Widowmaker Nerfed: What to Expect on the Battlefield

Jun 18, 2016

Widowmaker and McCree received significant revisions with Overwatch’s latest update. How was Widowmaker nerfed? How can we expect these changes to influence competitive Overwatch?

Early beta nerfs

Widowmaker was previously nerfed in November of 2015. Blizzard reduced the number of heroes she could eliminate with one sweep. They also increased the amount of ammo (from 1 to 3) used for each shot. Consequently, Widowmaker players had to use more bullets to kill while having fewer to spare.

Obvious imbalances were fixed. However, people eventually found a way to work around them. Widowmaker reclaimed her position as a high-priority pick. Tournament games without her were rarely seen since.

Widowmaker issues

Overwatch’s release resurfaced talk of Widowmaker’s OP characteristics. A video by Josh “Steel” Nissan, an Ex Counter-Strike pro and current Overwatch player, discusses commonly held views on her flaws.

  • She has an assault rifle for close combat.
  • Her sniper rifle one-shots squishy heroes.
  • Her ultimate exposes all enemy characters on the map for 15.5 seconds.
  • Her ultimate builds in about four headshots.

Patch changes

All changes are listed under the official patch notes.


Lets go through them in turn.


Widowmaker’s alternate fire base damage was decreased from 15 to 12. Alternate fire refers to her sniper rifle.

To counteract the damage reduction, the multiplier for scoped headshots was increased from 2 to 2.5.

Some might argue that this is the most significant change. Although it will have an impact at first, it shouldn’t be game-changing. People will adjust by aiming for heads. This might seem like a ridiculous expectation, but it is reasonable given that the character is meant for players who specialize in aiming.


Widowmaker’s ultimate costs ten percent more to charge. Her ultimate allows teammates to see foes through walls. So, increasing the time to build her ultimate reduces her value as a teammate.

Some claim this change to be the most significant. I disagree. Ten percent is too small to make a notable impact. The ultimate still lasts too long. It also gives too much information. Slightly increasing its cost does not address these issues.


Widowmaker’s unscope animation can no longer be interrupted. So when you unscope, you have to wait for the animation to finish before you can zoom and shoot again. The change makes for more realistic movement.

As a result, aggressive options are significantly reduced. She can’t change focus as quickly. This reduces her damage output. It also makes her vulnerable while moving.

Limiting her movement seems trivial at first. However, Widowmaker’s strength consists of mobility and targeted damage. Blizzard stripped her of her strengths.

This nerf will considerably affect her tournament viability.

Metagame implications

Squishy characters should have a better time. It should be easier to hug the payload without being one-shot from a distance.

Essentially, the update turned Widowmaker into a truly defensive character. If used, players should place emphasis on her mines. Being caught out of position will leave her helpless.

Blizzard’s approach

What is Blizzard telling us with the update?

I think they’re trying to keep their involvement minimal. Game developers are usually scorned for tampering with balance issues.

Even so, reasonable adjustments were made. The character wasn’t nerfed to the ground. Blizzard is clearly listening to the community while learning from past mistakes.

Widowmaker won’t be as good in all situations like she used to. Her strengths will have to be used with clear goals in mind.

Surprisingly, Blizzard didn’t simplify the game. If anything, strategic depth was improved.

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Martin Stuessy
TFT mourner. CS:GO addict. Philosophy at Ohio State. English/German/Spanish/French in order of ability. Culturally diverse. Writes about Overwatch, CS:GO and other topics. Follow @MartinStuessy on Twitter.
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