In the year-plus since its launch, Overwatch has come to be known as a “friendly” shooter. It’s goal-oriented, brighter, and generally more inviting than other shooters. It also premiered without a deathmatch mode and specifically hid detailed competitive stats like kill/death ratio from players, so they wouldn’t harass one another about them. That may have had a little something to do with the more jovial reputation.
Regardless, the folks have Blizzard have added Deathmatch and not as part of a temporary event like, say, Lúcioball. That is great for fans of the classics, but it also comes with some dramatic shifts in team composition, planning, and the kinds of strategies you’ll want to use for play. It also comes in two variants — teams and free-for-all. If all that sounds a little overwhelming, don’t worry, we get it. Our Overwatch Deathmatch guide will help you adjust to the more aggressive mode, and maybe even help you improve your tactics in standard play.
Be aware of the changes
There are a lot of rule changes in Deathmatch, compared to standard Overwatch. The playing field is limited to eight players this time, instead of the usual 12 — regardless of whether you’re playing in a free-for-all or on teams. Each kill gets you one point, and “last-hit” rules apply — the last person to damage a dying enemy gets the point. Four-on-four matches are first to 30 kills; free-for-all matches go to 20. If you fall off the stage, you lose a point. All the stages have been tweaked for team deathmatch, and free-for-all players only have one choice: Chateau Guillard.
I need heals!
Healing adds a whole new layer of strategy in Deathmatch. Mercy can resurrect players, she can technically steal points away from the other team. This means that every team brings Mercy, and everyone also guns for her. Even if you aren’t playing Mercy, though, healers are more important than ever in team deathmatch, as they allow you to actively prevent the other team from scoring.
If you’re playing the healer, listen to your team and do your best to keep on top of their needs as you would any other match. We found it helps to work out a simple system to help prioritize targets, though. You won’t be able to be everywhere at once, so, if you’ve got a Hanzo player at half-health pinned and a Symmetra that is about to die, you need to know that. Having words to call out, particularly over voice chat to bump someone up the transplant list, as it were, can be the difference between the other side scoring or not.
And, if you’re alone, you generally want to stick with the rest of the team. There is always been safety in numbers, but here even more so. Unless you’re routinely skilled enough to handle two or three other players on your own, you want to make sure you can at least call for backup, if need be.
Traps, traps, traps
Speaking of which, one of the most effective tactics is to leverage groups. Play games with your enemy, see if you can’t send someone out as bait only to kite them back to an ambush and kill the lot of them. Symmetra and other “builders” can help here as well, allowing you to set up a bit more firepower on the other end. Having four players dumping bullets, arrows, or whathaveyou into a single foe is a mighty powerful tool — even better with a turret.
This sounds like basic logic, but again, this leverages the fact that kills are what matters. If you’re defending a single point, as you would in Overwatch proper, the foes know where you are and they tend to hit in waves. Kiting and trapping on the other hand basically gives you the chance to score points basically unanswered, plus, you might even get healed back up to full and be able to trot along, losing absolutely zero tactical or other advantages. Then you can roll out like a glob of doom.
Every character can be good but choose wisely
One of Overwatch greatest strengths’ is that every character is viable — and there are different types of heroes for different types of players. While Mercy takes on a special role in team deathmatch, beyond her, there is no one hero who is critically essential.
You might think that high damage dealers like Soldier 76 and tanks like Reinhardt would be preferable, as they can kill fast or be a tough out in a fight. In team deathmatch, though, dealing lots of damage isn’t the only important thing to consider. Lucio, for example, can self-heal. That is always useful and can mean the difference between giving up a point or living to fight on. Sombra‘s hacks too can lock down the health packs scattered around the map, meaning that she can grab health and deny the same to others.
In free-for-all, however, some characters may be more self-sufficient than others. The skills that make heroes like Lucio and Sombra are still great picks in general play still stands, but without people to back you up, you need to approach play a bit more carefully. All of your character’s strengths (and their weaknesses) become much more important as you leverage what you can and try to compensate for gaps in your defenses.
The question you want to ask yourself is: Does this character fit with the way I want to play? You might need to rethink how you play them and what they’re best at.
Pick on players you know you can take
While it may not be the… erm… nicest tactic, it’s very, very effective. Because Deathmatch lacks the same kind of group cohesion and numbers of other modes, you will often be squaring off against one other player in a duel. You want to set up that match before you even get there.
Know your character and know the roster. Know what types of players you can handle. If you’re playing Widowmaker, then you know to pick on Pharah or McCree. Follow those players around the map, and if you can hunt them down consistently. Deprive them of health packs, make them come to you and abuse the hell out of your advantage.
Kill fast, leave quietly
Lastly, this is a broader tip that should guide just about all your actions. If you wander about for even a few seconds, you are likely to stumble across two other players duking it out. In a team game, you probably want to jump in, but when you’re alone in a free-for-all, you will want to let the bout go on for as long as possible, then try to gobble up both kills when they have done most of the work for you. Regardless of the mode, cleaning up an almost-complete fight minimizes your personal risk. You’re more likely to escape with your life, and it means that you will probably get that all-important final hit.
It’s just as important, though, to avoid having someone else sneak up on you and pull the same tactic. Remember: There are no safe moments in deathmatch, and every moment you spend in combat — even if you have the advantage — is a moment of opportunity for someone else.