Wielding a massive particle beam, Zarya is a versatile tank hero commonly found on professional Overwatch team compositions. Her abilities protect both Zarya herself and her teammates while increasing the damage output of her primary attack, with her unique Ultimate ability rewarding coordinated teamwork.
In Overwatch lore, Aleksandra Zaryanova is a professional Russian athlete and one of the strongest women in the world. At the height of her athletic career she abruptly quit, joining the Russian Defense Forces where she could apply her overwhelming physical strength to protect the people she loves.
She has an intense hatred toward all omnics, which can be oberved in the conversations she has with Zenyatta and Orisa.
Zarya is one of Overwatch’s strongest DPS heroes—assuming she’s fully charged. Part of maintaining her strength relies on absorbing attacks directed at her or her allies. The other part relies just as much on an enemy team recklessly feeding her charge.
Table of Contents
- 1 Strengths & Weaknesses
- 2 Abilities
- 2.1 Base Stats
- 2.2 Main Attack: Particle Cannon (Beam)
- 2.3 Particle Cannon mechanics
- 2.4 How to determine Particle Cannon’s charge
- 2.5 Secondary Attack: Particle Cannon (Explosive Charge)
- 2.6 Explosive Jump
- 2.7 Ability 1: Particle Barrier
- 2.8 Tips for using Particle Barrier
- 2.9 Use Particle Barrier to protect against
- 2.10 Ability 2: Projected Barrier
- 2.11 Tips for using Projected Barrier
- 2.12 Who to use Projected Barrier on
- 2.13 Barriers can block infinite damage
- 2.14 Ultimate: Graviton Surge
- 2.15 Tips for Graviton Surge
- 2.16 Combine Graviton Surge with these abilities
- 2.17 Heroes that can escape Graviton Surge
- 3 General Tips & Strategy
- 4 Specific Map Tips
- 5 Match-ups
- 6 Skins
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Can shield, absorb and negate a wide range of enemy attacks and abilities
- Ultimate ability is perfect for setting up powerful combo attacks with other allies
- Rechargeable shield increases her survivability on the battlefield
- Ultimate ability is mostly useless without a coordinated attack
- Ineffective without a charged gun
- Fragile if caught without a Particle Barrier or teammates to back her up
- Health: 200
- Shields: 200
- Armor: None
Main Attack: Particle Cannon (Beam)
- Description: Zarya projects a beam of energy that deals more damage depending on how much enemy fire she has absorbed
- Damage: 75-150 per second (depends on charge)
- Ammo: 100
- Range: 15 meters
Zarya’s primary attack fires a short-range beam of energy in a straight line. The damage output of her beam is determined by how much charge she has from absorbing enemy attacks with her Particle and Projectile Barrier.
It deals more damage per second than her alternate attack and is ideal for eliminating single targets.
Zarya’s strength is determined by absorbing damage. Since this strength degrades over time (2% of her charge per second), Zarya’s playstyle is more aggressive than most tanks in Overwatch. She’s difficult to stop if she remains in the thick of battle and continuously protects allies while absorbing energy. On the flipside, she’s relatively weak and non-threatening if caught off-guard with 0% charge.
Particle Cannon mechanics
- The strength of Zarya’s gun begins at 0% and maxes at 100%.
- Particle Cannon resets to 0% if Zarya dies.
- Charge increases by 1% for every 5 ranged damage absorbed by her barriers.
- Charge increases by 1% for every 2 melee damage absorbed by her barriers.
- Assuming both barriers absorb 200 ranged damage simultaneously, Zarya will have an 80% charge. Melee damage provides more charge, and will reach 100% charge in the same timespan (provided Zarya can absorb that much melee damage in 2 seconds!)
- Particle Cannon’s charge decreases by 2% per second.
How to determine Particle Cannon’s charge
- Zarya’s crosshair becomes thicker according to her charge, which is tallied directly underneath the crosshair ring with a range of 0-100.
- Zarya’s beam increases in width and can hit enemies more easily.
- Zarya begins to glow with energy (unobservable to the player, but noticeable to everyone else in the match).
- Zarya’s gun becomes noticeably louder.
Secondary Attack: Particle Cannon (Explosive Charge)
- Description: Zarya launches a bundle of charged particles, damaging multiple enemies.
- Damage: 46-95 per second (depends on charge)
- Self-Damage: Up to 50 (depends on charge)
- Ammo: 100 (25 per shot)
- Radius: 2 meter splash damage
Zarya can also lob explosive particle bombs at enemies, giving her more range to attack than her Particle Beam. Each charge flies in an arc and is great for harassing enemies behind cover or clustered together. There’s also a tiny knockback effect, too (something Zarya can actually take advantage of—see below).
For the most part, Zarya’s explosive charges allow her to continue to engage enemies even from a distance. This is helpful for baiting and drawing enemies into her Particle Beam range. It’s also useful for destroying Torbjorn and Symmetra turrets from a distance.
Crafty Zarya players use her secondary attack as a mobile ability to take shortcuts and reach areas Zarya shouldn’t be able to go. For example, on Point A of Numbani, Zarya can “jump” onto the platform behind the payload, then “jump” onto the elevated walkway—bypassing the staircase and hallway altogether.
How does this work? If you launch a particle charge at the ground beneath Zarya, the knockback effect will launch her slightly in the air. This effect is increased if Zarya is moving at the same time. It takes a lot of practice to perform consistently, but could be a valuable asset in your toolkit for future encounters.
Ability 1: Particle Barrier
Zarya covers herself in a personal barrier that’s capable of absorbing all damage directed at her. Absorbed damage charges her Particle Cannon.
- Cooldown: 10 seconds
- Duration: 2 seconds
- Barrier Strength: 200
Zarya’s barriers can absorb damage that would otherwise pass through other shields in Overwatch. This means she can absorb Winston’s Tesla Cannon and Symmetra’s Particle Beam projectiles.
A common mistake made by Zarya players is to immediately use Projectile Barrier whenever they see an enemy. But since it only lasts for 2 seconds, this is enough time for the enemy to create some distance and avoid firing at her. Instead, use Projectile Barrier when you’re already taking damage. Remember, half of Zarya’s health is comprised of a rechargeable shield. Don’t be afraid to soak up some damage before applying a barrier in the heat of battle.
Tips for using Particle Barrier
- Engage enemies before using Particle Barrier. Advanced opponents will know not to fire at Zarya’s barrier, but if you can close the distance and draw their fire first, you can take them by surprise and build up some charge.
- Lucio’s Soundwave and Pharah’s Concussive Blast can’t knockback Zarya while she’s protected by a Particle Barrier. However, Reinhardt can still use Charge against her and Winston can knock her back using Primal Rage.
Use Particle Barrier to protect against
- Junkrat’s Rip-Tire
- Reinhardt’s Charge (use it right before hitting a wall)
- Orisa’s Halt!
- Mei’s Blizzard and Endothermic Blaster
Ability 2: Projected Barrier
Projected Barrier is identical to Particle Barrier, except it allows Zarya to target and shield an ally while collecting any absorbed damage.
- Cooldown: 8 seconds
- Duration: 2 seconds
- Barrier Strength: 200
Projected Barrier allows Zarya to protect individual teammates from a variety of enemy attacks while building charge for her Particle Cannon. The cooldown is 2 seconds less than Particle Barrier, meaning Zarya should be casting a Projected Barrier as often as possible in order to retain her charge.
Tips for using Projected Barrier
- A fundamental sense of each heroes attacks, abilities and reactions is useful for playing Zarya. For instance, if you hear the enemy McCree cast High Noon, you’ll want to protect yourself and your team’s Mercy with a barrier.
- Use Projected Barrier on teammates that dive into the enemy for an increased chance of charging your gun. Doomfist, Genji and Tracer could always use a barrier to help them ward off damage.
Who to use Projected Barrier on
- Any support that’s being attacked.
- Any DPS allies that run into a group of enemies.
- Any ally that is trying to push toward the objective.
- An ally that is hooked by Roadhog.
- An ally that is caught in Reinhardt’s Charge.
- A Doomfist or Winston that dives into the enemy backline.
- A Mercy flying into battle to use Resurrection.
- Allies that are using their ultimate ability in the thick of battle, such as Reaper, Pharrah and McCree.
Barriers can block infinite damage
A very interesting mechanic allows Zarya to protect herself and her team against single attacks that deal more than 200 damage in a single hit. Although Particle and Projected Barriers break after taking 200 damage, if it’s from a single source then the damage won’t carry over after the barrier is broken.
For example, Zarya can survive Tracer’s Pulse Bomb, Junkrat’s Rip-Tire and D.va’s Self-Destruct, all of which deal more than 200 damage.
Sustained attacks, on the other hand, will break her shields and deal damage. Most notably is Reaper’s Death Blossom, which shreds her shields first and continues to deal damage afterward.
Ultimate: Graviton Surge
Zarya fires a projectile gravity bomb that holds enemies in place for a short period of time.
- Damage: 22
- Duration: 4 seconds
- Range: 8 meters
If you’ve read our other hero guides then you’ve probably seen a common thread: Zarya’s Graviton Surge is practically mentioned in each one. That’s because her Ultimate ability is the secret sauce for making almost every attack in the game much more effective.
It’s important to remember that enemies caught in Graviton Surge can still attack and use abilities. Mei can Ice Wall her team to protect them from attacks, Reinhardt, Orisa and Winston can shield their team, and McCree can lineup headshots.
Tips for Graviton Surge
- Make sure your team is ready to followup Graviton Surge with their own attacks. Unless you’re fully charged, you won’t be able to do much damage against a group of enemies by yourself.
- Graviton Surge is one of the slowest charging Ultimate abilities in Overwatch. While you shouldn’t necessarily hang onto your ultimate for too long, you should definitely be on the lookout for an opportune moment to wipe out the enemy Mercy and any other characters.
- Avoid using Graviton Surge against enemies that are contesting your point—especially in Overtime. You’re essentially helping them contest the objective (unless you know you can wipe them all out).
Combine Graviton Surge with these abilities
- Pharah’s Barrage
- Junkrat’s Rip-Tire
- Genji’s Dragonblade
- Hanzo’s Dragonstrike
- Soldier’s Tactical Visor
- Doomfist’s Meteor Strike
- Sombra’s EMP
- Bastion’s Tank Form
- Reaper’s Death Blossom
- Tracer’s Pulse Bomb
Heroes that can escape Graviton Surge
As of July 27, 2017, all mobile abilities are locked when characters are trapped in Graviton Surge. However, there are still 3 heroes that are capable of escaping Graviton Surge:
- Reaper can use Wraith Form to escape Graviton Surge.
- Mei can use Cryo-Freeze to avoid taking any damage for 4 seconds.
- Orisa can use Fortify to escape Graviton Surge.
General Tips & Strategy
Keep an eye on your health. Half of Zarya’s health is comprised of a self-regenerating shield, which recharges 25 HP per second as long as Zarya doesn’t take any damage for 3 seconds. Disengage if your shield is blown and wait for it to recharge before continuing your attack.
Healers and health packs can restore Zarya’s shield.
Playing Zarya for a bit will help you play with Zaryas in the future. Whereas most tanks can initiate a push with a team following behind their shield, Zarya needs allies to jump in front of her, absorbing blows to help charge her Particle Beam. When you see Zarya backing away from the enemy, it means you should jump in front of her.
If you can’t communicate with your team using a mic, then at least callout your Ultimate charge. Most of the time your teammates will be looking for an opportunity to combine their Ultimate attack with yours.
In general, protect your healers from any incoming attacks. Saving Mercy from D.va’s Self-Destruct could change the outcome of the entire match. Saving Tracer, on the other hand, probably won’t make a huge difference.
Try to find predictable ways to absorb damage. Playing against Junkrat is a guaranteed way to charge yourself up to 100%—just step into his grenades with your Particle Barrier. You can also stray comfortably into Torbjorn and Symmetra turrets.
Stay charged as much as possible. Your Projectile Barrier has a shorter cooldown than your personal Particle Barrier. Always look for allies under attack and use them as a way to build your charge.
Many players underestimate the power and utility of Zarya’s secondary attack. At full charge it’s a surprisingly powerful long-range attack. It’s good for zoning, contributing suppressive fire, and wiping out multiple low-health characters at close range.
Zarya’s Particle Cannon doesn’t make headshots. This means you can focus on the easiest part of each character’s body that can be hit.
Specific Map Tips
Zarya performs well on every map and game mode. Whether she needs to hold and capture a point or push a payload, she’s invaluable to any team composition.
As a result, there aren’t any map specific tips to offer at the moment. Just stick with your team and react to enemies accordingly.
Zarya is a well-balanced tank that can survive a variety of enemy attacks and abilities. Her short-range Particle Beam makes her susceptible to long-range attackers, but for the most part she should be surrounded by teammates that can nullify incoming fire.
That being said, she does particularly well against a certain cyborg ninja that can’t deflect her primary attack.
Genji: Genji can’t use Deflect against Zarya’s Particle Beam, making him an especially attractive target to melt whenever he’s nearby. Help your supports by taking him out whenever he’s nearby.
Mei: Mei’s primary attack is ineffective against Zarya’s Particle Barrier. Zarya is able to eliminate Mei as long as she continues to attack her while Particle Barrier is active, and before she’s frozen solid. Even if Zarya is frozen, a single Mei won’t be able to kill her before she thaws.
D.va: Zarya is considered a hard counter to D.va because D.va can’t use Defense Matrix to negate Zarya’s Particle Cannon. At full charge, Zarya can melt D.va’s mech in about 3 seconds, then lob an explosive charge to finish off baby D.va. However, D.va can absorb Graviton Surge with Defense Matrix!
Zarya is countered by
Pharah: More of a nuisance than anything else, Pharah is good at baiting Zarya to use her Particle Barrier even when it’s not an opportune time to do so. Zarya’s low mobility and short-range attacks make it easy for Pharah to harass her from the air without worrying about Zarya retaliating.
Sombra: A single Hack is all it takes to knock out Zarya’s defensive capabilities. With no way to shield herself, her allies, or charge her Particle Cannon, she’s momentarily helpless.
Bastion: Bastion deals enough damage per second that he can shred through Zarya’s barriers and kill her quickly, even if she’s at full charge.
Zarya’s Rare skins are colored variations of her classic skin—a sleeveless armor plated soldier’s uniform.
- Dawn: A white and blue version of Zarya’s armor.
- Midnight: An all-black version of Zarya’s armor, with hints of yellow.
- Frosted*: Zarya’s pink hair is frosted with snow in this winter themed skin. (Winter Wonderland Event)
Credits: 250 (Basic), 750 (Special Event)*
- Arctic: Zarya wears a heavy cloak and snow visor, ideal for the chilly Siberian climes.
- Siberian Front: When Zarya enlisted in the Russian military, she was stationed on the outskirts of Siberia to defend against omnic attacks.
- Cybergoth: Zarya unleashes her inner goth in this 90s raver outfit.
- Industrial: Zarya rocks a black emo haircut with red highlights and casual club goer’s outfit.
- Champion*: Before she joined the military, Zarya was considered one of the strongest women in the world. (Summer Games Event)
- Weightlifter*: Zarya’s personal weightlifting record is 512lbs. She’s ready to do some serious lifting during the Overwatch Summer Games. (Summer Games Event)
- Cyberian*: A cybernetic Zarya, her face is concealed by a futuristic mask that reveals a shock of blue hair. (2017 Anniversary Event)
Credits: 1,000 (Basic), 3,000 (Special Event)*