New Overwatch players tend to flock to Pharah. She's been around since the beginning, even if the devs didn't give her much love. The way she takes to the skies makes her feel unstoppable. And yet, many players struggle with Pharah in high-level play. They tend to play the hero aggressively, hovering dangerously in the skies above the enemy team.
Pharah, however, actually works best when played more stealthily. Pharah’s mobility allows her to get to places that many other heroes can’t, and Pharah mains who stick to more subtle tactics can easily turn a match around.
If you are new to Overwatch, or just returning after a long hiatus, here are some tips to take your Pharah game to the next level.
10 Learn to Stay in the Air
Pharah’s thrusters allow her to fly through the air, giving her the most vertical mobility of any Overwatch character. If you hold the thruster button down, the fuel drains very quickly, but as she falls or runs around, the fuel refills. Pharah also has a special ability called Jump Jet that propels her into the air. Jump Jet operates on a cooldown, and has no effect on Pharah’s fuel.
A good Pharah player never has to touch the ground. To keep Pharah in the air, start with the Jump Jet for an initial boost. Once you get some height, move to the thrusters, and switch them on and off. Pharah will bob up and down, but the goal here is to drain the thruster fuel more slowly by letting up and giving it a chance to replenish a little. Keep an eye on your Jump Jet. Pharah’s height and fuel level will trend downward, but if you get the rhythm right, Pharah shouldn’t lose too much height before her Jump Jet recharges. Once it does, hit it, and it will get Pharah’s height back and give her fuel a chance to recharge completely.
The ability to master this technique directly relates to most of the other tips here. New Pharah players should spend some time in the practice range mastering this ability and using it in conjunction with her rockets and Concussive Blasts.
9 Find Alternate Routes and Try to Approach from the Back
Once you master Pharah’s flight ability, stages will begin to feel a lot larger. Many stages allow you to pass around the outside in order to avoid bottlenecks and enclosed areas that can keep Pharah from flying too high. This also affords Pharah flanking opportunities.
Flanking can turn the tide of battle by forcing the enemy team to move to a new position. It also gives Pharah the opportunity to attack from the back, which allows her to get a few rockets in before a character turns around.
For example, the first capture point on Volskaya Industries sits behind a gate that creates a very difficult choke point. When you first enter, the left side of the map has a large gap that Pharah can cross. The gap brings her right to the capture point. Once the enemy team finds out someone has made it to the point, some of them will turn around, allowing the rest of your team to push through.
8 Stay Mobile and Use Structures as Cover
Many new Pharah players make the mistake of hovering right above enemy lines in full view. While Pharah’s distance and height can make her a difficult target, this strategy leaves her in the open, and leads to a quick death.
Most Overwatch stages have tall structures. If you must approach from the front, try to pop up in different places, drop down, move around, and pop-up elsewhere. Don’t give the enemy team enough time to spot Pharah in the air and get a bead on her. Landing also helps from time to time and gives you the opportunity to duck through a hallway and pop up elsewhere.
7 Keep Tabs on Your Team’s Healers
Pharah spends a lot of time in the air, but most Overwatch healers don’t have long range tools. If you do take a hit while manning the skies, make sure you know where to find your healer, and if you play off-mic, make sure you know how to ask for healing. Even when acting as a team player, Pharah can spend long stretches separated from the team. Sometimes you will need to search for a healer rather than wait for one to find you.
6 Use Concussive Blast to Push Enemies into Gaps and Save Allies
This one can turn the tide of a whole match.
One of the control points on Lijiang Tower sits right next to a huge gap. If your team can’t get control of the point, a patient Pharah player can wait for the enemy team to converge, and then shoot a single Concussive Blast at the side opposite the gap. This will knock most of the team off the edge. Most stages have gaps you can knock enemies into. Use them.
You can also use your Concussive Blast to save teammates when other players grapple them. If you see an enemy Roadhog hook a teammate, for example, a well-aimed blast can knock them apart.
5 Keep a Safe Distance
Pharah’s rockets move slowly and this can make them hard to aim long-distance. However, rocket launchers have the unfortunate side-effect of a blast radius. Fire off a rocket too close to an enemy, and Pharah blows up with them.
Go into the practice range and get a feel for the blast radius of Pharah’s rockets. Sometimes you’ll need to make an emergency landing and end up in close-quarters combat. Have an idea of how close you can get and learn to use Concussive Blasts to knock enemies back before you fire a rocket.
4 Anticipate Enemy Movement
To use Pharah’s rockets effectively at a distance, you have to learn to anticipate your enemy’s next move. Pharah’s rockets move too slowly to land a hit if you aim directly at a moving target. Watch your opponents closely and try to aim for the the space in front of them. A good shot will force them to walk directly into the blast.
If you feel really nimble, a well-aimed Concussive Blast followed by a quick rocket can force an enemy right into your strike zone.
3 Look for Enemy Groupings
Despite causing some unintentional-self damage, the blast radius on Pharah’s rockets mostly benefits the player. The objectives in Overwatch often force teams to huddle closely inside of control points or stick to a payload. Shooting Pharah’s rockets into a large group creates a higher likelihood for direct hits, plus the blast radius delivers area of effect damage.
One of the control points on Nepal forces players inside of a large, covered pavilion. Once you master keeping Pharah in the air, you can bob up and down around this pavilion. On the drops, you can fire rockets inside, then float up before anyone sees where they came from. This can clear it out pretty quickly, and leave it open for your team.
2 Master the Height and Timing for Rocket Barrage
Pharah’s ultimate, Rocket Barrage, can easily take out a whole team. Unfortunately, the ultimate freezes Pharah in place for a couple of seconds, so if you set it off too high, it leaves Pharah vulnerable to retaliation before her first rocket lands. If you set it off too low, Pharah will blow herself up.
With Rocket Barrage, you have to find the right height and positioning. Once you charge your ultimate, find a discrete route to get yourself beside or behind the enemy team without them noticing. Then, drop out of the sky and set off your Rocket Barrage at the closest distance you can without getting in the blast radius. Uncomfortable proximity is the name of the game. Leave as little opportunity as you can for them to shoot you out of the sky. If you do it right, Pharrah’s rockets will take out her opponents before they have a chance to find her.
Practice the height and blast radius a few times in the practice range so you have an idea of how close you can get.
1 Watch out for Hitscan Heroes
Most of the heroes' weapons in Overwatch work similarly to Pharah’s rockets, albeit much faster. In other words, when they fire, the projectiles go in a straight line directly to where they aim. This means the opponent has a chance to get out of the way depending on the distance.
However, two of Overwatch’s heroes do not work this way. McCree and Soldier: 76 both use hitscan weapons. Hitscan means that if a character would get hit at the time of the trigger pull, then the character gets hit. The bullets have no trajectory. They, in essence, teleport directly to the target.
These heroes don’t need to account for player movement when taking a shot. They just need you in their sights the moment they fire. The thing that makes Pharah such a hard target for most heroes is the she bobs and weaves, and rarely stays in one place. Hitscan heroes do not have to worry about that. If you see a McCree or a Soldier: 76, make sure you stay behind them.
Good luck out there, future Pharah mains. And clear skies ahead.
Overwatch is available now for PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.