Reinhardt's shield is his big draw, but it requires smart balance to use well.
Reinhardt: The Basics
Despite the relative simplicity of Reinhardt and his kit, to use him well isn’t a simple task. He’s a lot of idiosyncrasies that really make him a standout character. He’s deceptively tricky, simply put. But the good news is that to use him effectively only really requires you to understand his most valuable asset: his deployable shield, the only significant mobile shield currently in the game. It’s for this reason alone that Reinhardt is so valuable. The other is his ultimate, a forgive sized AOE knock up that will stun any enemies caught in its blast. It’s quick to cast, so perfect for split-second reactions, and really it is a game changer. With that said, if you’re playing Reinhardt know that you’re not in it for the kills. A greedy Reinhardt is not going to change the game, but one who uses him properly and understands his skills - and when to use them - will be decisive in winning the game. Preach.
Payload maps are Reinhardt's best use, but he's versatile enough to fit most any situation.
When to pick Reinhardt?
There’s a reason Reinhardt is one of the most common picks in competitive play, because his toolset makes him viable in practically every situation: offense, defense, most any maps. But there are some situations where Reinhardt will be a better pick over other tanks. The obvious one is when attacking on Payload maps. This is a moving objective, after all, and Reinhardt is especially well suited to defending his team on the move. In this same vein, maps with Control Points are good for Reinhardt too, since he’s good at blocking the most obvious route into an area and forcing the enemy team to rethink its approach. Conversely, he can help attack into such checkpoints too, allowing his team to slowly march forward into a tightly defended area with relatively safe cover. On top of that, maps with narrow areas, choke points and blockable routes - Temple Of Anubis, King’s Row, Nepal and the like - are also useful situations to put Reinhardt in.
Blocking front assaults is your primary focus, but don't forget to stay aware of the flanks.
Using Reinhardt’s shield properly
So if Reinhardt’s shield is so important, when do you use it? Well, it’d be easy to say always have it up to block attacks, but it’s not as simple as that. The shield works on a charging system and while the shield is active it won’t recharge. It’s not always possible to down tools to regain some lost shield strength, but it’s very important to take breaks in the enemies’ offense to recharge - even if it’s only slightly - that damaged shield strength. This is the most important aspect of playing Reinhardt well, clever shield management. In terms of when to use it, however, you should know that the real benefit to Reinhardt is to enable his allies to poke with relative safety. Holding that shield up will give players the opportunity to take shots at anyone on the other side. Use this to block routes through an area and it’ll force the opposition to either focus fire to destroy your shield or find an alternative way around. And it’s important to remember that last point: because while you might do a fantastic job of holding the frontline, there’s a number of strategies to get around a strong defense on many maps. A good Reinhardt needs to be aware of the match as a whole, not just the immediate problem. Have the numbers of the enemy dwindled? Are your allies behind the shield dying? You need to track everything that’s happening to make your stand secure. Above all else, this shield is mobile so stick with your team and try to get them to stay behind you as your move towards/with an objective.
When - and how - to attack?
While Reinhardt is more than capable of holding his own in a fight - his vast health pool sees to that - know that this isn’t your priority. First keep your team safe, because they’re the ones doing damage. The longer they live, the longer you do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to get stuck in. Reinhardt doesn’t have much range when he does fight, so only consider it once you’re already in the fray. Don’t go looking for a fight.
- Reinhardt’s hammer can do a good amount of damage too, but it is slow - so if you are going to attack an enemy unawares, make sure that first hit is going to connect to make the most of the attack.
- It’s actually got quite a decent range on it. You’ll need to practice with it somewhat to get a feel for that range - there’s no real interactive animation when the weapon strikes - but there’s no need to get too close to an enemy before striking.
- Know who you’re up against: a turreted Bastion will struggle to react, making him perfect for a battering. Genji, however, is agile and can easily dash through - even away - from your assault, and might be better to wait for assistance. He’s mostly melee too, after all, and able to deal more damage.
- This is harder to use effectively since it relies a little more foreplanning than Reinhardt’s other abilities. It takes a little while for the charge to activate and then you have to successfully manage to actually direct it into pinning someone. It’s a case of picking a target and trying to preempt where they might be heading.
- Left/right movement is tighter when charging, so bear that in mind when you’re activating it. Try to keep your predictive route slightly to the left or right of where you think your target will go.
- If you get especially good with this - and that mostly comes down to spotting good opportunities to use it - then try to pick more important targets. Healers are always good, but weaker and so not necessarily the best target. A good Charge can one-hit KO a player, so taking out a Reaper or Soldier 76 is likely more useful since there’s nothing a healer can do to stop that.
- It’s also handy for clearing long stretches of distances quickly to get you into a melee sooner, but this isn’t the abilities primary use. If you’re doing this, try to do it into a capture point, where you’re more likely to also pin an enemy defender too. And never use it like this without the backing of a team.
The Fire Strike
- This is Reinhardt’s only ranged attack. However, over longer distances it’s easy for players to see coming and avoid, so try to limit it to mid-range attacks that are harder to evade.
- It’s also useful if you’re caught in a close-ranged attack. It does a bit more damage than a basic hammer attack and it’ll be harder for the opponent to evade so it’s a safe attack to use. More melees will have enemies strafing around you however (they’ll know your limitations), so you’ll need to target Fire Strike slightly ahead of the direction they’re running in.
- Be careful with the aiming of this ability though. It’ll keep going until it strikes a surface - hitting multiple enemies even - so if you target the ground too much it’ll simply splashed impotently in front of you. Practice aiming with this and you should be good to go.
When to use Reinhardt’s ultimate?
As an ability by itself Reinhardt’s ultimate - Earthshatter - isn’t all that valuable as a kill scorer, emphasising the fact that the heavy tank is more about assisting the team rather than shooting for glory - conversely, perhaps, to the character’s lore and voice lines. But when combined with other ultimates, Earthshatter is - pun intended - a destructive force. The issue comes in its timing. It can be activated pretty quickly, but it’s an initiation ability and not a follow up. It’s up to you to make the calls here, looking for opportunities to make the most of its stunning effect. Once done, others can follow up with their ultimates, comboing particularly well with Zarya, Reaper and, well, pretty much anyone with large group damage. You’ll likely want to use this at objectives where there’s a larger confluence of players to target, the more of a team you can hit with this ultimate the more valuable it will end up. But don’t forget to follow up on it. Let your team-mates know your ultimate is ready, and once it’s done don’t forget to go in swinging, using the time the enemy is downed to deal some damage - and likely a couple of kills. Better still, combo it with your Charge ability, either barrelling into a crowd unexpected to stun them all on the ground or, vice versa, by picking the most valuable target out of the downed opposition and charge them while they’re stationary. Image Credit: Blizzard Entertainment