Competitive play in Team Fortress 2 refers to organized gaming done for the purpose of having fun through skillful competition, practiced teamwork, and self-improvement, especially in a league setting. There are 2 main competitive formats in TF2 - 6v6 (commonly referred to as '6s') and Highlander (commonly referred to as 'HL'). Other formats of competitive play include 4v4, Ultiduo, and Bball, which are played in more casual competitions, rather than prized and more serious competitions.
- See also: Standard competitive format
All competitive games are based around the following principles:
- Team members are chosen before the game starts.
- Players use vocal communication to quickly relay information.
- Both teams are of the same predetermined player count, 6 in 6v6 and 9 in Highlander.
- Both teams are under the same basic restrictions, which include weapon whitelists and class limits.
Beyond these, there are many differences between various leagues, seasons, and communities. That said, most competitive TF2 games follow the standard competitive format, which has set class limits and certain gameplay settings that try to encourage fairness and reduce the impact of chance. All of the major TF2 leagues and PUG communities follow the standard competitive format, though each has variations on specific rules. Many leagues contain a subdivision for both 6s and Highlander.
In 6v6, the focus is on 5CP maps, such as Badlands, Process and Gullywash, with King of the Hill maps such as Product. Highlander prefers A/D based maps, such as Steel and Payload maps like Upward. They also have other formats such as King Of The Hill and 5CP. Custom maps are used in both formats, and are usually completely custom maps (pl_swiftwater_ugc) or are pro versions of default maps, such as Viaduct or Granary. Other gamemodes, like Capture the Flag and Special Delivery, are rarely seen in either format.
- See also: Category:Competitive
Patterns and protocols have emerged from competitive play's unique format and setting, leading to a set of gameplay dynamics distinct from non-competitive play.
- Certain dynamics have become a standard in competitive play, one of the most noticeable is that ÜberCharges are what competitive Team Fortress 2 revolves around. Medics on both teams have to track both their ÜberCharge and the enemy Medics as best they can. This is because in a organized format, a player attempting to take ground can be focused and dealt with. ÜberCharge allows for a team to force their way into an area, and gives them the ability to kill other players while invulnerable.
- Roll-Outs, which are not generally used in public games, due to their advanced nature, are also often seen in competitive games. The basic idea of a roll-out is to get to mid quicker by rocket and sticky jumping. By exchanging health, you are traveling much faster than you would by walking, allowing you to reach the initial fight faster.
- The team is split into two smaller forces, known as the combo and the flank. The combo generally consists of the Medic, Soldier, and Demoman, while the flank consists of a roaming Soldier and two Scouts, one of which hovers between the flank and the combo. In Highlander, the combo consists of the Medic, Demoman, Heavy, and Pyro, the latter of which sometimes can be found on the flank. The flank consists of the remaining classes, but the Sniper, Engineer, and Spy have shifting roles, with the former two sometimes playing in the combo, and the latter utilizing a more lone-wolf style of play.
Competitive games do not use the standard server configuration, opting to use their own values for various settings in order to provide a more organized or competitive experience. While there is no universal specifics and different leagues and groups use their own settings, there are a few general guidelines that many leagues and groups use for their matches.
- Autobalance is almost universally turned off, preventing players from accidentally being forced onto the opposing team. While this rarely makes a difference during an actual game, in the pre-game when teams are joining the server, it allows players to join their team regardless of how many opponents are in the server.
- Luck factors, otherwise known as RNG, such as bullet spread and random crits, are also almost universally disabled, as it allows the victory to go to the team that performed better, instead of matches potentially being decided by a factor out of the player's control.
- While leagues and groups rarely agree on what to ban, almost all of them have some weapons banned. Oftentimes, it's due to the weapon being considered overpowered, or having some bug attached to it that made it undesirable to have in play. Sometimes, weapons are banned since they're almost completely useless, and using them would be unsportsmanlike conduct in the interest of fair play. For a list of banned weapons per league, see Competitive item restrictions.
- While no league or group uses the default map configs, due to a lack of clear-cut end, there's very little standardization about how maps are played. With something like 5CP, the win condition is almost always some form of round victories, but the inclusion of half-times or what number of victories produces a win is often debated.
- While some leagues do not include class limits, especially in Highlander, many do. This is to prevent team makeups from being uncompetitive groups, either through stalling the game down unacceptably, or using too many classes of a specific type in an attempt to jeer the opponent.
- See also: Category:Classes (competitive)
Classes in standard competitive play are utilized differently than in pubs, due to the smaller team sizes and increased structure/coordination. The standard lineup, known as "cookie cutter" or "textbook", is two Soldiers, two Scouts, one Demoman, and one Medic. This lineup provides the highest ability to get kills or complete objectives, while also allowing for fast-paced gameplay and movement.
As such, any other class is deemed utility, used to perform a specific role or objective and not for permanent use. This is known as "offclassing." Some of them, like Heavy and Engineer, are utilized to defend a point, usually the final one, in order to take advantage of their benefits in a situation where their weaknesses, movement primarily, are diminished. In occasions of a stalemate where neither team feels in enough of an advantageous position to push in, a player may change to a Pick class, such as Sniper or Spy, in order to kill an important player on the other team, usually the Medic, and prompt the push. Some maps, like Product, the map design of which potentially encourages permanent use of a utility class, may see teams break from the standard lineup completely to take advantage of that.
In Highlander, due to the fact that one of each class is always present, there is no offclassing. However, the class strategies do vary from their public server variant, just like in 6v6. As such there are individual pages on each classes' competitive strategy.
- See also: Category:Competitive maps
The majority of competitive 6v6 play is done on 5CP maps, and in Highlander on Payload. The most common maps in 6v6 play are Badlands and Process. In Highlander, Upward is the most popular. In 6v6, the only non 5CP map actively played is Product, but Highlander has a larger spread of different gamemodes, from 5CP with Process and Gullywash (competitive) to Attack/Defense maps such as Steel, and King Of The Hill maps like Product and Lakeside.
Maps like Coalplant and Viaduct used to be featured more prominently in competitive, either being phased out of league play, like Coalplant, or updated by community members to a "Pro" version of the map, with Viaduct becoming Product. Between all of the leagues and gamemodes, many maps have been tested in official matches, with only a handful being popular enough to see any level of active play. Similarly, in the first few seasons of competitive, maps like 2Fort and Dustbowl received play, but have not been considered competitive maps for a long time, due to the lack of skilled mapmakers in the competitive community willing to make maps to be tested.
Organizations and Leagues
- ETF2L (6v6 and Highlander leagues and cups)
- ESL (ESL closed down all TF2 sections)
- TWL (TWL closed down all TF2 sections)
- IGL (Currently inactive, website is down)
- RTF2L (Russian) (Mysteriously vanished)
- CEVO's TF2 6v6 league. (Team Fortress 2 support cancelled)
- ESA Gamer (Shut down shortly after starting)
- Wireplay (Ended league)
- TF2Connexion (French) (Ended league)
- NZFortress (Ended league due to lack of interest)
- ATF2L (Shut down shortly after starting)
Each of these leagues mainly run the standard competitive format, however some host Highlander, and 4v4 competitions.
- teamfortress.tv, BlackOut TV & EVL TV are the active organizations that provide casts for the competitive TF2 scenes in North America and Europe. With the first primarily covering ETF2L and ESEA 6v6 while BlackOut TV and EVL TV cover EU and NA Highlander, respectively.
- Comp.tf is a community driven wiki which focuses entirely on competitive TF2.
- Playcomp.tf is a newbie friendly website which addresses the most common questions about starting competitive TF2.