Playing Combat Engineer is essentially a giant balancing act for me. I still have a Dispenser and a Teleporter Exit to take care of, but I need to juggle my combat role as an anti-flank and a harasser as well. I need to apply pressure on the enemy team, make a few picks against stragglers and lone-wolf flankers, and hold off a choke or a key area. At the same time, I need to make sure that the Teleporters are up so that my teammates can get to the point quickly, and my Dispenser is able to provide resources for my team. And during all this time, I need to have a rough idea how the fight in general is going so that I know when to move, when to stay, and when to switch off Combat Engie and play another class.
Once on Harvest, I managed to get enough space to set up a Teleporter Exit and a Dispenser at the BLU farmhouse (I was on RED). I placed it by the entrance near the blue truck.
At that location, my team has an easy access to both the point to contest the objective, and the enemy spawn to force them away from the point and hopefully spawncamp them for the duration of the game. It’s a rather fantastic spot except that it’s extremely risky. It is on one of the three main routes that people will take from spawn to the point, and I need to keep BLU away from them as much as possible.
Thus, I need to draw the enemy team’s attention away from my buildings. As long as no one walked through that particular entrance, the buildings are hidden and shielded from stray shots. All I need to do is to make sure that no one from the BLU team walked down the corridor leading to it.
To go from the spawn to that corridor, they will need to pass through the staircase entrance that leads to the second floor of the farmhouse. That is also where the Snipers normally perch about. Thus, I set up my Mini Sentry at the top of the staircase, and I camped the staircase area, sealing off the area and the corridor leading to my nest as well.
There is a medium medkit and a medium ammo pack at that point, so I do not need my Dispenser for supplies. My Mini Sentry will immediately draw the attention of whoever’s passing by and alert me to any attacker, whether they passed by the staircase or they jumped in from the window. By locking down the area, Snipers can no longer gain access to either the farmhouse roof or the second storey windows, depriving them of high ground to snipe from. My presence distracts anyone passing by and drew the BLU team players away from that corridor.
I held the spot for about one and a half minutes. During that time, my buildings were secured, the Snipers can’t get a good vantage point, and half the enemy team were trying to take me down instead of going towards the point (thank goodness their spawntimes were staggered). That was probably one of my most successful plays as a Combat Engineer ever.
In general, that is how I protect my Dispenser and Teleporter Exit. I put it at a safe corner and pushed ahead, keeping enemies away from them. Without a Level 3 Sentry, I cannot hope to overpower attackers, thus I need to stay ahead and pull enemies away from my buildings. The more I can keep their focus on me, the safer my buildings are.
When I play Combat Engineer nowadays, I play with my team, instead of my old Battle Engie playstyle where I run in alone guns blazing. I rely on my team to buy me space before I can set up my Dispenser and my Teleporter Exit at a good spot. Once that’s done, I’ll try to build my Mini Sentry close to the frontline and force the enemy team back, making sure that my other two buildings are secured by keeping them away from it, and giving my team supportive firepower. I got my team’s back, and they got mine. Without them, I can’t set up. And once I do, my buildings can help the team.
Playing Combat Engineer is kind of like walking. You are the left leg, and your team is the right leg. To walk forward properly, one leg must move forward after the other. You can’t just have one leg hopping forward merrily while the the other leg is still rooted on the spot. It’s the same thing with playing Combat Engie. You let the team advance so that they can give you space to build, then you push forward to drive the remainder of the enemy team back. Your team can then push in further with more ease since your buildings are up, giving them sustainability and a quick way to get to the frontlines should they died and respawned. And when they do that, they create more space ahead of you, so you can push forward more.
Aside from positioning and gamesense, DM skills are also key to playing Combat Engineer. You need to be able to kill or at least damage the enemy team players heavily enough that they’ll be forced to retreat. The Mini-Sentry serves as a distraction and an extra source of damage, so there is less emphasis on your actual dueling skills. On the other hand, your positioning and your Sentry placement, as well as your resource management, map knowledge, and general game sense are much more important because of that.
One of the biggest part of playing Combat Engineer, however, is knowing when not to play it. As a general rule, I will never start off a round on Offense as a Combat Engineer, since the team needs a lot of firepower to push the enemy team away from our spawn door, and a Combat Engineer with no buildings up are about as useful as the third Sniper on the team. And while I can get away with bullying lighter classes, if the enemy team are filled to the brim with heavy classes packing a lot of heat like Heavies and Soldiers, that’s generally a good time for me to not play Combat Engie. And above all else, if I’m dying way too much that’s probably a good sign that I should switch classes.
Before I discover this playstyle, playing Engineer is an absolute chore for me. Combat Engineer is what made me interested in playing the Texan gunslinger, and it is one of the most fun things in the game for me, aside from ambush Heavy, flanking Pyro, and Medic when both teams are competent and the match is hotly contested from the beginning to the end. It’s demanding, exciting, and it is one of the best things to do for me when I play Team Fortress 2. And that is all I have to say about Combat Engineer.