Sniper Guide by ZapYourChannel

Version 1.0, Last Updated 2010-06-15

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Team Fortress 2 Sniping Guide

By: ZapYourChannel Email: levelnone@gmail.com

"My only trace is a body where a man once stood." - A great sniper

Version History

Version 0.8, 08/03/09 - Sniper guide uploaded. Huntsman section not yet completed. Some sections contain a little less than I think I want to say.

Version 0.9, 08/04/09 - Maintenance, some grammar fixes, fixed one ctrl+F inconsistency. Added a few sentences here and there. Huntsman section in the works.

Version 1.0 6/14/10 - Added sniping locations and Huntsman guide. Reformatted and rephrased many sections for brevity and ease of understanding. Changed many strategies to reflect more common enemies. I'll add info on the sniper unlocks WHEN I GET THEM. (grr)

Purpose

The purpose of this guide is to discuss the unique strategies that separate sniping in TF2 from sniping in other games. It will focus heavily on the sniper's primary weapons, the sniper rifle and Huntsman, because unlike the other classes that use their secondary weapons frequently, snipers rely almost exclusively on their primaries to kill.

This guide is mainly for people who want to improve in sniping by reviewing solid tactics and tips gathered from experienced snipers. This guide was mainly constructed with public server gameplay in mind- the tips for clan or league matches may vary a lot, especially with the difference in standards.

Although I believe that a good sniper should be able to shoot from anywhere, at any time, and not limit themselves to certain spots that EVERYBODY knows by now, I have added a section on sniping spots for common stock maps. Keep in mind these are by no means all of them, or the best; just tried and true ones that everyone seems to forget.

I'd skip to Class Matchups (Sniper Vs. X) if you're already familiar with sniping and want to get to the meat of this guide. Map Strategies if you're looking for a particular map (though I probably won't have it).

Introduction

The sniper rifle in TF2 is one of a kind. In some ways it's a technological masterpiece capable of firing bullets that travel at the speed of light; instantaneously reaching their target hundreds of feet away completely unchanged by wind or gravity. Already firing bullets exceeding ultra- supersonic speeds, the sniper rifle has the ability to add even more power to its shots, by either increasing the mass of the bullet or firing it at even more mind boggling impossibly fast speeds, through a strange process known as "charging."

However on the other hand, the TF2 sniper rifle is a strange, somewhat outdated piece of antiquity in its odd weaknesses. Upon hitting anything, from a human head to a slab of wood not even a centimeter thick, the bullet stops completely. The sniper rifle also becomes extremely heavy or hard to hold when it senses you're looking through its scope, perhaps as a practical joke by the manufacturers. In the Team Fortress 2 world, where teleportation and Mediguns exist, the sniper rifle still uses antiquated bolt action to reload. There also seems to be a bright laser attached to the end that stupidly projects a colored dot wherever you aim, constantly alerting the enemy of your presence

With a weapon as unique and complex as the sniper rifle, the sniping experience in TF2 is also very unique. In exchange for its strengths, you will have to use your skills as a Sniper to compensate for its weaknesses. You will have to become accustomed to your tools and targets and learn before embarking on a hunt.

The Role of a Sniper

"Dad, I'm a... not a crazed gunman Dad, I'm an assassin."

Unlike a crazed gunman, often you will not have the ability or obligation to shoot at everything you see. Granted, if someone crosses your path, you should take your shots with the goal of killing him. But say you peek around the corner and you are bombarded with the following sights:

  1. An enemy Medic/Pyro combo close to an uber
  2. A disguised enemy Spy that is dominating a lot of your teammates
  3. An enemy heavy who is about to notice you
  4. An enemy Engineer starting to erect a level 1 sentry

Unfortunately as a Sniper, you cannot possibly neutralize all four threats. Your gun is one of the slowest firing weapons in the game and every shot is crucial. If you panic and fire randomly and mindlessly , your team will suffer. If you lack courage and decide to retreat, your team will suffer.

This is the difference between an assassin and a gunman.

You peer through your scope and pick your targets in the blink of an eye.

You shatter the foundations of your enemy team, crippling their assault.

You strike fear in your prey, who dreads the loud crack of an unexpected headshot that makes him jump in surprise.

You nail the medic in the face and send him toppling off a ledge, and you smile: he was fully charged. Ignoring the overhealed pyro, you wisely kill the stationary engineer with a second shot, leaving his sentry abandoned and helpless. You calmly retreat as the heavy begins to pepper you with bullets. A few moments later you throw a Jarate against a nearby wall. The cloud of urine that appears cannot uncloak in time as you bring your kukri down with both hands onto its skull and hear a spy's dying scream, amidst the sounds of trumpets celebrating your domination.

You are not categorized as "Offense" or "Defense." You are "Support."

You are an assassin.

The Sniper Rifle

There are four main kinds of shots you can fire with the sniper rifle.

The sniper rifle is not affected by distance; thus the maximum damages of each shot are more or less set in stone. Respectively, they are:

  • Unscoped body shot: approx. 50, 70 with minicrit
  • Fully charged body shot: approx 150, 200 with minicrit
  • Quickscope: 150
  • Charged headshot: 450

Let's go over each shot in detail.

The Noscope (Uncharged Bodyshot)

"Nothing personal, mate. I'm just better."

This is the fastest of all the shots. Without scoping, you simply line the enemy on your crosshair and pull the trigger. However, this is the weakest shot as well, so it is only used under specific circumstances.

When you are certain the enemy has very low health, this is a great way to kill them from an incredible distance. Is the target calling for medic? Are they on fire? Did you just headshot them and they're still standing? Scoping not only throws off your vision for a few milliseconds, but also potentially allows the target to escape. Instead, trust your aim and take them down quickly.

A second situation is if you are retreating but still want to do some damage. This is against units that are charging towards you but are at a distance that is too far for your melee, but too close for scoping in that they will catch up. Trust your aim and never stop backpedaling. If they catch up, either use your melee and switch to the offensive, or turn around and focus on escaping (you run faster going forward than backward).

A third situation is against enemies that have been hit by Jarate and are susceptible to minicrits. Instead of scoping and trying to score regular crits (which do not stack with minicrits), it is often more effective to kill them with minicrit bodyshots.

The last situation is for when you've convinced (i.e. verbally coerced) a medic to give you kritzkrieg. To maximize the 10 seconds, noscoping is pretty much the only way to go, unless there is a particular target far across the map. Even then, you should probably go ahead and try to noscope.

The best way to practice the noscope is to play Spy and practice with the revolver, which is the most similar to this type of shooting. Keeping in mind that the Spy's revolver has a faster rate of fire and more damage than the sniper rifle you are ultimately practicing for, try to avoid missing.

The Fully Charged Bodyshot

"How's that bullet feel? Feel good? Huh? Huh?"

Five classes who have not been overhealed by a medic will die instantly when shot with this. They are the Scout, Engineer, Spy, Sniper, and Medic. However, it takes four seconds to charge, severely reduces your movement speed, and gives you tunnel vision for the entire charge. If you miss, it's another four seconds until you can fire again. When is this worth it?

Normally, it's not good to scope and charge with the intention of aiming for a body shot. The reason is that as long as there is a medic on the enemy team, there is no guarantee that the target will die. With the dependability that the sniper rifle offers you (guaranteed crits on headshots), doing this is wasting the rifle's ability. Many times you are relying on your teammates to weaken the enemy so that you can kill them, which is the exact opposite of what should happen as a "support class".

The four second charge time is also a severe hindrance. Your movements become extremely sluggish, allowing skilled enemy snipers to pick you off with a single headshot as you shuffle back and forth. To a veteran sniper, YOU ARE BASICALLY STANDING STILL. You gradually become unaware of what is happening around you, in that you cannot see anything but a very small fraction of your screen through your scope. Even if you manage to get a kill, in the four seconds you could have killed twice that many through quickscope headshots.

However, there are exceptions. When an enemy that you would like to kill is stationary (normally engineers or unskilled snipers) and there is a small portion of their body sticking out from cover, a charged bodyshot is occasionally the only way to go. Try not to fall under the habit of doing this when the target's head is plainly in view.

The best way to think about a charged bodyshot is as a "Plan B." Whenever you charge you should initially focus on getting a headshot. But if something happens (No way! You MISSED?), landing a shot on their neck is always better than missing their head and body completely. Another example I can think of is if another irresistible target (like a medic) suddenly appears as you target a heavy. No one will blame you for playing it safe and aiming for the medic's chest if you want to be sure to kill him.

The Quickscope (Uncharged Headshot)

"Here's some advice. Next time...shoot first."

This is the trademark sign of a skilled sniper. This is the shot that separates a simple sharpshooter from a god of death. Master the quickscope, and you may very well never lose a one vs. one again (well, ALMOST never).

The steps are simple:

  1. Strafe and find a target
  2. Scope and fire IMMEDIATELY
  3. Unscope, strafe and repeat

Why is the quickscope so important?

Because more than half of the classes in the game will die instantly from possibly over a hundred feet away in less than a second.

Talk about a credit to team.

The strafing is required for your safety. Quickscoping happens most often when you are up close and personal with your target and they have a clear view of you. They're not going to make it easy for you, so strafing is necessary to improve your chances of survival.

This kind of shot is also used to pull off a combo with quickscope headshot, followed by an unscoped bodyshot. This kind of one-two punch will deal a maximum of 210 damage in a matter of seconds, increasing your lethality to EIGHT OUT OF NINE classes in the game.

The Fully Charged Headshot

"I'm great. You're dead. I think we're done here."

This is certain death. A fully charged headshot will kill any unit that isn't invincible, taunting, or lagging, guaranteed. (It is known that when taunting, the hitboxes including the one for the head are sometimes thrown off the player model, resulting in headshots that may not register).

There is really only one target you must absolutely use this on, the overhealed Heavy (the overhealed soldier is a candidate as well). Knocking off 450 health is going to take three consecutive quickscope headshots (possibly four if a Medic is healing the Heavy). It's often safer and more reliable to charge fully before clicking on the Heavy's massive head, sending him to respawn.

But remember: overhealed soldiers, demomen, and pyros tend to move around a lot. If you miss trying to charge a headshot for one of these classes, you've just wasted four seconds of your time (eight if you opt to try again). For this reason, try to reserve this shot for heavies, who are slower.

The Huntsman

"The Huntsman takes no skill. Just fire randomly and you're bound to get kills. It's the trademark sign of a beginner sniper."

...is what I'd like to say, given that it pretty much completes the section in three sentences, capturing the general consensus on this popular and infamous weapon. However, personal experience makes me know better, and I've got a few helpful things to say about this weapon.

First, some numbers. Damage is as follows (all approximate):

  • Uncharged bodyshot: 50
  • Fully charged bodyshot: 115
  • Uncharged headshot: 150
  • Fully charged headshot: 360

How to use the Huntsman

"This is getting too easy, mate."

The first thing you should notice is that the fully charged headshot IS NOT AN INSTANT KILL ANYMORE. Many Huntsman users forget this and cockily step into the line of fire of a Heavy + Medic walking sentry only to be ripped to shreds after knocking a measly 360 off the Heavy's 450 health.

The most important thing about the Huntsman is its rapid rate of fire. It's not important to always keep drawn, because you can reach a full charge in a second. Even though you CAN move around faster when charged, you still probably shouldn't, because of the aforementioned danger of enemy snipers. Walk around freely, only charge when you've seen an enemy, or hear one coming up the corner.

You'll want to walk around with your crosshair slightly ABOVE head level. This is because of the instant kill of 150HP classes that can be achieved simply by clicking when they're in front of you. The arrow will drop in a short arc, instantly killing the cheeky scout (it's usually a scout, for whatever reason). This is a wonderful advantage that the huntsman has over the regular sniper rifle and is the cause of approximately 25% of its kills.

Another 50% of kills are done at a medium range. Charged headshots against strong targets, charged bodyshots against weak targets. Always lead your target. Your enthusiasm for shooting a particular target should be inversely proportional with its distance from you, because of the decreased accuracy. Basic stuff.

The last 25% of kills are completely random, strokes of luck that occasionally appear, earning the Huntsman a nickname of "Lucksman". Fire into a group or into a doorway and pray for a kill. Be grateful when they happen, but don't expect them to happen too often.

People often don't consider that "random lucky shots" happen with the regular sniper rifle as well.

Why you should use the Huntsman

"You're making this so easy, I'm actually getting worse."

Consider two chimpanzees playing TF2 as the sniper class. Put them in a room and give one the sniper rifle and the other a Huntsman. Given an indefinite period of time, I would put money on the wager that the chimpanzee with the Huntsman will get more kills than the one with a sniper rifle.

Now don't misunderstand me, I'm not implying anything about the typical Huntsman user. This is simply probability. Given a higher damage per second, shooting into a crowd of enemies, the huntsman is more likely to get kills. An example of when it may be wise to use the Huntsman is against a team with many heavies, because of the higher DPS.

But no, really, another reason is that it's just more fun. Where else in FPS's do you get to use a bow and arrow against a machine gun?

Maybe you'll meet a chimpanzee in the next pub server you join.

The Tauntkill

"Spot on!"

As far as I know, the Huntsman and the Sandman taunt kills are the only ones that are completely silent and allows you to try over and over again, without alerting the enemy to your presence.

Plus, it's the coolest looking one. (No, soldier. You kill yourself 99% of the time; that's not cool at all).

Some Important Notes

Your beautiful career as a sniper may very well be cut short by some extremely simple problems. Take a note of these problems and consider them possible (although improbable) reasons for why your sniping doesn't improve.

Latency

"Crikey!"

Latency is just a fancy term for "lag". But how does it affect your sniping?

If you have high latency (usually anything above 100 ms is considered high) you may experience slight lag. This will manifest itself in occasional hiccups in movement, everyone will appear to suddenly teleport a couple feet in front of them.

What is actually happening is your computer is waiting for a response from the server that will tell you where everybody is. If there is a delay in that response, your computer won't know where anybody is and will assume everyone just "froze" in place.

To others, you will appear to have frozen in place. Any movements or actions you try to perform will not reach the server, thus no one will know what you are doing. The console command cl_lagcompensation should be enabled on most servers, thus the normal lag of simply playing over the internet is almost negligible, but any local lag will obviously overpower this.

It's a double edged sword. If you are lagging you are a harder target to hit, but in exchange everyone else is harder to hit for you. There is no real way to use this to your advantage and for the most effective sniping it would be best for you to try and minimize your lag as much as possible.

To do this, disable programs running in the background and try to lower your graphics quality. The usual tricks.

Brightness

"Oh my god, you've been shot. Did you get a look at the handsome rouge that did it?"

Good vision is essential for a sniper, especially when counter sniping or sniping into dark areas. It wouldn't be a bad idea to raise your brightness a little higher than you're used to for other classes, as it can help significantly when spotting targets. Raising it too high can the reverse effect however, so be careful.

Sniper Wars

"How's about you call it a day."

Q: How many snipers does it take to get the intel?

A: One to shoot the sniper who shot the sniper who shot the sniper who shot the sniper who shot the sniper who...wait, what intel?

If your team has three snipers, don't be a sniper. Etiquette and common sense aside, there's a technical reason for this too. With less players at the front lines, there's little holding the enemy team back from charging in your base and plowing through the line of defense you relied on as a sniper. With more snipers come more spies and scouts on the enemy team, the sniper's natural weaknesses. Snipers aren't known for completing objectives, so there's a higher chance of your team losing as well.

And losing isn't fun, right?

Peek-a-Boo

"You call that sniping?"

How to get like a million kills: Face a wall and charge your shot. When you're fully charged, creep out a millimeter and bodyshot a lagging heavy. Then hide immediately. Do this for the entire round until you are credit to team.

Here are four reasons why you should not do this.

  1. Your victims know exactly where you are. Your "perfect spot" becomes common knowledge by your first victim.
  2. Not only are you 60% blind by scoping, you're also another 20% blind by zooming and an additional 10% blind by having half your view blocked by the wall you're cowering against. Bottom line: YOU'RE BLIND.
  3. It builds bad habits. Do this all the time, and you will never know how to play as an offensive sniper. You know, the ones that get accused of aimbotting because they headshot triple jumping Force of Nature scouts from close range. While on fire.
  4. Snipers who do this usually can't aim well. Snipers who can't aim well usually do not get many kills. Snipers who do not get many kills are generally not looked favorably upon by their teammates. I could be wrong, but doesn't this suggest that perhaps you should switch classes?

Okay, so I'm ragging on this technique a lot. But I mean well.

If you want to improve at sniping, you need to put yourself in danger and aim for headshots. If you don't want to get shot, you shouldn't cower in one location, shuffling back and forth; you should strafe, dodge, and evade. Doing so will put you on the offensive and in control and give you many more opportunities for amazing shots that will occasionally surprise you.

And come on. We're all human. It's incredibly satisfying to headshot sticky jumping demomen to hear a chorus of "DAMN!" from your teammates.

Trust yourself and you will improve. Rely on peek-a-boo tactics as a crutch, and you won't.

Class Matchups (Sniper Vs. X)

In general, know your prey. Observe, experiment, and above all, play as the other classes more than once in a while to get a feel for how they move. Do this especially with scouts and spies- learn how they deal with snipers.

I should note that there are two different kinds of targets, high priority targets for snipers and regular targets. As a sniper, you should know automatically which targets should be shot at first, in order to help your team.

The five high priority targets, in order:

The other targets, in no particular order:

"Tips to Remember" contains brief facts and strategies you should familiarize yourself with. They deal with psychology, enemy behavior, common habits, and general strategies that work. It's not just point and click.

"Special Tricks" contains more advanced strategies for skilled snipers. They often pertain to specific situations that may be tricky or require a moment's thought in order to maximize a sniper's effectiveness.

If you have any information to add, or things to correct, or an opinion on something that you MUST share, feel free to email me and I will consider adding them. My email is levelnone@gmail.com

Medics

"Sorry there, nurse! I mistook you for an actual threat!"

Here is the golden rule for medics: Kill them without mercy or exception. Even at the cost of your life. A dead medic may have been an uber medic before death, and may become a switched medic after death.

Tips to Remember

1. Try not to let the medic see you. Medics are aware of their own fragility and a panicked doctor can be very hard to hit.

2. Killing the patient will scare the medic away. Aim for the medic first.

3. A fully charged bodyshot is also an alternative, but is best used on a medic that has not seen you and is not dodging.

4. If you see a medic, chances are many enemies in the vicinity are overhealed. Revise your strategy and charge your shots more.

5. If a medic has an ubercharge ready and has not seen you, take the time to make sure you kill him in one shot. If he is overhealed and survives, he may deploy his charge and you will lose your chance.

6. The Syringe gun is a nasty piece of equipment that will kill you in the hands of a skilled medic. In these instances, you are actually the worst class for close range combat. Retreat.

7. Medics that see no spies or snipers will feel at ease and often carelessly stand still next to stationary patients, such as a shooting heavy. It is inconcievable that you should miss this chance.

Special Tricks

If the patient is rather far in front of the medic, the medic will often travel in a straight line to catch up as quickly as possible. If you kill the medic's patient the medic will, again, run in a straight line to escape as quickly as possible. Use these habits to your advantage- in both situations, let the medic run into your crosshair for a reliable and effective kill.

Snipers

"One sniper to another mate: GIVE UP."

Fighting against other snipers is a duel of precision. You're the class who can deal with enemy snipers the quickest, yet the same goes for the enemy. This kind of battle is mainly practice, but if you ever see an enemy sniper, it is always good to take them out as they pose a direct threat to your life.

Tips to Remember

1. Assume that if you miss your shot you will be killed. This is because against higher level snipers, scoping is the near equivalent of standing still.

2. Always, always, ALWAYS aim for the head. Even if they are overhealed, doing so is the psychological equivalent of saying, "I'm better than you. You could have died." They often run.

3. If you kill a sniper with a bodyshot, ignore any trashtalking or complaining from them. Remind them that they're mad and dead, and you're not.

4. Strafe and move CONSTANTLY. This is extremely important- you cannot afford to make yourself an easy target. I would advise against jumping a lot, since you can't fire while in the air and your trajectory is easier to predict.

5. Suddenly crouching also helps and makes you a trickier target against snipers that keep their sights at head level.

6. Don't be afraid of bodyshotting snipers. Their position may be perfect, but their reaction time isn't.

7. If you have the Huntsman, you are at a distinct disadvantage against rifles (you know, because of that whole "bullets travel faster than arrows" nonsense). Try firing when you think they will appear- if you fire when you see them, you may be too late.

8. It's a good idea to ask your medics for an overheal, as it may save your life against a single uncharged headshot.

9. If the sniper is within range, you can call the sniping contest off and pull out your secondary. Use the Jarate and go for unscoped bodyshots, or fire your SMG in bursts. In either case the enemy sniper will be forced to comply and will likely have suffered damage already.

10. Know when to quit. If you're clearly outclassed, you're not doing much for your team spending 90% of your time staring at a respawn screen. This doesn't mean you should give up though- consider switching to spy.

Special Tricks

Many skilled snipers will wait until their target scopes before scoping themselves and firing. This is because in relation to their normal movement, scoping is pretty much like standing still. You can take advantage of this by pulling a feint, or "fake scoping." Scope like you're about to take a shot, but unscope immediately and move a bit to the side before taking your shot for real. This is also useful for just taking quick glimpses of the enemy without putting yourself in danger.

There are sprays out there that basically look like crouching snipers. Sprayed on a wall, it seriously looks like a sniper from afar, and will be headshotted to a surprising degree. This is a rather nasty tactic, but is incredibly effective at times against enemy snipers. Spray it on the wall behind you and try it out.

A Huntsman sniper may seem to be extremely difficult to take down from close range with a rifle, but with patience and practice, it's possible. They have a predictable movement pattern: Move out from cover slowly, fire, retreat quickly. It's a little easier to get them while they are retreating, as its obvious where they'll run, whereas when they come out, it may be hard to know when they change direction.

Don't give dodging arrows (and for that matter, flares) too much thought. Standing perfectly still moments before a Huntsman sniper fires almost guarantees a miss if timed correctly. In fact, this works for sniper rifles as well (although you probably won't believe me on this one because the effect is difficult to see when it DOES work)

Spies

"Well I was never on YOUR side either! ...wanker!"

Except for perhaps the engineer and defensive heavy, the sniper is probably one of the least mobile classes in the game, making it an easy target for spies. Your fight with spies will be a defensive one, your fate will be decided by how you react when they appear.

Your attitude towards spies is actually determined by your choice of secondary weapon. If you choose The Razorback, you are completely giving up on fighting the spy. In certain cases this can be a good thing as the spy will often give up on you. If you choose the Jarate, you are given a very effective tool in exposing spies and putting them at a disadvantage with minicrits, but it's not really a true "weapon". The SMG is a balance between these two attitudes.

Tips to Remember

1. The Razorback does not make you spy-proof. Three revolver shots or two ambassador shots from close range will kill you. The only way to prevent this is to put yourself in view of a sentry or your teammates.

2. Jarate is useful in exposing a spy, but bringing the urine-covered Frenchman down can be tricky. You have two options: to close the distance with your kukri, or stay back and pick them off with your rifle/huntsman. Choose whichever method you are more confident with, but see Tip #6 for an important warning.

3. The SMG is effective in revealing spies. Spray a wide area and keep your eyes peeled. Once you see the spy, shoot in bursts and focus your aim.

4. Turn up your volume, turn down voice chat, and turn off any music you have playing. If you want an effective fighting chance against spies, keep your ears alert for the decloaking sound. Get the jump on any nearby spies you hear.

5. It's a good habit to look behind you every couple shots. Keep an eye on your HUD to see if your teammates are getting backstabbed. Pull a double-take every now and then. Stay alert.

6. Spies that have drawn their revolver or ambassador on you can be dangerous. If it's an ambassador, jump around, a headshot is nearly fatal for you. If it's a revolver, take advantage of the fact that the spy has damage fall off and your primary doesn't. Backpedal while shooting with your primary or SMG. It's dangerous to try and approach with the kukri. (Don't bring a knife to a gun fight, you know.)

7. Spies with the Dead Ringer do not fall with a single headshot.

8. Spies with the Cloak and Dagger are among the most troublesome as they occasionally camp popular sniping locations. Check the areas and corners to the best of your ability before sniping.

9. Be ready to become the world's farthest spychecker and spy check your teammates from across the map- you should get used to headshotting "friendly" units as a means of spy check.

10. Dead ringer spies have a habit of... well, not cloaking. I'm not sure if the author of the Spy guide will agree with me or not, but I think that skilled spies rely FAR more on their cloak than their disguise. They will almost always enter a populated area CLOAKED. This means that if you shoot a spy that entered an area uncloaked, it's likely that they're a dead ringer.

11. Some spies like to hug the gates before the round starts. Consider shooting a fully charged shot into a corner when the round starts for an occasional laugh.

Special Tricks

If you think there's a spy around, you may want to try this. Stand still. Don't scope or look around. Listen for the sound of footsteps or decloaking. The spy may think you have gone AFK. Draw your kukri, do a 180 and give him a surprise. This is especially useful for flushing out Cloak and Dagger spies as their decloaking takes longer than normal.

Ragdoll physics with a dead ringer spy have a very distinctive trait that because recognizable after playing for a long time. It's very difficult to describe, but I think I can say that the body seems to "drop" unnaturally fast after a single bodyshot. Try to develop this perception.

At the advanced level, I do not recommend using the Razorback at all. My second most played class is spy and I cannot tell you how many times I have stabbed a sniper in the Razorback just for the heck of it, only to be pleasantly surprised when they didn't hear it break AT ALL. Furthermore, all I had to do was back pedal with my frozen knife; since they used a Razorback, they had no SMG, I was already out of range for the Kukri and snipers capable of quickscoping spies from close range tend to not use Razorback. The Jarate is in most ways a superior antispy tool in the hands of a cautious sniper.

I've noticed that the Ambassador has the odd effect of making spies UNBELIEVABLY COCKY at times. My most played class is sniper and I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a disguised spy BREAK HIS DISGUISE IN FRONT OF ME and try to headshot me while standing COMPLETELY STILL. Show these pseudo-snipers who the real professionals are.

Engineers

"Here's a gadget you should build: one that stops my bullets!"

There's really not much to say about this- in fact, engineers are arguably among the easiest targets for snipers. This is good, because it's always good to kill engineers to stop them from building or repairing machinery. Still, engineers are probably among the least common classes you will come across due to their reclusive nature.

Tips to Remember

1. If an engineer is behind a sentry, see if his foot is sticking out for a chance at a fully charged bodyshot.

2. A fully charged shot will destroy level 1 buildings.

3. If your teammates are trying to bring a sentry down, time your fully charged shot so that it lands right after a severe hit from a rocket. This is better than just firing on your own since you have little chance of bringing down a level 3 sentry even with fully charged shots.

4. Always aim for the yellow hardhat. Try to aim in opposing rhythm to the engineer's shotgun shots.

5. Keep away from sentries. Don't forget you only have 125 health.

Special Tricks

Shoot an engineer's building with a regular shot. The engineer has no way of telling -what- damaged the building; when he comes to repair it, thinking it was a stray rocket or pipebomb, take him down. This works on buildings where the engineer is nowhere in sight.

If you see an operational enemy teleporter exit, hold your fire. Check which direction the enemy comes out of it facing. See if you can get into a blind spot and start camping it. To avoid giving away your position, you may have the leisure to choose which targets you want a shot at- it wouldn't be worth it to miss and attract the attention of a soldier or heavy. It would also be wise not to shoot at scouts- due to the deathcam which reveals your position, from your first kill your days are numbered as the scout will try and find you without using the teleporter.

I like to think of dispensers as watering holes for wounded zebras. Everyone who uses a dispenser uses it for a reason, and they just feel so safe standing perfectly still. Yet another reason why engineer buildings that don't fire bullets should possibly be left alone.

Scouts

"That'll slow you down, ya twitchy hooligan!"

Scouts are just as dangerous as spies. They move quickly and will close the gap between themselves and you in a blink of an eye, ending with a scattergun or Force-a-Nature to the face (usually your face). Until you improve at sniping, seeing them may very well mean death (although there's few greater sources of satisfaction than headshotting a scout in midair)

Tips to Remember

1. A scout is not impossible to hit. It is human, meaning they are incapable of moving -completely- randomly. Try to judge where the scout will move and aim for the head. If the scout is jumping, follow his trajectory.

2. Sometimes cheeky little scouts will draw their bat on you when they think they've got you finished. Draw your kukri and remind them that the bat is the weakest melee weapon in the game.

3. A higher sensitivity is better for shooting scouts.

4. Beware if you see a scout using Bonk! as he may be trying to slip past your frontlines to fight weaker classes like you. He poses a direct threat to you if your teammates do not pursue.

5. The scout is fast, so charged bodyshots may not always land. Quickscoping is your best friend as it allows the maximum amount of attempts to kill the scouts.

6. The Sandman can be annoying. It's an arc projectile, meaning you'll have trouble seeing it if you stay scoped for too long. Be careful.

Special Tricks

In general, you should try to keep the distance between you and a scout as wide as possible. If you can't kill the scout, he will inevitably catch up to you and probably kill you. What do you do? Backpedal until the last possible moment, then charge forward with your kukri. This takes courage and a bit of luck, and it works better if you do this from around a corner. The Scout is a skinny white guy just like you; your kukri will kill him in two hits and he may panic. Timing when to attack this way is difficult and is a last resort; however it may be your only option.

The concept of hitboxes is most obvious on scouts. Search on youtube for more details and the explanation for the reason, but cl_lagcompensation, enabled on most servers, causes the hitbox (the thing you shoot to kill the thing) to lag behind the thing itself. You will more often than not, kill a scout by shooting where its head was a split second before, rather than exactly where it is now. If you shoot the model instead, you may see the character model get a bloodstain on its head, but no hit registers. The difference is miniscule, and as you become better, you will get a feel for it (don't try to take advantage of it early and PURPOSEFULLY shoot behind the scout, you'll probably miss.). For now, it is good enough that you know that the effect exists.

Demomen

"Ace reflexes, you bomb-chuckin' waste o' good scotch!"

Fights against demomen are pretty standard. Neither of you have a real advantage to begin with, but your advantage is proportional to your distance. (of course it's reverse for the Demoman)

Tips to Remember

1. A distant demoman will try to bombard your position with his pipe bombs. Remember that as they land, they roll backwards- in this case you can easily evade damage by moving forward.

2. The demoman's projectiles travel in an arc. If you are scoped, there is a high chance you will not be able to see stickies or pipe bombs fired at you until they explode. Try to minimize the time you spend scoped to avoid tunnel vision.

3. If you have the rifle, you can pick off a demoman's stickies easily. Remember that you are part of a team: do this whenever you are not busy, even if the stickies are not a threat to you.

4. If you are close enough and have the courage, you can force the demoman into a panic by attacking with your kukri up close. The demoman is pretty bad at ultra close range combat, but he may score a lucky pipe hit. Keep this in mind as a last resort tactic.

Special Tricks

If a demoman sees you retreat behind a wall or corner, many times they will shoot pipe bombs to try and keep you at bay. A careless demoman will fire his four pipes one after another with no pause. Stay back and count them as they come. After the fourth one you have a small window to jump back out and take another shot at them as they reload. After that, their pipes will come much slower and you have a higher chance of killing them.

Sticky jumping demomen are a delicious target. Shoot at one right before he launches to watch him blow himself up (to your credit), or shoot at one in the air to watch him crater upon landing (to your amusement).

Pyros

"That snuffed your fire, ya filthy arsonist!"

Fire is a dangerous weapon. Not only does it do incredible damage up close, but it is especially harmful to the rifle-wielding sniper as it can render aiming useless. Out in the open, pyros are wild game. In close quarters however, it becomes a very dangerous game of cat and mouse.

Tips to Remember

1. If you are using the rifle, fire is your worst enemy. You will not be able to aim (although you CAN get headshots while on fire, though it's pretty much luck), and your already small amount of health will just get smaller. Retreat from the moment you ignite or douse yourself with Jarate.

2. Do not let Pyros get near you. Out of all of your enemies, you should be ready to retreat from the Pyro the most.

3. It is not a good idea to attack pyros with your melee (a la "bullfighting"), despite what nonsense you may have heard. Not only does the flamethrower outclass melee weapons in close range combat, but a pyro with airblast can render your bravado completely useless.

4. The Huntsman is better at fighting pyros than the rifle. Fire arrows where you predict the pyro will go.

5. It can be difficult to see through the flames a pyro is shooting. If aiming is impossible and the pyro is getting close, switch to your Jarate or SMG and gradually retreat.

6. It's not hard to dodge flares, but you should find a balance between dodging them and trying to kill the pyro as they will probably be slowly decreasing the gap as they fire flares.

7. JARATE. JARATE. JARATE. It will save your life. Many times.

8. Bad pyros have a tendency to charge straight at you in a straight line. Little known fact: this is Pyronese for "Please shoot me in the face."

Special Tricks

The easiest way I've found to kill pyros is to quickscope and headshot, then landing a single body shot. This can be done with any of the mid-health classes, but I'm only saying it here because I can't really think of any unique ways to deal with pyros.

This has really only happened twice, but I've had overzealous pyros use up all of their ammo with air blasts, just by motioning with a Huntsman in its general direction. It was quite amusing. (I wasn't able to kill the ammo-less pyro in the end, but someone did)

Soldiers

"All rockets no brains, eh mate?"

Fighting soldiers is a pretty straightforward affair. Both of your weapons fire relatively slowly, and neither is "better" than the other. You're going to need at least a headshot in order to kill a soldier, as they have quite a lot of health. (200 normally, 300 overhealed)

Tips to Remember

1. Steel your nerves when under attack. Rockets are much slower than bullets, travel in easily-readable, linear paths. You are not completely outclassed. Concentrate.

2. It would actually be to your advantage not to have your back to any walls, to avoid splash damage.

3. A rocket jumping soldier travels slower than a sticky jumping demo, thus making it possible to land a shot while he's in midair. Track his trajectory either on the way up or the way down and you may end up killing him when he falls to the ground.

4. Direct hit is nasty, nasty, nasty. It does an incredible amount of damage and is almost impossible to dodge, when the aim is perfect. Strafe like crazy.

5. Buff Banner and Kritzkrieg soldiers become medium-high level targets. I find them a little difficult to hit because they're intimidating, but I always try and you should too.

6. Soldiers like to jump. When one rocket jumps towards you, you should probably clear the landing zone. It's best to keep the distance as wide as possible

7. Equalizer soldiers are the new scouts. Yet another reason why you should not stay scoped in so long should you miss getting blindsided by one of these pesky flies.

Special Tricks

If a soldier sees you retreat behind a wall or corner, many times they will shoot rockets to try and keep you at bay. A careless soldier will fire his four rockets one after another with no pause (sound familiar?). Stay back and count the rockets as they come. After the fourth one you have a small window to jump back out and take another shot at them as they reload. After that, their rockets will come much slower and you have a higher chance of killing them.

Heavies

"I just bagged the world's fattest man!"

A heavy is a very attractive target for snipers, but unlike spies, snipers have to work for it. With 300 health and the forehead of a coffee table, heavies are perfect headshot targets, when attacked carefully (and relentlessly)

Tips to Remember

1. Headshots, headshots, headshots. With 300-450 health, there is no alternative.

2. A heavy can mess up your aiming by pelting you with bullets, but it is not rare for you to be able to kill him anyway. If you are at a safe distance, try to get a headshot.

3. You can easily kill ubered heavies right after their uber runs out, as you have plenty of time to aim and they will most likely be gunning to the end, the adrenaline keeping him from noticing tinier targets.

4. A heavy without a medic will often run away after being headshotted once. If you have the intent to kill, you should charge a bit before firing.

5. You should charge fully before shooting a sandvich-eating heavy.

Special Tricks

This is a trick that many bad/sandvich heavies will fall for. If you see a heavy approaching, scope, but do not fire. What the heavy SHOULD do is switch to shotgun and fight back. What often happens though is the heavy will begin to spin up his minigun, leaving him wide open for a split second for the headshot you were charging. With patience, encounters with heavies will end before they even start.

Map Strategies

For completeness sake, I've decided to include a section covering common maps.

This section is kind of rushed, and I stand by my earlier statement that a good sniper must be able to shoot from anywhere at any time.

Furthermore as it won't take long for you to realize, these are not all the maps, only the ones I have played enough to feel like I can offer good strategies. I'll add more maps later, maybe. For now, take whatever you want out of it.

All "left"s and "right"s are spoken from the point of view of the team whose tips I'm giving.

Maps I probably won't add:

  • cp_granary: There are no good sniping points. There are no bad ones either.
  • cp_well: see above
  • koth_nucleus: see above
  • koth_sawmill: see above
  • arena_lumberyard: see above
  • ctf_2fort: summed up in two sentences: I think RED the has an advantage over BLU because the battlements are darker and in shadow. But the two bases are really identical and strategies don't matter.
  • ctf_turbine: see above, minus first sentence.
  • orange maps: because they are bad and you should feel bad

cp_steel

"[on playing cp_steel for the first time] what is this i dont even"

POINT A

BLU

1. Go to E. When you see E, make a right. Go down to the area with the full metal box. Snipe the RED spawn. With a couple scouts watching your back, this is a great way to go for an early E cap.

2. The upper stairs at A make decent, if not short lived sniping spots.

POINT B

BLU

1. You're the only class who can effectively kill through that tiny little window in that shack on the far wall where demos and soldiers like to stand. That's about it for sniper usefulness here though.

POINT C

BLU

1. Go to the gate as it opens. You'll want to start shooting at C from those rocks as soon as possible.

2. Go to the windows from A to start harassing any defenses going up at E.

RED

1. Watch those rocks. Head over to the mid health kit on the right to get an unexpected angle on those rocks.

POINT D

Both

1. Support your teammates by using the windows.

2. You may find it easier to join the main fight if you have Huntsman.

POINT E

BLU

1. Abuse the hell out of that window.

RED

1. Don't let them abuse the hell out of that window.

cp_dustbowl

"[on playing cp_dustbowl for the 100th time] oh god NOT THIS AGAIN."

PHASE ONE - FIRST POINT

BLU

1. Spawn exits in order of usefulness from highest to lowest: RIGHT, CENTER, LEFT.

2. Novice snipers are advised to stay away from center, because of the difficulty in enemy sniper visibility. All snipers are advised to be wary of spies to the right.

RED

1. Go to the left tunnel. Shoot over the mine cart at BLU leaving the main spawn door. You'll only see the tops of their heads, but you're almost completely hidden from enemy snipers.

2. Go to the right tunnel. Shoot between the mine cart and the building at the center BLU gate. You have a clear shot of the middle gate and are pretty well-hidden

3. Stand on the narrow edge to the right. You have a decent view of the BLU left and right exits. The narrow path makes it harder for spies.

SECOND POINT

BLU

1. After the first point has been captured BLU snipers become incredibly useless. It will take a very dense RED team not to notice a sniper peeking from the lower door, or on the low roof. Sometimes the RED team isn't the sharpest.

RED

1. Stand on the bridge above your spawn. You have a clear shot of the one-way gate. Try to hide your dot on the wall or barrel.

2. Stand on the roof above your spawn. You have a clear shot of the cliff, a workable shot of the area below. Watch out for spies, your teammates will not be able to support you.

3. Stand in the space between the spawn box and the point box. This is pretty good view of everything except for the gate. Your teammates will be able to back you up in case of spies.

4. If the majority of BLU is using teleporters to go to the tunnel, you can use Point #1 in the FIRST POINT section and spawn camp them. This is how I got my highest ever kill streak of 28 in a vanilla game.

PHASE TWO - FIRST POINT

BLU

1. A potentially difficult beginning. Try going to the left, but beware of enemy rushers. Try going to the right, but you're sitting in a hole, susceptible to pipe bombs and rockets.

2. After things have calmed down, you can use the hole to your advantage. With your entire body hidden, you're quite hard to see for RED snipers.

RED

1. Hide behind the house. You're close to a full health kit and have a good view of the main spawn. Be careful, however, BLU snipers use above Point #2 to their advantage.

2. Stand on the point. This is actually a pretty good spot. You have a great view and height advantage and can walk backwards into the full health kit whenever you want.

3. Stand in front of the point and use the circular building for cover. A good thing about circles is when hiding behind them the enemy doesn't know when you'll pop out. Use it to aim at the right door. Also shoot BLU players trying to infiltrate the building; they crouch and are easy to shoot.

4. I don't advise using the window for cover. It's a cramped location, easy to get stuck, and not very good for evading enemy rockets or snipers.

SECOND POINT

BLU

1. BLU snipers get a little better. Use the middle left door and shoot at the point. You may need to crouch, which is why I don't really like it, but it has its merits.

2. Even better though is to use the left tunnel. Command each corner as you pass it, watch a bit, then advance. Repeat until you're in the courtyard and you have a great view of the left side of the point, a common place for wounded RED moving for the full health kit. Feel free to walk above the doorway as well.

RED

1. Use the right tunnel. Follow the exact opposite of BLU's Point #2, but don't go out into the open at the end. Stay and shoot enemies passing in front of you. It's a great, defensive spot.

PHASE THREE - FIRST POINT

BLU

1. Another difficult beginning. Use all doors with caution; they get very hot at the beginning of the round. The right most one offers the most cover.

2. You're a great credit to team if you can shoot through the windows.

RED

1. Stand on the point. With enough support from your teammates, you have a great view and can block BONK using scouts from climbing the stairs.

SECOND POINT

BLU

1. The lower tunnel is great for defensive sniping (on offense). You're a credit to team by making sure RED doesn't use the tunnel for flanking. You may even cause them to pop their uber early. Warn your teammates if you see anything that you can't stop. If you're feeling braver, head down the tunnel and snipe passing REDs on the bridge.

2. Stand on the ledge, rather than the ground.

3. If you can make it to the other building, crouch in that little bunker. You have a limited view, but limitless potential for spawn camping.

4. Depending on the situation, you may find it profitable to stand in that little alcove in the back. But if RED isn't pushing, kills are uncommon. You can still shoot RED that have snuck up the tunnel in the back, but why not prevent it sooner using Point #1? (they're usually ubered too.)

RED

1. Shoot everything. Shoot a lot.

2. I would say to guard the lower tunnel for the same reason as BLU Point #1 above, but that tunnel tends to be used more by your teammates looking to flank rather than BLU looking to charge.

3. Stand in the left building. Pretty good diagonal view.

4. Even better: stand on the left side of the ledge outside on that same building. You have a perfect, linear view of the entire area and can make an easy escape.

5. I'd advise against using the bunker. A lot of stray rockets and pipes tend to fall in it.

6. The house is a useful minibase for BLU. Try to shoot rocket jumping soldiers, scouts, and engineers before they enter the house.

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