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How to not to suck with stock tanks?
LOTS of gold rounds basically.
Not playing stock tanks, avoid them.
Certain tanks have stock guns that can work. But to not equip elited turrets, elited susp, elited engine is basically very harmful and self defeating. Especially higher tier. Higher tier tanks can require loads of free exp just to make the tank worthwhile.
For instance, Type 61 / E5O / Leo P / Cent7-1 all have ~9Omm class weapons unlocked by the respective tier 8 tanks prior, that offer more DPM than their elite guns and comparable handling. But you always want to at least maintain useful penetration you can work with. For instance, M1A2 76mm may have higher DPM on Pershing than 90mm, but has atrocious penetration. Same with tanks like WZ12O, WZ111-14, AMX12O, E75, AC48. These vehicles have access to lower tier technology that actually rival their elite weapons in some categories, making sense to use them. However, these are just guns, to not use suspension, turret, engine ......you are just handicapping yourself with no fathomable adv except saving free exp.
Pay close attention to ways to save free exp by unlocking late tier modules easier. For instance, completing Charioteer unlocks 12Omm on Conway for free, giving Tortoise a huge step up. Completing Tortoise unlocks Caern engines. Completing Ferdinand unlocks VK45A and PB engines. Foch shares an engine with AMX12O, completing IS7 first unlocks obj 7O5 13Omm gun....and so on there are tonnes of examples.