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Tracer Guide: Strategy & Gameplay “... and she's back in the game!”

Last updated on May 22, 2016 at 20:43 by Vlad 2 comments

Table of Contents

Tracer Portrait
  • Tracer Personal Details Real Name: Lena Oxton, Age: 26
  • Tracer Occupation Occupation: Adventurer
  • Tracer Geographical Origins Base of Operations: London, England
  • Tracer Affiliation Affiliation: Overwatch (formerly)

This guide takes an in-depth look at how to play Tracer in Overwatch. We look at the strengths and weaknesses of the hero, and we go over mechanics, recommended strategies, and things to beware of.

The guide has been written based on our extensive experience playing the game since before the Closed Beta began, and it relies on our decades-long FPS experience. That said, our aim is to keep the guide relatively brief and easy to understand, making it accessible to veterans and new players alike.

If you have any comment on the guide's content or structure, please let us know in the comments! :)

Stamp of Approval

This guide has been reviewed and approved by michr, formerly one of the best Day of Defeat players in Europe, who now plays Overwatch for OWKings. He also writes for Gosu Gamers.

1. Strengths

  • Excellent mobility through Blink Icon Blink and Recall Icon Recall
  • High close range damage
  • Reliable self-sustain through Recall
  • Best hero on Control maps
  • Viable on both Attack and Defense

2. Weaknesses

  • Very fragile
  • Lacks efficient medium and long range damage

3. Strategy

In this section, we will briefly go over the main strategies you should employ as Tracer. We will begin with an Overview, and then we will go in depth more about each ability that Tracer has.

3.1. Overview

Tracer is an extremely mobile offense hero in Overwatch. Her signature abilities, Blink Icon Blink and Recall Icon Recall, allow Tracer to dash in and out of combat almost constantly. Along with Genji (and to a much lesser extent Reaper), Tracer is ideally suited for flanking and ambushing the other team. Her extreme mobility allows her to get behind the enemy defenses, kill heroes with her Pulse Pistols Icon Pulse Pistols, and get out again before anyone can react. She is great at killing Bastion, Symmetra's Teleporter Icon Teleporter, as well as enemy snipers.

Aside from the limited range of her Pulse Pistols, Tracer also suffers from a very low 150 health. This low health, coupled with her tendency to be in the middle of the action makes her very prone to dying. As such, when playing Tracer, you will need to be extremely careful, since against good players you are always just one wrong step away from being killed.

This ambushing and flanking role is exactly how you should play Tracer, on any map, and regardless of whether you are attacking or defending. You do not have the survivability or damage output to fight from the front lines, so you must always look for ways to surprise your enemies, hit them hard, and get out before you are ever in danger. Indeed, even in close range, Tracer is extremely vulnerable, and practically any hero in the game can easily kill Tracer if she is not careful. Developing the instinct to get out at the first sign of trouble will be essential.

Finally, Tracer's ultimate allows for her trademark Blink / Pulse Bomb Icon Pulse Bomb / Recall combo that drops the damaging AoE Pulse Bomb in the middle of the enemy team, leaving them with little time to react.

3.2. Abilities

3.2.1. Pulse Pistols

Tracer Pulse Pistols
Pulse Pistols (LMB) Tracer

Short range automatic weapons

Tracer's Pulse Pistols Icon Pulse Pistols have an extremely high rate of fire (it only takes 1 second to empty their 40-bullet clip) and they deal pretty good damage at close range. Their damage drops off at longer ranges (to a very low amount), which coupled with their spread pattern means that Tracer is not a menace outside of close or close-medium range.

At close range, the Pulse Pistols are very accurate. If you hold down the fire button for their entire clip, the accuracy does decrease towards the end of the spray, but not enough to cause problems at your preferred range.

The nature of the Pulse Pistols and of Tracer as a hero dictate how they should be used. You should use your mobility to get as close as possible to your target before you unload your entire clip into them. If you get close enough and if your aim is good enough, then you can have 100% accuracy with your Pulse Pistols, which results in very high damage. A recommended technique for maximising headshots and increasing damage is to aim at the upper torso and lower neck area of the hero you are attacking, instead of at the neck/head. The spray pattern of the pistols will, this way, be more likely to hit the head.

The Pulse Pistols have a very short reload time of 1 second, which often lets you reload and fire off another clip before the target has had a chance to properly react to you.

Having said all of this, there are times when it is acceptable to use your Pulse Pistols at medium or even long range. If you are safe (such as behind Reinhardt's Barrier Field Icon Barrier Field) and you are waiting for your abilities to cool down, there is no reason not to shoot your Pulse Pistols even if their damage is sub-optimal.

Another example is using your Pulse Pistols to take out Symmetra Sentry Turret Icon Sentry Turrets from long range (they have 1 health, so all you have to do is hit them once). Finally, it may sometimes be worth shooting from long range despite having very low damage, in order to distract a target. An enemy Widowmaker who is zoomed in on your team will be distracted if she is shot at, even if the damage is very low, and she may look to change her position. Of course, when doing this, you need to be on the move so that you do not become a target.

3.2.2. Blink

Tracer Blink
Blink (LShift, RMB) Tracer

Teleport in the direction you are moving.

When used, Blink Icon Blink teleports Tracer a short distance in the direction in which she was moving when Blink was used. Blink only works horizontally (Tracer cannot use it to climb up to any ledges or anything like this), and it does not go through obstacles such as walls or any other objects. The ability works on a charge system, having a maximum of 3 charges and a 3-second recharge time.

It is worth noting that Blink's effect is almost instant, but there is a slight delay. In conjunction with in-game latency, this will sometimes result in Tracer being hit by abilities that it appeared she had escape with her Blink.

Correctly using Blink is probably the most difficult aspect of playing Tracer. It serves several purposes.

Firstly, Blink is used to help Tracer move into position to damage her enemies with her Pulse Pistols Icon Pulse Pistols (and sometimes with her ultimate). In this sense, Blink helps Tracer move quickly and often unnoticed. It also helps her traverse otherwise dangerous areas without putting herself in harm's way (for example, Tracer can cross an open area that is being watched by a Widowmaker or Bastion without showing herself for more than a split second).

Secondly, Blink helps Tracer avoid damage and make herself a hard target. This usage is particularly important. Your use of Blink should not stop once you have reached your intended target (and you should make sure to leave yourself with at least one Blink charge). When you get within close range of an enemy, your advantage is the element of surprise. During this window of time when the enemy heroes are unaware of you, you should deal as much damage as possible.

As soon as you feel that you have been detected (the enemies turn to you, begin firing at you, and so on), you should Blink to reset the situation. When doing this, your target will momentarily lose track of where you are, but you yourself should have an idea of where your target will be relative to you (since you are choosing in which direction to Blink). This should enable you to begin damaging your target again before they get to damage you. Essentially, when dueling or fighting anyone in close range, you should use Blink as soon as you are taking damage (or if you feel you will take damage), because your health is so low as Tracer that you cannot afford to fight heroes directly.

Thirdly, Blink allows Tracer to get across gaps. While you cannot move vertically with Blink, as stated, Tracer can Blink over gaps without falling in them. This can be useful for taking unexpected routes to your enemies, escaping enemies who are pursuing you, and so on. Sometimes, you may need to chain 2 or even 3 uses of Blink to achieve this, so make sure that you have enough charges available to get you across the gap.

Lastly, Blink can be used to get back to the fight faster after respawning. When doing this, make sure you leave yourself a charge or two available by the time you actually reach the enemies.

All in all, Blink is a very versatile tool that you should use as much as possible throughout every game. It has far more specific uses than we could ever list in a guide, and mastering its usage will require practice, so that you can seamlessly move around the map in any direction, but it is a skill that you must master if you wish to be a competent Tracer.

Here are a few more notes about Blink.

  • You cannot use Blink to get out of stuns or other effects that incapacitate your movement (such as Junkrat's Steel Trap Icon Steel Trap), but Blinking twice in quick succession will get you out of Zarya's Graviton Surge Icon Graviton Surge.
  • You cannot Blink through Mei's Ice Wall Icon Ice Wall, so beware of her blocking your path during combat.
  • You can Blink through/past Widowmaker's Venom Mine Icon Venom Mine and Junkrat's Steel Trap without triggering them.
  • Blinking out of Mei's Blizzard Icon Blizzard or her Endothermic Blaster Icon Endothermic Blaster's Frost Stream can allow you to avoid getting frozen solid.
  • Blink makes a distinctive sound each time it is used, meaning that the other team will hear you Blinking around (somewhat compromising your stealth abilities).

3.2.3. Recall

Tracer Recall
Recall (E) Tracer
  • Cooldown: 12 seconds

Travel back in time to your previous location and health.

When used, Recall Icon Recall moves Tracer back in time, resetting her to the map position, health, and ammo status that she had 3 seconds prior to using Recall. It does not affect the cooldown of your abilities or the number of Blink Icon Blink charges, nor does it affect the status of your shields (from Symmetra) or your Armor (from Torbjörn). Recall has a very short casting delay, and it also removes any debuffs from Tracer that had not been applied to her at the time of Recall's "destination".

The main use of Recall is to get Tracer out of dangerous situations. As such, its usage will most often be reactive. For example, if there are more enemies at the location of your Blink than you had anticipated, or if your aim was not as good as you had hoped, or if you took some unexpected damage, you can simply use Recall to get you out of trouble. You can also use it to remove debuffs like Zenyatta's Orb of Discord Icon Orb of Discord or Widowmaker's Venom Mine Icon Venom Mine. The uses are endless, and you should just use it whenever you are in a situation you do not wish to be in.

You can also use Recall in conjunction with Blink to add yet another instance of unexpected movement that your enemies have to adjust to.

Another important usage of Recall is during prolonged duels. In these cases, when you have committed to fighting an enemy hero in close range after they have detected you, Recall serves as a heal, restoring all the health you had lost in the previous 3 seconds. This can often make a very big difference, since it can turn your low 150-health pool into an effective health pool of 250+, which is enough to rival all other offense heroes (naturally, it assumes you do not get killed before you have a chance to Recall). In these cases, you should delay using Recall as much as possible, since using it early leaves you extremely vulnerable.

Finally, Recall's uses are not exclusively reactive. You can sometimes go into a situation fully intending to recall out of it. The most common use of this technique is to get out after dumping your Pulse Bomb Icon Pulse Bomb.

3.2.4. Pulse Bomb

Tracer Pulse Bomb
Pulse Bomb (Q) Tracer
  • Ultimate

Throw out a powerful sticky explosive.

Pulse Bomb Icon Pulse Bomb is a bomb that Tracer can lob a short distance on front of her (the Pulse Bomb falls to the ground quite abruptly, so aiming your crosshair up is required if you wish to throw it a little further away from you). The Pulse Bomb explodes about 2 seconds after being thrown, dealing 400 damage in an area, with the damage being lower the further away players are from the explosion. Tracer also takes damage from Pulse Bomb if she is within range when it explodes, but her allies are not damaged.

The Pulse Bomb sticks to the first object or enemy player it comes in contact with. If it sticks to an enemy player, then they will take the maximum 400 damage from it, and naturally the Pulse Bomb will explode at the location of that player.

The ideal usage of Pulse Bomb is quite evident. Since it deals high AoE damage, you want to throw it in areas where several enemy heroes are stacked together. You should make use of your Blink Icon Blink to quickly get right up to your enemies, including in areas that they would consider safe (such as inside of Winston's Barrier Projector Icon Barrier Projector), drop the Pulse Bomb, and get out with Recall Icon Recall.

Note, however, that the delay of the explosion, coupled with the rather small radius means that players can avoid the Pulse Bomb if they are careful, and if they are not otherwise distracted. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you attempt to stick the Pulse Bomb to a target, or that you use Pulse Bomb in areas from which your enemies cannot escape. Several heroes can use their abilities to get rid of or survive a stuck Pulse Bomb, so keep that in mind. Some examples are Mei using Cryo-Freeze Icon Cryo-Freeze or Reaper using Wraith Form Icon Wraith Form.

Unsurprisingly, Pulse Bomb forms excellent synergy with abilities such as Zarya's Graviton Surge Icon Graviton Surge, Reinhardt's Earthshatter Icon Earthshatter, or Mei's Blizzard Icon Blizzard.

Having said all this, looking for one of these ideal Pulse Bombs is not recommended, since saving the ability will cost you more in the long run. Instead, as long as you can get even a single kill with it, you should use Pulse Bomb on cooldown (especially since it recharges very quickly).

4. ChangeLog

+ show all entries - show only 10 entries
  • 22 May 2016: Updated the guide following michr's review.
    • Added the Strengths that Tracer's Recall provides self-sustain and that she is very strong on Control maps.
    • Added a technique for increasing Pulse Pistol damage.
    • Added a tip for using Recall during duels.
    • Clarified that Pulse Bomb should be used on cooldown whenever it will get at least 1 kill.
  • 16 May 2016: Guide added.
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