World of Tanks: Climbing the German Tech Tree (update at WoT v7.2)

The World of Tanks (WoT) German Tech Tree contains an exceptional and fascinating collection of armored fighting vehicles. Unsurprisingly, as a WWII military-history buff, I have more than a passing interest in the German branch of this tree. For me, the shock and awe of the Wehrmacht’s machinery echoes down the generations. It is this reputation that has me almost exclusively exploring the German Tech Tree in the game. There are pros and cons to every nation’s collection of armored vehicle in WoT, so I do not want to be so arrogant as to say that the German collection is superior. Quite the contrary, there are Soviet, American, Chinese and French tank designs that can wipe the floor with some German machines; however, in this article, I would like to simply navigate a path for those that, like me, are interested in Deutschland’s rolling steel.

Why choose the German Tech Tree?

German tanks have a great deal of cache’ and thus anyone that knows anything about the history of mechanized warfare will be drawn to them. Firstly, the aesthetics of German armor attract many players. Simply put, German tanks just look like what you would think an armored fighting vehicle should look like. This sounds trite, but the same cannot be said for most of the armor in the French line, for example. The Wehrmacht’s tanks are distinct and tend to be classically proportioned. They have many right-angles and can easily be differentiated from the softer, shallower lines of the Soviets.

As well, the German tanks tend to be more expensive than other tanks and thus it takes a lot of work to buy them. German armor tends to have reasonably good engines (for acceleration), decent armor, outstanding gun accuracy both in a static situation and on the run.

The upper tier of the German line is especially good, but many new WoT players choose not to follow the Germany tech tree and instead opt to go the Russian direction. One of the reasons for this decision is that the German tank line is all about delayed gratification. For instance, German players don’t get a “Heavy” tank until a tier or two after the Soviet player. Those wanting to try out the KV at tier V, obviously down the Soviet tree.

Gameplay-wise, if you like to snipe from afar and enjoy the relative safety of being protected by a staggering amount of armor plate, then the German tree is for you.  The tanks are accurate and fairly well armored. For many, the delayed gratification is worth it.

A changing scene

This review has used WoT at Version 7.2; however, the game is continuously being tweaked and there undoubtedly will be many changes in the future that will negate some of the comments below.  In the past, WoT has seen many modifications to the German hardware. Much of the changes were wrought during the Beta, but many items continue to be changed. A complete chronological list can be found here.

Note that matchmaking (MM) in this game has changed. You will want to review the following chart to see what tanks you will be facing in game nowadays. Here is the link. The way you read the chart is as follows. Tank Tiers are shown on the left side and battle groupings are listed across the top.  If two tanks share a battle group, they can theoretically face each other in game.

Also, the addition of the French line has somewhat altered the general thinking on German armor. The early German beasts were thought to be snipers pre v7.2.  Great gun, meh armor. Some would say that the French take that role now. To me, the German early tiers are high quality tanks that are a good balance of speed, gun accuracy, punching power and armor. They are still great tanks to snipe with and take a good amount of punishment. As you head into the higher tiers, German cannon become exceptional and their armor stays at reasonable levels; however, vehicle speeds become relatively slower than many upper tier tanks of other nationalities and rate-of-fire becomes low.

Overall, my play suits the German line and this is what will make you choose it above anything else. If you patience and like to hang back at medium or even long distances and hit tanks from broadsides or from ridiculously long distances, this tree is for you.

Particularly great sniping tanks for you to look at are the venerable Tier V PzIV with the 75mm KwK 42 L/70 cannon, the Tier VI VK3601 with its 88mm, of course the ferocious Tier VIII PzKpfw VIB Tiger II (King Tiger) and the 105 mm KwK 46 L68 and finally, the best German tank in its class, the Tier IX E-75 with the 128 mm KwK 44 L/55 gun. On the tank-destroyer side of the ledger, the Stug III is a standout.

The Tree

A tech tree in WoT is simply a listing of tanks that you can buy in the game. You start out with the lowest tiered tank and start participating in battles. Each battle gives you Silver (in-game money) and Research points . These points, also known as Experience Points (XP) can be used to unlock the next tier of tank, or piece of equipment. These unlocks can then be bought using Silver. While Silver is earned using any tank, XP to unlock the next tiered tank can only be garnered using the tank just below it in the tree. Many times, getting to the tank you want means that you have to “grind” through playing a tank that may be inferior, just to earn the XP to get the tank you want…hence the word “grind”.

The German Tech tree has changed over the past few months. The first tree looked like this: Early German Tech Tree.

The current Tree is a bit different and here it is:

A clever little piece of html coding by WoT developers allows you to review the stats for each tank on all the Tech Trees. Here is a link for that: Link

Class

In the figure above, there are five major groupings. There is a Self-Propelled guns (SPG’s) class and then four turreted tank groups and finally, the non-movable turret Tank Destroyers (TD’s). TD’s have powerful main guns, but no moving turret, so firing must be done by rotating the vehicle. SPG’s are essentially artillery (arty). Arty can have a pronounced offensive effect in battle but little defensive capability.

While the game allows you to choose any of these classes, for me, WoT is a game of fire and maneuver. SPG’s and TD’s are camping vehicles and as you might assume, I don’t have much consideration for them. As well, for me, the point of the game is to get from the lowly Tier I tank at the top of the Tech Tree and progress up the tiers from the lowly Leichttraktor I to a Tier X behemoth. The road along the tech tree from Tier I to X can take a while to travel. It’s not uncommon to play not less than 3-4 months (un-aided by premier subscription) to get there.

Along the way, there were certain tanks I wanted to avoid and certain tanks I wanted to get. For the sake of nostalgia alone, the Panther and the Tiger were milestones for me and I aimed for them.

In the end, the lines stop at my final goals, I wanted both a Medium and a Heavy tank:

  • Tier IX Medium tank: The E-50
  • Tier X Heavy tank: The E-100

I like the maneuverability of a Medium and sometimes I just enjoy the bone-crushing strength of a Heavy.  As a non-premium WoT gamer, I embarked on the latter path some weeks ago…here’s the outcome.

The path I chose takes you smack dab down the middle of the German tech tree.

Light Tanks

Tier I Leichttraktor

  • Everyone gets this tank to start off with. Make sure your insurance is paid up.
  • This is a light tank and can be used for scouting. Your priority is speed, as you have a Kleenex for armor. In WoT, an upgraded suspension and a trained driver will give you speed. A better engine gives you acceleration. But all that is useless to you as a scout if you don’t have a good radio. Once you have spotted the enemy, a powerful radio will relay their position to your mates…and that’s what gives you Silver at the end of the match.  Ever notice all those crazy kamikaze scouts tear-assing toward the enemy at the start of the match? They’re trying to “light-up” the enemy for their artillery and in so doing they are getting compensated by in-game money…and generally, if you can spot two or three enemy tanks before the inevitable happens to you — don’t worry, it’ll be worth it in Silver.
  • Don’t bother buying consumables or any non-demountable piece of equipment for this humble death trap of a tank. Just be glad that you are getting a few hundred Silver and if you are lucky, a moderate, sub-100 XP payout.
  • Don’t mix it up too close to the other tanks, try to stand off as much as you can behind cover. Your skin is paper thin and your guns are nearly worthless.
  • Don’t expect much from the stock configuration. Though I ended up collecting every gun, radio, engine and suspension system the ‘traktor offered, you don’t need to have it all. In fact, you can probably do without the Tier II Maybach engine as it is only used in upstream TD’s and SPG’s.

Tier II PzKpfw II

  • It’ll take well under 20 or so games with the Leichttraktor to earn enough to get this little baby.
  • This tank will rake in about 200 XP per game, maybe a bit more if you manage to inflict a lot of damage.
  • Get the Tier II Gun 2 cm Flak 38 L/112 as you will be able to mount it on higher Tier tanks.

Tier III PzKpfw III Ausf A.

  • I bought every item on my Tier II, so it took me ~30 games to get enough Silver to buy this one.
  • You’ll get roughly 180-200 XP per game.
  • This Tier III experience is full on grind and this tank does not have the speed or the firepower to match similar Soviet equipment. You will start to match up against really nasty tanks in this tier and you will find that the IIIA cannot do anything well. Wait for enemy tanks to get beat up and then swoop in for the kill. Aim for enemy weak spots and hope that everyone simply ignores you. Imagine you are a mosquito in a land of fly-swatters.
  • I hated every minute of the IIIA.

Medium Tanks

Tier IV PzKpfw III

  • If you buy everything option on the IIIA (except for consumables), expect to go through 90 fights before you have enough Silver to buy the Tier IV.
  • You’ll get <200 Silver per game on average.
  • The 75mm KwK 37 L/24 finally gives your enemies something to think about and you should get it. But don’t think you’ll be popping any Medium tanks with this gun. The best you’ll be able to do is to menace all those light tanks flitting around you.
  • You don’t have the speed nor the armor at this level to be useful to anyone, so keep out of sight as much as possible.
  • This can be said for all armored combat, but fight “hull down”. This means that you should try and keep most of your vehicle hidden below cover (the crest of a hill, for example). The only thing your enemy should see is the top of your tank’s turret and your cannon. Give him as little to shoot at as possible.
  • The Tier IX radio will allow you to spot the enemy from further distances, thus getting you nice Silver for your pain. Ironic that you get the radio you should have had when you were a Light tank, now that you are a med.

Tier V PzKpfw III/IV

  • 100 games in a PzKpfw III will get you enough cash to purchase this Tier V vehicle.
  • Get the 75mm  KwK 40 L/48, it’s a smidge better than the L/24 you used in the III. As well, upgrade to 50mm of turret armor as you will need it at this level.
  • 200-300 XP is what you’ll get on average with the III/IV.
  • Typically Tier V tanks are used as money generating vehicles that support the cost of running higher-tier vehicles. Sadly, the III/IV is not really a money maker. For that, I switch to the PzKpfw IV and its 75 mm KwK 42 L/70. You can bring in a sold 10K of silver per game with the IV, something that is comparable to the Soviet T-28.

Tier VI VK 3601H

  • It took about 200 games with the III/IV before I could afford the 3601H…and yes, I hated every minute in the III/IV.
  • Once I could buy the next tank, I strategically avoided the VK3001, which comes along right after the III/IV in the tree. The 3001 is a fast but weak armored vehicle, but as I just don’t do well with fast, but thinly armored tanks, I jumped over to the next column on the Tech Tree.
  • The VK3601 H is moderately quick, but has impressive firepower once equipped with armor-piercing rounds and the “short-88″  KwK 36 L/56.  Another option allows you to mount the Tier V 105 mm KwK 42 L/28. This latter gun does goodly amounts of damage using HEAT rounds, but has horrible accuracy.
  • The 3601H was the first German tank that actually looked the part of a killer. It’s intimidating to behold…especially looking into the yawning maw of the 88. Be prepared to be slapped around by higher-tiered tanks until you get the big-gun. It’s a humbling experience, but once you have it, you can be a force on the battlefield and your presence will be felt.
  • The 3601H allowed me to dole out damage rather than just receive it, something that had been missing in previous tanks.
  • Sometimes called the mini-Tiger, the 3601H is most effective with other medium tanks and together, a raiding party of these little guys can beat up on heavy Tier XII’s.
  • Expect to get 300-400 XP per game with this bad-boy. You can even get close to 1000 XP doing when you do something exceptional, like getting mega-multiple penetrating hits.
  • Defensively, the 3601H has angled armor and you will find many a shot will be deflected with no loss in health.
  • While many claim this tank to be a money earner, you can actually lose money with this tank. You will find that you can owe Silver if you die before getting a penetrating hit AND if your team loses the round; however, if you do really well in game, you will be rewarded with 8000-15000 Silver. A good amount of in-game dough, but don’t expect this type of performance with a stock 3601H. In fact, only when you have a 100% trained crew and a fully kitted out tank will you earn significant quantities of Silver. Until then, expect to be taken to the wood shed. Learn not to blitz out of spawn and don’t lead an attack early in the game. This is true for most of the medium/heavy German tanks in WoT. The late middle/end-game is yours…learn to have patience.
  • WoT 7.0 parameters have changed the characteristics of the 3601H. For the most part, it has become a bit harder to shoot enemy tanks. The reload times have gone up and accuracy has gone down:
    • Reload time for the 7.5cm KwK 41 L/58 gun increased from 3.5 to 4.5 sec.
    • Aiming time for the 7.5cm KwK 41 L/58 increased from 1.1 to 2 sec.
    • Dispersion by a turret rotation and movement for the 7.5cm KwK 41 L/58 gun increased by 10%.
  • At some point in the future the 3601H may be turned into a Heavy by WoT’s devs. Until then…enjoy the tank, it’s a wolf amongst sheep.

Note:

Typically, the best non-premium Silver-earning tanks are found in Tiers IV, V and VI of each tank tree. Sometimes, many of these mid-Tier “earning” tanks are used to pay for upkeep on one or two high Tier tanks. In the German tree, many consider the 3601H as the big earner.  As mentioned it makes 5-8K Silver for outstanding work, <5K for reasonable success and unfortunately, possibly negative for an abysmal performance. The 3601H however, is not the only earner. For me, a fully-equipped PzKpfw IV, Tier V tank does nearly as well in terms of making Silver (~4-5K per match and ~250 XP). While the 3601H relies on the short-88, the IV uses both speed and a less penetrating, but still lethal 75mm KwK 42 L/70. It’s also more fun to drive. As well, the nice thing about the IV is that there is little downside risk in case of a loss: you don’t end up owing Silver if you are pwned.  Neither tank is as good as the Soviet T-28 or KV tanks for making Silver.

Heavy Tanks

Tier VII PzKpfw VI Tiger

  • It will take you approximately 400 battles in the 3601H to finally get you this much desired Tier VII tank.
  • You got the tank! Congrats. I’ll give you the bad news first. The stock Tiger is, as most stock WoT tanks, horrible. Number one, it can’t damage anything in its weight class or above. You should already have the highly inaccurate Tier V 105mm or the short 88 from the 3601H mounted on your turret. If so, then you’ve just spent 1.2M in Silver to get a slightly up-armored, slower version of the 3601H. Like I said, congrats.
  • You will be facing all manner of ground-pounding monsters now, KV5′s, T29′s, Maus’, you name it and they’ll be firing AP rounds that will rip out your crew. How do you survive? The simple answer is you will struggle early. Play defensively, don’t be a hero and earn enough to fully kit the tank out. It should take you another 50-100 games to make enough dough to bling out the Tiger. You’ll need every module that comes with this tank to ensure you can compete in this tier.
  • The first goal should be to get the long-88. The Tiger’s personality will completely change once you mount this gun.  The fabled 88mm KwK 43 L/71 is the longer barreled version of the 3601H’s cannon. Whereas an AP shell from the short 88 will bounce off a Heavy tank’s front armor, the long-88 round will penetrate. Couple this gun with a smooth riding Transportketten suspension and the Tiger becomes a formidable Sniper.
  • Suppress your aggressive instincts, as you don’t want to be leading any early charges with this tank. Your 100/82/82 mm  (Front/Side/Rear) armor is rather piddly and you will be surprised at just how much damage will be inflicted on you by even subordinate medium tanks. You will need to understand this and adjust. Initially, I used the Tiger as the Germans did in WWII. Back then the real Tiger could blow up anything it saw out to 1 kilometer. Nothing could touch in return. Unfortunately in WoT, must engagements are between 300-500m (you can’t see past the upper limit) and thus all the advantage of the Tiger’s main gun are negated.  Try to surround yourself with mediums if you do have to charge, if not stay back and pound away. Remember, the armor in this tank is at right angles…it won’t deflect incoming rounds like the 3601H. Head on shots are extremely vexing. I even lost a face-to-face battle with a 3601H at short range. Even angling the tank during a battle does not seem to be very effective. The only thing you can do is to keep as far away from the enemy as possible.
  • Modules: as with all German heavies (heavies in general), go for Suspension first, next best Gun, next best Engine, then Gun again.
  • Equipment: A Rammer (faster reloads), Coated optics are good and (an extra few meters of visibility) can be quite useful.
  • Getting your crew trained to 100% becomes a must as it will mean better accuracy and more nimble handling.
  • The stock Tiger and the fully equipped Tiger are night and day. Your presence on the battlefield with this tank can and does make a difference. In most cases you will find that your team’s success will depend on how well you have done. No pressure.
  • Now that you have are in the heavy tiers, you will find that making XP is the real difficulty in getting to the next tank Tier. In the Tiger, you will find that an average of 300-400 XP per game should be easily within your grasp.

Tier VIII PzKpfw VIB Tiger 2

  • Approximately 500-600 battles in the Tiger and voila’, you can get yourself a Tiger 2 for a measly 2.3 million Silver.
  • Modules: as with all German heavies (heavies in general), go for Suspension first, next best Gun, next best Engine, then Gun again.
  • Equipment: Rammer (faster reload),  Spall Liner, finally Gun Laying Drive (faster turret rotation). Finally, Toolbox (faster repairs).
  • First impressions:  Unlike the experience of going from the 3601H to the Tiger, going from the Tiger 1 to the Tiger 2 was awe inspiring.
  • Tiger 2 owners should be able to average 500-1000 XP per game. Thought the XP seems great, the Tiger 2 will not be a huge money maker for you, but none of the non-premium heavies are.
  • Because of the flat armor on the Tiger, you will need to rotate your tank about 20-30 degrees relative to the enemies’ muzzle. This way, enemy rounds will have to travel further to penetrate.
  • The Tiger 2 appears to have fared very well post Patch 7.0. Tankers are reporting that the Tiger 2 is very difficult to penetrate. One thing is known, reload times have gotten worse, making it even more imperative that you train your Reloader (crewmember) and get a Rammer (equipment).
    • Reload time for the stock turret 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun changed from 6.5 to 7.2 sec.
    • Reload time for the second turret 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun changed from 6.1 to 6.7 sec

Tier IX E-75

  • It takes 3.5M in silver to own this monster, or approximately 700 or so sorties in the Tiger 2. That’s approximately a couple of months  gaming.
  • That’s some effort, but worth it? The answer is yes. The German tech tree has brought us to the E-75 one of the best tanks in the game. This tank has given me, unquestionably, the most fun I’ve had in the game.
  • Ironically, I initially was very disappointed with the E-75. But then, I followed everyone’s advice and upgraded to the Tier X engine (you should already have the Tier VIII and IX Maybach engines from previous vehicles). The Tier X let’s you outrace a Tiger II, even though you are 20 tons heavier and the speed boost makes the tank fun.
  • Equipment: Rammer and Vertical stabilizer is a must. The latter is due to the fact that you can be a bit more aggressive with the E-75, probably the best Tier IX in WoT. You will need to be firing while moving and Vertical Stabilizers will improve your on-the-fly accuracy.  Moving is necessary simply to stay out of the crosshairs of artillery, which will be pouring down fire on your head every game as you are one fat, juicy target.
  • The 128 mm KwK 44 L/55 is the next module to prioritize. Maneuverability makes a tank fun to use, but the real coup-de-gras is that its cannon is a killer. The E-75 top rated gun will penetrate anything below your tier and with a bit of sharp-shooting, it can be fearsome with equal-tiered tanks and will surprise Tier X tanks.
  • Unlike the Tiger II, this is not a sniper tank, you have to use this tank like a blunt object. Bash folks in the head with this thing.
  • Changes to the Е-75 after Patch 7.0 slow down the firing rate for some guns:
    • Reload time for the stock turret 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun changed from 6.1 to 6.7 sec.
    • Reload time for the second turret 8.8cm KwK 43 L/71 gun changed from 5.8 to 6.4 sec.

Tier X E-100

  • Introduced at version 6.6 and costing over 183000 XP, you’ll need to grind the crap out of the E-75 to reach this “super-heavy” tank. Most folks just give up trying to XP their way to this tank and simply buy transfer over accumulated XP using gold (real-world currency). At over 6.15M Silver, add a premium tank to generate Silver to that bill as well. The only good thing about the grind is that the E-75 is so much fun to play you won’t mind.
  • If you don’t want to fork out that much real-world cash, consider the E-100 a long-term project. Say goodbye to the wife and kids for a few months. Assuming you don’t end up in divorce-court, at the end of that time you will have finally reached a Tier X tank.
  • Initially, the E-100 was a disappointment. Isn’t that always true when you get a new upper Tier tank in WoT? I went from a nimble yet powerful tank to a sloth-like behemoth that seems to fire spitballs.
  • The main issue I have with the E-100 is that the unlike the E-75, which is one of the best tanks in its tier, this tank feels outpunched. The 150 mm KwK 44 L/38 cannon, though capable of penetrating 235 mm of solid armor, struggles to get through Tier IX and Tier X plating.  The Soviet S-70 130 Caliber mounted on the IS-7, comparatively, can zip through 260 mm of armor. This lower penetration value causes many E-100 owners to use gold ammo (bought with real-world currency), especially if they know they are matching up against something akin to the IS-7 which can present a formidable 300 mm of “effective” armor.
  • As well, the E-100 is incredibly expensive to run, as are most top Tier tanks. It is currently my opinion that without a premium tank  or a premium account to boost cash inflows, the Tier X tanks are just outside the reach of a free-to-play user. The Tiger II or the E-75 are probably the best F2P gamers will be able to successfully use in this game and the E-100 may just be out of the F2P’ers reach.
  • While I don’t play clan matches, which is probably what this tank really was meant for, the E-100 is a fish-out-of-water in any random pub. You really need support around you to fend off the lightning quick French tanks and provide flanking coverage for those pesky IS Soviet tanks to do well in this tin-can. As well, every piece of arty in the game has you under their target designator. You just don’t have the speed to run for cover and you don’t have the rate of fire to defend yourself well.

 

An excellent account of one person’s route through the German tree can be found in this forum post on the official WoT site.

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