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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Team Fortress 2: Playing a Pyro

In light of the recent Team Fortress 2 update, I decided to write my thoughts on my favourite playable class in that game; the Pyro. For anyone unfamiliar with the game, I suggest checking out a review of it here on Post-Launch Reviews, and the game’s official website here.

I started playing TF2 on October 24th, 2007. Right from day 1, I loved the Pyro and I was really excited to try it out.

Many people complain about the Pyro; stating that it’s a class for beginners, saying it doesn’t take any skill to play that class. I respectfully disagree. The adage easy to learn, difficult to master comes to mind. When I started playing, I can agree that one thing which drew me to the class was its ease of play. The Pyro has a huge area of effect which means a lower expectation on accuracy while using the flamethrower, and while not the most effective strategy, still inflicts enough damage before you’re blasted to bits to make you feel less like a beginner.

BUT, doing this every time is not only annoying, it’s foolish. Unfortunately, there are many “pretenders to the throne”, as I like to call most people who play Pyro, many who just rush in and never change their suicidal strategy.

In order to increase the standard of play, I decided to provide an analysis of the class, and of what I think are sound strategies for playing it. I have over 200 hours of playing Pyro and I’ve evoked both fear and respect with my uncanny skills. So, come with me on my fiery adventure.

Pyros evoke hatred and fear in TF2 because they are so effective at stirring things up, and causing a massive amount of damage in a wide area in a short amount of time. A Pyro can scare an entire enemy team away if played correctly, and I have on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, while the Pyro threatens a team in a manner similar to a Heavy weapons guy, the Pyro isn’t strong enough to take the beating. If given the choice between who to kill first, many will choose the Pyro because of the potential they have and because a Pyro is easier to kill.

The primary weapon for the Pyro is the flamethrower, or some variant, and it has a limited range. Far too often, I’ve watched Pyros run to their deaths, chasing someone and trying to light them up, but unable to catch them. Your flamethrower is good for close combat ONLY. Honestly, anyone familiar with the game might think this is trivial, but I’ve seen it too often to not point it out.

Like every class, switching weapons can not only make things fun, it can make you successful. The Pyros main secondary weapons are either a Shotgun or Flare Gun. The Shotgun is shared amongst many different classes, so should be easy to learn. It fires quickly, and often, and is great for draining an enemy’s health as one of you retreats. If an enemy is aware of me, I will pump him full of lead from a distance until I can get close enough to finish him off.

The Flare Gun is a handy secondary weapon. It fires a lot slower than the Shotgun, but sets enemies on fire, meaning they will take ongoing damage. There are cool variants of this weapon now which offer knockback and explosive damage as well. It’s also more reliable over long distances. While a Shotgun’s effectiveness is really limited to close-medium range, I’ve killed Snipers across entire maps with my Flare Gun.

That’s another special point about the Flare Gun, concerning Snipers. If they’re bothering you, sniping from a distance, and you can’t duck, dodge, or dive quickly enough to avoid them, and you can’t get close enough to them, use your Flare Gun. When a character is on fire, they bounce a little and while this is nothing for the experienced Sniper, anything less means they might just miss their shot. Also, if a character is already on fire, hitting them with the Flare Gun does mini-crit or critical damage, so again, you can snipe a Sniper.

As for melee weapons, caution is advised. Most don’t do nearly enough damage to be effective, but there are many variants which make the game interesting. My favourite is the Axtinguisher. This weapon deals out critical damage on any enemy who is on fire. So, you can clear-cut half a team if they’re on fire, and you combine luck with skill. Other melee weapons have their bonuses, but again caution is advised.

Airblasting is a feature they added to the class a while ago and it is probably the feature which has the widest array of uses in the game. For a small amount of ammo, the Pyro can send out a force of compressed air in the direction they’re facing with one of their primary weapons. If done right, this feature can turn you from a run-of-the-mill assassin into a powerhouse which cannot be stopped. You can use it to reflect enemy’s rockets, grenades, arrows, sentry rockets, Jarate, and even push people around. Reflecting projectiles means you can take on an entire rush of enemies and not be afraid. When airblasting, remember that physics works not as expected. Instead of the projectile simply bouncing off you, it will change directions completely, going to the exact spot your cursor was facing when you airblasted. It can be a little weird at first, seeing rockets change directions completely, but practice makes perfect. Be aware that the Soldier has several different rocket launchers which fire at different speeds, so getting used to the timing will be difficult.

One point I MUST make concerns the airblast: douse your burning teammates! The airblast can instantly stop a teammate from burning and not only is it a nice thing to do and a good thing for your team, you get a point every time you do it. So, even if you’re a selfish player who only wants to top the scoreboard, it’s an easy way to do it. I have seen too many Pyros rush by their team, leaving them to deal with their flames when one simple airblast can douse your entire team.

My final specific point concerns Spy-checking. Many people seem to think it’s the Pyro’s job to do this. Again, I respectfully disagree. It is EVERYONE’S job to check for Spies; the Pyro just has an easier time of doing it. It only takes one point of ammo to light a Spy up, revealing him. So, if you play Pyro, check everyone, set a good example. If it burns, it dies, that’s the Pyro’s motto, and that’s how you should play.

Finally, some general points about playing. Like I said before, you have to be cautious. You can create a world of pain and fear for the enemy team, but it’s no good if you’re dead. The airblast can make you feel unstoppable, but you’re not. Trust me. Keep moving, as a still player is a dead player. Use corners; it may sound obvious to ambush people, but not everyone does it. One of my favourite tactics is to run away, around a corner, and immediately turn around and destroy my pursuer. Strafing is your friend; attacking head on is stupid and will only get your killed. Attacking while moving, side-swiping enemies, coming at them from different angles, and hit and runs are the best way to play. The Pyro has a lot in common with the Spy; they are hated and feared, they should be stealthy if they can, and they should play smart.

And the rest, you can only learn through playing, and having fun. If you're ever playing, and you get horribly destroyed by a player named KAZ, PhD., remember: you're not the first, and you won't be the last!

Thanks for reading!

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