How to learn to stop worrying and love Overwatch's escort maps

“Get on the payload, please,” suggests a focused Zenyatta, the sole pilot of a sluggish payload that has yet to breach the gates of point B on Dorado. There is no response from his eager teammates engaged in a fight around the corner.

“Guys…” he pleads, just as the unmistakable triple thwip of Genji’s shurikens put him on alert. The cyborg ninja was swift and merciful, ending his Omnic friend with the respect he deserved. A sad, lonely truck begins to reverse to its previous checkpoint. Genji celebrates by tagging a picture of himself on the windshield, and it begins to look like Zenyatta’s team won’t be visiting the powerplant this time.

I’ve been that Zenyatta a time or two, and it’s frustrating to say the least. Escort maps offer a lot of creativity for both the attacking and defending teams, but not when poor communication and decisions wrap their hands around your throat. I spoke with Gingerpop (now with independent team Yikes) again last weekend to see what can be done to minimize bad experiences on escort maps.

How to move the payload with efficiency 

In the simplest terms, the objective of escort maps is to move a payload along a predetermined route until you reach the last of a series of checkpoints. Players delivering the payload push it along via proximity, while those defending attempt to halt the progress of the payload by getting near it themselves. As with most things in Overwatch, the simplicity breaks down once you start dealing with five different personalities who all know what’s best.

For starters, there are those that demand the entire team be on the payload. A noble philosophy, though this leaves your entire team vulnerable to one nasty Pulse Bomb or other well-timed ultimate. Then there’s the complete opposite where no one is on the payload because the team has gone ahead to pick a fight, leaving it at a standstill.

 So what’s the sweet spot? Gingerpop says, “Having three people on it makes the payload move as fast as it can, and having anymore than three is wasting those heroes’ times. You want to send flankers or heroes that are stronger with the high ground forward to get into prime position for the next fight; heroes such as Soldier 76 or Hanzo that are difficult to deal with when set up early on high ground areas.”

Here’s an example of what that can look like from Cloud9 at the CyberpowerPC Extreme Series  Invitational:

After C9 flips the point on Numbani, they rush Soldier 76, Winston and D.Va to the high ground ahead while Tracer flanks, Lucio pushes and Zenyatta floats. They don’t overextend at all, and they go on to win that first battle on the second turn. The key is strong communication and having the right pieces in place at the right time. Most escort and hybrid maps are set up for plenty of high ground antics, so taking advantage of them on both attack and defense can be just as important as fighting for the payload.

One last kernel of knowledge you may not be aware of while on attack is that the payload heals you a tiny bit (10 HP per second), so being near it does come with its perks.

The best composition on defense 

In this meta, being fast and “divey” is quite popular. It’s all the rage on Control and Assault map types, but what about escort? Well, it might be best to take a trip down memory lane if you’re on defense. Gingerpop explains, “In general, the triple tank composition that includes Rein, Zarya, Roadhog, Soldier, Ana and Lucio is overall so strong that you can’t go wrong with it. It deals with all comps very well, but doesn’t hard counter any either.”

The good news is that triple tank comps don’t have the stigma that they used to. Though Zarya has fallen somewhat out of favor, she’s still a great pick on escort defense because of her shields and ability to make the other team uncomfortable in close quarters. Graviton Surge is a monster setup, as demonstrated by NRG:

Surge with any combo of ultimates will slow down your opponents, which is the goal of a successful defense on escort. The most popular combo would be with Pulse Bomb if you’re using a meta composition, but it works just as well with Visor, D.Va bomb or any other damaging ultimate. When you’re using triple tank with Roadhog and Rein, you have a zoning followup with Whole Hog and another crowd control ultimate with Earthshatter. If you’re able to manage the ult economy with your team, you should be able to stagger them and dictate the pace of the fighting. Keep communicating so that you’re not using unnecessary tank ults that take forever to build up.

If you’re able to wipe the attacking team and keep them off the point for awhile, the payload will begin to crawl back to its previous checkpoint. You do not need to be on the payload. It will reverse on its own.

An unsung hero 

There are a lot of great hero options on escort maps that can lead to SR improvement, but understanding why they work is essential. We’ve talked about tanks and abusing the high ground with Soldier and Hanzo, but what about turning the streets into a meatgrinder? Gingerpop’s response might be a pleasant surprise: “Junkrat can be a very undervalued pick. You can run Junk with a Hog and you have so much shield break and counter-dive options. The only problem is you would have no range pressure, so just add in a soldier.”

Escort maps don’t need to be about deception and finesse if you can keep the enemy’s shields down, and Junkrat is one of the best picks in the game for that. Next time you’re thinking about asking a Junkrat to switch before you even leave the spawn room, consider what he brings to the table first. Take King’s Row, for example. Junkrat spam on point A can buy you some invaluable time, and he can do a ton of damage from behind the safety of a brick wall. He’s also great at providing auxiliary damage around corners; corners that can hide his flimsy Rip-Tire quite well.

Winning an escort or hybrid match requires a balance of patience and aggression that can be difficult to accomplish. Though chasing the fight is natural, overextending yourself for a couple of possible kills could result in losing a game you should have won. I asked Gingerpop what the most common mistake is on escort maps is and he said, “In general, people play selfish and go for one-on-one plays instead of working with the team. Always want to be the MVP or nothing kind of mentality.”

Be flexible, talk to your team and go win some games.