Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The M41 Bulldog, In-depth

Hi guys,

Sorry I haven't been able to update my blog as much as before, but I was busy with schoolwork and didn't have a lot of free time. However, ever since I picked up WoT again, and Thanksgiving holiday is coming near, I think I can write up another review for now.

Today's tank review will be on the M41 Walker Bulldog:

Full Stats

So I reached this tier 7 American light tank with very high expectations. 1500 potential clip damage? 175mm pen APCR standard rounds? 8 degrees of gun depression? 400m view range? 72km top speed and 56 degrees traverse? 22.86 hp/t ratio but terrain resistance values of a T-62A? In short, it sounded absolutely crazy fun to me and I was full of hype after I got it to its top configuration.

But I discovered several things about this tank.

First and foremost, its sheer mobility and clip size often fools you into getting in direct combat early in the game. Most of the time, that is a really bad idea. Even if you outshoot the enemy, the M41 is a light tank and simply won't be able to handle those situations very well, due to its terrible armor, low HP, and vulnerable modules/crew. Before you decide to rush at an enemy tank, anticipating unloading your healthy-sized clip into them, ask yourself the following questions.

  1. Will I be able to reliably take out that tank with the shots I have left in my magazine and considering the armor and HP left on that tank? For example, consider the situation where you meet an IS-3 on full health and you have a full magazine loaded. The average damage of your clip is 1500 - perfect target right? But you always have to anticipate the worst - some of your shots may roll low in damage, some shots may get absorbed by the IS-3's side skirts, or absorbed by the tracks. In this case, you should not engage the IS-3 without backup or a very clear, safe escape route. Each shot you take gives you less and less HP to bargain with.
  2. Does the enemy tank have any backup? Is the tank in an easy to place to flank? If you say no to any one of these, then you should not attempt a bold move to circle/engage the enemy, or you risk, at worst, dying before you can inflict significant damage.
  3. Do you have a clear escape route where you can retreat to after emptying your clip? Do you have tanks to back you up and hold off the enemy while you are reloading? The conditions for engaging a tank may seem perfect in theory, but you won't be able to carry your team if you just die while reloading.
The biggest mistake of most Bulldog drivers, including myself, is becoming too comfortable with the Bulldog's excellent speed, maneuverability, and firepower, and engaging enemies directly to try to unleash the 10 magazine clip at the enemy for its fullest potential damage output. Again, do not do this. The Bulldog is a light tank, not a medium tank, and will not last long against enemies which have their direct attention on you. You might kill one tank at most, and then get overwhelmed by other tanks with better HP and armor. The ability of players to determine and distinguish what good opportunities are and which situations have risks that outweigh the benefits is one of, if not the key difference between good bulldog drivers and bad bulldog drivers. 

So despite the Bulldog's amazing speed maneuverability, and firepower in one clip, playing in the early game has to be more passive, scouting for your team and allowing them to deal the damage and have the upper hand in engagements. The Bulldog is a light tank with 400m view range and great mobility so it is great for both passive and active scouting. It is only when the main forces of each team have thinned each other out that you should start considering to go hunting and assassinate lone enemy tanks. With the Bulldog's 10-round clip and awesome mobility, the Bulldog can reliably outflank and go to town on lone enemy tanks. Don't be a TD, be a light tank. Despite the high clip potential, your alpha damage is too low for flat-out trading and scouting is often more beneficial for your team.

With the 10-shot clip of the Bulldog, the Bulldog almost always comes out top from a 1 v 1, or even against 2 tanks especially if engaging other light tanks. However, you should still try to engage them by surprise in order to sustain minimal damage to your tank, and be wary of opponents that could potentially fire upon you in the engagement. Additionally, try to aim at their trackwheels in order to track them in place, to make sure they won't run away into cover or lure you within range of other enemy tanks.

The huge autoloader is actually very detrimental if you want to play the Bulldog like a support tank. The overall DPM is quite low, and the clip reload is agonizing and the huge magazine size almost worthless if all you want to do is take a few shots here and there, as you will usually end up with leftover shots after a quick engagement. The Bulldog is different from the T71 in that the pros of having such a large magazine comes out in very close games, where the Bulldog cleans up the match by winning every single 1v1 situation with rounds left to spare for stragglers. Unfortunately, the current meta is often defined by games won or lost by a landslide, so at this point of time the T71 may be a more enjoyable choice overall for random battles especially if playing without a platoon.

Since the Bulldog was nerfed some patches ago, the 10-round autoloader is generally considered the better gun over the single shot gun and gives the Bulldog its uniqueness. The single shot gun may seem like a decent pick if one wants to play as a passive long-range engagement tank, but that really isn't what the Bulldog's characteristics are for. The autoloader is generally good enough in taking pop-shots in the early game to be on par with the single shot gun, and heavily outclasses the single shot gun in the late game where you must win close-range skirmishes.

All in all, the Bulldog must be played with some restraint despite its massive clip, and will be able to unleash its true firepower in the late game after mostly scouting for the team in the early game.

The equipment pieces that I bring are the Improved Ventilation, the Vertical Stabilizer, and the Coated Optics.
I chose the coated optics over the binoculars because the Bulldog's view range is good enough to reach the 445mm view range cap easily with them and 100% crew + ventilation.

For crew skills, I suggest sixth sense (self-explanatory), snap shot for the gunner, smooth ride for the driver, and repairs for the loader. If you seem to receive frequent ammo rack damage, train safe stowage for the loader. The next set of skills should be either all repairs or BiA. After that, get camo skills. If you prefer a playstyle where you stay hidden more, train camo before repairs.

Happy tanking everyone,

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