Thursday, 26 July 2012

GUIDE: So you wanna be a TF2 pubstar?

Team Fortress 2 is one of a few games that I am really, really good at. When I lived back in Australia, I played in a competitive team in ladder and league matches. These days, I still find myself coming back to it every once in a while because it’s just so damn fun. A ‘pubstar’ is a little joke we have in the competitive community, which describes someone who performs well in a public server, IE, the servers publicly available for anyone to join. It’s a joke because the difference between competitive and public TF2 is like night and day. There are skills, items, and play styles that will allow you to dominate a public server but would just be embarrassing if used in a competitive match. Today, I aim to teach you some of these ‘pubstar’ strategies and item combinations, so you too can make free-to-play n00bs suck it down.

The Soldier:

Note: 'I cast magic missile' is a re-named black box
Primary: The Black Box 
Secondary: Shotgun
Melee: The Escape Plan

Why the Black Box? Let me run some (made up but relatively accurate) statistics by you. At least 70% of games you play won’t have a medic. 20% will have a medic that sits behind a single heavy for the entire game and 9% will have just plain terrible medics that don’t understand survivability and will die before building an uber. That means you will have a competent medic in exactly 1% of the games you play. Many of these loadouts include a way to self-heal in order to offset the fact that you probably won’t have a medic. The Black Box is one of the best self-heal items in the game, as it is a passive self heal that happens every time you deal damage. If you are careful and spam a lot, you can easily get yourself back to full health after skirmishes. The vanilla shotgun is necessary as with the smaller clip on the Black Box you really need a quick way to do a bit of extra damage, and the Escape Plan is a no-brainer even after its damage nerf.


Never rocket jump without a fully reloaded launcher unless you absolutely have to escape somewhere. If you are in a fight and run out of ammo, 9 times out of 10 it is much more efficient to switch to your shotgun to finish them off than try and reload. Try to keep an eye on your ammo - if you are spamming it can run low pretty fast. Lastly, only ever use your equalizer to ESCAPE. Never try to run in and hit people with it.

The Scout:

Primary: Shortstop
Secondary: Mad Milk
Melee: Vanilla Bat/Holy Mackerel

Poor scout. For whatever reason, a good chunk of his unlockable weapons completely suck. Fortunately, the milk man, an item set released fairly early in TF2’s item lifecycle, is one of the best. The shortstop is slightly more forgiving than the scatter gun as it has a tighter spread meaning you can engage targets from a greater range, and it fires shots in very rapid succession meaning that you’ll probably hit at least one shot per clip. The mad milk is another great little self heal that can also help out your entire team if you manage to soak a big bunch of enemies with it. If you have them, using the holy mackerel and the milk man hat will give you an extra 25 HP. Props to Valve for making completely balanced set bonuses…

Pro-tips: Never stop moving. As a scout, movement is your best weapon. Learn the limits of your double jump. Most maps have many areas built with double jumps in mind. If you learn them, you can get places even faster. Don’t be afraid to disengage. If you come across a heavy that is spinning up his minigun, for the love of god don’t try to fight him. Be exceptionally careful of sentries. Even a mini-sentry can make life extremely difficult for a scout. Listen for their telltale beeps to avoid coming round a corner and getting gibbed.

The Heavy:

Primary: The Tomislav
Secondary: The Sandvich
Melee: The Gloves of Running Urgently

This is what I like to call the ‘stealth mountain’. The heavy’s biggest weaknesses are his immense size, slow speed, and the noise he makes when spinning up his minigun. When you have a competent medic, these aren’t so much of a problem, but playing solo will often see your enemies avoid you, chip away at your HP with hit-and-runs, or ambush you. This build lets you turn the tables and ambush them! First, use the GRU to get to places fast. Make sure you switch them out a few moments before arriving at a battlezone, as they will debuff you to take extra damage while being used and for a few seconds after switching. The tomislav does less damage than the heavy’s other miniguns, but it makes no sound while being ‘spun up’. Use this to your advantage! So many times I have used the GRU to quickly get to a choke point, then spun up my tomislav and absolutely eaten through anyone that came through, as they didn’t expect a heavy to be so close so fast. The sandvich, even after the nerf that stops you from picking up your own sandviches, is still a very viable self-heal.

Pro-tips: Always, ALWAYS eat your sandvich with your back to a wall. A heavy eating a sandvich with his back exposed is a spy’s wet dream. Jump around corners. While in the air, you don’t suffer from the movement speed slowdown of spinning up your gun. This means you can jump around a corner, and have your gun spun up and ready to fire as soon as you land. This is amazing for ambushing.

The Demoknight:

Primary: Grenade Launcher
Secondary: Chargin’ Targe
Melee: Eyelander

This is the perfect example of a loadout that will get you laughed out of a competitive TF2 game, yet can absolutely melt public servers. The problem with most demoknights is they tend to think of their swords as a primary weapon. Don’t do that. Use the grenade launcher as your primary, and only switch to the sword to finish them off. If you are careful, you can easily collect four heads and then be an explosives demon. I still like the Chargin’ Targe better than the Splendid Screen, as it’s a bigger damage reduction versus the Splendid Screen’s extra charge damage, which like I said is not something you should be using too much.

Pro-tips: Scouts will eat you alive. When fighting a scout, it’s incredibly hard to hit them with grenades, so this is the only time I’ll allow you to use your sword as a primary. Don’t be afraid to use your targin’ targe to escape. If you’re low on health, rather than smashing into the enemy in a last ditch attempt to kill them with your sword, consider just charging the fuck out of there, especially if you already have 3-4 heads collected.

The Sniper:

Note: 'The frying pan' is an alternate skin for the kukuri
Primary: The Huntsman
Secondary: Jarate
Melee: Own choice (Bushwhacker/Tribalman’s Shiv/Vanilla Kukuri)

Ahhh, the bow sniper. The bow sniper was the first time many TF2 fans thought ‘what the hell is Valve thinking?’ Nicknamed ‘the lucksman,’ the huntsman is incredibly effective in heavily populated public servers. Try joining a payload/payload race game and just flinging arrows in the direction of their cart. You’ll be top of the scoreboard in no time. Jarate helps you with assists, and also with anyone who tries to engage you in close range. Melee is own choice – I personally prefer the Tribalman’s Shiv as the bleed damage can help with those pesky spies - but the others choices are just as good.

Protips: There are none. Just fling arrows towards where you think your enemies are. This build is as brainless as it is effective. That said, it’s a lot more effective on maps where the teams tend to clump up, like payload and CP. It’s not as good on CTF. If I see you using the razorback I will hunt you down.

The Medic:

Note: 'IDDQD' is a re-named medigun
Primary: The Blutsauger
Secondary: Vanilla Medigun
Melee: The Ubersaw

Hold on, you want to play the MEDIC in a PUB? You’re braver than I thought. The only thing worse than being a competent heal target with a terrible medic, is being a competent medic with a terrible heal target. But if you do come across a server with players that warrant healing, feel free to try this build out. The Blutsauger and ubersaw are there because you don’t trust your heal target to protect you from scouts and spies. Most pub spies are dumb as hell, meaning that they will try and kill you and instead just give you 50% to your ubercharge thanks to your ubersaw. Scouts are pretty easy to take out with the blutsauger, and bad pyros will hilariously try and chase you while you can just backpedal and pummel them with needles. The vanilla medigun is still your safest bet for those ‘oh shit!’ moments, as the kritzkrieg really only shines when you have good communication with your heal target. The quick fix is terrible.

Pro-tips: Ditch everyone at the first sign of danger. Holding onto your ubercharge percent is more important than keeping your target alive 90% of the time. Make sure you constantly switch targets to keep all of your teammates overhealed. When deciding who to pocket, you can actually use hats to tell who warrants it. Avoid pocketing anyone with the Ghastly Gibus or Treasure Hat. Anyone with the Primeval Warrior badge has been playing this game since beta and you should probably throw them a heal.

The Spy:

Note: 'the big kill' is an alternate skin for the revolver
Primary: Vanilla Revolver
Knife: The Spycicle
Watch: The Dead Ringer

This is my ‘stealth is for pussies’ spy build. While the dead ringer has fallen from its super overpowered heyday, it’s still an incredibly viable option for anyone who thinks sitting and waiting in the same spot for the entire game is boring. The Spycicle gives you an additional layer of protection against your greatest foe – the pyro, and the vanilla revolver just plain out performs most other revolver options in a standard fight, with the exception of the ambassador, which is only a possible choice if you have godly aim.

Pro-tips: Try and put some distance between yourself and the enemy team if they pop your dead ringer, even more if they also melt your spycicle. Always wait until your Dead Ringer and spycicle are fully charged before heading back into enemy territory. If discovered buy an overzealous pyro or scout, backpedaling while firing your revolver can be surprisingly effective. When dealing with sentry nests, it’s usually best if you can backstab the engineer first, and then quickly sap his buildings. If you are right behind the sentry you should have enough time to do this before it turns around. While it is tempting to try and stab the medic, it’s usually a lot easier to just go for his heal target – especially if he is healing a soldier or heavy.

The Engineer:

Note: 'the lugermorph' is an alternate skin for the pistol
Primary: Frontier Justice
Secondary: Vanilla Pistol
Melee: The Gunslinger

This is my offensive engineer build. While it’s obviously bad in certain situations (when defending on an attack/defend or a payload map for example) it excels in most others. It’s particularly effective in maps that require you to be constantly moving your gear up, such as 5CP maps and offense on payload. Essentially, you want to put your mini-sentry down and then try and bait people to chase you into it using your pistol. If done right, you can store up a few crits with the Frontier Justice, which you can use to force yourself into more viable sentry positions.

Pro-tips: Don’t forget the teleporter! Even if your team sucks, having the cannon fodder arrive at the front lines in a timely matter means that there will be less fire directed at you. Always have at least 100 metal before attempting to push into an enemy controlled zone, so you can place a mini sentry. If you pick up an existing mini-sentry, when you put it back down it will deploy much faster than a standard deployment.

So there you have it, a set of tips and loadouts for every class that should help you out when playing in public servers. Thanks for reading, feel free to discuss your own TF2 tips and tricks in the comments.

Oh shit, I forgot about the pyro! Uhhhhh

The Pyro:


Primary: Backburner
Secondary: Whatever
Melee: Whatever

Pro-tips: W+M1

Liked this article? Check out my In-depth guide to the Heavy!

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1 comment:

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