A great man once said “offense wins the glory, but defense wins the game”. Full disclosure, I don’t know anything about sports. Dennis Rodman said it in the hit movie “Double Team” and I just thought it was apropos here.
Defense Heroes are typically defined by their high damage and ability to control an area. As the name suggests, they’re generally better served when Defending, though as always, there are exceptions. If you play Overwatch for any length of time, you’ll quickly learn that glory, or in this case the Play of the Game, will actually favor the Defensive Heroes more often than not, typically because of how frequently packs of enemies like to run into them.
Once again, I’ll be listing the Heroes in order of my personal preference. Your list will probably look different. The game’s still relatively young and it’s better to look at this as more of a starting point for new and overwhelmed players than as a definitive guide. I’m wearing differently colored socks. I’m not a very definitive person.
Breakdown: The closest thing I have to a “main” in a game where switching characters is important, Widowmaker is the quintessential sniper of Overwatch. Her range is, obviously, best in the game and her single-target damage is scary. In the right hands, she is the backbone of any Defending team and will annoy her enemies to no end.
Her weapon, the Widow’s Kiss, has two fire modes. The primary is a medium range assault rifle that’s going to be used mostly to get out of bad situations. As you’d assume, the goal is to stay out of close range encounters, but this mode will at least offer you some options when someone gets the drop on you.
The Alt-fire is her real weapon, the sniper rifle. While looking through the scope, she can charge up the power of her shot. A fully charged headshot will kill most Heroes and a bodyshot will, at the very least, make them more vulnerable to the inevitable follow up if they managed to survive. Setting up shots in such a fast-paced game takes practice. You need to know the maps well enough to get the right positioning and also have an established comfort using the weapon. Every Hero has their own specific settings that you can play with in the options menu and Widowmaker is one that I’d suggest this is essential for. Everyone has different sensitivity preferences and you can also change the look and color of her scope. I use a green dot since it’s an uncommon color that stands out in most environments.
Of course, when playing a Widowmaker, no matter how good of a shot you are, you’re not going to want to stay in one place for too long. Unpredictability and awareness of your surroundings are key to your survivability, so you’ll be using her Grappling Hook a lot, either to get out of a position you’ve been spotted in or to simply keep the enemy team guessing as you move from perch to perch. A Widowmaker that the enemy can see is an easy kill, especially if you’re stuck looking down your sights at someone else, so keep moving.
The Venom Mine will stick to any surface, exploding and inflicting poison damage on anyone that gets near it. You’ll be notified whenever it gets triggered or destroyed, so it arguably has better function as a security system to cover your flank when zoomed in on targets. When it’s triggered, you’ll know someone is approaching. If you do prefer to use it for attack, try not to put it anywhere obvious, just like with Symmetra’s turrets. Try ceilings and doorways. It’s also fun to throw onto a Payload if you get a clear shot.
Her Ultimate, Infra-Sight, is literally just a wallhack for your entire team, showing the location of every enemy Hero on the map for a few seconds. The benefits are obvious, allowing set up for sneak attacks and, in the rare case you have both a Widowmaker and a Hanzo on the team, a much less obvious use of his Ultimate. It can also spot Symmetra’s teleporter.
As a sniper, Widowmaker does poorly if anyone manages to get close. She’s also significantly less effective on certain maps than others, needing open space but limited flank points to work in. More than most other Heroes, a bad Widowmaker can sink a team. If you’re a poor shot, bad under pressure, or in a situation where you can be used better elsewhere, switch out. There is nothing more frustrating than being teamed up with a stubborn Widowmaker that can’t hit anything and doesn’t seem to care that her team is at a 6v5 disadvantage. For this reason, two snipers, especially two Widowmakers, is usually a bad idea.
Heroes to Target: Anyone in your sights for a headshot, but Supports and backline heroes should be the priority. Zenyatta especially since he can be one-shotted, even without the headshot.
Heroes to Avoid: As noted in my Tank breakdown, D.Va and Winston can jump up to where you are and take you out quickly. Flankers like Genji and Tracer can easily get to you as well.
Breakdown: Junkrat is a lot of fun. He’s great for controlling an area and has huge damage potential without requiring a lot of precision to be useful. Barriers and turrets don’t stand a chance against him and he has the tools to scare off flankers, all while spamming explosives in every direction.
The Frag Launcher is used for just that, throwing grenades around the map looking for the AOE damage from the explosion even if it doesn’t hit directly. Big targets like Tanks are fun to harass, though you don’t actually need to see the target to make an impression, shooting over walls and around doors. This is going to be the best way to take out turrets that the enemy may have set in your path. It’s a poking tool that you’ll be shooting out constantly, establishing distance from the enemy. Often you’ll want to focus more on spreading confusion than taking out a specific target, though keep in mind that the grenades can also damage you, so freaking out in an enclosed space isn’t recommended.
The Concussion Mine has a few uses. The most obvious is as a trap for flankers or anyone that gets too close, but it’s also the only solution to his otherwise limited mobility. Setting off the mine at your feet will launch you into the air. This is his only real way to escape from bad situations and keeps him from constantly being on the low ground. This fling also applies to enemies, so it can be used to knock snipers out of position or even toss an enemy off of the map. For damage purposes, it’s best used in combination with the Steel Trap. Throwing a Mine on top of the Trap will just ensure guaranteed damage for anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in it. The Steel Trap itself is also good for covering your flanks and controlling choke points. Both the Mine and Trap can be destroyed, so watch out for that.
Junkrat also has a passive ability that drops a cluster of bombs whenever he dies. It does enough damage to kill any non-Tank in the game and it’s something that a lot of players seem to forget about. If you are in a close quarters situation, it may actually help your team to make the sacrifice and fling your soon-to-be corpse at a high priority target.
The RIP-Tire Ultimate puts you in control of a speeding tire that will explode for massive damage the moment it hits anything. It’s on a timer and is easy to see (and hear) coming, so you’ll want to get creative with the positioning. You can actually use the jump button to climb walls with it, giving you some extra angles to attack from.
While he always makes for an entertaining and chaotic Hero to play, Junkrat suffers in moments where you do actually need any sort of precision. Mobile attackers can run circles around him if they get close and the best he can do is either throw a desperate Trap down or Mine jump away. The frantic nature of playing as Junkrat doesn’t lend itself to survivability and most of his threats, the RIP-Tire included, can be shot down and stopped before actually doing any damage.
Heroes to Target: “Target” is sort of an odd concept with Junkrat since spamming an area is your main contribution, though Supports and anyone with low health/mobility can make for an easy kill. Bastions and Torbjorns can’t do much of anything to stop you, since you’ll never be in their line of sight.
Heroes to Avoid: Tracer is the main candidate for a mobile attacker you want to steer clear of. Junkrat is absolutely useless against Pharrah and a Zarya will love to be around you to charge up her Energy.
Breakdown: Hanzo is the other sniper of the game, considered a more challenging Hero to use than Widowmaker, but with different options for mobility and more of a capacity to deal with groups. He has the highest skill cap of all of the Defense Heroes and can be very very hard to deal with in the right hands.
The Storm Bow is a great distance weapon, but the timing and application make take some getting used to. The shot gets stronger as he draws his arm back, but also slows him down considerably. There is also a bit of a dropoff from a distance, though a full power arrow will fly straighter and further, doing more damage when it connects.
As he doesn’t have a Grappling Hook, Hanzo uses Wall Climb to find his sniping spots. As a passive ability, you can use it as often as you like without cooldown. Genji is the only other Hero that can do the same, though instead of flanking and prepping sneak attacks like his brother, Hanzo will mostly want to use it to escape or find a different angle to take his shot from.
When put in a situation with groupings of enemies or even just one at a closer range, Scatter Arrow is his primary tool to remain a viable damage dealer. Upon impact with a surface, the arrow will split into pieces and bounce into random directions, damaging anyone caught in the aftermath. It’s great for hallways and small rooms, since there are very few escape options and the randomness path of the fragments are left with few places to land. When aiming out in the open, you’ll want to make a habit of hitting the ground slightly in front of the target to make sure they’re reliably hit with most of the shots. If the Scatter Arrow actually hits the enemy, it won’t split.
His Sonic Arrow is an underused ability that acts as a sort of sonar, similar to Widowmakers Ultimate, though it can be used more frequently at the expense of a shorter range. Knowing enemy positioning is useful for setting up targets or deciding your next location to shoot from. You will want to use it to give your team more intel and it also makes his Ultimate, Dragonstrike much harder to predict and avoid.
Aside from being just plain awesome-looking, Dragonstrike is one of the most damaging Ultimates in the game, instantly wiping out anyone unfortunate enough to get caught in the path of the twirling dragons. It can go through walls and will continue to advance forward until it reaches the end of the map. It’s best used after another Ultimate has created a group of slowed or stopped enemies that you can wipe out in one shot.
Hanzo is incredibly cool but requires practice. That high skill ceiling comes with the expected learning curve, figuring out the timing of his arrows and their distance, while also not making yourself a slow and obvious target. His Ultimate is also extremely easy to telegraph, since he has to do a Dragonball-esque announcement every time it’s summoned. New players will freeze and get caught, but anyone that already knows the deal can very easily sidestep it.
Heroes to Target: Similar to Widowmaker, you’ll be mainly looking for headshots on Supports and anyone else that’s a clear shot, though the Scatter Arrow gives you more options against a group.
Heroes to Avoid: Hanzo has the exact same problem that Widowmaker does dealing with Winston and D.Va. Widowmaker herself can also be a strong counter against a Hanzo since her shots are easier to set up from the same distance.
Breakdown: As annoying as she is adorable, Mei is one of the most significant one-on-one threats in the game while also offering utility for her team as a whole. Of all of the Defense Heroes, she has the most potential to aid in an almost Support-type role, protecting and buying time for her team.
Players absolutely despise being around Mei, since her Endothermic Blaster will slow and eventually freeze them in place, setting up an assault from a teammate or an alt-fire headshot when alone. It takes roughly 2 seconds for the freeze to take effect on an enemy, but it’s almost always a guaranteed kill if they’re caught alone. The freeze-icicle-melee combo should be your go-to with anyone unfortunate enough to get near you. Dealing a close range headshot is going comprise a majority of your usage with the alt-fire, though it also serves as her only option at a distance. The shot itself is fast and more damaging than you’d initially expect.
Her Cryo-Freeze ability is a self-heal that also leaves you invulnerable for a few seconds. Aside from the obvious use-case, it can be used to bait skills or Ultimates from opponents, leaving them in cooldown when you’ve emerged. In the case of the latter, teammates can also hide behind the ice block for cover, though obviously AOE attacks can still hit them.
Mei’s greatest asset to her team is her Ice Wall, which summons, well, a wall of ice, allowing you to block off pathways and absorb damage. You can also toss one behind an enemy that’s trying to escape from your Blaster, trapping them up close. It can be rotated before placement and anyone standing underneath will end up elevated when it’s summoned, including yourself. This gives Mei some extra mobility options and helps her find new ways to flank a target. There are many many inventive uses for the Ice Wall and likely more to be discovered with time.
Her Ultimate, Blizzard, is similar to Reinhardt’s and Zarya’s in that it’s more of a set-up move than a damage threat. Upon throwing a drone into the air, it will freeze anyone caught in the radius. This is good when followed up with a more easily avoidable Ultimate, like D.Va’s or Hanzos.
Although her entire playstyle is about giving enemies grief, she does have range issues, needing to get close to single targets to be effective. If her enemy doesn’t run alone, the threat of her ice is significantly compromised and trying to freeze one of them will just leave you open. She’s also not very good for contesting payloads and badly placed Ice Walls will do more harm than good, sometimes even cutting off her own teammates from the fight.
Heroes to Target: Genjis typically run alone and can’t deflect your blaster. Tanks in general are also easy targets since you have a bigger target to aim your freeze at.
Heroes to Avoid: Snipers, Pharrah, anyone with range. Reaper can also Wrath Form away from the freeze and is better at close range than you.
Breakdown: If you’re ever unsure of how long someone has been playing Overwatch, just ask them about Bastion. If they’re new to the game, he’s the most unfair and broken Hero you could pick, an instant win-button if there ever was one. That’s… not exactly the case, though his kill potential is high, making him an incredibly frequent Play of the Game highlight. He’s the best starting point for anyone trying to learn a Defense Hero as he’s very simple to understand and can hold down a control point with little effort.
His main ability is the Configuration Switch. He’ll start every match in Recon mode with a basic submachine gun. The primary use for Recon is traversal, either to get towards the objective or to relocate for Sentry mode. A vast majority of Bastion’s time in the match will be in this mode, as it absolutely tears through anyone in seconds and will even take down Reinhardt’s Barrier on pure DPS alone. You can’t move while in Sentry mode, so you have to plant yourself to a location with a choke point and ideally no flanks. It can be fun to put yourself on top of a payload, though it’s not viable for very long. It’s best to act as if you are a thinking turret, constantly repositioning yourself to keep the opponent guessing. Positioning is everything when using Bastion.
Self-Repair does exactly what it says on the tin and should be a force of habit whenever there’s a break in the action or you’re moving to another shooting spot, though he can heal in Sentry Configuraton as well.
Bastion’s Ultimate is a third Configuation known as Tank. It combines the threatening damage output of Sentry with the ability to move, giving him a health increase and changing his weapon to an area-of-effect cannonball. It can slaughter an entire opposing team, though it’s best not to venture too far from your control point, since you’ll be exposed and back to Recon after Tank’s duration.
What stops Bastion from being a complete nightmare to more experienced players is just how many ways there are to counter him, most of which involve getting picked off from a distance or attacking the literal glowing weak spot on his back. In Sentry mode you are essentially a sitting duck if anyone gets close to you and attacks it. You’ll receive double damage and be dead before you have time to even think about switching to Recon, which is far weaker anyway. Bastion is very predictable and will immediately become the highest priority target when spotted by the enemy. If unprotected or in a game with poor team coordination, he doesn’t last long.
Heroes to Target: Just about everyone inside the choke point. If they’re in front of you, fire until they’re dead. Enjoy your Play of the Game.
Heroes to Avoid: Genji can not only deflect your bullets back at you but can also get to your weak point faster than you can react, as can Tracer and Reaper. Ranged Heroes like snipers and Pharrah are also going to be looking to take you out and can stay out of your sight. Junkrat doesn’t have to even see you to blow you up. Roadhog can hook you out of Sentry mode. This is why Bastion is not overpowered.
Breakdown: I’d make a 4th Lost Viking joke but the game itself already beat me to it.
Torbjorn is the closest parallel Overwatch has to TF2’s Engineer, a passive teammate that will contribute protection and an effective control weapon. Like Bastion, he is a Play of the Game standby that will seem unbeatable to new players and can often be hard to take out even for more experienced teams.
His Rivet Gun is a weapon designed more for poking than damage, though it will be called upon to defend your Turret when enemies get too close. A vast vast majority of your kills as Torborjn will not come from the Hero himself and his main priority will be to protect his turrets. It has two fire modes; the primary is a projectile with some fall-off and the alt is more of a shotgun for close range.
For Torbjorn to help his team directly, he has to accumlate Scrap. His Armor Packs come with a Scrap cost and more can be found from the dead bodies of your opponents, to a limit of 200. One Armor Pack will cost 50 Scrap and offer a non-rechargable HP boost to yourself or any teammate you toss it to. This is his most neglicted ability and should really be used as often as possible.
The Forge Hammer is his secondary “weapon”, but should just about never be used as such. It’s main function is to maintain the Turret. Torbjorn’s entire playstyle revolves around his relationship with his Turret. Love the Turret. Whisper sweet things to it. Rarely, if ever, leave its side.
You can place a level 1 Turret just about anywhere on the map. It will immediately start to track nearby enemies and deal damage if they get too close. You’ll want to give the Turret a few love taps as quickly as possible to upgrade it to a level 2, which fires at much faster rate. Most of your time in a match will be standing right near a level 2 Turret, waiting for it to do all of the work for you and being ready to repair it with the hammer if damaged. You can only place one Turret at a time so knowing the map and choosing a good location is the most important thing you can do as a Torbjorn player.
Activating his Molten Core Ultimate will upgrade a level 2 Turret to level 3 and put Torbjorn himself into a sort of rage mode, increasing his damage and making the Turret take out enemies very quickly. It’s best saved for when a grouping is approaching the control point and you are looking to take them all out in one fell swoop.
As you may have gathered, Torbjorn is nothing without his Turret. He can’t hold his own for very long without it and is really just a short guy with an average weapon. He’s a one-trick pony with a lot of the same issues as Bastion. Once the enemy figures out how to deal with Torbjorn (or already does), you’re toast. A poorly placed Turret will also expend the resources of your teammates trying to protect it, making you a liablity.
Heroes to Target: Your Turret will take care of most of them, though you’ll want to watch out for the flankers sent through enemy lines to deal with your baby.
Heroes to Avoid: Same as Bastion. A majority of the other Defense Heroes have ways to deal with your Turret and you won’t be able to build another if they’re close to you when it’s destroyed.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the remainder of the Overwatch roster, the Offense Heroes.