There’s always some level of controversy over the whitelist, and over the past week or so the focus has been drawn to the favorite of Medics everywhere: Crusader’s Crossbow.
People have massively differing views on what its effect has been to the competitive meta, and without detailed stats it’s impossible to reliably quantify any stats, so the debate is subjective.
Comparing the Crusader’s Crossbow to the Medi Gun (the staple of healing) gives some inkling of how good it really is.
The Medi Gun heals at a range of rates, with the most common rate being the low end of the range of 24 HP per second. This rate applies when the healing target has been damaged in the last 10 seconds. After the target has not taken damage for 10 seconds, the rate rapidly ramps up until it hits the top end of the range 5 seconds later, where healing occurs at the rate of 72 HP per second. This fast rate of healing, useful for quickly replenishing a player’s health and giving them the maximum overheal, is referred to as critical heals or simply crit heals.
In comparison, the Crusader’s Crossbow heals an amount based on the distance between the Medic and the player hit by the weapon’s syringe. At point-blank range the weapon heals a minimum of 75 HP per shot, and beyond a certain range the weapon heals a maximum of 150 HP per shot. With the weapon reload time being 1.6 seconds, the theoretical maximum healing rate varies from 46.875 HP per second at point-blank to 93.75 HP per second at range.
That’s a major difference: ostensibly a long-range weapon, the Crusader’s Crossbow outperforms the Medi Gun at point-blank range in most scenarios. It takes 12.38 seconds of the target not being damaged before the Medi Gun can catch up and begin to out-heal the Crusader’s Crossbow. It doesn’t take much to overcome the critical healing, though: at mid-range (specifically, with 53.6% healing ramp-up based on distance) the Crusader’s Crossbow once again outperforms the Medi Gun for healing rate.
The healing advantage for the Crusader’s Crossbow leads to an even more outsized advantage in the arena of ÜberCharge building. The Medi Gun, regardless of healing rate, builds ÜberCharge at a rate of 2.5% per second (unless the healing target is above 142.5% of their max health, in which case the rate is halved). This leads to an ÜberCharge build time of 40 seconds, fairly well-memorized by beginning Medics.
On the other hand, the Crusader’s Crossbow builds ÜberCharge based on the amount of health healed, with 1% gained for every 16 health healed, with a resulting range of 4.687% to 9.375% per shot. The theoretical maximum building rate is thus from 2.930% per second at point-blank to 5.859% per second at distance, or 34.133 seconds to build at point-blank and 17.067 seconds to build at distance.
Once again, the Crusader’s Crossbow thoroughly beats the Medi Gun, and this time there’s no contest.
The Crusader’s Crossbow isn’t a complete Medi Gun replacement, of course, since it needs aim and skill to be used effectively and doesn’t provide overheals or an ÜberCharge. It doesn’t need to be, though, as the two weapons occupy different slots. Indeed, it is perhaps their combination that is the most terrifying.
Critical to their synergy together is the passive stat of the Crusader’s Crossbow in which the weapon reloads even when another weapon is active (e.g. the Medi Gun). Therefore, the time spent reloading can be supplemented with healing from the Medi Gun. With the weapon switch time being 0.5 seconds, 1 second in total would be spent switching between the Medi Gun and the Crusader’s Crossbow, leaving 0.6 seconds of healing with the Medi Gun in between switching and firing syringes. While this has benefits for increasing healing rate (to a theoretical maximum ranging from 55.875 HP per second with regular healing and point-blank syringes to 120.75 HP per second with critical healing and max-range syringes), the effect is most dramatic on ÜberCharge build times.
A strategy of combining Crusader’s Crossbow syringes at point-blank range with Medi Gun healing would have each build 4.687% and 1.5%, respectively, every 1.6 seconds for a total rate of 3.867% per second, or 25.859 seconds to build an ÜberCharge. In the more difficult case of building with max-range syringes, the build rate would jump to 6.797% per second, or an incredible 14.713 seconds to build an ÜberCharge.
These theoretical maximums may not be achievable in a real scenario, but there’s no denying the massive potential for synergy does exist. With the Medi Gun building ÜberCharge at a rate of 2.5% per second, and the switch time between the weapons being 1 second, any player healing above an average of just 40 HP per syringe will build ÜberCharge faster than with only using the Medi Gun alone.
It is not my belief (nor anyone else’s, I hope) that the Crusader’s Crossbow is inherently a bad weapon. On the contrary, it’s a great concept, basically the equivalent of the Soldier’s Gunboats for Medic in that it trades damage for significant utility. It’s even better than that, however, in providing extra dimensions of play to a class which is normally very limited and focused.
Changes over the course of the Crusader’s Crossbow’s existence, however, have significantly increased its utility to what can now be considered as a breaking point. After all, the weapon now basically renders critical heals obsolete and allows for significantly faster ÜberCharge building, with the only loss being of significant short-range damage (even though it is still somewhat compensated with the gain in long-range damage). In addition, it’s likely that the weapon’s full potential has not yet been unlocked, as the most recent (and perhaps most significant) change was only in December 2015 when the ÜberCharge building was added to the weapon, and Medics are still continuing to improve their utilization of the weapon.
The Crusader’s Crossbow doesn’t need to be significantly nerfed to bring it back into balance, as small tweaks can compensate for the current issues while still retaining most of the positive aspects of the weapon. For example, an adjustment to the healing amount range (from 75-150 HP to 25-100 HP, possibly) would rein in most of the negative effects described before while still allowing for significant long-range healing. Other options might include revisiting the attributes added over time, such as the passive reload or the ÜberCharge build mechanic.
Unfortunately, the ability to tweak weapons isn’t available to the competitive community at large (outside of mostly ill-advised server modifications, at least). That power rests with Valve, and a weapon rebalance catered to competitive play seems unlikely for various reasons. Given that, the only recourse that can be taken is to ban the weapon, and the current debate shows that enough people have felt the weapon has become unbalanced enough to warrant such a drastic action. Given the benefits of the Crusader’s Crossbow to the Medic class, it’s hardly a desirable action to take, but it may be sadly necessary for a weapon that has become too good for its own good.