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 0.1% of all players) with silver ammo only. 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 AMXI’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

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

WildStar: Great Combat System, Horrible Endgame PVP Sytem

Editor’s note (2014/08/06): MuffinMan just announced that they are making changes that are almost identical to what I had suggested as Option C below. Way to go Carbine!

Like many #WildStar players, I am a huge fan of the game’s combat system but believe the 50 PVP system is horribly flawed.

Here are the major issues with WildStar’s PVP system:

  1. The gear scales too much between blue unrated, 1500 rated, and 1800 rated gear. The stat differentials from blue->1500 and from 1500->1800 are quite significant, to the point where a 1800-geared player will vastly outperform a comparably-skilled blue-geared player. That is, 1800 gear is a faceroll advantage
  2. The matchmaking (MM) system pairs blue-geared players up against 1500- and 1800-geared players
  3. You tend to lose more rating from a loss than what you gain from a win. There are plenty of people who have noticed this. I average about 14-15 rating per win, about 22-23 rating per loss. To maintain a break-even rating, I have to win ~60% of my matches. To raise your rating at a meaningful rate, you need to win the majority of your matches. Given that the overall win/loss ratio for the population has to be 50/50 (it’s actually worse, I’ll talk about this in a moment), this means that a lot of players will be losing rating the more they participate in rated PVP. The ELO rating change calculations seem borked

About the 1st and 2nd points above, I sum up the gear differentials this way:

  • blue gear = elementary school kid
  • blue gear + full runes = middle schooler
  • 1500 gear = high schooler
  • 1500 gear + full runes = college student
  • 1800 gear = adult
  • 1800 gear + full runes = King Leonidas of Sparta. You know, this guy:

This is Sparta!

About the 3rd point above, the win/loss ratio has to less than .500 on a global scale. Why? Some players on the losing side in an RBG bail during the match, and this creates a vicious cycle where the losing side is short-handed, and then unfortunate players get sucked into the match, not knowing that it’s already ongoing. Therefore, the win rewards 10 players on the winning side, but more than 10 players may be credited with a loss, especially in a faceroll loss where the bailout rate is high. This week, I dropped I lost 45 points from 2 losses where I joined mid-match and our side was getting stomped. This is the reason I stay in losing matches until they finish (unless I have to log for RL reasons) – I don’t want to hurt the rating of another player of my faction who got sucked into the match in-progress by my selfishly leaving.

I can anticipate what the response will be from some players: just get 1800 gear, it’s not that hard.

The issue with obtaining 1800 gear or even 1500 gear at this point in the game:

  • Class imbalance is still poor. Warriors and DPS Slingers are the meta, even with some of the recent Warrior nerfs. If you aren’t either of those classes or playing with carries on those classes, the PVP experience is rather painful
  • It’s harder now to get to 1500 and 1800 than it was previously. Players who reached 1500 (RBG or Arena) or 1800 (Arena) within the first few weeks post-launch did not have to face a high density of 1800-geared players. That is no longer the case. Actually, the July 3rd patch widened the MM in terms of rating spread:
    • (PvP) Improved matching for Rated Battlegrounds and Rated Arenas by increasing the amount of rating points per search interval and by increasing the max spread of rating used. This means roughly, that players should see an overall decrease in queue times when attempting to match players/teams of disparate ratings.

If you are in a guild or friends with people who are 1800, especially Warriors and DPS Spellslingers, you can benefit from them carrying you. On the flip side, if your friends and guildees aren’t 1800 or even 1500-geared, you are actually penalized for grouping with them because as a premade you will likely face a premade from the other side, and if they have geared players your team is going to struggle.

I experienced this after hitting 50 in early July and then working my way to 1500 RBG rating with my “Melee Mage” Esper. I soloed my way up to 1471 rating within 3 days of reaching 50.

Taugrim Reaches 1471 RBG Solo-Queuing

I had the (incorrect) impression at the time that getting to 1500 wouldn’t be that difficult, but looking back I think I had an unusual win streak to get to 1471. Over the next 6 days my rating yo-yo’d until I finally reached 1500.

On my journey to 1500, in <Pharos> we had only 1 active 1500-geared player, a superb tank Stalker named Sinovia (now on Pergo). The more guildees I grouped with, the higher our loss %, because most of them were in blue gear, and our premade was getting matched against geared premades. This is the first time I’ve ever played PVP where grouping with baseline-PVP-geared guildees in battlegrounds is discouraged by how the game mechanics work :(

I can also anticipate that some folks will say: the upcoming progressive rating requirements for gear will help the PVP situation!

Actually, my projection is that it won’t meaningfully help players who are blue-geared, unless they are already at 1250+ rating before the patch. Here’s why:

  • The % of players with purple gear (1500 or 1800) who rune their gear is going to be higher than the % of players with blue gear who rune their gear. The mentality of some players (not me) is “I’m not going to run my blue gear because I’ll replace it soon.” This is probably true for people getting carried by 1800s. But for the rest of the player base, not runing blue gear is going to put them at a significant stats disadvantage relative to purple players, and keep in mind, you need to win a majority of matches to steadily increase your rating
  • There are plenty of (competent) players well under 1200 rating now, because of everything described above. Take a player at 1000 rating. Getting to 1250 would require winning ~18 matches straight, or having a 70%+ win rate over a longer stretch of matches. So while it’s nice that the fruit is lower, without being carried, it’s still too high for many players at sub-1200 ratings to reach up and grab

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about my situation. I’m not one to give up easily, and despite the unfriendly game mechanics, I’ve worked my way up to ~1700 RBG rating soloing or grouping with 1-2 guildees:

Taugrim's "Melee Mage" Esper at 1700 RBG

That said, I’ve been talking to folks inside and outside my guild, and there are plenty of competent players would can’t get to 1500 because of the factors described above.

Thanks to the PVP sytem, I’ll continue to end up in situations like the following screenie from this morning, where my 2-man group ends up facing a 7+ person premade with 1800 gear. My guildee Sinovia happened to start watching Blunt’s stream when the score was 3-3. Sure, we made them work for it, but they had a faceroll advantage due to gear differentials:

Joy of Facing Heavy 1800 Premades

The kicker of the above screenshot was the loss dinged my rating by 20 points. Minus 20 points for a loss against that premade with that gear? That’s just silly! Sinovia said in their next queue pop they commented that “Taugrim’s not here” so at least I’m getting respect from my opponents. LOL.

By the way, I know things would be easier for me (and my guildees) if I just relented and rolled a Warrior or DPS Spellslinger. But games should never be about having to play the FOTM to be viable.

Granted, the upcoming patch changes should help DPS Stalker and DPS Esper in PVP. But the real culprits – gear differentials, crappy MM, crappy ELO calculations – will still be there.

My 2 cents on how to fix this: as always I advocate a skill-based PVP environment, so skill is the primary determining factor in PVP outcomes, not gear. It’s the healthiest for the game and provides the best experience for the players. The problem right now with WildStar PVP looks like this:

gear > class > skill

This is bass ackward, especially for a game that positions itself as being highly skill-based.

In my opinion, Carbine didn’t learn from WoW’s journey with PVP. WoW PVP became much more skill-based in Cataclysm, when rating requirements were completely dropped from T1 gear, so that players could acquire the same gear as anyone else, and since gear differentials were low to none, skill was the primary determinant in PVP outcomes. Blizzard later even dropped the stats upgrade in the T2 weapons, so T2 gear is a strictly cosmetic reward. Ratings in WoW are a reflection of performance – not what upgraded gear you can acquire – and that’s exactly how it should be.

If you’re truly skilled and playing a functional spec, you shouldn’t need better gear. Better players (on FOTM classes) + better gear = faceroll.

I hope Carbine sorts this out. I really do. I completely passed on a lot of games after GW2 – FFXIV, Neverwinter, ESO – because I knew those games wouldn’t appeal to me for a meaningful timeframe. I adore WildStar, but as a diehard PVP fan I’m finding the endgame PVP to be a big turnoff to me, my guildees, and the community. WildStar PVP was a blast from 6-49, not so much at 50.

As Tom Cruise said in Days of Thunder: I want to lose to a better driver, not a better car. That’s how it should be.



There are multiple ways this could be addressed.


E.g. if the current 1800 gear was actually more like the 1500 gear in terms of stats, and the current 1500 somewhere between blues and what it is now, gear would not be that much of a factor in driving PVP outcomes, and skill would shine moreso than now.


As described.

Wouldn’t solve the gear differentials issue, but would at least provide another option to players.


Option A and Option B could be combined to lessening gear differentials and adding 1800 gear to RBGs.

Option C is my recommended option, because it lessens the impact of gear and allows skill to shine, and it still provides gear progression for those who really care about that (i.e. people other than me).


This is letting everyone be able to acquire gear with the same stats, regardless of rating.

The longest-tenured progression MMORPG, WoW, has had strictly cosmetic gear at higher ratings for several years in PVP.

There are plenty of people who wouldn’t be OK with this, since they need progression to enjoy PVP, and/or they want to faceroll undergeared opponents.



So I didn’t realize there is another huge incentive to some 1800 players who are playing carry classes (esp DPS Slinger and Warrior) to continue to defend the system as-is: they make a 50 plat to boost a player to 1800 in 2v2.

This not only rewards the carrier with huge income – it screws up the economy, and it creates a pay-to-win environment.

I didn’t realize how much of a thing this was, but I heard about it when grouped with players from Pergo for RBGs last night. Some players have accumulated over 1000 plat (yes, 1k plat) from boosting on Pergo.



UPDATE 3 (2014/08/06):


MuffinMan posted this last night:

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.

WAY TO GO CARBINE (with the voiceover)

I think he means that the 1500 gear is getting buffed to somewhere between where it is now and the current 1800 gear, and that the blue gear is getting buffed to the current 1500 gear.

The solution MuffinMan proposed is almost identical to what I described above as Option C, which was the option I recommended.

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.


Posted in Game Design, PVP, WildStar

My Thoughts on the Esper July Update for the “Melee Mage” PVP Build

I wanted to share my thoughts on the impact of the proposed Esper changes, posted last week, to the “Melee Mage” Esper build :

Regarding this:

Asyreal, on 15 Jul 2014 – 2:45 PM, said:

Spectral Form

o This will become castable while moving

Obviously our Innate Spectral Form (SF) being castable while moving is a big quality of life improvement for a melee class.

Right now we have to use Dash, Projected Spirit, or the 9% movement boost from our PVP boots to move during the Innate self-root.

On the PTR, the buff to the Innate is being balanced by reducing the bubble from 300% to 250%. I’ll gladly take that tradeoff. The bubble from our Innate today is good, but our mobility is constrained, which means we eat attacks we might have been able to avoid completely.

Being mobile will allow us to avoid damage, and have the bubble absorb what it really needs to absorb.

Regarding this:

Asyreal, on 15 Jul 2014 – 2:45 PM, said:

Psychic Frenzy

o The initial cast GCD will be reduced to .75s, down from 1.25s

o The Tier 8 bonus will only requires 3 Psi Charge stacks, down from 6

I’m as excited about the Psychic Frenzy (PF) changes as the Innate change for the “Melee Mage” Esper.

PF on live is 2.25s to fire all 3 blades for a single cast. By reducing the initial cast by half a second, firing all 3 blades will take 1.75s. Obviously, a shorter overall cast time means higher throughput, and that means higher sustained DPS, which means higher sustain from the lifesteal, and we build PPs faster.

For those curious about the timing, here’s how it works on live:
0.00 – 0.745 cast time for 1st blade
0.75 1st blade fires
0.75 – 1.25 GCD for 1st blade
1.25 2nd blade fires (instant)
1.25 – 1.75 GCD for 2nd blade
1.75 3rd blade fires (instant)
1.75 – 2.25 GCD for 3rd blade

Ayestes confirmed the new timing on the PTR looks like this:
0.75 first blade fires
0.75 second blade fires
1.25 third blade fires
1.75 gcd ends

I’ve never complained publicly about PF, but my thought was that for a melee class – with light armor no less – this seemed like a slow spammable in terms of cast time and mediocre DPS, in this game and compared to other games. Usually melee attacks have the higher DPS, because meleeing requires staying in close range, which tends to entail more risk, and melees generally have lower uptime on their attacks as they run in and out of range. I think the shortened cast time is a step in the right direction. A huge step.

I’m also glad to see that the T8 bonus will be meaningful. Today, I always take T8 for PF, because the damage difference between T4 and T8 is significant, and more damage also means more sustain, but the T8 bonus is underwhelming. With the change to make a PP build every 3 full casts, we’ll get a nice bump to our finisher throughput. Like I said, if you aren’t already investing T8 in PF, you’re doing it wrong. But the change will provide better ROI.

Will PF become as viable as Telekinetic Strike (TStrike) for sustained DPS in PVE? Probably not, especially if there are AMPs that reward stationary play, and that synergizes well with a ranged build but not so much for a melee one.

In PVP, PF will still be superior for over TStrike, given the lifesteal and ability to melee strafe targets and cause them to miss. For Espers who struggle with movement, TStrike may feel more comfortable for them.

Regarding this:

Asyreal, on 15 Jul 2014 – 2:45 PM, said:

While we are moving away from forcing Espers to be immobile casters, we do not want to completely kill the playstyle for players that enjoy the concept. In the future you can expect to see some AMPs and Ability tiers that will reward players based on the amount of time they spend stationary.

I can already anticipate that some Espers are going to theorycraft that stationary AMPs might provide meaningful value to Melee Mage Espers.

While there are times when our targets don’t move – either the target is stupid, or they’re CC’d – movement is critical for good MDPS gameplay, and there would be an opportunity cost to taking stationary AMPs over other ones that synergize better with a melee build.

Stationary AMPs will be incredibly relevant for PVE RDPS, but not for PVP MDPS.


Lastly, it looks like the CC Resilience AMPs are getting reduced from 30% to 15% across the board, so I will likely use those points plus one from the Dash AMPs to take No Pain No AMP to further boost PP generation. My guildee Top (@unindel) also suggested Refund AMP as an option, but after thinking about it, I think Mind Burst with it’s wide telegraph would probably benefit more from this AMP than TStorm, which has a narrow telegraph and is unlikely to hit as many targets to increase the chance of a deflect-based proc.

Overall, I’m excited about the changes. I don’t think on paper they will make “Melee Mage” Esper too strong, but they will help to address the DPS gap we see right now between Esper and Warrior / SpellSlinger. Even with the recent nerfs to Rampage, Warrior is still a terror in PVP.

P.S. I am also glad to see that DPS Stalkers received buffs on live and have more on the PTR, as they need the burst to be able to meaningfully pressure targets.

P.P.S. I’ve been adding a lot of content to my “Melee Mage” PVP Guide, including a video where I output 2.1 million damage, 785k healing, and 17-4 KDR in a closely contested RBG for which I queued solo.

Posted in Esper, PVP, Warrior, WildStar
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