Many players believe flamethrowers to be useless weapons, but IMO they are extremely strong. Problem is, they require a bit of knowledge and lots of experience in order to be used correctly. They are extremely hard to master. Here I explain how flamethrowers work and how to use them to best effect, provide some recommended builds, and show off my flamethrower techniques in a video of a Cataclysm run with bots.
Guide to Advanced Flamethrower
This guide consists of 3 YouTube videos that I'll link below, but for those who don't want to watch the videos I'll provide a short text summary in the next sections. If you choose to watch the videos, there's no need to read the text. The first video is the most important one – it explains the mechanics and techniques. The other two are not essential.
- Flamestorm Staff and Drakegun are essentially the same weapon, so I'll be referring to both as "Flamethrower".
- Left click attack: instant, high heat cost, no DOT, moderate damage against everything, very high stagger, prevents weapon switching for a short time after use.
- Right click attack: requires charging up, high heat cost of charging up, low heat cost of shooting, applies DOT, high damage against everything except armor, low damage against armor, moderate stagger, doesn't prevent weapon switching.
- Both attacks do zero damage against Super Armor (Chaos Warriors, etc.) unless you crit. Right click attack applies the DOT that does damage Super Armor.
- Both attacks do higher DPS when shooting a single enemy compared to when shooting several enemies.
- With the right click attack, the cone of effect that damages enemies is much wider than the cone that damages teammates.
- Bug: while shooting the right click attack (so you're holding both your mouse buttons), if you get hit, you will shoot a left click attack once the hitstun wears off.
- Use left click attack against Stormvermin, Rattling Gunners, Warpfire Throwers, and Bestigors. Use right click attack against everything else. If mixed horde, still use right click.
- Do not use Flamethrower against Chaos Warriors. Bring a melee weapon that can deal with them. If you're Battle Wizard with Lingering Flames talent, apply flamethrower DOT then use melee.
- Left click attack costs a lot of heat, but you can spam it with this technique: get to 100% heat, wait for your heat to naturally dissipate to about 97%, shoot again, repeat endlessly. More effective on Ironbreaker than on Battle Wizard because Ironbreaker has a faster heat dissipation (if we disregard BW's passive ability).
- When using the right click attack, do not fully charge it. Instead, use short bursts: charge for a about a second, then shoot. Never charge more than you're going to release. When you need to start firing as quickly as possible, start holding RMB and then immediately start holding LMB too – then the weapon will automatically start firing upon reaching the minimum charge.
- When overheated, do not switch to melee and wait for the weapon to cool down by itself. Instead, hold R to vent manually, paying with your health. Use Natural Bond trait on your necklace to offset the health cost of venting. If you're Battle Wizard, you can rely on passive venting most of the time.
- When teammates obstruct your line of fire, aim your flame cone above their heads. You will hit the enemies behind them while not causing friendly fire (because your damage cone is much wider for enemies than for teammates). However you will blind them and distract them, so only shoot above their heads when can't shoot otherwise.
- Don't ever use your melee weapon to fight hordes. Your flamethrower does it much better. When you you're surrounded by enemies so you can't use flamethrower safely, use block/push/ult to reposition in such a way that all enemies are in front of you. Then start flaming.
- While you can't kill far away specials, it's your job to kill the ones that come close. Flamethrower is excellent at this. Use left click against Rattling Gunners and Warpfire Throwers, right click against all other specials. You can easily kill Packmasters and Assassins that are coming through a horde. If you're Battle Wizard with Lingering Flames talent, once you apply a DOT to a special you mark it for death – even if it escapes, it will die.
- In boss + horde scenarios, your job is to nuke horde. If you're confident enough, you can do this even while kiting boss.
- While flaming a horde, you can't see it. Spam your "mark" button to notice specials and elites (especially monks/zerkers) that are coming through your flame cone.
- Know which enemies you can stunlock with your right click attack and which ones you can't. Ironbreaker with Drakki Wrath talent is better at stunlocking than Battle Wizard.
- As mentioned in the Mechanics section, if you get hit while flaming you will shoot an unintended left click attack, which will add a lot of heat and prevent you from switching to melee in order to block. This is a major threat, but if you expect it you can learn to mitigate the harm (e.g. rely on dodge rather than block when it happens, never get close to full heat when using right click attack).
For arguments supporting these builds, please watch the second video.