Overwatch’s PTR Hero Balance Changes Explained

Blizzard is currently making significant hero changes over on the PTR version of Overwatch. The changes are being made to reflect the upcoming season of competitive play and helps give us a rough idea of how certain heroes will perform. To help prepare you, I’ve put together a list of the most impactful buffs below. None of these changes should be considered final, as Blizzard will continue to tweak certain elements as the PTR progresses, but they should help you get a head start on adjusting to the updates to come.

Widowmaker

Overwatch’s archetypal sniper has fallen on hard times. The cold-blooded assassin reigned supreme over her foes back in season one and there seemed to be no limit to her power. However, the mid-June nerfs crippled Widowmaker’s performance and transformed her from lethal killing machine to a husk of her former self. Blizzard has been keen to address the issues surrounding Widowmaker and made vital changes to her scoping-in animation. They reduced the animation time from 0.5 seconds to 0.33 to help her acquire new targets and speed up her reaction times.

The current PTR changes also look to sharpen Widowmaker’s fangs once again and allow her to have more impactful experiences in-game. Widowmaker’s Venom Mine will no longer damage her when it explodes, instead it will give the assassin greater survivability if she is flanked or rushed by an enemy Winston or Tracer. However, the biggest buff is to Widow’s Kiss. The charge rate has now been increased by 20% and will allow Widowmaker to perform more killing blows in a shorter period of time. It’s hoped that the charge rate increase and the reduction of her scoping-in animation will put Widowmaker back in the spotlight once again.

Pharah

Pharah’s minimum explosion damage has been increased to 25% total damage. Most explosives in Overwatch have a blast radius and the damage from the explosion greatly decrease from the point of contact. Pharah’s rockets deal a maximum 120 damage and the blast radius currently drops off to 12%. This means her rockets are dealing a measly 14 damage and forces her to land direct hits to inflict any meaningful damage. The Rocket Launcher buff is greatly welcomed and gives Pharah a decent boost to her minimum splash damage. However, the minimum explosion knockback has been decreased to 0% of rocket’s total knockback (formerly 75%). This nerf diminishes Pharah’s ability to juggle targets and throw off their aim. It seems as though Pharah will be significantly weaker in direct engagements, especially against hitscan heroes like Soldier 76. Not being able to launch foes around will greatly decrease her survivability in most encounters, unless she lands that all-important direct hit.

D.Va

D.Va has been buffed in the past by Blizzard, but the mech pilot has proved unpopular in both high and competitive levels of play. In order to solve this issue her mech health has increased to 200 from 100 and her movement speed while firing has been increased by 25%. The added tankiness and movement speed buff will give D.Va more opportunities to sponge incoming attacks and deal more damage when up close. D.Va has struggled to find her place within the competitive scene as her low movement speed meant that players could simply outrange and dodge her attacks. It’s hoped that the buffs to her health and movement speed will finally make her a competitive pick across all divisions.

Mercy

Mercy’s passive health regeneration will now kick in when she avoids taking damage for one second as opposed to three seconds. Originally, Mercy would have to stay completely out of the fight to ensure she is able to utilise Resurrect. Mercy’s biggest problem is her survivability, as many players focus her down in order to stop her healing and reviving her allies. However, the buff to her passive aims to put the healer firmly into the fight as opposed to waiting at the back of the map. The buff not only increases Mercy’s overall sustain, it also enhances her role. Hiding on the fringes of the map doesn’t make for engaging gameplay and this buff helps rid Mercy of the stagnant strategy that has plagued her.

Soldier 76

The battle-hardened soldier is receiving a buff to his Pulse Rifle. The bullet damage has been increased from 17 to 20 and its maximum spread has increased from 2.2 to 2.4. This gives Soldier 76 higher DPS potential that requires better burst control. The higher rate of fire and accuracy will prove even more deadly to discorded victims, while his base damage increase will allow him to shred through several 200 HP heroes. Soldier 76 has always been a good hero, but with the added fire control he is able to handle situations more effectively. He’s great at stopping flanking heroes and can be extremely useful as a secondary DPS, especially at higher levels of play. The buff won’t allow him to out damage meta picks like McCree and Reaper, but it will give him more opportunities to finish off targets at range.

Ana

There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding Ana as many players feel she has been too impactful, especially to her allies. To combat this, Blizzard has nerfed her Nano Boost by getting rid of the movement speed bonus. Nano Boost was extremely potent when combined with various ultimate abilities which made it very difficult for Ana’s foes to get away. The nerf is likely to have a significant impact on her play rate, but it certainly won’t be the downfall of the support.

Zarya

The power Zarya gains from her Particle Barrier and Projected Barrier have been decreased by 20%. This means it will now take longer for Zarya to get to maximum charge. She’s still effective in terms of her utility and sustain, but she will now take longer to unleash her full damage. The shields don’t decrease any faster, however you will need to be more strategic with your placements if you want to get that 100% charge. It’s not a huge nerf and it won’t remove Zarya from the meta, but it will delay her power enough to give her foes a fighting chance.

Torbjörn

The final changes are to the weapons designer, Torbjörn. Overwatch’s resident engineer now automatically generates one scrap every 0.5 seconds. Before the game starts you can start giving your teammates a significant amount of armour, but the amount of scrap collected from fallen enemies has been decreased by 40%. His hammer swing has also been increased by 25%, while the damage has been decreased by 27%. These changes will give Torbjörn the consistency he currently lacks. If his enemies are not dying he will still be able to gain scrap and supply armour to his allies, while the speed increase to his Forge Hammer will allow him to level up and repair his turrets quicker.

Ultimate changes

Every single ultimate cost has been increased by 25%. But what does this mean for Overwatch’s overall gameplay? Well this change will slow down the game tremendously. One of the biggest complaints about Overwatch was that the current game is just too hectic and can be hard to keep track of everything. Sometimes team fights can feel like a blur of abilities and Blizzard are trying to tone this down considerably. The 25% increase will slow down engagements and put more emphasis on actual skirmishing instead of spamming ultimate abilities. However, it’s likely that this change of pace will just lead to a longer poke phase, with both teams waiting for their ultimates to charge. In either case, it’ll have a huge impact on the game.

For more tips on playing, check out our full Overwatch character guide.

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11 Comments

  1. Anti-Skub says:

    Did Pharah’s rockets knock back before? I don’t remember that being a thing but I haven’t played the game in a while.

    • Procrastination Giant says:

      Yeah, her missiles always had pretty noticable knockback. Not as powerful as her dedicated knockback missile of course, but it can be irritating nevertheless. Had Overwatch running in the background, so I recorded a quick demonstration of the splash-knockback: Bop

    • Touchstone says:

      They indeed did, though you have to hit within the splash damage radius, which is tiny. This buffnerf they’re doing to her is frustrating. The only way, for example, I was able to take out a soldier using his ult was to use knockback and the environment to my advantage. It sounds like she’ll do no worthwhile knockback unless it’s a direct hit and the splash damage increase, though neat for finishing off enemies, ultimately is not a huge deal since the splash radius is so small.

      I see these changes doing nothing for her use in higher ranks, where she has never been useful, and simply making her more annoying in low ranks but still not as annoying as Junkrat. Hopefully this is just a taste of bigger changes down the road.

      • Anti-Skub says:

        She could do with being a bit more manoeuvrable in the air and her ulti really needs to give her some kind of protection because at the moment, against better players, her ulti might as well be a suicide button.

  2. SaunteringLion says:

    “The cold-blooded assassin reigned supreme over her foes back in season one and there seemed to be no limit to her power. However, the mid-June nerfs crippled Widowmaker’s performance and transformed her from lethal killing machine to a husk of her former self.”

    Widowmaker was nerfed mid-June, while Season One did not begin until the end of June. So Widowmaker never reigned supreme in competitive.

  3. Poet says:

    I just want to be able to ride my riptire so I can die WITH it, shooting all along the way.

  4. LuNatic says:

    They are nerfing Pharah? Really? Being able to juggle is the only thing that keeps her alive in firefights. If heroes can just shrug off her rockets and find some cover to shoot her from, she’s finished – she’s far to squishy to go toe to toe with any other gun based character. They should have at least increased her health to compensate.

    And Hanzo needs a huge nerf. That damned scatter arrow will one hit kill half the classes in the game if you land it within 5 meters of them. Given that his arrows will already one hit kill with a fully drawn headshot, this is just ridiculous. Oh, and his ultimate charges to full in ~3 kills – most classes need ~5. So he can just use his scatter arrows to constantly spam dragons.

    • Xzi says:

      Yeah I don’t appreciate the changes to Pharah at all…one buff one nerf, they should have just left her alone instead. Her ability to duel is completely gone with these changes, she’s just a floating pinata. My guess is that she’ll be on the bottom of the list when picking offense heroes now.

    • SirRoderick says:

      I do agree on the whole Pharah thing. She’s easy enough to hit if you can avoid the knockback by moving back and forth, probably an overall nerf.

      On the Hanzo end, Yeah Hanzo can kill people with a headshot, so can Widowmaker and her gun is instant hit with no dropoff, so I hardly think that he needs less damage. a better hitbox on the arrow would be nice.

      I don’t really get this fury about the scatter arrow (not your comment, just in general a LOT of people seem to get angry about it). It’s not actually nearly as good as you’re saying. YES if you hit it just right you can nail a LOT of damage. But if it’s even slightly off it does only minor damage that might finish someone off, but is not a sure kill at all. Those fragments have a pretty wide scatter so it really needs to be RIGHT underneath someone to hit properly.

      • Darloth says:

        Indeed.

        Every time I get angry at a Hanzo oneshotting me with scatter arrow, I remember when -I- tried to play Hanzo and consistently whiffed the entire ability for the entire time I was alive. Then I commend them for being actually good at a pretty difficult character, and move on with my life and attempt to drop an exploding meka on them.

  5. Jackablade says:

    Coupled with the Pharah change (More impulse, less damage seems like it’d make for a more sensible modification), the Zarya change seems a little unnecessary. She’s definitely a powerful character in the right hands, but I’d have thought there was a sufficient time and challenge involved at the moment in getting her weapon up to a level that’s more effective than a laser pointer.

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