Ambushing

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"Surprise!"
The Spy


Ambushing is "an act or instance of attacking unexpectedly from a concealed position".
This strategy is most useful to classes that are more effective at close range or rely on the element of surprise, such as the Pyro, Heavy, Scout and Spy, bypassing the problem of these classes having to get close to opponents who are more effective at medium to long range combat, but it is also generally useful to any other class. By hiding around corners or behind an obstacle, the player can catch passing foes unaware, ideally killing or severely damaging them before they can react.

Flanking is effectively the same as ambushing, involving catching a player from the side or behind while they are distracted by a frontal attacker. It involves less of the element of waiting as straight ambushing does.

Contents

Bait

Sometimes the enemy needs some convincing to fall into an ambush, and so, it falls to you or one of your team-mates to assume the role of 'Bait'. The following is an assessment of the nine classes, and their 'target priority':

  • Scout - Low. Scouts are weak, with weapons that are most effective at close range, which normally, would make for an ideal target. However, Scouts are usually too small, too fast and too nimble for any enemy force to invest a serious amount of effort in chasing.
  • Soldier - Medium. Soldiers, being a large and relatively slow-moving opponent can often be enticing for the occasional enemy to chase. However, the amount of damage a Soldier can do, even while unassisted, offsets these weaknesses. If you retreat while reloading, especially with the Rocket launcher, the enemy may assume you are wounded, intend to regroup, and might give chase anyway.
  • Pyro - Medium-Low. Pyros have limited range, and are generally seen running towards the enemy, rather than away from them. An enemy might be tempted to chase a fleeing Pyro, but they may also be wary of a Pyro turning an about-face and catching them at a corner.
  • Demomen - Very Low. Ambushes are extremely popular with Demomen, due to their remotely-triggered Sticky-Bombs. Enemies will generally fall back unless they can safely defuse the Demoman's stickies, or push them away with an Airblast
  • Heavy - Medium. Heavies make slow and obvious targets, but their minigun can put out a lot of damage in a very short space of time. Heavies who are not spun-up make slightly more appealing targets, since it takes roughly a second before the Heavy can launch an effective counter-attack.
  • Engineer - Medium-High. Engineers have only basic weapons to defend themselves with, and if they're caught away from their sentry gun, they're largely considered easy prey by the other classes. However, Engineers have been known to set up their own ambushes using their Sentry gun.
  • Sniper - High. Snipers operate best when they can put significant distance between himself and his opponents. At close-range, the Sniper is out of his element, and will often retreat to regain the advantage.
  • Medic - Very High. Medics are usually the number one target when it comes to the order of elimination. Their slim profile, high priority, and faster-than-average speed make them superb, albeit valuable, bait for ambushes.
  • Spy - High. Undisguised Spies draw a lot of attention from the enemy, as they will want to eliminate the threat before it cloaks or disguises again.

General Flanking/Ambush Tactics

Enfilade

The word is French, meaning to 'to thread' or 'to string', as in through the eye of a needle. In military terms, it refers to a position or location where weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. For example, a corridor is enfiladed if the enemy stands in the doorway and opens fire down the length of the corridor, potentially wounding or killing you and your team-mates. Corridors, air-ducts, and narrow tunnels make great enfilade locations, but anywhere that your enemy's lateral movement is hindered works just as well.

Defilade

Defilade refers to a location where terrain and obstacles serve to cover and conceal you and your teammates from the enemy's sight, and thus, their weapons fire. In military terms, this is referred to as a 'hull-down' scenario, in which an armored vehicle can fire from its position, but its main body (the hull) is more or less concealed. Low walls, blind corners, and generally any object large enough to conceal your entire body can become a potential defilade position.

Line-Strike

A line strike is a military ambush tactic, in which the enemy is lured into following a path parallel to a line of allied fighters, which immediately open-fire. The bait runs through the column where its allies will fire, known as the 'Kill Zone'. A number of allies stand parallel to the bait's path, and open fire as soon as the enemy or enemies come into view. The line-strike's weakness is, however, that it cannot be used on choke-points, where enemy maneuverability is weak to begin with. If they can break through your line, they may yet escape, or worse, kill you and your allies.

'L'-Strike

An L-Strike or L-Ambush is a modified version of the Line-Strike, but is somewhat more awkward to set up. In it, two or more members make up the formation, making an 'L'-shaped pattern, with the goal being to draw the enemy towards the crook of the L along the horizontal section, otherwise called the 'Kill-Zone'. On paper, the 'Flank' is the vertical section of the L, and is usually concealed or 'defilade'. The bottom part of the L is the 'Base', which is parallel to the enemy's intended path.
Your bait (if you have one) has to attract the enemy's attention, and then run through the L-Ambush, parallel to the 'Base' of the formation, with the potential target in-tow. Once the bait is clear of the trap, the Base opens fire, with the Flank stepping in from cover to fire from the opposite side. (Imagine the L as a mouse-trap, with the vertical section snapping shut on the horizontal.)
The L-Strike has weaknesses that make it unsuitable for every situation. The L-Strike works best in confined areas and choke-points, such as small doorways and the mouths of corridors. In more open areas, it would be best to instead employ a different ambush strategy.

V-Strike

A V-strike is made up of two diagonal lines of ambushers which, when the enemy enters the Kill-Zone, can lay down bands of intersecting fire, making retreat just as dangerous as pressing forward. V-Strikes can cover a very large area, provided your team-mates are spaced out well enough.

Pincer

A Pincer Formation

A Pincer is an aggressive flanking maneuver. Your team advances forward to intercept the enemy team, and upon encountering them, splits into two groups and circles around the enemy advance, in the hopes of surrounding them and attacking them from all sides.

Class-Specific Ambush Tactics

Heavy

A Heavy can jump around corners, spinning his minigun on the way down, and proceed to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting, approaching enemy team. This works particularly well because the Heavy's DPS is particularly high up close.

Engineer

  • Level One Sentry guns are small and relatively quiet, making them ideally suited for planted ambushes and traps, much in the same way Sticky-Bombs are suited for trapping doorways.
  • Know where your Sentry gun's 'blind spots' are, and learn what areas nearby set up ambushes for those spots. This goes a long way to supplementing your Sentry's strength, and protecting it from potential aggressors.

Pyro

  • Lurking around corners or next to entryways into different areas of the map to enable him to take advantage of the limited range of the Flamethrower.
  • Players tend to watch on their front and flanks, but not above them, so another form of ambush is dropping from above onto approaching enemies. This form of ambush can land you in the middle of a group of attacking enemies, allowing you to douse the entire group in flames in a second or so by spinning around. It has the advantage of speed, as free fall is significantly quicker than foot speed. It is only possible wherever a ledge exists for you to drop from, and this can be anticipated by the enemy team.
  • When lurking switch to your Axe to prevent the end of your Flamethrower sticking out you can then try to chop them from behind before finishing off with your Flamethrower.
  • The Backburner rewards Pyros with its 100% Critical Hits when attacking an enemy from behind, making it an excellent ambush weapon.

Demoman

  • Your sticky-bombs are tailor-made for ambush purposes. Doorways, corners, and anywhere the enemy doesn't normally look when passing makes a great location for a potential sticky-bomb trap. Make sure, however, to conceal stickies as stickies that are conspicuous to the enemy will not be approached.

Surviving Ambushes

Since an ambush is, by definition, an attack of total surprise, usually the only way to escape is to retreat, or go back the way you came. But there are steps you can take to stop your team from triggering an ambush in the first place.

Avoidance

  • Look for Sticky-Bombs and shoot them out of the way, whenever possible.
  • Anticipate the places the enemy will be hiding and enter from the far side while Strafing. (Note: most people are right handed so will instinctively hide on the right hand side for them, the left hand side to you)
  • Move quickly through confined spaces, or if possible, avoid them altogether.
  • Be on the lookout for the nozzle to the Pyro's Flamethrower/Backburner. It is a large and longer weapon than most and tends to stick out if he has it equipped.

Countering

  • Don't follow the same path twice, if you can avoid it. Enemies may be watching you to see which paths are ideal for ambushes.
  • If you have a Spy hidden behind enemy lines, he can relay the enemy's ambush locations back to you.
  • Unless you have an ÜberCharge at the ready, don't ever think you can 'punch through' an ambush. This is most often suicide.

Map-Specific Ambushes

2fort

  • Around the corner from either of the two entrances to the enemy base
  • Around the corner from either of the two sewer entrances
  • The small corner round the bottom of the stairs leading from each base to its sewer
  • The small pile of crates (RED) or barrels (BLU) upon ascending the stairs from the sewer
  • The 'Grate' room in either base. Allows a good view of the front entrance.
  • The shelf and 'work-sink' between either Team's Base Entrance and the Courtyard. (Enemies tend to charge directly from the Entrance to the Courtyard and then stop, ignoring this corner completely)

Well

  • Next to the rail tracks at the middle Control point on the outside of the entrance or on the inside of the exit.
  • Next to the doors into the fourth Control point (this is close to water for Pyros though)
  • Behind any of the rail cars
  • Next to the well entrances / exits

Dustbowl

  • Stage 1, behind the small house outside of the BLU exit leading directly to Control point 1: while it is easy to be spotted from the exit across the ravine, it is ideal for ambushing BLU players heading straight for the control point, as well as dropping down on players approaching the control point from within the ravine.
  • Stage 1, above the stairs leading to the small building across from Control point 2: players heading up the stairs tend to go straight up the stairs and onto the building, sometimes ignoring you.
  • Stage 2, end of tunnels leading to Control point 2 area: there is a wooden walkway above these tunnel exits (Engineers like to build Sentry guns on it) that a Pyro can drop down from on emerging attackers, or for RED players to attack BLU attackers heading straight for the control point upon leaving the tunnels.

Granary

  • On the overhead path with the circular exit leading from Control Point 2 to the central Control Point.

Steel

Steel plays well to the short-range classes' abilities, as a large percentage of the map contains blind corners, choke points, and narrow corridors.

Some specific ambush locations include:

  • The Window Room overlooking Control Point E. This is accessible from A, just beside the RED Team's Spawn Room. A BLU Spy can easily use this to slip in amongst enemy players incognito.




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