Overwatch – Mastering Zarya, The Most Underrated Tank

Overwatch – Mastering Zarya, The Most Underrated Tank

Overwatch is filled with interesting heroes, most of which have unique game mechanics. Learning the ways of each hero can dramatically improve general play, as well as enjoyment. Zarya is perhaps the most flexible and diverse hero in the game. The following is a short guide to how she works and in which composition she can flourish in.


Skill & Info breakdown:

Particle Cannon -


Ammo: 100

Reload time: 1.5 seconds

Range: 15 meters

Damage: Basic 80- scales to 160

Her weapon fires a constant beam of energy via the primary fire.

Head shots can not be achieved with her weapon

Secondary fire acts more like a grenade launcher.


Particle Barrier -


Duration: 2 seconds

Cooldown: 10 seconds

Shield Strength: 200

blocks ALL types of incoming damage.


Projected Barrier -


Duration: 2 seconds

Cooldown: 8 seconds

shield Strength: 400

blocks ALL types of incoming damage.



Ultimate – Graviton Surge


Duration: 4 seconds

Damage: 22

Range of Surge: 8 meters (can be affected by environment)


Vital information:

Zarya has the smallest health pool of all the other tanks.

While her barrier skills may have damage limits, they do not allow for additional damage to carry over e.g. they will absorb a hit of 450 without the player taking the additional 50 points of damage.




Supporting those around you:

At the heart of Zarya’s mechanics are her two primary skills, both of which shield herself and allies. Don’t expect to tank damage from the likes of Bastion or a turret, that’s not what the shield is there for.

Each shield has a short duration, using every second of the shield is vital. When ever Zarya or a lly is shield, any damage they would take is converted into a buff for Zarya’s primary weapon. Her gun’s power increases with the more damage a shield absorbs, hitting 160+ damage when at 100%.


Making use of this mechanic is vital to playing Zarya effectively.

Her Shields are short in duration and its cool down means it should be used wisely. There’s a temptation to shield up and blindly push forward, resit this temptation for the good of the team.


Zarya can be broken down into three phases:


  1. Weakened – Her main weakness is found in her early stages. Low HP (for a tank), low damage and heavy cool downs make Zarya very weak to begin with 
  2. Shield Maiden – her second phase is the most important. Shielding herself, and allies, when taking damage is key to success. The more damage taken, the more powerful her gun becomes. 
  3. Game Changer – Make no doubt about it, at 100% charge, Zarya can change a game. The immense power and flexibility of her weapon is brilliant. The beam burns through nearly every other hero. Her secondary attack can pile pressure onto defending teams. Combine those attacks with her ultimate and it’s glorious. 

Buffing her gun:

As previously mentioned, Zarya’s gun is buffed by damaged absorbed by her shields. There’s a few situations to look out for which can quickly buff her weapon. Deployed Bastions are pretty much free weapon damage. Pop out of cover, wait for the initial damage the bubble. Bastion’s incredibility fast attack will provide a huge buff to Zarya’s weapon.


There’s a number of ways to monitor her guns power. The numbers between her cross-hairs display the current power, as does the ball of energy on her weapon. Close ranged heroes also provide easy ways to quickly buff Zarya’s damage. Reaper, McGree, Roadhog, Winston, D.VA and Genji are all fair game.


Who Do I Shield?

This is mostly dependant on the situation. As a general rule, shielding supports and other tanks is normally the best way forward. Support heroes will also attract the attention of the enemies, as well as tanks.

Allies who are about to take the full force of a ultimate attack are also worth shield, even if it might not keep them alive. It’ll buff Zarya’s gun while giving the ally a better chance of survival.



Her ultimate does no damage, what am I supposed to do with it?

While her Graviton Surge may not inflict a huge amount of damage, it does set up attacks. Zarya’s ultimate drags players into the surge, leaving them trapped in place. This sets up other heroes to use their ultimate skill.

The Graviton Surge is the perfect set up for the likes of D.va, Tracer, Reaper, Junkrat, Pharah, Hanzo and Bastion. Reinhardt’s basic melee attacks also work well, along with Symmetra’s charged orb.

Zarya’s ultimate is still viable as a solo skill, as long as her gun is charged. Pinning down enemies via her ult allows her to pile on the damage with her secondary attack. When at 100%, the damage output is immense.

There are a few characters that can escape the surge. Tracer, D.VA and Widowmaker can escape the draw of the surge via their mobility skills. Reinhardt, Mei and Winston can protect those within the surge via their shield/wall abilities.


Roadhog can also be a problem, but only when his ultimate is up.



The following Heroes can act as Zarya’s main counters:

Widowmaker – Given Zarya’s low health and bulky nature, she’s fair game for a decent Widowmaker. It’s hard to barrier against her damage given how unpredictable sniping patterns tend to be.

Bastion – Zarya is large and slow. Bastion (in turret mode) can melt her barriers, as well as Zarya herself. Use charged shots against deployed Bastion’s to force them to reposition.

Pharah – With a rather short range on her weapon, Zarya struggles to hit a Pharah in full flight. Rockets will burn through barriers, rocket barrages are even more deadly. It’s best to just try and find cover, avoid fighting if possible.


Who does Zarya counter?

In all honesty, she does not struggle against most heroes. Mei’s ice gun can be blocked by a barrier, rendering her pretty much useless for a few seconds.

Lucio can’t take Zarya’s damage, even at a basic level. He’ll shrivle up and die after a few seconds of pure damage. The same can be said about Zenyatta, even more so with a small bit of buffed damage.

D.VA and Genji are both pretty easy to kill as Zarya. Genji can not deflect her weapon, nor can D.VA block it via her defence matrix.


Which composition does Zarya work best in?

If you can get a team of players using voice communications, Zarya and Mercy is a wonderful combination. They can essential support each other, developing into a wrecking ball as the game goes on.

Zarya also works well with a two tank team, especially with the likes of Winston, D.VA and Roadhog. Shielding a second tank is a great way to boost Zarya’s weapon damage.


The real key to Zarya, and Overwatch in general, is just to have fun. If her mechanics don’t suit your style or play, there’s nothing wrong with not playing her. Enjoy the game first and foremost!


I have often play Zarya over at https://www.twitch.tv/linko64/ if you’re curious to see how she plays or have any questions.

[plumwd_twitch_stream channel=linko64 height=400 width=600]




Sean Halliday


  1. TorpeAlex
    May 27, 2016, 10:47 pm

    If you’re going to embed an autoplaying Twitch stream, maybe tone down the C-bombs that popped off before I could find where they were coming from? Really not cool.

    • pixelgate
      May 27, 2016, 11:02 pm

      Very sorry, genuinely forgot the twitch player was there. I assumed it would have the mature content agreement before it played as it does with the Twitch page itself. My bad! Just throw a message in chat next time, very sorry again for my dirty northern mouth ^^

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