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Medics are one of the weaker damage-dealing classes, but they are incredibly important to the success of any team. They provide healing, which keeps combat classes fighting and generally tips the scales in their team's favor. One of the biggest reasons to keep a medic alive is the ÜberCharge. Regardless of whether the Medic is using the standard Medigun or the Kritzkrieg, an ÜberCharge is easily one of the biggest game-changing forces in Team Fortress 2. The competitive game often revolves around ÜberCharges, which can dictate when a team can move forward and if they can defend a control point. Targeting down the Medic to kill often is in the sacrifice of one's own life. This can be the most important kill for a team, and they can be game-changing because Medics lose any progress they have made on charging their Über (provided they aren't using the Vita-Saw) and cannot heal other members of their team if they die. Therefore, it is essential to protect the Medic from harm at all times. For this reason, a designated Pocket player will be assigned to defend the team's Medic, the Medic will do his best to keep his guardian alive, and the Pocket and Medic must communicate effectively. This Pocket-Medic pair is referred to as the Combo.
This article will discuss the Combo's role in Competitive Team Fortress 2, based on the standard competitive format. The Combo's role involves both the Pocket player and the Medic.
Pocket players in competitive Team Fortress 2 are usually Soldiers, but using Heavies or Demomen as Pocket players is not unheard of, especially in Highlander matches. The Pocket player's main duty is to defend the team's Medic from harm at all costs. Pockets should always check for enemies who may be attempting to flank them and attack their Medics, and prioritize those who are the biggest threat. The Pocket should also watch out for spies attempting to backstab the Medic. Although the Pocket is an important player, a Medic is almost always more valuable than another combat class, so Pockets should be ready to die for their Medics if necessary.
Soldiers and Heavies are usually chosen due to their high health for buffering damage and their damage-dealing potential at the mid-to-short range to protect their Medic. Soldiers have the advantage of being able to use their rocket launcher to juggle enemies, being able to cause knockback to enemies targeting their Medic to disrupt their aim, and being more mobile than Heavies. Heavies, however, have higher base health so that they can protect their Medic and be overhealed more, can also provide Sandviches to their Medic in case the Medic runs low on health, and don't have to reload ammunition. Demomen are used on occasion due to their ability to protect the Medic in large, open areas with their stickybomb launcher, and their ability to outmaneuver enemies with their stickybomb jumps. Due to the Demoman's inability to effectively protect the Medic at close ranges without damaging himself, Soldiers and Heavies are typically more preferable Pockets. Pocket players should remember that, because they are usually overhealed to 300 HP - 450 HP, they can spearhead most pushes into enemy territory. Pockets should be careful, however, to not ignore their Medics even in the middle of a push, as the loss of the Medic will usually cripple the push in turn.
Due to his lack of combat abilities, the Medic of a Combo must make the most of his Pocket player. Good communication with this player is essential; Medics shouldn't hesitate to call out a Scout or Soldier when they see one. In addition, Medics should try to let their Pocket take all the damage meant for them. Pocket players should be buffed to 300 health as Soldiers or 450 health as Heavies, so Medics should be ready to use their Pocket players as meat shields against incoming rockets and grenades. Also, a reliable Pocket player will always be willing to sacrifice his own life to save his Medic's. A good skill for Medics to learn is the ability to determine when the fight is lost, and the death of a Pocket is inevitable. If this is ever the case, Medics should leave their Pocket when necessary and find another teammate capable of offering protection from the enemy team as soon as possible, preferably a team's roaming Soldier.
Although a Pocket can absorb a lot of the damage that comes the Medic's way, it is still necessary for the Medic to be competent at dodging. Staying alive should be the Medic's number one priority. The Medic is a movement-based, thinking class. The Medic is almost an observer who is detached from the combat; he should be constantly looking around and keeping track of the ÜberCharges, both his and the enemy Medics'. This is especially important when your team has managed to kill the enemy Medic, as the enemy team will try and make a beeline for your Medic, whether it's a jumping Soldier or a sneaky Scout who has jumped out from a clever hiding spot.
A Medic should also, of course, heal teammates other than the Pocket. Although overhealing the pocket is essential, it is better to save teammates instead.
Although the Medic is not the strongest offensive class, he should not be afraid to pull out his Syringe Gun or Bonesaw to defend himself if the situation warrants it. This can occur if a Medic is separated from his team or his Pocket is having a difficult time defending him from a specific enemy. Landing hits with the Ubersaw has the extra benefit of building ÜberCharge, and hits from the Blutsauger will also heal the Medic.
One of the main reasons for defending the Medic in the Combo is the ÜberCharge. A victory in competitive play can often depend not only upon successful ÜberCharges but also good ÜberCharge management.
Typically, an ÜberCharge is given to the Pocket, although the ÜberCharge may be flashed the ÜberCharge if they aid in the push. Rocket- and sticky-jumping Soldiers and Demomen are also commonly flashed so they can avoid self-damage while they chase down members of the opposing team fleeing from the ÜberCharge.
Creating and maintaining an ÜberCharge advantage is a critical aspect of gameplay. Killing the opposing Medic and protecting one's own is the usual method of creating such an advantage since, in most cases, a Medic can always heal a player from their team and build ÜberCharge. However, separating an opposing Medic from his team and making sure your own Medic is always healing, someone will also create an advantage. Therefore you should try to ensure that another player is always with your Medic. Healing damaged players will also build ÜberCharge faster. For this reason, if teams are in a stalemate while awaiting a completed ÜberCharge, a player being healed will often deliberately do self-damage to increase the charge rate of his Medic. In competitive play, a Soldier usually shoots rockets at his feet, or a Scout hits himself with a Boston Basher for this purpose. Note that an advantage of less than 10% charge is usually too insignificant to be considered an advantage because the opposing Medic will very probably have completed his ÜberCharge by the time the Medic with the advantage pops his. Furthermore, if a team survives an ÜberCharge while at an ÜberCharge disadvantage, they will immediately have an ÜberCharge advantage if their Medic survives without popping it. In this case, sometimes a counter-charge is initiated, which can do very severe damage to a team that has overextended. Therefore, an essential target during an ÜberCharge is the opposing Medic, especially since the ÜberCharge recipient can ignore damage from the other team's Pocket.
In cases when a team knows the other team has an ÜberCharge, players can attempt to force the opposing Medic to "pop" the ÜberCharge before the other team is ready by doing enough damage that the Medic feels threatened. This can lead to the Medic deploying the ÜberCharge in a suboptimal situation where the opposing players can easily move out of the area to avoid damage and causes the ÜberCharge to expire earlier, leading to a pre-emptive push. If the other team's Medic has successfully built up their ÜberCharge as the opponent activates theirs, they will usually try to pop their own just after, causing their ÜberCharge to fade just after theirs. Occasionally, this can also lead to a "dropped" ÜberCharge, which occurs when a medic dies while having a full ÜberCharge.
Kritzkrieg vs ÜberCharge
Due to the importance of ÜberCharge to the game, the choice of the standard Medigun or the Kritzkrieg can be important to the Pocket. The Kritzkrieg charges faster and usually can take out more players, but provides greater risk to the Medic and the possibility of a hard counter in the form of an opposing regular ÜberCharge.
If a Medic elects to use a Kritzkrieg, the preferential target should be the Demoman in most cases due to the extremely high damage of critical Stickybombs. Since Demomen are usually not the Pocket due to their inability to defend their Medic from close enemies, the Medic should temporarily switch over from the Pocket to the Demoman. However, the Pocket should still protect their Medic, as they are still vulnerable during ÜberCharges, and the Combo should link up again after the Kritzkrieg has finished.
Counter combo strategy
The main focus when attacking a Combo is the Medic. This is because the Medic will supply health to their Pocket if he is not killed first, which results in a more difficult and prolonged battle.
The usual method of countering an enemy Combo is with your own Combo. Typically, this involves the Pocket players trying to damage the opposing team's Medic and protect their own while the Medics avoid damage as much as possible and heal their Pocket. While the Pocket is distracted, other players can also attack the opposing Medic. However, this is a strategy designed to focus the opposing Combo on a target that can be healed and less focused on taking down the opposing Combo, so the other members of the team are critical in deciding the victor in such a matchup.
Another strategy is to attempt to take down the enemy medic by aggressive individual plays where a player focuses on the enemy Medic to prevent the other team from getting healed and building an ÜberCharge. These plays are known as Medic picks. Typically, a Scout attempts a sneak attack, or a Soldier (usually the roaming Soldier) rocket jumps above the Pocket and fires rockets down at the Medic (known as bombing in). If a Spy or Sniper is in play, they can also be called upon to backstab or headshot the Medic, although this is usually less successful than either the Scout or Soldier play.
If a team loses its Medic, the importance of killing the enemy Medic becomes even more critical. Sacrificing one of their combat classes to take down the Medic is relatively common in this situation. A team must be aware of this possibility after taking down the enemy Medic, and the Pocket is extra vigilant in defending their Medic.
The Quick-Fix is not often seen in competitive play, but has the advantage of getting the Medic to each point on the map without wasting Mega-Heal. The Quick-fix is 40% faster than the standard Medigun, is specialized for healing, and has a 10% overcharge rate. In addition, the 50% decreased max overheal has no decrease ÜberCharge rate of overheal. So, the advantage of this weapon is in conjunction with the Overdose to make sure that the Medic can keep up with the Pocket. Mega-heal increases the rate of healing by 300%, which allows you to quickly heal your low-health teammate, and allows you to withstand Mega-heal because the speed of healing is faster than the rate of damage in less aggressive situations.
Mega-heal can block all movement-impairing effects, so the Pocket can easily hunt the enemy team. The Quick-fix has an advantage that Medics can easily escape from a bad situation. But the aforementioned -50% max overheal reduces the amount of damage the Pocket can absorb. If the enemy's firepower is strong, even if Mega-heal is invoked, the target who receives Mega-heal may die. Because of these disadvantages, the perfect counter for Quick-fix is kritzkrieg charge, which is not often used Quick-fix in Highlander what often uses kritzkrieg charge.
Against many opponents, the Vaccinator should always be set to mitigate bullet damage on the Pocket. Snipers will be ineffective against rampaging Heavies, and the Pocket becomes a beacon in the midst of battle, inadvertently causing the Pocket to have a shorter life in battle. Heavies are preferred since the Steel Gauntlets, in conjunction with this weapon, increase the likelihood of getting the enhanced resistance buff without getting killed. Other good Pockets are Soldier, Sniper, and Demoman.