Fall 2017 Mercy Through the Lense of Effective Damage Theory

October 27th
written by Eden

For those who haven’t read it, here is the link to my writing outline the basic terminology and concepts of effective damage theory (or EDT if you prefer).

Mercy is in one sense a fascinating hero in the context of effective damage theory and her unique role comes from her ultimate resurrect. I’ll attempt to contextualize what this ability does to Overwatch.

The first question that resurrection raises is what form of effective damage (ED) does it resemble? It functions as a highly efficient burst heal which varies in its size by the health pool of the target.

It falls into the category of healing because it is weaker in the face of higher damage and it is not effective at nullifying differences of skill. The who components that make it unique from other healing is that it is far better at reducing the efficiency of opponents effective damage (efficiency) and that it scales off of the targets total health pool.

Unlike all other forms of damage mitigation, due to its reliably clutch nature (rather than inconsistency of even saving a low health target with a zenyatta ultimate or a lucio beat for instance), it has a significant impact on the opponents efficiency. This in turn reduces suppression for your team.

It however has a flexibility that far exceeds other mechanisms for reducing suppression which usually have approaches to counteract them with mobility. For barriers and disables you reposition to nullify them, for mobility you bring MORE mobility. This is a core identity which forms a “dive composition”. Resurrection is the only mechanic which does not rely on relative positioning to be effective.

While no mechanic is inherently broken when an appropriate cooldown or power level is set, if this ability is dominant in a meta like it appears it is now, then it impacts the game in profound ways. There are still two viable approaches to fights. You can either prioritize maximizing ED differential or to prioritize efficiency. This efficiency now must chain together much more tightly into subsequent kills to burn through the cooldown of Mercy resurrection or to pick off Mercy herself. In addition, maximizing the health pool of heroes on your team which are likely to be first to fall is beneficial.

With the core of Winston, DVA, Mercy and Tracer, there is some insight in what compositions have had the momst success in APAC so far. As of the games on 10/26 (first day of playoffs), the 2 compositions in the top 6 played with this core that have a positive winrate of 55% or higher are Zenyatta Genji and Lucio Pharah. These compositions represent what appear to be the strongest (with Pharah example somewhat map dependent) examples of prioritizing efficiency vs prioritizing ED.

Genji Zenyatta is perfectly designed to achieve what is needed in a composition that prioritizes efficiency because Zenyatta discord can relocated after getting a first pick and Genji is a soft counter to the resurrection mechanic since Genji gains a dash reset after making the first pick where vs other forms of damage mitigation that is successful Genji would not gain a dash reset. Combined, they are well equipped to the necessary job of gaining multiple picks back to back.

Pharah Lucio is the other duo which has had success so far with the new Mercy. This composition acts very differently from the one above because it is squarely designed to win the ED war. Pharah is both one of the best champions in terms of doing raw damage while being notoriously poor relative to other dps in terms of efficiency. In addition, we mentioned above that the goal of an opponent aiming for efficiency either has to get picks back to back or to pick of Mercy. Pharah naturally provides great protection to Mercy by being allowing her to float far in the air where it is much harder to dispose of her. Lucio is a natural fit since he aids speed which helps reduce efficiency for opponents for those left on the ground and suppression. Also, Zenyatta would be an odd choice since with Pharah, aiming for more efficiency seems a lost cause so it is better to double down with Lucio that offers generally more to gain an ED advantage overall through his healing aura.

Other dps combinations have had less success. These are due to the fact that they do not either synergize with Mercy or counter Mercy effectively enough. The most common strategy which has not had success is to replace Genji with a hitscan dps. These compositions have the problem that they do not have a reliable mechanism to quickly capitalize on a pick to then follow-up and get a second one. At the same time, they do not offer Mercy the necessary protection to protect her from being killed.

I’ll end on a final note regarding Mercy. It is not an optimal spot for the game, if we value a rich ecosystem of viable strategies, if any hero being as dominant as Mercy where the rest of the game and win conditions revolve around that hero. If Mercy’s kit remains similar and is brought into a typical place where a hero is no longer the primary focus of the game but rather merely a piece of it, then there are additional changes that need to be made for an enjoyable viewing experience.

While understanding the win conditions involved can make viewing more enjoyable by providing a sense of what to look for (and I’m hoping this does that for some people), this is a frustrating mechanic to view currently. In part, it fundamentally changes the value of a single pick which the community has relied upon as a core tenet of viewing and with it gone, there is confusion of what is important.

Also, having resurrection cooldowns not transparent to the viewer makes it difficult to assess something critical to evaluating the game in the same way that if we had no view of ultimate charges we would have difficulty evaluating the state of the game.

Finally, one consequence of resurrection is that the consequential points of fights often occurs farther into the fight than in the past, which makes it fundamentally more difficult to observe. Teams begin fights in a state of higher order and as a fight progresses, entropy deveops and things become more chaotic. In the past, this chaos is more acceptable since at this point in many fights the final outcome is already likely and we can enjoy watching the kill feed light up how we expect. With Mercy, this point where a fight is decided far enough into the fight that we can easily lose track of what is happening before we have the satisfaction of viewing the pivotal moments.