Pyro is the class that I really should hate. Its combat potential is limited, it is by design the most annoying class in the game, and its flames straight-up halve my framerate. It’s almost universally despised by those at the upper tiers of competitive 6v6, my favourite TF2 gamemode. It’s a hodgepodge of ‘broken’ mechanics. And yet I’m saying it, right now: I love the Pyro class.
Pyro has such a variety of useful unlocks that change your playstyle, whether you’re running degreaser/flare gun and critting everything that moves, degreaser/shotgun and having a useful close-mid range damage presence, or even degreaser/detonator to play a pyromaniacal imitation of jingoistic patriot man. For a change, you can be a long string of pinkhearts and equip the degreaser and reserve shooter. While this is the extent of its public perception, I think most of you are seeing the problem about now. Yes, the degreaser is the objectively best Pyro primary if your goal is close range damage combos. For most pub pyros, certainly myself most of the time, this is the only goal. You equip the degreaser, you set people on fire and airblast them, then switch to *insert good sidegrade secondary here* and shoot said people. Then you might bring out your powerjack for some free health. And there’s nothing wrong with any of this. You can still do really well with this playstyle. But pyro has so much more depth, beginning with its strong support abilities. To quote one of SPUF’s most accomplished resident Pyro mains, SleightSoda:
The Pyro is an offensive class with deathmatch capability, but doesn’t match the Soldier or Scout in combat. Similarly, the Pyro does have very strong supportive qualities, but not to the extent of the Medic or the Engineer.
And here we’re beginning to touch on the reasoning behind my love for the Pyro class as a whole. Pyros don’t just instakill things that are dumb enough to walk into flamethrower range. They instakill things that are dumb enough to walk into flamethrower range, and they have an almost entirely separate support role, mostly involving the airblast ability conferred by three of the four primaries. They put burning teammates out (thank you based Pyro mains) and they help cut down on spam by returning it to sender, or wherever the Pyro wants it to go, dealing minicrit damage on any enemy unlucky enough to be in the way. Pyros can’t heal their teammates, but they can prevent them from taking damage, or limit the extent of it. This is why it’s not as powerful a support class as the Medic or Engineer, by the way.
The most often underrated aspect of Pyro is its ability to annoy. It’s no mistake that a Pyro in your face covers such a large proportion of your field of view. The extent of your vision obscured by flame particles presents a demand to the recipient; ‘pay attention to me, or else’. In a game that includes the Spy, and is so built around the high levels of close-range damage most classes can deal, any distraction is often fatal. When under attack from a Pyro, you must either, to put it bluntly, GTFO, or as Premiership and Invite players are so fond of exclaiming, ‘kill the f***ing Pyro’. With other classes you can sometimes ignore them when they’re a low priority, and in messy combat situations you have to choose who to prioritise. When a Pyro’s around, you have to prioritise the Pyro, otherwise they will control your movement, reflect your projectiles, shove a massive dps lag-cannon in your face, and generally ruin your day. It’s almost the ultimate team-oriented class.
If a class relies on annoyance as one of their weapons, the ultimate validation that it’s used well is that everyone is annoyed at it. If I were a Pyro main, every time someone said ‘Pyro class is the devil’, ‘Pyro should be removed completely’, and the like, I’d take it as a personal compliment in my choice of classes. I’m sure many do.
Pyro as a jack of all trades class isn’t a new idea. The overall mechanics of the class haven’t changed much since the degreaser was released, long before I started playing TF2. (Although airblast has been slightly ‘buffed’ in the meantime.) It’s just an idea that doesn’t seem popular apart from Highlander, where you have to make the best use of every class, because you have to use every class all the time. Even then, oftentimes the best use of the Pyro’s time is to play guard dog for a sentry or the Medic and just generally ruin the enemy Spy’s day. There’s nothing wrong with that either. It’s still a much larger proportion of the class’ skillset than is put to use in 6s, where Pyro is almost exclusively reserved for defending the last point with an uber disadvantage, or by most pub Pyros with their l33t weapon switching combo skills (I’m absolutely guilty of this by the way, it’s fun). I look forward to the day when Pyro is finally recognised as one of the most versatile and unique classes. Perhaps when 4s becomes more popular…