This is also the reason why whenever she is picked at high levels, players usually focus on her grenade talents. Zarya can theoretically dish out huge numbers in team fights, but so much of it is locked behind her basic attack which is incredibly difficult to use. Every hero in the game can literally just start walking away from her and her basic attack is suddenly useless because she can't stutter step. For example, let's say Zarya somehow gets into melee range with a Malfurion, what happens? Malfurion literally just walks away and will only take ~1 second of damage from Zarya's basic attack which is insignificant even at full energy. She does so much damage yet is simultaneously so non-threatening due to her severe immobility.
"But wait" I hear people saying, "doesn't Tychus have the same problem? If the stutter-stepping thing is so bad then why is Tychus picked so much more than Zarya?" And yes, Tychus' incredibly high attack speed does largely prevent him from performing traditional stutter stepping like how Valla and others would do it. But Tychus has ways to mitigate this issue that Zarya can only dream of. Chief among these is his E which is automatically upgraded at level 1 <
The reverse is also true. Instead of chasing a Malfurion, let's say a Diablo is walking up to you. You would like to auto attack him, but getting flipped means certain death. Most heroes in the game would just kite him for a long time. Tychus can attack for a bit, E back, and attack some more getting a decent number of autos off. Zarya gets the real short end of the stick. She can auto attack Diablo for maybe half a second and then has to full stop and walk away, dealing 0 damage while doing so. And when Diablo turns around, Zarya still can't chase him at all with her auto attacks. And this brings us to the second reason why this issue isn't nearly as detrimental for Tychus as it is Zarya: Tychus' trait. If Tychus activates his trait, 2-3 seconds of auto attacking is all he needs to put a HUGE dent in someone's health bar (especially if he has <
To summarize, even though it looks like Tychus would have the same stutter stepping issues as Zarya at first glance, in reality, he can mitigate this issue by using his E as a sort of discount-stutter-step and use his trait for huge burst damage with his auto attacks. Zarya can do neither of these things and her auto attacks are the most clunky to use in the entire game because of it. I personally believe this is the single biggest reasons why Zarya is not meta. Her stats coupled with her supporting are theoretically incredible, but in practice, her auto attacks are so ridiculously clunky that she can't output nearly as much effective damage as she should be able to. My suggestion to fix all of this is to give Zarya the ability to move slowly while auto-attacking. She would function sort of like Tracer except she'd move at, say, 30%-40% move speed instead of 100% while attacking (exact numbers would need to be tested of course and if some nerfs are necessary to bring this in, so be it). Personally, I think this is the most important change she needs to fix her fundamental issues rather than any straight stat/talent buffs: A more useable auto attack. This would also open up some interesting opportunities for talents such as a talent that would increase her attacking move speed depending on her energy, or perhaps an active that greatly increases her attacking move speed for a short time. As a bonus, this change is also more faithful to her Overwatch kit.
There are a lot of positives to this change. Firstly, this doesn't over-buff things that are already really good on Zarya such as her Particle Grenade talents or her ability to siege structures, both things that the devs would have to be very wary of if they tried to give her straight stat or talent buffs. Secondly, this hugely promotes more talent diversity (and could create a couple of interesting talents too) because her auto attack and energy talents would become much more appealing if her auto attack were more useable. Thirdly, this would make Zarya significantly more fun to play overall. No longer would you have to literally root yourself in order to attack anyone, and she can actually chase people down a little bit instead of having to resort to her Q to deal damage almost immediately after they start walking away. And there's probably more.
What do you guys think? Would love to hear some thoughts especially from hardcore Zarya players. Thanks for reading ♥
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