Soldier is the mentally deranged, lead-poisoned patriot with the ability to soar through the air and send rockets down from the sky. Use this guide to maximize your efficiency and learn what tools you really have at your disposal. While his playstyle does not seem to change very much, the weapons used will greatly change your effectiveness. Many of his weapons are side-grades that excel in certain situations or provide aid in a specific category, but no upsides come without downsides. However, like most classes, almost every other melee weapon is objectively better than your stock melee weapon in some way.
Soldier’s Primary Weapons
Stock Rocket Launcher/Original
The stock Rocket Launcher is a powerhouse of damage that is more effective than its counterparts in the majority of situations. One of Soldier’s most used weapons, it is truly the easiest source of consistent splash damage in Team Fortress 2. If you prefer hitscan (bullets) as opposed to splash damage, check out our Sniper Weapons Guide. While the other options can outshine it in certain situations or with specific playstyles, they are less consistent sources of damage. The maximum damage per rocket is 90 at medium range and 112 at close range. However, the further the target is from the center of the explosion, the less damage they take, and as little as 50% damage on the edge of the explosion. The radius is 146 hammer units, which is slightly smaller than Jarate’s explosion radius of 200 hammer units.
The Original functions identically to the stock rocket launcher with the exception of a different weapon model and a viewmodel that is centered, reminiscent of Quake. However, after community testing, it has become clear that the centered viewmodel is misleading. While the rocket does spawn closer to the center as opposed to the lower right, it is not quite centered. It fires from slightly below and a hair to the left, and then slowly reaches your crosshair. YouTuber Shounic has a video breaking down exactly where the fired rockets spawn from and seemingly why this mistake was made when coding this weapon.
The Black Box is not the tanky killing machine it used to be, but it is still a formidable weapon that offers high sustainability with the con of having 1 less rocket per reload. Having 3 rockets instead of 4 is very risky. Here is a reasonable scenario: You miss one rocket for 0 damage, hit one rocket directly for 90 damage, and hit one rocket near them for 75. This leaves you with 165 damage, or, only enough to kill 5 out of 9 classes. Having a fourth rocket is extremely helpful, and you will often need to reload at least one additional rocket to finish a fight. This is why the Black Box playstyle will be a bit more passive than a regular soldier.
For example, bombing an enemy is very difficult with only 3 rockets without absolute precision. One rocket to jump, one direct, and one to jump away, you can at most hope for 150-200 damage with extreme precision. While you will receive health from the bomb, this is hardly enough to justify losing a rocket. Even with this aggressive bombing playstyle, the Black Box demands at least slightly more careful play.
The Direct Hit is the gambler’s rocket launcher. It deals 25% bonus damage, has an increased 80% projectile speed, -70% explosion radius, and mini-crits airborne targets. Dealing 25% bonus damage is massive for something that already deals 90-112 damage on a perfect shot. At close range and with 25% increased damage, the Direct Hit is capable of dealing up 140 damage, killing light classes in a single hit. The base damage at all ranges is 112, so a rocket that is slightly off will still have a chance of dealing 125+ damage.
However, predicting your opponent’s movement is not a science. It is easier to predict if your target is in the air, but they are still able to air strafe and manipulate their movement that way. So against a good opponent, you rely more and more on luck allowing them to not hop out of the way of your rocket. Luck is a smaller factor with traditional rockets, as they have a large enough radius to be forgiving enough to still work without perfect precision. If you like the idea of either one-shotting a Scout with a single rocket or missing all 4 rockets and dealing 0 damage, then this is your dice to roll.
The Beggar’s Bazooka is a rocket launcher that is seemingly driven by randomness but has some very interesting mechanics that add an unexpected skill ceiling to this rocket spewer. The Beggar’s Bazooka starts with 0 rockets in the clip and has to be loaded by holding down fire. Rockets will continue to be loaded until fire is let go, and then all rockets will fire out very quickly in short succession, with the rockets spreading randomly by 0 to 3 degrees. If a fourth rocket is loaded, it will explode inside the rocket launcher, creating an explosion centered on the player holding the rocket launcher. This misfire explosion can be repeated until the player runs out of ammo or health.
The reloading animation is 33% faster than the normal reload animation for the rocket launcher. This speed coupled with the misfire explosion allows for Soldiers to rocket jump by misfiring rockets, generating explosions to fly from every few seconds under his feet before he lets go of primary fire and lets out a giant explosion of three rockets. This allows for a new way to rocket jump and bomb players, that is a bit more “explosive” and fast-paced than traditional bombing.
The Rocket Jumper is a bit of a one-trick pony and is not considered an actual weapon by most. But just as the Jarate does not necessarily do anything by itself, the Rocket Jumper can be used with other weapons for a deadly combo. In combination with the Market Gardener, an exceptionally skilled jumper can land right in front of an opponent and hit them for 195 damage with the Market Gardener. While this is a niche and silly combination, it is equally horrifying and embarrassing when you see a Soldier falling out of the sky on top of you with that God-forsaken beige shovel. However, given how inconsistent melee hit reg can be, Market Gardening is generally not considered a viable option or more effective than real rockets and bullets. But if you do master rocket jumping and timing your melee attacks, you will become a comical menace with this pair.
The Cow Mangler is unfortunately a little weak, but it is still leaps and bounds better than the Righteous Bison. The Cow Mangler functions almost identically to the stock rocket launcher, except it shoots a blast of electric energy instead of rockets. These blasts move at the same speed as rockets and still have knockback and can be airblasted, making them really just a reskinned rocket projectile.
Since it relies on blasts of electric energy, the ammo reserves are infinite but still must be reloaded every 4 shots. By right-clicking with 4 shots in reserve, a charged energy blast will be fired. This charged energy blast takes a few seconds to charge up, during which you will be moving significantly slower. This charged blast has the same speed and radius as a regular shot, but it will mini-crit damaged targets and ignite them for 6 seconds. However, the largest downside to the Cow Mangler is reduced damage to enemy buildings. Destroying enemy nests is the job of a Soldier, a Demoman, or occasionally a Spy. This deals 80% less damage to enemy buildings or about 20 damage per rocket. This is abysmally low, and while it does disable enemy buildings for 4 seconds on a charged shot, this does not make up for the inability to destroy buildings.
The Air Strike is a really cool idea on paper, but unfortunately, in practice, the stats are not good enough for it to compare to the stock Rocket Launcher. It has the stats of -15% reduced self-blast damage, clip increases on kill, -15% reduced damage, and a -10% smaller blast radius. The clip starts at a normal 4 rockets and can grow to up to 8 rockets. But unfortunately, the damage is so low due to both the reduced damage and radius that it is not a real contender. When you get it up to 8 rockets per clip it can be enjoyable for a moment, but the damage is so weak that it hardly seems worth it when all your progress can be lost in an instant. If you really want to dump a bunch of rockets on people, the Beggar’s Bazooka is just a better and faster firing option.
The Liberty Launcher is another Soldier primary that is enjoyable to use at times but is not as effective as your other options. The rocket’s projectile speed is comparable to Pharah’s rockets from Overwatch 2. It has self-blast damage reduced by 25%, making it a decent option for a bombing Soldier playstyle that can use a shotgun without the concern of doing too much self-damage from rocket jumping. Additionally, the rockets move 40% faster and you have one additional rocket per clip, 5 instead of 4.
But the downside is 25% less damage, and this is more than it sounds. Base rocket damage drops from 90 to 68, and a point-blank rocket now deals a measly 84 damage, compared to the stock rocket launcher’s 112 damage at point-blank. It does seem slightly easier to pop enemies up with this rocket launcher compared to others. This is because it has a slightly faster projectile speed but still the same explosion radius, making it an easier option than the Direct Hit. But outside of making juggling and immobilizing opponents slightly easier, this is not much of an upside.
Soldier’s Secondary Weapons
The Gunboats are likely the strongest and most popular Soldier secondary and for good reason. Being able to have insane mobility while taking little self-damage and still firing powerful rockets at opponents is a strong combination. If you have consistent healing, then you can forego the metal shoes and take an additional weapon or some utility. But without a Medic tucked in your pocket, you cannot rocket jump very often without these boots. Given the importance of mobility in Team Fortress 2 and the potential speed that Soldier has, it is hard to compare any other secondaries to this. Rockets are so powerful that taking the time to reload a single rocket is often a safer idea than switching to your shotgun, which makes a strong case for alternatives to shotguns.
That being said, shotguns are still very powerful. The Stock Shotgun can do up to 90 damage per shot at point blank with perfect accuracy, and you can expect about 50-60 damage at medium range. If you know your opponent is very close to death, the shotgun is the best option for chip damage that you know will get to your target. Rockets can be dodged and unusual map geometry can seem to sometimes protect enemies from the radius of the explosion. But hitscan cannot be avoided in that capacity, so it is certainly more consistent. Casual servers will have shotgun spread enabled so there will be a higher variable of randomness to your damage at range, but many community servers will have shotgun spread disabled. If you prefer using the Stock Shotgun to your primary, consider just playing Scout! Check out our nifty guide for evaluating the pros and cons of each weapon at Scout’s disposal.
The Panic Attack is a shotgun that excels at close range. For this reason, many players hold it in higher regard than the stock shotgun for classes like Soldier. Killing a full-health Heavy (300 health) is very difficult for a soldier because a successful bomb will generally do about 200-250 damage. But with the increased weapon switch speed, you are able to do a surprising amount of damage at point-blank range in just a moment. At point-blank range, hitting all pellets in your shot will do 108 damage or 72 at medium range.
There are 15 pellets in one shot, in a 5 x 3 static pattern regardless of whether or not the spread is turned on or off. This is 5 pellets more than a regular shotgun. Successive shots have a much wider spread and consequently do less damage unless your target is very close, which is why a bombing Soldier can make great use of this. At medium to long range, a regular shotgun will be more effective as successive shots become very weak at range.
The Batallion’s Backup is considered Soldier’s best backpack, which provides a defensive buff for yourself and your teammates within 450 hammer units for 10 seconds. In order to get your buff ready, you must fill the Rage meter by dealing 600 damage in a single life. This buff provides immunity to critical hits and mini-crits, a 35% resistance to regular damage, and a 50% resistance to sentry damage. Random crits are annoying, but a Heavy, Demoman, or Soldier buffed up by a Kritzkrieg is terrifying on a different level. When you need real protection from an incoming Kritzkrieg push, this is your best option aside from an Uber-charge. This also prevents you from being knocked back by crit bullets or projectiles, which have increased knockback.
On top of this extreme utility, Soldier receives an additional 20 health to his total, bringing him to 220. It is worth noting that you can delay triggering the effect by holding down the primary fire and not letting go until you are ready. The bugle will play loudly like normal once you start holding it down, but it will not trigger until you let go. This is helpful for allowing your teammates to get ready and in a position to push in order to make the most out of those 10 seconds.
The Buff Banner is the offensive counterpart to the Battalion’s Backup, giving yourself and nearby teammates mini-crits for the duration of the buff. It has the same Rage meter as the Backup and also requires 600 damage to activate. It also lasts 10 seconds, and the trigger can be delayed in the same manner by holding primary fire. Additionally, the radius is also 450 hammer units, the same as the Backup. This is a strong offensive buff, but it is not as game-changing as negating a large amount of damage and nullifying crits and mini-crits.
The Concheror is another soldier backpack but this gives you and your teammates a speed buff and provides a small percentage of healing based on damage. Additionally, the Soldier with the Concheror equipped has 4 health regenerated per second. The radius of the buff is the same as the others, but it does require less damage to activate. As opposed to 600 damage, this only requires 480 to activate. This is considered fair, as it is generally a weaker buff but can still be helpful in getting your team to push. The health regeneration is a nice touch for a class that often sacrifices health for mobility, but it is not a game-changing amount of health regeneration and the Gunboats are obviously better at counteracting self-damage. The Black Box and the Concheror can be a fun combination for a high-sustainability Soldier, which is nice for solo play when you have 0 Medics on your team.
The Reserve Shooter is generally considered the weaker of the 3 shotguns but sees occasionally niche use. It is considered much more effective on Pyro than Soldier, giving Pyro a strong weapon for Pyro 1v1s. It has an increased weapon deploy speed of 20% and a reduced clip size from 6 to 4. It mini-crits any targets launched in the air by any explosions, not just your own. If you are able to juggle your opponent, you will likely do more damage by continuing to juggle them or hitting an air shot, which really nullifies the whole point of this weapon.
Being able to mini-crit opponents who are simply rocket jumping seems to be a bit of an oversight or just lazy design, but that is the way this weapon still functions almost 12 years after being added to the game. Despite this oversight, your damage will still be very low if you are at medium to long range because it is a shotgun and you have 2 fewer shots per clip. Mini-crits apply 35% more damage, but at a medium range, you can only expect about 40-75 damage if you achieve your juggling mini-crit combo, which is a weak reward.
The Mantreads are a very funny weapon. They require a lot less effort to use than the Market Gardener and give a lot less reward, but they are still capable of killing enemies. The damage formula for the Mantreads is 3x the fall damage you would receive + 10 damage. There are some situations and jumps that can generate a lot of fall damage, but these are pretty rare and do not naturally come around often. It does make rocket jumping safer and easier, by reducing knockback from enemies by 75%. The main thing that stops people while rocket jumping is being shot or hit by explosions, which puts you to a dead stop and makes you an easy target. When you are moving in the air with speed and have momentum that you can direct by air strafing, you are harder to predict than when you are simply running on the ground. But when you lose that momentum and fall straight down you are the easiest target possible.
If you receive fall damage, you will also be slowed on falling, making yourself immobile for even longer. Additionally, air control is increased by 200%, which allows you to get to places that opponents will not expect or ride explosions longer than you would be able to otherwise. This is a fun mechanic that is worth trying, and the reduced knockback can be very helpful when jumping around sentries that normally bring you to a dead stop. However, the utility of these boots pales in comparison to the protection that the Gunboats give you, allowing you to rocket jump for very little health cost.
The B.A.S.E. Jumper is certainly the worst secondary available for Soldier. When activated, this backpack opens up a parachute that slows your descent to about ⅓ of your regular falling speed. This does allow you to hit Market Garden crits without mastering your timing, and that is the only value this provides. You have enough time to fire all of your rockets before you reach the ground if you launch with a good rocket jump, so something like this is unnecessary for bombing purposes. Additionally, you have suddenly become a slow-moving target that is slowly falling out of the sky in front of the entire enemy team. You are dead.
Soldier’s Melee Weapons
You know the Market Gardener is a great weapon because it has been mentioned so many times before it was time to talk about it. After the weapon deploy speed nerf it is no longer in a league of its own, but it is still one of the best. Hitting an enemy with this melee after blast jumping and before hitting the ground will give you a crit, dealing 195 damage. This is deadly, and many Soldiers will try this as a last-chance resort after shooting all rockets in the clip. However, this is most famous in combination with the “Trolldier” loadout that combines it with the Rocket Jumper and Mantreads. This combination allows you to fly around the map at insane speeds without any health cost, provided you are able to negate falling damage with clever rocket jumping or landing on an opponent.
A slippery trolldier can be very difficult to kill if they are skilled at rocket jumping and are often ignored in casual servers, and that is when they land in front of you and smack you for 195 damage.
The Disciplinary Action is one of the three goliaths of Soldier melee weapons, but it is the only one that provides utility to your team. After whipping a teammate they will receive a speed buff for 2 seconds and the player will receive it for 3s. The buffed percentage depends on the class \you are whipping, but is approximately 35% on average, while Soldiers will receive a 40% speed buff. To make whipping easier, it has one of the longest melee ranges in the game, even slightly longer than the Eyelander’s range. This weapon deals 25% less damage than your stock melee option, dealing 49 damage instead of 65 damage.
The Escape Plan is the final above-average melee available for Soldier, and it is high risk and high reward. When the weapon is held out, the Soldier moves faster based on how much health is missing. Additionally, the Soldier receives 90% less healing from all sources while the weapon is out. The big risk comes from being marked for death when taking the weapon out, and this status effect stays for about 2 seconds after putting it away. This converts all received damage into mini-crits. This weapon comes down to how confident you are in your movement and your ability to escape before being hit. Despite the large cons, this is still very popular. That very fact should explain how important an instant movement speed boost is in dangerous situations. Speed is increased from 10% – 60% based on health lost, and when at 40 health or below a Soldier will move almost as fast as a Scout.
The 4 remaining melee options for Soldier are all vastly inferior, but they do have situational advantages or offer a different playstyle entirely, so they are worth mentioning regardless of unbalance. The Half-Zatoichi is a very fun-to-use weapon, and when two samurai-wielding players encounter each other, regardless of what is going on in the world around them, they duel. If two Half-Zatoichi-wielding players fight each other with swords drawn, it will result in an instant kill from the first hit. Aside from the coolness factor, it does offer a bit of utility by healing Soldier 100 health on kill. But putting your sword away after fully drawing it and not getting a kill will inflict 50 self-damage, which means you may be stuck with your sword out if you have 50 health or less. But if you are committed to a high sustainability Soldier playstyle, this melee is an interesting option for additional healing.
The next almost good option is the Equalizer, also known as the lesser half of the Escape Plan. It also has the stat of 90% reduced healing from Medic while the weapon is deployed, but it does not mark the player for death upon drawing the weapon. But despite not having this massive downside, its only upside is that it deals a small amount of additional damage based on missing health. But it does have a hidden stat of dealing half damage when you have 115 or more health (without Battalion’s Backup buff, which changes all types of numbers).
If you do not know this stat, it seems objectively better than the stock Shovel. But in reality, it is very similar to the Shahanshah, but it is a bit stronger and scales for every single point of health. When at 1 health, the player will deal 107 damage. When at 50 health, the player will deal about 85 damage. This is a decent payoff, but only dealing 33 damage when you have full health is pretty terrible.
The Pain Train is generally considered not worth using by most players because it has a devastating downside of taking 10% increased bullet damage, which is generally the fastest and most common type of damage in Team Fortress 2. However, it gives you a +1 capture rate, which can be game-changing on a class that can rocket jump to objectives at extreme speeds.
This is a situational weapon that is often used to snag a victory from a team who let their guard down. In 5cp, the last objective is captured very quickly. Doubling your capture rate makes it even more likely to back cap while the enemy team is distracted. This is where the Pain Train is often seen as a last-ditch game-saving tactic. But it can be used effectively for other game modes as well. In modes like Payload, consistently being able to speed up the cart can be very helpful if your team is strapped for time. If this increased capture rate is not absolutely necessary, then this weapon should be avoided like the plague.
Lastly, the Shovel. It is the baseline in which all other melee is compared, and it is boring as always. Due to the number of Soldier’s strong melee weapons, it is rarely seen in Team Fortress 2. Dealing 65 damage on hit, 88 on mini-crit, and 195 on crit, it functions identically to most stock melee weapons. Despite its simplicity, it is still a classic that can be relied on to finish the job when you are out of rockets.