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On September 19, 2017, Overwatch received an update that would drastically change how two of the most popular Heroes in the game would function. To make a long story short, D.Va is now slightly less durable in exchange for having more DPS options, and Mercy was completely reworked to promote a more active playstyle (check out our guide here). Since the update, D.Va’s pick rate saw an uptick of one or two percent across all platforms for a couple of days, after which it settled at around a seven to eight percent pick rate, according to Overbuff.com. Mercy on the other hand, saw a comparatively massive four percent increase in pick rate, giving her a 16 percent pick rate across all platforms, and there is no indication that her pick rate is going to go back down to where it was prior to the update anytime soon unless Blizzard makes some more changes to her abilities.

Unsurprisingly, this meant that the other healers in Overwatch saw decreases to their own pick rates, with Ana being the hardest hit. Lucio and Zenyatta are still very powerful secondary healers thanks to their unique abilities, but Ana may as well be nonexistent, especially on consoles. What is surprising is the fact that even though Mercy is much more ubiquitous than she was before, none of her widely accepted counters saw corresponding increases in popularity. Tracer, one of the most annoying and powerful back-line harassers in the game, is still at a three or four percent pick rate across all platforms, and Genji and Winston are showing similarly stagnant activity. All kinds of conclusions can be drawn from this, but one thing is certain: if Blizzard intended to make Mercy less of a must-pick Hero, then they have failed spectacularly.

Of course, it is easy to see why Mercy is now the undisputed, dominant healing queen of Overwatch, despite her inability to completely negate the effects of massive team wipes at the press of a button anymore. Lucio and Zenyatta simply cannot function as a solo healer on most teams, and even if they could, they are (by Overwatch’s own rating system) much more difficult to play than Mercy. On top of that, while their Ultimate abilities are now the only abilities in the game that can potentially prevent team wipes on a fairly consistent basis, getting random teammates to actually play around having such a safety net is nigh impossible. By comparison, there is no real need for teammates to understand how Mercy’s abilities function; all they care about is whether or not they get healed or revived, and it’s not like random teammates paid much attention to how Mercy has always required line of sight to function anyways. The consequences of this mentality have been well documented, as it usually involves someone who has a poor understanding of how healers work in Overwatch (among other things) and lots of demands for someone else to play Mercy while simultaneously blaming Mercy for any death, lack of progress, and or loss that the team may suffer.

The situation is absolutely not improved by how Mercy’s Resurrect ability doesn’t really carry much of a downside to it, on top of it being an almost ludicrously strong basic ability to begin with. A 30 second cooldown that is not reset on respawn seems like a long time to wait for misusing what is now the most powerful basic ability in Overwatch, and on paper, it is very punishing to Resurrect the wrong person at the wrong time, but the reality of the situation is that teams can get away with wasting a Resurrect. Hanzo instantly dies to a Junkrat trap outside of the spawn room? It would be borderline suicidal for the other team to push the spawn room and punish the misplay, and by the time a team makes a push, Resurrect will be more or less ready to go. Revive the wrong person on defense? It still puts an extra body on the field who the other team has to waste time killing again before they can capture a point, and may your deity of choice help you if the Resurrect target turned out to be a stall-master like Roadhog or Mei. Unless the person being Resurrected is so unquestionably useless that it would be better off if they were to leave the game, there is no blatantly wrong way to use Resurrect, nor is there an obvious consequence to doing so if your team was going to get wiped anyways. In other words, compared to something like a missed Helix Rocket or an ill-placed Flashbang, the effects of a poor Resurrect are not immediately apparent, and the comparatively forgiving nature of such an easy-to-use ability as it stands now offers no incentive for Mercy or her Resurrect target to learn from the experience.

Overwatch 2017 Summer Games Mercy Medal Victory Pose

Well this victory pose turned out to be rather prophetic, especially if it’s for the “Most Complained About Healer” award.

At a 16 percent pickrate, which translates to at least one Mercy per game of Overwatch if not two, Blizzard has to do something to at least make it so that people’s perception of Mercy changes. Merely thinking about running a Lucio-Zenyatta combo in most Competitive brackets is enough to get smothered by annoying messages, and you may as well go into Quickplay if you want Ana to be a respectable healer again, which, needless to say, is not healthy for the game. Currently, Blizzard is experimenting with some tweaks to how Resurrect and Valkyrie affect each other on the PTR, but a more drastic change may be needed. Increasing Resurrect to have a 45 second cooldown in exchange for more range would be a nice start, giving Mercy slightly better default defensive options (whether by buffing her pistol, health, or any other aspect) but decreasing the duration of Valkyrie could be another option, or making Resurrect a pseudo-Ultimate ability that you have to charge like any other Ultimate ability are changes that have the potential to give other Overwatch healers more of a chance to be useful. But that is neither here nor there compared to the more pressing issue that Mercy offers too much utility for the amount of “skill” needed to play as her effectively. Ironically, had people not complained about Mercy to begin with, she wouldn’t have become such an overbearing presence, but it’s far too late to do anything about that now.

If all else fails, Blizzard might want to consider going back to the drawing board to really think about the direction that they want to take Overwatch’s healers in. Currently, Lucio, Zenyatta, and Ana are all comparatively high skill, high impact Heroes, but Mercy is a Hero who is more or less designed for those who are perhaps not the best at First Person Shooters, which is fine, but not when it leads to this warped perception of a Hero by the general populace that has slowly been turned into a reality thanks to a series of complaints and reworks. Buffing everyone else is not an option unless you want to return to the triple Tank meta, and introducing a new Healer that fulfills a similar role would be nice, but either way, something must be done to ensure that one out of over two dozen Heroes does not become a must-have in every team comp.

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Anson Chan

Staff Writer

You ever wonder why we're here? It's one of life's greatest mysteries, isn't it? Good thing games exist so that we don't have to think about it. Or at least I don't have to think about it. Instead, I'll just play Halo or something.