Flanker, healer, and opener, Sombra has a lot of tools at her disposal, and if she plays them correctly, her biggest tool will be up in no time to either initiate the next fight, swing the current one in your favor, or else stop the enemy push flat.
There's something I have to start with though. If you play Sombra, you don't get to sulk out of team voicechat, blaming your McCree for not headshotting all the healers after you finally hack Rein, or yell at your team if you run in without saying anything, EMP two people in the very backline, then get mad when the Mei walls off your team so everyone has time to run back, kill you, then go back and keep holding choke. Sombra is absolutely 100% a team-based hero. There is no "But my XYZ", or "Well if they'd just listen". Sombra will not work if you're not doing your best to communicate and work with your team, and they're listening and working to run with you. Sombra isn't the character you can solo carry with, Sombra isn't the character to run if you plan on running off and doing your own thing. Assuming you're playing at your level (smurfs begone), there's no way you can run Sombra if you and your team aren't working together, and prioritizing whatever you call out. And that's fine if you can't run her. However, Sombra's potential is great if you and your team can create a synergy, and she can absolutely enable a team to get solid picks time and time again, until finally she can enable someone else's ult to murder a team.
But please please please please, remember, Sombra is the epitome of a team based character. Please, don't get salty, don't get toxic, and play to have fun. You will lose, and that's fine. Don't be the player that brings everyone else's fun down though.
Hack has .8 sec cast time and an 8 second cool down. Its effects on health packs last for a minute. It blocks enemy abilities from being cast for 8 seconds, can disable turrets for 10 seconds, and hack health packs so they regen faster, and give Sombra ult charge whenever used. Sombra must have LOS, be within 15 meters, and cannot be hit while hacking. If she takes any damage while hacking, hack will be cancelled. Hack will not be used, so cooldown won't kick in, unless hack is successful (Usually. Overwatch isn't perfect, and I've had my fair share of being clipped right as the ability is used, but the game doesn't actually register the hack on the target, just my cooldown).
Stealth has a .7 sec cast time(in and out), a 8.8m/s speed buff, it lasts for 6 seconds and it has a 6 second cooldown. Sombra goes invisible, but will be seen if she bumps into anyone. She goes faster, cannot attack while in this mode, but can translocate while stealth'd. Also is seen by Sonar Arrow and Widow Ult. Getting damaged at all (while casting or in Stealth) will force the player out of Stealth, and will take the .7 sec before the player can fire or hack.
Translocator has a .4 sec throw beacon time, .7 sec teleportation time, 15s till it deactivates and a 4 sec cooldown. Sombra throws a beacon in an arc, that she can teleport to by pressing E again. She can teleport during Stealth, even while the ability is activating/deactivating. The enemy team can see the beacon, and the little haze that is emitted by it. Sombra cannot teleport to it while stunned, hooked, pinned, etc.
Sombra sees any enemy heroes under 50% health, through walls, as red versions of those characters.
EMP is Sombra's ultimate. It has a .5 sec cast time, 15m radius, LOS required hack lasts appropriate time for whatever is within radius (6 sec heroes, 60 health packs, etc.). EMP acts as a hack, in a 15m radius sphere around Sombra. While it will go through barriers, it still requires LOS. Ult is charged by damage and allies (yourself included) using hacked health packs (% gained is relative to how much health was healed. Winston using the entire Big Pack twice is more charge than Genji healing 10 off it once).
In depth look at hack
Hack will stop any ability that's interruptible. That means Hog's Healing, Rein's charge, etc. The same goes for ults. Roadhog's ult, Pharah's, etc. How do you know if an attack/ability is "Interruptible"? Think of it this way. If McCree flash banged them, what would happen? For Dragon Blade, Tactical Visor, Nano Boost, Transcendence, nothing would happen. But Reaper, Pharah, Roadhog, would all curse you heavily.
Hack will also stop channeled abilities, such as Rein's Shield, DVa's Defense Matrix, and even 76's sprint (Hacking a man right in the knees, rough). So hacking is an incredibly useful tool, especially as it's a .8 second cast time, and can not only open up a tank for death, but whoever was counting on that tank for cover. It can also prevent an enemy from escaping (cough TRACER cough).
Most importantly though, Hack can be used on health packs. Big and small. And frankly, don't be picky. When a health kit is hacked, a skull appears over it. Purple for friendly, orange for enemy. You'll also notice as time goes on that the skull will seem to lose color. That's because the light purple is a timer on how much longer you have. Generally, you can get a few dash and hacks in before you have to rehack it. Letting it drop below 1/3 can be dangerous, as then your team is without a health pack if you get picked on one of your dangerous incursions. Hacked health kits also recharged much faster. Originally, Minor and Mega health packs recharge at 10 and 15 seconds respectively. When hacked, they're reduced to a mere 2.5 and 3.75 respectively. With Minors healing 75 health, and Megas healing 250, there's plenty of healing to be done. Even a Minor kit is 150 HP if someone grabs it initially, then waits 2.5 seconds for the recharge. Or, should your Winston, DVa, or other tank need healing and your support is down or elsewhere (or they're charging your ult, thx bb <3), they'll heal 500 health in 3.75 seconds off a Mega. That will completely heal most tanks, and put the remainder damn close. 4 seconds to fully heal your tank, assuming they got so low that they had to wait for the respawn of the Mega.
But that's why you shouldn't be picky when it comes to health packs. "Well if it's not a Mega, what's the point?" 150 health for whoever needs it is the point, while your healers can focus on the front line. While a Sombra health kit does mean disengaging to go heal, it also frees up your main healer to focus on the front line, while anyone with the mobility to (76, Genji, DVa, Winston, Junkrat) will go charge your sweet ult. It's also your go-to Translocator point. Volskaya is a great example. Assume perspective from Defense on point A. There's the minor on point, mega in the back, and did you know about the minor on the left, at the bottom of the steps? Hack that one. What about the others? If they don't have a Sombra, and they're not diving super hard, then not yet. Why? Because those are useless for the time being. Your teammate would have to leave the battle, run all the way to point, get the health pack, maybe even wait for the regen off it, then run back to reengage. That's too far away. A Sombra worth her salt will be able to hack the minor, and run the team off that until the enemy gets through. As soon as the enemy team breaks that first line though, your job is nothing but running back to point and hacking one of the packs. Which one? Well, depends on what you need at the time. If you've still got both tanks, you may want to hack the mega. However, that is a death room if the enemy team has a Junk, Reaper, or anything that battles close quarters, and will ultimately out damage the healing from the packs. If your support is low, and the fight is going to be on the point, get the minor on point. It is less, but if your other healer is up, they will get the tanks, while your DPS can work off the minor, while staying on point. Your healer also can use the minor on point, and never miss a beat on your tanks. Then, if there aren't pressing matters, you can hack the other health kit.
That's one example, and works off a situation I have in my head. That doesn't apply to every situation, but that gives you the reasoning to hack certain packs, when to fall back, and what to do in order to be effective for your team. Especially on Chokeskaya. Other maps that come to mind or King's Row, where you can hack the mega all the way back in the back, or hack the minors in hotel and statue. Which is more important do you think? Sometimes, it's easy to pick which one. Anubis has a mega directly to the right on Defense if you're holding on that little bridge. Route 66 has megas in tunnel and gas station. Other times, you've got nothing to work with, and your teammates can't rely on your health pack. Think of Liijang Tower: Garden. Where's the closest health packs? Nowhere near point. You probably don't even want to Sombra there, as the uphill battle you're facing would be atrocious, especially as you're gimping yourself by not having EMP up quickly because your team can't use your health packs nearly as effectively.
You'll want to plan your route out beforehand, but if your entire team is planning on playing off a health pack, you'll need to realize two things.
1. You're going to be very, very, very clustered in all likelihood.
2. You're running as fast as you can to that health pack. So dive.
Think of Anubis, you're attacking A. Where are your options? Well, steamroll left side through them (Hint: No. That puts you at an awful disadvantage), or, go up and over on right. That's already a popular choice, so they'll probably be ready to fall back and try to pursue. But the important part is that you get up to the pack, and hack it, and help your team get up there too. Then, heal the team up, hopefully the tanks will heal off your pack, and you're already facing some good charge on your ult. And you've only just pushed in. After that, you've got a few different things that may happen. Their Junk may come up to try to save the day, and get murdered. They may knock some of you down on point. They may coordinate, and pincer you from both angles. You'll have to judge that situation yourself.
Stealth and Translocator
I haven't discussed a lot about Stealth and Translocator. That's because there aren't a lot of things to be said about those. Generally, you'll hack a pack, place Translocator on it, then run off in Stealth to get behind them, get a good hack, spray some bullets, and translocate right back whenever they turn around. Speaking of which, be very careful when you're behind the enemy. All you need is 1.5 seconds (.7 to come out of stealth, .8 to hack) to achieve what can be a major pick (Rein shield gone, Mercy hacked so no res, Zen hacked no trance), but you are in an incredibly dangerous situation as you do so. You need 1.5 uninterrupted seconds on someone. And they'll hear you the second you're out of Stealth. So why go behind them? Imagine Defense Dorado. They make the very first choke point (that little arch that leads to the courtyard with the fountain) Rein leading the charge with his big stupid shield, and their Junkrat, Roadhog, 76 are all sitting behind that stupid shield. Your team has ults, or at least could win the team fight, if you get a good hack. Throw down your Translocator, Stealth, and go up to the ledge you normally first hold. Uncloak there, and then either jump behind them to hack the Rein, or else do it from the little bridge above the arch. 19/20 times, people won't be able to react to your hack in time if the first thing they hear is your hack on them. If you obviously unStealth in the middle of them, wave your gun around shooting, then go to hack, you're doing it wrong. Hack the Rein first thing. Then, pump as many bullets into whoever you can, until they realize you're there. Because once they know you're there, you're taking all their attention. All it takes is McCree to 180 flashbang, and your team lost you. Now, this is ok if your team was ready for it, and your Rein hammered down, or 76 Visor'd. However, you generally want to stay alive, to keep being the biggest pain in the ass you can to the enemy team. So approach close-range situations with anyone that can stun you, hook you, whatever, with caution. However, say their team left Zen behind while they dove in. Well, if Zen has trans, this is your moment to shine. Hack the Zen so he can't transcend once you start pumping your gun into him. If your aim is on point, you can kill him in under a clip, easily. The enemy team was counting on that trans to bail them out once they engaged, and you just denied that. Really, anyone alone is your time to shine though. Just make sure you lead with the hack, and your finger is ready to teleport you out of there as soon as you're losing. Sombra's strength is that even if you're losing the fight, you just leave and heal up, and you're right back in the fight hacking again in very little downtime. So if you engage McCree, hack so no flashbang, but he headshots you before you can get anywhere, leave. You've now healed 140 health off your health pack, he had to stop (even just for a couple seconds), and you're now back with your team. That's to your benefit.
I haven't talked about something very important yet though. And that's your gun. 60 bullets, decent damage, 1.5 sec reload. I haven't talked about it yet because your most important tool is hacking, by far. However, in the interest of getting EMP up, which will hard stop a push, and easily enable the win of a team fight, I'll talk about it now. Tanks are your friends. Not your tanks, no no, the oblivious tanks you've managed to flank through your hocus pocus spooky invisible. DVa is pushing in, there's no barrier tank stopping the bullets, so you hack her. And she is your battery. Your entire team, in fact, now can just mow her down, no problem. This is especially great whenever DVas are trying to dash into you and bump you all around, then leave. Because if you can get it, they charge in, you initiate the hack, and before they can leave, you hack them. Now they're down Defense Matrix, can't fly away, and are probably turned around trying to leave. Even alone, hacking a tank is amazing for you 1v1. They don't have the burst damage to just mow you down immediately (except Hog, but even then you shouldn't be that close to hack him), so with DVa and Rein you get a clip or two into them, haven't even lost 100 health, and you either kill them because they're all alone, or Translocate back to your team with a lot more ult charge.
Importance of EMP
All of what I've talked about though should culminate to a big objective for any hero, and especially Sombra: your ult. Your ult can single-handedly stop all theirs, before they even happen. Back to Volskaya, but this time on attack. You've got EMP, and your team has Earthshatter and Tactical Visor. What combos best with EMP then? Likely, Visor. Shatter will be better whenever the enemy team tries to run back to point as you kill them, or on their Mercy whenever she tries to res in Valkyrie (yes solo shattering the Mercy is a viable strategy). So, while communicating with your team, get your team into position, Stealth first, then run until you get to a good spot to throw your Translocator, teleport to your beacon while it's midair, undo Stealth, then EMP them. Don't go too high, but the little bit of air on it keeps you out of the way of a stray Firestrike or Junkrat trap, which would destroy the entire push you've been building up. Once EMP has been activated, your team will have to rush in and murder. EMP doesn't allow for an extended fight. EMP will give you a precious 6 seconds before their abilities can be used again, but more importantly, their ults. So while your team should be ready to rush in and murder, going in too soon ruins your EMP because the enemy will pop their ult before you can EMP. You will still have advantage, but you lost a lot of your advantage if they're ulting back. So you've got a fine line to walk.
However, you can absolutely use an ult from your teammate before you EMP. Namely, DVa's Self-Destruct, and High Noon. Why should you wait until your teammate's ult is popped though? Well, especially for DVa Bomb, if the enemy team has a barrier tank, they'll all run right behind that barrier. And EMP will destroy all barriers within the radius of it. So even if they throw Orisa, Winston, Zarya, and Rein barriers all up, as long as you EMP before the bomb goes off, but not so soon that they realize what just happened, you're setting DVa up for a solid murder play. Same for High Noon. If you can get your McCree behind a barrier, and safe, and the enemy hides behind their barriers, McCree just has to wait until you EMP and that's a few kills secured.
Now, EMP may seem a little lame. I mean, you have to ult just to enable a couple kills, as long as your team is ready. However, if you get into your Sombra groove, your EMP will be up very quickly. So even just ulting for the McCree to get a couple kills is well worth it, because you'll have EMP again soon. Sort of how a Junkrat shouldn't hold his ult for the perfect 5 kill, or a Pharah shouldn't wait for the sweet 4 man. Picking just healers is worth it, and especially nowadays, just the Mercy dying can enable the destruction of the other team.
Communication is huge for Sombra. You open avenues for your teammates to take advantage of, so learn who you should hack, and announce when you will/do.
Figure out target priority. Is it the Roadhog? Rein's shield? DVa? Genji? These are things that will change every game, even every half. You'll need to get the feel for these through experience.
Hack first, shoot later. You'd be surprised how panicked players become without any abilities.
Make sure the hack is beneficial. If I hack a 76 that just used Helix and Healing, how effective is my hack compared to hacking the Reinhardt next to him?
This guide was written by Reddit user dark_novak. He's a high ranking PC sombra player with a lot of hours on the hero.