Previously I tried to present balanced views on Hindenburg and Grozovoi in the CV-heavy meta that 0.8.0 bestowed on us. My conclusion was that Hindenburg was not imminently threatened by the CVs themselves, but suffered some from being forced into a more passive role. Grozovoi meanwhile surpassed the previously fairly even field of T10 DDs to become absolute god tier, flourishing in the CV meta like no other ship.
So I ventured out to do the same with Khabarovsk, and here are my findings:
Fuck this shit.
Khabarovsk, in this meta, is PURE FRUSTRATION.
Her main gameplay always was a flanker. Her 13.5 km range and tendency to eat BB AP penetrations made her fairly ineffective when she stayed with her allies. Instead she found her greatest strength and fun by using her speed to open up new fronts, especially on the flanks, forcing the enemy to split their attention between her and her allies. This gave her the spaces to deal damage with relatively little opposition.
That is not to say that the enemy has no ways of countering this. Kiting away from Khaba makes it very difficult for her to trade effectively (albeit possible if she outskills the opponent), good coordination with DDs can zone Khabarovsk away, and many other ships like Minotaur or Zao could take her head on. These situations often developed in fun struggles for flank control.
Now, enter CVs. You play this playstyle and planes will DESTROY you. No counterplay available. Even a T8 CV
can take off over half your total health including heals in 2-3 flights. And whether it's dive bombers or rockets, no amount of wiggling and doging will save Khab's fat arse. Note that Khaba with a typical gunboat build (I run a 4×3 build with SE/DE/SI/BFT+AFT) has a fair bit of AA specc already, but it does NOTHING to stop planes on its own. You can get some plane kills at the tail end of a drop, but it won't help you save any HP.
So what do you do to avoid such a situation? Your only option is to stick with your fleet… which is exactly the opposite of where Khabarovsk is a strong and useful ship. The CV will likely still drop you a fair bit since you will be at the front line with your short range compared to other classes. You can't fire as persistently as Khabarovsk needs to deal worthwhile damage (her raw damage numbers are high, but also amongst the most inflated due to her tendency to set fires to BBs). And you lose a lot of your ability to avoid getting blapped by BBs.
Let me give you some game summaries to illustrate what kind of games made me so frustrated. Note that these three all happened in a span of just seven games:
Sea of Fortune. I spawn southwest and take off to the nearby flank. Soon I realise that the entire enemy team has gone off on a lemming train to the other side of the map. No problem, Khaba is great in this situation! Just use your speedboost and take after them – they completely neglected defending their rear, so I was able to open a very effective second flank from inside their spawn. After a while an Irian and then a Minotaur reacted to me, and we had some fun long-range shootouts.
That is until the enemy Saipan noticed me and disposed of me within ~3-4 minutes, dealing 21k dmg in about 5 drops. Forcing me to angle against the planes, taking away my ability to get undetected, and forcing my damage control also made me into a much easier target for the enemy fleet. What was a very enjoyable game turned into a frustrating early death.
Sleeping Giant. I spawn northwest. Since the enemy team has a Midway, I want to stick close to my allies, however those go the other way. The center is a very bad place for a Khaba so I want to stay. I can convince three friends to turn around. By that time the Midway's HE bombers had gone straight for me. Fortunately they only took about 5k HP and a heal.
We find some enemies and skirmish a bit, but it is difficult to find any damage since I have to stay so far back for AA cover. Suddeny an enemy Shimakaze smokes up way too close to us and fires her torps. I sense an opportunity, instantly speedboost into the smoke, and catch her as she leaves. I find a great position behind an island from where I can finish her off, save from her teammates' reach. Shimakaze made a mistake and my quick reaction let me punish her rightly.
These are usually the beginnings to great matches. The enemy lost much of their zoning power, leaving openings that good players can exploit to score big. But wait. There is a CV. Just as I sink Shimakaze, the Midway pounces on me and reduces me to 5k hp. After spending so much time on setup, the rest of my game is relegated to the backline.
Ocean. The enemy team has a Hakuryu, so I stay more central than usual. It is difficult to squeeze damage out of that situation, but it is better than dying to rocket planes on the flanks.
However Khaba's 13.5 km range puts her firmly in the front line on such a long distance map. And since her damage comes from guns, she will be spotted a lot. So guess who is the Hakuryu's #1 target…
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© Post "A look at Khabarovsk in the post rework meta" for game World of Warships.
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