In trying to get practice for the upcoming 9v9 TF2 competition, I'm interested in seeing if there's any insight on how to play a spy against a lower number of players. Spies tend to work better the more chaos and confusion there is, and additionally work better when there are multiples of the same class playing.

In the upcoming competition, it will be strictly 9v9 with 1 of each class per team: no more, no less. Being used to playing spy on 24 (12v12) and larger servers with little to no class balance, this is kinda foreign ground and, to me, seems like a much higher degree of difficulty compared to the other classes scale for the competition.

The only thing I can think of is the relative power of the Cloak and Dagger in this scenario, and the benefits of certain maps. Does anyone have any links to tips for playing spy vs. lower player counts or tips that they, themselves, can provide?

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    try to disguise as an enemy spy. Commented Aug 11, 2010 at 19:37
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    @alexanderpas That was my initial thought, but I feel like that's a very obvious disguise in with a match makeup like that and I'll quickly get test-fired into oblivion.
    – TheQ
    Commented Aug 11, 2010 at 19:48

5 Answers 5


As a spy, you're best off spending your time working to assassinate the opposing medic. Since the other team has only one medic, it is a huge advantage to your team if you can kill (or badly hurt) the other medic, even at the expense of your own life.

Since this is a competition-level play, you can expect full communication from the other team. You will very rarely fool them into thinking you're on their team. They all should know where everybody is. (Whether or not they really do is another matter). The simplest way for you to be effective is to find a nice sport to Cloak and Dagger, wait for the enemy medic to run by, and revolver or ambassador them from a distance.

Mix up your spots, be unpredictable, and stay hidden. You may also want to spend some time hounding the enemy sniper, depending on his skill level. I've seen highlander teams completely fall apart from a skilled enemy sniper. On the off chance he's razorbacking, the ambassador will be the weapon you want to go with. Mix your disguises, but definitely use the sniper disguise - that class matches closest with this play-style.


I recommend watching demos and studying other players. That's what I did when I was learning competitive TF2 and it helped a lot. You'll see how teams function (or not), where players tend to stand or how they react, strengths and weaknesses, etc. It can be rather eye-opening.

Also be sure to join low pop servers (1-5 other players) and practice surprising them. It can be a good challenge because after the first stab they should be rather suspicious.

Pug/Scrim like crazy. Nothing is better than practice, practice, and more practice.

Load up testing maps (usually starts with tr) and get a feel for exact positions where backstabs open up. You can also test falling down and stabbing and random things like that.

Hope that helps. GLHF.


I know this question is a few weeks old, but while looking over this question, I realized I had some thoughts that hadn't been mentioned.

Don't underestimate the utility of the other two spy watches.

The Invisibility Watch lasts the longest at a flat out run, and can run forever if you continue to grab ammo boxes: 25% recharge from small, 50% recharge from medium, and 100% recharge from large.

The Dead Ringer works well with a friendly disguise in highlander matches... friendly disguises drop a corpse of the class you were disguised as, so you can mislead them by doing that.

Note: Don't do it for a higher HP class, as if you're not "killed" by a crit, it may look suspicious. This also will tip off any enemy spies disguised as your team, as they will see your fake HP meter.

Now, keep in mind that the DR can be also be recharged by ammo boxes, but the recharge rate is capped at 40% for both medium and large ammo boxes.

  • I was actually considering running DR for this for a while and am still trying out both. DR friendly Demo / Engi is a solid way to get a safer feign for sure, my worry is the lower cap and limited timespan that DR offers, especially vs. organized teams.
    – TheQ
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 14:51
  • @TheQ: I tend to use the DR in public games, but then again, I both don't play competitive and have 600+ hours (of real playtime, not idling) clocked as Spy. The DR also tends to have less kill streaks than the other watches, and is still fairly useless against Pyros. However, it can extremely useful versus Demos, Heavies, and Soldiers.
    – user2974
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 19:30
  • @Powerlord As do I, with the exception of C+D on 2fort since nobody goes for objectives any more. I really try not to use the regular watch any more as it suffers from the downside of the C+D of having silhouetting, the downside of DR with no permacloak, and only the benefit of a LONGER cloak. I typically find that it's not the length of the cloak that's a problem if played correctly, so I'd rather get at least one of the two benefits.
    – TheQ
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 19:33
  • @TheQ: I assume you're exempting the C+D's permanent cloak length from the "not the length of the cloak that's a problem?"
    – user2974
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 19:42
  • @Powerlord More or less. I've trained myself whilst using the C+D to always have an escape plan when under ~20% cloak left. And of course, there's nothing you can do about pesky Pyros who just burn 200 units of fuel in every nook and cranny before reaching the front lines, so I'm not holding that accountable to any of the watches.
    – TheQ
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:00

Since you're playing on a small group with, presumably, some coordination, you may want to coordinate your attack with the rest of your group.

Explosive spam or a well-timed uber is the preferable way to deal with a sentry nest, but you can make it much easier for your team by cloaking behind the engineer, then backstabbing him and sapping his equipment as they push forward. With luck you'll take out the whole nest, but even if you don't removing the engineer from his nest is still a net gain for your team.

You can also try this on any other class. Your disguise is probably not going to be effective, so don't bother with Your Eternal Reward. A spycicle can help, though a Kunai may be preferable since any failed stab will result in a team swarming in on you anyway.

Given his location on the battlefield, you might also try targetting the sniper. Wait until he's just about to zoom in to decloak, then quickly backstab him, or headshot him with the ambassador, and you'll have a very powerful enemy taken down in no time.


TF2 is about helping each other out on your team and winning(generally). I recommend you to play spy specially on capture the flag, as this is the only game with "bases". Sapping sentry guns should be your first priorities, as this machine is the biggest threat to your team. Go invisible, go behind the sentry gun and sap it quickly. go invisible again quickly after sapping. if engineers are upgrading sentries 1(in front of sentry) kill the engineer with your gun 2(behind sentry) go invisible, backstab him, then sap sentry. Save your invisibility for dangerous situations. if you need to, hide somewhere and wait to regain your invisibilty. Lastly, when using diguise, try blending, lie snipers don't hang out in the bases with intelligence. don't diguise as heavy as you'll lose your speed.

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