Welcome to The Game Plan! Now that the first WGL APAC season with the new Tier X format is finally over, it’s time for all of us to review and reflect. What’s changed for our eSports teams and fans? Which tanks have risen to prominence? The Coalition – Singapore’s Haku endeavours to answer all these questions and more in his article below.
A few months ago, I wrote an article on the meta of 7/54 – 7 players, with a total tier limit of 54 points and a maximum individual tank tier of 8. This season, Wargaming decided to change the format to 7/68 – 7 players, with a total tier limit of 68 points, and a maximum individual tier of 10. With the Grand Finals in Poland having ended just last month, and 2014 winners Na`Vi crowned champions once again in a very dramatic fashion, what better time than the present to review the meta of 7/68?
In the past, the audience bore witness to very fast tempos, and swashbuckling moves that got the team the decisive advantage to win a match. EL Gaming, for instance, were very well-known for executing breathtakingly daring manoeuvres to catch their opponents off-guard.
However, with the advent of 7/68, the speed of the tanks has been generally lowered, and hit points are much higher compared to that of 7/54, meaning that the margin of error in taking hits is larger. In addition to that, there is much more variation in feasible tanks for tournaments.
The tanks that are now available to players mean that gameplay has been slowed down, as tournament teams adopt more tactical approaches to attack and defence. However, the teams now get many more specific tanks to perform the roles that they’ve envisioned, and the audience gets to see many more tanks in the game.
There are only two possible tank combinations in this format: 5 Tier 10 tanks and 2 Tier 9 tanks, or 6 Tier 10s and 1 Tier 8 tank. What teams choose is simply up to the style of the maps and the teams’ preferred styles on those maps. The mapmakers at Wargaming have decided that the maps would be best made suitable for players by cordoning off sections of the map to form 3 separate flanks.
This predictability, combined with the format, allows teams to field one Tier 8 light tank (our old friends, the T-54 LT, Ru 251 or AMX 13 90) to act as a scout. This helps to focus their firepower in as few tanks as they can, and maintains efficient movement (6 tanks trying to rush, say...the hill on Mines, is much easier than trying to rush 7). At the same time, the team is able to make sure that if the enemy tries something funny, they are at least forewarned.
However, unlike the previous format where teams preferred to focus all of their firepower into 6 tanks, leaving one tank as a Tier 6, this is not iron-clad. Tier 9 is host to a multitude of very powerful tanks in their own right. For instance, examples like the Conqueror, T-10 (formerly IS-8), WZ-111 1-4, Object 430 II, Lorraine 40 t, Škoda T 50, the quintessential T-54, and the T54E1. This allows teams to split their firepower up into 7 tanks and still maintain the flexibility to perform the roles that they want.
Teams can also choose to bring one Tier 8 artillery piece, which still hits very hard but does not compromise in tier points, allowing the team to maintain indirect fire at a target, as this video clip shows.
Other combination types where teams bring a Tier 8 heavy or a Tier 8 medium tank are very rare, barring some very, very specific roles (T32, with its impenetrable turret armour, for instance), and so we will not be touching on them this time.
Besides the tier changes, there were also changes to how games are played in the new format. Previously, teams played a best-of-9 series, where we had 2 maps per match, playing 4 rounds on each map – 2 attack and 2 defence. Now, teams play 2 rounds (1 on attack and 1 on defence) on each map, for a total of 4 maps.
This meant that teams were much less able to predict and adapt to their opponents, since the match stipulations constantly changed. The audience were also less likely to feel bored watching tournament games, and we were better able to see the large variations in map locales on World of Tanks, as more maps were now played.
The tank class in which the most drastic changes occurred when the new format was introduced is the tank destroyer class. At Tier 8, I said that they were fragile and generally immobile compared to their more illustrious counterparts, the heavy tanks. The inclusion of Tier 10 allowed teams to bring many more varieties of tank destroyers, with more staying power in engagements and the ability to inflict massive amounts of damage.
The most popular tank destroyers in this new meta are the T110E3 and Waffentrager E-100: The former for having very formidable armour, even against premium rounds, and the latter for having an all-rotating turret with an autoloader clip that can erase almost any tank in the game.
The roles of light tanks have not changed since I last talked about them. They gather intelligence with which the team can decide what to do next, exploit the opponent through quick movements (be it grabbing tactically important positions or flanking), and capture the enemy base (when needed).
Cases can be made for each tank: The T-54 LT has armour that does not allow high-explosive shots to consistently penetrate, the Ru 251 has the highest DPM in its class, and the AMX 13 90 is an autoloader. While the WZ-132 and T49 are capable of performing, they are simply not used very often; the WZ-132 is still a victim of power creep, while the T49 does not have the ability to stand and fight on its own compared to the German, Russian and French light tanks.
In the video below, Russian teams Na`Vi and Hellraisers show us the many ways a light tank can be used - as an aggressive scout, as a support tank, and as a base capper (in an ingenious way, taking advantage of the new physics).
In the new meta, a greater variety of heavy tanks are available to perform their main role: They lead the line against the enemy, taking hits and dishing back massive amounts of damage. Traditional heavy tanks that favour armour over mobility are the E-100 and Maus. At the other end of the spectrum, the T110E5, FV 215b and 113 are very popular, allowing teams access to a good package of armour, mobility and firepower. The AMX 50B is fast, mobile, and an autoloader.
Far from the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none tanks at Tier 8 that I talked about, medium tanks are infamous destruction-dealing monsters at Tier 10. Almost all of the tanks are able to play their own very specific role in the game.
For instance, if the team prefers autoloaders, they have the Bat Chat 25t and TVP 50/51 for choice. One has better alpha and a bigger clip; the other has a much faster reload rate. The Object 140 is Russia’s medium tank representative at this level, being able to reload quickly and move nimbly. The STB-1 and Centurion Action X have very heavily-armoured turrets, allowing them to capitalise on hull-down situations very easily. Germany’s E-50M is the most heavy-like medium tank in the game, allowing its use as a battering ram and in assaults.
The tournament format change also allowed artillery to remain relevant in tournaments. Artillery could now occupy a Tier 8 slot, allowing teams to bring 6 Tier 10 tanks. The most popular artillery guns are the M40/43 (for its wide gun arc, alpha and splash radius) and Lorraine 155 51 (for speed in relocating, accuracy and reload rate). Tier 9 – or worse, Tier 10 – artillery guns are not picked, simply because they take too much firepower away from the other 6 tanks in the team.
I would like to conclude this article by stating that the new changes made for more enjoyable watching for the audience, and thus helped move World of Tanks eSports in the right direction.