[Meta Analysis] The necessity for Mercy in high level play
For the past few months of tournaments, Mercy has achieved one of the highest pickrates in the competitive scene, often being deemed a “core” hero that was necessary for every lineup and team composition. There are many heroes like this. Reinhardt is seen as required in most lineups because of how good his shield is, Lúcio for his speed boost and ability to keep everyone topped up just by existing. But with the Beyond the Summit Overwatch Cup #1 she has solidified herself in a position of being a required hero in every lineup, achieving a pickrate of 100%, meaning that she was picked by both teams in every game, in every mode, and on every map.
Mercy is already a strong enough hero in a vacuum to almost warrant this kind of pickrate by herself, with her healing being the fastest in the game, her damage boost being a huge buff to an hero, her mobility allowing her to pocket any of the high mobility heroes in the game and Resurrection being able to singlehandedly win fights by completely resetting a teamfight, potentially wasting enemy Ultimates and giving a team a numbers advantage. Even before the Overwatch beta was available people were sure Mercy would be one of the most popular heroes just by looking at her abilities. But for a while she went relatively unpicked, with the pre-nerf dps and support hybrid of Zenyatta being much more popular for his ability to pocket someone permanently without even needing to see them with Harmony Orb, and his ability to essentially remove a hero from the game with the permanent Discord Orb.
Then came his nerf, making it so that he had to remain in line of sight for his orbs to do anything, and his pickrate subsequently plummeted over a few months to the 0% it sits at now. With Zenyatta so heavily nerfed, teams needed a secondary option to Lúcio, and that came in Mercy as the only hero other than Lúcio and Zenyatta that could heal quickly. With the only strong available supports, Mercy became a necessity in every lineup, not out of being overpowered (although the buffs she got around the same time certainly helped) but out of being one of the few heroes in the game that can actually heal. Even then she would still be switched out fairly often for a Symmetra, or a second Lúcio in no hero limit, or even a dps hero when teams wanted to be a bit more greedy. It wasn’t until recently that her true necessity became clear.
What makes Mercy a necessity in every lineup is not her healing, or her damage boost (although those help); it’s having a Mercy on the other team. When two equal skill-level teams go into a teamfight, the one with the Mercy will almost always win. The times that they don’t is when the Mercy gets picked off at the start of the fight, or everyone dies too spread out. But generally, it can be assumed that the team with the Mercy will always win. Even in cases where one team is better than the other, if the worse team has Mercy and the better one does it, the team with the Mercy will almost always win. The reason for this, is of course Resurrection.
With Resurrection, a teamfight isn’t really a 6v6, it’s more like an 8v6 or with a spectacular Resurrection a 10v6. Now even with numbers like these it would be possible for teams to overcome the odds and win the game regardless through use of good Ultimates. But what Resurrection’s true strength comes from is the ability to waste enemy Ultimates. The perfect Graviton Surge into Barrage doesn’t matter if the heroes that were killed by that Ultimate are resurrected, because now it’s a teamfight where one team still has all of their Ultimates and the other doesn’t. With no Mercy, there’s no backup for the team that just used it’s Ultimates and they will generally get rolled over by the enemy team.
This is why Mercy is so necessary in high level play. If a team doesn’t have one, they’re going to suffer for it, because they’re going to be losing fights thanks to Resurrection that they could otherwise be avoiding if they had one of their own. It gives a team such a huge advantage to have a Mercy when the other team doesn’t because they get a second chance the other teams won’t have. Oftentimes the other team will already be missing one or two heroes when the Resurrection happens, making the advantage even better. Because of this, a team needs a Mercy just to reset the advantage the other team got from a Resurrection and prevent them from getting rolled over. If a team decides not to take a Mercy, it’s much more likely that they’ll lose their teamfights, and subsequently, lose the game.
If you’re interested in analysis of the Overwatch meta, I make a weekly video series devoted to analysing and breaking down the previous week of competitive to form a stats-based tier list, show this week’s strategies, and break down every hero’s place individually before summing up the state of the meta. Here’s the latest episode, so be sure to check it out if this article was interesting to you.
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