The Defense category of heroes is one of the most densely populated in Overwatch, and so you're more likely than usual to find yourself asking which of them represents the all-round best character to play. As part of our wider series of guides which rank the various hero categories in the game, we're turning our attention today to these powerhouses of team protection.
As always there a quite a few factors which determine how we've chosen to rank our Defense heroes this month, and not all of them are particularly easy to pin down. There's the wisdom-of-the-crowd aspect to consider when looking at the context of the wider metagame, of course, and no doubt the various tweaks Blizzard will make in the months ahead will also change our opinion over time. We're also taking the general skill level of the broader playerbase into consideration as well - something else that will change, particularly now that Competitive Play is upon us.
Finally, there's the general versatility of each Hero to consider. When you're fighting with random players, certain characters will allow you to make a bigger, broadly effective difference to the tide of battle - whichever map you happen to be fighting on. We'll add our usual caveat which is that - all things considered - you will do better with characters you love to play and will generally work within your current team, instead of one that you feel obliged to pick due to a third-party opinion. That, we think, should be the factor that overrides all others.
With all of that taken into account, then, here's our personal appraisal of the best Defense hero in Overwatch, updated for the month of December. We'll revisit this round-up regularly in the weeks and months ahead, so keep us bookmarked for the latest updates.
Editor's note: February Update #1 - We're still waiting to see what the impact of the last round of balance changes has on the broader metagame. This first edition of our guide to the Defense hero roster should get you off to a good start though.
Defense Hero Tier List and Character Rankings - February 2017
In the first of Overwatch's closed betas, Bastion was the absolute scourge of the metagame. A swift nerf to the turrets soon followed, however, and the playerbase quickly got wind to the importance of sending in an assassin to eliminate this threat. At launch, we saw history repeat itself, and now Bastion is very much bottom of the pile alas. Note that Bastion will always be a great choice for newcomers to tinker with, regardless of the current state of the metagame.
There was a time in the very early stages of the first Overwatch closed beta where Torbjorn - like Bastion - was a dominant force in every game. Those turrets are still an incredibly powerful way of holding back the attacking forces, but if you lack the imagination to find new creative placements, you'll come unstuck pretty fast - the community has quickly switched on to their likely locations. Players are more confident at switching Heroes to eliminate the threat they pose as well, and so you'll find it harder - although by no means impossible - to dominate with this hero.
You'll find Hanzo operates in much the same way as Widowmaker, albeit with a slightly more aggressive twist that lets him get stuck into combat in much closer proximity to his targets. Sniping skills aside, the skill ceiling for mastering Hanzo feels a little higher, although watching that Dragonstrike take flight for the first time is worth the price of entry alone.
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Although every Hero gets their time to shine on particular maps, we increasingly find that it's Mei and her incredible Ice Wall skill that makes an impact. Her freezing effects are nothing to be sniffed at to be sure, but that ability to bloke off a chokepoint or separate a significant enemy from the rest of the pack is proving to be an increasingly game-changing play. The Defense roster has always felt a bit duff, but Mei's probably where she belongs in this category.
While we are - by confession - not the most accomplished sharpshooter in the game by any means, a skilled Widowmaker can make absolute mincemeat out of the opposition. In the right hands she's superb at protecting a point in defense, or taking out the trash so her teammates can keep pushing forwards. Versatile and deadly is always a good combination in Overwatch, and few Defense heroes can make a better claim to those two qualities.
We're big fans of Junkrat at Metabomb, and once you've mastered the scattergun nature of his core attacks you'll find yourself capable of opearting as a one-man army. Wherever there are corridors and alleyways, you'll be sure to find a Junkrat. While he hasn't always been a top-tier member of the Overwatch Defense squad, he's everywhere right now - not only that, even beginners can do well with this particular Hero.