Home Strategy WiNG’s TF2 Spy Lesson Series #2: …Now You Don’t

The last time we spoke about Team Fortress 2 Spy strategy, I’ll admit I was a bit pretentious. Flitting around grandiose language unnecessarily, lavishing endless heaps of analogy and meta-analogy onto what is, in principle, a simple concept. But, dear reader, I hope you understand such is the nature of playing outside the rules of the game.

Of course, nothing is entirely outside the rules, and every map still has objectives, enemies, health kits, and sweet, delicious spines. And they aren’t going to stab themselves.

So, what’s the first order of business?


You are not an actor. You’re a an agent of disarray.

In the early days of Team Fortress 2, a so-so Spy could get by just fine acting his way through the battlefield. Running backwards into groups, calling out for Medics needlessly, that manner of trite action. Unfortunately, war has changed. And while some would-be saboteurs are tempted by the influx of fritos into resorting back to theatrics, here is my warning: These skills are all but useless.

All experienced players Spy check. Hell, even many poor players Spy check. And it only takes one lick of a Backburner or one stray crocket to ruin your best laid plans. Sure, the newest of the new players may not notice they’ve bumped into you. They may not even notice you’re on fire. But relying on their idiocy is a crutch, one you cannot afford to make a habit.

Yes, every now and then you’ll fall into bizarre situations where you’ve been spotted and acting casual is your only means of survival, but this must be a means of last resort. As previously stated, your goal should be to remain unseen until the final moment before your plans are put into motion. What exactly does this entail?

  1. Do not be detected, ever
  2. Failing that, do not be detected until your plan has been carried out
  3. Failing that, do not be detected until your plan is inevitable
  4. If you are detected, do not be seen out of disguise
  5. If you are detected, do not be seen changing disguise or uncloaking
  6. If you are wholly detected, it is a matter of fight vs flight


The means to your opponent’s end

Of course, saying “do not be detected, ever” is an entirely different matter from achieving it. Yes, you have a cloaking device, but as we know from having encountered oh-so-many terrible agents of espionage, this isn’t enough.

Being undetected means more than getting behind the enemy with one’s cloak. It involves a wide range of considerations, including:

  • Proper cloak management to minimize the risk of a forced decloak
  • Utilizing distractions, including aural distractions, for the final approach
  • A keen understanding of enemies’ FOV
  • Flawless knowledge of map geometry, including vertical geometry
  • Strong understanding of other players’ likely behaviors and possible pathing
  • Managing enemy paranoia to reduce random spraying

These are a large number of factors to keep in mind, and doing so successfully requires quick reflexes, ingrained reactions, careful calculation, patience, and of course, some luck. But while many have derided the Spy as”luck based” on that criterion alone, pay such detractors no heed. Because if they were so smart, they wouldn’t have a butterfly knife in their back right now.

In the next article, we’ll discuss paranoia, and how it is best fostered in one’s foes. We’ll also look at how each watch works to change the tempo of a match. Until then, try not to be detected.


19 replies to this post
  1. To decrease paranoia use dead ringer.
    To increase boredome use C&D.
    To decrease pyres making you rage, make Robin add in the fire proof suit. I’d love one. 8.3/10 it’s a pyro that blows my cover.

    Also, Fritoes are delicious.

    • I beg to differ.

      The dead ringer adds to paranoia like ham adds to a sandvich. People dying to one shot scares the hell out of everyone.

      The cloak and dagger is useless, period. Even if there’s absolutely no ammo on the map, there’s still a constant source of ammo: dropped weapons.

      And I’d NEVER take a fireproof suit over my beautiful revolvers. Being without the ability to fight ANYONE from non-stab range isn’t worth being somewhat stronger against pyros.

      To that last point, however, I must concede. They are delicious.

      Of course, great article, although being a spy main with ~300 hours or so on the class online and ~100 offline on tr maps, much of this sounds, as it should, incredibly familiar.

      • Cloak and Dagger is anything but useless – it’s just frequently used completely incorrectly. Its best use is on Defense, and it is frequently outdone by the Invis Watch, but make no mistake – There are times and maps where it can cause some serious damage and be very fast paced.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP1EwQkY-u8 for proof

      • A great video though I’d still argue some parts where he was just “waiting for targets” he should have been uncloaked, helping his team with cover fire.

        If he had l’Etranger, he could have gotten full cloak faster while helping his team AND having a silent decloak.

      • Not to mention, I can’t recall a single part in the video where the cloak and dagger helped him more than the invis watch would have. Sure, he was able to stay still invisible, but being visible but hidden is equally valuable, and getting more cloak from the ammo drops definitely would have helped him.

      • If used right dead ringer can make your oppononents think you have died, if they think you died they’ll spy check less. It’s a twosided coin.

        And I’d rather take the suit to be more sneaky with the dead ringer.
        Plus my aim sucks with revolver :<

      • There is no “right” way to feign death. If enemies know what a fake death looks like, they’ll never believe it at all.

        I’m going to go into detail on this in a future piece, but Dead Ringer does not decrease paranoia.

      • I think a good approach would be fighting back, taking some time and fleeing to the nearest health kit/your team, not the enemy territory.
        Also, I have found that some deaths are more believable than others. Try jumping down somewhere you’ll get some serious damage, then activate DR as or shortly after you land, depending on how much on fire you are. It will look perfectly like a failed desperation jump and most people actually believe it.

      • Because giving up the Revolver would actually be buffing the Pyro versus Spy, not nerfing.

        …Actually, in that case, why HASN’T Valve put the Fire Proof Suit in the game? Seems like needlessly buffing the Pyro is a high priority on their list now.

      • It would actually be nerfing the spy, period. Anyone who’d use it would find, after not too long, that it’s a waste of an unlock. Some noobs will find use in dying to pyros less often in exchange for something they don’t use, but that’s about it.

      • Well, what if you gave it a damage nerf to all damage taken in.
        So -30% all damage taken in.

      • What exactly is the difference between a health buff and a damage reduction? From a practical standpoint?

      • Ok, it makes a difference when it comes down to health against minuscule amounts of damage. (burn damage activating a dead ringer would keep you at 125 health the whole time, while you’d lose 3 health per second, depending on the source of fire, if you had 1250 health. Fair enough. I still don’t see what huge difference to the metagame the difference between a health or resistance buff would make to the extent that Guy is willing to say No so blatantly.

  2. Hahaha I think I disagree with everyone here…

    @Wing My experience shows that minor role acting could work in some situations, being a sniper in a deck, out of the stream, watching, short role coming back as demo reloading… some medic iteration too… Just being aware and couting with some luck helps too.

    @Doug C&D wasnt useless, IMNSHO, but has much lesser use than both IW an DR. I crossed ways with a couple of players who could take the same efficiency of the IW, way “patienter” spies than most. The thing is their “spy way” was cautious and sure. Taking the video Marsphoniex brought, You got some point, the IW will grant him more stabs, but I think you are overlooking the way they was almost always out of the way with the C&D, if he was wearing IW, his chances of bumping or simply bad luck encounter will increase, and maybe his chain shorter too. In my experience, I got some use for it in some maps where feed ur team with intel could be vital and some respawn harass, but I dont use it all that much to be a model ;p

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