[Previous] Open Thread (2016) | Home | [Next] Questions

Overwatch Beginner's Guide

Character tier list by importance of aiming and mouse skill. This is a rough guide to who will be easier to play for the majority of players:

Bottom: Mercy, Reinhardt, Torbjorn, Symmetra
Low: Lucio, Winston, Bastion
Medium: Junkrat, Reaper, D.Va
High: Mei, Zenyatta, Roadhog, Zarya
Higher: Pharah, Hanzo, Tracer, Genji
All About Aim: Widowmaker, Soldier 76, McCree

What heroes to start with:

Which heroes to try first depends on the map. There's 3 situations. On 9 maps you can be either offense or defense. The other 3 maps (nepal, ilios, lijiang tower) are King of the Hill where it's a symmetric fight.

Defense: Try Torbjorn first because his turret aims by itself and he can be really strong for a new player. Build his turret towards the back where it'll fight once the enemy team comes in and attacks, but they won't be able to kill it easily from a distance. Putting it around a corner the enemy team will come through can work well. Then try Symmetra, Bastion and Junkrat who are also defensive specialists that you can be effective with quickly without amazing aim.

Offense: Try Winston on teams with another tank (it's too much pressure on you if you're a solo tank). More advanced characters to try later on are Zarya (with another tank) or Pharah.

King of the Hill: Try Winston then Reaper to shoot people at close range. Zarya works here too if you've gotten comfortable with her already.

Every map: Try Lucio and Mercy on teams with another healer (as solo healer it's too much pressure on you until you get used to playing them). Lucio is preferred on King of the Hill maps and Mercy on other maps, but both are fine. Roadhog is reasonably easy to use, but at first try to have another tank on the team so you aren't under the pressure of doing all the tanking alone.

Focus on learning a small number of characters. These are suggested characters to try out. Try them and see which ones you like more and less. Then pick some to focus on. Don't play them all. If you focus on a few characters you will be able to get good with them faster. 3-5 would be a good number of characters. Try to pick one character for each type of map so you always have someone good to use. Picking one character from each of the in-game labels (Offense, Defense, Support, Tank) would be reasonable, too. You could even start with only 1-2 characters if you're careful to pick flexible characters.

Starter tips:

Duplicate heroes can be a problem: don't use a third copy of any hero on your team. Never use two Symmetras. Don't use 2 snipers (hanzo and widow are both snipers). Initially, avoid doubles of any hero except Mercy, Lucio, Zenyatta, Winston, Roadhog, Torbjorn.

All teams need to have a healer and a tank. Symmetra is a "support" but not a healer. D.Va is not really a tank and cannot be your only tank. Having two tanks is recommended unless your tank is Reinhardt in which case one tank is fine (D.Va can count as one of your two tanks). Having two healers is generally recommended but they're the least popular so you'll frequently only have one. Zenyatta heals less than Mercy and Lucio, so Zenyatta doesn't work as well as a solo healer. Note that some characters can reduce the pressure on the healer(s), especially Soldier 76 and Symmetra, and also anyone with a self-heal ability.

Don't use Torbjorn, Symmetra, Bastion, or Junkrat on offense or king of the hill.

Don't use a sniper on king of the hill maps. Don't use snipers on offense at first. The way people start with snipers is you find a spot in back and then wait for someone to come in view for you to snipe, and that only works on defense. However, as you improve, both sniper characters can actually be pretty mobile and work on offense too.

If you want a high damage hero with good range, try Pharah. Her rockets do area of effect damage, so your aim doesn't have to be as exact as some of the other long range heroes. However she's harder to use effectively than the starter heroes I suggested above. If you play Pharah, don't fly around all the time. The majority of the time, Pharah should stay on the ground and play like a normal hero. Use your jetpack to fly at key moments when the enemy is under pressure. Flying generally makes it so the entire enemy team can shoot at you, so you will die fast if the enemies aren't already really busy in a brawl with the rest of your team.

Set your mouse sensitivity in controls before you play. You want to get a good setting and then get used to it. Each time you change it you have to relearn some of your mouse skill. Here's how to get started: spin your character's view around in a full circle. So put your crosshairs on something then move your mouse sideways so you spin until you see the crosshairs on the same thing again. You can measure the mouse movement distance for this and it's called inches/360. Set it so that it's around 80% of the width of your mouse pad. In regular gameplay you want to be able to spin around half way (180 degrees) to see behind you. This will make a 180 take a little less than half your mousepad so you can still do a 180 even if your mouse is a little off center. (If you have a small mousepad, you may also want to consider getting a larger one meant for gamers.) This will make your mouse slower than a lot of people are used to, but will improve your ability to aim.

Reinhardt is pretty easy to control, but he's very central to the team. Playing him puts pressure on you similar to being a solo tank even if you have another tank on the team. Wait to try Reinhardt until you have a reasonable understanding of what's going on in the game. And when you play Reinhardt please don't use your charge ability to leave your team behind and suicide into the enemy team.

Symmetra is bad when defending the last area of the map before you lose. At that point, your teleporter won't do much. Change heroes after a death when you're defending the last area. Also when playing Symmetra you need to focus on staying alive. Your big goal is to get a teleporter up before your first death.

With Roadhog, after you hook someone you should hold down left click to shoot them in the head as soon as possible, and then hit Quick Melee for an extra 30 damage immediately after shooting.

Soldier 76 has good range but doesn't do his best work in close up brawls. He does best on high ground near some cover, a bit towards the back. At longer ranges do burst fire with his gun (if you just hold it down constantly the bullets start scattering a lot and losing accuracy, but if you shoot around 4-5 shots at a time and then stop shooting for a moment then he can maintain great accuracy at long range). Soldier 76's bullets hit instantly with no travel time. He's a pretty difficult hero to use because his damage really depends on how well you aim.

Some people think McCree is a flanker who fights at short range. This is incorrect. McCree's gun has perfect accuracy and hits instantly at any range, so he's actually one of the best long range shooters. He's also good at close range duels too thanks to his flashbang. McCree is hard to play because really amazing aim makes a huge difference. If you do try him, please stay grouped with your team most of the time.

Zarya is best on offense for taking capture points or pushing the payload to the final end point. The reason is Graviton Surge is a great ultimate ability for getting a team wipe. On Hanamura, Volskaya and Anubis the offense can win the game by winning only two team fights. Two good Graviton Surges can win the game! Graviton Surge excels at winning a teamfight to make progress at the tough spots where you might otherwise get stuck.

The key to playing Winston is to hang back and then jump in when your team fights. Never jump in alone or you'll just die to their whole team. And don't hang out in the middle towards the front of your team. With your short range you won't accomplish much, and with your big size people will shoot you. Winston has to either commit hard to a fight (which needs to be at the same time your team fights) or else don't fight at all. Winston is either in or out. (After fighting for a while, if your team is losing or you're running out of health, then it's fine to use your jump ability to run away.)

Lucio's speed and healing auras don't stack if you have 2 lucios. If both lucios are alive in the same place, one should use healing and the other use speed.

Play extra defensively when you are Mercy and have resurrection ready. You can even stop healing sometimes to stay safe around a corner if a big fight is happening and you need to make sure you live long enough to resurrect everyone.

Lucio's Sound Barrier and Mercy's Resurrect both benefit a ton from your team grouping up. Talk to them! Use the 'Z' hotkey to announce your ultimate is ready and use the Group Up communication too.

If people on your team die, try to regroup in a safe, conservative position. Don't just run in and die once the fight turns against your team too much. While waiting around to regroup, use that time to talk to your team!

Don't flank when you're new. Just stay with your team. Flanking is an advanced tactic which will hurt your team if it isn't done right. Just make sure to pick heroes that are good in the team instead of flanking heroes (tracer, genji, reaper). The flanking heroes can play with their team more normally on the King of the Hill maps, but avoid them on offense and defense for your first 100 levels or longer.

If you're the only healer or tank, switching heroes can screw your team over. Either don't switch that game or, if you want to switch, type a chat message telling your team that you're switching and someone else needs to switch too in order to take over healing or tanking for you. If you switch heroes in a way that messes up your team setup without communicating with your team, you are screwing your team over.

Try not to switch heroes when your ultimate is at 75% or more charge. It's most efficient to switch after a death with your ultimate at 25% or less charge.

On characters with slower attacks like pharah and mccree, shoot each shot individually, don't hold down left click.

V is a bad default hotkey for Quick Melee. Change it to F (easier to reach) and/or a mouse button.

Put the Effects and Model Detail graphics settings to Low. This removes some clutter so it's easier to see what's going on. For the other settings, just make sure you get plenty of frame rate (if you ever drop under 70 fps that's pretty bad).

If you play Widowmaker, go to the controls settings for her specific character and set the zoom scoped sensitivity to exactly 0 (zero). In short that makes your mouse act normally so you don't have to learn two different ways of using your mouse.

Set your crosshair color to green so it's easier to see. I also recommend setting the Short Crosshair option for all characters. You should keep Bloom enabled initially to see how it works, but then disable it for everyone except Soldier 76. Bloom makes your crosshairs expand, in order to show when your character's gun is less accurate. (Some guns are less accurate after you shoot multiple times in a row).

If you're missing lots of shots, definitely stay away from the final two tiers of characters on the aiming difficulty list. And don't play Zenyatta either because if you aren't hitting many shots with him then he's clearly inferior to Lucio and Mercy.

Feel free to try any character if you want for a game or two and see how it goes.

With any character, if it's really not working, just switch to another character mid game. You can try them again another time with different allies and opponents.

Some of these tips won't apply to you if you've already got great aim from playing another shooter like Counterstrike or Team Fortress for many years. The game also changes if you have a group of 6 good players who know each other, plan out strategies in advance, specialize with specific heroes for their team, talk on voice chat, and work as an organized team.

Elliot Temple on June 18, 2016

Messages (15)


The advice in the article is good. I am working on implementing it.

One thing that's missing is advice on what to do if your team sucks, which is common in Quick Matches. Going Reinhardt when your team is bad is a terrible idea since it is harder to watch your back as Reinhardt. You can take a lot of damage from the front with the shield up, but you're a lot more vulnerable from the back.

Alan at 3:34 AM on June 23, 2016 | #6024 | reply | quote

certain heroes are better at carrying games with a bad team than others.

the best carry support is zenyatta because you can kill people, or symmetra because teleporter is a huge help to bad players (way easier to use than resurrect or even sound barrier which require grouping up). symmetra is only good at defense and not the last part of the map though.

the best tank carries are roadhog and zarya. they can get kills and do damage pretty well and have some self-heal ability (zarya's 200 shields regenerate). graviton surge is one of the best ultimates to win on attack with a bad team. roadhog's hook can get a lot of kills if you're better than the other people in the game.

for offense and defense heroes, basically anyone who can kill people can have a big impact, so most of them work fine. some are more independent than others though. like soldier has a self-heal while mccree doesn't, so soldier's easier to use with a bad healer on your team than mccree. pharah is also fairly reliant on getting heals, whereas tracer isn't. etc

curi at 3:55 AM on June 23, 2016 | #6025 | reply | quote

how well heroes can impact a game also depends on the other heroes in the game. for example, winston can go on a rampage if the enemy team has some squishy heroes for him to beat up. and if the enemy team lacks counters to winston such as reaper (high short range damage, can kill winston in 3 shots) or zenyatta (discord orb is no fun for winston)

Anonymous at 4:39 AM on June 23, 2016 | #6026 | reply | quote

some thoughts on overwatch heroes I like at the moment

I like Reinhardt on payload maps cuz he's good at pushing payloads. You can stand at the end of the payload. Together with the shield that protects you from a lot of damage if they come from the front. And if they come from behind you, the payload will cover most of your back while you try to whack the enemy. The hammer and firestrike do a decent amount of damage. He is very dependent on having teammates who are not completely incompetent. I wouldn't want to take on a whole team as Reinhardt.

Lucio's heal and speed boost are easy to use and useful and his ultimate can charge several times in a match if you're competent. His attack can also do okay damage and can annoy high health enemies or kill low health enemies. He also moves fairly quickly so you have a good chance of dodging some attacks.

Mercy heals faster than Lucio, has damage boost and can move quickly if she has line of sight on an ally. The res is a good ability and charges quickly if you're consistently healing or damage boosting. Her pistol can be useful in a pinch.

Soldier 76 can do damage at most ranges, can move quickly and can heal so he's useful. Also, he can take out Pharah. The tactical visor is okay for taking down non-tank enemies.

I also quite like junkrat on defence. The mines and bombs can do a lot of damage. I haven't found the trap very useful.

Alan Forrester at 1:47 PM on July 12, 2016 | #6164 | reply | quote

my current personal hero list

mains: Widow, Tracer

secondaries: Zen, Zarya, 76, ANA!!!!!!

idk: Pharah, Reaper, McCree, Reinhardt, Mercy

no: Dva???, Lucio, Symmetra, Roadhog, Genji, Mei, Bastion, Hanzo, Junkrat, Winston, Torb

i don't like how reliant reinhardt, mercy, lucio are on teammates

roadhog is kinda similar to zarya. good at carrying dumb teams. that's kinda tempting but from trying them so far i did better with zerya and liked her more. i could learn roadhog but i'll use zarya for now.

symmetra i think is reasonably easy + quite good with dumb teams (teleporter helps bad players a ton). but i prefer ppl with more ability to go kill the enemy team and make a big impact yourself

lucio's speed aura and ult are amazing, and u can knock ppl off, but his dmg is low

mercy rez is fucking amazing but only if ur team plays right, and u don't do a lot of shooting with her

genji is a good carry hero if ur great with him. can go harass a bunch and kill their supports/snipers, then slaughter their team with sword. anyone who can go in backlines and kill enemy supports is good at carrying a bad team. but when i tried genji i did awful, will take a lot of learning, and i <3 tracer atm

i like zenyatta b/c he combines heals with good damage and good range. he lacks mobility so you have to position smart to survive, which i can handle.

??? on dva cuz i'll have to give her a shot after the patch buffs her.

!!!! on ANA cuz she's not out yet but looks appealing to me. a healer who can snipe people (80 damage, no headshot) from long range is pretty sweet. like zenyatta she's got less healing (compared to mercy and lucio) but some more other stuff you can do. ana doesn't have mobility for getting to high places or running away so will need smart positioning.

overall i'm not personally a big fan of the characters who spam projectiles into an area. i'd rather shoot people directly with instant bullets and rely on my aim, rather than doing area denial with less control over the results. that's why i'm not into hanzo and junkrat. zenyatta has projectiles but the speed they go is pretty good and he's got healing, so i deal with it for him. ana's shots are instant if you use your scope. the delay on pharah rockets is hard but i'm kinda interested in learning that one.

i like high skill characters and i want to learn to be good. i want some flexibility to play different roles my team needs, but i don't want to get forced into mercy/reinhardt/lucio/symmetra just cuz they'll help my team win. hopefully zen/ana/zarya (and in the future maybe roadhog or dva) will be enough for supporting and tanking.

i am not recommending my personal hero preferences to other players. try to be realistic about how good you are, how good you will be in a realistic timeframe, etc. for a lot of people playing some easier or different style heroes, instead of just trying to carry your team, is a good idea.

for me, i just usually want to take my fate into my own hands (even if i didn't do that well) and play a starring role in my gameplay, and minimize frustration from other people not playing correctly.

curi at 1:48 PM on July 12, 2016 | #6165 | reply | quote

alan ur character comments make sense. what are some of the characters you didn't like and why not?

Anonymous at 1:49 PM on July 12, 2016 | #6166 | reply | quote

i also prefer to get good with flexible heroes, rather than situational characters (this lowers my interest in some heroes that are mostly just for defense like torb, symmetra)

curi at 2:05 PM on July 12, 2016 | #6167 | reply | quote

other heroes

bastion can be okay if set up somewhere that's difficult to reach. he's even better behind a reinhardt shield.

winston not that great. only does damage at short range. shield bubble stays in one place. jumping might be useful for taking out a sniper. i would usually prefer reinhardt.

mei isn't great. the freeze gun requires the enemy to move very slowly to freeze. the second attack on men's gun is okay. the ult is very difficult to use properly. you have to put it in the middle of a group of enemies, which is difficult cuz she's squishy. and once you've put it in the group it's difficult to take out more than one or two with the icicle before the enemies thaw. might work on coordinated teams in a way that's kinda similar to zarya's ult. if you can freeze people and then fire a lot of weapons, then you might kill a load of people. the turning mei into a block of ice thing is quite good.

reaper can be okay. does a lot of damage at close range. can heal with souls of victims. can escape with the mist thingy. i haven't found teleport very useful but it might be good for getting behind turrets or bastion.

widow can be okay. if there is some position you want to take or hold with ledges for her to hide on then she can do a lot of damage. otherwise she should be avoided.

torbjorn can be good on defence. if the turret is put in the right place it can shoot people while being difficult to damage. the shields he produces are useful.

heroes i haven't made up my mind about: genji, tracer, pharah, zarya, zenyatta, mcree, roadhog.

Anonymous at 1:35 AM on July 14, 2016 | #6171 | reply | quote

flexible heroes

#6171 was by me.

About flexibility. I'm not too fussed about whether a hero is flexible or not. I just want to be able to use somebody who is suitable for the situation I happen to be in. I don't see what's wrong with specialised heroes, division of labour is good.

Alan at 1:40 AM on July 14, 2016 | #6172 | reply | quote

i prefer characters i can play when i want to (e.g. a bunch of games in a row to practice them, or when i feel like playing them) instead of the map determining who i play.

if i play fewer characters then i can specialize in them more

if i have flexible characters then it gives me more options for a situation

curi at 4:42 PM on July 14, 2016 | #6173 | reply | quote

my plan is to play ana until i decide if i like her, and also try out the new D.Va to maybe be a secondary hero only (i kinda liked her in beta and she's buffed). then focus on widow/tracer/zen/zarya and maybe ana. time to focus. mccree is godly right now but i expect him to get nerfed again and he isn't my favorite (though if he keeps the high damage at long range, and is in some ways a better widow, then i might grow to like him...). as always i still like 76 ok but not a TON. i'd kinda rather just play zen or widow than him.

genji and roadhog are good carry heroes with bad teams, but:

genji overlaps with tracer significantly, is more for offense not just play all the time, and would take me a long time to get good with

roadhog i like less than zarya so i don't need him. lots of overlap there. i don't love the short range, giant size, and no way to block shots. i don't love how much he's based on hook.

zarya can save idiots and carry fights with ult, and i like her 2 attacks so u can do long or short range, aoe or shoot one guy, and hit ppl at odd angles cuz the right click curves.

i think widow/tracer/zen/zarya is a good set of heroes. got short and long range damage, a support, and a tank.

curi at 3:21 PM on July 20, 2016 | #6212 | reply | quote

now that she was improved in a patch, **D.Va** is another good choice for beginners. she can be used on all maps, she's good, she's one of the easier heroes to use. her mech gun is mostly for short range and shoots in a decent sized spread, so you don't need a ton of aim to use it. her gun in human form is a projectile (shots have travel time) which you spam in the general area enemies are (like a chokepoint area, or wherever they're coming from) instead of having to aim the individual shots (or at short range you just try to hit stuff and its average difficulty). her barrier ability is really nice for blocking shots now and her ultimate is good now.

**Ana** is a hard to use hero. Probably stay away. If you do play Ana, do NOT play her as the only healer. She'll work way better as a second healer.

the other patch change that affects who to play is **Zenyatta** has 200 total hp now instead of 150. this makes him easier to keep alive than before, so he's a more reasonable choice. he's still harder to keep alive than Mercy or Lucio and heals less than them. he doesn't have mobility (lucio's speed aura or mercy's fly to ally ability) and he can't heal himself during combat like lucio. but in return he does better damage. FYI Zen's harmony orb heals 30 per second. lucio's heal aura is 40 per second when you amp it up (12.5 without, but it's multiple targets). mercy's heal beam is 50 per second.

curi at 1:00 AM on July 23, 2016 | #6220 | reply | quote

after playing Ana for an hour i think she's pretty cool but hard to use with a disorganized team. also sucks as a solo support because you don't have a save-your-team defensive ultimate like mercy/lucio/zen have. she's got more offense than lucio and mercy, but less than zenyatta. she has no mobility. i'm not going to focus on her for now.

it's hard to kill anyone with Ana's sniping because it takes 3 shots to kill 200hp chars and she shoots slowly, so people run around a corner. that makes it hard to get much done if your team is bad. and bad teams in quickplay will often think "we have a healer" and not pick a second healer. it also takes a bunch of effort directed at healing in order to heal your team with Ana. that doesn't feel rewarding if they are idiots (especially if they keep running out of line of sight to make things harder).

i tried D.Va a couple games. i played her back in beta and kinda liked her. i'll try her some more.

i tried McCree a few games cuz the patch made him really good. did ok but i don't love him enough to focus on him (especially since he's bound to get nerfed within the next couple weeks, possibly as soon as Tuesday).

curi at 1:06 AM on July 23, 2016 | #6221 | reply | quote

zarya, zenyatta, dva

I've played a few games with Zarya. The ability to shield yourself and other characters and get charge from damage is more useful than Reinhardt's shield in many cases. It means even your teammates are stupid and run into danger you can at least get some charge to fuck up the other team.

DVa is quite good. The defence matrix is useful. She's quite mobile in the mech: she can fly up to ledges and take out snipers etc.

Zenyatta is very slow and needs to be at the back. But he can be okay as a healer and damage dealer if your team is in line of sight.

Alan at 2:43 PM on July 23, 2016 | #6232 | reply | quote

my current balance suggestions:

tank balance is pretty good now. they're all used.

defense heroes are underused. they defend space on the map. the problem is you can run through really fast with Lucio amp speed boost.

Lucio has been one of the best heroes for a long time anyway. so:

Suggestion 1: Nerf Lucio Amp Speed Boost move speed to 60% from ~110%. That's still double with amp it up, and still good. This will help the defense heroes. monitor lucio and continue to nerf his regular and amped speed aura if needed (full party speed boost is HUGE, this is the place to focus lucio nerfs).

Support balance isn't great. Lucio and Zen are used a lot more than Mercy and Ana. I think it's Lucio and Zen that are overpowered.

Suggestion 2: Nerf Zen hp to 175 from 200. Zen is overpowered too. He and Lucio are making Mercy and Ana look bad by comparison.

Next the offense heroes. Their balance is pretty good except McCree is most used and Soldier 76 is least used.

Suggestion 3: Nerf McCree damage from 70 to 65. This will make 3 shots do 195 damage and just barely fail to kill a 200 hp hero. I think McCree is a bit too good at killing people, including all by himself. Soldier 76 on the other hand does damage but has trouble finishing people off alone without hitting a slow Helix Rocket, which helps keep him balanced.

Suggestion 4: Soldier 76's spread should start reducing right away after you stop shooting. It should reduce over time instead of instantly resetting to 0 after half a second. So if you wait but start shooting again early, you still get some benefit. Spread going from fully maxed out to none over .5 seconds seems reasonable. If 76 is still too weak, then that time could be reduced to .33 seconds.

Back to defense heroes. I suggest +25 hp on Mei, +5 damage on Widow, +25 hp on junkrat tire. they're a little weak.

for Torb i suggest armor packs don't get picked up unless you're missing 25 or more armor, so you don't waste them after you get a tiny scratch. i also suggest his turret should be put on cooldown after it's killed so he can't make another one immediately. but in return the level 1 turret should be made stronger and his level 1 and 2 turrets should build a little faster. torb's setup time is one of his big weaknesses. i suggest lowering that setup time a bit so he can more easily do it during a fight, but then if they kill your turret there's some downtime before the next one. that's better design.

for hanzo: -10 damage on scatter arrow but shoots an additional arrow (avoids some breakpoints, makes it less random, raises max damage potential. overall a small nerf). then the important thing is let him walk faster while he's drawing an arrow. i don't know the numbers, but maybe he gets -50% move speed right now, and that can be changed to just -20%. he's kinda weak and i like a move speed buff to help him.

bastion: i don't know, i'd be scared to raise his damage or hp. the lucio and zen nerfs should help him. his self-healing could be sped up a little bit.

symmetra: basically a defense hero, and kinda weak. give teleporter 400 hp instead of 200, it gets picked off too easily. she's really situational because too much of her power is in teleporter, and she's really risky because if you die or lose the point before placing teleporter she was weak and gave your team a disadvantage. i don't think there's an easy fix though. i think her design just makes her a rare character with good players because she has to be balanced so she's fair in her best situations (longest walk distance) which means she won't be good the rest of the time. the extra teleporter hp will make her less frustrating though, it'll give you a bit more possibility of actually defending the teleporter.

curi at 10:51 PM on August 5, 2016 | #6386 | reply | quote

Want to discuss this? Join my forum.

(Due to multi-year, sustained harassment from David Deutsch and his fans, commenting here requires an account. Accounts are not publicly available. Discussion info.)