Overwatch is about team composition and hero switching as well as twitch skill: it’s a game of rock-paper-scissors with twenty-one options, and you need to understand how they all interact with one another if you want to make the right in-game choices. In this guide, I’m going to suggest two solid counters for every hero in the game. These aren’t the only heroes you might choose, and switching isn’t always necessary: but if there’s a hero you feel you can’t handle, chances are you’re simply approaching the problem in the wrong way. Similarly, you'll sometimes feel completely overwhelmed if your opponent goes for an all-in cheese strat that involves spamming a single character, usually a tank. You'll find that the right choice of counter can stop them in their tracks, too.
Bear in mind that Overwatch is also an action game, and as such even unfavourable match-ups can be won if the underdog is sufficiently skilled. Hanzo might struggle against Tracer nine times out of ten, but there’ll always be the moment when he lands the clutch headshot that saves him. If you want to win your games, however, you want to be putting yourself in the position where you’ve got that 90% chance of success. That’s where the following guide comes in. If you’re after more general advice, however, you might want to start with our Overwatch beginner’s guide.
Genji: Winston, Mei
Genji's power and survivability stems entirely from mobility. He needs to keep chaining eliminations and dashes to stay relevant. Winston is a good choice to counter him because he has enough health to survive anything Genji might do to him quickly and his lightning gun can keep applying pressure no matter how fast Genji moves. Mei has an even better time, because she can freeze herself to dodge the worst of Genji's burst damage capability before freezing him to bring his killing spree to a close.
McCree: Widowmaker, Hanzo
McCree's stun-fan fire combo makes him lethal at short range, but the high damage and accuracy of his revolver makes him no slouch at midrange either. A lack of mobility makes him vulnerable to snipers, however—Widowmaker shouldn't have much of a problem with him. Even if he uses his ult, you've got ages to land a headshot on a slow-moving, glowing target. Hanzo's another good choice, depending on your aim. If you don't eliminate McCree at long range, a ground-targeted scatter arrow should be enough to kill him before he can close the distance.
Pharah: Soldier: 76, Widowmaker
Pharah hates hitscan guns. A lot. Her jetpack grants her unparalleled verticality but she's actually rather slow while she's flying: an easy target for Widowmaker most of the time. Soldier: 76 is also a solid counter: his rifle takes her down fast enough as it is, and if he uses his ult then there's very little a Pharah can do other than die.
Bastion is a notable example of a powerful hitscan hero who isn't necessarily a solid counter to Pharah, simply because she's also extremely good against him. Bastion vs. Pharah is a matchup entirely determined by positioning and skill.
Reaper: Pharah, McCree
McCree can comfortably go toe-to-toe with Reaper at close range providing he doesn't make too many mistakes. Flashbang is great for keeping Reaper from escaping, and can even stun him out of his ult. Pharah is also a solid option—shotguns don't do much against a flying target, and once you get used to the duration of Reaper's wraith form then it's easy to stay on top of him when he tries to escape.
Soldier: 76: Roadhog, Reinhardt
76's strength is the amount of sustained damage he can put out while fighting on the frontline, and neither Roadhog nor Reinhardt care too much about that. Soldier: 76 makes for a relatively easy target for both Reinhardt's charge and Roadhog's hook, and once cornered there's not much he can do. It's not a direct counter, but Lúcio deserves a mention too for his ability to heal an entire team through 76's steady stream of damage.
Tracer: McCree, Roadhog
Tracer survives by using blink and recall and dies quickly if she can't blink or recall. McCree's flashbang is a death sentence for her in almost every scenario, and her preference for fighting up close brings her right into McCree's comfort zone. Roadhog's a little trickier, as she can recall after being hooked to escape—but forcing Tracer to blow such a big cooldown massively impacts her effectiveness, and it's hard for her to re-engage when she's at risk of being one or two-shotted by Roadhog's shotgun.
Bastion: Genji, Junkrat (also Widowmaker, Hanzo, Tracer, D.Va, Reaper...)
Yup. Six counters. Arguably more in certain circumstances. Bastion is powerful against newcomers but has massive, easily-exploited weaknesses. Characters with extreme range (Widowmaker, Hanzo) can easily deal lethal damage to him without incurring too much risk to themselves. Characters that can get on top of Bastion quickly and deal burst damage (D.Va, Tracer, Reaper) also do well as long as they're not Bastion's only threat at the time.
Genji represents a hard counter because not only is he superb at eliminating Bastion at close range, but his ability to reflect bullets can easily kill Bastion at long range too. Manage your cooldowns effectively and Bastion stands no chance in this matchup. Similarly, the incredible impact damage of Junkrat's grenades—coupled with their ability to be fired around corners and over walls—give turret-form Bastion a huge headache.
The reason Bastion falls out of favour so quickly at intermediate skill level and above is because arguably any character can handle him if played correctly. He can't shoot in two directions at once, and in turret form he can't move. Don't run at him one after another in a straight line and you'll never see another Bastion play of the game again. Either distract him for long enough for an ally to get the kill or take advantage of his attention being elsewhere and kill him yourself.
Hanzo: Widowmaker, Tracer
Hanzo is powerful at medium to long range but his scatter arrow presents a danger at extreme short range too. He is vulnerable to counter-sniping, however, so Widowmaker (or a better Hanzo) should do well. Tracer is probably the best counter to him at short range, because her unpredictable movement patterns make it difficult to hit her with a scatter arrow.
Junkrat: Winston, Pharah
Pharah is the obvious counter, here, because Junkrat's grenades are the worst anti-air weapon this side of Reinhardt's hammer. As long as Pharah doesn't linger on the ground too long, nothing Junkrat can do should concern her. Winston's also a solid choice for closing distance with Junkrat, applying solid damage, and tanking through whatever damage he manages to put out. Winton's dome shield also impedes Junkrat's ability to fling grenades through doorways and around corners.
Mei: Tracer, Pharah
Again, this is another scenario where Pharah does well. You've got to be careful not to fall victim to Mei's deadly icicle blast alt-fire, but besides that there's not much Mei can do against a hero that can rain rockets down on her from long range. She can't shield herself from a flying target with a ground-level wall, after all. Tracer has a tougher time—you really don't want to linger in close range around Mei—but is great at bypassing any defensive position that Mei might be trying to establish. Remember that Overwatch is about objectives: if you can force Mei to abandon her position of strength and chase you to the capture point, you've done your job.
Torbjörn: Widowmaker, D.Va
Turrets—and the stocky little dudes who build them—are easy prey for a good sniper. D.Va is also a good option: her defense matrix allows her to cover her entire team as they approach, and her ability to flank with jump jets allows her to quickly close the gap with Torbjörn's turret and wipe it out at close range. If he's really dug in—or there are multiple Torbjörns—then D.Va's ult is a guaranteed way to blow that entrenched position wide open.
Widowmaker: D.Va, Genji
Widowmaker is one of the highest skill-cap heroes in Overwatch, but D.Va doesn't care much. Close the distance with jump jets, protect yourself with defense matrix if you have to, and then let loose at close range. If Widowmaker tries to run or grapple away, chase with the jump jets. This is a free kill, most of the time. Genji takes a little more finesse—but if you're not quite up to killing Widowmaker with her own reflected bullet, then he still presents a lethal threat at close range that will, at the very least, force Widowmaker to stop picking off your supports.
D.Va: Mei, Zenyatta
D.Va is weak to any hero that can hinder her mobility and take advantage of the massive vulnerable weakspot on the front of her mek—the cockpit. Mei can do both, freezing D.Va, killing the mek, and then likely chasing down and killing D.Va herself as well. In addition, Mei's ice wall is an effective way to contain the explosion from D.Va's ultimate. Zenyatta also gets a mention: his orb of discord can hit D.Va through defence matrix, and his regular attacks do loads of damage to the mek itself.
Reinhardt: Symmetra, Genji
There's a simple reason that Symmetra is good against Reinhardt: her energy ball alt-fire goes through his shield, and it does a ton of damage. If he's advancing slowly through a narrow corridor, you can spam this constantly from a safe distance, hurt him and his friends, and build a load of ultimate charge in the process. Reinhardt can also struggle with Symmetra's sentries if they're placed cleverly, as he can struggle to reach them. Genji's also a decent option, able to quickly dash through the shield and pour on a load of damage before retreating to do it again. With Reinhardt it's always worth remembering that forcing him to turn or change direction is just as good as killing him, a lot of the time. If he's not able to advance while protecting his team, he's not very useful.
Roadhog: Mei, Reaper
Roadhog's biggest weakness is arguably himself. He's got a huge health bar, and can heal himself for a substantial amount of it, but in effect this makes him prone to giving huge amounts of ultimate charge away to the other team. If you see him, shoot him: if nothing else you'll get your ult faster. Mei is a good choice because she can easily evade the worst of his damage by freezing herself and, once frozen, Roadhog is much easier to take down. Reaper is also good: it's hard not to do max damage with dual shotguns on a target that large, and wraith form allows for easy escapes.
Winston: Reaper, Bastion
Again, large targets are where Reaper shines. Reaper will almost always beat Winston in a head-on fight, no matter what Blizzard's cinematic team might suggest. If you've ever been the victim of a massed Winston rush, switching to Reaper is how you stop it. Bastion is also a decent option, because he can chew through Winston's sizable healthbar faster than Winston can kill him, even at close range, and he quickly nullifies the effect of the dome shield.
Zarya: Junkrat, Pharah
Zarya's limited range and mobility makes her relatively easy prey for Pharah, and Pharah's ult also puts out enough damage to burn through Zarya's extra shield when necessary. Junkrat is also a good option, again thanks to his high damage output and ability to engage Zarya at a range where she can't really do much about it. Zarya is good at protecting herself and one other character: she can't absorb fire for an entire team like the other tanks can, which makes her additionally weak to Junkrat's mass area-of-effect damage.
Lúcio: Mei, McCree
Lúcio can survive for a long time if he can keep moving. A combination of great mobility and ambient healing means you need to stop him and burst him if you're going to be rid of him. McCree's stun-fan fire combo is great for this, and even if it's not enough to kill Lúcio then you will certainly force him to play more cautiously. Mei takes longer to kill him, but a frozen Lúcio is very likely a dead Lúcio and, as mobile as he is, it's not that easy for him to get out of Mei's line of fire once he's in close.
Mercy: Soldier: 76, Genji
If you've found yourself reading this guide because you're being stomped by a Mercy rush then I suspect you have other problems to deal with. Mercy's match-ups work differently to any other character because she's so much defined by who her allies are. However: if you're facing a skilled Mercy player who is giving you trouble, Soldier: 76 and Genji are both good options. In an all-out fight, 76's focus on the midrange works well against Mercy's tendency to hover at the back. During a push, Genji excels at flanking and eliminating Mercy quickly and getting out again.
Symmetra: Roadhog, Pharah
Symmetra is weak against long-ranged, mobile heroes and against anybody who can burst through her static defences quickly. She can do nothing to take down Pharah, for example, and the splash damage on Pharah's rockets is enough to clear out turrets even if you can't see them. On the other hand, Roadhog's massive healthpool means he can afford to wander into Symmetra traps from time to time—and the wide spread on his shotgun means that he can take out whole clusters of turrets at once. While Symmetra puts out decent damage at short range herself, it's unlikely that she'll be able to kill a full-health Roadhog before he can land the two or three shotgun blasts it takes to kill her.
Zenyatta: Widowmaker, Genji
Zenyatta's lack of mobility is his Achilles heel, making him susceptible to a quick death at both short and long range. He's an easy target for Widowmaker, and will usually die in a single fully charged shot. His health pool is also small enough that a right-click shuriken-dash-melee burst from Genji will finish him off most of the time, and his inability to get out of the way means it's unlikely that Genji will miss.