Now that Blacklist is out, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Spies vs. Mercs, both Classic and the new Blacklist mode. If the impression WiNG gives off is true, today’s SvM is a different beast than its predecessors. Paranoia is still the best weapon, customization is rampant, and most importantly, Spies might be more powerful than they’ve ever been. For those among you who’re having trouble adapting to the new playstyles, here are my basic strategies for the Spy and the Merc.
Mercenaries need cautious, patient play
Spies don’t have much in the way of health, but they have the advantage in stealth and one-hit-kill potential. Agile agents can run circles around their mercenary foes, dodging bullets and opening jugulars as they go. The key to being a successful Merc is to use the Spy’s weapon against them. Nine times out of ten, they know precisely where you are and have a few plans of action ready for whatever they think you’ll do. What they won’t expect out of a heavily equipped monster of a soldier is psychological warfare.
The short version, then, is to make the Spies nervous, not the other way around. They expect you to look around with a sense of supreme urgency, and they expect you to come sprinting to the terminals, twitching this way and that. Confound them with a patient, collected entrance. Do not try to rush where a Spy might be. Snuff him out with grenades. Get him to move and show himself. Blacklist’s maps are small enough that there are relatively few places for Spies to hide for any length of time and survive, so make a sweep of the obvious spots. When you close in, less experienced players will panic and start twitching. Zero in, but keep a distance and shoot as they run away.
Of course, Mercs also have a number of gadgets to call on to make their lives easier. Of those on offer, the Proximity Mine is by far the most useful. It serves a dual purpose, and you would do well to become an expert in its use. To start, if you have two, plant one near the terminals. There, it is either a lethal counter to a Spy’s hack or a beacon to where they might be. Equipped with EMP grenades, Spies can easily destroy anything you might set down. If you can remember where that equipment was, it’s destruction sends a clear indicator of their position.
The second mine, or first if you like, place in a shadow locale next to doors or underneath vents. Spies are rarely ones to waste what advantages they’re given, so they’d be remiss to be throwing away their nades at just anything. As a Merc, you’ll get more than one kill from “random mines,” and you can giggle at the frustration of your Spy foes. And, if you foresee eminant doom, drop a mine for an explosion from beyond the grave.
Lastly, a quick note on custom classes. While there are options that remove the motion sensor from the Merc’s HUD, I don’t recommend using it. There are UAV jamming options for the Spies, but they can’t hide their presence completely. Once you’ve narrowed where the sneaky bastards might be, take it slow. Even a lack of information can be telling, and its context can be indicative of a cowardly Spy a-hidin’ in a bush.
Spies must blend speed and aggression with composure and timing
As a Spy in Blacklist, you have a ton of advantages over your Merc adversaries. You are the one who summons them to the terminal, you are the one who hunts them as they look for you, and you can control their movements if you play your cards right. Know that you are comparatively squishy and ill-equipped for a full-frontal assault. Instead, your weapon is your agility, the shadows your ally. When the Merc who’s read the above section tries to unnerve you, your first job is to stay cool. You are on the defensive, and careful coordination will win the day.
The major problem for Spies, however, is the size of the maps in Blacklist. Each terminal area has only so many hiding spots, and once spotted, you won’t last long against two, let alone four, big guns. In my time playing SvM, I’ve played against, and been utterly trounced by, Spies who mix aggressive play with sneaky stealth. The key is finding the perfect balance, and like everything in Blacklist, that precious value is contextual.
There are ten minutes in a round, and while it’s tempting to use every second trying to win, such a brash strategy rarely succeeds. Instead, use two or three of the minutes to feel out how your opponents play. Start a hack and just watch. Don’t worry about losing it, or dying for that matter. Your focus here is intel. Did the Mercs rush in, flashlights and guns blazing, or were they casual, waiting for you? Keep them on their toes, certainly, but don’t go out of your way to secure the terminal. Go through this process once or twice more, and you’ll know how to approach your opponents.
Be aware, however, that once you start going for the objective proper, you must remain mobile with purpose. “Hurry up and wait” would sum up Blacklist’s Spy strategy. You wait until the Mercs come into the room, size them up, then start playing with their heads. Use their radar against them. Make them check the corners they shouldn’t, use equipment they needn’t, move in ways they normally wouldn’t. Keep tabs on them and move along with them, setting up in an advantageous position right their path. Then strike. You’d be surprised how agile your characters can be, and how deadly that speed can make you. Know that this deadly dance is going to occur more than once per terminal hack, so always find a new hiding position, and plan several routes, each time you clear the Mercs from the area.
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