- While most classes in Team Fortress 2 are balanced enough to not have a major edge aganst all other classes, some classes are just better than others. In a competitive regular 6 vs. 6 match every class is limited to a maximum of two... except the Medic, the Heavy, and the Demoman, who are limited to a maximum of one. The Medic is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, but as for the other two:
- The Demoman gets a lot of hate and is regarded as overpowered by many, because both of his weapons can be spammed to hell and back. The sticky bomb launcher gets the most hate, since its bombs can be detonated in midair, and thus it can be used much like a rocket launcher with twice the capacity. Most Demomen use the sticky launcher exclusively and are basically playing a faster, more effective (but frailer) Soldier. The few that actually use and are good with the primary grenade launcher as well are absolute terrors; a direct hit with a grenade does more damage than a rocket, but can bounce off walls and be lobbed from behind cover, something rockets can't do.
- The Heavy, in regular 24-player servers, is fairly okay by himself. Sure, he has the most close-range firepower in the game and is nigh-invulnerable when backed by a Medic, but he's very slow and can be taken down by overwhelming him or through other methods. When the number of players on a server drop below 10, though, he basically becomes the most powerful class, as there aren't enough players on the other team to take him down. This, along with various updates to the class itself, are largely the reason that the Heavy is one of the only classes limited to one in 6 vs. 6 competitive play.
- Unfortunately for the Heavy, it's also generally agreed that he's one of the classes that suffers heavily in 6v6, simply because so much of the competitive metagame is dedicated to symmetrical maps. This requires a level of mobility that the Heavy just isn't capable of, between rushing from spawn and rushing to the next point. The result is that the poor guy gets left in the dust very easily, only coming up in defenses on the last point where lack of mobility doesn't matter. It doesn't help that the Heavy has very few viable sets, most of which don't really change up his gameplay to any significant degree. It's for this reason that he was positioned opposite the Pyro for a rework... which he never got, as the Pyro won instead. He did get a banana for it, though.
- Soldier, the game's generalist class, is often regarded as being too good at filling any role, be it attack, defense, or support. His rockets are extremely potent and quick, the splash damage is so large that the Soldier very frequently doesn't even have to aim to damage opponents, leading to infamous 'shoot your feet to win' moments where the Soldier just spams rockets at his feet to kill lower health opponents nearby. They're also regarded as better sentry busters than Demoman or Spies, the Engie's intended counter-classes, because they can easily three-shot a sentry while remaining out of the sentry's range.note His banners offer a variety of support and offense, sometimes letting him push past chokes just by himself, with one even granting him passive regen even when not active. On top of this, his Escape Plan gives him a very easy way to escape bad situations by increasing his speed based on how much health he has left. Overall, this results in the Soldier being a very potent class in and of himself; to the point that the game has gained a reputation of having nothing but Soldier mains in every even remotely serious match.
- This isn't even factoring in specific builds; 'the Bad Box' build is widely regarded as being the most hated loadout for any class in the game, because the specific items in this set give Soldier such increased survivability that he may as well not need health packs. The Black Box is a rocket launcher that sacrifices one of the rockets in his clip for giving his explosive damage a static Life Drain effect, healing 15 health as long as it does even Scratch Damage. The Concheror is a banner that not only gives Soldier a passive regen effect, but also allows him (and nearby allies) to have a temporary burst of speed after its charge meter is filled. The Escape Plan is a melee that increases Soldier's speed while active based on how little HP he has left. All three together results in a very, very durable Soldier that can easily survive many situations he should have had no right making it out of alive, on top of still having a very potent damage output and mobility. When he does find himself in a situation he shouldn't be able to get out of even with his multiple ways to heal, he can activate the conch, pull out the Escape Plan, and nope out at speeds faster than the Scout. Needless to say, this makes this specific loadout very, very unfun to fight against, with many people in the TF2 community regarding it as the 'I can't survive without a Medic on my arse 24/7' loadout. The loadout became a lot less annoying after the healing factor of the Black Box was made to scale with the damage you do, meaning that you now have to be competent with landing hits to replicate its previous healing strength.
- Nobody better sits on the higher tier throne than the crown price of douchebaggery himself; the Scout, not so affectionally called Scunts by most of the player base. While he's extremely difficult to master, the results are well worth it, as general consensus is that a good Scout main effectively has no major weaknesses. Low health? Means nothing if the enemy can't hit you in the first place. Normally, this means the Scout has to hit like a fly, right? Nope! The stock scattergun is extremely good, able to three-shot a non-overhealed Heavy if he hits all his meatshots. It's also worth noting; every other viable primary sidegrade the Scout had eventually had to be nerfed into the ground for making him too goodnote . His secondaries are also great; the Pretty Boy's Pocket Pistol allowing him to drain health from his enemies he hits and heal himself, helping negate his low HP penalty, while the Mad Milk is an even more potent health drain that also lets his teammates heal off of any enemy he hits with it, while also giving him a way to extinguish afterburn. He also gets the Winger, which is poor as a gun but increases his jump height, and a throwing cleaver that causes bleeding on hit. His melee weapons may be weak, but it's a non-issue since most mainly use the Atomizer, a bat with the ability to give the Scout a triple jump while it's out, further increasing his mobility. His 'hard counter', the Engineer? Virtually non-existent in sixes, since the time needed to set up his buildings is extremely crucial and with so little teammates to guard him in sixes, he very rarely gets to set up, on top of both teams having Medics by default, meaning an Uber push makes all his effort worthless. All this means the Scout can wreak absolute havoc in it. Even in pubs where Engineers can set up easier, most smart Scout mains know how to bait the Engineer out from the nest and take him down, and how to time their peeks to the Sentry's animation to avoid most damage while they slowly chip away at it with the scattershot. About the only thing that can stop a good Scout main is an entire nest of sentries, at which point most will focus on dealing with the rest of the team so their team can push and wipe the sentries out. It says a lot that while most of the other good classes sit in S tier on most competitive lists, Scout is the only class to have an entire tier to himself most of the time, sitting solidly at SS tier in competitive play.
- Part of this is that in standard gameplay, the Scout is countered by the Engineer (who has sentries for auto-aim that kill the Scout in two seconds) and the Heavy (who can shred him with a hail of gunfire and survive anything short of the Scout unloading his whole magazine at point-blank). But because Heavies and Engineers are an endangered species in 6v6 competitive, this makes the Scout even more unstoppable. It doesn't help that the standard Demoman and Soldier are some of Scout's better matchups unlike the Heavy, who uses hitscan, they're reliant on projectile weapons that can be dodged, and the Scout happens to be the best at that and the Medic is also required, whom Scout can very easily pick off.
Every class in Team Fortress 2
gets this one way or another, but several stand out:
- Pyro, because the Pyro is overpowered in casual play, but underpowered in competitive play in casual, Pyro's good flank ability turns uncoordinated pub teams to ash and afterburn is tougher to extinguish due to higher player counts scrambling for healthpacks, but in competitive, higher team coordination diminishes Pyro's ability to ambush and more prominence of Medics snuffs out any afterburn to just a piddling summer breeze. Sadly, this makes Pyro the very definition of a Scrub class. Later updates have turned Pyro into less of a close-range beast and given it more of a support role as an airblast class. This went about as well as can be expected.
- It doesnt help when the Pyro does get something useful for competitive play, its hated by a portion of the community for being overpowered (Degreasernote , Axtinguishernote , Reserve Shooternote , and Phlogistinatornote ), but when its nerfed, the other portion of the community then complain that the class is useless. This has made the Pyro class a roller coaster in terms of balancing for years.
- The Jungle Inferno update fixed the Pyro's problems of Hitbox Dissonance by correcting how its particles behave. Then, some testing revealed that due to the way the particle effects work, a player exposed to a back-and-forth sweeping motion of the flamethrower takes more damage than one exposed to an unmoving stream of fire. Cue complaints of Pyros simply spazzing out at their enemies, enjoying an increased arc of fire that reduces their need to aim while increasing their damage output. Fortunately, this was patched, and now flamethrower damage rewards the Pyro keeping a steady flame on their target.
- The horrific irony is that people outed Pyro as a particularly brainless class that was mostly only capable of "W+M1"note and ended up being the butt of everyone's joke. So Valve tried to give him some new skill-requiring methods of dealing damage... which where then outed as cheap tactics that Pyros could use to get easy kills, so they were nerfed into near-uselessness while also increasing the consistency of their flame particles. So in other words, people deemed Pyro to be a brainless and too-simple class, and then demanded all of his skill-based weaponry be nerfed into the ground, resulting in W+M1 being one of Pyro's better strategies and making him the damage-dealing bumrush class they outed him as in the first place.
- The Sniper gets a lot of heat, because he's the long-range class in a game where the vast majority of combat occurs at low-mid range. This means that your interactions with a Sniper on the enemy team will consist of either him seeing you and shooting you, or you seeing him, you firing a few futile shots from your Short-Range Shotgun, and him shooting you. (Or you seeing him and hiding like a bitch.) Worse, since Snipers usually stay a good distance from the frontlines (bar things like Huntsman/Jarate Snipers), the time you'll most likely notice the Snipers on your team is when you check the class count and realize that your team has five Snipers on it. This leads to Snipers being stereotyped as lone-wolf, aimbotting, KDR-checking children birthed from the deepest recesses of Modern Warfare... which is, ironically, pretty much the opposite of his canon characterization. Sometimes.
- Just like with Spy, Snipers create a problem of Crippling Overspecialization. Too many Snipers means too little frontline classes to actually push for the objective, and it doesn't help that new players would pick Sniper to try and get revenge on whoever's dominating them. Additionally, a massive percentage of Sniper players happen to duel each other instead of picking off key targets, effectively turning both teams' Snipers into The Load, reducing both teams' pushing power, and perhaps even causing the match to boil down to a stalemate.
- Snipers competitive viability varies greatly depending on the format. In faster-paced formats such as 6v6, Snipers lack of mobility causes him to struggle, often relegating him to the role of a situational pick class. However, in slower formats such as Highlander, his ability to deal huge bursts of damage from long distances comes to its full potential. A good Sniper protected by his team becomes very hard to counter, with the only reliable answers being Spy and an enemy Sniper. In turn, the Sniper can counter both of these answers through the Razorback and a friendly Medics overheal, respectively (and, prior to the Jungle Inferno update, recieve both to become near-uncounterable). Because of this, Highlander and similar formats are notoriously Sniper-centric, with many plays revolving around an important pick made by a teams Sniper.
- Engineer suffers a very odd case of this. In Casual play, Engineer often has a sizable amount of time to set up his buildings and upgrade them to level 3, which are a massive boon to their team through providing effective area denial, offering health and ammo, and quick transportation to the front lines. One Engineer forms the backbone of a good defense, but upwards of three is nigh-impenetrable (especially if that team has Pyros and Heavies to back up those Engineers). In Competitive 6s, he's fairly weak due to a very unfavourable Meta Game. The fast-paced nature of 5CP and the prominence of Engineer's three main counters (Soldier, Demo, and Medic) mean that his leveled buildings are a huge timesink in a game where every second counts, yet can easily be rendered useless by the front lines changing and just as easily be destroyed by an Ubered Medic. Non-5CP game modes and Highlander, though, tend to give him a lot more to do.
- The various game modes that make up Team Fortress 2 often shake up the meta in a number of ways. The two biggest examples of these are Medieval Modenote and Mann Vs Machinenote . This can make weapons, builds, and even entire classes change from god-tier to complete garbage and vice-versa. For Medieval Mode specifically, both the Engineer and Pyro go from Middling Tier to Low Tier owing to their main roles being discarded and their melee weapons not doing enough to fill the void. Likewise, Spy goes from Low Tier to Middling Tier, as he's more built around melee weaponry to begin with (though he's still difficult to play) and Scout goes from High Tier to Middling Tier due to his low health and gimmicky melee weapons. Both Sniper and Medic, on the other hand, actually flit between Middling and High Tier depending on melee weapon and primary weapon equipped (both can use arrows, the only allowed projectile weapon in the mode). And Demoman goes straight to God Tier, since his swords are among the best melee weapons in the game.
- In Mann VS Machine in particular, Sniper specifically has quite a big shakeup of viable and non-viable. In pubs, a sniper can get away with using most rifles or the Huntsman without many issues, but The Hitman's Heatmaker is arguably the weakest option. While kills and assists with the weapon fill a 'focus' meter which, when activated temporarily removes the need to unscope between shots and increases charge speed by 25%, each shot while focused reveals your location with bright, distinct tracer rounds, it only last up to 9 seconds if no additional kills are secured, and it suffers a harsh 20% damage penalty on bodyshots, severely impacting total damage on a missed bodyshot. In Mann vs Machine, the Heatmaker is bar-none the top tier weapon for Sniper, combined with an Explosive Headshots upgrade. A good sniper can stay in focus indefinitely for an entire wave, the increased charge speed of focus on top of the charge speed upgrades that can be purchased ingame make every shot deal more than stock damage, and most importantly, the unscoping shots allow the sniper to unload high damage headshots at the full fire rate, no longer suffering the slight 'no headshot' lag between every scope and unscope that limits the effectiveness of any firerate upgrades.
- The Spy gets it the worst of any class in the game. Sure, he's the very definition of Difficult, but Awesome: a good Spy can absolutely terrorize a team and cause enough discord behind their lines to allow your team to push, but everything the Spy can do, another class can do better. Getting key picks? The Scout and Sniper can do that better, as Scout can get behind enemy lines faster and isn't completely hosed if caught off guard, Sniper doesn't need to get behind enemy lines and can get kills out of harm's way, and both of them aren't completely boned after getting that first pick. Sentry busting? Both Soldier and Demoman can do that better without sacrificing survivability or damage output, as they both have effective tools to do so: Soldier can shoot rockets from outside Sentry range, and Demo can blind fire at a Sentry from safety. What if the sentry's in an awkward place neither of them can easily hit, or there's a giant sentry nest going on? If it somehow gets that bad, an Uber Medic with help from a power class can often cause a massive push to destroy the sentry plus any others in an area being camped, on top of increasing the survivability of the entire team in the process. In short, while the Spy isn't a bad class per se, there's often very little reason to pick it over any other class.
- It doesn't help that Spy creates a problem of Crippling Overspecialization. His One-Hit Kill capabilities makes him very attractive to new players who probably won't be able to use him effectively due to lack of experience, but even if all Spy players are sufficiently competent, too many Spies means too little frontline classes to push the objective or engage the enemy long enough for a Spy to do his work.
- This, oddly, makes the Spy both a Skill Gate Character and Difficult, but Awesome, with their usefulness being mostly dependent less on the player's own skill and more on the skill gap between them and their opponents. In the disordered environment of a pub, a talented Spy can wreak havoc and effortlessly chainstab a whole team, but when the team is coordinated, even the best Spy will have to struggle to get off even one kill. On the other hand, an unskilled Spy is notoriously a complete liability.
- And even if a Spy is skilled enough to be a help to his team, any chance of that can be undone just by the other side communicating, as the voice chat is instant, and team-only. If the other side is talking, there's no hope of a Spy being both stealthy and effective, as any victims will immediately inform their allies exactly what to look for and where to look. If a team is talking, the only chance a Spy has at surviving is to follow up all backstabs by immediately cloaking and getting the hell out of dodge. Any other tactics will work maybe twice before the other team changes their layout to counter them.
- In Mann Vs Machine, high tier scrappies are not observed due to the cooperative PvE nature of the game. Low tier scrappies, though, are more relevant — Mann Vs. Machine only allows for 6 players at once and one unskilled and/or ill-equipped player can cost the entire team the game.
- Prior to the Two Cities Update, frequent Mann Up players in the Mann Vs. Machine Mode consider the Medic to be the worst class to play, largely because Engineer is actually better at healing with his DispenserWhy? and can do lots of damage with his sentry gun at the same time. Players going Medic are often the most likely to be kicked from games if they refuse to switch class, or even before they get a chance to switch if they don't have any previous Mann Up Tours displayed (which is the quickest way to identify new players to the mode). He was saved in the Two Cities update, which gave him such a massive buffSpecifically that he's now considered viable instead of or in addition to an Engineer.
- Spies and Snipers are some of the least-picked classes in MvM due to them being assassination classes in a game about clearing hordes of enemies. Spy can compensate with a Sapper upgrade that lets him stun groups of robots and stab them from any angle, but the Sapper is also given a cooldown in this game mode, leaving the Spy rather defenseless shortly after attacking. Him needing to be in the thick of things also requires a fair number of resistance upgrades. Sniper, on the other hand, has a very high skill floor — a competent player can tear through bots with explosive headshots as well as other classes, but an incompetent one becomes very dead weight. Both Spy and Sniper, being a form of Critical Hit Class, also become less effective against Tanks which have no weak point for easy crits.
- Pyro dips in and out of this status due to the class's niche roles in this mode. Airblast is good for pushing bots back and resetting the bomb, but unless the map you're playing on has pits or instant kill traps to cause an instant bomb reset, you're only delaying the bomb's movement while not giving a good contribution to damage which you need to clear the wave anyway. The Phlogistinator becomes useful for destroying Tanks, but this also sacrifices the utility of the airblast. Pyro is also less effective as a damage class due to them being a Close-Range Combatant, forcing the player to have investments in resistances and mobility so that they not die too quickly in the midst of combat. Pyro would be rescued from this status with the introduction of the Gas Passer, giving them access to burst damage for clearing out tight groups of robots or even picking off Medics like a Demo would. This makes Pyro and Demoman generally interchangeable in the game mode, even after the Gas Passer's nerf.
- Demoknights and Snipers with the Huntsman are considered to be this forever in MvM. Demoknights are believed to be inferior Scouts/Spies and Huntsman Snipers lack any explosive headshot damage. This is a consequence of nobody knowing how to play these classes effectively Demoknights actually have the highest damage-per-second in all of MvM once they have some upgrades, and can tank ridiculous amount of damage. Huntsman Snipers are simply designed for a completely different game mode.