Remember starting a match, and sailing away, or many cases creeping along because you never wanted to be the lead cruiser? Still, you would get your engines going and at some point, more than ever desperate to enjoy the game, you throttled the engines to full speed ahead. At about 18:30 into the match and 4 to 5 kilometers short of that island you wanted to reach that would provide you both cover and concealment, the “detected” in yellow would flash before your screen. A nervousness slowly swelled in your belly. You would start to maneuver (or at least I hope you would), but needless to say, somewhere from halfway across the map, 14 inch and greater armor piercing shells would start raining down on your ship, and suddenly your citadel would take several hits. If you were lucky, you made it to the island with more than half of your health left…and then you could start to play the game. Many times, you were a footnote to the devastating strike the guy on the red team just earned. The reasons for this were many, but concealment seemed to be the biggest factor in the ship’s inability to weather the opening minutes of a match. Worse still, Concealment Expert was at minimum at 15 point captain skill, and that meant over 100 games in the Pensacola before your captain would ever enjoy that perk, bringing your detection from 15km plus to around 13km. Recently, I have found playing the Pensacola much more enjoyable, and most importantly, I feel it is a competitive vessel.
There was a recent tweak to both the Captain skills and the U.S.S. Pensacola (CA). Both of these changes greatly benefited this cruiser and I wanted to take some time to discuss this ship, what, if anything makes it effective, and is it relevant in PvP. It is my contention that the Pensacola’s new and improved concealment along with the correct choices in Captain skills make her ideal for play in PvP, although she still lags behind other cruisers of the same tier.
Rudder Shift – Yes, I put this down as the number one strength on the ship. With my Pensacola, I had a 5.6 second rudder shift. I challenge you to find a Tier 7 cruiser with a faster rudder shift. This actually makes the Pensacola an ideal “brawler,” which is contrary to many of the beliefs about the ship being made of paper. Where am I going with this? Many T6 to T8 cruisers have torpedoes, the Pensacola’s rudder shift gives you a chance to dodge those torpedoes even when inside of five kilometers. That is very important. If you can dodge their torps, that usually means your next salvo of AP is going to decide the contest, and I found that inside of five kilometers against a broadside cruiser, my AP were not to be underestimated.
Tiered Matchmaking -- Several patches ago, matchmaking was changed so that Tier VII ships started to enjoy being the top tier in their match category more regularly. Of the ships at Tier VII, cruisers seemed to benefit greatly from this change. First, they see a lot less Tier VIII and Tier IX matches and for cruisers who are often the early favorite targets for battleships and other cruisers, this is a godsend. This allows the Pensacola to be a bit of a bully with its guns. Against Tier V and VI cruisers, other Tier VIIs such as the royal navy light cruisers all become quick victims of the Pensacola’s armor piercing guns. Additionally, as a Tier VII in those Tier VII matches, the armor of the Pensacola is a bit more forgiving against an Omaha or Emerald than it is against a Roon or Donskoi.
Anti-Aircraft – I will explain more about this below, but planes coming within 6km of your ship are in for a bad day. More will be covered in the ships consumables, but the bofors 40mm can chew up a lot of planes rather quickly. I found them to still be adequate even with the aa defensive fire consumable used as they could knock down one to two planes inbound on a BB before they got to him, and every torpedo plane down increases the chances for a battleship to dodge disaster. When CVs were in play, I would try to angle my ship to a location where planes would tend to come from. For example, on Two Brothers, I would head for the center of the map near one of the big islands, and when the planes showed up (even if it was two squadrons of fighters), I would light them up. Now, you may be wondering why I would “waste” defensive fire on fighter planes. Well, against an air superiority CV build, taking out two of his initial fighter squadrons often opened the door for the CV to do his thing, especially if it was a strike build Lexington or Ranger.
No Torpedoes – Well, the American cruiser past Tier V suffers without Torpedoes. There are a few reward/premiums sprinkled in, but really, the main line is short in this regard. What is your recourse when the German/Japanese/British/or any other ships decides to charge you? It essentially comes to blows…and whoever has a big health pool and big guns often leaves the winner. In this case the Pensacola and other American cruisers simply cannot get pulled into a brawl with a battleship or battlecruiser of any tier. The best you can hope for in this scenario is that RNG or the other captain is a terrible shot and you do enough damage, that when you ram them, you get a one for one trade in the exchange.
Mediocre High Explosive – Ok, so a decent hit with a HE shell causes about 924 damage. There is also a 14 percent chance for fire. However, these are not Japanese Heavy Cruiser guns, and the HE simply does not have the same effect. The Myoko for example has a base chance of 17 percent. Three percent may seem small, but when taking into account the skills that battleship drivers take, those three percent often mean the difference between starting a fire in one or two salvos, and wasting three or four to get the same result. Still, your HE is better than what the Germans bring to the fight, and that is something to consider if facing off against some of their more armored cruisers such as Roon or Hipper, where both of you are angled and have relatively similar reload rates. I would gladly switch to HE, because I know my alpha HE and fire chance is greater.
Slow Reload – 15 seconds can be an eternity in the World of Warships, especially for a cruiser captain. Battleship drivers will tell you that your primary job as a cruiser is to hunt destroyers. Well, I would argue that the Pensacola can deliver a strong first shot, but more than likely, the destroyer (if at full health) is going to slip away. I dealt with this issue many times in play. I would unload, a full volley of HE into a destroyer between 4.5 and 6.0km and do massive damage 4k-7k. However, the destroyer would turn, hit the gas or the smoke, and I would simply not have the reload up fast enough to finish the job. Now, did I do my job, kind of? I drove, the destroyer away, but I failed to take the destroyer out of the fight. And that meant, the battleship captains would still have to worry. Against fast firing light cruisers, at close range, this also became problematic. With angling, you could effectively place 5 guns on a ship, without exposing your own citadel to two to three volleys for every one of yours. To offset this drawback, I invested in Adrenaline Rush. As your ship’s health declined (and it will), having closer to a 13 second reload was a considerable difference and very helpful/needed. I cannot stress enough how every second in this game counts.
Armor – Ok, so there is no myth about the wet paper installed around the citadel of the Pensacola, and its inability to deflect incoming fire from just about any angle. This is an issue with many cruisers, but the Pensacola seems to take shots to the citadel like the HMS Warspite can catch on fire from one stray high explosive shell that lands 100 meters in front of the vessel…somehow it will still cause a fire…and in the case of the Pensacola, it will deliver a punch to the citadel. Ok, maybe it’s not so bad, when I angle well against other cruisers, I can bounce a lot of shells, bow on…however….broadside and the health pool is gone in seconds. Battleships simply overmatch you. Be wary anywhere near them, as you have no torpedoes and no recourse and the closer you are to them, the more vulnerable you will be to heavy damage.
Consumables – Some would consider the ship consumables as kind of “meh”. Unlike other cruisers at Tier VII these days, there is no radar, no smoke, and your hydro is not nearly as strong as the Russians. This lends more credibility as to why this ship is not a DD hunter. Instead, the consumables are the usual cruiser picks, and for me, that meant anti-CV. I took defensive AA fire and fighter plane. It is my opinion that the other consumables just don’t give the Pensacola anything else. Besides, although not top tier for AA, (looks over at Cleveland at T6), the Pensacola can inflict some serious damage on incoming aircraft. I had numerous games battling CVs all the way up to Tier IX, and my defensive AA was effective. If you use your AA fire on a CV once and you are near or in front of your team’s battleships, that CV captain usually, will not send planes to that flank again. If he does, repeat. So, consumables are weak in that they lack strong variety, but against CVs you can provide a very effective AA bubble for your team.
Ship Modules: For my Pensacola, I ran the following ship modules; Main Armaments Modification 1, AA Guns Modification 2, Damage Control System Modification 1, and Steering Gears Modification 2. My line of thought with these modules was to protect my main guns, increase my AA bubble, limit the chance for fire, and improve my rudder shift, enabling me to dodge those torpedoes from incoming destroyers and cruisers.
Captain Skills: Commander Skills are important in the process of making your ship unique. The Pensacola is really one of those ships that can go in a lot of directions. For me however, I chose survival over expertise in a single area, such as aa fire or demolition. I felt that if my ship had more endurance, it would be a continuing factor for the whole match. Here is the captain skills I took and in order along with commentary on each of them. Please note that over the course of 101 games, I only reached 16 points with my commander, and that limited my ability to fully flesh out my cruiser captain with Vigilance at the end.
1. Priority Target (Cost: 1 point) – Knowing how many guns are pointed at you is always a good thing. And if none are pointed at you, everything you are doing is free damage. This information is critical and necessary for this ship.
2. Expert Marksman (Cost: 2 points) – With the excellent rudder shift, you should be constantly pressing A and D keys. With this, keeping your turrets rotated towards the enemy is always helpful.
3. Basic Firing Training (Cost: 3 points) – I took this skill because it made my aa fire more effective. And secondary’s. Again, with the main battery being a bit slow, in a knife fight with a DD, this led to more than one close-quarters expert award.
4. Concealment Expert (Cost: 4 points) – I like living, and remaining undetected is an important part to remaining that way. The closer I am to cover before detection the better. Once you are in the islands, you are much safer. This ship should not see the Ocean map, (unless they fail platoon) and therefore I couldn’t get behind an island can never be used as an excuse. With this skill you reach a 10.9km detection range, which is ideal for surprising other cruisers and unleashing a broadside of AP into them. I did this numerous times with success. For me success was landing one to five citadels and doing at least 6k damage in the surprise attack. On average, these kind of ambushes usually netted 2-3 citadel penetrations and often knocked out the ships engines…meaning they would still be vulnerable to the next salvo and further punishment…even if they repaired…HE from other vessels became worrisome. With that said, Pensacola plays well with other cruisers on the same team, especially ones that use HE effectively such as the Belfast or Myoko.
5. Incoming Fire Alert (Cost: 1 point) – Someone out there is going to say, “you should have an in-game awareness and see the shells incoming from all those ships.” Yeah, because we’ve never been surprised before? Ok, I guess I am just not as fast as everyone else out there. This skill is incredible for this ship. And since you have paper armor, being able to know the moment multiple ships are shooting at you (not just pointing their guns at you) is great. It synergizes well with the excellent rudder shift. I find that when using this skill in conjunction with rudder shift modification and kiting away, you can effectively keep the attention of several enemy ships…and take very little damage in the process.
6. Adrenaline Rush (Cost: 2 points) – At some point, your paper citadel will be hit, don’t make the loss of health pointless. Adrenaline Rush lets you take some of the sting out of the hit and return punishment a bit faster. 13 second reload is nice in the end-game as opposed to 15 second, gives you more chances to do damage, finish ships, and exact revenge. Theoretically, you could have an 12.2 second reload and still be afloat. That’s not bad for 8 inchers at Tier VII.
7. Survival Expert (Cost: 3 points) – Again, I am going to hear, “there are so many more useful skills.” Let me tell you, I survived several games with under 2450 health remaining, which is important to remember because that is the health your ship will gain with this skill. This health bonus is huge for a ship without repair and having a smaller health pool (like Pensa), that is over-pens or HE nicks, etc. It is a boon to this vessel, and so I use it. Some may disagree with this one, but I found it invaluable.
8. Vigilance (Cost: 3 points) – My last skill points would be invested into Vigilance. As with most cruisers, you take one or more torpedoes and you have taken one too many. The health pool is just not sufficient enough to overcome this kind of damage, especially early in a match. Worse you have no smoke to invisifire from. You will likely always be seen once you open up with the big guns. Vigilance gives you the extra 25 percent recognition and just may save your life or increase your chances of longevity. With destroyers like the U.S.S. Black coming down the line (and you will see it in this ship), I will be grateful to have that extra warning, especially if I do not normally detect the torpedoes until less than a kilometer out. Every second counts.
Signals and Flags: Look, signal flags are important for this ship. Anything that increases the HE fire chance, speed, AA, length a fire can burn, etc. is important. If you have them available and want to give your ship just a bit more of an edge over those around you. Run them.
Map Play: Islands, Islands, Islands. Get to them and use them wisely. Also, don’t be the first cruiser into the battle! You are best out in front of your battleships, giving them an AA bubble, but not the lead vessel, where you can be quickly punished and sent back to port. I found slow movement near islands is helpful, and often leads to early detection of destroyers lurking nearby as your spotting fighter plane will detect them and force out smoke, using a consumable and triggering their location to you.
Where do I rate her to other cruisers at Tier VII? The Belfast remains the most powerful Tier VII cruisers, followed closely by the Flint. The Fiji is superior because of smoke, Pensacola cannot see into the smoke, and she is large enough that the Fiji will see her well before she will see the Fiji. Next on that list for me is the Myoko, due to its larger health pool, ability to deflect/tank incoming fire, and most importantly, her torpedoes, which give wise captains pause when chasing her down. To me, the Myoko is just marginally better and on any given day these two ships are a toss-up when facing each other. Of the U.S. Cruisers, I give Pensacola the edge over the Indianapolis and Atlanta. Reasons? Concealment/Rudder shift versus the Indianapolis and a larger health pool and better armor than Atlanta. What good is a cruiser and its consumable gimmicks if its citadel gets rocked two or three times? Anything more than 10,000 damage in the first four to five minutes will discourage a cruiser captain and most will become rather passive. In the case of the Indianapolis and Atlanta, it negates the powerful radar consumable because the captain will never be near radar range and will almost always be firing from long range…after getting the health pool cut in half. As for how she stacks up against the German Yorck and Russian Shchors, I have to go with the improved detection of the Pensacola as the first key in this analysis. Her firing arc is better than Yorck and I rarely say this, her health pool and armor make her more desirable than Shchors. In some ways though, Shchors is an equal with her faster rate of fire and laser guns. In my opinion, that makes the Pensacola better than the Yorck, the Atlanta, and the Indianapolis; on par with Shchors, but inferior to Belfast, Flint, Fiji, and Myoko. She is more middle of the pack, and that is, ok, because a decent captain can find ways to win with a ship that is “middle of the pack.”
Now statistically, the NA server has the Pensacola as the bottom tier for the Tier VII cruiser line with a lackluster 48 percent win rate. I am telling you right now, that number is going to gradually change over time as players realize her newfound potential. My first fifty games in the Pensacola were under the “old” play of the ship, with its awful detection range. My last fifty games were with the new Captain Skills and Concealment. Needless to say, I went from a 1300 WTR to over 2000 and am presently sitting sixth with the ship on the NA server. Did my play improve? Perhaps a little, but not enough to compensate for a full 700 point jump in WTR (or the average 15k extra damage a battle). The ship has changed and for the better. The extra damage is obvious, for the longer you can stay alive, the more chances you will have to put effective fire on targets. In conclusion, this is why I am making this post, to empower other captains to give the ship a second chance and go and enjoy what she can truly do.
Final Thoughts: See information below on a loss I had with the Pensacola; yes, we lost…but note the experience earned and the tier of the battle. This ship is just fine now, and will do well if you captain her right. Base xp in this loss was over 1900.
Edited by KongoPride, 11 March 2017 - 12:19 AM.