Just What is Sombra’s Role in Competitive Overwatch?


Been here all along.

When Sombra was first officially announced at Blizzcon 2016, she came out with a bang. Coming off a controversial ARG game from Blizzard and a brand new cinematic trailer, players expected great things from Sombra.

Unfortunately, Sombra struggled to find her footing in the Overwatch meta, and many disregarded her as an Assault hero. She didn’t have the traditional DPS that Soldier 76 and McCree are known for, and she didn’t have the flanking utilities of Tracer and Genji. Shouldn’t she be considered a support hero? Why is her DPS so low? These were just a few of the many thoughts that floated around the Overwatch community at the time of her release.

Today, Sombra is still very underutilized, but there’s been an interesting trend at the higher levels. Just by taking a look at Sombra’s overall usage and statistics, you can see that although her pick rate is low at 0.55% overall, the rate at which she’s getting picked increases per tier level.

At the Bronze level, Sombra has a 0.67% pick rate and a 36.10% win rate. At the Grandmaster level, Sombra has a 0.82% pick rate and a 47.49% win rate. In short, from the Bronze level upwards, Sombra’s pick and win rate gradually increases. What gives?

Sombra on Defense

Although Sombra is listed as an Assault hero in Overwatch, higher level players pick her more as a defensive option. Based on statistics at Overbuff, we can see that Sombra is being picked primarily as a defensive hero. But why?

A lot of it comes down to certain maps and certain control points. Sombra has among one of the fastest ultimate charges in the game, if played correctly. Her ability to hack health packs is crucial to certain chokepoints, such as the Temple of Anubis. Whenever a teammate picks up a health pack that Sombra has hacked, her ultimate charges faster than any other hero in Overwatch. Add the fact that a hacked health pack both respawns faster AND heals more, it’s easy to see why Sombra is such a desired pick on certain maps.

Sombra’s EMP ultimate is also a crucial tool to shutting down a huge push on chokepoint-heavy maps. Several ultimates in Overwatch compliment each other, and if utilized properly, can lead to easy victories. Sombra’s EMP can effectively shut down entire team attacks.

Acting as a stationary healer with a fast-charging ultimate that can dictate the course of the match, it’s easy to see why Sombra is a popular pick on Defense. However, Sombra is still very low on the pick rate when compared to other heroes. Why is that?

Sombra is Still a Situational Hero

Although many pro players are starting to understand Sombra’s kit better, she’s still a situational pick. She doesn’t have the raw firepower like Soldier 76 and McCree has, and it’s not optimal to play Sombra as a flanker like Tracer, despite their seemingly similar toolkit.

Taking a look again at usage statistics from Overbuff, Sombra is primarily picked on certain maps with clear chokepoints and easy-to-access health packs. Maps such as Temple of Anubis, Hollywood, and Route 66 are great maps for Sombra to shine. These maps provide several health packs to the defending team, allowing for the defending team to properly set up at chokepoints.

Let’s examine the Temple of Anubis and Route 66 as an example of situations where Sombra works great on defense. On the second point of the Temple of Anubis, there lies a mega health pack under the main bridge right before the control point. It’s a well-used flanking route by flankers such as Tracer, and if poorly utilized by the defending team, the attacking team can continually use the mega health pack to stay in firefights longer, or even turn the tide of the game.

With a Sombra on defense, attackers can’t pick up the hacked health pack, which can effectively shut down an entire flank route. Add to the fact that hacked health packs respawn in 2 seconds for smaller health packs, and 4 seconds for mega health packs, it’s easy to see why Sombra gives the defending team a huge advantage on this map. It’s simple, too – just be sure to hack the health pack when the timer runs out, and you essentially have a static healing station for very little effort.

Route 66 is a bit of a trickier map. As a payload map, the chokepoints differ as the game goes on. These maps are where Sombra can become a bit of a situational pick, depending on where the payload is at the moment. Before the first point, there’s a building with a mega health pack inside. A popular strategy is to hold off the attacking team on the roof of said building on defense. In situations like this, where a single death from the defending team can lead to a snowball offensive push from the opposing team, sustainability is important for the defending team. With a mega health pack conveniently located right inside the building, having a Sombra can allow for a static healing station, akin to the Temple of Anubis.

The similarities between these two maps and Sombra’s effectiveness on them have a common endpoint: the placement of health packs. A conveniently located health pack where both teams can effectively utilize them can be the ace in the hole for either team. Playing Sombra on defense can effectively shut down a huge part of the offensive strategies against the opposing team, while continuously supplying her own team with healing every 2-4 seconds, depending on the health pack.

Sombra’s toolkit also sees high usage against certain heroes. With her hacking ability, she can shut down ultimates, turrets, and defensive barriers. In the current meta where hitscan heroes such as Soldier 76 and McCree are king, hitscan counter heroes are getting increasingly more popular, such as D.Va. With proper positioning, Sombra can hack down D.Va’s defensive matrix, allowing hitscan heroes free reign on the opposing team.

However, as you can see, Sombra’s pick rate primarily on the Defensive side, and her ability to shine on certain maps makes her a situational pick. Although her base kit is strong, Sombra currently relies on health pack placement and map choice.

We’re beginning to see Sombra being picked more often on an Overall usage rate, but she’s still one of the lowest picked heroes in the current meta. We’re beginning to see that change, as more pro players discover the utility of her kit, and how to properly utilize them.

How Can I Get Better at Sombra?

Being a situational hero even at the pro level, it’s clear that Sombra still hasn’t been fully dissected in today’s meta. At first glance, Sombra just doesn’t seem that strong. She has a gun that does as much damage as an Airsoft gun, and has the accuracy of a Super Soaker. As for offensive abilities, that’s all she has: her terrible gun. The rest of her kit relies on mobility and hacking. Yet, in lower tiers of play, several Sombra players play her like Tracer – which, if you were going to do, you might as well just play Tracer instead.

Here are some key things to keep in mind if you’re looking to improve your Sombra play and winrate:

  • Don’t play her like a DPS flanker. Sombra is not an assassin like Reaper, nor is she a massive disturbance like Tracer. Sombra creates mayhem in the enemy lines instead by hacking certain heroes that counters your team (for example, an enemy D.Va that’s constantly blocking your hitscan heroes), and denying the enemy team of health packs.
  • Learn to juggle her hacking and Translocator timers. When playing Sombra, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of things you have to keep track of as Sombra. How long is my hack going to last? When will my hack be up again? When will I need to re-hack the health pack? How much longer until my translocator deactivates? Knowing the cooldowns on your abilities and how to utilize them in an optimal way will keep you from constantly dying, and you’ll be able to stay in firefights much longer in more a supporting role.
  • Utilize Sombra’s Translocator tool more strategically. It’s a handy ability that lets you translocate (basically teleport) to wherever you throw your translocating gadget to. Remember to keep in mind of its timer once thrown – it can save your life if you’re a danger. A popular tactic that many people use is to hack a health pack, and drop a translocator there, so when your life is in jeopardy, you can teleport back to safety and heal up. Other uses for it could also to throw it behind enemy lines to hack key targets, like a Mercy with an ultimate, or a Roadhog that’s currently using his ultimate. There are several ways to use her translocator, and you can decide whether you want to use it to juke your enemies after a risky harass, or to displace the enemy team with well placed hacks.
  • On that note, use Sombra more in a supporting role. Sombra’s passive allows for her to see enemies with less than 50% health. Only Sombra can see this, and so it’s up to the player to call out enemies with low health, and coordinate with your team to prioritize who to eliminate. Hack enemies often to see whether or not an enemy has their ultimate ready, which you can then communicate to your teammates. For example, by hacking an enemy Mercy and seeing that she has ult, it would be wise to prioritize the enemy Mercy in a teamfight. Use her EMP ultimate to change the course of team fights, and use her invisibility to constantly disturb their supports. Act like a facilitator, and let your team follow up on you.

This isn’t the end-all key points to be good at Sombra, but they’re key things to think about when you play her. Like any other hero, great communication with your team is key to playing Sombra effectively, and understanding your role and how to excel at it will help you see vast improvements on your gameplay.

Hack the planet.

With the changing meta in Overwatch, and the constant support and buffs that the Overwatch dev team has been giving Sombra, now’s as good as a time as any to give her a shot in competitive play.

With her increasing pick and win rate in games, players are steadily finding Sombra’s ground in today’s competition. By playing Sombra in a unique hybrid role of a Support/DPS hero, your impact on your team and the enemy team can prove to be the defining factor in your competitive success.

Everything can be hacked. And everyone. Even your win rate.



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