Pharah Strategy & Gameplay Guide “Death from above.”
Table of Contents
- 1. Strengths
- 2. Weaknesses
- +3. Strategy
- 4. ChangeLog
This guide takes an in-depth look at how to play Pharah in Overwatch. We look at the strengths and weaknesses of the hero, and we go over mechanics, recommended strategies, and things to beware of.
The guide has been written based on our extensive experience playing the game since before the Closed Beta began, and it relies on our decades-long FPS experience. That said, our aim is to keep the guide relatively brief and easy to understand, making it accessible to veterans and new players alike.
If you have any comment on the guide's content or structure, please let us know in the comments! :)
Stamp of Approval
- Great sustained long range damage
- Rocket splash damage and knockback makes her very disruptive to the enemies
- Strong, team-wiping ultimate ( Barrage)
- Ability to fly makes her almost immune to many heroes
- Can dictate range of engagement against most heroes
- Viable on both Attack and Defense
- Rockets require high skill to use successfully (due to travel time)
- Very vulnerable while flying
- Using Barrage greatly exposes her, making her even more vulnerable than usual
In this section, we will briefly go over the main strategies you should employ as Pharah. We will begin with an Overview, and then we will go in depth more about each ability that Pharah has.
Pharah is an offensive hero that fits into the category of heroes considered to have a very high skill cap. Pharah's weapon, her Rocket Launcher, is extremely devastating due to the high damage that the rockets deal, together with their splash damage and knockback effect. Her weapon alone is enough to make Pharah a very dangerous and feared hero.
However, Pharah really comes together as a hero when her ability to fly (and to Hover Jets) is taken into account. This allows her to have a great point of view during most fights, from where she can bombard the enemies with her rockets, all the while being practically immune to a large number of heroes (Tracer, Reaper, Symmetra, Winston, Reinhardt, and Junkrat are just a few of the heroes that cannot reliably damage Pharah while she is in the air).
When playing Pharah, your goal is to deal as much damage to the other team as you possibly can. Your preferred targets are enemies who are stacked together (such as during a team fight) and stationary enemies (Pharah is excellent at killing Torbjörn's turret and Bastion). Nonetheless, with proper rocket aim, you have the capacity to quickly take out any heroes, at any ranges.
While dealing damage, you must make sure to keep yourself safe. Staying in the air is the first step (although you cannot really achieve 100% flying uptime), but you must also be very wary of enemy Widowmakers and Hanzos, the two heroes that can most easily counter and kill Pharah. Despite her advantages in the air, Pharah is still a capable hero on the ground.
Lastly, Barrage enables you to deal out extreme amounts of AoE damage, which can easily wipe an entire team. This is an ability that, as we will see, you should not hesitate to use both against groups of players as well as against just a few enemy heroes.
3.2.1. Rocket Launcher
Long range explosive projectile weapon.
Pharah's most recognisable feature is her powerful Rocket Launcher. This weapon fires rockets that have a rather slow travel speed, deal damage in an area on impact, and knock back affected targets. Direct hits with the rockets deal a very high 120 damage, while splash damage is lower (decreasing the further away the targets are from the impact). The rockets have no damage drop-off at range, and Pharah herself can take damage and be knocked back by her own rockets.
It is also interesting to note that if two rockets (from opposing Pharahs) meet in mid-air, they will explode.
Aiming well with the rocket launcher is a skill that must be practiced and refined. All the other abilities that Pharah has are effectively useless if the player cannot consistently deal high damage with the rocket launcher.
The difficulty in using the rocket launcher comes from the travel time of the rockets (which means that you will need to anticipate the movement of the targets) and from the fact that Pharah is always moving while flying (either moving slightly while hovering, or moving more sharply while falling or using her Jump Jet). In any case, if you wish to play Pharah seriously, you must take the time to become good at using the Rocket Launcher.
While direct hits are very strong, aiming for them specifically is probably not realistic for many players, at least against moving targets. An easier strategy is to aim rockets at the ground beneath your target; the splash damage is not as high as the direct hit damage, but it it still high, and these shots are easier to land.
All in all, there is not much that can be said in terms of learning to aim, and we say again that it is important to practice. That said, being in the air helps greatly with landing your shots, especially at targets that are underneath you, so you should always make it a point to be in the air when you can.
As for the targets of your rockets, any hero in your line of sight is a good target, but you should keep in mind that you are ideally suited at taking out stationary targets (due to the high damage of your direct hits). As such, if the enemy team has a Bastion or a Torbjörn, it is your job to take them out. Likewise, you have a good opportunity to take out enemy Widowmakers, but here you must be careful since Widowmaker can also shoot you down very easily if she spots you.
Lastly, always keep in mind that your rockets do also knock enemies back, and the disruption caused by this is in itself very beneficial. You can use it to frustrate the enemies, alter their positions, as well as to knock them off of ledges or even off the map.
3.2.2. Jump Jet
- Cooldown: 10 seconds
Fly rapidly upwards
Jump Jet is an ability that, when used, propels Pharah directly upwards in the air.
Jump Jet is Pharah's only means to immediately gain great altitude (neither Hover Jets nor Concussive Blast provide the same burst), which is essential for Pharah's general playstyle. There are two situations in which you want to use Jump Jet.
Firstly, Jump Jet allows Pharah to gain the altitude that she needs to have great perspective of the map, allowing her to more easily fire her rockets at enemies. Generally, when using Jump Jet this way, you will have to follow up with Hover Jets in order to maintain your altitude (unless you just use Jump Jet to get up to a high ledge or roof).
A variation of this is gaining altitude in order to fire off a good Barrage (more on this in the Barrage section).
Secondly, Jump Jet works as an escape mechanism for Pharah. If she ends up being attacked in close range by such heroes as Tracer or Reaper, Jump Jet will immediately get her out of danger (and also put her in a good position to kill these heroes). Obviously, this only works if you are in an area that does not have a low roof.
3.2.3. Hover Jets
Hold to Hover.
When holding down jump (default keybind Space), Pharah will gain a small amount of vertical lift. This ability is limited by a fuel resource. In practice, Pharah has enough fuel to hover continuously for about 2 seconds, and once depleted, fuel takes around 2 seconds to recharge. This means that Pharah cannot normally have full uptime hovering. Tapping your jump key instead of holding it down allows you to gain slightly more air time.
The altitude that you gain using Hover Jets is, in itself, not at all significant (not to mention that the ascent is quite slow). It does not allow you to avoid damaging effects or anything like this. Instead, Hover Jets is really a system that backs up Pharah's Jump Jet, allowing her to remain airborne for long periods of time. By filling the space between Jump Jet uses with Hover Jets, Pharah can maintain high air uptime.
3.2.4. Concussive Blast
- Cooldown: 12 seconds
Launch an explosive blast to knock back enemies.
Concussive Blast fires a very fast projectile that flies in a straight line. On impact, the projectile explodes and greatly knocks back any enemies it hits. The knockback also affects Pharah. Concussive Blast deals 1 damage.
There are number of important uses for Concussive Blast within Pharah's gameplay.
Most evidently, it is a great way to knock enemies around, heavily disrupting their positioning. Indeed, being hit by a Concussive Blast can be a very disorienting experience for any hero.
A more specific usage related to this has to do with knocking players off the map. While you can achieve this with your Rocket Launcher, Concussive Blast is overall a better tool for it (the projectile is faster and the knockback is greater). Therefore, you should always be on the look-out for enemies who are possible targets for this strategy. In fact, on some maps, it may be worth making it a primary strategy to knock players off this way (many Points on Control maps are ideal for this).
A completely different use for Concussive Blast is to propel yourself in a direction of your choosing. In this sense, it works like a rocket jump (a term Quake players will find familiar). If Pharah fires her Concussive Blast at an object that is extremely close to her (such as the ground beneath her feet or a wall she is standing next to), the explosion of the Concussive Blast will push you in the opposite direction of the object next to you.
You can use this technique to quickly move during a fight with an enemy (especially if, for example, you end up in close range of a dangerous hero and you cannot fly away). A popular use is to use it together with Jump Jet in order to propel yourself an even greater distance in a given direction, notably for getting back to the fight after respawning, or even for chasing an enemy.
Concussive Blast is an ability that you should save until you find a proper usage for it. Since it deals no damage, using it on cooldown will lead to you not having it available many times when you need it for something significant.
Launch a continous volley of mini rockets.
Barrage is an ability that, when used, causes Pharah to fire a barrage of rockets in a large area in front of her for 3 seconds. During these 3 seconds, Pharah can move her crosshair and turn around in any direction, but she is immobilised. If she is in the air when she uses Barrage, she will remain fixed without falling to the ground.
The damage that Barrage is capable of is extremely high, but this depends on Pharah's range to her enemies, since the rockets she fires are spread out in a pattern in front of her. This means that if the targets are far away, only few rockets will hit them, resulting in lackluster damage. However, at medium or close range, many more rockets will hit.
While Barrage can be used while Pharah is on the ground, this is far from ideal, since her line of sight is much reduced compared to when she is flying. Indeed, the classic usage for Barrage is for Pharah to use Jump Jet to quickly gain altitude above a group of enemies, and then to devastate them with Barrage.
The problem is that since Pharah is immobile while using Barrage (which also comes with a loud audio warning), she is tremendously exposed to enemy fire, especially if she casts it while flying. Indeed, enemy snipers, McCree, Zenyatta, Roadhog, Bastion, Soldier: 76, and Genji can all take out Pharah extremely quickly when she exposes herself this way.
The result of all of this is that to use Barrage successfully, you must be opportunistic. If you try to take on the enemy team head-on and kill them with Barrage, it will often not work. Instead, you should look to be sneaky, coming up behind the enemy team or flanking them, while they are distracted by your own teammates. If this is done well, then by the time the enemies realise that you are in the air, your damage will have killed them. If possible, pairing Barrage with such allied abilities as Zarya's Graviton Surge and Mei's Blizzard can lead to great results.
Since you can aim where Barrage fires (by moving your crosshair to turn), you should attempt to prioritise killing the heroes that can in turn kill you. The list of heroes we wrote above covers the heroes you want to kill right away (especially since most of the other heroes cannot damage you in the air at all anyway, and you can just kill them with your rockets after Barrage ends). This also means that you can use Barrage to kill enemies who are not necessarily stacked up, by first aiming it one (or one group) and then adjusting your aim to the other.
Reinhardt's Barrier Field will obviously block your rockets, but we find that it is actually viable to aim at it (assuming there are no other more exposed targets), since your Barrage can burn through the shield quite quickly, especially if it was already somewhat damaged. Once the shield is destroyed, the rest of your Barrage will find excellent targets in all the heroes who were taking cover behind it.
On the other hand, you should definitely aim away from D.Va's Defense Matrix, since any damage you do to her shield will be completely wasted.
Finally, we would mention that you should not limit yourself to using Barrage against large groups of enemies. Instead, if you see a good opportunity to use Barrage on even 2 enemies, you should take it (since killing players with Barrage is generally much easier than hitting them with individual rockets).
- 06 Jul. 2016: Fixed an issue where we were incorrectly referring to Jump Jet as Jump Pack (Winston's ability).
- 23 May 2016: Removed a tip for using Hover along slanted rooftops, since the technique had been removed during a Beta patch.
- 22 May 2016: Updated the guide following michr's review.
- Added Strength that Pharah can dictate her range of engagement.
- Added that tapping Hover results in more air time than simply holding it down.
- 17 May 2016: Guide added.
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