Another day begins! Many adventures await you and your fellow Pyromaniacs. You set off to good old 2fort. You take your flamethrower. Pick up the old Shotgun, or perhaps your favorite Flare Gun. Put on a hat or two, maybe three, when you find yourself wondering; Should I set my nemesis on fire and hit him with an axe, or with a garden rake?
Pyro is a weird class. Where he lacks in direct combat, he makes up with some great utility. To unlock his true potential, you have to use his arsenal to the fullest. Primary and secondary are very obvious choices, providing obvious benefits and changing your playstyle accordingly. When you take Phlogistinator, you know you don’t have airblast, so you will have to adapt to this weapon. Secondary that could go well with this weapon? Maybe Manmelter or Scorch Shot, for extinguishing or pseudo-airblast. But what about melees? They all fit in perfectly with everything… most of the time. Or do they? Let’s try to review the melees and see how, when and why they could or should be used.
First off, we have Fire Axe. To avoid confusion, Fire Axe functions exactly the same as Lollichop, Frying Pan, Conscientious Objector, Freedom Staff, Bat Outa Hell, Memory Maker and Ham Shank. Fire Axe is your stock weapon, it has no special benefits at all and deals the stock base damage. Sadly, there is nothing much to say here. Why is that? There is a straight upgrade to this weapon. It does everything Fire axe does… and it has a special ability. It is just better than Fire Axe. With that weapon around, there is no point using Fire Axe or its reskins. Just personal preference.
Third Degree is that straight upgrade. When you hit the enemy who is being healed by a Medic, or vice versa, the damage spreads to both. Even more, if there are several Medics connected to one Heavy for example, one hit on anyone will hurt everyone connected by the beam. Theoretically, this sounds good, but it’s very hard to pull off. First, this is a melee weapon, so you need to get in close. If the enemy is aware and sees you running around with an axe, he won’t be keen on receiving that axe. Second thing, it can be countered very simply by Medics: all they have to do is stop healing their target for a few seconds. However, if you have the element of surprise… Medics will fall. On MvM you can use Kritz canteens to attack the patient and instakill the small uber medics. It has a pretty cool taunt too. Good for countering multiple Medics on enemy team, octoheavies, could be considered stock.
That was a futuristic weapon, but what if you want something… cooler? Or should I say, hotter? What’s hotter than holding a Sharpened Volcano Fragment? Not much, right? Well, this weapon might look neat, but its function is the problem. For 20% lower damage, you can set fire to other people with each hit. Major problem is… you can do that with your primary flamethrower. And with flare guns. Kinda pointless, isn’t it? However, if something happened in TF2, where you had to use only melee weapons for some reason… then it’s actually not that bad. It promotes Hit and Run tactic, leaving the afterburn to deal damage. Afterburn is still countered by many things though, so watch the Medics health regeneration and health pack locations. Good for Sudden death melees and Medieval mode.
For those moments where you want to help your fellow Engineer (that guy’s great – gets us many spare parts for our projects!), Homewrecker and its reskin Maul might be a good choice. They deal 25% less damage to players, but they can remove sappers. That helps your Engi very, very much, when he isn’t around. And we all know Engineers don’t like competition! So you can set off and murder some enemy buildings with these, as they deal double damage to buildings. It takes one hit to remove a Sapper. Decide if you want to kill the Spy first or start destroying sappers – it can be a very important decision. As for destroying buildings, and I mean sentries here, don’t take it for granted. Knockback from these is a big problem, so it might be a problem reaching it. Your best bet would be destroying sentries that are right behind the corner, so you can take as little damage as possible before attacking it. Basically, if the Sentry is behind the wall, hug the wall, pop out, destroy. Wreck the home. Good for destroying sappers and sentries (depending on location).
If you think destroying sentries isn’t your job, leave it to Demoman. Fancy some swimming? Neon Annihilator might be for you. You still remove sappers (although it takes TWO hits to remove, no building damage bonus), but you can hit wet players critically 100% of time. In return, you can’t random crit and you deal -20% less damage to players. Situational weapon, sure, but very interesting. Players are considered wet when they’re covered in Jarate, Mad Milk or submerged in water. We all know electricity + water = disaster. Sadly, all this means you depend highly on your teammates’ loadouts and map layouts (maps don’t have water usually). You will have to communicate with your teammates to make this weapon useful. Good when your teammates use Mad Milk or Jarate and in maps with water.
If you still haven’t found yourself here, maybe you’re the brutal guy who wants to deal damage now? Right now? Axtinguisher and its reskin Postal Pummeler are here. Most commonly used melees. Very simple concept; it doesn’t deal random criticals. However, it will deal critical damage on burning people, and only 50% of normal damage on non-burning people. 195 damage on demand is a pretty damn good thing. Well known and feared in combination with Degreaser, where you set someone on fire, switch to this and BLAM. Dead. However… this might work on unaware players. Element of surprise again, really. If they see you coming, they can simply prevent you from doing that. Spamming airblast won’t always save you. It’s still melee range, keep that in mind, so you have to play your cards well against more skilled opponents. Good for burst damage against unaware enemies and Degreaser combos.
You might think “That’s all great, but I don’t really have the mobility to reach the enemy sometimes! I wish I had a weapon that would allow me to do it!”. Fear no more. Here comes the Powerjack. When you take this weapon out and hold it in your arms, you move 15% faster, but you are more vulnerable to damage by 20%. Additionaly, each kill with this weapon gives you 75 health and can overheal you. Pretty sweet utility and mobility tool. This might be the melee for you if you fancy survivability and mobility. To use this to maximum potential, you have to be careful when traversing the map with Powerjack out. Much like Heavy’s G.R.U, this might put you in a bad position if surprised. Luckily, Degreaser almost completely negates this with fast switch bonus. As for restoring health, low health enemies might be a good source of free health, helping you survive. Good for mobility and survivability against unaware opponents.
The last weapon we have here is for special Pyros who like to do their things alone, much like a gardener watering his plants. A gardener always has a rake somewhere, and he might use it as a Back Scratcher. Not only it deals +25% dmg, it also gives you 50% extra health from health packs. A huge bonus for lone Pyros, but there is a significant downside too – you gain 75% less health from Mediguns and Dispensers. This is a very good choice when you don’t have a Medic or you just play independently, at least to a certain point. 1v1 fights can be turned in your favor by a huge amount simply by picking up a small health kit, restoring even more health than usual. Not to mention the medium health kits. It is also very good for building your Medic’s uber. You might not want to use it if you depend on Medics and Dispensers too much, though. Good for roaming Pyros, more burst damage and building uber.
That is all! Pick a melee that suits you the best, go out there and hit people with it! Or don’t, your choice. I hope this gives you some insight on Pyro’s melees, combine them with the rest of your loadouts to create new playstyles – each melee has something different to offer, no matter how situational. Except Fire Axe. Poor guy.