WARNING: MEATY GUIDE AHEAD
Hello everyone! I’m back with another guide, after writing my When to Use Each Flex Tank guide two weeks ago. Recently somethough that’s been on my mind is how to play one composition versus another one, because when I was learning Overwatch originally that was something I really struggled with. Reinhardt is fairly intuitive versus another Reinhardt, but what about versus Dive? What about versus a Hybrid composition? So today, I’m looking at compositions, with a lot of my thoughts based on a wonderful video series and slides by coach Ben “Thor” Richter, an assistant coach for T2 team Sheer Cold. Highly recommend taking a look at it.
I’ll be giving a TL;DR summary right here for less reading-inclined individuals, though below here I go through more of the content and logistics, and at the very bottom I talk about hybrid comps, which is the really valuable stuff, even though I’m barely scratching the surface.
A Brawl comp wants to fight enemies directly as a single unit, and needs to close the distance. A spam comp has an advantage against Brawl, because Brawl doesn’t have map control and can’t easily pressure out the angles. To deal with this, the Brawl comp should force objective or run down a section of the Spam comp as a whole team, while trying to use pathing to reduce the angles the Spam comp has available. A Brawl comp has an advantage over a Dive comp, because it likes to play as a single unit, making it hard to Dive. Pretty much just use abilities and resources to survive the initial dive, and you’ll be fine.
A Dive comp wants to find vulnerable enemies (alone or weak), and quickly burst them down from multiple angles. A Dive comp is weak against Brawl, because there aren’t any isolated targets. To get around this, you have to FORCE targets into vulnerable positions through pressuring them with damage, soft dives, abilities, and ultimates. A Dive comp is strong against Spam, because Spam isolates itself, and you can pretty much just dive onto them. Be careful to take pauses during the dive to replentish resources, so you don’t get engage and get burnt down.
A Spam comp wants to use multiple angles to control the map and use long range poke damage to burn enemy resources. That way, by the time they reach your position, they have no resources left, and you can just run them over. A Spam comp is strong against a brawl, and just needs to focus on maintaining its angles and kiting back to burn resources. A Spam comp is weak against Dive, and needs to focus on burning down the enemy Dive tanks so that they can’t engage as a team – that and playing safer, to avoid presenting vulnerable targets.
Questions are welcome, I’ll do my best to get to them. Below here is my actual writing. I’m praying that I made sense here at all, and didn’t ramble endlessly like I sometimes do after writing late at night.
What is a Team Composition?
In short, a team composition is just what heroes you have on your team, and what they do. There are three types of team compositions in Overwatch – Brawl, Dive, and Spam. Brawl heroes have close range damage. Dive heroes have high mobility. Spam heroes have consistent long range damage. Some heroes fit cleanly into one category, but there’s possibility for overlap. For example, Doomfist needs close range damage, but also can dive thanks to higher mobility.
Team compositions are important because it means you’re choosing heroes who have similar strengths and weaknesses, who work well together and can reliably be used to win matches. It’s a sort of natural coordination – think of Sigma and Hanzo. They both love holding angles and high ground, while staying at a mid to far distance from the enemy. Both are spam composition heroes.
LINK to presentation slide with important visual graphic by Thor (#Thor5863)
Above is a basic graphic that shows when each composition gets value in a fight. Brawl has high power at the start (in the mid-fight), but loses value the further it goes. Dive has extremely high power the moment that the dive happens, but then doesn’t get value before or after it easily. Spam has consistent power throughout a fight, and best gets value by outlasting the opponents. You always want to be trying to win the fight during your “win condition” moment.
Team Composition Matchups
I’m skipping mirror compositions because generally it’s just a matter of playing better and setting up the fight in a smarter way. Mirror fights generally are more intuitive for players. HOWEVER, if you are interested in learning more, Thor talks about it in the video series above, and in the description of his video’s there’s a really useful slideshow that I grabbed the above graphic from.
Brawl into Dive: When playing Brawl into Dive, you have an advantage because Brawl plays grouped together, while Dive wants to target isolated or weakened opponents. Focus on the objective, or surviving the initial dive. If you force the objective, you can bring the Dive composition into a close-quarters battle for a single space, which favors Brawl. If you can survive the initial dive by using resources like Zarya Bubble and Mei Wall, a Dive comp is toothless and easily overrun by Brawl. Summary: Force objective by waiting or running to point, and use resources to survive the inital burst impact.
Brawl into Spam: A Brawl comp is weak against a Spam comp, because a Brawl comp has no map control. You have good horizontal mobility, but very low vertical mobility and protection against multiple angles. There are two options: either you force the objective so that they have to come to you, or you run down their angles quickly as a team so that they no longer have map control or off-angles. If you can catch a section of a Spam comp while they’re out of position, it can provide an opportunity. Above all though, be smart with pathing – move as a team behind cover, so that you don’t burn resources like Reinhardt’s shield before the fight begins. Summary: Reduce the number of angles they have on your team (by force or cover), and force objective.
Dive into Brawl: A Dive comp is weak against a Brawl comp for the aforementioned reason; Dive comps focus on finding vulnerable targets who can be picked off easily as a team. However, a Brawl comp will normally play as a single unit. This means you have to FORCE opportunities, through poke damage, soft dives, abilities, and ultimates. You pressure the enemy until someone is vulnerable. Poke damage can drop someone low enough to be dove on, such as from Echo. Soft dives are when you jump onto an enemy team for a brief moment, just to draw out abilities, but quickly fall back down or back to cover so that you can replentish resources before diving again while the enemy team is still recovering. Abilities and ultimates like Ana’s Bionade and Sombra’s EMP can create openings for a dive as well.
Dive into Spam: A Dive comp is strong against a Spam comp because a spam comp wants to play in separated units around the map. This means there are isolated heroes, and Dive LOVES to feed on isolated heroes. You essentially just set up to dive on an isolated target from multiple angles, and once everyone is ready, you go for it. It’s just normal Dive in its purest form. However, after you dive a target, remember to take a moment to reset and get your resources back before reengaging. A spam comp is all about burning away resources, so you should spend them wisely and not engage without key abilities like Winston’s Shield or Dva’s Defense Matrix.
Spam into Brawl: A Spam comp has a strong advantage against a Brawl comp, because a Brawl comp can’t easily drive them off high ground, and can’t handle multiple angles of pressure. Split your team against Brawl, so that it’s harder to run anyone down and so that you can burn their resources more effectively. Control the map. When you see a Brawl comp is going to be coming towards a unit, kite back (retreat) so that you can increase the distance between you and the Brawl unit. Remember, the further the distance between you and your enemy, the more time it takes for them to get to you, and the more time they need, the less resources they have by the time they reach you. Once the Brawl comp has no resources, you can engage them more aggressively.
Spam into Dive: A Dive comp is a very difficult matchup for a Spam comp. A Spam comp wants to be split, but Dive isolates and kills. So you have to control the map without isolating yourself as much. ABOVE ALL, focus on pressuring their tanks, so that they can’t dive in the first place. Beyond that, maximize distance from the diving enemies (similar to brawl), and then use your tanks as bait on point. Don’t give them any vulnerable targets from the squishies – supports need to stay away from the dive zones, and you control the map with more aggressive tank play. Don’t split apart as much versus a Dive comp.
A Hybrid composition uses heroes who fit into different categories on a single team. They trade focusing on single traits for more flexibility and having multiple win conditions. Essentially they combine the weaknesses and strengths of each composition. When facing a Hybrid composition, identify which playstyle (brawl/dive/spam) your composition is weak against, and then play the match as if their full team were the style you’re weak against. For example, a Spam comp playing against a Spam/Dive hybrid should treat the match as if they’re fighting a pure Dive comp, and play more grouped up and tank-focused.
In my example of Spam heroes, I gave Hanzo and Sigma. They both create strong angle pressure. However, what about Hanzo and Winston? While you’ll lose in a spam battle, suddenly you have a new win condition – diving them while Hanzo pressures. Meanwhile versus a Brawl comp, you could still just hang back and spam using the Hanzo to create a dive opening. Lastly, you also have the added weakness of the Dive comp, where you have less sustained presence. It’s like a different flavor.
Application to Ladder & Current Meta
The current metagame has been very confusing for a lot of players, and it makes sense. The further we’ve moved into Overwatch’s timeline, the more Hybrid comps emerge, and it takes speedy adaptation from both players/coaches on the pro scene and just ordinary ladder joes.
Current Ladder Meta: Tracer (Sombra, ) / Ashe (Widow) / Roadhog / Zarya / Ana / Mercy
Here’s our standard meta sauce. You have Ashe, Widow, Ana, and Mercy, who all fit into the Spam playstyle of long range power. Roadhog kind of fits on the middle line between Spam and Brawl, while Zarya is straight up Brawl. The last hero is the Tracer/Sombra, who normally would be considered Dive, but in the context of a non-Dive team could be considered a Brawler. The current meta is a Brawl/Spam hybrid, where you put your off-tanks on two different spots and then run at the point hoping for the best and that you’ll get pickoffs with your snipers or Roadhog.
Current Scrim Meta: Sombra / Reaper (Ashe, Tracer) / Winston (Ball) / Dva / Moira / Lucio
Once again, think about which heroes are in each category. Sombra and Tracer are Dive. Reaper is Brawl. Ashe is Spam. Winston and Dva are both Dive. Moira and Lucio are Brawl DPS. For all practical purposes, the Reaper version you can consider to be a Brawl/Dive hybrid, that focuses on pressuring objective and high durability, while not giving up map control versus snipers. Note that the ladder meta is Brawl/Spam, which means that if you play your Brawl/Dive comp as if you were versus a full Brawl comp (the weakness), you essentially have a major advantage. Focus on sustain and pressuring the objective, until there are vulnerable targets.
As you can see, both of these modern comps are fairly Frankenstein-like creations, with 2-3 different playstyles smashed together into a single team. Coaches create comps like this largely because of the versatility it provides versus different playstyles, even if they don’t think “Hey what kind of comp is this” necessarily every time.
So you might be asking, “Gee, how do I apply this?” Excellent question. Versus the Current Ladder Meta, the best team matchups are Spam and Dive. A Spam composition entirely beats out the current meta, because it can match the spam heroes on the Ladder Meta (e.g. your Ashe vs their Ashe) while also having a range and angles advantage versus the Brawl heroes. A Roadhog can’t hide from a Hanzo or a Widowmaker very easily. Nor can they easily handle Pharah, Echo, and Ashe. That’s why these heroes are so strong. Unfortunately the Spam tanks are pretty hard hit, which is partly why this whole situation began in the first place, but Spam heroes are still very good generally. Dive heroes perform well against the Ladder Meta too – heroes like Winston, Wrecking Ball, Tracer, and Sombra. While they have a hard time versus the Brawly portions of the Ladder Meta (Roadhog and Zarya), they can easily run over the backline and DPS, who are more Spam-focused.
I’m not going to give specific tips on playing tanks in this meta, because Roadhog is probably getting patched tomorrow or whatever, and specific advice isn’t useful. I want you all to understand the game better. While every coach and player has different takes on how the game works, and some are less accurate than others, it’s all the same game we’re studying at the core level, and it’s more valuable for you to understand the game itself than for me to feed you “do this, do that” instructions.
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If anyone made it this far, congratulations. You get my most concrete advice! Use this knowledge to analyze your team composition at the start of a match. Go through this checklist:
What kind of playstyle is my team composition?
What does this composition want to do to win, and how can I contribute towards it? You either can contribute to the comp’s strengths, or try to patch up its weaknesses.
I’ll give a couple examples. If you’re on Ana with a Dive comp, try to antinade enemies to create openings for your Dive tanks to move in. If you’re on Ashe with a Spam/Brawl comp, focus on pressuring enemy spam heroes to reduce the number of angles, which frees up your tanks. If you’re a Sigma in a Dive comp, focus on playing a slower playstyle that can help burn down resources before a dive, which creates opportunities. Hope these help inspire some ideas!