With just three days to go until the Dog Tag competition begins, bone up on some expert strategies stolen from former champions that will teach you how to fight like a veteran.
Dog Tags 2020 begins this Thursday at noon TCT. For twenty days, tag collectors will be working day and night to scour stats and self-hosp to ensure they finish the competition with the highest possible haul. New players who wish to take part should read the Dog Tags wiki immediately. And you should also read our Dog Tags preparation article too if you haven’t done so already - better late than never!
In this article, we’ll be covering some of the most effective strategies to use during the tournament, strategies that will help you to get off to a good start, fly under the radar, streamline your searches, and achieve your targets in Dog Tags 2020. We’ll begin with a quick guide from one overachiever on why you need to know your limits before you make a single attack.
GO FOR YOUR GOALS
It is important to aim for specific goals rather than attacking blindly throughout the tournament. Last year, SinCitySinner took 15th place at under two years old, despite having no help from his faction, friends, or company specials. Based on his experiences from 2019, SCS has divided the playerbase into five categories based on what their aims should be.
50 TAGS - The award for 50 tags can be won on Day 1 if you’re organised enough. Such a low target should be your minimum goal whoever you are - if 50 tags seems out of reach, you’re underestimating your own abilities.
250 TAGS - You’ll need to be making 10-15 attacks a day to hit this target. However, with sufficient activity, this is another award you can gain early - possibly within the first week. You’ll want to gain the majority of your tags as early as possible while supplies are plentiful.
10 TOKENS - The full allocation of 10 competition tokens required a score of 727 points in 2019. We predict it will be slightly higher this year. If you pass 250 tags and you are aiming for 10 tokens, your focus should be on defensive strategies only.
TOP 25 - Every year at least one or two players end up in the top 25 without planning to do so. They blow through the first few days, hit 250 Tags, and end up sitting at 95% or higher. If you’re aiming for the top 25 or you find yourself among the top taggers early on, you may need some help to retain your position. Last year’s 25th place was Yukio, holding 359 tags and a 6,638 score.
Pictured: Look out for this information on the Dog Tags competition page.
TOP THREE - If Top 3 is your goal, congratulations. You either know exactly what you are doing and have the resources and support needed, or you are as delusional about your chance of success as DUDE is when it comes to winning Elimination. This year, with players now more informed than ever about winning strategies, the top three will be those who do something different or have significant help from their factionmates.
Regardless of what your aims are, every player participating in Dog Tags should have a plan which sets out what you’re going to do early on in the competition. Here are some things to think about over the first few days.
STACK TO START - Your energy should be fully stacked before the competition begins. You should ideally have a refill ready, and an accessible supply of Xanax, FHCs and additional refills to power you through the early days of the competition.
BURST OUT THE BLOCKS - It is rumoured but not known that some players have lives outside of Torn City. If you yourself are cursed with the affliction of friends, family, and financial responsibilities, then at least make sure that part of the 5th of November is free of such things. Nobody wins Dog Tags without snapping up a huge number of tags on day one.
PROTECT YOURSELF - If for some reason Torn isn’t the number one priority in your life, you must ensure that you are at least unavailable for attack when the competition starts at noon on the 5th. Self-hosp or fly ahead of time to protect your own tag, as this is worth 10x to you. You’ll need to make up for lost time when you finally do return to Torn though.
SPECIAL NEEDS - Not all tags are created equal. The higher the level, the more points a player’s personal tag will give you, with the tags of level 100 players worth 75 points a pop. But the most sought after tags are those of staff and NPCs, as they are worth 100 and 500 points respectively. Serious taggers will hoover these up early on, and with NPC looting also now in effect, you can expect a fierce fight over the tags owned by Duke, Leslie, and Jimmy in particular.
ACTIVITY IS KEY - Any player aiming for a good score in Dog Tags needs to be using three or more Xanax per day, especially early on when tags are easier to come by. Boosters and Energy Drinks should be used to supplement your energy stack, with these cooldowns maxed out where possible too. This high level of activity will require you to stretch your cooldown limit to the max, ideally with the use of a Book, or company specials.
Throughout the tournament, the vast majority of your time will be spent identifying targets and analysing whether you can beat them. If you spend too long using your fists to determine whether someone is beatable and has a tag, you are liable to waste huge amounts of energy and time. Here are some strategies for identifying worthwhile opponents.
ADVANCED SEARCH - Use this facility to find players of a certain level or age who are out of the hospital and may not have logged on recently. Remember, it is statistically easier to snatch a tag from an inactive player than an active one.
NARROW IT DOWN - Run each search with narrow parameters and then make slight changes after each one. Don’t search for a lvl 50-59 or 2k-5k days old players all at once. Start your searches with highly specific parameters, then change one of them for each search. Keep a list of searches you’ve made so you don’t repeat them.
DEFENDS LOST - Check a player’s profile to see if they’ve lost any defends recently. If not, they may have their original tag on them, especially if this streak stretches back to the beginning of the competition. Any inactive target that has lost one or more Defends after Nov 4th likely does not have a tag and would be a waste of energy.
SWITCH IT UP - Many players begin Dog Tags by farming inactives, as they are the easiest tags to collect. However, if this strategy is used by too many, there will be precious few tags on offer. Consider going after active players early on in the competition if you find this is the case.
RECORD FRUITFUL TARGETS - Use your friends and enemies list to keep track of players who provide tags on multiple occasions. The friends and enemies list gives you the added benefit of a status check, so if you have some slots free, use them.
ACTIVE TARGETS - To identify an active target, you’ll need to see if they have lots of attacks with very few defends recently. One useful if risky strategy is to see who is chaining or territory warring right now. The winning side should be where the tags are at, just don’t be surprised if they hit back.
FACTION ATTACKERS - Who has been attacking your factionmates lately? Are they a potential tagger? Some players make their way through faction rosters to farm them for tags. This is risky, as it can result in a whole faction coming after you, but if it’s your faction who is on the end of this behaviour, add that player to your target list.
HOSPITAL VICTIMS - Is someone in the hospital suffering from an Acute Hemolytic Transfusion Reaction or a Nasty Surprise in the Post? That means they have likely self-hosped, and they are either a trader, or they’re a tagger protecting their haul. Use the hospital list to identify such players.
HOSPITAL HITTERS - Scroll down the list of players in the hospital to find those who have between 0-40 minutes of hospital time left, and check to see if they have been defeated by another player. If they have, the player who defeated them may be an active tagger, so check out their Attacks Won stat to find out.
DUKE’S RETURNS - Duke accidentally collects numerous tags during the event through his usual loan fee muggings. He also returns these tags to these players at random intervals, so if you notice that Duke is online, he may have just done so that very moment. However, as yet, there is no known way to identify those whose tags he has returned. Figure it out, and you could be sat on a tag goldmine.
ACHIEVEMENTS FORUM - Has anyone just completed an attack-based achievement? Chances are they have a lot of tags that are just waiting to be taken. Why not take them up on their unintended offer?
LOG OUT - The most recent attacks by unstealthed players are displayed on the Torn login page. Log out to find these silly sods.
TAG HISTORY - Each tag you collect will tell you who has owned it previously. If there are multiple names which keep coming up, chances are that they are tag collectors, and may have a haul you can pilfer.
NPC LISTS - If you join in with the group attacks on NPCs at the outset of the competition, make sure you keep a note of which players were involved. Some may be there to take part in a simple looting, but many of them are likely trying to get hold of a valuable NPC tag. Keep a list of these players.
SHARE INFO - Keep a spreadsheet full of player IDs and profile links which you and your tag-partners can update as you go. It would be hard to implement all of the search strategies listed above, but less so if you divide up the tasks between two or more of you.
Before we look at attacking strategies, we’re going to run through a few tried and tested defensive ideas which will help prevent you from haemorrhaging tags once you’ve nabbed them. You should never undertake a series of attacks without first knowing how to protect the tags you’re going to receive.
KEEP QUIET - Only tell those whom you trust about your tagging activities, preferably players from your faction who are assisting you in some way. Advertising your tag hunt on the forums or in global is a definite no-no.
DON’T REACT - Even if you keep schtum, some players will be savvy enough to detect whether you’re an active tag-hunter just by looking at your stats. If someone targets you repeatedly using this method, don’t bounty them or crow about it on the forums, just learn their timings and techniques and figure out how to avoid them.
SET YOUR LOADOUT - You may not want to use the same weapon and temp loadout while attacking as you do when you’re defending. KingSchmexy suggests that you should keep Tyrosine equipped and set to 100% use, as the 500% boost it provides to Dexterity may help you avoid losing tags while offline.
FLY AWAY - Long-haul flights are one of the most common methods players use to keep themselves safe from attack, and with varying flight times available for different destinations, you can tailor your trip to suit your needs. A trip to South Africa provides the longest trip at roughly 4 hours 57, so if you fly back immediately, you’ll be absent for nearly 10 hours.
EXTENDED TRIP - Flight times can be increased if you know someone at a Detective Agency with the Watchlist special. Just make sure you’ve calculated the extension correctly, lest you end up naked and tagless in Buenos Aires.
KILL YOURSELF - The most common defensive strategy is self-hospitalisation. Obviously you can’t just lose a fight to a paid attacker or random tough opponent, as this risks you losing a tag. However, you can use a variety of items to render yourself unattackable. But if you’re going to be doing yourself in often, you should find out how to do it on the cheap.
ECONOMISE SUICIDE - The cheapest way to self-hosp is to use the wrong blood bags to give yourself an acute hemolytic transfusion reaction - unless you have the universal AB+ blood type, in which case it won’t work. An AHTR will hospitalise you for roughly an hour, whereas a Small Explosive Device placed inside a parcel will do so for around five hours. SEDs cost $5 million and Blood Bags go for just $20-80k, so more frugal self-harmers would be wise to opt for multiple uses of the latter where possible.
OPEN A BAZAAR - Another downside of SEDs, aside from their cost, is that they draw attention to you as a potential tagger. However, Bazaar owners use SEDs to self-hospitalise themselves, as this ensures they cannot be buy-mugged shortly after someone has made a purchase. Why not open a bazaar and disguise yourself as a trader if you plan on using SEDs with regularity.
FAIL CRIMES - Certain crimes can result in a stay in the hospital. If you don’t care about your Crime Experience and Natural Nerve Bars, try to fail a few high level crimes and mix up your reasons for staying in the hospital.
JAIL YOURSELF - This is a ballsy strategy which may not be for everyone. The best way to have yourself thrown in jail is by trying and failing to bust out the player with the longest sentence. However, since any player can try to bust or bail you out, there’s a chance you might be freed at any moment. If you need a rest but you’ll be active during your downtime, a self-jail could be a good way to relieve the pressure and avoid being tracked via the hospital pages. And if you’re sprung from the bighouse early, prepare for a fight, as whoever got you out might be eyeing up your tags.
DESIGNATED PATIENT - Roshino told us of an interesting strategy which is used by taggers who work in groups. The group collects tags and gives them all to one player, the designated permanent patient, who self-hosps throughout the event, thus protecting all of their tags. This requires a lot of trust, however, and it has been known for the self-hosper to simply keep the tags at the expense of the rest. Use this strategy at your own risk.
HIRE REVIVERS - Some of the very top taggers will contract out their revives during the competition to ensure that their strategies are not limited by medical cooldowns. With sufficient planning, you shouldn’t need too many revives, but if you do, it’s best to have a faction or freelance healer on hand to reduce the potential costs.
CHANGE YOUR NAME - We mentioned this last year, but the fact remains that changing your name to include weird spellings and numbers makes it harder for people to search for you, even if you’re on their hit list. For example, Sugarvalves could become SugarvaIves, with the L replaced with a capital i to create confusion. What a master lIIusionist l am.
So you’ve drawn up a hitlist, secured your supplies, stacked energy, and prepared your defensive strategies for the post-attack period. Now it’s time to attack, attack, attack. But how can you ensure you emerge from a period of attacking with the maximum amount of tags?
START LOW - One of the top taggers is known to attack the low-levels on their list before moving upwards. The result of this strategy is that you will likely have a higher tag collection than most, and this is good if you’re a high-profile player who is likely to be attacked. By putting your overall point score into a large number of tags, the individual impact of a defeat is lessened, given you have a higher chance of losing only one small-value tag.
START HIGH - Conversely, if you start by attacking the strongest players, you will save energy by gaining more tag points per attack. But on the other hand, you will open yourself up to greater losses should you become repeatedly attacked. This strategy is suitable for stronger players, or those capable of flying under the radar.
Pictured: Point distribution graph of Penicillin’s winning tag collection in 2019. x axis: Points, y axis: quantity.
WORK DOWN IN BRACKETS - A level 50 player’s tag is worth exactly the same as a level 59 player’s tag. That means the inactives in the low 50’s will get farmed faster than the mid and high 50’s. So if you’re confident you can take anyone in the 50-59 bracket, start at the top and work down to avoid hitting players who have been farmed already.
STEALTH ARMOR - Any mask or a motorcycle helmet should be your first port of call when it comes to outfitting yourself for a stealth attack. Older, higher-level players are more likely to have Motorcycle Helmets that block certain stealth temps, so while Pepper Spray should be used on the first attack against low players, use Tear Gas against the very best.
STEALTH WEAPONS - High Stealth melee weapons (DBK, macana, nunchucks) should be used after opening with a stealth temporary or when wearing stealth armor. It’s no good using Pepper Spray followed by a shotgun.
TEMPS - Know what each Temporary Weapon does. Pepper Spray and Tear Gas make it harder for a target to dodge attacks. Flash and smoke make it harder for them to hit you. When used properly, Temps allow a Player to attack above their weight class, which is important, since higher-level targets typically hold higher scoring Tags.
INJECTIBLES - Don’t forget that certain Injectable Temps also allow for attacking above your weight class. One player we spoke to last year begins with the use of the Serotonin temporary to increase their Defense by 300%, which they follow by using Smoke Grenades for stealth.
DON’T OVERREACH - When going for the big dogs it is imperative that you make an educated guess as to your chances of success. If you can use a stat spy then great, but if not, compare your respective Xanax usage, as this is often a good indication as to whether they have trained more often than you.
BUDDY-UP - If you can’t beat a top-level player on their own, and your buddy can’t, maybe the two of you can take them down together. Only one of you will receive a tag, but over several attacks you should have an even distribution of tags between the two of you. And if not, make a plan to share them at the end.
FARM FELLOW TAGGERS - You can make an educated guess as to whether someone is taking part in Dog Tags by viewing their personal stats page. If their Attacks Won and Xanax taken graphs have gone up sharply in the first week of the competition, there’s a good chance they’re an active tag collector.
STALK YOUR PREY - So you’ve found a player who you think may have a hefty haul of tags. What do you do now? Rinse them immediately? Or wait and stake them out until the time is right? This very much depends on your activity, their activity, the tournament period, and their current estimated haul. If it’s early in the competition, you might want to let them build up a decent tag collection first. But if your analysis indicates the player has a good haul after the first week, and you’re primed for a period of high activity, get ready to rinse them with stealth attacks.
STEALTH BOUNTIES - Anonymous bounties against your immediate rivals can be useful if you need to climb up the leaderboard when tags are scarce. The newspaper will publish the top 25 scores every so often, and if you’re able to guess which players are around you, a few dozen bounties placed by friends and factionmates could make all the difference, and drop your rivals down a few spots.
FOREIGN FIGHTS - Be sure to make attacks overseas if you’ve flown to protect your tag haul. This ensures you won’t waste any regenerated energy gained over the course of the flight. Go for quick, easy targets, then get back in the air - but watch out for nations that have been placed under quarantine by factions like Natural Selection.
ASK NICELY - Politeness is an undervalued weapon. If someone has taken one of your tags - particularly your own tag - and you know who has it, try offering them cash for its return. Or, alternatively, threaten them, because that often works too!
PAY FOR IT - Pay people to lose attacks against you so you can collect their tags. Offer them a bulk rate if they have several tags in their possession. If said player hasn’t been identified by anyone else, you might want to leave these deals until the end of the competition, to avoid suffering from buyer’s remorse when someone else takes your bought tags off you.
Here are some general strategies which don’t really fit into the other sections we’ve covered so far. Use these at your own discretion.
BE AWARE OF THE STAGES - The first stage of the competition sees players try to nab all the special tags. This usually lasts for a few hours and is followed by another short period where players go for all the high-level tags. After this, participants face a long, slow grind where tags are often hard to come by, and unique strategies often win out. The final few hours of the competition typically involves a fight between those who weren’t smart enough to fly away or self-hosp.
TIME MANAGEMENT - Use your time in the hospital, the jail, or in the air to search for your next targets. If you’re sat in Torn City full of energy and searching for targets, you’re doing it wrong.
PLAY DIRTY - In 2017, td3h tried to gain the upper hand against a tag rival by bribing their Farm director to fire them, thus depriving said player of a crucial energy boost. This strategy failed on that occasion, and so t3dh resorted to attacking the company’s employees to reduce its star status. This plan also failed, but next time, it might not.
USE SCRIPTS - We mentioned cooksie’s script in the Dog Tag preparation article linked earlier. Anarchist also suggests that the browser add-on for DoctorN is indispensable during Dog Tags, as it provides constant updates about your condition, E-levels, life, and helps you keep track of who you’ve already attacked.
SELL TAGS - If you’ve reached your goal and you have no hope or interest of achieving anything else, hit up the original owners of your tags to see if they want to buy them back. Alternatively, contact some of the players you know to be collecting and offer them losses to allow them to make use of your tags. Both strategies risk opening you up to attack, but if you’ve hit your goals already, who cares!
DOG TAGS 2020
That’s the end of our guide to Dog Tags 2020. Any edit suggestions and additions are welcome. Thanks to SinCitySinner for the huge number of tips he provided, and further thanks also to Penicillin, anarchist, kingschmexy, roshino, and any other players whose names we’ve forgotten who contributed in the past.