Guide to Panzer-led PvP Team
A manually-piloted Panzer-led team is one of the most effective in the game. More specifically, a Panzer-Keel team with 3 supporting heroes, where you pilot Panzer. In my case, the 3 supporting heroes are Nightingale (with team-heal costume), Heimlock, and Drake.
In the recent Draft PVP event, I ranked #35 using such a team (at one point as high as #14) and noticed that every top player I encountered also used an identical team, so there seems to be some top-level convergence when different hero levels (e.g. plat vs bronze, star levels) are removed from the equation.
While CPU-controlled Panzer is mediocre, a manually-piloted
Panzer has unique characteristics not available to other heroes:
She has very high DPS for a limited amount of time
She can fire after a partial reload (of any number of rounds).
The only other hero with this level of limited-time high DPS is Dogface, but he suffers from drawbacks:
His high DPS is not available immediately at the beginning of the round
He has to reload his entire magazine before he can fire
This gives Panzer the following advantages:
She can deliver her DPS right at the beginning of the round, potentially killing a hero right away
If a hero is damaged and could be killed with a partial discharge, Panzer can kill them immediately instead of waiting to complete her reload, e.g. if it would only require 7 shots to kill them, Panzer can begin firing as soon as she has reloaded only 7 rounds, instead of her full 20. Killing a damaged hero immediately rather than waiting can often be critical, because waiting to kill them might allow them to be healed.
Panzer can also break cover, which I will discuss later in greater detail. This is a critical element.
The key to winning with a Panzer-Keel healer/support team is to understand that Panzer can almost continually stagger and delay the enemy's DPS so that your team's healers can keep repairing any damage done.
With Drake on your team, you typically only need to worry about the human-piloted hero, and
only if they are piloting their DPS unit. All computer-controlled heroes automatically stop
targeting anyone on your team as soon as Drake's power makes them disappear. Unless they
are hit with a very high-damage shot, they'll usually escape and heal. What this means is
that your primary goal while piloting Panzer is to delay, distract, and eventually
destroy the enemy's human-piloted DPS unit. Your team is typically safe from all
the other CPU-controlled units.
Panzer has multiple methods of doing this. You want to continually stagger the enemy DPS unit so that they can't deliver damage to whichever member of your team they are trying to pick off. (Usually Nightingale or Keel)
Method 1: Panzer destroys cover. Destroying cover in front of a hero staggers them. It takes between 6-8 rounds to destroy cover, and you can damage the hero standing behind it while you are destroying the cover: aim just above the top of the cover at the hero, and each shot you fire will hit the enemy hero while also damaging the cover. As long as you have at least 6-8 rounds loaded, you can destroy a piece of cover by firing at it.
Method 2: Panzer's Breach and Clear power (Bronze) does a lot of damage and staggers the enemy.
Method 3: Panzer's Clean Sweep power (Silver) also staggers the enemy, and hits at least two other enemies, staggering them as well. It does not do very much damage, so when it is fully charged, you should SAVE it for when you can't use Method 1 (you have less than 6 rounds loaded) or Method 2.
Incidentally, these two powers have features that also give an advantage to manually-piloting Panzer:
Breach and Clear does a large amount of extra damage (more than double!) if the target is at full health. This is nearly impossible to achieve with auto-targeting because if you target an enemy hero, Panzer will begin firing at them (which damages them) before you can activate Breach and Clear. The only way to get this extra damage is to manually point at a full-health target and activate the power.
Clean Sweep shields Panzer if an enemy is killed by this power, but this power does very little damage. This means that to get the shield, you have to wait until an enemy is at very low health before manually firing Clean Sweep.
Taking all this together, the best strategy for Panzer seems to be:
Upon round start, immediately target the blue enemy healer or some other vulnerable blue enemy. Often, this is Flatline (always kill first), Nightingale, Gammond, Butter, or Phalanx. Sometimes the weakest blue hero may be Sapphyr, Heckler, Hivemind, Baron, Pris, Sentry, or even Prophet.
If there is no vulnerable blue hero, you may want to target a vulnerable orange hero, like Keel, Clyde, Kunoichi, and sometimes Savage.
You do not need to kill that enemy hero.
The point is to unload all your rounds into them while breaking their cover. If you are playing a Panzer-Keel team, this immediately activates Keel's Scavenge power, healing whichever allied hero the enemy has begun to damage. This is the fastest time-from-round-start heal in the entire game.
As soon as their cover is broken, if it looks like you can kill the hero behind it, continue
shooting and kill them. If not, you need to check: is the enemy-piloted DPS hero
focus-firing at one of your healers and have they begun to do serious damage?
If so, you now need to begin continually stagger their piloted DPS hero using one of Panzer's three methods listed above: reload until you have 7-8 rounds and break their cover, or use one of her powers.
Very often, when a hero's cover is broken, they will not just stagger, but also stop firing and run to the next cover. As soon as they run, you should begin reloading. Depending on their distance to the cover, you should actually have been able to reload about 3-4 rounds, and it will only take a couple more moments to reach 6-8 rounds, at which point you can break that piece of cover too. You will sometimes be able to hit them slightly faster because one of your powers has charged, so you can activate it if your reload hasn't reached 6-8 rounds. If the piece of cover they run to is already damaged, it will only take about 4 rounds to break it.
Doing this continually cuts their DPS drastically, buying time for your healers to heal whoever the damaged hero is. Additionally, each time you break a piece of cover, Keel activates another Scavenge (which can stack on the same hero, if they have the lowest health).
Once your team is back to full health, you can now let up on the enemy DPS unit a bit and see if any of the enemy heroes are partially damaged and can be opportunistically finished off either with a charged Breach and Clear, or with the number of rounds Panzer already has loaded. As soon as the enemy seems to be trying to focus fire one of your heroes, go back to staggering the human-piloted DPS unit to stop them so that your healers can heal the damage.
The big difference in thinking here is that many players just try to focus fire (one way or another) on a vulnerable or critical hero on the enemy team, kill it, and then move to the next one. While you want to do that at the beginning of the round with your first full magazine if possible, you actually use Panzer to stymie the enemy's DPS so that they can't do that, long enough for your healers to restore your team. Then once they are healed, you can chip away at whichever enemy hero is most vulnerable. During this entire time, of course, the rest of your team will be shooting at them, so some of the enemy heroes will be getting damaged.
As the round continues, you will end up destroying more and more cover. This makes your own team's heroes more effective because they'll be firing at exposed enemies more often, and it will be more likely that an enemy hero will become partially damaged to the point where you can opportunistically finish them off with your partially-loaded Panzer magazine.
A counter-lesson here is that in many cases, this will also mean that killing the enemy Keel can be critical, especially if your opponent is also piloting a Panzer and/or their team has other cover-breaking heroes on it (Cast, Butter, and to a lesser extent Baron and Matador) because if they are continually breaking cover too, the constant Keel Scavenges will make it very difficult to finish off heroes.
Often in regular PvP, Keel or Nightingale will be the first to die (i.e. you lose their hearts because the enemy kills one of them even though you win).
This strategy remains fairly effective using Caine as a replacement for Keel, and Gammond as a replacement for Nightingale, though I have found in all cases that I can usually beat (i.e. more often than not, but not guaranteed) a Caine team because missing Keel deprives you of the early-activating and ongoing cover-breaking heal, and Gammond is fairly weak against Panzer, though his Last Stand ability gives you a few extra seconds (12 to be exact) to finish off an enemy and save him.
Interrupting reloads and chasing enemies to cover:
Often, opponents choose Dogface as their DPS, or when playing a team with both Dogface and
Panzer, they will pilot Dogface. You can exploit Dogface's weakness of needing to do
full reloads by staggering him (especially breaking his cover) when he is reloading.
Because Dogface's normal magazine holds only 6 rounds, he has to reload fairly often.
If you break his cover while he is reloading, he has to start reloading all over again.
Usually when you see a hero duck down, you want to stop wasting time/ammo firing at them and pick another target. But in this case, as soon as Dogface ducks down (if you have enough rounds loaded), try to fire quickly and break his cover.
Even better, if your opponent is using auto, the computer will automatically make Dogface run to the next cover even after he has finished reloading, before he fires again. Sometimes, if you break his cover before he finishes reloading and the next cover is far enough away, you can reload back up to 6-8 rounds by the time he gets there and re-break the new cover before he finishes reloading AGAIN, thus continuing a cycle of failed-reloads and cover-running, completely zeroing out his DPS, all the while also doing damage to the Dogface and eventually killing him.
(Incidentally, this is also how you can tell if your opponent is manually-piloting: an auto-piloted hero (even if they select targets) will always automatically run to the next cover when their cover is broken. Manually-piloted heroes will sometimes stand in the open and fire at you)
This cover-breaking reload-interrupting chase can also be used to a lesser extent against enemy Panzers (who can still fire at you but may often run to cover anyways) and other DPS heroes.
In typical PvP, your heroes will be a slightly different levels. The optimal distribution seems
to be for Panzer to be the most powerful hero on your team, with the supporting heroes not more
than one grade below her. This makes it more likely that the enemy heroes will be less powerful
than Panzer herself, but not too much more powerful than your supporting heroes.
Use Panzer and four other support heroes (e.g. Nightingale, Heimlock, Drake, and Keel)
At round start, attempt to blitz down a vulnerable enemy hero, if there is one. Break their cover when you do so.
Use Panzer's staggering abilities (cover break, power 1, power 2) to keep the enemy's main DPS hero from doing damage, doing slowly doing damage on your own.
Opportunistically finish off damaged enemy heroes when your own heroes are near full health.
Keep breaking cover to progressively expose enemy heroes and stagger your opponent's DPS hero.
Try to stagger enemy heroes when they are reloading by breaking their cover. This resets their reload cycle and often forces them spend even more time running to the next cover.
Be patient, be smart, and have fun!