It can sometimes be difficult to win a game of Overwatch and I regularly read concerns from players regarding matchmaking or being paired with others who’re unsure what to do, how to win or what they should be doing as a team to cross the finish line. There are a number of things you can do  - certainly if solo queueing - to drastically improve your chances of winning. Although a win can never be guaranteed, I’ve found undertaking the below rarely sees me lose and if you’re intending on climbing the ranked ladder, this should come in handy.  

Updated: 06 March 2017

Counter Pick

This is perhaps the most obvious but I’m regularly amazed at how unwilling players are to change their Hero once selected. Little thought is given to what the enemy has or how your Hero plays against theirs. One of the most important parts of Overwatch is the ability to switch Heroes freely and in most circumstances, remaining on one for too long will be detrimental to your team because the opposition will attempt to counter you.

"A balanced draft is incredibly important but switching to counter, often more so."

As one example, if you’re regularly playing Zenyatta you can be sure - at some point - that the enemy will pick Winston. With no ability to escape him or avoid his Leap, it instantly ensures your death and the removal of a Support Hero until respawn. As another example, if the enemy team has Bastion and Torbjorn, switching to Junkrat or Pharah will instantly put the enemy team at a disadvantage. Understanding each Hero and its counter is incredibly important and is one of the easiest ways to have an advantage over your enemy. You can view our Overwatch: Hero Counters guide here.

Expand Your Hero Pool

Perhaps contradictory to what I’ve just stated, but it’s often much better to play something you’re experienced with that simply choosing a counter. If you’ve never played Pharah and yet you need one to counter Bastion, it’s probably not worth switching. It’ll be detrimental for your team and you’ll be easily killed. Instead, think of other Heroes you might be good with that also have an advantage over said Hero. Zenyatta works well against Bastion, so does Junkrat, Widowmaker and Hanzo. Having a pool of Heroes that you’re good with - or at the very least functional - gives your team a lot of flexibility. Simply stating "I main Zarya" and playing nothing else is going to cripple your team.

Identify Stalemates Early

Building on the above, stalemates often happen in Overwatch because your team's’ Hero composition isn’t stronger than your opponent. They’re effectively countering you to the point where you can’t progress so it’s imperative that you make a decision (and quickly) as to how best to deal with it. Recently I played a match on Temple of Anubis where my team was struggling to take the final Capture Point. It’s a challenging location anyway, simply because routes in and out are so limited and sightlines are poor. The enemy team also had a Bastion being protected by a Reinhardt while being healed by Mercy. Arguably it’s a perfect composition for that point and yet we were able to counter it with only 60 seconds remaining. I had attempted to encourage my team to make changes to our composition but it had fallen on deaf ears. We made several key changes:

  • Widowmaker switched to Reinhardt
  • Genji switched to Winston
  • I switched to Zenyatta
  • Junkrat switched to Pharah
  • McCree switched to Reaper

In less than thirty seconds we had uprooted the enemy team all thanks to a coordinated assault. Our Reaper was able to use Shadowstep to get into their backline while Pharah constantly bombarded Bastion. I managed to get an Orb of Discord on the Bastion as Reinhardt turned his attention to deal with Pharah and our Winston/Reinhardt were quickly on the point. If we hadn’t identified what was wrong and why we were at a stalemate we would have lost. Knowing when you’ve reached one and reacting to it quickly is key.

Attack Together

One of the biggest mistakes I see in Overwatch is players running into a fight by themselves. Whether they’re trying to escort a Payload or capture a point, going alone is a surefire way of not only dying but limiting your team's potential strength. Seeing players drip feed the opposition not only reduces the strength of your entire team, but you’re then down a player for not only the respawn timer but the travel time back to the front-line. Attacking as a group of 6, even if it means waiting for others to arrive is much more beneficial to you and your team. You’ll be at full strength, there’s more targets for your enemy to have to focus on, and you can use your group size to push deeper. Waiting for others to respawn might create lulls in your action, but it’s infinitely better for you and your team in the long run.

Learn Support

"Zenyatta is a Hero I can often carry matches with due to his Orb of Discord and healing Ultimate."

I’ve often found that when playing by myself, lots of players don’t want to play Support. You can guarantee the vast majority want to be a Hero capable of killing others. While Tanks tend to be easy to find, Support isn’t as popular. That’s a shame because Support Heroes are absolutely critical to winning and if played well, can carry even the worst team to victory. Whether you pick Mercy, Lucio or Zenyatta learning one or all three (ideally) will allow you to fill the role when needed. A well played Lucio or Zenyatta can be particularly effective at carrying a team, not just because of their healing but utility as well - both have exceptional Ultimate abilities, while offering shielding or a damage boost. If you can pocket a particularly skilled player on your team, it’s surprising just how easily you can carry.

Understand The Maps 

This is partly related to drafting and selecting Heroes but also linked to navigation and understanding the best method of attack. To address the first issue, it’s amazing how often I see players choosing a Hero that is completely redundant on a specific section of a map. A prime example is on Hanamura and on the opening phase, if attacking, the main route into the Capture Point is through a large doorway. Most teams set up here to defend and yet recently I’ve seen lots of players choosing Bastion or Torbjorn on attack for this specific phase. Now I’m not normally one to pigeonhole a Hero role, but there’s no real value to either Hero. There isn’t the time, positioning or sightlines to gain any value from their kit. Unsurprisingly if said players refuse to switch, it creates a huge uphill struggle for those attacking as they’re effectively 4 vs 6.

"At this entrance, on attack, playing Torbjorn or Bastion isn't ideal."

A similar situation can occur on Dorado during the final phase when through the blast door. I still regularly see players choose Widowmaker during this period and yet there are absolutely no valuable sightlines for her. It’s such close quarters indoors that she’s massively limited during this phase to the point where she’s pretty useless. The same principal applies to Hanzo.

Knowing when to switch through understanding the specific Map and when some Heroes are strong and when they aren’t is really important. Unfortunately you can’t force others to change their Hero but at least you can be sure not to make the same mistake.

For the second point, a lot of the maps in Overwatch tend to have a linear path that leads directly to an objective (whether Payload or Capture Point). This primary path is where the majority of fights will occur and surrounding it tends to be one or two additional routes that are less trodden, but invaluable for navigating past a bottleneck. Knowing where these additional paths are and where they lead is incredibly important, especially if playing Heroes such as Genji, Reaper or Tracer. You can view our Tier List by map to see what Heroes are good and where.

Go Meta

"McCree is popular because he's a monster in the right hands, not because of his stylish hat."

There’s a reason why some Heroes are more popular than others in Overwatch - especially in a competitive environment - and it tends to be because they’re inherently stronger. Whether they’re overtuned by Blizzard or have a better base kit than other Heroes, it’s unavoidable that there will be those that rise to the top. Although there’s always going to debate as to who is strong or weak, the arrival of Ranked play combined with a variety of regular tournaments give a good picture. Choosing Meta Heroes such as Ana and Reinhardt or learning how to play them is a very good thing as it ensures at the very least that you’re playing the strongest Hero available. While I’m making no suggestion that you can’t win with Heroes that are out of the meta, it’s sometimes much more difficult because of it. You can view our Overwatch Tier List for regular updates on who’s hot and who’s not.

Stick to 2-2-2

Strictly speaking you can win with any composition in Overwatch as long as your team is good and your opponents bad. However, to give you and your team the best advantage it's best to stick to a composition of 2 attack (or 1 attack, 1 defence), 2 support, 2 tank.  Ideally you want to choose meta heroes here, with Soldier: 76 + 1, Reinhardt + Roadhog, Ana + Lucio and/or Mercy. There are some variables, such as taking a defence hero and one assault (instead of two) but for the most part, this should provide you with enough sustain, damage and survivability to stand the best chance of winning. At times it'll mean you won't play the hero you want, but that's absolutely fine.

Remember You Can't Control Other Players

Probably the best advice I can give when playing Overwatch in Season 4 is to simply remember you can't control other players, especially if solo queueing. Overwatch is full of idiots, make no mistake about it. You'll encounter the Widowmaker who only plays Widowmaker (including having bad aim). You'll encounter players who die constantly, who feed intentionally, who troll, who go AFK. It's literally Russian Roulette at times and often stressful. Despite that, if you just play Competitive Overwatch with the knowledge you can't do anything about these people, you'll feel much better about it. Key to climbing is simply winning more than you lose and for every match where you get an idiot, you should - on average - get four or five that are idiot free zones. 

Have some advice on how to win in Overwatch? Let us know and if we like it, we'll add it to this guide.

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Last Updated: Mar 06, 2017

About The Author

Lewis currently splits his time between Heroes of the Storm, Battlerite, and World of Warcraft, having covered MOBAs and MMOs for many years.