Justice Must Be Done: A Guide to Pharah

As I burn down and murder
I know that God forgives
‘Spite all the things I’ve done
My soul yet forever lives
All those caught in the shadow
Of my wings have cause to fear
I swear on all I’ve done
No evil shall linger here

Machinae Supremacy
“Rocket Dragon”

 

Whereas Soldier: 76 is a representative from “Modern Military Shooters”, Pharah is definitely on the opposite side of the spectrum when it comes to FPS design philosophy. Many would argue that with her classic rocket launcher she would be Quake-incarnate, but that would not be completely true. Indeed, her weapon feels just like its good old grandfathers from Doom, Quake and Unreal, but it lacks one defining feature of its predecessors – the Rocked Jump. Instead, Pharah is given a much more user-friendly Jet Pack, which brings here a little bit closer to Tribes series (though, she definitely lacks the speed that Tribes’ skiing mechanics provided).

 

Lore

Fareeha Amari’s commitment to duty runs in her blood. She comes from a long line of highly decorated soldiers and burns with the desire to serve with honour. As a child, Fareeha dreamed of following in her mother’s footsteps and joining the global peacekeeping force, Overwatch. She enlisted in the Egyptian army, and her dogged persistence and tactical prowess caused her to rise up through the officer ranks. She was a courageous leader and earned the loyalty of all who served under her. With her exemplary record, Fareeha was well placed to join the ranks of Overwatch, but before she had that opportunity, Overwatch was disbanded.

After leaving the army with a commendation for distinguished service, she was offered employment with Helix Security International, a private security firm contracted to defend the artificial intelligence research facility beneath the Giza Plateau. The top-secret facility was touted as vital to the safety of not only the region but countries across the globe. Fareeha gladly accepted the choice assignment and received training in the Raptora Mark VI, an experimental combat suit designed for rapid mobility and devastating firepower. Under the call sign “Pharah,” she works to safeguard the AI installation. Though she mourns Overwatch’s passing, she still dreams of fighting the good fight and making a difference on a global scale.

She is voiced by Jen Cohn.

Ability Overview

Pharah is a versatile offensive hero (200 HP) with unprecedented mobility.

Rocket Launcher. Pharah’s primary weapon launches rockets travelling at 28.5 m/s that deal 120 damage on direct hit (with no headshots possible) and has a 3 m blast radius with 80-13 splash damage. The fire rate is 1.1 shots/s with the magazine size of 6 and reload time of 1s, which gives us 130 dps (assuming all hits are direct). As the projectile speed is relatively slow, you should try to predict where your target is going to get a direct hit – a familiar technique for those who played Quake and Unreal back in the day. It should also be noted that the rocket launcher is not a safe weapon and can deal 40 self-damage to Pharah, as such this weapon should be used cautiously when fighting in confined areas.

Jump Jet and Hover: Pharah’s jump jet allows her to propel herself into the air with a single powerful burst, with maximum gained height of approximately 20m (provided there is no ceiling in the way) and reload time of 10s. On top of that, her jump is replaced with a weaker version of jump jet. While activated, it gives Pharah a small amount of vertical momentum with enough fuel for 2 seconds of continuous flight. When off, fuel fully recharges in 2 seconds provided you are not standing on “inaccessible” surfaces such as sloped roofs. The fuel gauge can be used in tapping manner with no re-activation and recharging delays, providing a great degree of precise control. While airborne, Pharah retains full control over her horizontal momentum, with her movement speed unchanged at 5.5 m/s. If well-timed, the tapping technique allows Pharah to stay at a constant height for a long period of time. It is also worth mentioning that while sloped roofs do not allow fuel recharge, gliding on them still provides a noticeable horizontal momentum, which further enhances Pharah’s mobility.

Concussive Blast. Pharah fires a fast-travelling (57 m/s) projectile that upon impact knocks back enemies (and Pharah herself) in an 8m radius with a 12s cooldown. While being mediocre as a crowd-control (though kicking enemies off the map is satisfying, but relatively tricky to perform), this ability shines as another movement-enhancing mechanics. It can save Pharah from tricky situations, propel her even further to otherwise unreachable locations and even greatly reduce her downtime by boosting out of spawn room. It should be noted that to get this self-propelling benefit, Pharah should be at a small distance from impact point – simply firing under your feet will do nothing. When combined with her Jump Jet, this ability gives Pharah a phenomenal level of mobility which can be at least partially rivalled only by D.VA.

Ultimate: Barrage. Pharah directs a continuous (3s duration) salvo of rockets covering a large area in the direction of Pharah’s crosshair. While channelling this ability (total duration of 3s) she is immobile, which allows her to hover in the air without spending jet fuel, but is able to change where she faces (and the direction of her rockets with it). The rockets deal 40 damage each, travel at 28.5 m/s and have the rate of fire of 30 rockets/s, with potentially 3600 damage total. It is one of the most devastating ultimates in the game, but leaves Pharah exposed to enemy return fire, and as such, a great degree of awareness should be maintained if one want to use this ability efficiently.

 

Synergy with other heroes

While Pharah’s rocket launcher does not possess the highest dps in the game, the fact that it has no damage falloff and a large blast radius makes her one of the best targets for Mercy’s damage boost ability (the other obvious contender being Sentry Bastion due to his insane dps of 525 at close range). A skilled (or lucky) direct hit from damage-boosted rocket kills Tracer in one shot! On top of that, Mercy’s Guardian Angel ability synergizes exceptionally well with Pharah’s movement style, making them a great combo.

In case of Zarya, Graviton Surge’s ability to gather the whole enemy team for Pharah’s ultimate would be enough on its own, but on top of that, Projected Barrier can make Pharah immune to those fools who may try to shoot her down while Raining Justice from Above™, elevating this hero combo to godlike level. To a lesser extent, the same devastating effect can be achieved with other hard crowd-control abilities – Reinhardt’s Earthshatter and Mei’s Blizzard.

What prey to hunt

Pharah is strong against pretty much any short- to mid-ranged heroes. She outright destroys Reaper, Symmetra and Winston, as their weapons simply cannot reach her, and while Reinhardt’s shield offers him good protection, he is still too slow and too large of a target and thus can be easily flanked. Although Mei, Lúcio, Zarya, and Junkrat technically all have ranged options that could reach Pharah, they require too much aim or luck to dish out any real damage. Lastly, Torbjorn’s turret, while being able to shred Pharah while she’s airborne in the open, it will still generally lose a shootout duel, as rocket launcher’s burst nature of damage allows Pharah to shoot by poking around cover, taking a relatively small amount of damage in return.

Who to stand vigilant for

Long-range heroes definitely make Pharah’s life a literal Hell on Earth, the greatest offenders being hitscan-wielding McCree, who seems to out snipe snipers nowadays, Soldier: 76, Widowmaker who, even with body shots is a notable threat, Ana, though to a lesser extent, as she is generally too busy healing anyway and Bastion, you should pray that he does not notice you while in Sentry form, because if he does, you are dead. Those heroes, if not shut Pharah down completely, ensure that you must drastically change your playstyle from roaming the skies freely to exercising much  more caution and relying on cover. Same goes for fast projectile heroes like Hanzo and Zenyatta, who are a bit trickier to aim, but still deal a lot of damage to exposed Pharah, especially when you take Discord Orb into consideration.

Other notable offenders are Roadhog, D.VA and Genji. Roadhog’s Hook has a relatively long range of 20m and can catch airborne Pharah off-guard, one-shotting her when combined with Scrap Gun’s primary fire. D.VA is able to quickly catch to Pharah with her boosters and, on top of that, her APM shuts both regular rocket launcher attacks and Pharah’s ultimate. And Genji not only has a strong ranged attack in of itself, he is also able to deflect Pharah’s own rockets back to her, so it would be a good idea to engage him with blast damage rather than direct hits.

 

Reference
All numbers for abilities are provided according to overwatch.gamepedia.com as of 21.08.2016

froGGod
Variety Gamer, Scale Modeller and Lead Engineer in N.D. Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry