To understand what makes a tank good, you first need to take a look at the metagame. Tanks are only good if they have qualities that make them good against the meta. The meta is determined primarily by two groups of tanks - those which are most frequently played and those which are most frequently played by the best players. In tier 2, the tanks played most frequently (in the last 30 days, according to vBAddict) are the T18, Cruiser III, Pz. II, and T7 Combat Car. In my experience, the best players gravitate towards tanks like the Cruisers III and I, T18, M2 LT, and the Pz. 38H if they can get their hands on one. The tanks which are most popular are so either because they are given out to many people (T7 Car), have a high skill floor (T18), or are the most successful of their kind (Cruiser III, Pz. II). The tanks which the best players like either have high potential (Cruisers, M2 LT) or can be difficult to punish without the right tools (T18, Pz. 38H). Also worth giving consideration to is what is popular in tier 3, as it is important to remain relevant in a higher tier battle.
(This entry was written with 9.9 and previous patches in mind. Patch 9.10's change to the map pool made a huge impact on what qualities are of greatest importance in the tier 2 meta. This list will be rewritten, reorganized, and reposted in the future to accommodate those changes.)
With this in mind, this is how important different stats on a tier 2 non-SPG are in determining how good it is.
These are the must-haves of tier 2. All of the best tanks will have good values in each of these stats. Falling behind in any category can be destructive to any tank's performance.
View range (base)
>310 - Pz. 38H, M2 LT, Pz. II D
[290-310] - UC 2-pdr, Ha-Go, Vickers Mk. II
<290 - BT-2, T2 LT, FCM 36
View range is the single most important stat of tier 2. The tanks with the highest view range dictate the flow of battle by taking positions where large amounts of area can be spotted and finding for themselves and their allies where enemies exist. Knowing where the enemy exists is one of the first steps to either destroying them or not being destroyed by them.
Penetration (of standard ammo)
>50 - Cruiser III, Tetrarch, AT-1
[35-50] - T2 MT, Te-Ke, Pz. II
<35 - T2 LT, Chi-Ni, D1
Penetration is the second most important stat of tier 2. Tanks with decent armor such as the Pz. II and T18 are so popular that not having the penetration to face these tanks head-on is like setting oneself up for eventual failure. Even if not for these tanks, having low penetration does not scale well into fighting tier 3 tanks. Premium ammo with good penetration values can be a decent supplement to already fair standard ammo penetration, but a tank shouldn't have to spam premium ammo in order to be good. Penetration loss over distance is rarely worth more than simply mentioning. A tank with good penetration values will likely have sufficient penetration at a distance.
±1 - most tanks
+2, -1 - T2 LT
+0, -1 - T7 Car, Light VIC, Pz. I
±1 matchmaking is an ideal range as tanks are rarely so imbalanced between adjacent tiers that tanks from one tier aren't at least somewhat of a threat and can be leveraged well against tanks from one tier higher. If a tank breaks out of this norm in any way, it is a signal that the tank is bad. If a tank were so strong that it could actually contend in tier 4, it would be too strong for tier 2 and thus be removed or not exist. The only other case would be a tier 2 tank being shoved into tier 4 matches where it doesn't belong, which is precisely what is wrong with the T2 LT. On the other hand, if a tank is so weak that it can't compete with tier 3s and doesn't match up against them, it is very likely not competitive with all of the other tanks in the tier which have been deemed as having those tools. This stat is not so much a reason why a tank is good or bad as it is a signal that tanks with unusual matchmaking may have something else wrong about them.
720 - any gun that isn't an autocannon or semi-auto
400 - autocannons and semi-autos
In order to properly play the distance meta of tier 2, you need guns that can reach out and hit anything you see and your allies help spot. Guns whose shells become harmless after 400m make tanks harmless to opponents outside that range and should never be used when given the option not to. However, there are several tanks, many being premium, which do not have any other options, and they suffer accordingly.
360 - any tank with a conventional turret
30+ - UC 2-pdr, Pz. Jg I, T18
<30 - FT AC, AT-1
Fixed turrets are extremely detrimental to a tank's versatility. The need to turn the tank in order to aim a shot voids much of the benefits of running binoculars or a camo net and makes for inaccurate shots and missed opportunities. Some gun arcs are better than others, but for the most part, any degree of limitation here should be avoided.
Aim time (before equipment/skills, dependant on commander being gunner)
<1.7 - T2 MT, Pz. II, Pz. I
[1.7 - 2.1] - Cruiser III, Ha-Go, D1
>2.1 - T-60, AT-1, Vickers Mk. II
Tier 2 has a lot of target-switching and fired shots and low accuracy guns. To make the most of the available firepower, the gun needs to be able to quickly zoom on any target to get the best chance for doing damage with each shell in as little time as possible. Weakness in this area will result in many missed opportunities or risky shots and is only somewhat warranted with longer reload times.
These are the should-haves of tier 2. It may not be necessary to be good at everything here, but falling behind in too many places can be the difference between a great tank and a good tank.
Reload (including equipment, before skills, dependant on commander being loader, thresholds doubled for tanks with only semi-autos or autocannons)
<2.3 - T2 MT, Pz. II, H35
[2.3 - 2.6] - Cruiser III, T1E6, D1
>2.6 - T18, FCM 36, Light VIC
Reload impacts your ability to go for killing blows or take a corrected shot after you miss. In some dire, close-ranges cases, a race between tank reloads can determine who wins and who loses. Long reloads provide opportunities for opponents to make unpunished, otherwise risky plays. The longer the reload, the harder it may be to find a good opportunities to reload a clip or switch shell types.
>50 - M2 LT, BT-2, T7 Car
[50 - 35] - Cruiser I, VAE Type B, Pz. I
<35 - FT AC, AT-1, D1
Raw speed is necessary for repositioning and aggressive play. In a way, it also defines how much of a leash you have from your own base before you risk being unable to respond to a base cap. It is one of the primary factors (along with horsepower) that allows players to dictate the pace of battle when corridors make view range ineffective.
>25 - T2 MT, BT-2, T7 Car
[25-15] - M2A4, Tetrarch, Light VIC
<15 - Pz. 38H, T-26, R35
A good tank deserves a strong engine. Greater horsepower helps abate the speed penalties associated with going up hills and on soft terrain. It also gives you an edge in close proximity battles by letting you quickly switch directions to avoid shots and an edge in camping by allowing for a faster escape into nearby cover. It is the other primary factor (along with speed) that allows players to dictate the pace of battle.
Turret traverse (including equipment, before skills, dependant on commander being gunner, irrelevant to TDs without good gun arc)
>40 - Pz. 38H, Tetrarch, Pz. II D
[40 - 30] - Cruiser I, T-60, Vickers Mk. II
<30 - Pz. 35t, VAE Type B, R35
Good turret traverse enables a tank to switch targets quickly, keep up with fast-moving targets at closer ranges, and prevent itself from being circled. Tanks with a great amount of traverse need to be mindful of how quickly their moving reticule will deteriorate their accuracy. Good aim speeds are necessary for getting the most out of this stat. Poor turret traverse may be suitable for tanks with long aim times, as their accuracy will be less wild, though such tanks may end up having to resort to turning their tank and ending up with much worse accuracy problems.
Accuracy (including equipment, before skills, dependant on commander being gunner)
<.40 - Cruiser III, Pz. Jg I, Te-Ke
[.40 - .46] - Pz. 35t, Ha-Go, Chi-Ni
>.46 - T18, T2 LT, T1E6
It is commonly understood that accuracy is very poor at the low tiers. While this is true, I feel it is more important to recognize the large range of accuracies available. The tanks with the worst accuracy typically are stuck to autocannons that are already terrible. There are also tanks that have reasonable accuracy along with other good and relevant firepower-based stats. In any case, the accuracy doesn't go fully utilized without decent aim time. Having good accuracy on a tank in this tier doesn't necessarily amount to much, but having bad accuracy can be a bad thing.
Shell velocity (standard ammo only)
700+ - Cruiser III, UC 2-pdr, FCM 36
<700 - T18, Ha-Go, Vickers Mk. II
Low shell velocity is something that can be compensated for in some cases by simply being used to it. There are some trouble cases though, such as firing at any enemy tank with open sky or far away terrain behind them. If the target moves away, the game may "correct" the shell and make it fly far beyond the desired target. Slow shells will also be late at hitting targets that are ducking into cover if not fired soon enough. Stat padders may become disappointed by damage and kills being lost to teammates who are using quicker shells. Premium shells sometimes have higher velocities and can be used to compensate for otherwise slow shells, but having to always do this is no sign of a good tank.
>12 - Cruiser I, Chi-Ni, D1
[12 - 9] - Pz. 35t, H35, Pz. I
<9 - Pz. 38 H, VAE Type B, AT-1
Many good camping, spotting, and brawling positions can be found along the edges of sloped terrain. Good gun depression allows a tank to still be a threat while cresting hills and against enemy tanks in a lower position. Some locations can become risky or otherwise indefensible without sufficient gun depression. If a tank has different depression values on different ends of the tank, drivers should be aware of this to not position their tank in such a way that leaves them unable to fight back.
These are the nice-to-haves of tier 2. Good values here can be helpful, but they can't make up for lacking in several previously mentioned areas.
>450 - M2 LT, Tetrarch, Pz. I
[450 - 350] - M2A4, Ha-Go, Light VIC
<350 - T-26, BT-2, R35
Tanks with good view range benefit from great radios by letting all other allies they can contact know where the enemies are. Tanks with bad view range benefit from great radios by getting that information and using it to still impact the game. Tanks with good view range and no good radio squander the opportunity to boost their allies' performances, and tanks without either may as well be blind.
As covered in this thread, finding the traverse values of a tank involves a lot of math that I can't be arsed to collect all of the data for to do proper comparisons. Suffice it to say that good tank is probably anything above 50 degrees per second and bad traverse would be below 30 on just hard terrain, though much of what anyone drives over in the tier is medium terrain. Better values yield greater maneuverability when making sharp turns or turning at high speeds. This stat is more important to tanks which don't already have sufficient turret traverse to keep up with targets.
great - UC 2-pdr, T-60, R35
fair - Pz. 38H, Tetrarch, Chi-Ni
poor - T2 MT, M2A4, Vickers Mk. II
The best way to stay alive in tier 2 is to not get hit, and the best way to not get hit is to not be seen. Superior view range goes a long way in keeping tabs on enemies that are far enough away to not see someone shooting at them, but when that doesn't work, camouflage is the next line of protection. Its importance per tank is not nearly as great as the benefit granted by any bush or fallen tree, but better values may make a difference to how many shots a tank can get off before an enemy closing in sees it.
DPM (including equipment, before skills, dependant on commander being loader)
>1200 - T2 MT, T18, Chi-Ni
[1200 - 1000] - Cruiser III, T-26, H35
<1000 - M2A4, T-60, FCM 36
The raw damage output of a tank in comparison to its peers will, in the long run, determine how much of a direct contribution it can make to the battle. Higher DPM values can be thought of as more greatly compressed amounts of damage in short amounts of time, which translates to quicker kills on targets and the ability to take on more targets at once. Of course, a tank's theoretical DPM is very rarely ever reached, and far more important are the stats of the tank that enable it to cause damage more efficiently and reach closer to its theoretical DPM, such as penetration and aim time.
>180 - Chi-Ni, Pz. II D, Vickers Mk. II
[180-130] - Cruiser I, VAE Type B, Pz. I
<130 - Pz. Jg I, FT AC, AT-1
For when avoiding getting hit just isn't possible, hit points are the resource pool that dictate how much punishment a tank can take before it becomes inoperable. Greatly less significant than those stats and tactics that involve not getting hit, but higher life pools could be the difference between dying after four shots or after five shots.
>50 - T18
[35 - 50] - Pz. 38H, H35, R35
[25 - 35) - M2A4, M2 LT, D1
<25 - T2 MT, T-60, FCM 36
The partner attribute to hit points, armor sets a limit for how hard something has to hit you before it can do damage. Past base values, armor can be enhanced by the tank's natural angles and further leveraged by manually angling the tank against incoming fire. Armor that can reliably deter spray cannons is good, but armor that can demand being hit by stronger shells can be good enough to pose a threat by itself. In any case, the ability to take hits is less important without a decent gun to make use of the added survivability.
>140 - T18
[65 - 140] - AT-1, Vickers Mk. II (Chi-Ni)
[35 - 65) - Cruiser III, Pz. Jg I, Te-Ke
<35 - Pz. II, T1E6, Light VIC
Tier 2 is mostly about the constant pressure of damage provided through efficient exercise of DPM. Even so, there are some tanks that can provide so much damage in one shell that any tank would be reeling after getting hit once. Tanks whose guns have alpha so large that it can one-shot tanks from full health are in a class of their own.
Size - This can be anything from how long a tank is to how tall a tank is to where the gun sits on the tank. The most important thing is the amount of exposure a tank needs to have in order to fire at a target and how well-armored those exposed areas are. For rear-mounted tanks like the T2 MT and Light VIC and front-mounted tanks like the D1 and BT-2, this means doing things like poking your tank out from cover in such a way as to expose as little as possible. Smaller tanks like the T-60 will be difficult to spot and shoot while large tanks like the Vickers Mk. II will be an easy target at any distance.
View range and signal range - As covered in the signal range description.
Reload and aim time - As covered in the aim time description.
Speed and horsepower-to-weight - As covered in each section.
Hit points and armor - Tanks should have good values in one of these to make sure they stay in the game long enough to do something. A tank with both can be good at pressing into a position amidst gunfire, being wary of any tank with sufficient penetration or premium ammo that could put a stop to them. A tank with neither will be very restricted in what they can do, having to rely entirely on not being spotted and relocating quickly after being spotted.
Gun depression and size - Taller tanks need more gun depression in order to see what's going on beneath them. -8 might be suitable for some places on a low tank, but a tall tank in the same area might need -12 to do the same job.
Here is how I would rate some upcoming tier 2 tanks based on the above guidelines.
This tank lacks the important quality of good view range much like its predecessor. The only good comparative advantage over the T18 out of all of the most important stats is the short aim time. In terms of other qualities, the T3 doesn't have the incredible armor that the T18 has, instead trading it for great amounts of maneuverability and speed. For the tier, I feel that this is not a worthwhile trade-off. If I were to rate the T18 at 5.5/10, I doubt the T3 would be any better than 4.5/10 and likely deserves to be 4/10.
From Ritagamer's blog: http://ritastatusreport.blogspot.nl/2015/06/first-japanese-heavy-branch-tank-type-89.html
Tier: 2 MT
Engine: 120 hp
Weight: 13,064 tons
Power-to-weight: 9,19 hp/t
Maximum speed: 25/12 km/h
Hull traverse: 38 deg/s
Turret traverse: 36 deg/s
Terrain resistance: 0,767/0,863/1,726
Radio range: 443
Hull armor: 17/15/?
Turret armor: 15/15/?
Gun: 57mm Type 90?
This tank has promise with 320m view range. If it doesn't receive another gun than the 57mm, the low penetration and aim time will hurt its potential. The best likely outcome is for it to inherit the 37mm Type 98 to have something fair to use. Mobility and shell velocity have always been problematic for the low-tier Japanese tanks, and this seems to be no exception, though it gets minor relief in having fair terrain resistances. Gun depression isn't a problem. Tank goes the high health, low armor route, which may make it a sitting duck against autocannons. Without a better gun option, this tank is not much better than the Chi-Ni. With a better gun like the 37mm Type 98, it may be competitive with the Ha-Go, but that's about it.