WoT Corner: How to Minimize Artillery
This week in WoT Corner we’ll cover how to minimize the artillery threat. Recently, I wrote about how artillery is a terrible PvP game mechanic and should be removed. However, it’s not going anywhere soon and it’s something we have to deal with in the game. Some information on how to minimize it is in order. Fortunately, there’re several easy techniques to minimize the arty threat. We’ll look at positioning, movement, cover and tank maneuver.
First and foremost, you’ll not completely negate arty unless you stay dark all game and never venture forth. Understandably, very few attempt this for good reason, so we’ll concentrate on minimizing the damage because we want to play pixel tanks and win the match. Go with the mindset that arty will eventually hit you and execute a plan to minimize its impact. The first thing to take into account when countering arty is to be very aware of positioning.
Positioning’s a bit of a nebulous topic. The term “it depends” is the standard caveat used when discussing it. In relation to arty and minimizing its effect the term applies to understanding where and when arty can hit you on various parts of the maps. Know what positions are dangerous, which are protected and when they are vulnerable. There are many maps, so I can’t cover all of them, but I’ll use a few for examples.
Positioning starts with carefully considering arty immediately after the countdown starts the game. Arty will be ready to fire from 30-50 (less for lower tier arty) seconds after the game starts. Some maps afford areas where arty can fire early blind shots that have a reasonable chance to hit you. This is because they know the spawn points and likely early routes tanks use. For example, the train tracks on Prokhorovka; arty will often lob a shot into that choke point. Your best move is to not be exactly in the center of the road, and to go up and over as fast as possible. These kinds of blind shots aren’t high percentage but they’ll land one every once in a while. Avoid these areas if possible or transit them quickly. It’s more common for arty to pre aim certain well known bottlenecks; they target these initial contact areas because they’ll get the earliest lights. Mountain Pass is a good example of this. Both the ice road in the north and the open areas that must be crossed to move south are exposed to arty. A good scout can light tanks moving in these areas and a smart arty player will take advantage.
The surest way to avoid being hit is to avoid these locations. Unfortunately you often need to navigate them to control critical areas of the map. You minimize the arty threat by doing several things. Don’t stop, ever, try to be as far back from the scout position as possible to minimize the chance of being seen; if seen, consider weaving a bit to throw off their aim. Be careful about weaving too much as is can kill your momentum. If you can take a slightly different route to get to the same position that’s safer from prying eyes, do that. Take your tank’s speed into consideration. Fast tanks may transit the area fast enough to not be lit, large slow tanks may need to avoid that area completely. Avoid knocking down map terrain like fences, walls and buildings. More than one dark tank has been nuked simply off the top down view, with an observant arty watching you knock down things in a predictable manner. Those tears are very real.
This brings us to the second technique for minimizing arty exposure. Watch both your general area and the kill log at the bottom of the screen. If you see a shell land (or the fact that you just got nuked…), or notice that one of your mates has been offed by arty, you gain SA about whether it fired. Occasionally you can even ascertain the direction it came from. Obviously if there exists more than one arty this becomes harder, but you get my point. When arty has fired, you have a short window to make moves, poke without worrying about arty, etc. Gain as much SA about when and where arty is firing whatever the source. When platooning, make it a habit to tell your platoon mates if arty has fired (voice comms help). As an aside, if you are dead and spectating this is one of the useful things a dead person can do. Type in chat if you have seen arty fire while spectating and improve the SA of your living teammates. Additionally, if you play arty and see a tracer while countering, tell your team where the arty is.
While you’re timing their shots, make sure you are trying to stay as “arty safe” as possible.
Clearly you cannot stay perfectly “arty safe.” Many people misuse the term as if it’s some magical skill that, if mastered, will allow you to negate all arty. What it really means is using cover to minimize your exposure; it can’t make you invulnerable. Pay attention to the possible angles arty has on the maps and know what cover is useful and from which direction. Buildings and cities are great for arty cover, but unfortunately even in cities you can be hit from certain angles and positions. Beware the small building or rock that allows an arty to splash you with a near miss; if you are low HP they will attempt this to kill you despite being behind the cover. While I hate telling you this, it’s probably worthwhile to play a bit of arty to learn these spots so you can apply the knowledge in defending your other tanks from the threat. High hills and mountains are useful, but be mindful of artillery with a high shell arc as well as smart players who actually move to position arty for shots on common hideouts. Arty safe is a single, temporary play, not a complete game plan.
While you try to gather as much SA on what direction arty fire is coming from and when they have shot, you’ll be needing to advance and expose yourself. Using the above technique of exploiting as much arty safe terrain as possible you should move forward quickly and decisively. Remember that if arty is firing at you and misses you have a considerable amount of time to relocate or advance before they shoot again. Multiple arty makes this more difficult; but remember we are minimizing the danger, not neutralizing it.
One useful technique to throw off arty is to go dark. If you realize arty is targeting you, get out of view of the enemy, and stay that way for more than 15 seconds or so. In situations where I know I’m being heavily targeted I find myself saying “I need to make that arty forget about me.” There’s nothing magic about 15 seconds, longer is better, but 15 works pretty well. Clearly, the tactical situation will dictate how long you can take. Arty will not, typically, waste much time waiting for a dark tank to reappear unless you have shown a willingness to expose yourself consistently or they are completely intent on targeting only you (in which case you just have to press on as best as possible). After 15 seconds you have a very good chance that they’ve moved on, and even if they see you again they’ll likely have to aim in again. It’s also very important to understand this: you’ll stay lit for a few seconds after you kill that last enemy. Arty will often pay attention to which direction you started off on. If you remain predictable, or knock over some map obstacle they may lay in a round predicting your movement and hit you. Whenever I extricate myself from an exposed scrum I attempt to change heading a few times, or even grab some cover for a bit before moving on. It’s quite satisfying to see that shot come in and hit nowhere near where you are.
If you cannot go dark, do not have cover, or the tactical situation dictates you stay lit then your last resort is to maneuver your tank to spoil their shots.
Moving your tank to spoil shots is dependent on several things. Obviously the maneuverability of your tank is a huge factor, as is the size. A Maus simply cannot shuck and jive like a light tank can. That being said, it can still maneuver a bit and any movement is better than none. Most tankers will be moving their tanks anyway in relation to enemy tanks trying to spoil shots, and the same thing applies to arty. Your maneuvers are better if they are unpredictable, lateral to the arty aim line and on an elevation back slope. Unpredictable is self-evident, rocking back and forth in a rhythm, or poking out at predictable intervals makes the aiming and anticipation easier. Forward and back motion is easier to hit than lateral motion because the lateral aiming increases the arty reticle more; in fact with enough lateral motion and an arty with limited traverse you can completely reset their aim time by hitting their lateral limit. It’s hard to know if you are doing this, but realize it’s an issue they deal with. Lastly, elevation back slopes are harder to hit for arty although the battle assistant has improved the aiming in these situation for those that use it. If you get tracked and you know arty is targeting you, fix it immediately and get moving. Some people will be very tight with their repair kits, I burn them for tracks immediately if I am exposed. Bottom line here? Keep moving: a stationary tank is what every arty is looking for. Exposed, stationary and large is no way to go through a WoT match.
Let’s end by making one thing very clear. I’ve talked a lot about paying close attention to arty, using your cover, timing their shots and maneuvering your tank to present a difficult target. But please do not get the idea that I am telling you to play the entire game against arty. Because you must do all of this while playing your best tank against the enemy tanks you’re facing. Sometimes you’ll make yourself vulnerable to arty to force the best tactical or strategic move in relation to the enemy tanks. It’s simply a fact that you’ll take arty fire and be hit, and will have to try to minimize the damage. Use the above advice and techniques to limit the harassing effect of arty and your game experience will improve greatly.
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