A chaser is a defensive role within Tribes: Ascend often fulfilled by a Pathfinder or rarely other classes, like Soldiers or Infiltrators. A chaser's main objective is to remain close to the flag-stand to help defend the flag and occasionally harrass the enemy offense. If an enemy player manages to grab the flag from the flag-stand, the chaser is charged with chasing down the flag carrier, separating the flag from him, and retrieving their team's flag. It is essential that chasers have a good understanding of not just movement techniques such as spinfusor/nitron jumping, advanced skiing and energy conservation, but also expertise in combat with all of their weapons.
Chasing is one of the most challenging roles in the game, but one of the most rewarding when performed effectively, as it takes a lot of skill to intercept a fast-moving capper and remove the flag from him. Like a sentinel, capper, or HoF, a good chaser can single-handedly tilt the match in his team's favor.
Chasing as a Pathfinder
As enemy flag cappers tend to be moving at a very high speed when grabbing the flag, the chaser needs to be able to go from moving very slowly to very quick speeds to keep up effectively. Because of this, many chasers tend to prefer pathfinders equipped with the thrust pack and mass-reducing upgrades (such as a fully upgraded Pathfinder MK I, Rage, and Lightweight). This combination grants what may be the fastest acceleration from a dead stop in the entire game.
While chasing as other classes is possible, the Pathfinder may be the most effective at running down - and more importantly, separating the flag from - enemy flag carriers.
- Light Bolt Launcher. Chasers in general prefer the LBL to the Light Spinfusor, Dueling Spinfusor, and Light Twinfusor. This is because it has higher damage than the Light Spinfusor, larger splash radius than the Dueling Spinfusor, and greater impulse than the Light Twinfusor. The bolt launcher is not without its disadvantages, however - it takes longer to reload and the projectile is affected by gravity while also travelling (slightly) slower than spinfusor discs.
- Blinksfusor is also an effective weapon in a chaser's hands. It allows for a faster moving projectile and can make aiming in certain situations much easier. However, it's also the only weapon in the game with 100% projectile inheritance and some players report difficulty aiming with other weapons after using the Blinksfusor for an extended period of time.
- Light Assault Rifle - In its current state, the LAR is the optimal choice for the chaser, as it allows for consistent damage over long ranges. This can be used to finish off weakened carriers, whether they are near or far. This advantage of range leaves it by far the better choice for secondary over either shotgun. While both shotguns have a minor advantage of burst over the LAR, this comes at the significant cost of range. The Holdout Shotgun is used more in a light defense role.
- Thrust. Acceleration is everything and chasers need to achieve full speed as quickly as possible - Thrust allows for this while the Energy Recharge Pack does not. Thrust also allows for the chaser to quickly change direction in flag scrambles.
Some argue that Energy Recharge can be used for chasing as the Pathfinder can simply find a hill and use it to gain speed. While this tactic is fantastic for a capper it often results in too much lost time for a chaser to recover and ultimately, a flag capture.
- Impact Nitron is preferred by those that are focused on separating the flag from the enemy carrier. Impacts have also had their self-impulse value reduced, so many chasers now use Explosive Nitrons due to their higher impulse and better utility for light defense. Some chasers feel that the Pathfinder's ability to immediately separate his flag from an enemy carrying it is invaluable and of greater importance than killing the enemy outright. Compact Nitrons give too little impulse to provide effective speed boosts, but are very useful in standoff situations due to their increased (+1) carrying capacity. A chaser using compacts should rely solely on thrust & disc-jumping for acceleration.
Belt Item choice is a playstyle preference that differs from one chaser to another, but it also tends to be tied to the Secondary Perk. Those running Explosive or Compact Nitrons tend to stick with Egocentric, while those with Impacts often prefer Lightweight.
- Rage is considered by many to be the optimal choice for a chasing Pathfinder - literally no other perk in this slot gives the same (or even similar) ability to intercept a fast-moving capper. Of course, Rage has its downfall: the chaser is limited to a certain distance around the flag stand, which results in limited ability to perform his other role - light defense.
- Reach is another option. It can sometimes mean the difference between a flag being returned and an enemy picking it back up.
- Safety Third is yet another option, both increasing the radius of thrown nitrons and allowing for an additional one to be carried.
No other perks come close to the utility of these three options, and Rage tends to have the most utilization among chasers.
Secondary perk choice comes down to playstyle preference.
- Lightweight is useful because the lowered mass allows for greater acceleration gained from disc and nitron jumping. The downfall of the increased regeneration cooldown can be offset by combining the perk with Rage as it will heal you when the flag is grabbed. If lightweight is not combined with Rage it is advisable for the Pathfinder to stay away from the stand, as any taken damage with this perk is effectively permanent.
- Egocentric is a fantastic choice for a chaser. This perk allows the Pathfinder to use multiple nitron or disc jumps to get up to speed very quickly without too much of a health sacrifice. Without Egocentric, this is certain death. The use of Egocentric opens other options for a chaser, as it allows him to not be completely tied to Rage as a primary perk.
- Quick Draw and Potential Energy can be used, but both have limited utility as a chaser and should be reserved for those Pathfinders focusing more on light defense. Egocentric and Lightweight have the top utilization for Pathfinder chasers as their secondary perk.
The chaser's role is a very complex one. In competitive T:A the chaser has three main objectives: defending the flag, chasing the carrier, and helping spot incoming cappers.
Defending the Flag
Most "standard" defensive compositions include a Heavy or Soldier on Flag, Sentinel, and Chaser/Light Defender (LD). Most experienced chasers fulfill both of these last two roles by attacking enemy offense while the flag is home and chasing if it leaves the stand. In attacking the enemy offense a chaser has two main options, either staying near the flag and dueling enemy O when they arrive or positioning him/herself more out in the midfield to more aggressively attack offense before they reach the stand.
Many chasers choose to stay near the flagstand in order to help stop the capper more easily when they arrive. This makes the job of preventing the flag from leaving the stand easier and often affords the chaser a more advantageous position from which to begin their chase, should chasing become necessary. Chasers often try to kill the capper as he crosses the stand with a bolt/disc or hit the capper with an impact nitron as soon as the capper grabs the flag, effectively ruining the route and forcing the enemy team to completely reset their offense or try to "cluster" the flag home (take the enemy flag to their stand slowly, using escorts rather than fast routes). Staying near the flagstand makes stopping the capper with a bolt or nitron much easier, but it also has its downfalls. Some teams choose to run multiple cappers which can counter this type of chase play effectively if the chaser isn't aware there is more than one capper or doesn't respond to the situation correctly. Staying near the stand also gives the enemy offense a bit of an advantage. By staying close to the flag, and consequently his or her team's stay-at-home player, the chaser shrinks the target of the enemy's offense considerably, often allowing their attacks to be focused on one general area and effectively clearing both the stay-at-home and the chaser itself. This also gives the offense more time to get organized, making focusing on one defensive member at a time much easier with both automatic fire and explosive weapons. How a chaser's position affects his or her spotting ability is very situational. Factors such as the map being played, the route the enemy capper is running, engagement in dueling with the offense and specific position on the map all go into account for spotting as a chaser, so it is difficult to say whether being on the stand or being in the midfield is more advantageous for spotting.
Most every advantage and disadvantage to staying on the stand is reversed for being in the midfield as a chaser. The ability to disrupt an enemy offense is generally improved in the midfield as a chaser can attack early and prevent the offense from ever becoming fully organized. The offense can respond by changing up their route of attack at the stand to mess up a midfield chaser, but an effective chaser would respond in kind by moving to them. When in the midfield a chaser must have a good sense of when to move back to the stand to help stop the capper (if that is a priority). A good chaser can often stop a capper in his or her tracks at the flagstand, but to do so the chaser must move back to the stand early enough to beat the capper there and late enough that he or she isn't killed with ease by the enemy offense. Since dueling is a bigger focus of a midfield-playing chaser, dueling skill is of greater importance as well as communication with the sentinel. A good sentinel can divide their time between looking for/shooting the capper and helping the chaser kill enemy offense members as long as the chaser is able to effectively communicate when he/she would like help with the offense and which specific member of the offense he would like the sentinel to shoot. As mentioned before, spotting is arguably neither easier nor harder when done in the midfield, but one must be able to effectively spot and duel at the same time as a midfield chaser will spend more of their time dueling than would a near-flag chaser.
Chasing the Capper
To effectively chase a capper after they have grabbed the flag a chaser must have very thorough knowledge of the route being ran, specifically the return portion of the route. A chaser should be able to manage his or her energy effectively to catch up to or intercept the capper without running out of energy and losing all speed. The chaser must also be able to gain speed quickly without losing too much health and then dying quickly to either enemy defenders or cratering.
Chasers that use impact nitrons have a much easier time of forcing a flag drop than those that do not, but the still have a choice between throwing a nitron at the capper or killing the capper outright. The Light Assault Rifle should be used on a capper in the air when a shot can be made regardless of his or her health, but it is often a good idea to try and kill a capper with low health with either a spinfusor or bolt launcher when he or she is on the ground rather than just throwing a nitron. This both saves a chaser's nitrons for when they may be needed more urgently and assures that the capper cannot pick up the flag again or completely kill the chaser and prevent the flag from being returned.
Perhaps the biggest choice faced by a chaser once the flag is out is whether he or she should actually "chase" the capper or try and "intercept" the capper. Chasing the capper involves completely following the capper on their return route and trying to force a flag drop mid-route and intercepting the capper involves choosing a separate (usually quicker and shorter) route towards the enemy flagstand to try and cut off the capper before he or she can capture the flag. Choosing to intercept the capper is almost always easier, as a chaser can take a direct path to the enemy flagstand while a capper may not be able to. The intercept method is much more high-risk, high-reward though. While intercepting a chaser has only one shot at forcing a flag drop, but while chasing a capper outright a chaser has enough time near the capper to make multiple attempts at forcing a flag drop. The decision on whether to chase or to intercept should be made based on the speed of the capper, the route the capper is running and the map being played. Some cappers and routes are fast enough that effectively chasing them is nearly impossible, so interception is the best option. Others are either slow enough or have long enough return routes that the chaser would have time to catch up to the capper, thus chasing would be the best option. The map being played effects both the speed and direction of routes, as well as how easy or difficult it is for a chaser to both chase and intercept, so thorough knowledge of capping routes and chasing/intercepting ability on each map is essential.
Helping Spot Incoming Cappers
While spotting incoming cappers is primarily the job of the sentinel, chasers can be a great aid in this task. Chasers are not tied to the flagstand or (sometimes) actively engaged by enemy offense as are stay-at-home players, so they have the freedom to move around and spot incoming cappers. A chaser should have extensive knowledge of capping routes on every map so that he or she can effectively chase them, but also so that he or she knows where to look to get an early spot on a capper for multiple routes that may be ran. Chasers should keep their heads on a swivel to look for routes all around the map, especially when the capper is likely to be crossing the flagstand soon as the chaser can stop a capper at the stand without much warning if he or she is experienced and near enough to the flagstand. The job of spotting can be made easier by communicating with the sentinel effectively; sentinels often position themselves in areas that cause one are of the map or a few specific routes to be especially visible, so a chaser can focus more on a different area of the map. It is also important to note that a chaser should be able to look around while dueling to spot cappers mid-duel if possible, that way they are fulfilling both their role as a chaser by spotting cappers and a light defender by dueling offensive members.
Chasers don't have a specific set role during standoffs. What the chaser of a team does in a standoff situation is entirely up to the player himself and the rest of the team. Many chasers choose to be on the offensive side of standoffs since they are so familiar with trying to return loose flags. It is also important for chasers to try and get early returns before a standoff situation is clearly established since the enemy team might not be prepared for such an attack and the rest of the chaser's team is likely focused on getting the enemy flag back to the base and/or defended properly.