Overwatch was the first competitive game that managed to gather my interest. I knew I was too dense for RTS. I received a crash course in League of Legends, which only fortified my assumption MOBAs aren’t for me either. Counter-Strike also wasn’t quite to my liking, since the general gameplay was a tad too slow for my taste. But Overwatch hit a nerve. Which is why I stuck with it despite originally being placed in Silver.
When I started playing competitively during Season 3, I finished my placement matches at around 1950 SR. Needless to say, I was rather dissatisfied with the result and immediately knew I wanted to become a better player. 600 hours have passed since, blood, sweat and tears have been shed. As of today, one year later, I comfortably hover around Mid-Masters, striving to hit Grandmasters next season, and now play Support for a small British team.
Here are a couple of tips for some less experienced or lower elo players among you.
1. Play the Game and overcome your fright of Ranked
If you watch the stream of any professional player and ask them what to do to become better at the game or what they did to become as good as they currently are, most of them will give you the following answer: Play the game – or “Git Gud” in case of Seagull. Surely, there are some Overwatch prodigies such as Sinatraa or Dafran, but those guys are the exception rather than the rule. There really isn’t much more to it. If you want to improve, you need to play.
While I could end this tip right here, I am of the opinion it is important to mention why exactly you need to continuously grind Ranked: you need to get used to the nature of competitive play. The ladder is quite different from Quick Play and if you don’t feel comfortable performing your best constantly, you need to get that sorted out as fast as possible. During the early days of my competitive escapades, I felt like Ranked was something I should only do maybe once or twice a week, for it was quite stressful. However, once you managed to surpass the feeling of stress, Ranked will become your new go-to-mode within the matter of a few days.
You should by the way never waste your time with Quick Play except for when you want to warm-up before a match. Quick Play is fine for casually grinding for Loot Boxes or to learn new heroes, but try to avoid it if you actually intend to improve during your session. You gain nothing from playing 6 DPS vs 6 DPS compositions all day long.
2. Watch the Pros
If you intend to become one of the best, who better is there to watch than the very best. Watching pros play will grant you a plethora of advantages. First and foremost, you will see how the game should ideally be played. You can, for example, learn how to properly position yourself just by watching games on the daily.
Second, watching High-Elo Solo-Queue games, tournaments, or scrims will improve your ability to critically analyse gameplay, regardless of whether it’s your own or someone else’s gameplay.
Now you might ask yourself as to why professional games will help you with self-reflection. After all, seeing something done right is easier to comprehend in terms of improving your own gameplay. Here’s the thing. Pros do a lot less mistakes than all of us plebs further down the ladder. As you might have noticed, games on such a high level are won or lost by the smallest faux pas.
If you manage to pinpoint these mistakes and ask yourself what exactly they did wrong in order to die and/or to lose the team fight, you will learn how to avoid even the smallest mistakes. All you need to do afterwards is to apply your newly gained knowledge in your own matches.
3. Get Enough Sleep
I cannot stress enough how important a healthy amount of sleep is. Despite this, I don’t think I have ever seen a content creator or gaming outlet mention the relevance of sleep in one of their countless Overwatch guides.
Try to get at least six to eight hours of sleep every night, especially if you intend to play some competitive matches the day after. Furthermore, try to play as early as your current life situation allows you to. The sooner you start, the less exhausted your body and, more importantly, your brain will be. Even if your matches won’t go as well as you wished, you will at least have a whole day at your disposal to mitigate tilt.
I played a horrendous amount of games when I was tired, didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or was generally stressed out, and let me tell you, all my games went horribly. My aim was completely off, my decision making as well as positioning abominable, and I was even more prone to tilt than I usually am.
4. Play Overwatch, Not the Blame Game
There will be those games in which one of your teammates will instalock Hanzo before you have even managed to get past the loading screen. Said teammate will also get 3 kills at best during the entire match – all of them with a random Scatter Arrow on a stray Tracer mind you – and on top of that will only show his face in the top right corner of the screen when he feeds more than that lovely old lady who takes cares of the pigeons at your local park.
But despite all of this, it is your duty to not say a single word about their lacklustre gameplay. I know it is hard; I’ve been in this situation more than once; I assume we all have, yet you need to remain calm and collected. Once you call them out for their suboptimal performance, they will most likely tell you to, pardon my French, “shut the f*** up”. You’ll feel insulted and insult them back, maybe your teammates will also jump on the hate train heading straight to tilt central. Every player on your team will start to lose their focus, will start to not pay attention to the current match and rather flame the one guy who maybe just had a rough day. You might even start to ignore your own mistakes and begin to blame the Hanzo guy for them.
This applies to Symmetra one-tricks (no offense, but you had it coming), throwers and whatnot, too. I played countless games with a 1 Off-tank, 1 Support, 4 DPS composition and we still managed to win comparatively easily. How? I accepted I have to play with these guys and focused on my own gameplay.
While I’m at it, I might as well get another misconception out of the way. It is not primarily your teammates’ fault when you lose a game. Refrain from insisting that the only reason you can’t climb is your teammates. Each of the eleven other players in your matches is generally about as good as you are, that’s just the way the matchmaking works. If you either don’t think you belong in [insert Elo here] or if you actually are as good as you think you are, I promise you will have no problems getting out of [insert Elo here]. How do you think I climbed from Silver all the way to Masters? I mostly played solo queue and still made it.
5. Play to Get Better, Not to Gain SR
I am aware of how confusing this tip might sound. The sole purpose of playing Ranked is to gain SR and to climb the ranks as fast as possible, isn’t it? The thing is, many players have the “wrong” mindset when approaching Ranked mode. I noticed that low elo players often complain about losing one match after the other, subsequently leading them to lose SR. All they seem to care about is a virtual number that tries to evaluate how good they are compared to every other player on the ladder. I did so as well.
Stop focusing on that futile number and start to think about why you are losing your games. Start to focus on improving yourself. Once you do so, you will notice your SR will suddenly start to increase. Gaining SR should not be your main concern before, during, and after a match – treat it as bonus you deserve to receive when you played well.
Additionally, there is an inherent problem with the SR system. You can get a victory – and thus SR – by underperforming as long as your teammates will carry your weight, eventually leading to you losing a couple of matches in order to move you where you technically belong. You, however, cannot improve at the game without gaining SR, which is why you should focus on the latter. SR gains do not always equal improvement, while improvement always equals SR gains.
6. The Proper Hero Pool
Don’t try to be a jack of all trades. From my experience this only leads to players knowing how to play every class to a mediocre level but not to a level that is needed to win matches consistently.
What you should rather do is specialising on one class – preferably the one you are the most comfortable with – and try to learn all its intricacies as well as you can. If you look at the Top 500 leaderboard, you will quickly notice that the three most played heroes of each player are of one class. Instead of trying to do everything, they stuck to what they can do best.
This, however, should not mean you should just one-trick your way to the top. Say you are DPS main, since DPS is undoubtedly the most popular class. You will often end up in matches with three other DPS mains who insist on playing DPS and won’t be talked out of it. This leaves you with two choices: Don’t give a damn about your team’s needs and pick a DPS nonetheless, because you think your other DPS players are donkeys anyways and couldn’t hit a barn if they stood in it or be a decent human being and flex to another role just for one match.
On this note I want to add that while DPS might be the most entertaining class, I do not want you to be misconstrued about how difficult it is to master the craft of being a DPS player. Decent aim aside, you will need to learn the most heroes out of all classes. Prepare to be able to play at least one hitscan, one sniper, one or two flankers, and two projectile heroes – since Pharah is one of them and can easily be countered. I am not saying it’s an inevitable must to know all these different DPS heroes, but you will have to be more flexible than players maining other roles.
Learn at least two characters of the other classes, in case of our DPS example those would be one main/off tank and one main/off healer. If you are a tank or support main, I’d suggest you learn at least one hitscan and one projectile hero, that should do the trick if you’re forced to flex.
Playing a variety of characters also provides you with a handful of useful benefits. The more characters you know how to play, the more you learn about what they can and can’t do as well as how to counter them. Furthermore, certain characters will grant you what I like to call soft skills. An example: after playing a lot of Zarya during season 4, I learned when and how to play aggressively. Playing too aggressive would send me straight to the spawn while playing not aggressively enough will leave me with a considerably small amount of charge as well as no created space for my team. Once I started playing DPS again, I felt like I knew how far I could go with my plays without having to be afraid of certain death. Try to use some of the knowledge you gained from playing other heroes and apply it to your main class whenever it’s possible.
Long story short: be the specialist you want to be but also be ready to switch when it’s required.
I hope a couple of these tips will turn out to be useful for at least some of you. Once I hit Grandmasters, I might do an updated list for higher elo players.