World of Tanks, as with any PvP game, can be incredibly frustrating; after the third or fourth round of your tank exploding before you’ve even seen an opponent, or ineffectually bouncing a couple of shells off an opponent and then exploding, or having the track of your turretless vehicle shot off so that all you can do is wave your gun around as ineffectually as a Dalek with two plungers before exploding, the dignified course of action would be to make a wry observation to the rest of the team like “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody tanks today“. If human avatars are ever introduced, though, I suspect a more common reaction would be to grab a branch and give the useless lump of metal a damn good thrashing.
Those results are often caused by the matchmaking system deciding it’s really funny to stick you in matches with tanks two or even three tiers above you (if it helps, imagine the matchmaking is being done by SHODAN or GLaDOS; “Look at you, tanker. A pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating in your tin can. How can you challenge a perfect, immortal Tier X Heavy?”) When you’re up against a heavy Tier V KV in your light Tier III tank the KV is an unstoppable iron monster, and it’s easy to become fixated on getting one yourself as quickly as possible so finally you can turn the tables and beat up bullies ’til they cry “Oh lah! Oh, crikey! Let go, you rotter! Don’t punish me!“. In the research tree of most tanks you can work on a range of upgrades to the engine, tracks, radio, gun and turret, or ignore everything except a mandatory upgrade or two and focus on building up the experience to unlock a tank in the next tier. If you do the latter, struggle through mismatch after mismatch until finally you unlock the KV and scrape together the credits to buy one, the matchmaking system will probably giggle and send Iosif Stalin to obliterate you (the Tier VII tank, not the bloke, this isn’t Stalin vs. Martians). To exacerbate the mismatch your KV is showroom fresh; on the plus side that means it has immaculate paintwork and that New Tank Smell(tm), on the minus side the starting gun is an adequate 75mm rather than the lethal 107mm or comedy 152mm you probably kept being killed by in the past, and the starting powerplant is a lawnmower engine. There’s always something bigger around the corner, at least until you get right up to the highest tiers.
Chopping and changing tanks isn’t a problem in the first few tiers, especially as you try out the different play styles, but around Tier IV and particularly Tier V investing time and in-game money is well worth it. With the money you earn in Tier V the 20,000 credits to instantly train a crewman up to 75% is much more affordable, and the number of battles you’ll need to play keeps crew experience increasing, improving the performance of most facets of the tank. Upgrading components can also make all the difference, as in Warsyde’s post.
I’ve been following the Soviet tank destroyer line, and on the SU-85 I was contemplating skipping the 107mm gun upgrade in order to get to the SU-100 more quickly. That would’ve been a terrible, terrible mistake; the 107mm gun is classified as Tier VII, with reasonable accuracy, decent penetration and great damage. It can take out lower tier tanks in a single shot, chew big chunks out of KV and T1 heavies, and at least cause damage to most higher tier tanks you’ll face (though something like an IS-3 still shrugs off frontal shots). It’s a bit fragile, but with a low profile you’ll normally get the first shot in so long as you’re careful. Apparently Tier V is the optimal point for earning money (before that you don’t earn so much, after that repair and ammunition costs really stack up), and once a tank is Elite status you can bank up a nice pool of experience, if you don’t mind spending a bit of real money for gold. That free experience pool can then really help out when you do want to step up a tier, allowing you to quickly upgrade some key components so you’re not completely useless. There are plenty of well-regarded tanks in Tier V, so if you’re not an aficionado already trundling around in a Tiger, I’d suggest picking a Tier V tank that suits your style and sticking with it, developing the crew up, and keeping it around as a nice money and experience earner.