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An Evening with Keith Smerbeck (Part 2)
posted in News
August 2, 2012

Sorry for the long wait everyone. Since the start of part 1, the beta of SC2 was released and Buick was unreachable for a good week. I finally gave him enjoy guilt to finally finish this interview. Some really good stuff about TF2 strategy in this interview, unless you're one of those tl:dr guys. This interview made me realize that there are definitely smart kids with interesting things to talk about in this community. Look for me to find my next interviewee soon.

But for now, enjoy part 2 of [i]An Evening with Keith Smerbeck[/i].

[iq]I'm sure you've read the medic round table. As an experienced medic, do you have anything to add to any of the questions, also you talk about how you have a RTS thought process while medicing.. can you talk about that a little bit?[/iq]

[ia]As I read through it again I can't really see anything on most of the questions where I differ from those 3. Medic is the odd class where time spent playing will improve you. It's a constant learning experience. The other classes seem to have more of a set skill ceiling. This isn't as true for medic, considering you aren't the one shooting the guns playing well for a medic is about eliminating mistakes. Being able to flick heal and manage your uber are good skills that can be honed but a lot of medic is mental compared to the other classes. You need to read and analyze situations..you are the strategical and tactical puppet master. With more time spent playing at a high level you become better and better. It's really something unique.. medic "skill". You need to be able to keep track of uber %, when the enemy uses the uber make note of when they did in your head. Base their new % off them being charged the whole time and continue doing this. You must pay attention to who is up an who is down and make calls based off that. A 15% uber advantage that you didn't realize you had because you weren't paying attention to when their medic died is a wasted advantage.

You need to see when the prey is lying on the road and swoop in like a vulture ready to pick the bones dry. If you see some opponent overextend you MUST instantly call in your wild dogs on him and like I'm caught saying every scrim/match "punish him for his mistake." Another thing that you need to be keen on is uber management, you NEED to let your team know that you multi-ubered and how many times (targets) you did. You need to do the math in your head and let them know exactly how many seconds each team has left on their ubers. If you see the opponent multi-uber count how many new targets he hit, do the math in your head, and prepare your team to swoop in the split second it drops. It's unacceptable to just say "we ubered, oh they ubered" and then not speak until it's over. When both teams uber it's war within a war.. I can't count how many times I've seen a medic uber, multi 2 new people and not realize that he needs to get out of danger MUCH sooner than usual. Instead he realizes it once the uber starts flickering and it's far too late then, he's as good as dead if he went too far in.

This may sound cliche but knowing when to back out is key, sure you may have ubered 5 seconds after they did but unless your solider gets 2 picks right away the 5 people they have up and waiting to pounce on your is going to be far too much for you guys to handle once the uber drops. Ubering later than the other side is a large advantagesure, but take the time to realize the numbers in regards to how many people are up on your/their team. Just because you uber doesn't mean go, go, go blindly into 5 of them praying for an ace. When a soldier gets ubered his first thought is NOT let's use this to back out, it's his knee-jerk reaction to go kill shit to be blunt. This isn't a fault of him either, it's as a human being what his brain is saying. So you as the medic must communicate to him that you are in fact using this uber to get you and him about alive. You both must be on the same page, if you see him start to head in with fire in his eyes wantingto rip and tear people apart you must call him off, even if you have to raise your voice he must realize right then and now that you are both going to die if he goes for kills. Even if you have the best pocket in the game, you aren't going to win 2v4 if the other team is intelligent. Aces happen sure, but that's more the other team being stupid than your soldier being a beast.. and you can't rely on the other team being stupid.. because that's stupid on your part. Now keep in mind if you have more than you and him up you can very well send him in to do damage as you back out. In fact you can also do this with multiple people too. If you have to uber defensively and they haven't ubered yet just get your ass out and have your pocket/demoman/whoever try to force a pop as you get out safe.

Just like in RTSes you need to counter and counter quick, if you are getting wiped at mid you can't just think that this time you guys are going to hit your shots and somehow magically reverse it, you need to quickly breakdown what's happening to who, why it's happening, and what you can do to change the outcome. Just beating your head against the wall and refusing to adapt is naive. Get in the other teams heads a bit, attach to your demo and fake a kritz. People think that just faking "I'm fullly charged" while hiding behind YOUR boxes on granary mid is enough to mess with the other team, but it can go far above and beyond that. Think of the positioning everyone would be in if you really had kritz and mimic it, ride the demo up all while keeping your beam bouncing up and down too fast for them to catch a glimpse of the sparkles. If you are going to do a fake, you NEED to go the whole nine yards.

Learn what players tendencies are and store them in your memory banks. Just like in any sport where teams watch film of each other I'll watch a teams demo to prepare for the plays they run/the tactics they use. Knowing what your enemy is going to do before he does it is an extreme advantage that not enough people realize/even care to use. Just like in SC or WC3 gimme replays, gimme more and more and more. I'm not going to watch them once, I'm going to watch them 5 times from everyone's perspective. I have this thirst to know why people do what they do when they do it in games. I want to learn the ins and outs from every single perspective and why things happen the way to do. I'll watch a STV demo half a dozen times just because I want an appreciation/full understanding of why people do things when the do them. TF2 is a constant learning experience if you want it to be. This isn't just limited to watching replays either, you can pick up on stuff mid game. As a medic you need to learn what every single other medics tendencies are.What does he cover up uber with is the first and foremost. 99% of medics are predictable and use the same exact voice command to cover up uber every time. There's enough mindless medics that still use the "negative" voice command to cover their uber that I actually have it show up as "MED HIDING UBER" in big blue lettering in my closed captioning when it registers the "negative" voice command. The sad part is that it's always right to. =/ For fucks sake use something different people. I have F, G, T, R, H, V, and B all mapped to different voice commands that I'll spam all game. The key is UNPREDICTABILITY. Don't make the mistake of just using a voice command to cover uber either, that's almost as bad. Use them all game. Fuck with the other team, make them have ZERO idea when you are covering uber and when you are just spamming voice commands for the hell of it. I seriously can't remember that last time a heard another medic use a voice command, called him out on covering his uber.. and was wrong. I'm not saying you're bad/wrong if you don't put tons of emphasis on mind games, but why not take advantage of something you can hone to help your team.

Another thing I'd like to delve into is TANKING for your pocket/healee. Sometimes you just need your pocket to be alive for ONE more second as he's dealing with shit. It's the biggest risk/reward thing to do as a medic but know how much damage that projectile/scatter will do and risking your own life to save you both is key. I've rang for so many teams and people have no god damn idea what I'm talking about when I start yelling "let me tank, get behind me for a sec" because they've never thought of something like that. Afterwards they understand why and how I did it and why it won us the battle. Remember though, you are fragile so don't get yourself killed doing it. Know when you can get away with it. This will takes months to perfect though and you'll probably get yourself killed a bit too much at first but hone the skill of tanking for your pocket when need be. Just like in WC3 occasionally the grunts need a quick heal so they retreat while I throw the weak headhunters up front.. occasionally the person who is usually protected from the damage needs to be thrown into the fire to ensure victory.

It's you and your soldier who has 20 life versus a scout/medic combo? Trust me if that scout is any smart at all he'd ream the soldier then easily finish you off. So literally GET BETWEEN the scout and your soldier while healing him and buy him that extra second or two to reload/get some more health. On top of all the confusion the other scout is going through, it'll let you guys win the battle that otherwise you would have easily lost.

One last thing I'd like to talk about is uber scouts. One thing enigma taught me was the power of an ubered scout, I've had an uber scout break more stalemates pushing into granary 2 or badlands last more effectively than any demo/soldier combo can. If you scout has as good as movement and can dodge getting juggled there is nothing that can pick a med/force an uber as much as an ubered scout. Even more effective is ubering both scouts and treating them like 2 steeds running ahead of you mowing down everything in their paths. I'm not saying do this every time, but trust me start looking at the chance to do this more and more and you'll learn when to do it/when it's super effective/when it's a mistake.

Last word of advice to any medic is to take command of your team, CALL PLAYS and practice the plays beforehand in an empty server if need be. Something waar taught me on paraGon and I still use today is to get all 6 of your guys in an empty server and practice DRY-RUNS to middle. Have someone restart the round after you get there but sit down with your team, talk about strats, talk about what times people get there, and talk about what can and will potentially happen against certain other strategies. Mid rollouts can be so deep and complex if you simply take the time to go over them/be creative with them.

Seriously, spend an hour with your team in an empty server going through every situation attacking/defending each point and make up new tactics/talk about what people are going to do in certain situations. It makes the game much more enjoyable, and you'll get many more moments of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouf-_IA6gR8&feature=related

As an addendum a final thing I'd like to go on about is what Pure said in regards to him warming up for matches. I'm in the same boat as him in regards to this. Something I still do on a day to day basis is pub medic, I go play on the No Heroes Payload Extreme and simply try to manage the team the best I can. There's situations playing 32 man payload servers that you'll never get in a match, yet being able to deal with them can prepare you for the stress if you can take it in stride. Having to dodge 2 snipers, 3 spamming demos, 2 backburning pyros, and 3 spys gunning for you and only you makes you nimble and aware of your surroundings much more than most things can. People always wonder how/why I love to follow people into pubs and play as their pocket medic but it's simply because I love playing medic, every single part of it. Every single time my medigun is healing someone it's time spent playing medic, which in turn means I can be working on things. People always apologize to me when something random kills me in a pub, but my only response is that I could have dodged it better. I'm serious, you want a medic to follow you around in a pub? Get at me, I'd be more than happy to for as long as you want.

The weirdest thing I do before matches and it kinda goes with what Ruwin said is that I always brush my teeth. I have no idea why or how it started but there's something about being the the middle of a match, having things happen, and in the back of your head realizing that you have this awesome minty taste in your mouth that makes things even better. Get sniped while holding uber defending Gpit B? Sure it sucks but at least you have fresh breath during your respawn.[/ia]

[iq]You have mediced for ALL types of teams. Which types of teams did you enjoy medicing for and which types did you hate medicing for?[/iq]

[ia]I never really hated medicing for a team, but the most difficult team to medic for would have been paraGon. Everything always seemed to be off a tick in regards to coordination and cringe would simply want to kill anything and everything and he was always under the impression he wasn't getting backup. That team had skill with cringe, FREIGHTTRAIN, jafari, phaser, st. P and so on but it always seemed to be skill that was more DM-oriented than anything, bar FREIGHTTRAIN. I spent more time dead than alive quite often because I was left with simply no one to heal because every single person was so god damn aggressive. Aggression works in this game, but ill-timed aggresion will just net you an easy loss. Was still very fun as I really liked every one of those guys, but just extremely difficult to medic for. It's awesome to see what St. P/cringe have done at this point though, and it's why Hostile Faction can beat any team on any given map now. After seeing how they stuck it out and came back from a super quick 3-0 to beat us a few nights ago on yukon, they can really beat any team on any given night. Can't wait to see them versus eMg or AG.

The team I enjoyed medicing for the most (bar the group I'm with now) would easily be Xensity, it was far too short lived as people lost interest but this game is so different when you are medicing for players of that extreme skill caliber/smarts. Just simply knowing that every single player on the team is near the best at their class in the whole game makes things so much less stressful for a medic. I would never have to worry about my flank being watched, I would never have to worry about one of my scouts getting baited. I would never have to worry about soldiers suiciding on me to try and pop my uber. That stuff would occasionally happen but exponentially less than any team I've ever been on. Every single player was doing the right things at the right time. I trusted every single player to win duels hands down, and they would. There was no such things as ever getting out-skilled. Seriously, having engima/fanom as a scout combo changes your whole perspective on things. Giving those guys full overbuffs became so natural we'd just coordinate run-bys and they'd be off dominating whomever. I thought I buffed scouts a lot before, but after first hand seeing what keeping both scouts at a constant buff can do when they are so insanely skilled it's shocking. Combine that with solid, mo0se, virulent, and sting being the heavy classes I had the joy of healing.. well I can't see anything coming close to that any time soon.[/ia]

[iq]Alright, let's shift to a few questions about the TF2 community. Coming out strong with the first one. Be honest, is this a dying game and community?[/iq]

[ia]Far from it, this recent season of open says enough within itself. Compare it to the last season of open, not only do we have many more teams.. but the teams have all grown and skilled-up together. We no longer have Tool Academy 5-0ing everyone all season while not flinching, now we have 10 or so teams who can beat each other on any given week. There are so many more "mid+" teams than ever before, and with some roster changes/continuing to play I can see a handful of them being able to hang in invite really soon. It literally is getting better and better every single season, and maybe it's too much optimism, but as long as valve keeps listening to the competitive community I see it going nowhere but up.[/ia]

[iq]Jessica Alba, Biel or Simpson?[/iq]

[ia]Whatever one would be the most happy when I take them out ice skating after a picnic at the local park/fountain.[/ia]

[iq]Who is the real DND?[/iq]


[iq]If we had a NA vs Euro LAN, we would kick the crap out of them, right?[/iq]

[ia]Only team that would give us any trouble at all would be Dignitas. I think a lot of us share that opinion though.[/ia]

[iq]What about a rundown for the ESEA Invite LAN?[/iq]

[ia]After first-hand experience (bullets in my head) of how good carnage and justin both are on lan, it's going to be extremely interesting to see them on different teams this time. It's hard to make any predictions not fully knowing who Seagull is trying to round up for his West-coast blight team but there are no obvious favorites as it stands right now in my mind. The next week will be telling, as we will be seeing who is preparing the most for it/putting in overtime per se. (This was before I found out blight wasn't going. =/ )[/ia]

[iq]Any shoutouts?[/iq]

[ia]R.I.P. Pimp C[/ia]

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