Overwatch 2 Competitive Guide – How to Get Better in Ranked Mode

What is Competitive Mode in Overwatch 2

Overwatch 2 launched on Tuesday, October 4, 2022. While the sequel is fairly similar to the original, there are some critical differences in Blizzard’s latest release:

  • Battles are now 5v5 instead of 6v6. Overwatch 2 removes one tank from each team, which has shifted the meta in a major way.
  • Tanks are tankier to compensate for the fact that there’s only one per side.
  • New passives for each role and 
  • A general passive to refund ultimate costs when you swap heroes
  • Introduction of new maps AND
  • A new push game mode replaced the classic 2 CP (capture points)

Serious players will want to test their skills in Overwatch 2’s competitive mode. In this queue, you’ll compete against players of a similar rank and will move up or down the ranks based on your performance.

For Overwatch 2, new players must complete a tutorial and win 50 quick play (unranked) matches before the competitive mode is unlocked. This gives new players time to learn the nuances of the game. Separately, it makes things more time-consuming for people to create smurf accounts for comp.

At the time of this writing, there are 8 skill tiers in Overwatch 2 – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Master, Grandmaster, and Top 500. Within all but the last category, there are five divisions (i.e. Gold 5, Gold 4, Gold 3, Gold 2, and Gold 1) which further segment the tiers. This is a change from the first Overwatch game where players were given a Skill Rating (SR) which determined their tier within a large band of about 500 SR.

To earn your first rank, you need to achieve either 7 wins or 20 losses, whatever comes first. This means you can have 6 wins and 19 losses in your first 25 games without getting placed in a competitive tier. From there, your skill tier and division will change every 7 wins or 20 losses.

Overwatch 2 includes a rank decay system. Your rank will slowly decrease if you go for an extended period without booting up Overwatch 2. When you return, your rank will go up or drop down faster to ensure you quickly calibrate to your skill level at the time.

The competitive grind to the top ranks takes time, practice, and determination. With these tips, you’ll be sure to improve your Overwatch 2 skills and climb the ranked ladder!

Heroes in Overwatch 2

Try All the Heroes

At the time of this writing, there are 35 playable characters in Overwatch 2. As a free-to-play game, Overwatch 2 doesn’t grant access to all heroes. However, you can unlock most of them by logging dozens of hours in the game and leveling up on the battle pass.

Heroes are grouped into three categories:

  • Tank – these are the bulkiest heroes in the game, with abilities to mitigate damage and make space for the rest of the team.
  • DPS – this hero class has abilities that effectively eliminate enemies and disrupt the game flow.
  • Support – often given the misnomer “healer”, the support class is responsible for increasing the overall sustain of the team. This means buffing team abilities and topping off the health pools of your squad.

Before getting into a rhythm in competitive mode, you should try out all hero classes to understand the strengths and limitations of each character. You don’t need a deep knowledge of each hero, but you need to understand each hero’s general concepts.

Reaper wants to play at close range and take enemies out quickly. Winston will dive into the backlines to disrupt supports. Zenyatta will target discorded enemies to change the direction of the fight quickly.

Spend some time in the practice range to test out hero abilities. If you spend even a few minutes with each hero, you’re looking at over an hour of practice time. But this preparation will pay dividends when you understand the game better than your opponents.

Next, play a few games queued up for each role. Join the team chat, and you’ll most likely get some live feedback from your team. Constructive criticism can help point out your most apparent mistakes even if you stay on mute the entire time. The key is to filter out the noise and only pay attention to the specific, actionable feedback that can make you a better player. 

Blizzard has been trying to protect players by paying close attention to the reports sent by individuals. Additionally, Overwatch 2 now records voice chat to reference when people are being toxic vocally. The systems aren’t perfect, but hopefully, they make some impact in the overall toxicity levels of the game.

After spending a few hours in each queue, you should have a feel for which class is for you. Ideally, you’ll have 2-3 different heroes you can play in that class. For DPS, have both a hitscan and a projectile character under your belt. With tanks, you want a combination of frontline brawlers and mobile, dive tanks. Lastly, pick up at least one main support, like Mercy, and one secondary support, like Lucio.

With a flexible rotation of heroes, a good understanding of the total hero pool, and base knowledge of how each role should operate, you’ll be well on your way to climbing the ranked ladder in Overwatch 2.

Playing Around Natural Cover

Use Natural Cover

This may be the easiest way to increase your effectiveness in Overwatch 2. All kinds of weapons and abilities can quickly send you back to spawn. The best way to prevent death is often to take no damage.

Intuitively, you can achieve this by playing around natural cover. Typically, this will be a wall or a ledge, if you are positioned on high ground. Other times, you can use environmental obstacles like boxes, carts, and even the payload.

Natural cover will quickly become your best friend as it repeatedly saves your life. Always try to reload behind cover since you are often vulnerable while reloading. For many heroes, waiting until your abilities are back online is essential before pushing out of natural cover. 

It’s important to note that some enemies can still hit you when you are behind cover. This includes heroes with splash damage, like Pharah, and characters who can bounce projectiles off walls, like Sigma. Pay close attention to the team composition of the other squad to know whether a foe still poses a threat to you when behind cover.

Lastly, some things seem like cover where you are still at risk. Beware windows, small holes in walls, and the space underneath the payload. Seasoned Overwatch 2 players will take advantage of this to catch unaware enemies off guard.

Echo in Deathmatch

Play Around Your Resources in Overwatch 2

Each hero in Overwatch 2 has a distinct ‘kit’ composed of abilities (cooldowns), health, and ammo. This uniqueness allows for many different play styles while increasing each character’s complexity. 

Cooldowns

Abilities in Overwatch 2 are often referred to as ‘cooldowns’ because you must wait a set amount of time before using the ability again. This duration, or cooldown, varies from ability to ability and plays an important role in how you play the hero. 

Certain heroes have a designated order and timing of their cooldown usage. This includes flankers like Genji and brawlers like Rammatra.

Other heroes rely on the strategic use of cooldowns based on what is happening around them. Examples include Ana with her Sleep Dart and Cassidy with his Sticky grenade.

Since cooldowns are the most powerful resource in Overwatch 2, you’ll want to know how and when to use your primary hero’s cooldowns. Deathmatch can be a great way to practice your cooldown usage against enemies. Separately, most educational YouTube videos will describe proper cooldown use for a given hero.

Health

I’m grouping a few topics in this section: health, armor, and shield.

Health, also known as hit points (HP), is the base life essence of all characters in Overwatch 2. All heroes have health, designated by the white bars next to your character. Health only replenishes passively for Supports. All other characters rely on their team’s health packs, cooldowns, and primary healing abilities.

Armor is the most unique of the bunch. This mechanism blocks a certain amount of incoming damage. At the time of writing, armor blocks five damage out of every individual hit that does ten or more damage. For hits that deal less than ten damage, armor blocks half the incoming damage. This functionality makes armor especially strong against low-damage bullets and less effective against high-damage hits. Armor is represented by yellow bars, while temporary added armor is orange.

Lastly, shields behave similarly to health aside from their regenerative properties. In Overwatch 2, a shield will begin to regenerate after players go three seconds without taking any damage. Shield is shown as yellow bars on your health, whereas a temporary shield, like that gained from Torb’s Overload, is orange. 

Ammo

Ammo is probably the most straightforward resource in Overwatch 2. This ranges from bullets in a clip to rockets in a cannon to shotgun shells. Ammo generally deals the most consistent damage in the game since it is more readily available than cooldowns.

Most heroes have a set amount of ammo in their magazine before they have to reload. Others, like D. Va in the mech, never have to reload. Some heroes even can reload through abilities, like Cassidy’s roll and Reaper’s Wraith Form.

Tying it all together

To be successful in Overwatch 2, you’ll need to play around your total pool of resources. Teams use resources to take space, which gives them better map control in-game. When your resource pool is full, you can typically play more aggressively.  As your resources get depleted, you need to be more conservative in your style of play.

Capturing the Point in Overwatch 2

Understand the Objective

Competitive Overwatch currently has four modes:

  • Control – As the name suggests, teams fight for control of a space on the map. While a team has control of the objective, its percentage will gradually increase. The first team to get the capture percentage to 100% wins the round. If your squad secures two round wins, you’ll win the match.
  • Escort – Teams take turns escorting a payload to checkpoints throughout the map. While a team member is nearby the payload, it will continue progressing unless an enemy is nearby. Once the enemy starts ‘contesting’ the payload, it will halt its progress. If the attacking team cannot progress for an extended period, the payload will begin moving backward on its own. Whichever team pushes the payload the furthest before their respective time runs out will win the match.
  • Hybrid – Imagine a combination of the two previously mentioned modes. In hybrid, teams must first attack an objective and take control of that space. Once captured, a payload unlocks, which the attacking team must escort through the rest of the map.
  • Push – This is the newest mode added to the Overwatch universe. It’s similar to hybrid, but you take control of a robot pushing a barricade. Whichever team’s barricade has progressed the furthest when time runs out will win the match.

Aside from these basic rules, each mode has loads of nuances. For example, the payload moves at different speeds depending on how many heroes are nearby. As a defender, you don’t need to be touching the payload for it to move backward. Overtime rules vary depending on the rule. 

Take some time to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of each game mode. I find Overwatch University on Reddit an excellent resource for getting community input on these questions.

Communication can make a big difference in Overwatch 2 win rate

Communicate Effectively

My communication tips from the first Overwatch still hold true in Overwatch 2. Since there is a ton of audio information in each match – footsteps, ability sounds, voice lines associated with specific actions – you want to be as succinct as possible with your callouts. Give as much specific, actionable information as possible in as few words as possible.

At the start of the match, mention any relevant details you observe by looking through the spawn doors. You can also listen for nearby enemies who are attempting an early flank. For example, Junkrat often drops a trap in front of the spawn doors. Similarly, Symmetra loves to position her turrets on the walls outside of spawn to get easy damage.

In the mid-fight, communicate things like cooldown usage, critical health of enemies, flanking opponents, and when you need help. Make sure to refer to yourself as the in-game character, so your team doesn’t have an issue identifying who says what. Say things like “your Zen needs help in the backlines” instead of “I need help” or “help me”. The goal is to minimize the time between the call-out and the desired action.

When you die, watch the kill cam and take note of your killer’s ultimate charge. If the opponent has their ult or is close to having it, communicate this to your team so you can plan the next fight accordingly.

Fortunately, Overwatch 2 introduced a ping system, similar to Apex Legends, enabling quick callouts without using your microphone. This is great for people who are uncomfortable voicing their concerns in the team chat audio. 

It can also be helpful to watch top streamers to understand the types of callouts they make to their team. You’ll start to pick up on the in-game lingo to become more fluent in Overwatch 2 speak.

Effective team comms are one of the toughest things to master, but even a slight improvement can lead to a nice boost in win rate. 

Don't Tunnel Vision in Overwatch 2

Don’t Tunnel Vision

If you only focus on what’s in front of you, you’re likely to die. At any given point, it’s possible to take incoming fire from five different directions. By staring down your barrel at only one character, it’s nearly impossible to determine the threats outside your view!

Try not to tunnel vision in Overwatch 2. This means regularly checking your sides and even behind you. Most importantly, you need to be aware of your surrounding before a fight begins. 

Flankers will sometimes crouch walk to get around to the backlines. In this case, it’s tough to hear their footsteps. The best way to spot a flanker is by turning your cursor to check potential routes on either side of you.

Zenyatta is a Support, Not a Healer

There are no ‘Healers’ in Overwatch 2, Only Supports!

This is another one where even experienced players can get it wrong most of the time. The developers deliberately categorized heroes like Mercy and Lucio as ‘supports’ instead of the ‘healer’ misnomer. 

Supports are there to improve the overall sustain of your team. Most of the time, this will mean healing you and your friendlies. However, there are many times when they will give your team the best chance of winning a fight by doing damage themselves or buffing your team’s stats. This can mean increasing damage, speed, or adding armor in the latter case.

You’ll need to accept that supports are doing their best to help your team win fights. Occasionally, this will mean you die. Their job isn’t to make sure that you never die through the course of a match. If your team wins the team fight, you can group up with them after your respawn and prepare for the next engagement.

Prioritize Eliminating Supports First

Target Prioritization can secure Eliminations

Have you ever unloaded three clips of ammo and burned all your cooldowns on a tank only to see them still charging forward with full health? That’s because the tanks are borderline unkillable in Overwatch when they have two supports behind them. 

The solution is clear. Target the supports first!

This is easier said than done, but if you can take out an enemy support first, your chances of winning the team fight skyrocket. The best way to do this is by prioritizing your resources towards eliminating opposing supports.

Sometimes, this won’t be achievable given how you are positioned in relation to the enemies. Either get into a more advantageous position or put your resources toward applying pressure on the DPS characters.

The key is to identify heroes who you have the best chance of killing, and then have a decent plan to secure the kill. Even if you can’t eliminate that target, you’ll put them in a position where they must take cover to avoid dying. These moments effectively give your team a man advantage that can be converted into a kill.

The bottom line is don’t waste your resources on opposing tanks until you’ve removed one of the other enemies!

Simplify Ult Usage in Overwatch 2

Don’t Overthink Your Ult in Overwatch 2

Most people want to save their ultimate ability for a massive team kill that gets them the play of the game. The reality is that these moments are rare. Additionally, if you hold out for that ‘special moment’, you are more likely not to get value from the ult.

Instead, use your ult to give your team enough of a leg up to win the team fight. Sometimes, this means securing an elim on a support hero. In other instances, you’ll need to use your ult to counter the ultimate from an enemy.

Understand how your character builds up ult charge and have a plan for when it could add value to help your team. Generally speaking, it is better to ult too soon instead of too late.

If you want to get more advanced, look to combo your ultimate with someone on your team. Here are some of the most common ult combinations:

  • Zarya Graviton Surge + Reaper Death Blossom / Hanzo Dragonstrike 
  • Reinhardt Earthshatter + Junkrat Riptire / Torbjorn Molton Core
  • Mei Blizzard + Sojourn Overclock
  • Sigma Gravitic Flux + Moira Coalescence

There are plenty more combos that work so try to coordinate with your team if you want to pair up!

Moira in Deathmatch

Focus on Your Own Gameplay

The goal is not to win 100% of your matches while climbing the ranked ladder. Some percentage of the time, there will be absolutely nothing you can do to ensure a victory for your squad:

  • You’ll have one or more people from your team leave the game
  • Someone on your team will be having a bad day, which will result in toxicity and/or throwing the match
  • The opposing team will have a smurf who destroys your entire squad
  • The other team is slightly more coordinated than yours

Whatever the reason, you need to accept that it’s impossible to reach the highest tier of ranked play without some losses. Instead, focus on maximizing the value you get out of your hero.

Can you select a hero who hard-counters the opposing team’s best player? Can you be the shot caller on your team who orchestrates the game’s flow? Is there an opening to take out the enemy supports, quickly shifting the tide of the battle?

Assuming the other nine players in the game are around the same skill level as each other, if you can be slightly better than one of the opposing players, your team should win over the course of a match. This means doing all the above things and breaking down the weak points in your play. You are only in control of your hero’s actions, so put your team in a position to win by doing the right thing more consistently than opposing players.

Competitive Queue

Climbing the Overwatch 2 Competitive Ladder

Overwatch 2 can potentially be one of the greatest team shooters. There will definitely be frustrating moments, but you can give yourself the best chance of winning ranked matches by following this set of rules.

As always, make sure to practice consistently and join the Average Gamer community to get more tips and tricks.

Who are your recommendations for climbing the Overwatch 2 ranked ladder? Join the conversation in the comments section, below!

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