Getting into a popular video game can feel a little overwhelming. Getting into a popular multiplayer video game can feel pretty overwhelming. Getting into a popular multiplayer FPS video game with a high-stakes pro league, metas, strategies, jargon, and a whole mess of playable characters who all have distinctive abilities and playstyles? That’s a lot overwhelming.
This guide, and the guides to come, are designed with Overwatch beginners in mind. It’s also written with console players in mind as well as PC players.
What’s the difference? In terms of actual mechanics and character abilities, none. There are, however, two big differences between console and PC play that affect how Overwatch content (including guides) gets written, and how strategies get developed. The first is that certain characters, especially characters who require a lot of precision aiming, are just going to play easier on PC. This is because a PC player has the benefit of using their whole arm to aim the mouse, while a console player is trying to line up the same shot using only their thumb and wrist.
The second is that the world of PC-Overwatch has what’s called a meta—a strategy that’s optimized to make the best use of the game’s current patch. Guides will often refer to heroes who are strongand weakin a given meta, which is great for PC gamers—but not so helpful for console players, who have to constantly think about which heroes are good when without the help of a meta.
Why start with supports? Overwatch’s heroes are divided into three roles: tanks, DPS (damage per second), and supports. Supports are usually low-damage heroes who can offer shields, health, and other buffs to the rest of the team. Supports are by no means easier to play than other heroes, but newcomers to Overwatch tend to wind up grinding out a lot of hours on support heroes anyway. Because supports can play passively and maintain distance from the enemy team while sticking close to your own team’s heavy-hitters, support heroes are a good role to step into as an Overwatch beginner.
In the guides that follow, I’ll walk through the existing Overwatch support heroes, ranked in order of their ease of play (mechanically speaking, that is). You’ll find that playing each of these heroes is actually pretty complex strategically, but for our purposes here, what we’ll want to think about is how learning each of these supports can give you a working sense of the game.
Everyone and their mom racks up a few hours of Mercy play, usually at the very beginning of their Overwatch career. Mercy really only has one job—heal. She has other abilities, which we’ll get into, but her main function is to provide a lot of healing, and quickly, to team members who might need it.
You’ll often find Mercy attached to a shielded tank hero, or flitting about overhead with a Pharah. Mercy does have a small pistol that you can deploy if you get into a tight fix, but with her low damage output and health, she’s more or less defenseless. Your best strategy as Mercy, especially when you’re starting out, is to stick close to a high-damage hero who can protect you.
Caduceus Staff. Mercy’s primary weapon is a staff that pours out healing. By holding down your primary fire button and pointing your reticle in the direction of an ally, your staff will connect to them with a golden stream of light that will regenerate health at a good pace. The staff’s secondary ability, signaled by a blue stream of light, increases the amount of damage dealt by an ally as long as the stream is connected.
You don’t have to be looking directly at an ally to maintain the tether, but the tether will disconnect once you get far enough away, or once the ally dies.
Caduceus Blaster. Mercy’s pistol. Pew pew. Not good for much, but you might be able to save yourself, or at least hold your enemies at bay long enough to get back to your team.
Guardian Angel. If you hover your reticle over an ally in range, you’ll see a button prompt on-screen. If you follow the prompt, Mercy will zoom over to the highlighted ally. You can use this ability not only to quickly maneuver to someone in need of healing, but also to airlift yourself out of dangerous engagements. This ability will also allow you to zip around in the sky with Pharah—the famous “Pharmercy” combo.
Angelic Descent. This ability slows Mercy’s descent. Because Overwatch doesn’t have fall damage, you won’t have to worry about falling too fast, but Angelic Descent does make it easier for you to pause and survey the battlefield and decide where you want to head next. It will also keep you airborne alongside Pharah.
Resurrect. This ability was part of Mercy’s ultimate in her original kit (set of abilities), but it’s been reworked as a standard ability. When a teammate dies, you’ll see their place of death marked by their character icon and a golden ball of light, which you can zoom to using Guardian Angel. When prompted, using Resurrect will bring your ally back with full health. Be cautious—this ability has a longcooldown, so you can only expect to use it once in a fight. It also involves a fairly long animation sequence during which Mercy is completely vulnerable, so if you choose to commit to using this ability, make sure you have some room to breathe—and only “go for the rez” if your fallen teammate didn’t go down in an extremely dangerous situation.
Valkyrie. This is Mercy’s ultimate ability, which you’ll charge by healing and dealing (damage, that is). When you “pop” her ultimate, Mercy will extend a pair of massive wings and take flight. For Valkyrie’s duration, Mercy’s healing and damage output are increased. Take this opportunity to recover massive amounts of health after an enemy ultimate, or, if you’re feeling brave, whip out your pistol and dole out the hurt. When Valkyrie is over, Mercy will settle safely back to the ground.
Regeneration (passive). A “passive” ability is an ability you don’t have to do anything to activate; your hero utilizes it automatically. In Mercy’s case, she restores health when not taking damage. Mercy’s passive regeneration does not help build her ult charge.
When to play Mercy:
Mercy is the hero you’ll usually wind up playing when you’re the last person on your team to pick and no one else has selected a healer. She’s the support hero who pours out healing with the most consistency, and she synergizes fairly well with every other support character. Especially as a beginner, there really aren’t “bad” times to play Mercy.
Be prepared for Genjis to get very mad at you, though. For no reason.
Moira is one of those characters who takes a lot of strategic thinking to optimize, but she’s mechanically very simple to play. Like Mercy, she’ll synergize well with other supports, and won’t do too badly as a solo support in a pinch. Unlike Mercy, she’s a little tougher, and you stand a chance at actually surviving one-on-one fights if you get caught by yourself. She’s also just mad fun to play.
Unlike Mercy, Moira’s weapons and abilities are paired here—this is because you can readily choose whether to heal or deal damage when playing as Moira.
Weapons and Abilities:
Biotic Grasp. Moira’s left hand pours out a golden cloud that will heal allies in front of her, while her right hand releases a purple tether that will sap nearby enemies’ health and replenish Moira’s, as well as recharging her healing pool. A fully charged Biotic Grasp will buy you several seconds’ of healing, usually just enough to get an injured tank back up to full strength. However, it’s slow to recharge, so be careful about how and when you deplete it. Moira’s healing also has a fair amount of spread, so if you’re standing behind several allies, you’ll heal all of them at once.
Biotic Orb. Moira has two biotic spheres—a gold one for healing allies, and a purple one for dealing damage to enemies. When you select this ability, you will be prompted to select either the healing or damage orb. Both orbs rebound off surfaces, so you’ll need to practice a bit to figure out your angles. Sending a healing orb across a contested point, however, is a quick way to give your teammates a much-needed boost of healing until you or another healer can attend to them with your primary healing ability. Sending your damage orb into a horde of enemies will build up your ult charge more quickly and may distract them long enough for one of your teammates to get in and deal some real damage; alternatively, you can use Moira’s damage orb to finish off a low-health enemy, or keep an enemy at bay if you find yourself trapped.
(However, when I find myself trapped in one-on-ones as Moira, I usually release a healing orb as quickly as possible to keep myself topped up, then focus on dealing damage with her right hand.)
Fade. Moira can put up a fight when she needs to, but whenever possible, you’ll want to rejoin your team rather than stick out a dangerous encounter alone. When the going gets tough, Moira gets going using her Fade ability. Using Fade renders Moira ethereal, and she can zip across short distances without taking damage. (She can’t go through walls or other solid objects, though.) Fade can put some quick distance between you and an enemy, getting you out of sticky situations. It can also help you reorient yourself on the map and look for better positioning.
Remember that Moira is not flying when she uses Fade, so don’t try to use it to jump across the back end of Hanamura. That’s a long fall.
Coalescence. Moira’s ultimate is a Kamehameha-style beam of purple and golden light that deals damage and heals simultaneously. Yes, it is every bit as awesome as it sounds. When you have multiple teammates under half-health, or when there are enemies lingering on the point who just won’t go down, busting out Moira’s Coalescence will buy your team much needed time to recover and regain their footing.
Using Coalescence to good effect will take lots of practice, but even as you’re starting out, you’ll definitely want to be looking to use it to help get payloads around tight corners or through narrow passages. Coalescence can go through shields to deal damage, so it’s good for displacing that enemy Reinhardt or Orisa holding up your team. But be cautious!—Moira is still vulnerable during her ultimate, even though her health regenerates quickly, and she can still be stunned and put to sleep. You’ll want to use it in cooperation with your other teammates, not as a big solo-play.
When to play Moira:
Moira is a good pick when the other healer on your team is a support like Zenyatta or Mercy, who can only heal one other hero at a time. She’s also particularly helpful when your team is playing compositions that require your heroes to be tightly bunched together—ie, behind a shielded tank. She’ll also fare well against high-mobility enemies like Genji and Tracer, who can pick off a Zenyatta with ease, but might struggle a bit against Moira.
One of the most blessed things about Moira is that you don’t have to aim to deal damage, and you only need to aim marginally to deal health. So she’s definitely good for Overwatch drinking games.
If you’ve been playing Overwatch for more than a hot minute—and definitely if you’ve started playing comp—you’re probably a bit surprised to see Brigitte come after Moira in terms of difficulty. Brigitte is not mechanically difficult to play—she has a flail, you click a button, she swings it. Done and done. However, Brig simply can’t function as a solo healer, and until you figure out which heroes and compositions she synergizes with, I think she can be a bit frustrating for newcomers to play. And while her mechanics are easy to use, it takes a lot of practice to figure out how to use them to their best effect, especially her shield bash and whip shot abilities. If you’re new to Overwatch, I strongly suggest trying your hand at Mercy and Moira before you try your hand at this menacing little greasemonkey.
Rocket Flail. Mechanically, Brigitte’s weapon is arguably the simplest in the game. Press your primary fire button and she’ll swing her flail back and forth, knocking enemies about and dealing damage. Unlike other heroes, Brigitte’s melee attack is the same as her primary fire.
Barrier Shield. Brigitte’s “secondary fire” isn’t actually damage-dealing (usually)—switch to your secondary fire and she’ll hold up a blue shield that resembles Reinhardt’s, albeit on a much smaller scale. Brigitte’s shield will keep you safe, but will also protect any (smallish) heroes standing directly behind you. At full strength, it can even save you and an ally from massive burst damage such as D.Va’s Self Destruct, so definitely keep an eye on your shield’s health throughout engagements.
Repair Pack.When you’re facing a nearby ally, you’ll be prompted to toss them a repair pack. The repair pack provides that ally with a burst of instant heals, and if the healing provided is over their maximum health, they’ll receive armor instead. Repair pack has a moderate cooldown length, so you’ll need to be strategic about who you give it to and when, and you can only heal one hero at a time. Of all the support heroes, Brigitte’s healing capacity is most limited in this sense.
Whip Shot.Oh, you thought your flail just whipped around? Nope! Train your reticle on an enemy at a distance and give ‘em a whip shot. Brigitte’s flail will shoot out horizontally, dealing damage and also knocking the enemy back. You can Whip Shot enemies right off of ledges, wells, and yawning crevasses if you time it right.
Shield Bash.With your barrier shield deployed and an enemy at close range, go in for a shield bash. Shield Bash stuns enemies for just a second or two, which might not seem like a huge advantage—until you realize that Shield Bash can be used to stun some enemies right out of their ultimate. Reaper’s Death Blossom? Stun. Moira’s Convalescence? Stuunnn. McCree’s Dead Eye? You better stun, son. Like Whip Shot, Shield Bash can also be used to knock enemies over environmental hazards. It’s also super, super annoying.
Rally. Rally to me! Deal enough damage and heal-age and you’ll get to pop Brigitte’s ultimate. Rally increases her movement speed, which is great, because all that armor really slows her down—but moreover, you’ll also buff all allies in your radius with some armor of their own, which will last until it’s removed by damage. Rally is excellent for helping your team dive into difficult engagements, extending their life so they can take down that sneaky Bastion or annoying Widowmaker without getting picked off immediately.
When to play Brigitte:
Only when there’s another healer on your team already. I’m serious. You don’t want to try solo-healer Brigitte. It sucks very badly. She is, however, a steadfast defense hero, and if you pair her with someone like Reinhardt or Orisa, it’ll be shields galore. It’s also worth noting that Brigitte is invaluable to the 3-3 meta that dominates PC play as of this writing. If you hate aiming, and if your other supports seem confident, hop onto Brigitte and swing to your heart’s content. Just remember to use that shield on occasion.
That’s it for this week’s Overwatch: Beginners’ guide. Check back next week for the rest of the support heroes! And let us know in the comments below if you want guides for specific heroes!