Of the tanks that make up the Overwatch roster, Zarya is one of the most difficult to play. She has the least amount of health, she has no sustain or escape abilities, and she lacks any form of peel or disruption for team fights. Instead Zarya makes up for these shortcomings with raw damage. Players who want to master this Russian bodybuilder must learn how to manage her barriers to maximize her damage output.
Weapon and Abilities
Zarya’s most important tools are her barriers. These two abilities provide both protection for her team as well as her source for amplifying her damage output. Her first ability is her Particle Barrier. Upon activation Zarya is enveloped in a personal shield which lasts for two seconds and can absorb up to 200 points of damage. Her second ability is her Projected Barrier. This barrier functions exactly the same as the Particle Barrier with the added benefit that the Projected Barrier has an eight second cooldown while the Particle Barrier has a ten second cooldown.
Damage directed at Zarya or her allies while the barriers are active increases the charge of her Particle Cannon. She receives a single point of Energy for every five points of damage taken, up to a maximum of 100. When her Energy is fully built up, Zarya’s Particle Cannon deals its maximum 150 damage per second. You can track how charged the weapon is either by a small counter below your crosshairs or by the increasing width of the beam.
Particle Beam at 0% Charge
Particle Beam at 50% Charge
Particle Beam at 100% Charge
Zarya’s primary weapon is her Particle Cannon which has two fire modes. The primary fire is a straight line of energy that reaches 15 meters and consumes 20 rounds per second. This is her preferred single target damage source as the beam does more pure damage than her secondary fire, and can melt enemies quickly if it is charged.
Her Particle Cannon’s secondary fire is a small explosive charge. The charge consumes 25 of the Cannon’s 100 ammo per shot and can be fired once every second. It has a two meter blast radius and can deal up to a maximum of 95 damage depending on how charged the weapon is.
Zarya’s ultimate is her Graviton Surge. When activated, Zarya fires a small gravity bomb that pulls in all enemies in an eight meter circle and pulls them towards the center. This effect lasts for four seconds and enemies caught by the surge are still capable of using any abilities and escapes at their disposal.
It should be clear that Zarya is more of a support tank rather than a main tank, similar to how Zenyatta is a support healer rather than a main healer. She helps to reinforce the front line, but she can’t hold it all by herself. She is a brawler who excels at keeping herself and allies alive while dealing out a high amount of damage.
The key to mastering Zarya is learning when to use her barriers. It can be tempting to throw out her barriers at the beginning of a fight to build up charge for her weapon, however the long cooldown of these abilities means that throwing them out early on could result in your demise. It’s usually best to err on the side of caution with the barriers and hold them for times when your allies truly need them.
Usually when to shield allies is decided on a case by case basis, but here are a few examples of when to shield allies:
When a flanker is in the middle of the enemy team
When an ally is hooked by Roadhog
When charging into the enemy team (Reinhardt, Winston, D.Va)
Zarya’s projected shields break after taking 200 damage, however any damage that exceeds the 200 does not carry over to the hero. For example, DVa’s self-destruct deals up to 1000 damage to all enemies within its radius. Heroes who are shielded by Zarya’s barriers at the time of the explosion will immediately lose that shield, as the self-destruct’s damage would break it, however the 800 leftover damage would not be applied.
As the charge to Zarya’s Particle Cannon increases the width of the beam increases, making it slightly easier to track enemies with the beam.
Zarya’s Graviton Surge is one of the most powerful ultimates in the game when synergized with other ultimates. Be sure to maintain communication with your allies when playing Zarya and let them know when you will be firing your ultimate. Graviton Surge paired with Genji’s Dragonblade or Junkrat’s Riptire.
Overall Strengths: High damage output compared to the other tanks. Ultimate is one of the easiest abilities to synergize with to eliminate the enemy team. Can provide survivability to her team.
Overall Weaknesses: Lacks any kind of mobility. Charge that amplifies damage decays quickly.
Strong Against: Winston, Zenyatta, Soldier 76
Weak Against: Pharah, Widowmaker, Bastion
Author: Josh “Cardish” Brown
Josh is an Overwatch content creator for the Good Gaming team. He has experience in a multitude of shooters from the quirkier team based Team Fortress to the tactical Counter Strike, providing him with enough insight, and just enough skill, to provide helpful tips and tricks about the game.