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Level 5 Battle Banner Provides an offensive buff that causes nearby team members to do mini-crits. Rage increases through damage done.
Admit it: Every so often, you suspect you’re carrying your team... How about motivating those lazy sons of bitches to put on their war face and fight?
— Buff Banner publicity blurb
The Buff Banner, also known as the Bugle or simply Banner, is an unlockable secondary weapon for the Soldier. It is a tattered battle standard mounted on a small backpack and accompanied by a dented brass bugle. The war flag itself – which is rectangular and colored faded yellow with a brown starbust design and moves realistically – remains hidden in the backpack until it is activated, at which point it will appear on a pole mounted to the pack.
Equipping the Buff Banner adds a "Rage meter" to the Soldier's HUD, which is filled by dealing damage to enemies. The Rage meter becomes full after the Soldier has dealt 600 damage in a single life, at which point he can sound his bugle to rally his teammates. Telefragging an enemy results in a fully charged rage meter regardless of the previous charge or the type of class killed. Switching classes, dying, or unequipping the Buff Banner will empty the Rage meter completely.
During the 10 seconds following this rallying call, all hits made by allies positioned within 450 units of the Soldier, including his own, become mini-crits. Buffed players within the radius emit team-colored rings of light from their feet, and their weapons brighten similarly to a crit boost. It is possible to delay the release of the banner after the trumpet call, and thereby delaying the buffing effect, by holding down the primary fire key; left mouse button by default.
Though players only receive the buff while positioned within the buff radius, the source or sources of their damage need not be within the radius, so traveling rockets, pre-laid stickybombs, Sentry Guns, and afterburn will deal mini-crit damage as long as their creator is buffed when the damage is actually dealt. Likewise, a damage source created within the buff radius will not gain a mini-crit benefit if its creator no longer has the buff when the damage is dealt.
There are two unused textures for separate "attack" and "defense" banners in the game files, which depict an explosion with an orange background, and a shield with a green background, respectively. Why the defense concept was not included on release is unknown, but the concept has since been given to the Battalion's Backup.
In the VPK, there exists a BLU version of the Buff Banner flag (listed as c_buffbanner_blue).
The bugle was originally issued to American monkeynaut Poopy Joe as a means of calling for help before it was acquired by Mann Co. under entirely innocent circumstances.
The bugle is actually used in this way at the end of a round on the Special Delivery map Doomsday. The sound of the Buff Banner's bugle can be heard as the rocket begins to crash after prematurely running out of fuel.
The Buff Banner has separate, unique calls for both the RED and BLU teams. The Battalion's Backup also shares this feature.