A Guide to Off-Tank Utilities (TL;DR at Bottom)
Hello everyone! Recently, there have been many confused players trying to figure out the meta, and especially confused about knowing which flex tanks (off-tanks) to run and why. People commonly say ?Sigma was used the most because he?s OP,? or ?DVa doesn?t get used because she isn?t strong enough.? However, these are pretty flawed viewpoints for one big reason ? while those heroes may be powerful, on the pro scene a hero is used for what they can do above all else. What they do may be?why?they?re overpowered, but it?s important to recognize the small distinction. So I decided to try my hand at writing down some of my thoughts on theorycrafting with flex tank heroes.
Without further ado, we?ll be looking at Sigma, Dva, Zarya, and Roadhog. There will be some extra sections about Orisa (as a flex tank), Wrecking Ball (as a flex tank), off-tanks in general, and the use of double flex tank comps.
What?s the Point of a Flex Tank?
A flex tank is a tank hero who helps (1) controlling the usage of off-angles, (2) preserve your main tank, and (3) peel for backline. These roles are pretty consistent between all the flex tank heroes, even though they each have their way of doing so. But the most important concept to understand is that there?s significant overlap between these responsibilities, and you can often accomplish peel or preserving your main tank through the control of off-angles. Control of an off-angle just means either using and occupying the off-angle yourself, or preventing an enemy player from using it by forcing them away.
Controlling off-angles prevents your backline from being flanked or pressured, meaning they don?t need peel. It also means that your backline is staying alive to help keep your main tank survive, and that your main tank isn?t being pressured from off-angles as well. This post and VOD about?Peel vs. Pressure?by Coach Spilo (Contenders coach) is an excellent resource for learning more about this.
As I go through the flex tanks, remember that the number one goal is to be using or preventing use of off-angles, whether that be through occupying them yourself or threatening them.
DVa ? Optimized for Movement
Dva?s Key Benefits:
- Rapid Aggression: Her boosters enable her to engage at a faster pace than other flex tanks.
- High Mobility: Additionally, her boosters make her the best at moving back and forth between off-angles, most notably high ground. Dva is the best flex tank at contesting high ground.
- Strong Peel: Her Defense Matrix and Boosters let her have reliable peel at a moment?s notice.
Dva excells at rapid playstyles and most notably her ability to contest high grounds. There?s a key difference between?contesting?and?controlling?high grounds, however, and that?s in the amount of time they can occupy the angle. Dva?s matrix only lasts so long, so while she can booster up to high ground and very easily use off-angles, she?s forced out easily and generally only can contest it. This means timing is crucial. You can think of contesting high ground as controlling it at key moments, instead of entirely.
She?s a great pick for Dive teams that use fast pacing and use a Winston or no Brigitte, because Winston and Brigitte-less backlines require significantly more peel than other flex tanks can consistently provide. She?s a durable tank, and is one of the best picks as a flex tank when there are important high grounds, especially when said high grounds are difficult to access without vertical mobility.
The section on Dva is brief, because I?m less looking at each hero, and more comparing them to each other. I?ll be comparing her to the other flex tanks in each section. She?s a good comparison point thanks to her overall balanced performance in terms of burst damage threat, mobility, and sustained presence.
Sigma ? Optimized for Control
Sigma?s Key Benefits:
- Off-Angle Control: Unlike any other flex tank, Sigma has a shield. This means that he can actually control an off-angle, unlike any other flex tank, since he can poke without bleeding ult charge or his own healthpoints. Kinetic Grasp and Shields in his hitpoints make this even better. By controlling the off-angles and preventing DPS from occupying them, or even just shielding the off-angles and long sightlines, Sigma can protect his backline.?Control is consistency.
- Stronger Duelist: Yet another reason why he?s strong at controlling off-angles. Sigma is one of the strongest duelist heroes in the entire game thanks to his myriad of abilities, and this means he?s very difficult for any single player to force off of high ground. Generally multiple heroes will have to be dedicated to forcing a Sigma out of the off-angle.
- High Damage: Sigma has consistent damage output, that allows him to exert significant pressure. Remember, pressure is peeling, and if the enemy supports have to turn around to look at a Sigma who?s threatening them from an off-angle or flank, then their main tanks aren?t receiving that support and can?t feasibly pressure your OWN main tank.
These benefits come at the cost of low mobility above all else, and being a squishier target (only 400 Hp, with no armor). The low mobility tends to be his defining trait ? without vertical mobility, he has to play a much slower pace and is less forgiving with the decisions when it comes to high ground. Even more relevant is the lack of horizontal mobility, meaning Sigma plays at a much slower pace than Dva.
You use Sigma for map?control. He gives consistency and damage pressure at the cost of mobility and peel. This means teams using Sigma generally want to play a slower style, focused on controlling angles first before engaging. Map geometry also comes into play ? he?s used over Dva when there?s less high ground and longer sightlines, because his kit can get far more value in that situation. Lastly Sigma generally is a greedy tank. He?s self-sufficient for the most part, but doesn?t give as much peel to the team either. For example, if a team is running an Orisa, she doesn?t need much peel. It lets Sigma control off-angles with teammates like he does best, and play independently. Similarly, running Sigma on a Dive composition is a choice when playing a main tank and support line that don?t need resources. This means if you have a Brigitte player along with a Wrecking Ball (or a more conservative Winston), there?s not as much reason for Dva in the dive comp. You don?t need the peel. So you take the more consistent damage, pressure, and map control instead, because map control wins games. Similarly, when there isn?t a target that can be aggressively dove on without feeding, Sigma?s slow approach often comes out on top.
Zarya ? Optimized for Force
Zarya?s Key Benefits:
- High Damage: Zarya takes the cake out of the flex tanks when it comes to sheer damage output. When her charge is built up, no takes realistically come close to applying the same amount of damage pressure as her.
- Bubble Utility: Zarya?s Protective Bubbles have a cleansing effect (useful against antinades, Dynamite, Freeze, etc) and can reactively protect someone who?s already in trouble. Sigma has essentially no way to reactively protect, and Dva can?t reactively protect against CC.?Zarya?s Bubble is the only flex tank ability to provide reliable insurance against CC abilities,?and that?s largely why she?s been prominent on the pro scene recently.
Zarya has a similar lack of mobility to Sigma, though she has a little more thanks to Rocket Jumping, which can allow her to move faster horizontally and a little extra wiggle-room vertically. She also shares his Shield health and 400 Hp, making her also fairly squishy. The key caviat to Zarya?s kit is that she?s inconsistent, due to her Bubbles being used on a cooldown. She can?t easily control spaces like Sigma except through sheer damage output, because her Bubble only lasts for a couple seconds and after it she has no real protection. She?s similar to Dva in that she?s solid at contesting and denying off-angles, though Zarya can?t access them herself very easily and prefers to threaten more through burst impact than sustained durability.
You would run Zarya over Sigma (both being damage-focused) when you want to utility of Bubble against CC abilities, such as against Brigitte?s Whip Shot/Shield Bash, Ashe?s Coach Gun, or Roadhog?s Chain Hook. She?s less consistent than Sigma, meaning that she?s better in comps based on burst value (Brawl and Dive) rather than sustained value (Spam or any Spam hybrid). She?s great at quickly clearing out off-angles thanks to her high damage output, but because of the Bubble cooldown can?t hold them as well without consuming team resources (healing, teammate?s presence, etc), which as I said earlier favors quick rushes.
She?s the most lethal tank when it comes to pure frontline battles, which is why she?s often strong on ladder where in lower ranks not as many people use off-angles and flanks to their maximum potential. She?s especially good on ladder right now because Shields aren?t as strong, which enables Roadhog, and she?s the only tank who can really do anything to protect a hooked teammate (except for Dva to some degree). She?s also strong in the pro meta right now because she provides that CC insurance for their Winston. In general, Dva is better at contesting high ground than Zarya and more consistent in terms of value. Meanwhile Sigma is better at controlling off-angles and slower paces of play. Zarya outvalues Dva in terms of damage and burst impact, while outvaluing Sigma in terms of peel and burst pressure.
Roadhog ? Optimized for Being a DPS
Roadhog?s Key Benefits:
- Independent Kill Pressure: Roadhog can provide consistent kills with Hook combos, unlike Zarya who needs to charge up and be pocketed to some degree. His Take a Breather ability also means that he can occupy flanks without needing to use team resources.
- High Damage: Roadhog is another flex tank based on damage pressure, like Zarya and Sigma, except his is based on getting value with Hook and picking off opponents. He?s another strong duelist hero like Sigma (arguably the second best in the game), and can easily find pick-offs. He also has good shieldbreak because of the strong shotgun shots.
- Durability: Take a Breather makes him hard to kill without CC or team coordination.
Roadhog?s been out of the meta for a long time for a reason. First, he bleeds ult charge because he has no sort of protection ability to negate damage ? only the ability to recover his healthpoints after taking it. Second, it?s fully mechanics-based value, and relies on hitting Hooks to confirm the kills. Third, he has no way to peel for teammates realistically besides Hooking and killing them, which is not exactly the most consistent. He takes the ?pressure is peeling? creed very seriously as well, and plays better as a flanker himself. Fourth, he has no mobility whatsoeover. Fifth and finally, his ult has considerably less utility in most situations than any other flex tank.
Roadhog excels at independent play, and for all practical purposes behaves like a DPS. He can?t directly peel or protect his main tank very well (except through dubious backline Hooks and bodyblocking), so he?s entirely based upon the pressure on angles. However, he can?t control angles like Sigma, who also rivals him in terms of damage output while being more consistent. He also can?t flexibly contest angles like Dva due to his lack of mobility. So what?s left? Well,?using?the off-angle. He?s like Zarya where he forces out off-angles with sheer threat and damage output, except that (1) he doesn?t require as much team resources thanks to his self-heal, and (2) provides EVEN MORE burst damage than Zarya on those flanks. He only needs the one split second to land a hook. Until Roadhog?s buff and Sigma?s nerfs, Sigma just did Roadhog?s job but entirely better, because the vast increase in consistency outweighed the higher burst. Now it?s up in the air.
Everyone now has been wondering what Roadhog?s place in the meta will be, after his recent buffs and rapid influx into the circus composition meta of Roadhog/Zarya (essentially deathmatch). Everyone is ESPECIALLY wondering what will be happening on the pro scene. Frankly, I don?t know. Roadhog doesn?t provide peel that Reinhardt and Winston really need, and Orisa?s current state means she may or may not have been nerfed enough to make her still able to function without the peel. Brigitte?s nerfs mean backlines may need more resources too. This leaves Roadhog with either Wrecking Ball, or Double Flex Tank. I?ll talk about Double Flex Tank at the very end, but in short, you would run Roadhog when you don?t need Peel (independent backline and tank partner), want more burst damage than Sigma and Zarya can provide, and don?t want to rely on team resources. I think he?ll become potentially meta if Orisa?s halt changes are reverted, but without a main tank to synergize with, I can?t see him being used in the pro scene much.
Orisa ? Optimized for Being a Main Tank
Orisa?s Key Benefits:
- Main Tank: Orisa is literally a main tank. She provides more consistent staying power than Sigma even, thanks to her shield, and can protect frail DPS such as Symmetra because of it. Her Fortify ability also makes her incredible durable. I?ll be talking about her in the context of using her as the flex tank though (even though comps like Orisa/Ball can work in theory).
- Halt: Halt is an incredibly powerful ability for setting up team plays. It?s as simple as that ? she doesn?t have much utility besides it, but Halt is just insanely useful and good. Even with it?s nerf it?s still solid, though the current experimental reverts the nerf to focus on more critical issues (the DPS and healing creep).
Orisa?s a main tank. She has no mobility, EXTREMELY low burst pressure (despite solid sustained pressure), and realistically very little peel because of low burst pressure or reactive team abilities. This means you?re running a self-sufficient backline (such as Moira/Lucio, Brigitte, etc), and really want to keep some frail DPS hero alive ? generally a Symmetra. You see her sometimes paired with Reinhardt because together they can pocket said frail DPS heroes like Symmetra and Bastion, or they can form a brawl comp together. Realistically she provides more frontline shielding and sustained ranged chip than any other tank, at the cost of requiring more resources, having less peel, and less burst damage.
You would use Orisa as a flex tank with a Reinhardt for the goal of protecting a single target on the frontline ? there?s a reason that Bastion and Symmetra bunker comps are weak to off-angles. Orisa can?t properly contest the off-angles like a true flex tank would. She could also be used for a brawl variant over Sigma, though if I?m honest I?m not sure what she brings to the table over him.
Wrecking Ball ? Optimized for Simultaneous Engage
Wrecking Ball?s Key Benefits:
- Mobility: Wrecking Ball just is stupidly fast, and has some of the best mobility in the game. He?s a born flanker, and flanking is exactly what he does on the flex tank position. When used with an Orisa or Winston, the idea is to simultaenously engage from a flank to provide pressure.
- Speed/Burst: Wrecking Ball provides extremely high burst value with his Slam and Adaptive Shields, meaning that he?s good when there?s
- Self-Sufficiency: Lastly, Wrecking Ball is the most independently functioning tank hero. He has the mobility to reach health packs for Sustain similar to Roadhog, but doesn?t feed ult charge as much thanks to his Adaptive Shields. He?s hard to hit, hard to punish, and requires next to no resources.
Realistically yes, Wrecking Ball has other benefits, but they?re mostly from the perspective of being a main tank. In terms of being a flex tank, he?s similar to Hog in that his utility is entirely dependent on pressuring the enemy backline or anyone from flanks (due to no peel or protection). He has extremely burst-based impact, and doesn?t do well in sustained fights. There?s a reason he?s seen more with Zenyatta when running Winston/Ball dive; it?s based on getting a target quickly and murdering it.
Wrecking Ball would be used when you don?t need peel (independent backline and more or less independent main tank), want extremely burst impact, and backline/flank pressure with high grounds. He?s like Tracer as a tank form. You would use Wrecking Ball as a flex tank with Orisa and Winston, because they?re the only ones who can satisfy the conditions of needing less peel (when Winston plays a more safe playstyle anyways). Orisa could work in theory, but would be hard to execute because your team would have to pressure very quickly to get value from the Wrecking Ball, which is problematic considering Orisa?s lower mobility. Winston works with Wrecking Ball, but that just comes down more to different flavors of dive. Winston with Wrecking Ball plays more as a burst-based glass cannon composition, while Winston and Dva plays more slow and traditional.
So What?s Up With Double Flex Tank?
Double flex tank, for the most part, is not viable. Especially on offense, where it?ll suffer because nobody exists to make space. Main tanks use some combination of blocking or threatening to help your team move from Point A to Point B, and draw attention. For example, Reinhardt can?t attack while shielding, and is mostly based on blocking, with a tiny bit of threatening. Winston is mostly based on threatening, with a little bit of attacking. Wrecking Ball has?no?shielding but is very threatening.
Without a main tank, there?s no way to realistically move your team across the map, meaning you have no way to actually gain map control except through getting pick-offs. It?s a deathmatch style of play. A double flex tank composition works better on defense because you already have that space, and it?s the idea that you play in from all the different angles with pressure so that the enemy team can?t move anywhere safely. For example, Roadhog Zarya can have both on slight off-angles from the main choke, and pressure anyone who?s coming through with their high damage. But realistically it has no way to actually break through the choke unless someone makes a mistake on the enemy team and lets them get a pick. I don?t ever feel like it?ll be the ?meta? sort of comp, despite it?s use in Contenders recently, for this exact reason. Maybe an option, sure, but not the definitive meta.
When playing with a double flex tank composition, it?s important that you don?t just play main. You aren?t a main tank. You?re a flex tank. A Sigma who tries to play as a main tank when with a Hog will essentially always lose, because he isn?t really equipped to block or threaten enough in a way that he?ll ever win a frontline war. Instead, he should be flanking from a different angle than the Hog, and have both providing pressure from the sides.
Brief Ending Summary (TL;DR)
Flex tanks are used above all to provide pressure from off-angles, and prevent enemy players from pressuring your team through these off-angles. This can help achieve the side goals of providing peel and keeping your main tank alive. Each flex tank has different specialties.
- Dva is used for vertical mobility and peel
- Sigma is used for long-term map control and damage
- Zarya is used for Bubble value and damage
- Roadhog is used for highest burst damage
- Orisa and Wrecking Ball are situational
While I know this was a really long guide, I hope that my main concept of ?helping people understand why a tank is used in x situation? was acheived. It?s mostly about helping people understand the theorycrafting with a hero, rather than just having to imitate what the pros are using and justify it with ?it?s strong.? Would love to hear feedback and may or may not make edits later on if I got something incorrect. Thanks if you read through it!