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Get caught up on Overwatch’s ultimate changes

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Overwatch ultimates can now be interrupted with quick plays or savvy hacks.

Blizzard Entertainment

While everyone was oohing and ahhing about the new skins and return of Junkenstein’s revenge, the patch yesterday actually contained some pretty big changes to the way Overwatch works. Specifically: ultimates. There’s nothing better than hitting Q and proceeding to mop up the enemy team, right? Well, there’s going to be some changes to ultimate charge that will shift balance across a few different heroes. Here’s the biggest change:

Ultimate charge is now immediately expended when a hero's ultimate ability is activated, instead of depleting over a short period of time

Instead of the pool quickly draining from 100, your ultimate charge is now just gone. This means that McCree can’t cancel an unfortunate Deadeye, for instance. The biggest change is going to be this: If you hear an ultimate line, and you turn and interrupt that enemy, they can’t just whip out their Dragonblade or have you back in their sights immediately after they get back up. They’ve lost the ult, and have to regain the charge.

This rewards players who are listening for those telltale lines and are ready to strike immediately. The developer commentary explains it like this:

Until now, many ultimates drained the meter quickly over time, instead of instantly setting the meter to zero when the button was pressed. We originally designed it this way to ensure that players had the chance to use (at the very least) a little of their ultimate every time. However, we now feel that it causes too much frustration without adding many benefits.

With this patch, ultimate abilities will instantly set a hero’s meter to zero when the button is pressed, which means stopping an enemy ultimate at any point after it’s activated will ensure that it has been spent.

The best ultimate is the one you can share with friends! :)
Blizzard Entertainment

To further clarify, you can group all Overwatch ultimates into one of three categories:

Transformation Ultimates

These add significant passive benefits to your heroes, while allowing the use of weapons and abilities.

Bastion’s Configuration: Tank
Genji’s Dragonblade
Mercy’s Valkyrie
Soldier 76’s Tactical Visor
Torbjörn's Molten Core
Widowmaker's Infra-Sight.

Channeled Ultimates

These force your hero into a new mode and render your other abilities unusable while active. In most cases, these abilities can be interrupted at any point to cancel them.

Doomfist’s Meteor Strike
McCree’s Deadeye
Pharah’s Barrage
Reaper’s Death Blossom
Roadhog’s Whole Hog
Zenyatta’s Transcendence (though, Zenyatta’s ultimate renders him immune to interruptions).

Cast-Time Ultimates

These abilities require a small window of time to pass before they become effective. If they’re interrupted during this window, they are canceled.

Ana’s Nano Boost
D.Va’s Call Mech and Self-Destruct
Hanzo’s Dragonstrike
Junkrat’s Rip-Tire
Lúcio’s Sound Barrier
Mei's Blizzard
Orisa's Supercharger
Reinhardt's Earthshatter
Sombra's EMP
Symmetra's Shield Generator and Teleporter
Tracer's Pulse Bomb
Zarya's Graviton Surge

What’s an ultimate without a little risk?
Blizzard Entertainment

Most abilities fit neatly within these categories but we did make some changes to outliers such as Genji's Dragonblade and Orisa's Supercharger to make them more consistent. Additionally, any ultimate that can be interrupted by a stun (Channeled ultimates and Cast-Time ultimates) can now be interrupted by Sombra’s Hack as well. Overall these changes should make it much easier to understand the ultimate mechanics and how they interact in combat.

Of course, this new system of ultimates and interrupts may end up propelling a certain hacker up the tier list. Consider the patch note on Sombra:

Sombra

Hack

Now interrupts the following ultimate abilities during their cast time: Ana's Nano Boost, Orisa's Supercharger, Mei's Blizzard, Reinhardt's Earthshatter, and D.Va's Call Mech

Been here all along.
Blizzard Entertainment

These ultimate changes set up a lot of potential for sick outplays, and great Sombra players may be able to capitalize on this. Everyone, prepare yourselves for the age of the boop.