Move over ladies and gunboats, it’s the only straight upgrade in Team Fortress 2! Man, considering it’s the one unlock in the entire game with absolutely no reason not to equip it you would bet it must be the high-rolling undisputed king of its weapon class, right? Right?
Turns out the Third Degree sucks. Its only upside is pointless on a class that spews penetrating particles that engulf every enemy in melee range. You wanna kill somebody that has a Medic? Airblast them apart and go to town on the poor German sod. Pulling out your melee is only setting yourself up for some painful retribution that, at the very best, results in a random crit that drops the enemy Medic spectacularly. Which I will admit, is an extremely rare but awesome event that is only made sweeter by how unlikely the chances were that you’d pull it off.
And I think that can serve as a metaphor for the whole weapon, because it sucks in 99% of situations, but in the remainder it’s the only solution and there is no possible substitute. I’m worried that if Valve ever adjusts the stats, they might break the two critical niches being filled by this axe and this axe alone.
The first and more obvious one is in Mann Vs. Machine. When some big dumb Mother Hubbard lumbers into the battlefield carrying a barbershop quartet of fully-charged Medic bots prepared to pop the millisecond they take damage, you need them all to die in one hit or else the bomb is guaranteed to get eight seconds closer to the drop hatch. In that moment, a kritz canteen and a single swing from the Third Degree can solve all your problems in .8 seconds.
But there are a few other classes that can drop a medley of Medics in one pop. Explosive headshots sniper and Kritz canteen demoman are two other popular contenders for the position. Which is why the second niche is arguably even more special, despite being much rarer.
Due to the way the Medicating Melody is coded, the Third Degree assumes that anyone within 450 Hammer units of a Medic taunting with the Amputator is connected to that Medic via healbeam. The only time you’re ever going to care about this is Medieval Mode, where if one team is spamming the Amputator medics there is no other counter. A single random crit can turn a heavily fortified castle full of regenerating defenders into a graveyard.
Sham1 and Jigglypuff did some testing with me, and for some reason it appears the transfer only happens if you hit somebody other than the taunting Medic. But you’ve still got a better shot of clearing the defenses than any other player wielding any other weapon, and that’s huge. If Valve rebalances the weapon, what if we lose that?
Hopefully that won’t happen. It’s extremely rare that Valve removes the core gimmick of a weapon, usually they just rebalance around some smaller stats. But at least one thing for sure isn’t going anywhere; those sweet-ass sound effects. Why can’t my Powerjack jam like that when I taunt?