In December, ParanoidDrone contacted me about a project on which he was working. This project set out to test the boundaries and operating conditions of the Spy’s Dead Ringer watch in exhausting detail. While I could sit here and make excuses for putting off posting it for so long, I’d rather take a step toward mending my ways by making it available today. My gratitude and apologies to ParanoidDrone for this great article and its repeated delay.
The Dead Ringer is possibly the most controversial of the Spy‘s unlocks. The reason is fairly simple: after years of learning that Spies are supposed to be invisible, stealthy creatures that are as good as dead if caught, the Dead Ringer turned the established paradigm on its head in more ways than one.
Suddenly, a visible Spy was no longer a dead Spy. A dead Spy was an invincible phantom, planning to inflict unspeakable horrors on you and everything you hold dear. And people raged. This ignores the unique difficulties that a Spy must overcome if he is to use the Dead Ringer effectively, such as the inability to cloak at will and the rather distinctive sound made whenever he decloaks. But the core of the issue was that people were simply not used to the fact that a Spy could survive literally anything you threw at him.*
That is not the subject of this dissertation. Instead, this article features a comprehensive list of in-game effects and how they interact with the Dead Ringer’s feign death mechanic…
In theory, the Dead Ringer is supposed to perfectly mimic every aspect of a Spy’s death, except for the annoying death aspect. And for the most part, it does an admirable job of it, except when it doesn’t. I’m sure that cartwheels feature in some list of “Top 10 Funniest Displays of Ragdoll Physics,” but they hardly make for a convincing death, especially when triggered by a pistol shot from across the map.** But with the veritable menagerie of weapons available and the myriad effects they can inflict, it stands to reason that at least a few of them act up when used to trigger a feigned death.
Status effects and the jerks who inflict them
- Jarate will ruin the Dead Ringer’s cloak whether it’s thrown before or after you feign death.†
- This applies to both Jarate itself and the Sydney Sleeper’s effect.
- Mad Milk will also show through regardless of when it was used, but it does not cause your cloak to shimmer.
- The Sandman continues to be annoying by leaving the “BONK!” effect visible over your head as you try vainly to flee, but thankfully it fades after a short time, leaving you free to run somewhere else.
- Afterburn and bleed both vanish when you feign death, but the Dead Ringer offers no protection against being set on fire or bleeding after it’s used.
- This is why using the Dead Ringer when you’re on fire will extinguish you, but trying to feign death to a flamethrower tends to end in disaster.
- It’s worth noting that the removal of afterburn and bleed extends to the initial hit that triggered the Dead Ringer in the first place, which means that feigning death to the Flare Gun, Southern Hospitality, and Tribalman’s Shiv is still plausible.††
Triggered by an extremely timely demise
From here on out, it is more efficient to list the items that act properly when used against a Dead Ringer than the ones that don’t.‡
- The Eyelander, and by extension its taunt kill, both give the Demoman a head when a Spy feigns death.
- This is approximately the only weapon with an on-kill effect that properly manifests when the Spy is not really dead.
- The Holy Mackerel does not show a “FISH KILL!” message when applying the haddock directly to the forehead.
- The Powerjack does not give the Pyro +75 HP.
- The Killing Gloves of Boxing do not grant a 5 second critboost.
- Sentry Guns do not increment their kill counters, even if they’re Wrangled.
- A backstab from Your Eternal Reward does not give the Spy a disguise.
Hit me with your best shot; fire away
Beyond the weapons that grant effects specifically when used to kill, there are weapons that have special effects when they hit a target, even if the target doesn’t actually die. Such weapons occupy a unique space in TF2 gameplay, as their effect does not take place when they hit a disguised Spy. Examples of these weapons include the Black Box (+15 HP), the Ubersaw (+25% Ubercharge), and L’Etranger (+15% Cloak). As a rule, when these weapons are used to trigger the Dead Ringer, their effects will not occur if the Spy is disguised. If the Spy is undisguised, the effects occur as normal, and continue to occur if you hit the Spy after he has feigned death, assuming he has not redisguised yet.
Other facts espionage agents may find of interest
In addition to these findings, I have discovered a series of anomalies associated with the appearance of a Spy’s disguise. Some of these effects are related to the Dead Ringer; others are assumed to be native to the Spy’s disguise kit.
- If a Spy disguises as a player wearing a hat, his disguise will properly mimic the hat. However, this only applies if the player is actually of the class the Spy disguised as. In the event a Spy disguises as a class that the enemy team does not have, he will not appear to wear a hat if the player is not currently wearing one. This is presumably due to how the disguise system samples the disguise target’s loadout.
- A Spy disguised as a Demoman with a nonzero number of heads will not have a glowing eye.
- A Spy disguised as a slower class with some means of increasing their speed (GRU, Eyelander, etc.) will continue to walk at the class’s default speed.
A most eloquent and concise summary
To conclude this dissertation, I present a concise list of my findings:
- The Dead Ringer will remove afterburn and bleed, but not Jarate or Mad Milk.
- When used to feign death to a weapon that inflicts a status effect, the Dead Ringer will simultaneously remove the effect if it can.
- This does not protect against being inflicted with the effect again if hit after feigning death.
- Except for the Eyelander, no weapon with an on kill effect will demonstrate said effect when used to trigger the Dead Ringer.
- On hit effects that care about the Spy’s disguise will not manifest if the Spy is disguised when he feigns death.
*Except sawblades and the Horseless Headless Horsemann.
†The ingame tip lies, just like the Scout’s mom does.
††Just don’t get hit a second time.
‡Despite this, I list the ones that don’t work anyway. What is wrong with me?