Overwatch is arguably the most team-dependent competitive first-person shooter to date. There’s so much variation and specialization in the cast of heroes, no one player can hope to master them all! With proper coordination, less mechanically-skilled players can overcome and defeat a stronger team. Although Ranked doesn’t always have talkative teammates, even one person can make a huge difference with efficient shotcalling!
Let me emphasize this: communication is vital to getting the most out of your team – no matter what Skill Rating you’re at! If your team doesn’t have someone attempting to give some directions, then you’ll be at a severe disadvantage against opponents who do. So turn on those mics, summon the leadership qualities that you don’t yet know you have, and let’s get to picking apart the enemy!
What is Shotcalling?
Shotcalling is simply communicating a plan to your team before and during engagements – not necessarily anything sophisticated or complicated! Even simple calls can produce great results. In particular, choosing a hero to prioritize with your team’s damage is the single most important thing to communicate. Having everyone focus fire on the same target will help you gain a numbers advantage as quickly as possible. Once an enemy player is eliminated, you have a window of opportunity to make plays!
In fact, this lack of coordination or “split DPS” is the # 1 reason why many teams feel like their DPS heroes are ineffective. Without a designated target, enemy healers survive risky engagements. Enemy DPS make greedy plays and escape unpunished. For instance, Tracer might be doing a great job harassing the enemy Mercy. Still, unless another player helps out, that Mercy can easily get just enough support from her team to stay alive.
Or how often have you died to a Pharah and seen her floating away at frustratingly low hp? Just one more person would finish her off! These situations are inevitable unless you communicate with your team and designate a focus target.
How to Start Shotcalling
Above all else, try to give clear and simple directions to your team so that you can communicate quickly and without confusion.
When focusing fire, select a target you feel is both relatively easy to kill and highly impactful during the team fight. Many factors can influence your choice, such as how much health the target has, their current position relative to your team, how many enemy teammates are nearby, and if you think they have their Ultimate available. However, if you’re not sure on many of these, simply directing your team at any specific target should be more effective than not having one at all. I’ll go over how to prioritize targets in more detail another time in a more advanced shotcalling installment.
When you designate a target, there are two pieces of information you should always give: who and where. I can’t tell you how many calls go to waste because they didn’t specify where the target was! Never assume that everyone knows the target’s location, even if you think it should be obvious. The last thing you want to hear in response is, “Where is he / she?” If you’re not sure about their position before the fight breaks out, make sure you communicate it immediately once you spot them.
Even once you eliminate the first target, your job’s not over! Make sure to immediately choose another target for your team to focus. Keep doing so until the entire enemy team is dead or too far away to pursue! Also, don’t be afraid to switch the called target if someone else presents a bigger threat to your team. Don’t let Symmetra fully charge and evaporate your entire team just because you didn’t see her initially!
Not Everyone Can Do What You Want
There are a variety of reasons why a teammate might not follow your callout! First of all, while everyone should always join team voice chat, not all players will. Be aware of who does and doesn’t so that you know who can hear you during the game. It’s crucial that you know who even has a chance to do what you’re asking.
Sometimes your teammate will be low on health and looking to back off or seek some heals. Or perhaps they were already dead or returning from respawn. It’s incredibly important not to engage on a risky target before your team is ready! Consider this your goal just as much as ensuring you don’t take too much damage or even die early before the team engagement. Waiting for everyone to be ready and your team to be at full strength is critical to give your team the best chance to win the fight!
Your teammate might also simply not be able to engage the target quickly or easily. Their initial position could be too far away, or at a terrain disadvantage, etc. Mobile / ranged heroes (Winston, Genji, and Pharah, for example) engage immediately on targets, even those on high ground. However, heroes like Reaper, Symmetra, Reinhardt and Zarya might have a more difficult time taking on that same target.
Finally, some people just might have their own idea of what’s best to do in a certain situation. You have to accept that they can make their own decisions when necessary!
In a perfect world, everyone could follow your directions instantly and without question. But don’t let frustration build if things don’t go your way! You should understand that there are a lot of variables that go into every engagement in Overwatch. Everyone won’t always be able to do what you say, when you say it. However, even just part of your team following the same plan is much more effective than everyone doing their own thing!
With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to building effective shotcalling habits. Practice these skills and you’ll lead your team to more victories than ever! Keep an eye out for my upcoming article on advanced shotcalling tactics, coming out later this month! And if you’re struggling with Ranked in this new season, check out my advice in I Want to Break Free: Escaping ELO Hell!