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World of Tanks: MaxL_1023’s Strategy Series
Green Level Tactic Guide #3: Weakspots
The strategy series intends to help tankers build a comprehensive mechanical, tactical and strategic background. As opposed to a few large articles the focus will be on a series of smaller guides covering individual aspects of gameplay. Divided into three primary levels, the series articles will be tailored to players of varying skill to allow a smooth progression into the upper echelons of player ability. This is a green level guide intended for newer players who are not yet familiar with intermediate level play, or as a refresher for “greens” who feel that they are relatively weak in the area covered. The subjects of this tactics guide is Weakspots.
Author’s Note: This guide was originally intended to cover module targeting as well. However, in the interests of readability this subject was promoted to an individual guide topic to be released immediately subsequent to this guide.
Introduction and Background
Assume for a moment that you are perfectly positioned to deflect incoming fire. You know exactly what target you need to shoot based on my “patented” selection algorithm. Therefore, you expect to be able to deal significant damage and influence the game. However, you end up realizing that you can’t penetrate anything. Maybe you are bottom tier, or simply have a low penetration weapon. Either way, you are having trouble dealing damage. You can’t always retreat. Flanking is often not an option especially in slower tanks. Above everything, those powerful enemy tanks simply need to die. You need to figure out some way to deal damage within the tactical situation. All you have are your wits and your shells. What will you do?
When you can’t change the target profile the enemy presents, you are limited to attacking what you can see. A tank with homogeneous armor can therefore leave you (and your low penetration gun) out of luck. Thankfully, tanks do not have homogeneous armor. For essentially any enemy tank the effective protection you encounter varies depending on where you aim. Some tanks are hardest on the front turret, some on the front hull, and a few are even hard from the sides. For most of these vehicles there exists regions where the effective protection is considerably lower than surrounding areas. These are weakspots. Being able to identify and hit them can mean the difference between a harmless bounce and a battle-turning kill.
What are Weakspots?
At the most basic level the term “weakspot” refers to an area which is easier to damage. Take the above E-75 as an example. This tank has very heavy frontal armor. If you shoot center of mass you hit the upper glacis, a spot with more than 270mm of effective protection. If you hit near the top corners this approaches 300.If the E-75 is angled, add another 20mm to the armor values. Basically, unless you are a tier 10 TD you have no chance with standard AP. Only tier 10 premium rounds have a chance to penetrate, and even then it is nowhere near a sure shot. The front turret is somewhat weaker, but still too hard for most guns it faces. However, the lower glacis and commanders hatch are significantly weaker. If you are in a fully upgraded tier 8 heavy or TD you can penetrate these areas with AP. It still is not a guaranteed shot, but you have much better odds.
The lower glacis and commander’s hatch are weakspots. They are significantly weaker than surrounding areas while remaining a part of the hull. Therefore, targeting these areas increases the probability of dealing damage with any given shot. You may still bounce (200 pen is basically SOL unless you hit the hatch at a very good angle) but you are in better shape. You can therefore see how targeting weakspots increases your ability to influence games. Your 240-260 pen tank has no chance snapshotting that upper glacis, but skillful aim will allow you to deal full damage reliably. This has the effect of broadening the range of engagement situations where you can deal damage, increasing your overall damage output by making your shots more reliable.
Recognize, Aim and Reduce to Rubble
The problem with aiming for weakspots is figuring out where exactly you are supposed to be aiming. Not all tanks have a weaker lower glacis, some have strong hatches and others have multiple small weak areas as opposed to a few large ones. However, there are general rules which apply to most vehicles. I will go over the most common weakspots and list the general tank classes which possess them. While there are rare exceptions knowing these areas will greatly increase the probability of damaging unfamiliar vehicles and assist you in paring down your target selection. Without further ado:
Weakspot 1: The Lower Glacis
Most reliably found on: U.S. HT/TDs, German HT/MT/TDs, U.K. HT/MT, USSR HTs, French TDs, Chinese HTs
Most Common Exceptions: VK 4502B, IS-3, Super Pershing, Jackson
The lower glacis refers to the frontal hull below the tank’s center of mass. On most tanks this plate can be distinguished by being either nearly flat or sloped like “/.” The upper glacis is generally sloped like “\” when the front of the tank faces right. On the above T110E5, the lower glacis is the yellow rectangle. As you can see, this plate is significantly weaker than the upper glacis or “beak”- you can penetrate there with as low as 200 penetration if you have a good angle. The upper hull resists 240, with the weld itself resistant to 295 AP fairly reliably.
The issue with the lower glacis as a weakpoint is the slope direction. In most cases, a close range encounter requires you to depress your gun to hit this area. Therefore, the effective slope of the enemy lower glacis is increased. This is most obvious on vehicles such as the E-75 with sharply sloped lower hulls. At a range under 50m, the effective thickness begins to increase rapidly due to this depression effect.In fact, at 20-30m range the E-75s LFP can be easily 250mm effective due to the extra 6-8 degrees of slope given by your gun depression. The T110E5 also has this issue – flat on 200mm penetration has a chance to get through, but at <50m 225mm AP has trouble. Therefore, ensure that you have a fairly good angle before aiming for this area. If you are too close you may have a better chance aiming elsewhere.
The Lower Glacis is a “fake” weakspot on the 4502B (it is basically the same strength as the upper hull, stronger in close), the IS-3 (very sharply angled – stronger than the upper hull), the Super Pershing (more spaced armor and a worse shell impact angle) and the Jackson (Thicker to begin with – the “curved front” american hulls in the mid tiers share this characteristic). On many medium tanks (especially the T-54 clones) the LFP is basically the same strength as the Upper Glacis. In these situations aim for the upper plate just above the weld – this gives the best impact angle and the least effective protection.
Despite the existence of exceptions the Lower Glacis is the most common frontal weakspot seen on heavily armored tanks. In general, any tank with a flat, sloped (but not really sloped like the IS-3) lower glacis has a weakspot there. Beware curved plates like the Tortoise or AT-15 – in general these are very thick. I recommend checking the armor in a program such as tank inspector if you are unsure, but as you are starting out in general aim low before trying a more difficult weakspot. Most of the time you will be rewarded.
Weakspot 2: The Commander’s Cupola
Most reliably found on: Basically any tank with a visible cupola – if you can see it then it is likely a weakspot.
Most Common Exceptions: IS-7 (It is a very difficult shot), T110E3 (very heavily armored), 263 (not part of the armor model), KV-4(same thickness as the rest of the turret front) and Tiger II (The cupola is 150mm thick – basically it is the same strength as the turret front.)
Lets assume your LFP gutshots are not working. Maybe you have a bad angle, are shooting a tank with an unusually strong lower glacis or simply do not have much pen. However, you really feel you need to deal some damage before being able to try a flank. Where else can you aim? For the majority of tanks, a headshot is the answer. Yes, WoT has some similarities to CoD – in this case the prevalence of commander’s cupolas.
The T110E5 is an obvious example – lets take another look. Notice the giant, (weirdly…green in this case) protrusion on the top of the turret? That is the commander’s cupola. In this case it generally varies from 185 to 215mm of effective protection – even weaker than the LFP. Another example is the E-75. The round hatch on the turret top is part of the hitbox – this is the German version of a cupola. It is again significantly weaker than even the lower glacis. These spots are usually the weakest area on the entire front. Some tanks have machine guns in there, others are simply rounded hatches. Either way, they are generally obvious areas which at close range can be reliably penetrated by weaker guns.
Despite the overall weakness of these areas, not every tank is vulnerable here. German (and some other) cupolas have rounded areas near the top – these can be thick enough to stop an AP shell if you hit them as you have a bad impact angle. Aim towards the base to have a better chance of penetrating. Some cupolas are very heavily armored (The E3 is the major offender here). Other vehicles such as the IS-6 (see below), KV-4 or KT have cupolas which are also thick enough to make other areas more reliable shots. A few tanks have completely “fake” cupolas – the 263 for example has one drawn which is not modeled as a damageable area. Despite these exceptions, overall cupolas are almost always weaker than anywhere else on the turret of a tank and quite often the weakest area on the entire front. This makes them ideal targets at close range or at medium range for accurate guns.
Weakspot 3: Miscellaneous Hatches and Ports
Most commonly found on: USSR Heavies (Driver’s Hatch or R2D2 Style), US Heavies (MG ports), German Heavies (MG ports), French TDs (rangefinder bars). Note these are often near 0-damage areas or quite heavily armored.
Exceptions: IS-3, 7 and 8 driver’s hatches (ricochet angle), T110E5 rangefinder (sticks out the side turret – it is not part of the hitbox).
Somehow, you can’t penetrate the lower glacis. You can’t hit the commander’s hatch, can’t find the commander’s hatch, are shooting a hatch with 300mm of armor, or are just really having a bad day. Is there anywhere else you can hit? In many cases the answer is yes. Welcome to World of Hatches and Ports.
Lets take a look at the IS-6. This is a fairly heavily armored tank – 175 pen AP has a lot of trouble even against the LFP or Commander’s hatch. Trying for these areas may have you bouncing all battle, especially if side angle is involved. However, after bouncing 2 or 3 shots you may notice an additional random hatch in the middle of the upper glacis. On a Hail Mary, you aim and fire. You penetrate, and kill his driver. Why? In this case, that hatch is 10% thinner than the rest of the upper hull. It is therefore weaker, and vulnerable to lower penetration guns compared to anywhere else. The rationale behind this is simple – thick hatches are hard to open and close. Therefore, you can expect most such hull hatches to be thinner than the surrounding armor.
An additional common hatch type weakspot is the driver’s viewport on the ST-I and IS-4. In this case, these plates are quite thick. However, they are much flatter than the surrounding upper glacis. On level ground, they are often roughly the same strength. However, the flatter base angle means that side or backslope angling has little effect on their effective thickness. Therefore, you can defeat their angling by shooting these areas. They are also easier to penetrate with APCR or HEAT, as these are weaker against sloped armor compared to standard AP. The flatter impact angle will let you penetrate more reliably. If you can’t get the UFP and the LFP is hidden, these hatches are often your best bet to deal damage.
Finally, look out for MG ports. They won’t shoot at you, but in many cases they are weaker than the surrounding hull. This is true for most American heavy tanks – the T29 and T32 are good example. Their MG ports may be as thick as the surrounding hull, but are basically flat. This makes them much less effective. Some German heavies share this weakness. However, a cautionary note is required. The MG ports on German heavies are often the same thickness as their hull. However, they are shaped like a hemisphere with a small flat area dead center. This means that while the flat area is quite weak, a slight miss will hit the port at a steep angle. This results in hitting armor which may be stronger than the UFP itself. Therefore, unless you have a point-blank shot I would not recommend aiming there.
Overall, many tanks have one or more hatch type weak points which can be exploited by skillful aim. Their location varies, however be on the lookout for rangefinder bars (aim for the center), MG ports, vision slits or hull hatches. These are very often weaker then the majority of the tank’s frontal armor and therefore good options for lower pen but accurate guns. Additionally, these shots often result in crew kills which further diminish the enemy’s combat capability. The general rule is older than WoT’s formal release – “shoot at anything other than a flat piece of metal”.
Review of Random Holes
You now know many different kinds of weakspots, how to identify them and have some experience with the exceptions which prove the rule. Now, you are dealing more damage, winning more games and noticing that you earn more credits and experience. One day, you run into an AT-15. As an exercise, lets run through the most likely weak spots and then check the armor model to verify our selection.
1. Check for a LFP weakspot. This tank has a curved lower hull – this is not a good sign. The upper glacis above is also steeply angled, precluding a good shot. Therefore, we decide not to shoot here.
2. Next, we look for a commander’s hatch. We see a promising MG-type hatch on the upper left corner of the tank. It is fairly large and appears to be flat. Therefore, we decide to shoot here.
After analysis we decided to shoot the commander’s hatch. Assume we have a 175 penetration gun. Looking at the armor model above, we can see we made a good choice. That hatch is only 132mm thick and is basically flat, meaning that it has only 135mm of effective protection. We should therefore reliably penetrate this area. Additionally, our decision against trying for the LFP can be verified – that area is 230mm thick. The sharp angle of the UFP combined with its 127mm thickness makes it range from 200 to 240mm effective. Note that if you can shoot down at this area, it becomes weak enough to penetrate. In this case, it relies on the steep angle to deflect shells and is therefore vulnerable to tall tanks at close range. We can damage and kill this tank frontally with 175 penetration by aiming for a weakspot, while random shots would likely bounce, even with 200-225 penetration.
However, what if you only have 120 penetration? In this case, even the hatch would stop your shells. The side of this tank happens to be 152mm thick – no luck there. What can you do besides spamming HE and hitting F7? Thankfully, we are playing World of Random Armor Holes.
Take a close look at the AT-15. Notice that hole near the gun? 76mm thick. It is one small area where the mantlet is open and has almost nothing behind it. Therefore, if you aim carefully you can penetrate here even with a tier 6 gun. What about the IS-6? There is a small spot on the mantlet with nothing behind it. Instead of 2 layers of 150mm, there is only one. Therefore, you can penetrate here with only 175 penetration. How about the T110E5? There are 2 small spots on each corner of the LFP which are only 45mm thick. The E-75? Nothing – all flat angles here. However, you can see that many tanks have small, unique holes in their armor which can be exploited to deal damage even with extremely weak guns. Hit these spots and reap the tears when your bottom tier medium kills a top tier heavy.
Risk vs Reward
You are facing an E-75. Assume you have 225 penetration and are about 150m away. At that point, you face about 215mm of effective armor on the lower glacis but only 190mm on the commander’s hatch. Therefore, you expect to shoot the hatch right? I argue that this is incorrect, and it stems from risk vs reward. Essentially, you need to consider not only how likely you are to penetrate a weakspot, but also how likely you are to hit it.
At 150m the hatch of an E-75 is nowhere near a sure shot. However, you are close enough that you will usually hit the LFP. Say you have a 25% chance to hit the hatch, and an 80% chance to penetrate it when you hit. This results in an overall 20% chance to deal damage. However, you have a 75% chance of hitting the LFP. In this case, you need at least a 26.667% chance to penetrate for the damage over time to even out. In this situation (150m, 225 AP, dead on) I would give you somewhere near even odds to penetrate. As this is above the threshold, you should go for the stronger (but easier to hit) lower glacis. If you only had 200 penetration the result might be different, but in this case the odds clearly favor the LFP shot.
It is obviously not easy to estimate these odds during the heat of battle. However, you can make rough approximations based on fairly little data. If your reticule is much larger than the weakspot, you will have trouble hitting it. In this case, don’t shoot there unless you have no other option. That hole on the AT-15 is an inviting target for a KV-2, but you need a miracle to hit it unless you literally have your gun sticking into it. However, your E-50 will have no trouble hitting that large hatch at 200m. You make a judgement based on the reticule size versus the weakspot. At this point I would ignore the penetration odds – in most cases there is not a large enough difference, or the relative size makes it a moot point. Only after failing against the obvious weakspot is a difficult shot warranted. With experience you will fill in the penetration chances, refining your decision.
Finally, be careful with exposure time. Aiming for a weakspot required considerable time if you have a slow-aiming gun. In these situations, it might be better to simply snap a shot with a low chance of hitting instead of taking heavy damage trying for the perfect shot. Go back to my previous Target Selection Guide – if you can’t safely engage (factoring in aim time) just don’t bother. You will get another chance, but only if you are alive.
Summary and Conclusion
Overall, shooting Weakspots is one of the most important direct combat skills. Being able to damage heavily armored targets allows you to negate enemy strengths, clearing a path for your team to clean up the easier targets. You can’t trust allies with 240 pen to get through enemy tier 10s – they will likely splat against tough armor and generally be useless. Instead, use your new-found knowledge of weakspot targeting to punch above your tier.
- Target areas such as the Lower Glacis or Commander’s Hatch to maximize the chances of dealing damage.
- If this fails, try for other hatches, vision ports or MG ports.
- Some tanks have “fake” weakspots – learn from experience to avoid these pitfalls.
- Hitting the weakspot is paramount – don’t try for the weaker area if it is too small to reliably hit. Optimize your chance of dealing damage by weighing the odds
- Experience is the best way to learn. Understand the characteristics of your tank, know how long it would take to aim and ensure that you can hit the weakspot without getting wrecked in return.
Weakspot targeting amplifies your firepower by expanding your sphere of viable targets. Your recent experience with target selection demonstrates examples where the most important target is right in front of you, but you didn’t think you could penetrate. Now, you can damage these important vehicles by skillful aim. Winning games requires damaging the right tanks at the right time. Being able to damage any tank on the battlefield from multiple angles is vital to accomplishing this goal. More advanced guides will teach you how to adjust weakspot locations based on tank orientation, detail some more complex mechanics which create additional weak areas and also introduce you to anticipating enemy fire, allowing you to defend against shots aimed at your own weakspots. At present, focus on identifying basic weakspots. Incorporate this knowledge into your target selection with the goal of always being able to damage your preferred target. As your skill grows, so will that (hopefully) 4 digit number next to your name on WoTLabs and most importantly, that number between 0 and 100 which represents your true success at WoT.
Coming up Next…
Can’t pen weakspots? Looking to be a general nuisance to enemy tanks?. My next Strategy Series Article will be on Module Targeting. It will show you how to deal damage to tough targets indirectly by disabling their movement, killing crew or destroying various modules. You will learn how to disable an enemy tank so your team has an easier time destroying it, or how to deal that little bit of extra damage by a well-placed shot. Until next time…
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