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A guide to Shaft
Shaft is equally loved and loathed by the community. Fans love the unique controls and gameplay that it provides, while critics argue that it's an absurdly powerful weapon that requires zero skill, used only by people who can't aim. Shafts are very abundant at lower ranks, getting rarer as you go up in the rank ladder. Let's learn about this intimidating, once legendary turret, and see what tactics are best used with it.
The History of Shaft
Shaft was (as of 12/17/14) the last turret introduced into the game. It was announced in 2011, and its arrival was highly awaited by the community. According to the Tanki marketing team, when it was first released, 3 Shafts were being bought every second. This Shaft was different from the one we're used to now; the shot was fired the moment the charge bar was full, and there were no arcade shots. It was also extremely powerful; one fully charged hit could destroy anything except a M3 Mammoth in one hit. These characteristics made it overpowered, and it had to be taken out of the game to tweak the stats.
Later on, the developers added the ability to hold a charge indefinitely and the ability to fire arcade shots. The damage was tweaked several times, the latest occurring in this past summer. The most recent change came in early December of this year, when the laser sight was added and the sway removed. This update was widely criticized by the Shaft community, with many threatening to switch to other turrets or even quit Tanki completely if it was not reverted. The laser sight's stayed since then, but Shaft's still quite popular.
Throughout M0-M3, Shaft retains some key characteristics:
Very high damage when fully charged in scope mode (to use scope mode, hold down the spacebar, and use your movement controls to aim). This surpasses even Railgun. The ability to fire arcade mode shots by tapping the space bar. They're not particularly damaging (about as much raw damage as a non-critical Smoky shot), but they don't lose much damage over range. Arcade shots use up roughly half of the energy bar per shot. Slow recharge. Slowest in the game, in fact. The more charge you use in a scope mode shot, the longer it takes to recharge fully. A team-colored laser sight comes out of your barrels when you are scoped in. This allows enemies to see your position if you're not careful, although it does have a few benefits. It's red in DMs. Rather slow turning speed, especially when scoped in. Fairly decent impact force. While it's certainly less powerful than Railgun, Smoky, or Hammer, it's still useful. Shaft has moderate recoil. It's more than Smoky, but less than Thunder or Railgun. You should watch out when using light hulls.
Pros and Cons
Shaft's damage in scope mode is, like I said before, extremely high. It makes short work of light hulls, and it puts a big dent in the health of medium and heavy hulls.
Shaft's scope zooms in as it charges up. This makes aiming at long ranges much easier, since enemies will be more visible and you can aim more precisely.
You can fire arcade mode shots if you need to defend yourself in a hurry.
The laser sight is very intimidating, I'll give it that.
Shaft reloads very slowly, so you're an easy target for most weapons if you're attacked with low energy.
It takes some time to fully charge up a shot. Enemies have a brief window of time to run out of your line of sight as your shot charges up. You can always fire at them before you're fully charged, but it won't do as much damage.
You're completely immobile when in scope mode. This makes you an easy target for just about anything.
The scope has a very narrow field of vision when fully zoomed in. This reduces your situational awareness; you might not notice a Freeze approaching your side, for example.
The laser sight easily gives away your position. There are countermeasures, but you'll generally be detected after a kill or two, sometimes almost immediately.
Let's see how Shaft does on different hulls.
This seems like a pretty dumb combination at first glance. After all, Shaft users generally camp, and when you camp, you want lots of health, right? Well, Wasp-Shaft isn't meant for camping. It's best used as a sort of mobile sniper; drive around, look for enemies, and when you want to attack, do it quickly and move on. It's especially important to run away from battles you won't win with this combination, since it seriously lacks in close-range firepower, not to mention its fragility. In the hands of a skilled user, Wasp-Shaft can be a ninja, especially when used in conjunction with camouflage.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: Wasp is frequently used to capture flags in CTFs, but this combination isn't suited for that. If you run into any enemies on your way out, you're not going to get far due to your lack of any close range firepower. Stopping to snipe enemies along the way usually doesn't work well either. You might be able to snag a flag or two if nobody's looking, but in general it shouldn't be your priority. Stick to sniping and helping out your teammates, and you'll do fine. DMs: Not a good DM combo. Enemies spawn all over the place in DMs, and if one of them gets behind you, you're toast. There's no teammate support in this game mode either, so you'll have nobody to watch your back. TDMs: Wasp-Shaft's mobility gives you the opportunity to destroy lots of enemies, so this is a good combination if your team is decent. CPs: Don't even think about trying to capture a point with this. Again, since you have no real close-range firepower, if someone comes to get a point that you're trying to hold, you're going to get destroyed. You can do well by sticking to the edges of the map and sniping any enemies coming towards the control point(s). Special Notes: Be careful when firing and driving at the same time, since Shaft has some recoil and Wasp is unstable. This combo is great for camouflage, since it has a small hitbox, which makes it easy to conceal. It'll also help you more since you don't have much health.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: Going for the enemy flag is not a good idea. Stick to sniping enemies, especially ones going for your team's flag. DMs: See my comments for Wasp-Shaft in DMs. TDMs: Good for TDMs as long as you don't get too close to your enemies. CPs: See my comments for Wasp-Shaft in CPs. Special Notes: Hornet isn't the easiest hull to drive due to its drift. Keep that in mind when you're running away from enemies. In addition, Hornet is still somewhat unstable, so watch out if you're firing in mid-air.
This is my personal favorite, although it's not very common. Hunter's well-rounded stats let users of this combination move around quickly while still retaining quite a bit of health. You can switch positions very easily in case you're found, but you can sustain a bit of punishment when necessary.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: Hunter-Shaft is best used for sniping in CTFs. Since Hunter can switch roles very easily, you can get into sniping positions to destroy enemies and fall back to keep an eye on your flag if necessary. Don't stay in one spot for too long, since Hunter isn't the most durable hull around. DMs: Still not a very good DM combo, but you might be able to do alright if you have a good camping spot and skills. TDMs: Good for TDMs if you don't plan on sticking in one spot forever. CPs: Try to help your team from afar by sniping enemy players that are going for points. Hunter's decent health lets you stay out of cover for a while if you need a better firing angle. Special Notes: Hunter has some drift, noticeable mostly at M0 and M1, so be careful where you're driving. Getting flipped from your recoil is not a concern, however, since Hunter is stable and has good weight.
A popular combination that works well for players of all ranks. Viking's qualities suit Shaft very well; it's quite durable, increasing your chance of survival, but it has just enough speed to retreat into cover or change positions relatively easily. It's also very flat, meaning it's harder for enemies to hit or see you.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: Try to stick in friendly territory, since you won't be able to get out of a tight situation very quickly if discovered. You can feel free to figuratively poke your head out of cover once in a while, since Viking's quite durable. DMs: I suppose if you had to choose a DM combo including Shaft, this would be one of the better ideas. Viking's somewhat hard to spot at a distance, so you might be able to rack up quite a few kill-steals while staying relatively unnoticed. TDMs: Good if you plan on setting up shop in one location for a while, but still want to rotate between spots when needed. Use similarly to Hunter-Shaft. CPs: Stick to sniping, but Viking has enough health to help hold down points in an emergency. Special Notes: Viking has a very low profile, so it's an excellent hull for camouflage. Its turning speed isn't very good compared to Dictator or Hunter, so be careful if you're driving in tight spaces.
Not very common. Dictator's statistics seem to go well with Shaft; large amounts of health (rivalling heavy hulls) and a moderately low amount of speed in case you need to switch positions. The main gripe players have with this combination is the large hitbox; this makes a Dictator-Shaft user a lot more visible, often nullifying the effects of camouflage. The height does give you a good turret position to snipe from. In general, if visibility isn't an issue, this is pretty good.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: This is a good combination for maps like Stadium, where camouflage isn't an issue and enemies will often know where you are regardless of visibility. DMs: Again, if visibility isn't an issue, this is a fairly sane combo for kill-stealing. TDMs: See my comments for Shaft-Viking in TDMs. CPs: In CPs, enemies are mostly focused on capturing points, so Dictator's extra-large hitbox isn't really a concern unless you manage to tick off the enemy team. Special Notes: Camouflage is still very helpful with Dictator; just keep in mind that you'll often need to find trees to stay concealed. Bushes generally won't do the job.
We're getting to the heavy end of the hull spectrum now. Titan-Shaft is best used for camping in one (or two, depending on what modification your Titan is) spots. If you wish to camp in one place and one place only, it's less effective than Mammoth-Shaft, due to its lesser health, but its hitbox is noticeably smaller. Hence it's better for camouflage. At M2 and M3, Titan becomes fast enough to change positions without you getting bored on the way, letting you add one or two extra sniping spots to your repertoire.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: Titan's excellent health lets you camp in exposed positions for essentially as long as you want. This means you can keep eyes on your flag for very long periods of time as long as you make sure nobody's coming your way every once in a while. It's also good to keep eyes on the flag of the enemy team; if somebody wants to go after a flag carrier, you can snipe them. DMs: Titan is slow. If you get caught by an enemy at close range, while you do have lots of health, you can't really escape. This isn't a good combination for DMs. TDMs: In TDMs, you'll be very hard to destroy, which means fewer kills for the enemy team. On the other hand, your range of sniping spots is limited by your speed, which means you'll often rack up fewer kills for your team, since there's no particular choke point where you can expect enemies to be visiting regularly (like flags in CTFs). CPs: Set up shop in a good sniping position by placing mines and keep your eyes on the point(s). On maps with little cover (like Stadium), it'll be a turkey shoot, since even enemy Shafts will have a hard time taking you down. Special Notes: Titan has excellent pushing power. While it's not something you're going to take advantage of often when sniping, it might be helpful when trying to repel an annoying enemy. I don't endorse this (since it's technically sabotage), but you could push sabotaging teammates off the map if they're being a detriment to your team.
One of the most popular Shaft combinations around. It can take massive amounts of damage, so it's perfect for camping in one spot. This is also hated a lot by Shaft critics, since to them, it's the epitome of a lazy, unskilled player who wants easy kills. Regardless, you'll be seeing a lot of these in combat, so you might as well know what the strengths and weaknesses of this combo.
How it does in different gametypes:
CTFs: If you intend on staying in one spot forever, use this. I wouldn't recommend sniping in enemy territory with Shaft-Mammoth, since you won't be able to escape from any attack. While your health does help out if you're in trouble, note that you'll usually die since Shaft lacks any decent firepower when not scoped in. DMs: Pretty bad for DMs. You could do well with a good sniping spot and lots of supplies, but I suppose you could say that for most of the combinations here. TDMs: See my comments for Shaft-Titan in TDMs. CPs: See my comments for Shaft-Titan in CPs. These two combos are almost interchangeable. Special Notes: Mammoth is exceptionally hard to push due to its weight, which means sabotaging teammates will have a difficult time pushing you off your sniping position. The weight also helps out if you're being attacked at close range by a Twins, Smoky, or Ricochet; you'll have an easier time attacking them in scope mode.
Shaft can be reasonably effective without any sort of special tactics, but skilled players will be able to eliminate unskilled Shafts easily. The following strategies will make you a much more tenacious Shafter.
Quick-Sniping: This is the art of scoping in quickly and firing a shot after it's charged a little bit. While it seems somewhat useless at first, it's very useful in the right hands. Quick-snipes use only slightly more energy than an arcade shot, but they deal significantly more damage. They can be used in lieu of arcade shots for kill stealing or defending yourself in a hurry. Since the introduction of the laser sight, quick snipes also have the advantage of being hard to trace back to the user; the laser sight is only very visible once the shot's fully charged, so firing a shot before it's been charged for long is much more stealthy. Finally, it's often easier to aim in scope mode than to fire an arcade shot at long ranges
Quick sniping's disadvantages include temporary immobility when in scope mode and the inability to quick snipe if your energy's not fully charged. In some situations, this could be the difference between life and death. If you can't afford any immobility or just need to finish off a damaged enemy, stick to arcade shots.
Hiding your laser sight: This is the art of hiding your laser sight from enemy view (duh). To do this, aim at a nearby object that will prevent enemies from seeing your laser sight at long range. A good example would be the trees on the beach in Rio; you can point your laser sight on a tree while still being able to see targets.
When you're ready to shoot, quickly aim at your target and fire. If you're fast enough, they won't know what hit them. Keep in mind that your laser sight is visible in the second when you aim at your target, so you should still change positions once in a while.
Using your laser sight effectively: The laser sight can be used for some interesting tactics.
The most obvious one is pointing your laser sight at an area as a warning for enemies to stay away. Aiming at or near your flag discourages the enemy team from taking it, but it does draw attention to you. Make sure you watch your back while you do this.
The laser sight can also help trick your enemies; if you see an enemy, you can pretend to be stupid and not notice them by pointing the laser sight somewhere else, which will usually make them overconfident; when they least expect it, snipe them.
Knowing your Shaft's damage: We all know that Shaft can destroy unprotected light hulls in one hit, but not everybody knows how many hits it takes to bring down a Hunter or a Titan, for example. Here's a quick guide to the amount of shots you need to take down all 7 hulls (I'm assuming no protection paints, drugs, or MUs): Wasp, Hornet- Can be destroyed in one hit; you don't even need to charge the shot fully. Hunter- At M0, they will go down in one (almost) fully charged shot. At M1 and up, it'll take one fully charged shot and one arcade shot. Vikings and Dictators generally take one fully charged shot and two arcade shots. M1 Vikings are particularly weak, so they'll only need 1 arcade shot instead of 2. Titans and Mammoths will usually require one fully charged shot and one mostly charged shot to take them out. Deflecting: Yes, you can do this with Shaft as well. It works best against Railguns, since Shaft's impact force isn't very powerful. If you're being attacked by an enemy with a ranged weapon, fire an arcade shot or a quick snipe at the corner of the enemy's hull. It's not very likely to succeed compared to Hammer or Smoky, but it's still better than no chance of deflecting the shot. You can also do this when sniping enemies; aim at the corners of enemy Shafts and Railguns to make them miss.
Offensive Shafting: No, this isn't about saying profanities while sniping. Offensive Shafters will use Shaft on a light hull and cruise around the map, stopping to pick off unaware enemies at ranges both medium and close. This is a lot more difficult than it seems, especially in higher ranked battles. This play-style tends to use a lot of quick-snipes and arcade shots. While it seems pretty stupid, skilled players can use this to a surprising degree of success.
Every Shaft user knows the mini-heart attack you get when you're aiming at a scoped-in enemy Shaft and he/she aims back. When this happens, fire immediately and move to cover. Most Shaft players will instinctively fire when fired upon, and because Shaft has impact force, they'll usually miss. Don't wait to fully charge the shot. Most Shaft users "cancel" a shot they don't need by simply firing. While there's nothing inherently wrong with this, a more efficient method of cancelling your scope shots is double tapping the "P" key. Besides being slightly quicker than firing, it has the added benefit of being completely silent. Many Shaft users rely on hearing enemy Shafts firing to know when to get out of cover; being completely silent may confuse them. Keep in mind that when pause-cancelling a shot, no projectile is fired, so you unfortunately can't turn Shaft into a silenced sniper rifle. You should also note that the P key is somewhat hard to reach on most keyboard layouts. If it's inconvenient to reach it, just fire somewhere. You don't need to stop moving in order to scope in, something you shouldn't forget while driving around.
Shaft against other turrets:
This will tell you what to do if you're engaging other turrets in combat.
Firebird has the highest damage per second of any turret in the game. Take Firebird users out from a distance. If they sneak up to you, you're generally finished, due to the afterburn. If they're getting too close for comfort, run. On the bright side, Firebird doesn't affect your rotation speed, so you can snipe one at close range if you have sufficient health (and can see through the stream of napalm).
Freeze is extremely dangerous to Shafts. Shaft's rotation speed in scope mode is already slow; with a Freeze attacking you, it's even slower. If they get behind you, you're dead meat, since you won't be able to face them before you get destroyed. Hiding in a corner protects you from that, at least. In general, you should run if you see a Freeze coming your way.
Isida isn't as big of a threat as the other two "elementals", but it's still not to be underestimated. Isidas can leech health from you, meaning that arcade shots aren't going to fend them off easily. In addition, it's relatively quiet, meaning you might not notice an Isida attacking you from behind if you're focused on sniping. Isida doesn't affect your aiming, so at the very least you can snipe them at close range.
Twins is pretty close to Ricochet in terms of annoyance to Shaft users. While each shot only affects your aim a little bit, there's a lot of them coming your way; they also tend to block your vision. Twins fortunately doesn't deal as much damage as Ricochet, so staying in the line of fire for a little bit usually won't kill you. Snipe them from a distance and retreat if they get too close.
Ricochet is a Shaft's worst enemy at close range. Besides the very high damage per second, it fires very quickly and carries a lot of force with each shot. It's hard to get a bead on a skilled Ricochet user, even with a heavy hull. Ricochet users should be a top priority for sniping at a distance; if they get too close, run like the wind. Even then, you might not escape, due to the bouncing effect.
Smoky is a big threat up close, but not so much at longer ranges. A Smoky can't jostle your aim quite as much as a Ricochet, so you might be able to snipe them at close range provided you can manage to aim at them. Be warned: if the Smoky is skilled, that can be a lot harder than it sounds.
Hammer users can deal massive damage and impact force up close. Each shot is capable of potentially flipping you if you're using a light hull, which is why you should use something stable if there are a lot of Hammer users around. They're no threat at range, so you should snipe them when you have the chance. Note that Hammer only has 3 shots per clip; if they can't destroy you before they have to reload, you have an opportunity to snipe them.
Thunder doesn't have a lot of impact force compared to other mid-range turrets, so it should be quite easy to snipe Thunder users. They can still do quite a bit of damage at a distance, however, so keep an eye out for any Thunders trying to attack you. Oh, and watch out for the splash damage.
Railgun has a lot of impact force and hefty damage, which doesn't really diminish over range. This means that Railguns are a large threat, even if they're across the map. Snipe them before they have the chance to shoot you. If you see the tell-tale charging light, snipe them as fast as you can.
If there's at least one Shaft on each team in a battle, there's inevitably going to be a sniper duel. The victor(s) of these tense firefights is determined mostly by who has the most health and/or who shoots first. Even missing one arcade shot can be the difference between life and death. Enemy Shafts are your biggest threat at long range, so keep a sharp eye out for any non-team colored laser sights. Camouflage, using Shaft protection paints, using heavy hulls, and hiding your laser sight can be immensely useful.
For more information, check out the Pro's advice on Shaft in the Tanki Online V-Log here.