Overwatch team Yikes explains the rise of Mercy

There's more to the medic than her ultimate.

Ever since Mercy’s invulnerability during resurrect became a thing, she has gained an awful lot of attention at all levels of play. No longer do teams have to fear creating an instant six on five scenario in crucial situations, making the Swiss Valkyrie much more appealing on certain maps. Flexibility is Overwatch’s strong point as an esport, and having Mercy as a reliable option on Pharah-friendly maps opens a critical door for DPS stars who accel at projectile characters. I spoke with the Yikes (former roster for Denial) Overwatch coaching staff regarding Mercy’s popularity surge, and they had some great insights as to why she’s added value to professional rosters.

Why esports teams are embracing Mercy 

Speaking to the Yikes staff was enlightening, to say the least. Head Coach, Jeremy, Lead Strategist, Kitta, and Player Development Expert, Zach, all offered a unique take on player positioning and how Mercy adds a new dimension to the current meta. To start, they identified a couple of key reasons why Mercy is used aside from her newfound immunity to damage on res.

Gingerpop, as you may already know, is one of Yikes’ support players. As solid as he is, Zach brought up an interesting point in regards to his difficulties with finding the best positioning. “We have situations where he gets very aggressive with his positioning,” Zach says. “The other players feed off that. I think the verticality of Mercy favors him because he doesn’t get punished for the positioning problems that he has. From a mechanical standpoint, you want to foster their aggression. From a positional standpoint, you want to help them cultivate a more structured approach prior to their aggression.”

Jeremy discussed another change within the game that has given Mercy some wiggle room. “The nerfs to Soldier do help significantly. That falloff damage is something you have to factor in. How much does that play into Pharmercy in regards to height?”

So we have the ability to remedy positioning issues on the fly, Soldier’s damage nerf and invulnerability on resurrection as contributing factors to why we’re seeing Mercy flying around on maps like Lijiang. Here’s a clip from the EU qualifiers at Overwatch Contenders last weekend featuring GamersOrigin and NWA:

With open areas like this, Mercy has an easy time getting to mobile tanks and back to Pharah. Positioning is everything, and the Pharmercy battery on Lijiang’s garden exemplifies how positional superiority can help you win. Mercy and Pharah are able to create and close gaps in an instant, giving the rest of your team a chance to get to where they need to go all while keeping Mercy safe and in the air.

Things to take into consideration 

Other healers have the tools to duel flankers and heal simultaneously. Mercy does not have that kind of utility. If your Mercy gets in trouble, the only way for them escape danger is to have a clear path to another player. That can be very stifling on certain maps that don’t have open spaces or much room for Pharah and Mercy to navigate. Though the ladder meta seems to be very Mercy-centric right now, skillful teams won’t have much difficulty circumventing a questionable Mercy on the field. As Kitta says, “If you have her on the ground, she’s not going to make it. If you’ve noticed, people just play her when they have a Pharah.”

“If you’re not able to provide a safe route for Mercy to get in and out of the fight in terms of lengthy positions, it’s almost counterproductive to even play her,” Jeremy elaborates. “Or even consider res as a great ultimate ability. Because of what happens in the process of getting beaten to the point where that ultimate is useful, it’s not optimal. You’re really limiting how and where your team can play.”

This is a point that’s often lost on the ladder (and in social media arguments). To say that your Pharah-less composition needs Mercy is to admit that you need a crutch so you can buffer ineffective play. As a support player myself, I see this all the time. When multiple people want Mercy, they often choose poor engagements and die in bunches because they’re trying to be heroes instead of functioning as a team. In this respect, Resurrection is a very misunderstood ultimate. You’re winning despite having to use it, not because you used it.

Fun things to experiment with 

There are some things you can do with Mercy that aren’t very 'meta', but might throw the other team for a loop. I joked that perhaps Mercy could pocket Widowmaker for some quick kills and we all laughed, but then that became a reality at Contenders, believe it or not. Check out this opening play on Gibraltar by Crems of Laser Kittens as he picks off Tviq of Misfits:

Linepro gets the assist there, and the Widow hook allows him to get up to the rest of the team when they needed him. These are professionals, of course, but if you have a Widow getting picks and your team begged you to go Mercy, get up there and right-click for a few. Never know what could happen.

Zach brought up a rather intriguing strategy, though some of you might think of other words to describe it. “Have you seen the Symmetra, Mercy Lucio combo? The Mercy pockets the Symmetra and the Lucio boosts them into enemies. It’s deadly, man.”

If you’re not raging out of control yet, think of the possibilities. You can rush in with that nonsense using a Sym shield and kite people back to some defensive turrets if need be. The mind games alone would be out of control.

Coming soon to Overwatch Contenders 

Blizzard’s developmental league advances to the group stages this weekend, July 17-18. Yikes is part of Group C of the NA tournament which includes Tempo Storm, Immortals and FNRGFE. Times have not yet been discussed, but check back with the Yikes Twitter page for updates. The EU groups have also been decided, with eUnited being the early favorites. With all of the upsets that happened last week, however, anything is possible.