Original article by @Rexxie
Heavy, Medium, Light, and Tank Destroyer – the four basic classes of World of Tanks. Although the tanks within each class share commonalities with each other, they are incredibly varied. After all, trying to play a Caernarvon like an IS-3 doesn't make a whole lot of sense, does it? The quicker you understand your role on the battlefield, the quicker you'll learn to play your tank.
To make things interesting, I'll be giving each subclass in World of Tanks a mascot class that you might be used to seeing in roleplaying games. Heavy classes gravitate towards the Warrior, Medium classes are reminiscent of the Ranger, Tank Destroyer classes are similar to a Mage, and Light classes end up feeling like a Priest.
Heavy tanks are characterized by high hitpoint pools, some semblance of armor, and high penetration. Their shortcomings tend to be in the way of agility, reticle bloom upon movement, and camouflage values. In your typical role playing game, this would be synonymous with the Warrior class. Let's take a look at Heavy subclasses:
One of the most typical heavy subclasses is the Heavium. As their name implies, these tend to be a combination of your generic heavy and medium classes. In RPG terms, this is your Rogue - mobile like the Ranger and stout like the Warrior. These heavies are characterized by mobility, typically in the way of a powerful engine and generous top speed.
Your goal as a Heavium will be to exploit your mobility advantage over your peers and get yourself into positions that are simply out of the question for them. This superior positioning can allow you to either overcome any advantages your peers might have or tackle opponents (typically mediums) who simply lack the weight to combat you.
[IS-3, VK 45.02 A, 112]
Brawn and bone, these are the emblematic heavy subclass that you think of when you hear the word "tank". Much like in an RPG, these Barbarians are characterized by meaty hitpoint values, relatively powerful armor, and destructive (if unwieldy) cannons. Warrior from concentrate.
A Brute wants to go and smash face. They love close combat and they love slugfests; it's rare for other tanks to be able to overpower them simply by brute force. As a brute, you want to force close quarters combat as often as possible, sticking to streets and passages. Your ability to deny your opponent any way to nullify your armor or firepower is priority - try to keep the skies clear and your opponent in front of you.
[110, KV-4, KV-5, IS-6]
Like a spellsword, support heavies are typically armed to the teeth in either firepower or reliability, giving up a little in order to dish out pain from any range and to any opponent. While they may be mediocre in most areas, they do have comfortable, high-power cannons, much like their TD brethren. They have no issues taking a few hits to get the job done, though, and in many cases can serve as a superior weapon platform.
The goal of a support heavy is to get the gun in play as often as possible and for as long as possible. They might offload some of the heavy lifting onto their thicker-skinned allies, but make up for it each time they fire their cannon. Take down high value opponents and trade your hitpoints favorably and you'll be on the road to success with a Support Heavy.
[Tiger II, Lowe, Caernarvon, FCM 50 t, T34]
These heavies are the black sheep of their class. In typical Bard fashion, they don't tend to fit in any of predefined groups, either because they're incredibly generalist or specialist. Instead of talking about these groups as a whole, I'll talk about the two misc. heavies tanks separately:
The AMX 50 100 is the first. It's an autoloader, and that in itself absolutely demands a unique playstyle. If everything goes correctly, it has incredible firepower that would put even TDs to shame. The goal of an AMX 50 100 player is to find situations where you can empty your clip without much return fire - typically parked beside a reloading or preoccupied opponent.
The T32 is at the other end of the scale. It can do a little of everything with a pinch of something special. It has some armor, some firepower, and some mobility... but not much. T32 players should have no problem doing nearly any job, but they might have a problem doing it as well as any tank that was born for the role. On the other hand, it features one special trait; incredible turret armor. This and this alone will be the difference between a mediocre middle-of-the-line heavy and an impregnable fortress and its use is the goal of any decent T32 driver.
Mobility is king, and mediums have ample mobility. They usually have quite comfortable gun handling and are almost always smaller than heavies, making them both stealthier and smaller targets. While they pay for this in hitpoints, overall firepower, and armor, their flexibility almost always allows them to be competitive on the battlefield.
These are true mediums, and the ultimate flex tanks. They can do anything - scout, support, or absorb a few hits - and have no trouble flexing into any niche that needs to be filled. They are an Adventurer, a blank slate, wildly changing with each match.
Your ability to quickly mold yourself to properly take advantage of a situation is what sets apart bad from good medium players. Read the map and be prepared to adapt to having your plan toppled over - trying to push your medium tank into a situation that isn't ripe for abusing is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It will go badly.
[T-34-2, Type 59, Pershing, T-44]
Much like a support heavy, a support medium gives up some of its other traits for firepower. While this firepower is rarely as effective as a heavy's, the platform it's on is much better suited to the task. This has a lot in common with the Archer, a class devoted to laying down firepower at range and avoiding close combat for as long as possible.
As with any support subclass, keep the cannon in play and you'll be successful. Use the mobility to move around the map not only to best use your cannon, but to keep out of danger. A support medium is even more valuable than a support heavy as the numbers thin out - your ability to flex is incredibly valuable. Stay alive.
[Panther II, Indienpanzer, STA-1, Centurion I, Object 416]
Mediums, more than any other class, like to become weird abominations. Because of this, a few tier 8s couldn't be put into a catagory. I'll give a brief overview of them below:
The Super Pershing is a non-medium medium. It combines medium size and stealth with heavy armor and hitpoints. Because of this, a well played Super Pershing can be one of the most difficult opponents to dispatch. However, a medium without mobility is more of a heavy, and a heavy without firepower is hardly a heavy. This bastard child's goal should be to abuse both the defensive traits of a medium and the defensive traits of a heavy; keep your opponents in front of you, but also keep them a ways away.
The T-34-3 is fairly generic at first glance, but a closer look will reveal that it has more kick in its cannon than most heavies do. When you combine the two together, you get a deadly combination. Unfortunately its marred with a very serious reliability issue - the weapon is clumsy, the gun depression terrible, and the penetration is definitely not what you'd expect for the damage. A T-34-3 player wants to get into positions where alpha is all that matters. Make sure you have superior firepower, have some allies nearby to deter people from pushing on you, and punch people in the face until your HP pool is depleted.
The T69 has autoloader disorder, although not quite to the extent that the 50-100 has it. Combine the clipping advice given for the AMX with the lessons you've learned throughout your medium career and you'll have no issue playing the T69.
Replace Mage with TD and Firestorm with a 155mm shell and you've transitioned from the world of RPGs to the World of Tanks. Tank destroyers are all gun, usually giving up various statistics (most notably, a turret!) for unmatched destructive power. Their defenses are usually limited to their camouflage, and their offensive ability is usually limited to that of a support tank. They're just really damn good at it.
Hard Support TDs
These TDs are the cream of the firepower crop. Nothing in the game matches their firepower, but they are also often unmatched in fragility. Like a mage, these tanks want to avoid being shot at (or even seen, if they can help it) at all costs.
The goal of a hard support TD is to get into a second or even third-line position, pushing out shells without fear of return fire. However, it's more important than ever that these tanks start doing so as quickly as possible - camping might be easy, but it won't pay off. The tanks in this category are very good at staying out of sight; knowledge of camo mechanics will be invaluable.
[ISU-152, Rhm. B. WT]
The tank destroyer's answer to flex, these TDs are very mobile yet retain superior firepower to even the best equipped support tanks of any other class. They are relatively fragile, but their ability to play psuedo-medium is stupidly valuable. A flex TD that's allowed to do his job without people abusing his fragility is without a doubt the most powerful tank in the match. Their importance to their team is like that of gold; like that of an alchemist.
Flex TDs can be played similarly to flex mediums, but have to be extra wary of taking hits. Their way of defending themselves vary between each tank; the AMX AC does it with frontal armor, the Jagd does it with agility, and the SU-101 does it with camo. Despite their defenses, however, these tanks remain fragile for the job they've been tasked. A good flex TD player knows how to position himself on every flank so that he can both flex to it and protect himself while supporting when the time comes.
[AMX AC 48, Jagdpanther II, SU-101]
While the flex TD bridges the gap between TDs and mediums, the assault TD bridges the gap between TDs and heavies. Thick frontal armor and/or abnormally high hitpoint values create formidable front line vehicles. They're not quite as comfortable taking fire as heavies, but they make up for it with much better firepower than any heavy is graced with. The battlemage is often seen in the same light.
Assault TDs want to be right behind the frontline Brutes. For the duration of their existence, their influence on the front lines of battle is unmatched. Your goal as an Assault TD player is to both stay alive on the front lines and help wrestle control of your flank. A player who is adept at using their TD's armor to absorb punishment and stay alive despite the lacking HP is an asset to any front line combat zone.
[Ferdinand, Jagdtiger 8.8cm, AT-15, T28, T28 Prototype]
There are two tier 8 light tanks; the WZ-132 and AMX 13 90. They are both very mobile, well camouflaged, and decently well armed. Despite this, both of these lights highlight their own unique playstyle. Lights in general are very badly armored, have very little HP, and have very little firepower. Their reliance on their team is like that of your typical Priest. They might seem bad (and they probably are), but this is somewhat countered by the fact that have barely anything expected of them, both by their team and matchmaker. A well played light is like finding ten dollars between your couch cushions while searching for the remote.
The AMX 13 90 is the perfect example of a burst light; it forgoes the traditional peashooter lights are normally equipped with for a 6 round, 240 damage autoloader capable of averaging 1,440 damage per clip. While it does lose out on overall gun handling, it doesn't otherwise pay for that firepower. Like a Hunter, you are incredibly mobile and dangerous to lone targets.
The goal of a burst light player will be to jump between scout duty and support duty, doing the jobs of each. Get early vision control over key points on the map and then transition into either a ranged support tank or a autoloading flanker depending on the situation. Light tanks, like other fast tanks, become increasingly valuable as the game progresses. Do not sacrifice early game control to survive until the late game, but don't throw yourself away either. There is no such thing as a good suicide scout.
[AMX 13 90]
Combat Lights are the non-autoloading cousins to Burst Lights and play much like the traditional Scout. Similarly well armed, they forgo the destructive burst that makes autoloading lights so powerful for the reliability of a typical medium cannon. The WZ-132 in particular is a great example – two viable, reliable cannons with great that would would perfectly fine on a tier 8 medium.
The goal of a combat light is almost identical to the goal of a burst light, but the change to a more traditional cannon adds a different means of engagement. A combat light can often support from a distance with much greater reliability, but lacks much of a close-quarters punch. It's best for to play them more carefully, as it's easy to get into a situation where you're hopelessly outgunned.