I have been sick as a dog this week, barely keeping my coherence as I struggle with the persistent feeling that I am drowning in my own phlegm. Thus, despite the impending prerelease this weekend, and the full spoiler coming out last Friday, I have not put significant thought towards Magic this week. Magic is complicated, and my fevered brain doesn’t have the processing power for it at the moment.


Side note: amusingly I took this hit to my cognitive functions after seeing Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. I think it was just getting exposed to germs in a movie theater that did me in, but given the dumb-but-enjoyable-rom-com vibe to the movie, I have considered the idea that my decreasing mental acuity traces back to a memetic source. That this is some extended snow crash. But that seems unlikely, the ravings of a lunatic who is stir-crazy and more than a little dramatic.


While under the weather, Overwatch has been more my speed. I’m getting pretty decent at it on the console; I find that the slightly sluggish view tracking makes up for the jittery way that I play the computer version. Basically, the minor tremor in my hands screws me over less on a console, and that makes the experience more enjoyable. I can lay on a futon, hacking up pieces of lung, and still go on a sick healing spree with Mercy or play ring-around-the-rosy with Symmetra. Playing support has been a surprisingly positive way for me to work through my own frustrations with my inability to just… heal myself.


Not that I’ve been sticking solely to support roles. I’ve been branching out, and now I have a stable of offensive options as well. I tend to favor some of the characters with movement abilities; for example, I am getting pretty effective at blinking around the battlefield as Tracer, the key being making heavy use of her rewind function. I’m also getting somewhat brutal with Pharah, at least when I’m together enough to properly lead my enemies when bombarding them. To tank I prefer D.Va, though I still have a lot of work to be good with her; I also play some Reinhardt, but mostly when his barrier proves necessary to taking or holding an objective.


Here are some tricks I have learned during my time playing Overwatch, some (most) of which are probably insanely obvious to the more competitive gamers among you.


Charge Riptires – Junkrat’s Riptire is one of the most brutal ultimates. While high DPS characters like Bastion can shred it before the Junkrat gets a chance to explode it, most characters are stuck running when they hear “FIRE IN THE HOLE!” When I play support, though, my policy is to charge at the Riptire, or at least where I think the Riptire is coming from. That way, either they pop the tire when I’m the only one in range, or risk leaving me alive to resurrect the clustered victims if I am Mercy, or at least heal up any survivors if I am Lucio or Zenyatta. Trading a single support life for a potential multikill seems like a good balance to me.


Symmetra is versatile – there is a tendency to see Symmetra as being a defense hero, given the utility of her turrets. However, on many maps she’s just as useful on attack, though the way to use her changes. Let’s take Temple of Anubis as an example. On defense, Symmetra is useful in many ways. If you’re in chat with your confederates, you can use her turrets as an early warning system, seeing which of the three main paths they are pushing on at any given moment. You can also hold any one of those three paths, or set up in the central branch and try to hold all three with the aid of the rest of your team. Then, in a pinch you can fall back and make that objective a lethal car wash for anyone who tries to hold it.


On attack Symmetra plays different roles. I tend to, as stage one in an attack, throw up some disposable turrets around the entry gate to harass anyone who might try to get behind us for the purpose of picking us off one by one. Stage two involves taking a toehold. Typically this involves turning either the left or right path chokepoints as death boxes, and then maintaining the location as a group-up or teleporter point. If that’s not necessary, you can also set up to keep their respawns from making it back to the objective in time. And then, once you do this for objective A, and move on to take the more challenging objective B, Symmetra’s key role becomes maintaining a teleporter. Defense respawns basically on top of objective B, while the attack team has to run a good minute to get back into the fray. If you take one of the buildings or side chambers you can help neutralize this advantage, while acting like a trap door spider should any wandering enemy heroes stumble into your lair.


But whereas a hero like Mercy plays pretty similarly on attack and defense, Symmetra’s range requires flexibility in your play style. It’s pretty cool.


Rez early and often – when I’m playing Mercy, my ultimate frustration comes when I’m waiting on a big resurrection and then I get killed before my opportunity. On that run back into the fray, as I see my allies go through critical health and turn into skulls which disappear before I get into range, I spew a fair bit of profanity (at the universe, I would never curse aggressively at my teammates or the opposing team). This has lead me to the habit of popping my rez almost as soon as it comes online. The key is two-fold. For starters, this means your rez keeps on the pressure of a push even if you’re immediately sniped by opposing fire. But more importantly, it means that you’re not wasting healing that could be charging your ultimate. Mercy’s ultimate charges fast, particularly when healing tanks. When you’re pushing, that means it’s typically worth rezzing the first one or two people who fall. Chances are any team wipe will take you out with it as well, and it’s particularly valuable when an important role-player (i.e. your tank) falls.


Side note: I tend towards the “pure healer” school of Mercy players, at least when pushing. Unless there is a lot to be gained from switching over to gun or damage boost, holding a health stream on a character with no shields or little in the way of health gives a significantly higher chance of surviving sniper fire or sudden assault. This is particularly true if you’re protecting a character’s ultimate; while the damage boost is tempting, typically it’s a better rate of return to make sure they survive to finish their ultimate, and sometimes by the time you react and switch they’ve taken too much damage to be salvageable.


I really like Overwatch, which is good, because otherwise I would be out of my mind with boredom. Magic the Gathering is good for many things, but it rarely offers a full escape into flow in the same way that a videogame can. When all you want is the time to pass so you can stop feeling wretched, that flow state is an important one.


Jess Stirba is the queen of flow.

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