“Road to Unicum” Episode 5: T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle (WoT)

In this episode, I discuss how to meaningfully contribute as a bottom-tier medium tank in World of Tanks (WoT), with footage from a tier 10 Serene Coast battle in my T-44.

As a bottom-tier tank, I have to respect the advantages of higher-tier opponents, who have more HP, stronger armor, higher alpha damage, better DPM, and superior vision control.

That said, even with a low penetration gun, by carefully watching the minimap and being opportunistic, I was able to make a solid contribution.

Additional comments:

  1. props to the STB-1 driver (ahmechanic2) who played very well throughout the battle
  2. at 4:23, the JPE100 driver (andrewb610) made the right call to flex east and delay their tanks on that side, which bought time for us to crush their forces north and west
  3. I nearly got wrecked at the 7:30 mark while typing a thank you to the STB-1. I have a tendency to be chatty during matches, and sometimes it screws me up. LOL

Feedback from [BULBA] CrackerBInebriated:

One thing I did see as a mistake was how you didn’t even attempt to engage the conqueror after he killed your IS3 at the cap. I know it has a quick reload, but you had a good side shot and time to escape after he had fired and needed to reload

I didn’t address that in the video but in real-time I realized I had made a mistake.

The mistake is that when I started pulling back, I stayed too close to the rocks on my left – as a result I a created a bigger gun depression challenge in terms of getting my gun down on the target. You can see that I start wiggling just to the right of the rock a bit, but realized I was taking too much time and lost the opportunity.

This video is part of my “Road to Unicum” series in which I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1%). I talk through how I’m reading the battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

Next episode: first look at the ELC AMX
Previous episode: T-44 Review, Holding the High Ground

I’m planning two ELC AMX videos – one of a tier 6 battle and another of a tier 8 battle – to show how to play the tank in different situations. It’s such a unique tank!


Taugrim's WoT Stats


Posted in Guide, Medium Tank, PVP, Video, World of Tanks

“Road to Unicum” Episode 4: T-44, Holding the High Ground (WoT)

In this episode, I review the T-44, a tier 8 Russian medium tank in World of Tanks (WoT).

I also discuss the value of high ground – an age-old principle of warfare that holds true in WoT on some maps – with footage of my T44 in a Mines battle.

Holding the high ground provides the following benefits:

  1. you have opportunities to take flanking shots on enemies below you, because they are preoccupied with tanks in front of them
  2. you can cover different sides of the map with minimal repositioning
  3. you control the extent of your tank’s exposure

In addition, I talk about the importance of being active – that is, playing smartly aggressive – as opposed to being passive / campy and letting the battle outcome be determined without you.

This video is part of my “Road to Unicum” series in which I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1%). I talk through how I’m reading the battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

Next episode: T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle
Previous episodes: Reviews of E50, E50M, and T-34-85

After the next T-44 video, I’m planning two ELC AMX videos – one of a tier 6 battle and another of a tier 8 battle – to show how to play the tank in different situations. It’s such a unique tank!


Taugrim's WoT Stats

Posted in Guide, Medium Tank, PVP, Video, World of Tanks

Review: Red vs Brown Cherry MX Switches, Red vs Blue O-Rings

About 6 months ago, I bought my first mechanical keyboard, the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX Red switches. As I wrote in my review, the keyboard worked great for gaming.

A short while later, I read an article that strongly recommended Brown switches for gaming. I wondered whether I’d made the wrong decision in choosing Red over Brown, given that I hadn’t tried either prior to purchasing the keyboard.

Given that I care about my gaming performance, I decided to conduct hands-on testing of Red and Brown Cherry MX switches to better understand the experience of using them and determine which worked better for me. I also wanted to test the switches with and without Red and Blue O-rings.

Therefore, I tested the following products:

The Keyboards

I went to a local store to pickup a CM Storm keyboard with Brown switches. They didn’t carry the older QuickFire Rapid model. They did stock the newer QuickFire Stealth model, which is largely the same keyboard with minor cosmetic differences, so I purchased a Stealth keyboard with Brown switches.

As you can see from the following picture, the structural design of the two keyboards is very similar.

CM Storm keyboards

QuickFire Rapid with Red switches (top), QuickFire Stealth with Brown switches (bottom)

Comparing the Switches

The following animated visuals (created by lethalsquirrel on geekhack, aka dacasman on YouTube) describe how the switches operate:

Cherry MX Red Switch AnimationCherry MX Brown Switch Animation

Some gamers rave about the tactile bumps in the Brown switches. Theoretically, tactile bumps sound like a great idea, since they provide feedback when a key is pressed.

However, I believe there’s a fundamental design flaw in the Cherry MX switches: there is too much total travel distance in the switch relative to the actuation point, which is where the keystroke is registered. The switch registers the keystroke partway into the keypress, and the remaining keypress travel is functionally pointless since nothing happens aside from bottoming out. According to Cherry Corp., their MX switches register a keystroke at 2mm, then bottom out after another 2mm, but it feels like the switch registers earlier than the halfway point in the keypress.

Cherry MX Brown Actuation Bump

Actuation point shown for a Cherry MX switch. Note that the tactile bump is placed before the actuation point. This image is of the Stealth keyboard with Brown switches, but AFAIK the actuation point is the same across switch colors.

There is a critical implication here, because the tactile bump for a Brown switch is placed before the actuation point, which means the bump happens even before you’ve pressed the key halfway. Moreover, it takes a low amount of force to push past the tactile bump and the bump is very subtle. I spent several days trying to lighten and shorten my keypressing to adjust to the tactile bump of Brown switches, but even after practicing, I consistently pressed keys well past the tactile bump.

If the tactile bump were more noticeable and if the actuation point and the tactile bump were further into the keypress, I think Brown switches would work much better.

One complaint I’ve read about Red switches is that they activate too easily, given that they have no bump and low actuation force, and this leads to false keystrokes. After testing both Brown switches and Red switches extensively, by playing the same games and typing the same copy over and over, for me this was not an issue.

My conclusion: the tactile bump in the Brown switches didn’t provide meaningful value, due to its early placement in the keypress and how subtle the bump is.

I prefer Red switches over Brown as they provide a much more fluid feel.

Comparing the O-Rings

WASD Keyboards was kind enough to send me two sets of O-rings to test with.

WASD Keyboards O-Rings

In a nutshell, the Blue O-rings are thicker than the Red ones (0.4mm vs 0.2mm).

O-rings offer several practical benefits:

  1. They reduce noise significantly
  2. They provide cushion when you bottom-out
  3. They reduce travel distance (more on this below)

It was trivial installing the O-rings. Each O-ring has a natural tendency to roll one way or the other, so you want to keep that in mind when rolling an O-ring onto a key.

O-Ring Installation

The following photo gives you an idea of the relative travel distance of switches with Red and Blue O-rings:

Side-by-side: Red O-ring, Blue O-ring, No O-ring

Keys fully depressed, with and without O-rings. That is, the image shows keys pressed until they bottom out.

If you look at the right-most panel, you can see that the travel distance with a Blue O-ring is slightly shorter than a Red O-ring, which is what we’d expect given that Red O-rings reduce travel by 0.2mm and Blue O-rings reduce travel by 0.4mm.

So which O-ring color is better?

Some gamers say that the Blue O-rings ruin the feel of the keypress, especially for Brown switches. I disagree. As I mentioned earlier, the actuation point for Cherry MX switches is halfway into the keypress – regardless of switch color – so you have lots of meaningless travel until the key bottoms out. By installing an O-ring, you reduce that wasteful travel distance. In the case of Brown switches, the tactile bump occurs before the actuation point and therefore well ahead of bottoming out even with Blue O-rings.

My conclusion: Cherry MX switches work meaningfully better with O-rings, and Blue O-rings provide more cushion and reduce more wasteful travel as compared to Red O-rings.

Final Thoughts

I kept the keyboard with Red switches (CM Storm QuickFire Rapid keyboard) and Blue O-rings (manufactured by WASD Keyboards). Almost half a year has passed, and this setup has worked extremely well for gaming and typing. My fingers don’t get fatigued, the noise level is acceptable, and the keys feel very responsive.

It was definitely worthwhile to do the hands-on testing, because if I had simply listened to what others had written, I’d have made the wrong selection of colors for both the Cherry MX switches and the O-rings.

From the reviews and forums I’ve read, the CM Storm QuickFire keyboard is the best-value mechanical Cherry MX keyboard on the market, especially with a price point of under $100 USD. I highly recommend it based on my experience.

If you’ve tested different switch colors and different O-ring colors, I’d love to hear your take on them.

UPDATE (2015/01/04): based on this thread in the MechanicalKeyboards sub-Reddit, it looks like I’m not alone in the opinion that Brown switches are overrated.

Posted in Product Review

Introducing My “Road to Unicum” Video Series for World of Tanks

When I read the official WoT (World of Tanks) forums, WoT sub-Reddit, and WoTLabs forums, one question comes up more than any other: how do I improve my gameplay?

This is particularly challenging for players who have hit a ceiling in terms of their measurable performance (e.g. win rate, WN8 rating, etc) and are not sure what to do. While players can download replays of highly-skilled players, those replays don’t capture the thinking process of the player behind the tank – you see their actions but don’t necessarily know the how’s or why’s behind them.

Therefore, I’ve started a new video series called “Road to Unicum” in which I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1% of all players). In these videos, I talk through how I’m reading each battle as it unfolds and discuss key decisions and mistakes. My hope is that these videos meaningfully help other players improve their gameplay.

As of Episode #1, here are my WN8 stats:

Taugrim's WN8 stats @ 10199 battlesNext up: the T-44 tier 8 tank in the same line.  I've got a lot of good illustrative footage of various tanks, so let me know which of the following tanks you're interested in for future videos or specific topics you'd like for me to address: * Cromwell * E75 * ELC AMX

I’m on a self-imposed challenge to reach Unicum account rating with strictly silver ammo (i.e. no premium a.k.a. gold ammo) and on my original account (i.e. no re-rolling).

For full disclosure, I am a paying customer of WoT – that is, I do spend money to purchase gold, which is used for the following: premium subscription, training/reskilling crew members, converting tank-specific XP to Free XP so that I don’t have to play tanks stock, and buying permanent camouflage. That said, I have at times played without a premium subscription, and in many cases when I use Free XP, I use it to skip low tier tanks and to unlock the first functional gun of a new tank, then I grind out the remaining modules for that tank. Also, sometimes I use silver to pay for camoflague and crew training/reskilling.

Episode #1: E50 Review, Flexing to a Collapsing Flank

I review the exceptional E-50, the tier 9 German medium tank in the E50M line.

As demonstrated in the video, the E50 has a highly accurate gun, and the solid hull armor can be angled to deflect incoming fire. I discuss the importance of flexing to prevent a flank from collapsing and the arguments against capping too early instead of pressing an advantage.

Episode #2: E50M Review, Covering a Flank Solo

I review the E50M, the beefier of the two tier 10 German medium tanks.

I discuss the weighty responsibility of holding a flank solo, knowing when and where to push, and considerations when flanking the enemy near their base.

Episode #3: T-34-85 Review, Mid Control in Fisherman’s Bay

At the request of viewers from the first two episodes, the next line of tanks that I’m covering are the Russian medium tanks, notably the tier 8 T-44 and tier 10 Object 140.

In this episode, I review the T-34-85, the underrated tier 6 Russian medium tank that leads up to the T-44.

I discuss tactics for controlling the middle lanes (E/F) of Fisherman’s Bay and how to balance exposure with inflicting damage. The value of mid control can’t be overemphasized – it provides spotting opportunities, many firing lanes, and the ability to flex to either flank when needed, which is particularly important when playing a mobile medium tank.

Next episode: T-44 Review, Holding the High Ground


Taugrim's WoT Stats

Posted in Guide, Medium Tank, PVP, Video, World of Tanks

Two-Thirds of the Top-Rated Players in WildStar 2v2 Arena are Inactive

I’ve been wondering how accurately the WildStar PVP Leaderboards reflect the current meta and player activity, so I compared the 2v2 Arena Leaderboards from September 25th and October 10th.

You can find my analysis in the following spreadsheet document:

There is a summary tab with calculations and two tabs for the Leaderboards. I sorted the Leaderboards by name – you can easily move between the tabs to see the changes for each player.

Here are my conclusions:

  1. The highest number of active classes who gained rating or joined the top 250 on October 10th were Warriors (16) and Medics (13), followed by Espers (9), Spellslingers (8), Stalkers (5), and Engineers (3)
  2. A whopping 65% of the 250 top-rated players in 2v2 are inactive. Meaning they have either stopped playing WildStar or they are still playing but not participating in 2v2 anymore

Point #1 should be no surprise to anyone, given the recent changes to PVP stats to decrease damage and increase healing. Warrior/Medic was always a good comp, but with the current meta they faceroll most other comps. The Medic is durable, can kite effectively, and can heal even when out of Focus (i.e. they are un-OOMable), and the Warrior has high passive mitigation, strong burst, and is difficult to sustainably peel/CC. The longer TTK has made life harder for Stalkers, although in my experience the top-end Stalkers in a dual DPS comp are still very dangerous, if they spec to strip shields and coordinate their burst. I’ve never been able to understand why Engineers aren’t played more in 2v2 – in particular heal-soak Engi/Medic is a strong comp.

What is alarming about point #2 is that even with cross-server queues for BG and Arena, the PVP queue times outside of prime time are very high – as Lewis B discussed in his recent article The WildStar Ghost Town – and during prime time PBGs still take 5+ minutes to pop. As a comparison, with World of Tanks (WoT), the queue pops for Random Battles in under a minute any time day or night.

I love WildStar’s action combat system – it’s the most skill-based and engaging of any MMORPG that I’ve played. That said, the dwindling population has a direct impact on me: I have to worry about queue times and the likelihood that the queues will get longer. On top of that, I’m very burned out by the RNG runes system, where the rune colors are randomized. In most games, when you get a purple drop in PVE or PVP, you rejoice. In WildStar, you hold your breath and pray for decent runes. To date I’ve purchased approximately 55 pieces of 1800 PVP gear, and it’s been a very frustrating and unrewarding experience. Players have said “wait until you can re-roll runes in Drop 3″ but that doesn’t solve my problem now, and I face other 1800-geared players who got their PVP gear prior to the RNG system being introduced for PVP gear. After my 4th purchase of an 1800 weapon resulted in another non-upgrade from the 1800 weapon I’m using, I finally gave up and unsubbed from WildStar last weekend.

This is a tough time for WildStar. The community is hoping/praying that Drop 3 will turn the game around. Since WAR and AoC in 2008, I have yet to see a game that hemorrhaged subs in the first 3 months make a meaningful recovery. Some folks point to SWTOR, which transitioned to F2P, but that game has not only an epic combat feel but one of the most valuable IPs of any genre.

Over the past week I’ve been playing ArcheAge (AA) and shaking off rust in WoT. I doubt I will stick with AA as the leveling process is bland and there are no BGs to enjoy, practice, test specs, and gain leveling experience. I really appreciate AA’s flexible build system, and on paper I found a class that suits me well: Abolisher, which combines Battlerage/Defense/Auramancy for a durable MDPS build that has CC and can counter CC. That said, my Abolisher is only level 15 and the road to 50 is many hours of tedium. Folks have told me AA’s endgame sandbox PVP is worth it, but I’ve never played a game that I disliked while leveling and loved at endgame. If the game can’t pull me in during the leveling process, the shoe doesn’t fit.

WoT has thankfully reminded what a (mostly) skill-based game with a very active population looks like, and I’m continuing to try to play at a Super Unicum (2900+ WN8 rating) level without gold ammo. It’s a fun goal :)

Posted in ArcheAge, Esper, Game Design, PVP, Warrior, WildStar, World of Tanks
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