Let’s be honest: Zenyatta is bonkers right now, but not many people play him. There are few things more depressing than reading the text “Discord Orb Gained From ____.” Sometimes, one might not even finish reading before the screen flashes and the kill cam starts playing. With his insane supporting damage, high-impact ult, and versatile kit, Zenyatta presents an amazing package to a player with the unique bundle of skills needed to play Zen properly. Here is some guidance on when and why you might pick Zenyatta over other supports, as well as some tips to best utilize his kit, and transcending the competition.
Team Comps for Zenyatta
Zenyatta is tied with Ana for being the least mobile support, and with no CC, it can be difficult for him to protect himself from enemy assassins. His only hope is to put his Orb of Discord on any attackers and hope he can land a few quick headshots. Because of this, Zenyatta loves teams that can peel enemy assassins off him. He does especially well paired with McCree, as Discord Orb paired with the high single-target damage can be extremely effective at medium and long range, as well as serving to protect Zenyatta through McCree’s stun and focus fire against anyone who gets close. Soldier 76 is also a great pair with Zenyatta, especially behind a Reinhardt’s shield. Soldier’s burst with Helix rockets help focus discorded targets, while biotic field helps the squishy Zen stay alive. The most difficult heroes for Zen to deal with are Tracer and D.va. Tracer can kill him in one burst if she places her shots well, or gets a good melee. Against her, his only defense is hoping to get a headshot on the extremely mobile target she presents. D.va is also strong against Zenyatta, as she can easily get close to him, and he has no good way of escaping her. A worse matchup even than against Tracer, Zen players have to remain proactive in staying away from D.va’s and maintaining distance. Against Tracer, Zenyatta can hope to get lucky due to her squishiness, but against D.va there really isn’t anything he can do, as her health pool simply makes it impossible for him to win a straight duel. This is one of the biggest reasons to pair up with a bodyguard, especially McCree. McCree does exceptionally well against Tracer, and can stun and damage even D.va enough for her to possibly lose focus on Zenyatta long enough to bring her down.
Considering Zen’s ultimate, he excels against teams that bring high DPS or supporting ultimates to a fight. Reaper, Soldier, and Pharah cannot put out enough damage with their ults (at least by themselves) to kill heroes actively being healed by Transcendence. Pairing two of these kinds of ultimates may end up overwhelming the healing, but at a two-for one trade in ults, the impact needs to be significant to be a good trade for Zenyatta’s enemies. Conversely, Zeynatta may not be the best pick against teams with bursty ultimates, as his healing (though extremely rapid) will not be effective against things like R.I.P. Tire. This weakness can be circumvented by running Lucio in addition to Zenyatta (more on that later), or perhaps a Mercy if she is extremely smart and able to avoid dangerous burst ultimates.
Zenyatta is squishy, and has vision restrictions for his abilities as well as no damage drop off on his highly accurate projectiles. All of these factors mean Zen is much stronger on larger maps with open spaces, long sight lines, and longer-range engagements. Maps with payloads that run through straightaways such as Hollywood, or larger King of the Hill maps like Nepal Sanctum are prime maps for Zenyatta. The skirmishing nature of these long-range fights synergize with the fact that much of his health is devoted to shields, which recharge quickly in skirmishing situations, as well as his high burst damage that can stop enemies from being able to retreat for healing.
Understandably, Zen struggles on maps that feature lots of close combat and short sight lines. The streets phase of King’s Row is a prime example of everything Zenyatta hates. First, there are many alternate routes for pesky flankers to sneak around and assassinate him. Second, there are many turns and corners that obstruct his use of his orbs, both offensively and defensively. Offensively, enemies struck with Orbs of Discord can easily disengage to remove the debuff, making it much harder for Zen’s team to focus; defensively the short lines make it much more difficult to heal heroes that most need it. Flankers and initiators like Winston or Genji often rely on the small benefits from Orbs of Harmony, but cannot reliably keep the buff while they maneuver around corners and in back alleys.
- Always have your orb of harmony on someone. Yes, Zenyatta has the highest DPS of any support, but at the end of the day he is still a support. There is no excuse to not have both your orbs active at all times. If no one needs healing, put your orb on your other support, to keep her topped off between engagements.
- Use alt fire to pick off stationary targets such as turrets or lazy snipers. Few players utilize Zen’s alternate fire, but it can be extremely useful in certain situations. Bastion is one of those heroes that annoys many players, but Zenyatta can easily pick him off. Simply place your Orb of Discord on Bastion, drop back for a moment to charge your alternate fire, and peek the corner to unleash the burst. Because Zenyatta’s projectiles have no spread and no damage dropoff, you can reliably engage Bastions and turrets at any range.
- When playing with Lucio, communicate and ult after he does, just as the shield wears off. This is one of the biggest pitfalls to pairing with Lucio. A mistimed pair of ults can be completely wasted if they stack up improperly. The reason to ult after Lucio ults is simple: Lucio’s ult is more flexible. While Transcendence is extremely strong against DPS ultimates and weak against burst, Lucio’s Sound Barrier can stop both kinds, but only provides temporary hitpoints. If Lucio’s ultimate stops an enemy ult or two, and the fight continues, Zenyatta can ult to give his team an edge in a dogfight after damage ults have been depleted.
- You can use yourself as a bodyshield when ulting. This one is pretty simple. When you ult, your model becomes bigger and you are completely invulnerable, as well as extremely fast. Use this to your advantage to block incoming damage while you are ulting.
- Most of your health is shields, and will recharge. Many heroes have to find health packs or wait for the attention of healers to get them topped off, but Zenyatta (and Zarya) only needs to find a safe place to stand out of the firefight for a few seconds to get back to fighting strength.
There you have it, I hope you have a better understanding now of when and why you should play Zenyatta, as well as situations where you might want to pick a different support. Try to implement the tips I mentioned, and remember that Zenyatta is ultimately a support, so think of how you can best serve your team whenever you play him. Good luck!