“I play a lot of Pharah in high Gold, and I want to know which enemies I should be targeting first. I know that counters should generally be first, the healers, then the rest, but could someone give me some more specifics?”
I see this question quite a bit, so I thought I might shed some light on what goes through my head when I’m deciding who to go after and when. Pharah target priority relies on two key factors.
- Type of Engagement
- Your Goal/Team Goal
Now let’s explore this. The type of engagement will usually dictate your goal and the goal of your team. That being said, there are a quite a few different types of engagements as Pharah, but to simplify, let’s use the following three:
Type of Engagements
- Opportunity Picks
- Key Picks
- Team Fight Picks
- 1. Opportunity Picks are exactly what they sound like. You’re poking, you’re dipping, ducking, dodging, etc. You see a zen move out of position and you choose to dive him or not. These opportunities aren’t planned, but you can seriously punish the enemy team for their mistakes. This sort of pick is generally pretty high value under the right circumstances, especially right before an attack by either team.
- 2. Key Picks are a little more complicated, and will almost always be team comp (yours and theirs) specific. An enemy mercy is a prime example of this. Everyone wants to take out the Mercy before or during the big ult fight so she can’t rez. Or, maybe DVa needs to be out of mech so you can get value from the Zarya/Pharah ult combo. Genji, soldier 76, mei, etc. all have very good ults and might need to be taken out before an engagement begins. Basically, key picks are reliant on your team’s needs at a given time and often set up for the next type:
- 3. Team Fight Picks are similar to Key Picks for Pharah because you’re always moving down a list of priority targets. However, that list will change from moment to moment depending on what you see, what you know, where you are, and who is alive around you. There is no shortcut here that can replace the knowledge you’ll gain through in-game experience, but I can give some general rule-of-thumb guidelines.
- Kill first what can kill you. There’s a reason flight attendants instruct passengers to secure their own oxygen masks first before their kids’. Your team has a better chance of surviving if you ensure your own survival first and those dependent on you second. Caveat here: I am NOT saying ignore your healers and go for sweet flank routes. What I am saying is prioritize the hero that will give you the most trouble first. If the enemy team has an amazing McCree or 76 that will target and kill you if you ignore them, don’t ignore them. Better yet, surprise the threat hero right as the fight starts and try to take them out immediately. If you don’t succeed in this, keep trying until they or you are dead. Caveat #2: If, in the middle of an epic 76/Pharah duel, you see an opportunity to focus fire or pick a weak target, do so. The numbers advantage is real. Caveat #3: You should always be participating in focus fire with your team. That being said, you can’t do anything (or at least, you can do very little) if your threats are still alive and shooting, so try to get some of your team on board with helping you if you need it.
- Kill second what can heal/support the enemy. No big surprise here. If you’ve taken out their one pesky hit scan (maybe they have two, whatevs), you basically have free reign to harass the back line supports/defenders. You can push them back or kill them, but as long as their attention is no longer on their team, you’re getting excellent value.
- Kill whatever is left. You’ve killed your threats, you’ve killed the healers, now clean up the stragglers. Tanks, random meis/symmetras, etc. Enjoy the potgs you’ll surely get for doing your job exceedingly well.
- Now, there are two major caveats superseding all of the above: 1. Sometimes, it’s worth it to just dive the healers immediately before going after the threat targets. A 4v6 with the 4 having no heals is almost always a win for your team. Even if you die, but you get the healers and your team still has everyone else, it’s a 4v5 with the 4 having no heals. This is a recipe for victory folks. 2. Sometimes, instead of everything else, your team needs the the Reinhardt or DVa focused down. Sometimes you can lend one or two direct rockets on the enemy Winston before he can escape to swing the fight advantage. You have to keep your head on a swivel for these sorts of engagements.
Now, it also needs to be said that ult targets basically follow the same priority as above, but with a few key differences.
- Your dmg is ridiculous during an ult, so feel free to use it to take out key targets (or, yes, even one target if it is of particular high value) before, during, or after a team fight VERY quickly. Deleting both healers before a fight starts is an almost guaranteed win–even if you die. Don’t waste your ult to kill the last two people if your team can do it without, but do use the ult if you need the numbers advantage or if multiple enemies will likely get away without it. Also, don’t ult if it’s one straggler fleeing back to his team (unless doing so will ruin their next push, especially if time is an issue).
- Because of the above, your available targets for immediate deletion are higher. Quick-killing their rein and roadhog who are holding their front line will often net your team a victory. That being said, these sorts of ults are generally harder to pull off, so don’t do them if you aren’t sure how or when you can get value from them.
One tip I can give for knowing when to dive healers vs your threats is to be hyper aware of the enemy team position and focus (what their attention is on). If they McCree is nuthugging the Ana, you might be able to drop and ult directly above them and take them both. If the McCree is about 15 feet away, but is targetting your rein’s shield, you might still be able to get away with the above. If, however, he’s looking for you instead of fighting, you’re not going to get much value from that dive. He’ll flashbang you as soon as you ult or he’ll 2-3 shot you as soon as you’re out of cover. In this scenario, he’d need to get killed before you can get value in the fight. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in this situation. If your team gives you shit about it, that’s on them. (Time for mini rant) Just as the reinhardt will make accommodations for the 76 to have cover behind the shield, the ana/zarya/76/genji/tracer/whoever should make accommodations for their pharah with a little support/focus fire to win a team fight. Give Pharah open skies and she’ll give you a higher SR in return.
There isn’t (and shouldn’t be) a single rule list for kill priorities, but rather, a different set of priorities for almost every situation. Knowing who to kill and when can be hard to learn, but once you do, it’ll be second nature.