Why are expensive tanks effective tank slayers?

Previously, I wrote a short post advising newbies to use superheavies if they want to win the tank war. In this post I’ll talk about why this works.

Most tanks come with KE guns, which only do damage if they have as much AP as the target has armor. If they have less, they do not fire; if they have just enough, they do one point of damage on hit; if they have more, they do an additional half a point for each extra point of AP.

A tank with 10 armor will take 1 damage from a tank with 10 AP, 1.5 damage from 11 AP, 2 damage from 12 AP, 3 damage from 14 AP and so on. There are special cases for 0 and 1 armor, and for HEAT guns, but those aren’t important here.

What this means is that a small advantage in AV or AP can cause your tank to do twice as much damage as the opponent or even make it immune to return fire. The 65pt Leopard 1A5 has 16 AP and 10 AV, while the more expensive 80pt Leopard 2 has 16AP and 15 AV. In a duel, the cheaper Leo will do 1.5 damage per shot, while the Leo 2’s return fire will do 4 damage. It’s not surprising that the Leo 2 is better. Of course it is, it costs more. What’s important is that it’s so much better that for an extra 15 points you get twice the damage.

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Notice that rate of fire and accuracy play a very small role compared to AP+AV. When one tank does twice as much damage as another, a 5% or a 20% difference in accuracy is just a blip on the radar. There are cases where exceptional accuracy and ROF can make up for a deficiency in AP and AV – notably in the case of t-72b1 versus mexas, and the performance of the leclerc – but they are rare.

The difference gets more extreme as prices drift further apart. For 100 points you could get tanks that are immune to return fire from the Leo1A5, or that only take one damage from it while killing it in two shots. You could spend 195 points on three Leopard 1a5 tanks only to meet a single 100-point Leopard 2a1 tank, which does 5 damage per shot but only takes 1. Even having spent twice as much points and with a 3:1 numerical advantage, that’s a tough fight.

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With all that said, there’s an equalizing factor at play as well. KE guns gain AP the closer they are to their target, 1 AP for each 175m below their max range. So while a leopard 1a5 will do 1 damage to a leopard 2a1 at max range and take 5 in return, at 1400m the numbers change to 3.5 damage against 7.5 – still pretty bad for normal usage, but definitely enough to turn the table in the hypothetical three versus one fight I mentioned earlier.

It is important to notice that the price-dependent efficiency increase compounds. Just as the 1a5 is only half as strong as a Leo 2 at max range, the Leo 2 is half as strong as the 2a1, which itself loses miserably to the 2a4. Range scaling is a powerful tool that allows pairs of cheap tanks to chase off their bigger brothers, but it is highly situational: You can’t always start the engagement from close enough, and it is even harder to keep the enemy close after the initial exchange. It’s especially hard if you’re the one pushing against a defending heavy tank. And if the weight class difference is big enough, it won’t help at all.

The tank price escalation naturally has an end. At the top of the food chain are superheavies – tanks with more than 20 armor and armor penetration.

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If a Leopard 1a5 gets close enough to be able to scratch the paint on the superheavy 2a5, the return shot will be an instant kill.

Some superheavies are slightly better (M1a2) or worse (Moderna) than others, but what they all have in common is their domination of the lower tiers. You cannot counter a superheavy with tanks; the best you can do is match it with your own superheavy (or your own heavy, if the frontline consists of forests that are close enough to provide guaranteed range scaling). Because of this all such tanks come with very low availability and are almost a mandatory pick for decks that have access to them. Defensive counters are available in other tabs, in the form of ATGM, AT planes and helos, and infantry, but all of these are no good if you need to push and an enemy superheavy is lurking in the bushes.

In another post I’ll talk about why you may want to go with multiple cheaper tanks instead of a superheavy, but if you are primarily concerned with winning the tank fight, a superheavy is what you’re looking for.

To the next guide post: Why buy non-superheavies?

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