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Zarya is one of the highest damage-dealing tanks; you can argue that she is more of a “brawler” type of tank instead of being the main tank. One of her notable abilities is her ultimate, which pulls all enemies towards a single point which can inevitably turn the tides of battle if used correctly.
Lastly, she highly depends on purposely getting hit as she has the ability to convert the damage received by her “bubbles” into her energy damage. In this guide, we’ll be discussing her lore, skills, a few beginner tips, synergies and team compositions, and available skins for Zarya.
Childhood and The Unexpected War
Aleksandra Zaryanov was born in Novanskoye, a village in Siberia that happened to be on the front lines during the Omnic Crisis. The Russian forces had already shut down the omnium within their area; however, the conflict had devastated the region before then.
Zarya grew up in post-war destruction, and she swore that she would get stronger to help the people in her village recover. Zarya focused on weightlifting and bodybuilding in which the government identified her as a potential star for the National Athletics Program.
She trained rigorously to represent her country, and everyone expected her to create longstanding records for the upcoming world competitions.
On the evening of the tournament, a dormant Siberian omnium attacked her village, resulting in a war once again. Zarya decided to withdraw from the competition and rushed home to help defend her village by becoming part of the local defense forces.
Zarya gave up her fame and future as a star athlete to become part of the Russian Defense Forces, in which the army deployed her to the Krasnoyarsk front in Siberia. She achieved the rank of Seargent within the Russian Defense Forces, and over the course of her tenure in the army, she destroyed hundreds of omnics.
In Search of The Assassin
Three Talon agents attempted to assassinate Katya Volskaya from the Volskaya industries, so the army summoned Zarya to find where the Talon agents were, specifically Sombra. Initially, Zarya disagreed that the military chose her to go after Sombra and it would have been better off selecting a spy instead.
Still, regardless, Katya and the army sent Zarya on her way. Zarya visited different places such as the Lijiang Tower, Hanamura, and London; however, Zarya tried finding Sombra to no avail. Katya contacted Zarya and said that Zarya should head to Numbani to meet the hacker.
Zarya was uncomfortable with omnics and humans living together in Numbani, and she wasn’t impressed when she discovered that Katya sent her to meet an omnic hacker named Lynx Seventeen. Lynx explained that Sombra has a calling card, the sugar skull, similar to the Los Muertos group.
With this information, Lynx and Zarya headed to Dorado, Mexico, to meet Guillermo Portero, but Portero told them that he couldn’t provide them any help. Desperate, Zarya and Lynx started to knock on all the doors within the vicinity to ask whether any of them had seen Sombra.
To their luck, they manage to persuade a girl named Alejandra to reveal where Sombra is. During their pursuit, Zarya opens up about why she despises omnics which leads to an argument between Lynx and her. Sombra then revealed her presence which ended in a battle between the two.
Zarya won the initial engagement as she incapacitated Sombra with her Graviton Surge. Sombra demanded Zarya let her escape; otherwise, everyone would know Katya’s secret. Katya was receiving technology from the omnic to fight the Siberian omnium. Sombra further explained that she wants Katya in power to help her in exposing the global conspiracy that she discovered.
Sombra forced Zarya to let her go as Lynx fell due to Sombra’s hack. With a minute to spare before the warehouse detonated, Zarya escaped with both Sombra and Lynx. Zarya confronted Katya about the situation. Katya mentioned that Russia would not be able to understand why she would be dealing with the omnics, and it wasn’t the right time to tell the entire country about the “alliance.”
Zarya went back to defend her country from the omnic threats once again. After a series of battles, she meets Cole Cassidy, an ex-Overwatch agent. Cassidy offered her a ride back to her village, Novanskoye. Cassidy dropped her off at Novanskoye, which to her surprise, omnics set ablaze.
Zarya engaged the omnics alone to help the villagers find shelter. Zarya found herself to be at her limits when the omnics swarmed her all at once. Cassidy swooped into action and smashed his truck into the omnics, defeating them in the process. The two found themselves fighting side by side to conquer the rest of the omnics.
After the battle, Zarya reunited with her sisters. At the same time, Zarya professed her most profound gratitude to Cassidy, and he responded by asking Zarya if she’d like to do this more often. With Overwatch, she could make a world of difference rather than fighting with the RDF, which convinced Zarya to accept the proposition.
Damage blocked with Zarya’s Particle, and Projected Barrier increases her Particle Cannon’s damage. This ability is Zarya’s bread and butter; it’s essential to know when to be aggressive with Zarya. She has the most damage potential when it comes to the Tank role, and keeping your energy high throughout the battle is something that comes with experience and in-game knowledge.
Particle Cannon (Primary Fire)
Damage: 75 HP per second (0% Energy charge); 170 HP per second (100% Energy charge)
Max Range: 15 meters
Area of Effect: 0.15 meter beam width
Rate of Fire: 20 rounds per second
Reload Time: 1.5 seconds
Zarya uses her particle cannon to fire off an energy beam that damages enemies. This skill mainly revolves around tracking your opponents, so you should practice your aim when it comes to tracking to use this effectively.
Particle Cannon (Alternative Fire)
Damage: 9.4 – 47 HP on Enemy (0% Energy charge); 19-95 HP on Enemy (100% Energy charge); 4.7 – 23.5 HP on Self (0% Energy charge); 9.5-47.5 HP on Self (100% Energy charge)
Projectile Speed: 25 meters per second
Area of Effect: 2.5 meter radius
Rate of Fire: 1 shot per second
Ammo Usage: 25 rounds per second
Reload Time: 1.5 seconds
Zarya will use the grenade launcher mode of her particle cannon, which does massive damage in a small A.O.E. (area of effect). It would be best if you got used to the trajectory of the grenade launcher since this is what you’ll mostly use to deal damage to the enemies.
Health: 200 Barrier
Area of Effect: 1.5 meter radius
Duration: 2 seconds
Cooldown: 10 seconds
Zarya will protect herself with the particle barrier, absorbing 200 incoming damage and converting it to energy. The most crucial aspect for either the Particle or Projected Barrier is that you need to manage them efficiently to max out your energy quickly.
Health: 200 Barrier
Max Range: 30 meters
Area of Effect: 1.5 meter radius
Duration: 2 seconds
Cooldown: 8 seconds
Zarya will project a Particle Barrier to one of her teammates, protecting them from 200 incoming damage and converting it to energy.
You can use this efficiently on flank D.P.S. heroes like Reaper, Genji, Tracer, Sombra, etc. The enemies will be focusing them down, meaning that you can quickly increase your energy. It would be best if you also tried to incorporate awareness when using this skill for your supports when they are getting flanked. For your convenience, we’ll be calling this and self barrier as “Bubbles.”
Damage: 5 H.P. upon impact; 5 up to 18.72 HP per second D.O.T. (Damage Over Time)
Projectile Speed: 25 meters per second
Area of Effect: 6 meter radius
Duration: 4 seconds
Ultimate Cost: 2100 points
Zarya will release a projectile, similar to her alternate fire for her Particle Cannon, which pulls enemies to where the projectile lands for four seconds. This ability can instantly turn the tide of battle if used effectively.
Beginner Tips That You Should Know If You Want To Main Zarya
Zarya is a high-tier hero that takes a lot of practice and patience to use in competitive games effectively. Let’s take a look at some of the tips that helped me become better at the hero.
Use your “Bubbles” smartly
If you bubble yourself or your allies too early, the enemy team will instantly rush you down and kill you or your allies. Instead of panicking and immediately casting a bubble, try to delay the bubble usage as much as you can, and only use them when you or your teammate is taking damage.
Not only will this help you rack up your energy meter faster, but you will also be able to protect yourself or your allies from lethal fire. Take this instance, for example, if a Genji player dives your support, and you panic and cast bubble way too early, then the Genji will be able to finish off your supports if you aren’t able to help them take out the Genji.
These subtle things separate the great Zarya players from good ones. For more reference with this tip, I suggest watching Washington Justice’s Decay, as he will be able to show you how disciplined you should be when it comes to managing your bubbles.
Use your alternative fire often
Have you ever noticed why the enemy team’s Zarya gets her ultimate a lot faster than you can? It’s because they are utilizing their right-clicks more often than you. Using your right-click on an enemy will lift them in the air for a bit in which you can easily track them with your primary fire.
Utilizing the primary fire and the alternate fire in an alternating sense during 1v1 duels will increase your output damage, much like how Winston alternates between his Tesla Canon and melee attack. One more thing that you can establish here is that you can use rocket jumping to get back to the battle as fast as possible; this is accomplished by aiming at your feet and using your alternate fire to boost your speed.
One thing that you should remember before using this technique is that you should get a health pack afterward or have support heal you from the damage.
Learn how to position yourself during the battle properly
Same as D.P.S. heroes, you should prioritize getting a good position during the team fight. One example of this is in a classic Reinhardt and Zarya composition wherein, as Zarya, you should always stay behind Reinhardt’s shield due to Zarya not being able to withstand all of the pressure from the enemy with just a single bubble.
You should always be wary of your Reinhardt and bubble him if the enemies are focusing on him, and once the bubble has expired, you can take the front line for a few seconds and bubble yourself to build up your energy meter quickly.
At full charge, you can take on any D.P.S. comfortably as long as you have a self bubble available; however, Reaper and Bastions are the only exceptions to these. Also, once you have the full charge, I would highly recommend you contest the high ground for your team as this will enable your D.P.S. further, and you will be able to easily lob your grenades easily.
Communicate with your teammates, even though you are on solo queue
This ability is a must in Overwatch, but if you want to excel on Zarya, you have to properly communicate with your other tank so that they will be able to be as aggressive as they can whenever you bubble them.
If you’re using other heroes, you most likely won’t notice a Zarya bubble on you unless you’re paying close attention to it, but a good Zarya will always tell you that they can bubble you or that they applied bubble on you. Enabling communication will let you charge up your energy meter faster, and also, your teammates will be aware of Zarya’s cooldowns which is essential to track during team fights.
Know when to use your Graviton Surge correctly
D.va and Sigma can “eat” your Graviton Surge, rendering it useless. I highly recommend using Graviton Surge when D.va does not have her Defense Matrix skill or when Sigma has already used his Kinetic Grasp ability. Another thing to note is that you can try chipping down a Reinhardt’s shield prior to using your Graviton Surge; this is to ensure that the enemies within the “grav” could not be protected by Reinhardt.
Synergies, Team Compositions, and Counters to Zarya
Similar to Ashe, Zarya works well on every team composition; however, some heroes synergize well with her. Let’s take a deeper look into those heroes and what they can offer in conjunction with Zarya’s skill set.
Heroes that Synergize With Zarya
- Ana– Ana’s nano boost coupled with a full-charged Zarya instantly grants her so much damage potential. Not to mention the combination of Zarya’s Graviton Surge and Ana’s Biotic Grenade, which will render enemy heroes unable to regain HP for a few seconds, is such as devastating combo.
- Brigitte– Brigitte is a melee support that can heal you if she hits an enemy. Since Zarya is a short-medium ranged aggressive tank, they complement well in being aggressive. Zarya can provide her bubbles to Brigitte if she decides to engage with an enemy.
- Mei– Mei can provide natural cover for a few seconds with her ice wall, meaning that Zarya can play around with that wall and kite enemies with it. Lastly, Mei’s ult synergizes well with Zarya as she can freeze everyone within the Graviton Surge, earning possibly a team kill for you.
- Reaper– Reaper-Zarya is a current meta in Overwatch 2 right now. There are a few teams running this duo since Reaper can go in aggressive with a Zarya bubble, and while Reaper is using his ult, Zarya can provide Reaper protection from CCs (Crowd Control like sleep dart).
- Reinhardt– A classic duo since the early days of Overwatch. Rein-Zarya comps can quickly destroy the frontline of the enemy team if they aren’t running the same heroes. A Zarya bubble can help Reinhardt get in a few more swings with his Rocket Hammer, thus providing a faster shatter for your Reinhardt.
- Winston– Similar to Reaper, Winston can dive into the backline and get CC protection from Zarya’s bubbles. This tactic will also allow Zarya to quickly build up her energy meter because the enemy team focuses on Winston to get off their backline.
Heroes that Counter Zarya
- Zenyatta– Zenyatta’s firepower as a support will instantly destroy Zarya’s bubble and not to mention other D.P.S. firing at Zarya. They can easily overwhelm Zarya if unprepared. Lastly, Zen’s ultimate ability heals the entire team, so your Graviton Surge and the damage will all be negated by that point.
- Reaper– Reaper can easily duel Zarya in a 1v1 due to his ability to heal himself for every damage that he deals. Even a fully charged Zarya will have a hard time dealing with a good Reaper up close.
- Sombra– Sombra can hack Zarya, making her lose the ability to bubble herself or bubble. Sombra’s hack can even remove Zarya’s shield HP, which basically halves her total HP. Be very wary of Sombra’s hack and EMP as well.
- Pharah– Pharah is annoying to deal with unless you’re a hitscan or a sniper hero. As for Zarya, since you utilize mostly short-medium range battles, you can not hit Pharah unless she gets closer to the ground. Pharah can easily kite you while she’s on-air, and that spells trouble for you as you have no mobility skills.
Overwatch 2 Changes
With the recent beta of Overwatch 2 over, a lot of heroes got reworked to fit the 5v5 team composition. One of the heroes affected by the reworks is Zarya.
Zarya now has two charges of bubbles in Overwatch 2, which she can either apply both to herself or both to her teammates. This change allows Zarya to increase her or her teammates’ sustainability during the team fight. This rework also adds a lot of layers tactically speaking, further separating the great Zarya players.
- Classic (Default)
- Brick (Rare)
- Goldenrod (Rare)
- Taiga (Rare)
- Violet (Rare)
- Dawn (Epic)
- Midnight (Epic)
- Frosted (Epic: Winter Wonderland)
- Racer (Epic: Archives)
- Barbarian (Legendary)
- Arctic (Legendary)
- Siberian Front (Legendary)
- Cybergoth (Legendary)
- Industrial (Legendary)
- Cyberian (Legendary: Overwatch Anniversary)
- Champion (Legendary: Summer Games)
- Weightlifter (Legendary: Summer Games)
- Totally 80’s (Legendary: Halloween Terror)
- Xuanwu (Legendary: Lunar New Year)
Question: How Do You Use Zarya Effectively?
Answer: Being able to use Zarya effectively means utilizing your bubbles to the fullest, and you get a great value out of every bubble that you cast either onto yourself or onto your teammate. You need to know the ins and outs of the entire Overwatch game to use her effectively. Keep practicing Zarya on quick play before moving onto the competitive queue if you want to rank high.
Question: Can You Use Zarya As A One-Trick Hero On Competitive Games?
Answer: Yes, Zarya can definitely carry you on competitive games down from the low ranks to the high ranks. She can function as a D.P.S. if your teammates are doing poorly and can function as a flank to kill off supports herself. I would highly recommend you watch your VODS or replays in your Overwatch matches as Zarya and try to check where you went wrong and what you would have done to mitigate the consequences of your teammates’ actions, etc. The thing with Overwatch on solo queue is that you can play as perfectly as you can, but your teammates are bound to make mistakes, and it’s up to you to try and do something about their actions.
Question: Can Zarya Counter A Reinhardt?
Answer: Zarya can definitely counter a Reinhardt on a 1v1 duel, assuming Zarya has a bubble for herself. As long as Zarya stays clear of fire strike and Reinhardt’s charge, you can easily beat Reinhardt. If the Reinhardt has Earthshatter available (assuming that you’ve been tracking ultimates), remember to react accordingly once you hear him scream “Hammer Down.” and bubble yourself as this will protect you from the stun and the damage of Earthshatter.
Zarya Overwatch: Conclusion
Zarya is a fun and easy-to-pick-up tank in Overwatch; however, she has a lot of nuances that only great Zarya players can utilize. It would be best always to remember to use your bubbles conservatively and efficiently, which means that you can get a great value from your bubbles.