I love Team Fortress 2. The mechanics are fairly balanced, it’s not pay-to-win, and it never asks the question “what makes sense?” when it should ask “what would be fun?”. If you like Team Fortress 2 and reading things, you’re in luck – I’ll probably be writing a lot about it.
A lot of my TF2 hours were spent in the Mann vs. Machine game mode. It puts you and five friends (or random players if all your friends are playing Skyrim) up against hordes of robots. You’re constantly outnumbered.
So how do you survive? You need teamwork and knowledge of what the crap to do. Lots of new players have neither. And that’s why I’ve put together the first Coil’s Toils – a guide teaching people the basics and advanceds of Mann vs. Machine. (However, this post quickly became 4500 words, so this guide will only cover part of what you need to know.)
Mann vs. Machine is a sort of tower defence mode. The RED team consists of six human players. The BLU team has any number (and I mean any number) of robots. The robots’ goal is to bring a bomb from their side of the map and plant it in a hatch in RED’s side of the map.
Like many tower defence games, Mann vs. Machine divides one game into several waves that increase in difficulty. When a robot dies, it drops money which players can use to buy upgrades, which increase your weapon stats, take less damage, heal yourself over time, or become more mobile. You can also buy canteens – cheap, single-use powerups such as a few seconds of critical hits or invincibility.
For the most part, the robots are simply CPU-controlled versions of the nine playable classes. However, there are a few special robots. Giant robots are huge, insanely powerful, and have much more HP than the average bot. Tanks are weaponless, metal boxes that roll to the hatch. They have their own bomb to deploy and thousands of hit points, making their destruction a race against time.
Team Fortress 2 has nine classes – the Soldier, Scout, Pyro, Demoman, Heavy, Engineer, Sniper, Spy and Medic. Each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses, which get even more pronounced in Mann vs. Machine. Unfortunately, you’re only allowed six players per team (unless you’re on a stupid community server).
The key here is to make sure you cover all the essential roles:
- Crowd Control – killing lots of small robots really quickly
- Single-Target Damage – dealing lots of damage to strong targets like Giants
- Medic Assassination – killing medic robots without giving them a chance to deploy their ubercharge (which makes enemy robots invincible for a few seconds)
- Tank Busting – destroying Tanks (which is more different from single-target damage than it seems)
- Money Collection – picking up all the money dropped by robots killed by anyone on the team
- Building Destruction – destroying the sentry guns and teleporters set up by robot Engineers
There’s one more role, but it’s not “essential” – Support. Being able to heal your team, replenish their ammo, make them do more damage, and overall help them do their jobs easier can be very helpful.
This is where a lot of new players run into trouble. They choose classes that they want to play instead of classes that fit the roles needed by the team. Everything in Mann vs. Machine is out to kill you, so neglecting even one role can be your team’s downfall.
Let’s go over the nine classes in detail.
Soldier is a sort of jack-of-all-trades class. He’s also fairly easy to use, making him a great class for beginners.
Crowd Control: Soldier’s rocket launcher deals good amounts of damage and inflicts splash damage. By simply firing into a crowd of robots, you can kill a pretty respectable number of them.
Single-Target Damage: Soldier has good damage output, and can unleash strong damage against giant robots. However, the giants fight back and can easily kill a Soldier before they die. Soldier has unlockable weapons to increase his damage output (Beggar’s Bazooka, Buff Banner), but needs to sacrifice weapons that increase his life span (Black Box, Concheror, Battalion’s Backup) to use them.
Medic Assassination: Soldier normally cannot kill a medic without it reaching the “activate ubercharge” threshold, and can’t reliably hit multiple medics surrounding the same target. However, in a pinch, you can use a Critical canteen to clear a couple medics.
Tank Busting: Tanks don’t fight back, so a soldier is free to use his damage-increasing weapons and just hit the tank as hard and fast as possible. The Beggar’s Bazooka is one of the best weapons in the game for this – it fires rockets directly from your ammo so you don’t have to do a real reload. Just keep tapping the fire button and watch those tanks die.
Money Collection: Soldier is the second-slowest class in the game. Rocket jumping gives him a bit of extra mobility, but he’s not a reliable money collector.
Support: Three of Soldier’s secondary weapons give him amazing support capabilities – the Buff Banner, Concheror and Battalion’s Backup. Each one of these charges up as Soldier deals damage, and when activated, give a temporary bonus to Soldier and all nearby teammates., The Buff Banner increases damage, helping everyone kill tanks and giant robots faster. The Concheror heals damage when you hit an opponent, keeping everyone alive. The Battalion’s Backup reduces incoming damage. If you pick the right boost for the right situation, your teammates will adore you.
Building Destruction: Soldier’s one of the main counters to Engineer in regular Team Fortress 2, and that still holds here. Shoot a bunch of rockets at an engineer-bot’s sentry, and everything you want to die will die.
Scout’s main skill is money collection – he moves faster than any other class, can double-jump, and has a “money magnet” that attracts credits to him from a distance. However, he has two other ways to help the team, splitting the class into a couple subclasses (which can be combined).
1. Support Scout
A support scout splashes enemy bots with Mad Milk, letting his allies recover health when they kill the bots. Bigger threats like Giants get a swing of the Fan-o’-War, which makes them take extra damage. Support Scouts mostly upgrade their Milk so they can throw it more often and have it slow down fast robots, as well as resistances so that they can keep themselves alive.
Crowd Control: The support scout tends to avoid fighting mini-robots. He won’t upgrade his scattergun enough to do lots of damage, so it’s best to let someone else kill them, and grab the money for the team afterwards.
Single-Target Damage: Even when not upgraded, the Scout’s scattergun deals a solid amount of damage. It’s worth smacking giants with it after they’re marked for death with the Fan-o’-War, but if you’re upgrading resistances and Milk, your damage output will be pretty meager.
Medic Assassination: Not at all recommended. You may be able to take out a medic by hitting it with the Fan-o’-War and shooting it, but it could easily result in the medic immediately using its Ubercharge.
Tank Busting: This is pretty similar to the Single-Target Damage section. Scout has an amazing weapon for dealing with tanks, but if you don’t upgrade it, you’ll only be middle of the pack.
Money Collection: Lots of speed, lots of mobility, and a huge money collection magnet-radius. Scout was designed to collect money. He even gets health for collecting it, and can reach ludicrous amounts of HP as long as he focuses on money.
Support: Mad Milk and the Fan-o’-War are some of the best support weapons available. You can also help your team by abusing the extra HP you get from money and the resistances you’ve upgraded. Just run into a giant robot’s line of sight, and let them waste their time attacking you instead of your allies. You’ll probably survive, and your team is free to blast away.
Building Destruction: Sentries are a scout’s worst fear. They basically wall off a section of the map, and Scout is awful at long-range. You need to rely on others to kill engineer-bots.
2. Damage Scout
Casting away your Mad Milk will let you equip Crit-a-Cola. Drink it, and you get a few seconds of boosted damage. By upgrading the Crit-a-Cola’s recharge rate and your Scattergun’s damage, clip size and reload speed, Scout becomes a powerhouse in terms of damage.
Crowd Control: Oddly unchanged. Scout’s Scattergun is designed for short range and has huge damage penalties when the bullets travel too far. Against hordes, you basically need to kill them one at a time.
Single-Target Damage: With Crit-a-Cola and Scattergun upgrades, burying your gun in a giant’s gut and opening fire will tear through your metal adversary. It’s extremely effective, and the healing you get by picking up money will keep you alive while you fight them.
Medic Assassination: It’s still a risk, but Crit-a-Cola’s damage boost combined with damage upgrades on your Scattergun make it much more likely to kill a medic in one shot. Still, you’re better off leaving this to the specialists.
Tank Busting: One feature of a few of Scout’s Scatterguns makes him perfect for the job. The Force-a-Nature, Soda Popper and Shortstop all reload their clips in one animation, whether it’s 2 bullets or 12. This lets Scout do great amounts of damage while only reloading a fraction of the time other classes need to! Sustained damage is a Scout’s strong suit.
Money Collection: Unchanged! Scout is still the king of money collection. You may. however, have to make tough decisions between running to a distant money pile and continuing to shoot a tank, whereas a Support Scout would always be able to go for the money.
Support: Without Mad Milk, you lose a lot of your support potential. You can still use the Fan-o’-War if you want, but you’re no longer a support class.
Building Destruction: Scout gets a little bit better at it, but Sentries are still his weakness.
The Pyro is a bit of an oddball class. He excels at close-range, but she doesn’t have the same sort of survivability as Soldier and Heavy do. You’ll need to buy upgrades to help keep it alive, but the strategy is simple – set everything on fire.
Crowd Control: Mini-robots are a sort of average case for Pyro. Running around setting robots on fire works pretty well, but not as well as the classes that are meant for crowd control.
Single-Target Damage: Two of Pyro’s weapons give free crits. The Backburner crits when his flames hits enemies from the back, and the Phlogistinator lets her charge up a taunt to fully restore health and gain a few seconds of crits. Using this, Pyro can easily tear through strong robots – you just need to keep her alive.
Medic Assassination: Pyro’s fire does very low amounts of damage per particle. This means a medic robot has plenty of time to use its ubercharge before dying. The Third Degree is an unlockable weapon for Pyro that is designed to work against medics, but it’s a Melee weapon and shouldn’t be relied on.
Tank Busting: With the help of the Phlogistinator I mentioned above, Pyro is the undisputed ruler of tank busting. Stand in front of the tank and shoot some fire until you can do your little dance to get free crits. Use the free crits to hit the tank harder.
Money Collection: Pyro is an average case. His speed is only average, but she’ll often be at the front lines where all the money is. If you’re playing Pyro, pick up all the money you can, but don’t focus on it specifically.
Support: Pyro doesn’t have many options for support. By shooting bursts of air out of his Flamethrower, she can extinguish burning players and possibly knock the bomb-carrying robot into death pits. Unfortunately, the Phlogistinator doesn’t have this ability, and it’s the normal Flamethrower of choice. Another support option is the Homewrecker – a melee weapon that can destroy Spy robots’ sappers when they start messing with your team’s Engineer’s buildings.
Building Destruction: Pyro may be able to destroy an engineer robot while it’s setting up, but if a sentry is already active, there’s very little she can do. He’s just too focused on close-range to be able to approach a sentry gun.
Heavy and Pyro are fairly similar classes in MvM. Heavy’s
minigun has the absolute highest DPS in the game, but as a balancing mechanism, tank robots resist 75% of minigun damage. Yes, just minigun damage. Even with this nerf, Heavy stands proud as an absurd damage dealer to boss robots and mini-robots, with the natural bulk needed to survive.
Crowd Control: Heavy has a big ol’ gun that shoots lots of bullets. That’s enough to do a decent job murdering small robots, but without explosions or the automatic targeting of a sentry, he’s really just average.
Single-Target Damage: Now HERE is where Heavy excels. A few resistance upgrades and a helpful medic or dispenser for continuous healing allows Heavy to stand strong in a maelstrom of bullets or explosions, while annihilating the giant producing it. You want a giant dead? Heavy can do that.
Medic Assassination: Unfortunately, the minigun provides no real burst damage. It does a lot of small damage very quickly, so trying to destroy medics will just cause them to use their ubercharge.
Tank Busting: Despite only doing a quarter of his deserved damage to tanks, Heavy is still a fairly respectable tank-buster. The minigun doesn’t have to reload and does a LOT of damage. You’ll have to watch your ammo, and you can’t take on tanks alone, but playing Heavy doesn’t mean you’re useless against tanks.
Money Collection: Heavy is the slowest class and needs a dispenser for ammo more than a lot of the other classes. He can still do the job in a pinch, but don’t rely on him to collect money.
Support: Heavy’s only support option is the Sandvich. It heals people the same amount as a medium medkit (half their HP), but it takes a while to switch off the minigun for it and back. Use it to save a Medic, or leave it for an Engineer to use in a pinch. Otherwise, you’ll probably forget it exists.
Building Destruction: The minigun isn’t an accurate weapon, but if you point it in the general direction of an Engineer’s nest, the Engineer will die. Also, the massive single-target damage makes it easy to kill an Engineer while they’re setting up their gear.
Engineer is a strong contender for the “best” class. He can build an auto-aiming sentry gun that shoots bullets really fast, a dispenser to replenish health and ammo, and teleporters to bring players back to the front lines when they respawn. The sentry gets outperformed by real damage classes, but dispensers and teleporters provide the team with something no other class can provide.
Crowd Control: Sentry guns aren’t just for show! As long as you put it in a spot where robots run past, the sentry will kill mini-robots fairly quickly. Mini-robots that shoot rockets or grenades are still a threat, so while Engineer isn’t the absolute best crowd controller, no one can deny that a well-placed sentry pulls a lot of weight.
Single-Target Damage: Engineer can only upgrade his sentry’s firing speed, not damage. And not only does the Wrangler let him shoot faster anyway, sentry firing speed is bugged and doesn’t provide a proper bonus for all three levels. In short, Engineer reaches his max DPS very early in the game, and it’s not as high as it seems.
Medic Assassination: You guessed it – the sentry does a lot of little increments of damage, so engineer can’t do much to kill Medics.
Tank Busting: Generally, once your wrench is well-upgraded, you can do a solid amount of damage to a tank by parking your sentry near it and whacking the tank with your wrench. It’s not the best way to kill a tank, but it does a solid enough job.
Money Collection: Engineer can collect the money near his sentry, but he shouldn’t stray too far from his buildings.
Support: The absolute best support class. Dispensers provide health and ammo. Teleporters bring people up to the front lines. This is the key thing people need to understand about engineer – the sentry is his least important building. The dispenser and teleporters provide so much more.
Building Destruction: Engineer is my preferred way to counter robot Engineers. Generally, Engineer-bot building spots are near the best human-Engineer sentry spots. This means your sentry will mow down Engineer-bots and their buildings without you even noticing.
Like Scout, there are two main ways to play Demoman – standard (with grenades and sticky bombs to provide explosions) and Demoknight (with a sword and shield). These two can be partially combined (using grenades, a sword and a shield), but are generally played separately.
1. Standard Demoman
Demoman can cover a lot of roles and, in some missions, can practically play the game by himself. Stickybombs are a powerful and versatile weapon, letting Demoman either create widespread minefields or small clusters of absurd damage.
Crowd Control: A large minefield of stickybombs can wipe out hordes of robots, and a Crit Boost canteen or Kritzkrieg Medic can make the job even easier.
Single-Target Damage: If a demoman knows exactly how a giant robot will move, a cluster of Crit Stickies can instantly kill some varieties of giants. It’s a little cheap and takes some time to set up, but it’s hard to give Demoman anything but a 5/5 in this category.
Medic Assassination: Detonating stickybombs right underneath a Medic robot’s
feet wheel is an extremely effective way to destroy them without worrying about their Ubercharge. However, it takes timing and prior knowledge of robot movement to be truly effective.
Tank Busting: There’s an odd misconception that Demoman is a god of tank busting, when in fact, he’s only slightly above average. Stickybombs reload slowly and have a priming time, so Demoman’s sustained damage potential is pretty mediocre. You can increase this by upgrading his Grenade Launcher instead of his Stickybomb Launcher, but doing so makes you lose a lot of your other skills.
Money Collection: Demoman has a pretty slow movement speed, and doesn’t necessarily need to be near the robots to do his job. There’s really no reason why a Demoman should be collecting money.
Support: Demoman has literally zero support weapons.
Building Destruction: Demoman isn’t short for ‘demolition man’ for nothing! However, Demoman generally finds it harder to destroy buildings than Soldier, since his projectiles travel in more of an arc and Engineer-robots set up in the open.
Demoknight was a playstyle invented for standard TF2, and it shows. Demoknight loses all of Demoman’s strengths, and only gains tank-busting power and single-target damage in return. He’s as close as TF2 gets to a joke class, but still works in the hands of a skilled player.
Crowd Control: With the right upgrades, a Demoknight can kill enemies in a single slash and can slash very quickly. It’s still slow compared to a field of Stickybombs, but not unbearably so.
Single-Target Damage: Demoknight can gain a few seconds of critical hits by killing a miniature robot. Using this and upgraded sword swing speed, he can tear through giants. With the ability to increase his maximum HP, built-in resistances through his Shields and even the ability to lower his knockback distance, Demoknight is one of the best classes at surviving Giants’ attacks as well.
Medic Assassination: A Demoknight can perform a charge attack – rushing across the map and performing a critical swing with his sword. This will kill a Medic instantly, as will the critical hits he gains with his upgrades. However, he still needs to attack each Medic individually.
Tank Busting: Demoknight’s favourite upgrade (X seconds of crit boost after each kill) lets him tear through tanks as long as there are small robots around to fuel him. Since he uses a melee weapon exclusively, he also has no need to reload, meaning his sustained damage is insane.
Money Collection: With the help of his inherent damage resistances and speed boosts, Demoknight is a fairly effective money collector.
Support: Demoknight is a specific version of a class with literally zero support weapons.
Building Destruction: Having to attack his enemies from close range, a pure Demoknight weeps at the sight of a sentry gun. You can get around this by replacing your Boots with a Grenade Launcher and going for a sort of hybrid Demoman, but pure Demoknight hates Sentries.
One of the classes that has a bad reputation because of people who don’t know how to use him. When played by someone who knows what they’re doing, Sniper is another contender for the best class.
Crowd Control: “How does a sniper kill multiple bots quickly?” you may ask. MvM provides him with an upgrade called Explosive Headshot. Simply put, if you get a headshot, all the robots around your target take a large chunk of damage and normally die. It’s astonishingly effective.
Single-Target Damage: It really varies. Generally, sniper is pretty solid against giants. A headshot does between 150 and 900 damage depending on how long you charge it and how much you upgrade, and you can spit out a lot of headshots. Still, the classes who specialize in it will leave Sniper in the dust.
Medic Assassination: Sniper is so incredible at destroying medics that it’s almost unfair. Suppose a giant appears, trailed with seven medics. All of them are ready to deploy Ubercharge when they hit a low enough health. Your team’s sniper gets a headshot on the giant. Instantly, all of the medics die from explosive headshot. It’s just that simple.
Tank Busting: Sniper is so good at destroying bots that he should never be looking at a tank while there are any other roles to perform. Still, in a pinch, his rifle does a nice 50-150 damage per shot, no matter how far away he is from the tank, and doesn’t have to reload a clip. It can help.
Money Collection: This is an odd case. A Sniper will stay in his safe spot and only move if he has to. However, as a hilariously unnecessary buff to Sniper, any robots killed by a sniper rifle drop money that auto-collects itself. Sniper can easily collect hundreds – thousands – of credits without moving an inch.
Support: Sniper has Jarate. It’s a jar of urine that makes its victims take extra damage, and you can coat a lot of robots in Mann vs. Machine. It’s not the best support tool ever since Sniper won’t want to put away his gun to throw it, it’s slow to recharge, and Soldier provides the same boost from his Buff Banner, but it’s a useful weapon at times.
Building Destruction: Sniper is the least inhibited by range, naturally, so any engineer-robot he can see, he can destroy.
Like Sniper, a lot of players vastly underestimate him because he takes more game sense and knowledge to play than most other classes. However, compared to Sniper, Spy is much more centralized. His knife makes him the absolute god of single-target damage. His sapper, which stuns robots, and his cloak/disguise, which stops robots from attacking him, give him a few other options, but he’s only truly useful when murdering giants.
Crowd Control: Spy needs to kill robots one at a time. By using the Sapper, he can stun a group to make them ripe for the picking, but it’s much slower than simply letting a Demoman or Sniper destroy them.
Single-Target Damage: These radar charts only go up to 5, but Spy could easily be a 7. Fully-upgraded, he can kill full-health giants in a second, do massive damage to Boss Giants, and even without upgrades, he can one-hit-kill any pesky robots that aren’t classified as giants.
Medic Assassination: Spy’s ability to kill robots in one hit makes him a respectable medic assassin. However, to do this, he needs to get right up close to the medics and can only kill one at a time.
Tank Busting: Spy’s Knife does nothing special against tanks, and his Revolver (which should never be upgraded) will be pathetic. Leave the tanks to any other class.
Money Collection: Having average movement speed and being up close and personal to the robots is enough of a reason for Spy to be a fairly effective money collector. However, thanks to his cloak and disguise, he can snatch up money without the robots attacking him – this makes him the second-best money collector after Scout.
Support: Sapping is all the Spy can do for support. It’s extremely useful when slowing down fast-moving Giant Scouts or completely stunning powerful Crit-Boosted miniature robots, but should normally only be used to help the Spy stab.
Building Destruction: Unfortunately, Mann vs. Machine only allows you to have one sapper in play at a time. You can’t sap both the Sentry and Teleporter an Engineer-bot builds, and if you accidentally sap the Engineer instead of his sentry, it will annihilate you. In normal Team Fortress 2, Spy is the Engineer’s worst nightmare, but here he’s only an average threat.
Medic is an oddball class. In Mann vs. Machine, his medigun can revive dead allies to cheat the respawn timer. He can also create a shield that blocks incoming projectiles and bullets, as well as do a bit of damage. Some people consider him absolutely mandatory, and others consider him completely useless. The truth is somewhere in between – a mediocre Medic is a waste of a team slot, but a player who uses Medic properly will be incredibly helpful.
Crowd Control: Shield-bashing is the art of charging up the projectile shield and, instead of using it to defend your allies, ramming enemy robots with it. It is modestly effective, especially considering the enemy robots have a hard time attacking through it, but it shouldn’t be relied on.
Single-Target Damage: You can flick syringes at enemy robots, dealing an absolutely pathetic amount of damage. Leave this to the actual fighters.
Medic Assassination: Flicking syringes at a medic robot will almost definitely make them respond with their Ubercharge. It is not at all worth it.
Tank Busting: The projectile shield is, again, modestly helpful against tanks. Medic’s main way to help bust tanks is to use the Kritzkrieg’s ubercharge to triple the damage of one of his allies.
Money Collection: Medic has the fastest movement speed after Scout. However, he does not have any extra mobility, he has a normal-sized money collection radius, and he can’t avoid enemy fire like the Spy can.
Support: This is where Medic shines. If an ally dies, you can revive them surprisingly quickly. They’ll have full ammo and be on the frontline, ready to fight and die again. You can heal your allies to keep them from dying at all. You can Ubercharge to make them invincible or vastly increase their damage output. You can share canteens to restore their ammo or provide extra bonuses. You can block incoming damage with the Projectile Shield. You can upgrade your syringe gun to coat any robot you hit with Mad Milk, healing multiple allies instead of just one. Medic is right up there with Engineer as the best support class.
Building Destruction: Medic cannot do many jobs on his own, and building destruction is no exception.
There we have it – the 9 classes (and 4 subclasses) of Team Fortress 2’s Mann vs. Machine mode explained in much more detail than anyone asked for.
In future installments, I’ll cover weapon choices and upgrades… hopefully in a shorter article. Until then, happy Robot Destroying!