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Game Breaker / Team Fortress 2

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"Nevermind the bullets, how much all these coffins costin' ya?"
The Engineer

Team Fortress 2 has had at some point or another enough items believed to be a Game-Breaker that it needed its own page. Usually each item is nerfed when there is enough of an outcry over the weapons in the general community.

Due to the vast range of player ability and sizeable fandom found with TF2, expect the usual Fan Dumb bickering over what is/isn't true about everything.


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As the Scout is one of the primary damage-dealing classes in the game and is the highest Tier-Induced Scrappy by a huge margin in 6v6 competitive, the class has had a rollercoaster of changes over the years and has more banned weapons/secondaries than any other class.
  • The Sandman, introduced in the Scout update. This unlockable replacement for the bat lanches a baseball that stuns enemy (and until an update several months after its release, even in ÜberCharged state) for up to 8 seconds (the longer it takes for the ball to hit the target, the longer the stun duration). And after stunning someone, the Scout can pick up his ball (or someone else's) and use it again. It became the first weapon in the game to be banned in the competitive Team Fortress 2 scene. In fact, the Sandman is so controversially broken that Valve has nerfed, then buffed, then nerfed it to hell and back. Seriously, look at how many patches have been applied to it. This culminated with the Jungle Inferno update, as it removed the stunning ability entirely and replaced it with a slowdown similar to the Natascha. According to Valve themselves, the weapon was a Game Breaker simply because players hate losing control of their character in multiplayer shooters.
  • The Baby Face's Blaster was initially viewed as a high-risk, high-reward weapon, as it let the Scout build up boost through damage that would let him run 175% faster than usual, but one jump would drain all his boost and slow him to roughly as fast as a Demoman. But then a following patch softened the penalty, so that one double jump would only reduce 25% of the Scout's boost and at zero boost he'd move only 10% slower. This made the Blaster overpowered, as a zero boost Scout was still faster than every other class and it'd only take 99 damage to gain full boost; in other words, a single meatshot. The double jump penalty also wasn't so bad as a Scout skilled in aerial combat could keep dealing damage while jumping and so negate the boost loss. This, combined with reports that a full boost meter allowed a Scout to outrun his own hitbox - which weren't true, but that just goes to show how fast and slippery everyone felt he was - meant that the Blaster's only real downside compared to the Scattergun was the slightly smaller clip size. Eventually, the Gun Mettle update patched the Blaster to lose boost based on damage taken by the Scout, making him easier to slow and demanding he play more cautiously.
  • The Crit-A-Cola drew much ire during the Competitive Beta. Originally, it was pretty decent. The Scout would give and take Mini-Crits for the next 6 seconds after drinking it. Following patches made it last two seconds longer, changed the Mini-Crit vulnerability to 25% more damage, added a speed bonus, and eventually reduced the damage vulnerability even further to an extra 10%. That last one bewildered many vocal players, as before that patch the Crit-a-Cola seemed like the #1 "Well Duh" pick for big nerfs. While it isn't too bad in pubs, virtually every Scout player in the Matchmaking Beta and now in the full Competitive Matchmaking will use it for it being massively low-risk high-reward. The Jungle Inferno update rectified this by making the Scout marked-for-death for 5 seconds whenever the Scout attacks for the duration of Crit-A-Cola's effect on top of removing the speed bonus, and also removed the "extra damage taken during effect" and "marked-for-death after effect expires" penalties.
  • The Bonk! Atomic Punch has been banned in community 6v6 for most of its lifespan and is still considered a very strong loadout choice. On use, it makes the Scout invincible to damage for 8 seconds at the cost of not being able to attack (except for taunt kills) and being completely vulnerable during the drinking animation. This gives the Scout a very useful "get out of jail free card" if he's in a bad spot, along with allowing him to completely nullify his hard counter: Sentry Guns (and that's before mentioning its use in distracting Sentry Gun fire for Ubercharge pushes). Originally, it also had an exploit where you could carry the Intelligence while invincible as well. It was eventually nerfed to give a 5-second slowdown effect when it wears off, but this doesn't really hurt Scouts just using it to nope out of tight situations back to their own team.
  • The Mad Milk is one of the Scout's more powerful secondaries. It's similar to Sniper's Jarate, except that rather than giving mini-crits, it coats the target(s) in milk that heals you and your teammates every time you hit them. This sounds fine on paper due to its lengthy recharge and single use, but for a Glass Cannon class that's only balanced by having low health, the ability to heal on demand without a Medic or pickups is insanely powerful, and so it's banned in the competitive scene. However, it's more balanced in pubs since there are more players and thus more incoming damage sources that can offset the Mad Milk's healing.
  • The Pretty Boy's Pocket Pistol introduced in the Pyromania update is still banned and has been reworked multiple times. It originally had a +15 health passive even when not active in exchange for having -50% fire resistance. Since Scouts in flamethrower range are basically screwed anyway, and pistols are only used for chip damage or Cherry Tapping, the weapon quickly became the most common secondary. It was eventually reworked by removing the passive and replacing it with a +7 health on hit mechanic (later changed to +3) and 15% increased firing speed in exchange for fewer shots. Similar to the Mad Milk, it's banned in the competitive scene despite its drawbacks because of its heal-on-hit mechanic countering the Scout's primary weakness, even though it's not usually considered viable anymore due to the low health recharge.
  • The Soda Popper remained banned in 6s even with Scout's other primary sidegrades being brought down to size, and for good reason. On paper, it seems tame enough: a Force-A-Nature reskin that trades knockback for a Hype meter that builds when the Scout deals damage, and when the meter is filled, the Scout can temporarily gain the ability to perform multiple midair jumps. However, it also reloads faster than the Force-A-Nature while having the same fire rate, making it the most damaging primary for Scout, boasting monstrous burst damage while also having more sustained damage output than the stock Scattergun. It was even more obscene upon release, where the Hype meter was built up by just running around and granted the Scout 8 seconds of mini-crits on all weapons (that's a free Crit-a-Cola with no drawbacks) when filled.

  • The Equalizer was practically the only Soldier melee weapon before its nerf. As the player lost more and more health, Soldier started moving faster and dealing more damage while it was the active weapon. The damage scaled to the point that a near-death Soldier could one shot 125-health classes like Scout while running as fast or faster than them. The flip side is that Medics couldn't heal you while it's the active weapon, which is easily remedied by taking out any other weapon, but when you're moving around so quickly and dealing so much damage, why would you want to be healed? As a melee weapon, it was limited in how game-breaking it could be, but most players considered it a pure upgrade over the regular shovel, and Valve spent several patches nerfing it. This culminated in splitting up its speed and damage attributes into two different weapons, with the speed portion going to the Escape Plan.
    • The Escape Plan was nerfed even further due to players still frequently using it as a scot-free escape mechanism whenever a fight went the wrong way. Now, having the Escape Plan deployed marks the Soldier for death, causing him to take Mini-Crit damage as long as he's holding it and for a short while after you switch weapons, making it tougher to make daring getaways. However it was later buffed in the Gun Mettle update, which changed it so medics can now heal you while the weapon is deployed, albeit at a drastically reduced rate (-90% less). This means that a Soldier can now damage himself with his rocket launcher, switch to the Escape Plan, and help the Medic build his ubercharge at a much faster rate due to the Medigun's ubercharge building much faster when healing patients that are injured.
  • The Soldier's Battalion's Backup was also a game breaker for a time, though for different reasons. You charged it up by taking damage from enemy attacks, and once you get to a certain point, you just let it loose and any teammates close by become immune to critical hits (including headshots) and got a 35% damage resistance buff. By itself, this wasn't so bad, since the effect only lasted for 10 seconds or until the Soldier died (and smart players always target banner-wielding Soldiers as high-priority targets), but the Soldier only had to take 175 damage in order to fully charge it. The Soldier has 200 HP by himself, and even more given Medic support or by using the Black Box, and it was virtually guaranteed that a Medic-backed Soldier could have an active banner ready. In addition to this, fall damage still charged the banner, so it was possible to charge the banner during setup simply by rocket-jumping repeatedly just outside of spawn. The damage requirement was doubled to 350 damage later, though, and various methods of self-charging were also removed. However, map effect damage, such as burning torches and drowning, still charged the banner before its charge method was changed altogether to dealing damage rather than taking it.
    • Ironically, the damage absorption nerf ended up producing an inversion of this trope, namely that it was so high that players didn't want to take the risk of absorbing 350 damage without dying just for some minor buffs, so Valve eventually changed the weapon to make it charge through dealing damage. They also buffed it so that the boost has an additional 15% Sentry resistance, causing Sentries to deal only 50% of their normal damage to players that have been boosted with this weapon.
  • Upon its initial release, the Cow Mangler 5000 was very overpowered. Besides dealing almost no damage against buildings and its inability to be crit-boosted, it had no drawbacks compared to the stock Rocket Launcher. However, it has unlimited reserve ammo and had 5 shots per magazine instead of 4, allowing Soldiers to do huge amounts of damage while away from support, and its damage ramp-up was unintentionally too high, meaning that it did more damage than the Rocket Launcher at close range. On top of all this, it has a special charge attack that lands a guaranteed Mini-Crit (which also sometimes did more damage than normal on top of the increased ramp-up), ignites players hit by it, and disables Engineer buildings for 4 seconds. This allowed Soldiers to disable Sentry Gun nests from a distance while Spies would have needed to get close to it, and possibly kill the Engineer tanking it. Then there was the fact that it was a literal game breaker in that its model detail and particle effects were so detailed, a single player using it could spam and single-handedly crash an otherwise reliable server. Even on a server that could withstand a Cow Mangler Soldier, its particle effects taxed some players's graphics cards and CPUs beyond their limits. Virtually all of this was fixed shortly after the update that introduced it, with some players sore over how ugly the new projectiles are, although later some of its penalties and bonuses (the extra shot per magazine and reload/damage penalties) were removed. As of now, the Cow Mangler is just a stock Rocket Launcher with infinite reserve ammo, terrible building damage, no random crits (and any source of critical hits like the Kritzkrieg gives mini-crits instead), and an interesting but too-slow-to-overpower alternate fire.
    • That said, the Cow Mangler is banned in community 6v6 due to effectively having very little downsides compared to stock. Its building damage penalty is negligible since Engineers are pretty much non-existent in 6s, having infinite ammo allows a Soldier to spam a choke point indefinitely, and the buff that gives it mini-crits when crit-boosted allows it to still pull its weight with a Kritzkrieg Medic.
  • The Air Strike is quite possibly the best Rocket Launcher to date. Originally, the Air Strike was just bad. Its rocket deals mediocre damage and had a reduced clip size. Its main gimmick of getting extra clip size for every kill didn't matter, because kills with it were very difficult. The only real advantage it had over the stock Launcher was its increased firing speed in the air, and that didn't matter too much because you could only shoot 3 or 4 rockets at a time. However, the Gun Mettle update softened the penalties, making the rockets only 15% weaker and only having a 10% smaller blast radius (compared to 25% less damage and 15% smaller blast radius, previously). They also removed the clip size penalty. Now, once you get two or three kills with the Air Strike, it becomes very overpowering. You can rain up to 8 rockets onto a group of enemies, most likely killing them all. Pyros can't reflect all of those rockets, Engineers can't vaporize them quickly enough, and Scouts can't dodge it due to the rockets covering a wide area. Tough Break Update nerfed it somewhat by making the blast radius smaller when the user is rocket jumping, forcing the user to be more accurate with it.
    • The Beggar's Bazooka had a glitch that probably inspired the Air Strike and made it very powerful. Loading in too many rockets causes the weapon to misfire and an explosion to occur. The problem was that this explosion could be used to rocket jump, then be used to rocket jump again in mid-air. When combined with the Gunboats, this gave the Soldier so much mobility he could practically fly. And when he flew wherever he needed to go, he could simply stop flying and unleash a deadly salvo of three rockets. This was patched so that misfiring removes rockets from the clip every time it happens. So while the Soldier can still perform the mid-air jumps, it's no longer possible to do so and rain down hell on your enemies at the same time.
  • The Concheror is one of the best Soldier secondaries available. Replacing the Shotgun, it cannot directly deal damage — rather, the Soldier can deal damage to charge it up, then deploy an area-of-effect health-steal buff to nearby teammates. This alone isn't too bad. However, the Conch also offers up to 4 HP regen per second, the charge applies a speed buff, and the Conch takes less damage to charge up than the other two backpack items (the Buff Banner and Battalion's Backup). This is, quite possibly, one of the most versatile secondaries for Soldier, as the regen makes him difficult to kill, the charge can be deployed more often than the other two backpacks, and the heal-on-dealing-damage effect combined with the run speed effect can be applied to virtually any situation.
    • Combining the Conch with the Black Box and the Escape Plan creates what people like to not so affectionately call 'the Bad Box' build. The Black Box used to heal a flat 15 health per hit, in exchange for lowering the number of rockets a Soldier can fire down to three and max ammo down to twenty. This is not as big of a drawback as it seems, as the Soldier reloads rockets at about the same speed he can swing his melee and ammo drops when enemies are killed, which effectively makes the 'drawbacks' a non-issue. Combined with the Conch's passive regen, a good Soldier can effectively out-tank and out-DPS a Heavy even at close range, and even a bad one can still punch large holes in the enemy team before they finally go down. Should the Soldier ever find himself in a situation like that, all he needs to do is use the Conch, pull out the Escape Plan, and nope out at speeds faster than the Scout. Because of how hard these Soldiers are to kill, how brain-dead the playstyle is, and just how effective it is even in the hands of a novice, it's become a widely hated loadout that has all the makings of a Crutch Character, minus the part where it falls apart at higher levels of play. An update altered the Black Box to have its healing scale with the damage dealt, meaning you now have to be consistent with landing hits to be able to replicate its healing at its strongest.
  • The Valve Rocket Launcher is an intentional game breaker. It is extremely overpowered, with immense damage and rocket speed, on top of healing the user and giving them critical hits for every kill. The Valve Rocket Launcher is only available to TF2's director Robin Walker, who uses it only when requested and then merely for trolling opponents, not to constantly win matches. There were once other Valve weapons with various other overpowering traits, but all of them but the Rocket Launcher have since been deleted.
    • Ironically, its overpowering status was temporarily negated by the pre-nerf Short Circuit, as its firing rate and minimal metal consumption could let an Engie completely negate every Valve-Rocket. Since then, it has been twice nerfed so the Valve Rocket Launcher once again reigns supreme.
  • The B.A.S.E. Jumper is an item that both the Soldier and the Demoman can use on their secondary and primary slots, respectively. It grants the ability to deploy a parachute in midair to slow down the falling speed, which (aside from making them into potential Sniper bait) effectively increased their air control, making them difficult to hit, while still allowing them to use their other explosive weapons. On a Demoman, it allows them to spam sticky bombs on top of his enemies, but it's with the Soldier where it got truly powerful — more specifically, it allowed the Soldier to take advantage of the Air Strike's much higher firing speed when airborne for a longer time, while the higher air control made the dealing damage with the Air Strike rockets (which have lower blast radius when airborne) easier — the only limiting factor was how quickly the Air Strike would eat ammo. Hence, the Jungle Inferno update nerfed the B.A.S.E. Jumper by halving air control and not allowing the user to deploy the parachute more than once before landing, making the user easier to hit (thus making them even easier target practice for Sniper).
    • Where the B.A.S.E. Jumper became especially problematic is in competitive 6v6, as the meta classes in that mode are either Medic, short-ranged (Scout), or completely reliant on landing projectiles (Soldier and Demoman). The preference for 5CP maps in sixes means that nobody runs a Sniper in their opening lineup and nobody runs Heavy or Engineer at all except for defending their last point, since by the time they get to the middle point the fight for it is probably already over. As a result, the B.A.S.E. Jumper was outright banned as the lack of medium- to long-range hitscan effectively left no way to reliably counter a parachuting Soldier or Demoman, since hitting them with rockets and grenades is a monumental task even after the aforementioned nerf.
    • The B.A.S.E. Jumper also happens to be a Game-Breaker for the custom "Jump" mode, where players are tasked to get through obstacle courses by Rocket Jumping. Since the item greatly reduces falling speed, it often makes courses significantly easier to complete by giving players more leeway to react and the ability to glide over an entire section of the course effortlessly. Because of this, several servers which run "Jump" maps outright prohibit the use of the B.A.S.E. Jumper by replacing it with another weapon.

  • The Pyro's Phlogistinator was a very controversial weapon. In exchange for having no airblast, Pyros gain a "Mmmph" meter that tracks how much fire damage the Pyro has done. Once it has built up enough, they can activate a taunt that gives them guaranteed critical hits for 12 seconds, while restoring them to full HP. Normally, this wouldn't be too bad, but for the duration of the taunt, the Pyro gained 90% damage resistance, essentially making them invulnerable. This allowed players to stop in the middle of the battlefield and taunt without any repercussions until after the taunt finished. Additionally, the required fire damage in order to activate the taunt is a mere 225 points, which is easily achievable (just kill one or two enemies and ignite a couple others), and the critical hit boost is longer than the Medic's Kritzkrieg ÜberCharge. Since fire damage wasn't limited to igniting enemies with the Phlogistinator, using a flare weapon could guarantee that you would have a full meter before even getting within flamethrower range of an enemy. In addition, "Mmmph" gained from fire damage was not affected by fire resistance; for example, a Spy equipped with the Dead Ringer (see below) could completely fill the meter despite not having enough health to do so normally. Valve toned this down over various patches, with the crit boost being 10 seconds instead of 12, Pyros not being healed upon activating Mmmph, 300 damage filling the meter instead of 225, and full invulnerability instead of damage resistance during activation. That last bit means the Phlogistinator is an even greater Game Breaker to inexperienced players, but c'est la vie.
  • The Scorch Shot is rather infamous due to being the easiest flare gun to hit with for little downside. In theory it's supposed to do less damage than the standard flare gun, yet, thanks to the flare being able to hit twice, it still does comparable or superior damage in most cases. It's also commonly paired with the Phlogistinator, making it incredibly easy to build a Mmmph charge by simply spamming it at enemies from a distance. Snipers in particular loathe the weapon as a Pyro can easily pop out of cover for just a moment to hit them, causing them to flinch for a while from afterburn making it very difficult to headshot, and leaving them on such low health that a second hit will kill them if they don't seek out healing. And they can and will simply shoot the sniper again when they return, making the Sniper's life hell so long as the Pyro lives. It's probably no coincidence the Darwin's Danger Shield was changed from its old stats (which were another Game-Breaker) into an item ideal for countering Scorch Shot spam, making the Sniper take half as much damage from fire and immune to afterburn.
  • The "Puff and Sting" combo was a very controversial moveset for the Pyro requiring both the Axtinguisher and Degreaser. The Axtinguisher guaranteed crits on its melee hits if its target was on fire, the Degreaser reduced the time to switch weapons. This meant that Pyros could kill any non-overhealed class minus Heavies in less than 1.5 secondsnote  by igniting their target then quickly stabbing them with their axe for a critical hit kill. Supporters of Puff-and-Sting argued that it was balanced because the attack is very short-ranged, and because the Pyro is an underpowered class overall. Opponents to it argued that it was nearly impossible to fight back against once the Pyro was in range, diminished the role of fire, and that Pyro's airblast further increased Puff-And-Sting's juggling and trapping capabilities. Valve reduced the Puff-and-Sting's effectiveness by having the Axtinguisher deal crits from behind but mini-crits from the front, encouraging Pyros to ambush for crits.
    • In the Tough Break update, the Axtinguisher was changed back to dealing crits vs burning targets regardless of angle of attack. However, it now has a slower switch-to speed penalty, so players now have some time to react to an incoming Axtinguisher crit, and the weapon took an overall damage penaltynote  — the crit would definitely hurt, but couldn't one-shot most classes by itself. Along with the ability for players to now be able to air-strafe to counteract the pushing power of the airblast, and an alteration to the weapon switch speeds of the Degreaser, the entire Puff-and-Sting combo was essentially killed. Most Pyros would just use the Powerjack.
    • It was reworked once again in Blue Moon, changing its crits to minicrits again, but removing the draw speed penalty (though it still takes longer to holster), adding a speed boost on kills, and giving the quirk of dealing increased damage depending on how long the afterburn would have lasted at the cost of extinguishing the target.
  • The Reserve Shooter, despite being usable by the Soldier as well, is much more powerful in the hands of a Pyro with the Degreaser. This weapon deals mini-crit note  damage against airborne targets, in exchange for holding less magazine than stock shotgun. This essentially lets Pyro pull off the Puff-n'-Flare combonote  while still retaining most upsides of the stock Shotgun. And because it mini-crits airborne targets rather than ones launched by airblast, a Reserve Shooter Pyro can punish any class for jumping. This was made even worse when a now-fixed Good Bad Bug was discovered where airblasting players downwards made the game consider them "airborne" unless they changed their elevation on the map, meaning that Pyros could mini-crit them even if the target wasn't actually in the air.
    • The fact that mini-crits aren't affected by damage fall-off gives the Reserve Shooter a longer effective range, as long as it hits airborne targets.
    • And now with Tough Break, the Reserve Shooter was indirectly nerfed via directly nerfing the Degreaser. The Degreaser now has increased airblast cost and slower switch-from speed (though still faster than default). It was also changed to only mini-crit enemies launched by explosives, airblasts, or by using the grappling hook.
    • The Jungle Inferno update nerfs the Reserve Shooter's powerful combo potential with airblasts as it will no longer mini-crit enemies launched by airblasts, only allowing mini-crits against Demos and Soldiers that blast jump, players launched by a reflected projectile, or Pyros using the Thermal Thruster. This makes it impossible for the Pyro to actively use the effects without relying on what the other team does.
  • The Jungle Inferno update changed the way the Pyro's flame particles behaved, adding more consistency to the hitbox of each flamethrower. However, this had some unintended consequences, as a Pyro using their flames in a sweeping motion was discovered to do more damage than if they applied it in a constant stream. Cue players exploiting this by flailing around in trying to get as much coverage as they can. On top of the death of the Puff-and-Sting combo, this led to even more rage against Pyro due to the promotion of the low-skill "W+M1" strategy. To remedy this, the March 28th update changed the flamethrower behaviour, reducing their initial DPS but letting it ramp up as a Pyro keeps their target in their sights, now requiring the Pyro to aim better for more damage.

  • Since the game's release, Demoman has been labeled a Game Breaker in one form or another. On top of being the only character with true indirect fire, he had the mobility of a Soldier but could also rapidly spam his 6 grenades and 8 stickies. Whereas the Soldier could only fire off at most 4 rockets (Even less if he rocket jumped to the fight) before a lengthy reload, a Demoman can kill any class or even small groups he sees before he needs to reload. Also unlike the Soldier, the Demoman's normal walking speed only has a 7% penalty (as opposed to the Soldier's 20% decrease and the Heavy's 23% decrease). All of this combined meant that a Demoman had no real weaknesses, making the only way to counter one to either catch him off guard or play a Demoman yourself. The Demoman's Grenade Launcher would be later nerfed to only 4 grenades in the magazine instead of 6, and the Stickybomb Launcher's ammo reserves reduced from 40 to 24.
    • The ability to detonate sticky bombs in the air was later also toned down - while still a viable tactic, any sticky inside a certain radius to the Demoman that had been launched in the past five seconds dealt less damage. Later, stickies were altered so they only reached max potential damage after being primed for two seconds. These changes were placed to limit airburst sticky bomb spam. Previously, a Demoman could quickly fire while detonating sticky bombs in the air at mid to long range to dish out damage. However, much complaint from the competitive community led to the nerf being reverted a week later (airbursting stickies while advancing is a common offensive tactic). Valve promised to continue examining the issue and balance the Sticky Launcher some other way. Smissmas 2014 made stickies in the air have reduced blast radius for up to two seconds or until they landed, whichever came first. The then-freshly-introduced Quickiebomb Launcher was not subject to the nerf, as it was designed for airbursting.
  • The Sticky Jumper, a Joke Weapon intended for training how to sticky-bomb-jump quickly proved to be a Lethal Joke Weapon in the right hands. While it deals no damage, and initially had a damage taken and max health penalty, a Demoman can use it to fly through the map so quickly that it is nearly impossible to hit them. Additionally, it replaces the secondary weapon of the Demoman, compared to the Soldier's Rocket Jumper which replaces his primary weapon. As such, a Sticky Jumper Demo still has a Grenade Launcher, and could quickly make a mockery of game modes like Capture The Flag. A glitch was also present that made the player immune to self-damage from other weapons, removing the primary drawback of the Ullapool Caber combined with the ease of flying back to spawn to replace each caber. Valve eventually blocked players from carrying the Intelligence while having the Sticky Jumper equipped, reactivated self-damage from other weapons, then reduced the amount of active stickies usable at one time from eight to two, reducing Demos' flight distance while enforcing more realistic sticky-jump practice, as a Demoman will not be able to reasonably survive the blast if trying to jump with 3 or more stickies.
  • The Tide Turner, released in the Love and War update. It gives FULL control over your Shield Charge, allowing a Demoknight to keep his Grenade Launcher yet turn incomparably better than if he had Ali Baba's Wee Booties or the Bootlegger on. Worst of all, it completely recharged your charge meter if you kill someone with the Critical hit the shield gives at the end of a charge. Putting it simply, if you know how to play Demoknight effectively, then you can VERY easily chain your charges to slaughter half a team and still get out. Add in combos with the Half-Zatoichi (which refills your health upon a kill) or the Eyelander (which increases your max health and speed based on kills) and Demoknights can become basically invincible to all but Sentries. There is also a glitch that gave it the benefits of the Splendid Screen as well, letting you deal "shield bash damage" from point-blank, as if it didn't have enough going for it. The glitch was quickly fixed and the weapon was Nerfed in the Smissmas 2014 update, to where it doesn't restore all charge on a charge-crit-kill by itself, just 75% (meaning a Demoman has to use the Wee Booties, Bootlegger, and/or Claidheamh Mor, which give 25% charge meter on a charge-crit-kill, for the previous effect), and taking damage while charging reduces the charge duration.
    • The Tough Break update nerfed it farther by making it unable to perform charge crits, only mini-crits as well as reducing the fire and explosive resistances from 25% to 15%.
  • The Loch-n-Load became a favorite of Demomen and hated by every other class. It was intended to be the Demoman equivalent to the Soldier's Direct Hit, dealing 25 percent more damage upon hit but only having two shots and no splash damage on miss. The difference was that the Loch-n-Load traveled much faster than the Direct Hit, and the Demoman's grenade properties made it so it would deal monstrous damage at close range, as much as 150 damage per hit, letting the Loch-n-Load one-shot Medics, Scouts, Spies, Engies, and Snipers, more than half of the available classes. It also would deal wide splash damage on hit, meaning a single direct shot (especially if it crit) would blow up tons of enemies if they were all close together. All in all, a very frustrating weapon to fight against unless you were incredible at dodging.
    • In the first nerf attempt, Valve nerfed the Loch-n-Load to not exceed more than 124 damage per hit, giving weaker classes a Last Chance Hitpoint to fight back... except they also gave it an extra shot per clip, making it just as easy for players to keep spamming the weapon and so blow up any survivors. In addition, it was extremely easy to chain the Loch-n-Load with the Eyelander, turning the supposed weakness into a strength so the Demoman could keep gaining health. Finally, in another patch Valve nerfed the weapon to only deal extra damage to Engineer buildings, making the speedy grenades the only reason a player would choose it in combat over the Grenade Launcher.
  • The Half-Zatoichi, despite being available for Soldier as well (like the Reserve Shooter), is much more useful for a pure (boots and shield) Demoknight, as its one downside (can't be sheathed until you kill with it) is inconsequential, since a Demoknight only has a melee weapon anyway. And while it lacks the increased range that the other swords have, it also lacks the "no random crits" attribute, meaning that if he misses the guaranteed crit swing from the charge, he can still get a random crit, kill an enemy and get his health back anyway.
    • As of the Tough Break Update, this weapon has been changed considerably. For one thing, it can be holstered without drawing blood, but doing so will make you lose 50 health. It is also considered a sword in-game, meaning that it has a longer melee range in exchange for deploying and holstering slower. Finally, the Half-Zatoichi now only gives you 50% health on a kill (though this health can overheal you) and, as per every other weapon added since 2010, it no longer deals random crits.
  • The Iron Bomber is an interesting example of this. On paper it's a sidegrade to the stock launcher; the grenades do not roll on the ground like stock grenades and also have a 15% smaller blast radius (except for the Demoman who fired it) with 30% shorter fuse time, essentially allowing Demos to create quick ground traps. This isn't what makes it so strong, however; due to a Good Bad Bug and the way the Source engine handles Demoman grenades, the hitbox of the Iron Bomber grenades is noticeably larger than stock, making it MUCH easier to hit direct shots against targets. As very few situations call for grenade rolling, this makes the Iron Bomber a pure upgrade in basically every situation except for Sentry busting.

  • The Natascha was highly controversial for a time. In theory, it was supposed to be weaker because it did less damage per bullet than Sasha, and its "slowdown" effect was meant to make it a support weapon that made it easier for teammates to hit people the Heavy was shooting at (or for the Heavy to land more bullets on them). In practice, the slowdown effectively became a tractor beam, making anyone that been shot once, regardless of distance, become a sitting duck, allowing even more shots to be landed. Thus, the Natascha is the second weapon to be banned in competitive leagues. The Australian Christmas update tweaked the slowdown so that it is reduced at long range, and increased its spin-up time so that Natascha-wielding Heavies were easier to ambush.
    • For a very long time, the Natascha was considered terrible and underpowered compared to the other miniguns, partly due to being overshadowed by the other weapons and partly due to a long-unfixed glitch which allowed players slowed down by its bullets to counteract the slow by A-D-A-D strafing back and forth. Enter the Jungle Inferno update which finally fixed this bug, indirectly buffing the weapon tremendously and giving it its tractor beam-like power again, which led to it being banned in community 6v6.
  • The Über Update gave the Heavy the Tomislav, a minigun with a silent and fast spin-up that does slightly more damage than Natascha. In effect, the faster spin-up time turned the Heavy into the most powerful ambushing class in the game, even moreso than the Pyro, who was designed specifically for ambushing enemies, because the slow spin-up time and the loud whirring of the Minigun's barrel were supposed to be the Heavy's greatest weaknesses. Immediately after the update hit, Heavies could sneak up behind their enemies and mow them down effortlessly, to the point that the reduced damage output didn't matter at all. Another problem was that since it spun up faster, the slower firing speed didn't matter at all since the time saved spinning up could be used to kill most weaker enemies faster (which makes a large difference in the case of a Medic) versus the regular Minigun. So trying to sneak up on a Tomislav Heavy to perform an ambush was futile, since they could turn around and mow you down half a second after you land your first hit. A patch which lowered its spin-up time reduction from 75% to 40% somewhat rectified this, and an additional patch almost completely eliminated the spin-up bonus (although the bonus has since been brought up to 20% and stayed that way).
  • The Gloves of Running Urgently, originally released in the Polycount Update, gave the Heavy unprecedented mobility for virtually no penalty. While it was the active weapon, the Heavy lost 6 HP per second, but had his movement speed boosted to match that of other classes, allowing him to keep up with teammates and move to the front lines much more quickly. The health penalty was originally intended to penalize the Heavy and force him to work with teammates, especially Medics, in order to maximize its usefulness. But pocket Medics and Sandviches made the lost HP a moot point entirely, and Heavies could additionally simply equip the GRU and make a fast getaway for no penalties if a fight turned the wrong way. In addition, the health drain could be exploited to effectively provide a very small Double Jump, slightly increasing jump distance even more than the increased running speed already did. The health drain penalty was eventually replaced with taking Marked-For-Death Mini-Crit damage while the weapon was active and for 3 seconds afterwards, forcing Heavies to utilize them more strategically. The Jungle Update did away with the Marked-For-Death effect in favour of re-implementing the health drain, but now it is 10 HP a second which is regenerated once the player switches away from the gloves, and it affects maximum health rather than current health, preventing pocket Medics from working around the health drain.
    • If a Heavy were to jump and switch away from the GRU, he would retain his running speed until he landed, without being subjected to the full health drain. Many players would use scripts to automate the process of GRU-hopping with perfection, allowing them the speed boost with none of the disadvantages. Coupled with a pre-patch Tomislav, the main disadvantages of the Heavy nullified. When the health drain was replaced with the Marked-For-Death Mini-Crit debuff, the effect persisted for a few seconds after the weapon was holstered to circumvent this exploit. When the Health Drain mechanic returned in the Jungle Inferno update, this exploit was clearly taken into consideration, as there is an instant 20 HP drain every time the weapon is switched to.
    • Prior to nerfing the interaction, a Heavy who just ate a Buffalo Steak Sandvich would have its speed boost stack with the GRU's innate speed bonus. While the GRU still had a damage penalty, the Heavy was fast enough to blaze through enemy fire and punch them to death — faster than the Scout, evennote . That's right. He was a better Demoknight than the Demoknight. The GRU's speed bonus no longer stacks with the Buffalo Steak Sandvich.
  • The Heavy for the longest time had only one alternative secondary, and it was the almighty Sandvich. Its initial alternate fire threw the Sandvich onto the ground to act a Medium Health Pack. It was intended to have Heavy be a Support-lite who heals buddies; this alone made it a must-have, but Heavy could also pick up the Sandvich as a health pack. A fleeing Heavy who is able to heal himself for 150 HP instantly basically killed any reason of eating it the normal way. Combine this with the Gloves of Running Urgently, and you suddenly have a very mobile Heavy that can get to the front lines for negligible penalties. The devs later removed the self-healing feature, only allowing a Heavy's teammates to pick up the Sandvich for health, while the Heavy must physically eat it in order to regain health. Despite the Nerf, the Sandvich was still basically the only Heavy secondary in any remotely serious play. Being able to heal yourself or any of your teammates was considered too valuable to pass up. It doesn’t help that the shotguns he has are not seen as that useful on Heavy compared to the Soldiernote , Pyronote , or Engineernote  because the Minigun can usually do the same job the shotgun could do, but better. Meanwhile, the Dalokohs Bar and the Buffalo Steak Sandvich are seen as lackluster. It took nine years before the Heavy got a secondary that was comparable, Second Banana, which gave the Heavy a weaker but more frequent healing option for himself and the team.
  • The Fists of Steel when first released. While you take double damage when hit by melee weapons (usually resulting in an OHKO when engaged in melee battle, especially against a Pyro with the Axtinguisher), but the fact that it provided 60% damage resistance against ranged weaponry allowed Heavies to survive fully-charged headshots, as well as Sentry barrages. Add on to that the fact that everyone instinctively backpedals and usually shoots at a melee-equipped Heavy. This was later reduced to 40% ranged resistance, and a weapon switch time penalty was implemented as well.
    • At one point, it got bad enough that a Heavy equipped with the Fists of Steel, while backed by a Medic, could wade into Sentry Gun fire on Capture the Flag maps, grab the Intelligence, and simply waltz back out, as the combination of overheal and damage resistance meant that the Heavy had a total effective HP of over 1100, and was being healed for effectively 60 HP/second, just under the fastest rate at which a Medi Gun can normally heal players. The same thing could be done with carts on Payload maps, completely shutting out most push or defense attempts, with exceptions such as an Axtinguisher Pyro. The Jungle Inferno Update toned down this combination by reducing the healing rate and the amount the Heavy can be overhealed by while the Fists of Steel is equipped.
    • Things got hilarious when a glitch was discovered, where disconnecting from the server after playing the Amputator (which gives a small amount of healing to everyone in the Medic's radius) would cause the healing effect to stay. It was possible for a Fists of Steel Heavy to wade into point-blank minigun fire and punch the enemy Heavy to death with health to spare.

  • The Engineer Update set a new standard for turtling. One of the Engineer's new weapons was the Wrangler, which allows an Engineer to take personal control of where his Sentry Gun shoots. Not bad by itself, but this also gives the Sentry infinite range (along with the fact that it has no damage falloff, meaning it does full damage at any range), and among the Wrangler's features is that it doubles the Sentry's fire rate (which is basically double damage), and projects a shield that causes it to take only 33% damage, tripling its HP. Furthermore, there's no downside apart from disabling the Sentry for three seconds when the Wrangler is un-equipped or when the Engineer is killed. Instantly banned in the competitive scene. Over the years, it was nerfed to reduce the repair-rate of the Sentry by 66%, same as its shield strength, and for the wrangled Sentry to be less accurate and have damage falloff. Now a few competitive rulesets allow it.
    • Among the new features in the Engineer Update is the ability for an Engineer to pack his buildings up and move them. This was a very welcome change, as Engineers could move Dispensers and Teleporter Exits with the team without needing to rebuild everything. But when you can move your Sentry Gun as well, and combine it with the Wrangler, you could take over and lock down an entire area given about six seconds of nobody noticing you.
    • The Engineer can also use the Sentry's knockback to shoot himself into otherwise unreachable locations with the Wrangler (called Wrangler-jumping or Sentry-jumping) and set up nigh-impassible choke points, especially not when supported from traditional Engineer campsites by other Engineers. Additionally, some of these places could still be built on prior to some major map overhauls, so it was possible to build a Teleporter Exit that cannot be reached by the enemy team (or at least not by anyone except for Soldiers and Demomen).
  • The Gunslinger made quite the splash, creating a new breed of aggressive Engineers which, unlike before the update, was completely effective and caught players entirely off guard. It replaces the Engineer's wrench with a robotic hand that grants him more health, and instead of his giant Sentry he builds a tiny Mini-Sentry. This Mini-Sentry has a lower damage-per-second and health than even a Level 1 Sentry and can't be repaired or upgraded. So what makes it so powerful? Its tiny size. The usual anti-Sentry classes like Heavies and Soldier have trouble against Mini-Sentries because of their lower accuracy, having to compensate with a wide area of damage. Against a tiny Mini-Sentry they can't land enough hits on it unless they get closer, which allows the Mini-Sentry to get more hits on them. Combine this with its 3-second deployment and low metal cost, and you find yourself struggling to break a Mini-Sentry only to find the Gunslinger Engy deployed another just after you destroyed the first. Things weren't helped by various bugs that let sentries heal themselves while doing their construction animation, or the one that let it become a Level 3 mini-sentry. Valve eventually patched all the bugs, increased its hitbox to make them easier to destroy, and adjusted its building process such that players can destroy the mini-sentry before it finishes construction. While the Gunslinger is still hated, the community has more or less adapted to it.
    • The Gunslinger itself is also a point of contention. It grants the Engineer 25 more health points with the only downside it has as a melee weapon is that it can't randomly crit. Instead it has a quirky mechanic where it does a guaranteed crit after successfully striking an enemy three times in row. As can be expected, there were bugs that allow an Engineer to "store" swings on teammates and grant a guaranteed crit whenever needed (until said bug was patched).
  • The Pomson 6000 got a lot of flak for its low risk-and-reward capability to easily counter two of the Engineer's counters. Its normal attributes weren't anything to write home about, and its ability to penetrate targets was only really useful when holding down a corridor due to its mediocre damage at long range. The main problem came from its ability to strip 10% ÜberCharge from a Medic for each shot landed; just hitting a Medic twice (which is really easy to do given the projectile's large hitbox detection) was enough to set their charge time back by 16 seconds, long enough to create a window with which to kill the Medic while he's helpless; this becomes a major problem when a Medic has a full ÜberCharge meter, charges forward, only to have it taken away the second before he's able to pop it, completely shutting down a push attempt. Teammates trying to body-block these shots, the natural tendency when trying to protect a Medic, were also wasting their time, given the Pomson's ability to penetrate targets. The Mann vs. Machine update removed its penetration ability, greatly reducing its spammability. Gun Mettle further neutered it by applying falloff on the Uber and Cloak drain, and once Meet Your Match fixed invisible Grordbort weapon projectiles, the Pomson was declared less worthwhile than the stock shotgun (in fighting Medics, at least).
    • The same weapon also made Spies ineffective. While it didn't affect Cloak and Dagger Spies (although they could be found much more easily simply by shooting everything with a pistol), it heavily affected the Dead Ringer Spy. The Dead Ringer can only activate upon a full cloak, so being glanced by one shot meant you had to wait several seconds before you could actually cloak. A sharpshooter Engineer could hit potential Spies long before they realized what had happened and deny them fake deaths in enemy territory. It also didn't help that the Pomson made a tell-tale noise whenever it drained Cloak or ÜberCharge, whereas every other hit-related sound in the game is disabled if you hit a disguised Spy. Suddenly Pyros were no longer needed.
  • The Short Circuit, a secondary weapon that disintegrates projectiles and does Scratch Damage to enemies when fired, and before its string of nerfs, was one of the only weapons on this page that was genuinely a game-breaker. Released as a Deus Ex: Human Revolution promo, it was widely shrugged off as being a gimmick weapon for turtling Engineers, since it had a high metal consumption rate of 36 and piddling damage, limiting it to being used when hugging spawn or Dispensers. Additionally, it took the same spot as the Wrangler, and even with the 2013 Summer Update (half metal cost on hit, full for miss), it still didn't manage to make a dent in its chances. Enter the 2013 Winter Update, which gave it the firing rate of the Pistol, and made all shots cost only 5 metal; now Engineers were running into the battlefield, even in groups, vaporizing enemies as quickly as the Pyro's Flamethrowers, and rendering Soldiers and Demomen helpless by vaporizing their ammo as fast as it was fired.
    • Because the Short Circuit was so powerful against classes that normally counter engineers, and fact that people were abusing a defensive tool to wipe out enemies and even destroy Robin Walker, the Short Circuit was soon nerfed. A minor patch (1/9/14) increased metal cost for destroying projectiles (to 15 metal) and lowered the damage even further. A second nerf the next month prevents Engineers from gaining metal from dispensers while the Short Circuit was the active weapon, reducing the Engineer's ability to camp at a dispenser and spam the weapon. While the firing rate was still left untouched, these nerfs encourage Engineers to time it on projectiles, especially if the dispenser is not full or there are no ammo crates nearby.
    • In the end this still wasn't enough, and in the Gun Mettle update the gun was tweaked again by splitting it into two firing modes. Primary fire only uses 5 metal per shot and shoots 6 times a second (same as before) but can't destroy projectiles anymore, while secondary fire does destroy projectiles but costs 15 metal and only fires twice a second.
    • But even THAT wasn't the end of the Short Circuit's story. As of the Blue Moon update, the Short Circuit's secondary fire launches a large, team-colored ball of energy that snuffs out any projectiles like rockets, pipe bombs, or stickybombs it comes into contact with, at the cost of 65 metal. This still allows Engineers to effectively defend their nests from enemy Soldiers and Demomen, but at a significant cost, since only three of these projectile-deleting energy balls can be fired before the Engineer is out of metal... Unless you're playing Payload, where the free infinite ammo of the payload cart completely negates this drawback, effectively allowing the Engineer to fight on the front lines while spamming large 'no projectile' orbs around the cart, which helps push past explosive heavy chokepoints with his team with little effort.
  • The Rescue Ranger allows you to remotely move your sentry at the cost of Metal, if it's within your range (as in, you need to be aiming directly at the sentry). Combine that with the Wrangler and its ability to Rocket Jump, and you're suddenly much more able to deploy your sentry where you're not supposed to. In addition, you can remotely repair the sentry by shooting at it, which is meant to make it last a few extra seconds until you get to it and smack it with your wrench, but it can be very easily abused if you know what you're doing: use the bolts to heal your buildings for free, or to heal a sentry from behind cover and protected from any splash damage. The Jungle Inferno update attempted to solve this by giving each long-range repair a metal cost, but the Rescue Ranger still remains a potent loadout choice.
    • In addition, there is also the "Sigafoo Save" — a technique that allows Engineers to make their sentry survive the full duration of an Uber Heavy. It's simple: when the Medic pops an Uber, pull out the Wrangler briefly then switch to the Ranger, healing any damage done to the sentry while switching back to the Wrangler periodically to keep up the sentry shield. This was eventually remedied when the Wrangler's shield also reduced the ability to heal or repair the Sentry, even via Rescue Ranger bolts.

Given how much benefit a skilled medic is to his team, Valve have been overall rather cautious with granting new weapons to the Medic. However a few of his weapons are at least better than their peers that they deserve mention here.
  • In terms of Medic primary weapons, there is probably the widest discrepancy of weapon viability, thanks to the Crusader's Crossbow.
    • The Medic has 4 primary weapon choices, 3 of which are syringe guns with minor variation in stats - while they deal high damage, the syringes they fire move so slowly and have such a drastic projectile drop, it's hard to consistently hit enemies with them unless they're incredibly close. They're also the only projectile weapon with a similar bullet spread to actual hitscan weapons outside of the Beggar's Bazooka, meaning even if youve practiced projectile control, you're still at mercy of the spread RNG. These issues relegate the syringe gun to a genuine last resort weapon, even more so than stock melee weapons, they're so unreliable.

    • Enter the Crusader's Crossbow, which was added with the Amputator in the Medieval update. It fires a single bolt at the time, like the Sniper's huntsman, but doesn't need to be charged, as it always fires at the highest projectile speed, with almost no drop. It also has a shorter reload time, and is one of the few weapons with passive reload - if you switch to another weapon without completing the reload, it'll still be reloaded when you switch back to it. All of this already makes it more reliable in most situations than any of the syringe guns, with its biggest weakness being damage based on reverse-scaling - you have to hit enemies far away to deal the most damage (around 70 health).
      • However, it is the only Medic primary that can heal teammates - if you hit a teammate with a bolt, it'll heal based on reverse distance scaling as well. It isn't over time healing, either - hitting a teammate at any range will heal instantly. Then, the healing was updated in the Tough Break update to also provide Ubercharge, based on reverse-distance scaling. All of these add together to make a weapon that is objectively better and easier to use than its contemporaries in every way. It could even be considered warping for Medic's power in the grand scheme of Class balance - while already an essential Class thanks to his healing potency and the necessity of Ubercharges, a good Medic can now heal a teammate at any distance, almost immediately, and still reliably protect themselves in most situations.
  • The Quick-Fix is banned in community 6v6 due to the smaller team sizes allowing a Medic to focus his heals more on top of the enemy team having fewer attacking members that can overpower the increased healing. This made defending very easy. The shared explosive jump with the heal target also allows for the Medic to jump out of danger, which is easier to accomplish due to the format necessitating better communication and coordination.
  • The Vaccinator's ability to heal its user was an incredibly strong asset in a game where Shoot the Medic First is in full effect. As long as the Medic kept the vaccinator on the right damage type that was being dealt, it would heal the medic a large portion of damage that his patient took. On top of that the Vacc grants damage resistance to the selected damage type, and could deploy its version of the Ubercharge more frequently. In shorter and more violent game modes like King of the Hill, it eclipsed the other three mediguns. The healing ability has since been removed.
    • The smaller team sizes in 6v6 meant fewer and less varied damage sources, and the Vaccinator's resistances shutting out half the enemy team's offense made it very easy to defend with. Its variation on its Ubercharge also meant less downtime for the Medic.
  • It is common for Medics to equip the Ubersaw more than any other melee weapon. It bestows 25% Ubercharge on every hit in exchange for a 20% slower swing time. Technically, the stock Bonesaw offers better melee DPS, but if you're reaching for melee in a firefight the extra swing speed is not going to help much. Due to players using the Ubersaw either for spychecking or for sneaking in melee hits for bonus Uber, this "downside" of a slower swing speed is practically nonexistent.
  • The Vita-Saw used to give Medics a passive ability to retain up to 20% Ubercharge on death, in exchange for reducing max HP by 10. Not too big an issue in pubs, but a very big deal in competitive. The passive charge retention saves a few seconds of Uber building when a Medic respawns, and those few seconds can decide between victory or defeat due to smaller team sizes. The fact that the Vita-Saw didn't need to be the active weapon to enjoy the benefits means that, barring some lucky calculation with damage numbers, there's no telling if the enemy Medic has the Vita-Saw or not, adding an unwelcome unknown to predicting incoming Ubers. This weapon was banned in the competitive scene until it had an overhaul in the Jungle Inferno Update: Now, the Vita-Saw harvests organs on hit, and its maximum charge retention is based on how many organs you've got, capping at 60% charge retention for 4 parts — which sounds like a big upgrade, until you realize that the Medic has to put himself in danger to get there.
  • In a similar vein to the Vita-Saw, the Solemn Vow is banned in the competitive scene for the information it gives to one team. The ability to see the enemy health may not be as big an issue in standard gameplay, but being able to see enemy Uber meters in a format where planning around enemy Ubers is an important skill gives an unfair advantage to one team and basically forces the other team's Medic to run one. As such, it's banned in community 6v6. Also of note, it was originally a pure upgrade over the bone saw, before getting a swing speed reduction.

  • The Darwin's Danger Shield used to be one. The largest threat to a Sniper is other Snipers, and the Danger Shield's bullet resistance and extra 25 HP allowed the wearer to survive a quick-scope headshot, or a fully charged body shot, even offsetting the Machina's damage bonus. This means a Sniper equipping it can simply let the opposing Sniper take the first shot and then take their time lining up a counter-shot while the enemy is reloading, unless they already charged up the shot some. It was later reworked in the Jungle Inferno update to give the wearer afterburn immunity and a 50% fire resistance, while removing all of the previous attributes. While this is largely irrelevant against a close-range Pyro, it does a great job of countering the Scorch Shot, as mentioned above.
  • Like the Darwin's Danger Shield, the Razorback is disproportionately useful in higher level play. While a mere nuisance in standard play (where the Spy could easily gun the Sniper or a second Spy could finish the job), Snipers are arguably the most powerful class in high-level Highlander matchesnote , and is the focal point of a class-combo. Since the combo includes Medic (who almost always overheals the Sniper because an overhealed Sniper can survive an uncharged headshot, and standing around to charge your shot in a Sniper Duel is suicide) and Pyro, this means that it's nearly impossible for a Spy to kill the class that he supposedly counters. To counter this, the Razorback was given a unique stat that made it impossible to get overheal, with the intention of making sure at least enemy Snipers can counter the combo. It also gave the shield the ability to regenerate as a bone throw to pubs, where the Razorback is largely seen as a terrible weapon given the lack of coordination, larger team sizes and no class limits makes the problematic scenario unlikely at best.
  • The Bushwacka was extremely powerful when first introduced. The weapon crits whenever it would normally mini-crit, almost doubling its strength. The Sniper has Jarate and the Sydney Sleeper, weapons that can force minicrits on the target, which essentially gave the Sniper the ability to easily assassinate anyone at close range — the opposite of where a Sniper should be capable. It initially only had the penalty of 20% fire damage taken, which didn't really matter against Pyros, as a Sniper within flamethrower range is screwed with or without the damage increase. It could also randomly crit, so there was almost no reason a Sniper wouldn't carry one even if they didn't use Jarate. It was initially nerfed so that it couldn't randomly crit, giving the Sniper at least some reason to use the Kukri over it. Finally, it was nerfed again so that the wielder had a general penalty of 20% extra damage taken while the weapon is out, which made the "Jarate-Chop" into a high-risk high-reward maneuver if the enemy could react.
  • The Machina is usually considered a straight upgrade over the stock Sniper Rifle and is mocked as a "noob weapon" or as crutch for bad Snipers who can't get headshots. The extra damage boost easily allows Snipers to bodyshot every single class other than Heavy in one hit. It can also penetrate targets on full charge, meaning that body-blocking in order to protect teammates from headshots in useless. This is combined with its downsides being negligible; the bright tracer round that gives away your position only really matters in duels with other Snipers and is easily worked around by simply moving to a different spot, and the fact that it can't fire without being scoped barely matters either, as very few Snipers use the stock Sniper Rifle in close quarters anyway and will switch to Jarate/melee if threats are too close.
    • Its re-skin, the Star Shooter, has gotten some attention for being slightly better than the Machina. While the stats are the same, its sounds are different and it has the ability to disintegrate enemies on kill. These aren't that big a difference, but the Machina's distinctive sound is considered one of its weaknesses, as it informs the team (especially counter snipers) exactly what you are using. By contrast, the Star Shooter makes a softer "pew" noise that is surprisingly less distinctive than even a normal sniper rifle. It's not unusual to mow down an enemy team in randoms because they don't get their heads down when you switch to sniper.

  • When the Spy vs. Sniper Update came out, the Spy got two new invisibility watches that could (1) let the Spy stay invisible indefinitely, or (2) fake his death and become essentially invulnerable for 6.5 seconds while ignoring the bump-into-reveal-cloak penalty. Not so bad by themselves since they also had significant drawbacks, but at the time of the update, the Spy also got his own taunt kill, which could still be performed while invisible. And killing the Spy mid-taunt could mean nothing. Valve spent several patches fixing these oversights.
    • The first release of the Dead Ringer let him cancel it immediately. Add the fast recharge and as long as you constantly clicked to keep it active and cancel any faked death, you had about 1200 HP (ten times the normal amount or so). Compared to the 300 HP Heavy being the tankiest class by Valve's design, the Spy was basically immortal until a patch fixed this. Now it drains down to 40% every time you cancel with more "Cloak" than that, as well as having a cooldown of sorts.
      • It was still reliable when it started draining at cancel, because you could decloak (loudly) right before touching a big ammo box, and then immediately ready it up again. Combine this with the typical player mentality of "kill enemy > capture objective", and you could take an easy MVP on defense with virtually no kills by just being an unkillable pest near the attacking team's spawn. In particular, Gold Rush stage 2 point 2 was virtually impossible to lose because of the abundance of ammo back near point 1. This was eventually fixed by severely reducing the amount of cloak that can be gained from large ammo boxes while holding the watch in question.
      • Despite all that, the Dead Ringer still got reworked, because the feign death feature was used by Spies for the damage resistance rather than any attempt to fool enemies. This promoted reckless play, with Spies running around as a very specialized assault class looking for backstabs, and using the damage resistance to get away scot free. The new Dead Ringer as of the Gun Mettle has a new speed boost upon trigger, playing into it being used as an escape tool. But as a trade-off, the damage resistance is overall lower, and after 3 seconds, the Spy takes normal damage when cloaked and flickers when shot or bumping into enemies.
      • Even after that, it was still not enough of a nerf, as Spies would frequently and repeatedly feign death, so the Jungle Inferno update introduced a change which prevents them from regenerating the watch by collecting ammo pickups.
  • The Enforcer was another Über Update weapon that was controversial upon release. With a 20% damage increase, its only disadvantage was taking a little extra time to become invisible. The Dead Ringer instantly cloaks the Spy upon taking damage. The additional damage allowed Spies to fight on the front lines and deal a surprising amount of damage to pursuers, which completely eliminates the Spy's class disadvantage of not being able to handle a direct fight. Add on the Spy-cicle, from a Smissmas update, which let the Spy backstab enemies without them screaming and extinguish fire on himself, on top of the pre-nerf Dead Ringer, and you get Dr. Enforcicle, a loadout that terrorized pubs for years. This got especially terrible when a certain glitch with the Diamondback allowed players to exploit infinite crits with the Spy's primary weapon. However, the Enforcer has since been nerfed and now has a slower firing speed, only causes the damage bonus when the Spy is undisguised, and can't deal random critical hits. The enforcer still lets the Spy 2-shot classes with 125 health, in contrast to the 3 shots of a revolver, still giving Spy a good tool against Scouts. The Spy-cicle was nerfed to have victims scream when backstabbed, and reducing its fire immunity to 1 second with 10 seconds of afterburn immunity.
    • The Gun Mettle update nerfed the weapon even further, this time changing the damage bonus to only apply when disguised. So if a Spy misses that first shot, he's stuck with a standard Revolver that fires slower (unless he wants to re-disguise himself in the middle of combat, which he does not want to do if he has more than ten brain cells).
  • The Red-Tape Recorder ruined the game for Engineers to the point it was patched the day after its release. It didn't destroy buildings the normal way, instead it reversed building construction on buildings; downgrading Level 3 buildings to Level 2, then 1, before slowly deconstructing Level 1 items into ammo. While interesting on paper, Engineers soon realized that it was removing a level once every 1.6 seconds — the exact time it takes to swing the wrench twice and remove it. In other words, an Engineer needed to swing his wrench at the exact second the sapper was placed, or his building lost a level (a.k.a. 200 metal). Even if Engineers synchronized their hits perfectly, the Sentry would still be sapped and remain completely inactive until the Spy was killed.
    • This was alleviated when the downgrade time was extended from 1.6 seconds to 3.0 seconds. While the change was completely understandable, the RTR is now frowned upon as a direct downgrade to the Sapper. Since the RTR takes 14 seconds to finish off a Level 1 Sentry (or 7 seconds for Level 1 Dispensers and Teleporters), the fact it will almost never fully kill a building means that it's only good for weakening guarded buildings for allies or paralyzing mini-sentries.
  • The Ambassador attracted a massive amount of hatred from the community — and was the favorite of trolling Spy mains everywhere — for quite a long time until it was finally nerfed in the Jungle Inferno update. The revolver gives headshot crits against enemies at the cost of a -15% damage penalty, slower firing speed, and no random critical hits. On paper this looks fine as it rewarded skilled Spies for careful aim and punished them for missing; in practice, it basically turned Spies into Snipers with cloaking devices, allowing them to headshot unaware people from across entire maps and immediately cloak again to escape, making the revolver a much easier and safer alternative to backstabs as long as you could aim for the head. It even got to the point that Ambassador Spies would look down on Spies using any other revolver for being unable to aim. The Jungle Inferno update gave each shot damage falloff, forcing Spies to be much closer to their enemies in order to score headshots.
    • A large portion of the rage against Ambassador Spies also had to do with the fact that it comboed hilariously well with the pre-nerf Dead Ringer, allowing even unskilled players to run into the heat of battle, headshot someone (likely one-shotting them in the process), then instantly activate the Dead Ringer and get off scott-free before anyone could possibly retaliate. The Dead Ringer-Ambassador combo was easily the most hated item combo in the history of the game for this reason until the nerfs.
  • The Diamondback is usually regarded as this or at least borderline-overpowered compared to the other revolvers, especially by more skilled Spy players post-Jungle Inferno Ambassador nerf. In exchange for a measly -15% damage penalty, the weapon has a quirk where backstabs and sapping buildings gives you one guaranteed critical hit. Even better is that you can store multiple critical hits at the same time. And unlike Engineers who use the mechanically similar Frontier Justice, it's almost impossible to tell if the Spy has crits loaded up or not since he's likely going to be disguised while using it. So basically, by simply playing normally and doing what Spies should be doing anyway, you can do things like sap Sentry nests and instantly slaughter the Engineers guarding them with crits, or backstab a Heavy and then one-shot his pocket Medic before their teammates can react.

    Mann vs. Machine 
Many weapons become this intentionally in Mann vs. Machine, due to the horde-mode nature of the game mode and the fact that most weapons can be upgraded. Weapons with unique and useful abilities can often have their drawbacks all but eliminated with upgrades, making even weapons that are only average in standard play very powerful.
  • The Kritzkrieg replaces its Ubercharge with giving the patient guaranteed Critical Hits and has a faster charge rate than the default Medigun, so the player saves on one charge rate upgrade when maxing it out. With the Two Cities update, the Medic can project a fast-charging shield which protects multiple players (and a Sentry) at once, which is much more useful than a regular Ubercharge. To top it off, canteens for Uber are cheaper than canteens for Crits, so there is no reason to use the default Medigun, especially since Canteen Specialist upgrades let the Medic outright share Uber canteens with his patient.
  • If your team is running a Sniper instead of a Demoman, chances are he will use the Hitman's Heatmaker. It grants the Sniper a damage boost by charging its damage while reloading and allows the Sniper to continually aim down his scope when "Focus" is enabled. It only takes three kills to activate Focus, and kills made under Focus refill the bar. The Sniper Rifles can be upgraded to deal splash damage on headshots, so a Sniper using the Hitman's Heatmaker can stay scoped in and mow down waves of robots until he's out of ammo.
  • The Soldier's banners, especially the Buff Banner, are what make him such a valuable team asset in MvM. In exchange for a shotgun that you will never use, you get the ability to boost you and your teammates' damage every time you fill the rage meter, which is quite often in MvM - on top of also having upgrades for buff duration. The other two, while considered less useful, are no slouches either, with Battalion's Backup providing significant damage reduction and total crit immunity if you want to focus on defense, and the Concheror giving speed and lifesteal if you want to boost survivability.
  • The Demoman's Bootlegger/Ali Baba's Wee Booties normally are only used by dedicated Demoknights, but here the added health more than makes up for losing the Grenade Launcher even without using a shield. Its highly impractical to upgrade both the sticky launcher and the grenade launcher and the Sticky Launcher's proficiency in eliminating Medics is what makes him great in MvM. So the cost of a weapon you will hardly use for added durability is a no brainer.
    • Combining the above with the Eyelander is even more powerful. The Bootlegger offsets the Eyelander's initial HP loss, and once you get even a single kill with the Eyelander you will be at an advantage. The Eyelander gives a nice HP and speed boost for every kill, capping out at four. It's incredibly easy to get heads on some early fodder enemies, and with four measly kills with it, you can eliminate the Demo's two biggest weaknesses in MvM; his fragility note  and his lack of speed.
  • The Demoman's Scottish Resistance is a straight upgrade over the regular Stickybomb Launcher in MvM thanks to its reduced upgrade cost and its 14 bomb cap. With a crit canteen and good foresight with sticky placement, it's entirely possible for skilled Demos to slaughter entire waves by themselves.
  • The Phlogistinator was absurdly good when the mode first launched; when you're fighting dozens of robots at a time, dealing 225 fire damage to charge the Mmmph meter could easily be done in less than a second, giving the Pyro what amounts to a permanent crit-boost and letting them incinerate hordes, giants, and Tanks alike with impunity. The Phlogistinator subsequently became the first weapon to be nerfed only in Mann vs. Machine by greatly increasing the amount of damage needed to charge the Mmmph meter (to 1200 against robots and 3000 against Tanks); to give you an idea of how absurd it used to be, the Phlog is still the go-to anti-Tank weapon for Pyros in this mode.
  • The Heavy's Holiday Punch. Whenever the weapon crits or strikes an enemy's back, it forces the enemy into a long laughing taunt. Not only did this work on robots, but it worked on giant robots. Instead of having to fight giants the hard way, the team Heavy could just repeatedly tickle them while his team shredded the giant. The Holiday Punch joined the Phlogistinator in the "nerfed in Mann vs. Machine only" club by having its ability outright removed in MvM.
  • The Spy's Your Eternal Reward knife also had to pass through the "nerfed in Mann vs. Machine only" club early on by delaying its ability to disguise by 1.5 seconds (matching the Disguise Kit) and automatically triggering a backstab warning to the other robots, since with the standard instant disguise and silent killer effect of the weapon, the AI would never catch on and the Spy would become able to slaughter every single non-giant robot with impunity after getting the first backstab.
  • The Heavy's Brass Beast gives extra damage and durability at the cost of setup time and mobility. In MvM the Heavy spends most of his time near a dispenser and doesn't need to move around much unless something goes wrong. If the speed reduction bothers you, you can just buy more speed upgrades anyway.
  • The Scout has the Fan-o-War, which marks an enemy for death. Slap a giant with one and the extra damage your team does will outweigh what you could do with any other melee options.
    • While the Sandman can be upgraded to serve the same purpose, it's a hefty 500-credit upgrade that still saddles the Scout with a small health penalty, making it a "poor man's substitute"note  of sorts.
  • The Pyro's Scorch Shot was this for a time due to it applying full knockback against giant robots. As such, the Pyro could halt a giant's advance or even push it down a death pit from a good distance away, especially with upgraded firing rate and reload speed. This was unsurprisingly patched out, but while it lasted, the Scorch Shot could do ridiculous things like this.
  • Introduced in the Jungle Inferno update, Pyro's Dragon's Fury and Gas Passer unlocks.
    • The Dragon's Fury deals triple damage to burned enemies, and given the weapon's short afterburn effect, it's only effective if the Pyro can chain hits. It's reasonable in normal game modes, where it's kind of difficult to hit enemies, but in MvM, the number of enemies and their tendency to be slow makes this weapon a no-brainer. It deals a LOT of damage when you hold down left click, melting down mobs of robots without the need for a Kritz canteen. It even gets a large damage bonus against Tanks, letting Pyro keep his tank-killing role without needing to compromise. It was even more broken when it first debuted, as it had an upgrade to increase the Repressurization Rate (Essentially the Dragon Fury's Reload and Fire Rates rolled into one) which turned even the mightiest of robots into scrap in mere seconds thanks to the chain hit mechanic of the weapon. The Repressurization Rate upgrade has since been removed.
    • The Gas Passer is often deemed one of the worst weapons in the game, but that's definitely not the case in MvM, mostly thanks to its "Explode on Ignite" upgrade. Throw it into a crowd of weak robots and they pretty much instantly die if a bullet grazes them, due to the high density of chain-reaction explosions. And, the minute-long recharge of the Gas Passer is negated — since it charges faster if you deal more damage, dealing a lot of damage through the explosion charges it instantly. This upgrade is the one thing that nudged Pyro out of the tank-busting niche, giving them burst damage that lets them clear the front lines or pick enemy Medics, if a bit too effectively. Eventually, the Gas Passer was reworked such that its explosions would not contribute to its lengthy recharge timer, forcing the Pyro to actually engage the robots in combat if they wanted to speed up the Gas Passer's recharge. In exchange, the explosion itself received a damage buff, letting the Pyro now kill medium-strength bots with it. But even after the nerfs, the Gas Passer remains so powerful, some people will kick players for using it. The excuse they use is usually either that it's so broken it makes the game boring or the player probably doesn't know how to play Pyro without it.
  • The Widowmaker and Frontier Justice are very effective primary weapons for the Engineer in MvM. For the Widowmaker, the robots' generally lower movement speed, as well as the possibility to add projectile penetration, allows it to actually give more Metal than it uses in every shot, making the Engineer much less reliant on Dispensers and ammo pickups. The Frontier Justice's ability to give revenge crits shines as it will give them even if the Engineer detonates his Sentry Gun, and since sentries will mow down hordes of minor robots, detonating the Sentry Gun at the end of each wave usually gives the 35 revenge crits cap, letting the Engineer deal a lot of damage to anything.
  • The Beggar's Bazooka is a weapon that hugely benefits from MvM upgrades. While unloading up to 11 rockets at a time with upgraded clip capacity sounds tempting on paper, the Beggar's Bazooka actually performs much better when you upgrade reload speed, ammo capacity, and maybe firing speed and spam the fire button, essentially turning it into a regular rocket launcher with a bottomless clip (at least until your ammo runs out) and letting the Soldier put out withering amounts of sustained damage, pausing only to restock and/or pop a banner. Its main downside, the reduced accuracy, doesn't really matter in this mode because the things you'll be shooting at — either a large group of robots or one really big one — are basically impossible to miss in the first place.

With how useful some class and powerup combos are, it is no surprise that the gamemode was in beta for ten months.
  • Haste works well with certain classes and weapons, in some cases, a little too well. For Scouts and Heavies, it also helps that with the ammo bonus also comes a doubling in lunchbox items that can be used at a time.
    • A Scout equipped with Haste becomes even faster (and even more faster if equipped with fully-boosted Baby Face's Blaster), can swing his bat as fast as an insect using its wings, causing their DPS to skyrocket when they get in close. And if you thought the Force-A-Nature was already bad enough, it can now unload 4 shots in one second, meaning they don't even have to send you into a pit to end you.
    • A Heavy equipped with Gloves of Running Urgently can become this. The GRU brings him up to 100% normal speed, combined with Haste brings him up to 130%, almost as fast as the Scout, and also increases the rate he can throw punches. With this, you could probably take Fat Scout seriously.
    • Medic can combine this with the Blutsauger to become nigh-immortal, as the draining is very capable of outpacing any damage he might take.
    • Huntsman Snipers with Haste can effectively bolt out fully-charged arrows at a ridiculous speed. Given the arrows' odd hitbox, they don't need to take time to aim to roll into a headshot.
  • Agility with a Pyro. You thought they were Demonic Spiders before? With Agility, they have the speed and maneuverability of a Scout, and combined with the flamethrower, you get an unhindered force of fire that you can't get away from.
    • Can also work with the Spy. If you're good enough, you can backstab someone, cloak, and get away before anyone else realizes what happened. Rinse and repeat. If you have enough practice, it can almost seem like he's teleporting around the place.
  • For Soldier, Precision pairs very well as it increases rocket travel speed (excluding rockets fired from the Rocket Jumper) by 250% and also increases clip size as well.
    • Any class with the Shotgun and Precision can become a threat at long range, as it eliminates bullet spread and damage fall-off, to the point where you may as well be using slugs instead of shells.
    • The Heavy with Precision might as well be cheating. The Grappling Hook, when used right, already negates the Heavy's problematic mobility, leaving only his limited range as a weakness.......until now.
  • Knockout to any class setup that relies on ranged weapons is very easily avoided. To a pure Demoknight, however, it's a must-have. The melee damage increase is nice, but the real prize is the immunity to knockback, meaning that, no matter what, you will get your target. Pairs especially nice with the Eyelander, as it does 108 on a regular hit, and 323 on a crit, one-shotting even a non-overhealed Heavy.
  • Plague for the Spy is pretty strong. Touching an enemy player will cause them and anyone nearby on their team to permenantly bleed until they can find a health kit - helped by the fact that the powerup also passively causes you to collect health kits in a vastly increased radius, depriving your victims of the healing they need. While strong on most close-quarters classes, what makes it special on Spy is that it works even if you're disguised. See that big cluster of the whole enemy team? Tap the Medic on the shoulder and they'll all be dead pretty quick.

  • The first Polycount Update (along with Australian Christmas) brought this with the 'set bonuses.' Having an entire set of equipment grants bonuses and flaws on top of existing ones. While bonuses and flaws aren't exactly new, what made it game-breaking is that some of these first sets didn't come with any flaws at all. Somebody with the item set hat had a pure advantage over someone who didn't (A player with the Special Delivery set while wearing the Milkman has 25 more HP than a player without the hat, while carrying the exact same weapons). This was eventually rectified by making future sets purely cosmetic or having small enough bonuses that they didn't matter, and the initial Polycount Sets had their bonuses merged into the weapons.
    • The Polycount item sets drew a lot of hate and ire since they required players to wear a hat alongside the items, and hats are a hell of a lot harder to come by than weapons, both in random drops and in crafting. So until the set bonuses were merged into the weapons themselves, the only ones who were able to take advantage of the item set bonuses were the ones that either got lucky in item drops or crate openings, were willing to grind out the Refined Metal needed to craft the hats, or simply purchased the hat from the Mann Co. Store.
  • The Halloween Spells ran into balance issues when it became possible to add them to non-Helltower maps. Teleport was the worst: the nature of Helltower's design made it impossible to teleport outside of the map note , but on just about any other map, it was child's play to teleport out of bounds. A canny Engineer could easily build a Sentry nest under the ground, making it impervious to attack by anything except a Spy that managed to reach your teleporter, but entirely capable of insta-gibbing you the second you left spawn. Valve eventually removed Teleport from the spell list for non-Helltower maps.
    • Carnival of Carnage, another spell-enabled map, has a similar problem. Acquiring the rare Minify spell or being under the effect of Merasmus' shrinking curse and being in the right place when it wears off allowed you to get inside the rock wall under the giant Merasmus head. You could then build a Sentry nest inside the stone, sit back on your Rancho Relaxo, and watch anyone who goes near the Strongmann machine die and not be able to do a thing about it. This exploit lasted for nearly a week before it was fixed.
  • Exploits in general seem to come up frequently and are excruciatingly difficult to deal with fairly. While a complete list would fill up this page, one particularly grievous exploit early in the game's history allowed players to get under the map, making them invincible while they shot up through the floor at unsuspecting players. Engineers could build Teleporters to facilitate this, then build Sentry Guns directly under the enemy spawn to keep enemy players from doing anything, leading to ragequits. This was quickly patched.
  • The Gun Mettle Update and the Love & War update both showed, in varying ways, that designers of Payload maps are very lax when it comes to determining what sets off the bomb explosion at the end. note  The Love & War Update added bread objects which occasionally spawn when using a Teleporter; on Upward, a crafty Engineer could build a Teleporter Exit near the pit which would cause a bread object to spawn, triggering the explosion. Thankfully, it was patched soon afterwards. However, a year later, the Gun Mettle Update changed the way dropped weapons work, so that now they were physics props rather than pickups, and also added medium ammo boxes on death that are also props. People found various ways of spawning ammo boxes inside the pit via High-Fiving someone and then committing suicide (caused by the High-Five pose causing the ammo box to spawn in an awkward position) and tossing weapons, especially oblong ones such as the flamethrower, on the last point until it clipped through. It took three patches to fix all this. And again, shortly after the Tough Break update, it became possible for a Pyro to pick up and drop a Flamethrower repeatedly to set off the final capture point in Borneo.
  • Playing on a "Randomizer" fun server gives you a random class and random combinations of weapons/gear from different classes every time you respawn. Depending on RNG and luck, you can get some obscenely broken combinations - such as a Heavy who can run as fast as a Demo and heal half of his health (on each hit) with a Black Box, or a Scout with a Minigun and a Jag which lets him build sentry guns instantly.

And so on and so forth. Every time an update ships, you can be sure that somebody will be complaining that the Metagame has been completely ruined.