During my first 3k battles in World of Tanks (WoT), there have been two questions that I wanted to answer:
- Is it possible for a non-paying customer to be reasonably competitive in WoT?
- Is it possible for a customer who does not use premium ammo to compete at a high level, e.g. top 5%
I’ll share my insights and tips on improving one’s performance later in this article, but let’s cover these two questions first.
My Stats Without Premium Ammo
As I wrote in an earlier article, the answer to the 1st question is yes. I started playing WoT with no prior knowledge about the game mechanics, and without paying I reached a 51% Win Rate (51WR) in my first 856 battles, which is above the average of 49WR for NA and in the top 20% of players according to wot-news.com.
After those initial 856 battles, I decided to buy gold to pay for a premium subscription to reduce the grind and to pay for other things.
In my experience, the answer to the 2nd question is also yes. I’ve reached a 56WR over my first 3k battles up through tier 9 tanks, without using premium ammo. I don’t use premium ammo for reasons documented later in this article.
Many players believe that you can’t compete meaningfully without using at least some premium ammo. My guildee Sinsun (his stats on Noobmeter) had played over 4000 battles before I started playing WoT, and he told me that without using premium ammo I would struggle to penetrate consistently and be at an unmanageable disadvantage relative to other players who’re using it.
I reached 54WR by 1300 battles through tier 5-6 without premium ammo in Patch 8.5, during a time when there were many tankers slinging premium HEAT ammo to 1-shot foes. Sinsun insisted that premium ammo would be needed in tier 10 battles, which is max level. Based on my understanding of WoT’s game mechanics through tier 5, my gut was that I’d be fine without premium ammo at max level, but I thought it wise to experience tier 10 battles firsthand before stating so publicly.
As a side note, I’ve run into this scenario across many MMORPGs, where I hold a viewpoint that something is viable or functional in PVP that goes contrary to popular opinion. Here’s how this typically unfolds:
- I start playing a class that I believe has viable spec(s) but that others with more playtime with that class regard as underpowered
- I enjoy early success in PVP, especially in lower-level bracketed PVP, and post narrated gameplay videos and guides as I’m leveling up
- Skeptics respond with “you may be doing good now but wait til you reach max level”
- I reach max level, and once I get a functional set of PVP gear, I proceed to kick ass just as I was doing while leveling
I don’t blog or write my guides to prove others wrong. I do those things because I love sharing knowledge and addressing inaccurate perceptions, it’s rewarding to me to hear from gamers that I’ve helped them raise their gameplay, and I learn from them in the process.
The most objective way to measure performance in WoT is by looking at player statistics. Players have stats that reflect their performance, especially when you have a sample size of thousands of battles for a given player. Good players tend to have WRs north of 50%, because they are the common denominator in all of their battles, and they influence outcomes accordingly. Of the various WoT ratings systems, I believe WN7 currently offers the best framework for measuring skillful play based on stats.
Like any new/noob player, my overall stats are bogged down by my early games when I was clueless and not contributing much.
- Win Rate: 55.50% (59.56%)
- WN7 Rating: 1366 (1681)
- Avg base capture: 2.73 (2.64)
- Avg base defense: 1.02 (1.21)
- Avg kills: 1.17 (1.33)
- Kills-to-deaths: 1.89 (2.39)
The graphs for WN7 Rating, average damage, and average experience have scaled linearly over time. My WR has increased but at an uneven rate. There have been several times when my WR climbs, then plateaus, then climbs again. This is easily explained: whenever I unlock new tiers and tanks, I have to ramp up on the capabilities and limitations of my new tanks and also those of opposing tanks, in particular their weak spots. During that learning period my WR drops, and then it picks up again.
Stats in isolation are hard to gauge, but wot-news.com has an awesome tool that shows relative performance against other players with their “Advanced players statistics” menu option for each server. Here’s how I stack up against the NA playerbase:
- Win Rate: top 2%
- Avg kills: top 6%
- Avg spotted: bottom 30%
- Avg base capture: top 4%
- Avg base defense: top 17%
My average tier (5.4) is right in the middle of the NA community’s average, and my average damage (772) ranks in the top 15%. Keep in mind that I play mostly heavy and medium tanks, and that influences my stats accordingly.
As with any WoT player, it’s a reasonable expectation that my stats will improve over time, as I master my tanks, learn about the other tanks for a given tier and how to penetrate them, level up my crews, etc.
I have a 3rd question that is related to my 2nd question: is it possible to consistently play at a Unicum level without premium ammo? Over the last week my WN7 Rating was 1681, which is close to the Unicum cutoff of 1700. I suspect once I acquire Tier 10 tanks and are therefore always the top tier in battles with them, my stats will increase.
My Tips for Improving One’s Gameplay
I’m still learning a lot in WoT, but I’ll share with you what I’ve gleaned thus far:
- Master the two mechanics that influence penetration: angling and weak spots. I’ve provided links to my narrated guides for those topics. Even if you play tanks where angling won’t help meaningfully, it’s important to understand how angling by your opponent affects your ability to penetrate and vice versa. These are the most fundamental mechanics of the game, and a lot of players don’t really understand or apply them consistently. Keep in mind premium ammo isn’t the silver bullet (no pun intended) solution here, because you still have to deal with incoming fire and your premium ammo doesn’t directly help
- Consistently take advantage of cover when moving and when stationary. Leverage physical cover (buildings, rocks, hills, etc) and camouflage cover (bushes, trees, etc). Tanks tend to get ripped apart when they have neither physical cover nor camouflage cover, e.g. the idiot tank exposed on top of a hill. Don’t be that guy. Common excuse is “I got tracked” but the point is you were in a bad spot in the first place
- Do not expose yourself to multiple lines of fire or enemy tanks. This one is terribly painful to experience or witness. Be wary of chasing that squishy light or wounded tank around a corner if it will put you at risk of eating shells from multiple enemy tanks. Try not to get caught in a position where you are taking fire from multiple angles. The hard thing is you only learn on some maps by trial-and-error whether or not you can reach a certain point before you’ll take incoming fire
- Understand your positioning relative to your allies. This is particularly important when running a peek-a-boo line – you should try to be parallel to friendlies but angled toward your opponent. Don’t block another player trying to back up, or better yet, anticipate the potential for blockage and proactively maneuver accordingly
- Keep an eye on the mini-map to read how the battle is going. Many battles are lost when players get tunnel vision and are unaware of other key things unfolding. Did a light tank make it past the front line and is now approaching our arty? Did we get flanked?
- Know your tank. Read the WoT Wiki to understand your tank’s strengths and weaknesses. Does your tank function best when hull-down, when sidescraping, etc.
- Acquire the best affordable crew for any tank that you plan to play for a while. Gold crews (100% training) allow you to start training skills immediately. Crews under 100% training are worse at everything they do: spotting, aiming, re-loading, driving, and signaling. You can jumpstart a new tank by retraining a veteran crew from another tank to your new one. Note that WG incentivizes players to use gold here
- Get Sixth Sense for every Commander once your 1st skill reaches 100%. This is the most helpful skill/perk in the game, because it lets you know when they can see you, regardless whether you can see them
- Understand what the bare minimum upgrades needed for a tank to be viable, and plan accordingly. This is particularly true for guns, as some stock guns are completely ineffective at the tank’s tier. I have leveraged Free XP, or converted tank-specific XP to Free XP, to unlock the base minimum upgrades. This is another notable area where WG incentivizes players to spend gold
- Buy all 3 mechanically-relevant equipment modules for any tank you plan to play for a while. For medium and heavy tanks, I generally recommend the Gun Rammer, either the Vertical Stabilizer or Enhanced Gun Laying Drive, and Improved Ventilation. For TDs, the mounted equipment depends on whether you have a turreted or non-turreted tank: the former can make good use of Camouflage Net and Binocular Telescope but the latter won’t get as much value from them, so choose accordingly
- Always carry all 3 consumables (repair kit, first aid kit, fire extinguisher). The 3k credits for each is well worth it for managing a bad situation
The Issues With Premium Ammo
Welvo posted an articulate take on Reddit on why premium ammo (aka gold ammo) is problematic.
I have lost faith in the players of this game and their ability to do critical thinking. Gold rounds are game breaking. End of story.
If you can’t pen a tank from the front, then so be it. Obviously by design not all tanks are made equal. They all have their advantages and disadvantages and a GOOD player will learn how to optimize them. The type of game you all want seems to be one where all tanks are equal in stats, they just all just look different.
Lets just be very clear, gold rounds are simply an “easy” mode for this game. The tanks have been balanced a very certain way (absent of gold rounds) and gold rounds trump that balancing. I don’t understand how the vast majority of players don’t understand something so basic.
I agree with Welvo.
Here are the reasons why I do not use premium ammo:
- I do not want to contribute to a mechanic that I believe detracts from the quality of gameplay, especially in public matches a.k.a. Random Battles where some players don’t use it
- It can become a crutch, instead of forcing the player to learn where to aim for specific tanks (i.e. weak spots), or put themselves in a position where they can hit those weak spots
- The game is much more rewarding when you kick ass without premium ammo. I witnessed a reader of this blog, FrankyMcShanky (his stats on Noobmeter), solo the last 5 tanks of my team with his M4 Sherman and finish with 11 kills. It was nuts and an incredible solo effort, but Franky commented that his 1st Kolobanov’s medal was tainted by premium ammo
- The game would probably not be challenging for me if I used premium ammo. I’d rather beat players who are “better geared” than faceroll opponents who are at a gear disadvantage
- It’s not reasonably affordable with credits for players who are still actively grinding new tanks and tiers, even with premium subscription
About that last point, some players defend premium ammo because it is now purchasable with credits, whereas it used to be only acquirable with gold. But here’s the rub. Premium shells are very expensive, e.g. 4800+ credits per shell for Tier 6 and up. A player who is still actively grinding up tank lines and tiers will continually be in a situation where they have unlocked upper-tier tanks but lack the credits to afford purchasing the tanks, upgrades, and equipment – let alone premium ammo. It’s not clear to me whether the high cost of premium ammo would be sufficiently offset by the higher WR gained by using it.
Many players who use this “premium ammo is affordable” argument already have a surplus of credits from many thousands of battles and/or they have premium tanks which they use for farming credits. If they are in the latter situation, they’re funding their premium ammo with their premium tank(s), which were purchased with gold, so they’re indirectly paying-to-win.
The only context where I think premium ammo is an acceptable mechanic is Clan Wars given that serious clans will field tanks with premium ammo, so it’s the norm there.
Screenshots for tier 6+ Ace Tanker mastery badges
A skeptic who is unfamiliar with my blog may wonder “how do we know Taugrim has never used (let alone purchased) premium ammo like he claims?”
I have two proof points to share.
- My narrated gameplay videos on YouTube
- Screenshots of my Ace Tanker mastery badges for my tier 6-9 tanks. With these screenshots you can easily determine that I was using normal ammo based on the costs of resupply (except for the KV-3 since it was only my 3rd game and I forgot to check the resupply option).
Tier 6 KV-1S Ace Tanker Screenshots
Tier 6 T-150 Ace Tanker Screenshots
Tier 6 VK36.01 (H) Ace Tanker Screenshots
Tier 7 KV-3 Ace Tanker Screenshots
Tier 9 ST-I Ace Tanker Screenshots
I want to end this article by saying I’m not here to judge others using premium ammo. It’s each player’s choice. I wrote this article to refute the widely-held perception that it’s a must-have to compete at a high level.
Certainly, playing without premium ammo can place one at a disadvantage, but the key thing I’ve experienced is that you can still rock without it.
Let me know your thoughts and feedback.