Competitive play

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A yard fight on Badlands in standard competitive play.
Major League!
The Scout

Community competitive play in Team Fortress 2 refers to organized gaming done for the purpose of playing through skillful competition, practiced teamwork, and self-improvement, especially in a league setting. There are 3 main competitive formats in TF2 - 6v6 (commonly referred to as '6s'), Highlander (commonly referred to as 'HL'), and Prolander (also known as 7v7). Other formats of competitive play include 4v4, Ultiduo, and Bball, which are played in more casual competitions, rather than prized and more serious competitions.

Team Formats

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, 9 in Highlander, and 7 in Prolander.
  • 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 6v6 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.

Gamemodes

See also: Category:Competitive
  • 6v6 is the most popular of the competitive gamemodes in which teams typically consist of 2 Scouts, 2 Soldiers, 1 Demoman and 1 Medic.
  • Highlander or HL for short is a 9v9 format with one of each class on each team.
  • 4v4 has teams typically consisting of 1 Scout, 1 Soldier, 1 Demoman and 1 Medic.
  • Prolander also known as 7v7 has 7 players per team with one of each class allowed, and therefore encourages adaptive offclassing. Its playstyle is most closely related to Highlander.
  • Ultiduo is one of the less competitive gamemodes with teams only having 1 Soldier and 1 Medic on each team.
  • Basketball or BBall for short is really just for fun, it is played in a 2v2 format with 2 Soldiers on each team where they compete to take the intelligence and rocketjump into the enemy's hoop.

Dynamics

Main article: Competitive dynamics
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 as 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 at little risk of being killed themselves.
  • 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 the center point (commonly referred to as "mid") quicker by rocket and sticky jumping. By exchanging health, you can travel 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.

Configurations

Competitive games do not use the standard server configuration, instead opting to use their own values for various settings in order to provide a more organized or competitive experience. While there are 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 the correct team regardless of how many players are in each team.
  • Luck factors, otherwise known as RNG (Random Number Generation), 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 makes it undesirable to have in play. Some weapons are allowed in certain formats but are banned in others. This is usually due to balancing around other factors such as class limits, for example the lack of a Spy in typical 6v6 lineup to counter an Engineer's wrangler makes the wrangler commonly regarded as overpowered (and therefore often banned) in 6v6, but not in Highlander. 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.
  • Almost all leagues utilise class limits, most noticeably in Highlander and Prolander (with limits of 1 per class), though 6v6 also includes some class limits (such as only 1 Medic). This is to prevent team composition from disrupting competitive play, either through stalling the game down unacceptably, or using too many classes of a specific type in an attempt to jeer the opponent.

Classes

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 in the 6v6 format, 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, primarily movement, are diminished. In occasions of a stalemate where neither team is in enough of an advantageous position to push, 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 the competitive strategies for each class.

In Prolander, due to it having 7 players per team but a class limit of 1, a large part of the strategy revolves around offclassing. However, some classes are almost always used, such as Demo, Medic, Solider and Scout due to their utility and mobility. The other classes are rotated depending on the situation and opposition's classes. For example a team might use an Engineer on Payload defence, and the attacking team might use a Spy to counter this.

Scout
Leaderboard class scout.png
Soldier
Leaderboard class soldier.png
Pyro
Leaderboard class pyro.png
Demoman
Leaderboard class demoman.png
Heavy
Leaderboard class heavy.png
Engineer
Leaderboard class engineer.png
Medic
Leaderboard class medic.png
Sniper
Leaderboard class sniper.png
Spy
Leaderboard class spy.png

Maps

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 a number of skilled mapmakers in the competitive community willing to make maps specifically for competitive play.

Organizations and Leagues

Each of these leagues mainly run the standard competitive format, however some host Highlander, and 4v4 competitions.

Global

North American

European

  • ETF2L (6v6 and Highlander leagues and cups)

Asian

Oceania

Country specific

Streaming/Casting Organizations

  • teamfortress.tv, Kritzkast and RGL.gg are the active organizations that provide casts for the competitive TF2 scenes in North America and Europe. Teamfortress.tv primarily covers ETF2L and ESEA 6v6, Kritzkast covers EU Highlander and Prolander, and RGL.gg covers NA Prolander and other RGL formats. Previous coverage of EU and NA Highlander has been provided by BlackOut TV and EVL TV respectively, and previous coverage of Prolander by eXtelevsion.

Resources

  • Comp.tf is a community driven wiki which focuses entirely on competitive TF2.
  • Playcomp.tf is a beginner friendly website which addresses the most common questions about starting competitive TF2.