Ultimate can be charged by doing damage, healing and by doing nothing! Get enough ult charge, and you build your ult.
If you ever played around in Custom Games, you might notice these options in the hero settings: Ultimate Generation – Combat and Ultimate Generation – Passive.
The ultimate generation from combat is how much charge you gain from damage and healing. The default is a perfect 1:1 ratio where you gain ultimate charge exactly equal to the amount of damage and/or healing you do. If Moira is using her damaging Biotic Grasp, she is dealing with 50 damage per second, healing herself 20 health per second, and gaining a total of 70 ult charges per second. Damage dealt = ult charge; healing dealt = ult charge.
(Exceptions are listed on the wiki linked above, but to summarize, in general, doing self-damage, healing self-damage, damaging barriers/turrets/traps/etc., damage from ults, certain healing passives like Reaper’s or Mercy’s, and Wrecking Ball’s shields do not give ult charge. Do note that only Wrecking Ball’s shields do not give ult charge. Other temporary shields like Lucio’s Sound Barrier do give ult charge.)
The passive ultimate generation applies to all heroes which they gain 5 charges each second. This is not analog, meaning you wait 1 second to gain 5 charges, then you have to wait for another second to get another 5 charges.
But wait! If I get an ult charge equal to my healing/damage, shouldn’t I immediately get my ult as soon as I deal with 100 damage?
No, because the number you see in your HUD is how much percentage the charge you have is to the total amount of charge you need to use your ultimate. The total amount of charge required for an ultimate is called an ultimate cost.
Heroes with the following features generally have higher costs (or faster charging ultimates):
- Heals (including self-heal) – it is far easier to heal than it is to do damage, and there is no healing mitigation in the game besides Biotic Grenade. All healer ultimates have above-average costs, and the lower ones (e.g. Amplification Matrix) get their ult so quickly it’s almost an ability on cooldown.
- Area of effect – if you have abilities that can healing or damage (especially heal) multiple heroes at once, such as Ashe’s Dynamite, you can build your ult really quickly.
- Consistency – if you have a consistent stream of healing/damage, you build your ult very quickly, even if the actual damage/healing isn’t very much. By far the best example, turrets.
Sound Barrier has an enormous ultimate cost but if you actually pay attention in-game, it’s actually not that slow charging as long as Lucio stays with his team. Lucio’s heal song can heal up to 92.3 healing per second without amping it up because of its AoE healing nature and how consistent his healing is.
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Anyway, without further ado, here’s a grand list of ultimate costs at the time of writing:
|319.2*||Call Mech (D.Va)|
|1260||Pulse Bomb (Tracer)|
|1540||Minefield (Wrecking Ball)|
|1540||Primal Rage (Winston)|
|1680||Meteor Strike (Doomfist)|
|1680||Photon Barrier (Symmetra)|
|1960||Amplification Matrix (Baptiste)|
|2100||Death Blossom (Reaper)|
|2100||Graviton Surge (Zarya)|
|2100||Nano Boost (Ana)|
|2142*||Molten Core (Torbjorn)|
|2170||Gravitic Flux (Sigma)|
|2240||Whole Hog (Roadhog)|
|2310||Configuration: Tank (Bastion)|
|2310||Tactical Visor (Soldier: 76)|
|2940||Sound Barrier (Lucio)|
Notice anything about these numbers? That’s right, they’re all multiples of 70 except the three that have asterisks (*) next to them. Before the 12% global increase a few patches ago, it was 62.5, and way back before the 25% global increase, it was 50. (50 x 1.25 = 62.5; 62.5 x 1.12 = 70)
The three that are not multiples of 70 are because of balance changes throughout their history. Back in the beta, D.Va’s cost was 400 (a multiple of 50), but it got reduced by 20% to 320. The only reason why it’s 319.2 now is that 320 cannot divide into 70 and they apparently opted to use 319.2 instead. Junkrat’s cost before it increased by 10% was 1562.5 (a multiple of 62.5). Torb’s cost before his very recent 10% ult reduction was 2380 (a multiple of 70 — the same as Moira).
When Blizzard increased all ultimate costs by 12%, on the initial PTR patch, they actually forgot to reduce Call Mech’s cost for compensation. They had to adjust it in another PTR update. The implication of this is that Blizzard is not individually inserting numbers for each ultimate cost; otherwise they “accidentally” typed 358.4 for D.Va’s new cost. The more likely scenario is that they changed a single number which affected all ultimate costs (probably 62.5, the common factor), but accidentally forgot to account for Call Mech.
Anyway, using that table, if you want to find how much damage or healing it takes to gain a 10% ult charge, just divide the cost by 10. Every 140 damage, Sombra gains 10% of her EMP. Do note that in an actual game, there is passive ultimate generation involved. In the time it takes Sombra to do 140 damage, she would’ve gained a lot of ultimate charge by just existing every second, meaning the actual % of her ult would be higher than 10%.
How to figure out the ultimate costs
Well, you don’t really have to since they’re already listed, but if you want to check the ultimate costs of future heroes, or if Blizzard decides to change the ultimate cost of a hero, here’s the general method:
- Know that ultimate generation = passive + combat, passive is 5 charge per second, and combat is equal to the damage/healing dealt.
- Go to the training room.
- As soon as you select the hero, start a timer.
- Kill as many full health bots as possible without charging the ultimate.
- Wait for the ultimate to charge passively and stop the timer time when it is ready.
- Multiply the time in seconds by 5 (passive), then add 200 x the number of training bots (combat — since you do 200 damage by killing 200 HP bots).
This is the general method, but if you want to be more accurate (which is necessary for those weird costs like 319.2 and 2142), you can modify the ultimate generation values in custom games. (E.g. change the passive generation to 20% so you gain 1 charge per second.)
(If you try to use ultimate generation from combat alone to figure out cost values, do note that there is this very strange bug where the ultimate does not reach 100% even if the cost is completely fulfilled. It sometimes happens for damage too; very rarely, when you do exactly 200 damage like 40 Ball shots, the enemy survives despite having literally 0 HP. It’s very weird.)
When Blizzard puts percentages in their patch notes (which they always do for changing ultimate costs), they are sometimes rounded. For example, with the Brig rework, they increased her cost by 10% alongside the 12% global increase. Her old cost was 2250 and 12% higher would be 2520. Her current cost of 2800 isn’t exactly 10% higher than in 2520; it’s more like 11%. When they decreased Orisa’s cost from 1750 to 1500, they wrote 15% but it’s more like 14.3%. When they decreased Mercy’s cost from 1937.5 to 1625, they wrote 15% but it’s more like 16.1%. So it’s best to double-check whenever they increase or decrease ultimate costs because the amount could be rounded.