Pyromania 101 with the guy who used to hate Pyros

Something extraordinary has happened. I think Pyro might be my new favourite class.

Sorry Soldier...
Sorry Soldier…

Hiya chaps and chapettes, I’m Dekky and I’ve been playing TF2 for about a year now. I’m still a “newbie,” let’s get that out of the way now. In the past year, I’ve been burnt to a crisp countless times, had my head bashed in with every axe and hammer in the game and been airblasted off many a cliff. I’ve never enjoyed having Pyros around and never had success when playing as one. In fact, when Medic interviewed me for this very blog, I said Pyro was my least favourite class.

Oh, how things change. Recently I decided to switch to playing a Pyro, to see if I could convince myself that it really was on par with the Soldier and Heavy I was so used to. I surprised myself.

What I’ve discovered I shall now summarize into these key points which I think fellow new(-ish) players will find valuable:

  • Pyros rely heavily on ambush tactics, which in turn rely on being reasonably familiar with the layout of certain maps, like where possible shortcuts (tunnels, bridges, hatches etc.) and hiding spots are. Become familiar with the most commonly played maps. If you have Garry’s Mod (available from Steam for 9.99 US moneys), I’d suggest having a look at the TF2 maps there and maybe practicing tactics with a bunch of NPCs.

  • When a foe does run into your range, show no mercy. Circle them while continuously churning out the gas, so they have a hard time shooting back. Don’t rely on the afterburn effect to finish them off; pursue for a short distance if they try to run. Even a spring-legged Scout is worth a brief chase if it means a guaranteed kill. Just be careful of other enemies if you’re out in the open, particularly Soldiers and Demomen who can blow you to heaven from behind.

  • If it’s another Pyro attacking you, try scorching them directly if they have much less health than you. If you’re too evenly matched, switch to your melee weapon so you can bring them down before you die. In this case, relying on afterburn is an even worse idea because Pyros aren’t affected by it AT ALL.

  • Never underestimate the power of the airburst. I only discovered the airburst ability a few days ago (at date of writing); it’s one of the main reasons I love playing as Pyro now. Click MOUSE2 while using the stock flamethrower and you’ll see a) Some ammo disappear and b) A puffy distortion of the air in front of your nozzle. Turns out that burst is enough to deflect incoming rockets and grenades, so it gives you defense against those Soldiers and Demomen. Projectiles sent back in this way score critical hits and can destroy the opposing team in the blink of an eye. When I first used an airburst properly, purely by accident, the rocket went and blew up a Sentry Turret AND the engineer maintaining it. (Followed by epic party)

  • It can also put out teammates who are on fire – as can several other things, which is why you shouldn’t count on afterburn for kills. The airburst is also great for pushing heathens off cliffs, into tight corners, or into deep pits, even if they’re Übercharged. All this makes the Pyro either incredibly annoying (if you’re old me) or incredibly useful (if you’re the new me)!

Of course, there are other aspects including effectiveness against Spies and so on. I believe these have been nailed enough already. However, I shall now turn to what I see as the Pyro’s biggest weakness…

"This 'ere Pyro ain't gonna get past no Sentry o' mine!"
“This ‘ere Pyro ain’t gonna get past no Sentry o’ mine!”

You’re gonna have a hard time getting past a Sentry Turret. Taking down a Heavy and his loyal Medic is relatively very easy; just sneak up behind and toast them. But you can’t sneak up behind a Sentry. This and their superior range provide a big problem for short-ranging Pyros. The Flare Gun (or its derivatives) might even the odds a bit, but reload times mean the Sentry still has a huge advantage.

Standard advice for this situation would probably be either “leave it to the Spy,” or “wait until six of your teammates are all being shot at and destroy the thing while it’s occupied with them.” Thing is, because the Pyro needs to get close to targets to kill them, it will at some point have to try and get past that Sentry. If there aren’t any Spies around, Pyro might have to take matters into its own gloves. Here’s my advice for those pyromaniacs who feel the need to help their team out in one of the most potentially suicidal ways:

  • Learn where a Sentry has been placed and, if possible, attack it from above. Engineers sometimes build their Sentries beside low walls or under balconies. If you can access these areas, it should be possible to duck out of cover, blast the Sentry, then duck back in repeatedly. Take care though; the Sentry will fire at you as soon as you poke your head out. Only use this technique if you know there are health pickups nearby and/or the Engineer isn’t present to heal his Sentry. Otherwise it probably won’t work.

  • Get the Engineer out of the picture. If you can catch the Engineer while he’s going for walkies away from the Sentry, your team will love you. Be sure to pick up his gun to make up for the ammo you use up while baking him.

  • Best strategy of all is to follow the Engineer wherever he goes and kill him just before he builds his Sentry. That way things will be much easier for you and your team!

To conclude, yes, I’m suddenly a bit of a pyromaniac. Since I’m quite new to this occupation, this game and this blog, any comments or constructive criticism you guys have would be appreciated. Is there anything here which I’ve missed or got plain wrong? Thanks for reading.

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All pictures made by the author using Source Filmmaker.

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