Friday, September 2, 2011

Learning to play Medic, pt. 2

(If you haven't already, read Learning to play Medic pt.1 before you read this, as it introduces some concepts that you should be familiar with before trying the more advanced concepts that I'll go over in this post)

Hey all!
I've heard lots of good things from people try to pick up playing medic in the competitive format who've learned a lot from my post, so without further ado, I'd like to present the next three tips!

Note: The concepts I'm covering in this post are much more cerebral than most tips you'll read out there. Be prepared for a lot of metagame discussion that relies pretty heavily on your own personal experience.

1. How to use your ubercharge/kritzkrieg effectively

Without a doubt, the uber/kritz (for the rest of the post, unless I'm talking specifically about one or the other, I'll refer to them collectively as an uber) is the most powerful weapon in your team's arsenal. Both transform you and your teammates into killing machines, and require a very different mindset than normal TF2.

In talking about how to get the most out of each charge, I'd like to address points in a chronological manner; that is, what you should be thinking at each stage of the ubercharge. This seems the most natural to me, and also the easiest way to implement these concepts into your own gameplay.

These numbers are, of course, approximate, but they represent "sections" of the ubercharge that you can understand intuitively.

0-75% charge: this section of the ubercharge (known mainly as "building") is pretty straightforward. As a medic right now, you have two responsibilities: make sure that you're always healing someone who isn't at the maximum buffed health (to give yourself the fastest charge rate possible) and don't die.

That's it.

 If you're new to playing medic, or have a new team that you're working with, don't try to develop plays before you have an ubercharge, unless you have an advantage that's too good to miss (for example, 2-6 members of the enemy team are down and they don't have ubercharge). If you're healing a soldier, make sure they understand that every time their health approaches the 290-300 range, they need to receive damage in some way, unless they're actively involved in a fight.

If you're playing with a pocket soldier, it's good to have them block damage for you. Basically, your soldier is the damage sink of the team, if they need one: they have the most health, there are two of them, and they're well equipped to deal with any situation. Your demoman is generally too valuable to needlessly take damage, and your scouts have too little health. Thus, if the enemy team is spamming rockets at you and you find that you can't dodge them, tell your soldier to purposely get hit by the rockets as long as they won't die, and stay away from the splash. You can heal them faster than your own health recharges, and they won't waste ammo inflicting self damage to help you charge faster!

If you want more information on dodging and generally staying alive, check out this post on basic movement skills, as well as this post on more advanced movement techniques (strafe patterns and rocket surfing).

75-95% charge: This is where you want to play very carefully. Most likely, the enemy team is rapidly approaching uber as well, or already has it. If they'll have 100% charge before you will, you need to be ready for them to play extremely aggressively to kill you while they use their uber. If you'll both get charge at the same time, you need to plan for how exactly you'll attack the enemy team. This is where positioning comes in.

A lot of teams have trouble with positioning in an ubercharge stalemate (when boths teams have 100% charge and are separated by a chokepoint, such as "choke" (the stairs) connecting cp_badlands mid and spire. I've seen countless teams just try an all-in push, where they pop early, jump the enemy team, and spend ten seconds frantically shooting at anything that moves. Heck, I've been on teams that did that!

This is not the best way to do things. You want to give yourself every possible advantage, and usually there are ways to do that; they just require a little more thinking. the 75%-95% range is where you should be positioning yourself for your team's attack. Whether this is getting set up on cp_gravelpit's C-B connector waiting to push down to B, or preparing for an uphill battle on cp_granary's last point, you want to be in the best location possible when you hit 100% charge. Ideally, as your ubercharge meter hits 100%, you're able to pop it within 0-2 seconds, because your team has already begun the push. Anything longer is wasted time, which diminishes your advantage over the enemy team.

As a medic, you're in a very good position to take over the responsibility of planning and issuing strategies. You don't have to worry as much about aim, so you can split your focus easily. When you hit 75% ubercharge, you should already have a plan for where members of your team should be when you push. This means that you a) know who is alive, or when they will respawn, b) how long it might take them to get to where you want them, and c) how/why they will be effective from this location. For example, I might tell a roaming soldier to go onto the upper room looking out over cp_granary's last point so that he could jump onto the enemy soldier/medic combo with a huge height advantage.

An important thing to remember: your plan does not have to be perfect! the fact that your team is coordinated makes you significantly more effective. Use scrims to test out different methods of pushing, but make sure you're always planning your next step!

Thing to keep in mind when you plan a push:

  • The health, ammo, and position of the enemy players (are they dead? are they higher than me?)
  • What map elements you can take advantage of (natural sources of cover, height advantages)
  • Which teammates need close proximity to the ubercharge to be most effective (typically one soldier and one demoman)
  • How you will be close enough to everyone on your team (if necessary) so that everyone can receive healing
It sounds like a lot, but if you go over this with your team before a scrim/match, you'll find that implementing it isn't that hard. Give everyone a single task, and you'll find that you'll win most of these matchups.

100% charge: Your teammates should be engaging the enemy team right now. This doesn't necessarily mean firing at them; typically, you want to have a full charge before you move out of very safe cover, because this protects you from ambushes, flanks, or traps. Take capturing the last point on cp_badlands. A typical place for the offensive team to hold before they push to take last is in the upper lobby, seen below:

This area is very easy to hold, and allows you to effectively block off all paths from the last point to spire, preventing the enemy team from retaking their second point. There are chokepoints everywhere (each doorway is a natural choke, and there are 1-3 per entrance to the last point), which is a double-edged sword. If you try to push to here:

Without using your ubercharge, you run the risk of being killed by a sticky trap. Thus, popping uber and then running to engage the enemy team is a very wise way to fight.

While ubered, stay focused on where everybody is, and what health they are at. It's quite easy to lose track of things amidst the chaos that inevitable comes with an uber vs uber battle, but keep your cool. This is where your ability to focus makes all the difference: if a teammate is about to be hit by a rocket, and you flick your crosshair over them and uber them, you'll keep them alive to keep up the fight. This kind of split-second timing makes medic very interesting, and separates subpar players from the best.

If you're using kritz however, you need an incredible amount of communication to manage switching heal targets. Typically, the demo is the strongest to kritz, especially if you can scout the location of the enemy medic. A crit sticky can often drop a medic's ubercharge, especially if you combine it with a distraction play (see the next post for more on this), and then the demo has 7 more stickies with which to wipe the rest of the team.

Post-charge: It comes down to this: If you killed lots of stuff, don't sweat it too much, you're probably fine. Take a moment, smell the roses. If you didn't, sorry, run.

This turned out to be a much longer post than anticipated, so I'm going to break up the next two medic-related topics into their own posts. Coming up: healing priorities in different situations, and (tentatively) a midfight mindset guide.

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