Zenyatta is one of Overwatch’s support heroes, providing a unique form of healing that briefly helps allies who are no longer in his line of sight. The utility he brings is also specific to him: he’s the only support hero who can strip an enemy’s defenses. The omnic monk excels at single-target long range healing, dealing damage, and target designation. His weaknesses are a severe lack of mobility and lower single-target healing than other supports. Zenyatta is therefore best played as an offensive secondary support who focuses on providing targets for his team by debuffing enemy heroes while supplying additional healing.
Left-Click: Orbs of Destruction
Zenyatta ‘s primary weapon is the ring of orbs that float around his body. A linear projectile weapon, Orbs of Destruction have a fast projectile speed and rate of fire and are capable of dealing headshots. Through regular fire, Zenyatta deals 115 damage per second.
As this is the first hero we’ve covered that has a linear projectile weapon I want to briefly explain the two main forms of targeting in Overwatch. These are tracing (following a target’s movement while shooting them) and leading (aiming ahead down the path you predict the target is going to take.) When using a hitscan weapon you want to trace the target. When using a linear projectile weapon, you want to lead.
Zenyatta’s flying balls of death are a very potent offensive weapon, particularly when combined with his Orb of Discord. The drawback, however, is that they’re projectiles. The key to using the Orbs of Destruction effectively is to get used to their projectile speed and lead your target. At close range—up to 20 meters—lead your target by a meter. At medium range—20-40 meters—lead by a meter or two. At long range, lead by four to five meters. Your best bet is to prioritize targets at medium range.
Right-Click: Orb Volley
Orb Volley is Zenyatta’s alternate fire. He charges multiple Orbs of Destruction and fires them simultaneously. These individual projectiles are the same as the Orbs of Destruction, but can fire up to five rounds in quick succession when fully charged, dealing between 40 and 200 damage.
Orb Volley is best used in situations where you know that you are going to fire at a target a few seconds later, such as when enemies are approaching a choke point or have been holding at the same position for an extended period. Good targets for Orb Volley are enemy heroes without mobility powers, like Roadhog or Zarya, or enemies who are temporarily slow or unable to move—a McCree using High Noon, a Shadow Stepping Reaper, or Bastion in Sentry mode.
The volley is more efficient in terms of damage after charging three orbs or more. You’ll automatically launch the volley after four seconds, but it’s fully charged after three. While launching the Orb Volley don’t forget to keep leading your target, as you don’t simultaneously launch every orb—you fire them in quick succession.
Overwatch features multiple alternate fire options that deplete several rounds of the hero’s primary weapon. A trick that works for every one of these is that you can still use the alternate fire option if the primary weapon’s ammo clip has less than the required amount of ammo. For Orb Volley, this means that if you have less than five rounds left in your ammo clip, you can still fire five orbs using the volley.
Shift: Orb of Harmony
Orb if Harmony is Zenyatta’s means of healing, a targeted homing projectile that heals 30 health per second and stays on a target for three seconds after leaving Zenyatta’s line of sight. You can only have one Orb of Harmony deployed at any given time.
To effectively heal as Zenyatta, constantly move your Orb of Harmony around. It is the only ability which can heal targets who are not in their healer’s line of sight. Therefore, Orb of Harmony is ideal for flankers and heroes that skip in and out of battle like Genji, Tracer and Reaper. Other priority targets are heroes with a lower maximum health pool such as McCree and Pharah. Targets with a high maximum health pool take a long time to heal with the Orb of Harmony, so only heal them when their health is dropping low. Other low priority targets for your Orb of Harmony are heroes who have a mean of self sustain, like Roadhog, Soldier: 76, and Mei.
Unlike most other healing abilities, Orb of Harmony does not instantly heal a target. It first has to travel to your ally before it starts healing. As it’s not instant, it’s important to not let your ally’s health drop below 10%. If they do, chances are that you won’t be able to heal them up in time. In such a situation, it’s better to deploy your Orb of Harmony sooner rather than later.
E: Orb of Discord
The other part of Zenyatta's support kit is the Orb of Discord. It provides utility to Zenyatta’s team in the form of a debuff on an enemy hero. The Orb of Discord is another targeted homing projectile that amplifies the amount of damage the target takes by 30% and it lasts for three seconds after the target has left Zenyatta’s line of sight. You can only have one Orb of Discord deployed at any given time. Additionally, a player who has an Orb of Discord on them will always be visible to Zenyatta even when that hero is out of Zenyatta’s line of sight. This effect remains until the Orb of Discord is returned to Zenyatta.
Orb of Discord can make even the most badass hero cower in fear, turning any enemy hero into a squishy target. Using the Orb of Discord effectively seems easy, but there are more ways to use it than just as a protection debuff. Generally the rule is to place it on the enemy hero who is the biggest threat to your team. Identifying the biggest threat usually boils down to whoever has the game changing ultimate at that point. It can be a Genji, Tracer, or McCree who is picking up kills, but it can just as well be a Reinhardt who has an Earthshatter or an enemy support player with their ultimate at their disposal.
The Orb of Discord can also be used to track enemy heroes as their position is revealed to Zenyatta through an icon, or to zone out a single hero. As any hero that has received the Orb of Discord turns into a squishy target, you will notice that most of them will hide for three seconds in order to get rid of it. Therefore, you can effectively zone out enemies simply by placing an Orb of Discord on them.
There are a few heroes who can remove the Orb of Discord by using abilities. These are Reaper’s Wraith Form, Tracer’s Recall, Mei’s Cryo Freeze, Zarya’s Barrier (which works on herself and on allies), Zenyatta’s Transcendence, and D.Va’s Self Destruct. Even when these heroes remove the Orb of Discord from themselves, it can easily be reapplied after their abilities have worn off.
Zenyatta’s ultimate allows for him to heal for 300 health per second in a 10 meter radius, while also increasing his own movement speed. Transcendence lasts for six seconds. With a required charge of 1650 points, it falls in the second-highest required point charge class out of the support heroes. The required points to fully charge your ultimate is slightly deceptive, as Zenyatta can quickly gain ult charge if he takes an active part in damaging enemies.
There are several means of using Zenyatta’s Transcendence, but it is most commonly used to counter an enemy push. When the enemy team tries an all out engagement on your team, Transcendence is an ideal mean to sustain them through a fight as it can counter any damage that does not instantly kill an ally. The ultimates that a Transcendence can out-heal are: Reaper’s Death Blossom, Genji’s Dragon Blade, Pharah’s Barrage, Soldier: 76’s Tactical Visor, Hanzo’s Dragonstrike, Bastion’s Configuration: Tank (with the exception of direct hits on targets with less than 205 health), Torbjörn’s Molten Core, Roadhog’s Whole Hog, and Ana’s Nano Boost. Additionally, it is a great tool for healing a target up when they are disabled by abilities such as McCree’s Flashbang, Mei’s Blizzard, Reinhardt’s Earthshatter, and Zarya’s Graviton Surge.
While Zenyatta is using Transcendence he is invulnerable and can act as a barrier for his allies. Although hard to do, he can block enemy ultimates such as Reinhardt’s Earthshatter, D.Va’s Self-Destruct, Mei’s Blizzard, Hanzo’s Dragon Strike, Pharah’s Barrage (if close enough to Pharah), and shots from Bastion’s Configuration: Tank.
A great counter to Transcendence are abilities that can instantly kill his allies such as McCree’s Deadeye, D.Va’s Self-Destruct (if not blocked), and Tracer’s Pulse Bomb. Other ways to counter Zenyatta’s ultimate include removing him from the fight (with Reinhardt’s Charge, Roadhog’s Chain Hook and Whole Hog, Winston’s Primal Rage, Pharah’s Concussive Blast, or Lucio’s Soundwave) or by negating the heal from his ult with Ana’s Biotic Grenade.
Aside from defensive uses for Transcendance, you can also use it to support a hard push. It’ll allow your team to easily push through a heavily guarded area or choke point.
Zenyatta is best played as an offensive secondary support. When played correctly he can be a general on the battlefield, determining targets and providing additional heals to his teammates. That said, he has a hard time healing people on his own. Due to small health pool, severe lack of mobility, and the necessity for a long line of sight to effectively use his kit, Zenyatta favors maps and situations with choke points and without lots of verticality. These maps include Temple of Anubis, Dorado point one and three, Route 66, Watchpoint: Gibraltar point one, two, and four, Hollywood point one and three, King’s Row, Numbani point one (on defense), two, and three, Lijiang Tower’s Night Market and Garden, and Nepal.
Zenyatta is a great counter to all tanks (with the exception of Winston) targets with low mobility such as Torbjörn, Bastion, and McCree, and heroes with rapid damage ultimates like Genji, Reaper, and Pharah. He is a great asset in teams with one or two flankers such as Genji, Tracer, and Reaper and fits in any team as a secondary support. As Zenyatta you should fear heroes who can easily get up close to you and stick to you, such as Tracer, Genji, and Winston, and heroes with high burst damage who will kill you quickly—Reaper and Hanzo—or that do more damage than your ultimate can heal—D.Va and Tracer.
A good Zenyatta differs from a bad Zenyatta not only through their aim and ability to micromanage, but also through positioning. You always want to stay in the backline of your team at approximately 25 to 35 meters. From that distance you should be in range to effectively deal damage to both frontline enemies as well as backline enemies, to deploy your Orb of Discord on enemies, and to deploy your Orb of Harmony on allies. Put yourself in positions where you have an open line of sight, but the ability to run behind a corner if burst damage is a threat. Prioritize squishy and mobile allies with your Orb of Harmony, and prioritize the enemies who are the biggest threat to your team with your Orb of Discord.