TF2 Wednesdays – An Introduction To Competitive Team Fortress (Part 2)

TF2 Wednesdays – An Introduction To Competitive Team Fortress (Part 2)

Every Wednesday, Patrick Panebianco (better known by his online alias ‘Shintaz’) shares his knowledge, opinion and passion for competitive gaming in Team Fortress 2. Each week holds something different, ranging from interviews, to tips and guides, to past experiences. All things said in this series of articles are his opinion and do not reflect the opinions of anybody else.

This week, he continues to tell you about a different competitive game-type (Highlander) and why he thinks that TF2 is best player competitively! If you haven’t already read the first part, go here!

Before I start the second part of this series of TF2 articles, let’s just recap what we’ve already been through:

  • Competitive TF2 is different to public TF2. This doesn’t make it bad
  • There are ups and down to both competitive and public TF2
  • Somebody had to correct me on the origins of TF2
  • My writing has a lot of randomly bolded words or sentences

So, this week, let’s cut to the chase. We’ve discussed public TF2, the “standard” format of competitive TF2 (6v6), and now we’re going to go through (for want of a better phrase) the other format of competitive TF2: Highlander (that’s 9v9 to you and me). So, readers, I hear you ask: What is Highlander? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you!


Picture source: ETF2L (I’m sure that lovable lot won’t mind)

Some of you may already know what Highlander is – after all, it is a game-type which you can find on a public server! I hate to say that I’m not amazingly experienced in Highlander, but I have played it, and I definitely see the appeal. Highlander, by many, is seen as the gateway into competitive TF2 from public TF2. Many others see it as how competitive should be, as it utilises every class in a match, rather than sticking to the regular format of two scouts, two soldiers, one medic and the most overpowered piece of sh- er, one demoman. As with 6v6, let’s have a quick rundown of what Highlander is all about:

  • ‘Understandable’ class limits – only one of each class can be played at any one time (per team, obviously)
  • Lenient weapon limits – many more weapons are allowed in a Highlander match than in a 6v6 match.
  • Maps: a diverse range of maps, and it doesn’t revolve around 5CP  mirrored maps – you’ll actually be able to play payload and cp_steel!

If you’re interested in the full rulesets, here they are: Europe, America

Now, I know what you’re thinking: not only is this Patrick guy great at writing articles, but I bet he’s really good looking too. But that’s beside the point, let’s stay on topic. In comparison to 6v6, Highlander clearly allows more diversity, lets you play your favourite class and is generally less ‘structured’ than 6v6 to encourage the use of multiple load-outs, maps, etc. Not many people know it, but I was actually part of a Highlander team once, and I had great fun – but to me, and many others, Highlander was simply an ‘escape’ from the seriousness that 6v6 needed in order to be the very best! This isn’t to say that I’m cussing down Highlander in any way, but, personally, I’ve had better experiences with 6v6. I may be coming across as a bit biased currently, and my words can only deliver so much of what Highlander has to offer – so once again, I present to you a video which captures the wide range of possibilities in Highlander:

Once again by the lovely CUBE – check this article out for some of his other work

 So: at this stage, we’ve discussed public TF2, 6v6 TF2 and Highlander. As always, let’s list the pros and cons of Highlander:


  • Class diversity (how many times will I use that word in one article?) – a multitude of load-outs is at your fingertips, and every class is available for the taking
  • Map diversity – as much as they like to complain against it, the 6v6 community is bound by mirrored 5CP maps. In Highlander, you get to play the likes of Badwater and Lakeside
  • Similar to what you may already know – the chaos of public TF2 brought to competitive by simply adding a few more numbers and different rules
  • It also has lovely, lovely prizes!


  • Not seen as prestigiously as 6v6 – if you’re the best at Highlander, you’re not going to get sponsored to travel
  • It’s harder to put a team of nine together than it is to put a team of six together
  • Time constraints (again) – unlike public TF2, you’ll need to put aside some of your spare time to practice if you want to reach the top

If you want to get started in Highlander, ETF2L is your best bet if you’re European, and UGC if you’re American.

So, that’s it – I’ve told you what I can about public TF2, 6v6 TF2 and Highlander. But why have I done this? Is it because I’m obnoxious and want my voice heard? Is it because I want to show you that if you dislike 6v6 you are wrong? Well, actually, neither of these are the case. What I want to do by the end of the article is to convince you that competitive Team Fortress 2 is definitely a venture worth your time!

Competitive vs. Public – the ultimate battle!

Beginning note: competitive will be 6v6, not Highlander.

LG| Mackey showboating at the finals of i46 after a big play

So, I guess it’d be a great time for my introduction to finally be relevant. Hi, I’m Patrick “Shintaz” Panebianco. I used to be in one of Europe’s best Team Fortress 2 teams, Epsilon eSports, and my main class was scout. Throughout my time in TF2, I was able to win some money (and hardware prizes!), meet great people and refine my FPS skills in general. I entered competitive TF2 in early 2008 – so the fierce range of weapons and hats were yet to be introduced to the game.

Like many reading this article (I hope so anyway, these are the people I’m trying to reach out to) I was huge about public TF2. I loved it. I was 15 years old when I started playing and I couldn’t get enough. I’d rush my little legs home from school every day, slam my bag on the floor, boot up the PC and [try to] frag people all day. It was my first “real” game, in which I spent most of my spare time on. However, as days went on, I began to realise that nearly every day was the same – no matter what class I played, I was getting bored. Now, the problem is, that may not be the case for some of you – what with the fact that each class has approximately 100,000 unlocks, I’m sure you’re still loving it. But that’s no reason to stop reading and disregard everything I say.

I don’t want to run you through my journey (let’s save that for another article, shall we?), but the point I’m trying to make is: when you play competitive TF2, no two games are the same. A pretty lame point to make, considering the same is also statistically true for every game ever made, including Chess. So why not go competitive in Chess? Well, if you have a passion for Chess, go for it. However, there are many other points I’d like to make about TF2 before you go off and beat Viswanathan Anand (he’s the current World Chess Champion – yes, I Googled it):

  • No two games are the same. Sorry for making the same point twice, but I figured listing them would stop you from falling asleep. I wouldn’t want this part of the article to look like one of AcidreniX’s comments (that’s funny to the competitive EU lot. If you start playing competitively, you’ll get that joke!)
  • Companionship. As cheesey as it sounds, it’s absolutely true. Personally, I much preferred making and interacting with great friends than hearing somebody scream at me whenever I didn’t Über him. The memories you make with your TF2 friends will stick with you for life. I still have mad amounts of love for people I met way over three years ago (again, maybe save this for another time).
  • Side note: I had my playlist on shuffle here, and ‘Aerodynamic’ came straight after ‘One More Time’. ON SHUFFLE. It was immense.
  • Competitiveness. Well… duh?! Obviously, this is a bit of a pointless comparison to make, but it’s definitely worth looking into. I’ve literally had my heart racing in times I’ve played Team Fortress 2, but only ever competitively. It gets the blood pumping, it gets the adrenaline going, and you get to kick the crap outta that guy that’s been annoying you for weeks. Why has he been annoying you for weeks? He posts inane nonsense on the forums.
  • The community. There’s not much here that I can elaborate on – the community are amazing. There is no doubt in my mind that at this time, competitive TF2 has the most friendly group of people in any game. Sure, you get one or two bad eggs (admittedly, I may have been one of them… MAYBE), but experiencing a LAN with your TF2 buddies will be something that you’ll never regret doing. To compare it against people in a public server who yell at their team for having five spies… Yeah.

The Team Fortress 2 community that attended i46 (sadly, I missed this photo!)

  •  The learning experience. Hell, I didn’t even know what Scandinavia was before I started competing. More importantly, I learnt how to become good at the game. To link with the previous point, most people at the top of the TF2 ladder are willing to help their fellow man – you have YouTube videos of premiership players analysing their demos, you have top-end players mentoring bottom-end players, and much more! I also learnt that Finnish people are hella attractive (couldn’t resist mentioning you Jh).
  • The end result. After a win or a loss, you won’t simply just leave the server and forget all about it. Results are tallied, and discussions with your team are had. Did you do well? Celebrate by congratulating your team and getting the drinks in. Didn’t do so well? Spend time with the friends you’ve made discussing what can be changed. Win some money? Buy some more hats!

I’m never great at concluding articles, but I do want to say this: there is no reason for you not to at least try competitive TF2. Sure, you may have encountered one little prat who thinks he’s the don because he’s played in a team (yeah, that was probably me, sorry about that), but I can assure you that one person does not reflect the attitude of everybody in the community. The above reasons is why I think you should get started – you’ll almost certainly find your own passion for the game in due time.

I’d like to give a huge thank you to the Arie over at VanillaTF2. I’m sure that site will play a huge part in articles to come.

Next week, Patrick takes to the streets of TF2 and asks a range of people why THEY like playing competitively, and why they think you should too!

1 comment

comments user

In TF2 s case, the split is even more pronounced, as current competitive formats ban a majority of the game s numerous weapons. Hopes are high that a global system for matchmaking integrated directly into the client will unify a competitive standard and surge interest toward the competitive format. Of course, exactly how that is to be done, will be the dev team s great challenge.