Widowmaker Guide: Strategy & Gameplay “I see you.”
Table of Contents
- 1. Strengths
- 2. Weaknesses
- +3. Strategy
- 4. Changelog
This guide takes an in-depth look at how to play Widowmaker 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
- Extremely powerful ultimate that grants the entire team vision of the enemies (including through walls/other objects) for 15 seconds
- Highest single shot damage potential in the game
- Deadly at long and medium range
- Good mobility and slim model grant decent survivability
- In the right hands, can carry a game by herself
- Very weak in close range combat
- Tendency to stay at long range means she does not contribute to the map's objective
- Loud bullet sounds and bullet animation mean that her position is compromised as soon as she fires the first shot
- Number of sniper nests is restricted, meaning that her positions are quite predictable
- If played sub-optimally, it affects her team very negatively (effectively causing them to play 5vs6)
In this section, we will briefly go over the main strategies you should employ as Widowmaker. We will begin with an Overview, and then we will go in depth more about each ability that Widowmaker has.
Widowmaker is a defense hero, and one of two snipers in Overwatch (the other being Hanzo). Her specialty and greatest strength is long range damage. Her Widow's Kiss rifle allows her to zoom in (for increased vision) and charge up shots that deal up to 120 damage at any range. This, coupled with her reduced close range survivability and extremely poor close range damage mean that Widowmaker prefers to stay away from the action and take out enemies from afar.
Widowmaker's Grappling Hook allows her to reach various sniper nests, as well as to move quickly during combat (especially when ambushed). Her Venom Mine allows her to get a warning of enemies sneaking up on her, as well as to deal some more close range damage.
Finally, Widowmaker's Infra-Sight ultimate grants her and her entire team complete vision of the enemy team. This ultimate has global range, and it is extremely powerful.
3.1.1. General Viability
Most Overwatch heroes are viable both on Attack and on Defense. In our opinion, however, Widowmaker is hardly ever viable on Attack, and can often fail to be viable even on Defense.
Widowmaker's poor performance on Attack is due to her design. For Widowmaker to be able to deal a high damage shot, she needs to charge the shot up for 1 second in preparation for shooting. While charging up (or being zoomed in with a fully charged-up shot), her movement speed is greatly reduced, and jumping cancels the zoom/charge-up. This means that, in general, Widowmaker works much better when she can stand back and wait for enemies to enter her field of vision, rather than attempting to attack enemy positions herself.
This makes her much better suited for playing on the Defense side of maps, because it means she can set up in a safe location, far from the battle, from where she can shoot players who approach the Payload/Point. Picking Widowmaker on Attack or on Control maps is much more difficult to justify. In certain niche situations, it can work very well. For example, if the defenders have set up a strong position just outside the spawn point (with snipers, Torbjörn turrets, or Bastion), then Widowmaker can work well for dislodging them. However, after this stage, once the Payload begins to move or when the team assaults the Point, Widowmaker is at a significant disadvantage.
On Payload or Point Capture maps, in order to make the best of her range advantage (and avoid being killed in close range), she will look to stay well behind team, overlooking the Payload or the Point. This allows her to damage or kill players who engage her team in melee range or who are set up on the Point; beyond this, however, her efficiency is greatly diminished. Ranged defenders will set up in locations that reduce their exposure, meaning that Widowmaker will have no chance of seeing them without moving to the Payload/Point herself, where she is particularly vulnerable. In addition to this, any fight that takes place on top of a Payload poses great difficulties for Widowmaker since the Payload blocks line of sight, rendering her less effective.
On Control maps, again, Widowmaker can deal damage and get kills from afar, but she will not be standing on the point to actually help capture or contest it. Since most Control map Points provide some form of cover, enemy heroes who are on the point and who have repelled Widowmaker's teammates can simply hide from Widowmaker, making her useless.
Even on Defense, however, Widowmaker is only viable if she is able to consistently get kills. In each time fight, Widowmaker needs to take out at least 1 and a half enemy heroes (the "half" refers to damaging another enemy) for her to justify her position on the team. In any case, you should look at your team composition before choosing Widowmaker. This is because if your team has too many heroes that are not suited to contesting the Payload/Point you will be at a great disadvantage.
For example, if your defensive team consists of Hanzo, Tracer, Torbjörn, Zenyatta, and Roadhog, it means that you have at best 2 heroes that can stand on the Payload/Point with relative safety (Roadhog and Torbjörn, although that is not really Torbjörn's preferred position). Picking Widowmaker in this case would result in a line-up that might have great damage-dealing potential, but which is extremely weak to a coordinated push from the other team. We would advise picking a different hero in this case. Soldier: 76, Zarya, Symmetra, or Mei are just a few examples of heroes that work better in this type of lineup. If your team already has a good base of heroes that can fight at the frontline, then Widowmaker can work very well.
As such, we feel that in games where both teams are equally matched in terms of skill and coordination, choosing Widowmaker on Attack is sub-optimal, and there are other choices that can work much better (as mentioned above). If you are incredibly skilled with Widowmaker, you may be able to offset this disadvantage and make playing her viable. Even on Defense, to justify Widowmaker, the player controlling her must be very skilled in order to actually contribute to the team. Of course, if your team is much better than the enemies and your teammates are able to dominate them even without relying on your help, then it hardly matters.
3.2.1. Widow's Kiss (Sniper)
LMB: Automatic assault weapon. RMB: Hold for long ranged sniper weapon.
The Sniper mode of your Widow's Kiss is Widowmaker's bread and butter skill. It allows her to deal up to 120 damage per shot, with a 1-second charge-up time. Shots fired before being fully charged up deal between 15 and 120 damage, depending on how long you allowed the shot to charge. Widow's Kiss has a 30-bullet clip, and each Sniper shot costs 3 bullets. Critical hits (headshots) have a 2.5 multiplier for Widowmaker, meaning that fully-charged headshots deal 300 damage.
While you are charging up shots, you must be zoomed in (the default key for this is the Right Mouse Button), and to shoot you will use the Left Mouse Button. This should be your default firing mode whenever you are aiming at targets that are at long or medium range.
In general, we advise you to let your shots charge up to 100% before firing, as the damage you deal this way is very high. That said, there are a few situations in which firing quick shots is better. We list them below.
- when you need to finish off a highly damaged target (possibly one that you yourself have just hit with a fully charged up shot);
- when your target is about to run behind cover, and waiting to charge your shot up would take too long;
- when you wish to deal damage to objects such as Symmetra's Sentry Turrets.
So, we have established that this firing mode should be your default stance as Widowmaker, but that is not all there is to it. It is also important that, as Widowmaker, you know which enemy heroes to prioritise shooting at.
To begin with, it should be noted that some heroes are much easier to hit than others. In particular, it is very difficult to hit fast-moving heroes like Tracer and Genji. In part to compensate for this, Tracer also only has 150 health, meaning that if you do land a fully charged up shot on her, it will almost kill her. Next, you have heroes that have slim models, which are also difficult to hit. Finally, there are the easy targets, namely tanks, Bastion, and Torbjörn and his turret.
While it might be tempting to hit Roadhog with 5 fully charged up shots, this is not usually an efficient use of your time. Instead, you are much better off prioritising heroes you can kill quickly, which also often happen to be very impactful heroes. Here is our recommended priority.
- Support heroes: Mercy, Lúcio, and Zenyatta.
- Easy to kill offense or defense heroes: Tracer, Genji, McCree, Pharah, Hanzo, Bastion, Widowmaker, Junkrat, Symmetra (technically a support hero).
- More resilient heroes: Reaper, Soldier: 76, Mei, Torbjörn.
That said, if you can only shoot at a tank, or even at Reinhardt's Barrier Field, do not hesitate to do so.
An important note should be made about headshots (or critical hits). Most weapons in Overwatch deal double damage when they hit their target in the head, but Widow's Kiss deals 2.5 times the normal damage. This means that, theoretically, it is possible for you to deal up to 300 damage in one hit, resulting in a kill on most non-tank heroes (on all of them, assuming no health buffs).
In practice, this is not easy to achieve because movement speed in Overwatch is very high for many heroes, and movement itself can be very unpredictable. Moreover, the amount by which Widowmaker's rifle zooms in is not that great, making it difficult to see very well at long ranges. As such, hitting shots with Widowmaker can be difficult to begin with, but landing them on a small head hitbox can be even more so.
If you find that you have naturally good aim with Widow's Kiss and are able to reliably hit headshots, then this is obviously optimal and it will result in the higher damage output. However, newer players or those for whom handling Widow's Kiss does not come naturally will find that hitting the body will be more feasible, and it will generally be a more reliable way of dealing damage as Widowmaker. Going for headshots and missing the target altogether will cost you more than simply getting easier and less effective body shots.
That said, against stationary targets, you should make use of headshots. If your target is standing still, for whatever reason, then you should take the extra time to line up a head shot, as this will generally ensure a kill. Good examples of this are Torbjörn (standing still while repairing his turret), Roadhog (necessarily standing still while using Take A Breather), or enemy snipers (Hanzo or other Widowmakers).
3.2.2. Widow's Kiss (Assault)
LMB: Automatic assault weapon. RMB: Hold for long ranged sniper weapon.
The primary fire of your weapon works as an automatic rifle. It deals 13 damage per bullet, and it shares your (30-bullet) clip with the Sniper mode of the weapon. The low damage, high rate of fire and generally poor accuracy means that this is not an efficient way to deal damage.
That said, it does have certain uses. The main use is for close range combat, such as when you are being ambushed/attacked by sneaky enemy heroes like Tracer or Genji. In these cases, coupled with your melee attack and Venom Mine (see below), it allows you to put up a good fight and deal significant damage, repelling some attacks.
3.2.3. Grappling Hook
- Cooldown: 12 seconds
Launch a hook that pulls you towards a ledge.
Grappling Hook is an important tool for Widowmaker. Primarily, it helps to get her to the staple sniper nests located around the maps. The Grappling Hook's aim is heavily guided, meaning that you do not have very much freedom as to where to go: the hook will latch onto the suitable area that is closest to where you are aiming.
A large part of Widowmaker's survival relies on being able to stand in locations that are difficult for the enemy to access, so you should make use of these locations as much as possible. Many are evident, but we will update the guide in the future to show you some of the best locations.
When in such areas, keep in mind that there are still heroes that can get to you, so you are by no means safe. Genji can get to almost any area of any map. Reaper is likely to be able to teleport near you using Shadow Step (although if you notice his animation, you can pre-fire him as he appears), and many other heroes can sometimes make their way up to your location by taking the long way around. Finally, you can still be shot at by enemy snipers or Pharah.
Moreover, keep in mind that these sniper nests are where the enemies will expect you to be, so do not think that your position there will be very surprising.
A second and very important usage for Grappling Hook is as an escape mechanism. When you are being flanked, you can use it to run away, either to another sniper nest that the enemies cannot reach, or simply towards the safety of your team.
A third usage for Grappling Hook is simply to move faster, or unpredictably. You are not limited to targeting ledges with this ability, and you can use it to pull yourself over to a wall or other object. You should use the ability this way whenever you are running back after respawning.
3.2.4. Venom Mine
- Cooldown: 15 seconds
Launch a poison trap.
Your Venom Mine is triggered by any enemy that comes in close proximity to it, applying a damage over time effect on them and any other enemies in a small radius (including Widowmaker, but not her allies). You can attach the mine to the ground, walls, ceilings, and any other object on the map. You can only have one mine active at a time, and enemies can destroy the mine by shooting at it without triggering its effect.
The damage done by your Venom Mine is not high (75 over 5 seconds), but it can often mean the difference between getting a close range kill or not. However, the Venom Mine also has another important usage, which is that serves as a warning of enemy movement. When your Venom Mine is triggered, you receive a warning. So, if you place your Venom Mine in a strategic location (such as a corridor that can be used to flank you), you will know when an enemy assassin is coming for you, (hopefully) giving you enough time to prepare or escape.
Indeed, it is this strategic usage of the Venom Mine that should be your default course of action. Try to picture what path sneaky enemy heroes are most likely to use to get to your location, and place your Venom Mine somewhere along that path. Since enemies can destroy the mine if they see it, you should be creative with its placement. Placing it around corners, hidden behind various objects, or on the ceiling can be useful in making sure that the enemies trigger the mine.
If you are engaged in a close range fight, you should use the Venom Mine to help boost your damage. Against resilient opponents like tanks, this will not be very effective and is unlikely to make much of a difference (but you should do it anyway). However, against non-tanks, the 75 damage that the mine does can make a big difference (against Tracer, that is half of her health pool). That means that you only need to do very little extra damage to them to score a kill (and using your melee attack is an easy way to deal more damage to these quick heroes). When using the Venom Mine this way, make sure you do not stand too close to it when it is triggered, since its damage can also affect you.
Given that the Venom Mine does its damage over time, it will sometimes only kill your enemy after you yourself have died, but this is still a "win" for you. When using your Venom Mine this way, simply try to place it on the ground in the area where your attackers are located.
Provide your team with a view of the enemy's location.
Infra-Sight is an extremely powerful ability, due mostly to how valuable information is in Overwatch. While active, the entire enemy team is visible to your entire team, and this lasts for 15 seconds.
This allows you and your team to counter any attempted ambush, chase fleeing heroes with complete ease, as well as pre-aim and pre-fire at the opponents, giving you a great advantage in any duels you may take part in. Overall, a team against which Infra-Sight has been used is basically crippled for its duration, and they must be on the defensive for the entire time.
Infra-Sight charges up quite quickly for Widowmaker, provided that she is able to land shots with her sniper rifle. This means that you should have quite high uptime for Infra-Sight throughout most games.
Generally, you should look to use Infra-Sight as often as possible, so that you can get it charging up again quickly and have it available for use again. The only time we advise saving Infra-Sight for later is when no confrontation is imminent. For example, if your team was mostly wiped out and you (or one or two other teammates) are left alive, using Infra-Sight is sub-optimal (unless the other team is also weak enough that Infra-Sight could allow you to get crucial kills). Likewise, if your team has just wiped out the enemy and has solid control of the Payload/Point, using Infra-Sight is unnecessary and best saved for when the enemies have respawned and are running back into the fight.
- 28 Jul. 2016: Removed mention of Zenyatta only having 150 health, since he now has 200.
- 17 Jun. 2016: Updated the guide to account for changes to Widowmaker that lowered her Widow's Kiss alternate fire and increased its critical hit multiplier.
- 01 Jun. 2016: Fixed an issue where we were referring to Genji's health as 150 (it is in fact 200).
- 23 May 2016: Updates following user feedback.
- Added a mention that the Venom Mine also damages Widowmaker, and that this should therefore be avoided when using the Mine in close ranged fights.
- Reworded the section on getting headshots to more clearly express that natural aimers and skilled players can get headshots, and that if possible, this is ideal.
- 22 May 2016: Updated the guide following michr's review.
- Renamed the Attack Versus Defense Viability section to General Viability, and added that Widowmaker is often not viable even on Defense.
- Added a mention that Widowmaker can pre-fire a Reaper that tries to sneak up on her with Shadow Step (if she notices him first).
- 05 May 2016: Added a mention of headshots.
- 04 May 2016: Guide added.
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