite more or less being Overwatch’s mascot, she’s actually pretty tough to play. Tracer’s a lickity quick offense character, at her strongest when she’s zipping behind the enemy frontline and trolling the shit out of everyone. She is, however, exceptionally vulnerable. You absolutely must stay mobile. Blink gives you incredibly rapid movement, and Recall lets you rewind mistakes. If you don’t use those constantly and back them up with solid aiming abilities, you’re an easy kill.
- Thanks to her ability to rewind time (for herself) with Recall and her ult, Pulse Bomb, Tracer can pull of some seriously zany plays. Try blinking behind a Reinhardt shield, planting a Pulse Bomb, and then Recalling away. It’s fucking awesome.
- Think of the trolliest thing you can do and then do it. Poke and prod at snipers and turrets. If they hurt you, Blink or Recall away and then come back. Keep the other team guessing. If their backline feels comfortable, you’re not doing your job well enough.
- You can reload while you’re Blinking. Attack, attack, attack, then blink away while reloading. Do that over and over and over until everyone dies.
Pairs best with: Reinhardt, Orisa, Zenyatta, Ana.
If you’ve played or even followed Overwatch casually, you probably know his rep: he’s a highly accurate, damaging defender. In sentry mode, he runs on the salt of his foes, transforming their rage tears into a seemingly endless stream of bullets. However, he’s easily hittable. He also has an ult that turns him into a tiny tank. He can move around normally too, acting as a kind of less potent Soldier 76 who can also heal while moving.
- Know the map you’re on. To use Bastion to his maximum potential, you need to understand where he’s best able to take shots at everyone without being flanked. It’s not as easy as it seems. Pay attention to other Bastion players. Imitate what they do. Also, experiment with placement. Worse comes to worst, try to get behind a Reinhardt shield or some other form of defensive emplacement.
- If you’re on the attacking team, Bastion’s not your best bet. Ideally, your team will be in a state of constant forward motion, so you won’t be able to plunk down and turret it up for long.
- Be careful with your ult. You’re still extremely hittable, even as you’re dropping bombs and breaking hearts. A good Widowmaker, solid burster like McCree or Soldier 76, or (god forbid) another Bastion can put you down before you do much damage at all.
- You can heal on the go! Do that a lot.
- Don’t ride around in turret form on the floating platform near the last point at Volskaya Industries. Don’t be that guy.
Pairs best with: Widowmaker for her ability to reveal enemy locations. Reinhardt, Zarya, and Mei because they can keep enemies in one spot while Hanzo fires off his ult.
Hanzo is a sniper, but his bow means shots arc as they travel. He can be played in closer quarters than Widowmaker in large part thanks to the potency of his scatter arrow, which fragments and ricochets off walls. Also his ult is a giant fucking ghost dragon. Hanzo, the silent (until he’s really, really not) killer.
- Unless you’re an enemy’s in your face giving you a hard time, always charge your arrows as much as you can. You get a big damage bonus.
- Sonic Arrow is your best friend. It reveals enemy locations within a decently wide radius, and it’s hyper versatile. If you’re pushing forward, fire one where you suspect enemies might be. If you’re defending, stick one in a vulnerable hallway to help you deal with flankers.
- Hanzo’s Massive Goddamn Dragon ™ is more than just Play Of The Game bait. It can be used to separate the enemy team so you and/or another sniper can pick them off one-by-one. It also goes through walls, so it can turn the tide of battle at a chokepoint or take out a Bastion or a hive cluster of Symmetra’s mini-turrets.
- If you see an enemy dart into an enclosed space, fire off a scatter arrow. They can seriously mess people up, especially if they’re playing squishier heroes.
- Don’t be a Hanzo main. Just don’t do it.
Pairs best with: Widowmaker and Hanzo, for knowledge of the enemy team’s locations. Junkrat can then flush them into the open with a grenade or two. Also Roadhog, obviously.
Junkrat is a strange, wonderful bundle of wiry muscle and explosives. He’s got an arcing grenade launcher and mines he can set as traps or detonate on himself for spectacular mobility. His ult is a tire that blows up on people. The tire is diabolical. The tire is love, the tire is life.
- Try to get the high ground. From there, you can see the enemy team’s composition better, allowing you to more effectively disrupt it. Junkrat’s tire is also more effective if you drop it from on high, so enemies can’t see it coming.
- Junkrate is a consummate mid-range fighter. At long range, he’s fodder for snipers or decently rangy heroes like Soldier 76. At short range, heroes like McCree and Reaper can eat him alive. As Junkrat, be mindful of your surroundings and avoid getting baited into fights you can’t win. Worst case scenario, toss down a concussion mine and use it to blast yourself out of there.
- Use your Steel Trap ability frequently. It holds enemies in place and does damage. Even if you don’t have time to finish them off, an ally might. Better still, you can pair your steel trap with a mine. Put the mine in the trap, wait for someone to trigger the trap, then—while they’re stuck—detonate the mine. That’s enough damage to take out most heroes.
Pairs best with: Anyone with a big ult that benefits from immobilized enemies (Hanzo, D.Va, Tracer, etc). Also Roadhog.
Despite her innocent appearance, Mei can be a terror in the right hands. She can freeze enemies solid with her Frost Beam and then knock their brains out with a giant icicle blast. Her Ice Wall is great for giving allies cover or separating enemies so your entire team can focus fire on one player. Her ult slows and freezes everyone in a fairly wide radius. Oh, and if she’s hurting, she can freeze herself, becoming temporarily invincible and recovering health. If you suspect there might be a Mei in your neighborhood, call the police.
- Repeat after me: Frost Beam, followed by an Icicle to the face. That’s your go-to 1v1 combo. It’s devastating and easy to pull off. Do it a lot and a mayor or governor of someplace will probably give you a medal.
- Use your Ice Wall wisely. Splitting up your own team? That’s a big no-no. But if someone on the other team gets too aggressive and splits off from the pack? Ice Wall them off from aid and let your team go to work. This tactic becomes infuriatingly good if you’re got a Roadhog on your team. You isolate somebody, Roadhog hooks them. Rinse, repeat, etc.
- Another nice use for the Ice Wall: if you’re defending, pop one up to block halls or corridors. This is especially handy if you’re playing a capture the flag brawl.
- When things get hairy, cryo-freeze yourself. Make this a habit, because it’s a life-saver. It can also serve as a temporary distraction, giving your allies time to save you. Ice walls have similar distraction potential. People love to go after Mei, and even if you can’t win, you can waste the hell out of their time.
Pairs best with: Tanks like Reinhardt, snipers like Widowmaker, Symmetra.
Torbjorn builds turrets. That’s not his Whole Thing, but it’s Most Of His Thing. He puts them down, maintains them, and upgrades them. He’s strong on defense, and he can provide allies with handy armor packs. His ult turns him into a fiery demon man and ups his build and fire rates. Also it auto-upgrades his turret to level three, because he’s all about that turret.
- Torbjorn is, frankly, not much of an asset on offense. If you want a turret with more mobility and firepower, go with Bastion.
- As soon as you drop your turret, thwack it with your hammer a couple times and upgrade it to level two. It’s far more useful this way.
- Find a secluded place for your turret, a spot that’s got line of sight on the enemy team but isn’t easily visible. After that, run to the frontlines and fire your Rivet Gun. This will charge your ult, which will give you a nice defensive boost and upgrade your turret to level three.
- If you want to make your whole team tanky as hell, make sure somebody else goes Symmetra. Then you’ll have her armor boost and your armor packs working in conjunction. That’s a lot of defense.
Pairs best with: Hanzo (that visiblity tho), Symmetra (her mini-turrets can really help Widowmaker’s defense), and pretty much anybody who’s able to hit the enemy as soon as they can see them (Junkrat, Soldier 76, Pharah, etc). Also, a good frontline to take the heat off you.
Widowmaker is a sniper through and through. Her ideal strategy is straightforward enough: get to a good vantage point, aim, and shoot. She has a grappling hook to aid her in finding a solid spot, and her ult, Infra-Sight, reveals enemy locations to her and the rest of the time. She also has a Venom Mine she can place to deter pursuers.
- Widowmaker’s gun has an assault rifle mode. As soon as somebody trips your Venom Mine, switch to it and get ready to finish them off. Widowmaker’s pretty squishy, so you don’t have a ton of room for error.
- If you get a vantage point on a tanky hero like Reinhardt, Roadhog, or D.Va, fire away. They’re tough enough to withstand multiple shots, but bringing them down can turn the tide of battle. Same deal if you see a turret or an enemy about to fire off a big ult. Snipers might act alone, but never stop being a team player.
- Like Hanzo, Widowmaker’s ult can be used for offensive pushes or simple scouting. Sometimes, it’s best to know what you’re in for before the big firefight even begins.
- Keep in mind that if you go Widow, you’ll usually be skulking around vantage points and dark alleys, far removed from big team fights. Overwatch is a game about area denial, and even if you’re not the best player, being a body in the thick of things serves a valuable function. If your team is already loaded with characters who can’t hold down the front line, probably don’t pick Widowmaker.
Pairs best with: Zarya, Reinhardt, Ana, Orisa.
D.Va’s mech has a slew of powerful abilities that allow her to move quickly and block tons of damage, but she’s not as meaty as other tank characters. She can also jettison her mech and make it explode, dealing tremendous damage and potentially wiping the entire enemy team. Outside her mech, D.Va carries a weak pistol and is easily eliminated, but don’t underestimate her. She’s speedy.
- D.Va’s Defense Matrix is a valuable tool, but it should be reserved for big attacks, not little ones. If you sweat the small stuff, you’ll be steamrolled by a larger attack. Rely on mobility to avoid regular fire.
- D.Va’s Fusion Cannons are much better up close than they are far away. Try to get in close, do a lot of damage, and then boost away before enemies can retaliate.
- Self-destructing D.Va’s mech is great for punishing bunched-together enemies, doubly so if you’re working with someone like Mei or Zarya who can immobilize them. It’s also a solid last-ditch escape plan, especially against distance closing tanks like Reinhardt and Roadhog.
- D.Va is not a great main tank. If your team lacks a tank entirely, probably pick Reinhardt, Orisa, or Roadhog (though honestly, Rein is your best bet). D.Va’s at her best as an off-tank who can soak up damage while Reinhardt’s shield recharges and as a backline harasser, zipping around and making life hell for squishy heroes who don’t have a hulking pink mech they can regularly call down from the sky. Suckers.
- If you get knocked out of your mech, stick with your team, stay behind a shield, and never stop moving. Zero suit D.Va is a tiny, Dorito-fueled speed demon, and you can give slower-moving heroes fits by strafing and popping them in the head. Before long, you’ll build enough ult charge to call down another mech.
Pairs best with: Pretty much everyone.
Reinhardt is Overwatch’s most straightforward tank. He’s got a big ol’ hammer, lots of armor, and a holographic shield allies can shoot through but enemies can’t. Many strategies revolve around a frontline with Reinhardt at the head. He can also charge enemies and pin them against or surfaces, and his ult knocks down everybody in its path, briefly stunning them.
- Your shield is not invincible, and it will eventually shatter. While waiting for it to recharge, don’t be afraid to go on the offensive a bit. Charge someone if they’re nearby, or just go smashy smashy with your hammer for a second. It’s better than running and hiding, as that strategy leaves your team entirely tankless.
- Always be on the lookout for enemies who want to get behind your shield. Harassers like Tracer can get your back if you’re not careful, as can grenade lobbers like Junkrat and snipers like Widowmaker. I’ve even come across crafty Roadhogs who flank ‘n’ yank. You don’t want to be flanked and yanked. Trust me.
- Above all else, your goal is to absorb damage. Your team is reliant on you. Without you, the formation crumbles. Prioritize that first and foremost.
Pairs best with: High damage characters that can help pile on DPS when he’s hooked someone (McCree, Reaper, etc), supports like Mercy, Junkrat, obviously.
Roadhog is a strange tank in that he’s got an exceptionally large HP pool, but he’s at his best when he’s actively breaking apart the other team’s defenses. His Take A Breather ability allows him to recover half his health, and his Chain Hook can be used to grab supports, defenders, and even other tanks, reeling them in for damaging shots and swings.
- First and foremost, target healers and supports with your Chain Hook. They’re vulnerable, unlikely to escape alive. Break down the enemy’s formation one-by-one.
- Chain Hook can also be used to interrupt big attacks. Is Pharah’s rocket barrage ult making life hell for your team? Yank her down and ruin her day.
- Use Roadhog’s ult frequently. It charges fast, does quite a bit of damage to nearby enemies, and has some nice knockback. It should be a core part of your arsenal.
- Be methodical with your hook. It’s a powerful tool, and if you toss it out willy-nilly, you’ll be significantly less effective. Also be aware that if you aim your hook at somebody and they move behind, say, a tree, you won’t be able to reel them in. Pay attention to your surroundings.
- Try to avoid using Take A Breather out in the open. Sure, it’s nice to have on hand when the other team is wailing on you, but by that point, it’ll only buy you a few extra seconds, at best.
Pairs best with: Supports/healers like Mercy, Zarya for shields.
Winston is Overwatch’s most aggressive tank. While other tanks lead the pack with a smart mix of offense and defense, Winston hits enemy front and backlines like a tidal wave. With his big, staggering jump and electricity firing cannon, he creates chaos, moments your teammates can take advantage of. He’s also got a barrier he and allies can take shelter in, and his ult gives him tremendous strength and survivability.
- Your best bet is to Tesla Cannon everyone to death, sometimes from behind your shield, until your ult’s ready to go. That’s when you leap in and start smashing. Don’t pop your ult immediately, though. Leap into enemy territory and absorb as much damage as you can. Then pop your ult, because it completely heals you.
- Use your shield bubble to protect you in enemy territory and to advance your own frontline. Once you’ve created enough chaos, your allies can move into it, and just like that, the spot is yours.
- Look out for heroes that are good at immobilizing or dealing tremendous damage up close. Winston’s worthless if his rage is cut short.
- When you’re charging into the backline, it can be tempting to fly into a full-on peanut-butter-crazed berserker rage, but don’t. Keep your cool and pick your targets. Always aim for healers and other core parts of the team first.
Pairs best with: Heroes with big ults (Hanzo, D.Va, Pharah, etc), tanks and other heroes who need shields.
Zarya occupies the midpoint between support and tank. She’s bulky and absorbent, but she can also create temporary shields. Damage done to these shields charges her weapon, allowing it to do more damage. Her ult is essentially a black hole, pulling all nearby enemies to a single point.
- Zarya’s shields only last a couple seconds, so make them count. Put them on allies who will definitely be hit with big attacks, so as to more effectively charge your gun.
- Try to coordinate use of your ult with heroes like D.Va, Hanzo, and Pharah—really anyone who can deal big damage to groups of enemies clustered together. Let allies know when your ult is ready to go. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
- Speaking of, allies who are vulnerable thanks to ultimates (Pharah, Reaper, etc) can make great use of a brief shield. Try tossing one when you see them doing their thing.
Pairs best with: Pretty much anyone.
Lucio might seem super hands-off as far as supports go, but he’s not. He can play two types of music, each of which function as a buff (speed or healing) to all allies in a wide vicinity. He can switch between them at will, and he can temporarily boost their effectiveness with an ability called Amp It Up. He’s at his best pestering enemies with his gun on the front or backline while buffing everybody nearby. Also he has cool rollerblades and is basically Jet Set Radio: The Character.
- Pay very close attention to how your allies are doing. If things are looking grim on the health front, be ready to use Amp It Up on your health buff. It can seriously turn things around, but it has a lengthy cooldown. Use it wisely.
- Also pay close attention to your enemies. If they’re near a ledge, use Lucio’s alt fire to give them a little push. It’s a hilarious way to get a kill or three.
- Speed boost is good for racing to a point at the start of a match, or sprinting back to battle after a death. Once there, you’re generally best off healing everyone, though there are times (when you need to escape from an ult, racing to a new objective) when that’s not true.
- The range for Lucio’s auras used to be much wider, but Blizzard reduced the radius from 30 to 10 meters in a recent update. Lucio’s healing, however, is now much more potent. This means that you need to keep on your toes and stick to tanks and other heroes who live and die on consistent healing.
- Lucio’s ult gives him and all nearby allies a beefy shield of sound, but it’s temporary. It’s great for deflecting highly damaging ults from the other team.
Pairs best with: Pharah. Also everyone else, I guess.
Among Overwatch’s supports, Mercy is the most straightforward healer. Using magic angel beams from her staff, she can either heal allies or boost their damage output. She can also quickly fly toward allies, and her ult resurrects fallen friends.
- Mercy is extremely weak in terms of offense and defense. Always stay behind tanks and other beefy allies.
- Most of the time, your best bet is to stick with your healing beam. Everybody hurts. Everybody can use a heal.
- Be aware of which characters can handle their own healing, folks like Roadhog, who could instead use a damage boost. Also keep an eye out for allies about to use ults. An ult plus a damage boost can positively level the enemy team.
- Your ult can be a game-changer, but don’t use it indiscriminately. If you’re pushing a point, pay attention to which heroes on your team have gone down. Lose a tank? It’s probably ult time! Lose a DPS player who’s kinda crappy and honestly not contributing much? Eh, let them walk.
- Ask whose ults are up before reviving. If, say, you’re trying to hold a point against a concerted enemy onslaught, an ult from you followed by a couple highly damaging ults from teammates can turn the tide of battle.
Pairs best with: Other supports that can handle healing (Mercy, Lucio).
Symmetra isn’t a healer and instead mostly exists to bolster defense. Her tiny turrets can be hidden in tough-to-reach places, and her shield functions as a very temporary portable Reinhardt. On top of that, her two (!!!) ults can teleport your allies back into the thick of things after death and provide a big armor boost to the whole team, respectively.
- Make sure your team has a more traditional support like Mercy handling heals and whatnot. If not, Symmetra’s not the support your team needs most.
- Get crafty with your turrets. Hide them in places you know will be trafficked, but not blanketed with fire (which will destroy them). Put them in hallways near chokepoints, around health packs, in small rooms, and of course, near your teleporter. You can even bait enemies into your turret nest. They might come and clear it out afterward, but it’s still damn satisfying to do.
- The teleporter can be destroyed, so don’t toss it out in the open. It’s at its best when it can bring allies back into the thick of things, but try hiding it in an obscure corner or someplace else out of the way.
- Generally, the best time to use the teleporter ult is when you’re defending the first point on a level. That’s when your team has to cover the most ground to get back into the fight, after all. After that, Symmetra’s shield generator is usually a better bet.
Pairs best with: Reaper, Lucio, Mercy, Genji.
Zenyatta is another one who’s tough to peg. He’s got two main orbs, Harmony and Discord. The former heals whichever ally it’s attached to, and the latter amplifies damage done to one enemy. He can also lob orbs for damage. His ult is a powerful heal that affects him and nearby allies and shields them. It’s extremely useful.
- Do not try directly engaging with other heroes. Zenyatta is made of old toothbrush bristles and dreams, and he won’t win a 1v1. Not usually, anyway.
- If your team’s dealing with a specific impediment, that’s probably the hero who should get the Orb of Discord. Toss it on a tank to make them less tanky. Lob it at a healer to make sure they go down fast. That kind of thing. Pay attention.
- Zenyatta’s ult is almost as versatile as it is potent. Healing plus a powerful shield means you can deflect ults, make a strong offensive push, save yourself from certain doom, counter an enemy push, or any number of other things. Coordinate with your team when using it. It can be a serious tide-turner.
Pairs best with: Basically everyone, but especially tanks and heroes capable of doling out lots of damage in short bursts.
Ana is a sniper whose bullets harm enemies and heal her teammates. Crazy, right? In the case of almost every other sniper in human history, I’d super recommend not shooting your friends, but with Ana, fire away! She also has a biotic grenade that similarly heals teammates and messes up enemies, as well as a sleep dart that renders enemies unconscious for a few seconds. Her ult, meanwhile, super-charges one ally’s attack for a brief span of time.
- Ana is, first and foremost, a healer, not a damage-dealer. She can definitely put a hurting on heroes who can’t quickly traverse her range advantage, but always pay close attention to your allies.
- Sleep dart is a great ult counter. If you see, say, a McCree about to use High Noon or a Winston throwing one of his Donkey Kong temper tantrums, sleep them. Don’t immediately attack them afterward, though, because that will wake them up.
- Ana’s ult is extremely powerful, but only when used in conjunction with allies who actually benefit from it. Good: a Genji whose ult is ready to go. Bad: a Roadhog whose hook is on cooldown and who still needs to walk 10 or 20 feet before being at effective range. Hilarious: Lucio, because everyone loves Boostio.
Pairs best with: Zarya, Winston, Ana, Genji. Basically any “dive” comp, which is to say, a composition focused on hyper-aggressive play that wrecks the enemy back line before they even have time to react.
Did you know that Sombra is a hacker? It’s not like she talks about hacking all the time or was introduced to the world via a months-long ARG about hacking, so I wasn’t sure if you’d heard. But yes, Sombra hacks stuff. She can hack health packs to make them better for your team and useless for enemies. She can also straight up hack other players to temporarily take away their abilities. In addition, she has a translocator that she can throw and instantly teleport to. She can also turn invisible. Oh, and lastly, her ult hacks the planet… or at least, everybody in a pretty wide radius.
- Sombra is at her best when she’s disrupting the other team by any means possible. Her damage output is fine, but not great, so focus on messing with people and setting them up to be taken down by your teammates.
- Focus on hacking high-priority targets. A Reinhardt without a shield is just a giant, German sitting duck. If your team is making a big push, disabling the other team’s healer for even a few seconds can be huge. And so on.
- Coordinate, coordinate, coordinate. Ask your teammates who they need you to hack. Or, if your ult is ready, check and see if, say, Zarya’s is up, too. A team that’s clustered together and completely unable to use their abilities? That’s pretty much a guaranteed team wipe.
- Hack health packs! Your team gains a huge boost off them, and enemies can’t use them anymore. It’s a win-win.
Pairs best with: Other tanks, but especially Reinhardt. Also Ana, Soldier 76, Bastion.
Orisa was originally advertised as a second “anchor” tank—that is, another tank like Reinhardt, who can anchor the whole team with a shield. Unfortunately, she’s pretty squishy, and her shield is easy to pop, so it’s tough to main tank with her unless you’re very, very good. Other abilities include a graviton charge that can yank enemies forward, a fortify ability that temporarily reduces the damage she takes and makes her impervious to knockdown/knockback, and an ult that boosts the whole team’s attack.
- Be aware of your barrier. If it’s about to go down, prepare to take cover or toss out another. If people are flanking around it, fortify yourself and take them down.
- Orisa’s mini-graviton can be extremely powerful if used at the right times. If the other team is relying on a shield or using a great piece of cover, yank them out into the open and let your team go to town.
- Orsia’s ult basically gives a Mercy damage boost to everyone in its range. Rad, right? Downside is, the device that generates it is highly vulnerable, so if you toss it down willy-nilly, it’ll probably go down before it can even do any good. There are two good situations in which to use it: 1) when it can be sufficiently hidden or covered by a shield, 2) in the middle of a big team fight. The second might sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that people don’t notice Orisa’s ult as quickly when shit has already hit the fan, and that damage boost can turn a team fight around.
Best characters to try if you’re just starting out
Soldier 76 because he’s most similar to a typical first-person shooter character and functions well in just about any situation.
Mercy because she’s a lot like other games’ medics, especially Team Fortress 2’s. Also, she can be a potent support even if you’re not an expert player yet.
Reinhardt because he’s simple enough to play mechanically, but will also give you a taste of responsibility for the rest of the team. Keep your shield up and your teammates behind it. If an enemy gets too close, thwack them with your hammer. Set up huge tide-turning moments for the rest of your team with your ult. Rinse, repeat, be a hero.
Lucio because his healing doesn’t require aim or target selection. Just move and pay attention.
D.Va because her guns are simple (you never have to reload), and she can be pretty survivable if you know how to use her shield. Plus, her ult makes things go boom.