Hello everyone, and welcome to my Zarya guide. I am a masters Zarya main with an 80% winrate with her across 100+ games.
Zarya is not your standard warrior. Unlike most other warriors she has no mobility, engage or tankiness to serve for the team as a solo frontliner. Instead she is the ultimate jack of all trades, because her kit allows her to be half a tank, half a damage dealer and half a support. With this, the numbers she can bring to the table when played right can be absolutely mindboggling. Getting the highest hero damage or siege is not an exception, but should happen fairly frequently. I usually joke that she should be classified as an immobile ranged melee assassin tank support, but truthfully that statement is a lot closer to reality than calling her a warrior.
With that out of the way, let’s go through the basics: her abilities and how to use them. (taken from the HOTS gamepedia with some adjustments for current patch)
Each time Zarya’s Personal Barrier or Shield Ally absorbs 22 (11 + 4% per level) damage, her Energy is increased by 1. Each point of Energy increases Zarya’s damage by 2%. After 0.5 seconds, Energy decays by 2.5 per second.
The bread and butter of Zarya, keeping your energy at high levels is one of the most important things to do as a Zarya. With a maximum level energy at 100 without talents, you can increase your basedamages by 200%. Where you would deal 100 damage with no energy you would deal 300 damage with full energy. With a single use of both your shields (untalented) you are able to get up to ~97% energy in one go. This means you can get to almost full energy by using them correctly. Her energy decays at a rate of 2.5 energy per second, which is a quarter of her energy per 10 seconds (the cooldown of her own shield). Getting full shield value every 20 seconds is enough to keep your energy at the same level.
How to keep your energy at a high level.
Not going into talents, you have 2 abilities to increase your energy: your self shield and your ally shield.
W: Personal Barrier Cooldown: 10 seconds
Gain a shield that absorbs 1228 (583 + 4% per level) damage for 3 seconds.
E: Shield Ally Cooldown: 12 seconds
Grants an allied Hero a shield that absorbs 921 (437 + 4% per level) damage for 3 seconds.
Even though your two shield abilities are very similar, there are a few differences between the two.
- Your self shield is a bit bigger than your ally shield.
- Your self shield has a 2 second lower cooldown than your ally shield.
- Obviously you can’t cast shield ally on yourself and vice versa.
- You are not able to control the movements of an ally you shield.
- your shield ally is your only non-heroic ability way to help your teammates.
Your self shield is therefore a stronger ability than your shield ally, this makes Zarya innately selfish by not being able to shield multiple allies and being better than defending herself. Using these shields effectively is essential to playing Zarya. A Zarya with energy is like a big Siberian bear. A zarya without energy is like a weak little kitten in comparison.
The last two points are especially important. Take a look at this clip. Even though you could say I used this shield correctly (see next topic), I did not account for kael’thas
not being a dumbass to stay away from the skillshot with a shield on him. This mistake now leaves me in a bad spot if we get engaged on for 12 full seconds. It is your only way to punish enemies for trying to engage your allies.
A shield is only active for 3 seconds.
Although this may seem a lot at first, do realize that unless they are about to get hit by a strong spell or under decently heavy fire the shield won’t be broken through. So how can you see that someone (or you) is about to take such a large amount of damage? A lot comes down to experience, but you can learn this very quickly by identifying a few things.
Firstly, does the hero (or heroes) right now in your vicinity have certain bursty spells? Characters like Li Ming, Kael’thas and Valla have very projected abilities and/or when they are going to use them. These abilities hit hard and grant a ton of energy when shielded. Most of all, you usually don’t have react to the spells themselves, but you can roughly guess when they are going to use these spells. Almost never do I run into people that actually hold their abilities before the shieldduration is already halfway through. Being half a second early is much better than being half a second late in most scenario’s.
Secondly, does the hero (or heroes) have a cc ability? If they have cc abilities like Muradin, Tyrande or ETC shielding their target is a bit different. In those cases it doesn’t really matter if you are half a second late shielding because if you shield too early they just wait out your shield and then they engage. Leaving you with no possible way to save the target. Instead shield the target when you are absolutely sure the cc ability is casted. Shielding the initial hit is not important but the follow up damage is.
Lastly, if your opponents are not currently pressuring you with the possibility of hitting the two examples above, look for a way to soak damage with a shield another way. Examples of this are merc camps, minions and most importantly towers, even taking the stun from the boss is not out of the question. Do however make sure you’re not getting caught out while doing any of these, because even though you just got energy you are not able to take focus fire from 3 people without your shield.
One last tip before we move on: Even though I just said you should be careful not to waste your shields, you should still aim to use your shields as often as possible, but keeping the previous tips in mind. A missed shield is not the end of the world, but it could lead to your death if they lock you down. As long as you can get out after it is safe to use a shield!
Q: Particle Grenade Cooldown: 8 seconds Up to 4 charges
Launch a particle grenade that deals 156 (74 + 4% per level) damage to enemies within the area. Deals 50% damage to Structures.
This ability starts hurting like a truck once you have sufficient energy. Using it before you have energy is usually a waste as it takes 32(!) seconds before you get all 4 charges back. Using this while autoattacking will slightly increase your damage, making it not worthwhile to use in autoattack range unless you need the extra burst (or having taken the Q build). Instead you should opt to use it to poke enemies or kill enemies that are fleeing. The cast animation is very short and range enormous, making it perfect for chasing enemies as long as they are in range of your Q. Using it to clear the wave is fine, but using you autoattack on multiple minions usually gets the job done just as well. Remember that if you are out of Q charges you have to stand still to do any damage at all. So if you’re safe you should opt to use you auto attack instead. Before we will go over her heroics we will first talk about her playstyle and how to use her in teamfights.
Zarya’s playstyle, teamfights and when to pick her
Zarya’s autoattacks are very different from most heroes. You will target an enemy just like normal, but you will stand still and attack everything in a line towards the target. So unlike other heroes you will want to aim it so it hits the most people. Your autoattack also has a small windup time, making switching targets very inefficient. In every fight you will continuously have to make a decision whether you need to reposition or to keep auto’ing. Your main job in a teamfight will thus be to deal as much damage as possible whilst keeping yourself safe and looking for a good opportunity to unleash your ultimate. You are not supposed to peel for your teammates all the time, a part of her frontline capabilities come from being such an enormous threat that they can’t just run past you. Only you ultimates have cc!!!
I have seen it before, and it is a terrible thing to do: Don’t put Zarya in a solo lane, she is a very bad solo laner but probably one of the strongest duo lanes if you couple her with any support. The whole game you should be with your team unless you are just going to a side lane to soak a bit of xp before returning to them. Being alone means you are not able to use your E ability at all, and your potential to shoot up in energy is halved.
Zarya is universally strong when coupled with other heroes, but she is bad at doing things on her own. So if you want to play Zarya, the optimal time is when you already have a bit of everything.
-A solo laner -A support -A warrior -An assassin
There are ofcourse exceptions to this, but Zarya is always going to work if you have a team like that. There aren’t any heroes that truly counter her, although a cc train can be especially devastating to her (although this applies to virtually all heroes, Zarya has no escapes). There are however various heroes that synergies well with Zarya. Auriel never runs out of energy due to the sheer amount of energy Zarya provides, all in heroes like Kerrigan makes it easy for Zarya to get energy whilst becoming more tanky. Back line damage dealers are also very good due to the zone control of Zarya’s ultimates and them less becoming the focus due to Zarya’s own damage. There is one particular case where there is anti-synergy though, and that is Medivh. A friendly Medivh literally negates your energy income due to them both contesting for shield value. Unless insane synergy this is not advised.
Quest: For every 5 enemy Heroes hit by Particle Grenade, its recharge rate lowers by 0.5 seconds, up to 4 seconds. Reward: Once Particle Grenade has hit 40 enemy Heroes, its radius is increased by 15%.
Together We Are Strong
Every 22 (11 + 4% per level) damage done by allies while under Shield Ally contributes 1 Energy, up to 25 Energy per shield.
Feel the Heat
Zarya’s Basic Attack deals 50% additional damage to enemies in melee range.
Regen Globes now instantly grant 20 Energy.Quest: Spend 150 seconds at or above 50 Energy.Reward: Gain an additional 20 maximum Energy.
All 4 talents in this tier are viable, but Together we are strong is usually a bit weaker than the rest. The reason for Together we are strong not being as strong is for that talent to do anything at all the shield shouldn’t break, While you want to break the shield for more energy and shield value. On top of that, it doesn’t increase your damage if you’re at higher energy levels, which the others do. However, it does make you able to get energy where you otherwise couldn’t. Taking one of these energy gain talents can be okay if the map or teamcomp or enemy team comp don’t let you charge your energy as much as you would have liked. Battle of eternity for example it is a viable talent. Taking multiple of these energy gain talents however is bad, you waste all the energy you can’t get over 100!
To make a good choice on which of the other talents to take if you didn’t take Together we are strong just there, you have to know when to pick each of the other ones. Demolition Expert can basically up your ranged Q damage by up to 100% due to reducing the cooldown by half. Go for this talent when you’re not going to auto attack much in teamfights due to them having a lot of heroes that keep their distance. Also a viable option if they have many blinds/evades so you can still hit them.
Feel the heat is the exact opposite, if they are going to go ham and keep clumping up you take this. Muradin, samuro, Kerrigan comps and the like. Remember that feel the heat increases your base damage, so it will scale of your energy. Feel the heat makes you deal one of highest amount of damage in the game.
Maximum charge is somewhere in between; This is the talent to pick in a lot of cases, as usually teams don’t have an all-in team or a team that stays back, but something in between. But that is not the reason to pick this talent, as the hidden value of this talent comes from the synergy in later talents. Get this talent if they have a lot of ways to interrupt you from dealing damage i.e. cc or a lot of aoe burst.
I Am the Strongest Personal Barrier absorbs an additional 307 (146 + 4% per level) damage.
Give Me Twenty Quest: Regeneration Globes increase Shield Ally absorb amount by 15, up to 300 permanently. Reward: After collecting 20 Regen Globes, permanently reduce the cooldown of Shield Ally by 3 seconds.
Speed Barrier Shield Ally increases the allied Hero’s Movement Speed by 35% for the duration.
Defensive Shielding Upon expiration or breaking, Personal Barrier and Shield Ally reduce the damage of the next 2 Hero Basic Attacks within 12 seconds by 75%.
Tier 2 has again 3 viable talents, the speed barrier talent is just simply not worth it because even though it could help a teammate engage, give me twenty is simply better. Give me Twenty is the talent to take instead if you want to help out your teammates more. Only take this talent if you are confident you are not the ones they are going to focus in fights. Because this talent is only getting value as long as you are not dead.
I am the strongest is a surprisingly strong talent due to it helping you get more energy whilst helping you survive. This makes Zarya happy because a healthy Zarya can go more ham to deal more damage. A solid talent as long as it is not overshadowed by Defensive shielding.
Even though Defensive shielding doesn’t help you get more energy like the other 2 talents, it creates immense value by making auto attackers deal much less damage to you and an ally of your choice when using shields. Take note this is an 75% auto attack deduction, twice, on 2 abilities, every ~10 seconds. Usually the pick as long as they don’t have ways to cheaply get rid of the block charges (zarya/tychus).
Pinpoint Accuracy Particle Grenade deals 40% more damage to enemies hit by the center of the blast.
Explosive Barrier Upon expiration or breaking, Personal Barrier explodes, dealing 220 (104 + 4% per level) damage to nearby enemies.
To the Limit While above 50 Energy your Basic Attack size is increased by 35%.
Hit Me Damage absorbed by Zarya’s Shields contributes 20% more Energy.
The only talent I don’t like in this tier is Hit Me. Getting 20% more energy does again nothing for you if you are full energy. Most of the time this is just a crutch if you have problems hitting the shields. It’s however a viable talent if you are struggling to get energy (and you didn’t take together we are strong lvl 1).
Pinpoint Accuracy should be an autopick if you have taken Q talent lvl 1. It deals an absolutely godforsaken amount of damage if you hit the Q right. Chunking squishing for a quarter of their hp is one of the best feelings. Also pushes the waves faster. This talent also works well with Maximum Charge taken at lvl 1, giving you that burst you need if Explosive Barrier or To the limit aren’t the talents to take.
Explosive barrier should be the pick if you have taken feel the heat lvl 1. They clump up, they go boom. The damage from this talent scales with your energy, making it hit like a truck since they just destroyed your shield for full energy gain.
To the limit is a very peculiar talent to take, you should take it if they mostly ignore you and try to run past you. The attack size increase if significant, making hitting multiple enemies very easy and you will even be able to hit people outside of your range due to it spreading farther. Makes you able to hit multiple structures at once.
Graviton Surge Cooldown: 100 seconds
Launch a gravity bomb that detonates after 1 second and draws enemy Heroes toward the center for 2.5 seconds.
Expulsion Zone Cooldown: 45 seconds
Launch a gravity bomb that deals 272 (129 + 4% per level) damage and creates an expulsion zone for 3.5 seconds. Enemies who enter the affected area are knocked back and have their Movement Speed reduced by 50% for 1 second.
Both heroics are viable, but expulsion zone is in most cases better. Expulsion zone has half the cooldown of graviton surge, and instead of dealing no damage it deals a lot of damage. The difference being that instead of being pulled into one place you make it impossible to stand in that place whilst knocking them back. If your aoe in your team is so grand it outweighs these benefits, you can go for graviton surge (your Q build, kael’thas, nova nuke…). One last thing before you decide to take graviton surge: Graviton surge isn’t a root, heroes with mobility can just jump out.
Using gravity surge is trying to catch as many people as possible in the ult when the teamfight starts then using massive aoe and killing them. Expulsion zone has more uses though, you can stop them from running by closing of their escape route, you can peel for you backline by placing this on them like a holy ground from tyrael, you can use it to split their team and eviscerate their frontline without their backline able to do anything, or you can use it to safely capping a boss, it conveniently exactly being big enough to lock it off for anyone but your team.
Personal Barrier makes you Unstoppable for up to 2 seconds.
Upon expiration or breaking, Personal Barrier grants a Spell Shield that reduces Ability Damage taken by 75% for 3 seconds.
While at or above 75 Energy, Zarya gains Resistant, reducing all damage taken by 25%.
Pain is Temporary Cooldown: 30 seconds
Activate to consume all Energy and gain a shield that absorbs 0.5% of Zarya’s maximum Health per Energy consumed and lasts for 3 seconds. Zarya may only have one personal shield active on herself at a time.
All of these talents are viable, but Endurance training or Pain is temporary are usually the pick. Endurance training is amazing if you are not under direct threat of getting blown up, besides giving you less damage taken, you could also read it as granting increased healing and personal shield value, if you are at or above 75 energy of course.
Pain is temporary is the ultimate fuck you to teams that want to focus you down, but are not using that much ability damage. The more energy you have the stronger it is. At 100 energy it becomes a 50% max hp shield that also grants you back you energy you just consumed. The maximum charge lvl 1 talent increases this even further to 60% max hp at full energy.
If they try to burst you in one go with a lot of ability damage you take spell barrier instead, 75% dmg reduction from abilities is nothing to sneeze at, especially for 3 seconds. It however does nothing to auto attacks, so don’t take this versus heroes like valla.
Unstoppable competitor is when you just get cc’ed to death and you just can’t manage to escape it every time you get hit by just one cc. Pain is temporary is usually still the better pick because it actually grants health (you can bait so many people with the talent), but it is very effective if they rely on the cc to snowball. Also a good pick on maps where the maps innately have cc i.e. Battle of Eternity.
Particle Grenade slows Movement Speed by 35% for 1.5 second to enemies near the center.
Shield Ally removes all disabling effects and reduces its cooldown by 2 seconds.
Shield Ally now grants an untalented shield to a nearby ally upon impact.
Born in Battle
While at or above 75 Energy, Zarya’s cooldowns regenerate 25% faster.
Again these are all viable talents. You take either Gain Train or Cleansing shield if protecting your allies has become your job. Cleansing shield if they try to isolate people with cc, gain train if they throw out a lot of aoe or if you have trouble getting energy.
The decision between taking plasma shock or born in battle only happens when you have taken Q build. At this point in the game you should have noticed whether you need your shields up more often or want the utility in the slow. The slow makes it much easier to land multiple center Q’s in a row, and born in battle gives you a lower cooldown between Q’s. The cdr on shields and ult is a very hefty bonus on top.
If you haven’t taken Q build, and your allies are not the focus of the fight, born in battle is amazing value. You probably take this talent in most of your games.
Increases Graviton Surge’s duration by 1 second and causes it to deal 307 (146 + 4% per level) damage over the duration.
Increases Expulsion Zone’s radius by 15% and Zarya’s maximum Energy temporarily increases by 10 per enemy Hero hit for 10 seconds.
All Particle Grenade charges are returned at once.
Unyielding Defender Cooldown: 45 seconds
Activate to reset the cooldown of Personal Barrier and Shield Ally.
According to hotslogs, Unyielding Defender is by far the most popular choice to take at this level. I however disagree with this being the strongest talent at this tier. The reason I think so is not because Unyielding Defender is necessarily bad, but because the other talents are just insanely powerful. Unyielding defender helps you negate a good chunk of burst damage, if you have taken gain train on 16 it becomes a really strong talent. But the talent Clear out is in most cases just better. Upon some testing I realized that every time an enemy hero touches the expulsion zone (even after it landed) it increases your energy by 10 and refreshes the buff. If the enemy team is going ham trying to go in getting a +40 energy is the rule, not the exception. 40 energy is a lot of damage, and synergizes with key talents like Pain is temporary and feel the heat. The 15% increased radius also makes it much easier to close off chokepoints or split their team. On the other hand if you use Unyielding Defender you get barely anything out of it besides the short-lived shields you give to your team (2 shields of ~1000hp, 3 if you have taken gain train). This talent also massively synergizes with other zone control spells like ring of frost, entomb and more. If you lock someone into a wall with this talent you can quickly get to an extra 80+ energy, which basically doubles your already insane damage. Unyielding Defender has its uses, but clear out is usually just better in the counter engage.
But what about poke? Well Grenadier basically gives one of the longer range abilities in the game a nonexistent cooldown. Once you hit 20 with Q build you transform in an absolute monster if not dealt with, usually outdamaging any dps on your team (if you hadn’t already) in a few quick minutes. Energy might start getting a problem because you don’t want to be anywhere near them anymore. You have more range anyway.
Gravity Kills is the talent if you’re consistently hitting people with graviton surge (I suck at it, maybe you don’t). It deals a ton of damage, and a 3.5 second root is nothing to sniff at if they don’t have mobility. It also deals more damage than expulsion would’ve done, 50% at that!
TL;DR Talent picks:
- Don’t take multiple energy gain talents, you can’t go above 100 so they become useless.
- Take the Q route when you got a solid frontline and you are not constantly sweating your ass off fearing their engage.
Demolition Expert: Take when they will not be going ham on your ass trying to burst you down, you are now taking the Q route
Together we are strong: If you have trouble staying at sufficient energy and your e shields aren’t blowing up. Don’t take anymore energy gain talents.
Feel the Heat: They are diving your team with a lot of melees, but they don’t have a chain cc prepared for you.
Maximum Charge: Does a bit of every other talent, and in the end the best talent to take if you are fearful of getting burst down later (stacks with lvl 13 talent pain is temporary). A lot of the times you should end up with this one.
I am the strongest: Works well vs burst, solid talent.
Give me twenty: If you’re not getting focussed and they keep diving your poor entourage, Also works well with Q build because you will have to take less risks to get energy.
Speed Barrier: No. Maybe in a super specific case, but no.
Defensive Shielding: Do they have a few of damaging auto attackers? If they do you take it over I am the strongest, if they have ‘trash’ auto attacks like tychus/tracer you don’t pick it.
Pinpoint Accuracy: Take if you took the lvl 1 Q talent, consider it if you took maximum charge due to the burst it can provide.
Explosive Barrier: Deals a Fuckton of damage if they keep engaging on you, a very common pick.
To the limit: If they are less likely to try to tear your head of, to the limit has various bonuses Explosive Barrier does not provide.
Hit me: only one energy gain talent is allowed, do only take if you really have problems gaining energy.
Graviton Surge: Take it when you have a massive wombo combo that you’re able to communicate and you can consistently hit it.
Expulsion Zone: the better option in 90+% of the cases, Just better in most ways. Use it to either split their team, block of their escape path, peel for your team or just plain old brick to the face damage.
Unstoppable Competitor: If they have a cc train you need to get out of before it begins, this is your pick.
Spell Barrier: Very good to
JeBait counter one shot comps based on ability damage.
Endurance Training: as long as they don’t have explosive teamfights this gets a lot of value.
Pain is temporary: synergizes well with the Maximum charge talents, and can negate a lot of damage and burst whilst baiting them. Most often the talent to take because most teams are both a good bit of burst and sustained damage.
Plasma Shock: The Q talent build continues with some disgusting utility, makes it much easier to keep landing those central Q’s.
Cleansing Shield: If they are consistently cc training your teammates you might want to pick this up, but usually the other talents are better.
Gain Train: Lots of pure old value if they have a lot of aoe or you have another 2 guys on the frontline.
Born in Battle: Amazing talent that is just very strong and you take every other time.
Gravity Kills: If you actually took graviton surge you can take this one if you keep hitting the ult, otherwise not worth it.
Clear Out: One of the most disgustingly strong talents, using this as counter engage is one of the best ways to completely obliterate their team due to the energy you just gained. Scales very well with Pain is temporary.
Unyielding Defender: Has its uses if your team is really getting bursted every single fight. Every other time it is not worth it. Even if you keep getting bursted it is a toss up for still taking Clear Out.
Grenadier: The Q build powerspike, this shit is insane if you have the energy and positioning to back it up. Having a chromie ranged aoe auto attack tends to kill people very well.
And here you go, this was my Zarya guide. This took a fairly long time to write and I would appreciate any comments (even the ones pointing out spelling/grammar errors)! I hope you learned something from this, and have a nice day!