This article is about Community Arena strategy.
- The first blood mechanic, lack of respawning, team scrambling, and the fact that the "Last Man Standing Wins" can motivate teams in matches from the Arena game mode to adopt a style of "every man for himself", especially on servers with all talk active. While it may be rare to see teams trying to coordinate their actions, teams that do can gain a big advantage over teams that don't, as is the case with almost all Team Fortress 2 matches.
- Simply staying together can make a big difference, even talented players will find it difficult to deal with more than one enemy at a time. Help your teammates in danger, especially if you have teammates that can distract the enemy for you. If you are late for the party, expect the odds to be against you.
- Since on Arena maps there are often no large health kits and sometimes they are absent altogether, having a Medic or keeping an Engineer's Dispenser alive can make a big difference. It is important to protect healers on a team as long as possible. It may be equally important to deny health recovery to your opponents, either by killing their healing classes, or by blocking their access to health packs. Without healing, players are extremely vulnerable to "chip damage" and can be worn down and killed eventually even from relatively weak hits. Bide your time and chip away at your enemies if they don’t have healing.
- Always take note of what classes are on your team (and on the enemy’s team when possible), and make a plan on how to play the round based on that. For example, if your team has several Engineers, leave them ammo and play defensively to keep the enemy at bay while they build their Buildings and upgrade them. Engineers rarely push out early on, so being very aggressive early is a poor strategy since you will have no support and if you die, the Engineers will be left unsupported as well. If your team has a Medic, do him a favor and give him a buddy to help build his ÜberCharge and protect him.
- Arena rewards players who are willing and able to play different classes, since this can allow you to strategically pick classes to complement your team, or counter the enemy team.
- Watch out for the First Blood crit buff – in many cases first blood can decide a round such as when a Soldier or Demoman receives it. If an enemy player gets first blood (you can tell by looking at the killfeed), try to lay low for a few seconds until their crit buff has worn off. If you get first blood, try to make it count, but don’t get reckless. Killing your enemies always has to be balanced with keeping yourself alive. Note that Dead Ringer Spies can also trigger first blood; if the enemy receives it through these means, no warning will be given at all through the killfeed, so keep this in consideration.
- While many players charge headlong around the map looking for enemies to kill, it is usually bad tactics to enter an area if you don’t know what to expect. Where to go and when are very important decisions when you have only one life to lose. Patience is a virtue. Arena maps are small, and eventually enemies will come to you. This doesn’t mean that it’s best to "camp". However, it does mean that you should use every possible source of information at your disposal to find out what classes your enemies are, where they are, and what they are doing. Looking around in multiple directions is advisable, but listening carefully can be even more important, since sound can give you important clues about areas you can’t see. Most weapons have distinct sounds when used and players that are attuned to those sounds can easily use it to their advantage. Finally, you can check the team roster and the killfeed to see what players are alive, what classes they are, and what weapons they are using.
- Choose your weapon loadout with care. Many weapons are not as useful in Arena as they are in other modes, due to the shortness of the rounds and the lack of respawn. Items such as the Buff Banner and Vita-Saw are usually best left at home. Weapons that provide a source of healing such as the Black Box, Mad Milk, or Sandvich can be incredibly useful. Loadout changes only take effect upon respawn, i.e. the following round, or via suicide during the countdown phase.
- The Control Point comes into play later in the round, and capturing it to win the round is an alternative to hunting down every last enemy player. It is especially useful against teams or players that are “turtling” or playing extremely defensively — most often Engineers or players camping an Engineer's Sentry Gun/Dispenser — or against players trying to play "hide and seek", such as Spies. Capturing can also be an effective way of gaining an advantage by forcing the enemy team to try to stop the capture attempt, preventing the remaining enemies from trying to win through delaying tactics while chipping away at your team bit by bit. However the Control Point is a double-edged sword. Standing on the point will reveal your location to your enemy, and Control Points are always in exposed areas in the middle of the map. Your team all bunched up on the point would play right into the hands of an enemy Sniper or enemy Kritzkrieg pair! Abandon a capture attempt if it will make you too easy of a target.
- Commonly seen in Arena, the Scout’s speed gives him an excellent shot at First Blood (hence the related Scout achievements). However, a full out rush straight at the enemy from the start of the round is also a great way to get killed immediately and give the enemy First Blood instead. While it is possible to catch the enemy by surprise with the speed of your initial rush, it won’t work every time. Always be ready to abort a rush if you get compromised and lose the element of surprise. Mobility is a great help in Arena, since action takes place all over the map very quickly and flank attacks are common. Your speed usually means you’re the flanker and not the one getting flanked, but be careful about where you run to – Sentry Guns can't be ambushed! Change your angle of attack often and find isolated and distracted enemies to finish off. Even against groups of enemies, you can use your speed to pick off and distract enemies at the edges and prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. Retreat to find healing when you are hurt, or use Mad Milk to heal yourself, or carry a Candy Cane as your kills will drop small health kits (be wary of the extra explosion damage taken, however). Use your extra capture force to your advantage on the control point when appropriate. Bonk! Atomic Punch is a good idea if you can use it correctly. One way is to try to distract enemies and have back-up (like a Soldier, Demoman, etc) come and take them down while distracted. It is also a good idea to use if you are set on fire, as afterburn can last up to 10 seconds whereas your invulnerability lasts 8 seconds; as such, it would prevent most of the damage and may even save your life.
- Skilled use of Rocket jumps or simply pushing forward early can give you a great shot at First Blood. A crit buffed Soldier can lay waste to an enemy team before they even know what happened and can easily make early aggression worthwhile. Ideally, get an overheal from a friendly Medic to offset the health lost from rocket jumping, or use the Gunboats. The Black Box can also be very useful to regain some of the health lost when rocket jumping. Keep in mind your lowered rocket ammo and consider using it in conjunction with the Shotgun. Always try to control and fight from high ground areas of the map, such as the top of the containers on Granary. Trolldiers are looked down upon due to their extreme inefficiency and often give an increased chance that the enemy team will end up getting First Blood. Arguably one of the best things to equip is the Concheror, as the passive benefit of automatic health regeneration brings in a major advantage. If you can build up enough rage, the buff provides the user and allies an increase in speed, and 35% of all damage dished out will heal the person who dealt it. The Pain Train is a debatable choice. While most items used in Arena are usually bullet based, several core classes including Demoman and other Soldiers deal mostly explosive, Pyros mostly deal fire damage. It really depends on who you're up against as to whether or not you're going to die. However, long run battles that see the control point open can play an advantage.
- A bum rush can result in a First Blood if you’re lucky and inexperienced players are often caught by surprise. If you choose to rush, try and take a route that is fast but offers some concealment. The Powerjack is a good way to help with rushing, but the extra 20% damage means that it is risky to use. Make sure to put it away before you get near the enemy spawn or enemy territory. Hug a wall or take a low ground route and wait for an enemy to come out or wait until several have passed you before pulling the trigger. This tactic becomes increasingly risky in large maps and when the enemy team has several tough classes and Medics waiting for you. In that situation, it can be a good idea to bide your time, play defense, and use the Flare Gun at range to wear down opponents. If you can ambush very well or are good at recovering if it goes sour, the Backburner is a good idea, as the Critical Hits it gives out if the enemy is facing away from you is an advantage, but keep in mind that airblasting chews up more ammo in less time. Many Arena maps have water that players will usually seek out if they are on fire. Position yourself to block access to the water or to Health kits. Several Arena maps also contain environmental hazards, and it is possible (and hilarious) to use the Compression Blast to knock opponents off cliffs or into saw blades. If you are low on ammo and a burning teammate is high on health and there is water/a health kit nearby, it may be advisable to save your airblasts.
- Like the Soldier, the Demoman can give himself a great chance at snagging First Blood by using an aggressive early sticky jump. However, it is equally viable to play defensively with Stickybomb traps. Be cautious about equipping the Chargin' Targe, Splendid Screen, Tide Turner, or the Eyelander. The loss of firepower or health can be tough to offset, especially in an Arena round where accumulating several heads is hard due to time constraints and player numbers. However, the shields also provide advantages that can outdo the losses. For example, the Chargin' Targe gives high resistance to explosives and fire damage. Fight to your strengths, using the indirect damage of your weapons as much as possible. The Persian Persuader is a good choice, as ammo is often easy to find here. As such, this can easily benefit you. Killing an enemy also allows you to use the dropped weapon and replenish your charge. However, longer battles can mean running out of ammo, and as such conserving ammo when possible is a game changer in these sort of situations. Although the Ullapool Caber does massive damage, the explosion hurts you badly. On top of that, it attacks slower than the default Bottle.
- Despite his slow speed, the Heavy can also "rush" – if backed up by a Medic, a Heavy can push opponents back with his sheer resilience and trap them in their spawn or another disadvantageous location. Don’t expect to get First Blood regularly however, unless you manage to come face to face with an enemy rusher and kill them. It can be extremely risky to be aggressive early especially since it is early in the round when enemy Snipers and Spies are the most active and often the most dangerous due to the amount of distractions. Also, if you are lucky enough to have a Medic, playing defensive early is good to help him survive to build up his ÜberCharge. If you don't have a Medic, try to play ambush style and don't take on too many enemies at once. In the late game when the Control Point becomes available, you can use your toughness to begin capturing and force your opponents to show themselves. Carrying the Sandvich is a highly recommended idea, as you can heal yourself as well as teammates in need. You can instantly regenerate it with any sized health kit (assuming you are already at full health) as well. The Fists of Steel are a good idea as well, as you get a lot of damage resistance from any ranged source. But bear in mind that any melee damage is received as double, which means that melee combat is not a very good idea. The Tomislav does well in Arena. The decrease in spin-up time along with the silent spin-up means you can quickly and quietly sneak up on the enemy. However, the slower fire rate means less damage per second, so keep this in mind.
- While it is rare for an Engineer to win First Blood, an Engineer can do two great things in an Arena match. Providing healing to your team from your Dispenser and creating a "safe zone" with your Sentry Gun. The Sentry Gun is great for defending against early rushers, but make sure to build it as fast as possible in order to have it ready in time. Both your Dispenser and Sentry should start building within seconds of the round start, and you should always speed-build and upgrade as fast as possible. Make sure you remind your teammates to leave you the ammo pickups whenever possible, and search actively (though not recklessly) for dropped ammo packs from killed players. While your initial Buildings will usually go up near your team’s spawn location, make sure to move that gear up whenever the opportunity presents itself such as when your team is moving out in a certain direction. Late in the round, having a Sentry covering the Control Point by the time it becomes available for capture can be a winning advantage and forces the other team to take you on as opposed to simply capping. The other alternative for a Sentry location is covering the health pack(s) if there are any, though that can depend on whether the enemy team has any healing abilities or not. It becomes harder and harder to relocate your Buildings safely if your team starts to get outnumbered and you lose your allies, so plan ahead. The Gunslinger is a popular choice in Arena, and with good reasons. The Gunslinger itself gives the Engineer an extra 25 health, which means he can last a little bit longer. And in Arena, that is sometimes all it means between winning and losing. The Mini Sentry has a lower ammo cost, a faster fire rate, and can be built much quicker versus a normal Level 1 Sentry Gun. However, the lower health means you need to be on alert in order to replace it quickly when necessary. Building Teleporters is extremely urged to be avoided, as it really just wastes metal and time, not to mention most Arena maps are small enough to the point that a Teleporter is kind of pointless.
- It can be less than rewarding to play on a team with a rush mentality as a Medic, since you want to be building your ÜberCharge and not banzai charging. Hopefully, your team doesn’t get itself killed too fast and gives you a chance to heal them (reminding them can be helpful). Always overheal your entire team before the round starts to give even your rushers as much health as possible, and to help you build your Über faster. Try to stay alive as much as possible, and try to attach yourself to the most talented player on your team but don’t ignore your other teammates. Also, don’t be afraid not to follow a teammate into an area when you aren’t sure it’s safe for you. Use your own judgment, and don’t put your fate into the hands of your heal target. In keeping with this, if your team is outnumbered in a combat situation, pull out a weapon and assist. Your healing talents are wasted if all your allies are killed outright. As far as which Medi Gun to use, the Kritzkrieg is usually the better choice for two reasons. Firstly, Arena rounds are short so the faster charge is more useful more often, and secondly, enemies will often simply try to run away from a regular Über and can usually succeed. Outrunning an invulnerable Heavy is much easier than outrunning a Kritz-boosted Minigun. If you end up all alone, all is not lost. Use your advantages of health regeneration and speed to try and outlast your foes. The Quick-Fix is a favored Medi Gun as well, as the major decrease in healing time and charge time means it makes it easier to get from one patient to the next as well as build the charge. You can also keep up with Soldiers and Demomen if they rocket or sticky jump, as it pulls you along with their explosive jump (so long as you're healing them). However, the 50% decrease in Overheal means that patients will have less time to take advantage of it. The charge prevents any knockback and increases healing your target as well as yourself by 300%, also allowing yourself to Overheal. Bear in mind that although you are mostly invulnerable, backstabs from Spies and headshots from Snipers will still kill you instantly, so be on alert for them.
- It is often possible to get First Blood within seconds of the start of a round as a Sniper, but remember the same is also true of enemy Snipers! However this advantage is a very small window of opportunity, and in a couple more seconds a Scout or Soldier could very well be in your face. Always stay near a tougher teammate to protect you against close encounters while you try for another shot. Rushing forward is fairly uncommon for a Sniper, however with the Huntsman and Jarate a Sniper can prove devastating alongside other rushers. Late in the round, keep moving around the edges of the map and try to remain as concealed as possible. Instead of trying to capture the Control Point, wait for an enemy to try and then shoot them off of it. Also, use Health kits or Engineer Buildings as other potential "bait". While some weapons will do you good, like the Huntsman or Jarate, there are several weapons that should be also considered or left at home. The Razorback is good in that it will allow you to be slightly more careless with Spy checking but leaves you without a secondary weapon any sorts. The Darwin's Danger Shield is a very good choice if you are facing a lot of long range Pyro spam. While the Cleaner's Carbine gives you Mini-Crits with a full Crikey meter, it is very inefficient compared to the normal SMG. The Tribalman's Shiv is a good choice here. While it does less initial damage compared to the Kukri, the bleeding will lead to more damage in the long run. Between this and nearly no health packs, the odds of them getting away cleanly are drained, and it puts slightly more pressure on any enemy Medic or Engineer on the enemy team, which can be a key decider.
- The Spy can be one of the trickiest classes to play in Arena because of time pressure. You can’t take forever to plan your attacks and get into position, because by the time you do, most of your team could already be dead, leaving a bunch of enemy players left who will often be in groups, and who by then will usually be expecting a Spy. Spies must attack fast while they have distractions to take advantage of, but not so fast that they don’t wait for enemy targets to become isolated. Later in the round, gunplay usually becomes more feasible than knifeplay, especially since Disguises become less and less useful when only a few enemies are left. Use of your gun can also be used to bait enemies into backstab range. It can often be more advantageous to disguise as a friendly than as an enemy either very early or very late in the round. Also remember that enemy Buildings can help you, either as bait or as healing, so don’t just simply sap everything in sight. If you are using the Dead Ringer, remember that it can grant an easy First Blood to the enemy. Try not to activate it before First Blood occurs. But, this can be a double-edged sword. Inform your team if to hold back if possible, telling them you will 'give' the enemy the first blood. This makes it so while the enemy gets first blood, it will most likely go to waste, thus eliminating it as a threat. Use of the Cloak and Dagger is also tricky due to the fact that cloaked movement is restricted, but the unlimited Cloak is also handy in the later game. But don't try to play "hide and seek" with the enemy, as nobody really enjoys that and often will just encourage an open point to be captured. The Ambassador is a decent choice, as it allows for you to Headshot off enemies that are unaware of you, thus doing very serious damage to them assuming they aren't killed. Keep in mind of the slight damage penalty, the limited range, and the cooldown on the headshots, however.