Further down in this post I’m going to try and convince you that, in most situations, you shouldn’t be off-classing at all. First though, it might come in handy to know what exactly off-classing is, and why exactly it is called “off-classing”.
A bit of history
A long time ago, at the very beginning of competitive TF2, 6v6 did not yet exist. It started with a bunch of Team Fortress Classic fanatics experimenting with how TF2 worked, how the classes worked, and how a competitve game would work.
At some point people were playing 8v8, with two demomen! It may seem obvious now that this is incredibly overpowered, but at the time people had no idea (yet)!
Eventually, after years of testing and trying, it was discovered that a competitive game of TF2 flowed best with teams consisting of 1 Medic, 1 Demoman, 2 Soldiers and 2 Scouts.
We are playing these classes today, not because someone said so and we just went with it, but because they are actually the best options to play 6v6 with – in almost all situations. Nothing is going to stop anyone from trying out different things, but in the end you will always find that these classes simply work the best.
Speed and momentum
Let me try to explain why it is that these classes work so well in 6v6, and in particular 5CP maps (actually, feel free to assume this entire post is about 5CP maps).
6v6 is about speed and momentum.
When you kill people, they are out of the game for a while. Their respawn timer slowly ticks to zero, and only then can they return to the battlefield.
Another mechanic that is one of the root reasons for 6v6 working the way it does, is forward and back spawn points. If you capture a point, your team will spawn further forward. Similarly, if you lose a capture point, your team will spawn further back.
You can imagine that capturing points as fast as you can is the ultimate way to create big disadvantages for the enemy team and big advantages for your team.
What is off-classing?
So far we’ve learned that the most efficient way to beat teams on 5CP maps is to capture points as fast as possible, and we’ve learned which classes are best suited for this job. But, what of the other classes?
If at any point you swap out a soldier or scout for another class, your team loses speed and as a result gains a disadvantage in terms of capturing efficiency.
Off-classing can then be defined as the art of compensating for a loss in speed.
Why art? Because it’s difficult. Choosing the right off-class at the right time is a skill in itself, regardless of how good you might be on the class you choose.
If your team just won mid and is rolling over the enemy towards the next capture point, and you go sniper, you have misunderstood the concept of being fast. Snipers are very slow compared to scouts, not only in movement speed, but also in capture speed. That’s a double disadvantage right there! Sure, a sniper can kill someone in one shot, but with having a scout in the right position, you probably don’t even need that. Especially in the situation where your team is in the process of rolling forward.
When do I off-class then?
Only ever when you are in a situation where speed is not an important factor. Such as during a hold on last, or during a stalemate situation where nothing seems to be happening for too long a time.
Bear in mind that you probably don’t want to hold last forever. You want to push back out to 2nd at some point!
What’s the best way to push out again? That’s right – having classes that can get to the next CP quickly and capture it quickly. In other words: Scouts and Soldiers (especially when using the Pain Train).
Back to speed
You choose an off-class to achieve a goal. This could be ruining a push using a pyro (airblasting the übered combo is a popular one), creating an advantage (get a pick with sniper or spy during a stalemate), delaying a push by picking off an important class on the other team (headshot on their demo for example), etc. You never off-class just “for the fun of it”, because as pointed out earlier, you give up your speed advantages. Realise what your goal is, and choose your class accordingly.
When you are a sniper and you have picked off the enemy demo, you have achieved your goal, your job as off-classer is done. When you are a pyro and you have airblasted an übered combo until their über ran out, you are finished. When you are spy and you have backstabbed an important class, job done.
Any of these things happen? Go back to your fast class! (or suicide on their medic if he is near, you might just get a pick before you die). Either way, the off-class was situational, and the situation has now passed. Back to winning!