A Beginner’s Guide to Zenyatta

Zenyatta is currently the strongest support in overwatch yet, in my experience, he is criminally underused in mid-tier games. I have recently began locking him on most games and I currently have 75% winrate in comp playing Zen between gold and diamond. I wanted to share what has worked for me to encourage other people to play him.


Zenyatta is without a doubt the glassiest cannon in the game. I recently asked this sub what they had the most difficulty with when playing Zen and the overwhelming answer was staying alive. A wide hitbox combined with no mobility and no self burst heal makes it incredibly hard to stay alive when you are pressured by the enemy. This brings me to the most important rule playing Zen.

1. Zen is a poke phase hero.

If you don't know, there are 3 phases to overwatch team fights: Poke, Engage, Clean-up. Every hero is good at one or two of these things, but I can't think of any that are great at all 3. Zenyatta happens to be the strongest poke phase support in the game, and behind only a few in the whole cast. A good poke hero is someone who has the ability to either get early picks in a fight or deplete enemy resources and health to create an opening for your team to engage.

The #1 way to protect yourself as Zenyatta is winning the fight before the enemy even gets a chance to put pressure on you. The best defense is a good offense. The next best defense is good positioning.

2. Zen is a glass cannon, sightline hero.

If I had to combine 3 heroes playstyles to describe Zenyatta they would be (in order of importance) Widowmaker's positioning, Junkrat's spam, and Hanzo's aim-style.

Both Widowmaker and Zen are currently very flimsy heroes. What widow makes up for with mobility, she loses in health pool. Because of this, one of the keys to playing these heroes, is to know who you are vulnerable to on the enemy team, and trying to track where they are at all times. I have found a lot of success against Tracers and Genjis simply by knowing where they are coming from. In playing both Zen and Widow, a major way to level the playing field is out-thinking the enemy.

Anyone who plays Widowmaker at a high level can tell you that the best way to position yourself is in a spot that gives the enemy the fewest angles on you, while giving you a dangerous sightline on the enemy or on an off-angle they may take. In Zen's case this means hugging corners, playing at the end of hallways far behind your team, or finding slivers of daylight where the enemy may be crossing. Where Widowmaker (even players with incredible reaction time) requires a clean shot on an enemy, Zen can work with a lot less of an angle simply by spamming which brings me to my next point.

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3. Quantity over quality

Zenyatta is a mechanically difficult hero, no doubt. He is the most difficult support to play to the highest level (other than maybe Lucio). However, dinking heads is not the only way to get value playing Zenyatta. You may only land 20% of your shots, but landing 2/10 volleys in a team fight could be the chunk damage on an enemy needed to win. Zenyatta and Junkrat alike can have unreliable aim, but both can deplete enemy shields, resources, or health. Both of these heroes' success correlates more to volume than accuracy.

4. Aim for locations, not for enemies*

As I said before, Zen and Hanzo have similar aim-style. Both have similar projectiles, with a few major differences. Firstly, Hanzo is a pick first hero who wants to land one shot crits. As I said above, Zenyatta gets a lot of value by dealing chunk damage and while he can take enemy heads off, this should not be the priority in my experience. Secondly, Zenyatta's charged volleys are much more forgiving than Hanzo's "charged" arrows if your main goal is chunk damage.

The most important mechanic to learn is how to properly lead shots. A key to understand when learning this mechanic is where the enemy wants to move. I find a lot of success with Zenyatta by aiming for the locations or direction the enemy wants to retreat to.

Another commonality that not many people recognize are both heroes' wall hacks. While Hanzo has a sonic arrow revealing enemies in its radius, discord orb also allows you to track the direction unsuspecting enemies are traveling. With a little practice, it is just as valuable in showing what angle to send a volley to eliminate an enemy.

The only exclusion to rule 4 is against down sights heroes like Ashe or Ana. These heroes are stagnant and much easier to hit simply by placing your crosshairs on them.


Here's an example of these things put together

Note that I landed about 20% of my orbs in this clip, but managed to secure 1 kill ending the fight before it started. Then dealt 300 damage on the enemy main tank, and forced lamp. This is a pretty typical fight for my playstyle.

Later in this game, the enemy switched to Genji. He only managed to kill me once because I constantly tracked where he was coming from and positioned away from the fight to force him to close the gap on me while I and my Ashe shot him. Then, I shutdown his blade with discord and hitting 1 body shot from a charged volley which was enough for my team to clean up the rest. You will die to Genji. It happens. The best you can do is get more value before he kills you. If he is farming you, its okay to switch.

We won with a first point hold.

Discord Usage

The other major question people ask is "how do I know who to discord?" Zen's primary job is to facilitate final blows. The first way is through what I have already described, chunk damage. The second way is to discord the proper targets.

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There are two types of targets, the easy and the dangerous.

Playing support you should have a lot of experience noticing which of your teammates is currently the most vulnerable to the enemy. The first case of discord usage employs this same logic, but in reverse. Ask yourself, who on the enemy team is the most vulnerable to being eliminated in the next few seconds. These are the most important targets to discord. Early in fights this is often a tracer trying to get flank advantage on your DPS. In the engage phase of fights it is often a squishy caught out of position or a tank who is receiving a lot of frontline pressure.

The next case, is which enemy is putting the most pressure on your team. The most obvious cases are enemies using ultimates such as Genji or Roadhog. Less obvious are divers who are on top of you or a squishy teammate. Note: I consider rezzes under this category. Please discord every rez possible.

Using this methodology, you shouldn't have to call out your discords, but rather the fight should essentially be calling out who to discord to you.

I won't go into detail on Harmony orb, but mostly use it for squishies who are vulnerable to enemies like tracer. Occasionally use it to heal chunk damage on your tanks assuming no one on your team is vulnerable (slow fight or fight is over). This is great for building ult charge. Fun fact: Zen and Roadhog have the same HPS. If you're not getting great value out of our next topic then it completely makes sense why a hog would outheal you.


I really don't like the label that Zen is a bad healer. I have successfully out-healed good teammates playing main heals a number of times. It's just that he is by far the highest burst dependent healer in the game. You should be aiming to have half your heals per game come from Trance. Trance is a very strong counter to high damage output. Use it against key ults or to bail yourself or allies out with burst heals. Note that trance deals 300 HPS. Here are a few things to take into account:

  1. You are majorly countered by anti-nade. If the enemy has an Ana, warn your Rein or DVa to look for incoming nades. when you trance. You are also blocked by shields. Use your increased speed to strafe around to get LOS on everyone. Treat it like Lucio heals on steroids.

  2. Trance can't save allies from being 1 shot. Widow is still just as threatening when you are in ult.

  3. Use Trance to body block. You can still be CC'd while in trance, but this can be used to your advantage. It is great for body blocking for an ally rez, or eating rein charges so squishy allies don't. Just be aware that you are still vulnerable to boops while using trance.

  4. Transcendence is the only ultimate in the game without casting time (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong). This makes it a great counter to Ults like EMP or deathblossom, and can save you from getting picked by things like hog hook or pulse bomb.

  5. Assuming there aren't any fight winning ultimates on the enemy team, it's okay to use trance to bail yourself out to keep the fight going.

  6. Throw a discord before trancing if you have the time.

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  • If you compare both forms of fire, Charged volley is much safer than primary fire as it only requires you to peak for a moment to deal the same amount of damage. This makes it very strong in the poke phase compared to primary fire.

  • On the other hand, primary fire is stronger when there is an enemy in your face, or during cleanup of a broken fight.

  • Don't bother trying to track the enemy. Knowing that your priority is to deal damage over securing elims, stationary crosshairs are more reliable than moving ones. In this instance you can think of charged volley as something similar to a spread fire, like a longer range Hellfire shotguns.

  • Don't hold charged volleys to long. If the enemy is approaching your crosshair don't be afraid to let a 2 or 3 round volley go. Again, Damage is #1.

  • Talk, Talk, Talk. People often complain about no peel. I talk a lot and I rarely have issues with peel. Use your voicelines if you're afraid of voicechat.

  • TALK, TALK, TALK. Call out who you have dealt damage to. It is without a doubt the easiest way to secure kills.

  • Undiscorded, 2 headshots on a stagnant widow will kill her. Ego peaking isn't recommended, but I won't tell. This 1v1 used to be a lot more lopsided. Now it is almost an even fight and can be won by whoever plays smarter.

  • Along these lines, 2 HS on a tracer will kill or 3 bodyshots and a melee (again all undiscorded). Charging shots when you expect her to flank you can make it very easy to kill her.

TL:DR The best defense is ending the fight before it starts, the next best is out-thinking what is a threat to you. Communication will bring the best peel.

Source: reddit.com

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