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Napkin Analysis: Bottom Tier in a Hipper


torino2dc

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Recently comments such as this one by @thornzero asked what can be done as a bottom tier ship in +2 matchmaking. For those looking to increase their winrate, a bottom tier ship still brings a lot of value to the table, as long as the captain is willing to accept certain premises:

  1. It is not your job to win the battle. It is your job to help your top-tier ships win the battle. 
  2. You won't always be able to do a lot of damage. In fact, the best available plays are often non-damage-related. 
  3. You will probably die, so make peace with it. Make the enemy waste time and health trying to overcome your position.
  4. As bottom tier, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Relax and enjoy having no responsibility to carry.

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So we're going to look at two recent games I had in the Hipper where I tried to put these principles into action. Neither of the two games netted spectacular numbers,1 and they weren't flashy from a mechanics point of view either. They were mostly about positioning, patience, and understanding my role as a bottom tier cruiser.  

Game 1: Haven

Lineup

Spoiler

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Lineup: my Hipper is one of two green T8s in a T10 game. In particular, I need to watch out for their Gibraltar/Halland div because those are strong players from a competitive clan. If the carrier wants me dead, there is little I can do. That said, every strike the CV wastes on me is a strike that doesn't damage a valuable T10 ship. 

Opening

Spoiler

hipper2.thumb.png.e90ebd914844e306998673a1899df2b0.png

I chose to go to the D7 rock and play as a hydro/torpedo buoy. Given that my cruiser has poor HE and no heals, I didn't think that I would be more useful kiting. I also reasoned that if I didn't stall the rock, the enemy push would quickly reach our carrier. If I had more firepower (e.g. Mainz) I might have asked for the Johnston's smoke, but generally smoking a Hipper is a waste of good pollution.

Yes, I am aware that I need to activate my Windows. 

Taking position

Spoiler

hipper3.thumb.png.e44f20f4bafb2688d39a83bf767e2d97.png

The enemy two T10 BBs, two T10 cruisers, as well as a T10 and T9 DD on our side. My two T10 BBs are trying to figure out whether they want to run away, my carrier is lit (signified by his ship icon being green), and my DDs don't have cruiser support since our Goliath went to the other flank. But with our presence on the rock we create a 6km hydro bubble that makes life hard for the DDs, and we are a torpedo threat to any BB wanting to push me out. 

After the opening cap exchanges

Spoiler

hipper4.thumb.png.e784b00224a9dc3a4d1c9501954c6d57.png

Not surprisingly, we lost our Johnston in C and the red team flipped the cap. Crucially, however, they haven't wrested control of the flank because they haven't killed me. That means my two T10 BBs are still relatively healthy and the carrier is safe.

The other flank came out ahead in their exchanges but they will need time to regroup and push through.

Enemy push attempt #1

Spoiler

hipper5.thumb.png.b58e1863863b7a2e485936ce5ca7e4a4.png

Enemy Jinan tries to push me, but my torpedoes push him away from the corner. I meanwhile have all the cover I want (orange arrow). My battleships pick up the Jinan kill relatively easily.

hipper6.thumb.png.00653e1a1f1c965f42c70398a1f3250d.png

Minimap after the Jinan dies. The Thunderer makes a mistake in pushing forwards rather than just kiting the Sicilia. The other flank has regrouped and is pushing towards the B cap. 

Enemy push attempt #2

Spoiler

hipper7.thumb.png.5b71ad1907920f991cebec63ca2fc064.png

The Sicilia decides to capitalize on the Thunderer misplay. I used the rock and remaining Jinan smoke to back-turret the broadside Sicilia. Hipper AP is really strong, so we chip him for about a quarter of his health. This ends up being decisive in denying the Sicilia the hit points to make plays later on. 

image.png.4987300e481e85ff5732ad481877af2c.png 

Enemy push #3

Spoiler

hipper8.thumb.png.8613666a8f476c6d3c2584a6fe26d1ab.png

Finally the enemy pushes me from both sides. At this point death is almost inevitable. The priority now is to make sure that I trade favorably. Fortunately for me, Kita and Wisconsin are both low. I push out from my island nook to get the Kita in hydro.

Aftermath 

Spoiler

hipper9.thumb.png.4e5474e338bc0fab05ee5c33452d21c4.png

I don't get either the Kita or Wisconsin kills, but they both die as I get taken out by the Gibraltar. Eventually the battleships and the Petro push to A and C, sealing the game. As a sign of work well done, we've turned the C triangle island into a graveyard.

End screen 

Spoiler

 

hipper10.thumb.png.4cd7dba8f00113e5bd8843feef8e4345.png

From a statistical perspective, this game is very mediocre. But game impact is not just measured in damage and kills. I don't think it can be argued that my position wasn't pivotal to my team's success.

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Game 2: Mountain Range

Lineup

Spoiler

Hippy1.thumb.png.a3fc0720cf88704b8fcf2010c63e6920.png

Like in the first game, the lineup is turbo-unpleasant for a T8 cruiser with no armor and no repair party. But that is no reason to give up -- even a bottom tier ship has plenty of agency if played carefully.

Opening

Spoiler

hippy2.thumb.png.c63a3ee9d02f1654c263d0d2d7456865.png

My flank consists of Schlieffen, Shimakaze, Gearing, and Hipper. Like in game 1, I am looking to make sure that the enemy cannot just roll through my side of the map without resistance. Fortunately, the 9-10 line has plenty of useful islands for a Hipper to bunker itself.

First Engagement

Spoiler

hippy4.thumb.png.508398434d6eda6d1e42ce78165b4191.png

As a bottom tier cruiser it is important to get your guns in the fight, but only if certain parameters are met:

1. You must be inconvenient for the enemy to shoot at, i.e. be apart from allies. In this example we are on the far 10 line while most of the enemies are trying to kill the Brisbane and Lauria on the 8 line.

2. There is cover available when needed. In this case I have a landmass between myself and Kurfürst, as well as other islands to block line of sight towards the middle. Though I am spotted firing, if I wanted to, I could easily stop shooting and drop off.

hippy5.thumb.png.86ae7b7ba875094ebf4058f2dc9ddf97.png

Repositioning

Spoiler

hippy6.thumb.png.f706079a7a865bebfef087c7dcc62175.png

The Kurfürst pushes himself to death and I eat an unlucky Yamato salvo that takes 3/4 of my HP. So it goes. 

In this moment of respite I have to figure out what to do next, and this is where I decide that kiting back to our base is not the play. I would get lit in open waters, eat three battleship shells, and be back in port. A better play would be to block the C9/D10 island so that the enemy push can't just wrap up our flank for free. If worst comes to worst, I can trade myself out with torpedoes. 

Holding the line

Spoiler

hippy7.thumb.png.79d91ae245a01c22b6566fd6959855d3.png

After pushing up to the the C9/D10 island, I wait. Sure enough, the enemy Gearing stumbles into my 6km hydro, panics, and turns tail. The Yamato in the background also decides that he'd rather not eat my torpedoes, so he turns towards the center of the map where my allies have an easier time focusing him down.

hippy8.thumb.png.286208481a3d459057d7378a987de837.png

With the Yamato funneled towards the middle of the map, I back up and use my rear turret to dump AP rounds into his exposed broadside. Eventually I get hunted down in the end-game but my team clung on to victory by points.

hippy9.thumb.png.4129cbb6635b80d2746766f2a293bbe5.png

End Screen

Spoiler

hippy10.thumb.png.198c20e190462ad89434ee80f463c2e9.png

Most of the BXP came from my damage to the enemy Gearing. Even though I spent most of the game hiding or running away, I was still able to amass a decent amount of damage because fires on T10 battleships are very lucrative. 

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Conclusion

My hope with this photo-essay is to give folks a jumping-off point for how to approach a bottom-tier situation. As I hopefully showed, you don't need huge damage numbers to be highly valuable for the team. Will these tactics work in every battle? No. They're called "Random Battles" for a reason.2 But they will win you an extra one or two games out of every twenty; the sort of games that can go either way. So my advice is always: keep fighting, keep scrapping, keep looking for ways to buy your team an advantage. Remember: the real enemy is defeatism. Fair seas and thank you for reading ❤️

 

 

 

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1 Not every game in a session needs to be spectacular in order to net good numbers. These two bottom tier games were part of a four game Hipper stretch -- had I given up on them, I would have been looking at a 25% WR and walked away feeling awful about the whole set.

Spoiler

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2 It should be noted that I was not super happy with my teams while these games were unfolding, but I tried to suppress my feelings and focus on what I could control. It was only afterwards when I saw that I had done enough to help us win that I received a warm glow of happiness. That's how it goes sometimes -- folks expecting the moment-to-moment gameplay to be consistently joyful are setting themselves up for disappointment.

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Excellent presentation. I've read it a couple times so far and find that this is extremely helpful and I appreciate the time spent. Cheers.

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31 minutes ago, torino2dc said:

I chose to go to the D7 rock and play as a hydro/torpedo buoy.

That was a hyper ballsy play considering it was against a T10 CV (a Richthoffen as a cherry top). I don't think I would had gambled that hard on the CV... 

What was your risk assesment for that play?  It evidently paid out so I'm inclined to think there was some wise 'CV wispering' involved in evaluating the odds for getting CV attention  

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2 hours ago, ArIskandir said:

What was your risk assesment for that play?  It evidently paid out so I'm inclined to think there was some wise 'CV wispering' involved in evaluating the odds for getting CV attention  

My risk assessment was that an MVR would have to take the long way around to drop me with AP rockets and torps, and he would have to take a cumbersome path to align himself with my bow or stern to get good drops with AP bombs. 

I gambled that even an above average CV would likely see me as a waste of time since there were open water targets to drop. Probably only a unicum would realize that the Hipper had to be removed as quickly as possible to progress the flank even if it meant low return drops. And knowing how unicum carriers think, most of them are so PR hungry that they would only focus if they could get easy black or red ribbon(s) out of me, so as long as I am full health and awkward to drop, they're in a bind of their own making.

The other side of the equation was what would have happened if I bailed on the flank -- I was sure they enemy would have pushed straight to our carrier and I wasn't confident that my Thunderer and Incomp would have slowed them down much.

As soon as the early spots came in with Wisconsin, Sicilia, and Gibraltar coming at me, I new that kiting would have been of no use. I had to threaten their shiny T10s with a face full of lowly Hipper torps to keep them at bay. 

Obviously these considerations weren't all happening explicitly, I looked at the minimap and my gut told me "if you don't wedge the door, these red bois are gonna be in our carrier's lap," and off I went. 

One of the reasons I love the game so much is that you can do all this fancy analysis about it afterwards but in the moment it is just instinct. It's like Jazz -- you have to make creative decisions in real time that decide whether the match/song is a masterpiece or a flub. It takes thousands of reps to build up the unseen knowledge that will make the difference in a single battle, and I find that beautiful. 

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1 hour ago, torino2dc said:

I find that beautiful

It certainly is 👍.  Thanks for the assesment. I tend to extrapolate My thinking too much I guess... For me as the CV it would be a flashing beacon for priority target

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3 minutes ago, ArIskandir said:

I tend to extrapolate My thinking too much I guess

When I used to compete in clan battles, I would treat every opponent as the theoretically optimal player, which bled into my randoms thinking. It made me too risk averse and I left wins on the table because of it. Since retiring from comp I've tried to master Randoms; one of the skills is taking calculated risks. 

I don't always get it right. Sometimes I get blown up. But more often than not I am pretty close.

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Great write-up @torino2dc.  

8 hours ago, torino2dc said:

They were mostly about positioning, patience, and understanding my role as a bottom tier cruiser.  

Being bottom-tiered, as you mention, positioning and patience cannot be stressed enough.  In cases where I am bottom-tiered, I REALLY rely on my mini-map to observe the flow of the game and where red ships are heading. Supporting your team is key, as well as keeping a keen eye out for targets of opportunity.  Players and ships at any level can make costly mistakes, and even lower tiers can take advantage of these mistakes.

 

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8 hours ago, thornzero said:

Excellent presentation. I've read it a couple times so far and find that this is extremely helpful and I appreciate the time spent. Cheers.

I second this @torino2dc, thank you very much, there is a lot for me to learn from this.

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  • HogHammer featured this topic

Playing bottom tier is my foremost reason for not playing Random very often.  I generally prefer to play modes where the ships are the same tier, or I can at least pick a top tier ship to play.  I'm sure it's just me, but I never could get used to playing a tier 8 cruiser against a bunch of tier 10 BBs.  

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