Play of the Fortnight: How to Improve Yourself in Overwatch Season 5

Overwatch Season 5 kicked off immediately after the end of Season 4 last week. Many players have already found themselves placed, or are at least cracking away at their placement matches. Everyone wants to do better, and placement matches can sometimes be discouraging.

Overwatch Season 5 Tips - Season 5 Badge

So how do you get better at Overwatch competitive play? Here are some tips and tricks on how to improve your competitive experience going into Overwatch Season 5.

Improving at Overwatch Competitive

The purpose of ranked play in any game is two-fold — to prove your skill, and to improve your play. Regardless of where you get placed, chances are you want to be higher up the ranks, and that’s perfectly fine. Your mechanical skill is something that will improve with more practice, but these tips may help you to change your attitude and find other ways to get better.

The tips included in this article are aimed at players of any rank, but they’ll likely be most helpful for those ranked between Bronze and Platinum.

Warm-up Before You Commit to Competitive

It’s amazing how few players in lower ranks will do this, but Custom Matches are your friend for practicing before a competitive run. If you main anyone with a gun, particularly hit-scanners like Soldier-76 or McCree, start up a match with an enemy Ana. Turn on headshots-only mode — meaning only headshots can kill — and go to town. This will help you get your eye in on headshots, while not dying (as Ana cannot headshot).

Overwatch Season 5 - Headshots Only Practice

Custom Matches set up in this way are less useful for supports or tanks (unless you’re playing Ana, in which case get your aim in!) but it’s still helpful to get your head into the right space before you commit to a more serious game.

To set up this warm-up mode, go to the Arcade and click “Create Game”. Add all Ana bots (Add AI) to the enemy team. After that, click Settings, then Heroes, and then General. At the bottom of this screen there’s an option to enable “Receive headshots only”. Then, select your hero and go to town.

Expand Your Hero Pool

Too many players go into an Overwatch competitive match with one or two heroes that they can play effectively. With four roles to choose from, it’s not a good idea to go in only able to play an Offensive hero. You can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to secure your one or two heroes you prefer to play.

Overwatch Season 5 Tips - Switch Heroes as Necessary

Try to be competent with at least one hero per role, preferably two. Even if you’re far better at Solder-76 than you are at Winston or Reinhardt, or if you’d really feel more comfortable not playing a healer, at least you can pick them up if needed. Adding a third or fourth Offensive hero to a team comp often isn’t ideal, and even an average support or tank might make the difference between a horrific loss with demoralized teammates and a struggled win.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to be competent with some of the most picked heroes in particular. Soldier-76 as a hit-scanner, Mei or Widowmaker for situations where they might be required, Reinhardt for his amazing team defense or D.Va for her versatility, and Lucio as he fits with most team comps.

Remember To Switch Heroes As Necessary

It’s important to recognize that you’re not committed to a specific hero for the entire game. Team comps change, and if your hero is no longer useful make sure to be prepared to switch. Don’t go into an Overwatch competitive match with the intention of staying on Genji for the entire match just because you like playing him. Save that for Quick Plays, or matches with your friends.

Also, be prepared for teammates to randomly decide they’ve had enough of being the only tank and switch to something else. You may have to be the one to fill the gap. Try to avoid being stubborn about this. No, the responsibility shouldn’t fall to you, but the fact is that if you don’t pick up the slack, it’s possible no one will.

This one may seem really obvious, but it’s quite surprising how many players will still stand their ground on a hero that isn’t working. Alternatively, a lot of people will stubbornly refuse to switch when their team has made a bad decision. It’s not your fault, and again, it shouldn’t be your responsibility, but if you want to win you sometimes have to make sacrifices.

Recognize Overwatch as a Team Game

By this, I don’t mean to hammer into you that teamwork is important. Yes, Overwatch is a team game. This means it requires teamwork. Everybody knows that already. However, what’s important to remember is that your team is made up of different people, with different skill levels and different gaming backgrounds. They all have their own strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, they’re not necessarily going to react to situations the same way you might. Getting angry at them because of that is useless. For a start, who’s to say that your way is correct? Secondly, a kind word encouraging them to try something else next time will go a lot further than shouting abuse at them.

Overwatch Season 5 Tips - Teamwork

As an example, in League of Legends ranked play, I once encountered a player who did the strangest things. He’d go off on his own, invading the enemy side of the map and getting killed. At first, we were telling him all the things he was doing wrong and trying to get him to stick with the rest of us. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t go very well. So we all started working with him instead. We followed him when he went into enemy territory, even if it seemed like a bad idea. We’d back him up when he decided to solo push for no apparent reason. And strangely, we started to pull the game back. Even though it may feel counter-intuitive, sometimes trusting your teammates or at least backing them up is enough.

The only thing you can control in a game is yourself. No matter how hard you try, you can’t have any direct impact on your teammates’ decisions. If they’re not responding to your communication, maybe you need to change up how you’re playing in the match.

Use Voice Chat Effectively and Stay Positive

Voice chat is a very controversial tool. Many players refuse to use it because of the potential abuse they subject themselves to. Others may find it distracting. But ultimately, in competitive play, voice chat can be an excellent advantage for your team if you use it well.

Hero selection is not too early for voice chat. Use it to communicate to your team what you intend to play, discuss your team comp, and encourage switches politely if someone has picked something you don’t think will work. Be friendly and encouraging in the lead up to the game, and keep that demeanor going forward.

Overwatch Season 5 Tips - Stay Positive

Positive reinforcement can be immensely more useful than negativity. That’s not to say you shouldn’t ever be critical, but try to be constructive. If someone makes a mistake, gently suggest that they try something different next time. Make sure to compliment good plays when you see them. And while this may feel strange, particularly compliment people who are tilting or did something bad before. People like to impress others. When they receive a compliment many players will strive to do even better next time. On the other hand, players who are already frustrated generally don’t react well to being criticized.

Learn Powerful Hero Combinations and Team Comps

Overwatch Season 5 Tips - Pharmercy Counter

Overwatch competitive play doesn’t have to stop when you shut down the game. Research the game’s meta, and what team comps work well. Be aware of hero combinations and how to counter them. For example, Pharmercy is an incredibly strong and frustrating hero combination that, if left alone, can be devastating to a team. Counter it with a D.Va to soak the Pharah’s rockets and a Solder-76 or McCree to take out the Mercy and then her companion.

Another comp to be aware of is the “Dive Comp”. This team comp features highly mobile heroes who focus on separating a team and taking them out one by one. It’s often composed of a Winston and Lucio, with a Genji, Pharah and/or Tracer. The second tank and healer are situational, and many players will have a preference. Generally I prefer a D.Va and Zenyatta for this comp, but others will recommend an Ana and a Zarya. Zara is fantastic as she can shield the Winston or other heroes as they dive, but D.Va is mobile and versatile. Both Zenyatta and Ana have long-range heals and a sort of counter to the Dive Comp if they’re up against it as well. Zenyatta can Discord Orb and high damage output on a diver, while Ana can Sleep Dart and flee to safety.

Detach Yourself From Your Results

While your results are important, you are always going to be working on improving your play. Professional Overwatch player Brendan “Seagull” Larned said in his AMA, “As for mindset, it’s important to be somewhat emotionally unattached to your results while you’re still practicing as the goal is to improve, not win practice games.” While this may apply more to professional players — as ranked for them is effectively a practice game — it can still help to shift your own mindset too.

If you can take a step back and remain detached, you are better equipped to analyze what you can improve. If you’re always focused just on winning and ranking up, you may miss obvious things that you can improve as a player. Be open to your mistakes, be they something you identified or something someone else has brought to your attention. If you can avoid making the same mistakes in the future, you will start to see improvements.

The important thing to remember is that you are the only person that you can control, and the only person you truly impact with your gameplay. Use that to your advantage and take a hard look at your performance before going into your next match.

Take Regular Breaks as Needed

My personal rule is to play until I lose, unless my first game is a loss in which case I’ll give myself a second chance. When I lose, I often get nervous that I’ll lose again, which makes me perform worse and opens me up to frustration. Other players will have different rules for themselves. Your best bet is to identify at what point you start to get frustrated or perform poorly and take a break. If for you the third or fourth loss of the day puts you on tilt, you know now to take a break before that happens next time. Stick to this rule! Losing streaks are incredibly demoralizing and can make your performance plummet, and with it your SR.

Overwatch Season 5 Tips - Getting Angry

Another, perhaps more important, time to take a break is when you find yourself getting angry enough that you start taking it out on your teammates. Yelling on voice chat or typing abuse at someone is not helping anyone. In fact, you’re likely going to make your target play worse because they’re frustrated. No one likes being yelled at!

When you find yourself getting angry, finish out your match and quit. Take a break and do something else for a while, possibly away from your PC or console. Come back when you’ve calmed down, or take a longer break if it’s affected you badly enough. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who gets fuelled by anger and becomes even more competitive and performs better, you do you. Maybe just stay off voice chat to reduce the temptation to take that anger out on other players.

Closing Thoughts

Overwatch Season 5 is just getting started, and it feels like a great new opportunity to prove ourselves. But there are plenty of things beyond our mechanical ability with a hero to improve. Your skill as a player involves more than just how well you shoot and your timing on using your hero’s abilities. Those things will improve with practice. There’s a lot of other things you can consciously do to make your competitive experience a more positive one.

Blizzard also launched a Double XP weekend in Overwatch this weekend. It started at 5:00pm PDT on June 8th and will run through to Monday, June 12th at 11:59pm PDT. So if your competitive matches aren’t going so well, get some practice in with other heroes and rack up experience and loot boxes for the Anniversary Event instead!

What are some of your tips and tricks for having a better Overwatch competitive experience? Let us know in the comments below so we can all get better!

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About Psyche

Psyche is a loud, obnoxious gamer, streamer and writer from Northern Ireland. She formerly worked in the games industry as a community manager and eventually project manager. When she's not writing about games, or playing them, she's working on her first novel. RPGs, books, a cup of tea, and talking about outer space are the ways to her heart.