As I discussed in my last article, tank-heavy compositions have pretty much dominated Overwatch as of late. This has left little wiggle room for creativity when it comes to group composition. Having a well-timed push with appropriate characters is key to securing points on both Payload and Attack maps. At the professional level, this often means having Soldier 76 or perhaps McCree as your sole DPS when assaulting an objective. They both pack a punch and have excellent survivability, as well as exceptionally powerful ultimates that can tip the scales in your team’s favor. Other DPS characters, like Genji or Tracer, are often time-sensitive and only used for a few crucial spawns. Then, of course, there’s the bane of every competitive ladder match out there: Widowmaker.
What she brings to the table
As the only pure damaging sniper in the game, Widowmaker has the potential to quickly dispatch opposing DPS and support characters. With her grappling hook, she can quickly reach ideal vantage points or potentially escape from danger. Add in a DoT mine and a team-wide wall hack ultimate for utility, and it would seem as though Widowmaker isn’t all that poor of a choice. A competent Widowmaker can crack an enemy defense within the first few seconds of a push, and just as easily cripple a coordinated attack by eliminating healers and damage dealers. She’s also not a bad choice for swatting pesky Pharahs out of the sky. In the right hands, Widowmaker can be a massive nuisance that forces the hand of opposing teams.
Why she usually falls off the table
In order to be a valuable Widowmaker, not only do you have to constantly land headshots when it counts, but you have to be willing to switch out to a character with tools more suited for plopping down on a point. Sadly, most “Widow mains” out there are missing one of both of these necessary attributes.
Now, we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to deal with an arrogant Widowmaker. “I have gold elims,” they often spout off with unwarranted confidence as their team enters a cycle of failed capture attempts. Getting a lot of kills doesn’t mean much as a sniper. You need timely kills. Dropping that Lucio or Ana when your team is in position to push hard is much more important than taking them out during the midfield dance. That gives you a very small window within which to operate at maximum effectiveness before becoming a hindrance to your team (this is assuming you can land headshots on players who aren’t out of position with ease). Unless the opposition is running less tanks than your team, which is probably not the case if you’re attacking, chances are you’re not going to have appropriate targets available long enough to justify staying on Widow. Go look at any pro tournament, and chances are you’ll find a very small sample size of rounds where an attacking team used Widow for more than just one or two initial pushes, regardless of the outcome. They understand the importance of being a flexible team player, which is something many Widowmaker fans seem to be lacking on the competitive ladder.
Why she becomes obsolete
The fact of the matter is that in most even matchups, you will not succeed as Widowmaker. Players understand good positioning, and they know where to duck out of sight to grab a health pack. To further complicate things, if you’re dealt with appropriately, your team is down a valuable DPS slot whereas your opponents have much more well-rounded options on the field with ultimates that deal direct damage. This problem becomes even worse once the fight is taken to a point, if the stubborn Widowmaker has still not switched and players are going down on both sides. She offers absolutely no synergy to her team at this juncture, has no health to speak of, does terrible damage when not zoomed, and has an atrocious 12 second cooldown on her grappling hook. This is not the type of character that can help hold down an objective, which is the only way to win Overwatch matches.
Bottom line: If you’re not killing people faster than respawns can reinforce, and your team is struggling, be a team player and switch off of Widow.
If you must use Widowmaker…
Let’s look real quick at Temple of Anubis, which is one of the more Widow-friendly maps. If you’re going offensive Widowmaker, you have a few options straight out of the gate. You can grapple immediately to the mid ledge, or try for a vertical free fall and hope for a drop-shot like Taimou did in the MLG Las Vegas Grand Finals against Faze. Keeping it basic, you can also just go up either side. Either way, you’re looking at a very narrow field of vision once you’re on the ground.
This is pretty much what you’re looking for as Widowmaker. If anyone is out of position, they die, and your push becomes infinitely stronger. Here’s a bird’s eye view of this area, not to scale (obviously).
A typical ladder match will often open with something like this, where “W” represents Widowmaker’s rough initial position. The purple field is your approximate field of vision, though I’m probably being a bit generous. Red X’s are opposing players, with “R” being Rein. The green X is a potential support or DPS player who is out of position. That’s who needs to die as your team, the blue X’s, goes in for the flank. From here, you can either stay put if you feel safe, or grapple up to the arch and see what else you can do. Regardless of what happens, you’re done after that and absolutely need to switch unless the other team is complete trash. Point B is too easy to reinforce, and your buckets of kills will count for more than likely count for nothing.
Take a look at the video below, and start at 20:15. Taimou opens with Widow, which was probably only because they were up 3-0 on Faze anyway. Nothing comes of the drop shot, and in fact he only gets one kill during that entire push on point A. Then comes the gem…he switches out. This should be everyone’s MO as Widowmaker.
At the end of the day, a player is going to do what they’re going to do. If Widowmaker is the most fun for them, they’re probably never going to switch. However, I hope that any Widow “mains” reading this have a better appreciation for people’s frustration. Kills don’t mean anything unless they’re productive, and not every kill is productive, contrary to what you might think. Next time you’re polishing your gold eliminations badge while your team isn’t succeeding, remember that you cannot build a push off of Widowmaker. No one’s waiting on your ultimate, and no one is saying “After Widow kills X, let’s go”, because it isn’t certain. Widowmaker produces better luck for her team, and it’s often not worth the risk. Fight smarter, not harder.