Soraka, the Support Monster - by SteamRoller

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Many new players try Soraka once (particularly because her IP cost is so low), find out that she cannot possibly pull off any form of DPS/Carry and that she isn't the world's most solid tank with the suggested build, get frustrated, lose that game, and never play her again. It doesn't help that the only two guides in the list of guides are one that suggests Innervating Locket (not that great on her IMO) and not picking up Starfall until last and one that suggests an AP/Lichbane Build. Going either of these strategies with Soraka will lead to a squishy champion that does nothing for your team late-game and maybe pushes down one tower early game, effectively leaving your team 4v5 in exchange for one tower.

So let me get a few things out of the way:
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Soraka is NOT:

Capable of taking on any enemy lategame 1v1
An effective ganker
Naturally very tank-y
Capable of holding an early lane by herself (not a solo champion)
Recommended if you want to play the carry for your team
Very good with Innervating Locket

Soraka IS:

Capable of keeping herself and an allied champion in-lane for almost the entire early game, providing you with experience/gold gain about equivalent to being solo

An amazing asset to her team late game with the right item build

One of the best mid-game lane pushers

Capable of escaping most solo champions intact and allowing an ally to come out victorious if 2 champions try to gank the two of you
Recommended if you want to greatly aid your team but aren't the world's (or your team's) best solo mid carry player.

Skill Rundown:

Passive: Consecration - Increases surrounding allies Magic Resistance by 16. Not the world's best passive, but it provides a noticeable boost to your team for the entire game and is handy to have around.

Q: Starcall - A shower of stars falls from the sky, striking all nearby enemies for magic damage and reducing their magic resistance temporarily.
Strikes nearby enemy units for 60 / 90 / 120 / 150 / 180 (+.4 per ability power) magic damage and reduces their Magic Resistance by 10 for 8 seconds This effect stacks up to 20 times.
3 seconds
42 / 54 / 66 / 78 / 90 Mana

Cheap, low cooldown, spammable, long-range, and enough damage to weaken a creep wave and pick up last hits. And when it comes to team fights, this serves to lay out a bit of damage, pick off stragglers, and make their team more squishy to your casters' spells. Definitely Soraka's bread and butter ability. Early game you can use it to soften up creep waves, harass, and score last hits simultaneously. Midgame it allows you to push your waves to the tower and keep them there while racking up a great deal of income. Lategame, it's useful in team fights as mentioned above. You should be picking this almost every time it is possible, including potentially over your Ultimate, only possibly delaying if you find yourself needing both Infuse and Astral Blessing by 3.

W: Astral Blessing - Soraka blesses a friendly unit, restoring health every second and increasing armor for a short time.
Restores 7 / 11 / 15 / 19 / 23 (+.22 per ability power) health every second and grants 30 bonus armor. Lasts 12 seconds.
10 seconds
60 / 90 / 120 / 150 / 180 Mana

Handy. Keeps your life bar and your ally's life bar topped off, both proactively through armor, concurrently through healing over time, and retroactively by healing them once they've pulled back. Make sure your lanemate knows when you have this, as it can save them a lot of time that would normally be spent going back to base. Additional levels are kind of mediocre, however, as the health increase per level is about half that of the first level, the mana goes up significantly each time, and the armor does not change. Pick up a level of this somewhere in 2-4, then leave it until your last ability.

E: Infuse - If cast on an allied champion, restores mana. If cast on an enemy champion, silences them for a few seconds.
If cast on an allied champion, restores 50 / 100 / 150 / 200 / 250 Mana.
If cast on an enemy champion, silences them for 1 / 2 / 2 / 3 / 3 second(s) and deals 40 / 80 / 120 / 160 / 200 (+.6 per ability power) magic damage.
15 seconds
0 Mana

Probably the most subtly Overpowred ability in the game. Go ahead, re-read it. For free, it allows you to restore your own mana, restore your lanemate's mana, damage at a long range, or take a caster out of the fight for several seconds. For free. Early game, this is like having an extra 17mp/5 per level that you can divide between yourself and your lanemate at will or potentially harass with for free. Lategame, when you're rocking 40% cooldown reduction, 5th level is the equivalent of 139mp/5 if you use it on yourself/an ally, and can completely shut down an enemy Ryze/Fiddle/Morgana/etc in a team fight, as well as score some pretty easy last hits on fleeing champs.

R: Wish - Soraka fills her allies with hope, instantly restoring health to all friendly champions.
Instantly restores 250 / 400 / 550 (+2.0 per ability power) health to all allied champions.
120 seconds
250 / 350 / 450 Mana

For her ultimate, I'm not that impressed. The mana cost is high, the cooldown is high, the HP actually restored (unless you do something dumb like stack AP) is relatively low. The big plus is that it restores this amount to everyone on the map, which can save an ally from getting ganked. However, I frequently put this off until 10 so that I can pick up level 5 Starcall/Level 3 Infuse/Level 1 Astral Blessing, then get two levels of Wish in a row (the first level is really rather uninspiring). Restoring 550 to each ally during a teamfight though can be invaluable. High level non-tanks generally end up around 2000 HP, meaning that you're restoring a little over a quarter to each of your four allies. If you can get this to actually work out that way, you've effectively given them a 5th guy right there, nevermind anything else you actually contribute to that fight. You don't even need to be there do to this. You could just as easily be pushing a wave of minions into an uncollapsed first or second tower, forcing the team to divert someone from their 4v5 fight where each of your four count for 1.25 of a champ, turning things even more against them (or costing them towers)

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Skill Progression (if you didn't pick up from my notes so far):

1. Q1
2. E1 (or W1 if you and your lane mate are getting really pummeled)
3. Q2 (or W1 if see above, or E1 if you took W1 at 2)
4. W1 (if not taken yet, otherwise Q2)
5. Q3
6. E2
7. Q4
8. E3
9. Q5 (Maxed)
10. R1
11. R2
12. E4
13. E5 (Maxed)
14. W2
15. W3
16. R3 (Maxed)
17. W4
18. W5 (Maxed)

Summoner Stats:

Suggested Spells:

Heal - Lets you hold off on taking W for longer, which makes earlier harassing easier through Q and E. Additionally can provide yet another group heal for team fights late game, which, combined with heal, will make your opponents want to strangle you.
Fortify - As you are dedicated support, stuff like Flash/Ghost/Exhaust/Ignite that are used to secure kills are not very important on you. Teleport isn't great on you either since you should rarely have to leave your lane early. As such, you work well for a good team support summoner spell.
Alternate suggestions - Promote, Clairvoyance, and Rally are similarly useful team support, but I feel like Fortify is quite a bit better in that department (Clairvoyance would be the only one I'd consider over it). Clarity can be used as a blue-bar heal, but you can get an early Mana Manipulator (especially as it builds into Soul Shroud) for that department, while there isn't a good HP regen item to start with. Also with more points in Infuse than Astral Blessing, HP is going to be more valuable to you than Mana. Games where I've taken Clarity I find myself with no use for it later. Cleanse and Revive add to survivability, but honestly you can usually walk right out of ganks as Soraka.

Suggested Runes:

I'd suggest flat-rate HP regen. The ability to recover a lot of HP early again lets you delay on taking W and stay in-lane longer, and turn the W on your ally when you do get it.
The other option would be MP regen, but like Clarity versus Heal, you have much more plentiful MP growth than HP growth. Avoid AP, MPen, and Cooldown Reduction (you'll have max from your items), as well as anything to do with attack. Other acceptable options are Money, Move Speed, Armor/MR, or HP, but I feel like HP Regen is the strongest of these options.

Suggested Masteries:

Defense gives you added survivability, as well as the specialties for both of your likely summoner spells (improved Fort lets you last hit minions better, which makes for better farming). Utility gives you some faster EXP growths (take full advantage of the fact that you can be in-lane for the entire early game), better regen (to take advantage of your runes and some stuff from Defense tree), and Greed, which can never hurt (though Soraka is a good farmer with Q spam).
Specific Choices:

Defense - Mender's Faith (1), Resistance (3), Hardiness (3), Strength of Spirit (3), Defensive Mastery (2), Harden Skin (3), Veteran's Scars (4), Reinforce (1), Tenacity (1). Evasion/Nimbleness is not great, though if you find yourself taking the Ninja Tabi over Merc's Treads you could try it out, possibly with some dodge runes backing it up. Battle Ardor is pointless, as you do not use Attack Speed or Ability power.
Utility - Perseverance (3), Good Hands (1), Awareness (4), Greed (1). Expanded Mind is a possible substitute for Awareness if you feel a little more mana is better than a little more Exp.

An alternate build would be 0/9/21, with Teleport/Cleanse/Flash/Ghost/Clairvoyance over Fortify.
Defense - Mender's Faith (1), Resistance (3), Hardiness (2), Strength of Spirit (3)
Utility - Perseverance (3), Good Hands (1), Awareness (4), Expanded Mind (4), Greed (1), Meditation (3), Quickness (3), <Improved Summoner Skill of Choice> (1), Presence of the Master (1). Intelligence doesn't do much for you as you are already maxing -CD from your items, and Utility Mastery doesn't do much for you as you are not great at taking down the Neutral Monsters and their buffs don't help you much anyways (you already have max -CD and a lot of MP regen, and you don't care about DPS). Notably this build gives you increased Movement Speed and Mana Regen, but you lose a little survivability.

Suggested Item Build:

1. Mana Manipulator - Get the mana flowing early to keep up Q/W spam and keep your ally in lane easier. Upgrades later into a useful item.
2. Aegis of the Legion - You should be able to farm this by the time you return to town for the first time. If you can't, buy this in pieces and consider starting your boots first. This is by far the best item for Soraka. +HP, +MR/Armor, and it gives all allied units including creeps a boost to their MR/Armor and Damage, which gives Soraka the ability to push down towers way easily. Just Q spam to keep the lane clear of enemy creeps and your minions with bonus damage will knock that tower right down.
3. Mercury Treads - Gives MR and CC evasion to help against enemy casters. If for whatever reason the enemy team is short on casters and Crowd Control, feel free to sub in Ninja Tabi or boots of Swiftness here.
4. Glacial Shroud -> Frozen Heart - Get some mass CD reduction going, which is great for spamming your abilities and helping your allies. The huge Armor bonus, mana bonus, and enemy attack speed reduction all also work well in your favor. 
5. Soul Shroud - Upgrade that Mana Manip to the more useful Mail for more HP, MP regen, and some cooldown reduction. With both Soul Shroud and Frozen Heart, you and all surrounding allies will have maximum CD Reduction.
6. Banshee's Veil - Help further against casters and crowd control. Again, if casters/CC are scarce, you can sub in something like the Sunfire Cape.
7. If you're still in the game by this point, it's really up to you. You should have about 3000 HP, 255 Armor while W'd, 210 or so MR, and a ton of Auras to buff your allies. You might have the money from your awesome ability to farm and assist (and occasionally secure the last hit on a champ through Q or E), so there's a couple of options here. Guardian Angel gives you an extra life and more Armor/MR. Force of Nature is pure MR, but also massively boosts your HP regen. Sunfire Cape is again an option against a mostly physical team. If you want to actually deal some damage, Atma's Impaler can turn your 3000+ HP stat into a decent chunk of attack, or Archangel's Scepter can turn your similarly-sized MP stat into a decent chunk of AP (which mostly just supercharges your R). Stark's Fervor could go here if no one on your team has picked one up. Pretty much your only bad choices at this point are something that's straight AP/Physical or any of the items that require time/kills to grow, as you're probably hitting at least the 45 minute mark by this point.

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Play Tips:

Remember, and I cannot stress this enough, that communication is key to playing Soraka. Before the game even starts, you should talk to your team and make sure you end up laning with a Carry or a Mage. Make sure they know that you are going Aegis/Soul Shroud/Frozen Heart so they don't invest in -CD or their own Aegis. Make sure they know that rather than having to port back, you can refill their health and mana bars. Make sure they know that they can call out for Wish later if their HP gets too low (also make sure to watch the bars on the left yourself. If you ever see 3 or 4 people who could benefit fully from wish, just cast it). Being a premade on vent is immensely beneficial, but even Pubbing you can be a great asset to your team.

Your ideal lane partner is someone squishy with high DPS who normally has trouble staying in a lane early but ends up very powerful if they can. DPS Mages and Carries are your best choices. Mages because they benefit from your -MR from starfall as well as your mana/-CD, and Carries because their endgame power tends to be directly proportional to how long they can stay in lane getting last hits. Failing that, try to get paired with Rammus or Malphite, who can take advantage of the +Armor your W and Aegis will grant for extra damage. Your ideal lane enemy is another mage, since the +16 MR aura will make their job tougher from the start, Infuse can silence to shut them down, and squishier characters can be easily forced out of lane or killed early game by starfall and infuse. Squishy physical champions are not bad as well, as your armor buff from Blessing helps to shut them down and they are also prone to being forced out or killed early. You don't really want to be up against tanks, as you will have a harder time harassing them and their power lies in disables largely more than damage, which makes your passive and armor buff less useful.

Try to stay near allies, as you are not very poweful on your own, and your power rather lies in making someone else their best. The only time you should really be solo in a lane is pushing an outer turret with Aegis and a wave or two of creeps, spamming Q to keep the other team's creeps at bay. Going for an inner turret is generally too risky on your own, as someone can come out of the jungle and give you a long way to try to survive back to the safety of your own turrets.

When groupfights start breaking out, you have two choices. If you are not very farmed yet, go push a lane with an outer turret, making sure to keep an eye on allies and fire off your wish to save them. If you do have multiple aura items, make sure you stay with your group, granting them all the benefit of your auras, firing off your Blessing heal on whoever they seem to be focusing on, disabling their mage with Infuse, and spamming Starfall whenever it comes up to soften up your enemies for your mages.

I hope this has helped enlighten you on how to play Soraka without ragequitting. I'm open to any and all suggestions as well, as this is my first attempt at a guide.

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