So the other day I tried out the Black Box for the first time in ages.

Never thought I’d use that gun again. It used to be my go-to; an everpresent mainstay in my Soldier arsenal that I adapted each and every loadout around. I’d use it with Gunboats to dominate close-range combat, I’d use it with shotgun for all-purpose versatility, I’d use it in all-crit servers with the Battalion’s Backup to negate crits while firing healing crockets, heck I’d even use it in the early waves of MvM to regenerate health until I had the credits to deck out a better rocket launcher. I’ve always been addicted to health regeneration in games, especially regen that’s tied to damaging enemies,  so I couldn’t imagine life without my +15 RPG of Restoration.

Then Valve nerfed it. Technically it was a rebalance or something, as supposedly it could return “up to 20” on hit, whereas before it was always a flat 15, but in practice I seemed to always get less hp from every rocket due to the regen now being dependent on falloff. Into the dungheap it went, and in its place I tried to learn and love the stock rocket launcher. Instead I learned to play things other than soldier.

But I think Valve rebalanced it again somewhere down the line or something, because I’m using it now and it sucks significantly less than it did before. I don’t think the health regen is as reliable as it was before, but its manageable. I fear that it’s lost a bit of its versatility though; I didn’t feel comfortable using it with anything except Gunboats or Concheror, the two most obvious synergies in Soldier’s arsenal. Otherwise the missing fourth rocket and the inherent self-damage simply overrode the upsides.

But when used with complementary loadouts, I definitely refound my love for the playstyle. Gunboats/Escape Plan creates a ridiculous speed junkie who can zip around the map relying on health pickups and dive-bombing to win every skirmish. Concheror/Half-Zatoichii creates a stupidly tanky lunk who just heals and heals and emerges from seemingly every fight wounded but not dead.

Of course, that second combo is a bit hard to playtest right now because the Concheror, like the Cozy Camper and Amputator, are still bugged. Ever since Valve adjusted Medic’s healing regeneration so that he heals more when connected by healing beam to a wounded patient, all three of the health-regen weapons have suffered from reduced regen that gradually gets better as time goes on without taking damage. So that +4 hp regen/sec advertised in the item description is more like +1 for any sort of in-combat healing, aka the only healing that really matters. I really wish Valve would fix that, I miss the Amputator being something worth equipping.

It’s just… easy. It lets you turn your brain off. You’re not going to be winning any competitive medals as Soldier, but the health regen makes survival so second-hand that you can just keep farming cheap shots and using speed boosts from your other unlocks to end a round with at worst an even K:DR. Sure I’m always going to miss the admirably-simple “+15 a pop” stats, but maybe I’ve been a little harsh on the poor thing with its complete and non-negotiable retirement.