In Overwatch, there’s very little that can change the game like an unanswered combination of Ultimates! Each Hero’s Ult can massively affect the battle, but they’re typically only available once every few fights. This means tracking your enemy’s Ultimate progress and adjusting your play accordingly are among the most important teamfight skills… And they’re neglected by the majority of players! How much value an Ultimate gets can easily determine who wins or loses the entire engagement. And knowing what your enemy is threatening will help you make smart decisions and outplay the foes. Let’s start learning!
Ultimates, Charge, & You
Here’s a conundrum. You readily have information about your own team’s Ultimate abilities available by pressing Tab to check the Scoreboard. However, the game doesn’t give you an obvious way to know how far your enemies have progressed towards their own Ults! By paying attention to what each enemy Hero did in past fights – as well as understanding how Ultimate charge works – you can estimate how close each enemy is to unleashing their most powerful ability. You can use that information to your advantage before and even during each fight, to predict and prepare for enemy strategies. With this knowledge, your team can save key abilities and position to counter!
First, you need to understand how Ultimates charge. You gain charge through dishing out damage and healing – as well as a small amount passively over time. This means that Heroes with high health pools reward more Ult charge to the enemy when they die (since it takes more damage to kill them). At the same time, it’s easier for their healers to build their own Ultimates by healing more.
While every Hero needs 100% charge to use their Ultimate, each charges at a different rate. The easiest characters to charge Ult are Tracer, Symmetra, and Sombra. Unless they are very ineffectual, you can expect them to have (or be close to) their Ultimate after just one fight. Mercy can also charge her Ultimate very quickly if she’s healing constantly. The most difficult Ults to charge are Zarya and Lucío. This pair often needs three or more fights to ready their Ultimate abilities. In general, other Heroes usually have their Ultimate about every other fight, depending on how much damage and healing they do.
How to Track Ultimates – Getting Started
Now we know the “baseline” for how quickly a Hero should get their Ultimate under normal circumstances and what affects their charge rate. To take this to the next level, we have to keep an eye out for (A) what each hero accomplished in the last fight and (B) when they last used their Ult.
During the first conflict of the match, it’s unlikely for Heroes to get and use their Ult. The sole exception is if it’s a very drawn-out fight and they play a major role in it. For example, damaging lots of enemies without finishing them off can often lead to a quick Nano Boost or Resurrection as they fall back and get healed by their Mercy or Ana. After the first fight, the winning team’s survivors will generally have more Ult charge than the losers. If someone did a lot of damage or healing during the fight but didn’t use their Ultimate, then they’ll likely have Ult sometime during the next fight. If they died early or played a minor role, then you know they’re further away!
How to Track Ultimates – Keeping Score
You don’t have to personally see every enemy player to get an idea of their contribution. Watch the kill feed. Look for which enemies die, when they die, and which kill your teammates. It’s also good to hit Tab after each fight and see which enemies are ‘On Fire’. An enemy ‘On Fire’ presumably got lots of Ult charge from the previous fight. If you fill a similar role to a specific enemy, you can also compare how much damage / healing you think you did in comparison to your counterpart. If you think you did poorly, then you can guess that the enemy has more Ult charge than you. Did unusually well? Then they likely have less.
It’s especially important to keep track of which enemies use their Ultimates – and which ones don’t. If you think someone was close to (or holding) their Ult in the previous fight, there’s a good chance they’ll use it to turn the tides of the next battle. Once an enemy does use their Ultimate, make a mental note of it and start the process all over again with that particular Hero. Knowing which Heroes used their Ult in the previous fight (especially towards the end) will help identify abilities that you don’t need to worry about for a while.
Tracking Ults: An Example!
Let’s try an example to see what kind of things to look out for:
The enemy team consists of Reinhardt, Zarya, Soldier:76, Tracer, Mercy, and Lucío. The first fight is a long and scrappy battle. Your team eliminates their Reinhardt first, but only after an exchange of pokes. Meanwhile the enemy Tracer flanks and kills your supports. Your team tries to focus down the enemy Zarya. She finally dies but Soldier, Tracer, Mercy, and Lucío finish you off. You’re not sure how damage was split, but no Ultimates were used.
- Reinhardt was the first kill of the fight, so he won’t even be at half charge unless he landed some excellent Firestrikes. Assuming he didn’t, he’s probably around 35% and you don’t need to worry about Earthshatter yet…
- Zarya won’t be too close to Ultimate because she died second and takes a long time to build charge. Still, she could be as high as 50 – 60% depending on how much damage she did.
- Soldier might be close to Ult since he never died and was participating in the cleanup. He’s probably between 60 – 80% and will likely get it during the next fight. Keep an eye out!
- Tracer almost certainly has Pulse Bomb available, because she took part in multiple kills and charges her Ultimate quickly. Another one to look out for!
- Mercy was alive the entire time and was able to heal two juicy tanks in Reinhardt and Zarya. She should have built a lot of Ult charge during the fight. She’ll have Resurrection up, and should be a top priority target!
- Lucío was also alive the entire fight and had the same targets, but charges his Ultimate slowly. Depending on his damage output, he’s probably still a good ways off – around 45 to 60%.
Onward & Upward…
Now that you understand how to track enemy Ultimates, you can play around them… and also warn your teammates what to look out for! This is a perfect opportunity to practice the art of shotcalling – leading your team in the heat of battle. Check out my guide here for more on that subject! If you keep an eye out for these game-changing abilities, you’ll be ready to do something! What exactly? Check back next week for a full rundown of the best ways to counter enemy Ultimates, and put what you just learned to use!