What you need to know about flanking in Overwatch

Over the last few weeks we’ve discussed how the current Overwatch meta has been on the fast and furious side, along with some ways of defending against it. Today we’ll lace up our boots and look at how to pick apart enemy flanks. Flanking can be an exhilarating affair, but it’s not for the slow-witted. The level of skill and execution needed is much higher than other tactical options due to the importance of speed and precision. That also means that the high risks you must take will often yield high rewards, making the successful flanker invaluable to his or her team. To better illustrate these points, we will examine Rogue’s new and improved strategic approach from Alienware Monthly Melee, along with some amazing plays by flex DPS stars Nico and Soon.

Always demand the enemy’s attention

Don’t you just love it when a stalwart Tracer marches up with Zarya over and over again, Pulse Pistols echoing through the streets of King’s Row while your team accomplishes nothing? Or how about that Genji who can poke away at the enemy Reinhardt shield with animalistic ferocity from a comfy perch next to his healers? As valuable as they might think they’re being, that’s not the correct way to play those characters for any length of time. Solid fundamentals for flanking loadouts and characters in every FPS require two things: be evasive, and, above all else, cause chaos. 

Rogue re-emerged this month with a hyper-aggressive style of play that revolves around these cornerstone approaches. They wouldn’t have won Monthly Melee without the concerted efforts of Nico and Soon fielding a surgical Genji and Tracer respectively. Look at the teamwork and decision making in the following play: 

Soon blinks right into the enemy defenses and forces a Zarya shield with a pulse bomb, then wraps back around to burn down a helpless Reinhardt with the help of Nico. Knoxx even does his part by jumping in to continue the harassment so that Faze never get a moment’s peace. The synchronized barrage and sound barrier clean things up. In such a pivotal section of Dorado, Rogue maximized the effectiveness of their dive composition by splitting the attention of Faze and punishing their indecision. 

Positioning is everything

After you’re comfortable zipping in and out of battle on your own, it’s time to incorporate some map knowledge into your plan of attack. Knowing how to sneak up on your opponents is crucial to your success, so it might be worth your time to go into an empty server and study up on maps you’re having difficulties with. Escort and hybrid maps are the easiest to get acquainted with flanking because the payload has to follow a predetermined route. That removes some of the guesswork needed on the other map types, and if you’re already in the other team’s head, they could get sloppy around corners and other typical ambush spots. For example, look at what Nico is able to do as the payload approaches point three on Dorado:

Shadowburn is a master Genji himself, and even though it’s obvious he’s waiting for Nico, his hook is deflected and Nico goes off with a Dragonblade which opens the door for the rest of his team to get some easy picks.

Once you’re knowledgeable about the typical flanking paths on every map, take it one step further and look for ledges and alcoves that you can use to stalk your prey. Find unusual angles that most people won’t think to check, then mix up your attacks to always keep the other team guessing. Check out how the high ledges on Dorado can be used for ambushes: 

Point A on Hollywood has been a petri dish of disrespectful play for a while now, and it’s a great whetstone for sharpening your flanking skills on. There are four indoor areas in the surrounding capture point, a long backdoor route and plenty of verticality to play with depending on your hero of choice. Pinning chunks of the enemy team down in one of the buildings is often all it takes to break them, especially if they’re on defense where they have little choice but to funnel in from one of two entry points upon respawn. Watch how Soon keeps Faze distracted, leaving them vulnerable to a very antsy AKM on Pharah: 

Moving forward…

One thing Rogue’s new approach has taught us is that triple DPS builds that use heavy flanking are incredibly strong right now. Complement that with a Winston and Zenyatta and you’re set up for a whole lot of damage coming from every which way imaginable. They even bested Immortals who are one of the top teams in the North American region. How viable this strategy will be in the coming weeks is the real question here. With the Bastion patch going live at the start of season 4, the potential for a “Transformers Meta”, as it’s being called, seems to be quite high. To this point, Bastion has been a very niche defensive character at best, but with his ability to heal on the run, teams like Rogue might look to cash in. Spawn camping is starting to become a bit of a trend at the esports level, as you can see in the following clip: 

Though we can theorycraft until the sun comes up, it’s not hard to see how the improved Bastion could make that situation insufferable. Again, it’s all food for thought at this point, but it’s difficult to look at the changes we’ve been dealt without assuming we’re in for yet another meta shift. In any case, strong flanking will always be key to dive compositions, so practice up and get ready to deflect a whole lot of Bastion fire or drop some key pulse bombs. Whatever you do, be a team player and refrain from Reaper tanking. It wasn’t a thing before, and it’s not a thing now.