WOT Blitz recently held it’s first every global tournament, the Twister Cup. Unlike previous attempts to provoke rivalry between the servers (ahem, recall the “Everyone Gets A Trophy” Rise of Continents IV place award to NA, anyone?), this tournament actually involved loosing pixel rounds of APCR at each other. The preliminary bouts, and the finals held in NYC on 20th Nov were packed with intrigue, tight competition, some inadvertent skullduggery, some outright shenanigans, and a slew of top-shelf-fast-twitch-sell-your-grandmother-for-pramo action. There were hiccups on the day to be sure, but viewed with the cold light of hindsight its clear that the event was a qualified, yet very reasonable success. This blog is not the forum for cheering/whining about Twister wi-fi connectivity (boo), restarts (boo), 10 hours of Bushka (legend), random cousin substitution (hiss), hitskins (/throws tomato) and any of the associated discussion to come out of the event.
Rather, this series is intended to highlight examples of the outstanding game play that was on display from some of the very best Blitz teams in the field. It is to include commentary on some of the impressive movement, tactics, strategy, improvisation, and flexibility, as well as some of the more subtle nuances that were observed during the action. Im hoping to cover some of the strategic/tactical points first, then move onto summarizing individual games or match ups between the teams. While I was able to watch several of the games over the live stream, my thanks go to the Blitz fans who have uploaded the games for posterity, and in particular to YouTuber Teamspeak 666 who has edited the finals down to the video I’ve tapped for analysis.
Part 1: The Tankfist
The first strategy up for review is easily the most obvious. In fact, there is nothing new about it at all. The name comes from developer notes in a news item sometime in the past year, probably in a comment about separating spawn points to prevent a massed assault in public matches (think the early days of heavies on Fort Despair, or the classic bridge rush on Falls Creek). [edit: WG reference found here]
It’s pretty much a given that us mere mortals have all been on the receiving end of Tankfist, and if were are lucky, have been able to participate in them occasionally in public matches. The difference with a random occurrence of Tankfist, and the versions on display in the tournament are at the level of intent. In random games it comes down to simple luck that enough of the greens are interested in forming an iron tsunami (or bad luck when considering reds). In coordinated teams, the intention is to form a dpm-tornado, swirl out of sight until a victim (or more) is identified and isolated, then swarm all over them like hornets. The objective is to eliminate enemy gun(s) from game though focused fire, thereby tilting the dpm advantage and the game thereafter. The most aggressive proponent of Tankfist was team ID from the Asia server, which used the posture as a staple and very potent strategy. The following clip shows their unique “rails” move on Desert Sands. Assembling in a designated area outside of detection, the Tankfist then thrusts into enemy territory to attempt destruction of the target.
The primary advantage of Tankfist is to create local supremacy and a concentration of both offensive firepower and defensive capability. A well executed Tankfist comes with an element of surprise and rapid movement into an area of at least partial cover. Continued and dynamic movement of medium tanks also serves to only present multiple transient targets to the enemy, so that return focus fire is difficult to execute effectively. Part of the strategy also relies on creating a certain level of target-selection confusion as fast moving tanks break into and swirl within the enemy formation. Often Tankfist will keep rolling through the enemy line, placing a priority of maintaining momentum through sweeping movement rather than pausing for peek-a-boom exchanges. The “all in” style of Tankfist was on display in multiple games during the finals, where initiation of the attack was carried out with an all-or-nothing commitment.
Other examples of Tankfist are more local/tactical in nature, where they serve to isolate and destroy an inferior force. They are employed in a more limited fashion, perhaps in a stepping stone format. An overwhelming attacking force will focus on and clear one area before moving onto the next. This type of Tankfist places more importance on tactical reevaluation as the battle unfolds from situation-to-situation and may be thought of as more modular in nature. The following clip highlights the assembly of a potentially game-winning Tankfist by LGN against C4. After more than 3 minutes of positioning, spotting and evaluation of their opponent, LGN formed up and swept a Tankfist into the heart of C4’s array. Unfortunately for them, LGN’s line split as it encountered multiple targets and the overwhelming local supremacy they generated was dispersed and countered effectively. Had the tip of the spear stayed in a linear thrust, there is little doubt this Tankfist could have overwhelmed several C4 tanks before they could have responded.
The pace and intensity of a medium rush makes team coordination, communication, battlefield awareness and discipline crucial in driving a unified Tankfist against experienced opposition. Some of the other obvious issues that will separate an effective Tankfist from futility include choosing and focusing on the most appropriate target. It’s often the enemy furtherest from support, precluded from supporting defensive lines of fire, situated on the most effective attack route (e.g. in a valley with cover), a damaged tank that is easily eliminated, or a particularly high-value target (e.g. an isolated Grille 15). The following clip shows another Tankfist attempt that “failed” due to target selection or target confusion. C4 formed up with the intention of sweeping an isolated spotter LGN medium south of the cap ramp on Winter M. Unbeknownst to them, LGN had an additional spotting tank adjacent to the cap. As the C4 Tankfist sweeps toward the ramp, multiple targets are spotted and the thrust split up more or less spontaneously and immediately loses focus, intent and potency. The element of surprise is lost and after that point the outcome of the engagement heavily favors the defense.
A final few points about the mechanics of Tankfist are worth considering. Firstly, a medium rush generally loses the benefit of camo once it has been committed. Relying primarily on speed, focus-fire, local-dpm, and confusion, a Tankfist rarely disengages sufficiently to reset. The emphasis on movement also requires players to immediately use repair kits when tracked in order to remain in the pack, placing them at a disadvantage in subsequent encounters. Secondly, the very nature of effective Tankfist calls for a localized concentration of vehicles, limiting their distribution and the benefit of dispersed angles of fire and distance. Thirdly, as the tip of the spear a Tankfist is to some extent nearly always pushing into the unknown. While gaps and weaknesses can be identified and targeted, the “known-unknowns” of hidden enemy movement and defensive preparation must be taken “at risk”. Indeed, the defensive team usually holds the cards in respect to spotting from cover and angles of fire on an approaching medium rush. Finally, the great advantage offered by continual movement easily begets overcommitment. These attributes in particular signal the most effective counters to the Tankfist assault.
Paradoxically, an arrayed and spaced alignment is both the weakest and strongest defense against Tankfist. Weakest because it presents edge and outlier tanks that can be swarmed, but strongest in the hands of an experienced team because an array of both depth and space offers (a) camouflage and early spotting advantages, (b) overlapping fields of fire, (c) side shots at weaker armor, (d) manual-aiming, (e) arguably more “real-time” ability to communicate target selection and coordinate focused defensive fire, and (f) the baiting of leading rushers into ambushing fire. Many of these defensive actions contributed to the failure of the second and third examples to deliver a decisive blow (above).
In summary, Tankfist (or spearhead, schwerpunkt (google it), iron-fist, medium swarm, or whatever moniker you prefer) is a very potent strategy for success in WOT Blitz team encounter battles. The best exponents of Tankfist rely of controlled aggression, timing, probing and detection of weakness, opportunism, flexibility and sudden pulses of adrenaline to enact digital violence across the battlefield. The high-energy strategy will remain a feature of tournament play, but is not without inherent weaknesses that can be exploited by cunning adversaries. In multiple ways Tankfist embodies the visionary principles of Guderian himself.