Original article by @Mami_Momoe
Disclaimer: surviving is important as it allows you to control the flow of the entire game. However, parking your tank butt behind a bush near cap will not help your team. The advice given in the follow walls of text is supposed to help you survive when you are actively trying to support your team.
Sorry princess, the hero is in another game
Yeah, do not be a hero. The most consistent way to play better is to play modestly. Nobody expects you to 1v1 tanks, hold a flank by yourself, or win the match by yourself. Similarly, there is no honor in dying, either.
I really do not want to try to remember all the times I failed because I got overconfident with my tank, got shot by a TD, and was forced to play with only 100 HP left for another 6 minutes... Just do not get ahead of yourself. Keeping a cool head and thinking rationally will go a long way.
Only idiots look for fair fights
There is nothing more noble and stupid than fighting under fair conditions. The best players always try to have an advantage over the opponent. This can involve all types of tactics which really just boils down to abusing gimmicks (like armor, reload time, HP, and camo) so that you don't lose what is actually important (your tank). Again, survival is key.
For example, let's look at HP abuse. Trading some HP so that you can finish off an enemy tank is usually worth it because you had the higher HP pool and thus the upper hand. However, it is almost impossible to justify trading your tank just to decrease the HP pool of another tank. You had a disadvantage in HP in the first place, so it would have been a smart not to engage.
The underlying principle is that you are abusing the qualities of your tank so that you win against your opponents. I've seen a lot of people tell players who are trying to improve to conserve their HP, but this seems deceptive since brain-dead passive play (like afking in your favorite bush near cap) conserves HP but is useless. HP conservation is usually only a byproduct of good play, and good play involves abusing your own tank and bullying others'.
Do not be overly aggressive during the midgame
The best time to play aggressively is early game. This is when everyone is moving, so they are much easier to spot, and it is much harder for them to shoot at you. Similarly, another great time for aggressive play is the endgame because you help clean off a flank and move on to overwhelm the other side of the map. (Note that these two points are not always true as it is usually harder to play aggressively early in city maps while it is harder to play aggressively in the endgame on open maps with lots of bushes.) However, the worst time to be aggressive is in the midgame.
During the midgame, tanks are often bunched up at defensive spots, which are hard to properly push into. Normally, the important areas of the maps are covered, so it is very hard to “flank” or form a “wolfpack” to kill the main force. (This is also the reason why anyone that tells you to “flank” or “wolfpack” broken tanks are imbeciles.) You should not force things to happen during the midgame unless if you know what you are doing. Of course, I am not implying that you should play passively but it is usually better to err on the side of caution especially when there is nothing immediately obvious to take advantage of.
The most obvious sign of being overly aggressive is if multiple tanks are shooting at or looking towards you and arty is focused on you (when applicable). Having presence on the battlefield and your gun in play are both highly important, but those things are impossible if you are dead, so you should try
6th Sense is not a defensive tool
OK, this sounds really counter-intuitive, but hear me out. As we all know, 6th Sense goes off 3 seconds after being spotted. But this does not do much for a tank in defensive soft cover (i.e. a bush). If there is no hard cover nearby, your tank will probably get blasted if it has not already. Instead, 6th Sense is useful as a tool to check if unspotted enemy tanks are spotting you while you are engaged in active spotting. This is a good way of finding out positioning in competitive play, but it is not always useful in pubs because the positions are very predictable.
Do not rely on 6th Sense to be your savior. It is always better to have an idea of when you are spotted or when you are invisible instead of relying on 6th Sense to tell you three seconds after the fact. I find that I tend to play more sloppily with 6th Sense because it makes me more at ease, but it rarely helps that much.
Location, location, location
Surprise! A new study suggests that a tomato plays just as well as a unicum if both players are tracked out in the middle of a field!
Obviously, an important skill that good players have but pubbies don't is the ability to position yourself. A key location on the map is usually one that allows you to fire upon a large (or important) section of the map. However, this also means that a large or populated section of the map can fire onto you. So, how do you abuse these risky areas?
- The best way to hold a position is to use cover. Soft cover, like bushes, are good for ambush shots and passive spotting while hard cover, like rocks and hills, prevents enemy fire. Keeping exposure time down is good technique, but it's also sometimes better to not peek at all and stay in cover until a better opportunity arrives.
- Know when you need to run. Good spots might not stay viable forever, so know when you need to retreat into better cover or when there are less risky opportunities elsewhere.
- Do not always be the center of attention. Being focused fired is a quick way to die, so you should try to allow your teammates to grab the enemy's attention or hide until the enemy lose interest and aim elsewhere. Although WoT is dominated by high alpha guns, even guns with smaller alpha can use this tactic and slowly build up damage.
Understand what you are doing and why you are doing it
When I tell people that I am going to “#YOLOSWAG420BLAZEIT4JESUS” into the open, I have already decided that I have a good reason to do it (kill a tank, get to a better spot, etc) and that whatever I lose will be compensated by what I gain. If I don't do this, I might choke when something completely unexpected happens and lose my head!
I tried to teach a few friends how to play WoT a long time back, and I found it difficult to articulate ideas to them. Now, I realize that was because I didn't have a clear idea of what I was doing myself back then. Even then, having good players tell you what to do in certain situations is useful, but it is not as useful as actually understanding why they are doing it and being able to use it in game. Understanding the underlying principles is what separates lemmings from good players.