The Team Fortress classes are often listed as “Generalists” or “Specialists”. Generalists, as their name would suggest, are useful in almost any situation, are infinitely adaptable, and are cornerstones of team play. Scout is frequently listed as a generalist, along with Soldier, Medic and Demoman. But after thinking about it, I’m not so sure that’s accurate.

Again, a “Generalist” is supposed to be useful in most situations. That includes offense, defense, different game modes, etc. No matter what’s happening on the field, there is usually a role for a generalist class to play. Then why can I think of several extremely common scenarios where a scout is not welcome on the team?

(For the purpose of this breakdown, I am only considering stock scout. Certain unlocks make him more of a generalist, but you could argue that unlocks turn any class into more of a generalist. The question lies in his basic role as a stock scout.)

What exactly should the "Generalist" do right here? Answer: It really doesn't matter. Picture by FeelGoodInc.
What exactly should scout do right here? Answer: It really doesn’t matter. Picture by Gen. DeGroot.

Scout has very little to do on defense. On Attack/Defend maps, where RED cannot retake points, what exactly is RED Scout supposed to do? His good DM’ing skills are not nearly as useful as the explosive-spewing area denial classes, his picking skills are far less useful when he’s forced to flank the entire enemy team to get in position.

Then consider payload in general. On defense, he hits all the same problems of the above point. On offense, he’s largely outclassed by other bulkier classes because payload is a very spammy game-mode, and you only need three classes to reach full cart-pushing potential anyway.

In competitive highlander, defensive scouts are relegated to simply “watching the flank”, a role that is far less detailed than every other class, as well as covered better by the Soldier, who has the same job. So my point is, Scout is not as useful on defense as most everybody else.

Then, there is the matter of Scout against sentries. Scout v. Sentry is widely considered the only true Hard Counter in the game. Much has been written about how little scouts have to offer against entrenched sentries, and therefore must wait for their teammates to deal with it. This, again, is not the behavior of a generalist class.

He’s sounding to me like a specialist, or a situational class with a relatively common situation; offensive picking and objective rushing. He’s a generalist in 6v6, which is all about CP and doesn’t have clearly defined offense/defense, plus there are few Engineers. But in the Big Picture of TF2, there are too many broad times where scout is not that useful to be considered a ‘generalist.’

Everybody on the enemy team is shooting right here, especially sentries. 125 hp ain't gonna cut it. Picture by FeelGoodInc.
Everybody on the enemy team is shooting right here, especially sentries. 125 hp ain’t gonna cut it. Picture by FeelGoodInc.

So how would I tier the classes? Well, strictly speaking, I’d simply bump Scout down to ‘specialist’ and call it a day. But of course it’s not always that simple, because he’s certainly more useful in a plethora of situations than, say, spy. So I’d add a middle ground,  the “grey area” for specialists who nevertheless are useful in a good majority of situations.

I would change the tiers to:

These shine in almost any situation. There’s something for them to do on offense and defense, any map, any team consistency. In any given situation, there’s always something useful for them to do.

Gray Area:
These are useful in a great many situations, but not all. Two have very clear weaknesses (slowness and spam/sentries). Pyro in general simply does not excel in any situation, but can do SOMEthing almost all the time, if not much.)

These classes can be useful, but face significant costs (Spy in positioning, Engineer in setup time, Sniper in both plus accuracy) that limit their use in unfavorable situations.

If you’re thinking 6v6 (which is where the concept of Generalist v. Specialist came about) flip Pyro and Sniper. Of course, ETF2L recently allowed Degreaser, Flare Gun, and Axtinguisher so perhaps I’m talking too soon. These are strange times we live in.