'Overwatch' Sombra guide: Tips, tricks, what can be hacked, and how to counter her

Blizzard Entertainment

Sombra, the newest — and possibly inexplicably toe-shoed — hero added to Overwatch in patch update 2.0 can be incredibly powerful in the right hands, but her complex kit of abilities can be frustrating to utilize effectively if you don't understand them fully. Don't worry: Mic is here to guide you.

Sombra in 'Overwatch'Source: Blizzard Entertainment
Sombra in 'Overwatch'  Blizzard Entertainment

Read on to learn everything you could possibly ever want to know about Sombra, including her full list of abilities, what kinds of things can or cannot be hacked — and most importantly — how to counter her when she's on the enemy team.

Overwatch Sombra guide: Full abilities list

Source: PlayOverwatch/YouTube

Before we get too far into the nitty-gritty, here's Sombra's full list of abilities, per Mic's previous coverage:

1. Machine pistol: Sombra's standard attack is a machine pistol with a short-range spread and a high-capacity magazine. 

2. Hack: Sombra can temporarily stop other players' abilities, including ultimates. Hack can also be used on specific health packs, rendering them useless to the enemy team for a short time and making them reload at triple speed for allies. 

3. Thermoptic Camo: This camouflage ability makes Sombra invisible for a short time, during which her movement speed is boosted considerably. Attacking, taking damage and using abilities — with the exception of the translocator — will interrupt this effect. 

4. Translocator: Sombra can instantly teleport to this device, meaning that she could throw it behind enemy lines or leave it in a safe spot to escape when things get hairy. After throwing it, it remains active for 15 seconds.

5. EMP: Sombra's ultimate ability hacks all enemies around her, preventing them from using any abilities for a short time. Additionally, the EMP destroys all barriers and shields around her — that includes Reinhardt's giant shield, Winston's domed barrier and the portion of a character's health bar made up of shields, including those provided by Lúcio's ultimate. 

6. Opportunist: Sombra's passive ability allows her to see enemies through walls when they have less than half their health.

Overwatch Sombra guide: Tips and tricks

Let's talk more generally about where your head should be while you're playing Sombra. It's best to think of her as a hybrid between an offense, support and defense hero: Though she has the potential to be quite mobile and deadly, she lacks the kind of mobility of someone like Tracer — and doesn't hit quite as hard, either.

Sombra in 'Overwatch'Source: Blizzard Entertainment
Sombra in 'Overwatch'  Blizzard Entertainment

Instead of focusing solely on engaging other players and racking up as many kills as possible, Sombra is most effective when she's manipulating other players through hacking, setting up her teammates for kills and being a constant annoyance to the enemy team. She can hang in the heat of battle for a few brief moments to pick off one or two enemies low on health, but you should always, always have an escape route in mind.

Considering I've spent upwards of 200 hours playing Overwatch and Sombra has only been playable for a few days, I haven't spent a huge percentage of my time playing her, but here's my favorite rhythm so far: 

1. Hack a health pack in a relatively safe, low-traffic area and throw your translocator directly on top of it. 

2. Use Thermoptic Camo to go invisible as you navigate the map's side passageways and flank routes to get close to the enemy team.

3. Take the enemy's support characters by surprise when you come out of stealth, either picking them off if they're relatively low on health or by hacking them.

4. If the enemy team has a Reinhardt, get behind them and hack them to prevent them from using their shield for awhile. This should cause the enemy team to scatter as they seek cover, allowing you to corner a single enemy and pick them off.

5. As soon as the enemy team has taken notice of you and you start to get low on health, immediately activate the translocator, which you placed conveniently on top of a hacked health pack, restoring you to full health.

6. Rinse and repeat.

Overwatch Sombra guide: How to use Translocator and Thermoptic Camo effectively

Sombra has the potential to be incredibly mobile, but only if you pair Translocator and Thermoptic Camo in the right way. If you don't, expect to be eliminated pretty quickly.

I think the initial instinct people have is to use the translocator offensively, throwing it into the middle of a battle or behind enemy lines and getting the jump on enemies that way. 

Sombra's Translocator ability.Source: Blizzard Entertainment
Sombra's Translocator ability.  Blizzard Entertainment

In my experience — since taking any kind of damage will immediately knock Sombra out of stealth — it's much more effective to use Thermoptic Camo to get you in the middle of battle, and then use the translocator to escape.

Basically, if you're low on health and have a Winston electrocuting the hell out of you, activating your stealth won't do anything because you'll immediately take damage, which disables your stealth. Instead, try to enter skirmishes on foot, but have a translocator placed in a safe spot so you can zip away at a moment's notice.

Overwatch Sombra guide: Holy shit, always hack as many health packs as possible please

Though Sombra's Hack ability is a great way to disable enemies, it's also really powerful when used on health packs — perhaps even more so than when it's used on other characters.

That's because hacking a health pack lasts for a full minute, whereas hacks on enemies only last about six seconds. Since hacking takes a moment to fully activate and has a cooldown of 12 seconds, it's often a better option to eliminate an enemy than to hack them.

Sombra should hack as many health packs as possible.  Blizzard Entertainment/YouTube/Giphy

Hacking a health pack also makes it recharge at triple speed and limits it to use by you and your allies. I've been in several situations where I theoretically should have been eliminated in a one-on-one skirmish with someone like Soldier: 76, but because I had hacked a health pack and was basically standing right on top of it, it replenished quickly enough to heal me several times over the course of that short fight.

So, when you're playing Sombra, think not only about which health packs will be most beneficial to you, but also place yourself in the toe shoes of the other team and hack the health packs you know they'll want to use when things get hairy. When they arrive, they'll see that orange skull hovering above it and shake their fists at the sky in anger. Hopefully, you'll be waiting in the wings to pick them off like the sick, weak buffalo they are.

Overwatch Sombra guide: Do Hack and EMP affect [insert ability/character here]?

The Hack ability and Sombra's ultimate EMP interrupt some abilities, but not all of them. You might think that since it's an EMP it would immediately interrupt any kind of tech-related ability, but that's not the case. It's very confusing.

Sombra's ultimate, EMPSource: Blizzard Entertainment
Sombra's ultimate, EMP  Blizzard Entertainment

In general, Hack and EMP prevent players from using any kind of active ability — like Mei's Ice Wall — but does not prevent players from using passive abilities — like Mercy's Angelic Descent. But things get especially confusing when ultimates enter the equation, because sometimes those can be prematurely interrupted by EMP.

Here's are all the weird ways Hack affects — or doesn't affect — every single character's abilities. (Editor's note: Most of this information has been crowdsourced from Reddit and other outlets, so if you have evidence that directly contradicts one of the above examples, please email tim@mic.com.)

Ana

— Hacking Ana will prevent her from applying Nano Boost, but hacking a character that has already been Nano Boosted will not disable it prematurely.

Bastion

— Hacking Bastion while he's in his turret form will forcibly revert him to normal.

— Hacking him while his ultimate is active will not end it prematurely.

D.Va

— Hacking D.Va prevents her from using her abilities, but there is no way to interrupt her ultimate if she's already activated it.

Genji

— Hacking Genji will not prevent him from double jumping or scaling walls. 

— Hacking Genji while his ultimate is active will not end it prematurely.

Hanzo

— Hacking Hanzo prevents him from switching arrow types, but if there is already a Sonic Arrow active, hacking Hanzo won't disable its effect.

Junkrat

— When hacked, Junkrat cannot detonate his concussion mine, even if it's already been placed. 

Lúcio

— Hacking Lúcio will prevent him from switching songs, but the effects of his current song will persist. 

— Using EMP will immediately destroy any shields Lúcio has created with his ultimate. 

McCree

— Hack and EMP immediately interrupt McCree's ultimate.

— When hacked, McCree can still activate his alternate fire, "Fan the Hammer."

Mei

— Hack and EMP will not interrupt Mei's ultimate.

Mercy

— Mercy can still heal, damage boost and use Angelic Descent when hacked, but she cannot use Guardian Angel to fly to an ally.

— Mercy's ultimate cannot be interrupted with Hack or EMP.

Pharah

— Pharah's ultimate can be interrupted by Hack and EMP.

— Since it's a passive ability, Pharah can still hover after being hacked.

Reaper

— Reaper cannot be hacked while he is in Wraith Form.

— Reaper's ultimate can be interrupted with Hack or EMP.

Reinhardt

— Reinhardt's Charge ability can be interrupted with Hack or EMP.

— EMP travels through Reinhardt's shield and affects enemies hiding behind it.

Roadhog

— Roadhog's ultimate can be interrupted with Hack or EMP

— Roadhog's self-heal, Take a Breather, can be interrupted with Hack or EMP.

Soldier: 76

— Hack and EMP do not interrupt Soldier: 76's ultimate.

Sombra

— Sombra can still see enemies through walls when she's hacked.

Symmetra

Symmetra's teleporter and turrets are immune to EMP and Hack.

Torbjörn

— EMP and Hack temporarily disable Torbjörn's turrets.

— EMP and Hack do not end Torbjörn's ultimate prematurely, but both will disable the level 3 turret created by his ultimate.

Tracer

— EMP and Hack do not interrupt Tracer's ultimate.

Widowmaker

— EMP and Hack do not interrupt Widowmaker's ultimate.

Winston

— EMP will travel through Winston's domed barrier and affect enemies hiding inside it.

Zarya

— Zarya's barriers can block Hacks and EMPs.

— Zarya's ultimate cannot be interrupted by Hack or EMP.

Zenyatta

— Zenyatta is unaffected by Hacks or EMPs while using his ultimate.

— Zenyatta cannot activate new Orbs of Discord or Orbs of Harmony when Hacked, but the effect of his currently placed Orbs will persist.

Overwatch Sombra guide: How to counter Sombra

OK, have all those terrible, dirty Sombra players stopped reading yet? Great, let's talk about how to defeat her should you find yourself trying to take an enemy Sombra down.

Sombra is only effective if she's not currently taking damage. Taking damage will interrupt both Hack and Thermoptic Camo, so any characters that deal damage in a large area will be good for weeding her out and rendering her useless.

Mei's Blizzard is a great way to reveal a camouflaged Sombra.Source: Blizzard Entertainment
Mei's Blizzard is a great way to reveal a camouflaged Sombra.  Blizzard Entertainment

Three characters in particular are great at doing this: Winston, Mei and Junkrat. There are certainly other characters who counter her, but those are the three that have been most effective in my experience.

Winston is extremely effective at countering Sombra because he doesn't really need to aim his main weapon. It works like a lawnmower, damaging anything in its path. It's a great way to reveal a stealthy Sombra and prevent her from using Hack.

Mei is great for countering Sombra because her primary weapon and her ultimate both have a fairly large area of effect. Slowing or freezing Sombra is a great way to disable her.

Since Junkrat's bombs bounce around and automatically detonate on contact with an enemy, they're a great way to find an invisible Sombra, too. And Junkrat's traps are perfectly suited for disabling Sombra's other ability: Translocator. Since the translocator beacon is pretty easy to spot, throw a steel trap and a concussion mine on top of it. As soon as Sombra teleports back to it, it will trigger the trap — at which point you can detonate the mine. Adios, Sombra:

Junkrat's traps are a great counter to Sombra's Translocator.Source: Blizzard Entertainment/Reddit/Gfycat
Junkrat's traps are a great counter to Sombra's Translocator.  Blizzard Entertainment/Reddit/Gfycat

Other characters can simply hang out by her translocator beacon and wait for her to appear, at which point she'll be extremely vulnerable, giving you an opportunity to catch her by surprise.

If you have any other tips or tricks, feel free to send them to me at tim@mic.com, but this should be more than enough to get most players started.

Best of luck!