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How To Play As McCree

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Art By: Peter83

Howdy there OWUniversity, are you interested in playing McCree but can’t figure him out? Can’t determine what it is that makes good McCrees so effective? Well, in this guide I’ll explain what McCree is supposed to do, his abilities, playstyle, matchups, and dispel/prove some myths.

As this will be a fairly long guide, feel free to skip to the area you want to read.

The Hero

McCree is probably the simplest hero in overwatch, having very few techs or “secret knowledge” to his kit. His stats are also very very straightforward, having no special effects like cooldown resets or health regen, etc. Similar to Soldier, he is favored by fans of typical shooters. But, don’t let that simplicity make you discount him.

In terms of damage, McCree deals a flat 70 per shot, as long as he is within his 20m falloff range. This means that he is capable of 3-shotting a 200 health hero, or 2-shotting if one of the shots is a headshot. This makes his time to kill one of the lowest in the game save snipers, allowing for quick killing without spending a ton of time shooting or otherwise interacting with the enemy. Beyond 20m, his damage falls off to the point where it takes 8 shots to kill a 200hp hero.

His large burst damage per shot also makes it more difficult for healers to negate his damage. He is also great for confirming kills for the same reason.

He himself has 200hp, and cannot heal himself. This makes McCree very fragile, and only truly shines when showered in ample healing and shielding. He is considered a “staple dps”, ie not a flanker or sniper, and thus will typically position near the team. (More on positioning later)

Abilities

McCree has 2 abilities (technically 3, if you count alternative fire as an ability), which are combat roll and flashbang.

Combat Roll

Combat roll is McCree’s defensive ability. When used, McCree rolls a short distance in the direction he’s currently moving in, and the roll also instantly reloads his revolver. Has a cooldown of 6 seconds, and should be used to dodge abilities such as reinhardt’s charge, or get to cover faster, or simply to close/gain distance in order to continue shooting or flashbang the enemy.

Flashbang

Your “assassinator” ability, this allows you to momentarily stun the enemy in order to make shooting them easy. This is a fairly precious ability as it functions as a defense against mobile heroes like Tracer or genji. When used, it throws a small projectile that either explodes on a surface, stunning all enemies caught, or explodes after traveling some distance. Has a 10 second cooldown.

Doing your job

So what is your job as McCree? Well, as a staple DPS, your job is to put damage onto the enemy, but you also have the secondary job of being a bodyguard. See, McCree is an effective bodyguard because his damage is notable to flankers, who have a very low threshold for how much damage they can take safely. A couple of shots into a genji leaves him with 60 health, which will make him want to back off.

So, while you’re shooting away at the enemy, cast glances back to your supports, to ensure they’re okay. Help them kill the enemy that’s harassing them. You’re also great at executing targets that ana sleeps, since the headshot-flashbang-fan-melee combo does a whopping 425 damage, (enough to kill all but like 3-4 heroes) and can be executed on a sleeping target easily, extremely quickly.

Ultimate

McCree’s ultimate is tricky to get right without dying. Since it forces you to stand still while you use it, unlike soldier’s tactical visor, you’re prone to dying before you can charge it enough. It should generally be used for one of 4 scenarios:

1. Killing specific hard to kill targets – Such as an ulting mercy or ulting genji that is too far away to blade you.

2. Capitalizing on team CC ults, such as earthshatter or graviton. They can’t negate your ult if they’re laying on the ground.

3. Zoning, nobody wants to get one shot so ulting will generally make the enemy not enter your sight lines. Useful to end eternal overtime, as the ult lasts longer than the overtime timer.

4. For memeing on teams that forget about you.

Generally, don’t be scared to burn it. It’s a low power quick charge ult.

Positioning, play-style

You are a glass cannon. You can take very little punishment before you start dying way too much, so it’s important to ensure your positioning is careful-oriented. It’s better to hang back as McCree and show yourself to less of the enemy and have less targets than to see the entire enemy team and risk being shot from many angles.

Stick near healing and shields, and shoot whoever you can. Focus on closer targets that way your damage falloff isn’t too bad.

McCree isn’t like soldier who can plop down a healing field and tank a little, unless you’re being pocketed you’ll have to back off when the enemy starts actively trying to deal with you. Unlike Soldier, “behind shields” is preferable to high ground most of the time. You are very easy to remove unless you have healing up there with you, but that detracts from the rest of the team.

Matchups

For this section, I’ll list all the heroes, and describe matchups for them based on my personal experience playing McCree, and playing some of the opponent heroes in question.

Doomfist

Free food, most of the time. This matchup depends on who gets the jump first, if the doomfist has the element of surprise, he’ll win, if you see him coming and have aim, he’ll lose. (You plink away too much of his health for him to flat out tank you, especially with headshots) You should win this matchup most of the time.

Genji

This one is likely also in your favor, as long as you don’t get your flashbang deflected. Either wait for his deflect to run out, or flashbang above/below it to stun him through his deflect. Remember that it’s an arcing projectile, so aim higher than you think you need to aim.

If he’s far away and not in your face, use his very predictable flight pattern of jumps to just plink away at him. He doesn’t like to take a lot of damage like that.

McCree

Completely neutral, and completely decided by surprise factor or superior aim/evasion. The only thing I can recommend other than “git gud” is to roll diagonally back if he rolls directly at you, this way when he tries to roll->flashbang you he might miss. Not many higher level McCrees will do this, so just try to dodge his shots while shooting him. Be near cover so you can at least disengage and don’t get 3 tapped.

Pharah

Inside effective range, not directly above you, not pocketed, you are pocketed, prediction skills sub-par -> Win.

Two or more of the above not true -> Probably lose/draw in a 1v1

Simple as that, really. Soldier is better suited to killing pharahs that aren’t idiots.

Reaper

You’re a soft counter due to your high burst damage and superior range, so as long as he doesn’t get the drop on you, you should win. If you see him running around, shoot at him. Many reapers in my experience run in fairly straight lines when not actively shotgunning someone, so aim for headshots.

If he’s idiotic enough to teleport within eyesight of you, nab those free headshots.

Weighted slightly in your favor, as long as he doesn’t jump on your head.

Soldier:76

This one is tricky, it requires you being close to him when you start the fight. (And by close, I mean really close, like <15m) Any farther, and he’ll win due to his ability to heal, and hit you more reliably. He can also execute you at range with a helix rocket, where as your flashbang is limited.

Avoid taking this fight unless you’re close enough that you can roll in and flashbang->fan, or have the aim to quickly burst him down.

Weighted slightly/greatly against you.

Sombra

If she hacks you, you won’t be able to insta-win via flashbang, (seriously, she can’t really stop the flash train) so it comes down to aim. Remember that she can hit you reliably, so if you don’t execute her quickly or force her to run she can just kill you slowly over time with bullet spam, unless you’re being healed.

All that said though, you have more gunpower than her, so you should generally win this. Try to throw off her tracking by moving unpredictably.

Tracer

This one is the plague of many low to mid-tier McCrees, since a smart tracer will play you like a fiddle unless you predict her prediction. She’s going to try playing 4D chess, and you need to play -1D checkers.

Basically, there are 3 tiers of tracer, tier one, which are so bad they can simply be shot to death, and using flashbang is generally unnecessary, tier two, which has learned to bait the flash sometimes, and the matchup becomes more 50-50, and tier three, which will almost always bait the flashbang/go in when you don’t have it, and so the only way to win is to either get peeled out by one of your team members, or have god aim and flick her down.

As for advice on how to predict the prediction, never go for obvious flashes. If she warps straight at you, she isn’t going to stay there, she’s going to immediately blink back and you’ll throw the flash into open air. Is she ADAD spamming relatively close to you? She’s watching your animation like a hawk for arm movement. Try meleeing instead of flashing and watch her obliterate that blink/recall button. Go for flashes that she won’t expect, and throw it more towards the floor so it detonates faster.

50-50 matchup leaned against you, unless the tracer messes up.

Bastion

Has the bastion seen you yet? Do you have a shield? If he hasn’t seen you, it’s okay to poke some damage onto him. It’s not really your job to deal with him, since your range is small, so just don’t get shot. If you have a shield, you can put potshots onto him.

He’s very easy to headshot if he’s walking around, so if he gets up try to kill him then.

Weighted heavily against you.

Hanzo

Avoid, unless previous experience with a that specific player tells you that they can’t hit you, assume they can. He can kill you faster than you can kill him. Especially do not fight him on his own terms, if he disengages, do not pursue. Especially now with the reduced sonar arrow cooldown, he is much better at killing people trying to pursue him.

If you really feel you should kill him, note that drawing his bow back slows him down significantly, so aim for headshots between his shots. Also, don’t ADAD spam, it isn’t effective. He’ll just fire straight down your hitbox, and you’ll strafe sideways into the projectile, which still counts as a headshot. Instead, made randomly alternating and changing in distance strafes, eg LLLRLLLRRRRRLRLLLRLLLLRRRLRRL.

50-50, moderately weighted against you.

Junkrat

If he’s close to you, he can kill you really quickly, so maintain as much distance as you can, and shoot him. It’s very difficult for him to kill specific targets at 20m out, so you should be fairly safe. Also be careful not to run into any of his shots laying on the ground.

If he mine jumps (either towards you or in general), shoot him out of the air. He flies in a really predictable arc. Punish him for thinking he’s pharah.

If you flashbang-fan combo him, make sure to back up after the kill. Remember that his corpse explodes on death. As for dodging his shots, long, non-re-stepping movement is best. If you walk back over the place you just were, you’ll walk into shots resting on the floor. Be mindful if his shots will bounce off something behind you, or just keep going. If they bounce, move away from the bounce, towards the junkrat.

You should generally win this if you position correctly.

Mei

Mei is what I like to call a “panic to lose” hero, in terms of matchups. Good meis will bait your flash and iceblock to block it, so first identify the caliber of mei you’re fighting. If it’s a “I play mei to stall” mei, (won’t have mei in their top 5 heroes) just keep your cool and shoot her, preferably before she gets within freezing distance, since being frozen actually messes with your sensitivity and cursor speed. However, if it’s a “I play mei because I’m really good” mei, then you have to be careful. She probably won’t just run at you straight away, since you’ll just shoot her as I mentioned above, instead she’ll either pick you down from range with icicles, or surprise attack you. Again, keep cool, and try to shoot her. If you see her use ice block, roll up and flashbang combo her when she comes out. Be wary of her ult, since you don’t have much mobility to escape it.

If she freezes someone, bad meis will stand still while they line up the icicle, so headshot her when she does this. Semi good meis will strafe forward and back, also fairly easy to hit. Pro meis will erratically strafe and can even correct to hit the headshot when booped, so… try your best.

50-50 depending on the skill of the Mei.

Toblerone

Actually kind of tricky, since you can’t take much damage from his turret before you have to run, so avoid him if he has his turret up, it’s generally not your job to deal with it.

If he’s running around trying to be a typical DPS, as long as you stay away from him you can kill him faster than he can kill you. Be wary of the shotgun.

Widowmaker

Don’t. Just don’t. She makes your range look like winston’s. Unless you find yourself close to her (emphasis on find yourself, don’t try to push up on her), avoid her like the plague. Let someone with more mobility or higher range deal with her.

Heavily weighted against you, avoid.

D.va

Are you being healed/shielded actively? Free ult charge. No? You’re dead. Unlike soldier, you can’t heal yourself, and you move very slowly, so D.va will cause many problems for you unless you have healing or shielding from your team.

Unless you can land several headshots she can kill you before you demech her. Also, don’t ult if she’s nearby. You’ll get killed by someone else before you can charge the ult enough, and if you fire early she’ll eat it.

Weakly avoid. It’s fine to put shots onto her, but don’t commit to killing her/draw aggro.

Orisa

One of the easiest tanks for you to kill if she doesn’t have her shield (due to your team focusing it, or sombra hack), due to her massive head hitbox and basically complete lack of mobility.

As long as you aren’t healless/far away, you should win this most of the time, or make it significantly easier on other DPS to kill her.

Reinhardt

Also extremely easy to win, I’d even say more so than orisa. If you’re at your optimal 18-20m range he can’t do anything to you. Plink away at his shield and headshot him if he drops it to firestrike. If he’s close to you, getting hit by his hammer actually draws you in towards him a bit, so you can’t outrun him. In order to avoid the smack you have to roll away.

If he charges, (especially if he pins somebody) flashbang him out of it, if you can.

Heavily weighted in your favor.

Roadhog

Probably one of the most dangerous tanks for you, if not the most. If he hooks you, you’re dead. You have no mobility or invincibility to avoid the shot, or the follow up shot if he doesn’t one shot you.

Problem is, his hook range is exactly the same as your falloff range, which means that if you want to do full damage you have to enter the hook zone. Contribute damage onto him, and flashbang him out of his heal/ult, but try to avoid being close to him in the first place. Don’t draw aggro.

If he does aggro on you (since you’re headshotting the crap out of him), bait the hook by moving right predictably for a while, then rolling left. (or vice versa) He’ll likely miss.

50-50 or eternal draw, slightly weighted against you if the hog is competent.

Winston

Tricky, if you let him play you. Your damage vastly exceeds his, so as long as you can outlast his damage you win, either through having more health (torb or brigitte or sym boosts), or being healed.

If he jumps for you and drops his bubble, back up and force him to leave it. You will lose the shield-juke war. If he jumps for someone else, peel for them and assist them in killing him.

Also, try to put shots into him as he’s flying through the air. He’s relatively easy to headshot.

50-50, as long as you are in a good position and have some backup from your team.

Zarya

Only really dangerous when at high charge, just stay out of her beam range. Put damage onto her, zarya really hates taking burst damage when she doesn’t have her bubble.

A common technique that I see zarya’s do is peek with her bubble, wait for it to be shot/expire then hide again. This movement is really predictable, so use that as an indicator to not shoot her, then shoot her as she tries to slip behind cover after the bubble.

It’s extremely important that you do not shoot her bubbles. With only 3 shots into a bubble you give her 40 charge. As a high burst damage character you must make it your responsibility to not charge the zarya.

Weighted in your favor as long as you are well positioned.

Ana

Not your job, but if you do end up fighting an enemy ana, don’t get slept. You are especially weak to her sleeps since you have no “I messed up” ability (eg deflect, recall, etc), so if you get slept and the ana is competent you’re dead.

Also, she is a sniper, so don’t fight her at range. Her damage exceeds yours greatly outside of 20m. If she’s close and scopes in, headshot her, she basically stops moving.

Weighted against or towards you depending on range.

Brigitte

Another fight determined by range, if she gets close to you she’ll probably win, but that’s true for all her matchups. Stay away, and shoot at her shield. If you break it her true support nature is revealed, and she’ll die quickly. Look to headshot her when she chain whips, she can’t put up her shield.

As a high damage character she’ll generally shield against you, so you shooting at her leaves her open to getting shot from the sides, since she doesn’t want to turn away from you.

As she’s bad for healing burst damage, Putting headshots into her and her allies is preferable as she takes a long time to heal that 140 back up.

Never ever ult against her if she can walk up to you. She’ll just menacingly walk up to you shielded and stun you out of it. However, if you’re on high ground, she can’t do jack shit. She’ll be forced to either get her shield one-shot by you or killed by something else while her crosshair is locked onto you.

Weighted for or against you depending on range.

Lucio

I like to call this a 0-0 matchup. He generally won’t kill you unless you mess up, and you won’t easily kill him unless he messes up.

The most potent thing that he can do against you is boop you off cliffs, since you can’t “fly” to compensate for the boop. Well, that, and counter your ult with his, which will make target lock-on take eternity. If he counter ults, cancel yours immediately, you won’t get anyone before *someone* eventually kills the standing-still glowing cowboy.

His trickiness to hit makes it unlikely that you’ll kill him, so ignore him unless there’s no other good targets. People that can hit people more reliably should deal with him.

0-0 matchup, you can generally ignore each other.

Mercy

Not really your job (unless her positioning is atrocious) but she basically can’t kill you if you’re with your team, so either you kill her or she disengages.

With one exception, if she Valkyries, deadeye should generally be used to counter it. Either it’ll kill her, ending the ult, or it will zone most of her ult time away.

Of course, don’t ult if there’s an enemy that can just instantly delete you, or someone who can negate your ult. It does take a few seconds to get the lock on the mercy.

Weighted completely in your favor. If she kills you you messed up royally.

Moira

Another “panic to die” hero, if she goes for you just keep your cool and shoot her. You out-damage her self heal as long as you can hit shots semi-regularly. Since she has auto lock-on, it’s actually a valid strategy to stand still to buff your aim a little, since she’ll do the same damage to you regardless. (That is, assuming it’s a true 1v1 and there isn’t another McCree that’ll just pop you when he sees that)

If you can aim, she’s a meme, if you can’t, she’s deadly and you’ll need peeling from your teammates.

Symmetra

The ultimate killer of mechanically bad players. The current symmetra as of the time of this writing is geared almost entirely towards dunking on noobs. As such, she’s another “panic to die” hero. Symmetra’s will typically throw their shield ahead of them, so they can run up to you while you ping shots into the shield fruitlessly.

Well, that’s what she’s expecting you to do. She thinks that you’ll be like “oh no, scary unavoidable beam, run away!” and newsflash, you can’t run.

So, you do the unexpected, you charge straight at her through that shield, you flashbang her, and delete her. No fear. 80% of symmetras will be completely dumbfounded by this in my experience. The remaining 20% know “the technique” which I won’t describe here lest more syms learn it. Those ones are tricky, I still haven’t found a good way to stop those guys.

The important thing is to not panic and react like a noob. Have confidence. She’s a support, and considered a joke by the community. She isn’t dangerous, not as much as you think she is. Keep calm, even stand still like you did with moira, and just get shots. Don’t even go for headshots, just focus on the bodyshots. 1…2…3. She’s likely to dodge very predictably, in a way designed to throw off people that haven’t gotten their muscle memory down yet, jumping left, right, left, right, etc.

As you become more comfortable with McCree you’ll realize how weak she really is. You’ll finally understand how most pros think she’s a throw character, even when she isn’t throwing.

Have I died to Symmetra before? Yes, still do sometimes. But when she kills me it isn’t free, she really has to get the drop on me and work for it.

Weighted in your favor, as long as your aim is half decent and you don’t run away like a pansy.

Zenyatta

And finally, the omnic monk. I’d personally say avoid, a good zen will destroy you unless you can kill him quickly, especially at range. Also, he isn’t typically your job to kill, so you won’t encounter him directly often anyway.

If you do choose to fight him, aim for his thighs. His hitbox there is very wide, so 3-shotting him is easy.

Weighted semi-hard against you.

Myths

  • McCree’s flashbang can’t be eaten by defense matrix – False, it is a projectile and can certainly be eaten by D.va. She can do this to protect ulting teammates.
  • McCree’s ult builds damage beyond a one shot – True. If you have a red skull on someone, that means that when you fire it’ll one shot them, but the ult’s damage continues charging on them. This means that if they suddenly gain more health, you can maintain the lock on. This also allows you to break shields, a full duration damage boosted high noon can one-shot rein’s shield. It does absurd damage. (That is, if they’ll let you stand still for 6 seconds staring at their rein menacingly)
  • McCree’s ult gains damage faster while damage boosted – Partly true, and only true for nanoboost. NanoNoon as it’s typically called, will charge damage faster, in addition to boosting damage of the shot. This means for example if you normally take 2 seconds to lock on a kill shot, it’ll instead take about a second. To communicate this, a high pitched version of the typical harmonica/whistle will be played when you ult while nanoed, informing you that you can one shot faster. (Forgive my spaghetti aim at the beginning and end, it was late) For any other damage boost, it will simply boost the damage of the shot, which makes it waste less shots on shields.
  • McCree can one shot most heroes while nano/super boosted – True. Nano/super boost brings his headshot damage to 210, which one shots all 200hp heroes and shreds tanks. A good McCree nanoed is terrifying.

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Thanks for reading! I know this was a bit long, but I had a lot to write about a hero I enjoy playing. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, leave them below.

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