Original article by @TheMarine0341
Very often, we'll see actions and behaviors which eventually lead to losses and a TON of frustration with how the game plays out. We then ask "What to do on map XYZ?" and often get the reply "Its situational." What this should imply to the reader is that they need to improve and be aware of how to make decisions in the thick of a fight. I've based my YouTube channel off the concept of decision making and how it can lead to wins which might have otherwise not taken place. Today we're going to look at a few "decision" situations: What decisions were made, how this lead to a win or a loss, and what could have been improved.
1st: Initial Deployment
What is your tank’s role? Are you a well-armored heavy? Are you a soft medium? Are you a well-camouflaged tank destroyer? When you pick your tank and hit "Battle," you should already know what kind of environment you should look for. For example, if I select my German Heavy tank, I know I generally need to find a choke point and anchor that. If I select a Scout tank, I know I can either make an active initial scouting run or remain passive to start the battle, and/or setup for an early ambush. A lightly armored Medium tank? I need to find an area where I can establish vision over a large area and take "safe" shots. Knowing what your ideal terrain, cover, and role are will help reinforce positive results for establishing early damage, early lights of the enemy team, and reinforce key terrain features needed to win several maps. I will go over several examples later.
2nd: Avoid Over-extending
Early in my WOT career, this was (and sometimes still is) my largest weakness: I knew the key areas for my tank, and would go there regardless of what my team was doing. HUGE no-no! At one point I had a well-under-25% survival rate. Wow. And the larger the map, the harder that is to recover from.
A classic example is the map "Highway”: Only a few mediums and you're the south spawn? You know the A1 corner can be important for winning map control. But, by the time you get to E1, it's plain to you by the minimap that the other medium in your line-up is going to the city area, the scout is rushing down the river, and your only backup will be a bottom tier TD. You have two choices: Continue to A1 and die rapidly and do only 1 shot of damage, or initially light the enemy from the bush at the bottom of D1. You should quickly realize that pushing onward is the wrong choice. Getting two or three shots from D1, and relocating will be the better choice. Slowly bleeding the enemy instead of a reckless dash for key terrain can be a deciding factor ultimately in whoever wins the fight. At this point, slowing a potential advance is more important than losing your tank in a helpless fight over the corner of the map.
Here is an example of this happening exactly as I describe here. I do wish the battle results had been different, but instead of doing 1 damaging shot before I died I was able to at least slow the enemy force before dying
3rd: Taking the Correct Risk/OODA
Risk needs to be taken to win a fight. The Roman poet Virgil writes, “Audaces fortuna iuvat - Fortune favors the bold.” Deciding what is the correct risk and the wrong risk can quickly turn the tides of a battle. Describing such situations is much harder to do, but a very boiled-down version of this comes to a simple point: Will the damage I do or enable my team to do win an engagement, or will it cost more? Damage tips the scales of a fight. Allowing too much damage to you or your team can lose you a fight and, ultimately, the battle. This stage of the battle is now where the OODA Loop comes much more into play.
Observe: We now know (about 2 minutes into the battle) where the majority of their team is deployed. You can tell by the mini-map display that your flank is weak or strong, or that their flank is weak or strong as well.
Orient: The most subtle of the 4 steps, often coinciding with the next letter D (Decide.) As you make your next decision, you're orienting your tank to accomplish the next step of your mission.
Decide: You decide that pushing or retreating is the best course of action, or perhaps staying put.
Act: Following through with your decision.
You're repeating these four steps constantly. These steps should NEVER stop happening. When you feel yourself tiring of this, you really should stop playing for a bit and take a break until you're refreshed. Otherwise your immediate in-game performance will suffer, you will go on-tilt, and will continue to play very poorly until you're able to reset.
Examples of Initial Deployments:
From the South, we have the "White" zones. These areas are either key features which must be won, or areas which can enable a push or a win.
Zone 1, White:
Heavy tanks which are quick ( i.e. T110E5 or 113) or Mediums which get a bad spawn.
Not Recommended for slow heavy tanks or TDs.
From this area, a tank can get shots up at H8 (right and below Yellow Zone 2) or engage tanks at H9, just above Yellow Zone 1. While this area will not "win" the area per-se, it’s still a good or great area to get damage and help your hill force.
Zone 2, White:
Medium tanks or fast heavies with a good spawn (i.e. AMX 50B, slower mediums).
Not Recommended: Slow heavies or TDs.
This typically turns into a brawling area, which is NOT arty safe but is vital for winning the hill.
Zone 3, White:
Fast Mediums and light tanks (i.e. BatChat, AMX 13-90, RU 251)
Not Recommended: Any tank which cannot make it past White Zone 2 without being spotted
This area is more of a high risk/high reward, depending upon your team’s composition. This forces the north spawn to attempt to defend themselves from three lines of fire, which is just beyond overwhelming in a public battle.
Personally, my favorite zones for South deployments are 1 and 3. I feel these areas can have the largest impact early in a fight, bringing the battle your way. Now, why not anything North for the south area spawn? Well, because Wargaming has made this one area, the Hill, the dominate feature on the map. You do NOT need a heavy tank presence on the north side, you only need an acceptable vision presence there to keep them honest. Same goes if you're in the north spawn.
Now, for the Yellow Zones
Unfortunately, the south has an advantage when attempting to win the hill. Too often, this map can be pre-determined as a win for the south if they're gifted a medium lineup with skilled medium players. However, an attempt still needs to be made to win the hill. So,
Zone 1, Yellow:
Tanks with turret armor, but too slow to get up the hill (i.e. T110E5, RU medium with a bad spawn)
Not recommended: Soft tanks
While I have not played this area too often myself, it can let you put out some great damage and allows you to support teammates on the hill. Unlike White Zone 1, it’s a "bit" safer to advance earlier, at least in my experience, to attempt to shoot up into White Zone 2. However: unlike White Zone 1, there is only hard cover, so assume that you’ll be spotted as soon as you move out.
Zone 2, Yellow:
Fast Mediums or Heavies (ie E50M, STB-1, AMX 50B with good spawn)
Not Recommended: Any tank with a bad spawn
I don’t recommend any tank with a bad spawn attempt to force themselves into this area. It’s not arty safe, and if you back down even slightly, you’re vulnerable to fire from White Zone 1. You really need overwhelming force to win this position, and unless the south spawn sends very few tanks up the hill, even your faster tanks (BatChat, Leo 1, Lights) cannot make it to the top of the hill before being engaged by tanks from the south spawn. North spawn MUST overwhelm this position in order to win it.
Zone 3, Yellow:
Mediums, after zone 2 is won.
Not recommended: Tanks without camo (i.e. Heavy Tanks)
Thanks to map design, this area is harder to get to early in a fight, but can be vital later in the fight to winning the hill and map control.
Example of Risk-Taking:
This process will continue throughout the entire battle. A constant state of "OODA" is vital for understanding the flow of a battle and recognizing key moments. Again I want to stress that taking risk is needed to win a fight, but do not take a risk that will destroy your chances at winning a fight.
A great example of taking such a risk happens here with SirDerpsABit from Villian, an "Awesome Replays" poster from the WOTLabs Forums. We are north spawn on Mountain Pass, and Derps and I are both in brand new WZ111's with poor crews. I looked at the lineup and note that both teams are fairly heavy, but I felt there was a good chance that their Heavy Tanks would deploy to the 1-2 line areas, expecting a brawl with us. Instead of playing the map as I normally would and going to the typical area, I ask if he would like to push the Ice Road. I would never make this move solo, but with Derps with me, I felt there was a strong likelihood that we would find a lot of tier 7 tanks to feast on, and 1 or two heavy tanks which we could quickly dispatch.
So, what led me to believe this?
1) The power of XVM.
Most of their heavies were yellow players, meaning to me they would predictably go to the typical brawling area on the 1/2 lines. This happens 95% of the time, why should this time be any different?
2) Many of their lower tier tanks were yellow/shades of red. To me, this meant they would try and snipe up the Ice Road if they deployed to this area, as they would usually only deal with tanks at long ranges, coming from 1 angle. RNG might or might not help them.
So, I decide that we can risk going down from the Ice Road.
The WZ111 is a fast heavy that can get down low and change the engagement range in our favor. The terrain in that area favors a relatively short tank like the WZ111 that can hull-down, and if there had been artillery, only an FV304 would have had any chance of nuking us. Derps and I had played about 10 games at this point, and we've done an excellent job covering for one another as our HP dropped so I know we can rotate well. If we meet heavy tanks, I’m certain we'll be fine. If we meet their tier 7s, I’m even more certain we'll roll them hard.
We get to the base of the road, and indeed find lightly armored tanks.
I do take too much damage, so I let Derp get the first shot before I take my own.
We then move to their cap area, where now another T34 and Super Pershing have left the mid, and again Derps and I work together to focus them down. I only have about 500 HP when we start this engagement, but as you can see...
I end up with 3495 damage with 3 kills, and Derps ends up with 3494 damage and 2 kills. We make a bold, but educated, move which enables us to quickly dominate a flank, forcing a response and a weakening of the other flank. Im sure if we had gone the other flank, we would have still won but not as decisively nor quickly. Bold but educated choice, dominate and win.
Battles are a constant cycle of OODA decisions. Knowing your tank’s role, being aware of your position (battle extension), and taking proper risk can and will improve your Win Rate dramatically. Far, far too often a fight is lost simply because a team is reactionary and over extends. Be aware of your tank, be aware of your teammates, be aware of the enemy.
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