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Can't Seem to Get the Hang of Essex. Help please

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I normally don't post on here, but I'm getting desperate. Apologies for the long post.

I play all lines, but I mostly play CVs since I'm more of a strategy game person than an action gamer (27% of my games are CV, compared to 26% for cruisers, 26% for battleships, and 21% for destroyers).

I was perhaps one of the few people that enjoyed playing strike Lex (for those who weren't around before the patch, it was 0-1-3). Sure, it was incredibly lacking in air cover, but its damage potential was off the charts. I managed to not only set my damage record in it(290k), but also managed to average a solid 85k per round.

While Shoukaku wasn't as much of a monster damage dealer, she could still do solid damage while providing air cover, and I love her for it.

I boasted 55% and 56% solo winrates on the two tier 8 CVs, respectively, as well as a 75% wr on Enterprise (albeit only 16 battles) and a 53% solo wr in total, so I think I can say I'm not a potato, at the very least.

Yet when I got to Essex (still grinding silver for Taihou, which is a bit tricky when you're grinding every single line at once), it's like I just hit a brick wall. That 41% wr is a black mark on my CV record; a valley in an otherwise smooth climb towards higher wtr.

I heard good stories about strike Essex and thought it would just be a tier 9 strike Lex with a fighter for air cover, yet I only just got Essex before the patch, so I didn't have time to try out 1-1-3 Essex. I heard all the USN CV players on forums proclaim that Essex would no longer be useless against Taihou.

What I found was disappointment and frustration, if I'm going to be honest. At first it thought it was typical new ship blues or the tier 8 planes, but then I realized something else.

I just couldn't seem to match the success I had with strike Lex on the new Essex. Hell, I'm actually doing less damage in Essex than in Shoukaku or Lexington.

A list of frustrations I have with Essex right now:

  • tier 8 fighters:
    • yes, I realize that Essex's air control is quite solid, and I generally manage to kill more planes than I lose to the enemy CV (usually because I try to bait enemy fighters into rushing in and then surprise strafing them when they thought I was not paying attention), but Taihous, with their faster and sturdier planes, still manages to give me one hell of a fight. I've seen their fighters actually outrun my strafe when they started squarely in the middle of the strafing box
      • they didn't fly to the side to avoid it; no, they actually outran my strafing fighters, like the equivalent of someone fleeing from a cannonball and actually managing to outrun it
    • also, yes, Essex holds my highest average plane shot down per match (26.4)
    • not to mention these tier 8 fighters drop like flies against any high tier AA; oftentimes I hear a squad report being under attack, and the next second 2-3 planes drop from the sky; scouting is nearly impossible, even against destroyers, when your planes are that fragile
    • these fighters tend to get overwhelmed trying both to outduel Taihou's fighters while also defending against Taihou's 3 torpedo bomber squads (I'll be honest, I ignore the dive bombers since their only threat is fire damage and they're fast as heck)
  • tier 8 torpedo bomber:
    • no cross-drop really hurts, but it's something USN CV players have dealt with for a long time, so I'm used to that
    • what I'm not used to is the more consistent exposure to tier 9-10 AA without having the corresponding plane buff to deal with it
    • I've heard some people argue that the tier 9 bomber health upgrade compensates for this, but what everyone forgets is that Taihou gets the same upgrade as well as tier 9 planes and more squadrons
    • simply put, these planes melt under any sort of AA; hell, today a fletcher in a division with a Taihou managed to bag 42 of my planes; the carrier got little more than half of that
  • tier 9 dive bombers
    • I'll be blunt: I find AP bombs to be quite useless at this tier; most battleships are immune, all cruisers have heavy AA, and destroyers are barely affected; at least HE is versatile and still hits hard (1000 lb bombs rock, don't know why they're more inaccurate than IJN dive bombers though)
    • the problem with having only 2 dive bomber squadrons is that stacking damage over time (DOT) is quite a bit tougher
    • simply put, I used to pair 2 dive bombers and the torpedo bomber with the remaining dive bomber in strike Lex and used them to tag team ships, with the torpedo bomber group going first since most people would rather repair floods than fires; then I'd use the all dive bomber squadron to set fires and watch the red ships cook
    • now, since it's no guarantee one dive bomber squadron can set 2 fires, I have to alpha strike any ship, thus giving up all DOT
    • still, they're the least of my complaints

If you want information on how I play CVs, I'll provide a short description:

  • start of match move fighters over a cap or between 2 caps with both of them close enough to support each other (but not close enough to get strafed at once)
  • carefully watch enemy fighters, and when they get impatient and rush my seemingly afk fighters, set a strafe
  • if the strafing squad gets engaged and is outnumbered, do a strafe-exit and strafe with my other squadron; this usually works, although I've also had it fail before for unknown reasons (like the enemy squadrons, despite being slightly off the center of the strafe, coming out completely unscathed)
  • hold my bombers back until enemy fighters are down (or unless I know they're occupied elsewhere and can't intervene)
  • target battleships (destroyers if I think they're not paying attention, but generally I find getting guaranteed torp hits on a BB is more efficient than gambling on a destroyer), ignore cruisers unless they have terrible AA like Atago; this also applies to USN BB's and DD's
  • unless I see an AA-heavy ship like a Des Moines using defensive AA, I prefer to press my attacks through dfAA
  • I honestly am not particularly aggressive with my CV placement; usually I'm hiding behind the rest of my team instead of hiding behind an island closer to the battlefield
  • also, I don't run any signals, camos, premium consumables, etc.
  • I'll be honest, I prioritize killing enemy fighters over spreading my planes out to better cover my team (my logic is that once all the enemy fighters are dead, I'll have a clear run for my bombers and can deal with any subsequent enemy CV attacks
  • Recently, on advise of a CV unicum who I shall not name for the time being, I've tried being more aggressive with my play, sending in bombers even if enemy fighters are still up, but all I've found is that the enemy fighters massacre my bombers while my fighters desperately stall before being wiped out by enemy AA

I've seen another thread about Essex help (the answer was to play it like a Hiryu), but it has honestly been very little help.

With the incoming Midway nerf, I'm wondering if I should simply abandon hope for the USN CV line and treat it like any other line, rather than a line that I genuinely enjoy (like the USN or Russian DD lines).

Am I doomed to give my hopes solely to Taihou and the IJN CV line, while Essex is burdened with the disappointment of crushed hopes and dreams?

As someone who volunteers on one of the four remaining Essex-class carriers, I sorely hope that won't be the case.


P.s.: this is my first time posting here, so please be gentle



Edited by Avenge_December_7
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You may be doomed, especially since the following Midway is going to get nerfed soon...

Welcome to the forums!

Edited by Estimated_Prophet

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Welcome to the forums @Avenge_December_7! The Essex is a  moderately strong ship with decent detection. She can stand against a few air attacks and can move about at an okay speed. She has to avoid detection where possible as, if she's spotted, it could mean the end of her and she most definitely cannot run away if she gets into a tight spot.

You're not playing much differently to what I usually recommend for her. Just stay at the back and keep yourself safe and out of the trouble on the ground (sea). I'm not a big CV player myself so my advice is a little limited but try viewing some youtubers play her and see if there are some tips you can pick up and try out! 

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Should I repost this during the afternoon or something so that it gets more views? At this point I'm more than halfway through the grind to Midway, and would prefer to salvage my stats before reaching Midway.

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Essex is currently *massively* underperforming across all servers, likely due to it having not only a smaller hangar than Taiho, but also lower tier planes. I wouldn't worry too too much about your own skill as even major unicum carrier players like Fara and Fem are having difficulty making this carrier work.

Essex badly needs a buff. Not that anyone is expecting that to happen any time soon, mind you.

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On 4/2/2018 at 6:08 PM, Avenge_December_7 said:

Should I repost this during the afternoon or something so that it gets more views? At this point I'm more than halfway through the grind to Midway, and would prefer to salvage my stats before reaching Midway.

stop playing US CVs.  The devs don't care about the US CV line.  Nothing but nerfs every patch, anythingthey give to US CVs they take away, and the nthey buff the IJN CV's or leave them unchanged.

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