With the release of Overwatch just across the horizon, it’s important for us to discuss something key to your success on the battlefield: support characters.

Support is one of the four roles present within Overwatch alongside tanks, offensive and defensive characters. These characters are designed to reinforce your team with a myriad of abilities that heal, buff and provide utilities to boost your team’s effectiveness – all of which are a necessity if you plan on performing well on the battlefield.

Unfortunately, many players tended to shy away from playing these support characters during the closed and open beta of Overwatch earlier this month though, with only a fraction of the total damage being healed up by players.

Granted, numbers aren’t everything. But if my time during beta was any indication, there’s only a few of us who leaned towards playing support characters, and that’s a problem. In many different situations these support characters can make or break a push on the objective, keeping players alive or helping them reach the objective quicker at the start of the round. These are invaluable benefits that every team needs to consider, especially when playing with a team of random players.

So with that said, we implore you to try your hand at support once Overwatch servers go live - and to help you out with that, we’ve got a handy little overview guide below.

Lúcio

Lúcio is one of the more mobile support characters focused on passive healing and maintaining your beat (more on that in a second). An international celebrity focused on musical energy, Lúcio has an impressive set of abilities that can be utilized to push offensively and keep your team alive throughout the entire match if managed properly.

Lúcio is armed with a Sonic Amplifier, which is as close to a dubstep gun as we’ll ever get in a Blizzard game. The Sonic Amplifier may not seem like much at first, but it provides with decent damage-dealing capabilities as well as a secondary fire which knocks enemies back from you a significant distance. If timed right, you can use this secondary fire to knock enemy players off the map completely, or deny them entrance to an objective. Lúcio also has the passive ability to Wall Ride, which allows you to jump onto walls throughout the map and ride along them. When combined with the knockback function of the Sonic Amplifier, this passive ability is deadly if mastered. It’ll allow you to outmaneuver enemies and knock them down in myriad ways.

Lúcio is a passive healer who revolves around his ability Crossfade, wherein he continuously keeps the team (and himself) alive with his music. While playing Lúcio you can swap between two different tracks: one which boosts movement speed and one which regenerates health. By keeping the volume of your tracks high through basic combat and his other ability, Amp It Up, you can essentially turn your entire team into a speedy juggernaut that will almost always outmaneuver a team without a Lúcio present. Remember to utilize Sound Barrier (his ultimate ability) when in a difficult engagement too, which will briefly provide you and your allies with personal shields to even it up.

Mercy

Mercy is easily the most traditional of the support characters focused on active healing and active buffing. A prominent Swiss surgeon studying nanobiology, Mercy has a great set of abilities which can be utilized to keep specific members of your team alive and resurrect the entire team in a combat situation. Equipped with the Caduceus Staff, Mercy is able to directly attach herself to a teammate and provide a healing buff or increase the amount of damage the hero connected to her staff does. While the damage boost isn’t anything to write home about, the healing stream that Mercy provides with her staff is one of the best in the game – meaning that in order to take down a tank being healed by her is nothing short of a challenge. Her passive ability is Angelic Descent, which allows her to descend from any height safely without taking damage. It’s best utilized with her Guardian Angel ability, which allows her to fly towards an ally almost instantly in order to provide last minute healing or jet out of a bad situation.

Mercy also gives players access to the ultimate ‘oh shit’ button too. Her ultimate ability Resurrect allows you to bring your entire team back to life with full health which can be extremely dangerous during a difficult push. Utilize this ability to surprise enemy teams who think they’ve won an engagement. It’s important to note that Mercy doesn’t have the ability to deal direct damage with her primary weapon though. She does have a sidearm, but it should only be used in personal defense.

Symmetra

Symmetra may not have healing capabilities like the rest of the support characters in Overwatch, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a valuable addition to the team. An engineer capable of bending reality, Symmetra has an amazing set of utility abilities that help your team move about the battlefield and defend key points. Equipped with the Photon Projector, Symmetra is able to deal direct damage via a beam that hones in on a nearby enemy. The beam will deal continuous damage that increases the longer it is connected with the enemy, allowing her to deal with tanks easily. The Projector can also throw out slow moving balls of energy that deal high damage as well, although they are hard to use at long-distance.

The key to playing Symmetra lies in her abilities, though. The first of these is Sentry Turret, which allows you to place small, automatically controlled turrets across the map. These turrets shoot energy beams that deal continuous damage and slow enemies within range. You can place up to six of these guys at one time too, which allows you to deal some serious damage if you pair them together on a doorway or wall. Symmetra also has the ability to give her allies a Photon Shield which boosts damage resistance and overall health. Unlike other shields in the game, the Photon Shield will stay active until it has absorbed all the damage it can take. These little shields can be utilized to buff tanks up even further as well as keep squishy allies alive during pushes. Symmetra’s ultimate ability gives you access to a teleporter too, which can be placed anywhere on the map. This teleporter will allow allies to instantly move from the spawn point to whenever you placed it on the map – making it key for defending teams if your objectives are being taken by the attackers.

Zenyatta

Zenyatta is easily the most challenging, but rewarding support, character to play. With the lowest base health in the game, the robotic monk can be killed quite easily by enemy players but can tear down enemies just as easily thanks to the various orbs in his possession. As a result, Zenyatta is best played when engaging players from a distance. Equipped with the Orb of Destruction, Zenyatta is able to deal direct damage by throwing them at his enemies. These orbs can also be charged up and released all at once, dealing a massive amount of damage if most impact their target.

While playing Zenyatta you’ll have a lot to manage ability wise. The first of these is the Orb of Discord, which can be attached to enemy players within your line of sight. This orb will increase the amount of damage the enemy players takes from all sources by 50 percent and provides you with a brief vision of the player if you lose sight of them. By utilizing the Orb of Discord with his basic attacks, Zenyatta can deal massive amounts of damage quickly, although it does take some time to master. You’ll also get access to the Orb of Harmony, which can be thrown at allies to restore health at a rate of 30 per second. This Orb also changes his ultimate ability, Transcendence, which allows you to become immune to all damage and restore a massive amount of health you all allies around you. Utilize these abilities to make pushes on enemy objectives as frequently as you can.