The Nature of Reality, and other Nonsense

inquisition and exposition

Thorin Oakenshield’s guide to playing pyro

Things to remember
 - You have the most versatile combination of speed and health, tied (almost, he’s actually slightly slower) with the demoman.

- You have more weapons than just the flamethrower.

 - The flamethrower has an airblast.

 - You are not immune to fire, you are immune to afterburn

Pyro is, hands-down, my favorite TF2 class. I’ve logged dozens and dozens of hours with him (her?) and learned a lot.

The first thing that I think most pyros forget is that they actually have two weapons in addition to the flamethrower. I see more pyros just charging towards their enemies blazing away than anything else. The developers realize this and so have arranged the game such that this is not a super-bad strategy, but you won’t do anything spectacular playing like that. The flamethrower’s extremely limited range and infamous lethality means that any smart enemies will target you and take you down before you get within range. The flamethrower is an ambush weapon.

When using the flamethrower, don’t actually fire until you’re reasonably sure you’re within range of the enemy. Big orange flames and a WHOOOOSH sound are kind of obvious. Use round-about routes to flank the enemy. Use corners to your advantage. Run away. A good pyro uses hit-and-run almost as much as a scout. 

Another tip when using the flamethrower: you have to aim. It is much harder than you think to hit the enemy; to lessen the lethality of the weapon the developers made the hitbox smaller than intuition would suggest based on the visual effects. Even if you set the enemy on fire, you may not necessarily be still damaging him with the weapon. Afterburn does significantly less damage per second than the gun does directly; pay attention to hear the little crackling noise that means you are actually hitting your target. This goes double for the Degreaser, which does pitiful afterburn damage. The only way to improve your aim is to practice.

Now, the other weapons. Standard kit means that you have a shotgun and a fireaxe in addition to your flamethrower. Use them.

The shotgun is an extremely underrated weapon in TF2. It has a deceptively long range (for video game shotties, at least) and does very good damage. A handful of well-aimed shots will take out many enemies before you can even get within flamethrower range of them.

When I play pyro, my primary weapon is my shotgun. I have it out more than my flamethrower, and only use the flamethrower for special circumstances. Take potshots at enemies across the map, use it while approaching for a flamethrower kill, use it to shoot scouts or medics if they outrun you (which the medic can do), use it as you retreat from a battle you can’t win. Use it like crazy, and reload at every opportunity.

Notes on the shotgun:

 - AIM. AIM AIM AIM AIM AIM. The effectiveness of the shotgun is one hundred per cent dependent on your ability to aim. Practice like crazy with the shotgun. It will pay off hugely.

 - When specifically moving to ambush an enemy with your flamethrower, it’s generally not a good idea to warn them by firing your shotgun. If you know you can approach to flamethrower range without them realizing it then keep the shotgun put away or shoot someone else. Discretion and common sense.

I rarely use the standard fireaxe. Melee combat is not certain enough for me to forgo the flamethrower in close quarters. I have seen it used to amazing effectiveness, but melee combat in TF2 requires a great deal of finesse. If it’s a one-on-one combat and you’re quick, you can flame then enemy and then axe them if they get too close. The flamethrower will probably do more damage per second, but the axe will do a lot of damage in that one instant, good for finishing off enemies. However, if you’re going to be using this tactic, the Axetinguisher is much better. In fact, it’s designed for that.

Last of the pyro’s arsenal but absolutely not least (most, in my opinion) is the airblast. This is the most wildly useful thing in the TF2 universe; it’s the towel of TF2. You can use it to completely nullify damage from many sources, and actually redirect that damage back to its original dealer. It can completely break an ubercharge, stop a rampaging demo, kill a sentry with its own rockets, keep a pyro with the Phlogistinator, Back Burner, or head-start on damage away from you. It can clear the point or the cart, knock enemies off of cliffs, stop friends from burning, and even allow you (on rare occasions) to rocket jump. It lets the pyro get healing, headshots, assists, and bonus points. Four times out of five my flamethrower is just an airblast machine. Remember that reflected projectiles do mini-crits against enemies.

Again, your ability with the airblast is improved by practice.

A few general tactics:

 - For tough, slow enemies (heavies) the axetinguisher makes a wonderful ambush weapon. Combined with the Degreaser it’s super effective. Light them up, maybe knock them into a corner or throw off their aim with an airblast, then CHUNK!

 - For enemies you know will beat you in close-quarters (Bushwacka while you’re covered in piss, heavy with metal gloves, demoknight, pyro with more damaging flamethrower) keep them at bay with the airblast and finish them with the shotgun. They will usually expect you to close with them (‘cause you’re a pyro) and be reluctant to switch to other weapons. Be ready if the do, though.

 - The flare-gun is great for supporting other pyros. If other pyros light enemies on fire, the flare does automatic crits against them from afar.

Now, on to class-specific tactics.


 - Use shotgun primarily. If they happen to approach, light’em up.

 - If they are wielding the FaN, KEEP THEM THE FUCK AWAY. Airblast that mofo like crazy.

 - If they are wielding the Sandman, hate them. Then, recall that you can redirect the ball with airblast.

 - Recall that you can airblast Mad Milk.


 - Airblast. All day long.

 - Ambush.

 - If he switches to shotgun or isn’t shooting at you, use your shotgun.

 - If he switches to the Equalizer or Half-Zatoichi, keep him at a distance with airblast and finish him with the shotgun.

 - It is several orders of magnitude more difficult to reflect the Direct hit and Liberty Launcher. If you can’t do it, practice or switch to the shotty.

 - Keep in mind that it’s very hard to hit something with rockets directly. If he doesn’t have a backdrop (wall, the ground) don’t bother.

 - Keep in mind that you can aim the reflects. The projectile will travel in the direction you’re aiming when you airblast (I suspect it auto-targets the guy who shot it a little). You don’t have to hit the soldier, you could target others. This is usually a great tactic because it is very unexpected.


 - Shotgun. If they close (especially if they are using the Phlogistinator or Backburner) bump them away with the airblast.

 - Flare-gun is far less useful against pyros because they do not ignite. 

 - Flares can be reflected.

 - If you do get forced into close-quarters, use the flamethrower. It does just as much damage to pyros as it does to other people, it just doesn’t cause afterburn.

 - The Axetinguisher will work against pyros. If two pyros are having a flamethrower battle, wade in there with the axetinguisher. If you hit him while your buddy is actively shooting him it will be a crit. Unlikely scenario, yeah, but still.


 - Shotgun and ambush work best.

 - You can airblast both normal grenades and stickies, but stickies do not change sides when you airblast them. They remain lethal to your whole team and nonlethal to his team.

 - There is a special kill-sign for hitting a demo with an airblasted sticky. Very rare, but still extant.

 - Fire is less effective against a demo wielding the Targe. Use your shotgun more often.

 - Airblast can completely halt a demo-charge.

 - Remember that many demo melee weapons have a large range. Airblast often if he tries to close for melee.


 - Avoid. You are outclassed.

 - Heavy can only be taken out by ambushing. And even then, if he’s quick, he could kill you. You absolutely cannot survive the minigun.

 - You have a slight chance if he’s using the Brass Beast because of the 0.5 sec increase in spin-up time. 

 - My favorite tactic is to sneak up on him, puff him with my Degreaser, airblast him so his aim and orientation are thrown off, and then axetinguish. Takes two hits if he was being overhealed.


 - Shotgun in open combat while closing for flamethrower. You have more health than him, the same gun, and a close-combat weapon. Unless he has great aim and tactical awareness and you have none, he should never win.

 - Don’t bother with sentries except in special circumstances. Let demos, soldiers, spies, and ubers handle it.

 - Special circumstance: the sentry is placed in a way that you can get within flamethrower range before it targets you. Circle around it while burning it. If it’s in the right orientation and you’re lucky you can get it.

 - Special circumstance: if you have the time and security (and preferably a medic) you can take out the sentry carefully by standing at the edge of its range, stepping in long enough for it to shoot a rocket at you, and reflecting the rocket. In game terms this rocket is identical to a soldier rocket, so it will take two or three (impossible if the engie is repairing it). This is a very rare scenario to set up, but incredibly impressive when you do.

 - Suicide assaults can sometimes be great surprise maneuvers. Charge the sentry, reflect the first rocket at some vulnerable target, and die in a blaze of bullet-riddled glory. This is a super-mega-plus if you can take out the engie with the reflected missiles.


 - Shotgun and ambush.

 - Do not, under any circumstances, charge in a straight line. The syringe gun has one of the highest dps scores in the game, and if you charge in a straight line every single dart will hit you. This is hopeless even if he’s using the normal syringe gun, but if he’s using the blutsauger then don’t even bother. If you are going to charge headlong then you absolutely must use a serpentine pattern.

 - Airblast ubers. This throws off their aim, knocks them away from valuable targets, and generally pisses them off. You might also be able to end the uber prematurely by separating the medic and his heal target.

 - Recall that you can reflect Crusader Crossbow arrows.


 - Don’t bother. Unless you ambush him, you’re outclassed.

 - If you ambush him, remember that snipers are very fond of jarate+melee. If he’s using the bushwacka then it will kill you. If he isn’t, it will hurt like hell.

 - You can reflect arrows. It is one of the hardest projectiles to reflect, but absolutely the most impressive thing in the game. Especially because with the airblast they have a good deal of auto-targeting.


 - Light that fucker up.

  • 13 February 2012
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