An educational video on Tracer analyzed by Slay4Joy, a GM DPS player. He talks about Tracer’s decision making and positioning while defending on Volskaya.
Staying alive is your priority
First, let’s establish one very important ground rule for playing Tracer you should follow in almost any situation: staying alive is your main priority.
Thanks to Recall and Blink, Tracer can conveniently get away from the enemy team into the safety of her supports. That allows her to play hit-and-run without putting herself in too much danger. But if you over-commit, you can find yourself out of abilities to use, and eventually getting killed.
Every time you’re going in, remember that getting a kill is less important than staying alive yourself. The only exception to this rule in the current meta is the Mercy kill, but even then it’s only worth it only if you’re sure that killing her will secure the win for your team.
High ground advantage. I started the round on the roof of the temple because taking high ground for Tracer is generally desirable. You can safely poke from there building ultimate charge, and also if you go in for a kill, you can always Recall to the high ground, away from the enemy.
This tactic is safe only if the enemy team doesn’t have heroes with vertical ability (such as Winston or D.Va) in that case I would have to withdraw back to my team. When I realise that nobody is going for the high ground, I know that I can safely stay where I am.
Bait McCree’s Flashbang. At 0:54, I tried to get a kill on McCree. He is alone and unaware that I’m above him. Here you can see the importance of hitting your first shots while the target is moving predictably. I didn’t do a lot of damage when I could, and that resulted in him staying alive.
McCree’s biggest weapon against you is Flashbang, and if you bait it out from him, he becomes an easy target for Tracer to kill. It’s also very important not to pursue the kill since the supports are helping him and instead disengage. After juking McCree for a while, I manage to catch him off guard and score a kill.
As I said before, staying alive is your objective when playing Tracer. Often, it means not putting yourself in dangerous situations in the first place. You can see an example of such a situation when I go for Ana at 1:12. That was a greedy approach, and I was lucky she didn’t sleep me, although I was AD strafing (rapidly moving left and right) to avoid that.
The enemy has 2 big counters to Tracer: McCree and Roadhog
McCree’s Flashbang and Roadhog’s Chain Hook usually result in your death, and you have to always pay attention to where they both are in order to stay alive.
You can see me avoiding Roadhog until he uses his hook, which gives me a green light to dive Mercy at 1:35. When she gets away, I’m not chasing the kill, but instead I disengage and finish farming my ultimate on the Roadhog while waiting for the enemy to push in. This is a very safe position for me, and I can immediately participate in the fight to pick off a lonely or low health target.
Just moments later, at 1:51, the enemy McCree gets separated from his team. After I bait out his Flashbang, he turns into a simple kill, and we quickly finish the fight. I could freely attack the supports from behind as McCree was no longer a threat, and Roadhog was too far away to help.
Don’t be greedy
After the fight is over, at 2:21, I notice McCree and resolve to fight him. I manage to bait out his Flashbang again, but he hits a lucky headshot. There was no reason to go there: killing him was nearly impossible as he had supports behind him, so I could just stay behind and wait for a better opportunity. Instead, I played risky and died.
When you’re AD strafing as Tracer, you become a very hard target to hit. Even pro players have a difficult time hitting these shoots, and they mostly rely on luck.
As Tracer, just as any other hero, you always have to think ahead: what is your next move, how are you going to approach the situation? Often, you can predict a lot of dangers and avoid them.
In the next fight, at 2:37, I make a foolish mistake blinking right next to McCree without blinks to spare, when instead I should’ve waited for them to recharge while playing a little in the back. I die with my team and we lose the point.
Summarizing Tracer's gameplay
Stay alive and disengage from hazardous situations.
Take high ground when possible for easy poking and pick potential.
Avoid dangerous abilities like McCree’s Flashbang or Roadhog’s Chain Hook - bait them out before going in.
Plan your actions ahead to avoid potential dangers.
When playing in the back line, pick off lonely targets and distract the enemy team while staying alive so your teammates can make a play.
There’s another tip on Tracer I have in store: if you draw attention of one enemy hero, it’s your job to stay alive and get a kill on him. If you draw attention of two enemies or more, keep them busy so your team can make a play as they’re in numerical advantage. Don’t forget to call it too as they rarely see what you’re doing in the enemy back line.
You can see an example of drawing enemies attention at 7:10. The enemy supports leave their tanks without help as they focus their healing on McCree, who is struggling to shoot me. Once again, don’t get yourself killed, and if you see you’re getting pressured too much, withdraw and reset.
Hi, I'm Slay4Joy, and I'm very committed to becoming one of the best in Overwatch. I went from Platinum in S1 to GM in S3, and I'm still working hard to improve. Right now I'm making educational videos and streaming to share what I learned so far and help others get better too.
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.