If you've played Overwatch's recently added Competitive Mode for a reasonable amount of time and weren't born with godlike FPS skills, you probably know how disheartening it can be. Sometimes your teammates aren't working together, sometimes the enemy just has the right heroes, and you have the wrong ones, and sometimes you're just plain outplayed.
Whether you've experienced this or have been too intimidated to try the mode, this guide is aimed at helping you out with some practical tips, just in time for Season 2.
Competitive Mode will be familiar to players of other Blizzard games which feature rankings and leaderboards. Essentially, you play the game awhile it assigns you a ranking that approximates your skill level, then you compete against players about as skilled as you. If you prove you're better than them by beating them, your ranking (and now tier) goes up. Do it enough, and you can feel good knowing you're among the best in the world or even take it as encouragement to go pro.
Every competitive match starts with the hero selection screen; which heroes your team chooses drastically affects the outcome of the match, so you must choose wisely.
First: ideally you want what's called a 2-2-2 composition, which is to say two DPS heroes (damage per second aka heroes that can rack up kills), two tanks, and two healers. The idea is you get a bit of everything to deal with most situations and have the hero in each pair complement the other.
For example, a Genji and McCree will get you a lot of kills, but serve very different sub-roles. Part of Genji's job is to harass the back line and distract them while taking out ever-important support heroes, which McCree can't do that well because he's not mobile like Genji. Similarly, part of McCree's role is to deal with flankers trying to harass his back line and distract them, which Genji can't do well because he'd rather be on the opposing back line and doesn't have a stun ability like McCree.
In having both, you cover your weaknesses and maximize your strengths. It's the same with tanks (e.g. when Reinhardt's shield goes down, Zarya can put a barrier on him) and supports (one AOE heals, one spot heals). And just in general it's a good idea because inevitably, when one tank, support, or DPS goes down, you still have another to hold down the fort until the other gets back to the fight.
There are situations where a 3-2-1 setup may be ideal. When solo queuing, this will usually be when one class isn't cutting it, and you have to help out and/or if your healing is going to waste because your team can't take advantage. When playing with a pre-made group, this will typically be when a swapping a tank or DPS for another tank or DPS can exploit a team composition. For example, the other team is running just one DPS and it's not Reaper, who shreds tanks, so you swap a DPS for a third tank.
Supports are rarely if ever swapped out in good pre-mades, partly because their healing is so important, and partly because in the case of Zenyatta and Lucio (the current top supports), they do so much more than just heal.
Defense heroes have been intentionally left out of the 2-2-2 conversation because as Blizzard themselves have acknowledged, they're underpowered in a competitive environment, and don't fare well in this speed and offense-heavy meta. Arguably, they don't fare well competitively in any meta, as Overwatch, in general, is a pretty fast, snowbally game and heroes like Bastion are easily dealt with by good teams. Once he's gone, it can quickly go downhill from there, so you're likely to have been much better off with something more versatile like another tank, DPS, or support.
That said, there are special situations where they can shine if built and played around properly, but these are rare and are less likely to work at higher ranks. Unless you're extremely confident, it's worth it to play, let's say, Junkrat, over a second DPS, because you've done it before many times on a specific map and it's worked, don't do it.
Also, know that despite the label, Widowmaker and Hanzo are generally best on offense as defense tends to get too crazy for snipers to keep up, and offensively, they're great at helping to punch through defenses and choke points. Similarly, while Junkrat can be strong on defense, he can also do well on offense if played aggressively, and Mei has offensive applications in splitting defenders with her ice wall and making pushes with her ultimate. Just keep in mind most if not all defense heroes are map dependent.
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