Overwatch Roles Guide - Master your Role
Welcome to our Overwatch Roles Guide! Today we will talk about all the roles available in Overwatch. While the main three roles are pretty simple, there are over 30 characters, and assigning them to those three main brackets seems a little bit pointless. We will mention those too, but we have something special just for you. With so many playstyles available, with each and every one of the characters bringing something unique to the table, there are at least six additional sub-roles, that we have to talk about.
The main reason behind assigning Heroes to more than three basic roles is simple. There's too much diversity in characters. For example, Doomfist, Mei, and Ashe are all in Damage role. However, Doomfist will most likely go after the top priority targets, Mei will disrupt and bully close range Damage Heroes, and Ana will apply constant pressure with well-aimed shots, and lots of Area of Effect damage from her dynamite. While we could split all characters available in this game into even more groups - every character would have a unique group, which just screams for a guide for every specific character, as even characters from our roles have different win-conditions. But first - let's talk about three main brackets.
Currently, there are three general roles in the game. Damage, Tank, and Support. It's simple, and crystal-clear. If the team needs a Tank, a Support, or some Damage - you know where to look for specific characters.
Formerly - Attack and Defense. Back in the day, Blizzard split all characters into four groups Attack, Defense, Tank, and Support. However, characters from Defense were sometimes more effective as Attack carries, and some were absolutely great in both instances. Blizzard simplified it and changed both into one role, that implies, that characters from this role bracket focus on killing and dealing damage.
Heroes from this role will usually opt to have gold medals in either Hero Kills, or Damage Done. And the importance of one job or the other, dealing damage, or killing, will entirely depend on the character. Soldier:76 will focus on constantly dishing out damage, getting some kills here and there. But his real strength, will come from his fast-charging Ultimate charging, and keeping the enemy team occupied with bullets from his rifle. On the other hand, someone Genji will either spam shurikens from range or jumping around the backline to charge his Ultimate, to then unleash his Dragonblade to assassinate entire enemy teams.
There's lots of variety in this bracket, as it has the highest amount of unique characters. Some Heroes will play around charging the ultimate, some will be very invasive with their close-range damage and assassinations, some will assassinate from a huge distance with well-aimed shots, and some will just spam attacks to wear down and scrape their enemies, their shields, and their supports.
Taking out valuable targets, destroying enemy shields, keeping healer from the enemy team busy, and providing single-target, or Area of Effect damage are the trademarks of close to every Damage Hero there is in Blizzard's Overwatch. As this role - you can have a huge impact on the game, as you are the source of constant playmaking. Characters like Reinhardt, or Zarya have a huge potential for playmaking, but their capabilities of changing the tides of the game are solely situational, depending on Ultimate casts, that may or may not work. Damage Heroes can simply use their attacks, damaging abilities, and movement, to turn a 6v6 into a 6v3, and that's their job throughout the whole match. That's the main focus that they can utilize constantly. They make an impact, being that first nail in the coffin, that launches a whole landslide toward the enemy team and their hopes.
The premise behind the tank characters is pretty simple. They are there to soak damage, apply pressure just with their presence, incapacitate the opponents, and protect their teammates with various mechanics. Some are even specialized at diving the backline, disrupting, sometimes even picking off enemies that are out of position. There's a lot of versatility, which makes each Tank exciting to play as, without a second of boredom.
A good tank can be the pillar that holds the team together, inspiring others to work with each other, and protecting those in need, often sacrificing themselves for the good of the team. While most of the time they don't have the damage to take down enemies easily, their amount of health and abilities with high potential for utility and Crowd Control allows them to compete even against the strongest carries.
Tanks have a multitude of responsibilities during the match. They can't focus on just one, as they will become dead weight. If you want to be a good tank, you will have to pay attention to various things. Nobody wants a Reinhardt that just stands with his shield in one place, ignoring the fact, this his supports and carries are getting assassinated right behind him.
This indicates one thing. Each tank is very versatile in things that they can do. Zarya provides shields that nullify the damage and Crowd Control taken by her targeted ally or herself for a short amount of time. Damage soaked by her shields will increase her firepower. And her Ultimate ability can group enemies in one place, making them unable to move, allowing your team's AoE to decimate the enemy team. D.Va is amazing at diving the backline, dealing some damage, pushing people away, removing projectiles and shots with her Defense Matrix, and her Ultimate can one-shot enemy team in a team fight if they don't hide in time. Roadhog, on the other hand - he is all about self-preservation, dealing huge amounts of damage, and hooking enemies that are out of position. He can also destroy the formation of a team with his ultimate or hooks alone.
Love them or hate them, those guys will make your attempts of offing the team much harder. Supports will keep their teammates healthy, allowing them to stay in the battle for much longer, so they can take keep fighting for the objectives.
In the beginning, Supports are quite simple to play. In Quick Play, or on lower rank Competitive games are very chaotic, fights and skirmishes are happening all over the place, but the gameplay itself is quite slow. You see which people need healing, where you can provide your utility, and where to deal damage ( some Supports can dish out some nice damage).
It gets much harder as you get higher in rank. As you climb higher and higher, Support will become the most stressful role in the entire game. It's because of the responsibility, fixing mistakes of your team, and avoiding your mistakes in movement, losing health, positioning, hero heal priority, and every other aspect of Overwatch and its main mechanics. Other roles are not as stressful as this role. Damage Hero will make a mistake, and lose a majority of their HP, or die, but there are Supports who can cover that with healing, Mercy's Revive, or Baptiste invulnerability zone. Tanks have a lot of self-preservation already, lots of CC and protection. They can also deal huge damage and make game-changing plays. And most of the time - they can hope that Support will have them covered.
That's the thing. Supports have to cover for everyone else, yet there's no one to fix their mistakes. Of course, they can count for some help in the form of damage, or Crowd Control, but only other supports will be really able to cover for them. That, combined with the role that they have to fill in during the game - makes them really complicated. They require the most skill and game knowledge to pull everything off, as in this META, each Support has to pay attention not only to enemies but to every member in the team, to keep them all healthy and ready for any fights to come.
Supports provide a wide array of utilities, depending on your pick. Mercy can heal teammates, amplify their damage, and revive after making a mortal mistake. Moira can provide great unpredictable AoE heals, lots of damage, and she can easily cover for herself with her teleport and heals that she can use, as they are not targeted. Lucio is great against an inexperienced team, as he can dodge damage pretty nicely with his mobility and speed that he will also use to help the team get to the objective faster. Ana is a great Support with a high kill potential, because of her high damage output, and a very reliable combo. Her grenade can disable heals on specific targets in an AoE, and her Sleep Dart can disable high-priority targets, and set up her combo that can kill some Heroes easily. There are lots of ways of playing certain Supports, and their kits make it possible to be flexible and versatile.
Playstyle Specific Roles
Grouping Heroes into three general brackets is not enough. There are lots of playstyles and Heroes that complement them in some way. Some Damage heroes will focus on getting kills, some on dishing out damage. Some tanks will protect teammates, and some will disrupt enemies, some will dive the backline. Some supports will provide healing, some utility, and some both of those things, with lots of damage to offer. We have decided to take those general groups of roles, and expand them by three, to give you the best look at Heroes, and their playstyles.
Heroes: McCree, Ashe, Soldier:76, Junkrat, Pharah, Bastion, Torbjorn.
True Damage Heroes. Those guys will keep the enemy team occupied with their constant attacks, making them a very valuable source of damage and distraction in the team. These characters are consistent if people playing them know what they're doing. Their job is to make the enemy team overwhelmed with the amount of DPS that these characters can put out. Some of those will stay at the back, or at the front, depending on the team's objective, and some will get closer to the enemy to deal some nice AoE damage or single target bursts. These characters are great when paired with an experienced Mercy, as she can boost their DPS by a huge amount.
Assassins & Flankers
Heroes: Widowmaker, Doomfist, Tracer, Reaper, Genji, Hanzo, Roadhog
Some players will be attracted to this group, and for a good reason. These characters, if played well - will net the most kills in the round. While their DPS is not comparable to some of the Pure DPS Heroes - they have the tools in their kit, to easily burst other people down. These guys will focus on picking off top-priority targets, either from close, or long range.
Doomfist will do some mess in melee, tossing supports around like ragdolls. Tracer will be an annoying fly, that will burst enemies down with her fast pistols, just to rewind back to safety, come back, and do everything over again.
Hanzo will work at almost every range, thanks to his damage and mobility. Reaper - this guy doesn't even care. Go in and shred everyone, Damage, Tanks, Supports - doesn't matter, kill them all. Genji will focus on charging his Dragonblade, which in right hands - is the most devastating assassin Ultimate in the entire game.
Now you will ask - why Roadhog was placed in Assassins & Flankers? We did this solely because of his hook ability. He has the best tool to punish poorly positioned enemies. Mercy, Pharah, or Soldier: 76 are out of position? Hook one of them, bring them closer to yourself and your team, and obliterate them. He can also work as a Disruptor (that will be mentioned below)
Heroes: Reinhardt, Orisa
Before we mentioned Tanks, as Pillars that hold the team together. We were talking about these two right here. Reinhardt and Orisa provide their teams with shields, that are invaluable in any level of play. Shields allow protected players to move around more quickly. This adds another layer of protection enemy ranged DPS will have to take care of to stop your advance. Both Reinhardt and Orisa have a lot of potential to make a difference on the battlefield, and we're not only talking about shields. Reinhardt has powerful tools that will allow him to deal damage to multiple enemies hidden behind other shields, make important picks with charge, and setting up the team for a devastating combo starting with Earthshatter. Orisa, on the other hand, can increase her resistances by a huge amount, pull enemies together with a gravity field, and set up an empowering totem, that will increase the damage of all allies in its range, as long as the line of sight isn’t broken (enemy barriers and shields block vision).
There’s a slight difference between those two. Thanks to her kit - Orisa will be better at anchoring, and setting up Bastion nests. While Reinhardt can do it too - he has to sacrifice the protection for dealing damage, and he is melee. Reinhardt himself will do better on Attack, as he IS the shield, and it covers lots of space. With a good shield placement, you will easily protect your entire team from any long-ranged damage. Reinhardt will be easier to utilize, as he is quite simple to use, and even if you manage to miss your Earthshatter - you will still be useful to the team. His kit is very straightforward, and he can carry some games if played well. Orisa is reliable as well, but she depends on her team a little bit more, meaning that Reinhardt will be better for early Solo Competitive.
Heroes: Wrecking Ball, Winston, Mei, D.Va, Brigitte
Disruptors are Heroes that excel at zoning, applying Crowd Control, ruining enemy plans, and their formation. These guys might not do much on paper when it comes to the numbers, but their presence alone can make a huge difference out there on the battlefield, even if it’s not so noticeable. There’s a reason why Winston is one of the most powerful characters in the current meta. This guy will jump on the backline Heroes, and just take their time, blocking the damage with his deployable barrier, dealing some damage, and just backing off. This way, one tanky hero, that has an amazing Ultimate ability that increases his survivability forces 2-4 enemies to turn all of their attention to him, to keep him away from killing squishy characters.
Some Heroes do not even have to jump in to be scary. Take a look at Brigitte, for example. If she stands in the middle, at the front, or at the backline with other Support and Damage Heroes - she creates immense pressure on the enemy. Winston wants to jump in? He gets stunned or Knocked back easily. Reaper wants to cast his Death Blossom? You use your shield and stun him, or push him away. Doomfist? Same thing. Genji? As well. Mei and Wrecking Ball (Hammond) are both amazing at making some moves and tactics slightly less attractive for the enemy team to make. With Wrecking Ball - you can easily zone enemies with your Roll, and as Mei - there’s always a chance that she will split the enemy team with a good wall, or just freeze some people setting them up for easy kills.
This position will be hard to carry with if you do not know what you are doing. If you are inexperienced, you can basically consider your team playing 5v6. Disrupting and creating pressure requires knowledge and good positioning. It’s a role for more experienced players.
Heroes: Mercy, Lucio, Zarya, Symmetra, Sombra
With these guys - pure utility. Mercy has strong heals, attack boost, and a revive. Lucio will provide AoE healing and movement speed buffs. He will also be amazing at taking objectives in lower ranks, not only thanks to his ultimate but also for his movement and wall sliding.
Zarya is amazing at providing shields that nullify the damage taken and block most Crowd Control. Damage blocked increases damage dealt with her cannon. Her Ultimate is an amazing tool that will allow you to pull all enemies into one spot, making them unable to move. With a good team that can utilize that short Crowd Control time - Zarya will provide some invaluable utility.
Symmetra provides teleports, a map-sized barrier that slashes through the entire map blocking projectiles and ranged damage on the enemy team. She can also deal some devastating amounts of damage if her enemies let her attack constantly without stopping.
As for Sombra - she can turn off abilities of any character in the game through her hacking ability. She can also make health-packs more frequent, she can become invisible, and can set up a transmitter, that when deployed - Sombra will be able to teleport to it from any nasty situation. Her Ultimate may be the best utility tool in the game. Sombra will launch a powerful EMP explosion around her, removing shields and barriers, and making enemies unable to use their abilities.
Seemingly simple, yet these characters will require lots of skill to pull them off properly. Their strength relies heavily on the presence and actions of their teammates, and characters listed in these brackets will rarely do something purely for themselves. They have tools that will allow to make others shine, setting up teamfights, boosting the damage dealt by others, shielding or healing, or preventing enemies from dealing damage.
Heal + Damage
Heroes: Moira, Zenyatta, Ana, Baptiste
These heroes are Supports that can be used for Healing and Damage, and they are really good at both of those. Even though the jobs are quite similar - each character is completely different and unique.
Baptiste can provide strong heals, death prevention barrier, Ultimate that increases damage dealt by ranger projectiles, essentially doubling the effectiveness of ranged damage.
Ana can provide some good single-target healing, Area of Effect heals, No heal AoE Debuff + Damage, and she has a sleep dart that renders a single enemy useless for a few seconds. Not only the utility - she can deal insane amounts of damage, and her sleep dart allows her to do a devastating combo. Her Nano-boost is a great tool to increase the damage dealt, and reduce the damage taken of a single character for quite a long time. Works wonders with an experienced Genji.
Zenyatta has the ability to increase all damage dealt to a single enemy by marking them with an orb. Healing orbs can be put on allies, and they will be healed over time at a nice speed. His Ultimate makes him invulnerable to all damage and Crowd Control, as he rapidly heals all allies around them. The reason why he is placed in Heal + Damage bracket is his auto attacks and empowered auto attacks. Zenyatta is quite decent at sniping people with his attacks, as he can deal an enormous amount of damage both with his single shots, and powered-up charged attacks. Combined with his Orb of Discord - he can one-shot people with pinpoint accuracy.
And Moira is an expert at dealing damage and healing at the same time. She has powerful heals, powerful damage, and a handy tool that will allow her to disappear, making her a very safe choice for some good zoning DPS, and bouncy heals that have to potential to last for a very long time with good bounces. And her Ultimate is simply amazing, healing and dealing damage at the same time in a big long-range beam.
This is the end of Overwatch Roles Guide. We will keep this guide as updated as possible, especially with new Hero release that is going to show up on live servers later this year. Feel free to join the discussion in the comments, and to give us some feedback, whether you like this form of Overwatch guides, that might show up again in the future. See you on Hanamura Hero!