Tracer is one of the best defensive heroes in the game. This might seem a bit ridiculous – after all, how is a fast, hard to hit blinking annoyance any good at protecting your backline? But in Overwatch, the best defense is a good offense. Of course, Tracer shouldn't be in her team's backline parrying threats – there are way better heroes, like McCree and even Sombra, if a Tracer player wants to do that. However, ironically by being a threat on the flank, Tracer when played properly can neuter enemy flankers and even long-range DPS like Widow and Hanzo. Even better, Tracer can make it so the backline doesn't have to deal with a flanker at all, unlike "peel" heroes like Brig who can only deal with flankers after they're already in your backline.
Let's go over some basic facts as Tracer:
- She is capable of winning a 1v1 against any squishy threat, and she can survive against tanks and while she might not kill them, she can force enemy tanks back to their team.
- She is more mobile than any other hero in the game except Ball.
- She wants to be on the flank, and she will fight enemy flankers for control of those flanks.
All of these points are important, but especially the last point. Overwatch is a game that is largely based on map control. The team that controls not only the objective but the space around the objective is much more likely to win a fight. As the name suggests, flankers (and dive heroes in general) want to be able to use the flanks to access the enemy backline, but good teams won't give up those flanks for free.
Tracer is the best hero for contesting flankers before they even engage on your backline and contesting long-range heroes that want to take angles. Against heroes like Genji and Doomfist, Tracer can just easily win the 1v1. Against dive tanks like Winston and Ball, who often want to be flanking so that they can engage without committing their cooldowns or taking a lot of poke, Tracer can force them back to their team. And against heroes like Widow and Hanzo, Tracer can make it hard for them to get good sightlines on your team. The point is, as Tracer, your job is not only to pressure the enemy backline. Before a fight, press tab and ask yourself: who on the enemy team can I punish for being split apart from their team? And then ACTIVELY scout for those heroes and try to, well, punish them for being split apart from their team! Let's go over some examples:
Example 1. https://imgur.com/a/FTbaFKX
You are attacking Junkertown 3rd, and the enemy is holding the 1st "corner" (green). Your team has pushed up a bit (blue) and is preparing to brawl with the enemies holding that corner. But there is a Doomfist (yellow) holding high ground, prepared to slam onto your backline once your team pushes!
Obviously that's bad, but as Tracer, you are the one who should be dealing with the Doomfist. How? Just before your team enters the fight (important!), go up the stairs to high ground (pink) – maybe go earlier if you want to recharge blinks – and take the 1v1 with the Doomfist. Chances are, you won't get the kill, but that's okay! All you need to do is to force out the Doomfist from high ground, which relieves a lot of the threat on your backline.
It's important that you do this right before your team enters the fight though, because if you do it when your team is already committed, the Doomfist would have already engaged on your backline and the enemy will essentially be fighting a 6v5 for a brief period of time. As Tracer, you can split apart early from your team and take control of the flanks and high ground before your team is committed to the fight, which gives your team an advantage. If you successfully clear the Doomfist from high ground, that not only eliminates the threat on your backline (it's really hard to get value early fight from Doomfist without flanking) but gives your team a 5 second window in which it's essentially a 6v5 – Doomfist is useless without cooldowns nor good positioning for the engage.
Example 2. https://imgur.com/a/y6YdVaP
On Hanamura 1st, it's very common for defending flankers or even main tanks to hide in the mega room (yellow) just before the choke. I wish teams would have gotten used to this and actually clear that room before pushing the choke, but everyone just wants to run it down main (blue).
As Tracer though on attack, you can help prevent a surprise flank (or surprise charge by an enemy Rein) by going into the mega room (pink). You do not have to get the kill! Just your presence alone will likely spook even the most audacious back to their team, and obviously you can't kill a Rein on your own for instance, but you can at least force him to charge back to his team. Not only will you at least eliminate the flank threat, but you will likely force cooldowns out of whoever is using the mega room to flank, which gives your team an easier time pushing for a brief moment.
The lesson is: Tracer has the mobility and the power in 1v1 duels to be able to clear flanks. After 5 years, teams should already be used to checking their flanks and their six before running it down main, but they aren't. But as Tracer you can do some of that homework for them.
Example 3. https://imgur.com/a/QBzy16I
Your team is defending Rialto 1st. They have just dropped down to defend the corner, and since they're playing brawl, they're directly holding the corner (blue). The enemy main tank is playing Winston, and obviously they do not want to be pressing W and left clicking on Rein. There are two main ways for the Winston to engage (green arrows):
- Jump up to high ground, wait a couple seconds for his jump cooldown to come back, and then drop on your team's backline.
- Circle around your team using the low ground flank and walk towards your backline.
As Tracer, the best bet is not to drop with your team, but to actually stay on high ground (pink). Why? Because by doing so, you can chunk down a significant part of Winston's HP before engaging or force out his bubble. If he jumps up to high ground, you are in position to put a few clips into Winston so that he either has to commit bubble or, worse, drop on your team with half HP. If he decides to use the low ground flank, you can shoot the Winston as he comes out from the high ground which might force out his bubble earlier or at least soften him so your team can deal with him.
Tracer might not be able to kill dive tanks, but she can make it hard for them to properly engage. Forcing out cooldowns or even chunking down HP is already big value!
Example 4. https://imgur.com/a/76lYYWn
Both teams are fighting on point on Busan Sanctuary (blue, green). Your team is running a Pharah and you as Tracer, but the enemy team has an Ashe.
Hitscans are good against Pharah, but only if they have good angles on her. Your Pharah (white) is using the pillar to provide cover against the Pharah, but the enemy Ashe decides to go into dojo (yellow) so that she can get an angle around the pillar and threaten your Pharah directly. However, you should notice that this leaves the Ashe separated from the rest of her team.
What should you do? Go into the drum room (pink), duel the Ashe (a duel that you should easily win), and force her back to her team. Even if you don't get the kill, the Ashe will not only be low HP which makes her more afraid of peeking Pharah, but you take away the best angle for her to actually shoot Pharah. Even better, you can go into the dojo before the Ashe even takes the angle, which makes it so that she can never get good sightlines in the first place (without taking the less desirable angle on the right).
Tracer's defensive abilities are too often discounted by players, and this is a problem because that's where a lot of Tracer's overall value comes from. Tracer might be a slayer of backlines as her full-time job, but her side gig of controlling the map and putting pressure on enemy flankers still makes a lot. By being aware of the enemy comp and adjusting your play to counter their flank and long-range threats, you will be able to get value out of Tracer not only in the enemy backline, but also for your own backline.
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