Sponsored StreamersWatch some of the best tankers play live with commentary. You can also ask them questions about the game.
About the Sponsorship Program
Neverwish, the creator of WoTLabs, also streams from time to time, check it out!
You can become a Patron and set up a monthly donation at:
World of Tanks: MaxL_1023’s Strategy Series
Green Level Tactic Guide #2: Target Selection
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 subject of this tactics guide is Target Selection.
Target selection basically means which enemy tanks you shoot. You make this decision every time you encounter multiple enemies. Do you shoot the sniper in back, an angled heavy in front or the medium trying to flank? Many players simply do not know, and often make the wrong choice. Making the correct target selection amplifies your effectiveness in battle. Why? Simply put: not all damage is dealt equal.
Every battle can be split into series of smaller engagements. These usually involve 3-5 tanks from each side and happen in predictable locations. For the purposes of this guide, I assume that the reader have a general idea of where these are (e.g. Not A1 corner on Steppes) and usually find yourself involved in one of them. To win the game, you almost always need to win your engagement. Barring that, you must at least not lose in the grand scheme of battle – there is a decent chance your team will win somewhere else if you can stall a superior force. If you lose (and likely die), your team has to both win the other engagement and defend against the winners from your side – a tall order for a random team. The question is now posed – how can you win (or not lose) your flank more often?
In general, an improving player seeks to deal more damage. My Armor Facing Guide details one indirect method to doing do – by surviving longer against enemy fire. At this stage, dealing additional damage involves fairly advanced tactics. In fact, a “Green” level player is often already nearing a point of diminishing returns as it simply takes exponentially more effort and skill to increase your damage output while suppressed. Essentially, dealing more damage is ideal, but at this stage not practical. Refer to my earlier statement: “not all damage is dealt equal.”
Beyond the damage you inflict you must also consider how effective your damage is. Is it dealt early, mid-game, or late? Is it mostly against weak tanks which pose little threat to your team, or against heavy hitters? Do you waste a lot of shots bouncing or missing due to obstacles? There is a wide range of skills which increase the quality of your damage without necessarily increasing the quantity. At this stage of your skill development, Target Selection is the ideal method to increasing your damage effectiveness.
Hitting (the right) Target
Target selection is not a clear-cut process. It requires rapid decision making. You must take multiple variables into account in real time to direct your gun where it is needed most. When taking everything into account, target selection is best modeled as a neural network (really no surprise considering what you need to implement it). Tens or hundreds of variables, interacting under rapidly changing conditions in near random combinations. The entire process is governed by a few basic laws. My goal is not to try and teach you the entire process. In fact, it may not really be possible. However, what I can demonstrate are the underlying laws which dictate this thought process. Learning and then mastering Target Selection at this basic level will naturally lead you to adapt to the unforeseen circumstances which you will inevitably run into.
One Maxiom and 5 Little Laws
Before I start explaining some target selection tactics, I need to impress upon you the importance of one underlying (M)axiom – pay attention! You need to be continually reading and evaluating the situation. Even if you fully understand what I am about to explain, you won’t be able to implement it if you have no idea what is going on. This boils down to simply paying attention to the engagement and using the available information to make informed decisions. I know that this is not a trivial skill – every player has trouble with this to some degree (especially beginners). However, you need to remember to try. I am a firm proponent of the idea, that it is better to be making bad decisions based on a poor read than to be simply driving around randomly. In the former case, you can understand what went wrong, come to the conclusion that you either had bad data or made an analysis error, and refine your thought process. In the latter case, you will essentially be turning your tank and turret in opposite directions, accomplishing nothing and somehow having full bloom while your aim stays still. You will not hit anything and never get better.
Now that I am operating under the assumption that you will all try to read the situation and make decisions accordingly (if you’ve read this far then I hope you are), it is time to go over a few fundamental principles of target selection. These are basic rules which apply in almost all situations. Following these to the letter is obviously not the optimal strategy – as I said there are many more factors to consider. However, learning and understanding these few important rules allow you to develop that first level of basic processing – understanding the reasoning behind your actions. Once you master these, you will find that you are making inferences and adaptations to unforeseen situations, building on your knowledge base and becoming a better player as a result. Onward to construction!
Rule 1: Get rid of Guns
This is the most basic rule of target selection. Any enemy tank can deal damage, capture the base or otherwise contribute to the enemy team. Your goal is to get rid of enemy tanks before they can accomplish any of those things. Therefore you need to try and destroy enemy tanks which are one-shot kills. It is not “killstealing” – it is a sound tactical decision which increases your chances of winning. If you leave one of these damaged enemies alive (thinking a teammate will get them, or because you don’t want to waste a high-alpha shell) you will often end up watching them kill your allies or deal significant damage before they go down. In nearly all situations two damaged tanks are more dangerous than one healthy one, especially if you are alone. Get rid of as many guns as you can as early as possible. That healthy tank you leave for later can now be engaged with superior numbers and overwhelmed. Of course there are exceptions to this rule (mainly in the OH SHIT A WAFFLE category) but for learning purposes treat this rule as absolute. When you can identify these exceptions on your own, you are ready to apply them and don’t need to re-read this guide section.
Rule 2: Shoot Tanks you can Damage
Every time you bounce a shot you waste a shell (duh). There is no point in shooting a tank you are unlikely to penetrate especially if there is a softer target available. Obviously this rule can apparently contradict “getting rid of guns” – however since you are not going to get rid of the gun anyways, you might as well shoot something else. If you have a choice between an E-100 and a Pershing (both front-on), and you have under 225 pen, shoot the Pershing. I don’t care if the E-100 has 200 HP and has been ammo-racking every tank it shoots – you are not going to damage it and HE won’t kill it. Of course you can re-position or flank, but since this almost always takes more than one reload you might as well shoot first, flank tanks later. There is no reason to throw shells away unless you for some reason want the enemy to get a steel wall. If that is your motive then you might not have your priorities straight and I simply cannot help you.
Rule 3: Shoot the Tank with the most Firepower
This rule is a little more complex than it looks. “Firepower” can mean damage-per-shot, rate of fire, penetration, accuracy, aim time, or any combination of the former at any time. This is where your reading ability become a significant factor. Basically, look at the enemy tanks within range. Which one can do the most damage? A TD is not dangerous if it is behind a rock and has no shot. An enemy scout (especially an autoloader scout) can be very dangerous if it is parked behind a friendly TD. A lower tier medium with sideshots can be more dangerous than the top tier heavy facing fronts. It depends on what your team is doing, what the enemy team is doing and where you are on the map. This is probably the hardest rule to learn for a newer player, and can really only be mastered through experience. Identifying which tanks are dangerous (and when relative danger levels change) is vital to winning battles. The best way to start is to put yourself in the enemy’s positions. Shoot the enemies in positions you would go to from their side. If you feel sorry for the guy, he is probably not dangerous. If you really, really wish an enemy tank was somewhere else then it is probably the one you should shoot. This is the hardest rule to learn, but once you can make these reads effectively you will find your stats increasing faster than you think.
Rule 4: Shoot Tanks which are trying to kill you.
The most basic rule. If you are getting shot (and damaged) by an enemy tank, get rid of it. Unless a 100 HP WTE-100 is about to dump a clip (obvious exception #47), focus on tanks shooting you. It is all well and good to support the team by removing dangerous guns, but it is exceptionally hard to do so as a burning wreck (funny story, I did manage this once). You need to defend yourself as a first priority. Identifying situations where winning involves you dying requires far more experience than this guide caters to (and many players believe that there are no such situations). If some T37 is plinking off your E-100 from 400m, you can ignore it. However, if you are being shot by anything which is penetrating you, it automatically becomes your primary target. The only exception to this rule is if you can’t damage it. In this case, you are probably shit out of luck, and should retreat if at all possible. Finally, if nothing is shooting at you then this rule extends to your teammates. Shoot tanks which are attacking friendlies before tanks on a clip reload, trying to hide or staring off into space. This is harder to spot, but contributes a lot to team success.
Rule 5: Only Attack when the odds are in your favor
This is the last basic rule. Do not attack an enemy tank unless you feel it is safe. Trading HP can sometimes be advantageous, but knowing how and when to do so requires experience. In fact, Trading is planned as a light purple level guide. Therefore, if you are skilled enough (yet) to trade HP intentionally you have no need to read this – you already know. At this stage, focus on dealing damage while minimizing return fire. Don’t try to kill a WTE-100 (focused on you) with a full clip, even if he is one shot. You will take at least one hit, likely two and maybe three if your gun is slow to aim. If there are three enemy tanks looking at a corner, do not peek to engage even if you think you can kill one. It is simply not worth it – you are more valuable alive at this point. If only one of them can pen you, or they are all distracted then it might be correct to get a shot off. However, better to be safe then sorry. Once you can refrain from disadvantageous engagements you will find more success in battle. Once you gain more experience, you will learn methods to deal with these poor situations. This law basically works down to “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” This is a very common mistake for improving players, and something which you need to avoid to speed your progress.
Integration, Interaction and I(n)provement
Now that you have learned the
3 laws of robotics 5 laws of Target Selection it is time to integrate them into your decision making. You have likely noticed that the rules are sometimes contradictory, often ambiguous and only apply to some situations. Welcome to World of Tanks! There is no way a single set of rules can define your play. They are guidelines, meant to augment your thought process and direct it to productive ends. Essentially, I meant to show you what you need to be thinking about, with enough explanation to convince you to adopt the process. You can’t make a mental checklist, go over it for every tank you see and then after 20 seconds realize that you are dead and it is 3-14. Instead, you need to be continually updating your mental interpretation of the battle as new information arrives. At any given moment you will assign the highest target priority to one particular enemy. Shoot it, kick yourself because now you would want to shoot someone else, and realize that the best you can do is act with the information at hand and make your decisions accordingly. To help you internalize the fundamentals of Target Selection, I have created a (crude) flow chart which demonstrates the thought process you need to employ.
Analyze the situation. Where are you? Who do you have for support? What enemy tanks are there? How dangerous are they?
Step 2 – Parallel Processing:
Look at the enemy tanks. Are there any one-shot kills? If yes, increase their target priority.
Can you penetrate that tank? If you are unsure or doubt it, decrease their target priority. If you are sure you will bounce, set it to zero and look at the next tank.
How dangerous is that enemy tank? Can it one-shot anyone? Can it penetrate you? Does it have an autoloader? Is it in a position which makes it more dangerous, or less?
Is the tank looking at you? (shoot this one first) At a teammate? (second) Into the air? (Last).
Using the judgement from step 2, figure out which tank is the biggest threat. I represented this process as a math algorithm, but it is not really done in this way. This is where practice comes in handy. The more you implement this process, the better you will get at it.
Once you have picked the most dangerous target, figure out if you can shoot it safely. If it involves peeking into Tank Destroyers and Autoloaders, you might want to pick another target. If you have nothing you can safely shoot at, try to re-position to get better shots. If you can’t hit anything without getting destroyed you are very likely in the wrong place. This is represented by a positive/negative sign convention – basically the sign represents the relative worth of engagement vs retreat. This is also an intuitive process which comes with practice.
Reload and Repeat.
Summary and Conclusion
Overall, Target Selection is more than just a flow chart and a set of rules. It is fundamental to good play, and represents a method of analyzing the game which is not hard to begin but difficult to master. I hope to have improved your gameplay through giving you the basics. To recap:
– Get Rid of Guns
– Shoot Tanks you can Penetrate
– Shoot the most Dangerous Tanks First
– Shoot tanks which are damaging you
– Don’t attack when it entails taking hits
If you apply these rules, you will find that your damage output might only increase slightly, but your win rate will soar. You will be shooting the right tanks at the right time, amplifying your gun’s effect by assisting your team. You will be doing more than pure damage and it will show in your stats. The thought process of target selection is extendable to positioning, map strategy, how you attack positions and how you defend against enemy movement. Essentially, starting off with the basics, you are learning the decision making which is the staple of elite play. Future (more advanced) guides will expand on this thought process and extend it to other elements of WoT. For now, start off slow, practice when you feel you have time to think (most battles have periods when you can slow it down a bit – use these for practice) and never let up. This is what is required to advance your play. If you apply yourself to thinking the game, you will before long reach your goal and become a great player.
Coming up Next…
Target Selection is important, but what if you can’t easily damage anything you see? Retreat is not always an option. My next Strategy Series Article will be on Weakspots and Modules. It will show you how to deal damage to tough targets by careful aim and skillful shooting. You will also learn how to disable an enemy tank so your team has an easier time destroying it. Learn how to increase your damage by making every shot count! Until next time…
Writing these guides takes time and effort. If you feel like I deserve it, I would greatly appreciate your patronage. Your support will help me write more and higher quality guides, improve my twitch livestream and generally expand the array of services I can contribute. Either way, thanks for reading and good luck on the battlefield!
Discuss this article on our forum.