War Thunder is a game that constantly shifts between moments of elation and betrayal. However strategic you are, only one or two shots separates you from a swift and unceremonious death - never more so than when engaged in ground combat.
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Tank combat in War Thunder is a perilous and daunting prospect from the off, and if you don’t know which tank best suits your needs you’ll face a never-ending cycle of spending five minutes getting to the battle zone only to be greeted with a one-shot fatality. So with getting used to War Thunder’s unforgiving firefights in mind, here are the best tier 1 tanks for beginners. (NB: we've chosen from the selection of free tanks for now, theorising that beginners might not immediately want to drop coin.)
It might have wheels, but the T17E2 is as good a tank killer as any other vehicle on this list. The key to its success in War Thunder’s Ground Forces game is its effectiveness against lightly armoured vehicles, of which there are many in tier 1. See those twin-mounted .50 cal machine guns? Those will tear through almost anything you go up against early on in your War Thunder career.
Like the M3, the British T17E2 is also as vulnerable as it is lethal. It has very little armour for starters, and with such a compact design any hits that do penetrate will kill every crew member unless you’re outrageously lucky. However, its agility should help you escape most situations without having to resort to uncouth tactics. Finally, the T17E2 is actually designed to go up against aircraft, so you’ll have the added bonus of being able to take down bombers and fighters alike if you run out of targets.
One of the many new tanks added in the Royal Armour update, the Crusader MK.II marries high mobility with a low profile to make a formidable aggressor tank. Low to the ground and packing sloped armour on its front and turret the MK.II is hard to spot and harder to damage when steaming in to capture a point or secure a vital position.
Weak armour at the back and sides and an unimpressive main gun make the MK.II incredibly susceptible to flanking manoeuvres and heavily armoured enemies. Therefore this tank is best positioned somewhere with surrounding cover, such as in city streets or hilly terrain. Alternatively, this versatile light tank can be used on the move owing to the stability its low profile gives to its turret.
Light, agile and well armoured, the T-50 is used even in tier 2 battles thanks to its proficiency as a scout tank. In tier 1 however, the T-50 is best employed in pincer movements where its excellent armour and high speed come into their own. Whether the enemy spots you or not, this tank will be able to get around all bar the best of War Thunder players and wreak havoc from behind enemy lines.
The T-50’s main downfall is a result of its greatest strength. Driving this tank at high speed makes damaging the tracks very easy, especially for newcomers to the game. Additionally, the T-50 struggles where firepower is concerned, making disabling enemies challenging unless properly modified with APCR shells. If you’re after a solid all rounder that’ll keep you in the fight, this is the tank for you.
Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. A
Sloped armour, a devastating main gun and impeccable handling make the StuG III a formidable tier 1 vehicle. Originally designed as a mobile assault gun, this tank destroyer is best employed on the move and in close quarters. Angled armour around the turret means you’ll have a distinct advantage against enemies on the same plane as you. Put that all together and you’ve got the ultimate early level street fighter.
Poor armour on the sides limit the StuG III’s incredible offensive capabilities to frontal assaults, while the blessing of its stopping fire comes with an ineptitude for long range combat. More damning is the lack of a fully rotatable turret, which makes you a tempting target for anyone able to flank you.
Added in the Flaming Arrows update, the LVT (A)-1 is one of the few amphibious tanks in the game, let alone tier 1. While that trait won’t come in too much use during firefights, its gun depression, near-impenetrable turret armour and crew spread will. The LVT (A)-1 is a tier 1 marauder, soaking up hits with ease and dealing out just as much damage with its snappy 37mm cannon and two rear-mounted machine guns.
Its crew of six make wiping out it out extremely challenging, especially given how well spread out they are. Also buffing its defensive capabilities is an impressive rate of acceleration and a small engine, which makes disabling it a mission most won’t pursue for too long once you’re out of sight.
Pz.Kpfw. 38(t) Ausf. F
The German tanks excel in the later tiers, with the likes of the iconic Tiger and Panther tanks. Early into your War Thunder experience however, it’s the Russian tanks that steal the show. The 38(t) is one notable exception.
Good armour penetration, solid all around protection, impressive straight-line speed and an accurate, quickly reloadable main gun make the 38(t) an unsung hero of the battlefield. Caution is advised when going up against anything capable of meting out high damage, as the cramped interior of the 38(t) means a single shell can wipe out the whole crew.
75mm Gun Motor Carriage M3
There can be no tier 1 vehicle more suited for those who like being creative out on the battlefield; the M3 halftrack is a tank destroyer like no other. Its drivers and gunners are totally exposed, its armour is paper thin and its rate of fire is nothing short of pitiful.
However, the positives overwhelm the negatives when this vehicle is in right hands. The 75mm gun is able to obliterate almost any tier 1 tank with a single shot, even at distances of half a kilometer, making this a sniper’s best friend. Up close it’s even more deadly, so while the lack of armour might put players off, the exceptional reverse speed makes darting between cover or retreating at pace highly effective in urban duels.
A death trap if you take a direct hit, yet equally capable of handing out instant destruction to almost any tank in its sights, the T-26-4 is one of the deadliest tier 1 tanks in War Thunder. Effective at long range and downright terrifying in one on one battles, this Soviet tank is death-on-tracks to all but the most heavily armoured of enemies.
Good turret speed and considerable mobility make flanking and circling enemies the ideal means of delivering a deadly final blow. However, due to the tank’s poor protection, it is a vehicle that is best used as part of a main assault, where incoming fire will not be directed solely at the player.
What tanks did you use during the early days of your War Thunder career? Let us know in the comments below.