Rafaela has been my main since Master and has carried me to Legend. This most recent season I have a 57.7% win rate, so take from this what you will. I?m going to attempt to give guidance to people wishing to play Rafaela.
When SoloQueuing in general, you can either: Have a hero that can carry, or have a hero that can compensate for your allies idiocy.
Rafaela is of the second variety. Any build which allows Rafaela to carry is a build that would be better applied to another character. Your goal when SoloQing Raf is to compensate for your teammate?s mistakes. Rafaela is a build that is balanced and able to act in different roles throughout the game. She can help push, farm, tank, and damage. When played right she can situate the battlefield such that your team goes from being ganked to being the ones doing the ganking. Rafaela required good map awareness, as she needs to move to support whatever the team is currently weak with.
1. You should always have 3 hero?s you are good at
This is true regardless of who you main. If you main Valir, what are you going to do when one or two other mages have already been picked? If your answer is to pick Valir, you?re probably trolling. In my opinion, everyone should have a tank as their secondary. I don?t care which tank you choose, but you need to get good at one of them.
With Rafaela you absolutely need to know how to play a tank. Why? Because if you are playing Rafaela and there isn?t a tank on your team, you are now the tank. I?ll explain why below when I talk about your role and strategy. You do not want to be in the position of having to tank with Rafaela.
2. You need to understand Rotation
You need to anticipate that whoever you are supporting is going to immediately farm after clearing minions, you are trying to make this as quick as possible so you need to not be playing catchup.
3. You need to look at the map
Map awareness is critical when playing Rafaela. If you are only laneing, or even only following around one DPS hero you have made your team a losing team.
All supports have the role of ?help their team?. How they help their teams differs though. Estes makes tanks out of mages, you do not. Rafaela?s primary role is ?sustain?. Keep your allies alive at all cost, keep them from having to recall. While healing is one way you do this, the other way is speeding up your allies and slowing down your enemies. In fact, speeding up your allies at the right moment, and slowing down your enemies at the right moment is the primary way that Rafaela is useful.
Rafaela?s secondary roles are countering hidden and stealth enemies, and battlefield control.
Her ?Light Of Retribution? (S1) hits the three nearest targets regardless of visibility. This means she can hit and reveal Ling, Lesley, and those under the effect of Shadow Mask. This is in addition to hero?s who are hiding in bushes. This is incredibly useful for countering ambushes. With Ling, your S1 stacked enough and he?s weak enough that you?ll probably chase him off instead of forcing him to attack you.
Rafaela?s ?Holy Baptism? (S3) combined with S1 to slow people around you and S2 to speed up your allies means that you can control the battlefield for long enough to let an ally get in a kill or escape with their life.
Do not feed. This sounds like dumb advice because it?s obvious. So I?m going to be specific.
For each death, you should have at least 1 kill or 2 assists. Below that you probably are doing a bad job, especially if you are the only one with the bad KDA ratio.
When this happens you need to adjust your tactics immediately. Usually, this means staying behind hero?s and focusing on healing them until you have whatever critical survival equipment is necessary to keep you from feeding.
I?ll cover equipment later.
Do not follow allies into suicide missions. Sometimes allies decide to chase enemies through opponent towers or deep into their jungle. Give them your blessing (literally, use S2 to speed them up), then go defensive or go help someone else. Following an ally on a dangerous suicide mission will usually get you both killed.
Early in the game, you are best paired with the Markman. You are actually pretty strong during the beginning of the game, and your Marksmen are extra squishy. However, you can pair with any character except the tank. It?s better that you are paired with any other role other than Tank or Support in the first part of the game.
When you are paired your goal is to get them strong as quickly as possible, and you should stick with them through at least one ?rotation?: That typically means 3 clearing of the minions and 2 jungle monsters. If your ally isn?t rotation, don?t worry about it. Stick with them until they abandon the lane, push the tower, or someone else is in distress.
However, you may find that your teammates have already paired up. That leaves an empty lane. Should you take this lane? Yes! Rafaela, for the entirety of the early game, can hold a tower against two enemies without dying or losing the tower.
Enemies tend to underestimate Rafaela?s durability, and you will find that often two will try to kill you under a tower for far longer than they should be spending doing this. This means your allies are fighting 4 v 3, which is a great early game advantage for your team. Additionally, you will be killing enemy minions when they are near your tower, and this will get you critical early equipment.
If your opponents are smart and abandon the lane, do not try to push their tower alone. You will just get ganked. Kill the minions and move to a lane where you have allies.
As the early game starts winding down, you should either start grouping up or find whichever ally is struggling and help them. This is especially true if you have an ally that is low on gold because boosting their gold will increase your gold and also probably your tanks gold.
During the Early Game, you are likely to have to recall once or twice due to low mana. This should typically be the only time for the whole game you?ll have to do this. Always announce you?re leaving with ?Initiate Retreat?, and do not do this if it means you?re abandoning an ally to die. Even at zero mana, you can usually keep an ally alive even if it means using the suicide tactic described below.
Prepare to traverse the map now. I typically find taking down one of each tower is the best strategy, but follow your allies lead in where to push. It?s usually better to pair with a lonely ally than to be in a mob here, but that doesn?t apply if your teams starting to engage in group fights. You need to be in all group fights.
The absolute most important thing in mid-game is map awareness. This is especially true if you have highly mobile enemies (Masha, Ling, Esmerelda). If you don?t have map awareness in the mid-game you aren?t really playing and your being carried by your allies. In the mid-game you are the difference between a winning melee and a losing melee, you are what determines whether your assassin can secure the kill and whether your fighter survives the assault from Bandang. An ally fleeing can survive if you can get to them while they?re fleeing, and an enemy that?s fleeing will die because you got to your ally in time to help them secure the kill.
You should stop trying to help your allies jungle here unless you have one that?s fallen behind. Your allies can typically take down monsters too quickly for you to be helpful. If all of your allies are farming, you should be staying at the tower nearest to the biggest cluster of allies, and searching for enemies in bushes.
The exception is: allies pushing into the enemy jungle, in which case you should be following them to make sure they can survive or win an enemy melee.
Late-game you are either going to be near your own final turret, or your opponent?s final turrets. If it?s your own, you should be prepared to again hold a tower by yourself if need be. If it?s near your opponents, be mobile and keep your allies alive. If your team is group battling to take down an opponent?s tower, it?s usually more useful for you to use your basic attack against the opponent?s tower than against the opponents themselves. You don?t need to target anything to use S1 or S2, and you want to save S3 to stop an enemy that is going to get a killing blow against an ally or has decided to target you.
If defending against an attack from the Lord, you should be keeping your distance until you have S1, using S1, and then keeping your distance. Rafaela alone can stop the Lord, but it takes a long time.
The first major general tactic with Rafaela is:?always be moving. A stationary Rafaela is a dead Rafaela. Even if you?re just fighting some minions in a lane you need to get used to your attack speed and be moving between every attack.
Second, you need to understand the purpose of your Ult. Do not try using it on hero?s who are far away and mobile. Your Ult is too slow and predictable to CC an enemy that?s ranging you. You want to use if when an enemy has closed on you or is in hand-to-hand combat with an ally. Well-timed, you Ult can freeze multiple opponents that are trying to ambush you.
In a brawl, Rafaela is a Short/Medium range fighter. She should generally stay behind your Tank but in front of your Mages and Marksmen. You need to get used to moving forward and backward with her. The general pattern will typically be something like: S1, forward, Basic Attack, S2 w/backward, S1, forward, S3, etc. Generally, don?t try to flank your opponents, you?ll just get too far away from your group. You want to annoy them and keep your allies sustained.
When a group fight ends, follow your most damaged ally around and get them back into fighting form as quickly as possible. This can include the tank, but he?s likely to be following around a mage so you?ll be a set of three.
When helping one person fight, stay behind them earlier in the melee. Heal them, use your S1 against the enemy, and S3 to freeze. If they start running into trouble you should have enough life to briefly tank for them. Move in front of them, and use S3 to stop the enemy long enough for your ally to flee.
Keeping Allies Alive
If you have an ally running from an enemy, use Holy Healing (S2) to:
? Speed up your ally so they can flee faster
? Speed up yourself so you can get between them
Use S1 to slow this enemy down, and if you are between them and your enemy is still chasing them (or is now chasing you), use S3 to freeze them and keep running. This general maneuver will be used in nearly every game you play, so you need to master it.
Okay, so your ally is chasing your opponent. Here you follow your ally, you use S1 to slow down your enemy, and S2 to speed up your ally. Did they still escape? If your ally is still chasing, keep going. If you can?t see the enemy, use S1 to reveal them hiding. When you combine this securing several kills, with the saves above, you can see that you?re pulling your weight; your teammates will also usually recognize this and be appreciative.
When defending a turret, you should stay within ?one second? of the protection of the turret at all times. Do not venture out alone if you?re defending a turret from multiple opponents. There is a good chance you will secure a kill in this situation because enemies will think you?re a sitting duck. Get one of them to try killing you and Ult them under the turret. Then S1 to slow them and S2 to heal yourself. They are now probably dead and you?re fine.
When killing your opponent?s minions, target the strongest minion with your basic attack and use S1 to attack the other minions. You will kill them fastest this way.
Lord and Turtle
With the Turtle, like with other Jungle Monsters, you can and typically should tank the damage while attacking and healing.
With the Lord, you should stay out of range of his attacks and keep your allies alive. You can move in to use your basic attack and S1, but move away and use healing. The only time you should be taking real damage from the Lord is if you?re Ulting an opponent that?s trying to steal the kill.
(Do not use your Ult on any monster ever, it is the only chance you have to escape an ambush)
Don?t try to die, ever. However, sometimes your death is the strongest play. Suppose you are in a head to head brawl against Chao fighting top and the rest of your team is mid and bottom. You are at the last sliver of life and Chao is at 15% of his life. Your options are to keep fighting (which will definitely result in your death), or to run and let him have your tower.
In this case, you keep fighting. He?ll kill you, probably right away, but your passive will almost certainly kill him. You?ve saved your tower and secured a kill. If your Support Emblem is lvl 40+, you also will be back into the fight before him, so you?re sacrifice is doubly useful.
Other hero?s need to run when you can still fight, but you need to make sure that it?s strategically advantageous. Don?t stay in a losing fight unless you?re certain it?s going to kill your opponent. This can sometimes result in you being the only hero to have kills against enemies like Hanzo.
(Of note: some people don?t like Rafaela?s passive, and think it should be replaced. I strongly disagree. Against an opponent that knows what they?re doing, they sometimes will just abandon trying to kill Raf, and against other opponents trading kills is usually in Raf?s favor)
Rafaela makes for really good bait. After you have Twilight Armor, you ought to be able to survive nearly any assault. You also are often perceived by other players as being squishy. You can use this to your advantage. Attack a tower, attack the lord, whatever you want so long as Ling and Lesley are in your wings (it doesn?t have to literally be them). Suppose Bandang comes to hit you. You take 900 damage, use your healing to speed yourself out of the wall, ult him, and S1 in case there are other enemies. Well, thanks to your allies Bandang is now dead.
Rafaela can sometimes also use this misperception to do some light kiting, you are supposed to be ?slow? and ?squishy?, but you can almost always flee two towers length before dying even from characters like Masha.
Rafaela can briefly act as a tank. She has enough HP, and can get back up to full quickly enough that she can tank damage for a team when needed. I don?t let Lesley snipe my allies and neither should you. Likewise, I?ll become the focus of an enemy mob if it means all four of my allies can regroup.
However, do not use Rafaela to do a tank job of initiating. Do use her to soak damage intended for your High DPS allies.
The most important thing for any build is that you must have 35% to 45% CDR Reduction total. (Your max is 40%, but I?m okay with up to 5% being wasted). You should also have this with your first four items. You need to be able to spam S1 and S2 to be effective. A 40% CDR on your S1 ability is worth far more than any amount of Magic Power you can reasonably get from equipment.
The second most important this is you need Hitpoints, and preferably Twilight Armor.
You should always start with Bronze Mask and your S1 ability.
My recommended builds are:
Early Support Emblem: Bronze Mask, Enchanted Talisman, Magic Shoes, Twilight Armor, Courage Mask, Ice Queen Wand, Cursed Helmet
After level 40+ Support Emblem: Bronze Mask, Demon Shoes, Ice Queen Wand, Twilight Armor, Courage Mask, Cursed Helmet, Divine Glaive
This gives you CDR, Hit Points, and Ice Queen Wand really works well with your slowdowns. I?ve tweaked the builds many times, but I?m certain you need Hit Points, and CDR so every build should give you those.
The Mask really was a game-changer in terms of how to play Rafaela and make all tanks and supports better.
Recommended Spell: Healing. It can keep you alive before you buy S2, and in general, helps with your and your allies sustain.
Rafaela tends to have less fear of ?current meta? opponents than many of your allies will. Against Valir, for example, she can often S1 him and heal herself to keep comparable damage tradeoff in the early game.
In general, you should be exposing your enemies, kiting them, baiting them, and harassing them. But remember,?never stop moving.
Here are the general tactics with respect to your opponents:
Stealth Enemies (Ling, Lesley)
Rafaela counters stealth enemies. Her S1 hits them even when invisible, and she can usually tank their sneak attacks against allies. She can also secure kills against them as they often leave battles with low hitpoints, but aren?t far enough away to avoid the speed boost and range of S1.
Zone Controlling Enemies (Zhask, Chang?e, and a little bit of Nana)
Zone Controlling Enemies are enemies that take a large area and just own it. These enemies counter Rafaela as they force her to support from behind, which if you?re going to have to do you might as well be using Estes. With Nana it?s easier as you can let an ally take the transform then heal the ally and tank them to safety. I don?t have good counters to Zhask or Chang?e other than to try flanking them ? but that?s going to be hard as while you have burst speed you don?t have the kind of mobility that allows easy flanking.
Teleporting Nightmares (Hanzo, Helcurt, Guinevere)
For the most part don?t worry about these enemies. Focus on keeping your allies alive, and don?t worry too much about killing them. If one of them gets you there?s a good chance it?s while they have low HP, and it will have cost them. As mentioned above, I?ve been the only player to kill Helcurt in a match before.
Beam Fighters (Gord, Kimmy)
These enemies lay down a constant stream of high damage death. That?s okay, because you can pair with an assassin or fighter and get them within range using your speedup to shut them down. Also, when they?re forced to stop moving (from your Ult), they die swiftly.
Burst Damagers (Layla, Bandang)
With these enemies, I recommend trying to be targeted for their Ults and tanking them when you can. You can almost always survive and get yourself to safety with enough time to heal yourself up. With Bandang, you can sometimes get caught with another ally in his wall. Lay down your Healing Spell, and S2 you both out of there.
Mobile Warriors (Esmerelda, Masha, Fanny, Ling)
If you can kite these enemies away from your Jungle and allies, do so. They typically can?t kill you before you can get to safety when you combine your ability to speed yourself up and slow them down. Better yet, kite them into an ally that can take them down.
Generally, you and your enemy tank won?t pay much attention to each other. However, greedy tanks will try chasing you and you should taunt them into chasing you as far as possible.
Rafaela can assume a bunch of different roles during play, and it?s often enough when played well to compensate for a team?s weaknesses. She is primarily for sustain, but when played well is incredibly useful for battlefield control. Her combination of speeding up allies, and slowing down enemies can allow you to help your team secure multiple kills and save multiple teammate lives.
I?m certain that with team coordination there are even more innovative strategies and tactics that can be used, but when SoloQing she can act as a strong compensator to your team?s stupidity.