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I'm going through the painful trial and error process of determining whether or not a player on my team is a spy or not. So far what I thought was the most successful procedure was dealing some damage; a spy usually loses cover immediately and goes for the backstab. However, this isn't guaranteed; a spy being healed/near a dispenser/bold enough will just endure the damage without losing cover.

So — how can I "spy check"? What are conditions that let me look/test a player and say "no, this guy is legit."

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15  
Maybe you should play more Pyro. –  Sadly Not Mar 22 '11 at 23:19
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-1 because of uninformative title; good question otherwise. –  Oak Mar 27 '11 at 9:00
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@Oak Continuing the history of great titles on the site :D –  badp Mar 27 '11 at 10:28

3 Answers 3

up vote 44 down vote accepted

There are a number of things that will let you know immediately if an ally is a Spy or not:

  • You cannot move through enemy Spies.
  • You can attack enemy Spies with melee weapons.
  • Friendly spies without a disguise are not enemy spies. Enemy spies disguised as spies, however, always appear disguised.
  • Most weapons will not pass through enemy Spies, while they will pass through allies. An exception to this rule is the Medic's Crusader's Crossbow, which does stick in allies.
  • Teammates don't take knockback from your weapons. If they do, they're a spy.
  • Watch for allies moving the wrong speed. In particular, for Scouts, Medics, low-health Equalizer Soldiers, and Gloves of Running Urgently Heavies who move too slowly.
  • Enemy Spies cannot enter your spawn room. Team-specific doors will also not open for them... Team-specific doors include all spawn doors and the secondary spawn door between RED spawn and point B on pl_badwater.
  • Enemy Spies cannot shoot or stab without breaking the disguise. This does not apply to the Electro-Sapper, but that only works on Engineer buildings.
  • Enemy Spies that are disguised as Spies cannot fake holding the Electro-sapper or Disguise Kit.
  • Spies burn with their team color (redish-orange for RED, bluish-orange for BLU).
  • Spies disguised as Heavy that are faking having the Gloves of Running Urgently will be missing the "marked-for-death" skull marking.

In addition, certain classes have weapons that help them identify Spies:

Scout

  • Mad Milk - Covers an enemy Spy in milk, making him drip white. This lasts through cloak
  • Fan O' War - Hitting an enemy Spy with the Fan O' War makes a white skull appear over their head. This lasts through cloak
  • Sandman - Hitting an enemy Spy with a baseball at medium range or longer stuns him and the word BONK appears over his head

Soldier

  • Black Box - You gain HP when you hit an enemy. This includes disguised Spies.

Pyro

  • Anything that will set someone on fire. This includes Flamethrower, Backburner, Degreaser, Flare Gun, Detonator, and Sharpened Volcano Fragment. This lasts through cloak, except the Dead Ringer, or if the spy-cicle extinguishes them/
  • If you see a teammate on fire, try to airblast them. If they're really teammates, you will extinguish their fire and earn one bonus point. If they never really were on your side, they will be knocked back.

Demoman

  • Ullapool Caber - Hitting an enemy Spy will make it explode, likely killing him, but it also deals you damage.

Engineer

  • Southern Hospitality - Hitting an enemy Spy will cause them to bleed. This lasts through cloak, except the Dead Ringer

Medic

  • Blutsauger - You gain HP when you hit an enemy. This includes disguised Spies
  • Sadly, the Übersaw effect does not trigger on disguised enemy Spies

Sniper

  • Jarate - Throwing this at a Spy will immediately cover him with it, making him drip yellow. This lasts through cloak.
  • Sniper Rifle - A headshot with the Sniper Rifle will kill a Spy in one shot. Keep in mind that the hitboxes for each class are different. A fully charged bodyshot will kill a Spy in one hit.
  • Huntsman - Any shot with the Huntsman will leave an arrow sticking out of the Spy. A headshot will kill a Spy in one hit.
  • Sydney Sleeper (charged shot) - Same effect as Jarate. A fully charged Bodyshot will kill a Spy in one hit.
  • Tribalman's Shiv - Hitting an enemy Spy will cause them to bleed. This lasts through cloak, except the Dead Ringer

Spy

  • Any of your knives (Knife, Your Eternal Reward, Conniver's Kunai) will backstab a disguised enemy Spy. This includes bringing up the "can backstab" animation. Note: Your Eternal Reward can also be used to see if an enemy Spy is using a Dead Ringer, as you will not gain a disguise if they are.

Last Note

Spies can avoid death if they have the Dead Ringer out. Keep that in mind and listen for the telltale zapping decloak sound.

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8  
RE: "Spies burn with their team color" I think you're missing the obvious -- you can't burn your teammates, ever. If they catch on fire, they're a spy. –  Raven Dreamer Mar 23 '11 at 0:01
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@RavenDreamer: I considered that part to be obvious... The burning with their team color thing is more for if you see someone burning that was previously set on fire. –  user2974 Mar 23 '11 at 1:06
    
I've added more notes, both additional weapons I missed (and some melee weapons I intentionally skipped; with melee, running into them is often a better clue, since you can't pass through them ). –  user2974 Mar 25 '11 at 11:35
1  
Another trick for Engies (which another answer listed) is that spies can't pass through your buildings. I've caught a lot of dumb spies on 2Fort trying to jump over a dispenser blocking a hallway... –  Allen Gould Aug 22 '13 at 14:57
    
RE: "Enemy Spies cannot shoot or stab without breaking the disguise. This does not apply to the Electro-Sapper, but that only works on Engineer buildings". While true, this also applies to ALL weapons that are not an electro-sapper. If a soldier isn't rocket-jumping, a Demo isn't laying down stickies, or any teammate isn't firing while retreating from a fight, there's a chance they are a spy. –  Zibbobz Oct 7 '13 at 13:19

There is a huge TF2 wiki page devoted to 'SpyChecking' including a rundown on how each class can identify a spy: I will copy some here for you.

Remember, just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean the whole world isn't out to get you...

General

  • Remember that members of opposite teams cannot pass through each other. If you bump into a teammate and cannot pass through him, he is definitely a Spy.
  • In general, if you see a teammate behaving oddly, there is a likely chance that it is a Spy.
  • Players in the wrong locations (such as a Pyro in the rear or a Sniper or Engineer on the front lines), deliberately avoiding contact with teammates, or hiding in corners can all be enemy Spies.
  • If you see your own name yell a voice command that you didn't use, it means that a Spy is disguised as you. Be sure to immediately warn your team of this, as well as your class so that your teammates know what class to look for.
  • Look for telltale shrouds of smoke that are colored red or blue. When a Spy uses his Disguise Kit, it takes a second for the disguise to equip, during which the Spy is shrouded with smoke of his team color. While the smoke does not appear if the disguise is used while the Spy is cloaked, it will follow the Spy for a short distance if he uses it before cloaking.

Scout

Just running into everyone (since the Scout is the fastest class) does the trick; as teammates can clip through each other, any teammate you cannot pass through is an enemy Spy in disguise. Also, Scouts using the Sandman can stun disguised Spies, while the baseball will pass through friendlies. Throwing Mad Milk at disguised Spies will expose them, allowing you and your team to easily hunt them down. Alternatively, two hits from the Scout's primary weapons will kill a Spy not equipped with the Dead Ringer, but it's less economic than simply running into them. You can also use a single blast from the Force-A-Nature at close range and see if a teammate is knocked back by it; Spies will be severely hurt and sent flying by the blast.

Soldier

There is nothing particularly special the Soldier class can do to Spy-check. The limited amount of Spy-checking a Soldier can do consists of sending a rocket into teammates to see whether the teammate is juggled by the blast or not, and occasionally pumping Shotgun blasts when it is not an inconvenience. Buff Banners and Battalion's Backups will not activate on enemy Spies, so that can be a giveaway. The rocket launchers have low ammo counts and you might not always notice disguised Spies when using the Shotgun, so generally it is a matter of analyzing behavior.

Pyro

The Pyro's ability to set enemies on fire with incendiary weapons is perhaps the most useful for detecting Spies, since only enemies can be ignited. This is the most reliable method of Spy-checking teammates. The team-colored glow produced by a burning player is especially visible when surrounding a Cloaked or Disguised Spy.

Demoman

Much like with the Soldier, the traditional Demoman is not an effective Spy-checking class. In general, your melee weapon is probably your best bet as you lack hitscan weapons. The Grenade Launcher has limited ammo, but is probably the most viable way to Spy-check teammates without using your melee weapon, as your grenades will detonate on contact with Spies. Placing sticky bombs with your Sticky Bomb Launcher takes time, but teammates that try to avoid the bombs can be easily identified as a Spy. A Demoman using the Chargin' Targe will stop when running into a Spy while charging, and said Spy will be an easy kill.

Heavy

Heavies can attempt to Spy-check by firing their Minigun on suspicious teammates; a few seconds at close range will make quick work of an enemy Spy (make sure to have ammo to spare afterward). If a teammate eats your dropped Sandvich, and was already at full health, he is a Spy (unless he is a friendly disguised Spy, in which case he might have used it to 'heal' his disguise). A spun-up heavy is a tempting Backstab target, so even if you're busy mowing down enemies, try to find time to turn around and spycheck.

Engineer

As an Engineer, Spies are a substantial threat, able to place Sappers while disguised, but they usually aren't trouble if you can get teammates to protect your buildings (as they often are, by Pyros and teammates who need healing or ammo, or yourself). If you receive an Electro Sapper notification while a teammate is standing near the sapped building, the teammate is a Spy. Still, it's advised to Spy-check everyone with your Pistol, especially teammates approaching your buildings. If any teammate is unable to pass through your Sentry Gun or Dispenser, that teammate is a Spy. It is also a good idea to shoot around the immediate area with your Pistol or Shotgun to check for Spies using the Cloak and Dagger. If you hit a "teammate" with the Southern Hospitality and they start bleeding, then they are a Spy. The bleeding effect will also persist when they are cloaking as well.

Medic

Medics are high priority targets for Spies. Make sure you check before you start healing anyone, unless they already performed an action impossible for a Spy (e.g. shooting). If a teammate seems suspicious to you, make sure to spycheck (attempt to clip through him, hit him with your melee weapon, etc) before healing him. Remember to frequently watch your back, as Spies love to attack Medics who are already healing another patient. Always watch your surroundings, and be wary of any teammate that attempts to approach you from behind.

Sniper

The Sniper is very vulnerable to Spies while scoped, and is traditionally an easy Spy target, though they also have various anti-Spy weaponry that they can employ. Using Jarate on teammates will immediately reveal enemy Spies and render their Cloak useless, making them easy to identify and eliminate. Arrows from the Huntsman will also stick to disguised Spies, while simply passing through teammates. Carrying the Razorback will allow you to survive a single Backstab, and you can use this to your advantage by goading a Spy into attacking you, though most experienced Spies will usually resort to their Revolver when faced with such a Sniper. The Tribalman's Shiv makes Spies bleed, which can partially disable their cloaks and expose them to everyone.

Spy

Even the Spy can do a great job of Spy-checking. Stab all of your teammates in the back; if you are lucky you may stab an enemy Spy. You will find your character raising his knife (just like when about to backstab an enemy) when standing behind a disguised enemy Spy. Also, you can Cloak and sneak around the map to alert your team of any incoming Spies. It's also a good idea to roam around your own base while disguised as an opposing enemy, as enemy Spies will rarely try to Spy-check you if you can act well.

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Also, disguised Spies always are shown holding their primary weapon. So if you see Engineers with their Shotguns out, Spies holding their Revolvers, or Medics with their Syringe Guns out, it doesn't hurt to spycheck them. Plus, on Payload maps, the small cart icon at the bottom of your screen shows how many team members are pushing the cart. This can be used to your advantage when seeking out enemy Spies, as Spies on the opposite team can not push the cart (Ex. RED Spies can't push BLU carts). For example, if the icon shows that two people are pushing the cart, and there are three team members on the cart, one of them is an enemy Spy.

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You can change what weapon you are "holding" by pressing the "repeat last disguise" button while disguised. What weapon you appear to be holding depends on what you are actually holding (e.g. if you want to appear as a wrench-handling engineer you would press that key with the knife as your active weapon.) –  badp Feb 9 at 23:07

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