So. It’s been a long time since July 10th, when this update arrived. With it, Valve sought to rebalance some common staples of TF2 play, and bring some new weapons to the forefront. In those five months… what’s changed? Has Valve done what it set out to do? Did they change the face of public servers forever with their weapon balance?
Fact of the matter is, the weapon that arguably benefited the most from this update, The Quick Fix, as many SPUFers will tell you, is now very powerful. Despite this, it still carries that very nasty stigma of being “Not the Medigun or Kritzkrieg”. The rest of this update was spent kneecapping item sets, trying to nerf the Dead Ringer, and stuffing the item schema with more hats.
As stated in the blog post above, the goal of this update was to encourage players to try out the less played (read: crappy) items, like the Battalion’s Backup, Short Circuit, and Cow Mangler. Ask yourself this serious question: How many times have you been killed by any of these weapons? By a Scout with the Winger? By a Liberty Launcher? How many times has a successful Concheror deployment pushed a team to victory? If your answer is “No more than before July 10th”, then we see where we have a problem here. This update sought to tackle the various unlocks that people often disregard and make them more appealing, encouraging varying gameplay styles and team compositions. But if player’s habits didn’t change much, this update only nerfed weapons that players loved! Here we see Valve buffing the weapons that players won’t even consider, even with stat changes, and nerfing the ones that every player considers. Is this truly a good idea? Perhaps a more indepth look is required.
In their blog post about weapon balance and distribution, Valve states that the Dead Ringer has an 80% equip rate. Either they are privy to some information that can’t be found at Meet the Stats, which tells us that the Dead Ringer is equipped by roughly 23% of players who own one, or they really have brought equip rates down an alarming 77% in five months. I’m thinking there is some discrepancy here, since I wouldn’t believe a statistic like that. Any light that could be shed on this would be appreciated.
In continuing to talk about the Dead Ringer, we’ll examine exactly what Valve did to it in this update. As a Spy player, these proved to be the most obvious of these changes. Since that update, damage taken after you activate the cloak drains the cloak faster than a normal watch, making Pyros even more deadly to Spies. Has this discouraged the average spy from using it?
I know it hasn’t stopped me from using it, no. And, while this should likely be saved for a different post entirely, I’m one of the folks who feels that each Spy watch has its own uses and benefits. That being said, the Dead Ringer still offers something the other watches don’t. One of the Spy’s greatest weaknesses is dying, and the Dead Ringer removes that weakness, at least once a life, nerf or not.
Also on the receiving end of a nerf was The Escape Plan. Much like the Amputator (RIP, my friend), The Escape Plan (Once the Equalizer) has seen a bunch of changes since its inclusion in the WAR! update, including having its very essence ripped in half and made into two weapons, one of which was universally disregarded by players, and one which had Soldiers everywhere singing its praises from every rooftop. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which it is. Being marked for the very thing you’re trying to avoid by running away has had many Soldiers stashing their once glorious Escape Plans in the back of their packs, and has brought a new weapon to the forefront.
Just kidding, it’s the Disciplinary Action. If Valve’s goal with nerfing the Escape plan was to make every somewhat-competitive soldier use the DA instead, then I suppose they succeeded gloriously!
What’s the point of all this? Folks at SPUF like to talk about balance. A lot. Some would say it’s all they talk about. So what happens when Valve decides to implement their own series of balance changes? In all honesty, not much. Spies still use the Dead Ringer. Soldiers have unanimously agreed that the Disciplinary is an acceptable alternative to the Escape Plan, and have universally embraced it as their new “You pretty much have to use this” weapon. Conversely, no observable difference has been made in the use of the Choncheror, or the Battalion’s Backup, or the Short Circuit, or the other myriad of unlocks that go into That Page of your backpack where you keep all your Achievement hats, MvM Tour Badges, and Pyrovision Goggles.
While I’m a firm believer in giving every weapon a chance, some, like that Boston Basher that strapping young lad is carrying above are, to me, beyond help. Short of a complete weapon overhaul, many of these weapons will continue to go unused. In the five months since the July 10th update, Spies are Dead Ringing, Medics are still being yelled at for using the Quick Fix, The Powerjack has yet to replace the Axtinguisher in many loadouts, and the Ambassador’s picking capabilities outclass L’Entranger any day. Oh, and the Cozy Camper still sucks.