Go Team! Part 4 – The Pyro

By Alec Meer on September 20th, 2007 at 9:04 pm.

Continuing our class-by-class ranting about Team Fortress 2. See here, here and here for the story so far.

Important update: this article was written in the earliest days of the TF2 beta, before The Pyro was patched to become more effective, and is subjective account of how it felt to play him then, not a review of the class. Please bear this in mind before you shout at me that I’m wrong and stupid.

I’m so lonely. No-one hangs around with the Pyro. Is it the gasmask, the fact they can’t see my face or understand what I’m saying creeping them out just a little? Really, that mask isn’t even necessary, making it a vaguely perverted affectation. Or is it the rodent-like hunched pose and thin-legged scurry, making me too ridiculous a sight to be taken seriously? All the other classes have a certain superheroic nobility to them; the Pyro’s just a little laughable to look at.

Click to continue, or you shall surely burn. Burrrrnnn!

Or is it that my main gun is so short-range and imprecise that they can’t envisage any benefit of teaming with me? I suspect it’s all of the above, plus the history of the gaming flamethrower as a weapon for showing off first, efficiently killing second. What it all adds up to is that the Pyro isn’t entirely a part of the team. He may be out on his own, breaking into the enemy base to cause nuisance, or he might be alongside the main team pack, but even then they almost certainly won’t be thinking about what he’s up to. No-one ever says “We need a Pyro”, as they would a Medic or Engineer or Heavy or Sniper or Scout. The Pyro just is, whether anyone wants him to be or not.

Initially, I thought the Pyro was almost a superfluous class. He still is, in a way – like the Demoman, he’s much more about sideline support than actual achievement. I’m now pretty certain of his purpose, though. Firstly, he’s a distraction. Yes, that Flamethrower can kill at a close enough range, but it’s usually very tough to get intimate enough, with the exception of dancing firey circles around a lumbering Heavy. More importantly, from a more offset position it’ll still soften a target up so that the more conventional combat classes can take him down before he causes significant damage to them.

It also causes panic. As yet, no-one’s precisely calculated the flamethrower’s damage over time maths, so if a group of foes is doused with fire, they’ll be flustered, their aim will be off, and they may even scatter, desperately seeking out Medics or water. They’re still in the game, but they’re significantly easier prey for the Pyro’s team-mates. Or they’ll react by turning on the Pyro, desperate to stop the burning, which can provide enough time for one of his team to pick them off or nip past with their briefcase. No-one ever thanks the Pyro, though. He’s just the weird kid who’s always hanging around.

Medics aren’t the martyrs of TF2. In a very literal sense, Pyros are. They seed mass confusion and usually perish in the process, but create a window of opportunity for their more favoured peers, the distracting flames continuing even after their death. A Pyro can’t avoid regular mortality. He’s an Offence class with a very short range, and therefore has to be right out there at the front. Even if it means certain doom. Did Pyro do good? Tell Pyro that Pyro did good. But no-one does. Pyro is so lonely.

His other purpose, at least as I’ve found it to be, is as the closest the Team has to a Spyhunter. A quick 360 arc of fire is the best way both to reveal a lurking enemy Spy hidden or disguised as an ally, and also to make him a blatant, flaming target that’s easy for everyone else to spot, with the burning also preventing him from slipping back into the safety of invisibility. Also, spraying everyone on your side with fire somehow seems a bit less obnoxious than shooting them in the face to prove their identity. It’s more like being disinfected than attacked.

With this in mind, I’ve found one of the more effective Pyro pairings is with an Engineer. The turret gives Engie long-range protection, the Pyro short-range; an attentive flameboy can often spot the tell-tale haze of a cloaked Spy and , with a quick spurt, prevent him from slapping an electrosap onto vital constructions. When it works, a Pyro –Medic combo can be a bucket o’ultra-kill fun, but the flamethrower’s harrowingly short range means the Doc’s that much closer to the line of fire. Save the healing for the Heavy.

Still, I worry that poor Pyro’s a class that will become increasingly unpopular, as he so rarely crops up in the scoreboard’s higher echelons. I can only guess at the insane degree of balance testing that’s gone into TF2, but for my money just a little extra range on him, or at least more damage at his current furthest range, would mean we’d see much more of him. He’s just a little different than every other class, and is hugely entertaining with it. He doesn’t deserve the additional loneliness that increased neglect would cause him.

The Heavy is my first choice, time and again, and so far I always sit pretty near the top of the table when I play him (THANK YOU DOKTORR). I play Pyro, though, when I don’t particularly feel like winning or helping or achieving. I play Pyro when I want to feed the sociopath in me. When I just want to cause a little no-strings trouble. It helps, it really does. That’s what the mask is for.

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47 Comments »

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  1. Theory says:

    Pyro is my favourite class for fun. He might be limited, but when applied correctly (dustbowl has loads of suitable places) damn effective. Pair him up with a medic in a corridor and you’re on fire a killing spree.

  2. FringeRock says:

    yeah, i’ve struggled to feel… significant as the Pyro as yet. I call for a longer range flamethrower like in Aliens. ooh yeah.

  3. Masked Dave says:

    With TFC I was always a Heavy, facing down all the taunts of it being the ‘newbie class’ (Hey, it was early days, we didn’t have n00b yet.) just because I kept killing them… but this time around, the Pyro feels like where I’ll be making my mark.

  4. MfffoMmmf says:

    Mfff mf ff, mmmfryffmm mm fff ff mmuffled!

  5. roBurky says:

    I used to love the pyro in Team Fortress Classic. But I always favoured his napalm rocket launcher rather than this flamethrower, for obscuring enemy snipers’ view with fire. He hasn’t got that any more.

  6. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Yeah, i’m loving the pyro, even tho I come much higher in the score boards as a medic or heavy. It IS frustrating when you set six of the opposite team on fire and none of them die, but nevertheless, when you do pull it off and they go down in flames you feel like you’ve truly achieved something! Also setting people on fire is fun regardless of whether they die or not.

  7. Homunculus says:

    I love his muffled “Hadoken!”, and appropriate miniature fireball generating hand gestures accompaniment.

    It’s always fun watching two Pyros converge on a capture point from opposite directions, shortly followed by all its defenders scuffling with each other to get the hell out of there. Sadly, of all the classes, the Pyro is the one that seems to need a little more oomph. It’s a great concept, but the execution seems to be just a little off. You can have ideal circumstances, ambush a guy with the flamethrower, and, if a decent scrapping class, all they have to do is backpedal and keep a few paces ahead of you and they’ll probably kill you (although the likelihood is they’ll succumb to fire shortly thereafter).

    Sacrificing all of that range really should mean being a dominant force at ranges from just past melee to ohh, about yay far. As it is, if you’re going to be forced to engage at melee range, you might as well use the fire axe at the moment. But I suppose that’s the sort of thing beta testing is meant to expose, and with masses of stats being generated by TF2’s enthusiastic participants for Valve to examine, there should be ample evidence to make some informed tweaking before the official release.

  8. Theory says:

    Numbers have been crunched.

    Assuming you hit, this makes the average DPS of the pyro 6.5 – 18.2, depending on your range and the duration of the burn. This statment only applies to a maximum of a 1 second burn, as I was not really able to gauge the effect of burns longer than 1 second. Aside from the heavy weapons guy, a 1 second burn at optimal range is pretty much enough to kill any class that does not have access to healing and has not been recently overcharged by a medic.

    Surprisingly effective. I think the mistake we’re all making is continuing to try and attack after the initial burn. If only there was a way of knowing the amount of damage done, like the flames being more intense.

  9. Seniath says:

    So far, I have almost exclusively played the Pyro, and for all it’s foibles, I love it. Parallels can somewhat be drawn between it and my favoured class in WoW, the Warlock. I get quite a kick from killing someone long after they’ve offed me. But yes, his general ineffectiveness at range makes him pretty much useless at choke points, and he can do very little about turrets.

    As for the Pyro-Medic combo, SuperMatt and myself can attest to its awesomeness. It can cause utter carnage in close quarters, especially in enclosed capture points.

  10. dartt says:

    Hehe, I always see you running around as a pyro Seniath. You’re like a mischievous little imp!

    I think he works best as a hit and run class. Dash in, run past everyone setting fire to them and dash off again to heal. Alternatively waiting at a corner or above/below where you expect the enemy to appear then catching them off guard can give you enough time to finish someone off before they can turn their gun on you.

    The pyro was my least played class for all the reasons Alec listed but I made myself spend some time with him today and had a really good time.

  11. Tom says:

    So I must admit I don’t know the TF2 stats, but I was talking to the girl tonight about the balance issue in QWTF… and the thing is: the Soldier is _not_ the balanced, “middle”, class; if anything, it’s Demoman and Pyro. They’re not super-tough, they’re not super-fast, but they’re slap bang in the middle and effective if used well. Demoman is nearer the middle than Pyro – Pyro ups the destructive factor but loses out on the “tough” factor.

    Your point about “softening up” is important – a Pyro in the middle of a gaggle of attacking enemies is useful, if only to increase the chances of weaker classes getting kills. In that sense, they make weak classes (Engineer, Scout, etc) more dangerous.

  12. SuperMatt says:

    Like Seniath said, a pyro/medic combo is leathal, but it requires a different tactic to the HW/medic combo. Because the HW is so slow moving, the medic is quite able to hang about in a corner somewhere, pumping his dude full of hot steamy health.

    But if you’re juicing up a pyro it actually adds more to the fun. All you need to do is run around the flame-farter like an absolute loon and it’ll completely fluster the opponant. First of all the enemy are thinking “oh balls, it’s a pyro,” followed closely by “oh nuts, he’s got a medic on him, take out the medic,” which is then followed by “WHY THE HELL IS THIS MEDIC MOVING LIKE THIS? MEDICS DON’T MOVE LIKE THIS, I CAN’T HIT HIM,” and then there’s our favourite firey death.

  13. Martin Coxall says:

    buff pyro pls devs thx.

    Well, that’s my duty as a beta tester done. Dear lords of TF2, a 25% increase in thrower range- that’s not that much to ask, surely?

  14. Savage says:

    Dude’s got an axe. I’m sold.
    *Axe-guitar*

  15. Shanucore says:

    Agreed about the Pyro. In concept I love him, but it’s just so rare to find yourself in a situation where he’s effective. He’s not fast or sneaky enough to get into a decent position easily, and as he moves at the same speed as almost every other class anyone who sees him coming can backpedal and polish him off with any ranged weapon.

    In a close-up scrap between multiple players he’d definitely come into his own, but in these early days I’m not really seeing that level of teamwork and coordination amongst teams.

  16. Pentadact says:

    The Pyro’s flame only does its full damage /at/ point blank range, none of this ‘almost point-blank’ nonsense. It’s a melee weapon with an infinite rate of fire, double damage after the fact and the unique ability to detect, cripple and kill the most elusive enemy class in the game: The Spy. I am a Spy. I fucking hate Pyros. Especially Seniath.

    When playing with Valve guys – a fair approximation of the game once everyone gets good – Pyros were frequently among the highest scoring players in the game. Ambushing in the right places can wipe out half a team and half-kill the rest – which gets you kill assists when everyone else kills them.

    Despite all that, it would be fun if they added a second fire to the flamethrower that chewed through triple ammo but licked twice as far.

  17. Seniath says:

    and the unique ability to detect, cripple and kill the most elusive enemy class in the game: The Spy. I am a Spy. I fucking hate Pyros. Especially Seniath

    *maniacal laughter*

  18. The_B says:

    No no no, Pentadact is definiately Not A Spy. No Sir.

  19. DuBBle says:

    A range buff for the Pyro is inappropriate because his role is clearly intimately infernal. Give him a damage increase instead, please Valve :)

  20. Seniath says:

    I think I’d take a speed increase over a damage increase. Having someone back peddle away from me, just out of range of my flamethrower, whilst they’re shooting me in the face and I’m unable to catch up is a pain.

  21. Seniath says:

    What’re peoples thoughts on the Pyro as a defensive class? Yes, with a medic backing them up, they make excellent offensive classes, but solo, waiting in ambush in a CP room/flag room is much more doable, and more likely to actually kill some one.

  22. Kadayi says:

    Personally I like to use the pyro as a death dealing assassin, sneakily flanking the opposition and then frying them on mass from behind (medics first)especially at capture points/around their spawn. It’s a dirty job, but it keeps them on their toes and distracvts them from the activities of the rest of the team ;)

  23. Pentadact says:

    I quite like that Pryos are Default Speed, because it creates situations where you’re just in or just out of range and both of you are running at exactly the same rate. If they were faster than normal classes, no-one would have a hope of escaping except the Scout. What I’d rather see, to aid pursuit, is the flame jet inheriting your velocity. Right now your range is halved when running forwards, because the flames always travel as if you were stationary when you fired them. In reality if the gun was moving forwards as it spewed out its fluid, your velocity and that of the jet would combine and your range would be almost as good as if you were standing still.

  24. Yargh says:

    I too think that the Pyrogimp makes a great ambush fighter; he does well defending the Intel in 2Forts or lurking above/next to well travelled routes ready to pounce on unsuspecting passers-by. He also has a generally short lived role in the assaults on some of the enclosed capture points, once the turrets have been dealt with, as there is usually a massive close range battle there.

    For the moment I feel that most Pyros (me included) tend to rely too much on the main weapon instead of switching to the shotgun or axe once the targets are in flames. That axe looks like it should deal serious damage (are all melee weapons created equal?).

  25. Andrew Farrell says:

    I’m not sure that anyone who’s thinking about the Pyro chasing rather than being chased has entirely got the hang of the character.

  26. Pentadact says:

    I’m not sure anyone who stands still long enough to endure a fatal burn from a stationary Pyro has entirely got the hang of WASD.

  27. HenryPootel says:

    Who cares about the pyro’s effectiveness. He’s got the funniest voices of the group :^)

    What I’ve found from my own stint as a Pyro is that if you can get in a large group and just do lots of flames + circle strafes, you can do well. It’s all about inflicting a lot of pain on as many people as possible, then hoping you can either get out or they die before you do. Also pretty effective if you can take someone down in health & get them on fire so they try and run away. Once they start running (towards health usually) then a shotgun blast will often finish them off.

  28. Iain says:

    Pyros are the ambush predators of Team Fortress 2, no doubt. Without the element of surprise, they’re pretty much worse than useless, but they are handy at outing the bastard Spies, and for that reason alone, I will play as one. Once I started learning the maps and finding all the good ambush spots, I’m finding playing with Pyros a lot less frustrating.

    I also agree with Yargh – when you’re travelling from point to point on the map, you’re better off with your shotgun equipped, rather than the flamer, because if you stick with the flamer, you’ll be dead long before you get close enough to kill anyone else in a stand-up fight. Putting pyros next to enemy teleporter exits is a particularly evil trick – just remember not stand still when someone comes through the teleporter…

  29. h3rby says:

    I have been quite effective with the ole fiery rodent. It’s true though… it’s all about catching your target off guard, setting them a blaze and then taking cover. Running head on is not the way to go. Catch them around corners, or from low ledges. And yep, use that secondary weapon! Blast ‘em with the shotty when they are burning to finish them off. I’ve found that my bad habit is to continue trying to burn when I should just bail. I tend to see 3 or for kills after my own death all the time. Just more practice I guess. I’ve only used the axe twice, but both times it was intsa-gib.

  30. kaenneth says:

    Am I the only one who relates Kenny from Southpark with the Pyro?

  31. Gozer says:

    He’s also said to resemble a Tusken Raider, or Sand Person, from Star Wars.

  32. BloodyIron says:

    Hey, uhh, anyone actually read the latest patch notes? The pyro’s on top, FYI.

    I had one match (30 minutes, 14 maxclients, 7 per side) shortly after the patch, in which I achieved 105 points, only as pyro.

    Whatsup?

    Want to see it? connect to my server some time, servers.lanified.com

  33. brainamp (BSR) says:

    Even before the little buff the pyro received, it was a tremendous class in defense (or offense on some maps).
    It’s always hard with any other class to perform spy checks, with the pyro, it’s completely natural.
    A pyro alone in the fort entrance of 2fort is a spy’s nightmare.
    A pyro and a turret, a dream come true for the engineer.

    It’s priceless to detect and ignite a shadow in a dark corner of a tunnel and see an invisible spy lighting up :)
    An attentive pyro in defense is just so unfair for players who are still trying to get their spy skills ok.
    It’s always a pleasure to finish a invisible-but-burning spy with the axe :)

    The only drawback I’ve seen is somehow (I’m not sure, just saw someone do it on 2fort) the ability to flame people through ceilings.
    I mean it’s ok if it’s just a ledge and that you got somehow a line of sight. But flaming people through plain, opaque ceiling and walls, it’s a bit too much…

  34. Kieron Gillen says:

    BloodyIron: Worth noting that this article was written before the Patch hit. Everyone talked a bit more about Pyros in later threads in the Go Team! series.

    KG

  35. Mori says:

    The pyro’s always been my favourite class. I’ve got something silly like 32 hours on him now, compared to the 2 hours 40 minutes on my next most played class. I’m glad he finally got the buff, now I can stop emailing poor robin walker. He wasn’t bad before the buff, just difficult to use. I actually kind of don’t like seeing other pyros, it felt special being the only one on the server :P. Ah well, small price to pay for UNLIMITEEED POOWEEEERR.

  36. Thygrrr says:

    Pyro is my favourite class, as well, though I do switch a lot, as the Pyro is easily countered by soldiers and well-placed sentries. Nevertheless, I love him, how he looks, and his mumble-mumble comments no one else in the team can ever understand.

  37. Garth says:

    I have to admit, I think a lot of the problems with the Pyro would be ‘fixed’ in peoples eyes if it was under the Defensive category. It’s completely unrealistic to think the Pyro can do anything on the attack side other than burn groups of people. Snipers can pick them off, soldiers can bounce them with grenades, they’re one of the only classes that cannot destroy a Turret while solo (at least a level 3 one).

  38. IQpierce says:

    I think it’s very amusing to read this article only a few weeks later.

    Here’s how I think the game has evolved online:
    Week 1: Everyone is going Demoman and pwning everyone
    Week 2: Everyone is going Spy and pwning everyone, including the demomen
    Week 3: Everyone is going Pyro and pwning everyone, especially the Spies

    I think the flavor of the week is about to become Medic… I had an expert Medic tearing me apart with the syringe gun the other day.

    And what does it all prove? The game is waaaaay more well-balanced than any of us thought. They’re just sitting back and chuckling at us as we keep unraveling the class system and realizing just how deep and well-balanced it really is.

  39. marco900 says:

    Amazingly that’s me. And he’s like Kenny Mcormick From South Park. Which makes him more awesome. Pyro All The Way!

  40. mannos says:

    i disagree entirely.

    used properly, the pyro is deadly. he’s also great security against spies.

    all of the classes are totally balanced. people just need to learn about them before writing crap like this

  41. Alec Meer says:

    Thanks for being A Mean Internet Man, but this was written before Pyro was patched to be as deadly as he is today, and relates my experiences of playing him back then.

    It’s also supposed to be a fun piece, not a stern critical dissection.

    (I’ve put an edit along those lines into the post, so hopefully we won’t get anymore Mean Internet Men in these comments.)

  42. E Money says:

    You should rewrite this article, so its more updated. Other than that there is much speculation that the Pyro is a female and that the mask is to help hide her identity, as was common in the past. Plus Pyro has a purse. Maybe someday Valve will remove the mask!

  43. Vengarato says:

    What I think would help the Pyro a bit is if the flamethrower had an alt fire that used up the ammo twice as fast, but also reached twice as far. The range just always seems too short to me.

  44. Josh Miller says:

    Pyro is my favorite class. I’ve found that the Pyro actually makes an excellent flag runner. He’s tough enough to take a few shots while making his getaway but he’s not as pokey as a heavy.

    anyway, you’re right abotu the Pyro’s main purposes. Spyhunting and Chaos. Run out there spraying everything with flames an the opposign team will forget about the heavy and the demo and the sniper fireing on from farther away. You end up dying while your team and flames finish them off.

  45. gryffinp says:

    This article is funny now, since the Pyro update.