Original article by @rocketbrainsurgeon
In a game where the goal is to put more damage into the enemy than they put into you, the rammer equipment has to be a no-brainer choice... right?
The enemy of "great" is "good": when there's something that brings success, we do more of it and tend to stop learning as we think we've already solved the problem. But sometimes that success can be correlation instead of causation, or that small success can hold us back from larger success. Like the sports player who has a routine before games because it's "lucky", our minds try to create causation where there is none. Or we have success and attribute that success to all the wrong things.
But a little bit of failure helps in these times, to give us reasons to look at everything more carefully. Recently I've played a lot of the Chinese tanks, and my damage per game was dropping through the floor. I tried different playstyles: brawling, sniping, scouting. I tried shooting nothing but gold ammo. I tried changing the way I aim: more snap shots, all full-aimed shots, etc. There was even such desperation that all HE ammo was used. Not even kidding.
My standard setup for mediums and heavies was: Vertical Stabilizer / Rammer / Optics. Super standard. On tanks that had low aim times (T-62a, FCM), this worked great. But there were plenty of tanks that were not working: pretty much all Chinese tanks. The problem is that they are made for brawling, but not every map has areas to do so. So on many maps I'd be the worst RU knock-off tank there ever was, putting holes in the dirt and sky. And I realized: if the shots don't hit the enemy, that extra 10% damage that the rammer gives me is meaningless. What I need to do is get the shots that I do fire to actually deal damage.
Creating a new mindset
Taking off the rammer is hard from an intellectual perspective.
Who cares about aim time when:
- 66% of all shots are going laser straight just by how the accuracy mechanics work
- It's possible to fully aim while the shell is reloading
- When very close, snap shots are just fine
- When outside visual range, there's all the time in the world to aim
On paper, the choice of a rammer looks pretty clear. There was one problem: what I was doing wasn't working, and removing the rammer was one thing I hadn't dared try yet. I wanted to move to a setup like Stabilizer / GLD / Vents (or optics) to minimize aim time as well as exposure.
A small test
I decided to play a few games, and during the games I'd look at every shot and decide: Do I want faster aim or faster reload for this shot? If I'm waiting for the reticle to aim but have a shot loaded, that means I want faster aim time. If I'm sitting there waiting for reload and fully aimed in, then I'd want a faster reload. I asked myself this question on every shot.
I didn't bother to record results, as it quickly became apparent: I prefer faster aim time in the vast majority of situations.
It's a playstyle thing
I have a very active playstyle, typically being at the front of the pack. In general, this is sub-par at times: the vision mechanics, accuracy mechanics, gold ammo, and huge alpha tanks all dictate a more cautious approach. My stats all positively spike just by keeping a tank between myself and the enemy at all times... but this type of play doesn't appeal to me. I like leading, which means getting spot and shot before others.
If you're the type that sits in the back, the rammer is going to be more important for you.
After trying setups of Stabilizer + GLD + Optics for ~50 games, my damage per game in the Chinese tanks has exceed their RU counterparts! I'm not sure this makes them good, I'm not sure this makes the setup correct, but I'm happy with my performances and trying something different.
On many of the other nations' tanks, the rammer is going to be the way to go as the fire control is manageable with only a Stabilizer. But there are still many tanks where the aim time is ridiculous, and with an aggressive playstyle I now believe the rammer should be left in the garage for some playstyles and tanks.
It shouldn't have been this hard to come to this conclusion
I just kick myself for being so stubborn sometimes.
Damage per minute (DPM) has never been a serious consideration when evaluating a tank unless it's on an extreme. The T29 has lower DPM than tier 5 tanks yet it's still considered the best tier 7. The batchat and E-100 have near bottom levels of DPM for tier 10 but are still clan wars staples. The M6 has 30% more DPM than the KV-1S, but it's the KV-1S that dominates tier 6.
So why was I so afraid to give up 100-200 DPM on paper? Because I thought I already solved this problem, and turned my brain off to the possibility of not equipping a rammer. But when I looked at every shot I was taking in my games, being able to fire sooner increased my effective damage per minute as well as made my shots more accurate when I didn't fully aim.
Sometimes it's good to look back on the basics: pick apart the things you think you're good at... you might be surprised.