Overwatch: Koji's Simple Role Guide for Beginners Part 1

Sat 2nd Jul 2016 - 4:31am Gaming

We can talk about improving our gameplay until we’re blue in the face.  But, there comes a time where no matter how much effort we put into it, we seem to be hitting a brick wall that halts our progress.  Building your skill in a game, especially when your goal is to become a competitive player, can be a grueling process that can take years of dedication to get to a level that others will recognize as competent at the highest level of play.  Now, I'm not a competitive gamer in any sense of the moniker.  At best I am a casually consistent player that knows a thing or two about the controlled chaos of a firefight.  

Some background on me:  I spent a few years in the Middle East working within the bounds of joint military actions, U.S. State Department, and most of all, taking on the real-life challenge of asymmetric warfare.  The definition of asymmetric warfare focuses mainly on larger force against smaller force, but I want us to look at where strategies and tactics differ significantly between combating parties.  So how do we apply asymmetric warfare principles to Overwatch?  

First, knowledge is power.  Hopefully, you know the basic role of each champion.  Soldier 76 is not a front line DPS like many attack heroes; you need to flank the enemy team to be effective.  Reinhardt and Winston don't charge alone into the enemy team; you need that immediate follow-up from your main DPS source and supports. So, if you understand these basic game-play concepts but still need a little more help, check out this sweet hero counter list by an incredibly helpful Redditor by the name of DidsOW.  

Moving forward with the optimal asset (heroes) knowledge and their match-ups, how do we go about ensuring victory.  If we use competitive Overwatch as a standard model for meta-play, we can observe that there are three phases to each engagement.

  1. The Stack: When teams are gathering at contested points, whether it be the objective or choke-points leading to the objective.  We will be exploring this phase in detail in this article.

  2. The Siege: When both teams have gathered at the conflict point and begin flanking or charging maneuvers to break the stand-off.

  3. The Clash: When the siege breaks, usually after Tanks move in to engage the enemy front-line or when flankers begin attacking high-value targets.  

For many people coming into this game, it would be prudent to note that if you want to make a positive impact on your team, you should not die within the first two phases.  You should also give your greatest effort in not dying in the third phase, but team fights can get crazy, and anything can happen.  

Now that we understand the conflict phases, we need to figure out what our actions are in each of them.  

For The Stack, let’s divide things up into roles and responsibilities on movement and on contact.  Between movement and contact, we will also explore the perspectives of both the attacking and defending team.


Offense Heroes: The name of the game is establishing fire superiority and scouting the enemy so that your team can freely move to the objective.  If you aren’t shooting at someone, then you’re moving to shoot at someone or see who is coming.  Be careful not to stray too far away from your team.  Getting caught out by yourself will have a domino effect on everyone on the attacking side should they lose their primary DPS threat at the objective point.  When moving in to lay down effective fire, you want to focus on flanking the enemy as opposed to front-end fire, if you can help it.  Always look for a different way or angle to deliver damage to the enemy so that they are forced to shift their focus away from your team and on to you.  

Defensive Heroes: Right out of the gates you should be shooting if you see or expect the enemy team to be outside the spawn doors.  Like the Offense Heroes, you want to supplement their fire superiority effort with your own; this is called, “support-by-fire.”  Choose narrow passages to exploit as easily defendable positions to plant yourself or to draw enemy flankers into in order to disrupt their plans.  Once someone decides to attack your backline (you) you shift your focus on the biggest target there is.  Choke points and higher ground are where you shine the most, so focus your fire on or from those areas from a safe distance with plenty of cover.

Tank Heroes: You are looking to make picks and disrupt enemy positions.  You are the first line of defense for your back line and are responsible for getting them to contention points to allow them to lay down DPS on the enemy.  When moving, you are looking for flankers that will attempt to take out your soft targets, so keep your team safe until they’re in a position to attack.

Support Heroes: Supports should maintain a presence at the center of the team formation, but hardly ever in view of the enemy team if possible.  Toggling your healing and other abilities between active attackers will be where you make your money, so make sure you are prioritizing the right targets on your team as well as the enemy.  Do not jump into an enemy formation with a tank unless you know that it is part of a team effort to take an objective, in which case you will have more cover with the rest of your team behind you.  


Offense Heroes: You are looking for narrow avenues of approach or doorways to focus your fire on.  It is safer to let the enemy come to you so that your tanks can disrupt their formation as you lay down suppressive fire with their cover.  While playing an offensive hero in Defense, you are looking to flank the flankers, or anyone looking to attack your defensive backline.  Scouting on Defense is just as important as it is on offense, especially if you are up against an enemy Genji or other Heroes that can climb over walls and obstacles.

Defense Heroes: Chokepoints and narrow passages are where you will be most effective in laying down fire.  If the enemy team has too many chargers then switch your position to somewhere they can’t immediately target you and must walk in front of you to attack (around a corner or inside a building atop a staircase).  Seek the higher ground when possible, especially catwalks around S-turns and platforms overlooking doorways.

Tank Heroes: Allow your defense and offense heroes to lay down a base of fire before picking a target to hard engage.  Often, you will only need to hang back to fight off flanking maneuvers from the enemy team.  Most offense heroes and snipers will look to take down your static turrets, so use that to your advantage by communicating to your team where the enemy fire’s point-of-origin is.  The object here is to enable your defense to lay down effective fire to run the time out.  

Support Heroes: Supports need to do their best to stay out of sight and keep their defense and tanks healed.  Only when the enemy is actively contesting the objective is when you should be on an offense hero and actively buffing/healing them.  During defense, it is more economical to focus on keeping your defense and tank heroes alive due to either their high rate of fire or ability to soak up damage and charge your ultimate ability faster.  

Next in Part 2 of this series will cover the Siege portion of the engagement, when both teams square off and exchange fire until an opening is made on either side, what advantages you should look for, and why playing the Siege wrong can mean the difference between a team wipe for either side.

Like what you're reading?  Have a critique or other feedback?  Talk to Koji directly through social media!




Kojirou Nagashima

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