"Peel" is a simple concept in Overwatch, but it tends to confuse people because they can’t understand what fruit has to do with esports. Here’s a short analogy: imagine you have a terrible peanut allergy, and you’re just going about your day. Suddenly, your mortal enemy springs out from behind a bush and slaps a PB&J sandwich to your face. Realizing the danger, a friend runs over and peels it off your face, saving your life.
Peeling is the process of protecting your vulnerable teammates by removing threats. It’s a fundamental skill that can help counter dive compositions, which we explained last week. When the enemy team dives one target, usually a support, you can help your teammate survive by peeling for them.
There are multiple ways of achieving this; the simplest is to use D.Va’s Defense Matrix or Zarya’s Projected Barrier to block the damage once your teammate is under attack. The enemy will waste their shots and abilities, allowing your teammate to escape or survive—and potentially giving you an opportunity to counter-punch.
In a similar vein, you can also use "boops" (abilities that push enemies back, such as Lúcio’s Soundwave) to peel. If your teammate gets hooked by a Roadhog or is under attack by a Tracer, a boop can be very effective at knocking your opponent off target or pushing them too far away to secure the kill.
Another way to peel is to simply kill the threat.
Dealing with Monkey
D.Va’s Defense Matrix is not going to help against a diving Winston. Instead, boost into him to knock him back, shoot from close range, and use your Micro Missiles for extra damage. This will deal with that pesky Winston before he zaps your healers to death.
Even if you can’t get the kill, damage often can be enough. As a Tracer, you can help peel for others by scouting for threats early on and damaging them before they get too close. Taking a duel to the enemy Tracer and forcing them to use Recall is a great way to peel for your supports.
The purpose of peeling is not just to help your teammates survive. At a high level, peeling is also about making sure your teammates can continue doing their job. For example, peel is used to allow Zenyatta to focus on outputting damage rather than waste time taking a duel. This maximizes your team’s efficiency—and if your opponents were relying on a dead or even just a distracted Zenyatta, their plan will be scuppered.
Alongside D.Va, who can use either damage or her Defense Matrix, a lot of peeling comes from the support duo in most standard compositions: Lúcio can use Soundwave to peel, or damage enemies that attack his partner; Ana has Sleep Darts to neutralize a threat, as well as Biotic Grenades to heal her partners and damage the enemy; and Zenyatta can heal his partner with Harmony Orb while attempting to Discord and kill the threat.
This natural synergy is why supports often operate as a duo, and the best players in the world can have star performances from this underappreciated position.