A good Overwatch player knows when to use their ultimate. A great Overwatch player knows when to hold their ultimate back.
Successful, competitive Overwatch players certainly need to prioritize perfecting their aim, learning the maps, and communicating with their teams. Those are the basics, after all. But the most important skill for a truly competitive Overwatch players is knowing the game so well that they’re able to exercise patience. Anyone can have good aim. To truly succeed, you need to be patient.
Ryu “Kaiser” Sang Hoon of South Korean Overwatch team RunAway is a master of patience. During a match against LW Blue for the OGN Overwatch APEX season two semifinals, Kaiser gave a serious lesson in waiting. Playing Reinhardt and shield to shield with Song “janus” Jun-hwa, Kaiser needs to come out strong and land a major Earthshatter and knock lots of LW Blue players to the ground. Without it, it’s unlikely RunAway would be able to push the payload much further through the Eichenwalde castle.
In a high-stress situation like that, the semifinals of Overwatch’s most prestigious tournament, it’s not crazy to imagine Kaiser popping his ultimate at the first instance it becomes viable. But he doesn’t do that: He waits. Kaiser takes a few seconds longer in throwing down the hammer. He trusts that he can secure a better Earthshatter. He waits.
RunAway, as a whole, was waiting, too. Understanding ultimate economy is one thing, but having the foresight to hold ultimates until a combination could be used is another. There’s an itch to hit Q right as an Overwatch hero’s ultimate reaches 100 percent, but it’s really not the best way to play it.
Zarya’s Graviton Surge ultimate is the perfect example: During the Overwatch Carbon Series fourth week of play, LG Evil faced the Detroit Renegades on King’s Row. Running a 2/2/2 lineup, Renegades had three ultimates ready as they pushed toward the capture point: Tracer, Genji, and Zarya. LG Evil, however, had four: Reinhardt, Genji, Zarya, and Tracer.
Renegades stacked their ultimates, but LG Evil didn’t—because they didn’t have a chance. Renegades’ Zarya threw out her Graviton Surge right on the edge of the capture point while Tracer zipped around back, because LG Evil’s Reinhardt was blocking the front. With a few blinks, Christopher “J3sus” Pavloff, on Tracer, saw the opportunity to land his Pulse Bomb right in the middle of Zarya’s black hole. It took out four LG Evil players and got Renegades the point.
Massive plays like this push Overwatch games forward.
And it’s not only about ultimate usage: Patience is important for knowing when to engage in battle and when to pull back. It’s a sign of low-level Overwatch tiers to see heroes streaming into battle, one-by-one and being picked off one-by-one. Staggered spawns are a result of that—and the cycle continues.
There’s this notion of not wanting to give up anything to the enemy team. Say, if you’re on a payload map, that means being unwilling to let the payload move an inch farther than it has to. A lack of patience in this regard is detrimental to an Overwatch team. Sure, players staggering into a fight on their own may stop the payload for a moment, but it’s not sustainable. In most instances, it’s just a meaningless stall. Any real progress has to be made as a team, even if that means giving up precious meters.
It’s the same with capture point maps. You’ll often see an Overwatch team give up a first point to a team so they’re able to set up on the second point. Deciding when, exactly, to not contest the first point is tricky, but it’s having a good game sense—and understanding Overwatch’s timings—that will develop an ability to employ patience.
With a minute or so ticking down on Overwatch’s in-game clock, players begin to panic, rushing back to the point or payload. But within that minute, there’s likely time for two more coordinated team pushes. In that way, professional Overwatch games—while still fast-paced and chaotic—don’t feel as fast-paced and chaotic as it often feels when playing it yourself. Slowing things down and enacting plays are necessary in gaining the upper hand.
As Zenyatta says, a warrior’s greatest strength is… patience.