This guide is highly geared toward soloqueue Soraka, as it's just stupid enough to work. No one expects it, and they also have the inclination to attack Soraka by any means necessary.
This guide is also for those who are extremely aggressive, and not those who cower toward the same cruddy strat everyone else has. We've seen it all before, so let's mix it up a bit.
Also note that Jungle Soraka is placed much lower. I highly suggest trying her out, as she has many advantages over having a power-hitter jungling instead. That guy can be out to get first blood as you creep away, for instance.
As many folks have noticed, Soraka can't quit getting nerfed all over the place. It's quite a funny thing, as she's not the only one that can heal. She also doesn't do all that much damage. She's just kinda there for moral support. Her curse is that she's about the only hero that at full health can approach someone at quarter health, and they won't even flinch. The only CC is silence, so they can run all they want. Of the 2 damaging moves, neither stacks up to the damage of other heroes' similar skills. In fact, more often than not in that situation, you'll probably be engaged, as your nuke is on a 15 second cooldown. That's askin' for trouble right there. So, the question is, how do you play Soraka without kinda just cheering from the sidelines?
1. The Tank
So, what is a tank? How do you go about it? Many people, especially soloqueue, think all you have to do is stack tanky items. Get a Mundo with mega health, and throw cleavers all day. This is NOT right. Yes, he can throw cleavers up there with the rest of them. But what does that do for your teammates up front? You aren't focusing damage for those nukes, so why do you think you're helping out that way? You have to be in the action. If they don't throw stuff at you, you're useless as a tank. In fact, you're no more helpful than that Soraka that cheers from the sidelines. Blue pill back, buddy. I surely don't need you.
A tank does have to be able to absorb the damage, but he also has to force the other team to focus them. It's not easily done. 3 characters can taunt opponents into doing so, but even those are short-lived. You could use a high burst strategy while tanking, using items like the Frozen Heart, Randuin's Omen, Soul Shroud, and Spirit Visage in order to become tankier and more powerful simultaneously, and therefore a good target. That's often not enough, though. Sometimes what you need to tank is to scare them into targeting that thing keeping everything else alive. That is Soraka's curse. You pick soraka, and you get picked on all game non-stop. Some will jump over other enemies just to reach you and pummel you. And why not? Typically she's a free kill and defenseless. And if nothing else, it helps expose the meat of the team as the opponents try desperately to save their defenseless Soraka. Unless she is actually not defenseless, that is.
2. Why would I want to tank Soraka?
Well, let's take a peek at her Moves a sec.
Starcall - Strikes nearby enemy units for 60/90/120/150/180 (+0.25) magic damage and reduces their Magic Resistance by 8 for 8 seconds. This effect stacks up to 20 times.
Astral Blessing - Restores 80/130/180/230/280 (+1) health and grants 15/20/25/30/35 bonus armor for 9 seconds.
Infuse - On Ally Cast: Restores 25/50/75/100/125 mana to the target, and an equal amount to self. (Double gain on self cast.)
On Enemy Cast: Silences the target for 1/1.5/2/2.5/3 second(s) and deals 50/100/150/200/250 (+0.6) magic damage.
Wish - Instantly restores 200/320/440 (+1.3) health to all allied champions.
Passive: Consecration - Increases surrounding allies' magic resistance by 16
So what do we have? We have a natural 16 MR boost, an armor boost of up to 35, 2 heals, and a mana spell to charge those moves. Far more than most tanks have naturally. And then there's Starcall...
Starcall seems like a nuts spell until you cast it and see the damage it does. Its damage is half of that of most nukes when maxed. That is sad, especially for a melee-ish skill. To make it even sadder, its AP ratio is a horrid .25. That's too low to even considering bothering with. The redeeming factor in the skill is that its cooldown is only 3 seconds, but as a typical Soraka, you're not going to live through but a handful of them anyway.
Now let's take a different approach at judging Starcall. It maxes at 180 damage per 3 seconds. One Sunfire Cloak gives 40 magic damage per second, or 120 per 3 seconds. So, effectively, it's a Sunfire Cloak and a half in damage. Not that shabby. Improve the cooldown on Starcall by 40% and you have 180 damage per 1.8 seconds, or 300 damage per 3 seconds. Suddenly you're dealing 2.5 Sunfires in damage, and you can tank it up at the same time using tanky CD reduction items, like those mentioned earlier. And you don't even have to deal with AP at all. That's pretty decent damage, AND you still reduce magic resist on every Starcall. If you can live through some punishment, you may actually deal some of your own.
As for the rest of it, Cooldown Reduction helps tremendously there as well. Astral Blessing can now be cast every 5.4 seconds, making it actually a fast-cast, and that's necessary when burst damage can kill 3 heroes in the 9 seconds required initially, if not faster. Infuse had the horribly high cooldown of 15 seconds, but now is dropped to a more manageable 9 seconds for mana replenishment. And Wish, which I believe is at 90 seconds when fully upgraded, now can be cast in 54 seconds, less than a minute. If I wanted to mimic the effects of cooldown with AP for each skill, I would have to get:
480 AP for Starcall
280 AP for Astral Blessing
417 AP for Infuse
and 338 AP for Wish
That's not a happy story. That's also ignoring the extra effects from spells you'd be doing without with fewer casts. Just not worth it. So, how do I turn all of this info into a happy tale? Let me take you through Tank Soraka.
3. Pregame Setup
So, as I have noted a bunch, she's a frail character without a little help. For this reason, you are going to want specifications that make her much less frail. For runes, I would suggest armor/HP regen/MP regen Seals (moreso on armor), Magic Resist/AP Glyphs, HP/AP Quints, and possibly MPen Marks, though that one is a tough one, as she gives all the MPen she really needs. You can mix 'n' match to see what works best for you, but for more info, I personally use Armor/Magic Resist/AP/Armor Pen, as Marks really aren't that important to the strat.
As for Masteries, I'd highly recommend going all the way down the defensive tree. I avoid the dodge skills and all of the summoner skills beside heal, and only get 1 point in Harden Skin. Why? Because the first point is the most effective of them. The other 2 points aren't that great. Typically to go with that I add in Perseverance, Awareness, Greed, and a point in Good Hands, because Perseverance and Awareness will help out a lot.
For summoner Skills, I always get Heal, and either mix in Infuse, Exhaust, or even Smite when jungling. Heal is an 'in case I get in too deep' prevention without sticking your allies in a mess with skills like flash/ghost. If you tank to death, at least you'll drain the opponents' skills to barely anything.
4. Game Time
So, Game's started. In normal laning phase, you are going to want to take a side lane preferably with someone who can slow/stun fairly well. Start off with the Jungler's build, that being Cloth Armor and 5 Health Pots. Why? Because you are going to be in the fray like a madman. You want that first blood. Not that you're likely to get it, of course. But playing as such will often open up opportunities for you. Run in constantly and cast a Starcall, and send an auto-attack their way as well, even if they're ranged. Your armor should negate most of the damage they'd send back at you anyways, and they're unlikely to have the regen you have with 5 pots and Heal. What order do you build skills for the best effect? Here's my opinion on that:
4. Astral Heal
8. Astral Heal
10. Astral Heal
12. Astral Heal
13. Astral Heal
You need to keep up that mana early on. Astral Heal costs too much mana to not have a steady supply coming in, but getting a steady supply from items is going to take from your tankiness early. Be sure to let your lane partner know they can't be rediculous, as you won't have Astral Heal until lvl 4. The heal on that thing is downright useless early, anyway.
Use your pots when needed, and harass like nuts. Be sure to keep your creep count decently high in case they decide to come at you. If done right, often they will make a stab at killing you, as you should be keeping them from their money. Use the last-second heal to bring them in and take their kill away, and most of the time you or your ally will get a kill from it. It's highly tempting for most players because she's such a weak hero, but irritating if not dealt with, so she must be dealt with. Save an Infuse if you see a likely jump coming up. It will be very hard for them to kill you as long as you use your pots/summoner spells right.
As soon as you can afford it, port back for a Heart of Gold, and that'll tank you up while bringin' in some dough. Continue playing it tough in your lane until opponents get gank-crazy, as often allies will be needing your help. Constantly run in front of enemies to get off starcall, because often the eye for an eye thought will get them to run at you like a hornet, and give your allies a chance to get some dough. Keep building up steadily with items to help you survive like Mercenary Treads and Spirit Visage. Note that that has cooldown reduction and improved self-heal, both important for Tank Soraka. My build then typically goes toward burst protection, as I typically have enough ally cover behind me to scare opponents from going all-out DPS on me, so I get Force Of Nature, which gets boosted HP regen from Spirit Visage. Add in an Innervating Locket for even more heal with boosted CD reduction, and finish off your Randuin's Omen. At this point you should have Randuin's Omen, Merc Treads, Spirit Visage, Force of Nature, and Innervating Locket, and be quite hard to kill by about anyone, but also pack a good punch with Starcall. If the game still lasts, DPS is likely wreaking havoc, so you'd be best to get a Thornmail last. Note that your Magic Penetration from Starcall also improves the return damage through Thornmail, and works well to push Soraka over the top.
Note: I am well aware that this just looks like another useless guide that tells nothing special but how I happened to beat some group with some random items. However, this is a downright nuts powerful method to play Soraka, and I promise it will work out better than other methods of playing Soraka. I have always played her from the beginning because of her subtle method of gaining power, and this is, along with other tank strats, the best way to play Soraka in soloqueue. You honestly have to see it to believe it.
5. Jungle Soraka
Now, if you find yourself on a team that has a lot of carries on it, sometimes you are going to want to go jungle to help boost one of the carries on the team. Afterall, you laning with one of them is simply going to drain from what they could be, and you can't have that being such a powerless character. Therefore, follow the strat given above, but with some modifications.
Get Heal/Smite to start off the game, and as soon as the game starts, head toward golem, the rest of the start remaining the same. once you are at golem, head toward the river, and go to the ledge just overlooking the river and watch for people going through, not though sight, but through the range of Starcall. More will be mentioned about this later. Once 1:40 rolls around, anyone that wants to gank the jungler will either be there or be in the lane and gave up, so head toward the Golem and check it for a ward or players around. If you can starcall at any time in the area before the Golem shows up, you have company and should leave as safely as possible, and start off with Lizard. to kill either one of them, you have to starcall constantly, keep attacking Golem/Lizard, get a pot going early, Heal when you're at half health, and then Smite when they're at half health. Smite gains power as they lose Magic Resist from Starcall, so it works kinda well. Once Golem/Liz is taken care of, clear the rest of your side beside the remaining Golem/Liz, and head back home. Grab a Regrowth Pendant for some regen, or if you can afford it a Ruby Crystal to get closer to a Heart of Gold. Go back out and Grab Liz (if possible), and gank someone in the nearby lane if you think you have the room. Soraka isn't the best gank out there, but she can keep it from turning on you by preventing a focus-kill with her healing and armor. After this, just keep watch of what's going on at various parts of the map, and do what you can to help out anyone in need, building in somewhat the same order as a regular game.
6. Soraka Random Help
- If you are facing a team with an invis character, and you can cast Starcall with no enemies around, there's an invis character in your area. Keep watch for this, especially against an Evelyn or a Twitch.
- If you are not facing a team with an invis character, and you can cast Starcall with no enemies around, there's likely a ward in the area and you will likely be ganked soon, especially if it's in the river. Make a safe escape as quickly as possible, or walk toward allies that may be nearby. You can drag enemies a short distance into allies at times to get unexpected kills, as they are probably trying to kill you quickly and discreetly, without regard to escape.
- If you walk near a bush with nothing around and can starcall, there's probably a hero hiding in the bush. Use this method to scout the bushes without actually walking in.
- Do not blow all your heals at once. Most characters that have reduced healing regeneration effects cast them as you are dying, and saving to get them all to bring you to full health will likely get you to drop half of that healing because of reduction. Careful for that.
- Be watchful for characters with True Damage, like Kog'Maw's Passive, Olaf's Swinging Strike, or Cho'Gath's Feast. Tank Soraka counts on Armor/Magic Resist very much, and those abilities damage clear through those.
- If the opponents do not have many slows/stuns but instead have blinds/silences/suppression, get either Ninja Tabi or Boots of Swiftness to get more out of the boots for less.
Once again, this guide is made for people to do well with Soraka, one of my favorite characters, as she's somewhat died in the high ELO games. You talk to anyone who rates heroes and she's the lowest tier possible, and I think that's unfair for a hero that heals and has a constantly-castable. Please, be my guest and prove 'em wrong!