Image: Blizzard Entertainment, Shutterstock Graphics: Vicky Leta
Angela “Mercy” Ziegler has long been one of Overwatch 2’s most iconic heroes, and after years of being the scapegoat for when things go wrong in a match, the players who main this airborne healer are sick and tired of your ***. Mercy is the caretaker of the heroes of Overwatch, and as she flies over a battlefield, she sees all that happens between a payload’s starting point and its destination. So I talked to some Mercy players about what they want tanks, damage dealers, and fellow healers to know about in order to better help them help you help them.
Twitch streamer Skiesti has been playing Overwatch since its original beta, and says she was drawn to Mercy as an early favorite because she felt she could contribute to matches, even without a great deal of experience with the shooter genre.
“I mainly come from playing League of Legends and I didn’t really have that experience with FPS,” she says. “When I first started playing with mutual friends of mine, they did have that background. So they were more interested in the DPS and Tank kind of roles. So I was like, ‘okay, I’ll play support.’ Back then you only had Mercy, Lucio, Zen, and Symmetra, and Mercy’s movement was just really cool to me. And I was like, ‘I’ve never come across a hero like this before.’ I was able to contribute by my knowledge of the game and what I was observing. So it didn’t matter that I didn’t have the same kind of FPS experience because I was able to contribute in other ways.”
That inexperience with FPS games sprouted into something much bigger, as Skiesti has since turned playing Mercy into a full-time job. She streams six days a week and spends time talking with her Twitch chat about how to get the most out of the character, whether that be answering questions, demonstrating techniques in the practice range, coaching, or directing folks to her YouTube channel where she posts tutorials and other educational content. Skiesti says Mercy has given her a community that she’s “absolutely in love with.”
“It’s a unique and special position that I just wouldn’t be in without the [community] interest and the hero that I have,” she says.
In the years since the original Overwatch beta, Skiesti says one of the biggest obstacles she’s run into as a Mercy player is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of teammates about what Mercy’s responsibilities are as a healer, a misunderstanding that runs through countless interactions she’s had with other players, especially now that Overwatch 2 has removed one tank from the line-up.
“It’s funny, because a lot of tank players get really upset with Mercys,” she says. “They’re like, ‘Mercy, why aren’t you healing me? Why are you doing [this other thing]?’ [Often,] if your second support isn’t able to keep your tank alive, you can get more value damage-boosting your DPS and trading your tank’s life for the lives of the enemy team … A lot of tank players get upset about that, but it’s not really Mercy’s job anymore [to just heal tanks], and a lot of people don’t quite know that.”
So what is Mercy’s job, and how can you help her do it? As I spoke to other Mercy players, the discrepancy in what other players think the hero is best suited for and what those who actually play her think seemed to be a throughline in their experience. But even among them, there were some conflicting feelings about how they were most comfortable playing Overwatch 2’s angelic medic.
As she exists now, Mercy’s primary function is as a pocket healer and damage booster: She heals one ally at a time, or can choose to increase the power of their damage-dealing abilities. She’s able to fly, giving her better mobility than other support heroes like Ana or Zenyatta. Because of this, she’s more reliable in a scrap. But she is, ultimately, a support character, so some Mercys tend to keep a bit of distance between themselves and the enemy.
Understanding which brand of Mercy main you’re playing with is helpful, but I also found some universal truths between the accounts of all the players I spoke with. With that in mind, read on to learn how to help Mercy help you.
Don’t be greedy
Mercy is a capable medic, but she is just one person with four teammates to care for.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
As any Overwatch 2 player knows, teammates spamming their “I need healing!” voice line whenever they’ve run unprotected into a firefight is commonplace. But Mercy is just one woman, and her healing is more focused than characters like Baptiste and Moira, who can heal in larger spaces and with higher healing numbers. HalexUwU, a top 500 support player, explains that while Mercy is a capable healer, her kit isn’t tooled to allow her to maintain an entire team. Tanks, who have higher health pools and tend to take the brunt of damage in a firefight, often think Mercy is meant to pocket them and keep them topped off, but she isn’t built for that. She’s built for supporting damage players with concentrated healing and strategic damage boosts.
“I think the biggest mistake I see tanks making would have to be the amount of resources they demand,” Halex says. “Overwatch  is a resource allocation game, and when you take damage you demand resources, whether that be attention, abilities, etc. from your supports. If your supports are forced to constantly pump healing into you, use all of their cooldowns on you, and only use their healing primary fire, they cannot support their DPS or look for aggressive plays.”
Mercy’s primary function is as a healer, but she also is able to resurrect one teammate. Just as they ask for healing, teammates will also ask for a rez after going down in a team fight. Skiesti notes that knowing when a resurrect is viable is a key part of playing Mercy, and unfortunately, most players who don’t use the character have a distorted view of when a Mercy can safely fly in and bring them back to life. This creates a lot of uncomfortable pressure for support players who don’t feel well protected but are being pestered to fly in and save someone in the enemy’s line of sight.
“Most of the time [Mercy players] know what their limits are and what rezzes they can go for, but if someone’s like, ‘oh my gosh, rez me’ it puts pressure on them to feel like they have to rez you,” she says. “Then, a lot of times it doesn’t end up being safe and they just die and it’s like ‘well, I shouldn’t have listened to them but like I felt pressured to because they were calling out for it.’ It’s fair to just let her make that decision.”
Not every hero has a self heal, but many have ways to keep themselves alive while the support player is busy.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Generally, a coordinated Overwatch 2 team has supports at the ready to attend to their teammates and heal them, but unpredictable fights can easily find your team split up, and your Mercy’s attention divided. As a tank in this situation, being self-sustaining is the best way you can help your teammates. This is possible with characters like Roadhog, Junker Queen, and Orisa who have abilities that can give them temporary health increases, or shield-based heroes like Reinhardt, Ramattra, and Sigma who can put up defenses. Ultimately, a Mercy can heal you, but you can’t just thoughtlessly run into things without some personal survivability.
“If we’ve got a Zen and Mercy, I’m hoping that the tank has some sort of way to kind of sustain themselves so that Zen can just put orb on them, and I’ll peel for them here and there while trying to take advantage of discord [to] damage boost together,” Skiesti says. “But in those lower healing comps, you do need to peel back a bit more.”
One way you can keep yourself alive while Mercy is attending to others is to be mindful of health packs. These are scattered across every map and often tucked away in safe areas, but a lot of players won’t break off from the fight to go find one, expecting a healer to handle all the healing on their own. Sabrina Ruiz, who has been playing Mercy since 2016 and has put over 600 hours into the hero, says she wishes more independent heroes who tend to get into the thick of team fights wouldn’t be solely reliant on Mercy and other support characters when health packs are readily available around the battlefield.
“I feel like oftentimes Tracers, Wrecking Balls, or any of those kind of really deep divers—sometimes Genjis, sometimes Reapers—they don’t know how to get to health packs, I guess,” she says. “So they’ll just be low health the entire time, and they’re not utilizing health packs until I can get to them. And I feel like that’s a really important part to think about, too, knowing your map well enough where you know where health packs are. Because if you’re like three, four enemies deep in, it’s just not a good idea for me to go all the way back there. I have a whole other team to heal.”
Focus on key kills and shutdowns, not just raising your kill number
Heroes like Widowmaker are going to target your support. If you can’t kill them immediately, find ways to make them ineffective.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
In a lot of competitive shooters, you’re often faced with fighting whoever’s in front of you, but in a game like Overwatch 2, taking out the right enemy can be the difference between a payload moving forward a few feet and your Mercy being taken out, resulting in a snowball effect where your team falls one by one. As good as it feels to take out enemies as they come, if you don’t handle the Widowmaker scoping from the backline, she’s going to take out the squishy team members that would’ve kept your offense afloat. Ideally, every fight should end with your team alive and on the objective, but the order of operations should be determined by who’s on your team, and what hard counters your opponents have at their disposal.
“I feel like as long as you can nail that, you really can help support your own support by keeping them up as well because it’s like, okay, I’m killing the people that matter,” Ruiz says. “If the Widows and the Sojourns, you know, they’re really putting out that damage, it’s shutting down your Mercy. [If you go after them] you may not have as many kills, but your healer’s staying up and they’re able to keep you up to get objectives. “
While taking an enemy out is obviously the most effective way of protecting Mercy and other heroes, looking for ways to mitigate damage in the meantime is also important. Hitscan characters like the sniper Widowmaker, assault-rifle-using Soldier: 76, and revolver-sporting Cassidy are particularly effective at taking down flying heroes like Mercy. Having characters who can properly defend her is key to countering this.
“I actually had a game last night where I had a Mercy on my team and I was playing Sigma, and there was an enemy Widow who was absolutely trying to focus on our Mercy as much as possible,” Ruiz says. “She’s in the air, she’s doing what she needs to do. I basically had my shield cooldown honed down to that Widow’s movements.”
By using Sigma’s shield, Ruiz was able to defend her Mercy and keep Widowmaker at bay, to the point where the opposing player switched to Reaper. The shotgun-wielding hero isn’t quite as hard a counter to Mercy, but can better maneuver around Sigma’s shield. While this shift required a change in strategy on Ruiz’s side, it showed an awareness of her team’s composition, and allowed them to continue toward the objective without having to worry about the sniper.
“Using your cooldowns to shut down even just one DPS like that, where you can focus your attention on all the other teammates while that DPS is just basically shoved into the naughty corner, not allowed to do anything, that’s the best thing that you can really do when it comes to making sure that your Mercy stays alive,” Ruiz says.
Be open to new strategies
While every map has a critical path, you’ll find greater success taking the road less traveled.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Overwatch 2 is a game about experimentation and trying new things. It’s got over 30 heroes and you can freely switch between them within your role in a match. But many of the Mercy players I spoke to felt that some players seem wholly unwilling to go off the beaten paths of a map. Most maps have a pretty clear path that is central to objectives and team fights, but Halex says some players feel so beholden to it that they’re unwilling to try other routes and strategies.
“Even in Grandmaster, teams will try to force the same things over and over again while it’s clearly not working,” they say. “A good example of this is the start of Junkertown’s second point. The start of the payload’s pathway is surrounded by a very thin, dominant high ground. I’ve seen teams attempt to push this high ground two, three, sometimes four times without success. If your push isn’t working, you need to try something else.”
According to Ruiz, high ground is the answer a lot of DPS players are looking for when they keep failing on the path most traveled. Characters like Soldier: 76, whose ultimate Tactical Visor allows him to lock on to enemies and shoot without missing, can do much more damage from a higher vantage point than stuck in the middle of a scrum. But a lot of players refuse to look up.
“I don’t know if this is maybe a lower elo thing or what, but no DPS takes high ground,” she says. “And I think that’s the biggest thing that DPS tend to avoid is that they either go straight in the center of like, let’s say Push, they’re always right in the center, because that’s where everyone is, you know? That’s the easiest sight line. You can get an eye on everyone, but if you can see them that easily, they can see you that easily. And with high ground, it’s so much easier for you to just kind of back up, break the line of sight, and then go get those kills and those picks.”
Positioning, positioning, positioning
Mercy’s Guardian Angel ability helps her traverse the map and be an effective support, but she needs to be able to see you to pull it off.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
A lot of Mercy’s movement is based on flying to her teammates. The Guardian Angel ability lets her fly toward a targeted ally, but unlike Kiriko, she can’t do this through walls. So if you want Mercy to heal you, damage boost you, and still survive in a team fight, she needs to be able to see you. More than anything, being mindful of where you are and if Mercy can see you was the highest priority for every Mercy main I spoke to. Skiesti explains that Mercy’s ability to see a teammate can be the difference between your healer surviving or not. But she’s run into teammates who seem indifferent to protecting her and approaching a situation safely.
“Sometimes [a teammate will] go out of your line of sight or they won’t wait for you or they won’t really pay attention to where you actually are,” she says. “Then they’ll end up losing you potentially, and in some cases, then they get upset at you. It’s like ‘well, I’m trying to follow you, but you’re going into enemy sightlines and into dangerous areas. I’m trying here, but I also have to stay safe.’”
What some don’t seem to realize is that Mercy’s Guardian Angel is useful both as a means of helping you in a fight, as well as saving her when she’s in danger, as it allows her to fly to an ally quickly to close long distances in a short amount of time. Good Mercy teammates should be aware of where she is if she’s trying to escape a team fight or just a straggler who’s chasing her down. Simply being in her line of sight will give her an easy way to close distance and get to safety. Because of that, Mercy players love when a teammate stays close enough after a lost fight that they can fly to to them rather than having to run and jump for their life.
“Please don’t stand behind walls, or AFK near spawn,” Skiesti says. “There are so many situations where I couldn’t get out, but my teammate goes behind a wall when they were previously like having a good line of sight for me, but I wasn’t quite in range yet. Then, all of a sudden, I’m dead because of it. And it’s like, ‘oh, that ***.’ If you’re backing out of a fight, make sure that Mercy can follow you so that she doesn’t end up dying.”
Positioning in life is one thing, but positioning in death matters when a character like Mercy can potentially resurrect a teammate. More often than not, a death can’t be helped in Overwatch 2, but if you feel like a fight is about to go south, do the best you can to run toward a relatively safe position. It’s not guaranteed, but if you die next to a wall or some other cover, a Mercy might be able to actually revive you, compared to if you had died in the middle of an open space.
“Play corners,” Halex says. “If you get headshot by Widow out in the open I can’t do anything about that. If it happens next to a corner I can resurrect you no problem.”
Everyone knows the ultimate voice lines, but paying attention to all the little audio cues can make a huge difference.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Overwatch 2’s audio design is incredibly thorough, and if you play long enough, you can often ascertain a situation entirely by audio cues. Where some sound bites like the ultimate voice lines are well known, Ruiz says she feels a lot of players overlook just how integral sound is to reacting to any in-game situation.
“I feel like people hear like, ‘okay, I heard ult go down. I’m good to go forward.’ Okay, did you hear if your healer got hurt? Did you hear footsteps from the Reaper coming down the hall? Did he use his ability? It’s so many layers,” Ruiz says. “Honestly, [it’s one of] the fun parts, for me. I love hearing all that.”
Recently, Overwatch 2’s meticulous audio was in the news over here at Kotaku because a Widowmaker skin had additional sound effects associated with it that could tip off enemies. While it can come to bite you in the ***, it’s a key part of playing Overwatch 2 because every action and reaction has associated sound effects, even down to the sounds a character makes when taking damage.
“I can tell when the Ana who’s on my team is getting hurt because she’s making those pained noises,” Ruiz says. “That’s when I know I’ve got to shift my focus from who I’m healing on right now to make sure that my other healer is okay. I feel like a lot of people kind of ignore and don’t realize just how important it is because you can tell that your teammate is low health before you can even see it.”
These audio cues can let you know if an enemy has snuck into your backline and is diving on a healer like Mercy. While she has offensive options like her secondary pistol, without a Valkyrie ult to give her infinite ammo, it’s still a risky proposition to leave a Mercy to fend for herself. So if you hear Mercy cry out that she’s “under attack” or it just sounds like she’s not having a good time, turn around rather than only focusing on what’s in front of you.
“As Mercy, if I’m running circles around a Tracer, while I’m wasting her time, I’m not really doing all that much. If an ally can turn around and look at the Tracer who has used all of her abilities to chase me, she should be an easy kill.”
Being aware of what’s happening around you is also key for letting Mercy comfortably float in areas that are outside of enemy sightlines, but still require her to constantly be using Guardian Angel so she doesn’t fall off the map. Halex pointed to Ilios Well, where some Mercy players will fly over the ledge of the map, and fly to a teammate in order to keep from falling. But this strategy only works if allies remember she’s there and stay in range.
“As Mercy, on many maps, you’ll often want to play on ledges,” Halex says. Ilios Well is a good example. While the ledge is very safe, sometimes allies will forget you’re there and they may accidentally let you fall too far.
In Overwatch 2, nearly every character is reliant on cooldowns, but Ruiz says not enough players do a good job of communicating and coordinating with teammates about when their enemies’ abilities are on ice. Some characters, like Roadhog (although he was just nerfed) have abilities like his Chain Hook that are inherent to their playstyle and worth not only being aware of, but communicating to your teammates.
“Let’s say you have an enemy Roadhog on the other team, which is everywhere now as he’s kind of meta right now. Nobody plays against that hook cooldown,” Ruiz says. “I actually have another healer that I duo with, and the most common comm between us both is when ‘hook’ is down, because that’s the game-changing hook.”
As a Mercy, plan for chaos
You can tell all your teammates to stay close and to refrain from telling you how to rez, but as a Mercy, you should probably just expect for things to take an unorganized turn if you’re not on voice chat with people who listen to you. Skiesti says it’s important to not only be prepared for this, but to have active solutions in mind for when things inevitably go awry.
“The biggest mistake that I see in a lot of people, just all across the ranks, and even when people are talking to me is being like ‘oh, my team did this. My team did that. What am I supposed to do about that,’ she says. “Admittedly, there are situations where there’s not really much you can do about certain things. But a lot of people get very frustrated about things that are out of their control. And I understand that frustration. But rather than focusing on that, I try to encourage people to focus on what could you be doing that could maybe help more? Because you can’t control how someone else is playing. The only thing that you have control over is how you’re playing. So try to work with your team as best as possible, and just know that chaotic things are gonna happen.”
As unpredictable as playing with others can be, Skiesti says having specific plans before the spawn point doors open can help you adapt quickly and is key to playing a good Mercy that’s most effective within the parameters you’re given. Positioning yourself strategically is just as important as your teammates doing this for you. As much as Mercy can be a scapegoat for when things go wrong, it’s important to remember not to scapegoat others without cause when you can make adjustments, yourself.
“If you find yourself alone a lot as Mercy and in your perception, it’s like your teammates are leaving you to die, I would strongly recommend adjusting how you’re positioning, so that you are instead taking advantage of natural cover, making sure you’re around max beam length away from your pocket, using her movement to try to increase your survivability, and trying to have teammates in mind for Guardian Angel targets if you need to fall back,” she says.
Skiesti also recommends having voice lines such as “Group Up” at the ready to tell people to stay close, so you’ll always have someone to fly to using Guardian Angel.
“Your support has arrived.”
Overwatch 2 is a game with a lot of moving parts and variables, but knowing your team and how to accommodate for their strengths and weaknesses can make the best of any situation.Image: Blizzard Entertainment
While Overwatch 2 is a complicated interlocking of so many systems, the Mercy mains I spoke to agreed that the hero’s place in the current game meta both acts as a good starting point for teaching the game to others, as well as a useful comparison point between her and the other supports.
“I feel like, if you know how to play with a Mercy, you can play well with a lot of other kinds of heroes, too,” Ruiz says.
Mercy has gone through several iterations over the years, but to know her is to have a lot of general Overwatch 2 game sense. She’s reliable, and doesn’t ask too much of her teammates. As Halex says, she’s the support character who, compared to less mobile heroes like Ana and Zenyatta, asks for the bare minimum of her team while providing versatile support. All she needs is a team with the game sense to help her get where she needs to go.
“In general, Mercy is the support you pick so allies don’t have to play around you,” they say. “Mercy is extremely independent in terms of the resources she asks from her team. If you play Ana, for example, you need your allies to be in line of sight, you need them to not wake up sleeping targets, you need them to capitalize off good ‘nades, and you need lots of protection from flankers. As Mercy, allies don’t have to do any of that. Mercy heals and damage boosts without [direct] line of sight. She keeps herself alive with her mobility. Mercy is the support you play to enable allies and ask for as few resources from them as possible.”