Taugrim’s “Road to Unicum” Tank Reviews and Guides for World of Tanks


When I read the official World of Tanks (WoT) 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, in this video series I share what I learned as I progressed towards account Unicum rating (top 1%) with silver ammo only. 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 players improve their gameplay.

When I started these videos, here were my WN8 stats:

Taugrim's WN8 stats @ 10199 battles

Here are my most recent WN8 stats:

Taugrim's WN8 stats @ 15325 battles
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. These things do definitely improve one’s stats. 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.

See the FAQs for more context about the videos.

To be notified when new episodes are published, you can subscribe to the comments of this article or on subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Episodes

  1. E50 Review, Flexing to a Collapsing Flank
  2. E50M Review, Covering a Flank Solo
  3. T-34-85 Review, Mid Control in Fisherman’s Bay
  4. T-44 Review, Holding the High Ground
  5. T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle
  6. ELC AMX Review, First-Shot Opportunities
  7. ELC AMX in a Tier 8 Battle Review, Common Mistakes
  8. T-54 vs -G-/PBKAC/BULLS Platoon
  9. T-54 Review, Managing Gun Depression / Flanking Maneuvers
  10. E75 Review, Hull Angling Without Hard Cover
  11. IS Review, Timing Enemy Reloads
  12. IS-3 Review, Patience in a Tight Spot
  13. IS-3 in Tier 10 Battles
  14. Trolling E100’s in Your T-62A / Object 140
  15. IS-8 Review, Heavy Medium – I Don’t Think So
  16. Cromwell Review, Middle Road Control in Lakeville
  17. T-62A Review, Spotting Hill in Prokhorovka
  18. T29 Review, Hull-Down King
  19. T32 Review, 5k Damage Blocked FTW
  20. M103 Review, Recovering From a Poor Start
  21. M103 Gameplay, Creating Isolations When Outnumbered
  22. T110E5 Review, 9.7k Damage and 9 Kills
  23. AMX 13 90 Review, Completing LT-15 in Prokhorovka / Fiery Salient
  24. AMX 12t Review, Getting to 3 Marks of Excellence
  25. AMX 13 90 with 9.3k Contribution in Tier 10 Malinovka
  26. M24 Chaffee Review, 2688 XP Carry in Tier 8 Malinovka
  27. Lorraine 40t Review, 9-Kill Carry in Mountain Pass
  28. E25 Review, 4k Damage and 8 Spots in Fisherman’s Bay
  29. E25 Gameplay, Retreating and Counter-attacking Tactics
  30. T37 Review, 3.6k Damage and 7-Kill Carry in Erlenberg
  31. Bat Chat Review, Flanking and Spanking in Cliff

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.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 5.5k damage, 3 kills, 2 spots, 1.2k assisted damage

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.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 5.2k damage, 2 kills, 2 spots, 2k assisted damage

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

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

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 2.6k damage, 4 kills, 2 spots

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.

Episode #4: T-44 Review, Holding the High Ground

I review the T-44, a tier 8 Russian medium tank.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 3.6k damage, 3 kills, 8 spots

I 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.

Episode #5: T-44 in a Tier 10 Battle

I discuss how to meaningfully contribute as a bottom-tier medium tank, with footage from a tier 10 Serene Coast battle in my T-44.

Stat line: 1st Class, 2.5k damage, 5 kills

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.

Episode #6: ELC AMX Review, First-Shot Opportunities

I review the wildly popular ELC AMX, the tier 5 French light tank, with a replay of a tier 6 Widepark battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 2.2k damage, 8 kills, 7 spots, 0.8k assisted damage

I discuss how to play to the strengths of the ELC AMX – vision control, mobility, and the TD-quality gun – while managing its weaknesses – in particular its poor gun handling, extreme fragility, and low view range of 360 meters.

It’s critical to leverage these strengths to create first-shot opportunities, i.e. situations in which you spot the enemy and have sufficient time to aim before they spot you.

The ELC AMX was the first light tank above tier 2 that I played after 8000 battles. Up to that point, I’d primarily played heavies and mediums. After witnessing countless ELC AMX light tank drivers suicide or fail to meaningfully contribute, I decided to give the tank a go.

My conclusion is that the ELC AMX is the most consistently incorrectly played tank in all of WoT :)

You can learn more about playing the ELC AMX in my detailed guide.

Episode #7: ELC AMX in a Tier 8 Battle Review, Common Mistakes

We take a second look at the ELC AMX with a replay of a tier 8 Prokhorovka battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 1.3k damage, 2 kills, 4 spots, 2.8k assisted damage

All too often, ELC drivers die early and cripple their team’s spotting capability. I discuss and make two common mistakes:

  1. risking exposure to take a shot with the glacial-aiming gun
  2. taking a poor approach line to spot enemy tanks

I have to manage with less than 30 HP for most of the battle as a result of the first mistake!

Episode #8: T-54 vs -G-/PBKAC/BULLS Platoon

I review the highly-regarded T-54, a Soviet tier 9 medium tank, with a replay of a tier 10 Mines battle.

Stat line: 1st Class, 4.7k damage, 4 kills, 1 spot

The top-tier enemy platoon consists of elite players from -G-, PBKAC, and BULLS, so I discuss countering such dangerous opponents by anticipating where they’re going and beating them to the punch with area denial, then burning down their pubbies.

I also demonstrate how to leverage the terrain on hill to safely fire on target(s) while minimizing exposure to snipers in their base.

Episode #9: T-54 Review, Managing Gun Depression / Flanking Maneuvers

We take a second look at the T-54, with a replay of a tier 9 Sand River battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 6.2k damage, 6 kills, 2 spots, 1.5k assisted damage

Key Points

1. for the T-54, you don’t need to unlock the suspension to mount all upgraded modules and all 3 equipment pieces.

Therefore, the upgrade path I recommend is 2nd turret → top gun → 2nd engine → suspension.

2. in a map that has a lot of hills / ridgelines such as Sand River, you need to carefully manage the T-54’s poor gun depression.

The T-54 thrives in flatland and does better aiming up at targets. You want to avoid situations where you have to crest a hill to fire on a target that is already pre-aiming at you.

3. you can distract enemy tanks by flanking them, which creates opportunities for your allies to safely fire on those enemies as they rotate their turret / hull to face you.

The T-54 is far and away the best flanking tank I’ve played.

Episode #10: E75 Review, Hull Angling Without Hard Cover

I review the E75, a tier 9 German heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 9 Murovanka battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 6.2k damage, 6 kills, 3 spots, 2.2k assisted damage

In the previous 9 episodes, we focused on medium and light tank gameplay. Today, I discuss the responsibility of playing a beefy top-tier heavy, in terms of acting as a meat shield and playing aggressively, especially when your team is behind.

The E-75 has a fantastic armor layout that enables you to bounce a lot of incoming shots with proper angling. I demonstrate the optimal angle for the hull of the E-75 to protect the vulnerable Lower Front Glacis (LFG) while not over-exposing the thick 120mm side hull armor, especially when in the open ground where there is no hard cover. In the replay, I bounce all but 2 non-arty shots, and both times my tank was penetrated it was due to poor hull angling on my part.

Episode #11: IS Review, Timing Enemy Reloads

I review the IS, a tier 7 Soviet heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 7 Mountain Pass battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.8k damage, 7 kills

Key Points

  1. due to the long 2.87 sec aim time and 10.38 sec reload time (with 100% crew and equipment), it’s critical to keep track of enemy reload timers, so that when brawling you have time to aim sufficiently while minimizing risk
  2. the side armor of 90mm is very thick for the tier, so you can angle your hull to increase the effective armor of your front hull without compromising your side armor
  3. you don’t need to unlock the suspension to mount all upgraded modules and all 3 equipment pieces.

Therefore, the upgrade path I recommend is 2nd turret → top gun → 2nd engine → suspension.

Episode #12: IS-3 Review, Patience in a Tight Spot

I review the IS-3, a tier 8 Soviet heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 9 Highway battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.5k damage, 3 kills, 3 spots

Key Points

  1. when this video was made the lower front glacis (LFG) was very thick at ~245mm. The LFG was nerfed in 9.8 to ~200mm, but that’s still solid and the buff to the pikenose more than makes up for it
  2. due to the weakness of the pikenose in close quarters and the incredibly soft turret roof, be aware that the IS-3 is easy-to-penetrate when face-hugging or in point-blank exchanges
  3. when this video was made the lower front glacis (LFG) was very thick at ~245mm. The LFG was nerfed in 9.8 to ~200mm, but that’s still solid and the buff to the pikenose more than makes up for it
  4. patience in a tight situation is key. When I was surrounded on 3 sides, I stalled to buy time for our light tanks to flank the tanks in city and bail me out
  5. I rushed the kill shot on the 7/1. I should have waited a quarter-second for his side hull to be exposed, given that he wasn’t aiming at me
  6. the T37 driver (1134eastlaw) provided a great example of the power of a light tnk in endgame situations

Feedback From Viewers

Many commenters disagree with me re: sidescraping. They feel that sidescraping on the IS-3 makes sense.

I can see doing that to bait shots into the side armor, so you can then expose your near-side pikenose safely while taking a free shot.

Errata

  • 4:18 – what I meant here is that the IS-3 (not IS- and many tier 8 heavy tanks have very functional penetration values (e.g. 225+). There are exceptions of course, e.g. the T32 with 198

Episode #13: IS-3 in Tier 10 Battles

I discuss how to meaningfully contribute when you’re in tier 10 battles in a tier 8 IS-3 heavy tank, with footage from two Serene Coast battles.

Stat line: over 3.1k damage in both battles

Comments / Errata

  1. the silver penetration for the IS-3 is 225 not 226
  2. the rear of the E100 turret is ~160mm effective armor, regardless whether you hit the hatch or not

Episode #14: Trolling E100’s in Your T-62A / Object 140

I demonstrate how to troll big, tall, and slow turreted tanks in a Russian medium tank in World of Tanks (WoT), with footage of my T-62A facing E-100’s.

This works not only in the T62A but also tanks with a low profile and solid turret, such as the Object 140 and T-54.The key thing is to time your approach based on either when your target just fired or is facing the other direction, and to use the target as a shield to protect you from other enemy tanks while you whittle the target away.

Trololo!

Episode #15: IS-8 Review, Heavy Medium – I Don’t Think So

I review the IS-8, a tier 9 Soviet heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 10 Ensk battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.9k damage, 2 kills, 2 spots, 1k assisted damage

My team blows a 7-3 lead by not coordinating against an isolated E-100 who carries the opposing team.

Of all tanks from tier 5 to 10 in the IS-7 line, the IS-8 feels the most awkward, whereas the other tanks are good to great.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ good gun penetration (258)
+ good gun alpha (440)
+ strong turret
+ good top speed
+ trolly side armor
– pikenose armor is weak, won’t reliably bounce shots against players who aim properly
– large, soft lower front glacis
– poor max gun depression (-5 degrees)
– longish aim time
– not particularly agile

Episode #16: Cromwell Review, Middle Road Control in Lakeville

I review the Cromwell, a tier 6 British medium tank, with a replay of a tier 7 Lakeville battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 2.6k damage, 5 kills, 2 spots

My side wins 3v7 with vision control, use of hard cover, and wrecking isolated tanks.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ great top speed
+ great acceleration / agility
+ good DPM
+ good gun depression
– weak armor
– gun bloom

Comments / Errata

  1. to be clear, gun bloom is a separate concern from gun accuracy (0.36 for the Cromwell). The shot on the St Emil @1:40 missed due to inaccuracy, not gun bloom, given that I had the time to fully aim. That said, bloom elongates the time to aim
  2. the enemy Wolverine made a critical mistake late of pushing up valley without support – he isolated himself and got bullied by our Panther. Be wary of isolating yourself unless you are confident you will win any 1v1s
  3. per the WoT Wiki: “Once spotted, a vehicle stays lit up for a minimum duration of 5 seconds which can extend up to 10 seconds after the spotter moves out of spotting range or gets destroyed” – so 5-10 seconds, not the 6-8 I mentioned in the video

Episode #17: T-62A Review, Spotting Hill in Prokhorovka

I review the T-62A, a tier 10 Soviet medium tank, with a replay of a Prokhorovka battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.6k damage, 4 kills, 3 spots, 2.9k assisted damage

I also discuss how to safely spot hill from the north spawn, taking into account flanking fire from enemy tanks in the middle of the map (F5-F6). With the recent changes to view range, the T62A is even stronger now at vision control. The tactics in the video apply to the Fiery Salient variant of the same map.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ excellent mobility (speed, acceleration, agility)
+ high DPM
+ titanium turret
+ good vision contol
– only -5 degrees of gun depression
– low alpha damage (320)

Episode #18: T29 Review, Hull-Down King

I review the T29, a tier 7 American heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 8 Erlenberg battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.1k damage, 4 kills

With its awesome hull-down capability, the T29 is one of the strongest heavies at-tier in the game. I found it to be very comfortable to play and enjoyed driving it. On paper the HP (1250) seems low, but the hull-down capability makes that a non-issue.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ superb turret
+ superb max gun depression (-10)
+ excellent silver penetration (198)
+ excellent aim time (2.3 sec)
+ good alpha (320)
+ good speed
– relatively weak hull armor
– slow hull traverse / turns sluggishly
– slow reverse speed, which can be problematic versus arty

Research Order

Assuming you have the 90mm gun from the M6 tank and want to mount 3 pieces of equipment (VS, Rammer, Vents/Optics) immediately, here’s the recommended research order:

  1. Tracks (required for 105mm gun)
  2. 105mm gun
  3. Turret
  4. Engine #2
  5. Engine #3
  6. Radio (optional)

Errata

@5:51: I meant the tier 7 IS not the tier 10 IS-7

Episode #19: T32 Review, 5k Damage Blocked FTW

I review the T32, a tier 8 American heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 8 El Halluf battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.2k damage, 1.1k assisted damage, 2 kills, 5k blocked damage

In this battle, we have to overcome two notable issues:
1. the other team is stacked with tanks that can hull-down effectively, which is critical for the fighting in the northwest corner of this map
2. over half of my team is camping east or pushing south, leaving us thin northwest

For meaningful stretches of the battle, I’m able to hold my ground against multiple enemy tanks by using terrain and playing hull-down, and this enables us to overcome being outnumbered northwest.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ one of the strongest turrets at-tier in the game
+ superb max gun depression (-10)
+ excellent aim time (2.3 sec)
+ excellent gold round (ACPR with 245mm pen)
+ good front hull armor, which can be further protected with hull angling
+ good speed
– lackluster silver penetration (198)
– neck area beneath the turret is very soft (80mm)
– slow reverse speed, which can be problematic versus arty

Episode #20: M103 Review, Recovering From a Poor Start

I review the M103, a tier 9 American heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 9 Westfield battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.9k damage, 4 kills

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ tier 10 penetration (258)
+ excellent max gun depression (-8)
+ excellent aim time (2.3 sec)
+ solid accuracy
+ solid turret armor
+ solid upper front hull armor
– obvious weak spots (cupola, lower front glacis, side hull armor)
– turret loses effective armor quickly when it’s not pointed directly at incoming fire
– slow reverse speed

The M103 has excellent gun handling for a heavy tank but possesses obvious weak spots, so managing these two characteristics is key for effective M103 gameplay.

Comments

  1. recommended upgrade order: 2nd gun (T112) → 2nd turret → top gun (M58) → 2nd engine. Skip the tracks and radio unless you plan on keeping the tank
  2. the M58 gun is a meaningful upgrade from the T112: 0.3 sec faster aim time, 0.37 vs 0.40 accuracy, and 16 extra penetration. These 3 things combined make the upgrade definitely worth it
  3. as with most tanks, you want to run with VStab and Rammer as equipment. The 3rd equipment piece depends on which gun you have mounted. When using the 2nd gun (T122), I recommend using GLD to help bring down the 2.6 sec aim time. When using the top gun (M58), I run with Coated Optics to strengthen the good 390m view range

Errata

  • in the garage my Commander has Recon as his 3rd skill, but I accidentally selected that over Situational Awareness, which is slightly better (+3% view range versus +2%)

Episode #21: M103 Review, Creating Isolations When Outnumbered

We take a second look at the M103, the tier 9 American heavy tank, with a replay of a tier 9 Himmelsdorf battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 5.4k damage, 7 kills, 2.6k blocked

I make several consecutive critical decisions that help our team pull out a victory, despite our being outnumbered and the other team having map control.

Key Takeaways

1. IMO 80% of the time when a team tries to cap (or calls for it in chat), it’s tactically the wrong thing to do, because either it won’t be possible to reach 100 points (e.g. the map is too small as is the case in most city battles, or cappers are very exposed to resets), or the better thing to do when you have a meaningful numbers advantage is to continue flanking the enemy.

I’m not saying you should never cap. Obviously if they are wrecking your team on the other side of the map, sometimes a miracle cap is the only way to win. Capping can put pressure on the opposing team or provide insurance.

It’s noteworthy that the WN crew found a correlation between defense points and win rate, which is why it’s included in the WN8 formula, but not between cap points and win rate.

2. on the flip side, if your team is losing and the opposing team is capping, often the best thing to do is defend your base, instead of continuing to push forward toward their base. This will take any of their base campers out of the fight and allow you to crush their isolated cappers.

Comments / Errata

a. the opposing Tiger I in tank alley was firing HE at me, which makes no mechanical sense.

HE only provides value in 3 situations: to destroy buildings, for higher damage on targets without meaningful armor such as Waffentrager TDs and American arties, and to finish off low-HP tanks that have strong armor (e.g. hull-down IS-7).

Episode #22: T110E5 Review, 9.7k Damage and 9 Kills

I review the T110E5, a tier 10 American heavy tank, with a replay of a Lakeville battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 9.7k damage, 9 kills, 4.3k blocked, 1.2k spotted

This was a razor-close battle where the margin of victory was a mere 111 HP!

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ superb aim time (2 sec)
+ excellent max gun depression (-8)
+ good accuracy (0.35)
+ good DPM due to fast reload time (10 sec)
+ solid turret armor
+ solid upper front hull armor
+ solid mobility
– soft lower front glacis
– low alpha damage relative to other heavies
– slow reverse speed

Comments

  1. I run double repair kit with the E5, as I did with the M103. The small repair kit is mapped to the “5” key, so I can hit “5-5” to quickly repair damaged tracks. The nice thing about having the premium repair kit is that it provides a passive bonus. While not having a fire extinguisher entails risk, in my E5 and M103 I’ve been set on fire about once every 90 battles, so it’s an acceptable risk to me. You can minimize the likelihood of being set on fire by not letting tanks get shots on the rear of your tank
  2. I recommend Optics over Vents as the 3rd equipment piece, as vision control is critical in mid-to-late game situations. The other two equipment pieces are the standard combo of VStab and Rammer
  3. Once we cleared west, notice that some (dead) friendlies starting calling for us to cap. In a situation where your side is outnumbered, generally the better choice is to defend base. Had our T-34-2 gone to their cap, he would have been easily reset and wrecked. He defended with us, and spotted their E5 trying to flank in valley, and this was valuable intel

Episode #23: AMX 13 90 Review, Completing LT-15 in Prokhorovka / Fiery Salient

I review the AMX 13 90, a tier 8 French light tank, with a replay of a tier 9 Fiery Salient (Prokhorovka) battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 3.2k damage, 2.9k assisted damage, 8 spots, 2 kills

I discuss how to complete LT-15, the light tank mission that requires 4k+ damage contribution, which is the sum of direct damage and assisted damage. IMO the most consistent way to reach 4k+ is spotting from hill, because unlike passive scouting on the 1/2 lines, you can fire on tanks and then retreat behind hard cover.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ excellent camouflage
+ excellent gold round (ACPR with 248 pen)
+ good view range (400m)
+ good burst damage (1440) in a full clip
– poor accuracy (0.38)
– poor gun handling on-the-move
– load clip reload (38 seconds with Vents)
– thin armor (40mm) is vulnerable to HE and is often triple-overmatched by AP, which means ricochets are unlikely
– poor gun depression and rear mounted turret limit hill-fighting capability
– small crew (3) hampers skill acquisition

Comments

  1. it’s important to stay out of the line of fire when enemy tanks are shooting at your friendlies. E.g. at 3:49, the enemy T-54’s shell passes within a few meters of my hull, so I move up the hill a bit and point my hull towards the T-54 to make my profile smaller. By the same token, I stay away from the friendly AMX 50 100, who repeatedly exposes himself to spotting and enemy fire

Episode #24: AMX 12t Review, Getting to 3 Marks of Excellence

I review the AMX 12t, a tier 6 French light tank, with footage from tier 8 and tier 9 battles.

Prior to driving the 12t, I expected it to suck. However, after playing the 12t I realized that it’s misplayed by many drivers, just as I found with the ELC AMX and the M103.

My stats after 161 solopub battles with silver ammo only: 59% win rate, 1068 dpg, 2.1 spg, 1.2 kpg, 3 marks of excellence.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ excellent camouflage
+ good burst damage (800 HP) for a full clip
+ fast clip reload (20 seconds)
+ solid accuracy (0.36)
+ solid silver penetration (144) relative to its peers
+ excellent gold penetration (202)
– very sluggish acceleration limits active scouting and ability to escape
– easy to run out of ammo given low ammo capacity (30), high rate-of-fire, and fast clip reload
– poor gun handling on-the-move
– weak armor
– very poor gun depression (-4) and rear mounted turret limit hill-fighting capability
– mediocre gun elevation (+12)
– small crew (3) hampers skill acquisition

Episode #25: AMX 13 90 with 9.3k Contribution in Tier 10 Malinovka

We take a second look at the AMX 13 90, the tier 8 French light tank, with a replay of a tier 10 Malinovka battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 3.6k damage, 5.7k spotted, 2 spots, 1 kill

This video is “A Tale of Seven Light Tanks” because it provides clear examples of what a light tank driver should and shouldn’t do. My damage contribution of 9.3k was multiples of the other 6 light tanks combined, simply because I played my tank correctly based on light tank mechanics and the map design.

Errata

  • 0:11 I meant tier 10 “Malinovka” not “Murovanka” in the narration

Episode #26: M24 Chaffee Review, 2688 XP Carry in Tier 8 Malinovka

We review the M24 Chaffee, a tier 5 American light tank, with a replay of a tier 8 Malinovka battle. We also discuss spotting on a weak flank with a replay of a tier 7 Live Oaks battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 2688 XP (1792 base), 2.5k damage, 2.2k spotted, 8 spots, 4 kills

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ superb gun handling, even on-the-move
+ superb max gun depression (-10)
+ excellent top speed and agility
+ excellent view range (390m) and camouflage provide strong vision control
+ excellent DPM
+ good accuracy (0.36)
– paper-thin hull armor (25mm) is vulnerable to HE and is often triple-overmatched by AP, which means ricochets are unlikely
– soft turret
– large profile for a light tank
– silver ammo penetration of 96 is lackluster

Similar to Episode 25 (AMX 13 90 in Tier 10 Malinovka), I initially scout from the E7 location, as it provides hard and soft cover, and I’m able to spot tanks at C5, on the approach to the hill, on the hill, in the ditch under the hill, and across the water to the west. I flex south to counter-spot their Cromwell platoon which threatens our southern flank and arties.

In the Live Oaks replay, I discuss why there is little value in spotting a flank when you are isolated. You won’t be able to meaningfully delay the enemy tanks pushing that flank so that your arty can fire on them. A common mistake by light tank drivers is to over-extend and spot when isolated, and in both situations the light tank often gets wrecked. Spotting is most effective when you’re doing it in such a way that friendly tank(s) aside from arty can fire on what you light, and where you have cover and an escape route.

Episode #27: Lorraine 40t Review, 9-Kill Carry in Mountain Pass

I review the Lorraine 40t, a tier 9 French medium tank, with a replay of a tier 9 Mountain Pass battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4.5k damage, 9 kills, 100 cap points

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ excellent top speed
+ excellent acceleration
+ excellent max gun depression (-8)
+ good burst damage (1800 in ~14 seconds)
– huge profile
– paper-thin hull armor (40mm) is vulnerable to HE and is often triple-overmatched by AP, which means ricochets are unlikely
– long clip reload time (~39 sec)
– long aim time (3 sec) is higher than intra-clip reload time
– below-average alpha (300) compared to tier 9 autoloaders
– small crew (3) hampers skill acquisition

Recommended Equipment

  1. VStab
  2. Optics
  3. GLD (or Vents)

Optics is useful for out-spotting opponents, especially in late-game situations so that you have the first-shot advantage.

I prefer GLD over Vents as the base aim time is comparable to heavy tanks, and that is problematic for a tank that is an autoloader and has paper-thin armor.

Other Comments

  1. Gauntlets was the linchpin in our victory. Check out his replay
  2. while platooning with skilled players makes it easier to win in any tank, the Lorr 40t disproportionately benefits from platooning as it needs support to cover it during the long clip reloads. Many people have complained to me about this tank, so my simple advice is to platoon with friends

Episode #28: E25 Review, 4k Damage and 8 Spots in Fisherman’s Bay

I review the E25, a tier 7 German premium tank destroyer, with a replay of a tier 8 Fisherman’s Bay battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 4k damage, 8 spots, 3 kills

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ superb DPM (2700)
+ superb accuracy (0.3)
+ superb aim time (1.5)
+ superb camouflage values
+ excellent top speed
+ excellent acceleration
+ good view range (360)
+ small profile
+ high rate of fire creates lots of opportunities for module and crew damage
+ preferential matchmaking – never sees tier 9 tanks
– low alpha per shot (135)
– armor is relatively weak (but just high enough so that HE doesn’t consistently penetrate)

The term “overpowered” tends to get thrown around a lot in online games, but the E-25 is truly an overpowered tank when played correctly, given how meaningfully the strengths outweigh the weaknesses.

It’s also an excellent money maker.

Recommended Equipment

  1. Rammer
  2. Binoculars
  3. Optics

Aim-time reducing equipment is not needed given the excellent base aim time and high accuracy.

Episode #29: E25 Gameplay, Retreating and Counter-attacking Tactics

I demonstrate when to retreat on a flank that is folding and how to counter-attack to recover and win that flank, with tier 8 replays of the E25 in Murovanka and Erlenberg.

I discuss reading game flow to anticipate when a flank is going to fold and how to take advantage of opponents who over-confidently push that flank by leveraging the E25’s superb vision control and highly accurate buzzsaw gun.

Episode #30: T37 Review, 3.6k Damage and 7-Kill Carry in Erlenberg

We review the T37, a tier 6 American light tank, with a replay of a tier 7 Erlenberg battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 2614 XP (1743 base), 3.6k damage, 7 kills, 4 spots

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ excellent silver penetration (150)
+ excellent gun handling, even on-the-move
+ excellent max gun depression (-9)
+ good HP pool (680)
+ good view range (385m) and vision control
+ good top speed and agility
+ good DPM
– paper-thin hull armor (25.4mm) is vulnerable to HE and is often overmatched by AP shells of even tier 6 tanks, which means ricochets are unlikely
– soft turret
– huge profile

Recommended Equipment

  1. Optics
  2. VStab
  3. Vents (since you can’t mount a Rammer)

The T37 is a popular tank for tier 6 strongholds and leads to the awesome M41 Bulldog.

Episode #31: Bat Chat Review, Flanking and Spanking in Cliff

I review the Bat Chat 25 t, a tier 10 French medium tank, with a replay of a Cliff battle.

Stat line: Ace Tanker, 5.4k damage, 8 kills, 2 spots

The Bat Chat has strong scouting capability and can carry games if the driver carefully conserves HP. It is the classic example of a tank that has a high ceiling and low floor, i.e. Bat Chat performance is highly dependent on the driver.

It is one of only two tanks where I have been able to average over both 2 kills and 2 spots per game over 100+ battles, and that speaks to the strengths of the tank.

Strengths and Weaknesses

+ excellent top speed
+ excellent acceleration
+ excellent camouflage
+ excellent burst damage per clip (1950)
+ small profile
– long clip reload (~38 sec)
– poor accuracy (0.38)
– long aim time (2.7)
– paper-thin armor
– relatively low hull traverse for a light-armored medium
– mediocre gun depression (-6) and rear-mounted turret limit hill-fighting capability
– small crew (3) hampers skill acquisition

Recommended Equipment

  1. Optics
  2. VStab
  3. GLD or Vents (I prefer GLD to improve gun handling)

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “Unicum” mean?

Unicum is a term coined by the WoT community to denote players who are rated in the top 1% in terms of measurable performance (i.e. stats) that are publicly available for each player.

The most widely-used and credible rating system is known as WN8. No rating system is perfect, but WN8 addressed many of the flaws from earlier rating systems.

The WN authors perform extensive statistical analysis of data from community stat sites (e.g. VBAddict and Noobmeter) to determine expected stats for each tank in the game. An individual player is measured against these expected stats using the player’s data that is publicly available through the WoT API for Random Battles (aka “Public Battles” or simply “pubs”), and then an aggregate calculation is used to determine a single WN8 number for that player’s account.

What is the purpose of the “Road to Unicum” videos?

When I read the official WoT 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 why’s behind them.

Therefore, in this video series I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1%) with silver ammo only. 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.

For full disclosure, I spend money on the game, and that most definitely helps with stats. I believe that it’s possible to reach Unicum as a F2P player and with silver ammo, but the process would be extremely tedious and suck the fun out of the game for me.

Who is the intended audience?

Basically anyone who does not already have a purple WN8 Recent (2450+) and who is looking for guidance / tips for improving their gameplay.

Players who already have a purple Recent WN8 already know what I know.

Your account is not Unicum in some of these videos, so why did you publish them?

The title implies the journey to get there, not already being there.

That said, I reached account Unicum (2450 WN8) at 13195 battles on my original WoT account with silver ammo only:

Taugrim's WN8 stats @ 13195 battles

Here are my most recent WN8 stats:

Taugrim's WN8 stats @ 15325 battles

Beyond WoT, I have a long history of publishing guides for various online games that have meaningfully helped players improve their gameplay. Sharing knowledge and providing guidance are things I love to do.

Why don’t you use gold ammo (“premium ammo”) in Random Battles (“pubs”)?

I don’t use gold ammo in pubs because it’s very problematic for tank balance. No judgement on players who use it, it is a built-in game mechanic and is a powerful tool.

Tanks with heavy armor give up a lot for that armor: acceleration, top speed, hull traverse, turret traverse, etc. Gold ammo nullifies the armor of such tanks while leaving those tanks with all the downsides of bearing that armor.

For the purpose of these educational videos, I think it’s more illustrative and helpful to viewers to show how to perform well with silver ammo, as opposed to firing a lot of gold.

For full premade vs premade contexts (e.g. strongholds, etc), I do load and fire some gold ammo. Keep in mind that WN8 only measures stats from Random Battles.

How do we know you really don’t use gold ammo in Random Battles?

I can’t offer you exhaustive proof – that would require my collecting and posting over 10k screenshots or replay files, and frankly no one would go through them all anyway.

That said, I can offer meaningful proof – I have posted hundreds of screenshots (758 and counting) for battles in which I earned Ace Tanker or 1st class badges, and you can see from the ammo re-supply costs that I’m firing silver ammo only.

Aside from that, you’ll have to take my word for it, and the fact that no one will ever be able to post a replay of my firing gold ammo at them.

Why don’t you use mods?

I’ve never used any mods in WoT, for multiple reasons:

  1. The stock UI is pretty functional, relative to other games
  2. Some mods give information (such as XVM player stats) which I think would be depressing or distracting to see. I react to game flow based on what my eyes tell me. I do keep a mental note of good players and good clans (e.g. the top 10 listed on WoTLabs)
  3. It’s a hassle when mods break, especially due to game patches, and I don’t want to become overly dependent on them
  4. It’s not completely clear to me what mods are legal and what are not. If I’m ever accused of hacking or using cheating mods, it’s much easier to simply respond that I’ve never used any mods
  5. Some people in my cross-gaming guild kept insisting that mods were essential, same with gold ammo, and I often buck the trend to prove a point. Mods can definitely help, but they’re aren’t needed to play at a Unicum level
  6. Some (formal) formats don’t allow mods. I’ll probably never do tournaments and stuff, but you never know…

That said, there was one mod in particular I believed which would be helpful, and that was the minimap mod with tank names and last-spotted locations, but as of 9.5 those things are now built-in to the game :)

I do use mods in other games, e.g. WoW, WildStar. For the reasons above, I don’t in WoT.

Why don’t you have a purple (60%) Win Rate?

WR is easily padded via platooning with skilled players, since WR is a reflection of team performance. WN8 is more of a reflection of individual performance.

I’ve solopub’d (solo-queued) over 90% of my battles. Even when I was in a clan (WANTD/WNTED), I still solopub’d 80+% of the time. It’s not that I don’t like platooning with people – I do – but some nights I hop around various tanks or play tiers other people don’t want or people are playing pref MM.

Unicum WR is 60-64%, Super Uni is 65+%. Those are difficult WRs to sustain mostly solopubbing, especially with silver ammo only.

When I have platooned regularly with equally-skilled players, my Recent WR has been over 60%.

Do you play stock tanks or only fully-researched tanks?

The answer is in-between those two. I typically use enough Free XP to research the first gun with functional penetration (doesn’t have to be the top gun), then grind the remaining gun(s), engine(s), and other upgraded modules.

A lot of players research engines on mediums tanks before I typically do, but if your gun isn’t functional, mobility doesn’t meaningfully matter, because you’ll just get to a place faster and start bouncing shells. LOLZ.

In most cases, upgraded tracks are required to mount upgraded gun(s). Depending how much Free XP I have, what I’ll sometimes do is mount suspension equipment, then forgo one piece of equipment (altho I always keep VStab for upper-tier tanks because of aim time reduction), then grind out the upgraded tracks and swap out the suspension equipment.

As a recent example, for the M103, I Free XP’d the middle gun (T112) and the turret, but I grinded out the top gun (M58) and the engine, and I didn’t bother to research the upgraded radio nor tracks.

How do you choose your replays?

I chose replays based on the tank lines I’m working on, poll votes from viewers, and comments from viewers.

Let me clearly state that I don’t just upload any random or normal replay.

I intentionally choose replays where there is educational value, in terms of good illustrative gameplay and mistakes that I make. For the most part, the replays are of battles in which there is meaningful challenge, since there isn’t much to learn from a faceroll victory unless you are the one enabling it to happen.

Can you post replays where you are the bottom tier?

Yes, I’ve been posting such replays since the 5th episode and will continue to do so.

Here are the episodes where I’m bottom tier:

  • Episode 5: T-44 in a tier 10 battle
  • Episode 8: ELC AMX in a tier 8 battle
  • Episode 13: IS-3 in two tier 10 battles
  • Episode 24: AMX 12t in three tier 9 battles
  • Episode 26: Chaffee in a tier 8 battle

Do you make videos of arty gameplay?

No, for two reasons:

  • I enjoy driving tanks as well as operating a gun. Arty is more about the latter than the former. This is not to say it wouldn’t be fun – for me the timing of shell travel over distances would be interesting – but the gameplay wouldn’t be as engaging to me as other tank classes
  • Arty tends to make battles much more campy since players are uncomfortable moving out of arty-safe positions

Do you make videos of tournaments or Clan Wars?

Not yet.

Both require that I play in organized groups at specific times. I’d need to find a clan to participate in CW, and as of May 2015 I’m currently clanless.

My videos to-date are strictly public battles (aka randoms), since public battles are where most players spend the vast majority of their time.

Do you have any beginner’s guides that cover core game mechanics?

Yes, I have written guides on the following essentials concepts for WoT:

  1. Guide on Hull Angling: proper angling increases your tank’s effective hull armor, which can cause incoming shells to ricochet or bounce – i.e. angling increases the probability that a shell fails to penetrate armor
  2. Guide on Weak Spots: weak spots are specific areas of a tank that can be penetrated more easily than other areas where the armor is thicker and/or sloped

What crew skills and equipment do you recommend for a given tank?

Watch the first 15 seconds of the video in the garage – that will typically have the recommended and most recent setup that I’m running with for that tank.

There are some amazing web sites, mobile/tablet apps, and desktop applications that enable you visualize the armor of tanks with 3D models, and you can use these to understand their weak apots. Here are the ones I recommend.

tanks.gg

This relatively new site allows you to view the 3D models of every tank in a web browser.

You can mouse over various parts of the tank to see the penetration values. You can also rotate the turret, so that you can determine side and rear turret values.

The site provides both live and test 3D models.

Tank Inspector

This is an application you install on your Windows computer, and similar to tanks.gg, it provides 3D models of every tank.

One notable feature is that you can specify the shell type (AP/APCR/HEAT/HE/HESH) and caliber of the gun firing on the tank, as shell normalization varies by shell type, and this enables you to see the effective armor values.

Aside from sending me stuff through WoT itself (e.g. gifts of gold, premium tanks, etc), here are other options:

  • Donate via PayPal
    Donate via PayPal
  • Shop on Amazon through one of these links: CA | DE | FR | UK | US
    Any purchase you make supports me and won’t impact what you pay

Before you gift me a premium tank (and thanks, that’s very generous of you!), please let me know your intention, because I may decline. E.g. I declined a TOG II gift because I couldn’t stomach the snail-like mobility. That said, there are plenty of premium tanks that would be interesting to try, so let me know and we’ll discuss.

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

Guide to the ELC AMX in World of Tanks


This guide covers the wildly popular ELC AMX, the tier 5 French light tank in World of Tanks (WoT). In my opinion, the ELC AMX is the most consistently incorrectly played tank in all of WoT, because players fail to adjust to its unique characteristics.

I’ve had very good results playing the ELC AMX as described in this guide, and hopefully it will help you improve your gameplay.

ELC AMX stats

My ELC AMX stats @ 465 battles: 61% WR, 818 dpg, 2.31 spg, 1.35 kpg, for a 3.6k WN8 (Super Unicum). Note I use silver ammo only.

Rule #1: If You Can’t Aim at What You Spot, You’re Doing It Wrong

Most ELC AMX drivers do the exact opposite of this rule, i.e. they drive around like a chicken with its head cut off, and they either can’t aim their gun at their target because it’s not in front of them, or their aiming reticle is huge from driving and they miss badly.

The ELC AMX thrives when played as a hybrid TD/scout as opposed to an active scout (driving around to keep tanks spotted) or a pure passive scout (sitting in a bush and not firing), because the tank lacks a turret, the gun is potent, and the gun handles very poorly.

The most effective method of spotting in the ELC AMX is to find a position that provides you with a good field of view and adjacent hard cover. From such a position, you can spot tanks and fire on them, then pull back behind hard cover until you are invisible, at which point you can spot and shoot again.

While the ELC is incredibly mobile, you want to leverage that mobility in spurts, to either move to a new forward position, flex to a flank that needs help, or get behind or underneath a tank so that they can’t fire at you.

Rule #2: Create First-Shot Opportunities

The key to success in the ELC AMX is to leverage its vision control, mobility, and the TD-quality gun while managing its poor gun handling and extreme fragility.

With these strengths and weaknesses in mind, your goal is to create first-shot opportunities, i.e. situations in which you spot the enemy and have sufficient time to aim and fire before they spot you. If you are spotted after firing, you should immediately pull back behind hard cover until you are no longer spotted.

On paper the low view range of 360 meters would seem like a meaningful drawback, but the ELC AMX has superb camouflage so you’ll often out-spot enemy tanks.

The ELC AMX when played properly is the ultimate ninja assassin – sometimes the tanks you’re firing on won’t even spot you.

Rule #3: Assume You’re Spotted After Firing

When you’re spotted, there is a delay of 3 seconds before Sixth Sense procs. Given that, and the facts that the ELC AMX is fragile and has a long reload, after firing your gun it’s a good habit to assume that you’re spotted and behave accordingly, i.e. pull back behind hard cover.

You may be concerned that pulling back may cause you to lose spotting on enemy tanks, but remember that tanks remain lit for 5-10 seconds, so even if you pull back immediately after firing, you’ll know after 3 seconds whether you were spotted, and if you were not spotted you can move back into your spotting position. In most cases, the enemy tanks will remain lit during that period.

Rule #4: Execute Drive-By’s and Troll-Hugging Carefully

ELC AMX drivers like to do drive-by’s on targets, where they drive toward them, fire, then drive away. This can be very effective when it’s done carefully. Given the awful gun handling and long reload, when firing on the move you need to get very close to your target to ensure your shot doesn’t miss.

Obviously you don’t want to try a drive-by on an opposing tank if they are supported by other nearby tanks that will shoot you. The better option is to maintain distance, setup a first-shot opportunity, rinse, and repeat.

Against some taller tanks with poor gun depression (e.g. mid-tier Soviet heavies such as the KV-1S, KV-2, KV-85, T-150, etc), you can hug your opponent while you’re reloading, then reverse a bit to fire, then go back to hugging. You need to be careful that you don’t allow them to ram you; the ELC AMX is a paperweight and even slight contact with most tanks will damage and de-track the ELC AMX.

Crew and Equipment Setup

The recommended crew skills, in order of priority:

  • For the Commander: Sixth Sense, Camouflage, Snap Shot, Brothers in Arms
  • For the Driver: Camouflage, Smooth Ride, Off-Road Driving, Brothers in Arms

Basically the crew skills are selected to maximize vision control and gun handling.

If you have more than 4 skills on each crew member, you disgust me. /envy

The recommended equipment modules:

  • Binoculars: these complement the tank’s ability to camo-snipe
  • Gun Rammer: to reduce the slow reload
  • Gun Laying Drive: to reduce the glacial aim time

Binocs require your hull to be stationary, therefore I recommend using the “lock hull” command once you settle into a camo-sniping position. With “lock hull” turned on, you can move your aiming reticle to the extent allowed while keeping your hull stationary. The “lock hull” command is bound to “X” by default.

Illustrative Gameplay

Here is the first replay, where these concepts are demonstrated:

The ELC AMX gets scout matchmaking, so even though it is a tier 5 tank it sees tier 6-8 battles.

In tier 8 battles, you face tanks that can 1-shot your tank, so you have to play more carefully as compared to tier 6 battles.

All too often, ELC drivers die early and cripple their team’s spotting capability. I discuss and make two common mistakes in the second replay:

  1. risking exposure to take a shot with the glacial-aiming gun
  2. taking a poor approach line to spot enemy tanks

These videos are part of my “Road to Unicum” tank reviews in which I share what I’ve learned as I progress towards account Unicum rating (top 1%). 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.

Cheers,
Taugrim

Taugrim's WoT Stats

Posted in Guide, Light 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

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:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1EwC3bmWEUWjK78hBZET5svynTnNrpGwkPDY9SIWgVIw/edit?usp=sharing

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

WildStar PVP Video: Esper “Melee Mage” in PVP Drop 2


In this video, I provide an update to my “Melee Mage” Esper PVP build for the PVP Drop 2 patch. I’m glad to report that the build is performing well :)

I discuss the patch changes, adjustments to my build, Esper lifesteal mechanics, and last but not least the *fantastic* news from MuffinMan about proposed changes to the PVP gear system:

Gear Gaps:

The gear gaps are being closed. The intent is to make it so skilled players in blues will still be competitive with players in Tier 2 sets (1800’s). We will be making following changes:

  • The PvP blue set will be boosted to the current Tier 1 set
  • The Tier 2 set will remain the same
  • The Tier 1 set will be boosted to bridge the gap between blues and Tier 2.
  • This change is targeted to be pushed out in the next few weeks.

Making Tier 2 Gear obtainable in Rated Battlegrounds:

I would also like to make Tier 2 pvp gear obtainable in Rated Battlegrounds. This is another change that will require approval and again, I will provide updates when I am able.

Carbine’s proposed changes are almost identical to what I recommended in my recent blog post about the endgame PVP system.

I am so psyched that they are going with a solution that makes PVP more skill-based, and still supports gear progression for those who want it.

MuffinMan also said that healing will get increased:

Healing in PvP:

Adjustments are being made internally to increase the effectiveness of healing in PvP. This change will need a balance pass and testing so I can’t provide an ETA at this time.

While I agree with Carbine that healing was too strong pre-Drop 2 – combat sometimes boiled down to no one dying until healers went OOM – it was overnerfed in Drop 2, so it make sense that healing will be re-adjusted.

Posted in Esper, Game Design, PVP, Video, WildStar
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