It's a scary time to be a tank main in Overwatch. With the sequel on the horizon, many trying out Overwatch 2 during the latest PvP beta still aren't entirely sold on Blizzard's vision for single-tank 5v5. It's been tough to adapt to some of my favorite heroes changing drastically overnight. But after jumping into the boots of Junker Queen, a brand new tank made from the ground up with 5v5 in mind, I'm starting to understand what Blizzard is going for.
Junker Queen is a brawler from top to bottom. She's a piercing, commanding presence who has to stick her neck out to get a kill and keep it there to stay in the fight. She plays almost nothing like the other 33 heroes on the roster, which may be my favorite thing about her. Junker Queen is Overwatch showing off—a reminder that nobody makes hero shooters quite like Blizzard.
I realized how much I'd missed regular Overwatch updates when I hopped into my first Junker Queen match and had no idea what was going on. Playing an unfamiliar Overwatch hero can sometimes feel like diving headfirst into a whole new videogame without a tutorial, but Junker Queen was particularly mystifying.
The Junker Queen experience
On paper Junker Queen is basically Roadhog, a junk-themed tank who shoots a shotgun and yanks people toward her, but the idea quickly crumbles in practice. Pull the trigger on her scattergun and you'll discover it's useless unless the target is close enough to touch it. Junker Queen also has no medium-range secondary fire to speak of, a modest health pool (for a tank), and no armor or shields.
What she does have is a knife that she can throw on right-click and recall back to her hand like Kratos's Leviathan axe. If you stick an enemy with it, they get 'wounded' and start taking a tiny bit of damage over time. A stuck enemy will also be pulled toward Junker Queen, but not nearly as far as Roadhog's meat hook. It's more of a gentle 'yoink' in Junker Queen's direction.
Throwing the knife and calling it back is easily one of my favorite things to do in Overwatch 2 now. It's the sort of elegant, immediately fun ability that Blizzard is very good at, but I wasn't getting much effective use out of it in my first few matches. I kept trying to rack up long-range stabs on backline supports instead of what I should have actually been doing: yoinking fleeing enemies back into Junker Queen kill range and pulling sneaky snipers off their high-ground perches.
It also wasn't immediately obvious to me just how much Junker Queen has to rely on her passive ability to leech HP from those she wounds. She can wound multiple enemies at once with her axe swing (another reason to yoink enemies closer), and if you can manage to get three or four bleeding at the same time, that HP regeneration adds up enough to offset her lack of armor or shield health.
It took a while, but I finally had a cool New Hero Moment where everything clicked and I finally felt like I understood Junker Queen's rhythm: get in close, pick a fight, bleed, shotgun, then deny any chance of escape. As a part-time tank main used to timid mid-range gunfights, jumping straight into every fight as Junker Queen took some mental reprogramming.
It all pays off when she finally builds her ultimate, Rampage. In one swift dash, Junker Queen wounds every enemy in a big radius and applies anti-healing, an extremely powerful debuff previously only possible with Ana's biotic grenade.
Junker Queen's brawly moveset is a ton of fun, but there is a catch. Every piece of Junker Queen's kit relies on her getting within spitting distance of enemies, yet she doesn't have many mobility options to make that happen. There is Commanding Shout, a high-cooldown move that temporarily boosts her speed by 30% and grants 200 temp HP, but it's not enough of a boost to immediately get into an enemy's face the way Reinhardt can with a charge or D.Va can with her jet boosters.
I'd sometimes die while running toward enemies on long straightaways before I ever got close enough to deal damage. My gut reaction was that a close-range character who's not well-suited to get in close was bad design, but I realized I was thinking too much like a lone wolf Doomfist. She's a tank, not a DPS, and tanks aren't supposed to work without the rest of the team behind them. Junker Queen needs teammates who are ready to clump up and be equally aggressive.
She's not much of a flanker and isn't physically large enough to soak up stray bullets meant for her supports, but if all goes according to plan, everyone will be dead before that matters.
Unfortunately things don't always go to plan: Some maps and hero matchups just don't jive well with Junker Queen (at least right now, while she's new). She's pretty powerless against a crack shot Hanzo who's having a good night, and wide streets and open skies are her worst enemies. Basically, if it's a good map for Pharah, it's probably a bad map for JQ.
These factors, and the fact that her Scattergun can be surprisingly hard to use accurately up close, lead me to think she'll be a niche tank pick. Maybe my feelings will change once I've played her longer than half a week (and tank queues aren't 15 minutes long), but a niche hero is far from a bad thing. A specialized kit just means that teams have more options to build a composition around. Junker Queen is a new reason to get back into Lúcio, or an excuse to pick Junkrat, a typically unforgivable sin, and trap enemies in place for JQ's axe.
That sort of hero synergy has always been the magic of Overwatch's hero design—to assemble individuals so different that they could star in their own games and create a five-piece orchestra of harmonious destruction. It's nice that Blizzard is back to making new Overwatch heroes, and even nicer that it's committing to release them more often when Overwatch 2 comes out in October.