The Manmelter is the most … different of all the flare guns. It’s definitely not the most unusual Pyro secondary out there, since that goes to either the Thermal Thruster or the Gas Passer, but among its subclass of Pyro secondaries it is definitely the most unique.
But before I talk more about the Manmelter, I just want to talk about my one pet peeve of this gun, which I’ve mentioned in a previous article before: make the reloading more obvious.
Seriously, making it more visually distinct when you are ready to shoot will improve the experience of using the Manmelter a lot in my opinion. Maybe make the vial of fluid glow when it is ready to fire and dim otherwise? That’ll be nice.
Now let’s talk about the Manmelter proper. First up, its stats:
The Manmelter’s flares travel faster than all the other flare guns, so anyone switching to it from using other flare guns will probably have their aim messed up from leading ahead too far. Other than that, the higher projectile speed will make it easier to hit in general once you’re used to it.
The biggest difference between the Manmelter and the other flare guns is that it does not get a damage bonus when hitting targets that are on fire. Rather, the Manmelter’s secondary fire will extinguish allies in close range the same way as airblasts. For every ally extinguished, the gun will store one critical shot which will be used when the Manmelter is next shot. As with airblasts, extinguishing an ally will heal the Pyro for 20 health.
The main problem with that mechanic is that it makes the Manmelter a lot more situational. With other crit-storing weapons like the Frontier Justice and the Diamondback, getting crits rely on you being able to do your job, that is getting sentry kills and sapping buildings/backstabbing respectively. With the Manmelter, getting crits rely on having a Pyro on the other team setting your teammates on fire and them reaching you alive, which is far beyond your control. Sure, the Manmelter really shines during the first week after the Jungle Inferno update, where half the playerbase are Pyros and the other half are burning, but at other times it is really bad as an offensive weapon. The crit mechanic really doesn’t help in securing a kill, although it’s great for telling pursuers to get lost. Getting hit for 90 damage is a pretty big deterrent unless you are an overhealed Heavy.
As a utility weapon, the faster projectile speed will make it easier for Pyros to set people on fire from far away. The Detonator and the Scorch Shot, with its explosive projectiles, makes it easier to set multiple people on fire and people behind cover. The Scorch Shot is in fact notorious for how easy it is to set people on fire with it. Sure, at longer ranges against single targets, the Manmelter will be better. But at that point the only people you’ll be against are Snipers, and you as a Pyro are just dead if you decided to stay still for a moment to aim for that Sniper.
Its extinguishing feature will be really useful when you have a Pyro in the enemy team and you are either using the Phlogistinator (no airblast) or the Backburner (airblast costs 50 ammo, and Pyro’s primary all only have 200 ammo maximum). But here’s the problem: if you are using the Phlog or the Backburner you are most likely flanking the enemy, attacking their backlines. That is the one place burning allies will NOT be fleeing towards. Not to mention, this utility can only be used when an enemy Pyro is present.
I suppose the most use you can get out of this is as a frontline Pyro, using the flares for harassment and the secondary fire to extinguish allies. Once you get crits, you get to use it to burst down threats. But if all you want is a close to mid range secondary weapon for the frontlines, the Shotgun exists and dishes out damage far more reliably. If not, the Flare Gun can pull off the 90 damage flares better than the Manmelter. Sure, the Manmelter will be superior at long range, but the Pyro is hopelessly outclassed by most classes at that situation.
As to how I will want the Manmelter to be fixed, I am not sure. To make it more viable offensively, I’ll probably rework its crit mechanic to something more reliable and within the Pyro’s control, such as it able to crit airblasted opponents instead or it storing crits based on how much fire damage was dealt by the Pyro. The first option is probably going to trigger the TF2 community’s PTSD of facing the pre-nerf Reserve Shooter, which mini-crits airblasted targets and was extremely hated for it. The second option will just make it a flare gun version of the Phlogistinator, which, while thematically appropriate since both are Grordbort weapons, isn’t really as interesting to play with. It’ll just encourage people to spam flares from a corner or otherwise play really passively until they get a crit flare. So no, I probably will not focus on improving its offensive capabilities.
As to improving it utility-wise, making it absorb all debuffs, such as Jarate, bleeding, and Mad Milk will go a long way to improve its standing as a utility weapon. While the Scorch Shot is great for long range knockback and stickybomb destruction, the Manmelter can be great for removing debuffs in general. It’ll grant it its own little niche and give Pybros more options.
I always love TF2’s loadout customization system, and thus I wish that every weapon is a viable option, even if it’s situational. Weapons like the Manmelter always seems like untapped potential to me, as it feels like just a bit of tweaking will make it viable enough to be considered by most people. Let’s hope Valve’s next balance patch for the Manmelter isn’t years away.