Off-classing in 6v6

Introduction

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-clas 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!

Abstraction of the 6v6 metagame

Introduction

This guide is aimed at players and teams new to 6v6, and will attempt to explain the very basics of what makes the 6v6 metagame tick. It will mostly be abstract and require the reader to give implementation to the various points mentioned, but there are some practical examples to illustrate a point here and there.

Explanations of the metagame are abstract in an attempt to help you think about how the game works, and to prevent this wall of text from being 20 times as long and full of practical examples that only really apply to very specific situations.

Goal

6v6 is mostly played on maps with 5 capture points. The one and only way to win a map with capture points, is by capturing points (yes, really!). This may sound logical, yet many people still think the game is about fragging, and they will chase people around the entire map just to get a kill, mostly because they are simply unaware they could be doing something a lot more productive. Either way, this is the wrong way to play. Your team will lose players for no reason and you simply won’t be able to move forward and capture more points.

The goal in 6v6, as mentioned before, is to capture points, and as such your team will end up holding areas and falling back or pushing forward to other areas, based on an array of possible advantages.

Getting kills makes it easier to push forward to other areas, but kills do not win you the game. Area control and capturing points wins you the game. Write that down on a post-it note and stick it to your monitor!

Because kills are so much less important than the capturing of points (and therefore the positioning of your players), it helps if you think of 6v6 as a strategy game, instead of an FPS, as mentioned in an earlier post: How 6v6 really works (which is basically a very compact version of this article).

Roles

Generally, a team of 6 players is divided into two groups:

  1. Combo
  2. Flank

Combo

The combo refers to the medic and pocket soldier, and often also includes the demoman.
Depending on many circumstances, the combo positions itself in locations from where a push can be initiated, or where falling back is the most likely to keep the medic alive.

Flank

The flank consists of two scouts and a roaming soldier.
The flank positions itself so that entrances not covered by the combo are inaccessible for the opponent.
In a passive hold, a roaming soldier is often used to hold aggressively alone, so as to force über on the enemy when they push in.
In aggressive situations, the roamer is often found jumping ahead of a push, to cause distraction or trigger an early über pop on the enemy medic.
More about passive and aggressive holds later!

Note

The flank and combo groups are not set in stone. Different situations and different maps may provide challenges where you have to split up your 6 players in more than just these 2 groups. If you find yourself in a situation where your team cannot cover all entrances, you are probably not in the right position.

Advantages

We know of several types of advantages:

  1. Über advantage
  2. Man advantage
  3. Height advantage
  4. Momentum
  5. The element of surprise

Über advantage

Über is the very core of the 6v6 metagame; it is what makes you push and be aggressive, and lets you enter areas that are otherwise well defended. Having überadvantage is as such the most important of all the advantages. Your team should strive to maintain an überadvantage at all times.

Man advantage

Having more people than the other team allows you to do more damage and secure more entrances, and consequentially be more aggressive overall. Having a man advantage may trigger your team to be holding aggressively or push, but it’s very dependant on who exactly is down.
Practically, missing a demoman means you cannot hold an area, missing a medic means you cannot quickly recover from spam, missing a roamer or both scouts means your flank is open (which also means you cannot hold the area anymore). Missing one scout or a pocket soldier is less of a big deal in most situations.
Naturally, the same applies to your enemy. If they are missing a demoman, you can walk through a choke point with relative ease. If they are missing a medic, you can push forward while spamming them out. If their flank is open they have to spread out and weaken their defense, or better yet, fall back and give you their area for free.
More about areas later!

Height advantage

It is much easier to do damage from above than it is from below. Even the tiniest of slopes can make quite a bit of difference in an otherwise equal fight (note: don’t get into equal fights).
Height differences often dictate where you could best position your players. Height differences are static – they don’t change during the game, and as such they aren’t very much related to making the choice to push, hold or fall back. An opportunity to gain a height advantage, or the misfortune of losing one, may however influence your decision to push, hold, or fall back.
When pushing forward or falling back, any height advantage a new area may present should immediately be made use of.

Momentum

Winning makes you happy. A team full of happy players boosts morale. If the morale in a team is high, players are more alert and the team will perform better. Continue to boost morale by playing smart, and crush the enemy team in a mind game as well as on the battlefield.
Similarly, if the enemy team is having a phase of momentum, it is important that your team does not lose morale. When morale has lessened, your players perform worse and winning becomes a struggle.

The element of surprise

While you are pushing, and have the other team falling back, they are going to need time to adapt to their new area. If you play smart and position your players wisely during a push, this time can be used to catch them off-guard and may allow you to push even further.

Positioning and area control

As a team you can be doing one of two things:

  1. Moving to a new area
  2. Holding an area

A team can be moving to a new area with two different purposes:

  1. Pushing forward
  2. Falling back

A team can hold an area in one of two ways:

  1. Hold passively
  2. Hold aggressively

Holding an area (introduction)

While holding an area, it is important to make sure the enemy cannot enter it and cause serious harm to your team. Enemy players individually entering your area are known as “picks”; you can kill them for free. Any such player should be called out immediately and be dealt with as soon as possible. If your individual players leave your area, without the rest of the team being aware of it, you are no longer a team and your ability to hold the area is severely hindered. Similarly, if the enemy sends in “picks” that you successfully deal with, they have become less capable of holding their area, and this may trigger your team to initiate a push.

Holding an area passively

Generally, the reason to hold passively is because your team is at a disadvantage. When holding an area passively you let the other team lead the ‘dance’. You wait for them to push in and react adaptively. If they don’t push in and let you recover from your disadvantage, you may advance into an aggressive hold.

Holding an area aggressively

Holding an area aggressively makes it easier to deny entry to the opposing team. If you are at a large disadvantage of any sort, bear in mind that the enemy team could just push in anyway and simply roll over you. If you are at a small disadvantage, holding aggressively may buy you a bit of time to recover from it. Generally though, you would hold aggressively because you are at an advantage and/or you are about to initiate a push.

Moving to a new area: Pushing forward

While pushing to a new area, similarly to holding an area, it is important that all entrances between the area you come from and the area you are pushing into are covered, so as to make sure that the enemy team is restricted only to the area they have to fall back to, and cannot be in places you don’t expect them to be (such as behind you). Practically this means you need to check all corners and hiding places, let nobody go unseen.

Moving to a new area: Falling back

When falling back, you will never want to fall back more than one area at a time. Hence, the art of falling back is to do so with as many players as possible. This means that falling back should be a choice and you should not be forced to fall back, by having lost half your team for example. When you fall back to a new area, it is important that you can cover all the entrances there. If you do not have enough players to do so, it is likely you need to fall back further, giving the enemy team your area for free. In other words: don’t hold an area for longer than you can afford when you are already at a disadvantage.

Practical example of holding an area: Badlands top lobby, attacking last

This is one of many exceptions where there is no difference between holding passively or aggressively. The area is quite small and choices as to where to position your players are limited.
As with every hold, four areas can be defined: Your current holding area (top lobby), your enemy’s current holding area (last), your fall-back area (grey bridge/yard), and the enemy’s fall back area (spawn).
While you are *holding* (so not pushing or falling back), it is important that all your players recognise the area you are in, and where the borders are.
In top lobby, where usually your combo is sitting, the borders are at the top entrance and the main entrance. The flank, who are generally holding right side, find a border in the bottom right corner.
For the combo it is important not to let anyone come through the main entrance – anyone that does can get into lobby and from there behind your flank or even on the backcap.
Similarly, anything your flank lets through is going to be a potential threat to your medic.

The end

As mentioned in the introduction, this was just an overview of the very basics of the 6v6 metagame. There is a lot more to actual gameplay, and you will learn a lot more from actually playing. Still, this guide should give you a rough idea of why 6v6 works the way it does, and it should help you determine where to position your team based on the many circumstances that present themselves.

More important than any of this is, though, that you have fun. TF2 is a game, after all!

I hope this guide has helped you at least a tiny bit. If you have any questions, comments, praise or criticisms, please leave a comment below :)

How 6v6 really works

A very common pitfall in low level 6v6 teams, is people tending to wander off alone, mostly blamed on lack of teamwork, naturally derived from the fact they don’t know their roles on the battlefield as well as they should.

People write giant guides about all sorts of things that are supposed to help one improve, but really there’s only one basic principle you must understand. Indeed, TF2 is not a massively complex game :)

Stop seeing the game as an FPS. Rather, look at it as if it were a strategy game. After all, you don’t win by top fragging – you win by capturing control points (in most cases anyway). To be more precise, you win by controlling ground. Area control!

“But if I kill everyone we can go wherever we want!”

Correct, and while being able to go wherever you want is how you win, you don’t necessarily have to kill anyone in order to achieve this. Hence, area control is more important than fragging. That’s not to say you should never kill anyone – in fact, very often you need to get kills in order to advance, but just don’t forget it’s not the main goal in the game.

Now then, with that thought firmly printed in the back of our heads, how do you do this? Well that’s where stuff gets a tiny little bit more difficult. In an FPS, you click on people and you win. In a strategy game, you can do millions of different things and all of them might be viable ways to gain victory.

Area control is about gaining ground whilst making sure your opponent isn’t given an opportunity to do the same. You have 6 people at your disposal, each with different assets. Think top-down 3rd person view here. Where do you place your assets?

That is what 6v6 (and TF2 in general) is about.

Sensitivity

Mouse sensitivity, that is. From here onwards just “sens”, because it’s a pain in the arse to type out the whole thing.

Anyway, question of the century: “What sens am I supposed to be using?”
Guess what, it doesn’t matter a single bit.

What does matter is that you pick one and stick with it.

Alright then, so how do you get good at aiming?

Well, how do you get good at throwing a basket ball into a net? That’s right, you practise. What exactly are you practising though? “How hard to throw the ball?”, you may jokingly reply. Yes, that is exactly it. You train your muscles to remember how much force to put into throwing the ball, so that it lands exactly where you want it to land (just in an attempt to be scientifically correct; it’s not your muscles that remember – the memory is still in your brains, but it is memory for the muscles).

The very same principle applies to mouse movement – you move your mouse to exactly where you want it, because you have trained your muscles to remember how much force to put onto your mouse. And of course you can only train this properly if your mouse sensitivity doesn’t ever change.

Muscle memory, one of the greatest things about being human.

 

Competitive TF2, and rants