Behind the curtain of every hero is a story. Behind every story is a spirit. The essence of heroes is an ambitious interview series that aims to uncover the nature of each hero by asking its most skilled specialists to reveal their thought processes. In doing so, we also learn a lot about the hero behind the keyboard. This time we ask: What is essential to “Mercy, – the Patron Saint”?
The community has learned of your mental strength and winner’s attitude when you played through severe illness and still performed well. Few know just how hard the way was even getting into the Overwatch League. From the outside, you slipped into Cloud9 EU fairly late and you told me at the time that you weren’t receiving many tryouts. What was the process after that like? How did you end up on the Philadelphia Fusion and how close was neptuNo from not getting into OWL? Perhaps most importantly, what drives neptuNo to such ends?
I contacted almost every OWL team by then like Mayhem, Valiant, Fuel, Fusion, Gladiators, Uprising, Shock, and Outlaws. Most of them did not answer back or simply didn’t want to try me out. Finally only two teams decided to give me a tryout (Boston Uprising and Philly Fusion).
So I think in a way I am really lucky that I got at least two tryouts to show what I was capable of. My tryouts in Boston Uprising were short. I did play solid but they decided to not take me, which was understandable and I am really thankful that at least I could try out. But after not making it to Boston, I got to try out with Philadelphia Fusion. This was the most stressful time of my life, since I knew it was all or nothing. I was in the tryouts from the beginning until the last day (around 30 days of tryouts). In my opinion, I was playing pretty solid and consistently the whole tryouts phase. I got compliments from a lot of people inside the tryouts that I never played with and they had no reason to talk to me. So I was confident that I was gonna make it but they kept trying me out till the last day. I felt I had a wrong reputation among pro-scene like “no brain Lucio just wall riding and going for kills and boops and never peel”. This was really unfortunate because I kinda earned it but at the same time I guess people did not understand that I was also a good shotcaller, vocal player and able to play the right way with a good understanding of the big picture inside the games. (Also I can learn new heroes really fast and flex).
So that’s what I did for a month in the tryouts: I was really vocal and peeling always for the backline (that’s what the coaches asked me to do) and staying alive while getting kills/boops in the right windows of opportunities. I also tried to always play around our win-condition and to deny the enemy’s win-condition leading the momentum of the situations with speeds and calls.
So yeah, I will be eternally grateful to the Fusion team that gave me the chance over my “bad” reputation, because they allowed me to make my dream true. I’d say that I found myself as a player in the OWL S1 with Fusion.
I also think teams could have scouted better since they missed players like Poko or Eqo.
And yes, by that time I was on Cloud9 EU, they were really nice and transparent with us and I did not have any problems trying out with OWL teams and after Contenders we got released so we could accept offers. I appreciate that a lot.
I was really close to not being in the OWL S1 after all and that’s one of the reasons why I gave everything and improved a lot.
You started out as a DPS but had your breakthrough with Movistar riders as a main support which at the time was synonymous with being a Lucio main. I remember especially during Take Over 2, but also in the online cups before, that you were quite aggressive on the hero. Now you are known as the most lethal Mercy in the league. Your transition has been exemplary and many players of your player archetype (aggressive high-tempo Lucio) failed to adapt. What was the transition like? Did you have to learn a completely new mindset? Will we ever be able to take the DPS player completely out of you?
I basically had to learn Mercy from scratch so what I did in order to improve was spectate Mercy players in scrims, watch Mercy tips videos from youtube, and play a lot of Mercy on my smurfs.
I realised when I got to the OWL that I was not good enough, so I was worried about me not being a starter. That got into my mind really hard so I just put all my thoughts and focus during the first 2 weeks on being a good Mercy. I spectated DayFly because at that time I wasn’t a starter in scrims and I literally “took” from him everything he did right and added it to my playstyle. I started to understand how Mercy positioning works around the map and how I could take advantage of the momentum of the game in my favour and how to be aware of everything.
In terms of mechanics I just played a bunch of Mercy in soloQ, just flying around to get used to it and then I started to play the hero more thinking about awareness and decisions.
While I was learning/improving massively on Mercy, I acquired a lot of knowledge about the game and how to be aware of the entire situation the whole time so I can make the right decision at the right time and not get caught off-guard.
And regarding my “aggressive playstyle” I really want to say that it’s not only about being good at being aggressive. It’s mostly about recognizing every situation and make the right decision in order to take the most out of every play. I don’t want to be a healbot and just play safe and blame others. If I can make a play in order to win a disadvantaged situation I want to be able to do it. And I’d rather have the possibility of making plays in my pocket than not have it. That’s why I worked so hard throughout OWL Season 1 in my decision making. I knew I could make plays but I also knew that I had to understand perfectly when it was the time and when it was not.
For example against New York in Junkertown last point defense, Sado died on payload and I was not going to resurrect him. But Eqo made a flank into the enemy backline and almost the whole NY team turned around to shoot him. So at the same frame I saw Libero (Hanzo) turning around, I pressed guardian angel and resurrect instantly because I knew that it was the perfect window to res Sado. He had his ultimate, without which, we would have lost that fight.
So when people say “neptuNo should have been punished there”, here is the reason why I did not get punished; I saw a window and took it instantly without hesitating, trusting myself.
Anyway, I am happy with my improvement on playing safe. Despite what people might say about me, I was top5 in least deaths among support players, while massively leading damage and kills, if I remember correctly. Some stats showed expected deaths over actual deaths ratio in stage 2-3, and Philly had the best, while they had one of the most aggressive play style.
Indeed, he remembered correctly. At 0.71 kills per 10 he’s by far the most lethal Mercy in the league and sits in 5th position on least death among Mercy players with signficant playtime.
People think I am a super aggressive support which in my opinion is not true. Most of the time I am playing defensively but the few times I go aggro, I get value from it. Support-line is the pillar of the team, so I am really aware of what my job is. It’s really frustrating to me when people misread stats or situations, like why there must be a downside to it, when I work really hard every day on improving and finding the windows to be super efficient with all my possibilities while doing my job.
Also I like watching other Mercys in the league and learn from them, what spots they use or how they position in some maps. It’s really helpful to always look what others are doing in your role. That’s one of the reasons I watch OWL, I want to learn from others.
And I still play a lot of DPS in soloQ. The fact that I can play other roles and heroes is good for me, especially because I want to understand every hero even if I don’t play it in my team. I enjoy grinding the game and learning. Also sometimes I just want to have fun and I play DPS even if I have to deal with people trash talking me for doing so.
Knowing what you know about Mercy now, just how overpowered was she in stage 1?
She was absolutely broken. It made no sense at all. She got nerfed a lot and now is not even tier 1 anymore, but only because they buffed other supports. I want mercy hp/s back to 60 or at least 55. Anyway, I don’t really care. I have so much fun playing Lucio too.
Mercy is perhaps the most elusive hero in pinpointing what makes for a top one. If people want to understand what great Mercy play looks like, what should they pay attention to?
I’d say being a good Mercy is a combination of things. Like you can legitimately never die. With this simple rule, I think the best Mercy is the one that does the most for her team without dying.
How do you do that? Basically you need good mechanics with the hero and super good awareness and reactions.
Mechanics: Damage-boosting at the right time, using your shift the right way to position yourself is the most important thing with mercy. Also not using your shift is a good mechanic, do not forget that if you are already in a good position you don’t need to use it.
Game awareness: understanding of the game. For example: priority healing targets. Who I should be healing and why. Who I should be damage boosting and why. All these small decisions determine who is better and who is worse. Every situation is different, there are many factors like compositions, cooldowns, what part of the map, who is getting focused, ultimates…So a good Mercy has to understand every situation instantly.
Giving up/Taking space: This is super important as a player, not only as Mercy. There are situations where you can’t push. You need to be aware the whole game of what is or isn’t a threat, what cooldowns are used and with this information you have to figure out when you can do some stuff and not get punished. Also which teammates are creating space for your team and if they need your help or not. It’s just about helping your team as much as you can without dying and understanding what’s important to heal in every situation.
Example: The enemy Widowmaker’s line of sight is a threat for you. So your Winston jumping on the enemy Widow literally changes the whole picture for you.
Another example: Enemy cooldowns that are threats like Winston leap, D.Va shift or Genji dash; those cooldowns being used in the middle of the fight can give you windows to do certain stuff without being punished. Or enemy ultimates, usually this applies to any support but depending on ultimates, you play differently. It’s all about playing around your win-conditions or denying enemy win-conditions.
And I give this tip to every Mercy player: Look around every 1 or 2 seconds. Always be aware of your backline, frontline and flankers. You can clutch heal someone. And here are the reactions. Even if you are the best at reacting, if you are not aware of your team and enemy team position, you will be late sometimes, and that can be crucial. So in order to react in time you need to be aware of everything the whole time.
It’s not an easy task. Remember that everyone wants to kill you. And your priority job is to stay alive. In a team environment, you will get help by D.Va and your flex support. In soloQ that is not going happen that often.
You recently summed up in an elevator explanation how to play Mercy. This might be an occasion to elaborate.
How do you choose your escape path or techniques?
I usually look around and see what my entire team is doing and then according to that I decide where I’m gonna position myself. I always try to be in a position where I can support everyone from my team without being in line of sight of enemy snipers or risking my life, which means I probably can go aggressive, and when doing so, I always have in my head where my backline is. I use my teammates in my favour and in my team I always ask some people to be in predetermined positions, depending on the enemy’s composition. If the enemy team is playing full dive and we have a Widow, I can ask my Widow to play far back as an anchor point for me and I can bait cooldowns on me pretty easily and still survive (I obviously would ask for orb if I’m doing that).
One thing I do a lot when I pocket aggression or dives from my team, I tell my flex support “pick me back” so he knows we can’t lose line of sight because I need to dash to him at some point soon.
Anyway you can’t plan every situation so that’s why is important to be aware of what’s going on to make the right move as fast as possible.
I’m lucky that Boombox was always fully aware of my positioning and the whole picture, so that synergy between us allowed me to fly around and make the plays I wanted to make with success.
When does a DPS need to be damage boosted?
I think you sometimes want to damage boost the player that is creating space or is taking on aggression. And sometimes you just want to damage boost the guy that is doing damage at the time, like a Brigitte stun combo or Zenyatta right-click. I find myself sometimes damage boosting Widowmakers and meanwhile my Zenyatta is using right-click so I damage boost him for half a second and then go back. Then I see my Reinhardt uses firestrike so I damage boost him, or my Winston is going to jump for a dive, and I use my healing on him but I press damage boost when he is landing. Maybe I go back to healing instantly, it depends on the whole scenario. Something I like to do is pocket my tank. If your tank is creating space and you are able to pocket him, you will have a huge advantage only because of the space he has created. So pre-healing tanks or pocketing them is really important in order to create space. But you can create spaces pocketing other heroes.
Talking about Pharah, when I’m pocketing my Pharah I usually try to damage boost when she is shooting and put healing as soon as she gets damage. And I mean literally the same instant, this reaction has to be fast or she can die and you lose your anchor point. But I don’t really like to damage boosting Pharah (sometimes) if my tanks are fighting for space. I would rather heal tanks while flying with Pharah and keep myself in a good position… of course I am looking at my Pharah while healing tanks so I can heal her instantly if she gets damaged. Sometimes it’s the other way around; you damage-boost your Pharah while looking at your tanks to keep them full hp.
There are more “clutch” damage boosts that are not mechanically hard to do of course, but in the middle of a fight when you have to heal an important target, if you are able to damage boost the right target at the right, instantly even if you are dashing mid-air because it happened to be like that, then that means you are mastering the hero. I think it’s ideal if your brain can separate healings/damage boost from movement (shifting, positioning, looking around and grabbing info).
Anyway, talking about damage-boosting, mastering and understanding what’s more valuable in every situation will make you choose between healing or damage boosting and that makes a huge difference.
Sometimes you have to see the big picture and maybe your win condition is an ultimate that a team member has and it’s at 60% ultimate charge. Then you really want to pocket that guy and not take risks, because you know that ult is a win condition and you want to play around it.
When should you use vertical and horizontal super jumps?
Horizontal super jumps are super useful to reposition, get in cover or reach health packs. It’s a really common mechanic and everyone should master it, the same way you should master cancelling your guardian angel(shift).
Vertical super jumps are different, you can do this when someone is above you, then u will abuse the verticality of your guardian angel to boost yourself upwards. But there’s a trick that got released a month ago on reddit, that you can crouch-guardian angel at same time to a target that is at your same height, and pressing space at the end you will change movement 90 degrees, from horizontal to vertical movement.
Talking about when to use it, it depends on the enemy team heroes or where the threats are coming from and what part of the map you are playing. If the threats are on the ground and boosting yourself upwards helps you survive, then go for it. If boosting yourself upwards gives you cover from map structure, then do it. If you are gonna expose yourself into enemy’s line of sight, discord, widowmaker, soldier, etc… then don’t do it.
So basically you have tools as mercy, and you need to be smart about how to use them. The more you perfect your mechanics (movements), the more options you have in any given situation. So if you master your movements, then it will be all about decision making.
Does your high Mercy mouse sensitivity ever mess with your ability to play other heroes like we saw main supports forced to on occasion as for example Ana/Zen on Hanamura?
I use different sens on multiple heroes so it doesn’t affect me. I move the mouse for about 20 seconds and I’m already used to the “new” sens.
How much calling should or could Mercy do over the season (you can divide into stages or metas)?
It depends on what your job inside the team is. I don’t think it depends on the hero it just depends on the person that’s playing it.
In my case, I do a lot of directional calling or what I’m doing. Especially since I’ve got some dps players to pocket sometimes, I need to be super consistent on telling them when I’m either leaving them or I can’t pocket them. This is a small example but I usually try to let my teammates know if they can keep the aggression or not, since I see the overall hp. Also since I’m the one healing and with the best picture of the game, I try to tell my teammates “help X” “play around Y” in the middle of the fight, like if my flex support gets dove and I’m pocketing him, I try to call “help X help X” so people actually have a call to follow or understand we are getting dove. I try to do this with any situation. Most of the times, fights are gonna go chaotic or not as planned, so you want fast directional calls to follow. And I think that’s a good thing we do in our team, giving people something to play around, like “play on point” “peel for -flex supp name-” “help -teammate name-”, whatever makes the team focus on one thing.
Oh, and also it’s super important to know when to shut up or when to fill comms. Giving space in comms to your teammates is super important, not always what you have to say is the most important thing, and keeping everyone in the conversation is good.
Apart from all of this, I try to remind everyone about ultimates tracking. And I like to talk about our win conditions, if we have more sustain, if we want to fight long range or long fights, if we play around our dive or backline, etc… It’s super important to have the whole team on the same page, we need to go into every situation/fight with the same mindset/gameplan.
I am really lucky that my team is really talkative and everyone has his “space” in the comms. So it’s really easy for me. Sometimes I don’t have time to ask what ults have they used because someone is immediately counting them. So I try to be smart about my comms, giving space to teammates to talk, put everyone in the same page, remind gameplan, what we have practiced, and filling comms with useful info specially when we are losing fights, so people have a new goal to think about and move forward instead of thinking in the fight we just lost.
It’s super important communication between Backline to remind who is ulting first this fight or what ult are we counter ulting, or where are we moving to if we get dove.
I want to clarify something, in our team you can’t say we have a “shotcaller”. I believe it would be inaccurate to say that we have a shotcaller because the entire team is super vocal and everyone understands what they have to say. So I’d say we have a good communication structure. And my job is to make sure it is working.
Recently a discussion emerged about “tells” in Overwatch. Tells are little signals in the gameplay of an opponent which a highly skilled and aware player can read and use to his advantage. Seagull mentioned one of those instances on stream recently. Do you have one of those examples from a specific game you played? What about generalized tells you look for in other players?
Yeah, this is probably something really important. Sometimes the enemy team is just baiting you or giving you information on purpose so you need to be fast and realise what is really going on. Some teams usually give you space on purpose to set up a trap in your backline. Or they use some cooldowns to trigger your dive and they have setup a perfect counterdive. Also the way some players are playing. When you play against the best players and they do a “stupid” move, most of the times it’s just a bait or they have ult or follow up. Like especially tanks you can tell if they have an ultimate or not by the way they are playing.
Or when you see a Zenyatta front lining playing super aggro and being pocketed, you know he has ult but he is not gonna use it for free, he is probably gonna be greedy while taking a lot of value from that aggression.
For me, yeah I do some of this stuff, I change my playstyle depending on what’s going on or what our gameplan is. I guess mindgames are something really important on the pro level but they happen way too fast sometimes for people to catch it.
You are to make an RPG character. Your goal is to create the best Mercy player in the world. You can spend 10 points to maximise your potential. There are no limitations as to how many points you can spend per category as long as the sum is 10.
Aim – 1
Game sense – 5
Shot calling – 1
Reactions – 3
What is playing Mercy like?
It feels like I’m like a god Kappa. I get to decide who lives and who dies …
Jokes aside. I feel like I’m aware of everything… playing Mercy helped me improve a lot on awareness and being able to grab information about the game and use it to my advantage. I’d say I became a better player thanks to learning how to be aware of everything playing Mercy. There’s no way you can play support at the highest level if your awareness is not super good. OWL players punish almost every little mistake.