The following is a retroactive post from an old work that stems from the Steam Community. This was originally posted on Apr 7, 2014
As an Engineer main who has several seasons of competitive under his belt, I am often approached by numerous newcomer Engineer players with various questions such as "What loadout should I use?" or "Where should I build in the map X?". I would love to say I know all the answers after all my time of playing, but the reality of it is--Engineering is dynamic. It can differ from Engineer to Engineer as well as their playstyle strengths and weaknesses. It can also differ from team support and team dynamics. When it comes down to it, between variables of the map such as the player, the team you are playing with, the team you are playing against, and loadout choices--it is next to impossible to evaluate every single scenario. There is also more than one way to get the job done. With the pros and cons that can be valued differently from person to person and team to team, the possibilities are endless. For me to say that there is one right way would be completely wrong. However, it never hurts to have a second opinion to reassure a positioning or find a new perspective. In this guide, you can find my perspectives on how to play Engineer. Bear in mind, most references to competitive play will be Highlander-based structure. Applications may transfer over to other competitive types such as 6s or 4v4 or non-competitive play, but the following text is not geared towards these competitive types.
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.
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.
We all know that the Engineer is an Engineer (obviously). But our mechanical friend is always assumed to only be a technological Engineer. When you think about it though, our friend here is a lot more than that. His technology is a stepping stone for his true intent; our friend Dell is a Social Engineer.
What does a sentry do? It protects an area, obviously. But, in what way does it protect an area? It denies access by killing. A social tactic of deterring the other team. Our Engineer obstructs enemy traffic by denying an area, limiting methods of approach through it. Likewise, this area denial means that the territory is now a safe haven for your own teammates. In that respect, your gun is not only a mechanical killing machine, it's a trafficing device. It stunts traffic flow from one team, and encourages it as a gathering point and safe haven for another.
But what of the dispenser? Surely this is just a technological piece. Absolutely not. It also is a haven for your team. Often coupled with an accompanying sentry, the dispenser is a piece of technology that turns a haven into a secondary Medic and unlimited ammo pack. A place for safe retreat and a beacon for your team to hold by. The dispenser home-team advantage location in a fight against the enemy.
The teleporter. What many see as the backbone of a team is also a backbone of an Engineer's nest. The teleporter is an extremely strong piece of technology in the sense that you can single handedly manipulate an entire map's traffic flow. You build it at spawn and place the exit in a location that not only benefits your team, but yourself. You can make an area that may otherwise be a vacant wasteland become Grand Central Station. To modify traffic in your favor means that you can have more team support when opposition arrives. You can eliminate trafficing routes for the enemy by filling it full of your own team. Sometimes, just having a passerby teammate is the lifesaver you need when you're being heckled by an enemy Spy. An enemy Spy that would have ruined you otherwise if you hadn't built the teleporter, because, without said teleporter, you would never would have even had a teammate come close to you.
The Unorthodox Engineer
If you ask any one of my former teammates or friends. All of them will tell you that they've never seen another quite like me. A favorite term to be used about me is unorthodox. But is being unorthodox a bad thing? Certainly not. Being an unorthodox Engineer is not just a playstyle; it's a strength. A Social Engineer does more than just modify traffic flow. A Social Engineer is also one who can play off assumptions. A man of mind-games, if you will. When looking for a sentry, many are trained to look in the conventional spots. But the world [map] is our sandbox. If it isn't nobuilt, it's fair game. However, so few take advantage of such simplicities, people so often are unaware of their surroundings and will walk right into a trap. However, very few Engineers will actually take advantage of this. Due to that, I am an Engineer who likes to take advantage of a particular element: the element of surprise. Being caught off guard by a level 3 sentry is a fatal mistake and can cost you a lot. Sometimes, that even means a Medic dropping uber, or an entire combo dying during a push or a hold. But you would think it'd be hard to miss a very large Level 3 sentry, wouldn't you? Surprisingly enough, sometimes you can hide them in plain sight. Quite often, Engineer and other classes alike forget to just look up.
Location, Location, Location
One of the most important aspects of an Engineer is being able to determine build locations. An Engineer worth his weight to a team is one who is able to look at a map, and evaluate effective build spots. Though this should be an expectation of any Engineer. [u]So often Engineers fall victim to the "monkey-see-monkey-do" mentality.[/u] Too often, I see Engineers who use build spots that are run into the ground from overuse. I'm not going to say that the spots are necessarily unsuccessful. However, bear in mind that even a strategic spot can become ineffective. Though a spot may be effective objectively, the more practice somebody has on taking down a particular nest--the easier it becomes. With practice, approaches are found on the most efficient and effective way to take down a gun. However, if you come up with your own, unique spots--the enemy team is less likely to have had experience on them and will have to trial and error. In this respect, sometimes a slightly less valuable objectively oriented spot is more valuable overall if it is non-conventional and requires the enemy team to trial and error.
An Engineer is not about impenetrable defense, an Engineer is about delays. Stalling for time. A good Engineer will stall with a sentry until the enemy team has uber to take in on a conventional spot and take it out. A great Engineer will use a spot of his own creation and make the enemy team trial and error with multiple ubers until they figure out a method of approach.
Sentry Positional Factors
When looking at a spot, there are numerous things to consider. Personally, when evaluating a spot, I have several things I like to look at, such as:
Traffic: Which way will the enemy team most often come from? What other locations can they approach from? How close could they be before they had to pop an uber? The further away they have to be before they pop, the more travel time it takes to get to the gun the less time they will have left on the uber duration.
Cornering: Is my spot cornerable on a blind? If a Demoman was around the corner from me, could he just stand still and lob down stickies to destroy my sentry?
Height & Forced Spread: Height advantage is always favorable. The Engineer is capable of wrangler jumping, and can get to high locations, as seen earlier in my video of Texas Rescue Ranger. A well placed height location can be the hard counter to several classes. Bear in mind, not all classes are mobile. Engineers, Soldiers, Demomen, and to a lesser degree, Scouts, are all mobile classes. However, Pyros, Heavies, Medics, Snipers, and one of the Engineer's hard counters, the Spy, are not. A spot only reachable by explosive jumping means that a Spy is incapable of stabbing you or sapping your gun, meaning you can focus all of your efforts toward a situation without fear of your gun becoming disabled. Also remember that height is distance and distance is spread. While sentries themselves are unaffected by this, there are weapons that are. The minigun is just such an example. With forced spread on a minigun, the effectiveness of an ubered Heavy becomes significantly less threatening--in some situations, to a point of zero effectiveness at all versus a sentry.
High perches can be beneficial, but sometimes are able to expose new vulnerabilites to the Engineer such as sniper sightlines or being immobile to avoid splash of explosive based weaponry. With use of the Rescue Ranger, this can be avoided as the Rescue Ranger allows for ranged repair. A gun may be perched in a high location, but the Engineer is entirely capable of sitting tucked away in a low end corner, out of the line of fire.
Sightlines: When my gun is placed, what kind of sightlines can be used against it? Are they too far back for my team to address? Are they manageable with the wrangler? How easy is it for the enemy team to get there?
Metal Availability: How far am I ammo packs? Will they be sufficient in the instance of a dispenser going down?
Need a Dispenser Here
Dispensers are a must have in all game types. Be it for the Engineer or his team. But just where should a dispenser go? Like everything else, this is circumstantial, but as a rule of thumb....
In Defensive situations such as Payload or Attack/Defend an Engineer should have full priority to his dispenser. It should be built with his nest, next to him. The Engineer is the backbone of defense and is going to undertake a lot of fire and damage--he needs all the help he can get: metal and healing included.
The dispenser is also a safe point of retreat for a team in this situation. Guarded by a level 3, the enemy team will not be nearby unless in a push situation such as an uber. This is also beneficial to the Engineer by having his team traffic toward him and gives them an opportunity to check on the Engineer to make sure that he is not be harassed or heckled by a Spy.
In Offensive/Roaming situations a dispenser is a passive point of retreat and refuel for a team. It should be in a location that is unlikely to be harassed by the enemy team. It should not be in a sightline as to make the dispenser or its healing targets vulnerable to damage at range from classes such as Sniper.
Put Teleport Here
Teleporters are fairly universal in application, regardless of team. A teleporter should be set up in such a way that it eliminates travel time. However, the teleporter should be on or adjacent to a firefight location. It should be semi-passive as to not to put its users in danger. It is always better to emphasize safety over eliminated travel time.
If possible, a teleporter is best placed at an ambiguous location for pushing or holding. An example of this would be putting a teleporter on the plateaus at Lakeside, such that a player could push from valley or push from the bath house as opposed to putting the teleporter in bath house itself.
Sometimes this is unavoidable, and should be left up to team or Engineer discretion. An example of this would be offense on cp_steel. A teleporter could be placed at B/C or at A/D and will influence pushing from that particular direction.
Dispensers and Teleporters: Farther is not always better
A common mistake I see Engineers make when playing dispensers and teleporters is they are so eager to move them as far forward as they can possibly imagine. This is a very bad practice. Quite simply, a far up teleporter and dispenser is more likely to be not-safe or get destroyed. It is infinitely more useful to build a semi-passive dispenser and teleporter such that your team has both available to them more often than not.
Don't be a one-trick-pony
One fatal mistake for an Engineer to make is to use the same spot or spots over and over again. This applies to all buildings, not just sentries. Once a spot is used, the enemy team will become aware of it and will check for it. Therefore, it is always a good plan to use multiple spots and rotate between them. This leaves the enemy team uncertain of where a sentry or dispenser may be and will have to be conservative on their approaches to these locations.
Communicate with your team
It's good to have a multitude of spots in your arsenal to keep the enemy team on their toes, but the same should not go for your own team. Be sure to go over your spots with your teams and so they know where you regularly hold. Mid-game, be sure to communicate which of the locations you will be building.
Types of Rollouts
Believe it or not, rollouts are not only for Soldiers and Demomen. Engineers have their own rollouts too. Engineer rollouts are inherently different through. Instead on focusing on how to pogo your way to mid with explosive jumps and buffs, your focus is on a fast, capable deployment of yourself and your buildings. For different game types, Engineers will have different rollouts.
5CP holds a multitude of possibilities. In this game type, there should be three types of primary Engineer rollouts. Aggressive, Neutral, and Passive. Cooridinate 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 - 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 its most common to build on the second of a 5 CP map.
Payload is a very conventional rollout scenario.
Defense, it is often finding a location that you can quickly build at and having your team suicide such that you can get a nest quickly set up. In rare occasions where teams do not like to have a first point hold, Engineers occasionally may go mini-sentries instead. However, this is generally an ineffective alternative.
Offense, a general rule of thumb for the Engineer is to drop a mini out of spawn and then try to clean up around the cart and begin to push it. It's usually expected to stay on the cart and drop minisentries from metal on the cart. However, after an initial minisentry rollout, it is not unreasonable to consider running back to spawn and using a wrench loadout for offense.
For Defense, it is exactly like payload above with a wrench rollout. Specify a location that you wish to build and have your team suicide for metal in that general area.
For offense, depending on the map, there are two main strategies to consider that mostly depending on whether or not you can build in spawn. If you are able to build in spawn--you are given setup time and should have plenty of time to build a level 3 sentry. There is no harm in doing so as you are restrained for the setup time anyhow. Once deployed, you can either continue moving the level 3 to your advantage or switch to mini-sentries once it goes down, depending on the situation at hand. If you are unable to build in spawn, it is typically better to roll out with minisentries.
King of the Hill
King of the Hill generally prefers minisentries for sake of rollouts. However, there after the initial rollout, if your team has a solid grasp on mid, it is not unreasonable to switch to defense to try and further secure a hold. A well placed level 3 on KOTH can making capturing the point a very difficult task.
Capture the FLag
Capture the Flag generally favors level 3 sentries in the intelligence room. Minisentries are usually not reccomended. In some instances, it may be preferrable to use the level 3 to hold a vital choke instead of the intelligence room itself.
Metal Management can be very difficult when it comes to competitive play at times. Not all metal boxes are well located and some maps are very stingy with them. Due to this, an Engineer has to plan out his nests very well and his team has to be conscious of his metal as well. When attempting to figure out metal management, an Engineer should always be aware of where all the ammo boxes on a map are and how much they are worth. Additionally, having a dispenser up should be of the utmost priority in order to maintain a sentry. If need be, in a situation where an Engineer needs metal to rebuild a dispenser but cannot move away from their gun, but has a teleporter available, it should be destroyed in order to obtain the metal for a dispenser. If a dispenser is unavailable--see if a teammate is willing to suicide and drop a weapon for the sake of metal for a dispenser. If the teleporter is destroyed for metal, the dispenser is able to generate metal and can be used to rebuild a teleporter at a later time. Contrary to popular belief, there is no shame in building something at spawn and moving it. While I highly suggest against building a full nest or even building something to level 3--it is worthwhile to build a level 2 and move it in order to have a quickly setup defense in a metal scarce location.
The number one question type I get from Engineers are always about loadouts. With such interesting, unique weaponry, it can be very hard to decide. I like to keep my loadouts very dynamic and frequently swapped. It's very difficult for me to really stick to one consistent set of weaponry. There really is no one un-beatable loadout or weapon for any given circumstance, so I'll try to cover all of them to the best of my experiences.
In public servers...The shotgun is always a reliable go to option for an Engineer who is playing defensively or offensively. Whether you are passive or aggressive and whether or not you are running level 3 or mini sentries; shotgun can never go wrong. With a clip of six, there is plenty of love to be spread around. With the Engineer's high damage output with sentries, the shotgun is slightly more likely to randomly crit as well. Versatile even without critical hits, the random criticals will add pleasant surprises when an Engineer is attempting to gain crowd control.
In Competitive...The shotgun's circumstances don't change much from public play to competitive. The shotgun still offers its versatility in all circumstances. However, competitive players are likely to respond quite a bit more to being shot at than the average public server player. Even if you are a good shot and can usually land hits on competitive players, a moving target is more susceptible to having hit registration go foul and not end up in your favor--and with more organized communication in competitive, you likely be called out by the enemy team and won't get the luxury of reloading when you need to. I find it best not to put your eggs all in one basket and rely on something such as critical shots from a Frontier Justice to do all the work in one blow, assuming you are lucky enough to be sitting on some Revenge Crits at the time and not just a three-shot shotgun.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Shotgun:
Shotgun Wrangler Wrench/Southern Hospitality/Eureka Effect Shotgun Pistol/Short Circuit Gunslinger
The Frontier Justice. A popular choice among many offensive Engineer players. The concept of storing guaranteed crits sounds like an amazing premise. I certainly agree with the premise, but many often forget that not every shot fired is going to [i]be[/i] a critical. Quite often, unless you already have a healthy reserve in preparation on your way into combat--Revenge crits are not going to be reliable source of damage.
With the Wrench...Personally, I find the combination of the Frontier Justice with any sort of wrench combination to be a poor choice. Leveled sentries take longer to build, and cost more metal to maintain. Inherently, it's less likely that your sentries are going to be disposable, and that it will take more firepower to take them down. Though leveled sentries are going to offer you more Revenge Crits upon going down, I still find it a poor option in general to combine with the wrench. Generally, a combat class is the one who is going to take down your sentry, or a combination of enemy players. The Frontier Justice won't come to your aid until after the gun is taken down, and by that point it's likely you are going to be overtaken. A Spy may also make an attempt to sap a gun, and even in a one-on-one combat situation against a Spy, the Frontier Justice offers no benefit until after th gun is down. One would only reap its benefit after the gun goes down, rendering the criticals moot for saving the sapped sentry.
With the Gunslinger...Circumstantially, unless you already have Revenge crits locked and loaded, you won't be seeing any until you have a sentry with some kills AND you or an opponent destroy it. I'm not one to destroy a mini-sentry for one or two Revenge Crits; destroying a mini leaves a vulnerability window and is a waste of metal. Unless an Engineer has Revenge Crits on hand before he can get into a fight, he is at a disadvantage wit the Frontier Justice. While you can try to plan and avoid confrontations until you have them, the reality is that you are vulnerable the moment you walk outside of your spawn door.
Given this mentality, I believe the Frontier Justice is a poor weapon of choice to use on any sort of initial rollout. I never have the Frontier Justice set to a permanent choice on any of my loadouts. The only time I will use the Frontier Justice is when I have died and while I am waiting for respawn, I have a mini-sentry that has five or more Revenge Crits on it. If I am able to respawn and can destroy the sentry while still within spawn to get those crits, I will run the Frontier Justice for that life. Otherwise, if it is destroyed during my respawn timer, I will simply go back to shotgun prior to leaving spawn.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Frontier Justice:
Frontier Justice Pistol Gunslinger
The Widowmaker is a weapon that offers a very unique perspective to Engineer. It offers extreme spectrums of high risk and high reward. At one end of the spectrum, you can have infinite shotgun shots and the ability to gain metal without need for weapons or ammo packs, dropping buildings like a madman. At the other end, you are without a primary weapon at all, and the inability to afford any buildings. It comes down to one shot being able to make or break your game.
The Widowmaker is a fun choice to use in public play, with players strewn about, and the likelihood of heavier classes being around, allowing for more shots to be fired off. With ideal setups, the Widowmaker in public servers can be the bane of the enemy team's existence.
Contrary to public play, I find the Widowmaker to be a risky and unfavorable choice for competitive play. There will likely be less players on the battlefield, most of which will be lighter weight classes. These players will be much more reactive and responsive to being shot at, making your shots less likely to hit them (and hit registration to likely play against your favor). These players will also be more conscious of their locations, as to try and not get caught out by a roamer such as yourself.
Regardless of situation, whether it's used in public play or decided upon for competitive, the Widowmaker's nature of being able to run out of ammo much more quickly than a shotgun (and the fact it depletes your metal for sentries as well) means that running pistol is generally a must. The short circuit, while capable of adding survivability, will also prove useless if you lack enough metal to use your primary. Likewise, the Wrangler is a poor choice as it's unable to deal damage without a sentry (which you won't have in metal scarce situations).
As far as wrench choice goes, I find the Widowmaker to be better suited with the Gunslinger. The Widowmaker thrives off offensive confrontations, something an Engineer with a wrench will likely not be having a lot of. Enemies will not be getting close enough to your gun unless they are ubered or disguised/cloaked. The Widowmaker would not see the front lines a lot, and would be a terrible choice for long range heckling since it'll never be worth its returns to fire.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Widowmaker:
Widowmaker Pistol Gunslinger
The Pomson is an odd weapon to have been given to the Engineer. While its fundamental behind spy cloak drain makes sense for dealing with Dead Ringer spam, the Ubercharge mechanic was poorly founded for most types of gameplay, hence the ban in competitive play.
Personally, I am not a fan of the Pomson, seeing as it has a lesser clip than that of a shotgun and it fires projectiles as opposed to hitscan. I find it much less viable in offensive situations. While it is capable of nullifying a Spy’s cloak, Spies are not inherently face-to-face combatters, making the Pomson not give much of an upper hand against an exposed Spy than a combat oriented weapon. Likewise, it is capable of delaying Ubercharges on a Medic that is healing, but nothing to a Medic’s heal target that is inevitably trying to kill you.
The Pomson would as a decent weapon for a nest Engineer, deterring Spies and getting shots off on Medics to delay ubercharges. However, I find little merit in running the weapon over its alternatives.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Pomson:
While the Rescue Ranger is inherently not a favorable weapon, it is by far one of the most useful and interesting utilities to ever be given to the Engineer. The Rescue Ranger has two unique functions. It can both repair buildings at range (without making use of metal) and move them at range (at a static 130 metal).
The Rescue Ranger takes away from an Engineer’s ability to be offensive without use of a sentry, so an Engineer using it has to more heavily rely on its utility to keep their gun healed and nearby.
With ranged repair, the Rescue Ranger opens up a new spectrum to holds. Prior to the Rescue Ranger, an Engineer who needed to repair their buildings had to put themselves in the line of fire and be adjacent to their sentry in order to repair. Though the gun can block hitscan on the opposite side, the Engineer was still left vulnerable to splash damage from weaponry such as, pipe bombs, or stickybombs. By making use of the Rescue Ranger, an Engineer is able to stray way from the dangers of splash and can repair their gun at range with the Rescue Ranger’s bullets.
Another benefit to the repair factor of the Rescue Ranger, ranged or not is that the weapon does not take the user’s metal in order to repair the gun. In metal scarce areas or times in which an Engineer may not have metal, the Rescue Ranger offers a reliable source of metal-less repair. This can be true for instances where an Engineer may not have a dispenser or where they may have exhausted the dispenser’s metal supply and cannot get any metal for their nest.
The mobility factor of the Rescue Ranger is also something to not be taken lightly. There are many perches within the game that can be built on, but are too time-consuming to setup as an Engineer would not be able to walk a sentry to them without making use of a teleporter first. With the Rescue Ranger, all the Engineer has to do is jump up to the location and pull the gun immediately after. While costly in health for an initial setup, it allows for a very quick setup.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Rescue Ranger:
Rescue Ranger Wrangler Wrench
The Pistol is the king of offensive secondaries. Able to dish out a fair amount of damage, the pistol serves at the perfect partner to all of Engineer’s primaries. Never is there a time where the pistol is a bad choice.
Most of the pistol’s usage and tendencies are the same from public play to competitive, in that respect, the following will apply to both types of play.
With the shotgun… The pistol is a good compliment to the shotgun. The shotgun reigns supreme in short range, but the pistol exceeds at mid to longer ranges. The pistol is no laughing matter at short range, either–and may serve as a good quick burst of damage when your shotgun clip is empty. The pistol will work well when combined with a shotgun in both mini-sentry and regular sentry combinations. It reigns dominant more often with mini-sentries than it does with level 3s however, as the wrangler’s presence with a level 3 is a lot more overwhelming than a pistol, more often than not.
With the Frontier Justice…In situations where the Frontier Justice is used, it is often reccomended pistol actually be used over Wrangler or Short Circuit.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Pistol:
Shotgun/Widowmaker Pistol Gunslinger
One of the more controversial weapons for the Engineer, the Wrangler is a very powerful secondary. With the ability to triple a sentry’s health and have unlimited range, the Wrangler is certainly a force to be reckoned with.
Level 3 sentries are a backbone of many defensive situations, and will be the target of many enemy players. It is almost mandatory to accompany a wrangler with any wrench in order to try and maintain the gun. When shielded, a Level 3 sentry’s health goes from 216 to 648. In addition, you can heckle long distance players and use manual control to take care of disguised spies you’ve identified.
Minisentries are far less viable than their alternative. The minisentry wrangled can be a nuisance to take out and be a decent long range heckler, but it eliminates an area of denial and makes it linear. The damage output is far less than its alternative and puts all your eggs in one basket as far as firepower goes. In some situations, it’s merited, but more often than not I suggest running pistol with the Gunslinger. It is far better to split your damage output between yourself and your gun than to couple them together. With a split damage output, your enemy will only be able to deal with one source of damage at a time and will often hesistate on which to focus.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Wrangler:
Rescue Ranger Wrangler Wrench Shotgun Wrangler Gunslinger
The Short Circuit has seen a lot of variations since it’s been out. Given its present state, it is now banned in competitive. Since its perpetual nerfs, I’ve found its use to be less and less viable. In niche situations, it can be useful for shutting down certain explosive classes during vital times, but I don’t believe it is versatile enough any longer to be meritied over its alternatives.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Short Circuit:
The Wrench is by far one of the best all-around melees for Engineer. It’s useable in almost all circumstances and almost always outshines its alternatives.
In public play when you are in need of a leveled sentry, the wrench is by far your best option. Melee already has a relatively high crit rate–and that is increased several fold by the damage output of the sentry. The max critical hit rate is 45%, almost half. Statistically, one out of every two swings is capable of dishing out an additional 130 damage. Even in unlucky circumstances where it swings slightly less than one out of two, one crit is still more than enough to merit its usage over something that lacks random criticals, such as the Southern Hospitality.
In competitive play the wrench is still a very good go-to wrench for many circumstances. Often times its best to start out with the wrench and evaluate circumstances to see if switching to another is possible or not.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Wrench:
In public play The Southern Hospitality is a fair choice, but with the possibility of being flanked by Pyros in an unstructured environment as well as the fact it lacks random criticals, it is generally outshined by its stock counterpart.
In competitive play running the Southern Hospitality can be dangerous if the enemy team has an aggressive pyro who likes to flank, but due to the lack of random criticals, it is on par with the wrench and may be favorable to deter spies with its bleed. In non-highlander situations such as 6s or 4s, the Southern Hospitality is a highly considerable choice given that the other team may not always run Pyro.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Southern Hospitality:
The Gunslinger is a tool for the Engineer who is looking to roam or has no time or team support to get a leveled gun up. It’s also favorable to teams looking to have a blitzkrieg offensive and could use the extra firepower. There is no alternative quite like it, unlike all other wrenches which use the same type of leveled sentry. The Gunslinger is a sub-class with no melee alternative and is up to user judgment when to equip it. Being a battle oriented sentry, it often complements other battle oriented weapons such as the Shotgun, Widowmaker, and Pistol.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Gunslinger:
Shotgun Wrangler Gunslinger Shotgun/Widowmaker Pistol Gunslinger
Personally, I find the Jag to be a good weapon in theory, but poor in execution. Its upside is negligible at best, and is no longer useful once a nest is already constructed–yet it’s downside stays around all the time. The downside of -25% damage takes away 16 damage per hit (48 on critical hit). In all types of play, the Jag’s damage penalty can easily mean life or death in a combat situation. A stock wrench has a base damage of 65, meaning, in two swings, it can deal enough damage to kill all lightweight 125 HP classes like a Spy. However, the Jag, which only does 49 damage per swing will only do 98 damage after two contacted hits which is enough damage to only kill a Kunai spy and nothing else. The upside is a negligible benefit at best for a very harsh downside and I find no merit in using it.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Jag:
The Eureka Effect is an intersting weapon in theory, but is far too niche to see use.
In public play, it is often a poor choice given the constant movement of an objective due to its frantic structure.
In competitive play, the inability to move your Engineer nest can be devastating when attempting to retreat from a situation. Every time a new nest is constructed, it has to be from scratch and that can cost valuable time. Likewise, a poorly positioned gun that may need moved is now impossible to do without full reconstruction. It can have its uses for when a team wants to go all in on a point to an extreme of suiciding in–the Eureka Effect can be a way for the Engineer to get out and switch out his loadout for a more versatile wrench in later situations. However, the Engineer has to be able to manage on the premise that all of his buildings are sacrificed on an escape due to the inability to move them and the fact that they will destroy themselves on a wrench change.
The Eureka Effect is very niche and it is difficult to say when it has meritable use. It should only be used sparingly and using it full time should be avoided.
Preferred Loadout combinations using the Eureka Effect:
Shotgun Pistol/Wrangler Eureka Effect
Suggestions for Highlander Engineers and Teams
The "fatkid" class
A common misconception I see about Engineer is that it is a relatively skilless class that is just a slow scout. More often than not, I see Engineer becoming the "fatkid class" for many Highlander rosters. A friend of the leader's wanted to be on the team, but he was unable to win a slot on another deathmatching class on the team such as Soldier, Scout, or Demo. More often than not, the team leader reserves the Engineer spot for the player in order to put him somewhere on the starting roster. This tends to lead to aggressive, inexperienced Engineers in all levels of player who have no passion for their trade and simply try to play a class they aren't (Scout).
It's a team effort, not a hierarchy
Engineers are often left low on the totem pole for team decision making and priority. In most situations, a team tells the Engineer where to build to suit their needs. However, an Engineer's trade is a delicate one, and he should be ultimately responsible for picking his own locations then collaborating and compromising on where to build and how to hold. An Engineer who is good at what he does can often feel out a map and find fantastic choke holds. Working as a team rather than a hierarchy can allow for holds to go much more smoothly and last far longer.
Likewise, in situations such as Attack/Defense and Payload on Defense--the Engineer should be given more team support. Often times all communications are focused on the combo. Heals and support classes all focus the combo. Many forget that the Engineer is the backbone of a hold in defensive situations and many attacking teams realize this. The Engineer is a very high priority target and should be assisted by his team with that regard in mind. There are times that it is entirely acceptable to flash an Engineer with ubercharge to save him. Of course, this is not true for all circumstances, but I believe that the Engineer is often left for dead when he should have and would have otherwise been able to live to continue or rebuild his hold.