Taking One for the Team - A Zarya Guide!
Wed 5th Dec 2018 - 8:54pm
Disclaimer: this is one of many Zarya guides. We recommend trying out this build as well as others, such as ruini's Zarya build, and find what's best for you.
Throughout this piece, I'm going to be referring to her as a Support due to her new role assignment announced during BlizzCon. So, what does this mean for Zarya, seeing that she used to be considered a Warrior? First, let's think of what it means to be a "Support". It doesn't necessarily mean she's healing her teammates. A support-style character can be defined as someone who can lend a helpful boost or advantage throughout a game, just like Zarya's ability to shield her allies.
As a Support, this is exactly what Zarya does, even though her sustainability makes her different than other kinds of Supports. One has to sure they make good use of Zarya's trait, Energy, which makes the absorption of her shields contribute directly to her basic attacks. This means that you need to be able to take a few hits for your team in order to improve your own gameplay. The concept of her energy and absorption give a unique twist on what it means to be a Support, making her a valuable ally when paired with any teams' Healer. I will indicate which talents I myself usually choose by outlining them in green for quick reference.
Now, let's get in to some of the different talent options that really start to make her a powerful hero. At level 1, Zarya has four different options, two of them being quests. The first quest, Demolitions Expert, gives Zarya the freedom to activate her Particle Grenade (Q) very frequently. This contributes towards an AoE-heavy build that can be delivered from the safety of the backline, if necessary. This particular talent synergizes well with level 7 talent, Pinpoint Accuracy, and level 16 talent, Plasma Shock. I recommend going this build only if you are up against enemy heroes that rely on hiding behind their teammates, such as Kael'thas or Li Ming, since it isn't as effective against melee heroes. If you're up against a heavy frontline filled with diving assassins, you aren't going to be the most helpful to your teammates.
Her next level 1 talent is Together We Are Strong, and it isn't really as "strong" as some of her other talents. This talent focuses on Zarya's Shield Ally (E) and makes it to where these shields will now contribute a small amount of energy for her basic attacks. At first, I used this talent frequently when first playing Zarya, but I noticed that this small amount doesn't really attribute towards Zarya's energy level in an efficient manner. It can be unreliable between the cooldown of Shield Ally, and the likeliness of your target to get hit with enough attacks to make a difference. When compared to her other level 1 talents, this one lacks in versatility, and it's recommended to try her other builds.
Her third level 1 talent is Feel the Heat, which optimizes her basic attack against close range targets. This is an extremely useful talent when faced against a team with heavy melee damage, as it punishes those who try to dive on you or those who remain too close for too long. This can also be extra useful on certain maps, like Volskaya Foundry or Braxis Holdout, where you end up bunched together for the objective. When choosing this talent, you want to make sure you're against heroes that are more likely to be at a close distance, because you might not be able to basic attack a Kel'thuzad as often as you'd like. This talent synergizes well with level 7 talent, To the Limit, which increases your chances of burning through the frontline.
For her last level 1 talent, we have another quest, Maximum Charge, which aims to optimize Zarya's Energy output. This quest requires you to stay in the line of fire for quite some time, in order to increase the period of the time that Zarya has max Energy. This might be harder to achieve if you're up against ranged heroes, since they tend to stay back behind their teammates, meaning that they might not always be hitting you. If you want to use your absorption to Energy conversion to punish aggressive melees, then this quest can easily be achieved. This talent synergizes well with a build that optimizes Personal Barrier with talents such as level 4, I Am the Strongest, and level 7, Hit Me.
Zarya's level 4 talents focus heavily on her shielding output of both Personal Barrier and Shield Ally. Her first talent at this level is I Am the Strongest, which simply increases how much Energy her Personal Barrier absorbs. If you're focusing on a build that keeps Zarya in the frontline frequently, then this will definitely help you. Something to consider, though, are the kinds of heroes you might be against. If you're against heavy bursting characters like Li Ming or even something like Kerrigan, then this extra amount of absorption might not help you, seeing that it isn't a huge increase. With that being said, you could always look towards the other talents of this level.
Her next level 4 talent is a quest, Give Me Twenty, which caters towards Zarya's Shield Ally by collecting Regeneration Globes. This leads to an increase in absorption for your chosen ally, and even a cooldown reduction. Keep in mind, that collecting the globes requires you to frequently rotate lanes or you could fall far behind in the game. This talent helps any build that focuses on Shield Ally and increases just how often you're able to relieve your team.
Up next for level 4 is Speed Barrier, a talent that gives a huge boost to Shield Ally. I almost always go this route, because increasing how fast your allies can escape death is an extremely useful ability. With this talent, Zarya can not only shield her team mates from harm, but it can also move them out of an enemy's grasp much quicker than normal. Movement speed can be a huge deal in teamfights, as it can help you avoid dangerous area damage or crowd control and adding this on top of a shield is even more powerful.
Her final level 4 talent is Defensive Shielding, which boosts Zarya's Personal Barrier and Shield Ally. This is an extremely useful talent when matched against heavy diving compositions with heroes like Greymane or Genji. If you want to help optimize you and your teammates' defense against melee heroes, this talent can be a very useful boon. Once either of Zarya's shielding abilities expires, this talent activates a 75% Physical Armor boost over 6 seconds, which can decrease how effective your enemy is at securing kills. Of course, keep in mind, that this talent doesn't have any use against abilities that utilize Spell Damage, and should not be chosen against teams with multiple mage-type assassins.
When looking at which Heroic to take, there's plenty of variables you need to take into consideration. More often than not, Graviton Surge will be the most useful choice, since it effectively sets up an engage in fights, and can even save your teammates by keeping the enemy in place. This Heroic synergizes extremely well with heroes like Kael'thas and Jaina, who have heavy area damage that can destroy the enemy team when they're forced to be bunched together. However, Expulsion Zone also has a useful zoning technique, but does the exact opposite of Graviton Surge, because it instantly forces the enemy away. This can be helpful on any map objective where you want the enemy completely off of an area, and you can use it very frequently. If you don't have a team with heavy burst area damage, then you might want to consider taking the alternative in Expulsion Zone, because it doesn't require the use of burst damage to be effective.
Now we move on to level 13 and look at what kind of options we're given to optimize the desired playstyle. This talent tier is solely determined on how the game has been going and what kind of composition you're up against. First up we have Unstoppable Competitor, which makes Personal Barrier grant Unstoppable. If you're up against heavy crowd control through the use of stuns, sleeps, or even slows, then this is definitely the route you want to take. This gives Zarya the ability to absorb the enemy's crowd control for your team, or even just an improvement on her escape and survivability. If you aren't against this sort of composition, then you might want to try the talent Spell Barrier, which of course, will grant Zarya Spell Armor when using Personal Barrier. You have to take into consideration, though, that you must use Personal Barrier at opportune moments if you really want to save it to absorb enemy Spell Damage.
Endurance Training is Zarya's next level 13 talent, which offers her an extra increase in protection through her Personal Barrier and her absorption. If you're really struggling at taking the enemy's hits or if they're fully decked out in heavy dives and bursts, then this talent will surely boost the effectiveness of your absorption. If you find you aren't hitting high Energy levels through absorption fast enough, this might not be the optimal choice, especially if you need something more like the Unstoppable or the Spell Armor.
For the last level 13 talent we have Pain is Temporary, which can be used to consume all of Zarya's Energy into a shield that will absorb based on her maximum health. Again, let's say you're not really hitting the mark on how much you need to absorb. This talent will be extremely ineffective if you are unable to keep Zarya's Energy at high levels. So, take into consideration what kind of shielding is the best based on how your game is going and what you're going to be up against. If the enemy's Kel'thuzad is not landing his combos, then maybe the enemy's Kerrigan is more of a threat and you need to cater your talents to this priority.
Level 16 is a huge power spike for many characters, and it is no different for Zarya. Her first talent in this tier is Plasma Shock, which optimizes Particle Grenade. This allows Zarya to slow her enemies down when landing skillful shots, and can very effective alongside characters like Raynor, who rely on disabling effects. Her next talent in this tier aims in the opposite direction by cancelling out such effects with Cleansing Shield. This grants Shield Ally the ability to cleanse any disabling effects Zarya's team might be afflicted by, which is extremely useful in heavy crowd control match-ups; it even offers a cooldown reduction of 3 seconds! Countering things like slows can greatly increase your team's survivability, especially when paired with some of Zarya's earlier talents, like Speed Barrier and Defensive Shielding.
If you find yourself needing to shield more than just one ally, then Gain Train is another useful talent in this tier. This increases just how much you're boosting and protecting your team, by shielding an additional ally in close range to your targeted ally. However, this second shield is in fact an untalented one, so you might favor one of the previous talents if you really need to lock down on a single ally or a single effect. This talent is better suited for area damage, since it will protect more than one ally at a time. Then, her final level 16 talent is Born in Battle, which is another build that requires you to focus on your Energy production. Remember that builds that focus on her absorption means you'll need to be more aggressive and present in fights, much like a Tank would be, to ensure that you're getting valuable use of your talents. If you're not prepared to be this sort of hero, you should definitely work towards her more passive and supportive builds, in order to optimize your gameplay.
Moving on to the final talent tier with level 20, we have our two Heroic-optimizing choices, Gravity Kills and Clear Out. If your Heroic ability has been a huge deciding factor in team fights, then strengthening them is never a poor choice. Although, with Grenadier you will have a much quicker delivery of Particle Grenades, and this will synergize extremely well with the respective build. If you have been the back bone of your team in terms of shielding and protecting, Unyielding Defender will make it even harder for enemies to win those final fights.
So, let's summarize. Zarya is a Support with good sustain and huge teamfight presence. Her best team compositions include heroes like Kael'thas, who can combo insanely well with Graviton Surge in the tight spaces of Volskaya Foundry and Braxis Holdout. She is played best when she is able to rotate to and from a mid lane to assist her allies where needed. When it comes to one-on-one fights, Zarya can emerge victorious with her shielding and absorption, or she can help an ally turn around their own fights. If you struggle with the more aggressive type of characters, Zarya can be a hard playstyle to get used to, since she is the most effective with a high Energy count. Zarya is not played as often as you might think, but she offers a unique twist on what it means to be a Support and can be a valuable asset to any team.
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