One of the original tank heroes in Overwatch is now an unstoppable force in Overwatch 2.
Zarya, the cannon-wielding Russian weightlifter, is the most played tank by the game's highest ranked competitive players. Reddit user TheForrestFire (opens in new tab) found that 83.3% of the top tank players in North America almost exclusively play Zarya, and that all of the top 30 have her in their top three most played heroes. And if you look at the hour counts on many of those players, their time on Zarya far outweighs the other tanks.
Overwatch 2's top 500 leaderboard shifts around a little bit as players win and lose games, but TheForrestFire's results reveal how successful the most skilled players are with her. The top 30 EU and Asia tanks players mostly main her too—although there's a little more variety in those regions, especially in the lower ranks.
It's worth noting that there are a number of professional esports players in the rankings that skews it. They often play ranked to practice and get grouped up with other esports players, which can make those games more coordinated than others.
Zarya's power largely comes from a significant change Blizzard had to make to her so that she could survive in Overwatch 2's five versus five format. With each team losing one of its two tanks, Zarya received increased health and the ability to double up on her damage-absorbing bubbles, or Particle Barriers. Before, she had an ability that let her bubble herself and another one for an ally. Now, he has one universal bubble ability that uses a two-charge system, which lets her stack them on whoever she wants.
When you deal damage to her bubbles, Zarya gains charge that increases the damage of her gun. Careful bubble usage as you close in on a target or as a teammate charges in, sets her up to compete with DPS heroes in damage output. Even in my average-skilled matches, Zaryas get charged up quickly and then melt through teams. Any time you think you can catch her without a protective barrier, she has another one available and you've only just made her stronger. And if you let her go off for too long, she'll build her Graviton Surge ultimate and wipe out your team all at once. She's the worst tank in the game to play against, but a lot of fun to have on your team.
In top 500 play, Zaryas are often backed by the two most played support heroes: Lucio and Ana. Lucio can speed boost her around the map, and Ana can snipe massive amounts of healing into her. And with Genji and Sojourn's high pick rates in the damage role, Zarya can enable their aggression in team fights and maintain her charge for the whole match.
Zarya's reign might not last much longer though. She, along with a few other heroes, will receive balance changes in an upcoming patch, according to a tweet (opens in new tab) by Overwatch 2 game director Aaron Keller. It's likely that the patch will come out next week to give Overwatch League players time to practice before the playoffs on October 30. It might arrive on Tuesday, the same day the game will start its Halloween Terror event, restore the Junkertown map after an fps-dropping bug (opens in new tab), re-enable Torbjorn in competitive, and finally bring back Bastion—a high-damage hero that might have helped against Zarya—to the game.