Last week, I spent a few hundred battles playing the new I-Go. I've been mildly interested in playing this tank ever since I'd first seen what kind of stats it would have. Anything with 320m view range gets my attention. On the other hand, from playing other Japanese low tiers in the past, I knew that I was going to struggle to make much use of it with its slow shell speed.
But three weeks ago, I was thrown a curveball, a real game changer. WG announced that they were going to mess with the map rotation of lower and middle tiers. After a nice three to four years of becoming accustomed to the sniping metagame of tier 2 WoT, the maps were all getting replaced to promote a different style of game. No more would there be the rock & bush camping of Malinovka or Province. The vision game was apparently too difficult for new players to grasp. I never felt that way when I started out. I didn't find any problem grasping the ideas of "moving out into the open against enemies with guns will get me shot" and "far away objects can be hard to see" and adjusting my behavior accordingly. Things like basic spatial awareness and survival instinct are just natural for me, I suppose. Instead, maps like Mittengard and Ruinberg were given more prominent positions in the pool, promoting engagements at such close range that spotting enemies would be a given.
This was done, as claimed by Storm, in an effort to curtail clubbing. It's no secret that the players who wanted to be the best at tier 2 would become the best at playing the vision game that was so much more effective and versatile than doing anything else in the tier. The logic was that by eliminating the vision game, you would be removing from clubbers their primary ability to prevent retaliation through hiding. This would be reflected in their stats by them not being able to get as much damage or as many kills before they'd be knocked out, and this drop in stats would drive many clubbers away. Overall, it was a huge misinterpretation by Storm and company on what motivates players to play in environments like tier 2, but that's the topic of a future blog post.
What really was interesting about this change was what it did for the I-Go. Slow shell speeds are a disaster for doing any kind of sniping, unless you're some kind of savant that can properly calculate slow shell travel time and line it up with enemy tank movement all in your head every two to three seconds that your gun reloads. Even then, WoT has an unfriendly way of handling long distance shots against moving targets with slow shells. No more large and open maps means no more distance sniping issues though. This wasn't great just because it meant I could use more of the I-Go's full damage potential, but it was even more great that the I-Go's DPM was over 2k. The only other thing close to that is the T18, which comes with a whole host of issues such like bad mobility and restrictive gun arc. Previously, the tank with the highest DPM that I could really bear to play was my T2, but that only clocked in about 1.2k. The output for the I-Go would be insane, and it was insane. I had a blast playing through those I-Go battles. In terms of stats, I managed to get better results in damage, kills, and win rate than I'd been doing before in recently playing with the M2A4 and Pz. 35t, and all of the battles were super fast so I could do a bunch more of them in the same amount of time.
Strangely, I didn't seem to run into many other clubbers who adopted the I-Go. I look at clubbers as having been segmented into the following groups:
- Those who didn't adapt (that should have) - These are the people who are still sticking with the tanks they played before the map rotation changed. I'm mostly referring to any Cruiser III players out there. These people are the worst kind of clubber, because it's clear that they only ended up choosing to play the Cruiser III because it was the best tank in the last meta and haven't changed because they're too stupid to figure out what's better. I felt like I ran into lots of players like these, but it may have just been that they stuck out so much to me because of how obviously bad they were being.
- Those who ran away from Mittengard - Anybody who primarily stuck with tiers 1 or 2 that suddenly started playing a lot of T-127 or other preferential tier 3s. Granted, the T-127 itself is pretty great against these new low tier Japanese tanks, but what I feel is more likely is that they're doing what they can to get out of playing Mittengard. Mittengard itself still seems to be getting a lot of hate for being a bad map, and it is a bad map, but this new pool allows tanks to be chosen that play well on Mittengard because those tanks will play well on all the other maps too. Instead of finding ways to make something good out of playing Mittengard, they ran into higher tiers where they wouldn't see it in their rotation. Preferential tier 3s are ideal for this since they are still a low enough tier for games to be interesting and fun, but now high enough to miss playing Mittengard which shows up for 1s and 2s instead of 2s and 3s like before.
- Those who adapted (or didn't have to) - Basically anyone who spent a long time in low tiers that played an I-Go is in this category. I've speculated before on what other tanks would make up the new low tier meta. I-Go would be in there for sure. The hard to penetrate French tanks would be there, the slightly armored and quick M2s would be there, and some of the better autocannon tanks like the Pz. II and Light VIC might show up a bit. I remember seeing a lot of M2s, BT-2s, and Tetrarchs piloted by long time players counting on their speed to outplay the I-Gos.
- Those who quit or went elsewhere - It's hard to say how many really fit into this group.
What I'm interested in figuring out next is where all of the tier 2 tanks stand in this new meta. It's hard to look at things from just having played the I-Go. The perspective is so high and makes everything else look so comparatively worse that it's impossible to tell what really stands out as being better or worse than other tanks. I intend to spend the rest of the month with these Japanese heavies, working as far up the line as I can stand to do. Playing other tier 2s to get a better perspective will have to wait. I at least have some idea now though of where things will shake out. The I-Go will stand at the top, and the T18 might not be far behind. Below that will be the M2s followed by some combination of French tanks, standard gun tanks, and the couple of good autocannon tanks. The other TDs will sit below that, followed by or mixed in with the worse autocannon tanks. The bottom of the stack will be occupied by things like the Vickers Mk. II and the Te-Ke. This is all working on the assumption that view range is far less important now and that alpha, armor, speed, and DPM are more important. When September is over, the first thing I'll start playing with is the H35 with the 25mm gun and possibly the American M2. That and one or two other tanks should be enough to paint the entire picture for where the tier 2 meta stands now.
The map changes really didn't make much negative impact on what I find to be so good about playing tier 2, and certainly didn't do anything to make up for how shit everything in higher tiers works. I think that after some time to adjust, players are going to go back to spending a lot of time in tier 2 because it still retains much of the appeal it had before. WG will have to change things on a more fundamental and large-scale manner to get clubbers out of that environment completely.