TF2 Highlander Engineer Complete Guide



TF2 Highlander Engineer Complete Guide by The_Burger

Whether it is out of curiosity, genuine interest for the class, or just to let another one take the Sniper slot to get that damn lobby started once and for all, you’ve decided to play Engineer. It may not look like the sexiest class at first glance, but it is still vital to the success of any team in the long run. As a newcomer, you will ask yourself common practical questions such as “Where do I build”, “What loadout should I use?” or “How can I best contribute to the team effort?”.

This guide is not here to give you simple and straightforward answers to these. Because as much as I would like to be able to ramble on about the “best practices” and “super imba pro spots” to use when playing competitive Engineer, I’m afraid that I would be telling you a dirty lie. With such variables as the player, his playstyle, his perception of risk vs reward, his loadout, his own team, the team he’s up against and the map features, you cannot realistically have one best way to deal with every scenario, let alone predict all the possibilities to begin with. This contributes to making the Engineer’s gameplay a very dynamic one, with no two games being quite the same.

I would like this guide to be more open rather than normative, and to provide some insight on the mindset that you should have while playing with Dell.

That being said, welcome, young hardhat!

An overview of the Engineer mindset.

In general.

The Engineer’s role is one of support and odd jobs. HOWEVER unlike the Medic, an Engineer’s support must be (pro)active and not passive. His main priorities are to defend his teammates, toprovide them with optimal fighting conditions and to help claim, manage and defend territory.

Area denial, providing covering fire, guarding objectives, pushing carts, capturing points and trading kills are some of the means to achieve these ends. They are not goals per se. This makes the Engineer a rather versatile class, with many ways of accomplishing its tasks properly, depending on how you and your team value the pros and cons of each method.

But regardless of the playstyle that you chose to adopt, having very good appraisal skills, solid aim and being consistent will always be the most important skills to durably impose your presence on the field.

Common mistakes include completely sacrificing support for aggression (or the opposite), “blueprint playing” (doing things regardless of whether it fits the situation and team strategy or not, just because you’ve seen X do it successfully) and being impatient.
On awareness.

A deaf Engie is a dead Engie . I cannot stress just how much auditory awareness is necessary to be effective. Since you cannot be everywhere at the same time, you need to listen to the comms and game audio cues to compensate for what you cannot see, to be aware of what is going on and to keep up to date with what your team does and needs. You will better anticipate situations, increase your survivability and as a result get more opportunities to get cool work done on the field. Furthermore, not being constantly in the thick of the fight enhances your vigilance, allowing you to pay more attention to threats (flankers, snipers and spies).

But a mute Engie is the same thing as a blind one. Notify your teammates of threats, of what you are going to pull off or if you simply need help, so that they can react accordingly (just don’t clutter comms, it’s counter-productive).

Here are some important sounds that you should listen for and related notification (if applies):

  • Uber : “they called [location]” (only if no one else says it)
  • Cloak sounds! The gunfire in the combo prevents them from hearing them at times, but you’ll be hanging in less action-packed areas, where the whoosh stands out much more : “Spy uncloaked [location]”. And if you are really a boss with good headphones, you can even track their footsteps in calmer areas when they go invisible (useful against those ringa-dingers trying to fool you).
  • Sentry alert sound. If your sentry detects something and rotates towards an unusual spot, you’ve got an unwelcomed visitor who needs dealing with: “Sentry picked up something [location]” or “Someone flanking [location]” (mention the class if you see/hear it). (My personal favourite: “We have a visitor [location]“)
  • Hurt cries. Sentries are great detectors, but you won’t always be seeing who they are shooting: “[class][location]

Regarding hitsounds, I would strongly advise you not to use loud ones that could cover up other audio cues, or not use them at all and have a crosshair with hitmarkers.
I personally prefer to disable them on most maps as I find them to be distracting and of limited use as Engineer, since I will usually be either in the vicinity of my sentry or fighting by myself if it goes down. The only exception to this is when I need to use minisentries as early warnings, and even then I could simply get smart and use a hud that has a crosshair with hitmarkers, but old habits die hard.

Extra points.

A note on maps : This class is one of the most dependent on map knowledge ! Get familiar with the layout offline or on pubs first before simply jumping at the deep end of the pool. You can also skim through a couple of broadcasted matches to get an idea of some spots that you can use to begin with. If you do the latter, I suggest that you not only pay attention to how gear is positionned, but also how it gets taken down, so that you do not get nasty surprises later.

A note on Spies : spychecking is a collective responsibility, but not all classes do it the same way. The fact that all Spies will do anything to avoid the Pyro until they strike makes the latter a last line of defence against them rather than an early warning. In fact, if the Pyro fails to intercept the attack, it’s sometimes also because the Scout, Engineer and Soldier failed to spot him in the first place (or outright shut him down) when he was still on his way. As an Engineer, you are one of the better spotting classes when not busy with defence or support duties (one reason being that your buildings are Spy magnets), and your shotgun will easily dispatch even those nasty Revolver Spies. Also, don’t believe that because you are not on defence the Spy will ignore you. In the same way that they will rarely say no to a free sap, Spies will rarely refuse a free kill on someone not paying attention, if there is no better opportunity at a given moment.

A note on life, death, and your value as a class: remember what I’ve said earlier about having very good appraisal skills? Knowing what your life is worth is a big part of playing the class efficiently, because it helps you chose an appropriate course of action. Do not fall into the oversimplification of “Offence = always a free life, Defence = always a great loss”.
Just like every class outside the Medic, you can always be sacrificed in the right circumstances (even on defence) if that helps your team gain or conserve the initiative. I have done seemingly foolhardy things such as running in the open to distract Snipers or wrangling Engineers before pushes, slightly overextending to claim free land with minisentries, bumrushing kritzed Demomen or playing wrecklessly with big guns that I knew I could rebuild quickly after. But I have always done so when I knew that my death would not matter much on a tactical or strategic level, and that my team would be able to benefit from or even capitalize on my actions. Also, don’t be afraid to die to protect more imporant classes of the moment by taking shots for them, or even bodyblocking non-Heavy ubers.

Tools for the job. Part 1

Most classes can stick with the same loadout throughout an entire match and still be okay. That is not the case with the Engineer. Choosing an adapted loadout and taking full advantage of it is already half the battle. But switching between loadouts cannot be done lightly, so choose wisely. And to choose wisely, you need to ask “What needs to be done?” and “In what way can X item help me do it and at what cost?”. The following sections will discuss equipment from a Highlander perspective. I did not include the currently banned weapons (Pomson 6000 and Short Circuit)

Melee weapons.

I’m starting with these because they will dictate your playstyle more than anything else.

Wrench/Southern Hospitality/Jag

A.k.a. the three monotheistic religions of Engineer mains. Despite the debates, I still think that their use boils down to personal preference, because all of them allow you to build, upgrade and maintain your buildings in roughly the same way, which is what matters most at the end of the day. This makes that none of them is so godly as to overshadow the others, or so bad as to be sent back to the far reaches of your backpack.

A couple of points do exist on paper to justify the use of one over the others, but in practice I have failed to really feel the differences between them (at least the upsides).

  • The Wrench is simple and reliable and is good to teach you weapon discipline: you shouldn’t melee more just because you have the SH, and you shouldn’t have sloppy timing or move stuff recklessly just because you have the Jag (who’s bonus is negligible and bugged anyway) unless you’re a diehard fan of the other two, I’ll always recommend following my religion and using this one.
  • The Southern Hospitality’s extra bleed damage is appealing when your loadout isn’t particularly damaging to begin with (RR/Wrangler), and fending off Spies becomes an easier task when you don’t have the time to whip up your primary. But personally, I find this wrench to be a “placebo upgrade”, more on-par than superior. Firstly because I usually just shoot the spy with my primary, dealing more damage in the process while avoiding ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ stabs and leaving myself open to easy gun shots and second when I use a wrench to fight, it is always out of desperation, and in this case I need to kill with the initial 65 points in the hope of staying alive, not killing posthumously with the bleed (which rarely happens anyway).
  • Despite its history as the “pro ninjaneering wrench” The Jag’s bonus (which is misleading, if not outright bugged) only benefits you if you are actively hitting your buildings, which makes you a sitting duck in many cases, and not just for Spies. Personally, I find it the most sub optimal wrench of the three for most situations. And for those who argue that it is great for quickly repositionning sentries, I will point out that you still need three swings to redeploy them at maximum speed, just like the wrench. Then again, you will rarely have to resort to melee in most games, which partly mitigates its downside.

Eureka Effect

A real headscratcher after the patch. I’ll write this section if I find a solid/consistent way to play with it. I don’t think it does what it’s supposed to do well (constantly setting up quick nests in weird spots without relying on supply lines). Or maybe I’m as dumb as a rock and haven’t figured out how to unlock its full potential yet.

Gunslinger

With increased health and the fast building, combat oriented mini-sentries, it is the battle Engineer’s weapon of choice. Use it when presence on the flank as a skirmisher is more important than durable staying power close to the front line, and when staying on the move is more important. It’s also useful to stabilize situations when you have neither the time nor the support to use a regular sentry, when helping your team regroup in high pressure situations is the top priority, and when ennemies are just throwing themselves at an objective to finish capturing it (payload lasts / CP lasts / koth overtime…).

Tools for the job. Part 2

Primary weapons

Shotgun

The old boomstick is a solid and reliable weapon. It has the best standard damage output and is adapted to any situation. Recommended for a more aggressive control of the flanks, or to defend yourself when using more passive sentry position at the rear (ex: Upward 3rd, all the way at the back), where team support is more scarce and your sentry is less immediately pressured. Overall, you can’t really go wrong with it. Just make sure to manage your reloads carefully, and try to avoid firing all your shells unless you absolutely have to, or you risk getting caught with your pants down at the worst moment.
Having solid aim is paramount, as it helps make fights less unfair for you, and will increase your survivability as a result. Even without his sentry, a well equipped Engineer can deliver a nasty sting. But being a dm god only gets you so far if you don’t fight smart. You are still squishy, and unlike the Scout, you cannot run away or Bonk if things turn sour for you. Avoid 1v1’s if you have no sizeable advantage.

Frontier Justice

Despite the revenge crit mechanic, it’s a fairly defensive weapon at heart, almost purely used for cleanups rather than picks in practice.
Trading sustained fire for a potential increase in burst damage, the FJ and its revenge crits can make you a force to be reckoned with. “CAN”.

Because without them it’s just a mediocre shotgun with a halved clip (which means more reloading). A bit like a Soldier’s Buff Banner, the FJ by itself is only really good if you are already winning. This weapon is almost never a good option at the start of a round; but if you die and your sentry stays up with enough kills/assist for AT LEAST 3-5 crits, it’s not unreasonable to equip it in the hopes of making a comeback (these are revenge crits after all!).

Upon your sentry’s destruction, you receive 1 revenge crit per assist and 2 per kill. A common reasoning is that since (a) big guns can get more kills and assists and (b) you won’t need to fight as much until your sentry gets wrecked and you need to relocate, with crits and good aim, harassing you may be a much less appealing option. A moot point to this reasoning is that you can only benefit from your crits if your sentry is destroyed in the first place. This means that without crits to begin with, you won’t be able to defend yourself as efficiently; and sacrificing your reliable area control for crits that you can miss can be a terrible calculus.

But is it so bad as to be left rusting in your backpack? Not necessarily. But there are some prerequisites if you want to have fun and do okay with it. The first one is to play in such a way that you die very little and always have minisentries up around fight zones to clean up (“crit farmer” playstyle). The second one is that you need to be a crack shot with the Pistol and hang out at a sweet spot at mid range to balance out the less reliable primary damage. Lastly, you need a good metal source to plop down sentries regularly. I have found that Upward offence was one of the better settings to run FJ. That or the last point of pl_rust on defence.

Widowmaker

Costing 30 metal units per shot and granting back metal equal to the damage dealt, this weapon is only as reliable as your aim, pure and simple. Hit solid shots, and you never need to reload. But miss at the wrong time and it could be your undoing, as you lose both your primary AND your ability to build. It’s safer to use it on maps where metal is readily available (payload offence is good for instance), and by having the Pistol as a backup (again, I really recommend having good Pistol aim there). Shooting enemy buildings also gives you metal.

The aggressive nature of this weapon makes it unsuitable for Wrench loadouts, with which your metal would be used to maintain your nest and your primary to pepper around to spycheck or harass, two tasks that the widowmaker is grossly inefficient at carrying out. Also, do note that as an offensive Engineer, you’ll be hanging out more towards the flank, and hence encounter mostly light and agile classes (who can easily bob and weave and make you miss), and occasionally the Soldier (who will rip you to shreds in most 1v1 scenarios).

Personally, I find the Widowmaker a good pub stomper, but a risky gamble that doesn’t provide a lot of flexibility in comp (at least not against tough adversaries).
Given the opportunity, a Widowmaker Engineer can make a decent last resort Kritzkrieg target in an emergency.

Rescue Ranger

With its projectile bolts, reduced clip and less carried ammunition, this weapon is definitely not something designed for sustained frontal combat.

However, it grants you the unique ability to repair your buildings from a distance for no cost in metal (+75 hitpoints per bolt less than the Melees’ +105) and to haul them from anywhere provided that you have a clear line of sight and have at least 130 metal units. You will be marked for death while hauling, making you very vulnerable when repositioning buildings. The death mark lingers for 3 seconds after redeployment, which is more or less equivalent to the three wrench swings it takes to redeploy a sentry gun.

It is useful when you want to make your buildings tank as much damage as possible without exposing yourself too much, to save your metal for other buildings, and to quickly switch position while minimizing hauling time. It is recommended to use it to maintain aggressive sentry placements, as these are likely to be the target of constant spam, with little downtime to get near and repair. It’s also very strong when paired with the Wrangler, as the latter effectively triples your sentry’s health (and by extension your repairs’ effectiveness).

Don’t get too cocky however. A Spy sap can easily crash your party if you are too far away to unsap in time. Also, being a projectile weapon, the further you are, the more you need to anticipate incoming damage to your buildings.

Adequate reload management is critical to make the best use of your repairs. Using a bolt to repair 10 points of damage is a waste, and there is nothing worst than having to reload during an onslaught. I personally prefer keeping at least one bolt at all time as a wild card, and to reload by chunks of 2 or 3 bolts.

Finally, the hauling feature can allow you to quickly set up your buildings to areas where a classic setup would normally have taken too long to be practical. A perched sentry is unsappable, and the engineer can still repair it, or pull it back to safety to save it from destruction.

Panic Attack

A poor weapon overall, but I’ll need to play more with it to write something more meaningful. It encourages you to reload fire constantly (For the first time I ran out of ammunition on a Shotgun, heh), but unlike the Beggar’s Bazooka, you have no splash damage. But the worst offender is probably the pellet spread increase at lower health, which greatly nullifies the benefits of the increased fire rate.
But I would definitely love to be proven wrong here. So if you have any footage of anyone being on fire with it, please show it to me and I will gladly revise this part to showcase what it can do well, and on which condition.

Tools for the job. Part 3

Secondary weapons

Pistol

With lots of carried ammunition and a fast reload, the oft underestimated Pistol is spammable at will and can deal significant damage with proper tracking. Use it to harass/finish off enemies at mid to long range, to stack damage with your sentry gun or when you don’t have time to reload your primary. A solid Pistol aim is a central element of playstyles making heavy use of risky primaries like the Widowmaker and Frontier Justice, allowing you to conserve crits / metal while still dishing out reliable damage from a safe distance.

Wrangler

The first unlock that allowed the Engineer to play more around his sentry, the Wrangler is a popular secondary. But that doesn’t mean that it should be equipped all the time, especially with the Gunslinger.

The reasons to equip it include drastically increasing your sentry’s resilience and firepower (good to force and tank ubers so that your own medic doesn’t have to pop early if at all) and providing some long range harassment. It comes in handy to quickly spycheck when defending with a normal sentry, and to focus down priority targets with the minisentry.

Do bear in mind that to do all these wonderful things, you need to have a sentry up in a relevant position to begin with. If not, it will be as good as equipping Gunboats with a Rocket Jumper. Also, don’t let your guard down when wrangling, especially with a big gun if your position is very aggressive and wrangler-heavy. Your sentry can’t detect and/or protect you from unexpected flanking attacks and bombs. Smart enemies will find it much easier and faster to kill a defenceless 125hp class than to focus down a 648hp big gun, or a spammable 300 hp minisentry.

There is however a bad tendency among many Engineers and their team to overestimate the Wrangler’s actual effectiveness at longer ranges (as attackers or defenders). There was a time when you still could accurately snipe people from accross the map, hit all your bullets and deal 16 damage per shot (8 for mini). But after the accuracy nerf and damage dropoff patch, the choice of such dominating positions relying on long range (looking at you, Badwater first) is no longer as obvious as it once was, as the risks are still the same, but the rewards have been drastically reduced. I personnally prefer to use the wrangler to tank and fight at short to mid range, and to sometimes use more passive positions that rely less on its constant use to be effective.

Buildings

Your buildings, your team and you.

A very widespread misconception is to view the Engineer’s buildings as simple machines, which only serve as a crutch for the Engineer character’s lack of particular strength, and as a way to compensate an assumed lack of combat prowess. From here stems the belief that deathmatch skill is the only thing that separates the okay Engineer players from the great. This is mostly apparent in the phrase “a fat scout and a portable aimbot” (tftv has so many great metaphores). As I said, great DM is a big plus to even out fights, but you should not aspire to become a second Scout.

What makes the Engineer an Engineer are precisely his buildings! And these are more than dumb machines: they are your way of controlling the flow of battle by giving your team an edge in mobility, map control and resources over the other one. A team that has its mobility restricted cannot choose where and when to fight, and makes their behaviour more predictable.

From the days of QWTF, the class’s strength was always its ability to provide armour (health in tf2), ammunition, and safe havens to regroup/heal/restock or to protect critical objectives. The introduction of teleporters in TFC went further along this path, although it was only in the slower paced and conc-less TF2 that they showed their true worth.

An Engineer may not be the big star of the show, but if he doesn’t do his job, the whole team will feel the impact : power classes run out of ammo, lighter classes aren’t healed as reliably and have a harder time holding flanks, lots of walking for the Heavy (you monster!), lots of stress for the Medic because of flankers and an overall precarious map control. Likewise, the team should also do its best to work with the Engineer in return (a lone engie is a dead engie) and not just play and hope that he will adapt in the blink of an eye every two seconds.

When talking about buildings, positioning is what will ultimately make or break your holds.What makes a good position is one where the combined work of your team, your buildings and yourself can effectively delay the enemy team for a good amount of time.

However, the more a spot gets used, the less effective it becomes. This is especially true for so-called “standard” holds : for each textbook hold, there is an equal and opposite textbook takedown strategy. Despite being solid spots in their own right, people have wised up to them so much that they can almost attack them with their eyes closed. There is absolutely no harm in using them, just don’t rely on them constantly and fall into the pitfall of blueprint playing. I cannot stress enough just how important it is to try and vary your positions and strategies to keep your adversaries on their toes; to always have more than one trick up your sleeves. A less optimal but unexpected hold can stall unprepared team longer than an overused one. Surprise is not a crutch, but a strength like any other. Map talks are crucial!

Building positioning and roles

The Sentry.

For an in-depth guide on sentry science, you can read the relevant section in this great guide.

Your main area denial tool. Use it well and you will be a force to be reckoned with. On defence, it will be the skeleton of your major holds and on offence it will help secure bridgeheads. The first question you should ask yourself when thinking about a sentry position is:

  • Do I want to continually defend the objective more to help my team better engage the opponent?
  • Or, do I want to defend my team so that they can better focus on covering the objective when needed or retreat safely?

Nothing illustrates this dilemma better than in my eyes than the “barn nest vs cliff nest” decision on Barnblitz 1st.

Further questions include :

  • What does it see? What does it not see?
  • What is covered with and without wrangler?
  • Do I need the Wrangler to fire and tank, or just to tank?
  • Where can it be attacked from and by what? Will it be easy for them?
  • Can I or my team deal with its vulnerabilities without over-committing?
  • How close can the enemy medic get before popping his uber? (further can mean less effective uber time for a takedown)
  • Is metal available nearby if I have no dispenser? How much? And which route allows me to minimize scavenging time?

The Dispenser

An oft-overlooked building, the Dispenser is vital to the Engineer and his team, making it an nice “pick” on certain maps (ahem, Gravelpit) and gamemodes (namely koth). I was able to reestablish solid defences in difficult spots quite a few times just because the enemy team had not destroyed my fully stocked dispenser. Just like the sentry, dispensers have their own spots, each one serving different purposes depending on the circumstances. Unfortunately, you cannot blow up your adversaries to smithereens anymore by detonating it like you could in TFC/FF, but you can still use it as a stepping stone to reach elevated areas or to block narrow doorways and staircases.
A neat trick to know is that you it can restock ammo through thin walls and even heal through indestructible chicken wire walls.

On defence, the dispenser is chiefly for the Engineer and his nest, to provide him with the metal and health that he so desperately needs to maintain all his buildings. He’s the backbone of the defence after all! This also turns his nest into a safe area where his team can regroup and stage counter-attacks under the sentry’s protection. The beacon-like nature of the dispenser also makes it more difficult for spies to harass the Engineer with impunity.

On offence, I like to place it in a protected spot where retreating teammates cannot get harassed or sniped. Too far forward and you could end up giving the other team an easy multikill.
From my experience, the Pyro, Scout and Soldier are big benefiters of your dispenser’s healing on offence or on maps with few health packs. A good dispenser makes a happy Pyro, and favours a healthier flank control.

However, on maps where ammunition is located on flanks or is outright scarce in your staging/holding area, a dispenser placed closer to the combo will play a crucial role in helping it maintain a presence on the front line. There is nothing worse than having to give up ground because your heavy hitters were forced to run behind to pick up boxes.

The Teleporters

Their purpose is to reduce travel time and to generate traffic where it would have been impossible otherwise. They also help your team take full advantage of a faster respawn time on offence by not making them waste it by walking (Barnblitz last anyone?) or to mitigate the impact of longer respawn wave times.

There are two general rules to follow for these:

  • Safety first! Don’t place them too far forward where they will be easy to destroy and/or put your teammates in unnecessary danger. Also, don’t place them in spots with only one exit (also known as a fire sack). An example of this would be in the Steel C/D corridor, on the health pack.
  • Influencing is not dictating! A good spot will allow smoother tactical transitions between pushing and holding by being in a well-connected area. Try not to restrict you and your team’s tactical options by using one-way spots.

On a side note, you can use your teleporters to transport people AWAY from the front line rather than to it. These types of “backward teles” can really save you or other classes in desperate situations (example: on Swiftwater 3rd, if the Blu cap the point and the Red have there retreat cut off, you can save your medic with these).

Knowing the field

“Deployment is A art”

Just like Demomen and Soldiers, Engineers also have their rollouts. The Engineer’s deployments are more focused on how to best use the available time, metal and map features to position himself and his gear as quickly and efficiently as possible and to have a safe retreat route ready. All this while still taking into account what was previously said about buildings and loadouts.

Furthermore, each gamemode will call for its own type of deployments, regardless of map specificities. Not to mention that buildings will need to be rebuilt and redeployed in different ways during the round.

So, still a skill-less class ?

Learn the maps, and don’t miss out on map talks, get a feel of how you can valorize you and your team’s own strengths while covering your weaknesses.

On a more personal note, the reason I coined the phrase “deployment is a art“and enjoy using this play on the (in)famous “trolling is a art” is that to me, there is no perfect deployment in absolute, and that you should always have some humility and critical attitude towards the strategies you favour most. Those who take themselves too seriously in championing certain rollouts and spots as the uber 1337 best possible ones seem to forget that it’s not rocket science, that every hold has weaknesses that will eventually get exploited by the adversary, and that not everyone evaluates risk and reward in the same way. Your are not on a quest to find the absolute best spot, but to find the ones that optimize your team’s efficacy and efficiency to help them win more often and easily.

Hence, deployment is not AN art, but A art. Get it ? ;)

And if that don’t work…use more gun???

Originally posted by Gamemaster:

“Wrench or Gunslinger?
I’m sure many of you are surprised to find something about this in a guide of a seasoned Engineer. It’s obvious when to use the Wrench or Gunslinger, isn’t it? Not necessarily. And so often, people don’t even THINK of which to use. They fall into the pitfall of what I like to call monkey-see-monkey-do. An example would be a payload such as Badwater. You start RED, you go to your wrench loadout, and build a nest. Common sense, right? Then, the round ends, you set a decent time, and go BLU. What’s the first thing you do? You go into your loadout screen and go into your Gunslinger loadout. But why do you? Did you even take the time to evaluate the possibility of running wrench? Probably not. Likewise, these choicess exist in situations of 5 CP or A/D maps. There is more than one way to approach a situation.

In my level of play, Minisentries in most game modes such as Payload may as well not exist. For as long as they stay up and as much damage as they do, I may as well run to the front lines and deploy a dispenser in front of my enemy. I wouldn’t be wasting any more metal or time considering how much damage it does or how long it stays up. Because of this, I tried to evaluate my situation. If minisentries weren’t working, then what could I have done? What else did I have at my disposal? And then, it dawned on me. The wrench.

Level 2.8

Talking to a fellow Engineer friend of mine, ellison, he spoke with me a bit and told me of an old strategy of his. I found it very interesting and found it applicable to newer techniques with weaponry such as the Rescue Ranger. A popular tactic of his was to build a level 2 sentry and upgrade it to 175/200 of the way when taking it through a teleporter. This way, his gun was a quickly deployable, deadly level 2 sentry, and all it took was another wrench swing and a mere 25 metal to upgrade it yet another stage when the coast was clear. Being able to shave off the level 2 to level 3 sequence time is extremely valuable in and of itself. A very precautious defensive strategy. But could it be used offensively?

With this in mind, back to my strategy of a wrench offense. The Rescue Ranger is a favorite of mine, and I was able to incorporate it into my method of offensive guns. I developed a strategy of building a level 2 sentry at spawn early on in offense, and then riding the payload cart while teleporting the level 2 to me with the constant metal from the payload. With rapid deployment and forward movement, I was able to make use of a Level 2 sentry with the mobility of a minisentry.

The above is just one example of a non-conventional strategy. There are countless boundaries that have yet to be broken for Engineer. All it takes is thinking outside of the limited box that so many are stuck in.”

Regardless of whether one agrees or not, it is still food for thought. The Gunslinger is a skirmishing weapon which is great on the flanks, or when pressing an advantage, or to patch up minor cracks in a hold. But its shortcomings become apparent as soon as the pace of the game slows down, where consolidation against the big classes becomes more important. Running a normal sentry is only a gimmick if you and your team treat it like a gimmick, especially if you use it as you would a minisentry. Ironically, the bigest mistake of Engineers giving the offensive Wrench a spin is that they are often too passive with it, when the big guns’ stopping power and fear factor precisely allow you to maintain and protect much more aggressive and forward positions if you act carefully yet desisively and with precision.

Metal management.

Metal is the sinews of the Engineer’s gameplay. Next to him, the Heavy’s minigun is a symbol of frugality. Without metal, you are little more than a slow Scout.

It is not always easy to come by near your nest. Some maps like Gravelpit are notorious for the scarcity of their ammo packs; others like koth maps have them in remote locations. Knowing pack locations and value, as well as having a dispenser handy as often as possible are important things to fuel your war effort. Destroying a building for metal or building something at spawn are both valid tactics in the right circumstances.
In offence situations, mindlessly spamming minis is a waste of metal. Assess the situation and place one in a good spot, and don’t be afraid to reposition them if need be (they redeploy lightning fast anyway).

Gamemodes (super digest version)

Payload

In this staple gamemode of Highlander, the Engineer will play an important role.

Offence: Once the spawn area has been cleared, the Engineer will usually be on cart pushing duty with the Scout, fending off flankers while his team pushes slightly ahead. Don’t forget to plant teleporters ofc, because your faster spawn rates are of no use if you waste them away by having to walk.
If the defence is particularly aggressive and progress is slow, it is not to far fetched to follow Dell’s advice : “if that don’t work, use more gun”, and switch to a regular sentry to contain counter attacks, add to your team push’s momentum, and then Rescue Ranger it along once you are advancing again. This can be especially true for (but not restricted to) the last points.

Defence: At the beginning, choose a location, have some of your teammates suicide for metal, and build quickly. If your team is at a disadvantage and the cart is fairly close to a point, start pulling back to the next spot (you can always opt to come back if your team held better than expected and/or the clock is close to grant you victory). On last, if you’re being very pressured and your team is being so battered as to be unable to regroup (let alone assist you), it’s not unreasonable to switch to minisentries if your dispenser is down to help stabilize the situation.

A/D (as of today, it’s only Steel and Gravelpit in comp, but this applies to most cases anyway)

Defence: Similar to Payload in spirit. For a nonlinear map like Steel, the Engineer + Soldier + Scout make a powerful secondary combo to lock down areas not guarded by the main combo and buy enough time for them to rotate in the case of a major offensive.

Offence: On Steel and Gravelpit, you can build at spawn in relative peace. This leaves you time to begin with a regular sentry if you choose to. If you go down with it, you can later switch to minisentries to keep maintaining flank control until the assault on the last point, where you may once again take a shot at using the big gun (provided that you’re not sacrificing your logistics too much, be careful!). On a map like Keikoku, Gorge or Dustbowl, where you can’t build in spawn, minisentries are better to begin with.

Koth

You can be much more aggressive here, as you are slightly more expendable than in other gamemodes, especially when you don’t have the point (which gives you shorter respawn times). Soldiers will usually be hell-bent on making your life a misery.
The Gunslinger is the weapon of choice for this mode, but there’s nothing wrong with adding insult to the injury by then having a well placed level 2-3 sentry if your team manages to wipe the other team and get a firm hold on the point (okay on Ashville, risky on Viaduct, not worth it on Lakeside).

The Engineer’s basic tasks involve helping to control the flank and clean up stragglers and wounded opponents, intercept Spies when possible, and pretty much defend his team from flankers to help them focus on the front line. Also, (as pointed out by Foxy on the TF2C thread), no one truly expects Engineer plays. If you’re a good shot and don’t need to stay alive at a given moment, it is not unreasonable to trade kills with the enemy Demo, Medic or even Heavy or force ubers. Make sure to call out your damage in this case, so that a friendly Soldier or Scout can follow up on your damage if you fail to kill.

5CP

I’ll be using Gamemaster’s description and terminology here, as mine was the similar in spirit, albeit much messier:

Originally posted by Gamemaster:

“5CP holds a multitude of possibilities. In this game type, there should be three types of primary Engineer rollouts. Aggressive, Neutral, and Passive. Coordinate with your team to figure out your rollouts and which ones you should use.

Aggressive – An aggressive rollout should be one where you keep up with your team at all times. There should be a total disregard for any buildings except mini-sentries. Running out to mid with your team and dropping a mini-sentry and then fighting with it using wrangler or along-side it with your shotgun or pistol.

Neutral – A neutral rollout will involve a slight delay for you to get to mid. In this type of rollout, its best to run Gunslinger and focus on a route that lets you drop a teleporter entrance at spawn, and then hit metal packs such that you can drop a dispenser at second/mid and then drop a minisentry at mid and aid your team.

Passive Rollout – A passive rollout is for a team that is expecting to lose mid or is looking to have a safety net if things go south. Wrench is often best for this and it’s most common to build on the second of a 5 CP map. “

Some maps tend to favour certain types of deployments over others however. Maps like Granary will generally require less aggressive deployments to prevent getting rolled if mid is lost, whereas maps like Gullywash or Process, which possess reasonable buffer zones to protect the second point and or quick routes to mid, may conversely reward aggressive ones.
Big sentries are powerful on Sunshine, but are not a great choice from the get go unless your team has lost midfights at least twice in a row.
I’ve also noticed that the right hand side of your team’s section of the map generally holds most of the metal, making these suitable for neutral or passive deployments (this is especially clear on Granary and Fastlane).

CTF

Minisentries only work in pubs, where there are already 5 engies camping the Intelligence room.

I personally don’t enjoy building in the intel room (even if sometimes, desperate times call for desperate measure). I would prefer controlling important routes that your combo isn’t controlling. But ctf is a distant memory to me, so take that with a grain of salt.

I don’t have any experience on Vitalism/Haunt, but from what I saw, it seems like a nice game of “camp the intel with big sentry

As for ctf_Haarp, it’s essentially a very chokey A/D map with flags.

Your co-workers and you.

In a team game such as TF2, it is important to understand how to combine your efforts with those of your teammates to reap mutual benefits and survive longer. Alone, sentry or not, you are easily outplayed, and are likely to either be largely neutralized or outright killed. But if being alone is bad, having the wrong partner can be equally counter-productive. Choosing the right partner at the right time is critical, and will mostly depend on the gamemode, and your position (again, use your appraisal skills). Common partners include the Combo, the Soldier, the Scout and the Sniper. Playing with a certain partner for extended periods of time can sometimes also make them adapt their loadout to better work with you in return.

Also, you will not always stick with the same partner throughout in a match. They will change as the round progresses and circumstances change.

A note on the Pyro

In lower leagues of play, it is often expected of the Pyro to “babysit” the Engineer and his nest in every defensive setting. This is not always necessary and can even pose a threat to the Pyro himself. The Pyro is a close range and direct fire class, so having him guard you and your nest when hanging out all the way back, or on an snipeable elevated area or in a corner exposed to demospam is probably not the best idea. He would be much more effective guarding the Combo in this case (for the section on the Combo, scroll below).

The sentry’s location needs to provide protection for the Pyro in return for his own protection of your nest (nobody likes one-sided relaionships). This is more generally for any forward position that requires a good deal of mid range wrangling and are most vulnerable to coordinated saps. Your dispenser and covering fire will allow the Pyro to remain stocked up on health and ammunition to effectively intercept those that get too close while you are busy wrangling and/or tanking, in the same way that he would protect a Heavy engaged in a firefight that he cannot turn away from.Furthermore, the sentry’s knockback can send airblasted enemies much, much further. As for equipping the Homewrecker, I would say that its use is only truly justified when a sapper absolutely needs to be removed as fast as possible without endangering the Pyro or Engineer (or to save dispensers in some cases the Engineer gets stabbed).
This is one way to prevent a Soldier following up with rocket spam, a common and deadly tactic or to let passive sentries that do not rely much on the Wrangler do some extra work while the Engineer respawns or as the team prepares to pull back.

The Sniper

An often underestimated partner, a solid Sniper buddy will make controlling long sightlines (or compensating for an exposed sentry position) a piece of cake. That is, if you know how to properly combine your efforts. Enemy Snipers, Spies, Soldiers and Scouts will likely try to neutralize you.
Note that in defensive situations with big sentries, killing the Engineer is a big deal: without wrangling, such sentries become ineffective and are easy to pick off. However, if the sentry is taken down but the Engineer is still alive, the lesser immediate pressure on the Engineer will make rebuilding a somewhat easier task.

On 5CP, playing with your Sniper from time to time while he goes for cheeky angles allows your Scout to play more aggressively on the flank and help out the Soldier.

On paper, the basic idea of the synergy is that:
(a) Sniper and Engineer communicate about incoming threats;
(b) Engineer either heckles with his Pistol or wrangles for covering fire and to draw out or distract the enemy Sniper;
(c) This is a good opportunity for the Sniper to counter-snipe;
(d) If the other Sniper went down, the Engineer should focus on protecting the Sniper against flankers (passively or aggressively, it’s up to you) while he works his angle for picks;
(e) The Sniper can run Jarate and the Engineer the Shotgun to quickly dispatch flankers.

This team-up is viable if your Sniper is solid enough.

The Scout and Soldier

I have put them together here because you will get to play many times with one or both of them. It is the strongest combination of classes you can muster to hold and aggress on the flanks without resorting to the combo. The Scout has the speed and aggession, the Engineer has the crowd and territory control, and the Soldier is a balance of these with extra muscle.
I like view the flank as a window to open for your team. The Scout is great at opening it, the Engineer is great at securing it and keeping it opened, and the Soldier can do both.
As a flank team, gang up on the enemy flank and punish unweary players, and generally combine your firepower and brains to keep a window opened for your team for as long as you can.

The Combo

The Combo’s presence around your nest on defence is the greatest protection you can possibly have in a match. In a solid hold, your nest is the skeleton that your combo will help flesh out. They make harasing you a much more difficult task while you provide them with area denial, field supplies and transportation. However, make sure to position your guns in such a way that incoming ennemies wil be foced to choose between fighting the sentry or engaging the combo, but not both. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Two common basic synergies that you can have with the Combo include:

  • Rotating shifts: The Combo gets the aggro and fights while the sentry protects their backs. When they need to reload and heal, they can take cover and let the senry gets the aggro and tanks incoming damage all the while giving the Engineer crucial buffs and watching his back against opportunistic Spies. The Engineer can only hold for so long in this scenario, so the Combo must be quick to return to the offensive (usually as soon as the Demo has reloaded/returned from spawn and is buffed, although situations vary from map to map)
  • Crossfire: This one is pretty intuitive. Your Combo and your gun + yourself engage the opponent from two different angles to take incoming enemies in a crossfire. If either gets neutralized, the remaining fire team can still buy some time. If you want/need to run minisentries on defence for a particular point or map (usually Steel), this is a synergy can should go for.
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