Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2

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MVM Sniper - How to put a Bullet between the Robotic Eyes
By Botspan
One of the few classes whose effectiveness is affected by the skill of the player themselves, the Sniper's ability to one-shot people from across the entire map hasn't changed one bit in MvM. However, to accommodate the horde nature of this gamemode, the Sniper is given the ability to kill multiple robots in one well placed shot (for a price).

This guide will detail the technical aspects of the Sniper in MvM, as well as a general outline on how to effectively use him in MvM and lead the team to victory!
Welcome to another guide on how to use the fake Australian Sniper in Mann vs. Machine.

Just another day at the job.

Sniper is one of the most powerful classes in MvM, being able to deal with robots while staying at long range without suffering any kind of damage falloff. Sadly, too many people are just plain suck at playing Sniper (either because their aim utterly sucks, or they just don't know how to upgrade him properly). This leads to a long running series of misconceptions on how useless the Sniper is (aside from throwing Jarate) and new players just parrot whatever people saying the most without even understanding why it is so.

This guide aims to change such wrongly-placed negative thoughts, and may help people on how to actually spot a good Sniper and a bad Sniper.

Now that's all said, let's begin!

Use the sidebar on the right to quickly navigate between section.
Strengths vs. Weaknesses of a Sniper
Before you can use the Sniper, you have to understand what kind of things he can and CAN'T do.

His strengths:
  • Consistent damage no matter how far he is from the target.

  • Decent burst damage against one target due to headshot.

  • Able to crowd control (a.k.a kill multiple robots) by merely hitting a robot in the head.

  • Capable of reliably killing multiple Uber Medics in one shot.

  • Fast firing speed when upgraded, can quickly recover from a missed shot or wreck havoc at robots by chaining headshots.

  • Headshot/Explosive Headshot kills All kills with primary weapon (Rifles, bow, doesn't matter if it's a headshot or bodyshot) or any weapon that deals bleed damage (Explosive Headshot, Shiv) drop red money, which is automatically collected. It's only there so the Scout can still get overheal from them and reduce the problem of Sniper killing robots at hard-to-reach places.

His weaknesses:
  • Low base HP. Easy to get killed/prevented from doing his job if he gets focused on by robots.

  • Mediocre-average damage against Tanks (because no head hitbox on them).

  • Skill dependent. If you cannot aim for the head, your effectiveness is severely reduced.

Now you're probably thinking "Wait a minute. How the hell can a Sniper crowd control? He can only hit one target at a time!". Well, in MvM, you can get the following upgrade:

This one single upgrade (Explosive Headshot) completely changes the Sniper role from merely assassinating one target at a time to "kill one guy and every single unfortunate target that were standing close to that guy". Every single bullet to the head (whether that kills the target or not) will trigger the "explosion" (well, more like electricity, but whatever) against nearby robots, and the effect will be more potent when upgraded. This will be discussed in a later section.

However, he will definitely have a hard time doing his job if he is constantly get fired upon by robots (yeah try aiming for the head while tons of rockets and bullets are racing toward you). Getting headshots obviously requires efforts from you to make it happen so Sniper is not recommended if you can't, for the life of your, hit a predictable robot in the head.

You know you're doing great when the only robot to shoot at is a Sentry Buster.
Loadouts - Primary
Ah yes, you were probably waiting for this moment. Choosing a suitable loadout for the job is something you don't want to neglect.

This is the weapon you will be primarily using in your quest of killing robots. They all have their uses in all kind of situations, thus your choice depends on your own playstyle. You have the following choices:
  • Sniper Rifle
  • Machina
  • Huntsman
  • Sydney Sleeper
  • Bazaar Bargain
  • Hitman's Heatmaker
  • Classic
Sniper Rifle
The very basic weapon if you don't have any other unlocks or merely don't want to bother with their pros and cons tradeoffs. It functions pretty much what'd you expect from your generic sniper rifles, and you can upgrade Explosive Headshot on this thing. Decent to start out with if you've yet to wrap your head around the other rifles.

  • It's a Sniper Rifle. It does what a... sniper rifle is supposed to do.
  • No kind of tradeoffs.
  • Depends on if the abilities of other unlocks are worth it over this base gun for you.
You trade away the ability to no-scope firing for +15% damage and penetration when the gun is fully charged. Those who takes their time to aim (or love to fully charge their shot) might have a better use of this weapon, otherwise it's basically stock Sniper Rifle that can't no-scope. The tracer effect does not matter in this gamemode since robots merely don't care (although it's useful to see how terrible your aiming is).

  • +15% damage and penetrate multiple targets when fully charged.
  • Tracer bullet so you and everyone else can see your terrible aim.
  • No-scoping ain't work. Just a minor problem.
  • The extra damage/penetration might never come to effect if you're the type to spam headshots repeatedly instead of charging up shots.
Now this is an entirely new weapon for Sniper. Instead of firing hitscan bullets, you're using a primitive bow to launch arrows at robots. While this does not come with Explosive Headshot upgrade (and gimp your crowd control capability), the arrows can still dish out significant pain against single target (and multiple of them in a line with penetration upgrade) considering how fast you can put out those arrows with full reload speed upgrade.

It's not as easy as it seems to consistently aiming for the head with arrows so don't use this thing if you don't know how to compensate for arcing.

Pyros can deflect those right back at your face so be careful around them.

  • You're much more mobile with this thing instead of a rifle.
  • Arrows can actually dish out decent damage.
  • No Explosive Headshot upgrade.
  • Need to compensate for projectile arcing.
Sydney Sleeper
So you can no longer deal critical hit damage against robots on headshot (luckily Explosive Headshot still works if you hit robots in the head, a reason why I don't say "Can't headshot"). However, the rifle itself is using darts as ammo which can cover robots in pee when shot while scoped, as well as any other robots around the target if the shot was a headshot or fully charged shot. Mainly a supportive Rifle to mark robots for death with Jarate. Also, there's no 0.5 second delay before you can trigger the headshot effect so technically, this is the best rifle for crowd controlling (harder to say this in practice though).

If you buy slow upgrade for Jarate, the slow will also be applied for the Sydney Sleeper's Jarate. It doesn't stack with Explosive Headshot's slow, however.

NOTE: Charge rate is still capped to +100%, thus getting the 4th point of charge rate upgrade is useless as it can't go any further than that capped value.

  • +25% Faster charge rate.
  • Your shots will coat the target (and any robots around it if it was a headshot or fully charged shot) in Jarate.
  • No delay on triggering headshot (and thus, Explosive Headshot). The only other rifle that can do this is the Hitman's Heatmaker in Focus mode.
  • No critical hit on headshot.
Bazaar Bargain
This rifle starts out with -50% charge rate. Each time you kill a robot with headshot (EH and non-lethal headshot don't count), you gain a head which increase your charge rate by +25% (stacks additively with the rifle's penalty). 2 heads will make this gun act like your usual base Sniper Rifle, 6 heads will essentially give you +100% charge rate (worth $800 as upgrade) for free (as long as you stay alive, not changing class, and not changing your primary weapon nor using "Return to Base" canteen).

Bazaar Bargain can give you early advantage over other Rifles due to extra charge rate you can get. In late game though, other Rifles can also upgrade charge rate to match the amount of heads bonus from Bazaar.

And sadly, you still can't stack charge rate upgrade with the heads to exceed the capped +100% charge rate bonus.

  • Free charge rate upgrade depending on your headshot streak.
  • -50% base charge rate.
  • Other rifles will catch up to the Bazaar's bonus eventually due to upgrades.
Hitman's Heatmaker
In exchange for -20% damage on bodyshot (which is meager either way since you should always aim for headshot), you can activate Focus mode when you fill it (by kill or assist kill) to essentially turn your Sniper Rifle into semi-automatic mode, allowing you to keep plugging those shots at robots without having to scope out. This also removes the 0.5 second delay before you can trigger headshot, thus also one of the best Sniper Rifles for crowd control. Perfect for those like to chain headshot but may tunnel vision you if you don't go out of scope time to time to check your surrounding.

The description says +25% charge rate when Focus is activated but that's misleading, you're merely able to stay in scope and still charging it while your Rifle is reloading.

  • Focus mode that turns your Sniper Rifle into a semi-automatic one.
  • -20% damage on bodyshot.
This is for those who like to have a hefty challenge. You can headshot robots without having to scope in so you technically have wider field of vision in comparison to those tunnel vision scoping snipers. As the tradeoff, you can only headshot when the gun is fully charged. And that takes forever until you have enough charge rate upgrade, thus this gun performs horrible in early game, and not that much better in late game either.

Of course, Explosive Headshot will also not trigger unless you headshot robots with a full-charged shot.

  • You can do MLGNOSCOPE headshot robots with this gun.
  • And gibs them too.
  • No headshots (and Explosive Headshot) unless fully charged.
  • -10% damage on bodyshot.
Loadouts - Secondary
You have the choice of a weak backup weapon when they get too close to you, or items that gives you passive benefit depending on the situation.
  • SMG
  • Cleaner's Carbine
  • Jarate
  • Cozy Camper
  • Darwin's Danger Shield
  • Razorback

Yes, yes, your average SMG that has overall weak DPS against like... everything. Usually used when someone gets too close to you or to finish off a weak target in PvP. Overall niche in MvM, aside from being a way weaker Minigun/Syringe Gun when you waste money to fully upgrade it.

Cleaner's Carbine
As a personal defense weapon it's way weaker than SMG. It has a niche use though: if you managed to deal 100 damage (tanks not included) with this gun to fill the CRIKEY! meter, you'll be granted 8 seconds of mini-crit when you activate it (just like the old Soda Popper), allowing you to go rampage with your mini-crit Explosive Headshot from the Sniper Rifle (or keep peppering them with this carbine). I still want my 3 seconds of full crits back!

Peoples' go to backup item because everyone loves mini-crit. And some people force the Sniper to upgrade slow for it to compensate the team's lacking ability to bodyblock those Super Scouts (or some Sniper just can't aim for the head at all, leaving them to be occasionally "useful" with redundant Jarate throw). It's a decent backup item when you need the mini-crit to finish off Uber Medics, deal with occasional Spy bots, or fill your Hitman's Heatmaker focus. However, the time you spent throwing Jarate might be better for pluggin' Explosive Headshot at robots instead. Just don't waste too much time with this is what I'm saying.

And please stop judging whether the Sniper is decent or not just because he has Jarate equipped. By that logic, he'd be better served as Soldier with Buff Banner.

Cozy Camper
Another nice go-to item to use, it has 3 following benefits:
  • 4 HP/s regeneration.
  • No flinching while aiming at fully charged shot.
  • -20% knockback force while aiming.
And the only downside? Not being a personal defense weapon (SMG) or Jarate, that's it. Helps immensely when those damn Sniper, Scout or shotgun Heavy bots keep throwing your aim off with just 1 pellet over half of the map (sadly only when you're fully charged after Meet your Match update), and the regeneration will recover you from such scratch damage. Anti-knockback force from Cozy also somehow able to nullify the long range knockback from Force-a-Nature Scout and Liberty Launcher Soldier bots as well (although kinda a double-edged sword as you might take the full blast from them instead).

Darwin's Danger Shield
This item is mainly designed to ward off against other Snipers due to its extra +25HP and a meager 15% bullet resistance to survive a full-charged bodyshot (and uncharged headshot but Sniper bots in MvM can't deal critical hit on headshots anyway). Of course, the extra HP is immediately negated against explosives due to its 20% explosive vulnerability, but hey, at least you can survive one extra melee hit or getting burned a teeny tiny bit longer with this equipped.

Handy against those hitscan bullet robots but that doesn't mean you can start running around tanking all bullets in the world.

This piece of wooden board with electric wires drawing power from make-shift battery will protect you from one backstab and shock that Spy in question if they're desperate enough to break through this board.

The problem? This thing can only block ONE backstab, after that you're left without any secondary item until you respawn or use the upgrade station. Not to mention you're usually hounded by 2 or more Spies at the same time so one can break through the board while the other just stab you instantly (unlike in PvP, robots in MvM can melee you perfectly without hitting each others).
Loadouts - Melee
Robots getting close to ya? Can't kill them with noscope or quickscope shots? No SMG to use? No worry! You still have access to your trusty kukri to whack these wankers' heads!
  • Kukri
  • Tribalman's Shiv
  • Bushwacka
  • Shahanshah

Your everyday standard melee weapon. Nothing's special about it. When in doubt, just equip this and leave at that.

Tribalman's Shiv
You can now make cuts that robots bleed out (oil) for 6 seconds, which might be handy against those pesky Spies that decided to run away. However, -50% damage for each whack? You might have some trouble if you're engaged against multiple of them.

This thing can deal crits if you're mini-crit boosted or the robot in question is marked for death (Fan O' War, Jarate, etc.) Commonly used with Jarate to dispatch Spies or when a Buff Banner Soldier is around: whack the tank with it. If you have surplus money and your primary is adequately upgraded, attack speed for this (and stock kukri/Shahanshah) allows you to output an acceptable DPS against Tanks (but really, if the team is desperate enough to need a Sniper joining in busting Tanks, you're in trouble). The only real downside is 20% damage vulnerability, but that's only when you have this kukri out in your hands.

Essentially an Equalizer for Sniper. Be careful though, when you reach the point of low HP to gain access to that extra damage, you're fragile enough to go down in one hit from most things.
Explosive Headshot
Yes, this upgrade is so unique it deserves an entire section talking about it.

Here's a close up shot of Explosive Headshot doing its work (the yellow electricity sparks)

First, here's a table of information on everything about EH (shamelessly stolen from sigsegv)

Explosive Headshot
UPGRADE EFFECT EFFECT SLOWDOWN SLOW BASE MINICRIT LEVEL RADIUS AREA DURATION AMOUNT DAMAGE DAMAGE ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ +1 150 HU 71 kHU^2 1.0 sec 50%* 150 202 +2 175 HU 96 kHU^2 1.5 sec 65%* 170 229 +3 200 HU 126 kHU^2 2.0 sec 80%* 190 256

* Note: the slowdown amount is always 50% for giants, regardless of upgrade level.

Explanation of slowdown:
  • 50% means bots are limited to 50% of their class's regular movement speed
  • 65% means bots are limited to 35% of their class's regular movement speed
  • 80% means bots are limited to 20% of their class's regular movement speed

Basically, one level of Explosive Headshot is enough to take down common Uber Medics (since they have exactly 150 HP) except in some circumstances:
  • Medics overhealing each other (you can hear their Medic robotic response thanking for overhealing).
  • Quick-Fix Medic Uber which also heals the Medic himself.
  • Valve deciding to add missions that changes the base HP of the Medic.

Thus, it's always recommended to max out Explosive Headshot to reduce such probability. Besides, each level of upgrade further increases the radius of the "explosion", as well as damage (enough to one-shot every common robots that isn't a Heavy or Soldier). Even if they managed to survive your first EH, their speed will be reduced to a crawl for a short duration, allowing you to lineup another shot (that is, if your teammates haven't bothered to finish them off).

Like Sniper Rifle, Explosive Headshot's damage is not affected by distance falloff nor rampup. Everytime you get a headshot, you'll essentially trigger a circle of death around that target, and it will always deal the exact 150/170/190 damage, doesn't matter if they're far from the "splash" or not - you are in the circle, you get damaged.

The amount of charge you have on the shot DOES NOT increase the damage of Explosive Headshot so stop taking your sweet time charging up your shot if you think that'd increase your EH damage.

Robots killed with Explosive Headshot will drop red money since it's effectively dealing bleed damage, and Halloween 2015 made all kills with bleed damage (exclusive for the Sniper only so don't think Scout's cleaver or something like that would work) drop red money

How to deal with Overhealing Medics:

In the event of Uber Medics overhealing each other to such ridiculous HP (max 225 HP), that's when the Jarate comes in. Explosive Headshot level 2 with mini-crit damage will guarantee that Medics will be killed in one burst without leaving them enough HP to pop their Ubercharge. The video below will demonstrate this:

NOTE: Ignore the part where it said something about needing a 2nd shot to kill all Uber Medics. It's a bug that has been fixed in Gun Mettle update, allowing EH to target up to 32 players at once (pretty much the max amount of players you can have in a regular server). Also, damage spread wasn't disabled during the making of this video, making the 3rd level of EH necessary (and you still should have it even now to increase the splash area).

The Cleaner's Carbine can be a nice substitution in Jarate's place as well.
Now that you've made your decision on your suitable loadout, you'll need to know your base upgrade path. This heavily depends on the mission and which Rifles you're using (or the bow).

Core Upgrades:
  • Explosive Headshot: This is your very core upgrade and you should get at least 2 points before worrying about other stuffs. I already explained to you how one upgrade alone makes the Sniper a lot more powerful than he originally is.

  • Reload Speed: Helps a lot with putting out more shots. Great for chaining headshots, as well as quickly recover from missed shots.

Enable "Sniper Rifle will re-zoom after firing a zoomed shot" in Advanced Options. Without this enabled, Reload Speed won't allow you to scope in even after the gun already finished loading another bullet, having to wait for 1.5 second before you can do that.

Once you've maxed out those 2 upgrades, the following one depends on your playstyle and the mission:
  • Damage: It's obvious. More damage -> even stronger headshot damage and more dead robots!

  • Projectile Penetration: Helpful when those puny robots you want to put a bullet between their heads are hiding behind other targets. If you managed to hit multiple heads with penetration, each target will generate an entirely separate Explosive Headshot too, allowing you to stack up tons of damage from such shots.

  • Charge Rate: If you're the type to spam chaining headshot, this upgrade is not really in your priority list. Still, useful for Hitman's Heatmaker with max reload speed as getting +75% or +100% charge speed will still increase your DPS quite a bit.

  • Ammo Capacity: So you can snipe longer before having to find an ammo pack/Dispenser. If your Engineer is being very considerate and supply you with the Dispenser from time to time, good for him!

  • Health on kill: If you ever have to get this, one point is more than enough. Kills from Explosive Headshot also replenishes your health as well.

  • Any applicable resistances/regen/Movement speed: so you can actually take more hits if it ever comes to that, as well as being able to quickly relocate should the place becomes too hot.

  • Jarate/Melee upgrades: Have surplus money? It's your call. Also if your team is being extremely sucky at dealing with Super Scouts, I guess you may upgrade slow on Jarate to help out (or being super MLG and headshot those Scouts as Explosive Headshot slows them down as well).

Bowman Upgrades:

Disclaimer: I don't really recommend you to go bowman unless you have someone else able to reliably crowd control and busting Medic (meaning another Demo or Rifle Sniper). If you already planned things out with your teammates or simply don't care, do whatever you want, as if I can stop you.

And of course, I believe majority of pubs will just instantly kick you for using this primitive bow.

  • Reload Speed: Spit out even more arrows, isn't that obvious?

  • Projectile Penetration: As buggy as this upgrade is on the bow, it allows you to hit multiple robots in a row. Since it doesn't have to be deadly accurate like hitscan Rifle, you can quickly chaining multiple kills with a well aimed arrow.

  • Damage: Further increase damage dealt with the bow. Sucks that this only increase the charged damage but whatever.

  • Bleed: I'd say you only upgrade this ONCE. If they're still alive somehow after 5 seconds, you can quickly reapply the bleed effect with little effort.

Since you're being more upfront with the bow, having resists to tank hits and movement speed to quickly move around are good things to have.
Know the Enemy (Target priority)
Sniping in TF2 is hard mainly because you have to hit heads to be effective (or charging up shot for strong bodyshot, leaving you tunnel-visioned for an extended time). Unlike your human players in PvP though, robots in MvM are predictable! Once you've played long enough, you'll eventually know all kind of patterns make by robots and aim in advance.

This section will help you out on which robot should you target first.

Uber Medics:
If there's any of these guys in the field, they should be your priority #1 to get rid of. There are two ways of killing them:
  • Headshot them directly (or bodyshot with enough charge to kill them).

  • Headshot the patient and let Explosive Headshot do the rest.

The 2nd way usually is the most efficient as Explosive Headshot can reliably drop multiple Medics with ease, and allowing you to take out both the patient and the Medic itself (taking out 2 birds with one stone, is that the right idiom?).

In case of Uber Medics overhealing each others, see the Explosive Headshot section on how to deal with that situation. Usually, that only happens when there are too many medics latched on to the patient (the Octo-Giant Soldier in Metro 1st wave and Octo-Giant Heavy in Coaltown Expert 2nd wave).

Bomb Carriers:

Any non-Giant robots will have their speed reduced by 50% when carrying a bomb (Giants are already slow to begin with, aside from Super Scouts). Also, robots (except gatebot or when bots are manually ordered to move through a certain path) will proceed to form a close formation around the bomb carrier to "escort" it if they're close, making the bomb carrier a perfect target to bait robots into sticking close together.

If robots are running around in mobbing spree, getting rid of the current bomb carrier will force all non-gatebot robots to beeline for the bomb, making their movement predictable once again.

These guys are a popular target to constantly spam headshot and rapidly triggering a circle of death around them thanks to the power of Explosive Headshot and the fact they're more durable surely helps. They're slow (yeah yeah not counting Scout variants) and their head essentially has a freakin' big sign saying "HERE I AM! SHOOT ME IN THE HEAD PLEASE!". I recommend you to shoot at Giants that also have tons of small robots around them to make maximum use of Explosive Headshot.

These guys exist to be a pain in your arse. That doesn't mean they're really good at hiding nor be able to outsmart you. Remember, everytime those Spies spawn, the Administrator will warn you loud and clear through the loudspeaker, and the HUD on the top will helpfully point out that those Spies are in the field should the Administrator decided to be lazy and not telling you (until it's too late).

Each map has some spots that protect you from being hounded by those Spies for awhile before they start to butterknife you. There are 3 ways to dispatch those Spies by yourself:
  • Shoot them with unscope Rifle. Unlike in PvP, those Spies will never use their revolver against you (barring some missions) so you can keep backpedaling and pepper them with your rifle shots.

  • Jarate + Bushwacka. Most commonly used because you can reliably one-hit them after they've been soaked in piss. You can play melee fight against them and win most of the time as well (unless they're ganging up).

  • Headshot those Spies. Yes, it's completely possible and I do it all the time. You just gotta know the spot to hit when they're disguised and aim for it. Since they usually come together in pack, Explosive Headshot will quickly kill the remaining Spies.

The rest? Just solve the problem with a bullet to the head, don't waste time waiting for them to grab the bomb.
Some MVM Sniper gameplay
So you can at least see whatever I said in this guide is not out of thin air.

And how would 4 laggy Snipers stack up against the odd:
Thanks for standing still... I mean thanks for reading!
What are you waiting for? Go out there and start practicing your aiming skill against the machines!

Heh heh, "Super" Scouts...
< >
fotbal May 10, 2021 @ 8:54am 
Is there an updated version? Things have changed since 2015
UTZ Hater Feb 6, 2016 @ 3:31pm 
Botspan  [author] Aug 1, 2015 @ 9:39pm 
Nope, it isn't your average explosive with splash, it'll always deal the exact amount of damage to everything within range.
PaleRider- Aug 1, 2015 @ 9:29pm 
I was referring to how 'splash' damage scales with EH. Like if the target is further away from the headshot that triggered the EH, it takes less EH damage.
Botspan  [author] Aug 1, 2015 @ 9:26pm 
The EH section should tell you about the damage.

And EH doesn't suffer damage falloff nor ramp up.
PaleRider- Aug 1, 2015 @ 9:24pm 
Great guide. How does EH upgrades increase the max damage from EHs? And how does EH damage scale with distance from headshots?
Ice Cream Man Jul 27, 2015 @ 6:46am 
Oh, thanks
Botspan  [author] Jul 26, 2015 @ 8:19pm 
Anyway, I changed the wording, should be correct now.
Botspan  [author] Jul 26, 2015 @ 8:16pm 
I think I get it now.

The explanation part in those brackets are aimed at the terrible players, but of course the word "their" in there can be confusing and leading you to think of those people I mentioned before ("the few people know how to play him right").

Freakin' English grammar so confusing.
itsgalf Jul 26, 2015 @ 3:14pm 
no, it makes sense