When it comes to defensive characters, there are few in Overwatch’s roster that make cases for their permanent position in any team. Mei, however, is one of the most popular characters in competitive Overwatch, and there’s good reason for that.
So as we continue to add to our guides on how to play different characters like a pro, we’ve decided to dive deep into the mechanics of Overwatch’s icy warrior to give you the skills you need to compete at a higher level.
Mei: An Overview
Let it be known that while it is possible to play Mei aggressively, even on attack, her tool set is much more suited to defence – perhaps more than any other character in the game.
This is mostly thanks to her range of ice-based abilities, all of which offer utility than any real damage potential. Her primary fire freezes enemies in place, while her Ice Wall ability can block off certain routes or trap enemies in an ambush.
That’s not to say that Mei isn’t capable of dealing her fair share of damage, and in the right hands she can be the deciding reason a team’s assault has failed.
But it takes an understanding of how best to use her tools, and to do so with skill.
How to attack a team as Mei
The first thing you need to remember is that Mei is not the strongest character. She has some sustain thanks to her Cyro Freeze, but that won’t be enough allow her going rushing into a teamfight.
But in one-on-one, it’s tricky for practically any character to survive against her. Begin by blasting them with the primary fire of her Endothermic Blaster, freezing the enemy in place for a couple of seconds.
There’s a relatively short range on this weapon (though admittedly visually it looks shorter than it actually is), so Mei is all about getting in close whenever possible. The focus, then, is to catch enemies unawares or while their attention is diverted, giving you a much needed opportunity to begin the freezing effect.
You’ll rarely want to take on groups of enemies. While you might freeze a couple of them, you’ll not be able to survive while focusing down one with bullets pelleting you from another. And even if you do manage it, the short duration of the effect means you’ll only be able to eliminate one of them before the other is active and hunting you down.
Remember that once you have frozen someone, use the moment to line up a headshot with Mei’s alternate fire, a lance of ice that deals decent damage with critical shots. A combo of freezing an enemy and then hitting them with an ice lance in the head will usually be enough to kill them.
If you find yourself caught out or in danger, don’t be afraid to use Mei’s other abilities Ice Wall and Cyro Freeze. The latter, especially, is useful since it distracts the enemy enough to look for other targets in the meanwhile, and even has a slight healing effect.
One last note on this weapon: when the enemy are at long range, don’t be afraid to keep firing a pelting of ice lances at them. There’s travel time on the weapon so it’s a little harder to be accurate, but the range means you can take pot shots and deal some chip damage that will force the enemy to reconsider charging ahead.
Using Mei’s Ice Wall properly
This is perhaps Mei’s most defining ability, and you’ll no doubt have seen some of the unique uses for the ability as teams raise entire teams off the ground to find shortcuts, circumnavigate the opposition or even find hidden routes around the map.
South Korean side Meta Athena shock Lunatic-Hai by utilizing Mei’s wall to gain access to the roof and sneak behind for a surprise attack
If you’re playing solo this is going to be fairly limited – good luck convincing your entire team to stand in a line while you position the wall – but it’s important to remember that you can use this function to quickly bypass different routes, and can be used in a means similar to Hanzo’s wall climb.
But its primary use is to block a wide area, and though it can be destroyed it is still effective at a number of possible uses…
- Blocking line of sight to set up a flanking manoeuvre, allowing your team to move closer with safety or blocking shots from turrets or a Bastion
- Preventing enemy flanks from alternative routes to protect your team
- Provide some breathing space to allow your team to escape from a fight they would surely lose
- Using good timing to split up the enemy, catching one character (perhaps the tank) without support and allowing your team to focus them down
- Block exit routes to prevent an enemy – or enemies – from escaping. Chances are they will be backing up if looking to escape, firing in your direction as they do. A wall behind them will disorientate their movement.
It’s not as simple as this, though, since positioning will play the most important part in successful Ice Wall use. It will only ever appear as a barrier parallel to Mei’s viewpoint, from left to right. That’s important, because although you’ll get a holographic prediction of where it’ll place you’ll need to get so comfortable with this ability that you won’t rely on that and can activate it in a moment’s notice.
When to use Mei’s ultimate?
Since this is an AOE ability, you’re going to want to save it until it’s going to be most effective against a larger group of enemies. Wasting it on a single enemy is just embarrassing, since you’ll be able to achieve the same results with your primary weapon fire.
This means you’ll need to spot for assaulting groups of enemies and place it down accordingly. While there is a large area of effect, there’s also a comfortable amount of time before it fully sets off, so you’ll need to plan your positioning effectively.
Former NRG star Brandon “Seagull” Larned shows us how to execute an almost perfect Mei ultimate on Hanamura
On Payload maps that’s fairly simple since you’ll typically find the enemy hovering around the moving vehicle itself. Throw the drone a short distance ahead of the Payload and they’ll be forced to hold back or get frozen.
Outside of that, using it in confined spaces is especially useful. The tight corridors of Kings Row or Temple Of Anubis mean there are few escape options, especially when combined with your Ice Wall to prevent anyone escaping.
But it’s important to make sure your team is ready to follow up on your ultimate. Perhaps you’ll be able to finish off two frozen enemies after a successful group freeze, but before long the rest will be on you and without some team back up that will make for a wasted ultimate, and likely your death.
Better still is if you’ve another team-mate ready to activate their ultimate, because a group of stationary enemies is too good an opportunity to miss and could easily lead to an enemy team wipe.
It’s unlikely this ultimate alone will manage to achieve that, so make sure that you’re as smart about when you use it as much as where.
On the whole Mei is a very powerful character in the right hands, which is why she is such a common appearance in competitive Overwatch games. Her utility is largely the reason she is picked so often, and knowing how and when to effectively use her freezing abilities will be core to her success. It’s one of the reasons we rate her so highly in our Overwatch meta tier list.
And if you’d like to learn how to play other characters, we recently put together a guide on how to play the Overwatch’s newest tank Orisa, and also have a guide on how to play the most popular support in the game, Lucio.