The following is a collection of four papers written during my “Yolo Wagon” 263 grind.
Chasing Dreams: The SU-100M1
About a year and a half ago, I issued a challenge to all Littlepard drivers. The objective was to take down the newly released “Baby Barracuda”; the SU-100M1. Back then, we had ±2 matchmaking, so the worst thing that could happen in your Littlepard was you would end up bottom tier against some seal clubbers in their brand new Russian TDs that will shoot straight through your armour at any angle, while you need a 60 degree side angle to even think about going through theirs.
Armour, as you know, is all the rage these days. While the Baby Barracuda doesn’t get to vaporise tier V Light tanks anymore, neither does it have to deal with tier IX opponents, and people are using less Premium rounds as well.
I like armour. Some of it. Enough to get a few bounces, but not enough to slow you down too much. A bit of gun mantlet and frontal plate, and I’m happy. What a few bits of useable armour does, is allow you to be more aggressive. It makes the tank more forgiving to drive, and you’ll get away with more stupid stuff.
And I liked the SU-100M1 too. It was a quirky tank, a quirky Russian tank nonetheless, and I always thought it looked really good. Also, I liked the fact it had a tier IX gun straight off the T-54, even though no one actually needs 219 mm of standard AP penetration at tier VII. This was before I drove Russian tenks at all. The Rudy dropped like a month later, and that was my first. But these days I just got the Obj 140 and already have several Russian Lights and Mediums, so it’s not a thing anymore.
What is a thing however, is the Object 263; the incomparable Yolo Wagon. That’s totally a thing. I love the Yolo Wagon so much I can’t stand it, and so all this is for the purpose of finally getting my dream tank. Well, one of my dream tanks, anyway. I’ve often said if I had to give up being a Community Contributor, the only tank I would really miss is the Yolo Wagon, so I figure it’s high time I got one for myself. And you’ve got to chase your dreams, right?
The 263 line starts off from the SU-100 like I said, and you have to drive the T-34 to get that. I’m not a fan of either, so I’ve been throwing free XP at them from time to time, but I figured I wasn’t going to pay almost 50.000 free XP to skip past the SU-100, so I finally gave in actually bought it. I’m not really sure what to do with it now that I’ve grinded through it; I’ve not sold it yet because it’s not like I need the slot, and it’s fully upgraded except for the 122 mm. But you want to run the 100 mm D10S anyway if you are going for the 263 so you can start learning the “DPM over alpha damage” TD playstyle.
And casemate TDs like the SU-100M1 can be a pain. Before your tank has all the modules and the crew is trained, you don’t really have the mobility to put the weapon to use properly, and it’s going to be a while before you get the top gun on it. Like I said though, the tier IX weapon is kind of overkill at tier VII, and you’ll do fine with either of the two tier VII 100 mm guns. Actually, there’s not a lot of difference between them; the second gun is a very slight upgrade.
The reason it can be a pain is that Tank Destroyers can be really team dependent. Weakly armoured, high alpha tanks are the worst in this respect; with a little speed and mobility you’ll have a lot more options, but with an untrained crew in a tank that’s not fully upgraded, you aren’t going to deal as effectively with the situations you find yourself in. If you happen to be the most experienced player on your team, chances are no one else is going to really do anything to create opportunities for you to take advantage of, and so you will have to play further forward than what is strictly speaking opportune. You are supposed to be a support vehicle, and so not really suited to taking the lead.
Rolling out in the SU-100M1 today, I immediately got killed first with no damage because I tried to cap B on Desert Sands. Then I tried to brawl an SU-152 in the riverbed on Oasis Palms, but got backstabbed by one of those cheater Helsing tanks.
Then I’m on Mayan ruins. Our Mediums and Lights go for the C cap even though the reds have a Medium advantage, and so I try for the B cap and get that. Turn around and help out clearing the A cap, and then go for the campers at red spawn, but someone is capping B, and the Meds are all dead, so I rush there, kill the intruder and save the cap. Now someone is trying for A, and I rush there, but miss the shot by milliseconds, and have to cap it again while bouncing shots and trying to kill the harasser, which I do, and then the last red drives out sideways in front of me a few times before the counter ticks over to 1000. It’s a win.
2400 damage, four kills, three missions cleared, and the Mastery. Also crew training completed, which reminds me I should turn those boosters off.
Games like that is what it’s all about. When everything falls into place, the tank comes into its own, and you keep making good decisions that actually work out for you.
All in all, I spent like 75 games getting 100% crew and all modules except the top gun, that’s with boosters and a few hours of free Premium time from the crates. Not too bad at all. After that, it’s just 48K for the T-45 gun, and then 91K more for the next tank. You don’t have to grind the tier IX gun at tier VII, but I’m going to, because both the SU-101 and the SU-122-54 use it as well, and if I don’t grind it now, I’ll need to do it later. I’d rather grind 48K XP at tier VII in a fully upgraded tank than at tier VIII or IX in a stocker.
Grinding for the top gun
Baby Barracuda Gameplay
The actual Barracuda is the SU-122-54. It doesn’t have the rear mounted guns like the others, but it just looks so brutal. A huge slab of the old Soviet union with a nasty tier X Heavy tank gun on it, lurking in the bushes ready to pounce.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because there’s really nothing “baby” about the SU-100M1. It’s fast, it has troll armour, and it carries a big stick to beat on the reds with. At tiers VI and VII, 280 alpha is nothing to be scoffed at, and you’re putting out well over 2500 DPM. Juking and wiggling, you will pull off bounces against guns that really should go straight through, and although you are riddled with weakspots, the tank is small and low enough to be a tricky target.
The LB-1C, which is the second 100 mm, gives you 175 mm of penetration, and that does stuggle against tier VIII Heavys and other well armoured tanks. Brit TDs especially you don’t want to fight frontally, because you need to hit their cupola, and they can just DPM you down.
Otherwise, I lean heavily on my Medium tank experience when driving fast casemate TDs. The Baby Barracuda doesn’t reverse very quickly, and the traverse isn’t fantastic, but it’s enough to brawl Light tanks once in a while.
So basically, I either cap and defend, flank, or support. Often all three things in the same game; the trick is knowing when to do what.
And that’s where it gets tricky. You can’t really teach someone else to play opportunistically like that, it has to come from experience. Maintaining situational awareness, proper positioning, knowing what tanks you can take down, knowing what spots you can work, and where your escape routes are so you don’t get boxed in. It’s a lot to think about.
People say TDs and Heavy tanks can’t play Supremacy, but that’s not true. I play Supremacy all the time, and I really like it. The problem is, Heavy tank and TD drivers don’t always know what to do in a Supremacy game, and they don’t know how to actually support the faster tanks as they are capping the bases.
But yeah, in a stock TD without a turret, you are going to struggle with it. On the other hand, Supremacy tends to break up the teams, and so you are less likely to run into too may tanks at once. If you do, then just try to cap all the bases around them and keep away.
It is said (by Jylpah, based on his research) that Medium drivers do slightly better in Tank Destroyers, and that doesn’t surprise me at all. TDs are the natural enemy of the Medium tanks in the current meta, and if you know how to drive Mediums and can anticipate their moves, you’ll have the upper hand. Also, even casemate TDs have a few advantages over Medium tanks: they have better firepower, often higher alpha, and they will likely have a few bits of armour to cover your worst mistakes.
More importantly, driving a tank that is slightly more awkward will slow down your gameplay. You are less likely to be the first one spotted, less likely to take early damage, and so you are more likely to still be there in the endgame where your strengths will be multiplied.
Other than the actual casemate design, the SU-100M1 has a few other drawbacks you need to work around. The gun arc is miniscule, only eight degrees either side, but worse than that, you don’t have any gun depression. Running the two stock guns you have 4 degrees, and the top 100 mm only has 2 degrees.
This means you aren’t going to poke ridges like you may be used to, and you are going to have to learn to keep to the low ground. Aiming upwards is no problem, and if you are at the bottom of a hill, even people with good gun depression can have a hard time aiming down at you.
Let me give you an example. I was on Middleburg with a team of four or five heavys and the rest TDs against a team of almost all Mediums and Lights. I knew they would go for the hill, and I also knew we wouldn’t get up there in time. With the bad gun depression I wasn’t going to be much good up there anyway, especially not all by myself. What to do?
As the game started, I drove up the hill a bit anyway to at least get some spots, but I stayed back behind the ridge. As the reds came swarming, I pulled back down a bit so they couldn’t get shots at me, but I was still close enough to keep them proxy spotted, and I could peek up and tease them so they would pull forward and get shot by my teammates in town. I did get killed eventually, but we were in the lead quite comfortably by then, and my full HP teammates cleaned up the rest.
Although it’s not ideal, you can do some Medium tank jobs some of the time. Just remember you don’t have a turret.
Lack of hitpoints is another issue. The SU-100M1 is supposedly based off the T-34-85, and it has about the same amount of hitpoints. The likeness isn’t that apparent though; the chassis has been stretched to get a better angle on the front plate, and although the engine is in the middle, the driver is still up front and gets hit a lot.
Both sides of the engine has fuel tanks, and then you have a big ammo rack on the left side of the casemate, in fact the entire left side is more fragile and will more often take crew and module damage.
Perhaps worst of all, the Obj 263 line is really expensive to run. The Baby Barracuda has the lowest credit coefficient of any tier VII Tank Destroyer, and although that trend doesn’t continue, you still need to pay for those expensive tier IX and X shells. The Yolo Wagon actually has the highest credt coefficient of any tier X TD although that’s not saying much, it’s still like 53%.
This may not be an issue for you if you have lots of Premium tanks, run a Premium account and have a huge credit buffer already, but it is something you need to take into account otherwise.
Go Big or Go Home
As I said, I’ve grinded the tier IX gun at tier VII, and to me, that’s the whole “point” of the SU-100M1. A tier IX gun on a tier VII tank.
You get punished for it; the reload is slightly longer, gun depression is only half of what you are used to, and the accuracy is worse. The D-54S also weight 160 kg more, which actually impacts your power to weight ratio, but not your traverse speed.
These are only minor inconveniences. The DPM is slightly better, and the shell speed is markedly higher, which is really nice. Working with 310 alpha is also more comfortable, and allows you to trade more effectively. The only real downside is the gun depression, which means you can no longer use some of the spots you have learned with the other guns.
I had a slight period of adjustment switching to the higher alpha weapon, kind of similar to when I switch tiers. What usually happens is I drop down to tier V or VI from like VIII or X, and find I am tuned to the “wrong speed” compared to what’s going on around me. Things seem to have stabilised, however; I’ve got the Mastery with both top guns.
Also, since I switched to the D-54S, all the numbers are up: damage output, kills per game, and winrate are all on the rise.
So yeah. 100 games in my Baby Barracuda is fully upgraded and now all I have to do is drive maybe 100 games more to unlock the next tank. So far, it’s been great. It’s not all smooth sailing, but then I didn’t really expect that in a tank like this.
You still see the SU-100M1 out there, but I think that has more to do with the Yolo Wagon than with any of the other tanks in the 263 branch; no one really seems to like them a lot. For me though, they are all keepers. And having unlocked the big gun already, I’m pretty much all set all the way through tier IX.
I will say these tanks are not for the novice player. If you don’t know how to work with gun depression, you’re going to have a worse time trying to do the job without it. A year and a half ago, these tanks were all considered really fast, but these days there are a lot more fast and agile tanks out there, so it’s not the same advantage it used to be.
But if you don’t mind a bit of a challenge, and you know your positional play pretty well, you’re not going to have too much trouble.
For me, this is a labor of love. I’ve driven the Object 263 on the press account, and that is of course the big payoff for me. I already know what I am getting.
For others, the old 268 line may be the better choice. Everyone likes the big, derpy 152 mm TDs. But you will find out pretty fast if you are going to enjoy the DPM TD playstyle; all you have to do is grind out all the guns on the tier VI SU-100 and see if you prefer the 100 mm or the 122 mm.
It all comes down to playstyle. The low caliber option is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work, and for me, it’s also more rewarding. The simple fact is driving quirky and awkward tanks makes you a better driver.
And for that reason, IrmaBecx says think about driving one today.
See you out there!
So coming up on 200 games, and the grind is pretty much done. And I think in the end, the SU-100M1 has met all my lofty expectations.
Thanks to some last-stretch platooning I’m rocking a cool 61% winrate, and have damage numbers edging out my favourite tier VII Mediums, except of course the Dracula. And that’s not a coincidence. The tank works.
Case in point: it’s already one of my best performing tier VII tanks, and I only have stage one equipment and improved controls on it.
Speaking of improved controls, I was talking with some of the “cool kids”, and they suggested that for some tanks, improved controls is really the only spare parts equipment you need.
This would be in line with my recent research. Tanks that are already fast don’t gain a lot from more engine power, but they do benefit from improved controls, because the faster traverse means they bleed off less speed when turning. For casemate tanks the benefit is obvious, and it got me thinking about all my old Tank Destroyers and Light tanks that I don’t drive a lot. Maybe just dropping for improved controls would give them a new lease on life?
So yeah. In about an hour I’ll have the improved armour on the SU-100M1, and I will of course go for the Vstab as well, and maybe improved tracks. It’s not a big surprise, but I am of course keeping it. More than that, I have the same feeling I did after the Foch grind: here is a solid tank, a fun tank, a new go-to tank that I know how to play and can be successful in.
Dropping spare parts on something like the MT-25 was kind of an extravagance. This is a solid investment.
It’s not all been fun and games, though. These brawler TDs take some work; what they call engaging gameplay. And over the last 100 games or so, I have become pretty familiar with their drawbacks.
First of all, the front is weak. Really weak. Trading shots frontally with someone on flat, open ground automatically means trading hitpoints. But that’s often fine; I’ve learned to expect taking a few hits, and plan accordingly. If I can take out a strong tank, and I totally can, my sacrifice may be worth it.
Also it’s very easy to get overconfident. I mean the thing is fast. I tend to push forward too far and end up trading more hitpoints than I bargained with. The gun, being Russian, will surprise you with all kinds of sketchy behaviour, but I guess if you compare it to any of the 122 mm options out there, it’s a miracle of accuracy. As always, the way to happiness is lowering your expectations.
You kind of need to adjust your level of aggression. If you are top tier you can totally push people around, plow through whole teams, and bully them into the ground. And as part of a flank, it’s easy to get the feeling you can do the same thing when bottom tier. I’m here to tell you you can’t. If you’re going to bully a tier VIII team into the ground, you have to do it one tank at a time, preferrably with a few greens to help you focus fire.
Again, this does not make the SU-100M1 “team dependent” to a higher degree than other complarable tanks. You can totally carry a game in this thing. It has the speed, it has the firepower, it can get a bounce or two, and there aren’t any tanks it’s going to struggle to penetrate. You have all the tools you need to carry the day.
Well, until they get behind you. Or track you in crossfire.
But yeah. First part of the Yolo Wagon grind is in the bag, and it feels good. I spent maybe two and a half million so far, and that’s including the SU-100. Burned through all my useless boosters and dropped a few certificated for Premium time. The only hurdle was grinding the tier IX gun, and since both the tier VII weapons work more than fine, it wasn’t a very big hurdle. As previously noted, that means I’ll be starting the SU-101 grind off a lot more comfortably, and then I’ll have to do the same thing with the tier X gun on that. Easy stuff.
I kind of have the feeling I’m going to be disappointed in the D-54S on the 101 because I used it on the 100M1, but that’s just ridiculous. I fight tier X tanks with the tuned-down version on the T-54 all the time, so it’s still going to be really strong at tier VIII. And sure, 80.000 XP sounds like a lot, but after that I will have tier X firepower at tier VIII, and I’ll be all set all the way up through tier X.
Those last, what? 500.000 XP? will be smooth sailing.
Again, until they get behind me. Or track me in crossfire. You know.
IrmaBecx says the SU-100M1 is totally legit. If you are an OK player, and you think all this brawling action sounds kind of fun, start your Yolo Wagon grind today.
See you out there!
So you’re driving your T-44 around the cesspit of tier VIII, and you want to increase your firepower against the Heavy tanks. Or you are tired of playing your 152 mm lottery machine. Maybe you fell in love with the Yolo Wagon and are just passing through on your way there.
In any case, the SU-101 is basically a T-44 Medium tank with either the 100 mm off the T-54 or the 122 mm off the IS-4 mounted at the back instead of a turret.
If you have done your Russian Mediums already, you’ll have all the engines you need for the entire branch, and you can grind the 100 mm D-54 at tier VII, so the actual grind is pretty much a breeze. All you need is the crew training and tracks. My recommendation is to grind out the tier X weapon too, not just to make the tier IX grind easier, but because I prefer to run it.
And here’s where I’m struggling. Because if you take a T-44 and put a tier X gun on it, that makes it an assault tank in my head, just like the Baby Foch.
And it’s not. Allow me to explain:
This is the Baby Foch assaulting a T-54 using the higher penetration gun:
This is the SU-101 assaulting the same T-54:
As you see, the 101 pretty much has no armour in this situation. The front plate is only 90 mm, which will autobounce anything in the game, but only at 45 degrees angle or more, and the upper casemate is 120 mm, but since you only have four degrees of gun depression, the best you’re going to do is maybe 200 mm of effective armour.
It’s not all bad, of course. The gun mantle is really sturdy and will bounce stuff, and if you can hide the hull, it’s a small target. But the weak frontal armour is going to be the bane of your existence; I often take the most optimistic snap shots and clutch shots straight through it.
The fact the casemate is mounted so far back means the gun articulates behind the central turning point of the tank, and what that means in practice is you are going to have to make wider movements to get the gun in firing position.
It’s awkward. Derpy, even. 258 mm of penetration will do you no good at all zooming harmelessly past your target, and I do miss a lot of shots with it. Since I’ve decided to keep the whole branch, I’m putting spare parts on mine, which both helps and doesn’t help. The problem is your gun articulation, and GLD and Vstabs isn’t going to help with that. They will however help you get the actual shot off a split second faster, and with more than 10 seconds of reload, you want to make them all count.
Yeah, the DPM isn’t great. You are giving up 300 DPM for the higher alpha damage, but I found my damage output actually increased when I switched to the 122 mm weapon. Your mileage may of course vary; I would say both guns are totally viable.
Here’s what usually happens. You are behind cover, you sidle out to take the shot, and either you don’t have enough room to manoeuvre, or it just takes too long to get the shot off, and invariably you take at least one shot in return. You do this two or three times, and if you aren’t dead by then, you are basically combat ineffective for lack of hitpoints.
I’m not going to bore you with all the other common problems casemate TDs are prone to, like getting circled, but the SU-101 is not an easy tank to get your head around. Oh, and did I mention it’s really expensive to run?
The Good News
So it’s not an assault tank. Not primarily, anyway. I mean you can totally bully lower- and some same tier opponents, but what you want to do is play the support role; either supporting the Mediums or the Heavys. Once they tank a bit of damage and thin out the herd, you can move in and be more aggressive, but you don’t want to get focused on early in the game.
This may sound super obvious, but it actually took me around 200 games to figure out.
The thing is, you can make an aggressive play early and tip the scales in your teams favor, but since getting shots off is awkward and you have that 10 second reload and overall lacklustre DPM, you don’t always have the firepower to back your play, or you miss your shots, trade badly and get wrecked.
As with any casemate TD, you have to embrace the “Never Give Up” motto in a close up brawl. Juking, wiggling and angling has gotten me out of quite a few hopeless situations, and the gun mantlet as I said is sturdy. The sides are 90 mm, which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more than enough to autobounce every single gun in the game. Really, though, kinky angles and moving about is what’s going to save you the most hitpoints.
And the thing does move. It has amazing pickup for carrying such a big gun, and you can easily keep up with Mediums and Light tanks rushing towards a cap. The traverse is good enough to sometimes brawl Light tanks, and I’ve even chased them down on a few occasions. This, it has to be said, is mostly because Light tanks don’t expect casemate TDs to chase after them across the whole map.
It may not have the fastest top speed, but it does have the best power to weight ratio of any tier VIII Tank Destroyer. We’re talking twice that of the others, except the Baby Foch and Jagdpanther II, and it gets off the line at a blistering pace. In fact, there are only two Medium tanks at tier VIII that have better specific power: the T-44, which has the same chassis without the weight of the huge 122 mm M62-C2, and the AMX CDC which has almost twice the horsepower.
Even with 75% crew the thing was proper fast, and maxed out you’ll keep up with Mediums and even Light tanks no problem. Like I said this is both a blessing and a curse; you’ll easily outpace your team getting to your first position, and it’s very easy to get ahead of yourself.
Once you get more comfortable with setting up your shots, the weapon is really satisfying to use. Tier X guns on tier VIII TDs is not unusual, but remember this is a Russian tier X gun; this thing has bias levels calibrated against the Maus and the E100. Sure, it will ghost your shells, bounce the reticule because the hull moved a millimeter or you drove over a twig, and inexplicably fail to penetrate lightly armoured targets with well aimed, perfect side shots all the time.
But it will also hit insane snap shots, ammo rack people no-scope while charging, and hit the most ridiculously optimistic clutch shots, blind shots, and long range speculators. I mean, look at this poor T49, straight across the map:
Notes on Playstyle
So yeah, the armour is kind of weak. You don’t want to trade shots frontally if you can help it. The problem is you easily have the speed to be in someones face 30 seconds after the flag drops, and personally, I blame this fact for most of my failures in the 101. What you want to do is set up either an ambush or supporting fire position at the start of the game, and then use your mobility to prey on the weaknesses of your enemy.
Sounds simple maybe, but it’s a real art. Personally, my main problem is I get bored with sniping really quickly and go looking for action, which is kind of a good news/bad news issue. The good news is I’ll have more opportunities that sometimes turn into one of those “everything fell into place”-games, but the bad news is more often, the action finds me and I get caught in a bad spot.
You need to learn a few tricks to get the most out of the gun, and the first one is if you’re not using autoaim with a button, then go switch that on. While you’re at it, think about adding a second fire button as well. Even if you’re not used to two fire buttons, I promise you there will be times when being able to fire with your other hand will save the day.
The autoaim button will both help and hinder you, but it’s totally worth it. What you do is turn off the auto aim when shooting at moving targets at range so the reticule doesn’t bounce around so much. I’ve gotten quite proficient at this, and started doing it at closer and closer ranges to ensure I get a clean shot. With such a limited gun arc, everything you can do to let the reticule settle for a bit longer will be a huge help.
The hindrance will be of your own doing, because you will forget to turn the autoaim back on again, and the next shot the gun won’t autolock like you are used to, and you’ll miss. This is just a question of practice, and if you don’t use autoaim a lot, you won’t have this issue. Likewise, if you are used to turning off the autoaim so it won’t “stick” to multiple opponents and throw you off, you won’t have a lot of problems.
Your biggest worry is going to be poking out from behind cover and taking a shot. Like I said before, what happens is I’ll be behind a rock, drive out sideways, aim, take the shot, and as I’m backing into cover, I’ll invariably take a return shot that penetrates and does damage. It does sometimes happen that the shell bounces off the front plate, but really, it’s such a small target compared to the rest of the tank showing, you have to get extremely lucky for that to happen.
The only way I’ve found to get around this is to sidescrape out and then drive forwards into cover. This will mean you have less control over the actual shot, but you will spend less time and having less area exposed to incoming fire. The side armour at an autobounce angle is a lot more reliable than the front plate, so in a static situation, that’s going to be your best bet. With 1100 hitpoints, two shots from a Heavy tank is all it takes and you’ll be on slivers of health for the rest of the game, and in the best possible of all worlds, that’s only going to get you 1200 damage, provided you hit, penetrate, and roll for like max damage with High Explosive. Seven or eight hundred with standard AP is more realistic.
So trading shots is pretty much a bust. You want to be in situations where you either shoot at people who aren’t focusing you, can’t see you, don’t know you are there, or don’t have the firepower to trade shots effectively, and as I said that depends a lot on what the rest of your team are doing. If they are being aggressive and pushing forward, you can pretty much just drive around looking for targets of opportunity. If they don’t, you’ll have a lot fewer options, and it can be hard trying to carry a game.
I said the 101 is more powerful than all the other tier VIII TDs, but that’s not the whole story. Only the Jagdpanther II traverses faster, and if you look at tier VIII Heavy tanks, they will typically have somewhere between 25 and 30 degrees of traverse.
You have 36.
That means, in a close encounter, you may well be better off just driving past people and then turning around, because even if you won’t beat their reload or their frontal armour, you will beat their traverse.
Good traverse also means you retain more speed when turning, and this is why you can keep up with and even overtake tanks that are really much faster than you are. I chase Light tanks all the time in my SU-101, and again, I have to blame the speed for constantly getting killed doing this.
You see most Light tanks are used to being hunted, but they aren’t used to being chased down. If you follow them around long enough, they will eventually stop. Not many people can drive a full circle around any given map in combat without running into something or getting stuck on a rock or an incline at least once, and you can always help them slow down with a few Russian-biased no scope HE rounds to the tracks.
The High Explosive deserves a mention. You have 420 alpha, and the HE gives you 500. That’s good if you can get a clean shot at the rear of a tank or at a Light tank, but in reality, at least 60% of the HE shots I fire I would have been better off using regular AP. I just often find the AP is more reliable, so think about it before you switch. How many hitpoints do they have? How many shots do you need? Can you finish them in one round, or will a more reliable 400+ damage do the trick? Remember you have tier X AP penetration that will laugh at Light tank tracks where HE may only hit for two or three hundred at best.
Still, it usually slows them down, so… Consider the range. Can you get the glorious ram kill?
The Bottom Line
So the SU-101 has been a lot of fun, and a lot of tribulation. You take your chances, and they don’t always pay off; but when they do, it’s just fantastic. It’s not an easy drive, and shooting is kind of awkward, but when you get used to the way it moves, it’s like nothing can stop you.
Much like a Russian Medium, it’s not as sturdy as you think, but it can be surprisingly strong. Don’t be afraid to go on the offensive, because the thing can dance, and if you are cornered, all out aggression can end up saving your skin, even against much stronger opponents. Fight like a cornered rat, and you will sometimes come out on top.
Ideally, you will play patiently at middle range, using camo and cover to intimidate and harass the enemy, exploding into sudden, unexpected flashes of extreme violence when least expected.
Try to think of yourself as a force multiplier; the gun brought to a knife fight. Don’t rush into the middle of the rumble and start blasting; you’ll only get stabbed. Likely in the back. Pick a few off at range, gang up on people and execute them quickly from the side, chase down runners and shoot them in the kneecaps or the back. If someone jumps you, focus on them and shoot them in the face until one of you are down, and if you played it right, towards the end you can just walk up and finish off the stragglers.
If you think that sounds like fun, I’m here to tell you it is. It’s a thrill a minute; real on the edge stuff. It’s a challenge, but it’s also fun. If you think it sounds way too complicated when you could just sit at the back and practice leading your targets, there are better options out there for you. The real strength of the 263 line isn’t firepower; it’s mobility. Without it, these tanks are all decidedly average, and if you aren’t into the mobile TD playstyle, this is where you’ll start to struggle for real.
I don’t mean for that to sound condescending, it’s just that the SU-101 takes a lot of it’s cues from Medium tank gameplay, and if you don’t utilise that, you’re not going to get the most out of it. If you prefer Heavy tanks and big alpha guns, then this tank; this whole branch in fact, is just a bad option. At tier VIII, it’s not too late for you to give up.
I’ve heard drivers I respect say they struggled with the Baby Barracuda but did really well in the SU-101, and I’ve heard them say the exact opposite. I think with one of the tier VII, VIII, and IX you are just going to struggle; it may be either one of them, and then tier X is of course a challenge in itself. For me, the SU-101 was a harder drive than the SU-100M1, and I’ve been hovering around 50% WR all the way. I would however be hard pressed to say which one I like better.
But like I said when you put everything on the line like this and manage to pull it off, you will end up getting some amazing results, and in the end that for me is what the game is all about. Consistent performance I feel is secondary to having those really great games, where I pushed both my vehicle and myself to the limit and we came out on top. Where I took a chance to try and be a hero, and for a minute, I actually was.
So, if you want to really know if your positional play and brawling is as good as you think it is, and you don’t mind a bit of a challenge as long as you get to blast defenseless Light tanks with tier X Heavy tank firepower once in a while, then IrmaBecx says drive the SU-101 as fast as it goes.
Or you could drive the ISU-152 like some normie.
Never Give Up!
The SU-101 is a good tank, but needs a specific playstyle to be really successful. That means it’s harder than camping.
Barracuda! The SU-122-54
It’s not often you get to realise one of your long term goals, but a few hours ago I did just that by dropping the credits on my brand new SU-122-54.
I remember when it first came out; it was on the forum header when the new Russian TD branch appeared, and I just thought it looked so formidable. Tough. Menacing. Brutal. I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Soviet industrial design most of the time, but this one just looked so right. Like a mean old Barracuda hiding in the tall grass, waiting to attack.
Back then, I didn’t drive Russian tanks at all on general principle, so sadly I thought I was never going to drive one. But I always liked it, I always respected it, and I’ve never felt bad about losing to one. It was also one of the very first tanks I drove when I got access to a press account and tons of free tanks and resources; I pretty much went straight for the Russian Mediums and the Yolo Wagon line.
So yeah, it feels good. And it’s not been too hard; I put like 600 games into the whole grind thus far, that’s with dropping a few hours of free Premium time, and I figure maybe 300 more to get the Obj 263. Looking at the tech tree, it certainly looks worse than it is. A lot of the modules are shared between tanks and can be researched beforehand. I did drop some the gold I’ve been collecting on crew training which will of course bee a huge help, and I’m only missing a track upgrade; everything else is unlocked already.
Well, except the equipment slots of course.
Doesn’t it just look fantastic?
Barracuda at a Glance
Again, we aren’t exactly talking about a refined vehicle. You can tell all about it from the numbers; it’s a T-54 with a 122 mm weapon on it. This time, the more traditional front mounting is used, very similar to the Jagdpanther, which is of course where they got the idea.
The gun is the same 122 mm off the IS-4 you get on the SU-101 (provided you choose to grind it at tier VIII), only this one is a little better. It puts out almost 1300 more DPM and is a tad more stable while moving, and you get one more degree of gun arc either side.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s actually almost 15% better. Also the frontal mounting means setting up your shots won’t be as awkward.
The armour is actually not much better than on the SU-101; the front plate is only 100 mm, and again the gun mantlet is pretty much the only useable piece. Limited gun depression means you can’t angle the front plate over a ridgeline and get autobounces; the angle is too shallow.
Before We continue, it’s worth pointing out I am not approaching the SU-122-54 with any kind of distance or objectivity. I already like this tank. I liked it the moment I saw it because I think it looks super cool. I have driven it already, so I know what I’m getting into. And I am a known supporter and long time fan of fast casemate Tank Destroyers.
Liking something doesn’t mean it’s good, or even accessible. Rolling out with a huge gun and no turret is going to land you in all kinds of troublesome situations sooner or later, and you will then be playing at the limit of both your own and the vehicles capabilities. It’s not always going to work out, and this time you’ll have almost no armour to shield you from the biggest guns in the game; this thing is like the Leopard PTA of Tank Destroyers.
In my case, this is the whole point. I love these tanks because they have mobility, and mobility gives you options. I am resigned to the fact that some of these options will mean failure. Back in the day, people used to call this playstyle “high risk/high reward”, and it’s basically the reason I drive so many Medium tanks.
What I mean is this whole line is not for everyone. If you don’t like brawling Heavy tanks, then there’s really no reason to go for the Yolo Wagon. All the tanks before it will work towards preparing you for smashing that 250 mm front plate into IS-7s and Jagdpanzer E100s while blasting out five thousand DPM on the adrenaline. If doing stuff like that isn’t your goal, then I think the 263 line may be more trouble than it’s worth for you, and, ultimately, disappointing.
Thoughts on Playstyle
The SU-122-54 Barracuda may not be very refined, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsophisticated. You need to play with a little finesse to get the most out of it; use good tactics, maintain situational awareness, and work on your positional play, all while trying to set up good shots and then backing off into cover.
In a sense, it’s very much like a Medium tank. Instead of armour, you have mobility and firepower, so you have to play a little smarter. Pick your fights, choose your targets, and most important of all: run away from bad engagements.
That’s not always an option, though. If you get bum rushed by a swarm of Light and Mediums, you’re not running away from that, and then it’s time to dance. If there are like three of them, you are likely going to lose. But backing off from fights you don’t feel confident about is a key aspect of the Barracuda playstyle, and this is why mobile TDs are so dangerous. You have the mobility to use your tank as a kind of force multiplier, moving between situations trying to make the fight as unfair as possible for the enemy, and moving away when it gets too unfair for you.
This is also why casemate TDs sometimes struggle to win games. Moving between situations is fine, but you also have to deal with them effectively once you get there. And if no one else on your team is doing anything, these situations won’t develop for you to take advantage of in the first place; you won’t have any map control, and you are down to trading shots from static positions, which pretty much means negating your key strengths.
While the playstyle has similarities, the SU-122-54 is not a Medium tank, and you will mistake it for one at your peril. Yes, you have fearsome firepower, but it’s all pretty monodirectional. What will most often decide engagements between you and Medium tanks is the surrounding terrain, and this is why your positional play is so important; you always want to be where the terrain will be some kind of a hindrance to your enemies.
Back to Reality
So I got sick of waiting, and fired up the useless boosters so I could at least get some tracks on the thing. I mean that is a tier X gun, and it’s got the rammer, so if I keep back a bit, I should still be all right?
The upgrades are mostly going to help in critical situations; they give you an edge you wouldn’t otherwise have, and so you are able to stretch the limits a little. But this whole line is basically about positioning. My friend Gentlefun says if you get shot in the SU-101, it’a your own fault because you were in a bad position to begin with.
This is also where I lack a lot of experience. I don’t know all the classic ambush spots on the maps, because most of the time, that’s not how I play. You can kind of tell from the way I talk about the Barracuda I can’t wait to get out there and brawl some Mediums with it, and that may not be the best initial focus.
From a philosophical standpoint, it makes sense to learn how to position the weapon and mitigate return fire before you run off to actually get to positions. No amount of improved armour is going to change the fact your front plate is 100 mm thick, or that the gun sits on the left side of it. That means you will be looking to position yourself to the left of things, and you will need different reference points on either side to find the right sidescraping angles.
So, with some vague promise to “take it easy out there”, off I went.
As Stock as it Gets
So yeah, it’s a bit of a struggle. This is one of those tanks where being top tier the first few games doesn’t actually help a lot, because you’re not the type of vehicle to lead the battle. Even if I make a good contribution towards the win, it doesn’t always matter.
But I’ve also had a glimpse of what this vehicle can do; rush to a forward position, kill the spotters, short flank, dodge and weave, keep them spotted, and then just plow through the survivors, hunt them down and no-scope them into oblivion.
Once I got the improved controls on it, things went a little better, and I now win more than I lose at least. It’s kind of a drag knowing I have a week more of waiting for timers, and by then I will have probably ground out the Yolo Wagon already.
The hard part, really, is finding your place in the world. You have the speed, but if you push forward alone, you’ll just get smashed. You can bounce dozens of shots off the gun mantlet with 100 hitpoints left, and then trade shots with a low tier Medium and get penned every shot the next game. The armour is really the definition of “unreliable”.
But it sometimes works, and that’s like the mindset you have to get into. You need to take a few chances, because they will sometimes pay off. Like with the Leopard 1, you can’t be scared driving the Barracuda; you have to show confidence, otherwise it’s not going to work.
Well. At least I don’t think it’s going to work otherwise. Sure, you can play this tank as a sniper at the back, only pushing forward when there aren’t enough targets, or follow other tanks around, or something. But I think if you aren’t using your mobility enough, that’s selling the tank short.
Two things about the SU-122-54 I find are distinctly “Russian”: mobility and firepower. Both, you might say, are simultaneously better and worse than you expect them to be.
48 km/h doesn’t sound that fast, and sometimes it isn’t. But the pickup is great, and you seldom move slower than 30 no matter the terrain. This means you’ll spend more time at higher speeds, and so you’ll be faster than you think you are. More importantly, you’ll be much faster than you are expected to be.
It’s the same with the gun. It will hit the most insane clutch shots, go through E75s and IS-7s like butter, and then turn around and miss perfect side shots at Light tanks and French Heavys. It’s not derpy, just… well, Russian I guess. With the narrow gun arc, it’s easy to compound the problems by moving the chassis accidentally, or snapping the shot off too early, but the thing will also miss or fail to penetrate perfectly aimed shots, at close range, at weak targets.
I guess I don’t pay enough tribute to Stalin. Or maybe Wargaming nerfed me again.
But basically, all you do is hang back at the start, try to get a few shots in, and then you go on the prowl; looking for flanking and crossfire opportunities and isolated enemies. Like I said it’s not a very refined tank; any refinement lies in the execution of the playstyle.
Simple, yet complicated.
Like the game itself.
So I’ll expect I’ll drop some Premium time and have the 263 ground out by the holidays, and then I’ll spend two weeks waiting on spare parts timers while I continue driving the 122-54.
The Barracuda is the perfect Yolo Wagon trainer, because it teaches you the same playstyle only with less armour. Moving up to the 263 will be like going from the Leopard PTA to the E50 M.
For me, though, the grind is already over. I have the Barracuda, which is the one I really wanted, and in a week it will have Vstabs on it.
I don’t really drive a lot of tier IX except for the E50, and I missed out on the Kpz 70, so it’s really great having a new tier IX tank I’m really excited about and enjoy driving.
But that’s me. Is the Barracuda for you? Well, not necessarily. I think if you get sick of having no gun depression and can’t get your head around playing fast casemate TDs, you will have figured that out at tier VII ot VIII. Tier IX is where it gets real; you have less reliable armour, you have to really work on your positioning and setting up your shots, and even then the gun and the armour is going to let you down from time to time.
Remember this is a tank that good players say is hard to drive. It can be a lot of fun, and it can be really successful, but it takes a bit of work before you get there. The grind itself isn’t bad at all, and you can certainly camp or free XP your way past it, but you will be missing out on the opportunity to prepare yourself properly for the 263, and I think if you’re not playing it actively, you are letting the tank down and missing out.
IrmaBecx says if you are going to drive the SU-122-54, then flank hard!
See you out there.
The End of the Line
I got some bonus Premium time after the update, and so I ground out the Yolo Wagon early this morning. A little less than 300 games, so around 900 in all to complete the grind.
The last few dozen games were just a blur. You learn who you can bully and who you can’t, you camp a little and then relocate, you poke and trade with Heavys, or you run with the pack and swarm isolated targets. The SU-122-54 is everything I dreamed it would be, and after a few hundred games, I’m getting to where I can sometimes do it justice, because it’s a much better tank than I am a driver, and it doesn’t even have a Vstab yet.
And it’s not hard. I mean it’s a Medium tank with a Heavy tank gun on it. Just hearing that should already give you a few ideas about how you might want to drive it. Basically, you have two weaknesses: you don’t have a turret, and your armour isn’t super reliable. You have to agree that as far as weaknesses go, that’s not a whole lot to worry about.
In fact, I think if you worry too much you aren’t going to do the tank justice. Sometimes you need to just drop the hammer and go for it, hit the adrenaline and hope to get that crucial bounce. Live fast. Push the limits.
I can tell you if you don’t push the limits, you’ll never get even close to getting an Ace in this thing…
I’ve had some fantastic brawls in the SU. Taken down hapless tier X Mediums who thought I would be a pushover. Chased down Light tanks. Hit weakspots no-scope doing fifty. Gotten bounce after bounce with less than twenty hitpoints left. Rammed tier X Heavy tanks and DPM:ed them down. I have COD:ed Heavy tanks, TDs, Medium tanks, even Light tanks with a bit of poetic licence.
My favourite thing to do is charge straight at Heavy tanks; they think I’m going to facehug, but I go straight past them because I know they may have a turret, but they’re still not going to beat my traverse. By the time they’ve turned around, I’m already coming straight at them again, hit them, take the tracks off, then go past them again; all the while firing every seven seconds or so.
And yes, I could spend more time being patient and keeping my head down I suppose, but you don’t drive the 263 line to learn patience. You drive it to learn how to flank hard. You drive it for the thrills out on the flanks. Tank-on-tank violence, up close and personal.
This also solves the problem with the shell speed not being fantastic. Sniping is kind of a bust anyway, but it does tend to penetrate when it actually hits something.
Strangely, I’ve not struggled at all with the four degrees of gun depression. I think this is down to a combination of having driven the previous two tanks in the line, and the gun being forward mounted. If you struggled with the 100M1 and the 101, this one will be easier in that respect.
I’ts not cheap to run. I blew prolly a million just driving it. I run the full-race combat setup with adrenaline, and I invariably use it every game to put out more damage. Multiple targets? Drop the adrenaline. Light tank trying to flee? Drop the adrenaline. Going for the brawl? Drop the adrenaline. Last tank left and they’re all coming? Drop the adrenaline.
I also regularly blow both the repair kits, because the driver and gunner and loader all get killed regularly, and the tracks fall off, and the gun gets hit, and ammo racks get damaged all the time. It gets expensive. But yeah, I had set aside like 10 or 12 million for the grind, so it’s all within budget. Yolo Wagon bought. Spare parts lined up. All done but the waiting.
You may think this is a lot of text for what is basically just another casemate TD, but that I guess is a testament to how much these tanks appeal to the imagination. And I think they either appeal to you or they don’t, but the bottom line is this:
The Object 263 line is a lot of fun to drive.
It’s a lot of fun to drive because these tanks all have a pretty unique playstyle, they are highly mobile, and given the right circumstances, they can be ruthlessly effective.
And fun. Lots and lots of fun.
So that’s my takeaway from the Yolo Wagon grind. It’s been really fun. I thought it was going to be brutal, and I thought it would take a lot longer than it did, but it really wasn’t bad at all, and it wasn’t as complicated a grind as I thought it would be. None of these tanks felt like a hurdle, although I think it’s likely you will struggle a bit with at least one of them.
Do you have what it takes to drive the Barracuda? Because all you need is like 11 million credits and the will to go through with it.
Like Medium tanks, fast Tank Destroyers like the SU-122-54 will always have their place in the game meta; they will never be obsolete, because mobility is always relevant. And once you start getting the hang of the playstyle and stop worrying, you will find that Russian bias working in your favour more and more.
FXCK YOUR IS-7! The Obj 263 “Yolo Wagon”
You may recall back in december I was grinding the 263 line. I also got it done, but then of course I had to wait two weeks for all the timers, and I finally got around to driving a few games.
It’s going pretty well.
You may also recall I am having a bit of down time, just hanging out in my garage, clearing some missions, and trying to drive my favourite tanks and have a few good games in them. Usually that means driving my Rudy or the Black Dog, or maybe the little Vampire Batmobile, but sometimes I rev up one of my tier X thoroughbreds and let them stretch their legs.
Starting to sound like Jay Leno here. I can tell you I am not the president of the “more spare parts than brains” club. Also Leno would prolly still have the Mark I in his garage.
Anyway, it’s all been pretty casual, and so this morning I thought I’d roll out in the Yolo Wagon and hunt some noobs.
The Weapon of Choice
So what can I say about the Yolo Wagon? You all know it. It’s an IS-7 cabriolet with a huge 130 mm modified naval gun on it; the magnificent Central Artillery Design Bureau C-70A.
You would think it’s the gun off an IS-7, but it’s just not the same weapon. Everything about it is better except the gun articulation. For one thing it has one thousand three hundred more DPM. That’s sixty-three percent of an IS-7s total hitpoints. The total DPM of the 263 is one hundred and eighty-eight percent of the IS-7s total hitpoints; that means you can chew through almost two of them every minute.
Anyway, comparing it to the IS-7 is pretty meaningless. They chopped the top off and made it mid engined, so now the crew have more space to work properly, plus you get two loaders. Also they got rid off that pike nose and just kept welding on armour plates at like 60 degrees angle on the front of it instead. It goes faster, turns faster, and has like 20 horsepower per ton. I mean, it’s a total Medium tank. A convertible grand tourer.
There is of course another reason to be talking about the IS-7. Not only is it the genesis of the Yolo Wagon, it is also its natural prey, and it is in fact the very reason I decided to grind the Yolo Wagon in the first place.
Because it’s all about fear.
The Fear Factor
You all know I hate the IS-7. It’s my nemesis. I mean I can take them down, but it’s always a pain, and so often I just don’t have time to chew through all their hitpoints with my 105 mm Medium tank guns. You can pound on that cockroach shell all day; they just don’t seem to want to die, and there always seems to be more and more of them everywhere.
Finally, I just kind of gave up and got myself a 263, because I know if I can position myself properly, it can take out any tank in the game, no sweat.
“Come at me, bro!” Yolo Wagon from the business side
The Yolo Wagon is a thoroughbred, but that’s mostly because it didn’t require a whole lot of breeding. It’s a very basic vehicle.
Is it beautiful? Well, not exactly. But it has that typical Soviet engineering look, and it looks very impressive, although it isn’t really that big. With the rear mounted gun, it’s about the size of a Medium tank. I think it looks fantastic.
But what attracted me to the 263 is it’s a formidable weapon. If you just manage to keep people in front of you, and wiggle and angle a bit, there really isn’t a lot to be afraid of out there. Coming from a Medium background, the massive firepower is a joy, and once you get into it, those constant bounces off the front plates are just so satisfying.
I feel safer in the 263 than in any of my Medium tanks. Not afraid of anything. And you’re not going to scare a tier X Heavy tank with your Medium, but bearing down on them in the 263 doing 50, that’s another story. That’s likely to put the fear of god into them. Or, you know, Stalin. Whoever.
That’s pretty much it. You get firepower, mobility, and good frontal armour, and you give up side and rear protection and having a turret. And that’s all I really need.
I’m not going to try and teach you to drive an open topped tier X Tank Destroyer. On one hand, it’s pretty easy, but at the same time it can be extremely complex.
And that’s what I like about it. A Medium tank is guaged towards balance between its capabilities. In comparison, the Yolo Wagon has a few massive strengths and some debilitating weaknesses; like the huge ammo racks on either side of the crew compartment, not to mention not being able to turn the gun sideways more than eight degrees total. It’s either super strong or super weak depending on the situation, and it’s up to me to try and put myself in those situations where it’s super strong.
As a concept, that’s not very complicated. But the execution can be as complex as you allow it to be; it’s down to your imagination, ingenuity and ability to improvise; adapt; overcome that sets the limits. The combination of freedom of movement and situational strengths is what makes the 263 so fascinating to me.
You can make things pretty easy for yourself, just back into a corner and everyone will be in front of you. Or you can hit the gas, go out on the flanks and see what opportunities arise out there.
Sure, these opportunities include getting HESHed by death stars, but so does staying in a corner, sooner or later.
Then there is the brawling. I love to brawl. Seizing the right opportunity and just going for it, trusting my skill, luck, and my vehicle to handle it. The 263 can totally handle it; like I said its natural prey is the IS-7.
So what happened this morning is of course I got into a face to face brawl with an IS-7. There was a small mound between us that hid my lower plate, and the IS was a total goner, except there was a Centurion 7/1 with a stock gun behind me.
That’s all it takes. I can’t turn around because the IS will hit my side. I can’t go forward, because the IS will hit my lower plate. All I can do it try to take it out as fast as I can, but as usual I exploded before the cavalry arrived.
Too much Yolo again.
You can’t win them all, I guess.
So this is it. The Yolo Wagon grind, in about 11.000 words. If you haven’t had enough Yolo Wagon by now, please enjoy another game I lost; this time along with fellow Community Contributor “Pancham”/Gentlefun and Flytox: