About this guide:
This competitive overwatch guide is aimed at being the ultimate starting point for anyone interested in playing Overwatch competitively. It is ever expanding and will cover everything from basics like setting up your computer and game to in depth breakdowns on how to create a successful team, becoming a better leader and teammate and general hero lineup building strategies.
Due to the projected size of this project, I will refrain from going too deep into certain topics. We will have both video and written guides here on OWKings that go even deeper into the material of each topic I discuss here.
This section goes over the basics of setting up your game and everything you will need to ensure the best results.
1.1) Setting up your game
If you decide to try to play Overwatch to the best of your abilities, the first thing you have to do is to set up your game in a way that allows you to play optimally. Luckily, unlike many other games everything you can change in Overwatch is easily accessible through the options menu.
Here are the most important things to change:
Display Mode: For optimal performance choose the “Fullscreen” option
Resolution: Pick a resolution you like to play with and choose the highest possible refresh rate your monitor can support.
Aspect Ratio: Always put this on 16:9, even if you are playing on a 16:10 monitor if you can stomach the letterboxing. This will give you the widest FoV.
Field of View: Unlike other shooters in Overwatch it’s always advisable to play at the highest possible FoV. So set it to 103.
Limit FPS: If you have a monitor that allows for a refresh rate of 120 or higher you can pick “display-based” if you prefer to have stable and consistent fps. Otherwise choose the “off” option. In this game you will feel noticeable input lag and input delay on your mouse unless you have more than 100 fps.
Graphics Quality: The more fps the better. If you want to play optimally you would want this option set to low. If you have a powerful computer and can consistently get over 100 fps with higher settings you can set the quality a bit higher, if you really must.
Advanced: As with Graphics Quality, set the options as low as you can stomach them. One very important thing is however to keep the Model details on “low”. Keeping Model details on low removes several objects on the maps that opponents can otherwise hide behind or in. The bushes and general flora on Numbani are a popular example.
Enable the Killfeed
Keep the Killcam enabled
The next thing you should have a look at when venturing into the competitive side of Overwatch is your equipment. Having good equipment to work with can’t be underrated. After all, you wouldn’t run a marathon in sandals, would you? Below we will talk about why they are important and provide some suggestions, if you want to see what the Pros use check out The Pro Sheet - Overwatch Pro Player Settings and Gear
The Mouse of your choosing is probably the most important piece of equipment you will use. The Mouse serves as extension of your hand. Luckily good mice come in various shapes, forms and price points nowadays.
Turn off mouse acceleration, it makes your fast mouse movements move your cursor inconsistent distances. Check out what sensitivies and DPIs the Pros use in The Pro Sheet - Overwatch Pro Player Settings and Gear.
Generally speaking these Mice are all very good:
Razer, Finalmouse and Roccat also have a wide product range, and while most of them are okay and an upgrade over your normal mouse, they often fall flat when it comes to build quality, sensor or reliability. I would personally advise to stay away from any companies I haven’t listed. Also, as personal recommendation, Zowie is a good way to go if you can find a shape that fits you and can deal with the higher price point.
For Keyboards there are two different schools of thought: The rubber dome and mechanical. It is absolutely okay to play with a cheaper rubber dome keyboard. I would personally recommend a really simple Cherry or Microsoft Keyboard that you can pick up at any local store for roughly 10 to 20€. They do their job just fine.
If you have money to spare however and want to improve your overall gaming comfort you should think about getting a mechanical keyboard. There are better and more knowledgeable sources than me when it comes to mechanical keyboards, so read up on them and do your research before purchasing an expensive mechanical keyboard. However, speaking from personal experience Cherry mx red or black switches feel the best in shooters. As for which brand to go with, my personal recommendation would be Ducky. But there are many great mechanical keyboards at varying price points. I would stay away from the gaming brands, with the exception of Corsair. However, do not waste your money on an expensive rubber dome “gaming” keyboard.
Mousepads come in 3 different variations: Cloth, Hardpad and Hybrid. Do your research before deciding on what type you want to go with. Cloth is the most popular choice, as it allows for the best control and stopping. Hardpad is generally ideal for players with higher sensitivities that prefer to have very fast mouse movements and aim with their wrist only. Hybrid is expensive and rare but provides the middle ground between the two choices.
Just as important as the surface of the mousepad is the size. Generally speaking: The more you use your arm for aiming and the lower your sensitivity is, the bigger your mousepad should be.
In my personal opinion, the best Pads on the market right now are either Zowie or Artisan mousepads. They do have one big downside: They are rather expensive and in the case of Artisan need to be imported from overseas.
For Overwatch 2.1 Headphones will do the job just fine. That being said, for Headsets or Headphones there is one general rule of thumb: You will pay an bonus for the branding and “gaming headsets” in general. The best Gaming Headsets in my opinion right now are the HyperX Cloud I & II as well as QPad QH-90. However, both of these are just rebranded Omnitronic SHP-600, which you can get for half the price. So it is really your choice if you prefer to buy an all-in-one Headset or go with Headphones which are generally cheaper and have better sound quality and just buy a separate microphone.
If you want to play this game seriously, you need a monitor that supports 144hz. Luckily there are many choices on the market right now, so you have a wide range of products to choose from. Keep in mind that the color quality on 144hz monitors is lower because they use TN panels as opposed to IPS panels. From a pure gameplay perspective I would recommend the BenQ XL 2411z. That monitor does have the worst colour reproduction among the 144hz monitors, however.
This section gets you started and in the right direction of how to get into competitive Overwatch
2.1) Finding your role
One of the most important things in Overwatch is to find your role within your team. Don’t get me wrong: It would be fatal for you to pick a “main hero” that you play exclusively. You need to have a wide hero pool. Even as Support player you should be able to play DPS heroes if your team needs you to and the situation calls for it. That being said, in a very coordinated team environment there are usually roles that define what heroes you play in most lineups.
First, let’s look at the general roles that usually exist within teams:
Tank: Every team has usually one Tank specialist. In the current meta the Tank plays mostly Reinhardt and Winston. However, D.Va and Roadhog are also heroes that the tank player should be familiar with.
Core DPS: The core DPS is another specialist in teams. You will see him play mostly McCree due to his versatility and overall power. That being said, the Core DPS should be able to play all hitscan based heroes such as Widowmaker, Soldier:76, Tracer and Roadhog on a high level, particularly after the recent McCree nerf. Due to the McCree nerf the classic Core DPS has also been falling out of favour and has been replaced with an additional Flex DPS.
Flex DPS: This is one of the harder roles to master and a luxury rather than a must. The general consensus is that the Flex DPS should be able to play every offensive hero. From Genji to Hanzo - everything is fair game. On top of that, the Flex DPS should be able to play every Tank except Reinhardt to a reasonable level as well.
Flanker: An already dying out breed is the classic flank DPS which is usually played in the spot that the Flex DPS occupies. The flanker is usually someone specialised on using Genji, Tracer or Reaper to their fullest capabilities. However, due to his usually limited hero pool he has fallen out of favour.
Flex: The Flex is possibly among the hardest role to play on a team. He needs to be able to play every hero to a reasonable level. From DPS to Supports. The flex has to have the awareness to switch around even more regularly than the rest of his teammates and adjust to the situation on the battlefield. However, classic signature heroes of flex players are Zarya, Winston, Widowmaker, Symmetra and D.Va
Support: Every team has usually two Support players. Generally one support is limited to playing Lucio exclusively due to how powerful Lucio’s Speedboost is in competitive games. The Support playing Lucio is also in many cases the Shotcaller of the team because Lucio’s Speedboost is usually the initiation tool used. The second support is usually specialised on playing Zenyatta and Mercy. Since he switches more regularly than the Lucio support, he also needs a slightly wider & deeper hero pool.
Check out our Hero Overviews here
So what role is the right one for you? I would advise you to simply play the role you enjoy playing the most. That being said, if you want to play at the optimum you should pick your role on the needs of your team and based on your strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some pointers:
If you are very vocal and commanding personality and player that has a natural understanding of engagements you would probably be best off playing Support and focussing on Lucio
If you are calm and have a great sense of positioning and good overall awareness you are probably best suited to Support and would main Mercy.
If you are not the most vocal player, have good understanding of timings and can get a good sense of the positioning of your teammates by solely going off your teammates’ communications you are probably most comfortable playing the Tank role.
If you are a jack of all trades, master of none type guy who has a great understanding on which hero to use in any given situations you would be best suited playing Flex.
If your mechanical skill is one of your strengths and you are vocal and are patient player you would be best suited playing Core DPS
If you are an aggressive player that prefers to make his own openings, possess a wide hero pool and good mechanical skill Flex DPS or Flanker would be your optimal pick.
Keep in mind however that everyone and their mothers want to play the DPS spots. So even if you have great mechanical skill it wouldn’t be wrong to play a more supporting or utility role. In fact, especially Supports and Tanks that also have great aim are always in high demand.
Overwatch is a team game. You will have as much, if not more game impact on the more utility roles, even if it doesn’t look as flashy on the killfeed. My general rule of the thumb is good DPS players can make a bad team good, but only good Supports and Tanks can make a good team great.
2.2) Self improvement through mindset
Once you settled on a role, it is time to improve your individual skill. Overwatch has many facets. Timing, Positioning, Aiming, Communication are just a few. All are equally important. In order to improve and become a better player you need to get into a mindset of constant self improvement. To illustrate this, do this little exercise: After every game, even if was just a public game, ask yourself what you could have done better. This is even more important after a loss. Losses are the best way for you to improve, as they will show you your faults much more clearly than wins. Never get in a mindset of blaming your teammates for a loss. Even if you were objectively the best player on the server, which is hard to judge in the first place, instead of blaming a loss on a “team comp” or your “shitty teammates” ask yourself what YOU could have done better to help your team win. Only consistently analyzing yourself and your mistakes will make you a better player and stop you from hitting a plateau. A good tool for this is to analyze your own demos. As we currently have no demo function in the game, recording your games locally is a good substitute - if your PC can handle it.
2.3) Improvement through communication
Often overlooked, but one of the most vital skills to have when playing in any team based game: Communication. Be very clear with your communications when playing and start paying attention to bad habits: The biggest and easiest one to fix is bringing a negative atmosphere into the mix. Never do that. You want to stay as constructive as can be, but never point the finger and play the blame game. Teams fall apart or underachieve because they don’t follow this very simple rule, don’t let your team become one of those. Even in pub games, communication is key, knowing the names of areas on the maps helps with this, check our video out below for more on this.
Positioning is a crucial skill in Overwatch and I find it incredibly hard to put it properly into text form, as a lot of times your positioning ingame will vary a lot on your composition. However, there are a few basic guidelines that almost ever hold true for positioning pre-engagement:
- Your Reinhardt is always in front
- Lucio and McCree play behind the Reinhardt Shield
- Mercy is always furthest back in the team (unless you run Widowmaker), but close enough that she can get protected
- Your flex roles positioning depends on the hero that is being run, but usually slightly behind the McCree
2.5) Setting a plan
In Overwatch it is very important to have a plan and to follow through. Even the worst plan that is being executed together is better than having no plan. This goes both for hero selections and general strategies but also for setting up plays between encounters in game. Don’t be afraid to have someone in charge. Playing with a clear and defined plan and philosophy will improve your team’s performance immensely.
For Lineup decisions ask yourself what you can achieve with the heroes we have at our disposal. How do you best use them? What is your win condition? As a very simple example, playing Zarya together with either a Pharah or Hanzo can be a very potent plan when attacking capture points. In that situation you are playing to get your ults off in sync. As soon as the two of you have your ults ready you should be able to breach any point and play accordingly.
Setting up plans in between engagements is very similar to this, but is more focussed on what abilities, ultimates and zones you have to your disposal in the next fight.
An example: If you have a Reinhardt with his ultimate up, you will want to make sure the next play you want to do is to engage with Lucio’s speedboost, have your McCree flashbang off the Reinhardt Shield and then using Reinhardt’s Earth Shatter.
Now if you have the same three heroes at your disposal but only McCree Ultimate up, your next play could be combining the McCree Ultimate together with a Lucio speed boost with your Reinhardt charging off the opposing Reinhardt’s Shield once McCree has locked in on people.
You only have Lucio Ultimate? You could instead try to bait them into engaging you and retreat early enough with Lucio’s speed boost to force the opponents to overcommit and possibly use their defensive ultimates first and then swing the fight by using your own Sound Barrier.
The possibilities of combinations or plays are endless, but they only work if every player knows what is expected of him in the next engagement. So use the downtime in between engagements to quickly plan out what your next play is.
2.6) Taking your losses - The value of resetting
Overwatch is an incredibly snowbally game. If your opponent has the momentum by winning fights over and over again and thus charging their Ultimates faster and having better positions you can quickly find yourself in a losing position. This is especially important when playing defense, as a team that is equally skilled as yours can finish a map against you in 3 minutes or less if they win the first engagement and you never put yourself in a position to regain the momentum. Constantly ask yourself “can we still realistically contest this objective or are we better off taking our losses and properly setting up a defense for the next stage?”. While Capture Point maps usually don’t see much play in competitive Overwatch, they can serve as a great example here. Imagine your opponent attacking the first capture point and almost finishing capture. You have Ultimates up and could try a last ditch effort to hold the point - but what happens if this fails? You just wasted your ultimates for nothing and gave the opponent even more ultimate charges and momentum. It is very likely at this point that they just simply force a fight on the second objective within 20 seconds of capturing the first one and end up getting the win for free. You could have instead taken the loss of the first point but maintained your resources, so you could establish a strong hold against the initial push on the second objective from the attacking team, which will in most cases be the push with the biggest momentum. Losing an objective isn’t a big deal - losing momentum is. If you suspect the opponent has the momentum advantage by having more ultimates at their disposal and having map control, take your losses and do your best to stall out the initial momentum the opponents have. One of the most valuable tips for new teams is the following: If you lose a fight, don't be afraid to wait in spawn until everyone of your team is respawned and exit the spawn together, so that you don’t get picked up one by one and lose small skirmishes and get snowballed by your opponents asserting their momentum. You play to win the map, not to win a single objective.
2.7) Time is money - practice efficiently
Whatever your goal is in competitive Overwatch - may it be becoming the best team in the world or beating another group of friends - one very important skill is to use your practice times efficiently. Always think about how you can get the most of the time you have to practice. You will progress faster if you work on your specific weaknesses rather than just grinding the game as much as you can. This holds true both for individual skill as well as for your overall team practices. To understand where your weaknesses lie you need to be able to take the time to analyze your games first. The easiest way is again recording your own gameplay and then rewatching it afterwards. An alternative is also having a more experienced player watching some of your games either on the server or through VoD’s. When it comes your own individual skill, be as honest as possible with yourself. The harsher the better. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you are not able to push yourself to work on your own weaknesses and understand where you need work, you’ll never be able to truly fulfill your potential.
When it comes to addressing mistakes of your teammates or the team, the harshest way is likely not the most success yielding. Try to avoid putting blame on your teammates, instead offer alternatives and “I-Statements”.
Example: If you play Support and you notice that your teammates aren’t protecting you as much as you need, instead of simply stating that your teammates messed up by not protecting you - which would likely just put your teammates on the defensive and start an argument that leads to no progress - say “I have difficulty with staying alive when we fight. I feel I could be more effective and help us to win the fight if I you stayed a bit closer to me.” That way you still address the same underlying issue, but also avoid putting blame on your teammates, forcing them into a defensive position. You are offering a positive alternative: If we do X we will have an easier time in the future, instead of dwelling on losses.
Additionally, use your practice games to practice, instead of simply playing for the win. It can be very tempting to fall into the trap of simply trying to just win your practice games. But instead you could use your time to practice certain things to improve faster. Instead of playing a composition or strategy that you know will win and that you are comfortable in playing, you could practice a new composition that your opponent counters. That way you get important data as why the certain composition isn’t working in certain circumstances or might even learn a way how to execute your engagements that suddenly makes the strategy you previously discarded a winning one.
2.8) Switching it up
Switching Heroes in the right situations is a big part of Overwatch. However, constantly switching around your lineup mid game is more likely to hurt you than to aid you.
As mentioned above, you should always have a gameplan and your hero picks should reflect and aid this. When switching heroes make sure you don’t throw the entire game plan out of the window, or if you do, adjust your entire lineup, instead of just one hero.
Example: If your gameplan revolves around a Zarya and Pharah ultimate combo to take a point, switching out your Pharah because you feel she isn’t working right now might be completely destroy your attacking potential if you do so when you both are at 80% ultimate charge. You’ve invested time and resources into setting up this combo. Switching out before you can actually execute your gameplan just costs you time for no return, unless you can switch into a composition that you know will take the point in the next attack. However, switching out your Pharah and Zarya after you executed your combo and are still stuck on the same objective is advisable.
Ultimates play a big role in Overwatch and so does Ultimate Advantage. When you switch out your composition without making use of your high impact Ultimates it will cost you. You essentially trade Ult advantage and momentum for a “better” composition. So unless you are sure that your hero switch will regain you said momentum in the next fight you are looking at a net negative change.
On the flipside, if your game plan does not revolve around a big Ultimate setup or you can switch out one of your heroes that isn’t core to the strategy, you should always do so if you feel it will help your chances.
An example: Heroes like Tracer, Soldier:76, McCree and Widowmaker don’t have high synergy ultimates and you shouldn’t ever be afraid to swap them out for a better pick, even if you have your ultimate up. Here you could run into a similar trap as above: You are wasting time keeping a composition in the hopes that a single ultimate use will turn the tides in your favour. The truth is: For most heroes this just doesn't hold true.
There are two major ways to win a game of Overwatch: You can win by forcing through your gameplan, but you can also win by countering the opposing gameplan of your opponent. So when switching out your heroes to counter what your opponent is trying to do by shutting down key heroes, consider the following: Will switching characters hurt my opponent’s gameplan more than hurting our own? If the answer is yes, always switch. If the answer is no, either stick to your gameplan or heavily alter your game plan to incorporate heroes that work better against what you are facing.
Overwatch offers a ranked game mode. However, even with that implemented in the game, if you want to play this game on a serious level you will need to find a team and schedule practice games with other teams.
3.1) Finding a team or players for your team
Finding the right team or group of people to play with is important for your enjoyment of the game. So the first question you need to ask yourself is what your goals and ambitions are. Playing with people that have different ambitions and goals in the game is setting yourself up for failure. If your focus is solely to have fun, find people who have the same mindset. If your focus is improving and becoming the best, find people who want to do the same. There is no right or wrong choice here, just different preferences. Play with people that are around the same level as you, have a similar outlook and matching time schedules.
Great tools to find teams or players are the following Websites:
GosuGamers forum: http://www.gosugamers.net/forums/categories/overwatch/
LFT Subreddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/overwatchlft
Overwatch Teamup: http://www.overwatch-teamup.com/
Another alternative are the various discord servers. I will go into more detail on discord later, but these channels should do the trick:
OWKings Discord: https://discord.gg/owkings
GosuGamers Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/0fOZnUZUrf6IOYbr
Competitive OW Discord: https://discord.me/Competitive-Overwatch
3.2) Finding practice games / pcws / scrims
Practice games have various names. European usually call them “pcw” (short for “practice clan war”) while Americans prefer the term “scrim” (short for “scrimmage”). Currently the preferred method by the Overwatch community to schedule these games is via Discord. The most popular channels to get you started are the following
OWKings Discord: https://discord.gg/owkings
GosuGamers Discord: https://discordapp.com/invite/0fOZnUZUrf6IOYbr
Competitive OW Discord: https://discord.me/Competitive-Overwatch
You might have noticed from the paragraphs above that Discord is a very important tool for every aspiring competitive Overwatch player. You can download Discord for free at https://discordapp.com . Discord combined both a IRC-like chat client with the ability to create voice chat servers for free.
Once you played a few practice games and got used to the ins and out of competitive Overwatch, the next step is to participate in tournaments. There are quite a lot of different online tournaments and leagues that are free to enter. However, for your first steps I’d recommend you playing one of the recurring weekly cups.
Popular weekly cups are:
GosuGamers Weeklies EU / NA:
Academy Gaming Weeklies:
I will expand this list at a later point, but it should be a good starting point. You can generally stay on top of signups for new tournaments by browsing GosuGamers or using FishStix’s google calendar which can be found here: Overwatch Tournament Calender
Don’t be afraid to enter tournaments, even if you think that you won’t make it very far. Playing tournaments is great practice and will help you getting experience playing against coordinated teams in a serious environment.
If you don’t have a team or want to put in extra hours outside of team practice, Pick Up Games, or short PUGs are a good way to improve and to network. At the time of writing there aren’t many public accessible PUG clients. However, the GosuGamers and the Competitive Overwatch Discord servers have PUG channels to get games started.
About the author:
I'm a FPS veteran with competitive experience of over 10 years under my belt and play Overwatch competitively since Beta Phase One. I'm a past professional player for OWKings, as well as a content creator for OWKings. Thank you for reading my competitive overwatch guide, you can follow me on twitter @michrFPS and on twitch at twitch.tv/michrr