I was thinking about making a thread about some common metagame questions I've learnt to answer during the 4 years I've played this oh so terribly bad game.
Let's start off with the most common and perhaps the easiest one (at least for me) to answer:
I'm bottom tier - what the hell do I do?
It's pretty obvious actually. First of all is that you absolutely need to know what your tank excels at and where you can fight tanks that you can excel against and that is just something that comes with experience. After that you need to put it into practice, read the enemy lineup and try and predict where they're going. A lot of people have played the game for many years so some form of intuition should develop here, especially on some maps where the entire thing is really predictable. Take the standard El Halluf, or Erlenberg. It's really easy there. You won't know the exact spot they'll be playing but you should be able to tell what area they're going to be in because like you (hopefully) they're going to what is either meta, or what suits their tank. With this in mind it should become much clearer how areas are going to play out before they have played out, and how aggressive you can be without overdoing it. As a tier 8 in a T10 game this is really important because the amount of opportunities you get to really play anything but 2nd line are few so knowing where these situations are going to open up in advance is the key to being able to be there on time and capitalise. However you're going to be wrong, nobody's perfect and it takes time to get good at, but you'll always misjudge situations or the people you play with/against at times, so the next thing that occurs is that you also need to be able to think on your feet. You should have a sense of what you want to accomplish and a strategy for it, but something happens and it doesn't pan out so you need to rethink the entire thing and start over. Luckily this gets easier and easier as the match progresses because you'll get more and more information to use. Whatever you thought that wasn't right will get corrected as the minimap tells you all the info, so what you thought from the start is rarely what you'll end up doing for more than 2-3 minutes before shifting focus to something different. Stubbornness kills game potential all the time, and so does greed. If something doesn't look favourable, why run straight into it? It's Chess (with some roulette thanks to god almighty SerB) and not CS:GO. The clutch potential in this game is so incredibly low that you're simply better off doing nothing than doing something bad, especially when you're playing against tanks that are most likely stronger than yours. Gameplay has sped up quite a bit in just a year as I personally feel the average battle time has gone down by at least 45 seconds (probably a minute) but you still have plenty of time to rethink and make a different move on whatever new info you got. This is why full on aggression doesn't work; it's blind. Obviously in situations where you're supposed to be outmatched you need to play more passively because mistakes end up more dangerous.
I'll take the 110 for a few examples since it's a tank that's been an issue for many people lately (at least here on labs):
Bottom tier as 3-5-7 on Serene Coast, south spawn:
You're useless, right? You can't fight heavies on the peninsula because your pen is lacking, and C1 is a gamble that's seemingly 50/50 (which is why I've stopped going there almost completely regardless of the tank I play). Both main areas aren't great situations for you no matter what happens. C1 is probably the best bet here but your mediums are going to outpace you both in mobility and DPM so what you'll end up doing is mostly useless driving if they win it, and if they don't then you're committed and 100% going to die also doing close to nothing. The odd game where it stalemates and you might be able to use your armour a bit might happen but is that really something you're going to commit to? The stars aligning? Of course not. Stay passive. I normally end up redlining with the TDs. You can't really impact either of these situations directly but what you can do is simply getting whatever free shots you can, and think about the progression. Where's your team winning vis-a-vis losing? Just after 2 minutes your options should open up much better. I normally end up crossing down into the bowl only to drive up as I see that my team most likely end up winning C1. I'm now ahead for the next situation and while there's damage I lost out on, I'm now in a much better position to keep up. TD shots should open up either through myself or through the mediums closing in. Afterwards you're better positioned to deal with whatever tanks are left. It might not be a great game, but as a tier 8 in a tier10 game even 2000 damage games that are considered low for the tryhards is still more than alright. I can personally attest to that settling for safer plays that don't net you as much will help you in the long run. Risky plays rarely work out 100% the way you wanted so just don't push the odds.
If they don't win it then I'm still in a much better position to react, because I'm not dead. Simple as that. Then it's all about figuring out where you can go, the game is likely to be lost because C1 was lost. However the everything to win mentality is a bit stupid, as a tier 8 on that area you're really not going to make much of a difference regardless of player skill. I'm not saying that you should accept the loss, but if they're going to win that flank then why give your tank away as well?
Bottom tier 5-10 on Steppes, south spawn:
Once again, you're going to struggle and pen the heavies on the 1-2 line. The main decider will be what you'll think will come out of the east engagement, if you're likely to win it then you should commit to it. It gives tons of area control and usually ends up winning the map (just as C1 on Serene Coast) so it's obviously important, but the same thing applies here. If the odds are stacked against you then don't go there. Simple as that. The progression on Steppes especially makes it really hard to come back once you've lost areas, or really defending anywhere, so just reinforce wherever your chances are the greatest of winning. 1-2 isn't as good for winning, but it's not without enough terrain to allow you to fight it, you're stuck with a slower fight against tougher targets but your chances of winning and having progression from there on instead of a burning wreckage are still better off with you alive. I can't really help with the progression because it's different every game. If that doesn't work out either then why not just camp it. If I see 2 minutes in and that the enemy mediums have completely control over 9-0 already and that might my team is losing the heavy lane I'm going to drive up the K-line and redline like a piece of shit because that's about as useful I can be. Playing for the win is stupid when you don't have the factors to go through with it, you're going to basically throw yourself away for nothing anyway. With a score of let's say 1-8 and you should be running full chai redline mode in pretty much anything already. You still have a decent chance of increasing your damage output for that game as long as you're alive and uncommitted, but the second you commit somewhere where you're likely to lose you've basically just decided to add to the bonfire of what used to be your team.
On the other hand, if you actually have a winning progression (unlikely that this is the common problem) then passivity is the worst thing you can do. Even as a bottom tier. The second you have teammates to work with and tanks to outplay through terrain, vision or through numbers then the second you're not there you're going to lose out. I personally have this issue because I'm so focused on minimizing my losses rather than maximize my profits. Basically the shittier your tank is for the MM and map the more important it is to know where you have to be well ahead of time so you actually be there and capitalize.
Playing bad tanks
Similar to playing bottom tier, coming from an inferior position into an engagement means you’ll have to cut corners. Minmaxing really disappears when your tank won’t really let you play what you’re comfortable with. Obvious example is the Churchill GC, considered as one of the worst tanks in the game. You have two workable attributes but everything else is worse than pretty much every tank you’re going to face. So how do you use it effectively?
In this particular case your gun is the one trait where you really excel compared to your teammates. You have very high penetration and some gun handling + depression to help with poking. Where are you useful? This is as simple as it gets, basically as long as you’re in a position to keep shooting you’re going to be useful because your gun is potent. The drawback is that you can’t just yolo in, you have no armour and you’re slow so if they can shoot back at you then you’ll not be able to shoot for very long. Snipe it out. Move up accordingly when you can progress and you can probably move up to 2nd line when you have info. Playing safe in a tank like this is all the more important because once you’re in over your head your mobility and armour won’t be able to help you bail out. What you need to accept is that you probably won’t be able to hold your standards and go in with a decently open mindset. Your capabilities of good games are lower than normal so frustration from a poor tank just adds to the fire that is a tilt from all the other circumstances as teammates, RNG, artillery and whatever else. Identify what your tank is good at and try to utilize that strength at all costs because you can’t really be effective any other way. If your gun is your only good asset then I recommend that you stay back, and if you’re in a tank who is only considered armoured to same tiers and below (O-Ni) then you simply have to give up the map control. You can’t fight tier 9 heavies at all, so why bother? Rely on info and find tanks you can actually bully and take it from there. Once the map opens up at a bit more you have a lot more options so you just going to places where you can actually fight without getting outtraded 3 to 1 is a really good start. Armour is very relative from game to game pretty much regardless of the tank you play so when the odds are stacked against you trying to use it is pointless. Play against tanks you know you have an advantage against, whether it’s numbers, HP, skill, terrain and so on. Seize the opportunities as they come, because you’re at a disadvantage from the start meaning you have to find ways to level the playing field before being able to engage and actively contribute to winning games even in the most awful of tanks.
Playing general tanks
There’s a general playstyle that most top players try and adapt most tanks to, it should follow the meta very well and there’s a lot of tanks that play very similarly in the broad sense and only really differ in certain situations, even though their armour, HP, DPM and alpha might be different. What is probably the most important here is the mobility, as in you want to know where you can be at what times, a lot of tanks luckily move at around 50km/h at tier 10 so you can normally get to the positions you’d want to in another tank. Russian mediums, heavies and chinese ones share a lot of traits together. You can play them almost identically in a macro sense but where the good players really stand out is in the micro play here. All tanks generally have at least one unique trait to their combo of stats (IS-7 has it’s turret, M48 has on the move handling, russian mediums have their DPM and so on) so the doing the small things really matter. An IS-7 benefits from hulldown much more than any tank in the game because it’s almost invincible until pushed, but place a 140 there and it’ll be the same thing. Not because of it’s turret but because of the fact that it can dish out much more damage instead, at the risk of taking damage. Similarities arise and using them to recognise a playstyle that you’re familiar with means a lot and by doing so you’re going to be more seasoned in what you’re likely to be able to accomplish. Just by recognising traits that should work out similarly even though they might be different in other situations (IS-7 is for example much better at tanking hits, and can initiate pushes much better, where a 140 really need teammates to snowball with in a push) will help you play much better. Recognising where they differ and being able to swap in to a committed play that is good for your specific tank from a general play will make you an even better one. By learning this and being able to do it well you’re going to win much more. If there’s a situation where you recognise that you can commit to it’ll help your team much more, and you’ll develop some confidence in your micro ability along the way. Macro play takes much longer to learn, but it’s something that should already be on good progress because it’s something that happens every game. Playing mostly mediums/fast heavies help with learning this, as they’re the ones that are the most similar. A Maus and an IS-7 also share traits so there’s something you can draw from having played the one to the other, and so on and so on until you’ve developed a decent ability and a general sense of macro play as a whole.
Playing specialized tanks
For this I recommend you throw everything above out the window, because while playing very niché tanks it won’t work. Autoloaders and turretless TDs are the most common ones, as they simply can’t play as a single shot and turreted tank. So how do you get around it? As with anything else, identify what your tank is good at and know your limits. If you have no experience with what you're playing then it's going to be a rough ride because you'll misplay constantly. Being turretless means you want as slow games as possible in long lanes where you can keep being effective no matter if the enemy team is pushing or falling back, and with relatively low risk of getting punished. Some maps have these spots and they're broken. It's ideal for a turretless TD but it's also horrible for gameplay because it requires zero effort. On the maps where you actually need to have a brain to really be effective then you have to create crossfires and long lanes on your own. No matter how the game's progressing there's usually a position you could be in that would have shots, and with limited gun arcs you need to see these things coming. A slow push from heavies will net a T10 TD two shots, meaning anywhere from 1000 to 2000 damage, so being there and ready for it is the most important part about it. If you're playing far back already then you can keep falling back and make those two shots into three or four, and that damage should matter and hopefully contribute to a closer game. TDs are the most useful on the losing end, and so their snowball ability is low along with their carry potential, but what they're really good at is stalling and counters so I really suggest that this is something you do often. There are a lot of useless TD players, and most of them are simply clueless but there's something to the passive gameplay that helps TDs since playing close up mean that if a tank gets on your side there's very little you can do to retaliate. Playing far back and low risk is the only way to really ensure your safety, but what differs the good from the bad is that you're hopefully going to play in the right places. Generally TDs work much better on a losing flank than a winning one, so trying to lock down the losing lane rather than help to push the winning one should be a much better option, even if you're going to die eventually. In blitz play this becomes more complicated as you can't be effective for very long unless you have teammates around you that make you hard to push, and so your options are reduced to either going on the lemming train or staying at the back of it. From there on it's really just a matter of preference and what comfort. I personally like to move up because camping is boring, and it can certainly work out but most times I'm sure the defensive play would have been the better one.
Stalling an enemy push lets your team gain map control and lets the game progress everywhere around you but where you're currently locking down, that's the ideal situation for a TD and how to benefit from upsides that come with downside of being turretless.
When it comes to autoloaders it's a bit nicer however, as you're normally decently mobile and it lets you macro like normal. But once it comes to actually engaging it's totally different as playing an autoloader means you have to be the most selfish piece of shit wherever you engage. Don't take hits. You're biggest asset is your clip and if your team keeps you alive you can keep capitalizing on every situation much better than your teammates can. They've got the edge on macro play and for slower games but when it comes to a head on engagement you're going to shave off enemy HP much faster than anyone else, a result of your teammates taking the hits for you so you can speed up the engagement and increase your chances of a positive outcome. I'm not even joking as in if you can't trade at least triple what you'll take then it is not a good engagement in an autoloader. You run constant risk of getting rushed whenever on reload and you have serious downtime where your teammates can catch up, especially if you're moving for crossfires and get caught in mid reload before getting into position. Your HP should be an asset of getting an extra shot off for taking a hit, or for moving in for better positioning but you shouldn't take hits that teammates could have. Your tank has more value and as the game progresses it becomes more dangerous. An autoloader in a game where it's just 7v7 left means a lot less area control mean movement and ability to single out targets come by much more often. Autoloaders excel at this because once you get to these situations there's very little one can do against an autoloader with a full clip, your going to take the damage and the odds are that you won't deal nearly as much in return. In the case of BC25t it's very likely that you're not full HP anymore and that it'll be able to clip you out and kill you for very little damage taken in return. So stay alive, don't take hits and hit your shots. Autoloaders are generally described as hard to play but they really aren't. They're different but the gameplay basically boils down to the same as it always does; how good you are at reading the engagements and knowing where to be. Once you get the hang of that then anything should click with you once you're comfortable enough to factor in your tank into that as well.
Digging out a camp
Here's a pretty good example. I'll walk you through the entire thing,
First off, reading the map and MM. The team comps are really standard and shouldn't really be an issue. Most likely some idiot will be left alone on the the west side of the river like normal so there should be some damage to farm there. But there's not. What's important however is that the enemy team skipped out on pushing the 9-0 and just went straight to middle. That IS-7 is really hard to dig out without arty in the game and pretty much denies my normal play on the map (win west, cross mid and play outside the 9-0 line for a solid win) so we're currently stuck. I don't know what to do. What's good however is that while we can't really do anything, the enemy team's not exactly doing anything but baby steps either. TVP is staying passive, so is the JgPz, Tortoise is obviously going to die for free and so is the Mod1 as they're both way too exposed and easy to shoot once 9-0 is won. This does leave me some time in the north to just wait it out and see what shots I have, only 2 minutes have passed. Patience paid off. VKB pokes side out so I can do something productive while the IS-7 is currently winning the game for the enemy team. I pay a lot of attention to that IS-7 because if he dies then we can still win this. At this time the CDC and 12 t finally crossed over. So I have to go back. We're stuck on our side and can't let them get control of that. Thankfully the T25 Pilot is doing gods work and deny them the area.
Here's where the magic happens: I now have a play where I can finally cross over, grant my team vision without any real danger. TVP is camping, IS-7 is in middle and the JGPZ is most likely defending the base. The amount of tanks that are actually here are limited so this is a risk I can take. 215b is following which is helpful. Their camp is now broken. I have an angle on their IS-7 now that he can't really get out of. I waste some of my HP to get him out. But he's down. The camp is broken. My team can cross over now. The kicker is that it took too long. The IS-7 bought them so much time that we have a minute to clean out 5 tanks. Never going to happen. Especially after the JgPz pins me down. He goes down eventually but it's also costing the only time I have to work with. This is an issue with assault games in general, but I picked this one because the real play is pretty easy to spot, and identifying a problem and then doing what's necessary to try and solve it. This was obviously getting that IS-7 down. It obviously took too long to do it, but the reason it worked is because of the information I had to work with that wouldn't have been available beforehand. I would've run into a 12 t and a CDC, most likely wound up killed by the two french autoloader heavies.
When it comes to digging out a camp you need to find where you can press so hard that it'll break. It's a camp after all so you should have plenty of time doing so considering that enemy team is generally not going to move anywhere. Information that is 2 minutes old is most likely still pretty accurate. You just need to think past the first engagement. I knew I was going to fight tanks crossing over, maybe even take damage. I knew I had to to get sideshots on the IS-7 because no one else did, and this game it was what broke the camp by denying the enemy team the vision of middle so we could close in. Every camp has a flaw, use the time and their passivity to your favour and find it. It's there somewhere.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading,