Previously I talked about why more expensive tanks are always preferable in pure tank vs tank warfare. I claimed that small price increases are associated with big increases in effectiveness, culminating in the superheavy class, tanks so strong they’re practically invincible in pure tank warfare. So why bother with the cheaper occupants of the tank tab?
The very short version is that medium tanks are much faster than heavies at killing spam (lots of cheap targets), more robust against AT planes, more maneuverable and capable of flanking because you can take more risks with them, and they cover more territory for the points invested. In the many cases where a superheavy is appropriate, sending a medium to accompany it is still important. The more disposable tank will do most of the probing and IFV-slaying, the superheavy will only show itself when its antitank prowess is needed, minimizing exposure time and chance of getting sniped by AT planes. And sometimes a superheavy is plain inappropriate due to price or flexibility concerns.
The rest of the post will examine each of these reasons in more detail.
The first reason to take a medium over a superheavy are AT planes. If you tried a superheavy after reading my previous post, you probably lost it to an AT plane. These are 100-160pt planes with very powerful ATGMs capable of killing any tank in a single pass, taking mere seconds, and often escaping alive too. They’re the best and probably the only decent counter to a superheavy.
Because superheavies are so vulnerable to AT planes, you’re pretty much forced to dedicate one or two good AA pieces to escorting your 180pt tank investment. You’ll also have to support any pushes with a fighter plane. This gets pretty expensive: 300 points just for the superheavy and assets dedicated to keeping it alive. In return you get a very strong frontline, so it’s often worth it, but that kind of expense really takes its toll on your infantry and flank forces. Another weakness of that kind of frontline is that the superheavy will eventually need repairs, forcing you to disengage for 2-3 minutes – a drawback that can be mitigated if you have a second tank, meaning even more points spent. A pair of mediums on the other hand can cover for each other from the outset.
Medium tanks aren’t immune to AT planes either, but they’re much less cost-effective to target and far less painful to replace if lost. People aren’t guaranteed to pull a hornet on your 80pt M1IP, and if they do it will have to kill 3-4 medium tanks before dying to justify the purchase. If we look at this from a point perspective, even killing a pair of mediums and then losing the AT plane is a decent trade, but that isn’t the important aspect of the trade unless you fall 200-300 points behind. AT planes and superheavies are both very card-inefficient, that’s to say limited assets – you get 1-3 AT planes per deck. Mediums are highly available. An enemy who wastes his only superheavy counter on mediums will be in a pinch if actual superheavies show up, so most people won’t send planes after cheap tanks unless it’s obvious there’s no AA around.
Due to their disposability medium tanks can also be used more offensively, staying in the open for long periods or aggressively following up on forest breakthroughs where being flanked by infantry is a small but costly risk.
Often, you’re not fighting tanks at all – you’re shooting at infantry or forcing enemy fire support off the field. An 80-point tank is no worse at murdering thinskinned autocannon vehicles than a superheavy; in fact, a single superheavy is usually way too slow at killing such vehicles, giving them way too much time to wreck your own infantry or IFVs. A pair of mediums will do the work twice as fast. Usually you’ll want to kill cheap stuff with mediums even if you do have a superheavy – not exposing your most key unit to enemy ATGMs or unexpected sideshots, keeping it in reserve until the enemy tanks waste their first shot on more disposable units.
To sum it up, superheavies are expensive and very limited. Fielding one usually forces you to skimp on other fronts. Due to their cost they also must be used more defensively than other tanks. They’re also slow at dealing with swarms of cheap vehicles or infantry, ideally relying on a screen of lighter tanks to handle this job.
To mitigate these drawbacks a superheavy is ideally deployed with a decent AA net and one cheaper tank escorting it. The escort will take on most of the risks, spending lots of time spotted as it kills IFVs, following up on attacks or crossing open space to take flanking positions. The superheavy will show itself to deal with enemy tanks, but otherwise spend most of its time hidden and untargetable by the enemy.
If you can afford to spend all this on a single front, on top of the usual infantry and recon demands, you should go for a superheavy or even two of them. If not, consider a pair of mediums or even a single one instead. After all, often you just want something to fight off fire support with. A 180pt antitank specialist is overkill if the heaviest expected enemy is a recon lav-25.