Overwatch League 101


January 17, 2018 by coachcarter717

(All images courtesy of Activision Blizzard Inc.)

Written by Carter Cotrupi

The inaugural Overwatch League season is underway and there is more esports coverage on the horizon here at The Nosebleeds. I figured now would be a good time to highlight some of the key vocabulary I’ll be using in each Overwatch League article to come to help those of you who are not familiar with the game and its mechanics. If you are reading this and thinking “Hey, this is something I might want to check out more”, then this is an article for you, my friend.

Before I cover anything else, I would like to take a moment to express my amazement at the broadcasters and commentators that are covering OWL. There is so much happening on the screen at one time and these guys do a great job of highlighting the most important sequences and simplifying the in-game action, making it more consumable for the viewer. So, kudos to the Overwatch League casters and their phenomenal play-by-play analysis.

Hero Classes:

One of the fundamental things you first learn when playing Overwatch is how all the characters synergize and work together in this team-based game. Each hero belongs to a certain class and this determines what their role on the battlefield can be.


Commonly referred to as “DPS” (damage per second) characters, these heroes pack the most punch but are usually easier targets to eliminate in return. DPS characters are generally harder to play, but offer the most reward because of the high skill level required.


Like their title suggests, these characters are better suited for locking down a point and keeping enemies at bay. Defense heroes like Widowmaker and Junkrat can be used on attack as well and their potential is only limited by the player’s skill level. Many pro players use Widowmaker and her sniper rifle to pick off key opponents with surgical precision.


These heroes have the most HP but are generally less mobile (with DVA and Winston being the exceptions). They are great for soaking up attacks from the enemy while dealing huge spurts of damage in return.


These heroes are essential to winning any match of Overwatch. They are the healers that keep your teammates alive and their survival oftentimes means the difference between winning or losing a fight. They can maximize your movement speed, grant extra shielding, and even resurrect your teammates. Because of this, they are the most high-profile targets by the opposing team.

Basic Commentator Phrases:

Below, I highlight some of the most common phrases you’ll hear when watching OWL.


Any elimination of a high-value target on the enemy team is classified as a “pick”.

Team Fight

This phrase is self-explanatory. Each round is unofficially divided into multiple unofficial “team fights” where both teams collide over the objective. Whoever wins the team fight gets one tick closer to winning the round whether its continuing or denying the escort of a payload or capturing an objective.

Ultimate or “Ult”

An ultimate is a game-changing ability unique to each character in Overwatch. Depending on the class of hero, the ultimate ability essentially amplifies the power of that character to an epic level. It can unleash a hail of bullets with aimbot-like precision (Soldier 76’s Tactical Visor), extra shielding for your team, (Lucio’s Sound Barrier) and even a mini nuclear bomb (D.V.A.’s Self-Destruct). Each ultimate ability is earned by getting kills, healing your teammates, or doing damage in general.


This term refers to the management and use of all six players’ ultimate abilities on a team. A good ult-economy typically involves using the least amount of your team’s ultimate abilities while coaxing the enemy team into using more of theirs, thus giving you the advantage moving forward in the match.


This term refers to spots on a map where it is particularly difficult for the attacking team to push through. Usually characterized by a narrow passageway or an enclosed entrance with limited entry points.


Because of the skill level of the OWL pro players, it is not uncommon to see a round head into overtime. Overtime ends when a team’s presence on the objective is wiped out. Overtime gives a team a set amount of time to reclaim an objective, push a payload through, or recapture a control point. Failure to establish a presence on the objective during overtime will result the overtime meter running out and that team losing the round.

Here is a great example of how the Dallas Fuel and LA Valiant both used overtime to their advantage:

Team Compositions (“Comps”):

Team composition is all about synergy at the pro level. Skill alone can only get you so far and if you don’t have the right combination of characters going into a fight, then it will be a quick defeat. Here are a couple examples of team comps and their strategies utilized by OWL players.

Dive Comp

This team composition is an aggressive, fast-paced offense based on flanking the enemy team and picking off key support players to quickly thin out the opposition. This comp utilizes all highly-mobilized characters like Genji, Tracer, Winston, and Mercy to swarm the enemy players and offer the best escapability for a quick retreat.

Deathball Comp

This team composition is comprised of three or four tanks that are supported by a Lucio and his speed-boost to create the videogame equivalent of a fastball special. A beefy lineup that favors damage sponges such as Reinhardt, Roadhog, Zarya, Orisa, or Bastion.

Overwatch League Match Rules:

Each OWL series is comprised of one round for each game mode. The team that wins 3 out of 4 rounds takes the series. However, all four rounds are played regardless as the tiebreakers at the end of each Stage are decided by the team that wins more individual rounds.

Screenshot taken from the Overwatch League Week 1.


In this timed mode, the attacking team’s goal is to escort a single payload through multiple checkpoints all the way to the end of the map. Each checkpoint cleared grants you extra time to complete the objective. The defending team has to stop the payload by eliminating the attacking players and clearing the objective. The defending team wins if they stop the attacking team from progressing further than their team when they were on the attacking side.


This mode follows the same attack/defense rules of Escort without the payload. Instead, there are two stationary control points that the attacking team must secure while the defending team attempts to stop them from capturing both points until time runs out. The team that captures both objectives and stops the opposing team from doing so will win that round.


This mode is Overwatch’s equivalent of King of the Hill. There is a neutral zone that either team can capture at any given moment. The goal of each team is to fill a percentage bar up to 100% by capturing and locking down that zone while keeping the opposing team out of the territory. This mode is best 2 out of 3 sub-rounds utilizing a different map area for each round.


This mode combines the rules for both Assault and Escort. The attacking team must capture an initial control point in order to activate the payload which they then have to escort to the end of the map. Just like either mode, the defending team’s goal is to stop their progress until time runs out.

The OWL season is underway! Follow the action over on the official site or catch previous matches archived here.

One thought on “Overwatch League 101

  1. […] Before we dive into what has already happened so far in the World Cup, let’s break down some key differences in how matches are structured in this international tournament. If you’re completely new to watching Overwatch as an esport, check out my beginner’s guide to watching Overwatch here! […]


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