The support role may not be the most popular class in Overwatch, but if you’ve ever fought a match without a healer, you know there’s no substitute for one on your team.
Like the tank, this role probably won’t net you the most kills, but it’s far from a boring position. Keeping tabs on all your teammates requires constant attention, deft positioning skills, and strong judgement. And, played right, any one of these characters (aside from Mercy) can get plenty of eliminations under their belt.
Here’s a quick guide on how each of the four support characters currently function:
In nearly all tier listings for the Overwatch roster, Lucio is on top as a near-necessity. If there’s a support hero worth mastering, it’s this skating DJ.
Lucio’s usefulness comes from the area-of-effect nature of his buffs. He can heal all of the heroes within a certain distance, making him indispensable whenever your team has to huddle around a payload or a checkpoint. And his other AOE buff, a speed boost, can make sure that your team gets to the point before the other team is even halfway there.
Lucio can also deal a substantial amount of damage and has the ability to push enemies off of ledges, which is especially useful on Control maps like Ilios and Nepal, which have numerous ledges near important chokepoints.
His only real downside is his lackluster ultimate, which provides a huge (but very short) shield boost to his teammates. It functions, essentially, as a less effective version of Zenyatta’s ultimate, serving primarily to counter opponents’ ultimates.
Mercy, on the other hand, is a far more conventional healer. She can only heal (or give a damage buff to) one hero at a time, as opposed to the AOE healing of Lucio. However, her stream is therefore much more powerful. Anyone familiar with the Medic from Team Fortress 2 will be ready to use Mercy effectively from the get-go.
Her ultimate resurrects all nearby teammates and it can be a true gamechanger when you’re in the last few seconds of a match, especially if the resurrection nets a high-health character like Reinhardt or Roadhog.
Her pistol is perhaps the weakest weapon in the game, however, and is best used as a last resort if you find yourself alone and with no means of escape. If you have less interest in racking up eliminations and would rather be pure support for your team, there’s no better pick than Mercy.
Symmetra is more of a defense-minded support character and the only one without a healing ability. Rather, she is able to place a shield on each of her teammates that regenerates after they go a certain amount of time without receiving damage. It doesn’t add a lot of hit-points, but it’s a helpful addition (especially when also paired with Torbjorn’s armor).
Her usefulness will mainly come from the small laser turrets she places around the map. When placed around chokepoints, they slowdown enemies and rapidly take down their health. Because of their stationary function, though, you will almost never see her placed on attack. In fact, her only real contribution to an Attack team would be her teleporter Ultimate – otherwise, she can never be expected to make it far enough to contribute to the offense.
On a map like Temple of Anubis, which features many small, enclosed areas, Symmetra will be an invaluable ally of defense. However, she is not able to carry the healing burden as well as any of the Supports, so it is advised to take a healer along, as well.
Zenyatta is a tricky character to master for a number of reasons, the primary one being his low health-pool; he’s tied with Tracer for having the least amount of health. Unlike Tracer, however, he does not have a self-heal and is extremely slow. If you’re caught in a corner as Zenyatta, there is rarely a way out.
In addition to his low-mobility and low-health, his two abilities are also difficult to balance. The Orb of Discord decreases one enemy’s damage and the Orb of Harmony heals an ally, but Zenyatta must maintain line-of-sight with these characters to maintain these buffs. Due to his low health, this can be tricky, since he’ll need to stay at the back of the herd.
Zenyatta’s ultimate can be useful, like Lucio’s, when the team is grouped up and about to be on the receiving end of an enemy ultimate. It is more effective because it essentially makes all nearby allies (including Zenyatta himself) invincible for six seconds. The issue with this ultimate is that it requires Zenyatta to be on the frontlines, which, as previously mentioned, is almost never a good idea.
His saving grace, however, is his damage output. Zenyatta’s ranged attack, Orb of Destruction, can easily tear down softer characters like Hanzo or Junkrat, and can even be effective in wearing down unshielded tanks.
Zenyatta is currently one of the least-used characters on the roster, largely due to his health and his mobility. However, Blizzard has recently announced that they will be looking into improving his loadout in the future, so he may be worth investing some time into in anticipation for a potential buff.