The first debut of Sombra on the professional stage was anything but glorious. Only a day after Sombra’s patch went live, Kim “Esca” In-jae of Korean team Lunatic Hai picked her on Temple of Anubis. Esca slipped past the front line of the enemy team, but was caught and summarily executed by the other team’s Ana before doing much of anything. Esca switched to a different character, laughing at himself.
Sombra has the lowest damage output out of all the offense classes, but she makes up for it with an expansive kit of tools
But at DreamHack Winter 2016, Sombra proved to be a laughing matter no longer. While she was played by teams throughout the tournament, her real value was demonstrated early on by compLexity Gaming, who walloped their way out of groups with a strategy focused around the stealthy hacker.
Sombra has the lowest damage output out of all the offense classes, but she makes up for it with an expansive kit of tools to keep her safe and one of the most impactful ultimates in the game. It’s these last two that characterize the typical strategy we saw at DreamHack.
By using active camouflage to position themselves for deep flanks, players running Sombra routinely popped up behind the enemy team to pepper them with rounds from her SMG. These didn’t tend to create any meaningful (read: lethal) damage, but that wasn’t the point. If the enemy team ignored her, Sombra got to freely build her ultimate. The instant they turned to face her, Sombra could just warp back to the translocator she dropped at the beginning of her flank. Eventually, she’d get her ultimate, and you’d get one of these, an EMP initiation followed by a coordinated and savage dive.
It’s a vicious strategy, and the worst part is there’s not much teams can do to stop it. Fail to do lethal damage to her, and she’ll just heal up at a hacked health pack safely behind her team, contributing even more charge to her EMP.
Sombra seemed to hit a wall later in the tournament, though. Fnatic, who ran Sombra with great effect into teams like Ninjas in Pyjamas, couldn’t find success with her against the more disciplined Misfits, who positioned far enough apart from one another that the impact of an EMP was lessened. Eventually, they backed off the strategy and returned to more familiar team compositions. In the Grand Finals of the tournament, Sombra still made frequent appearances, but no longer as a playmaker: instead, teams ran the character as a desperate last minute pick, using her speed and active camouflage to jump on the point and delay as long as possible.
Of course, Sombra’s still a very new character, and a failure to find consistent success with her this early doesn’t tell us a huge amount about her strength relative to the rest of the Overwatch roster. While some players adapt to playing against the hacker, others will get more comfortable with her kit. If there’s one thing to take away from her showing at DreamHack, it’s that in the right hands, Sombra has the potential to devastate even professional teams.