Zarya’s Role and Responsibility in Ranked Games

The hero – Zarya, is one of the few tanks in Overwatch game. Beside being a tank, you can only use her as an off tank. A decent team should consist of one main tank and one off tank to be called competitive. If you have a team with two off tanks, your team will clearly be at a disadvantage and will usually be outplayed.

Zarya Overwatch - How to Play Zarya

Zarya’s Responsibilities and Positioning

When you play Zarya, your responsibility as an off tank is to:

  • contest the objective with your main tank,
  • stay alive,
  • try to protect your supports from dying,
  • and deal as much damage as you can to the enemy.

Zarya is probably the highest damage dealer among the tanks as when she has full charges of energy, her damage output can go up to 170 damage per second, which is very much comparable to any DPS hero.

Position wise, you should stay behind your main tank and only engage out of your main tank’s shield every once in a while whenever you have self barrier. When enemy team has a flank, you should spend more time and focus more to protect your supports by applying barrier to them when they are engaged and attempt to kill the flanker with your support.

Zarya’s Abilities – When to use them

Let’s briefly go through all her abilities and tips on when and how to use them.

Particle cannon (Primary fire / Left-click)

Zarya’s main weapon’s primary fire, aka your left-click, unleash a beam at 95 DPS (damage per second). The DPS can be further increased by 0.75 for each percentage of energy she gains from her barriers’ abilities.

Zarya Particle Canon

Tips: You should be using her primary fire most of the time in game when your enemy is in range of your beam.

Particle cannon (Secondary fire / Right-click)

Zarya’s secondary fire (right-click ability) shoots an arcing splash projectile that deals 9.4-47 damage (depends on the range which it hits the enemy) and has an area of effect radius of 2 meter. The damage can be further increased by 1% for each percentage of energy gained from her barriers.

Zarya Particle Canon Secondary Fire

Tips: You should be using her secondary fire when the enemy is out of range of your beam, and when there are multiple enemies sticking together. Using her secondary fire is actually better when there are more than 2 enemies in the same area even if the enemies are in range of your beam, as it deals higher overall DPS compared to beam which contributes better to overall damage output of your team.

Particle Barrier (Self barrier / Shift key)

Her particle barrier is a barrier you can apply to yourself which has a health of 200. The damage absorbed by the barrier is gained as energy which increases your particle cannon damage. It gains 1% energy per 5 damage absorbed, which means a fully absorbed barrier could gain a total of 40% energy.

Zarya Self Barrier

Tips: The self barrier usage is very skill and experience dependent. If you are new to Zarya, you would notice that enemy will avoid shooting your barrier when you use it. The purpose is to clearly not allowing you to gain energy. Thus, the timing of applying self barrier is the key to success. In most cases, you use it when you are in the choke point where there are heavy fire power coming from your enemy’s side. The self barrier is also useful to protect yourself from incoming damage which has a delay such as rocket punch which you can hear it a mile away, and some other Ults which have a delay time before damage is applied.

Projected Barrier (Ally barrier / E key)

Zarya’s projected barrier is a barrier you can apply to any of your teammate. It also has 200 health which charges 1% of energy per 5 damage absorbed, similar to that of your self barrier.

Zarya Projected Barrier Ally

Tips: Similar to self barrier, the usage of projected barrier determines how good you are as a Zarya’s player. The projected barrier, in most cases, can be used when your main tank is at the choke point, charging forward or engaging an enemy. You can also use it on aggressive diving DPS heroes such as Doomfist or Genji. In higher ranked games, projected barrier may see plays when used on healers to protect them from deadly hits such as DF’s rocket punch, Genji’s dragon blade, tracer pulse bomb, etc. You can also protect the healers when they are engaged by flankers such as Tracer or Sombra.

Graviton Surge (Ultimate ability / Q key)

Zarya’s ultimate – the Graviton Surge, launches a projected bomb that sucks nearby enemy towards the center of impact.

Tips: In most cases, graviton surge should only be used to combo with other heroes’s ultimates such as Hanzo’s dragon strike or any hero’s ultimate that can deal AOE damage. If there is no one to combo with, you can use it to draw several enemies (preferably their back-line healers) when you have enough energy, and right-click them to death (or hopefully your team have enough damage to clear them off). If the ult catches a main tank with a shield such as Reinhardt while no other teammate has their ults to combo with, the graviton will most likely be useless. In some rare cases, however, you can use it to counter/nullify enemy’s Zarya’s ult by also placing your ult on the enemy team.


Zarya is definitely not easy to use and even more difficult to master her. To be effectively using her, you need to have good tracking skill, aka good aiming, as her primary fire is single target and considered one of the most difficult to hit abilities in Overwatch. Play more to get yourself familiar to when and when not to use her barriers. Communicate with your teammates to time your graviton surge for a successful fight. It takes a significant amount of time to master her compared to other easier heroes such as Dva.

Here are some random POTG of me playing Zarya in ranked games.

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