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Guide to Capture the Flag

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Introduction

What better way to continue our journey through the game modes than Capture the Flag, or CTF. By far the most commonly played game mode, CTF arguably requires the widest set of skills of all the modes. Simply killing and suppressing the enemies is not enough - you can have a death-loss ratio of 100 and it still means nothing unless you capture flags!

Scoring

Flag Interactions

Since flags are at the centre of this mode, it makes sense for flag capturing and returning to be worth the most points. It's much harder to wait for the perfect moment (timing is key) to infiltrate the enemy base, make it out alive and carry it back home with all the enemy's sights trained on you, than to simply take out an enemy tank. And thus, capturing a flag is worth points equivalent to ten times the number of active players on the enemy team. So, if the enemies number six active players, one solo capture will be worth sixty points. Of course, enemy flags can go on quite a detour before reaching your own base and being cashed in for the point and score. They can be passed from player to player directly, or if the carrier is destroyed, the flag can be quickly picked up by another team member. Capturing the flag generally gives you the most points, but the amount you get depends somewhat on the distance travelled too. Because of this, it makes a lot of sense to back up the flag-bearer. If they are killed, or are weak, you can be ready to take the baton immediately and keep it moving towards a capture as fast as possible.

If the enemy flag is returned, all is reset. That is to say all the flag-holding that you've done has gone to waste and none of those players will get any points!

Returning a flag also gains you points - and it depends on how far the flag is from your base. Returning a flag that's right next to your base will give you just a measly point.

Destroying Tanks

Destroying enemies gives you points of course, as it does in any game-mode. But, recently, the scoring mechanics for kills changed, significantly in fact. Whereas before it was the tank that finished the enemy off that took all the points, now 15 points are shared between all team members that did damage to that tank. This means you shouldn't wait for the kill steal - fire straight away!

Destroying an enemy flag-bearer gives you extra points, so common sense would tell you to aim at that tank! This is usually the case anyway, unless there is a healing Isida that needs to be taken care of before.

Healing

The only other way of gaining points, other than the above, is healing with Isida. The amount of points you gain is proportional to the actual amount of damage healed - you won't benefit by healing the weakest hulls first, heal the tanks that need to health immediately.

This also conveniently brings me to my argument that Isidas are a necessity of any good CTF team. They can heal and support raiders of the enemy base, giving them the ability to withstand heavier fire, back up the heavy armour that is pounding away at the enemy positions, repair defenders after an enemy onslaught, as well as restoring the health of holders of the enemy flag in a so called 'flag stand-off'. This is where both teams have each other's flags safe and secure behind their own lines, and the race is to see who can return their own flag first.

Offence

There are various roles you can take up within a CTF team, and one of the most important is offence. Without attacking aggressively and trying for the enemy flag, how can you expect to win?

So, now you've decided you want to attack, but what combination is best? Sure, any combination can be used to capture a flag, but there are definitely some that are better than others in the particular situation at hand, the primary factor being the map.

On very small maps, such as Island, it might be acceptable to use a heavy tank such as Mammoth or Titan, since the distance that needs to be run is not so great. But on larger maps like the commonly played Silence, a big fortress like Mammoth probably isn't what you want. Don't forget - the aim is not to kill the most and die the least, you can die as many times as you need and it won't matter. The aim is to capture flags. As a Mammoth user, it will take a long, long time to even reach the enemy base, meaning that over a period of time, you will have less attempts to try and steal a flag. And even when you make it in, the amount of time it takes to get you out leaves you open to a lot of enemy fire. In this sense, speed can make up for lack of health - it means you are being shot at for a shorter length of time!

So, on medium maps like these, a medium hull would be, in my opinion at least, the ideal choice - they are the perfect balance of speed and health. In larger maps like Kungur, or Dusseldorf, speed is even more important than before. Here, perhaps a lighter hull such as Hornet or even Wasp could be best suited for the job.

I believe the strongest part of a successful flag raid is down to the hull, but the turret is important too. Again, the ideal choice depends a lot on the map. But let's look at each of the weapon classes one by one.

First, short range. That includes Firebird, Wasp and Isida. Short range weapons are ideal on small maps, where the other weapons won't be able to use their range advantage as successfully, and you can hunt them down much more easily. But, interestingly, short range weapons can also be great on large maps too. A Wasp-Freeze can quite easily invade enemy lines, lay some of the enemies out of action, and escape quickly and nimbly. I place this down to the fact that part of flag-capturing involves entering the enemy base - that is to say you are forced to move into close proximity with the enemy, no matter what map it is. Looking at it in this way, maybe Freeze or Firebird on Kungur doesn't look so bad after all.

Secondly, the medium range turrets that are Twins and Ricochet. As mentioned above, their relatively limited range isn't too much of a compromise when going for flags, even on large maps. Though they are probably best suited to small-medium range maps.

Lastly, the long range turrets. Thunder first of all, I would avoid using for offence unless the map is large. This is because, when snatching the flag, you cannot make full use of its impressive range, and you are vulnerable to self damage -an enemy presses against you and you can't shoot him without hurting yourself! In small-medium maps, I would nearly always prefer Smoky over Thunder in offence - it is a much cleaner turret. Railgun should also be reserved for the large maps. Sure, it packs a deadly punch, and you might be able to take out one, two or even three with one shot. But what about the rest? How will you fend them off? Shaft, I think should be avoided in all scenarios. You cannot unleash Shaft's mighty sniping mode while moving, so why would you choose Shaft when you can pick, say Smoky?

Defence

As well as a good attacking force, a good CTF team also needs an on-the-lookout defensive team to make sure the enemy attackers do not steal your own flag.

In general, since defenders will spend a lot of their time in and around their own base, speed is not as important. Therefore, in general, heavier hulls are preferred over lighter hulls, since their large amount of health outweighs their lack of speed. Furthermore, the heavy tanks are...heavy! And this means it is harder for enemies to push you away - you can sit on the flag and they will have a hard time pushing you off it!

Slightly lighter hulls such as Viking can still be very usable in defence, and allows the defender to play more of a hybrid role in the team. When attacking, the player can move forward to support and carry the team back to the base, and when defending, the player can quickly drop back to help shore up the defences there.

As regards to weapons, in general there are two key components of a good defensive team - Freeze and Isida.

Freeze is one of the best defensive weapons in the game. Not so much for its damage, but for its ability, which fractions the enemy speed and prevents them from getting away fast, also allowing your own team to place more damage on that player. It also has the ability to hit multiple targets, allowing you for example to slow down many attackers at the same time and take out the annoying Isida that is healing the spearhead of the attack.

Isidas are great for their unique ability to heal your own team. They can boost the health of defenders during an assault, making it harder for attackers to take out your defence, and they can restore the health of your team between assaults, ensuring that your defence is ready for the next one.

Bear note that these are general guidelines. For example, on Stadium a defending team sat around the flag would be easy pickings for the enemy.

Midfield

Halfway in between the attacking and defending forces, controlling the space that connects the two, are the tanks that control the heart of the map, that facilitate the attackers and picking off enemies that make it out of your base alive.

Being at the centre of the game, you are likely to be exposed, and this means that lighter hulls probably aren't so good in these positions, except on particularly large maps. But, on the flipside, a tank too heavy doesn't give you the speed to play the varied nature of this role, and it makes it harder for you to move from supporting one area of the game to another. Thus, I believe the medium hulls like Hunter and Viking are perfect to fulfil this role.

Being exposed, Shaft probably isn't the best choices here. Short range weapons can be great on the small maps, but in larger maps they are just prone to enemy fire. Longer range weapons such as Smoky or Thunder can be great on medium range maps, and for the very large ones, Railgun could work too.