As fun as it can be, the viability of sentry jumping — undoubtedly one of the flashiest tools in the Engineer’s arsenal — is severely limited in comparison to the other two forms of self-initiated explosive mobility, rocket- and sticky-jumping. The setup and positioning demands, not to mention the unforgiving health cost — all the more dangerous for a light class — can leave players scratching their heads and asking, quite reasonably, what possible use sentry jumping could have outside of gimmick plays in artificial or highly unlikely situations.
No matter how you spin it, sentry jumping will always require a fully built sentry, rely on a fixed, external damage origin, and — for sentry rocket jumps — chew through 40%-80% of your maximum health while a stock Soldier’s rocket jump chips away 13.5%-43%.
|Explosive jump self-damage||Soldier||Demoman||Engineer|
|Minimum damage (% of base health)||27 (13.5%)||40 (22.9%)||50 (40.0%)|
|Maximum damage (% of base health)||86 (43.0%)||80 (45.7%)||100 (80.0%)|
With proper care and attention to certain details, however, an Engineer can stretch the limits a little — just a little. Mining game mechanics for every bit of precision, flexibility, and health conservation you can manage won’t suddenly make sentry jumping as viable as Soldier or Demo explosive jumping, but hopefully, it will confer a greater degree of technical confidence that will assist you in your march toward an Engineer-worthy PhD in micromanagement.
The prototypical sentry jump puts the Engineer between their sentry and their destination, and has the Engineer fire a rocket at their feet. While this certainly can be very effective within the limitations discussed above, certain adjustments and replacements can be made to adapt sentry jumping to a wider variety of situations and minimize health loss.
First, the basics. As with any other form of explosive jumping, the position of your hitbox relative to the epicenter of the explosion is a massive factor in determining the distance and natural arc of your jump, and it’s just as worth paying attention to on Engineer — if not more. The Engineer’s greater self-damage and lighter weight may end up launching you to stratospheric heights compared to a rocket-jumping Soldier, with all the attendant risks of cratering or getting airshot.
Know when to stray from the prototypical jump.
Consider bullet jumping, for instance. Though far less dramatic than sentry rocket jumping, bullet jumping still extends the Engineer’s vertical area of influence in small but not insignificant ways — and demands far lower costs in health and setup time. It can be performed with any level of sentry, simply by standing on the sentry and aiming the Wrangler beam in the direction of the arc you intend to travel so that it clips through your player model.
Most enticingly, bullet jumping can be performed using a mini-sentry, cutting the setup time down to 3 seconds at most and enabling the Engineer to perform assisted jumps anywhere in the map as their team moves through it, rather than being semi-permanently tied to a particular area. The disposability of the mini also means that once the jump is completed, you can simply destroy it and move on with no qualms, painlessly obscuring (if not wholly obliterating) the evidence that you were ever there. This can be used to quickly and cheaply reach moderately high building spots, whether to secure height advantage for another sentry or to place a sneaky teleporter, as well as opening up equally quick access to flank routes and shortcuts, and other targets of interest that would normally be accessible to loud explosive jumps alone.
Of course, minis are not the only viable bullet jumping tools. Even the bullets of a level three sentry will inflict less self-damage than a single one of its rockets for vertical jumps of moderate height, particularly if the sentry lies flush to your intended destination.
Rocket Jumping for Helmeted Americans
Higher jumps, as well as ones that incorporate a faster, smoother, or more powerful horizontal component, are better performed with sentry rockets — and while this means investing time into a bulky, metal-eating level three sentry, it also opens up a host of positional possibilities that mitigate the immobility of the sentry itself. Though the rockets fit neatly into the image of the prototypical sentry jump, the fact that they travel along a path and inflict splash damage means that the prototypical sentry-Engineer-destination arrangement is not the end of the story.
The new story: splash-Engineer-destination. As long as the locus of the rocket’s splash or collision is on the opposite side from your destination, with you yourself caught in the middle, the rest is just strafing. You can jump toward your sentry. You can jump forward, or sideways. You can even jump — in any direction — from halfway across the map if you have the patience (and clear sightlines).
But what to do about the health cost of sentry rocket jumps — that painful 40%-80% bite taken out of your measly health pool?
Remember, first of all, that sentry rockets operate along the same principle as Soldier rockets — the biggest difference, in purely mechanical terms, is the external projectile origin. It is rare that a vulnerable, lightweight Engineer will need the absolute full force of a direct rocket in order to reach their destination, so get a feel for the splash radius and rely as much as you can on the force of the splash to carry you to your destination.
This is quite simple when performing the prototypical sentry jump, but in other jumps — heading toward your sentry, for instance — it can be a little harder to place the locus of the explosion at that sweet spot. A few compensations can make the task a little easier. For instance, turning sideways for the actual +attack2 command in a long-distance jump can provide a little more of a visual cue to help nail down your +jump timing.
Jumping backwards toward your destination is usually more health-efficient than jumping forwards, since forward jumps — only possible when jumping toward the sentry itself — expose you more direct impact. It also introduces an unavoidable vertical component to the jump, and thus should not be undertaken when attempting to travel long horizontal distances.
On the other hand, it’s quite difficult to jump over a rocket originating from above you, as with a roof sentry to which you wish to return. For any vertical jump in general, mild elevation is another way to remove yourself to the periphery of the splash radius. Stand on a dispenser or any slightly raised object of similar height and fire at its base instead of your feet — et voila, self-engineered healthcare.
This is especially pertinent for Engineers who wish to manually haul their sentries with them as they jump. Such a maneuver typically requires that the Engineer be positioned flush to the sentry, making vertical jumps particularly costly. By simply standing on top of the sentry, however, the cost of a vertical haul-jump can be cut down to 50 health — the absolute minimum self-damage possible for any sentry rocket jump.
Blueprints to… Success?
|Jumping with:||Mobility||Health efficiency||Impact|
Not tied to nest area
|Short vertical jumps: great
Long jumps: poor
More limited reach
|Sentry rocket||Positional freedom
Not tied to direct sentry proximity
|Fixed range of self-damage
Better value for money on long jumps
Though some may question the usefulness of actively practicing a skill that remains relatively niche despite partial mitigations of its costliness and otherwise limited scope, I recommend that those who are in search of practice do so on empty maps rather than gimmicky, Soldier-oriented jump maps — and avoid health-saving cheats like impulse 101, Uber addconds, or negative hurtme. This will give you a better sense not only of timing (particularly for explosive jumps at a distance from the sentry) but also health cost, providing feedback on how well you are conserving your health and how viable a particular jump would be in a live situation.
Some day an Engineer-oriented jump map might be created, with segments that test not only all kinds of sentry jumping but also building-hopping and just plain good movement. Today is not (yet) that day. But I argue that no matter how small the gains relative to the “proper” jumping classes, it is worth knowing — and doing — a little more about stretching the limits of Engineer mobility, to whatever subtle extent we can. How else can we grow comfortable enough with our tools to recognize them as such when an opportunity arrives?