I see a lot of posts about new players playing with friends who want to know “good team comps,” and others who just don’t know when to pick who. These are some of the rules that I follow. This is a general guide for new players, and there are obviously cheesy comps and comps that pros use that are also very good.
First thing is, no matter how good your team comp, it means fuck all if the enemy team has good counters to you. You’ll be constantly shifting to make sure that this doesn’t happening. I like to come out of the gates with 1, preferably 2 tanks, 1 healer, 1 flanker (optional), and then the last 1-3 players should be able to stand on an objective and fight next to the tank at optimal levels. What I mean by optimal levels is that they can fight at their best in close quarters (basically, not snipers, sometimes not pharah, generally not Junkrat, etc). Good examples of the last category are soldier 76, mei, reaper, McCree, etc. Basically close range heroes. No tank teams can work, but no healer teams generally won’t.
Now for who counters, and plays well together:
McCree: my personal favorite. Pick him definitely if the enemy team has more than one of the following: Mei, Reaper, genji, tracer, McCree. With his flashbang combo, a competent McCree wins pretty much any 1v1 against these characters. If there are none of these characters, McCree does good against tanks too, but he doesn’t shine quite as much. Best on maps with lots of corners, and on any KOTH map. I don’t like him on Route 66, or hanamura offense. I’ll pretty much always pick him on Ilios: well, or Hollywood payload defense.
Reaper: definite pick against a multi tank team. Reaper shreds tanks like no ones business. Just make sure to stay away from McCree, and to not teleport anywhere in LOS of a widowmaker. Reaper can roam and flank or sustain on a point, so he’s quite flexible.
Soldier 76: almost always a solid pick on a team. I’m never sad to see someone pick soldier. Definitely pick if the enemy pharah is causing your team trouble. Use your incredible accuracy to poke out bastions from long range too. Can be good on any map, though he’s not great in too close quarters. You have no business being in tight alleyways, which is where other heroes WILL have an advantage over you. Stick with the team, burst shots 3-4 at a time.
Pharah: my go to anti bastion/torb. Pop corners all day and fire rockets. I’ll also pick pharah as the team long range especially if the enemy isn’t fielding a soldier or a widow. McCree’s hitscan can be dangerous, but at long range he only does 35/shot, so you shouldn’t be in too much trouble. Strongly consider pharah on any map with cliffs where you can boop people off (lijiang garden comes to mind)
Tracer/genji: the flankers. Teams of newbies should not have more than one, because quite honestly these are some of the highest difficulty characters, and a bad flanker is barely a nuisance. Good against most teams, though I find genji better against bastion. These characters should be hitting important characters like widow or mercy, and then GTFO to do it again later. do not engage McCree, and unless you’re confident about it , don’t bother chasing after enemy genjis/tracers, it takes too long and you could be impacting the game better elsewhere.
Junkrat: another neutrally good pick, I like him best on KOTH maps for obvious reasons. Just make sure your team has enough heroes who can fight well on the point. Lay traps on the backline if there’s a tracer about, a trapped tracer is a dead tracer. Junkrat also excels at pressuring shields. Not the best at payload pushing, however.
Hanzo: unfortunately I feel he’s overshadowed by widow at long range, and soldier at mid range. There’s not really any hero I feel he performs particularly strongly against, so to me he seems mediocre all around. If you make him work, more power to you. Just make sure to save his scatter for close range.
Widowmaker: strong pick as long as the enemy doesn’t have a Winston. Flankers can be problematic but I find that Winston will always push your shit in. Has a harder time on KOTH maps, since good firing lines are hard to find, and you will be more vulnerable than usual. Exception to this rule: Ilios ruins.
Mei: the noob killer. Sadly though in most scenarios, she’s neutrally mediocre. The usual mccree rule applies. She definitely shines on defense, where she can split attacking teams in half with her wall (which has an absurd amount of health and uptime). With good use of your shift, you can go toe to toe with most characters in close range, even tanks.
Bastion/torb: these characters drink the tears of noobies, but underperform in most other scenarios. Almost never picked on KOTH maps due to how vulnerable they are. Both play well with Reinhardt though. Pick bastion as a nasty surprise against a team turning a corner on payload maps, but be sure to displace afterwards. Torbjorn can be the noob answer to tracer if totally necessary on defense.
Roadhog: more of a bruiser than a tank. If roadhog is your only tank, reconsider the team comp. I most often pick him on point A defense of Anubis, since the choke point has a column in the center protecting you from multiple lines of fire. I use him to deal with soldier 76, hanzo, Junkrat, pharah, since the best ranges for these characters are juuuust in hook range. Sadly in most games he ends up as an ult battery for the enemy team, so be careful picking him. If you can’t maintain >50% hook accuracy, roadhog is not for you. Particularly strong on Nepal sanctum, where you can hook people into the abyss, and can drop down from the side and push people off the point into the hole with your ult.
Zarya: plays best with other tanks, particularly non Reinhardt ones and especially zarya/roadhog. Double zarya on a point can be incredibly sticky, as they maintain almost 50% shield uptime and gain charge tremendously fast. Dont pick if the enemy has too many long range characters. Not ideal as a solo tank.
Reinhardt: if you’re wondering if Reinhardt is a good pick in any scenario, the answer is almost always yes. The only time I don’t pick him is if my team is trying to break through a bastion choke. You’re better off just killing bastion yourself in most cases.
Winston: incredible on KOTH maps, and a definite pick against good widowmakers. Stay away from reaper and roadhog. The hook/shoot combo lands almost entirely on Winston’s face, resulting in 1-2 shot kills. Winston will have a hard time without dedicated heals, though, so watch out.
D. Va: sadly I find her overshadowed by Winston for harassing the backline, and for defending a point. Can be good on capture points just to clear areas with ult.
Mercy: plays best with soldier, bastion due to her damage buff. Gliding with a pharah and boosting her can be cute, but I find that you’re too vulnerable in the air. Can use roadhog as a battery for ult as well.
Lucio: incredible pretty much anywhere. Double lucio to boost through choke points on offense is a great play, especially when coupled with Winston or Reinhardt.
Zenyatta: sadly nerfed. Never pick when there’s a widow on the other side. Start to reconsider if there’s a genji or a tracer. Can be good against multi tank teams, but zenyatta should not be your main heals because of how easily he can be picked off.
Symmetra: also a mediocre hero now. Can be okay on defense against mobile heroes like genji and tracer by just closing off routes. just make sure your team has real heals. Also: if you’re playing a 2 point map, switch if you lose the first point. Your ultimate does very little to help hold point B
I started to get lazy towards the end but hopefully this helps new players make smarter picks. Just try to make sure you’ve got counters to their best players (check who’s on fire), and that your own character isn’t too countered (example: if the enemy has 2 mcCree, you have no business picking mei or reaper.)
Edit: zarya may charge ult even when Reinhardt shields. I had heard of this but never thought to confirm it, so I might be wrong in my above post. Learning every day.
Edit 2: keep in mind, your milage may vary. Some things may work better or worse for you. These are just my opinions that I hope push new players in the right direction. Since someone asked, I have over 150 hours in the game. There are definitely better players who might disagree with me on some of my points. Experiment with many suggestions.