So you just installed TF2, and you started playing, and you like it! However, your one page of loadout goodness is barely enough to keep up with your first few weeks of drops. You have to prioritize. You’ll have to discard some items to make room for others.
Certainly you’ll want to try each item before deleting, but some items are objectively better than others.
Here’s, in my humble opinion, the items you want to stick with, plus other alternatives that didn’t make the cut.
While the stock scattergun is the king of all scout primaries, the Force-A-Nature (1) trades some of its massive DPS with the massive knockback the first shot can deal. Its sibling, the Soda Popper (2), trades the knockback with guaranteed minicrits ”on demand” – a straight upgrade from the Crit-a-Cola (no drinking time, no taking mini-crits, longer crit period). If you can be very accurate, the Shortstop (3) is a very reliable gun too.
For your pistol slot I recommend Bonk! Atomic Punch (4), which grants you invulnerability on demand. Great to sneak past the enemy or those pesky sentries. Be careful, though, you still get knockback.
The melee options for the scout are varied, but none of them are really interesting. The Holy Mackarel is exactly like the bat, but it spams the kill list. The Candy Cane trades a small medkit per kill with getting one shotted by most explosives, not a good trade. The Boston Basher will kill you more than it’ll net you kills. And at the end of the day, what you’re supposed to use at melee range is your scattergun, not a melee gun. This leaves two meaningful options: the Sandman (5), with its stunning capabilities, and the Fan-O-War (6), which makes an enemy take minicrits for 15 seconds at the cost of dealing basically no damage (just like Jarate does). The Atomizer is a call you’ll have to make: triple jumping costs 10 health, and you don’t have much to begin with.
6 items. 42 to go.
I, for one, swear by the Black Box (7). +15 health per hit is always great, but it’s sudden death where it really shines. Alternatively, the Direct Hit (8) is the premiere launcher against sentry guns, pyros and generally everything moving too slowly, too close to the ground. The Liberty Launcher is like the Black Box, but with no health regeneration and faster missiles; I don’t have it, but it doesn’t sound particularly compelling. The Cow Mangler is mostly a gimmick.
For the shotgun slot, the only choice worth mentioning is the Buff Banner (9). After dealing a total of 600 damage in a single life (that’s a couple critical rockets’ worth), you can activate it and give everybody in your general neighbourhood guaranteed mini-crits for 10 seconds. The other banners, the Battalion’s Backup and the Concheror, charge mainly on damage received; the former grants reduced damage, the latter grants the Mad Milk effect (you heal 35% of the damage you deal). I don’t find either particularly compelling.
For the melee, you have a few obvious choices. First and foremost, you want the Equalizer (10), which lets you move faster (and deal more damage) the less health you have. At 10 hp you’re almost as fast as scouts. Great to get out of a tight situation (perhaps after you’re done tanking damage to charge your banner). The Disciplinary Action (11) is great for spychecking; hit a teammate with it. If he’s a teammate, you both get a speed boost (and you’re one of the slowest classes), otherwise he’s a spy. I like the Pain Train (12) for its improved cap rate, but it’s situational.
Well, that makes 12 items, 38 to go. This is tighter than I originally thought.
If you find yourself unable to use the airblast, you’ll love the Backburner (13); it deals more damage, it deals crits if you’re squarely behind somebody, and it can still airblast. After you get your Axtinguisher (14) you also may want the Degreaser (15), which will let you use your axe of doom faster.
The flare gun (16) is a nice tool to pick spies or enemies from a distance, but it puts you in a disadvantage in pyro vs pyro situations, where the shotgun or the primary weapons are much better. If you get a detonator first, stick with it: detonation can help you pick people around tight corners without exposing yourself, but you won’t deal critical hits on people already on fire.
For the axes, the already-mentioned Axtinguisher is perhaps the single best melee weapon in the game: 195 damage guaranteed on players on fire. Deserving of a mention are also the Homewrecker for engie support (you can unsap buildings in one shot!), or the Back Scratcher for a small damage boost traded with slow healing from medics (this can be turned into a plus, because it’ll improve their ubercharge building).
16 items, 34 to go!
The demoman has a wealth of options, but I recommend you stick with the default loadout. Items that may still appeal you are the Splendid Screen (17), a straight upgrade of the Charging Targe if you aren’t interested in resistances; the Loch-n-Load (18), recommended by many for learning how to aim with the regular grenade launcher; the king of Medieval maps, the Half-Zatoichi (19).
The demoman has the largest selection of melee weapons to go with your charging, but your bottle is just fine for these purposes. The Eyelander sounds awesome, but you’ll need to kill two people before you get any advantage from it. The Scotsman’s Skullcutter makes you even slower. The Ullapool Caber is a one-time suicidal weapon that only got popular due to an exploit with the Sticky Jumper. The Persian Persuader (20) will let you charge much more often however; if you love charging you’ll love this melee.
30 more slots to burn!
The Tomislav (21) is an interesting minigun I don’t have, but have been killed many times by. You deal slightly less damage, but spin up much faster. This makes it great for ambushing, which is what you should be doing anyway. It’s much less situational than the Brass Beast (more damage but much slower) and the Natascha (less damage but slow down effects), at any rate.
For the secondary slot I recommend the Sandvich (22). Eat it to go back to 300 health, or better, drop it with a right click to heal your medic (or whoever stumbles upon it, including yourself) for half his max health. If you drop it to your medic and you have a mike, tell him about it, as that plate can be hard to see. I’ve seen people equip the Family Business, but it doesn’t sound particularly compelling.
My melee weapon of choice is the Gloves of Running Urgently (23): you can sacrifice 6 hp per second to run faster than most classes. Great to get back to the point faster while boosting your medic’s charging ever so slightly. Other choices worth mentioning are the Fists of Steel (2× damage from melee but 40% less damage from all other sources) and the Killing Gloves of Boxing (they’re slower, but they guarantee crits for 5 seconds after a kill).
27 slots left… we might still make it.
Ah, the engineer, the class with the least items. Luckily (or in this case, unfortunately), most of them are great. The most game-changing item is the Wrangler (24), however. No longer will you be limited by a sentry’s range, which is often insufficient to cover all entrances to the point. If you and your sentry can see him, you can kill him. Oh, and you shoot twice as fast, dealing twice as much damage but consuming twice as much metal. Oh, and you get 75% less damage in the process too. Oh, and there’s a spy behind you. Oh, well.
The Jag (25) lets you get buildings online faster, but it deals slightly less damage; that’s a great tradeoff. Alternatively, the Southern Hospitality will make you very vulnerable to pyros, but spies will hate you. Pyros usually have a very hard time vs. sentries, but watch where you build.
Alternatively you can go full revengineer: Gunslinger (26) for putting out inexpensive, short-lived minisentries, and the Frontier Justice (27) to profit from your minisentries’ deaths with guaranteed crits, plus the stock pistol.
3 classes left, 23 slots to go.
You’ll want all three mediguns. I find the Quick Fix (28) often beats all other mediguns when it comes to, you know, actually keeping all your teammates, and yourself, alive. You can heal really fast, and your uber lets you heal yourself really fast too. However, it ain’t no invulnerability. The uber is rather hard to use, but I typically use it to counter pyros and heavies.
If you’re defending, the Kritzkrieg (29) is more appropriate than the regular medigun too. After all it doesn’t really matter that your heavy must stay alive if he can kill everybody else in the progress with guaranteed critical hits.
Most primary gun alternatives aren’t worth it; you shouldn’t be using them anyway. For the melee weapons I suggest the Vitasaw (30), which lets you keep 20% of your ubercharge; in other words, you can get your first ubercharge 20% faster. Alternatively get the Ubersaw (31), which gives you 25% uber on hit. Just don’t go out of your way to hit people though.
19 slots left, 2 classes to go.
First and foremost, you’ll want the Jarate (32). It keeps spies visible, it extinguishes teammates on fire and makes enemies take minicrits. That truly increases your chances of survival if you should have to go up close and personal with other people.
For the actual sniping, the Huntsman (33) is a popular choice. You’ll need to lead your shots as the bow isn’t hitscan, but that makes it easier to get lucky kills. Only consider the Bazaar Bargain if you can easily get more than 3 headshots in a row and the Sydney Sleeper if you suck at headshots.
For meleeing, the Tribalman’s Shiv (34) has a very nice bleeding effect, also useful against spies. If you equip the Jarate, however, you’ll want the Bushwacka (35) instead, for it’ll deal crits on jarate’d players, or at any time it would minicrit otherwise.
15 slots remain.
The Spy has no items that you wouldn’t want to consider. I personally use the Dead Ringer (36), the Big Earner (37) and the Enforcer (38), so I can feign death, decloak out of sight, go for the backstab, quickly shoot down people going for me and go back to being “dead” in short order.
Otherwise, use the Cloak and Dagger (39) to take your time and backstab with Your Eternal Reward (40) and headshot with the Ambassador (41). Or take the Etranger (42) to reload your cloak meter faster. Or use the Kunai (43) to turn your opponents’ backs into large walking healthpacks.
The Final 7 Slots
That leaves 7 slots left to try other items out, have some buffer for drops, and perhaps give sillier items a try to keep the game fresh and fun. If you don’t waste that space with metal (using metal to craft is a waste, and that’s all you can do with a free account) or crates (delete on sight, unless you get one of those strange weapon crates) you should be okay. Perhaps leave one slot free for that key you will eventually buy. ;)
If you want to fill your backpack to the brink, let me pick seven more items to fill in the gaps: the Atomizer for the scout (44), the Liberty Launcher (45) for the soldier, the Detonator (46) and the Home Wrecker (47) for the Pyro, the Fists of Steel (48) for the Heavy, the Blutsauger (49) for the Medic and the Syndey Sleeper (50) for the Sniper.
Here’s the 50 items, in all their glory:
Acquiring those items
Item drops are the best way to get those items. This is actually not bad. While it might take a while to get the item you want, you can make do with other items you’re actually getting, so that you can get a better feel for them and their drawbacks when they’ll be used against you.
I suggest you don’t go out of your way to craft metal and use metal to craft new guns, mainly because you lack the space for this and because you can’t use metal in trading. That said, some items do drop more rarely than others; apparently items belonging to sets are less common or more common, but not as common than others. Items from the Uber update, for example, seem to be guaranteed at least one drop per week, but the nature of the drop system allows for rules to change without notice. Your mileage may vary.
Last of all, have fun in the actual game! The design idea is that items are different, not better than your stock weapons, so you shouldn’t stress too much about getting the X item for the Y achievement to get the Z unlock for the class.
Just give it time and keep on rockin’.