The Spy, a class of deceit, subterfuge, and sabotage. He holds in his arsenal: a knife capable of killing anything in one hit, a gun in case he’s caught in a bad situation, an electro-sapper to destroy enemy fortifications, a disguise kit to seamlessly blend in with the enemy, and finally a collection of watches capable of rendering him completely invisible.
Those watches are pivotal to everything the spy can do. His disguise kit is useless without being in the right position; a position only reachable by an invisible man. His knife only has strength from behind. How can he get behind the enemy you ask? With the use of an invisibility watch of course. The gun is only meant to fend off attackers long enough that the spy can escape using none other than that very invisibility watch.
To balance such an invaluable and powerful tool is difficult to say the absolute least. Not unlike the sticky launcher, which is a tricky one, the cloaking capability of Spy has the potential to be either incredibly overpowered or incredibly underpowered. The cloak is currently ever so slightly tipped towards being underpowered. To suggest a change to stock capabilities is a very serious matter, one that must be considered much more deliberately than a change to another unlock (see sticky launcher nerf). However, the stock cloak, and by extension the cloak and dagger,even the dead ringer, are in need of this simple buff: damage no longer flickers cloak.
Cloak has a vital purpose, it is a Spy’s go to escape tool. Right now the dead ringer fills a very important role; it is the only watch to allow the Spy to escape after a backstab with any consistency, barring effects such as fire and liquids. It does this not with damage resistance (though I’d be lying if I said it didn’t help) but due to it not blinking when the Spy takes damage. With other cloaks escape becomes incredibly difficult, impossible in some situations. This change, removing blink from damage, would improve the Spy’s survivability in the most obvious of ways. This tiny change would improve the experience of playing Spy in a pub, as well as improve his usefulness in a competitive environment, as he would be able to escape far more easily compared to the cloak currently.
This does not mean the Spy is completely undetectable while cloaked. Effects such as jarate, fire, bleed, mad milk, fall damage, water, and even the noise of a melee making contact will still reveal a spy, but things such as rockets and pistol spam will not. The immediate, and not unfounded reaction, is to call this change ridiculous, “it removes a very important skill that is necessary to be a good Spy,” an issue put forth by TheDL. He is not wrong. It is an important skill to be able to dodge spam, and if someone fails to be stealthy and have effective movement don’t they deserve to die? No, they don’t. Because of the nature of projectile weapons there is, and there always will be, spam. No matter how good of a player you are, you will be hit by occasional spam. It’s not fair to punish a Spy for such an uncontrollable aspect of the game. There is almost ubiquitous agreement that parts of a game that punish players for variables outside their realm of control are unbalanced (see Pomson, Sandman, Natasha, etc.) Removing the flickering for taking damage removes this unfair aspect, and the mere fact that the Spy takes damage should encourage more effective movement to avoid spam, thus circumventing the above concern.
Spy is a unique class. It’s near impossible to compare Spy to another class because of his mechanics and differences. Balancing Spy is incredibly difficult because of this; however, having all cloaks no longer blink upon taking damage is a necessary change for the evolving and fast paced game of Team Fortress 2.