This'll probably be the last thread I make regarding improvement, the game is about as milked out in content it can be. I decided to do it now because EU tier 10 is 3 arties every game so I don't really feel like I'm missing out by writing this up instead of playing. I'll also start off by saying that any question you might have (to me specifically) about anything game related when it comes to improvement, preventing tilt, getting out of a rut and so on all the way to tank/map specific things (opening positions, counters, timings, you name it) are things I will do my best to answer in this thread, if it isn't then ask it here and I'll answer to the best of my ability. It's also very little concrete advice here as the meta game gets trickier the higher you go, if you have any concrete questions to give the bones some meat then please do so.
I play this game with absolutely no regard for the outside economy as the account I'm using has 450million credits with almost as much in consumables and there is nothing to grind on the account, it's simply missing some premiums and rewards. I also have acceptable crews for almost everything, and if I don't I switch them out. I don't take outside factors into consideration in the game. I won't keep firing AP instead of APCR for some extra credits at the cost of performance. I give myself the best chance of having as good of a game possible before loading into battle, and if you care about performance then you should too. I am not in the normal position of a WoT player here, as these things really matter early on. A playstyle like this is sustained either through spending money on the game, or a heavy amount of skrims before hitting random battles to keep your economy positive throughout.
This has very little to do with direct game performance but the economy in WoT is a foundation you should build solid as it'll help prevent the most basic problems for a tryhard mentality. Running out of credits has happened to many, many players before strongholds were a thing. Stronghold skirmishes also solves some of the issues for a good service record, if you want a good overall service record on a tank the crew needs to be good, all modules researched and the best ones mounted before loading into randoms altogether. Radios are debatable but to me it's a matter of principle, if it's better I will run it even if the cost/benefit of researching is incredibly low.
Making purchases on sale, stocking up on rations and big kits and so on to the point where it will last you until the next opportunity to do the same is where you'll want to be at or further in your economy. If you can sustain buying all your consumables up front for the entire period when it's on sale and holding off on tanks if they'll be discounted in the foreseeable future, your monetary problems in the game go down by so much. It is a long road to set your economy up that way, as it requires a lot of grinding. You're going from being a customer of consumables and equipment to owning your own depot. If it didn't require a lot of work then everyone would be doing this in the real world too, but it really is the most sensible way of not running into monetary problems as it is one of the biggest issues regarding performance. Not in the performance today, but in your ability to perform in the future.
I'm lucky enough to not have to play skirmishes or spend money on the game now. Premium time, clan boosts and personal reserves make for break even or better with discounted consumables in even the most credit hungry tanks (50B, SConq, E 50 etc) with acceptable performance on them. This is probably where the real thread starts but I felt like making note of how much your outside economy matters and how setting it up to supplement you in the future really makes a difference. I am at the end with no problems at all, all tanks bought, equipped and credits are in overflow to the point where I have my next 15k games already paid in advance. Not having problem with credits ever again is a really big thing. For most players seeking to improve however this'd translate to playing a lot of skirmishes, or buying it with real money. Regardless of what you choose, taking steps towards a more sound economic structure along the way is something I really recommend. Eliminating one of the core problems of having an outside economy (unsustainable costs) while still being able to reap the benefits (other people also have unsustainable costs, and as a result they will ultimately perform worse because of it).
I think about my game in two ways. The battle I just loaded in to play on its own, and then all the battles I played and will play for the session. For the first, economy doesn't matter. For the second one it does. I'll go more into separating your gameplay into these two later, but it's important to remember through out.
Time to start the topic for real:
I'll be answering the most commonly asked questions I get regarding improvement, consistency and on keeping an emotional distance and a professional mindset towards the game. I cannot stress this enough: Having a worker-attitude towards the game fixes a lot of anger management issues the game presents you with, but in doing so you'll start sucking out the fun as well. I enjoy the game enough (although in periods) that I still get enjoyment out of playing with a pro-active mindset to improve. This is where a lot of people fall short and it's totally understandable. An improving mindset is a really boring one. You are playing with an improving purpose, and not an enjoyment purpose. I'd say that I enjoy myself the most in a game where I just play and zone out until the game is over. Back in reality, basically a small escape from the real world for a while until you're forced to do whatever the real world requires of you. Thinking of your game in a similar way takes a lot of fun out of it, as being emotionally invested is an obstacle to overcome to reliable results. Luckily I am a competitive person, so I get my enjoyment out of good results, and many people are similar.
This means that you treat the game as you would an assignment from a school, employer or whatever. It already sounds a lot less fun. You are playing to improve. This means that every rambo-like feeling you get out of casually playing goes out the window just as fast as the aggressive emotions that many people already struggle with fighting off. You can't be emotionally invested either way, as your emotions will influence your decision making that you want to be as pure in logic and reason as they can.
Because of this, you'll want to distance yourself emotionally from the game just like a bad habit in real life. The boss forcing you on overtime means you suck it up even though you're pissed. You are mad because things aren't going the way you wanted and there's no easy fix for that. A worker mindset of adapting to it to the best of your ability and getting better at accepting whatever comes your way to get over it as soon as possible is the best way of dealing with it. This means that everything in the game that is out of your control is something not worth investing into emotionally. This includes everything from being XVM-yoloed, arty-whored or RNG putting a consecutive 4 shots at the edge of reticle. What exactly does an emotional investment get you here? Only fuel to a fire you already want to put out, your emotions are counterproductive right from the get go. This means that you have to let things like these go. They do nothing for improving your current game and only raise the tension for the games to come.
Bad experiences from your current game should be left there, with anything positive to take from it should be at least considered. When sporting a working mindset you'll simply structure your gameplay in a way that you keep refining and re-evaluating your decisions and replace your bad tendencies with good ones. This is how I do it:
Step 1. This is almost always initial deployment. Make up and decide where to go on the map on the spot after you've read the line-up and estimated the general deployment. Step 1 should at least have some benefits of going there, if it doesn't your step 1 is not good enough. This is everything from favourable terrain, free crossing shots, vision, tank advantage on flank and so on.
How much damage is there going to be at step 1? - Try to answer. If you were right, focus on step 2. If you were wrong, think about why. Sometimes this is not taking slow mobility into account, or trading poorly too early etc. Personal misplay is an answer you are going to have to admit a lot of times here,
Step 2. What to do after the initial deployment period and the damage it gave. Step 2 and onward is more difficult to give advice on, as they differ much more from step 1 which will remain fairly similar until you decide on a different opening position. Something to consider here however is how aggressive it should be. I base my aggression on urgency. If there is plenty of damage to farm, there's no need to throw your own HP into the mix until you will start losing out on better situations without it or a better position.
I think about step 2 as I'm doing step 1. Unlike step 1 it will vary a lot more depending on what is happening on the map, information is scarce early on so step 2 changes often. Having step 2 in place however makes for a pretermined decision to fall back on without any time loss. If step 1 yielded much then step 2 doesn't have to be as aggressive as I'm ahead of pace in my target damage zone. If step 1 yielded little then it'll have to be more aggressive as I now have to compensate. Overcompensating is easy however, and when doing so you need to recognise it as just that, and not teammates being bad. You don't get anything to learn out of your mistake if you blame it on somebody else.
Step 3. Step 2 becomes the new step 1, and you think about step 3 the same way you did step 2. The only real difference is that more time has passed in game between them, so the urgency gets higher to hit your target game the longer you go. As you go further into the game the gameplay either ramps up in tempo or massively slows down depending on how the engagements went. A close game slows down, and recognising it as so will let you put the brakes and conserve your HP for enemy mistakes until the game is decided. A steamroll only ramps up in speed, so if you recognise it your need of staying ahead gets higher and higher with time so you adjust your aggression accordingly.
Step 4. Use your remaining HP to get as good of a game as possible. I wait with step 4 until the game is noticeably won or lost. Good micromanagement skills net you better games during steamrolls against you with an extra shot or two. When the game is decided, you don't spare any expenses. Survival rate is arbitrary, and I can't recall the last time I saw a good player wish he had a 10% higher survival rate instead of a full shot extra in DPG. If you have a lot of HP to use at this stage then using it to outdamage your teammates is a good idea. When the game is decided, your own HP isn't more valuable than the damage anymore. If the game is won/lost in a seemingly decisive manner, the damage is all that you can get out of it. So squeeze the last drops of it instead of throwing a Hail Mary for the win that virtually never happens anyway. From personal experience I've found that the risky play to win the game is less beneficial to actually winning than playing for the damage. The amount of times you're able to farm your way back into an even HP pool safely are more frequent than winning a lost game off of a Rambo mission.
A spot on the map generally takes 10-15 games for me to gauge if they're worthwhile or not, so this is quite a bit more of testing the waters than what people assume. The meta changes, so you can't have a fixed handbook for what to do on every map even if the initial deployment is similar. With it you find many solutions to the situation you're in right now, one you will be in later and eventually you come up with a solid enough answer to everything on that area of the map that you'll start consistently having good games throughout. The more the better honestly, but I generally play tanks with little to no armour, so my focus has is around having a good damage dealt/taken ratio. For people more seasoned in slower and armoured tanks this focus would be more on micromanagement and perfecting your initial deployment. Lower mobility means less ability to rotate, so getting better at prediction and foresight hold more value the lower mobility you have.
I talked a bit about emotion and how it's an obstacle for improvement, but there's still more to it to add. Shifting blame. I do this myself and almost every streamer I watch do it too, because accepting blame is difficult. You won't get anything out of a mistake if you blame it on anyone but yourself. It really is a lot of excusing misplay with platitudes in WoT. Arty, XVM and so on screwed your game over for taking an aggressive position. A lot of people write these things off as arty just being arty when in reality they were overreaching. I had this problem a lot when translating from the 3k to 4k barrier. You need to take a breath, get some perspective and look at the situation again. Did you really die because of some BS or were you actually misplaying? If it's BS you can let go of it as those things really are out of your control sometimes, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you let a mistake to learn from go by unnoticed. It's important to hold yourself accountable for your gameplay and if you really do want to improve this is a barrier that is a must to get over or it'll hinder all learning past this point in a fairly cerebral game that requires an understanding of the game that is too complex to put into proper words. There's a fairly good reason most people plateau at some point, and while that plateau is lower in general I can say with certainty that close to every (already) unicum hit a wall because of this. You are fairly confident in considering yourself decent at the game at this point, and your ego is in your way of improvement more than anything else.
Tilting's also very common and I envy the very few who seem to be totally unaffected by it. A good mindset really helps here, as you'll see some of the few people who can live off of WoT content that have to keep playing for their income learnt this too. Most people do have the ability to quit whenever their anger gets the better of them, but when you are literally doing your job while playing you don't. Tilting ruins the rest of the session unless you untilt which is easier said than done, so you do whatever you can from preventing tilt from happening from the start. As I said earlier you really have to give up your emotional investment in both performance and outcome. It just doesn't yield anything positive from a performance perspective. Finding a way to un-tilt is good though if you insist on keeping the session going. For me the session ends whenever I notice myself being emotionally invested, both good and bad. If I load up, have a killer game and felt like I really enjoyed that game then that game is it. I had fun, although for a very short time, and then this session won't be a pro-active one forward if I decide to keep on playing anyway. It's important to separate the two, especially when they're so closely linked together for elitists (performance and fun go very hand in hand for me). If you want to learn then emotions can't get the better of you. If you are having fun while playing that's great, but you're also zoning in and going autopilot which is the biggest single detriment to improvement there is. Unlearning auto-pilot is something that would do every online PC gamer a favour in their gameplay by forcing them to re-learn actively (and onward) instead of only learning periodically and then sticking to what they know. You can obviously enjoy yourself while being a productive learner, but it's much, much harder than it looks. If you want to become better at the game you have to learn, and "having to do" something generally makes it a lot less fun even if it's with your goal in mind.
My ways of keeping my head straight when I had a bad game, am dead and waiting for my tank that are pretty simple and easy to do. They do the trick for me most of the time, and when they don't I simply quit the session and come back at it with fresh eyes later. I generally only play 1 tank at a time, so this works well for me since I have a game to wait out before my next one. I generally try and watch all my games until they are completed because there's more to take from them after dying.
Timestamping - Track rotations and how long they take for other players. If you know how long a rotation takes you can estimate how much will happen in that timespan and how a situation will look when you get there. Just look at the timer at the start and then again when you have what you're looking for. If a rotation is 40-ish seconds, it is for example a perfect rotation for a BC25t after a clip. It matters more on autoloaders since you have a longer string of dead time without being able to deal damage. Knowing this in autoloaders make for much better predictability and an increase in effeciency. If your BC just went on reload and you see a rotation to make that could be good, you have the information on hand that you will be reloaded when getting there. You can deal damage right away. The time spent reloading was spent being useful because you rotated in a situation where you wouldn't deal any damage anyway. Track trading patterns too if you can. Some tanks are tricky to trade against because of their reload timers are off-sync compared to yours. Russian mediums for example can shoot 3 times at a Type 5 on reload before he's reloaded again. If you know this you know how hard you can pressure without risking taking HP back. If you are against a 5A in a russian medium however the reload is off-sync, as you'll be halfway through your third shell when he reloads his second. If he fires and pulls back there, you end up losing the trade at 980 to 640. This means that you don't really have a way to use your RoF as a means of engaging that 5A when there's cover involved. Find a different way or take the bad trade if there's no other way. This is where playing a single tank at a time starts benefitting as these things are much easier to keep track of comparing against the 1 gun (yours) than all tanks. You can do this for pretty much everything, but when playing tanks with higher alpha it matters as single shot trades get more beneficial. A JGPZ wins almost every 1 for 1 trade, so for it to take them makes more sense than a russian medium that will get outtraded.
Backseat gaming. I do this to both streamers I watch and to team mates when I'm post mortem. It probably goes without saying that I don't actually tell them what I think, I just try to backseat them in my head to keep my thought process going to learn. You start noticing how big the gap is and how much skill expression there is in the game by doing this, as methodical decision making is so much easier to spot than someone auto-piloting. It's tricky because things don't play out like you want them to to check if you were right, but you can easily mess with ideas and try to emulate a reasonable outcome out of it. I've gotten everything from good openings (mostly from streamers though), to good counters and responses from random pubbies this way that I didn't think of. They probably didn't think of it either, but I saw it work out so I can make use of it. The biggest use of it is probably that I've identified a lot of bad choices and having been attentive during it you will end up avoiding a lot of mistakes you haven't made yet.
WoT is a PvP game but I found that treating it as PvE makes more sense. One player and 14 bots against 15 bots make for a more sensible way of looking at performance which shifts the focus from a team effort to win, to a player effort in a numbers game. You are alone and your teammates are no good, now do your best anyway.
Consistency needs a solid foundation to build on. and for me this is the general thought process of how I did it. It takes long, but eventually it adds up to being important. The step from 4k to 5k and above was the biggest leap in gameplay for me, and easily the most difficult to approach. The difference between it and the previous level of gameplay was mostly consistency. I'd say that an easy way to put it was that now my median and average game are similar. This wasn't true before, were my median game was almost always higher than my average because of a game here and there going pretty bad. What working through this did for me was raising my average game up to my median, simply having less bad games while the ratio of acceptable to great games stayed the same.
This change isn't much more than 500 damage in tier 10s, but it still matters. For me it was the last bit to focus on in the game, and having experience with it - the improvement never ends. I see so many mistakes in my own play in hindsight that I'll keep working on to remove. To me the game isn't at its most competitive state right now, as a constant 3 arties make for much worse experiences in tier 10 where I generally reside so right now I can't say that my improvement has yielded very much recently, but it did lay the ground work for a better time to come. Consistency for example is the only reason I was able to 3mark the ISU-130. The tank on the EU server has 20 or so owners, with none of them playing actively. In attempting the mark over a year ago I just couldn't break past the 90 mark reliably. The damage requirement of a 3500 combined average was simply too high for me to keep with tank tank. I was the only one playing it until skill4ltu got his as well, so the EMA of the ISU-130 mark was set almost entirely by myself until then. We both wound up just waiting it out. The issue I had was with consistency yet again, as I was struggling with finding a way to get reliable damage out when your penetration is worst in tier. (It's a high DPM/alpha TD with okay gun handling and mobility, while having a non-existent gun arc and very low penetration for those of you who don't know of it). I eventually wound up getting it done, but after taking a very long break from it. Just like all of the challenging gun marks this game has to offer with their reward tanks the consistency is what breaks most players. Having to pressure the game for so much damage so reliably makes single mistakes ruin several hours of work, so you can't make mistakes at this level. A lot of players have been bashing their wall against the Chieftain mark lately, and it's because of the same thing. Consistency matters so much when you are basically forced to either have a good game or re-play your last 10 games getting back to where you were. That's what it did for me in the ISU at least, being more aware, having learned more and approaching the game from a PoV based in logic and reason rather than using your gut and autopilot made the push.
There's plenty of small pointers here and there to improve your game, but IMO this is the big one that sets you up well. If you have the work ethic to keep learning, you'll become more consistent. Eventually more consistent starts meaning better.