Original article by @Assassin7
The STB-1 - Panzer Vor!
The STB-1 is the Japanese tier 10 medium tank. It is renowned for being extremely gorgeous to look at, having extremely high DPM, and shells that seem to enjoy hitting the ground on fully aimed shots. This creates a very strange tank, one that purely revolves around a gun with extreme strengths and weaknesses, therefore making the STB-1 a challenging tank for many players.
The STB-1 was the first Prototype for the Japanese Type 74 Tank, a Japanese version based on the same chassis as the Leopard 1, the tank also has the same 105mm L7 gun common to all tier 10 NATO medium tanks. However, while being similar in design to the Leopard 1, it has several significant differences that define the tank as a unique tank to drive from the Leopard.
As has been already stated, the STB-1 has the best DPM (Damage per minute) of any 390 alpha medium, and the second best DPM in class - falling just short of the Russian Object 430. At its most optimal setup, it has a reload of just 6.32 seconds. When coupled with your 390 alpha, this is a tank that can really lay down damage quickly. This often allows you to get up to 3 shots into tanks like the E100, or some tier 10 TDs, before they are able to reload one shell. The damage numbers stack up quickly: up to 1170 alpha damage in return for only one 750 damage shot from an E100. This is an advantage that other L7 armed tanks do not have, most often their reloads being 7 seconds or longer. The extra second means that they are likely to only get two shots into an E100 before he reloads, and sometimes not even two into tanks such as the IS-7, while the STB is able to get two into an IS-7 before he reloads.
Of course, this advantage is not without its consequences: the gun has very poor handling. This does not show up on the ingame stats alone, the gun handling issues are in the soft stats for the gun. What this means is that when the tank is moving, or turning its turret, the reticule blooms to a much larger circle than other tanks. This in itself may sound fine, after all it only has a 2.3 second aiming time, however that is not the case. Since aim time actually shows the time the reticule takes to reach one third of its maximum size, this still means that when those 2.3 seconds are up, the gun is still much less accurate than most other tier 10 medium guns, even on tanks with the same aim time, since they have better soft stats for their gun. In practice, this means that the gun still has to aim that last third. making it very slow to aim and often not fully aimed in when the player fires. this leads to shells missing quite often, earning the tank its reputation for having a very derpy gun.
Its not all bad though, when fully aimed in the STB is actually fairly accurate. it won’t win a sniping war with a Leopard or a Centurion Action X, but it’s accurate enough to hit the lower plates of heavies at longer ranges. - to an extent in fact that when set up with Vents, food, and BIA, the STB-1 is actually slightly more accurate when fully aimed than the Object 140. (0.32 vs 0.33)
The STB-1 has one other party piece to bring to the table in the firepower department: Gun Depression. At -10 degrees this tank has extremely good depression, giving it a strong edge in ridge combat: when you poke a ridge you can expose only your turret, which is very small, to enemies to fire at them from over a ridge. This is an extremely useful advantage. but there will be more on that later.
To sum up the firepower, it’s good. The gun is most effective at short-medium ranges where it can put the DPM to good use, but not have to spend ages aiming in on weak spots
The STB-1 is a medium tank, so by definition it is not going to have amazing armour. This is even more true when it is based on the chassis of the Leopard 1. However, unlike the Leopard, the armour is actually able to bounce a few shots. the upper front plate is only 110mm thick, but it is also angled at an extremely steep angle, allowing you to promote bounces if you angle the armour. The side is a rather terrible 35mm thick, making sidescraping difficult, though not impossible, the STB can get some pretty troll bounces in an effective sidescrape, but as a rule don’t expect to bounce much off the hull in general.
The Turret is far stronger than the Hull, and an extremely welcome upgrade over the previous tanks in the line. while only being 132mm thick, it is sloped at extreme angles making it very effective. there is however, an armor hole behind the gun meaning that shooting the STB directly where the gun is can do damage. the Turret is also very small, meaning that when sitting hull down abusing that glorious gun depression, enemies trying to shoot you back will have very little in the way of turret to shoot at, making them miss more often than hit. Even when they hit, the turret is armoured enough to bounce them frequently.
The turret can still be penetrated; it is nowhere near as reliable as an Object 140s turret for example. But it is good enough for medium range engagements due to its size and angle, with its weak spot being small enough for enemies to reliably hit. The DPM of the tank also makes it so that even when most tanks penetrate your turret you should be able to return at least 1 shot.
To Sum up: its a medium tank. It is not supposed to rely on its armor to keep it out of trouble, but it is able to bounce lower tier shots if well angled and the Turret is strong enough to keep you safe in hull down situations, which is a very important aspect of the tank and a large fix to the problems earlier japanese tanks had.
Setup - Crew, Equipment and Consumables
When setting up a tank with crew and equipment the general idea is to either maximise the tanks strengths or minimize its weaknesses. For example, when setting up a light tank its main strengths are its camo and view range, so crew and equipment choices will reflect that – camo and view range skills, with Optics for equipment. For an IS-7 its main strengths are its strong armour, mobility, and high alpha damage on its gun. These things cannot be improved per se, meaning that crew and equipment setups will be based on minimizing its weaknesses – being the terrible gun accuracy, reload, and aim time. It is not very common that you can enhance a tanks strengths while also minimizing its weaknesses. Luckily for us the STB-1 is one of those tanks where this is possible.
The STB-1s main advantage is its incredible DPM, while its main weakness is bad gun handling. This means that the tank can be setup in such a way that capitilizes on the DPM while also attempting to negate the issues with the gun handling at the same time. This also makes, for myself at least, the STB a rather unique setup in terms of crew, equipment, and consumable choices.
The crew on the STB, in order to work effectively off the bat, needs to be at least completed the second skill and working on the third. Here is how I have it set up:
Commander: 6th Sense, Brothers in Arms, repairs, Camo
Gunner: Brothers in Arms, Snap shot, Repairs, Camo
Driver: Brothers in Arms, Smooth ride, Repairs, Camo
loader: Brothers in Arms, Safe Stowage, Repairs, Camo
I said this was a unique setup for me. the reason for this is I generally don’t think BIA is a necessary skill until the fourth skill at least, as a medium player preferring gun skills, repairs, and camo as the first three. but when I retrained my type 61 crew to the STB, which was at the time just on its third skill, I picked BIA as the first skill. this is why the STB works best with 2 full skills at least, allowing you to use BIA and 6th sense. My reasoning behind BIA is again, maximising strengths and minimizing weaknesses. Its also there to compliment other setup choices I have made as well.
Second skill, quite obvious, gunnery skills. Snap shot and smooth ride, very useful skills, also very much needed on a tank like the STB. I don’t feel as if I need to explain choosing sixth sense, as for the loader he obviously has a fairly limited number of useful skills, so safe stowage is always a welcome addition.
Third skill: repairs. This is a very, very valuable skill. If nothing else, being able to get your tracks repaired and moving as soon as possible after being tracked is very useful. I generally train repairs as the first skill on most tanks, the fact I have it as the third skill here is a good indication of how much the STB’s crew has broken my trend.
We are back to normal for the fourth skill: camouflage. the tank is a medium tank, and since it has low armor the best other way to stay safe is to stay hidden. If you can spot the enemy before he spots you, you gain the advantage of a free shot into him. If you can stay hidden AFTER firing, you have an even bigger advantage as the enemy cannot fire back at you.
Most tier 10 medium tanks use the standard Gun rammer, Vertical Stabiliser, and coated optics for their equipment setups. I do know players that use this setup on their STB, but I don’t think it is the best setup for the tank. I replace the coated optics with Improved Ventilation:
My reasoning for this is again, maximising strengths while minimizing weaknesses. the Vents will help with the gun handling for the tank, while also improving the reload further. This effect stacks with Brothers in Arms, giving more reason to use that crew skill. neither of these are very effective on their own, but together they can make a noticeable difference on the gun handling, while lowering the reload from 6.9 seconds to 6.6 seconds. it also has the added bonus of increasing the often overlooked 410m view range the STB has, again stacking with Brothers in Arms.
Following the trend of unique set-ups, my consumables for the STB are not very different from the crew and equipment setups:
This is the only tank I run large repair and medkits in random battles with. I didn’t start off running them, but I got into many situations where the tank got ammo racked and tracked in the same shot, so to avoid having to choose between the two to repair (which usually ended up in the track being repaired due to reflexes) I instead put a large repair kit on. the Med kit was kept off for a rather long time, but the tank kept losing its driver twice in a row during games, so in order to diminish this effect I used a large medkit to get the bonus of giving crew members more durability that it gives.
The third slot is also interesting; I run Onigiri as the third Consumable. I do this, once again, in the interest of minimizing weaknesses and maximizing strengths. Food gives a flat 10% bonus to all crew skills, aiding the gun handling while helping the DPM. With the combined effects of a Rammer, Vents, BIA, and food, the reload on the STB-1 is down to an astonishing 6.32 seconds. the difference between running food and not is actually very noticeable, so much that it surprised me how more accurate the tank felt. Food also gives the added bonus of taking the view range from a low 432 to the max VR (Not including camo burn) of 445.
Obviously, this makes the tank very expensive to run. Fortunately for me, when running a premium account I am still able to break even on most games playing the STB, but it is perfectly understandable if you are on a budget and cannot afford to run this sort of setup, I recommend just running the standard Repair kit, med kit, and fire extinguisher. But if you are able to blow some cash, Food is the most important to pick, in all honesty the other two large kits are not essential and more for convenience purposes. I do find that the STB does not catch fire very often, if it does catch fire it is only through the back of the tank, and in general if you are exposing your rear to the enemy you are probably doing something wrong, so the most common way I get set on fire in the tank is from arty hits that go through my engine deck.
For ammo loadouts, fairly simple. 33 AP, 15 HEAT, 2 HE. The HE is for emergency cap resets and Armourless tanks (such as the Rhoomba, WP4, and Grille 15). I Don’t actually fire much HEAT at all in my STB, even less than my other tier 10 mediums due to the fact that at longer ranges there’s a higher chance of the shell derping into some spaced armour.
In Gameplay terms, the STB cannot really be compared to any one tank. Its a medium tank based on the Leopards chassis, but does not play like the Leo. The STB has much more holding power than the Leo – Holding power being the ability to stay in a position and fight it out before having to retreat to safety. The reason for this is not only because it has much more reliable armour than the leopard, but also because of its extremely high DPM. The fact it can get shots off far more frequently give it the ability to suppress enemies in a way tanks like the Leopard cannot. The Leo is also more of a scouty medium, the STB is far less effective at scouting than the Leopard. It can scout, like all mediums can, but is not as good at the dedicated scouting role. It has less overall camo, and is not as fast. The STB is very much a combat medium, it works best getting stuck in and putting its gun to work from hull down positions, compared to the Leos style of Shoot ’n’ Scoot. The Leo cannot brawl to save itself, the STB can, and it is the key difference between the two.
I have been going on a lot about hull down. That is because the STB is very, very good at it. Hull down, poking over ridges or hills at medium range is the single best thing the STB can do. You keep yourself in cover from direct fire, and can kill stuff on the other side of the hill that more often than not cannot hit you back. Brilliant examples of excellent places to use this are the north hills of Westfield, on top of the hill on Mines (especially from the south spawn) and the North of Pearl river, where you can get hull shots on most other tanks on the top side whereas they have to overexpose themselves to shoot you back.
Here is an example of how you would use the gun depression:
You can see me here cresting the hill in the north of westfield to get shots on the enemies. I spy a T-34-2. I very easily have a shot on him, in fact I have poked over a bit more than I need to.
Easy shot, yes? But if he was looking at me this is what he would be seeing:
There really is not much at all for him to shoot at there, and what there is to shoot at is either my turret or my upper hull at an extreme angle. If he fired at me the only way he would penetrate is to get lucky and go through the armour hole behind the gun. But because I could easily peek up above the ride, snap shot him, and back down with an absolutely tiny amount of my tank visible the window he would have with which to do that is very small.
Later in the same battle, the poor guy in the T-34-2 tries to poke over to get a shot. Look how far he has to expose himself to even hope to get a shot on me:
Hill crest 3
The difference is, he is absolutely nowhere near able to get a shot on me yet, he would have to expose himself to my team behind (most notably the T110E3 sitting on the hill behind me) in order to have a hope in shooting at me. These are problems the STB just does not have to deal with, and are extremely useful advantages that should be abused whenever possible.
here is a short Video demonstration of what can be done with the STB-1s gun depression. From the middle area on cliff, this is one of my favourite spots to use this tank in. the STB is always wanted in Clan wars for Cliff because of its ability to take this position and abuse it. there is also small demonstration of the DPM of the tank, as I cut down the Jagdtiger, the video also shows how well the STB can snap shot with This crew setup, it is surprisingly good at it at these sorts of ranges.
I also have another video showing a full battle in the STB-1, on mines. being lucky enough to get into a game with no Artillery, I was able to get up on the hill and use the gun depression and DPM of the tank in order to harass all the enemy tier 10 heavies trying to take the hill. Please note that I am not a professional, or even amateur Youtube Commentator and my Microphone is also not very suited to this sort of thing so my Commentary is not the best in the world
for the Replays used in this review, they are here if you want to watch them:
Westfield: http://wotreplays.eu/site/2066531#stats – Yes I did get a little bit mad at our M53 for shooting me, though it was more the fact he said “deal with it” than shooting me himself, I don’t advocate reacting the way I did.
Thanks to @MagentaPanda for Proofreading and Minor edits
Edited by Assassin7