overwatch classes and the problem with symmetra

i don’t pretend to play overwatch at a high level, as mechanically i’ve always kind of struggled with shooters. that’s why i gravitate toward splash damage weapons in games, like pharah, or any rocket launcher, or spinfusor, or whatever i can control my enemy with using clever placement. but as a longtime player of games like dota 2 it’s engraven in my blood to think about your hero draft, team synergy, and counterpicks. as a result i dont really like how overwatch’s class system works.

we as players are presented with 4 kinds of heroes, which can Attack, Defend, Tank, or Support. except, the issue is, without Attack heroes while you defend, you won’t have the damage to win fights. without Defense heroes while you attack, it’s hard to control your opponent’s damage dealers. none of the Tanks are particularly tanky, with the sole exception of Reinhardt, and as a result are played like either flankers or what in other games we would call an initiator. start the fights, jump on the back line as fast as you can, team follows. some are awful on attack, others are useless when defending. then your Supports are all healers (except Symmetra) or buff up your team offensively in some way, with speed or damage increase (except Symmetra). the idea seems to have been

Attack – good fighters

Defense – good at holding the line

Tank – lots of HP i guess?

Support – heals and buffs and Symmetra

the way that i’ve started to kind of think about the game reclassifies this system.


my Duelist class wants to, and can, 1v1 you at close range, pretty much no matter who you are. mobility is secondary to their sheer ability to just out fight you. they may have some mobility skill, because most overwatch heroes do, but they only serve to help the fight. once more heroes are added to who you’re fighting, whether you have help or not, a Duelist falls off.


these have primarily the movement skill as their defining play characteristic. they specialize in getting around you and surprising you, pouring out the damage, and then either just running away or simply controlling you if they don’t get the kill quickly. they ambush you in fights and use your distraction to their advantage, or peel you off the fight while their team wins it without you. Duelists help themselves; Flankers help the fight.


these are heroes who excel with a group of friends, but are easily dealt with on their own. they have damage, sustain, and control all to some degree but lack the movement abilities to really make it happen as a flanker.


this may surprise you but they heal and sustain their team.

Ranged DPS

this is where i think of both stationary defenders and snipers. from afar you are in trouble, but get up close to them and you should be in good shape.

so looking at the above, the only distinction it’s hard to make is between some duelists and flankers. even Symmetra fits neatly into Sustain. so i think this is better and more useful, and the current needs of the game much more easily guide your hero selection both  between and within classes. so here’s where I put heroes and why.


McCree‘s flash-hammer-roll-hammer combo can kill off anybody and his ultimate is impossible to live through without diving behind a barrier. the ultimate 1v1.

Reaper wants to hug you. he should be able to output damage faster than most of his opponents, and while he does rely on his teleport and wraith form, these are to set up solo assassinations and escape, not to disrupt a backline for his team. i mean, they do accomplish similar ends, but Reaper wants to kill you, charging his ultimate, then dive into the fight and insist everyone dies, as opposed to like a Winston who wants to disrupt during said fight.

Tracer really doesn’t want anything to do with your friends. she isn’t interested in your buddies. she only wants to confuse YOU, zip around you, empty shots into you, zip some more, leave, return, do it again, and whittle you down til you die. the bomb gives her some utility against tanks (and plays of the game) and the recall gets her out of trouble.


D.Va is at her best when she jumps out in advance of her team and neutralizes some threat before they arrive, by shoving a sniper, pinning a poor Mercy, or throwing her defense matrix on a turret or Bastion. a Duelist will crush her 1v1 and in a proper fight her damage is lackluster.

Genji wants to get the drop on your snipers and supports. a Teamfight hero can control up and neutralize him, but if they do that during a fight, Genji’s team will go full murderface on you. he also will struggle against a true 1v1er.

Pharah on the ground is a shit Pharah. she is so reliant on her aerial advantage that her best playstyle involves coming at you from an unexpected angle while you are not paying attention to her. her need to move around to do the most work pushes her into the Flanker category over Ranged DPS but she’s only effective in teamfights because of the her ability to move in a third dimension.

Winston loves to jump on squishies when his team is right behind him. oh hi there Mercy buffing Hanzo, who think they are safe behind Reinhardt and Soldier and McCree. let me just make you no longer behind them *hop* zap zap! (if he then looks back at the McCree killing him and slowly a tear falls as he says “……team?” you understand why he is a Flanker, disrupting, rather than driving, the teamfight.)


Mei is the the game’s control specialist. she sets up her team to make kills happen. she lacks the mobility to dive a backline but can sustain herself in a long fight with her ice block heal and stop the backline from contributing with an ice wall. her ultimate, when you let it gooooo, controls EVERYONE. easy Teamfight selection.

Reinhardt is another easy inclusion into Teamfight, because his shield makes that fight go in one direction, and he doesn’t want to charge in and get punchy until the fight has already broken out so he can control up and neutralize that Mercy he just saw.

Roadhog can be effective as a Flanker, but it’s too easy for most heroes to then get away from him and just charge their ults on his giant hitbox. he needs back up. the hook and the ultimate give him plenty of control, his shotgun damage is good, and he can sustain himself with his heal.

Soldier 76 can out duel many heroes, his gun range is decent and his helix rockets strong from afar, but his ability to sustain himself & his ultimate ability to aimbot your whole team helps us identify how he’s meant to be used.

Zarya is here to use the damage she and her friends take during the fight to get stronger as the fight goes on. and then use her BLACK HOOOOOOOLE to stop that fight right now.

Zenyatta is a healer,  yes, but he’s a crap one until he gets his ultimate charged. harmony orb is too slow for how close he needs to be to the person benefiting. he is much, much more effective at debuffing his enemies with discord orb and helping his friends then blow them to hell with the increased damage. he is way too squishy to go it alone, and his actual successful sustain, the ult, lasts way too briefly to actually sustain through the fight, but rather just to turn it in your favor.


Lucio doesn’t have good enough damage or control to contribute offensively to a fight very much, even though a 6-man engagement allows him to be at his best. he is a teamfighting hero without a doubt but his role in that fight is to sustain his team.

Mercy obviously.

Symmetra makes it in here because the teleporter is specifically designed to sustain your front lines and the shield buff is just enough to keep that Widowmaker from landing body shot instagibs on your Tracer. her sentry turrets are very unique in their function and range, but mainly they serve the purpose of charging her teleporter anyway, apart from some area denial, which if you reeeeally stretch the logic, sustains your back line against flankers?

Ranged DPS

Bastion can pour on the HURT, but doesn’t particularly like you to know where he is ahead of time or get close to you. he isn’t mobile enough to teamfight until he ults & needs help and distractions to remain effective.

Hanzo as a sniper fits here very easily. his scattershot makes him not useless in tight, but you’d better do work with that one shot you get or you’re the deadest.

Junkrat can own you from around corners, can drop mines on you, and can blow up a tire from across the map. but his second skill is a trap specifically because he sucks if you get in close to him. if he couldn’t hold you still he’d be food for any duelist or flanker unless the Junkrat were godly.

Torbjorn fits here because of his turret. he offers some sustain from his armor packs, and his ult is a killer teamfight ability, but primarily he exists to shoot at his enemies across the objective.

Widowmaker obviously.

So yeah. that’s how i’ve started thinking about hero classes in overwatch and i wanted to kind of write it out to help organize the thoughts and clarify to myself what it means. maybe it can help you think about team selection differently too. we can’t push the payload? why? maybe our teamfight doesn’t have enough damage -> Soldier 76. maybe we keep getting shot to hell -> Reinhardt. maybe we can’t push up this sight line, so some sniping is in order from afar. etc. the only thing is, Symmetra doesn’t REALLY fit that well still, she is still kind of shoehorned. with more heroes like her she could be reclassified, but as for now, it’s really true that the Overwatch classes remain Attack, Defense, Tank, Support, and Symmetra.


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