From TF2 Wiki
The Dispenser is a building that can be constructed by an Engineer providing health, ammo, and metal to nearby teammates. Engineers rely heavily on metal from their Dispensers to construct and maintain their Sentry Guns and other buildings. Any player may replenish their supplies by simply standing next to the Dispenser. Retrieving ammunition or health from the Dispenser does not affect its supply of metal.
Dispensers can prove to be very valuable in supporting a team when used effectively. As well as providing a steady health increase for teammates, Dispensers act as a portable ammo source. They can provide additional metal for other Engineers to use. Dispensers will also attract many teammates to one area which can help to better forward an attack, particularly if the team is scattered and ungrouped. However, it can also make the group an easy target for rocket splash damage or incoming grenades. A Dispenser will not hand over new weapons if the player modified his/her load out; a Resupply Locker is required to do so.
The Dispenser costs 100 Metal to place, 200 Metal to upgrade to Level 2, and a further 200 to upgrade to Level 3. Each upgrade increases the Dispenser's health, ammo and metal output. While being constructed a Dispenser's health will increase until reaching 150 upon completion. A newly built Dispenser contains 25 metal and thereafter generate 40 metal every 5 seconds unless upgraded. It can hold up to 400 metal as represented by a gauge on the front of the Dispenser. A Dispenser can be manually rotated to face a different direction before one builds it. When the blueprint is shown, using the alternate attack button (default key: MOUSE2) will rotate the blueprints 90 degrees counterclockwise per mouse click. A destroyed Dispenser (regardless of level) leaves behind 50 Metal that can be picked up as metal or ammo by all players regardless of team affiliation.
- Main article: Engineer strategy
- A Pyro standing near a Dispenser can act as a mobile 'firewall'. The Dispenser is capable of replenishing the Flamethrower's ammo faster than can be fired. This is a great anti-Spy measure, but it does leave your team an attacker short. This is especially helpful to a skilled Pyro, as they could reflect projectiles away from the Engineer's buildings with the Compression blast.
- The Heavy can utilize a Dispenser in the same way, laying down a hail of bullets across a large area. This can be used as an anti-Spy measure, or to defend an area such as a cap point or choke point. Any Heavy using this technique needs to be aware of the damage drop off of his Minigun. This can be used to control hallways or even in an enemy's base (such as the sewers in 2Fort) to keep either an entrance open or a safe place for a teleporter. A Heavy can fire continuously; sweeping an area to send away stickies and check for hidden Spies.
- A Sniper can keep firing without having to leave his position to replenish ammo if stood near a Dispenser. Since many Spies cannot resist sapping an unguarded Dispenser, it can be used as an early warning system.
- When entering Sudden death, building a Dispenser first is important to provide health, ammunition, and metal to your team.
- Dispensers give ammunition for any teammates nearby, including disguised enemy Spies. As a Spy, if you see an enemy Dispenser, consider leaving it intact to recharge Cloak, fill your health meter, or to remain indefinitely invisible while using the Dead Ringer or the Invisibility Watch.
- When in a centralized area close to other Engineers, consider putting all the Dispensers close to each other. The healing and ammo dispensing mechanisms do stack for multiple Dispensers, so placing them together will allow you and your teammates to refill and heal up to full health much faster than with a single Dispenser by each Engineer's Sentry Gun. While the risk of losing the Dispensers is higher, the benefits can sometimes be enough to keep your teammates on the attack. It isn't recommended having more than two Dispensers next to each other, especially if both are level 3. Having three or more Dispensers near each other risks the loss of all of the Dispensers in a counterattack.
- A Dispenser can effectively block narrow passages from enemies, slowing down their progress. This is very effective versus Scouts and Spies when coupled with a Sentry Gun nearby.
- The healing beam and ammo supply mechanisms are two separate functions of the Dispenser, someone in healing range of a Dispenser is not necessarily close enough to take ammo from the Dispenser.
- Similarly, a Dispenser can sometimes supply ammunition and metal through walls but cannot heal through them.
- An Engineer can stand on his own Dispenser, allowing him to reach higher platforms than he could just by jumping, allowing for more strategic deployment of Sentry Guns and other buildings. Keep in mind, however, that a sentry is taller than a Dispenser, regardless of which level it is.
- Dispensers take the longest to build. It is usually best to construct one, and then put up a sentry while it is still building.
- Dispensers cost the least amount of metal, next to the Combat Mini-Sentry Gun . Use this to your advantage by blocking a Demoman's bombs while escaping.
- While Sentry Guns are usually the main target of ÜberCharge pushes, destroying the Dispenser is equally important. Without it, it will take much longer for the enemy to rebuild, not to mention heal and resupply, and allow your team more time to regroup for a decisive push.
July 1, 2008 Patch
- Fixed buffed health not decaying properly after being healed by a Dispenser.
December 11, 2008 Patch
- The Engineer's Dispensers can now be upgraded to level three. It will give out metal and heal faster as it is upgraded.
December 7, 2009 Patch
- Fixed dispenser not healing players at the correct rate if it's upgraded while the players are already touching the dispenser.
December 18, 2009 Patch
- Fixed Spies being able to build Dispensers.
January 6, 2010 Patch
- Fixed a rare server crash related to Dispensers.
- A level three Dispenser heals nearly as fast as the Medi Gun's in-battle healing rate (24 HP/sec).
- Sentry Gun fire and rockets can be blocked by Dispensers. Additionally, Sentry Guns will detect enemy players standing behind friendly Dispensers, but unable to kill the enemy. It's commonly used by the Spy as a shield and used to kill the Engineer in the process.
- By standing within the healing range of a Dispenser, it is possible to stay underwater indefinitely.
- For a short time after The WAR Update, Spies were able to build Dispensers, through the use of the console command "build 0", but could not upgrade them.
- Per the Sentry Gun instruction manual, the Dispenser is a "Dispense-O-Matic 9000 Provisions Dispenser".
- A Level 1 BLU Dispenser makes a cameo appearance as a "curious dispenser" in the Telltale game Sam & Max 304: Beyond the Alley of the Dolls. Standing near it makes the usual Dispenser healing sound. Sam can hit the Dispenser 8 times with a Wrench (complete with genuine sound effect), to open the bottom drawer revealing a "Banang" shake. Sam can also try to take the Banang, but the drawer closes again before he can grab it (Max actually unplugs it out of irritation). It also still makes an appearance in Episode 305: The City that Dares not Sleep, in the same area.
Look Max, free health, ammo, cupcakes, clues, and enlightenment! Oh wait, it's empty.
— Sam on Curious Dispensers