WoT Corner: Heavy Tank Tactics
When you think of tanks, it’s probably the heavy tank that comes to mind. Huge, hulking, heavily armored and armed, the heavy tank is the bruiser of WoT. Because of this, most new players gravitate to the heavy naturally. It seems to offer the most protection, deliver the most punishment and do the game’s heavy lifting. Happily, it’s actually a good idea for new players to try heavies first; they are the most forgiving class and can help you learn most of the games basic tactics. However, while the heavy’s job and employment in WoT seems straight forward, there are plenty of things to consider in order to play them well. Anyone can lumber to a flank and start trading HP, but how do you do it right?
As usual we’ll start with crew and equipment.
Of all the classes the heavy tank can deal with having a poor crew the best; they tend to fight up close and personal where crew skill and perk buffs are less significant. That being said, you obviously want to have a decent crew training plan.
Your commander should train Sixth Sense first, even for a heavy it’s a must have perk. Give the gunner Snap Shot and select Smooth Ride for drivers. Loaders and radiomen need Repairs for the first skill. There’s an argument to be made for the whole crew taking Repair first, the reason being heavies typically receive the brunt of the enemy assault. Quickly repairing modules, especially tracks, can be crucial to survival and effectiveness. Personally, I prefer combat enhancers first, and the repairs second. When the third skill is gained it’s according to taste, but concentrate on things that help you shoot, move and spot. One interesting skill for the driver is Controlled Impact. It increases damage done by ramming and decreases damage taken. For the super heavy tanks it’ll make a big difference though I’d not recommend it earlier than the third skill choice.
Now your tank is crewed, what about equipment?
As you may have guessed, equipment for a heavy tank ought to be geared towards directly enhancing combat effectiveness. Gun Rammer is a no brainer; every heavy that can carry one should (auto loaders cannot use it). Heavies have long reload times, so the reload decrease can be very noticeable. The next piece of vital equipment is the Vertical Stabilizer which I also consider mandatory if the tank can mount it. The third piece comes down to preference to some extent. Vents are probably always a good choice as they’ll improve everything across the board. The Gun Laying Drive (GLD) is also beneficial; I use the GLD, though most of the best players will recommend vents first. Torsion Bars can allow mounting more equipment if you don’t have an upgraded suspension and spall liners can occasionally help with arty splash, but I don’t really recommend either one.
To be honest most of the remaining equipment ranges from useless to very situational. Oh, and please for the love of all things, don’t mount a camo net and binoculars on your IS-3, then proceed to snipe from the red line!
Now that you’re warned against sniping from a bush in your Soviet heavy (I hope you did not require that advice), how exactly should you play it?
Heavies are the brawlers, the pushers, the damage dealers and absorbers. Heavies dominate lanes and flanks by winning them, or holding them. This is a tremendous responsibility (well, as tremendous as a game gets). One interesting thing about them is their central game role attracts new players. This creates a situation where bad heavy play by new or unskilled players can have a seriously detrimental effect on the team’s chances. Most teams can deal with a player camping in their TD near the cap, but if their heavies do it things can south quickly.
At game start, the heavy driver needs to move directly toward the most influential part of the map. Do this while not blundering into the open, and avoiding travel through overly exposed areas. Most maps have a critical map area that must be won or held to secure a win. For example, the town in Lakeville, tank alley on Himmelsdorf and the side scrape peekaboom crossroads plaza in Ruinberg (and its evil twin Winter Ruinberg). In general, the critical area of each map also happen to be the best place for the heavy, but not always. One example is Prokhorovka which actually has three critical areas that all support each other.
Regardless of where you choose to move, make sure you get there as soon as possible without over-exposure. You’re slow, and enemy scouts will likely have opportunities to spot you. Be aware of the various choke points and enemy spotting areas; you may be seen before getting forward and arty will punish that mistake. More than one slow heavy has been obliterated before reaching a flank simply because they’re lazy and took the short route, or got caught in the open. Pay attention to your tank’s speed, the map and the various route choices. It’s possible your Maus simply can’t make certain positions because the enemy team has good scouts and arty.
So, be flexible. When you arrive, though, what then?
As discussed in previous articles, the scouts and mediums may already be engaged as you approach. Ideally, the scouts have given you some kind of SA on what’s occupying the area you’re contesting. Pay attention to the team layouts and what has been spotted; if your mediums are engaged add your gun to the mix and positively influence the fight. This is especially true in the case of overaggressive enemy scouts and mediums who’ve pushed hard into your team. Often they aren’t even aware of your approach; make short work of the early and over extended arrivals.
If the mediums are not already engaged, move up to take the forward positions and be patient. It’s very likely the enemy will show themselves soon. Remember the forward positons heavies occupy are very often within proxy spotting range; if not they’re almost always in your tanks view range. Be careful of poking out without SA on what’s on the other side. Be extra cautious if you know their heavies and TDs are fast enough to be in position already zoomed in on the corner or area you are about to expose yourself from. I’ve been taken out of the game on the first ill-advised poke more than once. At this point it’s time to asses and begin to move to the next phase of engagement.
Probably the easiest situation to asses is one I mentioned in my medium tactics column. If your mediums and scouts are wolf packing in front of you, and winning, you can simply bull forward and help clean up the scraps. This is a very winning situation and can be followed up by pressing to another flank, moving into the back field and pushing onto cap. This includes a lot of W pressing and left clicking which is always good! Then again what if things are not going so swimmingly?
If the flank is more of a stalemate, or you simply don’t know what is there, proceed with caution. A poorly thought out push or poke may leave you crippled and embolden the enemy to push. Remember to use good individual tactics and maneuver; side scrape, use hull down positions and time shots. In a neutral fight situation work on positive HP trades and good teamwork on corners and hull down spots to knock down the enemy. This means don’t block, don’t pull in front of people with shots when you’re still reloading and don’t bump friendlies throwing off their aim. When an advantage is secured, push and mop them up. Mediums and scouts are great for helping you with that. If your mediums and scouts push, make sure to aggressively follow up unless it’s an obviously suicidal move. Remember that arty loves to focus these kinds of brawling areas and if you are predicable, or get tracked, or leave them a shot, they’ll take it. The big slow kids are who they’re looking for. That’s all well and good of course, going to a flank and winning is easy right?
How do you proceed when you’re not winning, or find yourself on a weak flank with a superior enemy?
As I said earlier, one of the heavies jobs is to hold flanks if need be. Heavies often can’t reposition very fast, and you’ll not always be able to get away. Additionally, you may just need to stay there to slow or stop the enemy. In this case, all the above advice about a neutral situation applies with one important and overarching caveat. Stay in the fight, don’t die. Be less interested in forcing the issue and making neutral trades in HP. Concentrate on punishing an over aggressive enemy vice trying to force the trade, or poking out to look for shots. Make sure you’re side scraping and using your tanks armor according to its layout. Bait the enemy to take bad shots and make sure yours count. If you’re forced to retreat, do it calmly and have a plan. Try to keep your best armor facing the threat, look to track enemies (your arty or camping TDs can take big advantage of that) if you can to disrupt their advance. Kill the low HP tanks first to improve your odds and generally try to do the following two things. Survive as long as possible, and strive to always get “just one more shot.” One move that often throws off a pushing enemy is to move in and past them; you can often confuse them and get shots into rear and side armor. Doing that is a great way to get just one more shot. If you can move around the rock or corner they pushed from, it’ll force them to back track to deal with you; it may be the time your team needs to win or come to your aid.
You may have noted I’ve not mentioned flexing in this article. Generally the heavy tanks are poor at flexing due to low speed. This of course is situational; there are some relatively fast heavies and sometimes the heavy is just fast enough to get to another flank, or to get back to cap to reset. You’ll find those kinds of flexing decisions need to be made sooner while driving a heavy. Often, the heavy’s best move in a losing situation, where the enemy team is threatening a cap is to simply push through the flank and try to threaten the enemy cap. Bottom line, flexing is possible with the heavy tank but it requires more foresight and may be limited by speed. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done, and should be, but you’ll find the opportunities fewer than with the mediums and lights.
The heavy tank is tasked with doing the heavy lifting in WoT. Most of the iconic tanks from the era WoT covers are heavy tanks which attracts a lot of players. You should strive to move your tank to the critical area of the map, as quickly and safely as possible. When you arrive, be prepared to follow up an advantage, shore up a losing situation or settle in, and win, an HP trading brawl. Use your armor to block and absorb enemy shots and punish them with your large cannon. If you can flex, make the decision early, if you cannot, press to the enemy cap and apply pressure. Played well, the heavy has a large presence and huge influence on the match.
Joe Granducci is a student of politics and military history. He is a life-long gamer and a former fighter pilot. Reliving his wasted youth, and starting his second career after retirement he enjoys reading, movies and computer gaming. Joe plays way too much World of Tanks, and you can follow him on Twitch here or his YouTube channel here. If you like what you see follow all of the NerdGoblins at NerdGoblin facebook and twitter @thenerdgoblin