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How to play support Sombra, according to Overwatch pros

When it comes to variety, Overwatch certainly isn’t lacking. You have several heroes to choose from in every class, and any composition can work if the lines of communication are open. One interesting development that we’ve seen at the pro level over the last couple of months is the inclusion of Sombra in a support role. Though not as versatile as other picks, Sombra can help keep your tanks up by hacking large health packs, and spam her EMP since it charges so fast. So in what situations should you be using Sombra, and why are professional teams bringing out the hacker these days? To answer these questions, we spoke to Arc6 support player, Sean “Custa” Kennedy, and, hot off his huge win over Rogue at Overwatch Contenders, EnVision coach, Michael “Packing10” Szklanny.

When is it appropriate to run Sombra?

Using Sombra on support shouldn’t be something that you take lightly. You have to be much more aware of everything, right down to the fact that you might not be playing to win in the short term. Remember that in using Sombra, you’re accepting the responsibility that comes along with low damage output and no direct healing. 

“Solo healer Sombra is really dependent on pack availability and linear choke points,” Packing says. “Well-located megas (health packs) are imperative for solo healer Sombra comps, and linear chokes are also extremely enticing for teams that run a good Sombra defense...When you’re talking the fastest ult to charge in the game with limited ways for teams to push, it makes for a really big snowballing defense.”

Custa’s feelings are much the same.

“Sombra and Lucio is a very unique combo which is mainly utilised on some capture point maps and some payload sections,” Custa says. “It’s unique because it requires a readily accessible mega health pack that can be controlled by your tank players. These hacked packs then overcome the lack of healing from running a solo Lucio healer while also charging EMPs incredibly fast. You see this strategy used very effectively on maps such as Volskaya Industries and Temple of Anubis.”

Indeed, Volskaya and Anubis are the two maps where Sombra got her name at the pro level, according to Packing. Lines of sight are narrow or crammed, and there are a lot of clutch mega health kits in strategic positions. Look at the following play by Team Gigantti from Overwatch Contenders:

Point B of Volskaya can often feel like an endless meatgrinder of failure as it is. If you throw Sombra into the mix, you can make that uphill battle even steeper by denying health packs and dropping EMPs left and right. Here, Shaz has the bottom-right mega health pack hacked, and he’s able to deny a push almost single-handedly with EMP. After EMP pops, Fragi and company get going on cleanup duty, sending eUnited back to the drawing board. This is that “snowball” effect Packing was referring to, and it’s what you and your team need to play around if you want to be successful.

Other things you should be focused on

Though Sombra is classified as DPS, you should approach her in much the same way you’d approach any of the other support heroes. She has primary functions in getting health packs and building ult charge quickly, but she also has a kit geared toward debilitating effects. Like the meme says, “She protec. She attac. But most importantly, she hac.” Seriously, though, make sure you’re taking notes on the enemy ultimate economy and other factors for each and every engagement.

“It’s very important for the Sombra to continuously pressure the backline supports of the opposing team, and also get individual hacks on high priority targets (D.Va, Tracer, enemy Sombra),” Custa says.

For Packing, knowing what the other team wants to accomplish will create opportunities for success with Sombra.

“In our game versus Rogue last week, on their last push the team knew their win condition was Nano-Blade (combination of Nano Boost and Dragonblade), and the only priority in the game was EMP Genji and everyone burn him,” Packing says. “It really is all relative, though. You need to ensure that you’re tracking ults well, understanding how the enemy team wants to play, and what their win conditions are. If you can localize those objectives, you’ll up your probability of winning the fight.”

Indeed, EnVision shocked the Overwatch esports world by dominating Rogue, one of the best teams in the West, with superior engagements and ult management. In this play, Unkoe charges up Nico for what will be Rogue’s last attempt at the point. As soon as Nico comes down with the Nano-Blade, however, Fahzix is waiting for him with a big, fat EMP that sends him away. The zoning Self-Destruct keeps Rogue off the point, and EnVision walks away with a hard-fought win. 

Thoughts for the road

Sombra is a high-risk, high-reward pick, to be certain. This goes double in competitive queue, where communication and general game sense are typically lacking. If you’re going to start learning Sombra, start on Volskaya or Anubis, as we’ve discussed. You will find plenty of Twitch clips and YouTube videos of high-level Sombra play on these maps, and you can feel more confident that you’re not forcing a square peg into a circular hole. Just be aware that you’ll have to be very flexible when approaching Sombra on the ladder.

“Due to the lack of understanding, there is very rarely success with Sombra, and hence [the player] usually takes a lot of blame when losing,” Custa says. “My main tip for someone wanting to learn Sombra is to mainly play her in situations where she is effective (map points, value health packs, good team composition).” 

You should always strive to be the best team player you can be, even in the face of toxicity. If your team’s composition will clearly not benefit from Sombra, try something else. But if you’re focusing on deterring a dive and the pieces fit, let your team know what you’re doing and approach it with confidence. As your game sense develops, so too will your Sombra play.