Before the Jungle Inferno update, the Pyro’s secondaries are either shotguns or flare guns, mid-range weapons to help cover the flamethrowers’ lack of range. Some pack burst damage, some of them are pretty good utility tools, but they are all here to help extend Pyro’s rather mediocre reach.
The Gas Passer and the Thermal Thruster are the first Pyro secondaries to not do so. Rather, they are pure utility tools, like the Jarate or the Banners. Sure, the Thruster can deal damage, but charging into enemies without any firearms out is rather foolish. The Thermal Thruster is a mobility tool which grants Pyro unprecedented access to high ground and a few tricky spots previously only available to Scouts, Soldiers and Demomen. The Gas Passer is a crowd control/ debuff tool that, while currently rather underwhelming, is still a rather interesting concept. Having a gasoline cloud that lasts for a period of time, discouraging enemy players from entering an area is a rather novel idea in TF2.
However, while fulfilling the contracts to earn both weapons, I realized something: I really like using my ranged combat options. Especially my Scorch Shot and my Shotgun, my two most favourite Pyro secondaries.
My love for the Scorch Shot is for its harassment capabilities even at long ranges, using the knockback and afterburn to annoy the enemy team, buying myself some space as I run from cover to cover. My love for the Shotgun is for its reliable damage at mid range, which lets me engage in fights outside of flamethrower range and still hold my own. Not to mention, this is my main ranged damage dealer underwater for my underwater Pyro loadout. Both weapons allow me to stay at a relatively safe distance while keeping my enemies on their toes.
The common issue with both the Gas Passer and the Thermal Thruster is that they confine Pyro’s direct combat effectiveness to flamethrower range, which makes the Pyro a strictly close combat class with no ranged capabilities. Unless you are an airblast god and the enemy team is full of Soldiers firing rockets directly at you all the time.
Granted, with the recent flamethrower buff/rework it is a more reliable weapon, but its range has always been the one thing to limit its effectiveness. That is what Pyro’s secondary slot was for the whole time: as something that complements the Pyro’s primaries and giving Pyros a degree of effectiveness outside of close range. And it has been such an integral part of playing Pyro I’ve long since taken it for granted, until I put aside my Scorch Shot for a can of gasoline.
I mostly play Pyro as a flanker, using the Backburner as my main damage dealer and my Powerjack as my mobility tool. The Scorch Shot was only there because I like it. It was only after I took up the Gas Passer contract do I realize how valuable it is to me. It lets me force Snipers out of their perch so I can run past their sightlines safely. It lets me fire a flare into a group of enemy players to disrupt their focus. It helps me track down fleeing Spies. It can knock away a pursuing foe and create an opening for me to flee to safety. Even when I got the Thermal Thruster, a mobility tool that was supposed to be the one tool that perfectly complements my ambush/flanking playstyle, I still find myself wishing for my Scorch Shot every time I need to run across a Sniper sightline.
The Shotgun to me is just a rather solid damage dealer. In fact, I really like dueling enemy players with it, especially other Pyros. I know that the Dragon’s Fury can also play this role, since it is specifically made for 1v1 engagements, but I’m also rather attached to my normal flamethrowers as well. Besides, the loud BANG of the Shotgun is far more satisfying than the moderately loud pneumatic hiss of the Dragon’s Fury. It just sounds more punchy and forceful.
I like this new direction where the TF Team is going with the Pyro’s secondaries. Having utility-based secondaries instead of firearms that extends a Pyro’s effective combat range is an interesting new approach. However, there is always merit in bringing one more gun to a gun fight.