I've had several people in my clan ask me for tips and builds for the French DD's. And since I now feel comfortable saying I know what I'm doing to people outside my clan (1st on the server for winrate in Mogador woot woot) I figured I may as well post this and see what people think/who can get some help for it.
How to Build:
Here are the 2 corners for French DD playstyles. General preference is the name of the game for which one you prefer. (This will help you decide which build to try for.)
Playstyle 1: (open water) Damage farmer. Khaba, Henri, Zao, Etc. Etc. we all know the ships, you know if you like them, and you know what the strategy is for them. Run and gun, and gun, and gun.
Playstyle 2: CQB Assassin/Ambush. Brawler DM. Daring. Appear suddenly and kill a specific enemy, counting on surprise/superior maneuverability to use your brutal damage output to kill them without counterplay. This playstyle is more of a “sub”-playstyle (see the opportunity, do the thing), at this point, there aren’t very many ships that this works well as the primary playstyle you use. It serves more like the “What would you prefer to do in this situation.” French DD’s, the DM, and the Daring are kind of are the only ships that are even capable of pulling off this strategy.
These outlines don’t mean that you only play with that playstyle, even in a given match you should be switching between each one to best handle the situation you find yourself in. But whichever playstyle you prefer is going to VERY heavily effect what build you run/what you do at the beginning of a match.
Open water damage farmer.
The purpose of this build is to allow maximum damage output for someone who never stops firing their guns.
AFT, IFHE, and BFT are all mandatory. You need the range, 29 mm pen, and extra Dakka. Reload mod instead of range mod is also mandatory, because sorry, if you’re going 54 knots and you need to be at 17 km from what you’re shooting at to do well, I have bad news for you (you might need to talk to your doctor about a prescription of “git-gud”.) SE isn’t really necessary, DE is more useful overall since you aren’t getting hit anyway, and the fire chance is spicy, why not make it spicier.
Concealment options are a waste for this build, nothing can catch you, and if you are constantly shooting your guns the concealment isn’t being used anyway. Use the points/slots for other things. Rudder mod 3 is hilarious on these things, and if you’re running it, use propulsion mod
Juking: Using high maneuverability to adjust your ship away from where an enemy’s shells will land. For long-range: Assuming you’re running the build shown here, start at 10km from what you want to farm. While firing, back towards them, once they shoot you pull forward out of the way, rinse wash repeat. You shouldn’t get closer than 9km from something actively shooting at you. If you are forced to be moving forward constantly: go full speed, this will usually be enough for people to miss you, (players have had trouble leading a Khaba for years, and these go even faster than that) If you see shells incoming that will hit you, full stop and put your rudder to one side, this will stop you the fastest.
In Defense of IFA: IFA is a utility skill, it removes the possibility of “surprise” hits, and helps you manage multiple angles of fire shooting at you. (Get an alert but don’t see the ship you’re farming shoot its guns? You know something else is shooting at you and to look along the horizon to find out where it is.)
The purpose of this build is to maximize quick damage output, stealth, and short-term survivability.
Very little up for debate for the purest build: IFHE, CE, BFT, SE, AR, PM, LS, conceal mod and prop mod are all mandatory, you need the concealment to actually… do the thing. You need the firepower buff. And you NEED the survivability. And steering mod is useless for close-range juking/pouncing on prey.
You have to be on your toes CONSTANTLY to utilize this build well. Enemy cruiser just went behind an island while their DD smoked up? Perfect, gank the DD and rush the CA. CA’s radar just go down after it pushed in front of its team? Kill it faster than it can even turn its guns. It’s a hardcore thinking strategy.
Remember that for its caliber, French DD AP is pretty much the best in the game. This lets you assassinate any CA in the game (provided you have the drop on them) Torps are amazing also.
This is an extremely passive playstyle in its pure form (note that I’m saying pure form, DO NOT rely on this as your only contribution in battles) You rely on surprise and crippling, sudden firepower to get crapdone. You aren’t the one rushing into areas you don’t know about, that’s for the plebs on your team. You let them find out where that unicum DM is holed up, so you can flank and blap him. You let them find the flank with the Shima, force his support back, then you go in and deal with him. Gearing in a cap? Wait for the right moment and rush his smokescreen, then escape straight after killing him.
For juking at close range: Unless you’re faithful in your ability to anticipate other players actions, let whatever you’re fighting get one hit on you. Then, pull a hard stop by slamming your ship in reverse and turning to one side. Let them aim correctly at least one salvo while you’re going backward, then pull hard forwards. This whole process can take as little as 5 seconds, so be sure to rinse wash repeat as often as you can to maximize effectiveness.
Personal Build/What I’d recommend
Thanks, F1Toaster for the capt build… forgot you can run 3 tier 4 skills
This is what I’d refer to as the “Generalist” build. It does the job of switching between all the different playstyles very well, you can adapt to the shifting game situations around you to maximize performance. Wanna farm? Have fun. See a chance to assassinate an enemy? Do it. Need to disengage? You can go dark and run, or shoot… and run. Push flanks, surprise CV’s by being right next to them 3 minutes into the game, surprise CA’s by coming in from a unexpected angle, Etc. Etc. The sea is your oyster.
Prop vs Steering mod is totally up to personal preference, for Mog I loosely recommend steering since 7.1 det makes it more of a dedicated kiter. I’m expecting Kleber to be a FAR better brawler, 6.9 det and better firepower/health/speed, so Prop mod will be better. I swap between the 2 on my Terrible and Mog daily just kind of based on how ballsy I’m feeling that day/how much of a prick I want to be.
Random assorted points:
Le Terrible is a more gunboaty Fantasque, .2 worse concealment, 1 sec better reload, 13 second faster torp reload. 10 knot slower torps.
AP vs. HE. I touched on this in the assassin point, but your AP is the best for its caliber. You’re AP can citadel most cruisers out to a range of 10km. And at 2.5k a cit, you will eat broadside cruisers alive. There are 2 main opportunities to utilize it: The most basic is simply an ambush, whether you have a DM camping an island, and you can flank to its broadside. Or an Henri that’s backing towards your team. You find an enemy cruiser that’s focused on something else, and that can’t easily turn away, and strike with you’re reload boost. Use torps to cover the most likely means of escape they’ll use, take the Henri example for instance. If he’s backing towards the enemy. He can’t go backwards any faster, and if he accelerates it’s a linear progression. (Noone is going to think to switch up to half speed, drop down to quarter speed, then up to full when they’re losing a 5th of their health every 2 seconds.) Use the kneejerk reaction of them realizing what you are and where you are to force them into torps. For HE, you’ll do 3-5k salvo’s, and with the 9% fire chance after IFHE, you aren’t hurt for taking it. You eat everything at every range. It obviously doesn’t have the same blap potential as AP, but against BB’s, DD’s, and CA’s at weird angles, it does the job and it does the job well.
French AP penetration VS Khaba, VS Mino:
On a smaller point, When gunfighting Khaba’s, and Gearing’s specifically, AP is your best option. You won’t overpen Gearing unless you’re sub 3km. And Khaba is fair game at all ranges. 6k salvos can be expected with good AP hits on them. Try to hit directly under the smokestack for both of them, that’s where their 50mm and 21mm armor plates are.
Here is a comparison Graph for Kleber vs Daring vs Khaba. FYI.
SI is unnecessary, you shouldn’t be relying on your reload boosts for “general” damage, and with speed boost mod you are incapable of using the extra speed boost because of the time limits in a match.
Thanks to some testing by ThatsAPaladin and I, here is some insight into Prop vs Steering Mod. Prop mod makes half a ship-length difference while accelerating (as compared to something without it) and steering gears… do the thing, rudder shift is a posted number so there are no real secrets to it. Just remember: if you’re using slowing down and speeding up as your means of dodging, your negating your biggest asset: your incredible speed. You going from -20 to 30 knots is awesome, but you might have been better off staying at 50 knots and moving towards something important. (especially since 75% of the player base is incapable of leading you correctly when you’re going max speed.)
SE is optional if you are playing open water mostly. I’ve never died in my Mog while kiting. And only very rarely in my Terrible (which I had 200 battles in before I got my Mog so… there’s going to be some outliers.) People legitimately just have a hard time hitting you. (WAY more so than a Khab)
How to handle planes: If they aren’t rocket planes, Just-Dodge™. If they are: go dark and always have your nose towards the planes. You turn fast enough that this is achievable. The Mog (and Kleber) have good enough AA to wither down planes that are hovering over you. Even unicum CV’s seem to have trouble anticipating the amount of lead they need, and if you are going full speed towards them, they won’t have enough time after spotting you to get their aiming cone fully centered, which means you’ll only take about 1k damage per run. (If even)
Some points on what to, and how to avoid: Remember these things: Worcester radar: 9 KM. USSR Radar: 12km. Everything else: 10 KM. If you get caught out or surprised when you get radared, you’ve screwed up somewhere. Work to avoid areas where you know there are destroyers unless you are rushing them or trying to scare them from advancing. It's not worth it to lose a quarter of your health because you tried to be cheeky and force your way into a DD with friends nearby. (especially friends that can spot for a gunboat DD.) Also work to not make an enemy CV think you're going to try to go for him (even if you are.) Keep an enemy between you and him/where you think he is, if you decide to go for him go dark in a position that is away from wherever the hole you're slipping through. This will help you have the drop on him, and stop him from investigating you.
How to Play:
Decide whether to play kiter, try to be cheeky at the beginning of a game or play passively until there’s a good opportunity (I decide at the beginning of a game what playstyle I’ll start with based off of matchmaking, build, and whether I’m in a div/who I’m divved with) then decide on a flank (Always, no matter what playstyle you choose, go to a flank. Screwing around in mid just isn’t worth it 99% of the time (unless you want to meme.))
For kiting, if you’re running prop mod, start backing up towards the enemy once you’re at the flank. Extra brownie points if you get super close to the enemy before shooting, they’ll focus you and so long as you dodge (it's not that hard, come on) its just wasted DPM from them. If you’re running steering gears, run donuts around a flank away from you’re teammates, open up once there’s stuff spotted/ Then it's just… you know, farming. Every so often, it pays off to go dark (or don’t), reposition to an area away from your team, and start farming from there. This splits the enemy’s attention, increasing the odds that your teammates won't just die in front of you. Also remember that you can citadel most CA’s out to about 10km with your AP, so if one is showing broadside, punish with extreme prejudice.
For the cheeky, choose a cap/area you know there will be DD’s shortly after the match starts. If it’s a cap, hang outside until it starts getting flipped, rush the most likely location of the DD and kill it, disengage from the enemy team. Then just farm them into submission.
If there’s an enemy/a pair of enemies that are separated from their team, go dark and get to their broadside at close range, torp, and right when they’re about to be hit/ right before torps get spotted, open fire with proper ammo type and reload boost. If their guns are toward you/they have a good turret traverse, you go parallel to them or kite (as appropriate). But if they’re faced away and have a bad turret traverse, close the distance to improve accuracy/ use your other sides torps. You can ambush stealth DD’s very easily even in spite of your bad detection if you can anticipate them turning towards you (turning around to go back to a location/avoiding the map border. Trying to flank. Avoiding torps, etc.) It’s always a gamble, but if you have a good game sense you’ll end up on top most of the time.