Overwatch players are currently putting a brand-new patch update through its paces on the public test realm. Patch 1.8 introduces a number of exciting new changes, like the new server browser feature and an important buff for Bastion — but it also gives a small, important buff to support hero Mercy.
On the live version of Overwatch, flying into an otherwise enemy-filled room to resurrect the sad, mangled corpses of your teammates usually comes at the cost of Mercy's own life. It takes a couple of seconds for your resurrected teammates to come back from the dead, a window that gives the now-infuriated enemy team room to focus 100% of its attention on Mercy. But this new buff on the PTR will make Mercy temporarily invulnerable when she uses her ultimate, allowing her team to regain its footing and hopefully prevent her from getting totally slaughtered.
For those who think Mercy is an underpowered hero — and, judging by the Overwatch subreddit, there are a lot who do — this buff might be enough. But probably not. A quick search for just "Mercy" on the Overwatch subreddit brings up a massive list of suggestions from the community on how to make her stronger, a trend that's unlikely to go away with this newest buff.
However, as someone who plays Mercy almost exclusively in competitive Overwatch on PS4, I actually think she's a really great hero who can contribute a great deal to her team.
So, do I think Mercy needs a drastic rework, as claimed by some in the community? The short answer: Nah.
Now for the long answer.
Overwatch Mercy buff: Her unique ability is her freedom to read the battlefield
In the Overwatch "meta" — the general term for the overall balance of the game, which heroes are considered good and which are considered bad, etc. — Mercy is typically thought to be inferior to the other healer characters because of the perception that she lacks additional utility beyond her ability to heal. In fact, she's almost never picked in pro-level Overwatch matches. That's not unusual, since the meta typically allows for only very few characters to be considered viable, but it's worth noting.
Specifically, she's thought to be objectively worse than Ana, the hero to which she's most comparable. Both excel at single-target healing, but the general consensus is Ana is simply better at fulfilling that role than Mercy. Ana can heal a single target more quickly and has additional tools — like her biotic grenade and sleep darts — that Mercy lacks.
It's also thought the other characters have utility that Mercy doesn't. Lúcio doesn't heal as quickly as Ana or Mercy, but he's pretty mobile, heals everyone around him and can provide a handy speed boost. Zenyatta also heals slowly, but dishes out a ton of damage and can use his discord orb to weaken the enemy team.
However, I'd argue Mercy does, in fact, have additional utility the other characters lack. Namely, her abilities give her the freedom to be more tactical and big-picture-minded than anyone else — an ability that gives us "Mercy mains" the feeling that we're the team's overprotective mama. Let me explain.
Unlike Ana, you don't really need to aim with Mercy. As long as your healing beam is connected to an ally, you can look around in any direction and the beam won't break — unless they go around a corner or venture too far, of course.
So, my strategy as Mercy has always been to use that freedom of movement to keep an eye on every other person on my team, plan my next move, read the battlefield and anticipate who might need help more than my current healing target. That ability to look around is something Ana doesn't always have.
By design, Ana players scope into their biotic rifle and get tunnel vision, focusing so squarely on healing their one target that they might neglect the character standing directly beside them who needs their help even more. You might argue that's simply an example of a bad Ana player, but I think Mercy's kit actively encourages her to be big-picture-minded in a way Ana's doesn't.
Additionally, Mercy has a reliability to her healing that Ana lacks. Like I said, Mercy doesn't need to aim to be effective. That means if the Pharah flying above the battlefield needs healing, Mercy's almost always going to heal her. If Ana's biotic dart misses that small, irregularly moving target, that Pharah is dead meat.
To be clear, a big reason I find Mercy to be incredibly useful is because I play Overwatch on PS4. I can't speak to the state of Mercy or Ana on PC, but aiming precisely on consoles is much more difficult, which I think makes Ana a much trickier character to play effectively.
Mercy's main issue: She requires a competent team to protect her
Obviously, Mercy's not without her issues. The main frustration I have with Mercy is I can't heal and deal damage at the same time as every other healer can. If I swap to Mercy's pistol, that means my team just won't get healed for those few seconds. That can be a risk worth taking, but it often comes at the price of an ally's life.
This means Mercy relies more heavily on her teammates for protection than do other supports. That's fine if you're part of a strong team, but I've had countless matches where my team is seemingly unaware of the fact that a Tracer or Genji keeps going behind enemy lines and picking me off, rendering me useless as I slowly trot back into the fray from the spawn point. And, if I whip out my gun to take them out myself, that usually means an ally will die.
But I'm not entirely convinced that's an issue that needs to be addressed with a buff. I think, like any other character, Mercy has strengths and weaknesses. It's just a matter of taking advantage of the former and communicating with your team to mitigate the latter. That's something I think those who complain about Mercy are failing to do.
More Overwatch news and updates
For more on Overwatch, check out the rest of what Mic has to offer. Here is a list of our predictions for what seasonal events might appear in 2017, a look at a very funny, but naughty meme on the Overwatch subreddit, an interview with the creator of an awesome new Overwatch zine, the full patch notes for Overwatch version 2.03, a full explanation of the different types of health in Overwatch, our definitive ranking of every Overwatch hero, a roundup of awesome gender-bent Overwatch cosplay and a giant Overwatch FAQ for beginners.