Overwatch's Mercy: Positioning/Evasion Notes and Tips



Fri 21st Oct 2016 - 9:58am

Greetings, Konduit here. Today's post is a continuation in our Overwatch's Mercy series, following up on the questions posed at the end of the previous article. Today's article is all about positioning - positioning in fights, evasion, and more... For your reference, here are the questions we ended on last time: "How do you position yourself such that you have an escape route if a Genji or Reaper jumps on you? Are you able to be in a position to heal all your teammates at any given time? What does your positioning look like in the midst of a chaotic skirmish?"

As I was thinking on how to best explain these concepts and answer the specific questions (spoiler alert: it's situational, as are most play patterns in a game as complex as Overwatch!), I realized that this was a good opportunity for a tips and tricks post. Rather than a more a formal article, below you'll find a collection of my observations and notes with regards to Mercy's positioning, in a stream-of-thought style. Take some time to think about and digest each of the main points and their sub-points - some of the information you might already know, while other things may be completely new to you. I encourage you, as you're reading through, to visualize your own Mercy gameplay and think back on previous experiences where you've already applied or could've applied these principles and concepts. By developing a mental image of these play patterns, you'll internalize them more firmly and be better equipped to put them into practice when needed. Without further ado, let's jump into it!

- Mercy's role changes a bit depending on what her team's hero composition looks like (particularly considering the choice of the other support hero/heroes on her team), but in general she's the one largely responsible for keeping her team healthy and in fighting shape. To this end, you want to be in a general position to heal as many team members as you can given short notice, while also avoiding the focus fire of the enemy. This is a complex and exhilarating positioning puzzle that you'll have to figure out every game. There are general spots for each map that you'll be able to fall back on and heal from (I'll go over these in a future article), but many variables will change how you should think about positioning, including the enemy's team composition, your own team composition, ultimates that both teams have available, etc.

Alongside Lucio, Mercy can focus a little more on damage-amping key allies rather than healing chip damage.

- Let's get into some tips on Mercy's typical play patterns with regards to 'normal' positioning. Guardian Angel here ties everything together - your allies can be spread out across an area, and yet all be within the reach of your heal beam. You can always dash to isolated allies (a Widowmaker/Hanzo sniping from the high ground, for example), then move back to your 'healing perch'.

- Your "healing perch" is the default area you want to be in order to maximize your output - whether that's healing or damage amp. Generally, this will be near your tanks and primary frontline DPS. Defending point A on Hanamura is probably the best example here: you'll be covering the main choke point along with say, a Reinhardt, Zarya, and Soldier 76: healing your allies and damage boosting when everyone's topped off.

- You have to be conscious of where you establish your 'perch' from which you're healing/damage amping. Your perch may even move around (on payload or king of the hill maps, and in general on attack). Stay flexible and adapt your positioning to the current game state. In general, you want to avoid standing behind the teammate you're healing/amping - when possible stay perpendicular to them so you don't get caught in the crossfire or attract focus from the enemy. Standing on a different plane of elevation is also quite effective. Positioning yourself behind your teammate can be completely fine if there's some degree of cover present (Reinhardt's shield, or the payload), if the teamfight is taking place far in front of you, or if you're in retreat, but in general look to stay at an angle with regards to your ally and their target. This forces the enemy to attack your ally - which plays right into your hands when you're dishing out massive heals and buffs to them. You don't even need to watch your teammate doing work! Just keep your eye out for flankers. Check out this handy diagram:

- Now you might be asking, "All this positioning mumbo jumbo is great and all, but why is it so important? Can't I just heal normally, stay behind my team, contribute to fights, etc.? Why do I have to think so much about where I'm standing and how to run away?" The answer to this lies in the fact that Mercy is very often the top focus priority for the enemy team (to understand why, check out the last article!) You've got to keep yourself safe. Opposing teams will sometimes even send a dedicated flanker (Tracer, Genji, etc.) to mess with you!

- Mercy's mobility is tied to her allies' proximity. If you are alone or do not have a teammate in sight, then you've got no mobility options! This is when Mercy is at her most vulnerable - she is functionally unequipped to reliably manage enemy pressure when she is alone.

- To this end, avoid roaming off alone and stick close to your allies... but not too close. This sounds a bit contradictory, but the key lies in understanding Mercy's evasion mechanics and how she keeps herself safe. The bulk of the power in Guardian Angel (Mercy's mobility skill) lies in repositioning yourself if you're taking heat from the enemy team. Certainly, Guardian Angel always moves you toward an ally...but the main benefit of flying to your teammates isn't always to get protection from an attacker - it's to displace yourself and make it harder for the enemy to take you down! Rather than protection (though you'll likely get some), your ally will often simply act as a beacon you can jump to. If you're too close to your ally when activating Guardian Angel, you'll just move a negligible distance forward (and lose the potential for a greater repositioning distance).

Let's discuss a quick example to illustrate why this spacing principle is important: You're playing Mercy and are next to an ally, Solider 76, who is looking upwards and shooting at the enemy Pharah. If you're close to Soldier healing/damage amping him, Pharah's rockets have a good chance of hitting both of you. If you're spaced away from the Soldier, the Pharah now has to make a very conscious decision about who to focus. If she focuses you (the Mercy), you have an ally to fly towards in order to dodge a rocket or two. You can then space out/walk away from your Soldier once more and repeat this process. If the Pharah focuses the Soldier... well, you're healing/buffing him, and that skirmish is definitely in your team's favor (we'll discuss this more later).

- In the best possible case, you'll be hidden behind a wall or some such while heal beaming/amping your ally as they fight. If your opponent does not even have the option to focus you, your teammate can pick up an easy kill!

- To reiterate, when you're healing/damage boosting, you almost always want to space out from your teammates (often going to the max distance of your beam tether) such that you aren't getting caught in the crossfire and/or becoming a focus target for the enemy team. Staying spaced out also maximizes the effectiveness of Guardian Angel's repositioning capabilities, should you need them.

- Holding some distance from your team also helps ensure that you're not going to get caught in huge area-of-effect ultimates (which opponents will usually fire off towards a group to get as many people as possible). Getting hit by an enemy Reinhardt's Earthshatter (along with the rest of your team) while you have Resurrect up feels really bad. I can tell you this from experience. Resurrect is powerful, but you've got to stay alive to use it. Employing proper positioning is important so that you don't get caught in the very ultimates you want to revive your teammates from.

- Here's another illustration of the value of spacing: imagine a map that's simply a large square. 4 of your allies are glued to the four corners of the square, and you're playing Mercy. In this map, your mobility options are reliable and incredibly powerful. From whatever angle an opponent dives on to you, you've got a clean getaway to a teammate in a corner of the square and from there, you can then dash to any of your other allies for continuous evasion. Several safe mobility options that all create significant distance between you and your pursuer would be the dream. Now, in a real game, if you can position yourself such that you have multiple options as to which ally you fly to when you're in trouble, you're positioning very well as Mercy. Sometimes having multiple teammates around won't be possible, but it's the kind of safety net you should strive to have when possible.

- Mercy's status as a high-priority target and her strong mobility capabilities define her playstyle, distinguish her as remarkably unique with regards to the rest of the roster's play patterns, and create essentially an evasion 'sub-game' within the match. Strong opponents will spend resources disrupting Mercy/making sure she can't do her job properly - evading divers and performing your role as a healer despite these dangers will set you apart as a strong Mercy player. Almost all positioning principles are established with evading pursuers, flankers, and divers in mind (remember, you are not as capable in a 1v1 as most of the damage-dealing heroes, so pulling out your pistol and fighting should often be Plan B rather than Plan A).

 - Breaking it down, repositioning via Guardian Angel does a couple things: 1. It creates distance between you and your pursuer(s). 2. It places you in the proximity of your allies, who may be able to protect you from certain enemy attacks. 3. Provides some degree of protection through intimidation, as your pursuers are dissuaded from chasing you with abandon if you're in the middle of your team.

 - Dashing back and forth between two separate points (i.e. allies) on a line is an effective method for evading enemy fire or divers, and even more so against close-range enemies. When you feel pressured, you can dash to the ally that's farther away from you. When your pursuer repositions to pressure you at your new location, you can then dash back to your original location to once again create distance between you and your pursuer.

- The above exchange is absolutely critical, and is probably the bread and butter evasion pattern in Mercy's toolbox. One of the reasons Guardian Angel is just so powerful is that its cooldown is extremely short compared to other heroes' mobility skills. If an opponent sneaks up on you, as Mercy you can fly to an ally. Your opponent will likely follow with a mobility skill of his or her own (think of heroes like Genji or Winston), but your dash will be off cooldown in a short 1.5 seconds, much shorter than Swift Strike or Winston's Leap. In this way, you can expire/tax the enemy's mobility skills and keep yourself relatively safe from harm.

Mercy's Guardian Angel is, in some respects, the most powerful mobility skill in the game because of its short cooldown.

- Moving locations rapidly (flying around, even) naturally makes it difficult for enemies to keep their tracking sharp and focus on you. In some cases, I've literally dashed across a raging teamfight to get away from an opposing flanker. This is a risky maneuver, yes - but it's not AS risky as you might think. Moving so quickly makes it difficult for enemies to track you, and you'll likely be able to quickly take cover behind a wall or a teammate. If the alternative is dying to a flanker, go for the high-variance Guardian Angel. What have you got to lose!

- Fights in Overwatch are highly dynamic - if a target (i.e. you playing Mercy) moves away, continuing to focus on that target can lead enemies to overextend/overcommit and get focused down by your teammates who now have an open shot. Opponents will often disengage and switch targets if you dash too far away - this is exactly what you (and your team) want. The focus should be on your tanks/DPS - when Mercy is uncontested, her supportive abilities can make her team into unkillable monsters.

- Situationally, stay nearby allies who have strong crowd control abilities to defend you against particular flankers. For example, if a Reaper is gunning for you, hanging within striking distance of your McCree can be a solid strategy (additionally, after a flashbang, damage-boosted Fan the Hammer is very reliable at bursting down Reaper before he has a chance to Wraith out).

 - When you're set up in your area and are going about your medic business, you must be prepared in advance for a quick exit. Plan out your escape route ahead of time (e.g. which ally you can jump to, how you're going to create the most distance possible between you and an attacker, or which wall you can quickly duck behind to avoid an enemy ultimate). When that Genji comes at you with Dragonblade out of the blue, it's extremely difficult to reactively/instinctively escape. You've got to be aware and predict the Dragonblade in advance before it actually pops, and already be walking or ready at a moment's notice to dash away to another safe location if he dives you (credit to my buddy Brent for enlightening me to the concept of consciously predicting enemy ultimates). Be like Neo - see the matrix, feel the flow of a skirmish, understand and predict when the enemy will pop ults and start a teamfight, and you'll be able to avoid oncoming dangers with much greater success.

 - Mercy, played optimally, puts opponents in a lose-lose situation that is incredibly frustrating to deal with. Mercy's base healing is so strong that it's difficult to focus down the target she's tethered too. But if the opponent focuses Mercy, then he/she is taking uncontested damage from Mercy's ally! Force your opponents to make a choice: pressure them to decide whether to go for you or your teammates. Most opponents will realize that focusing the Mercy first is most often the right move, but...

- Here's the kicker: with tight play and evasion, you can punish your opponents for making either choice... if they go for your teammates, you'll heal and/or resurrect them, and if they decide to focus you, your evasion and mobility can keep you safe, waste their time, and provide your teammates free, uncontested reign to mow down the enemies that are spending too many resources trying to chase after you. Mobility is exceptionally powerful, and - provided your positioning/evasion game sense is on point - Mercy has plenty of it.

- Mercy's kit works beautifully in this regard - she's given considerable power in her point healing and ultimate, as well as a mobility technique for safety that rewards clean positioning and predictive evasion. Positioning/evasion is over half, and probably closer to 70% of what makes a good Mercy. Put time and effort into keeping yourself safe while still retaining healing output, and you'll reap your due rewards.

Positioning is so integral to Mercy's gameplay that I'll assuredly revisit the topic in the future, but hopefully some of the ideas and concepts that influence Mercy's positioning are clearer after going through these points. Join me next time as I go deep on Resurrect - discussing the theory and application of Mercy's powerful ultimate.

That's all for today, I hope you enjoyed the article. If you'd like to discuss anything Mercy, have comments/feedback on this article, or just want to say hi, feel free to tweet me @k0nduit (with a zero instead of an 'o') and I'll get back to you.

Get your own AKRacing Chair here and support our players, all profit goes towards the teams!