While you can play and learn any hero you'd like, there are some that I consider easier to learn while still contributing to your team's performance. With team composition being so important, I've included one hero for each role. I highly recommend learning each of the roles so you're comfortable filling in any spot the team needs. You'll also be better at the game overall by learning how different heroes and roles function. As with the rest of this guide, this information is intended for new or returning players and may not necessarily apply to high-level ranked, competitive play. Feedback is appreciated, you can tweet @PrestonDvorak or leave a comment at the bottom of any guide page.
If you've ever played an FPS game, Soldier: 76 will feel incredibly familiar. Playing him should feel straightforward and allow you to focus on the finer points of each map and what it's like to fight against the other heroes.
His primary ability is a Pulse Rifle which functions just as you would expect an assault rifle to. You can hold down left-click to fire it fully automatic, which is quite accurate at close and medium range. At long range, you can maintain accuracy by firing in short bursts instead. Whatever the case, you can expect all of the bullets to go where your crosshairs are. This is because the weapon is hitscan, meaning there is technically no travel time between when you fire the bullets and they hit their target.
Soldier's secondary ability is Helix Rockets which fires a set of three rockets at whatever location you're targeting. These rockets deal heavy damage and travel in a straight line, making them easy and intuitive to aim. They do travel slowly, so aiming ahead of moving targets will be necessary if they're far away. You can damage yourself with your own rockets, so be careful when firing them at close range.
The shift ability allows you to Sprint, greatly increasing your movement speed until you turn it off, however, you can't use your primary or secondary abilities while sprinting.
His E ability will drop a Biotic Field which will heal you and any friendly players who stand in it. This is great to help keep yourself and your team alive during a fight. You should be using this ability any time it is off cooldown when your team is fighting. Even if you're not missing any health, because someone nearby probably is.
When you activate Soldier's ultimate ability, you will automatically lock onto targets in front of you when firing with your primary ability. You can influence which target you lock onto by putting your crosshairs near them, this is useful when you need to take out a high-priority target such as an enemy support hero. The ultimate ability will not cause bullets to go through walls, and some tanks like DVa and Reinhardt can still block your bullets with their abilities.
Mei excels at controlling enemies and slowing them down to allow her team to pick them off. Playing her will allow you to learn the choke points of each map and what it's like to fight up close.
Her primary ability is an Endothermic Blaster, which is just a fancy name for a "freeze gun." It's a short-range weapon that sprays ice-cold water, freezing enemies if you hit them enough times consecutively. While frozen, they'll be unable to move or use abilities, including defensive abilities and ultimates.
Mei's secondary ability will shoot a highly-accurate icicle at medium to long range. You should use this ability on frozen enemies to shoot them in the head for bonus damage, even at close range. A headshot from an icicle can kill most heroes after being frozen and some weaker heroes even without being frozen.
Her shift ability encases her in a protective block of ice, making her immune to all damage while healing herself. While you'll usually use this ability to save yourself, you can also use it to shield friendly players from damage or to block enemy players in a doorway.
Mei's E ability creates a huge ice wall at the targeted location. This ability is incredibly versatile and can be used to block enemies, block damage and enemy ultimates, or even boost yourself or friendly players up to a higher location. Most commonly, you'll place the ice wall in a doorway to either completely block or split up the enemy team.
Her ultimate ability throws out a weather-control drone, which has a small arc like a grenade and can be lobbed far away if needed. When the drone hits the ground, it begins freezing all enemies in a large area. Depending on how close you threw the drone, you can run in and help it freeze enemies with your primary ability. With enemies frozen, you can walk around quickly and headshot them with your secondary ability. Using her ultimate is a little tricky, but generally you'll want to use it in the middle of a team fight directly on the location you're fighting on. This forces the enemy team to retreat and spread out, or get frozen. It also works great if the enemy team is pinned down in a narrow choke point and will have a tough time running away from the freeze effect.
Orisa is great at shielding and buffing her allies while forcing enemies out of hiding. Playing her should feel similar to Soldier: 76 but with more defensive abilities. You’re able to throw out a small barrier to help your team pass through chokepoints, as well as give yourself a powerful personal shield to help spearhead attacks. You’re also able to pull enemies out of hiding or pull them back from running away, allowing your offense and defense teammates to get kills more easily.
Orisa’s primary ability is her Fusion Cannon, a high-capacity machine gun with slow-moving projectiles. Each individual bullet deals a low amount of damage, but the high rate of fire allows Orisa to output large amounts of damage, especially up close. You can use her Cannon to keep snipers suppressed from a distance or to damage enemy barriers.
Her secondary ability is the Gravitron Charge, an orb that travels slowly in the direction you’re aiming and slows enemies near it. You can active the orb by right-clicking again to pull affected enemies towards the orb (the orb will also activate automatically if it hits a solid object like the ground or a wall). You can tell which enemies are within range of the orb by the green lines connecting them to the orb. This ability is great for grouping up enemies for other player’s ultimate abilities, pulling enemies off of their positions, or even pulling them off the map in some cases. I would make liberal use of this ability to throw off enemy positioning and movement as much as possible.
The shift key ability is Fortify, it reduces the damage Orisa takes by 50% and makes her immune to movement impairing effects (such as slows and stuns). This ability can be used offensively to help your team push through a choke point or onto an objective, or it can be used defensively to get away from a bad situation. You can still use your other abilities while Fortify is active.
Orisa’s E ability launches a Protective Barrier device in a shallow arc that creates a barrier when it lands. This allows for more dynamic barrier positioning over other heroes’ barriers. As you would guess, you should try to position the barrier between you and the enemy team, especially their long-range heroes and turrets.
Her ultimate ability is a Supercharger, which is a small, stationary pylon that buffs the damage of nearby friendly heroes by 50%. The pylon can be destroyed, so you should try to position it behind something or plan on using your barrier or your body to block it from being killed. It’s best used when your team needs to push through a choke point, get to an objective, or maintain a defensive position that's being challenged.
Lucio is unique for a healer because instead of actively healing friendly players, he passively heals nearby players that are inside his area of effect for a small amount. Playing him should help make you aware of friendly player's health bars, while also not penalizing you too much if you don't see someone out of your field of view. Playing him will also make you aware of the sound and movement cues for other heroes' ultimate abilities, as Lucio's ultimate can counter many of them when timed properly.
Lucio's primary ability is his Sonic Amplifier, which fires a stream of sonic projectiles when used. These projectiles travel rather slowly, but deal a moderate amount of damage. With Lucio's healing being mostly passive, you can be firing off this ability almost constantly as extra damage.
His secondary ability fires a sound wave that knocks back enemies a short distance in front of him and deals a small amount of damage. This ability is great to push tank and offensive heroes away, messing up their aim or their positioning, and also to push enemies away if you need to retreat. You can also push enemies off the edge of some maps if positioned properly.
Lucio's shift ability allows you to change his passive effect between a speed boost or healing, both of which will affect nearby friendly players inside the yellow or green circle around you. In most cases, you'll want this to be set to healing, however, the speed boost can be great when running to the objective from your spawn room or for avoiding enemy ultimates. Similarly, if your team is already at full health and not taking much damage, you can have your speed boost active to give your team a movement advantage until they begin taking damage.
The E ability will boost whatever your currently selected passive ability is. If healing is active, it will cause your passive healing effect to heal for more for a short time. If the speed boost is active, it causes affected friendly players to move even faster for a short time. Again, you'll generally use this with the healing buff. You should try to boost your healing when one or more friendly players is missing at least 1/4 of their health and you're actively fighting the enemy team. Try not to use this when your unboosted passive healing will be enough to heal someone back up.
His ultimate ability provides a massive, temporary barrier to all nearby players when used. This barrier degrades quickly after it is applied, even if the affected player isn't taking damage. It's best used shortly after you engage the enemy team or if an enemy ultimate is being used and your team can't get away. Knowing exactly when to use this will take some practice, but it's almost always better to wait as long as you can during a team fight without letting a friendly player die in the process.
October 08, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed for patch 1.15, with only minor wording changes made.
September 05, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed for patch 1.14, no changes needed.
June 21, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed guide for patch 1.12, no changes needed.
June 04, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Did a full guide review, added Orisa as the recommended tank for new players.
March 03, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Reviewed for patch 1.8, no changes were needed.
February 09, 2017 (New Player Guide) - Guide launched!