Mercy, bless her eternally-giving heart, has seen better days. Recent updates have made her less popular, and some players say her kit lacks excitement compared to other heroes—a complaint that’s followed Mercy for quite a while now. Longtime Mercy mains are ready for an overhaul, but they’re not sure Blizzard is picking up what they’re putting down.
Depending on who you talk to, some will tell you that Mercy hasn’t really been herself since Blizzard overhauled her in 2017, replacing her arguably too game-changing Ultimate ability (a full team resurrect) with the more modest “Valkyrie” ult, which allows her to fly and buffs all her abilities. The Valkyrie change ended up making Mercy unexpectedly popular and, according to some, still overpowered, but now in a different way. In August 2018, the flighty heal queen truly lost her crown when Blizzard released a patch intended to shake-up the support meta and make everybody more viable. That meant less raw healing for Mercy, leaving her—a hero built almost exclusively around healing and buffing—in an odd spot.
“Do I believe that a toxic hashtag would get people’s attention faster? Yes. But that’s not the point.”
This left many Mercy mains feeling like their favourite hero was lost at sea, drifting aimlessly and never seeming to land on a satisfying playstyle. Months later, many Mercy players still feel that way, and a couple weeks ago, a YouTuber named Aria Rose decided to start a movement called #ReworkMercy. In a video introducing the idea, she explained that she had serious misgivings with a different online movement that had formed with the goal of deleting the support character Brigitte; Rose asserted that this other movement was rooted in toxicity. But she couldn’t deny it had appeared to produce results in the form of a pretty serious Brigitte nerf. Rose’s goal was to create an authentically constructive movement around Mercy.
“Do I believe that a toxic hashtag would get people’s attention faster? Yes,” she said in her introductory video. “But that’s not the point. I want to take this toxic movement and turn it into something good... I want this to be the polar opposite of the Delete Brig movement. I want to see ideas.”
She got what she wanted. In the following days, #ReworkMercy dominated Overwatch discourse on Twitter and YouTube, prompting discussion among YouTubers, pros, and Mercy mains alike. Two weeks later, the hashtag is still abuzz with discussion that has, in turn, spread to Overwatch’s official forums, where players post multiple threads per day and eagerly await some kind of response from Blizzard.
Some fans say they want Mercy to go back to the way she was before the Overwatch team took away her mass resurrect, while others would like to see her taken in a new direction, given that even her more recent, non-ult resurrect still made her an essential pick on most high-level teams. The tie that binds all these players is a desire for their favourite hero to feel, well, heroic again.
“What I feel is wrong with Mercy right now is her impact,” RevertMercy, one of the movement’s most consistent participants on Twitter, told Kotaku in an email. “I don’t feel that she is currently engaging, rewarding, or even fun to play, especially when she’s compared to other supports. I think that right now, while her normal kit is mostly fine, her utility and agency still needs some more improvement—more specifically her ultimate Valkyrie, and that while I would agree with many others that statistically she is balanced, playing her no longer gives me the thrill it did back when she had Mass Rez. Nothing right now says to me, ‘Hey! You should play Mercy over X hero,’ and I think that is a problem in a game where a hero having impact is so important.”
Hoshizora, a YouTuber who’s made videos in support of #ReworkMercy, also feels like other supports have left Mercy eating dust.
“She is in an awkward position where she is meant to be a main healer yet pales in comparison to Moira and Ana—who can both dish out a lot of damage as well,” Hoshizora told Kotaku in a Twitter DM. “Mercy pretty much just stands there with mediocre healing. I really hope to see her kit given some tweaks, even if it means her skill ceiling is raised significantly, so that she actually feels impactful.”
Overwatch players have suggested a whole host of ideas on how to remedy these issues. To facilitate better discussion, Rose created a spreadsheet people can submit rework propositions to. It currently has over 100 entries, most of them replete with full ability descriptions, stats, and notes about how these ideas could function holistically. Obviously, these players are not game designers, but they have plenty of interesting suggestions. The write-in designs include everything from a mass resurrect ult during which Mercy has to earn each rez individually via effective healing, to entirely new ults like Hoshizora’s favourite (by Twitter user JhayChi69), which would see Mercy slam her staff into the ground and create a small, temporary “sanctuary” for herself and allies, healing and resurrecting teammates within.
Resurrection is easily the biggest point of contention among #ReworkMercy’s supporters and detractors. As part of Mercy’s 2017 rework, her resurrect was turned into a regular, non-ultimate ability, albeit a vastly less momentous one. Now she can only bring one ally back at a time, and then she has to wait out a cooldown period before casting again. Her old resurrect ult had been an instant tide-turner, bringing multiple allies back from the beyond in a single gleaming flash. Moving her back in that direction seems like the easiest way to help her feel impactful and exciting again. But, according to the folks who’d prefer that Mercy’s wings stay clipped, a resurrect skill in any form functions as too much of an undo button. Die due to bad positioning or sloppy teamwork? Get resurrected, and all is forgotten! Then the fight begins anew, turning the whole encounter into a lengthy, low-stakes slog.
Some well-known players have reacted more negatively to the movement than others, prompting blowback from #ReworkMercy supporters. Stylosa, one of the hosts of the popular YouTube channel Unit Lost, for instance, had some especially harsh words for the movement in his channel’s first of a handful of videos on the subject.
“I have seen some quite frankly insane ideas, like ‘We should bring back Mercy’s old rez, because that would counter GOATS comp,’” he said, referring to an HP-heavy team composition that currently dominates high-level play, much to many players’ chagrin. Stylosa and others argue that mass resurrection would only make GOATS even more tedious to play against.
“That’s where my frustration with all these big names giving their input about this movement comes from. They don’t play the hero and don’t know the intricacies of Mercy or where the frustrations with the hero feel like.”
“Do these people realise what the game was like back then?” Stylosa said, referring to the days of pre-overhaul Mercy. “Because that was not good. Not good at all... Something like the mass rez should never, ever come back into the game, because there is no skill there. It was horrifically bad.”
Many members of the Mercy community did not take this kindly, with people like Hoshizora making videos of their own dissecting what Stylosa said and even picking apart his Mercy play. Stylosa likely struck a nerve because his comments reminded Mercy fans of the debates that have surrounded the character since Overwatch’s beginnings. Due to her lack of more traditional, reflex-intensive first-person shooter abilities, some players have contended that Mercy doesn’t take “real” skill to play. This line of thought has also given rise to nastier strains of pushback against Mercy players over the years, many of them focused around the fact that women players are often associated with the hero. #ReworkMercy, too, has been subject to plenty of dismissive, sexist remarks.
“I wouldn’t call it a movement,” said one player in an Overwatch forum thread surfaced by Rose. “I’d call it a desperate attempt for E-Girls to try and make their favourite hero overpowered again. She’s not going to get reworked. Stop hoping. Just play someone else.”
Mercy mains believe these sorts of critiques are baseless, insisting that Mercy is more cerebral and interesting than many of the flashier, more traditional characters on Overwatch’s roster.
“There’s a lot of aspects to Mercy that you don’t immediately get to understand until you actually play the hero,” Hoshizora told Kotaku. “That’s where my frustration with all these big names giving their input about this movement comes from. They don’t play the hero and don’t know the intricacies of Mercy or where the frustrations with the hero feel like. So they end up focusing on the wrong thing and not the point of this movement, which is to simply make Mercy more engaging and fun to play.”
In an email, Stylosa told Kotaku that he wasn’t trying to brush aside Mercy mains’ concerns, and that he largely agrees with them. He’s just wary of the resurrect, specifically.
“In the past she had huge impact with mass rez, but even more impact with instant cast single target rez after the rework (we all remember the Mercy meta),” he wrote. “Currently when you directly compare her to the other healers, she can’t provide any sort of burst healing or emergency support. Instead, she waits for the target to die then attempts to resurrect. This makes her feel rather limp to play.”
Instead of something resurrect-oriented, then, Stylosa would like to fill that gap in Mercy’s kit. He had a few design suggestions of his own: “Imagine being able to charge the staff then unleash a burst overloaded heal at the cost of staff downtime? Or maybe she can overheal? What about increased healing based off target % HP left? Maybe a rework isn’t what’s needed, but instead the addition of a complimentary new ability to her current kit.”
So, even the players who aren’t big Mercy fans agree that she could benefit from some changes, though some feel that the desperation of her situation is being overstated. Speaking as part of a more recent video from Unit Lost, Paris Eternal support player Harrison “Kruise” Pond said that he believes Mercy only needs a small buff at this point—a boost to her healing-per-second or something along those lines.
“With Mercy, I feel like she’s got a lot of small, impactful moments—almost like small Play Of The Game moments,” Pond said. “When I’m playing Mercy, I don’t feel like I have the impact; I feel like I’m almost controlling the game. Light heals, going for clutch rezzes and stuff like that—it’s super game-changing. It feels good in-game. I don’t feel a lack of satisfaction from playing Mercy, which a lot of people are saying they do with her current kit.”
Daiya, a top-ranked Mercy player, took things a step further, saying that Mercy has never been all that exciting of a hero.
“Mercy is fine as she is,” Daiya said on Twitter. “Minor buffs perhaps is all she needs, but she has a place with Pharamercy right now and takes more skill than she ever used to. People complaining her ultimate is dull I think just don’t realise that Mercy as a character has always been. Fair enough if you think the character’s boring after playing her for so long and after so many changes, but no change/rework will fundamentally change the fact she is a dull character unless you completely change her and that point they’re basically a new hero.”
Rose, though, contends that anybody centring the discussion around balance or other high-level concerns is missing the point.
“Tired of tubers making videos about pros reacting to #ReworkMercy,” she said on Twitter yesterday. “We know, she’s balanced, that’s not the point. Casuals make up for most of the game, they need a voice too. This game is NOT only for the 1% who only care about balance, thank you next.”
Despite all the impassioned pleas, the Overwatch development team has yet to acknowledge #ReworkMercy, even in forum threads directly asking them to. Kotaku reached out to Blizzard for comment, but as of publishing, the company has not replied.
For now, Twitter user and #ReworkMercy advocate RevertMercy is focused on keeping the discussion civil and constructive in hopes that Blizzard will eventually have no choice but to engage. Many people, RevertMercy believes, just aren’t “aware of how Mercy was back then, before the rework, so for them, the only version of Mercy they can relate to is the version where she was a must pick, and OP for five months straight.” Their focus, then, is on “giving suggestions, seeing their perspectives, being open-minded to their suggestions and thoughts, and being willing to keep the discussion about the hero, and not about the person themselves usually keeps discussion running smoothly.”
Granted, this is the internet, and it’s impossible to keep any movement entirely free of negativity, bickering, and feuding—especially one as far-reaching as #ReworkMercy. It shouldn’t be contentious that players want their favourite hero to be more exciting to play, but it’s nonetheless brought out some people’s combative sides both in and outside the movement itself. As time has drawn on, Mercy mains have had to remind each other to keep things constructive. RevertMercy hopes that, regardless of what ultimately happens to Mercy, the movement can set a good example.
“We all as players have been far too accustomed towards being toxic towards each other over a mere difference in views,” RevertMercy said. “I think it’s time for a change, and that coming together with ideas and solutions to our heroes in a positive, respectful, and constructive manner would make a huge impact on the game as a whole.”