The Jungle Inferno update is here.
Many rejoiced at the Bottle, Scottish Handshake and Neon Annihilator now breaking on critical hits, or the Righteous Bison and Claidheamh Mòr being restored to their former glory. Meanwhile, I looked through everything, and has yet to find what I hoped to see: a buff for the Sharpened Volcano Fragment.
Is it foolish for me to expect a buff for it? Its stats has been the same since it first appeared, and it was just as bad back then as it is now. And this is supposed to be the update that breathes new life into playing Pyro. By giving up 20% damage per hit, every single swing can set your target on fire. It sounds really cool in theory, and trading a bit of burst damage for some damage over time seems reasonable.
However, the main problem with this thing is that the Pyro has a Flame Thrower. Several, in fact. And each and every one of them is perfectly capable of setting someone on fire. If the situation arises where you need to set someone on fire and you’re all out of ammo, you most likely can’t survive whoever’s attacking you anyway.
The SVF can’t compare to any other melee weapon except for stock. The Axtinguisher deals bonus damage on burning players, complementing the other weapons in Pyro’s arsenal. The Homewrecker can destroy Sappers in one hit, making it a Pybro’s go-to melee weapon. The Powerjack grants a speed boost when active and awards 25 health on kill, and the Back Scratcher deals extra damage and increases healing from health packs, making them the weapon of choice for lone roaming Pyros. The Third Degree is literally a straight upgrade from stock, and the Neon Annihilator deals critical hits on enemies covered in water, making it a useful niche weapon on maps with a lot of water. There is very little reason to use the SVF when there are better choices out there.
Even in Medieval Mode, where it is the most reliable source of fire damage, it fails to make an impression. With every kill, a small health kit will spawn, giving enemy players an easy way to extinguish themselves. And the large numbers of Demoknights around means that at least a decent number of players will have some form of fire resistance, making the Sharpened Volcano Fragment even more useless as a source of chip damage.
Looking at the new weapons, none of them seem to have any sort of unique synergy that works well with the SVF. Sure, Dragon’s Fury deals extra damage against burning players, but it can set people on fire by itself. Not to mention the fact that the Scorch Shot is far superior in setting people alight as compared to the SVF. The Thermal Thruster doesn’t seem to have any unique synergy with it. The Gas Passer doesn’t require fire damage specifically to ignite enemy players. All in all, none of them can justify using the Sharpened Volcano Fragment with it.
Before the Jungle Inferno update arrives, it is already outclassed by every other melee weapon aside from the stock Fire Axe. It only saw usage among new players and people using it as a joke. Now, with the addition of the Slap Attack, there are less people willing to equip it as a joke weapon, since the Slap Attack grants speed boosts on hitting enemy players, announces every hit on the killfeed, and has the Pyro slapping everyone he meets. The SVF faces competition even in being a joke weapon now.
The concept behind the Sharpened Volcano Fragment is interesting. When most other melee weapons deals burst damage, a melee that deals damage over time certainly is unique. It’s kind of like the TFC Medic’s Medkit, except somehow being even more underwhelming, since the Medkit can infect enemies and the infection can spread, serving as a form of crowd control that prevents enemies from grouping up. It is a good opportunity to explore a new type of melee weapon that is squandered by the SVF’s mediocrity.
Valve, please buff the Sharpened Volcano Fragment.