Being a support can be a very tough job. As a support, you can make or break a game and a lot of that is influenced by how your teammates play as well.
Getting a POTG doesn’t happen often, so don’t expect to shine there. If you do well though, you’ll get a nice little card at the end of a match. You’ll get a few votes here, don’t worry. My point is: If you only thrive on positive feedback from your fellow Overwatchers and when your main drive is to get sweet POTGs, you might have to pick another role.
Then why would you want to play as support? Because it’s fun and, if you learn all the classes, you get a variety of possibilities to play during matches! Every match brings you a different challenge. Every team composition changes which hero you play and how you play them.
As support role you have to keep a lot of things in mind, each of which I will explain in detail
- Staying alive
- Who to heal and how to heal them
- Map awareness
- Team composition
Disclaimer #1: I do not claim to be the best healer. I wrote this guide for myself, to understand my own plays better and to figure out how I can improve my own game.
Disclaimer #2: I play Overwatch on the PS4. This thread is not supposed to be a “GET REKT CONSOLE HURRDURR PC MASTER RACE” thread, it’s about healing. And most of what I’m going to say will apply to all platforms, console and pc. If not, don’t worry. I’ll put a trigger warning.
Ah-ah-ah-ah Staying Alive
As a healer your main goal is to keep your team alive. Just don’t forget: You are also part of the team! If you don’t keep yourself alive, you can’t heal your fellow team members.
This means: positioning so you won’t be picked as gg-ez-no-re-target by your enemies. This means: hiding so that the enemies choose different targets. This means: running away from the battle if things get too hot. And remember to pick up health packs! Especially if there’s no 2nd healer to heal you, health packs can be the difference between blood on the wall or a healthy team!
Here’s some sweet calculations:
Mercy heals for 60HP per second. This means a fight lasting 20 seconds can allow you to heal for 1200HP. While dead, Mercy has the amazing ability to heal 0HP per second. It would cost you those 20 seconds just to revive and get back to the fight. See the difference in healing between being dead and staying alive?
Who to heal and how to heal them
Let’s talk about actual ingame healing and the things you have to keep in mind while healing your team.
To begin with: Always be fully aware of your team members’ positions and the quickest available route to get to them. Is the quickest route littered with enemies? Then you better know a different route.
There are several reasons why knowing where your teammates are is so important. First of all, you have to know who is within reach of getting heals and who isn’t. Secondly, if you get attacked, knowing instantly where the closest teammate that can help you is can be the difference between life or death. Lastly, you might find out you or your entire team are completely out of position and this can help you prevent getting killed off easily by flankers. Use the knowledge of where your teammates are at all times to determine the best position for you to stand and heal your teammates, while keeping yourself as safe as possible. Positioning is key to survival.
The best position to be at as healer also depends on your hero. Lucio can be closer to the combat than any of the other healers, while Ana has the range to be further away from the party. Mercy needs to be quite close to her team members, so she has to hide and fly around to keep the best position. Zenyatta needs to be around his team, but not as close as a Mercy and not as far as Ana.
In order to chose who to heal you have to keep in mind your target’s “healing priority”. Who is currently receiving most damage? Who has lowest health? Who is active in the fight and who’s not? How long can my target survive without a heal? Can any of the heroes counter the enemies?
Typically, tanks can hold off on their own without dying a lot longer than DPS heroes. This is why DPS heroes usually have a higher priority to receive heals. I say typically, because the DPSer being out of range or a tank receiving bazillions of DMG puts the healing priority straight back to the tank. This is why Genji is often a low prio target, as his flanking and speed get him out of range (except for Zenyatta, who can easily heal him from a bit further away). Luckily, a good Genji heals through picking up health packs. You also have to be mindful of your other healer if you have one. This other healer has a very high priority, because if that hero dies you’re suddenly stuck on your own. In a 5v6. Which is hard.
I can’t give you a specific “First priority is X, then Y, then Z” ranking, because it’s very situational. But if you keep accessing the situation and act accordingly, it’ll become second nature for you.
Quick side note: It’s important to understand that you don’t have to get everyone up to full health during a fight. Your main objective is to give your teammates enough health to win the fight.
Map awareness is often stated one of the most important things for flankers, but not often for healers. I believe that if you have good map awareness, you’ll find your chances of surviving increasing. Sadly, I can’t really go all to deep into detail about this, as it’s really just a matter of playing often and studying the different maps as good as you can.
Map awareness basically sums up into these things:
- Where are the health packs and which ones are closest to me?
- How long till these health packs are available? (Did someone just pick them up or not?)
- Are there flank routes? If so: Which heroes can take those routes? Do they help my team, or the enemy team?
- Is your position good enough, or can you find more cover with the same line of sight?
- Are there places around me I can go for cover if things get tough?
- Can I be covered more while keeping the same healing output?
- Is our team on the high ground? Is theirs? Neither? Can I go to high ground to be safer?
- How far from spawns are we? Are we closer to our spawn or closer to theirs? What impact does this have on death?
Every map is different. I advise you to play a custom match with just yourself to study the maps, so that you don’t have to study them during the fights. Look at youtube videos as well for nice map tricks and flank routes!
Communication is important for every team member. Telling each other your ult status, your position, whether or not you need help and where the enemies are is key to winning matches. As healer you can be a vital source of information.
As support you stand back from the fight just enough to see almost everything happening, so use this to your advantage. Call out when your team overextends, call out when one of the enemies overextends, call out when enemies try to flank.
Here’s a list of things I usually call out during a match:
- [hero], you are out of range for healing (when he’s being attacked)
- We’re overextending
- Stick to the point
- Let’s take [route]
- Let’s get highground
- We can push, [hero] of their team is dead
- Coming to you [hero] (when I see he’s being attacked)
- We’re being flanked by [hero], from [position]
- Bet you that random is going to take Hanzo (annnddd I’m right…)
- I died as [hero] (to emphasise the loss of which healer), healer down.
- Both our healers down guys!
- My [ult name] ult is ready / at 80%
- My ult is at [%] (After a team wipe / at the start of a push)
- Reaper/Reinhardt/Soldier/Zarya, you ready for Nano Boost?
- Their Zenyatta wasted his ult, wait for it and let’s push
- Last attack their used [x] ults, we have the advantage
- Discorded [hero] (with every hero you discord, no matter how often)
- Amp it up ready in 5
- Low on health, covering
- Let’s regroup guys
- Don’t trickle in, we’re only feeding their ults
- Enemy [hero] swapped to [hero]
- Slept [hero]
- Slept someone (even if I’m not exactly sure who, it’s still important info)
- We’re being countered/don’t have enough healing/don’t have enough dps. [hero], pick [hero] (Specifically mention who should switch as call to action, otherwise nobody thinks it’s their task to swap)
- Swapped from Ana to Lucio
- Good jobs guys, gg
As you can see, all of these are short callouts, specific bursts of information that my team could need.
[TRIGGER WARNING] In order to ensure everybody hears this information, our team invites all randoms to our party on PS4. Even if they cannot speak or don’t want to, it’s vital that they hear the same stream of information. On PC I suggest telling everyone they should voice chat and stress the importance of it.
Who to pick
Composition: /kɒmpəˈzɪʃ(ə)n/ – a creative work, especially a poem or piece of music.* Ahh, so what we’re trying to make is a poem! Imagine our composition is a beautiful haiku in making. And like a haiku, there’s a certain structure to uphold. Something about lines and syllables. In the current “haiku-meta” the structure is 2 tanks/2 DPS/2 healers. But with 4 healers, who should you pick and when?!
I personally consider using 3 healers as an overkill, and severe impact on either tanking capacity or dps capacity. Even if you take Ana/Lucio/Zenyatta or Ana/Mercy/Zenyatta so that each support still has DMG output, you still won’t reach the same total team DMG as when you would switch one for a pure attacking role like Soldier or McCree. I know 3 tanks/3 healers is becoming a thing, but you need solid teamwork for that.
Basing which hero to pick as healer really depends on which map you play on and who your teammates pick (team composition). I usually wait with my definite pick until all of the other team members chose their heroes. If I solo queue or am with lots of randoms, I pick a Lucio or Mercy at the start to show I’m serious about healing and then I wait for everybody else to pick their heroes before making my final decision.
Then it all boils down to having 1 or 2 healers in the team..
The higher your SR, the harder it is to be a Solo Healer on most maps. It requires a good team setup and positioning, and as a healer you have to be fully aware of everything that’s happening around you. However, especially when solo queuing, you’re more than likely to encounter games where you’re the only healer because your teammate decided he found a way better pick. That’s right, this section is dedicated to you, Hanzo.
I’d like to start by saying: staying alive is so much more important when you’re the only healer. You are the only source of health gain other than health packs, so it’s vital you stay alive. Remember that calculation I made about being dead? Exactly.
Being Solo Healer is easier to do when pushing a payload; the payload also provides heals to your team. Solo Healing can also be effective while defending certain points strategically when you’re Mercy. For example, I like Volskaya Industries and Hollywood a lot as “Solo Healer Mercy”, because often my teammates are on different heights spread closely around the same defence point, so I can easily fly back and forth. The better your team is with “height management”, the easier this is.
On the KotH maps (Illios, Lijiang Tower, Nepal), Lucio is my preferred Solo Healer, as his survivability is so high you can stay alive while still having a significant healing output. My main focus on these maps is to be as nimble as possible, while chipping away the enemies health as much as I can. It’s about finding the balance between keeping yourself safe and helping your team with DMG output.
I usually never solo heal with Zenyatta or Ana anymore, as my current ranking provides enemies that just pick them out for a quick kill too easily. Sometimes I still do as Ana, but this is while on Attack in Anubis, when a single good push can often take over the point. Anubis Attack offers a lot of nice spots for Ana to hide from plain sight, while still keeping high healing output, and her Nano Boost often surprises the enemy team when we come rushing to point B straight after capping point A. Your teammates are also often close enough for you to have all of them in your line of sight, providing heals to them easily. Keep in mind, Ana has the potential to outheal even Mercy, if you hit all of your shots and time reloads well.
I am trying to figure out how to be an effective Solo Healer on higher SR ranks though, as I value the DMG output that an addition DPS hero can bring. Once I found the golden ticket, I’ll put it here and get ONE BILLION DOLLARS.
One thing, especially for solo queuers: Don’t rage when the enemy team outflanks you and you don’t have anyone to protect you nearby. Learn from the mistakes your team made and find a different position next time. If you keep sticking at the back of your team, their Reaper and Tracer will always know where you are.
As I stated before, the current meta is having two healers in your team. This is often a Lucio/Zenyatta setup and less often a Zenyatta/Ana setup. Only rarely do you see Mercy/Lucio, Mercy/Zenyatta or Mercy/Ana.
This duo definitely deserves its own header. Lucio/Zenyatta is a very strong combo and at the end of Season 1 almost a must-pick for every situation. This is why still a lot of teams combine these two together, even though both heroes received a nerf. Together, their ults have the ability to counter almost every ult there is in the game, if used well. While Zenyatta focuses on healing the flankers, Lucio should aim at healing everyone close to him and using his speed boost when necessary. Both should focus on helping with attacking the enemy team, chipping away health when possible due to the (almost) passive nature of their heals. This combo shines on KotH and Assault maps on defence.
The only downfall about Lucio/Zenyatta is that the combination can be downed quickly by skilled flankers, and the use of ults has to be communicated well in order not to waste either one of the ults by using them at the same time. This often happens when both heroes see their team is low on health and as reflex use their ult to “SAVE EVERYONE HURRDURR”.
One of my favorite combos, as Ana is a potentially amazing healer and, if used well, has utilities no other hero brings to the game (sleep dart, cancelling heals). Because Lucio and Zenyatta got nerfed and players keep getting better and better as Ana, you see this combo happening more often (especially on PC, where aiming is more accurate if trained well). This combo is a nice pick for Attack and payload maps, when Ana boosts attacks while Zenyatta’s ult keeps the team alive in sticky situations.
Reasons to not pick to this combo are definitely there. It requires that both healer have an accurate aim to heal their team and do significant damage at the same, and sometimes it’s too hard to heal specific targets in a team that are too close together. Ana and Zenyatta also don’t shine in close combat, so just imagine the pure chaos you’ll get when this combination is used on a KotH map.
Lucio/Ana is a combination based on healers being able to fend off enemies long enough to have their team help them. While Lucio provides the passive team healing, Ana snipes the team members that are receiving too much damage. Whenever enemies try to pick them, they can use their utilities (sound blast, sleep dart) to temporarily throw the enemy off and rush back to their team for help. Both heroes can help with dealing damage, which is also very nice. Definitely nice to use on Assault attack.
Sadly, Lucio/Ana doesn’t shine much on certain maps where Ana’s combat style just doesn’t fit. Close quarter combat just isn’t her speciality. And people often prefer a Lucio/Zenyatta combo, as Zenyatta’s discord orb helps the entire team with doing damage.
Mercy/Lucio, Mercy/Zenyatta, Mercy/Ana
Here we have all the Mercy combos. Mercy hasn’t seen much play last season due to the fact that Lucio/Zenyatta was so overwhelming. The reason I list all of these together is because I sadly haven’t had a lot of time to test all of them out this season just yet. I can see these combos happening more during the span of Season 2, as Mercy’s resurrect is a very valuable ult to have, especially on Defence and KotH.
Mercy/Lucio is a very powerful healing combo, but lacks the DMG output any other Lucio combo has. That’s why you often don’t see this combination in higher ranked plays, but in lower ranked this combo does happen. This is due to lower ranks often having 1 tank and 3 DPS, which is easier to heal with this combo.
Mercy/Zenyatta is the combo I’ve tried most often of all the Mercy combos. I like the stable healing output, along with the two ults that can basically give a team 3 full lives. Especially on defence points I can see this combo working well. One thing to keep in mind though: For this combination to work well, it’s recommended that your DPSers know what they’re doing to keep DMG output high. Mercy can also help with boosting her teammates, of course.
Mercy/Ana is a combo I haven’t seen a lot at all. I feel like this combo just doesn’t pack the punch when it comes to team survivability. Not having a Zenyatta or Lucio ult is definitely ill-advised when fighting Zarya as they can both counter her ult by using their own and Zarya is an often picked character right now.
The type of map does not necessarily determine your pick. Your pick has to work well with your teammates too. Here’s some examples.
Do we have a Rein/Zarya combo? Love Mercy on this one. Those three together are a force to be reckoned with. Zarya pops her shield on Rein as I heal both of them and when it gets too hot, Zarya pops her shield on me so I can quickly go to safely while the two tanks slowly retreat.
Do we have a lot of flanking heroes or heroes that are never close to each other (genji, tracer and reaper for example)? Better take Zenyatta, as he has a longer healing range than Mercy.
Do we already have a Lucio? Maybe it’s better to pick a Zenyatta instead of Mercy to provide additional DPS support as Lucio can carry most healing on his own already.
Roadhog? Mercy’s boost is a hell of a pain on this one. Same goes for McCree, Soldier and Pharah. Gotta love boosting their DPS for some quick kills.
Roadhog/Mei/Soldier/Mercy/Rein? Might not be the best time to take another healer, as there already is a whole lot of self healing in this team. Hey, I never said you ALWAYS have to be the healer!
Zarya and Winston? I love Ana for these. Being able to heal them both from a small distance as they charge into the enemy’s’ front lines is a blessing to them. And just imagine the sweet justice you can rain upon your enemy when you have a fully charged Zarya buffed with a Nano Boost… Mmmmmmmmm…
Did either of your teammates pick a Lucio or Mercy? Zenyatta is your friend for discording, Ana is your friend for Nano Boosting. Depending on your own preference, pick either. Do mind that if your teammate is a Mercy, it might be better to take Zenyatta as he can counter a lot of ults with his own ult.
As you can see, it takes thought to chose a healer for every situation. And sadly, not every same group of heroes plays the same. It also has a lot to do with your teammate’s play-styles.
Composition throughout a game
Something I’d like to point out is the value of switching heroes. A map does not necessarily need just one single healer pick. Sometimes point A has better healer picks than point B. Sometimes your team went from 2 tanks/2 DPS/2 healers to Hanzo/Genji/Hanzo/Genji/Tracer (DERP QUICKPLAY). Sometimes, your team just doesn’t stick together as much as you’d like so you need more speed or range to reach all of them. “But Mefoz, I already picked a healer!” So what? Swap it.
I like playing Ana whenever I can, so on The Temple of A-na-ubis (HAH! Get it?!) I used Ana to defend point A. I took her mighty sniper and stood on high ground to heal all my teammates while keeping their enemy Pharah at bay. Eventually, they managed to push through point A, and were on their way to point B. During the enemy’s first push to point B, I used the Nano Boost I saved up on our Reinhardt when I saw he and Zarya were fighting a group of 3 and both had their ult. Needless to say, they killed all 3. With one of the enemies already dead, this left us with 2 more enemies to fend off while my own team had all 6 members. You know what I did? I let the enemy kill me. Why? So I could instantly switch to Lucio, who is a far better healer to use at point B, due to all the walls you can ride on. Tactical suicide is a thing, sheeple.
I hope you enjoyed reading this guide and learned things from it. This concludes all of what I have to say about healing in Overwatch. If people want me to create hero-specific guides I will do so, as I already know what I want to put in those.