One Trick Ponies: Learning to Branch Out
Mon 31st Jul 2017 - 3:04am
Do you consider yourself to be a “one trick pony”? Does your profile look like this?
(In case you’re wondering, it’s mine)
If you answered yes to both of those questions, it’s probably time to start branching out! There’s nothing inherently wrong with “maining” one hero, but in a lot of situations, it can turn you into a liability. With the game’s meta shifting frequently, being able to adapt is a very valuable trait to have.
No matter how good you are at playing a certain hero, people can and will counter you once they find out that you’re only good at that one hero. They will try to exploit your weaknesses until you’ve been rendered irrelevant throughout the entire match. This is where having pocket picks comes in handy. You can have a “main” while still being really good at playing other heroes. In my case, while I play Lucio for the majority of my matches, I can play a decent number of other heroes just fine.
So where do I start?
First of all, identify what heroes are popular for each role in the current meta. You don’t necessarily have to force yourself to learn how to play each and every one of them, but you should at least be able to identify certain counters and synergies. As a solo player, here are some of my personal recommendations for fellow solo players trying to branch out:
- Soldier 76 – A very cookie-cutter hero. Soldier 76 is easy to pick up and can fit well in pretty much any team composition. While he isn’t as mobile as Tracer and Genji, he can still serve as a decent mid to long-range DPS in a dive comp (or even a 3rd DPS, depending on your team).
- Tracer – A staple in the current dive meta and just a solid pick in general. She can be a complete beast against uncoordinated teams as long as you know how to pick your fights and manage your Blinks.
- Winston – Very easy to use (but hard to master) and is currently one of the strongest tanks in the game due to the dive meta. Not much to say here, just try your best to stay alive and keep harassing everyone and you’ll do fine.
- Zarya – While the current meta made her a less popular pick, careful usage of your barrier can turn the tides in a team fight or easily screw up a flank attempt. Her ultimate also synergizes very well with Genji and Tracer’s ultimates.
- D.Va – Her ability to block tons of damage and straight up eat ultimates with Defense Matrix makes her a really good pick. Like Winston, she’s also good at harassing the enemy team and is just a pain to deal with in general.
- Lucio – He’s currently the only hero that can boost speed and has always been a solid pick ever since the first season.
- Ana – While she lacks mobility, she can still hold her own in the current meta. Against flankers, she can either fight back or escape using her entire kit. Her ultimate also works really well with Genji and Winston.
Again, these are only my personal recommendations and your mileage may vary. The important takeaway here is that you have to learn how to adapt to any situation by being able to play at least 2 heroes in each role.
One thing you can do is practice heroes in quick play. While it may not be the best way to practice for competitive play (because most of the time everyone will just pick DPS), it's still a decent game mode to practice mechanical skill. If you struggle with certain things like aiming projectiles or hitting flick shots, quick play can help you develop these skills against actual people without fear of dropping your skill rating.
Additionally, if you can get a friend or more to play with you, there's a huge chance that you'll face another stack of players. Stacks usually play in a more coordinated manner and use proper team compositions (keyword: usually). This can help you practice heroes in certain situations in an environment that resembles a competitive match. Of course, nothing's stopping you from just trying things out in competitive, but you'll most likely be met with a lot of negativity.
Now I know this is a pretty controversial subject, but another suggestion I can give you is to get an alt account. If you're really serious about your competitive rating and want to practice heroes without touching your skill rating, "smurfing" is a completely legitimate way to do it. I know some of you will disagree with me on this, but if for example you're a Master one trick pony, that will usually mean you only belong in Master as that one hero. It doesn't help that Blizzard's way of handling individual skill is so odd that people have been complaining about one trick ponies (usually Mercy) who can have a win rate of less than 40% but still gain more SR than they lose.
You can be a Grandmaster Mercy main but still have abyssmal aim as any DPS hero. Playing on an alt account may help you find your actual overall skill level. As Jeff Kaplan (game director of Overwatch) once noted, smurfing isn't really a problem because a skilled player will immediately be moved to their appropriate matchmaking rating.
Personally, I bought an alt account to practice DPS (I am a Master support main), and I found out that I'm actually a pretty decent Tracer player! I got placed in Gold and gained so much SR that I managed to get around 500 SR in a single afternoon, leaving only less than 200 until I hit Diamond. I'm still not confident that I can play on the same level as the DPS players I play with on my main account, so this is a nice way for me to practice without being a liability to my team.
Overwatch has a reasonably diverse cast of characters that it shouldn't be too hard for a one trick pony to branch out if they really wanted to. At the end of the day, it all boils down to one's mechanical skills and understanding of each hero's strengths and weaknesses. Again, there's nothing wrong with maining a hero, but knowing when and who to switch to will help you be a more flexible and potentially better player overall!
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