So let’s face it: there are weapons that, in TF2 are just better than their stock counterparts for a multitude of reasons. As aabicus mentioned in his article, there are only a handful of weapons that are objectively better than their associated stock weapons. However, we’re here to talk about ones that, while they are not objectively better, are better in almost every conceivable scenario. So let’s get right into it.
Me Petite Chou Fleur. The Ambassador has been in the game for a very long time, and is basically the staple of upper-level/competitive Spy play. Knives are (usually) variable, but most advanced Spy players rely on this weapon as their primary direct combat option. It’s big, it’s loud, it’s freaking awesome.
There you have it. Of course, there are about a dozen other things worth noting about the Ambassador that the stat card fails to mention, such as it’s perfect accuracy after each “cooldown” period, and how it can only achieve headshots while not on this cooldown period, and that it cannot randomly crit. Functionally, it seems weaker than the default Revolver, which in it’s own right is a powerful weapon. 15% damage means that crit headshot deals 102 damage, not 120. 20% slower firing speed means it can’t achieve quick, close range kills. But then again… 102 damage is a lot. If we think about it like this, 102 damage is enough to kill 8/9 classes at less than 1/2 health, and 8/9 classes in two consecutive headshots. Granted, from point blank range, you can down a Sniper, Spy, Engineer, or Scout in three shots with the Revolver in just about as much time. If ammo has ever been a concern to you (it hasn’t), then the Ambassador is certainly more economical. Of course, the key difference between the two is that the Ambassador has a massively increased functional range compared to the default Revolver. And, it still does 51 damage close up, nothing to shake a stick at.
The Ambassador was released as a counter to the Razorback back in the Sniper Vs. Spy update, in order to give the Spy some other way of taking out a Sniper instantly. And it’s true that it’s primary use has always been to kill people who are either too far away to backstab or who otherwise can’t be. The Revolver simply can’t do the things the Ambassador can, while the Ambassador can essentially do the same things the Revolver can. Remember, crits ignore damage ramp-up and fall-off. That 102 is going to happen no matter if you’re right in their face, or miles away.
A cursory glance would reveal that this weapon is obviously intended to combo with the Pyro’s other weapons, because it would compensate for the damage penalties with guaranteed crits on burning players, ala Flare Gun and Axtinguisher (even after it’s nerf). However, using the Degreaser for a little while, you’ll begin to notice that a 10% damage penalty amounts to less than 1 point of damage per particle tick (however Flamethrower Damage is calculated), and 25% reduced afterburn damage amounts to 1 less damage per afterburn-tick. TL;DR those downsides are laughable and barely noticeable when using the Degreaser. The only time it will actually make a difference is when two Pyros, one with a Degreaser, one without, clash. Then the Degreaser may be in trouble. But those fights are rare, and usually, both players will resort to other means (other weapons, which you can switch to 65% faster than your opponent can) to finish each other off.
Long, long ago in a far away land, Valve buffed all of the Pyro’s flamethrowers to deal 10% more damage, then gave both the Degreaser and Phlogistinator a 10% damage penalty, effectively making them equal to the old Pyro Flamethrowers, which people still raged about. So… Yeah. Not once in my entire TF2 career have I ever thought, “Man, I wish I had the Backburner right now!” or, “Wow, the default Flamethrower sure is better than the Degreaser!” That’s because the Degreaser’s downsides are statistically and practically negligible. It’s swap speed utility, which also factors into the next weapon we’ll discuss, makes it an excellent choice, and the fact that it’s downsides are meaningless is a very nice bonus.
Now, hold your horses. I can hear you all typing “LESS SHOTS OMFG SO BAD, SHOTGUN TOO GOOD.” I am not here to debate how useful the shotgun is. It’s an excellent weapon, and is a cornerstone of competitive Soldier play. But, when you give this particular weapon to the Pyro (which still kind of baffles me), you put the already most combo-oriented class in a position to achieve more combos… Why? For a while, the popular Pyro loadout was the Degreaser, The Reserve Shooter, and the Axtinguisher, because no matter what weapon you switched to, you could use it’s upshots to the fullest. After receiving a buff for absolutely no reason, it now has regained a 4th shot, and extended the time it mini-scrits airborne targets to 5 seconds. Here’s the stat card:
Notice how nowhere on this stat card does it say “-X% damage penalty” or “-X% Slower Firing Speed.” It does the same damage, and has the same firing and reload speeds as the default shotgun. So you have two less shots before you need to reload, but the RS still deals very respectable damage, coupled with minicrits on airborne targets (Scouts, Soldiers, fleeing Medics, any given person you’ve airblasted). Why is less ammo a big deal when the trade off is a weapon with amazing finishing potential? Answer: it isn’t. Clearly, someone else has noticed this, as it’s been frequently banned from Competitive tournaments. By the way, it makes a great Soldier secondary, too. You will win Soldier vs. Soldier fights if you opponent doesn’t know you have it. If he does know you have it, you still have four shots, which is roughly 320 potential points of damage. That’s a big number.
These two fellows here. The Ubersaw is a weapon that has been in the game longer than I’ve been playing TF2, and boasts some impressive stats. The Amputator is a weapon that has been in the game since two days after I began playing TF2. I’ve had the chance to get nice and cozy with both of them, and suffice to say, they’re both great. It’s no secret to most people that, while not many weapons garner the title of “Straight Upgrade”, most stock melee weapons have an option that is just better in most respects. It’s also no secret that the Bonesaw is terrible.
20% slower swinging speed on a melee weapon is A) barely noticeably and B) totally unimportant in the grand scheme of things. When you use a melee weapon in TF2, or at least, when I do, I never hold primary fire to swing as fast as possible. I swing by clicking once, to ensure that I don’t waste a swing if my opponent side-steps or backpedals. As such, since I’m never attacking at the maximum attack interval (and never need to) the Ubersaw’s only downside is negated, and now, you can preform those wonderful Medic Uber-trains that everyone loves with little to no effort. While a 20% damage penalty may seem substantial, dropping the Amputator’s damage from 65 to around 50, you’re a Medic. Hitting people with your Melee is the least of your concerns. You have some shmuck to stand in front of you to deal damage, anyway! Also, while holding the Amputator (and not having the Blutsauger equipped), you cannot burn to death from Afterburn. On top of all that, you get a special AoE heal taunt effect that looks cool, and has pretty interesting applications on certain map scenarios (soon to be covered in another article!). And, hey, it looks pretty cool too.
So there are five weapons that are not objectively better than their stock counterparts, but out perform them consistently in most in-game trials. If (for whatever reason) you’d never thought to use one of these, please try it out and let me know what you think.
Good luck out there!