Zarya is the 2nd hero from Overwatch who came into the Nexus, following Tracer, who arrived in HotS just before Overwatch.
Even though Tracer gets on my nerves most of the time, she is one of the best additions to Overwatch and in Heroes of the Storm, she is fun thanks to her unique ammo-centered design instead of having traditional mana-empowered spells.
But this is not Tracer’s article, we’re here to talk about Zarya. Like Tracer, she doesn’t spend mana to use her powers either. Zarya uses Energy from her trait to power up her attacks.
Energy Instead Of Mana
Zarya has no energy at the start but her default is 100 energy. Her basic attacks, combined with the Particle Grenade deals increasing damage as her Energy increases. Each 1% increases Zarya’s damage by 2 percent. (At 100, Zarya does 200% bonus damage, which is 3 times her starting damage)
That is why it’s very important to keep and maintain a high amount of Energy – without it, Zarya is about as useful as a chocolate teapot in a fight with any class. But, trying to maintain Energy can be a bit difficult when you can only get it by using Zarya’s shield abilities.
Both Personal Barrier and Shield Ally give Zarya some Energy (like a Red Bull) for damage that Zayra or allied heroes take while the shield is activated. Once Energy is earned, it immediately starts to drain. (Drains by 2.5 energy per second, starting half a second after Zarya last receives Energy)
The amount of Energy that drains can be really bad if Zarya’s shields are not timed well.
A common mistake that people make when playing as Zarya is using both Personal Barrier and Shield Ally at the same time. This can be awful, especially in the early game before completing the quest for Zarya’s level 4 talent, “Give Me Twenty.”
Unless it is really necessary to keep both you and your ally alive, don’t drop both of the shields unless you want to leave you and your ally defenseless for 7 seconds and your very clever & smart team punish you for it by not attacking the shields.
Now, Zarya is handicapped both in the defense and the attack areas and that is really bad.
How To Time The Shields
Rather than using them at the same time, try alternating between Personal Barrier and Shield Ally to get the best result as well as playing alongside a Frontline hero. Zarya is classed as a warrior and has quite a high health pool to match.
Frontline heroes are very ridiculously common so that ain’t that much of a problem. When your frontline engages with the enemy, shield them with Shield Ally. That allows them to get into the middle of the enemy team while taking minimal damage.
The enemy team is forced to react to this and must attack the shields. This gives Zarya lots of energy and allows you to go right into the enemy team. As they turn their focus on you, use Personal Barrier and absorb from dozens to a ton of damage. Now, you should be very close to full power/Energy and still at a lot of health, while the dumb enemy team just spent their cooldowns. This is the time to attack them, and Zarya is well equipped to do massive damage in this situation by just standing still and unloading all the firepower you have.
Another good way to use the 2 shield abilities is for counter engagement. If the enemy team keeps attacking a particular friendly assassin, save Shield Ally for that particular hero. This guarantees you 100% the Energy just as well as the last method. Then, you can step up as Zarya to rain crap-tons of damage on the main enemy.
This forces a reaction either on you to apply some Crowd Control (basically, like cops) or pull back from the fight. Both of these tactics are wins for Zarya during a counter-engagement. If they bother attacking you, you get more Energy from Personal Barrier.
If they retreat, you can call them a wuss and your allied hero is protected, likely able to deal lots of damage to them, and you can possibly secure the kill.
Tips For Energy
Make sure to abuse towers in the early game for some free Energy by walking into their range with Personal Barrier. This allows you to have some free Energy and helps with the Level 1 talent “Maximum Charge.”
Area of Effect spells are also a great source of free Energy. If you see an ally about to get struck by Flamestrike, shield. About to walk into the third Blizzard wave? Shield. All free Energy for you.
You know that very annoying guy on your team dying all the time because they’re not in position? Shield that person (Probably me) and watch the comeback happen, now that you have so much free energy.
Good luck playing as Zarya out in the Nexus! She is a great hero thanks to her jack-of-all-trades nature. If you want to see more about Zarya, such as how to build her check out the Zarya guide we made.
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