Looting is dangerous. That moment where your stationary melon is sitting there like a pinata is the moment when that cheeky boi will hit it with a bat. If you ever wonder why streamers seem to be able to loot so fast, a large part of that is their hotkey mastery. Ctrl + Left Click puts loot in your backpack, Alt + Left Click puts loot on your body (equips it) and binding “Discard” to a mouse button can save you huge chunks of deathzone looting time. Mastering this system will limit your vulnerability, and ultimately keep you alive.
2. $5 of Meds can Save $500 of Loot
There are four medical ailments that will slowly cause you to wane away like a tulip next to a Pittsburgh coal mine: bleeding, fractures, pain, and health points. At a minimum, always have a bandage, a splint, painkillers, and an AI2. As you rank up, upgrade those capabilities. There are few things more soul-crushing than hitting that lucky face shot on a roided-up gunmonkey, and then slowly dying as you struggle to haul his 80Kg worth of top-tier gear to extract with a bleeding pinky finger. Base meds are cheap and base meds are worth it.
3. Map Knowledge is Raid Control
If you’ve ever shat your pants when hearing a scav scream out in his unintelligible pig-latin, its most likely because you need to work on your map knowledge. Map knowledge will tell you where good loot might be, where scavs will be, where PMCs are probably lying in ambush, and where to escape when you just got peppered like a steak. Learn the maps, it’ll save your life and fatten your wallet. We’ll come back to this in a few.
4. Scav Runs: They’re Free Real Estate
Secure Containers are one thing, but scav runs are the true rouble-sustainer and bankruptcy-insurance that are built into Tarkov. All you have to do is press a button and you’ll be periwinkled into a former-Communist hellhole with a free weapon and gear. Furthermore, you’ll be dropped in after PMCs may have smoked the homeless toll worker on Customs and his merry band of laborers. Just like you, other PMCs can only carry so much. Their scraps are your key to never going broke. As a bonus tip, save your aggro. As a player scav, not killing the first scav you see is like getting a free squad of Level-10s protect you while you pillage their tent city.
5. Standardize: Valuable Items are For Rich People
I’m sure there will be disagreement on this, but it’s what I’ve personally found to be the best way. Disclaimer: standard edition players should hold on to cases… To me, I have a gear level that I am playing it, at all times. That level is defined as the best 10 sets of gear that I can afford at the moment. In the beginning, that may be a Kirasa, MBSS backpack, and a Vepr Hunter. So, when I get that New Year’s gift Items Case right at the beginning, I sell it on the flea market. Why? Because those rubles are more valuable to me as funds contributing to standardized gear sets than as an Items Case storing 10 bottles of water, 6 cpu fans, and a pack of moldy Marlboros. The same goes for 800k rubles worth of looted high tier gear. What you sell and what you store should be a cost-benefit analysis of what you can afford to run and what you need to save for specifics quests. That’s how you avoid the hatchling life. When you get rich, buy that stuff back for the same price you sold it. That’s the beauty of the flea market: you lose a lot less from selling and eventually re-purchasing, than you used to suffer when using Traders. Think of it this way: as a level 1, you have five kids, a nagging wife, and a rusty double-wide trailer. If you win a Ferrari in a sweepstakes, does it make sense to drive that beauty and wrap it around a tree because it was too much car to handle? OR, should you sell it and send your kids to college instead?
6. Roam on Auto, Serial-kill Scavs on Semi
When you’re just walking around, a PMC can pop out of the blue and work you at pretty much any time. You need to be ready to spray him back to the Walmart office chair from whence he came. This is the moment that your unmodded fully-automatic AKMS sends a beautiful serenade across the map, saying: “geared player here.” There will be some hero out there in the Tarkov ether who got his slightly more expensive chair from Staples. He will be ready to hunt you down and put its lumbar support to the ultimate test. This is where your map knowledge comes in. If you know where scavs are, you will see them before they see you. Flip the switch to semi and headshot them from a distance. It may save you from a heavily geared 5-man deciding to descend on your position.
7. Grenades Kill, but They're not Necessarily for Kills
Sometimes grenades will get you kills, sure, but consider this. We’ve all been there when a grenade came flying towards us. You hear the sound of a bowling ball landing near you and you sprint towards nowhere as fast as you can. Do you know where that ball of death is? No. Do you know whether you’re running from that bitch’s frag radius or into it? No. But, guess what, you just got up out of cover and ran into the open. That’s what grenades do. They cause senseless panic. There’s no reason why it should be your enemy causing that panic instead of you. If you get grenades, save them, equip them, and use them. Grenades psychologically force PMCs out of cover, and that’s their most valuable use.
8. Manipulate In-Raid Storage
If you’ve ever gotten lucky enough to merc that degenerate drug addict on Customs (and his band of tweakers), you’ve run into the situation where loads of loot are staring at you and you just don’t have space for it. The same goes for that PMC slaughter where the last guy couldn’t take it all, and you, the lucky player scav, happens to stumbles across the mass grave 15 minutes later. You grab a couple of AKs, maybe a helmet, and you dip. Don’t do that. Use Rule 1 to your advantage. There’s no reason why you can’t clip the attachments off of those extra AKs. There’s no reason why you can’t slap that extra optic on top of that M4A1 receiver you found earlier, with no space penalty. There’s no reason why you can’t take that 1×1 Sprut and fill it up with 3 flashlights. There’s no reason why you can’t unload that VEPR scav’s 4 mags and take a profitable 1×1 stack of M61. There are ways to make space, and the hotkeys will help you do that quickly.
9. The best Handbooks Aren’t in the Game
Remember when I said we’d come back to Rule 3, well here it is. God bless Nikita and BSG; I love this game. BUT, the Handbook, quest descriptions, and in-game maps… they’re borderline useless. That said, this community is more committed to this game than a 20 year-old giving his cheating girlfriend “just one more chance”. There are loads of unaffiliated resources waiting on Google for your exploitation. Gamemaps.co.uk , Tarkov Wiki , streamers , the many ammo charts , reddit , /u/PhotonReady ‘s quick reference chart … the list goes on. Use these resources. I’ve been playing since the game went public and still have to consult ROFLWOFFL’s Customs map to remember where each scav extract is. These things will help unravel the complexities of this highly complex game. They’ll tell you whether the ammo you’re using is Zeus’s lightning or a pack of dead ping pong balls from a frat house. They’ll tell you how to complete quests. They’ll tell you whether your armor is an over-glorified sweater. Use. These. Resources.
10. Loss is Inevitable
The serious one… Your hours played and the age of your account doesn’t factor into your obligation to endure loss when you launch this game. When you play Escape from Tarkov, you will experience loss. Even that giant kitted-out try-hard who “literally kills you every raid” has days when he simply can’t extract from a single raid and takes huge losses (including me). Don’t let it get it to you. As the months go on, you will get better. You will die less, you will loot more, you will go into raids with better gear, but you will still experience loss. Sure, sometimes it will be desync, lag, stutters, and cheaters. But, most times its just the nature of the game. This game is hard, this game is complex, and this game has real-life realities that most games don’t. It doesn’t try to exploit your humanity with Pavlovian prizes and it doesn’t try to wring microtransaction money out of you with the same psychology that keeps retirees in front of slot machines. This game emulates a hard dose of life, and loss is a part of that, but that is what makes this game unlike any other.