Creating Space is a skill that all tanks in Overwatch need to master. They create space by taking control of an area and making it safer for their team.
A basic example of creating space is when Reinhardt puts his shield up and moves forward. His teammates can easily pressure the enemy team and deal damage as they are protected from incoming projectiles.
Creating Space is important because understanding how the macro-gameplay of Overwatch works can help to promote individual and team play, even with heroes that have a low mechanical skill cap.
Knowing how to work with your team, and how your team moves together, are great ways to develop and refine your skills as a player.
Note: tanks primarily focus on creating space, but DPS characters can also do so.
Terms to know
Peeling: to defend a teammate in danger in an attempt to get the attacker to back off.
Squishies: characters with low health, such as Zenyatta and Mercy.
Attrition: wearing down the enemy through sustained attacking.
Choke: an area that the defending team holds, where the enemies have a difficult time passing through due to limited entrances.
AoE: area-of-effect, usually referencing abilities that affect an area rather than a single target, like Moira’s heal spray.
Snowball: usually references gaining advantage with momentum; like a snowball rolling down a hill, it will get bigger and bigger until it stops.
Crowd control: abilities that prevent enemies from being active in the fight. Examples include Roadhog’s Chain Hook, Reinhardt’s Earthshatter, and McCree’s Flashbang.
How each tank creates space
- Reinhardt has a strong melee weapon, and most characters are not prepared to fight in close range. He can use his shield to protect himself and his team, but can also charge in to disrupt the space the enemy is holding.
- Orisa is similar to Reinhardt with shielding, and can lay down suppressive fire in one position. She doesn’t have strong initiation like Reinhardt, but can still move forward slowly, winning battles of attrition easily.
- Roadhog is the opposite of how Reinhardt and Orisa work. He creates a kill-zone in front of him. Since he can hook people towards his team and, potentially, eliminate them immediately, enemies become more nervous to stay in his line of sight.
- Zarya is similar to Roadhog, when charged she creates a kill-zone as far as her beam weapon extends. Since she gets charged when enemies shoot her bubbles, they are less likely to attack anyone with a barrier on them.
- Winston is a dive tank that creates space by disrupting the enemies’ positioning and pulling the enemies’ resources to a different area. His ability to stick to vulnerable targets and eliminate them forces the enemies to peel for their teammates. Winston can also shield in a sphere, blocking damage from the outside (or sometimes inside).
- D.Va is another dive tank that can force enemies to peel for their teammates. Her high burst damage makes her deadly against squishies, and her Defense Matrix can allow for both defensive peeling and offensive initiation.
The amount of space your team holds is the average of your team’s scope of threat. That is, wherever your team can be a threat to the enemy, is the space you control.
For example, if you control the high ground on Oasis City Center as Soldier: 76, you are a threat to most of the control point down below. You control the space overlooking this point as long as your threat is greater than the enemies’.
Team composition also affects how you’re able to create space. What supports and DPS you have will change how you approach the strategy of creating space.
Examples of team space
Zenyatta’s Transcendence can be used to counter Graviton Surges, but also to move forward aggressively and provide a safe space for teammates to operate in.
Widowmaker can zone out entire spaces using high ground and threatening to eliminate in one shot.
Lucio allows your team to move in with speed boost, creating space at a quicker pace.
Junkrat can block small entrances and pathways by shooting high-damage grenades into them.
The list goes on. The primary point to understand is how each player is creating space moment by moment, and then learning how your hero fits into the team’s paradigm of creating and holding space.
Team composition, map, and tank choice
The paradigm is composed of many factors, and individual teammate needs taken into account. For example, let’s consider this team composition:
The easiest way to determine which tank to choose in this scenario is to assess what needs and strengths each character has, and how that interacts with the map and the enemy team. You need to figure out how you will be able to create space against them in that map.
Zarya is rather immobile, but when charged can become a threat quickly. She can block burst damage, but heroes like Bastion will shred her.
Lucio can boost your team’s mobility and provide AoE healing. This can help to compensate for immobile characters or enhance an already mobile team. He isn’t able to out heal large amounts of damage, but is great for a long stalled fight.
Mercy can heal a single target rapidly and has the ability to be mobile with teammates around. Her resurrect can help your team to regain lost advantage or snowball winning fights, but can be weak to crowd control.
Genji is mobile and is great for harassing and flanking. The weakness of flankers is that if the enemy collapses on them quickly enough, your team can lose a member. Flankers need a place to come back to safely, or characters that go with them for protection
Soldier: 76 can deal consistent ranged damage and is mobile enough to reposition and somewhat reliably follow up on characters that dive. If the team is too mobile, however, he can be an easy target when his allies move around too much.
Afterwards, we have to understand how our second tank choice will help to create space.
Reinhardt can shield and move aggressively compared to Orisa - great for this composition due to the defensive and offensive mix.
Orisa can shield and provide long range cover, but doesn’t necessarily mix well with our mobile allies. Since she’s not in the middle of the fight as often, Zarya might have difficulty charging off her.
Roadhog can amplify the team’s already fairly high damage and provide easy charge for Zarya. This choice would work well for this composition if the team want to focus on picking out of position enemies and snowball that advantage.
Winston is mobile and can keep up with Genji and Lucio. His shield also helps to protect his team, but the bubble can be burst down easily. Zarya can help to safeguard him, though, and so is a pretty solid choice in general.
D.Va is great for diving and has a lot of utility with Defense Matrix. However her capacity to delete projectiles can interfere with Zarya’s ability to charge. Possible, but not necessarily ideal.
With those in mind, it then boils to what kind of space we’re working with: the maps.
A few examples:
Eichenwalde has a very difficult choke in the beginning. Shield characters work well, especially with initiation. I’d pick Reinhardt with this composition, and consider switching to Winston to control high ground through the second segment, and back to Reinhardt in the tight confines of the third segment.
Ilios Well is great for getting environmental kills. A character like Reinhardt doesn’t have a lot of room to work with since most the control point is taken up by the well. Roadhog and Winston are great choices with this composition here to brawl more easily.
Dorado’s initial under-the-overpass choke can be difficult for attackers to get through, especially with a strong shield tank holding the space. Orisa, while not always synergizing with Zarya ideally, can be a great choice for holding the choke, since Zarya can protect the dive.
There are many factors when looking at space creation, and knowing how you want to interact with it will aid you in your character choices.
Holding space vs. Creating it
Once you’ve created space for your team to work with, it is important to maintain it, without tipping the scale over too much so that it falls into your enemies’ favor. Playing too aggressively can make you vulnerable.
Deciding when to be aggressive and when to play safely is a key part of Overwatch. Reinhardt can move forward and force the enemy to back off, but if he is too aggressive, any space he gains can be lost.
The key is to be aggressive enough, so that when the enemy tries to create space - by moving into your team’s area - you force them to back off. If you have an advantage, you don’t necessarily need to create more.
Examples of over-aggression
Charging in as Reinhardt when your team is not able to follow you.
Excessive ultimate usage, such as using Dragonblade, Whole Hog, and Death Blossom after Zarya uses Graviton Surge.
Extending past a safe choke to eliminate enemies, such as moving past the gate on Hanamura Point A as the defenders.
Diving on Zenyatta as Winston when their D.Va and Soldier: 76 are near him and expecting your dive.
Examples of controlled aggression
Charging in as Reinhardt with Zarya following to bubble you.
Shooting into a Graviton Surge and using Death Blossom after Lucio has used Sound Barrier in the Graviton.
Holding the gate choke on Hanamura Point A so your allied Junkrat can spam grenades safely, making it dangerous for the enemy to initiate on you.
Diving on a Zenyatta when he’s in a place that would make it hard for his teammates to peel for him.
The main principle: when you have the upper hand, maintain it.
Trying to generate too much advantage leaves you vulnerable to having it swing in the opponents’ favor. Deciding when and how to be aggressive will aid in your skill of creating space.
Creating Space is an important concept because you want to be thinking about how you as a tank, or even another character, can make your teammates’ lives easier.
It is not necessarily just about holding up a shield and waiting for your team to do damage, but rather, more about how your movements and abilities fit within a paradigm of taking space.
This article has been created in collaboration with Duncan, a Master flex player.
My name is Duncan, but most people on Overwatch call me HobiWanJablobi, or Hobi for short. I'm a Masters flex player with a peak of 4142 SR in S6.
I make YouTube videos aimed towards explaining high-level concepts in the game in a brief way, as well as VOD reviews. I'm always open for questions, so feel free to get in touch with me!
Header and all images: Blizzard
Vincenzo is an esports writer with five years of experience. Former head editor for Natus Vincere, he has produced content for DreamHack, FACEIT, DOTAFire, 2P, and more. Follow him on @SkulzDota.