Knowing and Playing your Role in Overwatch

Overwatch is a unique first-person shooter. Not only is it team-based, but the game is also role-based. Knowing how to play your role properly is vital to being a good teammate. Whether you are new to the game or a seasoned veteran you may find something helpful to enhance your Overwatch experience.

There are 3 roles in Overwatch.

  • Tanks
  • Damage
  • Support

Tanks in Overwatch

It Looks Like Reinhardt Is About To Get Beefier In 'Overwatch'
Reinhardt – the iconic shield tank.

Tanks are the leaders of the team. The biggest of bois, tanks are responsible for making and taking space. This enables damage teammates to get kills and support teammates to safely heal. 

Typically, the winner of the tank battle is the winner of the match. 

No pressure.

Tanks can be categorized into two groups – Main Tanks and Off Tanks.

Main Tanks

We haven’t officially run the numbers but when asked 9 out of 10 players will picture Reinhardt when imagining what a main tank is and does. With good reason. A large and loud German warrior with an even larger shield to protect his mates. Reinhardt exudes the essence of a main tank and couldn’t be more important to a team. Need to get through a choke? He’s your man. Having trouble with snipers? Reinhardt already is telling you to “Get behind [him]!”.

One of the most crucial things to remember when playing Rein is to be offensive. Too many players turtle up in a corner or stand at a choke only to watch their shield get shredded. Trust your teammates and walk through that choke like the alpha you are. Swing on any enemies dumb enough to get too close and charge (within reason and with backup) at foes caught out of position! Dominate!

The second most popular main tank is Orisa. Orisa has a barrier of her own but she also has a large minigun at her disposal. Played in the right comp, Orisa can excel at holding a vital position and spamming damage into an area that the opponents want to access. She’s not especially mobile so make sure that you can get to these key positions or else you may want to explore one of other main tanks.

Winston and Hammond round out the main tank roster. Differing greatly from the other two tanks, these beastly tanks excel at “diving”. Diving is a quick and powerful punch to an enemy team, often the backline. After a short period, you leap or roll away and set up for the next attack. With luck and success, you take out a key support player and win the team fight because of it. 

While they go about it differently, remember, your main job is to make space for your team to excel. If you are having trouble doing this, rather than blaming teammates first, think about yourself. Are you playing your hero properly? Is your playstyle assertive enough? Are the enemies preventing you from being successful as your current hero and should you switch? Communication with your teammates as the main tank can often have a trickle down effect on the rest of the hero picks. Especially, your Off Tank. 

Off Tanks

Off Tanks are the Robin to Main Tanks’ Batman. If being the head honcho is too intimidating but you still want to be a tank, give the Off Tank role a try. D.Va, Roadhog, Sigma, and Zarya are all Off Tanks. Each Off Tank has specific duties which can vary from game to game. 

D.Va is technically a “dive” tank but can also support virtually any main tank. With Winston or Hammond, make sure you go in when they go in.

Damage Dealers

Tracer received powerful new movement ability in Overwatch PTR update -  Dexerto
Tracer – the time-jumping DPS hero.

Damage, or DPS, is the most versatile and popular hero type in Overwatch. Being the most varied, they range from snipers and shotgun users to ninjas and a literal transformer.

A traditional way to categorize the DPS heroes is based on the behavior of the bullets. If the hero’s bullets behave as they would in the real world and travel to their target, they are considered to be projectile. Conversely, if the nanosecond you pull the trigger the bullets hit the target, they are considered to be hitscan. Classic hitscan characters are Widowmaker and McCree. Junkrat and Pharah are notable projectile heroes as they respectively fire grenades and rocket launchers.

Another way to divide the DPS heroes is based on movement. If diving or rushing your opponent, you can focus on heroes like Doomfist, Genji, or Tracer. These heroes have high mobility and/or small hitboxes. This allows them to get in close and fast, deal damage, and get out. Combining this with tanks who will, quite literally, tank some of the damage, a devastating team is in the making. 


Other heroes may perform better as flankers. Flanking involves getting behind or beside an opponent and kill them before they have time to react. This can come in different flavors. Widowmaker garners the most value in quickly dispatching 1 or 2 opponents to sway a fight before a brawl even begins. A more personal way to do this is with Reaper. With proper positioning, you can surprise a foe with his shotgun life stealing abilities, then wraith away before the opposing team has time to punish you.

Finally, there are certain DPS that can be very situational. But when in their element, they can dominate games. Mei can make getting through a choke a nightmare if the player properly places down her ice wall. With his rapid-firing turret, Bastion can be a terror to deal with in escort maps or as a surprise pick in overtime or final defensive points. With one of the best ultimates in the game, Sombra can shut down an entire team’s ability to use any cooldowns.

Remember, Damage has the greatest opportunity to alter your playstyle so if the match isn’t going in your favor consider switching to a different hero type. This may help you counter what the opponents are doing. Naturally, knowing how to play multiple heroes is vital if you want to be a successful Overwatch DPS player.

Overwatch Supports

Lucio Buffs on Overwatch PTR Punish Experienced Players | dbltap
Lucio – the speed-boosting DJ.

The final role in Overwatch is Support, owners of the fastest queues in the game. Support, as the name might suggest, is in their element when providing aid to the other members of the team. What may not be as obvious is that this doesn’t necessarily only mean healing. Similar to tanks, support can be separated into main and off sub-roles. 

Main Support

Main Support is responsible for primary healing, damage boost, or speed boost. This aide comes without the expense of cooldown usage. The heroes currently fitting this description are Mercy, Lucio, Baptiste and Brigette. In most cases, these heroes will lead the team in healing. By doing your job and playing your role, you can really enable the rest of your team to win exchanges.

Off Support

Off Support, aka Flex Support, helps the team by providing additional utility from cooldowns. Zenyatta, Moira, and Ana all have abilities that add extra damage potential either through orbs of discord, destruction, or anti-heal nades. While these heroes can lead the squad in over heals, they can truly turn a fight with additional abilities. 

An important thing to note is that many players of Overwatch divide support by main or off healers. Using this way of thinking could end up categorizing the heroes in a different fashion. Once you begin thinking of the support role beyond just healing output you can discover the true magic of winning fights. Don’t, however, pick a support hero and abandon all thoughts of healing though. Nobody wants a flanking Zenyatta getting wrecked by the enemy Doomfist before a fight even gets started!

Putting it all together

Depending on how you look at it, Overwatch is an extremely simple or complex game. The concept of working as a team towards a goal and properly adjusting when things aren’t going ideally is easy enough to understand. However, coordinating with five other humans without raging can seem like an impossible task some days.


The best bet is to worry about being the best individual player you can be. If it hasn’t been made abundantly clear in the article so far, this does not simply mean going for the most kills. Overwatch rewards team synergy. Attacking together. Defending together. Coordinating ultimates. There is a lot to be calculated at any point in time in a given match. 


Whether you are new to the game or a seasoned veteran, try to avoid blaming others for team failures. If you can change your way of thinking to look within before looking to blame others, there will almost always be a lesson to learn. At the end of the day, even if you have a teammate who is playing horribly, you can learn how to play around such behavior.

As mentioned before, get comfortable with a hero in a specific role. Then, try to learn 1 or 2 other heroes within that same role. Once you are able to switch between different play styles within a role you can expand your horizon to other roles. Even if you don’t want to play them often, it is a good idea to understand the game from different perspectives.


Last, and certainly not least, have fun. Angry gamers hardly ever play better than those enjoying themselves. After all, video games are games. And games should be fun.

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