The Compression Blast Video Guide
Hard to read? Watch it in ‘high quality’ at YouTube (click “watch in high quality” at the bottom right).
- By Pie21
The June 19th update that saw Valve unveil its second update pack for the Pyro brought with it the biggest fundamental change to
The compression blast changes the equation completely. But just what is it exactly? The compression blast (referred to henceforth in various tenses as ‘blast’) is the alt-fire mode of the standard flamethrower. By hitting alt-fire (right click), the flamethrower unleashes a blast of compressed air straight ahead at very short range. This action eats up twenty-five flamethrower ammo, and has a cooldown of around a second before the flamethrower can operate again. The beautiful part however is the blast’s effect on enemy projectiles and players on contact, and I’ll be covering a few uses of the blast over the course of this guide.
The first and foremost use of the compression blast is the deflection of enemy projectiles (rockets, demo grenades, sticky bombs, sentry rockets, arrows, flares and Jarate). It takes good timing to deflect enemy projectiles and a lot of practice to do so accurately; the ability to pull this off consistently is an invaluable asset in almost any situation. Quite simply, blasting an enemy projectile just as it enters very short range will deflect it back in the direction your flamethrower is aimed (and will damage enemies only, except with sticky bombs). The uses of this ability are many and varied, including but not limited to:
Without the compression blast (or alternatively with the Backburner), when a Soldier fires a rocket at you, you have no defensive options beyond attempting to dodge the bastard. With the blast however you have one immediate and effective option to save some health; deflect the rocket in any direction that doesn’t end with you. For best results aim it back towards your assailant, but as long as it’s away you have successfully defended yourself from it. Well done! Obviously the same applies for primary grenades, but I’ll generally refer to rockets since they’re a simpler case.
Deflecting the rocket puts it under your possession, and as you are no doubt well aware there is no friendly fire in Team Fortress 2. These two facts give the blast a very team-oriented possibility: defending teammates from enemy projectiles. This can include deflecting rockets and grenades that are headed towards teammates or into packs of your team or neutralizing rocket/grenade spams, but the most deliberate application concerns friendly buildings, especially sentry guns. Your enemies can’t get past sentries without destroying them, so a lot of effort will be expended with this purpose in mind. Whether deflecting incoming rockets from long range or grenades and stickies fired from out of sight, Engineers will love you for making their job a whole lot easier. And chances are that there will be a dispenser not too far away where you can fill up on ammo to keep the air flowing.
Remember, keeping sentries alive helps not only the Engineer, but your entire team. In many situations, a well-placed and healthy sentry gun is more valuable than an extra player. And as long as you’re around the defenses keep an eye out for Spies who will no doubt be headed your way.
The blast is perfectly suited to defensive duties, but it’s so versatile that it can easily be bent to give you the upper hand when on the attack. The first and most satisfying use is to get revenge on all those Soldiers who brushed you aside back before the Pyro update. If you are seen at medium distance, you are at the perfect range for a Soldier to start popping away at your feet. As soon as he fires, it’s time to estimate the trajectory and make a decision. If the rocket’s headed towards your body, reflect it straight back towards the Soldier’s feet – a couple of these reflections can quickly turn the tables on the battle. On the other hand if the Soldier’s got a little more brains and shoots for your feet, either jump over said rocket and blast it down (hopefully riding the explosion towards your quarry) or retreat so the projectile explodes harmlessly in front of you. Make him aim up.
“Yeah sure, but you’re hardly going to score kills like that unless you perfectly reflect a random crit rocket,” you say. And you would usually be right. However the best part is yet to come. Once the Soldier uses up his four rockets, he will have noticed how impregnable your defense is and will switch to his shotgun in an attempt to regain the upper hand – after all, you can’t reflect bullets, right? This is exactly what you want. If you are at short to medium range, you can rush the Soldier and destroy him with your preferred weapon (he’s slow, remember). If you’re at long range just ignore him; you’ve helped your team simply by making him put away his most powerful weapon.
The compression blast’s influence is not limited to deflecting pithy projectiles. In fact the blast is so powerful it can displace fully armed humans, from the fairly unimpressive Scout to the physically unlikely Heavy. By closing to the same kind of range used to deflect projectiles, blasting an enemy player displaces them upwards and in the direction you’re aiming. The most notable thing about this ability however is the fact that it is equally effective against übercharged opponents, making the Pyro easily the most effective class at blocking the most fearsome force in the game. Of course the ability to shove players around has many potential applications, such as:
Alright so I just mentioned this, but it’s the most valuable ability so I’ll explore it first. Without the blast, the best counter to the enemy übercharge was to either spam sticky bombs under their feet and hope the force of the explosion would repel (or at least disorientate) the invulnerable combination, or in some situations to stand in front of the medic and block his path. The Pyro’s blast can perform the equivalent of both of these strategies that I call über blocking and breaking, respectively.
‘Blocking’ is the act of getting in the über’s way (generally the patient, with or without the medic), so that it can’t reach its desired target. The compression blast is ideally suited for this, since it applies a physical force on the attacker that repels them, and the rate of fire is such that they can be blasted again as soon as they hit the ground. As long as he has ammo and health to spare, a single Pyro can not only negate an übercharge but push it back further than where it started. This is especially effective against Demomen since they have no easy means to dispatch the Pyro; the grenade launcher is not only inaccurate against close, moving targets, but its grenades can be deflected. Remember this, since the Demoman is head and shoulders above any other class overall as an übercharge recipient.
In some situations, blocking is not an option. Perhaps the über is rushing a sentry gun ahead of you and his doctor is struggling to keep up. Your engineer would probably not appreciate you delivering a Demoman to his doorstep. In these cases, the Pyro has the option of ‘breaking’ the über, or forcing the separation of Medic and patient. The basic approach is to get some kind of angle on the Medic, and blast him such that something obstructs his medigun beam. This is usually a wall or corner, although if you can get between the Medic and patient it can be simple distance instead. Once you have the Medic under your control, keep shunting him into an advantageous position (a friendly Heavy, perhaps?), or until he starts retreating.
The best example is in a situation with multiple levels, say the final bridge for the attackers on Gold Rush. A BLU Medic and Pyro are rushing the final point, about to wreak havoc. You rush them from side on, from behind the truck, but the Pyro has got away. The Medic however is running along behind, and you’ve got him in your sights. You hit the compression blast, and it lifts him up and deposits him off the edge of the bridge with half an übercharge left. Suddenly the Pyro is caught out and mopped up, and the attack is neutralized for a cost of twenty-five ammo. True story (well, I assume someone’s done it).
This is another use of the compression blast that I find surprisingly effective. It has saved my life on many occasions, most of which I didn’t think it would. Basically if you find yourself on low health and caught in a fight with another close range class (usually another, healthier Pyro or someone with a melee weapon) and you just know you’re going to lose, blast your opponent away from you and retreat. This is even more effective if you combine it with a fiery smokescreen or shotgun cover fire as you retreat. It’s also good for getting out from under a Soldier’s feet, and of course you can deflect his rockets back to him as you run away. Sorry, strategically redeploy.
This method is similar is theory to über blocking, only there’s not necessarily übers involved. Using the compression blast, a Pyro can jump out from around a corner and blast oncoming attackers before immediately jumping back round his corner to safety. By repeating this, a single Pyro can prevent an attacker or two from moving forward at all. This may not sound particularly useful, but it will give time for the (friendly) cavalry to arrive. I find it most effective against a spinning heavy attempting to round a narrow corner. If he’s trying to get through a doorway for example, a Pyro will be able to hold him back for as long as his ammo allows. Think also of enemies that have other, more important targets than you in mind, especially Demomen trying to peek out and assault sentry guns.
This tactic has its place mainly against enemies you don’t think you’ll be able to beat in a one on one (usually Heavies or Soldiers) or enemies with too much backup to allow you to concentrate on them alone. This is generally not a tactic you plan, but one that just clicks every now and then. Basically if, during your mad rush around your defense, you happen across an enemy that you simply can’t commit to fight, you blast him in a direction that will be more advantageous for your team and move on. This is generally around a corner or off a ledge, and is especially epic if there are friendly sentry guns nearby.
Here’s a hypothetical. You’ve managed to flank a spinning Heavy/Medic combo who is rounding the corner into your base. You know that as soon as you light them on fire you’ll be ripped apart, so you have to try something else. Instead of alerting them to your presence with fire, you get behind them and blast them into full view of your defense instead of letting them creep around. You keep blasting them around to keep them disoriented, and move them gradually towards a sentry gun/friendly Heavy that eats them both up. Basically, the idea is to sneak up on enemies attacking on their own terms and blast them out into the open. This is really more of a team play than a lethal attack, but if you ignite them just before the first blast you should get the assists.
Okay, this has no real practical application, but God knows it’s fun! By blasting an enemy from below, he is shot straight up in the air, and it takes him longer to fall than for your blast to ‘reload.’ In addition, every blast sends your target higher, like a trampoline. Finally, if you’re quick and a little lucky, you can get enough of an angle from a normal blast against someone on level footing to get underneath them and start juggling. This of course leads to a single, awesome course of action: blast an enemy so high that he dies from the fall! It’s worth so much more than a kill (which you don’t get, of course).
Well perhaps no real application is a little unfair. Firstly, juggling a forcefully repositioned enemy in front of your teammates basically makes him a sitting duck (on a couple of axes anyway), and keeping them powerless in the air can be helpful for defending objectives, especially a dropped intel briefcase that you can’t afford to let them touch. Not to mention if they’re on fire, they’ll be constantly taking damage. And on the off chance that they’ve been übercharged, it can waste that too.
- The rate of fire of the compression blast is approximately equal to the rocket launcher and slower than either grenade launcher. As such you should err on the side of caution and assume that after deflecting a projectile, you won’t be able to deflect the next one if they fire immediately. Therefore you should leave projectiles that are relatively inaccurate in case the next one is more threatening. This comes down to experience and judgment however.
- If you miss a deflection, don’t panic and start spamming alt-fire repeatedly to make sure you catch the next one that must be right in front of you by now. Take a step back, reassess the situation, and pick out the next projectile you’re going to target rather than blasting at anything nearby.
- Timing is of course the most difficult aspect of successful compression blasting, and the key to good timing is confidence and practice. When I miss a deflection (which happens often, as this is not something easily mastered) it tends to be because I jumped the gun and blasted too early. Your mileage may vary, but keep in mind what you do wrong most often, and try to compensate for that next time.
- The compression blast has a cooldown of about one second, but the flamethrower’s is a small fraction of that. This means you can virtually use the blast instantaneously after flaming, so generally you will want to set people alight before buffeting them around.
- Think of combos you can perform using the compression blast to take control of your opponent’s position. One of my favorites is to ambush someone and ignite them with a single puff of flame before immediately blasting them into a wall, then immediately switching to the Axtinguisher and chopping them as quickly as possible. Makes me all warm and fuzzy inside when I pull it off.
- Have fun blasting! Getting gibbed by a Soldier due to a mistimed blast that you should have got is one of the most infuriating Pyro deaths. Don’t let it get to you or else you’ll just get bitter, because if you jump into bed with the blast as much as I have, you’ll get yourself killed pointlessly a lot.