I wanted to make this to share with whoever is interested what I have learned about playing well in tanks over the past 4ish years. I play almost exclusively solo, so bear in mind this is from the perspective of a solo pubber. These are my OPINIONS, so take from them what you will.
There are a few factors which contribute to consistent good play and I have listed them below in order of importance:
Factor 1: Positioning
70+% of playing at a unicum or superunicum level solo is positioning. The other 20ish% is comprised primarily of map awareness, and this is all brought together by you knowing how to play your tank from a mechanics perspective.
Positioning is not only about knowing the good spots. While knowing where to go in general is good, your positioning should be heavily influenced by the tank composition of your own team and especially that of the enemy team. You need to know where the enemy is going to be before they are lit based on what tanks they’re driving and their level of skill.
More than this, you need to base where you are going to go at the beginning of the match based on where your own team is going. Heroism in this game gets you nowhere except an early, shallow grave. Do not be a hero. If you do not have the support you require from your team to be successful in the position you want to go to, don't go. You will die early and you will not be able to contribute to the match in a meaningful way.
Factor 2: Taking responsibility
We have all played matches where pubs cry about their team doing this or that and that’s why they lost the match. Do not do this.
If you lose, you need to be thinking “what could I have done better to win?” If you die early, you need to be thinking “what did I do wrong to die early and not contribute to the match?”
Take responsibility for your failures. I hear so much “I’m only 1 tank out of 15! How can I influence the battle at all?” You need to believe that you not only can influence the match, but that you are the only one who can influence the match.
Assume everyone else will choke to death on their own saliva before they will get their HP in damage or assist you in any way. Your teammates are liabilities. It’s 1 against 29 out there.
It’s ok to fail. Don’t beat yourself up. Take responsibility, learn from it, do better next match.
Factor 3: Don’t be afraid to experiment (and learn)
No, this is not sexual innuendo. For every map there are set channels where you are expected to go based on your tank type.
You are playing a TD. You should sit back and move forward when your team has cleaned up.
You are playing a heavy, you need to go into town and rub dicks with the enemy heavies.
You are playing a medium, you need to go into the field and hunt scouts/be on the outskirts of the battle.
These expectations are lies. You need to go where you think you are going to contribute the best to the match, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Are you playing a heavy? Go field. Are you playing a medium? Go city.
Experimenting is a key factor of playing well because from this you learn what’s true about good positioning and what’s bullshit. You will learn fast by experimenting with different strategies and positions because if you made a poor decision you will die early or be ineffective.
As I said before, there is nothing wrong with failing as long as you learn from it and use that knowledge to do better next time.
The main upside to experimenting with new strategies is that you find out quickly what works and what doesn’t and you become a better player for it fast.
Factor 4: Getting early damage
Getting early damage is one of the key ways you can contribute to a match for a number of reasons:
You will get the upper hand in the match quickly by damaging enemy tanks before the real battle begins
You will throw the enemy off their game. If a pub gets shot early on in the match it will lower their self esteem and immediately put thoughts in their head like “oh it’s going to be another loss.” This is a huge advantage for you. If the enemy is intimidated they will make mistakes, which you will capitalize on for massive damage and wins.
You will know enemy positions early. You should already have a map in your mind of where they are going to be, but solidifying that knowledge is key to making your next move.
In my opinion, if you are not dealing damage to the enemy within the first 60 seconds of the match you might not be doing what you should.
Factor 5: Know your mechanics!
Knowing how to play your own tank is important, but you will hopefully have become proficient at driving a new tank within the first 50 battles or so. However, what matters hugely across every tank type and tier and in every match you play is knowing basic and advanced game mechanics like spotting, angling, overmatching, ammo types, tracking, circle jerking, blind firing, etc.
Every tank has different gun and armor combinations. Knowing that you can overmatch the turret of the T34 and T29 with your 122mm gun can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Knowing that you can’t sidescrape effectively with your particular heavy tank can mean the difference between a win and a loss. Knowing that you should fire HE at a waffle for maximum damage can mean the difference between a win and a loss.
The list goes on. If you don’t know basic or advanced mechanics, educate yourself. You will learn a ton and be able to apply this knowledge to real situations. Most pubs do not know this stuff. Use it to your advantage.
Factor 6: Don’t get stuck
A huge part of being able to carry a match is staying alive as long as possible while dealing maximum damage. This means you need to know when to fight a battle and when to run away.
As I said before, you do not get points for being a hero in this game. There are no medals for staying to fight 6 enemy heavies by yourself and dying early.
Do not fight battles you know you are going to lose!
If you feel that you are not going to win the battle you are fighting, back off, run away, live to fight another day. You will get more damage and kills and possibly be able to carry.
Your teammates will yell at you for abandoning them. They will call you nasty names. Don’t listen to them. You do you. You can win this match, they can’t.
A big part of this factor is not going to positions where you cannot run away. There are a number of spots that are popular for certain tank types which, if things do not go as you had planned, there is no escape from. Do not go to these spots unless you are very confident that you can win with your current level of support.
Stay alive longer. Win more matches. Simple.
There are many other factors which influence matches, but let me tell you this: very rarely in my experience is the outcome of the match out of your control. Every time I lose I can identify several mistakes that I made which may have cost me the match.
Being a better player isn’t about not making mistakes, it’s about making fewer, less costly mistakes over time as you learn.
These are my two cents. Thanks for reading, and never stop learning and getting better my fellow tankers.