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.

General tips

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.

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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.

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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.

Character tips

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.

Genji

Pairs best with: Zarya, Lucio.

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The basics

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.

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Best practices

  • 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.

McCree

Pairs best with: Reinhardt, Lucio.

The basics

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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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Pharah

Pairs best with: Mei, Zarya, Reinhardt, Winston, Roadhog

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The basics

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.

Best practices

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  • 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. You’re in the best shape of all if there’s a Mei or Zarya on your team to freeze or black hole the enemy team into place, making your job a piece of cake.
  • Pharah’s ult is extremely 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.

Reaper

Pairs with: Mei, Reinhardt, Zarya

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The basics

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.

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Best practices

  • 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.

Soldier 76

Pairs best with: Pretty much anyone, especially defensive types like Lucio and Reinhardt.

The basics

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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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Tracer

Pairs best with: Zarya (for clumping people together with her ult), other backline harassers

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The basics

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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Bastion

Pairs best with: Reinhardt, Zenyatta, Winston, and Lucio for defense. Mei and Zarya for offense.

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The basics

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, and if he’s hit from behind in sentry mode, he takes double damage. He also has an ult that turns him into a tiny tank. He can move around normally too, but you should be seeking a place to deploy turret mode.

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Best practices

  • 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.

Hanzo

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.

The basics

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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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Junkrat

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.

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The basics

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.

Best practices

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  • 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.
  • 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.

Mei

Pairs best with: Anyone with a big ult that benefits from immobilized enemies (Hanzo, D.Va, Tracer, etc).

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The basics

Despite her innocent appearance, Mei is an absolute terror. 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 obscuring enemies’ shots. 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.

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Best practices

  • 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. Another nice use for the Ice Wall: if you’re defending, pop one up to block halls or corridors.
  • 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.

Torbjorn

Pairs best with: Torbjorn (two turrets is better than one, and additional armor packs can’t hurt), tanks like Reinhardt.

The basics

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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 great 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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Widowmaker

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).

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The basics

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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

D.Va

Pairs best with: Mei, Zarya, Reinhardt.

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The basics

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 quite 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.

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Best practices

  • 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.

Reinhardt

Pairs best with: Pretty much everyone.

The basics

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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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Roadhog

Pairs best with: High damage characters that can help pile on DPS when he’s hooked someone (McCree, Reaper, etc), supports like Mercy who can boost his damage.

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The basics

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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Winston

Pairs best with: Supports/healers like Mercy, Zarya for shields.

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The basics

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.

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Best practices

  • 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.

Zarya

Pairs best with: Heroes with big ults (Hanzo, D.Va, Pharah, etc), tanks and other heroes who need shields.

The basics

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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.

Best practices

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  • 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.

Lucio

Pairs best with: Pretty much anyone.

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The basics

Lucio’s 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.

Best practices

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  • 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.
  • The speed boost is mostly good for racing back to battle after a death. Once there, you’re generally best off healing the whole team, though there are times (when you need to escape from an ult, racing to a new objective) when that’s not true.
  • 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.

Mercy

Pairs best with:

The basics

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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.

Best practices:

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  • 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.

Symmetra

Pairs best with: Other supports that can handle healing (Mercy, Lucio).

The basics

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Symmetra isn’t a healer, and her shields essentially provide extra health rather than a life-saving buffer between heroes and damage. She is, however, useful on both offense and defense, with tiny turrets that can be hidden in tough-to-reach places and an ult that can quickly teleport fallen allies back into action.

Best practices

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  • 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. If you do go with Symmetra, make sure to constantly give your allies shields. It’s essentially free health, and the ability’s cooldown is basically non-existent.
  • 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.

Zenyatta

Pairs best with:

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The basics

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.

Best practices

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  • Do not try directly engaging with other heroes. Zenyatta is made of old toothbrush bristles and dreams, and he won’t win a 1v1.
  • 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, save a flagging Winston, or any number of other things. Coordinate with your team when using it. It can be a serious tide-turner.

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.

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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.

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Pharah because she’s got rockets, which don’t require quite as much aiming finesse as some guns. Also, jetpacks are rad, and hers lets you get where you want to be in battle quickly.

Bastion because turrets.

Final Tip

Overwatch is a young, ridiculous game. Maybe this is blasphemy, but I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a correct strat in this game. Not yet, anyway. I once got utterly humiliated by a team that decided to throw caution to a pack of ravenous polar bears and use six Meis. My team didn’t know how to react the sudden avalanche of frost beams, ice walls, and adorable eyes furrowed into grim, purposeful death scowls. And have you seen this preposterous Reinhardt shield formation? That’s the most important advice I can give to you, humble Overwatch player: Go out on a limb. Experiment. Have fun.