Why play Comp TF2? Maybe you’re sick of pubstomping, and you want to actually improve instead of dominating the entire server again. Maybe you just want a change. Maybe you want to make some new friends. Or maybe you want a challenge? Here’s a short guide I wrote on entering the Competitive TF2 scene.
First, you will need to decide which class(es) you want to main. For Highlander, all classes are acceptable (obviously), but for 6v6’s, the classes required are Medic, Soldier, Demoman and Scout. I mained Spy in pubs when i first started and so played a number of Highlander lobbies; however, as i felt that 6v6 was more fun to play, i joined a team and mained Medic, with a Spy secondary. Regardless of how you make your decision, make sure you choose a class you enjoy playing!
Secondly, you need to decide whether you want to play 6v6 or 9v9 Highlander. From my experience, Highlander tends to be a more relaxed experience, whereas 6v6 values communication and strong teamwork slightly more. Also, there has been a strong trend towards different map types; 6v6 plays more CP maps, while 9v9 plays more PL maps. Also understand that the class you play will affect your decision; 6v6 traditionally uses one Medic, two Soldiers, one Demoman and two Scouts, where one Scout may offclass as a ‘utility’ occasionally as Sniper/Spy (for important picks) or Heavy/Pyro (for last point defense). As a result, there will be more demand for a Scout who can second as a Sniper than a Sniper who can second as a Scout. A Soldier, rarely, may offclass as well, but the Medic and Demoman will -never- offclass, due to how important they are to the team.
From here, you have three choices; you can do all, none or some of the following:
1) Join a team as a sub. Put up a recruitment thread on the ETF2L or UGC forums or r/tf2lft, saying you have prior experience of TF2 in pubs and are willing to learn how to play competitively. Make sure you mention where you live, any relevant experience, what times you can/would like to play, and what you aim to get out of it. You will need a microphone and many teams like to use Mumble (which is a free download), and you may have to do a number of trials to find a team who want you (Depending on how in need of a player they are), but your communication, gamesense and general skill will increase dramatically, quickly. One downside of only playing PCWs with your team is you will have a limited amount of time at certain times of the day, which may not suit certain people.
2) Play a few tf2lobbies. This is how i personally started on my way to competitive – a few 9v9’s, then 6v6’s; although understand that in many ways it is different to playing in a team, especially in the communication side, which means that many people (myself included) advise strongly against it being your first experience. Lobbies act as a way to play with and against people of a higher skill level than pub servers, and act as a form of anonymous mix service; they’re very good for learning the absolute basics of competitive, such as rollouts, minor callouts, and working on DM (Stands for Deathmatch, or ‘how well you kill the other guy’). On top of that, they’re available 24/7, and you can start immediately. However, watch out for people with inflated egos, who believe that because they have done x lobbies they are the best in their classes field; this is nonsense, as there is absolutely no correlation between lobbies played and ability to work as a team. If anything, these people tend to lone wolf a lot and sacrifice others in the team for their own personal gain. On top of that, they will have severely underdeveloped communicative skills compared to a team player. In all, it’s very easy to get into, and with the offering of Highlander -and- 6v6, worthwhile to play against a higher standard of skill than pubs.
3) Join a Newbiemix and play with others in a similar position to you (North American is here , European 6v6 is here). You will be given a mentor and a set of fresh new teammates; the mentor will teach you the basics of the game, your classes role, and other important things such as what to call to your teammates. The benefits of this involve more communication, more flexible hours and a friendlier atmosphere than lobbying; however, be aware that there may not always be demand for your skill, and you will not have the luxury of choosing people you want to play with; they will contact you, not the other way around.
Some general tips:
* Learn the lingo. This includes key locations on popular maps, terms such as uber advantage, rocket jump, rollout, mix, merc, offclass… On the TF2 Wiki there is a reasonably comprehensive glossary, which you can and should use as much as necessary.
* Learn the rollouts for your class on the maps you are likely to play. For 9v9 this is less important (due to the tendency towards payload maps, meaning setup time), but incredibly important in 6v6 cp maps, where Demoman speed may determine which team caps the mid point.
* Learn the roles your class is supposed to fill, either by . As an example, in 6v6, Scouts are usually supposed to protect the Demoman, mop up low health enemies and guard against other scouts, there will be one Pocket Soldier to protect the Medic and one Roaming Soldier for damage output, the Demoman is used for area denial and damage output, the Medic must heal, overheal and usually coordinate the team for pushes (coordinating and giving directions to your team is known as ‘Maincalling’), as well as building that all important Ubercharge. Bear in mind that your role may change depending on the situation and how your team likes to play: what i have written is an extreme generalisation.
* Recognise where you make mistakes, and aim to not make those mistakes again. Sometimes you will learn things the hard way; the other day i made a foolish mistake of dropping an uber due to a Demo kritz sticky, because i thought i had the reflexes to pop as a projectile came at me. A key aim here would be to pop as soon as kritz is called – while it would be great to eek a few extra seconds out and wait until you are almost dead, it is always better to pop than drop as a Medic. Don’t trust your reflexes – you could have the reactions of a snake/mongoose, but so many factors come into play (mood, lag, sensitivity…) that you should always err on the side of caution.
* Most importantly, you should play to have fun! It may be a cliche, but if you’re not having fun, then there’s no reason to continue along your current path. You should also play to improve, as mentioned above – this is the second reason why you decided to play competitive.
Once you start playing competitive, you realise how different it is from playing pubs; if you have any questions then feel free to ask :)