It Might be the Most Important Role on the Team

One of the most successful times I was on the competitive ladder was as part of a group of four.  I’d been working on my aim with Soldier 76 at the time so I planned to insta-lock him that evening.  As soon as the first map loaded I picked soldier right away.  I noticed then that the other people I was grouped with (three work friends) had picked a tank, support, and tracer.  We went on to win that game.  On the next map I once again locked my favorite DPS, our tank and healer stayed with their choices, but our fourth player went Zenyatta.  We won again.  Third game the Zen went D.Va as we stuck with our comfort picks.  With another win I realized that this guy was flexing.  Not only that, we were winning because of it.  

Our four stack may have had a DPS, Tank, and Healer (the three main roles) but this was only a base.  With 2 randoms (1/3 of the team) anything could happen to our team comp.  Add to that the various maps and game types in competitive and suddenly this four stack didn’t look as good.  Yet we kept winning.  The key was having someone for every role AND a Flex player.  By being proficient on a few different heroes in each role he could be the wild card to complete our winning hand.   It didn’t matter which heroes the two randoms picked since our Flex could even it out.  The randoms went DPS/Tank (by far most common) our Flex would go Zenyatta.  Both DPS?  He’d go Winston or D.Va.  One of them actually chose support?  He’d get on Tracer, Genji, or Reaper as the situation required. 

The Flex Question 

Now it’s a mistake to put any competitive win or loss on one person in a team game.  And Overwatch is a team game, where team composition is as important as your formation is in football.  So I will put the fact that we has a dedicated flex player on the team as the thing that put us above the other 4-stacks we were faced against.  

So What is the Flex role on a team?  Do you really need one?  After all, aren’t the 3 roles DPS, Tank, and Support?  Why not just do the standard 2-2-2 in your comp?  Well, let’s tackle these questions separably.

A Definition of the Flex Role  

A single, solid, clear and agreed upon definition of the flex role is difficult to pin down.  Compared to the other roles the definition is far more nebulous.  Every place on the internet and even each professional player would probably give you a slightly different version.  Basically a Flex player is a player that is flexible in both their hero pool and role based on the needs of the team.  They can be flexible in their role to fit as needed on the team.  Practically it’s a player who is proficient with at least one hero in every role. This lets them move into whatever role the team needs.  These players occupy the ‘off’ category in each role.  The second or third DPS, the off-Tank, the second support.  

So do you need Flex players in your stack?  Short answer; yes.  Long answer; Yes-of-course-you-do-didn’t-you-read-the-paragraph-above-this-one?  In all seriousness though, you needn’t look any further than the Overwatch League itself.  On both the official site and during the league stream the Flex players are identified as that role(It’s the funky three circle looking symbol).  That the teams playing Overwatch at the highest level have this role should be enough of a reason but here’s some others. 

 

Pine of the NYXL as he’s listed on the roster.  

 

Better Game Sense

Each role in this game depends a great deal on the others.  Supports need Tanks to block for them, Tanks need DPS to kill the enemies they peel away, Everyone needs healing at some point.  Funny thing though, is that these needs are not always obvious outside their role.  That is, as a DPS you may find your supports not providing much healing without realizing that it’s because no one is protecting them.  As a Flex player you’ll play all of the different roles.  This will give you a much better sense of what your teammates in the other roles are doing, and more importantly, what they expect you to do.  

You Won’t Always Run 2-2-2

This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been playing the game for a while but some people still insist this is the only combination.  The 2-2-2 is a great combination and this article wants you to be the person to make that formation happen, but it isn’t the only one in the game.  Triple Tank, Death ball, Pirate Ship, and whatever formation the pros end up doing with Brigitte.  These are just a few of the comps outside of the standard 2-2-2.  While they aren’t for every situation, they all have a good place in the game.  Being able to adapt your team into one of them when the situation calls for it is an important part of Overwatch. 

Outside the ladder, if your a team that only runs 2-2-2, other teams will pick up on that fast and counter it.  It’s like if the Seahawks always blitzed.  Every other team in the NFL would pick up on that right away.  You gotta keep the comp at least a little flexible.  

On the Ladder Your Playing with Randoms

Not everyone you play with will be able to fit into a comp.  Not everyone you play with with want to either.  People will play offensive Symmetra and Baston.  Healer who won’t heal.  Hanzo.  We can tell them not to, suggest changes, report them, and complain on the forums but nothing will save our SR.  So why not work around them?  This is tough to do in solo queue but if you have a few friends and get even a three stack going then you can make the same kind of formation I made with my friends.  After that our flexing skills will let you work around and with whatever other people play. 

Things Change

No plan survives contact with the enemy as the adage goes, and what is each team-fight but a battle in the war for SR?  Things change and your plan, team, formation, and you need to be flexible.  Having a player on your team able to go from DPS to a third tank to get the payload moving can be the difference between victory and defeat.  

We Should All Be Flex Players

So now it’s up to you.  It’s up to me.  It’s up to all of us who want a good experience on Overwatch and to climb the competitive ladder.  Instead of branding yourself as a DPS main or Tracer specialist we can instead be more flexible.  Team composition is important, no doubt about it.  So set yourself and your team up for success by being able to move into whatever role your team needs, whenever they need it.  Is it more work?  Sure is.  It’ll take more time to ‘Get Good’ with more than your main.  Will you end up playing some heroes or roles that aren’t your favorite?  Yep, but that’s the point of being Flex.  Will it improve your team and game?  Absolutely.  You can be the deciding factor in having that right team composition.  You can work around one-trick players.  You can do it.  Overwatch is all about heroes, and in a team game the real heroes are the people who make the team work.  See you on the ladder.  

 

About The Author

James 'CorporalV' Verzuh was a real corporal once. Now he's an archaeologist and writes about esports.

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