World of Warships

[Very long post] Detailed, critical reflections and tips after a month of playing torpedo DDs in the CV-heavy meta

WorldOfWarships1 - [Very long post] Detailed, critical reflections and tips after a month of playing torpedo DDs in the CV-heavy meta
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TL;DR:

  • Solo success in torpedo boats is still possible, but demands high base skill.

  • Survival in destroyers has become highly unforgiving. Surface gunfire directed via plane spotting is the primary killer. Mistakes are mercilessly punished.

  • Playing escort is NOT, REPEAT, NOT the key to a high winrate. Find opportunities for high-risk, high-reward attacks. Survive and repeat. Rotate often.

  • Ignore objectives unless capture is safe.

  • Sometimes you’re unlucky and the planes focus you. Try to waste the CV’s time.

  • Look for chances to punish the enemy AA blob. Stay ahead of their radar.

  • DD play is stressful these days. Take a break and try another class every few games!


A common topic of discussions about destroyers in the current meta has been the suggestion that torpedo-focused destroyers aren’t in a good place.

Frequent advice has been to gravitate towards gunboat destroyers, preferably with strong AA, that can support the fleet with smoke and HE harassing fire while being able to protect themselves from aircraft.

Early capping is out. Stealth torpedo play is out. As for the TRB (torpedo reload booster) IJN DDs, “only a masochist” would attempt to play them in the current meta.

Challenge accepted…

Having always been the kind of player who prefers to test assertions as opposed to simply theorycrafting them, my response to the CV rework was to return to my roots and try and find out for myself just how one ought to play a torpedo-focused DD in the current meta (I was most recently on the Exeter grind—rule Britannia!).

This post is a combination of a guide and of my personal reflections after spending about a month primarily playing only IJN torpedo DDs in the CV-heavy meta.

I’ll preface by declaring that, after having now conducted this personal “experiment” (those are heavy quotes), it turns out that I don’t have all that much of a personal stake in the emotionally-charged CV debate after all. I could carry games pre-rework, and I have continued to carry games post-rework, all while sailing the line and class that have been the butt of this subreddit’s jokes for years. That said, I still care about the CV vs DD interactions, because they impact average and low-skill players to a disproportionate degree.

So I’ve always been a fairly good DD player. Probably not exceptional to the point that I could casually hop on over to one of the top clans, but my stats are deep purple and I enjoy >60% solo winrates on the vast majority of my IJN torpedo platforms. That has not changed post-patch. In the month that I’ve been playing almost nothing but torp botes, my winrate has actually gone up—an effect that I will conservatively attribute to random luck but which could just as easily be related to the fact that because I am disproportionately likely to survive into late-game relative to other DD players in the CV-heavy meta.

In contrast, I am seeing other destroyers, allied and enemy, drop like flies these days. Aside from AA destroyers, it also doesn’t seem to matter what flavor of destroyer you’re playing–KM DDs, RU DDs, PA DDs, and RN DDs are all getting sent rapidly to the bottom during the early game. Wargaming apparently was highly alarmed by DD mortality as well, if recent buffs to air detection, nerfs to rocket squadrons, and bug fixes for HE DB drop patterns—all in short succession—were any indication. Dev comments accompanying these changes noted that destroyers have been disproportionately affected in terms of damage suffered and survival rates. Survival rates which were already the lowest among ship classes in the game.

To a degree, watching other players play, I can see valid reasons why CV mains are saying that the most important solution for destroyer captains is to “Git gud.” Gitting gud undoubtedly helps, and many captains continue to make quite basic, fatal mistakes.

That said, the question we should be asking ourselves should be whether we have introduced a DD skill gap in the attempt to fix the CV skill gap. Is it reasonable or healthy for the game if high-tier DD play requires a disproportionately higher skill floor than BB, CA, or CV play at the same matchmaking bracket? What about the mediocre player or the casual player who can’t or won’t memorize all high-tier radar radii, hydro radii, hostile DD minimum detection radii and keep track of the position of every potential detection threat throughout the entire game? Have we decided that DD gameplay ought to be so newcomer-unfriendly that many players will likely abandon their first destroyer line in frustration upon hitting T8 rather than grind through 0 damage match after 0 damage match to learn each lesson the hard way?

I’d argue that current conditions tend towards being too unforgiving. Admittedly, it’s a tricky balance. Buff DDs too hard and players like me or better will run rampant carrying games. The IJN gunboat line also exists (pro tip: torpedoes remain their best counter).

At any rate, here are my two cents regarding how I found myself responding to the CV meta while playing torpedo-focused destroyers, combined with a few of my thoughts about what worked well in the current meta for me personally.


METHODOLOGY AND MATCH RECORDS:

  • Non-premium IJN DDs from tier 5-10 were played. All are fully upgraded and have captains ranging from between 10-16 points.

  • A random number between 5 and 10 was picked to select the tier to be played

  • The torpedo-focused IJN DD at that tier was chosen as the ship to be played. If two torpedo-focused DDs were present at that tier, a second random number roll was used to select between the two ships (ex: odd numbers for Hatsuharu, even numbers for Fubuki).

  • The “Battle!” button was pressed once. Queue was not canceled under any circumstances such as the number of carriers in queue.

  • The one exception to the above rules was that Minekaze was not played, since I no longer own her and even if I re-bought the ship I lack a 10-point IJN captain to helm her. I also avoided Shinonome since she is a premium.

  • Almost all games were played solo. I think I only played 3-5 games with 1-2 buddies, all of whom are quite casual WOWS players and do not play as a team-oriented division with me (Iron Duke and Mutsuki, anyone?).

End-of-match summary screenshots for all 57 games, with zero games omitted

Battle statistics for all 57 games played by ship/tier:

Win percentage Damage Survival percentage Torpedo Hits Ships destroyed Captures Total games
TIER 5 0.75 66851 0.57 6.43 1.71 1.14 8
TIER 6 0.83 65988 0.5 5.17 1.83 1 6
TIER 7 0.58 64017 0.5 4.25 1.42 0.5 12
TIER 8 0.75 73771 0.25 4.5 1.75 0.75 12
TIER 9 0.64 80176 0.45 4.73 1.45 0.55 11
TIER 10 0.5 91233 0.38 6.25 1.38 0.87 8​
TOTAL 0.67 75123 0.44 5.16 1.61 0.77 ​57

Assertion 1: Consistently strong performance in torpedo-focused DDs remains possible in the current meta (for a skilled player)

Even in what I would consider to be an extremely lethal meta for destroyer players, my final W/R remained at around 67%. CV aircraft increased the difficulty of the average game, yet I still felt that I was often still able to exert a substantial influence over the match outcome if I played well. As evidenced by some individual matches, the presence of carriers did not prevent me from continuing to produce highly successful results in some games.

In addition, apart from weaker AA, I didn’t feel that I was hamstrung by opting for torpedo boats as opposed to a gunboat or hybrid. While there were certainly times when I found myself wishing for defensive AA, I also never thought that I was disproportionately hurt by the fact that I was in an Akatsuki as opposed to, say, a Kiev. Being in a torpedo boat merely changed the manner in which I played. Whereas I would likely play a gunboat in a smoke-harassing manner, I continued to hunt BBs in my torpedo-focused DDs and exert my primary game impact that way.

I would say that I encountered CVs in the large majority of my games. Even so, I apparently was not only able to maintain my winrate, but I continued dealing a reliable 64-91k damage on average per game depending on the tier, landing between 4-6.5 torpedoes per match, etc…

The most annoying factor related to playing torpedo DDs in a CV meta was actually related to friendly aircraft causing enemy ships to inadvertently evade my torpedoes in the process of dodging air attacks. However, this was largely a minor nuisance, as it only interferes with play when the CV picks your target with exactly the wrong timing.

I would add that enemy CV aircraft feel significantly easier to play around at lower tiers. T4 aircraft are fragile and incapable of inflicting damage that can seriously endanger your ship. At tiers 5-6, the IJN DD line is also in a relatively good place in terms of their AA output relative to the health of the planes that they face. Mutsuki in particular is a real clubber if you can land your torps with consistency (75% WR, average of 6.5 torps landed per game, whaaat?). The second factor in play at low-mid tiers is the absence of radar, which leads to my second and most important assertion.


Assertion 2: Survival in DDs has become much more unforgiving especially at higher tiers, which heavily penalizes poor-to-average DD players. CV strikes themselves are often not the biggest threat in terms of damage. The biggest threat is plane spotting for enemy shells, with plane spotting also stacking with long-range radar.

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Starting from T7 and up, I found DD play in a CV-heavy meta to be considerably more difficult. Along with the CV rework, the proliferation of radar ships due to the release of the USN CL line as well as the high presence of premium T9 ships with strong radar (Missouri, Kronstadt, Alaska) make high-tier DD play even riskier compared to a pre-rework environment that was already unfriendly to new or poor DD players. As you can see from the match stats table, I began regularly dying in a majority–even a large majority–of my games from Tier 8 on up.

Keeping an open mind, I was quite willing to experiment with different playstyles to adjust my gameplay to fit the new meta. That said, it rapidly became apparent to me that the current state of the game mercilessly punishes the slightest mistake or bad luck.

The fundamental issue is the spotting provided by CV aircraft. I find that I am far less scared of the CV player’s attacks themselves than I am of the hail of shellfire from enemy BBs and cruisers that often accompanies plane detection. The CV player need not even make a single attack run against my ship to force me to run at full speed for the rear. Dropping a fighter consumable a little ahead of my bow effectively acts as a deployable radar that keeps me spotted for the next 20 seconds.

The bigger problem, however, is that detection threats effectively “stack” with enemy CVs. Both CV aircraft and radar are on-demand detection for an enemy team. Radar can pinpoint you for CV planes to maintain detection. Similarly, even a brief flyover by CV planes can announce your presence for an enemy cruiser to then spotlight you with radar. Fighter consumables are also deadly as noted above.

A second issue is that survival in a DD on low HP is simply no longer possible in the new CV meta. The response time of CV attack squadrons at higher tiers is far faster than your ability to reposition. It thus no longer generally matters if you survive a DD duel or YOLO torpedo attack on a sliver of HP, as a competent CV player will have little difficulty finding you with an attack squadron, perma-spotting you for the next 20 seconds with a fighter consumable, and delivering the coup-de-grace with rockets.


Assertion 3: It is impossible to avoid detection by aircraft in the long-term while remaining useful to the team. Maximizing your impact also requires exposure to radar. Impactful DD play in the CV meta requires high-risk high-reward play. Taking calculated risks is what leads to wins.

The response of CV players on this subreddit has often boiled down to “git gud” and “find AA cover.” Setting aside the ridiculousness of CV captains, able to deal a precision, long-range, constant stream of damage without risking their own ship, flaming players of the ship class requiring the most patience, situational awareness, and game sense to play competently, the simple fact is that “playing safe” in a destroyer is not a winning strategy.

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First, bunching up with an AA escort is not a foolproof strategy. Sure, the enemy CV will likely leave you alone if you are screening a Minotaur. However, while a friendly Massachusetts has imposing AA, it is still an attractive target and carrier aircraft will often still make runs against it, spotting you in the process. As I mentioned earlier, it’s the plane-spotted gunfire, not bombs or rockets, that are your greatest enemy.

This will come as a reeeal surprise, I’m sure, but… Shockingly–shockingly, AA teamplay cannot be relied upon. I don’t know why anybody who has ever complained about border-humping BBs would expect that somehow the solution to DD captains’ problems could come from teamwork with allied ships. CVs will only rarely drop fighters to protect you. AA cruisers will not always make it easy to stick close to you. That’s not always because they don’t care–but they can’t always make AA protection their sole priority. Sometimes they are bound for a static island position to HE spam and provide radar area denial. Other times they are kiting, then turn hard for the rear to break contact once they eat a citadel.

You can’t hug your allied Worcester all game and have consistent game impact. Scenarios in which you’re coordinating smoke HE spam and wolfpacking enemy DDs with radar are literally the one-game-in-a-hundred stuff of dreams, outside of division mates coordinating via voice call. Not gonna happen in randoms. With a random ally, you can stick close, but not without sacrificing virtually all of your game impact, and even then you might be forced out of his AA bubble (like if your partner succumbs to repeated citadels). Finally, recall that the tradeoff between protection and impact is even greater in a torpedo boat—if he’s kiting the nearest enemy at 16km, your torpedoes are out of range.

Conservative play thus places your matches at the mercy of your teammates. Expect a near-50% winrate.

Naturally, this leads to the conclusion that if you want to exert any kind of impact on the match, then at some point, you need to put your ship on the line.

What I found successful was prioritizing survival and playing around max-range torpedo salvos in the early game. Overly-aggressive play right from the match start leads to an early trip back to port. Moving into the midgame, I would assess the whole map and determine where my impact could be the most decisive—where was the enemy mounting a push? Where were the majority of their battleships heading? I would then rotate at the next convenient opportunity, across the map if necessary, and begin an aggressive approach with the goal of launching a mass torpedo attack from as close a distance as possible while still maintaining a chance of escaping detection.

For a torpedo boat in the current meta, TRB is unquestionably the way to go. You want to push your torpedo marksmanship abilities to the max and bet everything on a single, devastating, multi-pronged attack that will cripple multiple targets and give your team the edge even if you don’t manage to escape alive.

If you do survive, return to playing around your max torpedo range until TRB is back off cooldown, then repeat the above midgame attack step.

After all, smoke won’t save you from planes anyway. A good CV captain will drop you once as you are slowing for massive damage, and can likely hit you again based on your smoke puff pattern on a second drop. Meanwhile, hiding in your smoke cloud from the warbirds overhead only corners you for advancing enemy radar and torpedo waves.

This calculatedly aggressive approach is actually quite suitable to the current meta overall. Hit your torpedoes and your high flooding chance actually synergizes fairly well with follow-up CV strikes. Sometimes this combined effect is enough to literally rout an entire flank and send them fleeing for the map edge. It’s high-risk, high-reward stuff, and not for beginners or for the faint of heart. Get caught on your way in and your targets will probably dodge. If your torpedo marksmanship isn’t up to snuff, then you likely won’t break even in match impact during most games.

The thing is though, even if you miss your torpedoes, you’re still being about as impactful as you would have been hugging a Missouri in your Kagero. If you’re determined to play torpedo destroyers in the current meta, then picking your opening and mounting an aggressive offense is the key.


Assertion 4: Objective-focused play is no longer generally worthwhile

The moment a destroyer touches an objective, their near-exact position is immediately announced to the entire enemy team.

Early capping is generally no longer possible unless the entire enemy team, planes included, has lemming trained to the opposite side of the map relative to the objective you’re contesting.

Any CV captain worth his salt will send a squadron to any contested cap to spot your DD. Smoking up merely fixes you in place for torpedoes and radar—and the CV can still strike you semi-accurately by targeting the center of the newest smoke puff. In the worst-case scenario, you are radared and forced to flee the smoke, only to emerge under the perma-spotting of enemy planes.

Furthermore, in the CV meta, capital ships are often positioned further to the rear than previously—meaning that both teams end up taking potshots at the opposing destroyers as opposed to trying to hit the weaving cruisers and stealthy battleships at 18km, since the DDs are much closer targets.

I find that I am even avoiding caps in mid/lategame if I’m isolated or low HP, since I am worried about attracting CV focus if I announce my position with a capture attempt.

As for solo-capturing the enemy base during a Standard Battle, it’s completely impossible. You announce your presence from the instant you enter the zone. Smoke will only protect you for a fraction of the capture duration. As you represent the single greatest threat to cutting short the CV player’s farm even if their entire team wasn’t pinging them to protect base, they will prioritize you relentlessly.

In summary, objectives are now a side consideration. They are captured during a concentrated team push to put pressure on the opposing team, or to punish an enemy team for completely neglecting a flank. More so than ever before, don’t risk your ship for the zone capture. Your impact now comes via ship damage and kills.

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Assertion 5: Your game experience is heavily dependent on the enemy CV player’s priorities

There is a certain portion of the game experience that is beyond your control when sailing a torpedo destroyer against CVs. CV players tend to pick a flank to prioritize with their aircraft, and your team tends to sail in a certain direction in response. End up spawning on the unlucky side, and you will often have a less-impactful, less-enjoyable game. The recommended solution is to recognize the situation quickly and rotate immediately to a sector with more opportunities.

Different CV players also have different priorities. Some CV captains lack confidence in their ability to land attacks on evading DDs and will ignore you generally, focusing on capital ships and only spotting you by accident. Other CV captains seem to take perverse glee in hunting down tin cans. Sometimes, even if you rotate, the enemy captain decides that you’re their target, and will sacrifice rocket fighters to dive you even into the heart of your allied fleet’s AA. In these circumstances, you won’t have much fun that game, but at least you are having a positive impact by helping deplete the red CV’s hangar.

There is a bright side to CVs focusing you, however.

It turns out that if you are not simultaneously being focused by surface guns, you can micromanage AA and evade to the point where you are honestly unproductive for an enemy CV to focus.

Obviously, this isn’t all that fun for you, and your mileage may vary depending on enemy CV captain skill, but the most important resources of a CV are planes and time. Your Yugumo will not be deplaning their hangar anytime soon. However, if the CV is stubbornly focusing you with squadron after squadron and no other enemy ships are shooting at you, it will take him a long ass time to send you to the bottom.

I claim a decisive role in one of my Kagero match victories as a result of this phenomenon. After sinking an enemy Takao, his division mate turned out to be the enemy Lex, and focused me with a single-minded vengeance for the next 8 minutes or so. Meanwhile, our Enterprise operated unopposed against their main fleet, dealing an order of magnitude more damage than the 15k damage the Lexington ultimately inflicted upon me.

Obviously most CV captains aren’t so stupid or so inaccurate, but while it’s little comfort in the moment, holding an enemy CV’s attention for 4-5 minutes is nevertheless a contribution, even if it’s not fun in the slightest and yields virtually no rewards. Yay.


Assertion 6: Team AA blobbing is a double-edged sword that actually can work in torpedo boats’ favor

If there’s one thing I love to see in my TRB Yugumo, it’s battleships traveling in tight packs. Lemming trains with 3-5 enemy BBs moving in concert with battlecruisers and cruisers are a regular sight now.

Consequently, I have had hilariously successful TRB IJN DD games in the presence of CVs. In a number of the matches screenshotted above, I landed torpedoes on literally every single enemy battleship over the course of the game.

If blobbing is now a regular fixture of games, then your ability to deal irreparable HP loss to their battle line can be a decisive factor. Sometimes you are even treated to the sight of the entire enemy battleship line in full retreat, having completely lost their nerve after withstanding a 16-torpedo salute that cost them their Worcester, left their Missouri at low HP, and took a mean chunk out of their Montana’s bow.

Recall that with high-tier IJN 12-km torps, IJN torpedo DDs retain the ability to outrange enemy radar while remaining within torpedo range. If you position yourself well at the leading edge of the enemy advance, you can wreak absolute havoc with some well-placed fish.

That said, blobbing remains a double-edged sword, in the end. In other games, it’s your team that is blobbed and gets annihilated by torpedoes. Alternatively, your allied blob fights from too far to the rear to have any game impact.


Assertion 8: Subjectively, destroyer play has definitely become more stressful. Overall I have still continued to enjoy DD games, but the variance to my enjoyment factor has increased.

With the increased mortality rate associated with current destroyer play, the natural corollary is that it takes more mental effort to survive.

I still have great games that leave me cackling at my monitor as the whole enemy fleet disappears in eruptions of water as my torpedoes land in salvo after salvo. More often, now, I also have games in which I am totally and completely shut down as punishment for a single misstep.

Fear of the latter outcome now accompanies each game and forces me to exercise far more intense game awareness than ever before. My ship is at on the lookout for enemy aircraft from the instant the match clock starts.

As a result, the current state of the game when it comes to torpedo-focused DDs really isn’t one that readily lends itself to long EXP farming sprees with, say, Kagero or Yugumo–not because you can’t be successful if you’re skilled, but because the effort is too great to sustain for more than a few games. I did find myself regularly craving a change of pace and dipping into my shiny new Exeter or a T5 BB for a match or two between torpedo boat games.

Once again, keep in mind that this is my reaction as one of the better torpedo DD captains in WOWS. I can only imagine what the experience of the average player is upon finally sailing their stock Kagero into battle for the first time.

As a grand summary, I’m confident that consistently good performance in torpedo-focused DDs remains possible in the current CV meta. That said, I’m less confident that it translates necessarily to a consistently enjoyable gameplay experience, particularly for the typical captain. In the end, however, it’s that second factor that matters most. World of Warships is a game meant to be played for enjoyment, and while there are people out there who love the Dark Souls series, most players aren’t looking for that kind of a challenge when they take their destroyers out of port. If you are determined to brave the open ocean beneath hostile skies, however, then I hope that the insights I’ve provided above prove useful to you.

Thanks for reading.


POSTSCRIPT: Based on my experience, a more “manual” or “skill-based” AA system is unworkable for DD players.

I’ve heard numerous suggestions proposing a more “aimed” AA system that rewards player skill and reduces the RNG AA element.

Sorry, but in the heat of combat us destroyer players are already overtaxed in terms of multitasking as it is. Again, I’m no Twitch streamer or KOTS champion, but sometimes I can’t even devote any attention to focusing my sector AA if I’m under pressure–and that’s just hitting “~”, dragging, and clicking.

If I need to “aim” or micromanage my AA on top of that, then forget it. Fundamental game mechanics would need reworking. All weaponry still traverses where the camera is pointing, so if I’m trying to gun down an enemy DD while fighting off an air attack from the opposite side, then it’d be total chaos.

Seriously, destroyers are the closest to a MOBA like League of Legends that WOWS gets. A battleship might have the luxury to manage AA between salvos. Meanwhile, if I’m firing 100mm guns every 2.5 seconds since I’ve got adrenaline rush going while dodging torpedoes while toggling AA while hitting speed boost once I’ve cleared the island while deciding whether or not to repair that fire while monitoring my distance from the enemy DD while trying to launch my torpedoes on the lowdown between main battery volleys, it just isn’t happening.

I could be convinced otherwise, I suppose. If I can have a friend man the AA in co-op, or if the system was literally so godly that it ends up going down in the history of video game development as a shining example of innovation in mechanics design, then sure. Maybe.

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