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?
- Do not be detected, ever
- Failing that, do not be detected until your plan has been carried out
- Failing that, do not be detected until your plan is inevitable
- If you are detected, do not be seen out of disguise
- If you are detected, do not be seen changing disguise or uncloaking
- 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.