Today, I have the pleasure of bringing you part 1 of my pocket roundtable. The two pockets I interviewed are very different. One of them, A_Seagull, is a seasoned soldier, with many seasons of invite under his belt. However, he took a break from competitive TF2 a few seasons back, and this is his first season back. He plays on The Experiment, which is currently the third seed in the ESEA-I playoffs. On the other hand, we have Tri. Tri is part of High Rollers Gaming, a team that lacks experience in ESEA-I. However, they are still a close 4th seed, with a 8-8 record.
P.S. I apologize in advance, since it's a pretty long interview. Much thanks to Seagull and Tri, who were both extremely friendly and helpful, so be sure to give them your thanks! They spent lots of time on this, basically writing essays on some of the questions.
[iq]Please give a short introduction of yourselves.[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: I'm Seagull, the pocket for team Experiment this season.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]:I'm tri, pocket soldier for HRG. I've played on a few teams but this is my first season in invite. I mained scout before switching over to pocket soldier.[/ia]
[iq]We have a lot of relatively new competitive players in the crowd, who might not even know what a pocket soldier does. So tell us, what impact do you think the pocket soldier has on the game?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: The reason why the pocket is important to a team is because no other class can defend a medic as well as a soldier can. Most threats that end up being on your medic are going to be unexpected and catch you by surprise, and the soldier is the class that can react the most effectively in the least amount of time. While a scout would have to turn around and then line up a shot, I can flick a blind rocket and end up hitting someone most of the time because of the massive splash a rocket has. Outside of that, you're the core of your team. You're restricted to around your medic most of the time, so you're the backbone. I figure, unless you're jumping, that the pocket is sort of the team's "wall" or line that is slowly moving forward that pushes people out.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: Aside from the pocket soldiers who are leaders, the pocket is important in general because he's the person everyone positions themselves around, and leads pushes.[/ia]
[iq]Often, new soldiers don’t really know what part of their game they should improve. Should they learn to communicate better? Should they practice their aim? So, what do you think is the most important skill a pocket soldier should have?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: Awareness and communication. For most teams, your pocket ends up being your team's main caller. If you want to make the right decisions, then you need to know what's going on with your team, and your team needs to know what you're intending to do so they can plan around it. Soldier by itself is not a particularly hard class. As long as you land your easy shots (which… the majority of shots are) then the only thing that's going to make or break you are your decisions. I think that the pocket is the best caller because of your perspective. You're right in the middle of the action and can accurately see what's going on, and by being the main caller you keep the rest of your team updated on your medic's position, which is relevant to everyone on your team. Having other classes (like your medic) be the main caller is also viable, just different and likely a bit harder.
Having good positioning is linked to having good situational awareness. If you want better positioning, then in most cases your scouts and roamer need to communicate more of the situation so you can be in a better position. Most of the time though, it's pretty easy to improve your positioning by getting in the habit of doing “checks” as you're doing something. An example of this would be if you're ubering in to push, midway through the uber just look to see who is alive and dead and determine if you need to back out or not. Or, if you're setting up to hold a choke, ask about uber pecentages to your team so you don't accidentally get caught out of position when you forgot you had a massive uber disadvantage.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: Main calling is a very important job and it usually falls to the pocket soldier, so the best pockets are often the ones who are best at leading their team. Obviously you can't tell how good a leader someone is unless you've been in mumble with him, so I think the best measure you can get from just watching a pocket is his positioning and how well he times his aggression. Being creative with ubers is a great skill now that most teams are good at retreating from and kiting ubers so doing anything you can to kill the medic or allow your team to clean up is critical. Seagull from what I've seen is very creative/dynamic with ubers when both teams use, usually jumping behind teams or disappearing completely to reappear when his team pushes in.
For example, when you have a 100% advantage you might consider flanking or cutting their combo off if you know which way they're going to retreat, to ensure that you'll clean them up instead of getting kited to their last and dying. An example would be taking the uber into granary 2nd and going upstairs to drop behind the enemy combo. I guess creative isn't the right word, but being unpredictable with when and where you use your uber is pretty valuable if the enemy team can otherwise just retreat without dying and push back with an advantage.
Concerning comms: Pockets should main call because they're usually the first ones into pushes, so they know when the enemy team is distracted for the flank to push in, or when both teams uber, the pocket will usually have the best sense of when it's advantageous for the rest of his team to flood in. I feel like the ideal system is for the pocket soldier to call plays like when to push/retreat and where, and the medic should narrate exactly what the combo is doing and their positioning, and all the little things like players health, getting buffs etc. Medics calling for focusing damage seems to work too since he can see the pocket's damage. Still, it seems like the best (pocket) callers are the ones who call the plays and narrate what they're doing simultaneously, so maybe it's a job that shouldn't be split up.[/ia]
[iq]As a pocket soldier, the shotgun is often neglected or misused among lower leveled competitive players. Could you explain why the shotgun is so important?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: The soldier basically has two primaries. If you aren't landing most of your shotguns, then when you're out of rockets and you switch to shotgun mid-way through a long fight. you aren't going to be able to clean up weak players. On top of that, the time you need a good shotgun most is when a scout is on your medic and you're out of rockets. If you can't land the 2 shotguns to kill that scout, then you probably just lost your medic and the point. And honestly, most of the time it's not like you actually need to practice your rockets anyway. Spend that time into practicing your shotgun instead.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: Shotgun is really important for finishing off retreating players or hitting jumping scouts. I think that it's always better to reload rockets unless you really need to finish a kill or someone is moving too erratically to hit with rockets. Shotgunning jumping soldiers is gay as fuck but it's usually the right thing to do.[/ia]
[iq]A somewhat common perception is that pocket soldiers barely need to rocket jump. Could you explain why pocket soldiers need to rocket jump well?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: I would argue that you don't need amazing jumps at all in competitive TF2. As long as you can land some basic jumps, like RJing off the ground and then off of a wall for maximum distance, you should be ok. What you do need, however, is to be comfortable with your jumping. When a push goes bad and you're improvising an exit, you need to be comfortable enough to react instantly when you find a way out of your bad situation.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: The pocket soldier will almost always rocket jump to start an uber push to get closer to the enemy team so it's important to have fast and unpredictable jumps because they're all trying to bounce you. Sometimes you rocket jump to take the pressure off your team even if you don't intend to commit. Best way to take pressure off your team is to jump in, but not directly on them as you will get focused and killed. Usually it's better to jump to a height advantage or fake a jump in and strafe around so that their soldiers waste rockets. Spam is better than I had thought previously because if you tag their medic with a few spam rockets the team will usually fall back, so that's another way to gain ground. Rarely you'll have to make a hero play because your roamer is dead or whatever, but that doesn't happen a lot.[/ia]
[iq]Many soldiers(or players in general), reach a certain level, and then … stop. Mainly, it’s because they don’t know how to improve. As a pocket soldier, how did/do you improve? Any advice for getting over that plateau that seems to occur at low-mid level?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: Improving is different for everybody. For me, it was understanding the game so I could make the right decisions as often as possible, even when I wasn't completely sure what was going on. I would watch a lot of demos of teams and other soldiers to try to figure out the reasons for why they would do the things they did. If I wanted to see why a push didn't go badly for a team, I would (and I still do this) watch a push 10-15 times in a row from different perspectives to see exactly what every single person was doing in the fight and then come up with reasons for why it failed. Maybe someone missed some key shots, or maybe someone was out of position, or maybe it was simply a bad time to push.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: I was lucky enough to find a group of players who all enjoyed scrimming with each other and obviously the best way to improve is to just play with the same group of players and build chemistry. Great DM will get you noticed by teams who need a pocket soldier, and I think that the ability to work with your teammates can be developed just by playing on your own and they'll translate to any team you play on, so just play pugs and try to work on supporting your team and communicating.[/ia]
[iq]Many beginning soldiers play both pocket or roamer. However, as they get better, most people gravitate toward one or the other. How do the skill sets of pocket soldier and roaming soldiers differ?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: Roamers need to identify opportunities and react instantly on them. Pockets have to learn to see those opportunities, but then train themselves not to take them unless your team is ready to act upon them with you. Pockets also need to have good chemistry with their medic, whereas roamers can be a little more solo and do just about whatever they want. Roamers should play as if they are expendable, but be aware of when their team has an advantage so they don't accidentally throw that advantage away by dying.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: I think roamers need to be better at jumping and 1v1s and pocket soldiers need to have better passive/precise aim and better awareness, because the game has kind of moved to a style where people just tell the roamer what to do and he does it, so good situational awareness isn't really necessary for roamers, but smarts still matter a lot for both positions. The reason for this is that the most successful teams have had a roamer who makes plays whenever his team tells him to. Obviously, smarts are important but I feel that roamers need to have more of a "clutch" aim because he has less time to aim and less chances to hit his shots than the pocket does. I've never played roamer so I could be completely wrong, but I feel that most of the pressure on roamers is on hitting the shots and staying alive while distracting, simply because often even the most obvious bombs and most obvious distraction attempts work as long as the team follows up.[/ia]
[iq]Through TF2, the roles of many classes have changed. How do you think the role of pocket soldier evolved from the beginning of TF2?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: I've played the game for a long time, and pockets used to be very important. Teams used to be very sloppy with positioning, and players (mostly scouts) used to miss a lot of shots. Pockets could legitimately carry teams back then. However, nowadays, people are simply a lot better. If a pocket soldier wants to matter in today's game, he relies primarily on players making mistakes and punishing them for it. Scouts are the dominant class now, even though they get frustrated when they make the smallest mistake and get flattened by a 90 damage rocket. :D[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: I think the pocket soldier is less important than it was in the past, seeing that scouts are now the dominant force and roamers have more ways to be gay. It's tougher for a pocket to actually carry the team because teams are so good at focus firing and now it's more important to be a leader and create opportunities for your scouts to clean up.[/ia]
[iq]How do you work together with your roamer? Do you even work together with your roamer?[/iq]
[ia][b]A_Seagull[/b]: I usually play pretty separate from my roamer. Most of my teamwork with a roamer ends up being strategy related, like if we want to do an aggressive push then maybe we'll have soldiers jump forward to initiate the battle, stuff like that. Otherwise, I don't see my roamer very much except for when he grabs overheals, similar to scouts.[/ia]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: Best way is to either tell your roam exactly what to do and follow up, or jump in to distract and let him flank. Roamers should support the scouts, but if you're holding tight on a point, sometimes you can tell your roam that you're going to spam their combo at the same time to try to get a pick or force. This might work in chokes like granary garage or gullywash last.[/ia]
[iq]As a pocket, one of the most important parts is a medic. What is important/ what do you look for in a good medic/ what can a medic do to make you excel?[/iq]
[ia][b]Tri[/b]: I prefer medics that can comm to the team concisely what the combo is doing, because usually I'm too busy dming to narrate what I'm doing. Good dodging is kind of underrated and overrated at the same time. Medics obviously shouldn't try to go into "dodge mode" all the time, and good positioning is almost always preferable, but if he can waste an entire uber making the pocket focus on him, that's invaluable for a hold. Mechanics can be taught, so you should focus on playing with a medic who has a good personality and is dedicated, and won't get burnt out of playing medic for an entire season.[/ia]
Questions? Criticism? Praise? Feel free to leave it (especially praise) in the comment section below! I'm doing more of these, so I'd like criticism.
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