Skill Star Predator Pt. I
Before turning in last night, I ran a game in my formerly overpowered Russian sports prototype, and of course I ended up on Himmelsdorf, which is not exactly my favourite map for Medium tanks.
Also, of course they have the skill star.
We have a Bias-7, but they have a T57 Heavy and an AMX 50 B. They also have a 268. We got the T95 and four Mediums.
So I sigh and think sometimes the best thing to do is just follow the plan, and so I go “A” cap. They have more Heavys and TDs to back them up, of course they will go “D” cap, so I should be heading in the other direction in any case. Their tier IX Mediums will cap “B”, but we’ll deal with that later, and then we’ll push into the TDs at the rear.
And yeah, it’s Supremacy. And as much as I hate ending up on Himmelsdorf in my sleek and sporty Object 140, imagine being that death star. The driver is probably thinking “Oh, no – not Himmelsdorf again!” just like me. They want to sit in a corner somewhere, with wide open spaces around them if for some reason they have to spot for themselves, and then they trade distance for damage. That’s all they want to do, and now there’s houses everywhere, and four Medium tanks on the enemy team.
I trade distance for damage too, but I do it tactically; not strategically. It’s not the guiding principle for my gameplay. And so after getting the “A” cap, I short flank around B cap and help obliterate the hapless tier IX Heavy who had valiantly tried to cap it under the nose of aforementioned four Medium tanks.
I can see the skill star on the minimap. It’s at the end of the corridor, where I knew it would be. There’s a house between us, so I creep forward to see if it’s alone; because it shouldn’t be. And peeking round the corner, there is the 268, pre aimed, and the huge shell bounces off my front plate as I pull back.
Looks like we found them…
Okay. So I have two TDs in front of me. Over to my left, our hero T95 has capped C, and so we have three caps. If we can keep this going, we might pull this off after all.
But what to do?
Well. I am in a tiny Russian Medium with kinky angles everywhere and like 3600 DPM. All I have to do is get close to them and they’re basically finished.
The way you beat a much better driver or a tank that’s hard to defeat is to kill the team around them. You circumvent the problem. The issue with this is, the enemy driver might kill the enemy team around you first.
The way the skill star works is different. They rely on their team to light up targets and keep them busy, while they select the proper ammunition type and wait for their long reload. A lot of death stars players don’t actually know how to fight up close; that is the situation they most want to avoid.
Add to this the intimidating factor of having to roll out knowing there is one or more of the biggest guns in the game out there, at long range, and you are their preferred target, and trading damage for distance seems so counter intuitive it borders on madness.
So yeah. I am sitting behind a corner, less than 100 meters away from two massive doom cannons waiting to unleash a combined average damage of 1500 or so, unless of course the 183 has loaded HESH, which it has because I am in my 140, in which case we are talking like 2000.
I have 1800 hitpoints.
But I am not alone, and the rest of the flanking party is moving forward, so I turn around and short flank again to get a better angle on the 268. Looking to my left the skill star can’t see me, and so I punch the throttle and drive straight at the 268, dropping the adrenaline as I go.
This is the Object 140, charging at a 268 at 50 meters. The front plate isn’t going to work below like 60 degrees, but the side armour or the tracks might stop it. Also I have all my hitpoints, two repair kits and almost four thousand six hundred DPM for the next 15 seconds:
Add to the armour profile the fact I am doing 50, and a bit of Russian bias, and I would say that’s about a 50/50 chance I’m going to eat the shot. And there’s only going to be one. So instead of putting myself in a situation where I am trading shots with a big TD, I am trading a possible 640 average damage taken for their almost certain death.
Which is what happens. I eat the shot of course, but the 268 is dead seconds later, and the skill star is now right in front of me.
I now have 1200 hitpoints.
This is the object 140, charging at a skill star at 50 meters. That’s a lot less armour, but there is still a chance the shell might bounce. If the HESH is loaded, even if it hits the very tip of my tracks, it will still do 400 damage. and it could do 1600 just hitting my front plate or upper side armour:
But the equation makes sense. I can take one regular AP shell from a skill star, maybe a HESH shell and still survive, and by then I’ll be behind it.
I eat the shot again of course, but its “just” Armour Piercing, and that’s not enough to take me out. A second later I am past it and it’s game over for the skill star. our T95 goes down swinging, but we still have three bases, they have no TD support anymore, and it’s basically just a matter of cleaning up. I can still help with that on 300 hitpoints.
It reminded me of a game I had the other day; this was in the WZ-121 but the principle is the same. We were on Port bay against two skill stars, and went for the corner but there was no one there. Someone towards the middle of the map spots one of the skill stars, just where you’d expect them to be, and I just go. Drive straight at them. I take one hit from one of them, and then it goes down. The second one comes charging, and I eat a round from that one too, but that’s all it has time for. The final HESH round hits my gun barrel and thus the skill star manages to skill itself.
At that point, I am totally wrecked; down to 2-300 hitpoints again. But the battle is won. We have broken their backbone, and now we are free to surround the rest of the enemy team and pick them apart without skill star intervention from the sidelines.
From what we have seen, it’s unlikely anything will be done about the skill star anytime soon. Wargaming acknowledges the 183 is team dependent to a higher degree than other vehicles, and that this is the reason it has the lowest winrate in spite of having such massive damage output.
But they don’t acknowledge there is a meta problem. The fact the skill star is detrimental to the game in a number of ways. So if you want to keep playing tiers IX and X, you are going to either have to get a skill star yourself, or you will have to find some way to deal with it.
So what I am thinking here, is that one way to deal with campy skill stars is not to play their game. When you think about it, the stats are exactly what you would expect from someone camping behind their team all game – low winrate but high damage output.
So what the skillstar wants, is for me to engage the rest of their team so they can sit at the back and try to get shots at me. They want me to try and kill the team around them, because their teammates will help wear me down and keep my attention away from the TDs at the back.
What I want is for there not to be any skill stars , because that means I can do my Medium tank jobs much better. So it doesn’t take a genius tank philosopher to figure out what I need to do.
I must kill the skill star. Seek it out and destroy it. Hunt it, harass it, chase it down. That has to be my main strategic consideration, because as long as the skill star is left alone, I will be playing into its hands.
And yes. The numbers don’t look good. I am pitting three hundred alpha damage against a thousand.
But those are the same numbers you are dealing with anyway. Taking a HESH shot to the face at 300 meters or at 30 meters doesn’t make a whole lot of difference, except if you are 30 meters away and you survive, then you’ll be in a position to move in and get behind their gun. 300 meters away, all you can do is watch them disappear into cover to finish their next reload.
It’s not an encouraging equation. But it is the same one no matter what you do. Seeking out the skill stars and attacking them directly may seem suicidal, and even if you take them out you may be left practically combat ineffective, but like I said, the same thing happens if you take a hit from hundreds of meters away, and then you’ll still have the skill star left to deal with.
We are fighting a desperate battle here, people.
This is all following a very simple strategic principle: Don’t let your enemy dictate the terms of your engagement.
You may think that pushing forward is exactly what the skill star drivers want you to do, which is correct. They do. But they want you to push forward and engage their teammates; not push forward and engage them. They want to take undisturbed shots at you while you are otherwise occupied. To the extent they want you to think about them at all, they want you and your teammates to be afraid of them.
Fear, as you may recall, is the Mind Killer. Paul Atreides said that. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. Quoting Frank Herbert may seem facile, but the lesson still stands. It translates like this:
If you allow the skill star to intimidate you, you will face total obliteration. That’s what happens. Being afraid of the skill star limits your freedom of action. That is the mechanism by which it works. It sits in the distance, lurking; being a permeating, paralysing, restricting factor. It kills your momentum and your flexibility. By overcoming or disregarding your fear, you will give yourself breathing space; more room to maneouver, and you will have circumvented one of the skill stars main advantages.
Like I said, the numbers don’t look good anyway. It’s a typical high risk/high reward situation to begin with. You have to count on meeting between one and three skill stars in every tier X game. That is the norm. Not having to deal with a skill star is the exception.
So the question is how to deal with them. Do nothing? Play more careful? Or play less careful?
Well, if I keep on playing the way I do now, I will keep on being frustrated by skill stars. If I play more careful, the same thing will happen. I am facing total obliteration every time I roll out anyway, if I target the skill stars directly, I at least give myself the opportunity of a different outcome.
The rest of the red teams aren’t the problem. I can deal with teams. But dealing with both skill stars and rest of the team at the same time clearly isn’t working out very well, so why not try to deal with the problem directly?
There are a few reasons why this may actually work.
Like I said, skill stars don’t fight very well up close, other than the fact they have a massive one shot capability. They can’t turn the turret all the way, they don’t have a lot of armour, and they’re not super agile to say the least. The skill star may be nippy for such a big tank, but it’s still basically just a turretless TD with a wide gun arc.
There is also the fact people don’t care a lot for skill stars, and so they aren’t as likely to help them as they might be other tanks, even though their team may be reliant on the skill stars damage output to win.
And let us not underestimate the element of surprise. Skill star drivers know people hate and fear them; they know if they get caught in a bad spot they are pretty much on their own, so the skill star driver will be wary. They will go to great lengths to avoid a close up brawl, and when cornered they will fight like wounded animals.
The latter is however true for all of us, I suppose.
Even if people aren’t super inclined to go out of their way to help a skill star, they are opportunistic. If they see you being occupied, they may drop everything to take some free shots at you. Check your surroundings before you drop the adrenaline.
I realise I have been going on about the Object 140 lately, and points could certainly be made about my choice of weapon.
But I didn’t choose the Object specifically, it just happens to be my favourite drive right now. If this had been six months ago, I would have been writing about hunting skill stars in the Foch (155). Incidentally, I will be driving my Foch (155) as well, because it has the new Destroyer camo. If it had been eight months ago, it would have bene the Leopard 1 or the E50 M.
The principle is the same. The Foch is an anti-skill star. It’s much faster, much more powerful, and a lot better armoured. That also gives you opportunities to attack the 183 directly. The E50 M also has speed and armour, allowing for similar tactics.
As for the accusation I am simply using Russian bias to combat British bias, I have only this to say:
They started it.
See you out there!