During a recent conversation about Overwatch‘s Pharah on the Blizzard forums, Overwatch developer Jeff Kaplan unexpectedly announced upcoming Pharah changes. He said: “We’ve been trying some changes to Pharah internally. Some of those changes might make their way to the PTR next week. More details to come later.”
This was on September 14, and at present, Blizzard’s scheduled maintenance page only has a World of Warcraft update scheduled. However, a developer update is due later this week, which will likely bring the Pharah changes to Overwatch‘s PTR (Public Test Realm). Although the term “changes” is ambiguous, it is likely that Pharah will be receiving both buffs and nerfs in order to address her extra viability on console, and the infamous Pharah-Mercy combination.
Overwatch Pharah Changes: Potential Pharah Buffs
At present, the main issues with Pharah’s kit are the facts that her downward mobility is limited, and that Barrage makes her incredibly vulnerable. PharHantoi, a user who was partaking in the conversation on the Overwatch forums linked above, suggested that Pharah should gain an extra ability to allow her to drop quickly when she is vulnerable in the sky. Although PharHantoi also added that this should do damage, which is unnecessary, they mentioned that using this ability could instigate a two second decrease in the cooldown for her jump jets, which is a very interesting concept. Essentially, it allows her more control over her vertical movement, which makes her far less vulnerable and far more mobile.
Barrage, Pharah’s Ultimate ability, simply needs a cancellation option, like McCree’s Deadeye. Pharah almost always dies when she uses her Ultimate, especially at professional level. Using the Ultimate for one or two kills and then being able to cancel it would make it a much more valuable Ultimate overall. This is the weakest part of her kit at present, and needs to be addressed.
Overwatch Pharah Changes: Potential Pharah Nerfs
The Blizzard forum on which Jeff Kaplan commented about the upcoming Pharah changes was mostly concerned with buffs to Pharah, although the buffs mentioned above necessitate nerfs, too. These buffs, although seemingly minor in nature, make Pharah a much more powerful hero on her own—which is why they should be used in conjunction with making Pharah-Mercy less powerful. Whether this nerf is made to Mercy’s Guardian Angel, or is something to do with Pharah’s kit is unimportant. The following nerf indirectly nerfs Pharah-Mercy.
Pharah’s splash damage could be nerfed in conjunction with increasing the damage inflicted by her direct hits. This rewards precision aiming, and makes her less of a spam hero. It also means that Pharah will be rewarded for playing closer to her enemies, instead of hovering an inch below the skybox with a Mercy attached to her. This makes the Pharah-Mercy combination far more vulnerable, and drastically decreases the power of damage boosted spam from above.
If Pharah is afforded extra mobility, she is more likely to engage aggressively. With the recent nerfs to Mercy, and the recent buffs to hitscan heroes and their damage fall-off, this implies that the Pharah/Mercy combination will be A) easier to hit, and B) receive higher degrees of damage. On console in particular, where players use analogs to aim instead of the mouse, Pharah/Mercy is a real problem, and is the main reason as to why Pharah has the highest pick-rate and highest win-rate on these platforms.
The best way to nerf Pharah-Mercy effectively is to simply nerf her spam damage, which makes the combination less effective at long range. If this is done, teams will benefit more from a ground healer than a healer chosen to tend to Pharah exclusively. Pharah can then function independently, and Mercy will not be chosen to pocket her anymore.