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The Pyro’s Problem: Afterburn versus smart enemies

The Pyro has always been an interesting class, struggling to find its niche. It’s gotten some buffs and some nerfs, but at the end of the day a common TF2 issue arises: A balanced gameplay mechanic against “Joe Average” which becomes disproportionately worse as enemy players get smarter. And with the “War!” update,  some of his common enemies have new tools to use against him, such as the Demoman’s Targe (+50% fire resistance) and the Soldier’s Direct Hit (fast rockets difficult to reflect.) I think the Pyro could use another very circumspect buff which would actually help carve out his own niche in higher-level play…

The problem

One of the Pyro’s big features is being able to damage multiple people at a time with a damage-over-time flame effect called “afterburn”. Normally this would be  great, but a coordinated enemy team will scoff at you and may actually welcome your hit-and-run attacks. Why? The nefarious medic! The more damage medics heal, the faster they can build up their ubercharge. In some situations, every enemy you singe–but do not finish off–who  makes it back to a medic represents a benefit for the enemy team. Afterburn damage represents a kind of healing opportunity which enemies can manage for their own benefit.

Your hit-and-run tactics might not be slowing the enemy down… they might be making their next hard push for territory arrive even faster. So, building on a thread in the forums…

The Fix

Now, we don’t want to affect the Pyro’s abilities 1v1 with another class. That’s not really the issue, and it would muck about with the existing balance. No, we should look at how healing and afterburn work together. Medics should dislike afterburn, not be glad to see it. The simplest variation would be:

  1. Building of ubercharge is reduced or removed while the flames are still burning on a patient.
  2. Perhaps the Medic’s healing does not reduce how long the flames have to run their course, or to a lesser extent than now.
  3. The effects of mapper-placed health powerups are unchanged.
  4. The effects of Dispensers are unchanged.

Under these rules, the medic has to choose whether he wants to wait longer until his next ubercharge, or whether he wants to surround himself with low-health teammates before healing them fully after their flames subside.

All-in-all, I’d like to see this fix tried in TF2. A big selling point would be that it wouldn’t really affect the Pyro’s ability to win a fight against anyone: preserving balance in pubs and against any basket of other classes. However, in organized play (or against smarter pub teams) it would change the Pyro’s hit-and-run tactics from a liability into an asset. The only class to significantly suffer from this change would be the Medic, and even then only in terms of generating ubercharge, not in direct combat.

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2 Responses

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  1. D-Steria says

    The medic already has slower healing on ppl when the damage was done less than 12 seconds ago (i’m not sure bout the exact time after the dmg). Only AFTER that time it goes at full speed healing of a subject. You would just nerf it another time for the medic with above.

    Ok, it was prolly implemented to make it more appealing to the medic to heal other ppl who had sustained damage instead of keep healing the same person. But in effect it already deterred the build up of the ubercharge.

  2. Darien says

    IIRC uber building is not dependent on how many heal points you dish out, just on how long you’re healing somebody and whether they are bumping the overheal limit. A slower healing means you can get the high uber-build rate for longer.

    If fire did not reset the healing-rate-timer, you’d actually get less uber. (Of course, it would suck for the Pyro because his enemies would be able to return much more quickly.)