Zenyatta Guide: Strategy & Gameplay “True self is without form.”
Table of Contents
- 1. Strengths
- 2. Weaknesses
- +3. Strategy
- 4. Changelog
This guide takes an in-depth look at how to play Zenyatta in Overwatch. We look at the strengths and weaknesses of the hero, and we go over mechanics, recommended strategies, and things to beware of.
The guide has been written based on our extensive experience playing the game since before the Closed Beta began, and it relies on our decades-long FPS experience. That said, our aim is to keep the guide relatively brief and easy to understand, making it accessible to veterans and new players alike.
If you have any comment on the guide's content or structure, please let us know in the comments! :)
Stamp of Approval
- Extremely powerful debuff that increases the target's damage taken ( Orb of Discord)
- High damage potential
- Very high AoE healing with ultimate ( Transcendence), which can keep his team alive through massive damage
- Viable on both Attack and Defense
- Low health, large model, and no survival or escape mechanisms make Zenyatta highly vulnerable
- His healing and debuff orbs require line of sight to apply, and fade 3 seconds after line of sight is lost
In this section, we will briefly go over the main strategies you should employ as Zenyatta. We will begin with an Overview, and then we will go in depth more about each ability that Zenyatta has.
Zenyatta is one of only 3 healers in Overwatch (there are 4 heroes in the Support category, but Symmetra does not have any means of actually healing anyone). Zenyatta specialises in single target healing, but can also provide massive AoE heals with his ultimate ability.
As with the other support heroes, Zenyatta is fragile and lacks any survival abilities. To make up for this somewhat, Zenyatta does not generate footstep noises (since his model hovers in the air), making him more difficult to detect at close ranges (assuming he is not seen).
Your game plan as Zenyatta is to always have your healing orb ( Orb of Harmony) on the accessible teammate that needs it most, changing around between teammates as frequently as necessary. Aside from this, you will always look to place your debuff orb ( Orb of Discord) on an enemy (check the relevant sub-sections for details about how to prioritise targets for healing and debuffing).
Finally, while performing these two tasks, you will look to keep yourself as safe as possible by staying away from the front lines and hidden from enemy snipers, all the while dealing as much damage as you can with your Orb of Destruction (effectively your weapon), which is capable of surprisingly high damage.
Indeed, the over-arching principle of Zenyatta, even more so than for other support heroes, is to stay alive in order to be able to support your team, since your fragility exceeds that of any other hero in the game and thus makes you a prime target for the enemy team.
Orb of Destruction (Primary Fire)
Energy projectile weapon.
Orb of Destruction is Zenyatta's weapon. With primary fire, it shoots damaging orbs in a single-firing mode. The orbs are projectiles, but they fly in a straight line, and their travel speed is high, and there is no damage drop-off at range. Each orb deals 40 damage, and Zenyatta's ammo capacity is 20.
The orbs have good accuracy, and firing in quick succession does not decrease the accuracy. You will notice, however, that each orb's exact direction is slightly random in the area of the crosshair, but this variance is not high and it generally does not affect Zenyatta's ability to hit his targets.
The primary fire is Zenyatta's main means of doing damage. Since it has no damage drop-off, it is effective at all ranges. The rather high damage of the orbs (coupled with the large ammo capacity and the rate of fire of 3 orbs per second) makes Zenyatta a surprisingly efficient damage dealer.
Whenever you do not need to apply your Orb of Harmony or Orb of Discord, you should be spamming your Orb of Destruction at any enemies you see, regardless of their range. Naturally, you should prioritise dangerous enemies first, and stationary targets will be easier for you to hit and kill.
It is very important not to get carried away trying to do damage, though. We cannot say often enough how fragile Zenyatta is as a hero; if the other team sees you in the same place for long enough, they will damage you and that has a very good chance of killing you. So, you must be sneaky when dealing damage as Zenyatta, since enemy snipers and offensive heroes in particular will kill you in mere seconds.
Of course, when there is a large team fight going on and when enemies are distracted, you can take more liberties with your security and expose yourself more to dish out large amounts of damage.
Finally, there is a powerful synergy between your Orb of Discord and your Orb of Destruction attacks, since Orb of Discord greatly increases damage taken by the target. So, whenever you are fighting a target, it is a good idea to debuff them with Orb of Discord, especially if they have a lot of health.
Orb of Destruction (Alternate Fire)
Energy projectile weapon.
When holding down alternate fire (default keybind Right Mouse Button), Zenyatta charges up a volley of orbs. This attack uses the same ammo as the primary fire, and as you hold down alternate fire, more orbs are added to the volley. The orbs are shot when you release alternate fire or after about 2.5 seconds (once it has reached its maximum charge of 5 orbs).
The user interface gives you an indication of how your charge is progressing. For each orb that is part of your volley, an orb appears around the edges of your screen. The 5th and final orb in your volley corresponds to an orb at the top of the screen, and this is the easiest way to tell when your volley is charged up, although with practice you will get a feel for it regardless of visual indicators. Once your volley is fully charged, you still have a short amount of time before the volley fires on its own, so you can either release it right away (by releasing alternate fire) or wait, depending on what is needed in the circumstances.
The orbs you shoot this way are slightly less damaging than if you shoot them using primary fire, and they are not quite as accurate, but the resulting burst damage more than makes up for that.
Using alternate fire is recommended against stationary targets, which are easy to hit. Good examples of this are Torbjörn's turret, Bastion, or a Mei who is about to come out of Cryo-Freeze. Alternatively, you can charge up a volley and fire it down a narrow corridor, where targets cannot avoid it, or into a group of enemies (such as a tightly stacked team fight), where it is bound to hit someone. Lastly, you can charge up a volley and release it at an enemy that is coming around a corner for a surprise burst of damage that is almost guaranteed to kill them (knowing that the enemy is coming is necessary, though, and abilities like Widowmaker's Infra-Sight are needed for this).
Alternate fire is bad at hitting moving targets, for which it is recommended to use primary fire instead.
When using alternate fire, remember that you only need to face your desired target/direction in the moment when you fire the volley. This means that, much like with charging up Symmetra's Photon Projector orbs, you should take cover while charging up and only strafe out when you want to release your volley. This will reduce your exposure to the enemies.
Orb of Harmony
Launch this orb at an ally to heal them.
Orb of Harmony is Zenyatta's heal. Zenyatta can place this orb on any teammate in his line of sight (there is also a range limitation, but it is very high indeed so only extremely distant allies are out of reach), but there can only ever be one Orb of Harmony active at one time. The ability has no cooldown, so placing it on a new player removes it from the old target. Enemy Reinhardts' Barrier Field and Winstons' Barrier Projector will block the application of the orb.
The Orb of Harmony heals its target for 30 health points per second (giving it lower healing-per-second than Mercy's Caduceus Staff, but this made up for by the fact that Zenyatta can deal damage while the orb is active). The orb will remain on its target until one of the following happens:
- the target dies;
- the target moves out of Zenyatta's line of sight for more than 3 seconds;
- Zenyatta places the Orb of Harmony on a different ally;
- Zenyatta dies.
When deciding which teammate to heal, you need to keep several things in mind.
To begin with, since your healing-per-second is lower than Mercy's, and since it takes a short amount of time for the orb to reach the target, you are not as effective as Mercy is at keeping an ally alive through sudden damage. This means that if your Pharah suddenly decides to use Barrage, placing Orb of Harmony on her to help her live longer during her ultimate is unlikely to be very effective.
Another consideration is that it is always better to prevent a teammate from dying, rather than topping off the health of a teammate who, while damaged, is relatively safe. This means that once your Orb of Harmony has healed a tank to where they are out of immediate danger, it is better to switch it to a low health teammate.
Yet another thing to keep in mind is to make your healing matter. This means that keeping your Orb of Harmony on a teammate who is retreating from combat, heading for a health pack, or who has a reliable self-heal (such as Roadhog) is not nearly as effective as keeping it on an ally that is still in combat, or who is likely to take damage soon.
Put another way, you should always place your Orb of Harmony on the lowest-health, most threatened ally you can, and move it from them whenever someone else needs it more.
The fact that your Orb of Harmony requires line of sight with the target to continue working is important. It means that, often, you will want to run behind your target, making sure that the orb remains on them for as long as they need it. If your teammates are inexperienced, do not hesitate to remind them of the line of sight requirement using the in-game chat. In any case, if you place the orb on a teammate who decides to charge into the enemy team, do not follow them; keep yourself safe instead, since you are extremely fragile.
A popular technique is to place your Orb of Harmony on allied heroes who are good at flanking the enemy team, granting them greatly-increased sustainability. The best examples of this are Tracer and Genji. However, this technique is mostly a remnant of the time when the Orb of Harmony persisted on its target indefinitely, regardless of loss of line of sight. Currently, the tactic is not very effective, since you have no way to keep up with Tracer or Genji, so the orb you place on them will be lost very quickly. So, do we do not advise placing Orb of Harmony on these heroes if they do not actually require healing.
Orb of Discord
Launch this orb at an enemy to increase the damage they take.
Your Orb of Discord works exactly the same as your Orb of Harmony in terms of range, line of sight requirements, duration, and so on. The only thing that differs is its effect. The target of your Orb of Discord can only be an enemy, and while active on them, the target takes 50% increased damage from all sources, and the Orb of Discord marker on that target is always visible to Zenyatta, including through walls and other obstacles.
The damage-increasing debuff provided by the Orb of Discord is extremely powerful. It causes the target to take so much damage that fire from you and your teammates is almost guaranteed to kill them, and quickly. Placing it on tanks makes their large health melt away very quickly, while placing it on already-fragile heroes means that they die in just one or two shots.
Moreover, since the Orb of Discord provides vision of the target, it means that the affected can be prefired at by Zenyatta's powerful attacks as soon as they try to come out from cover.
Since you can only apply Orb of Discord to targets in your line of sight, part of decision of who to debuff will be made for you. After that, it is of course best to debuff more dangerous enemies first, so that you and your team can take them out quickly. Any support or offense hero is a good target, but give special attention to heroes who are either capable of powerful ultimates (Pharah, Reaper, McCree), or who move around a lot and for whom the vision provided by the Orb of Discord is helpful (Genji, Tracer). Tanks and defense heroes are your next priority.
Keep in mind that the target of your Orb of Discord can get rid of it by breaking line of sight with you for 3 seconds. This is acceptable, though, since it means that for 3 or more seconds, they will effectively be out of the fight. Under no circumstances should you dive into the enemy team to try to maintain line of sight for your Orb of Discord. If it drops from the target, simply re-apply it to someone else.
Finally, remember also that Orb of Discord can be removed by enemies using such abilities as Cryo-Freeze, Wraith Form, or Recall, but there is not much you can do about this.
Become invulnerable and heal nearby allies.
Transcendence is a powerful AoE healing ability that lasts for 6 seconds, healing all allies in a radius around Zenyatta for 300 health per second (to each hero). While Transcendence is active, Zenyatta's movement speed is doubled and he is invulnerable to all damage, but he can still be knocked back.
It is very interesting to note that Zenyatta acts as an object that breaks line of sight while Transcendence is active, meaning that his teammates can take cover behind him and be protected from enemy fire and from dangerous abilities (D.Va's Self-Destruct, Reaper's Death Blossom, etc).
The primary use of Transcendence is to heal up your teammates when they are taking a lot of damage. This works best when your team is trying to make a coordinated push onto an objective, or when they are defending an objective from a coordinated push. The only problem here is that, while Transcendence does heal for a lot of health, it does not protect from burst damage in the same way that Lúcio's Sound Barrier does, so you need to keep that in mind. Transcendence will keep your team alive through ultimates like Tactical Visor or Graviton Surge, but it will not do much against Barrage or Deadeye.
You do not need to restrict yourself to using Transcendence as part of large team fights, though. Whenever you see multiple allies around you needing to be healed and in danger of dying, it is a good idea to use Transcendence to save them and turn the tide of the fight.
You can also use Transcendence as an emergency survival ability for yourself. For example, if you are ambushed or otherwise caught off guard by the enemy team, you can use your ultimate to survive and run back to your allies. Doing so is certainly viable, but keep in mind that it does sort of "waste" your ultimate, so only use it as a last resort.
- 28 Jul. 2016: Several updates to account for July 19th Patch.
- Removed mention of Zenyatta having 150 health, since he now has 200.
- Updated projectile damage values.
- Added mention that Transcendence also increases movement speed.
- 06 Jul. 2016: Removed a mention about Widowmaker being able to kill Zenyatta in a single body shot, since this is no longer true after Widowmaker's damage was reduced.
- 08 Jun. 2016: Added that Zenyatta generates no footstep noises.
- 22 May 2016: Updated the guide following KabaL's review.
- Added mention that Widowmaker can one-shot Zenyatta with a fully-charged body shot.
- 11 May 2016: Corrected a mistake whereby we had stated that Zenyatta's Orb of Discord gives vision of the target to all of Zenyatta's team, whereas it only provides it to Zenyatta.
- 08 May 2016: Guide added.
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