Ok the title might be a bit of an exaggeration but I don't think it is exactly an unpopular opinion that German DDs above tier 5 are not doing that well at the moment. While they never were particularly amazing they at least had a niche as smoke camping cap contesters, that roll has been completely taken over by British DDs or been made obsolete by radar proliferation. A big issue that they have is that they have so many things that are weaker than their counterparts while only having situational advantages, leaving them very vulnerable to powercreep. Seriously, German DDs have inferior HE alpha/DPM, below average concealment (apart from the Z-46), massively inferior smoke screens, inferior gun range(not too big an issue), and inferior torpedo damage. Now all these weaknesses might make you think that they would have other characteristics that are a lot better than their counterparts right? Well not really. Their hydro is pretty good for what it is but is nowhere as useful as it used to be. The days of smoking up and becoming unapproachable are over due to the number of radar ships in the meta. Hydro can be pretty good as an offensive tool but it only really works when someone is dumb enough to smoke up and let you rush them. This is also a very risky tactic due to aggression in caps being punished by radar ships. RN DDs also have equally powerful due to the long duration while being much better suited for cap contesting. It also doesn't help that below tier 10 they have a significant gap between their detection range and their hydro range (1km+ for T8-9 and more than 2.5km+ for T6 and 7). The other gimmick that they have is their improved AP damage. While this is a much more consistent advantage than hydro it isn't consistent enough to make up for the lack of HE dpm. The improved damage works very well against cruisers and BBs that are broadside but the lack of a good smoke screen to farm from kind of hampers their farming ability. They also don't have very good pen so you can say goodbye to citadeling cruisers beyond point blank range. It can work insanely well against high tier DDs if they are at the right angle but becomes completely useless when a DD away from you or rushes you. It also is a bit unreliable against thin ships or ships with because the shells then have to strike at the perfect angle to actually fuse. It also is completely useless against DDs below tier 8 because they just don't have enough plating to set off the fuses. RN DDs at T9-10 also have rather strong AP shells while having massively better HE DPM (I think I see a trend starting here…).
One upside that they do that isn't situational is their very high HP pools. While it isn't that big an advantage on the Z-46 and 52 it is a very big advantage on the ships at tier 8 and below. Seriously, having around 3-4k more HP is really the only thing the mid tier ships have going for them. Also not taking full pens from BB AP was a nice indirect buff to their survivability. So yeah, German DDs are not that great at the moment. However, they can definitely be helped. I think the biggest way to do this is to get rid of some of the universal line weaknesses that I mentioned earlier. Some specific ships could also use buffs.
For starters, get rid of the below average smoke. I really see no reason for these ships to get a subpar smoke and I have no idea why they have them in the first place. The obvious change is to just give them a standard smoke (no gimmicks pls) screen with standard duration for its tier (aka, same as IJN and RU DDs get).
A general buff to these ships firepower would also go a long way in helping their combat ability. I think the most logical way of doing this would be to buff the HE alpha on the 128mm guns to 1700. This would give the 128mm guns a good 20ish% buff to their DPM which would really help their gun-power. However WG seems to have picked reduced HE power and improved AP as a German national flavor so this is unlikely. A more likely buff would be to stray a bit more into gimmick territory and buff the characteristics of 128mm AP shells. I think the most beneficial way of doing this would be to decrease the fuse timer on the shells and reduce the fuse threshold to 15 millimeters. This would make German DDs absolutely murderous against targets it can reliably penetrate with AP shells while having reduced damage output against other targets (somewhat like German heavy cruisers before the HE pen buff). The only real downside to this is that it alone would still mean that German DDs would still be somewhat inconsistent when fighting other DDs. This of course isn't a problem if other parameters are also buffed. Another buff that would really help the Gaede and Z-23 (Z-39 too) would be to give the 150mm guns 1/4 HE pen. Having high penetration on the HE shells would allow you to engage more ship types effectively while sacrificing DPM output against destroyers. This combined with additional buffs to the 128mm gun options would make the 150mm guns a viable sidegrade instead of a necessary upgrade.
While these buffs would apply to all German DDs, some ships need additional buffs beyond the general line buffs. Most of these buffs are concealment related but some torpedo buffs might also be in line for some ships.
Tier 6, Ernst Gaede
Detection radius should be decreased from 7.56 (6.6 with CE) to 7.2 (6.3 with CE). This would allow the ship to have a bit more flexibility and improve its cap contesting ability. Its main battery reload for the 128mm guns should also be decreased from 5.1 seconds to 4.5 seconds. This along with the buff to the 128mm guns and the 150mm pen buff would give the ship two viable gun options to choose from. A minor buff to the ships gun traverse (maybe 8 deg/s to 10 deg/s? for both mounts) would also be nice because the ship tends to out-turn its own guns during heavy maneuvers.
Tier 7, Maass
Detection radius should be decreased from 7.74km (6.8km with CE) to 7.34km (6.4(ish)km with CE). The current concealment value is simply atrocious and basically ruins the ship so simply concealment buff would definitely go a long way in improving this ships play-ability. The guns also should get the same turret traverse buff the Gaede gets for the sake of consistency.
Tier 8, Z-23
Detection radius should be slightly decreased from 7.92 (6.2(ish)km with CE + CSM1) to 7.6km (6.0(ish)km with CE +CSM1. This concealment buff isn't that drastic but it would bring the concealment closer to the T8 average. Its main battery reload for the 128mm guns should be decreased from 4 seconds to 3 seconds. This is a bit odd since the Maass has the exact same gun mounts as the Z-23 yet would have a longer reload but I think WG wouldn't have any issue doing it (The Mahan for example has the exact same guns are Farragut yet .7 second faster reload). This would give the 128mm guns around 20% better DPM than the 150s while having less HE pen and alpha potential.
Tier 9, Z-49
Honestly this ship would be fine with the 128mm AP buff and smoke change. No additional changes needed.
Tier 10, Z-52
This one is bit of a weird one because unlike the earlier ships a lot of people actually like this ship. However, this ship is statistically (in terms of server averages) below average or second to worst (Gearing exists). So with that in mind I believe that this ship should have minor buff aside from the universal line buffs. The first buff would be to decrease the detection radius from 7.74 (6.1(ish)km with CE + CSM1) to 7.56 (5.9(ish)km with CE + CSM1). This is mainly to bring the ship in line with the other tier 10 DD concealment values. It also doesn't make sense for the Z-52 to have worse concealment than the Z-49 before it. The second buff would be to decrease the turning radius by 50 or so meters. The ship seems to be a bit sluggish and a turning circle buff would help in close range engagements.
So there are my thoughts based on my experiences playing with and against German DDs. I encourage other people to give their thoughts as I am sure there are people that know a lot more about the competitive meta and how ships work than I do. My ideas are also somewhat self centered and reflect a lot of my personal opinions about what I would want out of a DD line so I doubt these ideas appeal to everyone.
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