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Crew Skills, Retrofits, And How To Best Use Them

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Since I've already done a thread about commanders and how to make the most of them, I figured I'd make a thread for crew skills and retrofits. I'll go in detail and provide what retrofits and skills are the best.

Crew skills
Note: these are different from the commander's skills. You cannot transfer non-commander crew members between vehicles.
Each crew member can only have 2 skills at most and some vehicles have more than 1 of each crew member while some have less.
The more crew members you have, the slower your skills level up, but you get to pick more skills since you have more crew members. Choose skills wisely.

Driver Skills:
Smooth Ride - 20% better dispersion while turning or moving the hull of your tank
Battering Ram - 30% increase in ramming damage to enemy vehicles
Off-Road Driving - 10% better traction on off-road terrain
Spin To Win - 10% increased hull traverse speed

Gunner Skills:
Marksman - 20% better maximum accuracy (maximum accuracy is your raw accuracy stat; fully aimed shots are affected by this skill.
Do The Twist - 10% faster turret traverse speed
Quick Draw - 10% faster aim time
Shoot From The Hip - 20% better minimum accuracy (minimum accuracy is the worst possible bloom you can have; unaimed, moving reticule size is affected by this skill.

Loader Skills:
Rapid Fire - 5% faster reload speed
Preparation - 20% faster ammo swap speed
Explosive Shells - 20% increased module damage against enemy vehicles
Secured Ammunition - 40% increase in ammo rack module HP

That's all the crew skills in the game at the moment. So let's rank them by their usefulness, separated by each member category.
First off, the driver:
1. The best skill is arguably off-road driving. This is the go-to first skill for pretty much every vehicle.
2. Smooth ride is a good alternative however since it helps your dispersion. It's especially useful on MBTs, less so on AFVs due to their already low bloom, but nearly useless on light tanks since they have no bloom while stationary or at low speeds, but at high speeds the skill has some use on them if you move around a lot with your light tanks.
3. Spin to win is a decent choice if you have late-tier Russian MBTs to improve their turning even further, or to help mitigate the slow turn speed of some AFVs. Generally however, you'll see much more benefit from off-road driving.
4. Battering ram is the worst skill by far for obvious reasons. Ramming damage is pretty difficult to get in this game (except against teammates) and with a limited amount of skills you should pick any of the above skills before ever getting this one.

1. In general, quick draw is the best skill. It helps the aim time for tanks that need it the most, namely SPGs, MBTs, and AFVs. LTs do not get as much of a buff from it for the same reasons as smooth ride isn't that good for them; their class-native skill gives them no bloom when stationary and on the move your aim time will not settle at all, meaning it's only useful after you turn or move. AFVs benefit a lot from this skill since it quickly resets their bloom after firing, and since autocannons fire so fast you'll want to maximize aim time as much as possible.
2. Marksman is best used on vehicles with bad or already good accuracy. Generally, go for Quick Draw first and Marksman second if you can. This works best for AFVs and MBTs, with TDs not seeing much of a boost due to their meh/bad accuracy. LTs, however, benefit from it pretty well if their gun is accurate. The ET is a good example.
3. Shoot From The Hip is a pretty meh skill. It can be combined with smooth ride to allow relatively accurate firing on the move, but due to the nature of this game not many vehicles benefit from on-the-move firing. This skill works best on SPGs and some fast light tanks, but even then I would still prioritize the aforementioned skills.
4. Turret traverse is pretty much useless. Most non-MBTs turn their turrets more than fast enough for reliable target acquisition, and only a handful of MBTs are actually so slow that with the combined effort of turret and hull traverse, they still can't catch up. Unless you happen to be playing one of these VERY slow turning tanks, you should probably overlook this skill as a whole because it's not very useful. And before you say "what about AFVs?" the problem with circling MBTs generally comes from not being fast/not turning fast enough, the turrets on AFVs are usually way ahead of the hull in terms of turning.

1. Rapid Fire is the obvious choice. 5% faster reload, why not? HOWEVER, this is a very big "if," which is why there are 2 number 1 picks here.
1. If you have a commander that increases module damage dealt against enemy vehicles, explosive shells should almost always be your number 1 pick. Be it driving arty, an MBT, or an AFV, you should maximize module damage if you have a commander that already has a skill that boosts it. Even more so if you end up shooting HE a lot. You can damage 5+ modules with a single HE shell at times with both of these skills combined.
3. Preparation is a pretty alright skill, but since ammo swapping happens a bit more in this game than in WoT, it is a decent choice for vehicles such as AFVs and LTs. Some AFVs have the ability to swap between 4 different rounds (Auto-AP, Auto-HE, HE, ATGM) and LTs almost always get 3+ different shell types. Unless you're the type that only shoots one type of shell most of the match, it will come in handy pretty often.
4. Despite the fact that in WoT, I'd always recommend Safe Stowage as at least a second skill for the loader, AND the fact that it's 40% in this game rather than 12.5%, you just never really see ammo rack damage in this game. There's even a retrofit that increases ammo rack HP if you don't want to give up a loader skill. So generally, same as with turret traverse for the gunner, you should just overlook this skill.

So now that you know what crew skills do, I should cover retrofits and what tanks best to use them on.
I will list options for both Mk. 1 of each retrofit and Mk. 3. However it should be pretty obvious that you should always mount the highest mark available, but in the case that some dual-stat retrofits provide a worse single-stat bonus than another retrofit, it's up to you to figure out whether you want to use (for example) Mk. 2 Experimental Propellant or a Mk. 1 Magnetic Actuator. Also, if you do not have one of the retrofits listed, go for the next best alternative.
I will not go in detail on these retrofits' stats or how to unlock them since that can be seen in game. I don't want to make an already very long post even longer.
These are ranked by their usefulness in general, so your mileage on what is the most useful will vary. I'll explain all of these rankings a bit later down.
I should also note that you should ALWAYS (unless you're poor) put a retrofit on no matter how useless it is. Universal slots are rare, so fill those up with the best you can mount, but don't ignore a mobility slot on an MBT just because they generally suck.

Armor retrofits:
Internal Hull Reinforcement - Okay, let's be brief here. This is pretty much the only armor retrofit worth using. All the others give a smaller HP bonus, even at Mk. 3 compared to the Mk. 1 of this one. The only reason to use another one is if you're stacking HP, in which case it doesn't matter which one to use, just use the one with the highest available mark.
Ammo Rack Reinforcement - No comment.
Improved Spall Liner - No comment.
Reinforced Engine Housing - No comment.

Firepower retrofits:
Chrome Barrel Lining - This one is good for anything really. Only AFVs do not get a large boost from this since they deal low-single-shot damage anyway and won't rely on their accuracy much. ESPECIALLY good for tanks like artillery and TDs.
Magnetic Actuator - Best for MBTs and arty obviously. Has priority over E.P. if you have bad aim time. Also useful on AFVs to boost their aim time, but Gyroscopic Stabilizers has priority over this one for AFVs.
Experimental Propellant - Probably the single best piece for MBTs and arty. If you don't have bad aim time, even Mk. 1 of this has priority over all other retrofits unless they are Mk. 3 of something like M.A. or G.S. for example.
Advanced MRS - Really not sure how useful this piece is, and it's not very well explained by the devs. Better safe than sorry, so let's assume it's not that good. You'll usually be shooting weak spots anyway so normalization won't matter much. Best on TDs and MBTs with bad accuracy. Does not work for non-AP shells from what I've heard, so your tank must fire AP or else it's useless.
Enhanced Shell Materials - A really good retrofit for tanks that have to deal with bloom. Best on artillery (relocation) and LTs that move around a lot. AFVs do not benefit that much since shooting on the move isn't exactly a common practice, but even at Mk. 2 it's better than the A.T.S.
Gyroscopic Stabilizers - A good combination of aim time and reload, best for TDs and AFVs unless you use ATGMs for your main source of damage.
Advanced Thermal Sleeve - Since this has no Mk. 3 (yet) it really shouldn't be picked above any of the other dual-stat reload retrofits. If you do have the Mk. 2 however, it MIGHT be better on some vehicles like TDs and tier 6+ LTs.
Augmented Breech Lock - Since there is only a Mk. 3 for this one, it's unlikely you'll get to use it over another retrofit. However, if you do have it, it's amazing for TDs and tier 6+ LTs.

Mobility retrofits:
Air Induction Precleaner - Alright, same deal as armor retrofits; there really isn't much diversity between mobility retrofits and they don't matter much to begin with. That said, the A.I.P. is probably the best one of them all. This takes priority over all other mobility retrofits. 
Advanced Supercharger - This one, however, is also pretty good. This should really just be used on AFVs and LTs; LTs to boost their max speed for the ECU, AFVs for obvious reasons and to slightly extend their camo breakoff point. The hull traverse itself is also really good on some tanks like SPGs and certain scouty AFVs, or just to compensate for slow-turning AFVs/MBTs.
Enhanced Drivetrain - No comment.
Improved Filter Systems - An okay-ish alternative for LTs if they don't have the A.I.P or the A.S. to improve their ECU top speed. Not really useful on anything else except for AFVs if you also don't have the A.I.P. or the A.S.
Enhanced Oil Cooling - No comment.
Upgraded Transmission - No comment.

Technology retrofits:
Braided Kevlar Wiring - Welp, technology slots aren't exactly stellar either. But let's go over this. AFAIK, "penalty reduction" means you suffer a smaller penalty when one of your modules is damaged/destroyed. Module damage is pretty rare, so there's very little reason to mount a retrofit with this as a dual-stat for that alone. That said, if your MBT has a technology slot and you only have Mk. 1 optics AND your view range isn't already decent/good, you might as well mount this for the slightly better crew skills.
Security Control Package - This is probably the most useless technology retrofit. Sometimes it can save your ass in a close match, but most of the time it sits there doing nothing (like most technology retrofits.) If you want to do some triple-platoon trollcapping, it's best to maximize it by playing a trooper-carrying AFV and have Sabrina maxed out. Otherwise, you should really never touch this thing.
Augmented Optics - The best all-around technology retrofit. Best on AFVs for obvious reasons, but it should probably also be slapped on anything with decent view range.
Enhanced Sight Interface - Trash on its own as it provides a worse VR bonus than A.O. However, if you get 2 technology slots or want to maximize view range, it's worth putting on.
Intercom Systems - Currently this is bugged, but once it is fixed it will probably be the single best retrofit piece due to how crew skills work. To sum it up: it's supposed to increase all of your crew abilities by a flat percentage, for example the Mk. 1 of this piece will give your loader a 5% faster reload for a combined total of 10% when he is at level 5. The more crew members you have, the more use you see out of this skill. 

So, let's narrow this down to just which stats you should boost for each vehicle class. Starting with AFVs:
With few exceptions, generally your goal should be to maximize your view range then your firepower. A lot of them get mobility slots, but you should not waste universal slots on that. Use them for view range and firepower.
Some vehicles like the Ramka, Terminator, Swingfire, and BMD-1/BMP-1 are strange outliers and have a weird platform or don't have an autocannon at all, and should follow the retrofit upgrade line of thought for the closest class equivalent. ATGM reliant AFVs should maximize damage and reload, since aim time, accuracy, and bloom are all non-factors. Single-shot ones (or ones with a single-shot option, a la BMD-4/BMP-3/BMP-3M) should prioritize damage and aim time like MBTs.
Generally, for AFVs, the firepower upgrade list goes like this:
Aim time > reload = accuracy > dispersion > damage.
Since autocannons fire in bursts and (hopefully) hit armor that's already paper anyway, the goal is to make sure you can land as many shots as accurately as possible. Since each shot slightly sets off the aim time, boosting aim time as much as possible is best for long-range shots, which is what you should be doing. However, if you deal most of your damage via flanking, reload is #1. Damage is obviously at the bottom since you only add a single-digit amount of damage.

TDs are a tricky one since they vary from pretty damn good at low tiers to total garbage at high tiers, so I'll look at them separately.
For low tiers, TDs are all about their camouflage, rate of fire, and view range. If you have technology slots, you should put on augmented optics. However their firepower is still their priority. At low tiers, MBTs are much more paper and also dumber and slower. You won't need single-shot alpha as much as you do at high tiers, but you'll want to make sure every hit connects. So for low tiers:
Reload > accuracy = damage > aim time > dispersion.
The faster you reload the better, and the more you hit the better as well. Their aim time and dispersion aren't particularly good or bad, so they take the back seat to every other stat.

High tiers, however, are a totally different subject...
TDs no longer have a huge VR advantage and their camouflage vanes with the tiers really, really quickly. You'll end up getting spotted more often than not and since you are so huge you are going to get hit. There's no way around this.
MBTs also get much more armor starting at tier 5 and 6. You can no longer trust your DPM to carry you. As with most other vehicles, prioritize firepower, but armor secondarily. If you have an armor slot, you better damn fill it up with the best armor retrofit you have.
Accuracy = damage > aim time > reload > dispersion.
TDs at high tiers, with the sole exception of the Stryker, have pretty shit accuracy considering how far their engagement ranges are. They will also need to build up their alpha as much as possible, since if they do connect a hit and penetrate, they usually don't get a chance at a second shot. Their aim time and dispersion get a bit worse at higher tiers, but you're gonna be camping one spot anyway so what does it matter. Mind the gun depression!

Since LTs have some pretty awesome class bonuses, it's pretty much a question of what you happen to like the most. Like TDs, I'll have to split this up in 2 seconds since tier 3-5 LTs have pretty much nothing in common with tier 6+ ones.
As with the others, firepower is the priority here. But depending on the vehicle, either mobility or armor are number 2. Also, if you experience frequent engine damage (I have) then you could always put on the engine HP retrofit.
The Scorpion relies on HE damage, the Sheridan relies on HEAT and ATGMs, and the Bagelpanzer relies on HEAT and ATGMs as well. Not much can be said about these tanks, just maximize damage and aim time, or reload if otherwise possible. As for mobility slots, ALWAYS go for something that increases track traverse or at least top speed.
Damage > accuracy > reload > dispersion > aim time.
You'll be using peekaboo tactics a lot and your guns have pretty heavy reload times. Because you don't get AP, you should maximize damage for the few targets you can reliably penetrate. They also don't have stellar accuracy, so boost that if possible.

Tier 6+ light tanks are much more consistent thought the tiers however. They get reliable single-shot guns with HE, HEAT, and AP. Sadly they lose their ATGMs however. Most of the combat you'll be doing involves hill sniping and sometimes flanking.
Reload > damage > accuracy > aim time = dispersion.
Because of their dispersion ability, if you play LTs like snipers you won't have to worry much about managing your aim time. Even then, it's not much worse than TDs, so aim time and dispersion really are not much of a concern unless you play LTs VERY actively. If you do, then use retrofits that boost dispersion rather than aim time.

And lastly we have the big guys. Generally, MBT gameplay comes down to which of you can pen the other's weak spot more reliably between reloads. So naturally this results in a lot of peekaboo gameplay, which means you should maximize your damage and aim time to get the biggest shot off before the enemy does.
If you get technology retrofits, put on crew skill enhancing slots if you don't care about view range. If you have decent or good view range, put on optics so you might counter spot whatever might be shooting at you. Keep in mind firing pretty much turns your camouflage negative in this game, so every meter of view range you have means much more than in WoT.
Damage = aim time > dispersion > accuracy = reload.
Simple. Get the biggest boom out of your buck and stack as many aim time/damage increasing retrofits as possible.

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Good write-up but I sort of disagree with some things at the moment. Maybe it'll matter more at the higher tiers but at 1-5, I'll take reload and aim time over anything else on almost every vehicle. The base versions of damage retrofits basically offer an extra 20 damage or so per shot on the average vehicle that isn't a Sheridan or Russian MBT (no sane person plays the Starshit) and with such a small bonus, it's better to just out-reload your teammates a single time.

I also think that off-road driving is a waste of time on LTs and TDs because they can go so damn fast that you reach the ideal location for them well before any enemies have a chance to spot you. Instead, I prefer Smooth Ride > Off-road, Rapid Fire > Explosive Shells and Quick Draw > Sharpshooter, with some room for variation (ammo swap is super handy on certain vehicles and some tanks could use the improved accuracy when aimed in).

AW is generally full of very long range engagements compared to WoT, even in MBTs, so I vastly prefer the tiniest advantage in aiming and reload over slightly more damage per shot or slightly better mobility. On top of that, I am also one of the many victims of the dreaded Shot Delay bug, so auto-aiming and YOLO'ing around where the mobility advantage would come in handy is out of the question. Now, if AW at some point allows you to snapshot without getting pre-8.6 KV-2 accuracy if you're even 0,01 second off being fully aimed I'll reconsider some of this stuff. And the base accuracy on almost every vehicle so far is already good enough that you're crying about missing a weakspot at 400m, so I generally don't do much to buff it.

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Let's say you take a skill like Smooth Ride for instance, which increases you accuracy by 20% on the move.  I'm assuming that it means your bloom is 20% better on the move then.  Now my question is this, do skills such as this and other ones that improve accuracy also improve aim time?  If your bloom/aim circle is smaller to begin with, doesn't that mean your aim time should be less as well?

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On 03.11.2015, 09:26:13, RollerCoaster47 said:

Let's say you take a skill like Smooth Ride for instance, which increases you accuracy by 20% on the move.  I'm assuming that it means your bloom is 20% better on the move then.  Now my question is this, do skills such as this and other ones that improve accuracy also improve aim time?  If your bloom/aim circle is smaller to begin with, doesn't that mean your aim time should be less as well?


My own testing confirms it, they don't seem to do anything for the time being. 

Even if it worked properly, I don't think it'd have an impact during turret traverse (as VStab has in WoT, for instance), and since you don't get any movement bloom right away as it is (takes a second or so?), I think aim time skills/retrofits would still be better.

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