Once upon a time, there was nothing quite so maligned in the world of Overwatch as a Symmetra main. People still hate Hanzo, and Widowmaker mains will always bear the brunt of every loss. But at least their value is understood.
Three months since her rework, however, Symmetra has settled into a place befitting of the demon scientist.
When Symmetra’s changes first became playable to the public in late June, fans were surprised and shocked, but happily so. Symmetra’s turrets were suddenly a hell of a lot more versatile. She could throw them through her teleporter, along with other nasty surprises like D.Va’s ultimate.
But despite all of the hype and theories, Symmetra’s predicted rise as a playmaker hasn’t eventuated. Stats from the third-party tracker Overbuff show that the light-bending scientist is just ahead of Sombra, Bastion and Torbjorn in the unpopularity stakes. She’s the third-least picked hero from Grandmaster down to Platinum, and the situation doesn’t improve at the lowest levels of Overwatch.
Funny thing is: Symmetra’s winning.
Whether you sort by one month or three, or whether you go through each of the different leagues, Symmetra’s success is evident. The only hero surpassing Symmetra’s 55 percent overall win rate (more than 56% on PS4 and Xbox One) — which anyone who’s played a handful of competitive games since her introduction will know all to well — is Brigitte, the support-tank who has singlehandedly diminished the relevance of squishy characters like Tracer while providing essential burst healing.
But while Brigitte sees a ton of play across all levels of Overwatch, Symmetra’s versatility is much less realised. Part of the problem is undoubtedly time: a lot of other DPS characters, like Soldier: 76, are just better understood. They may not be better for the situation at hand — say if you’re facing a pirate ship-type composition — but it’s easy to pick the devil you know. And other heroes, like McCree, Reinhardt and Winston, are largely unchanged from the initial launch. Their abilities and cooldowns might have been tweaked, but the roles they play and how they are played is largely untouched.
But as Symmetra mains know all too well, her style of play has never been accepted.
Overwatch’s Symmetra mains haven’t had an easy go of it. Any time they play their favourite character, they run the risk of getting harassed or reported. This year offered potential salvation in the form of a huge overhaul to the character. But even after that, things haven’t changed much in Symmetraland.Read more
It’s a shame, because the most common metas amongst competitive Overwatch make Symmetra incredibly useful. The prevalence of Reinhardt, Winston and Orisa to a lesser extent all provide barriers that help charge up Symmetra’s beam of death.
Even the presence of D.Va is handy for Symmetra. The Indian scientist’s beam goes straight through her defence matrix, and if D.Va’s rockets are on cooldown or Symmetra’s already hit the second level of damage for D.Va responds, Symmetra will mince her in a heartbeat. Add any nearby enemy shield — even Brigitte can run into trouble, depending on how quickly she can close the distance and how congested the firefight is — it’s not difficult for Symmetra to start engagements partially charged up.
The increased prevalence of 3/3 teams — three tanks and three supports, sometimes referred to as GOATS depending on the tanks and supports in question — works in Symmetra’s favour too. Removing high burst damage characters like Widow and McCree improve Symmetra’s chances on the battlefield, and staying behind a tank or two minimises the chance of being deleted by a Roadhog hook or being isolated.
And this is all without mentioning Symmetra’s tactical advantages. Back at the Melbourne Esports Open, ORDER’s Overwatch team threw Dark Sided for a loop on the first point of Anubis by pairing a Symmetra with a Bastion. After pushing Dark Sided’s off the ledge above the entrance, ORDER flew D.Va up and ported Bastion up to the ledge, allowing the robotic minigun from hell to go to town.
Obviously, Symmetra and Bastion is a highly cheesy strat. But there’s a whole range of other uses that are incredibly underutilised. The combination of Sombra’s EMP with a D.Va bomb is starting to filter down the leagues, but both ults can be paired up with a cheeky teleport too. Junkrat’s ult has no qualms going through a teleport — and would be much safer to setup, since the rip-tire has its own properties for jumping over obstacles.
Even just simpler setups like Bastion’s sentry form or Torbjorn’s turrets as a one-trick pony for countering cheesy pirate ship setups are possible with Symmetra, with some basic coordination. And ultimately that might be the kicker: it’s easier to understand the scenarios where Symmetra isn’t helpful — like when a Pharmacy pair is ravaging the battlefield — rather than thinking of solutions that Symmetra can fit into.
Most people play Overwatch as a game of individuals. It’s easy to situations down to one hero, their contributions, their matchup against other heroes of the same role, and view a player’s value that way. But the current meta for Overwatch offers so much potential for the still-maligned scientist: her damage output in the Brigitte-dominated meta can be absurd, her ultimate charges incredibly fast and is super useful when attacking or defending, and the value of her teleport is still woefully underused. Three months down the track, Blizzard’s rework of Symmetra has put her precisely where she belongs — now it’s just up to the Overwatch fanbase to capitalise on her power.