The following are a series of quick reviews of the Black Friday ships. Access to all eight of these ships was provided to me by Wargaming at no cost to myself. To the best of my knowledge, the statistics discussed here are accurate as of patch 0.8.10. Please be aware that their performance may change in the future.
Ugh, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that without a twinge of anxiety after my time spent in the trenches. To all of you working in retail or with loved ones doing the same, you have my sympathy.
Well, it’s that magical time of year again where releases get hectic and the content has to come fast and furious to keep up! Lucky for me, I’m over the worst of my health ills so now I’m free to use and abuse my workaholism to its full extent and get as many articles out as I can before another vital organ explodes! Hooray! To this end, for those ships that desperately need reviews and don’t yet have them, I’ll be producing shorter articles like this while I crunch through the bigger, full reviews. December promises to be busy for me and I’m really looking forward to catching up on content.
It’s Black Friday, so you know what that means:
Paint it Black (again)
It’s time for some reskins and loot boxes! Yay! (BOOOO!)
The “Black” or “B” ships are clones of existing premium ship releases. Performance wise, they are identical in all respects to their normal counterpart, including the camouflage bonuses. Superficially, the only difference between them is the “B” designation and the look of their permanent camouflage. The one issue to note is that they won’t have access to alternative camouflage patterns from campaigns / events. For example, Tirpitz B doesn’t have access to Tirpitz’s Hallowe’en 2017 camouflage, nor would I expect Wargaming to give them access to newer camos in the future. It’s also possible they may not trigger for select events that would provide bonuses for a given premium, so keep that in mind.
There are two batches of these ships. The first are the Black Friday 2018 vessels, Asashio, Atago, Massachusetts and Tirpitz. The second batch are the new Black Friday 2019 ships, Alaska, Graf Zeppelin, Scharnhorst and Sims.
The aesthetic of the black camouflage is interesting. It’s two-toned with one of the blacks being more of a matte finish with the other having a touch of semi-gloss. This is accented by a chrome trim. These stills don’t really do them justice as they catch the light in very appealing ways. The German ships have a red Maltese Cross upon their decks. Graf Zeppelin’s aircraft are a bit disappointing, however — being a uniform, glossy black with no real variety or detailed variety to their skin. Be aware that the Black Camouflage for these ships is something you can filter for in port, much like the other non-historical skins in World of Warships. If you don’t have this enabled, you won’t see the skin. You can still equip other temporary camos if you choose, however.
I’ll go through each of these ships with my general feelings of how they play and give you a yes/no recommendation for each. Note, I’m doing this for the ship as a whole, not specifically the Black-version. If you want one of these ships, well, now you’re spoiled for choice on the palette.
Let’s do these alphabetically! Whoo!
Alaska Black (2019)
Alaska is everything a “large cruiser” should be. She’s tough. She’s hard hitting. She brings some nice utility to her team. She also looks gorgeous.
Alaska combines some of the best features of the American heavy cruiser line, importing their 27mm extremity armour, the improved autobounce angles on her AP shells, great anti-aircraft firepower and Surveillance Radar to boot. This is all packaged in with nine 305mm naval rifles with a 20 second reload (17.6s with Main Battery Modification 3) and some almost-but-not-quite battleship levels of citadel protection.
Alaska rewards dynamic, flexible play — from taking up a support and harassment role early on into the match to switching up to a front-line tank and brawler as needs dictate as the game progresses.
Short of the anti-aircraft assessment, Alaska’s review is still up to date.
Would I Recommend?
Very yes. Alaska is a very safe purchase for fans of the American heavy cruiser line that are looking for something a little different.
Asashio Black (2018)
Asashio is a meme boat. She’s a Kagero-class destroyer, sharing things like her gun performance, agility and awesome stealth. However, she’s overspecialized to the point of comedy as a dedicated battleship hunter. They really don’t stand a chance and the amount of alarm and distress a single Asashio can bring to an enemy fleet is downright hilarious. She does this with two tools in her arsenal:
- She gets access to the Torpedo Reload Booster. Unlike some of the other Japanese destroyers, she doesn’t have to choose between taking this and a Smoke Generator. Asashio gets both, which is awesome.
- She has Deep Water torpedoes with a 20km range. Yes, you read that right. These are specialized Deep Water fish, though, capable of only striking battleships and aircraft carriers.
Opinions on Asashio vary considerably. Some imagined her to be the doom of dynamic battleship play (was that ever a thing?). Others saw her as divine judgement and the cure all for the camping meta (like one ship will magically fix that). Yet others still see her as a complete waste, taking up a valuable DD slot on team rosters with a ship that won’t touch cap circles ever (this is really more on the individual players than this ship).
Since I reviewed her in early 2018, the biggest change in the meta has been the reintroduction of the long-absentee aircraft carrier presence. Asashio does better than other Japanese torpedo-destroyers in this environment, if only because she doesn’t have to surrender smoke for her Torpedo Reload Booster.
Would I Recommend?
Yes with a big ol’ butt. Asashio a one trick pony. It’s one Hell of a trick, mind you. Thus, Asashio isn’t an “every day” destroyer — rather she’s fun for a one off match here and there to blow off steam but she’s going to feel very limited in the long run. If this kind of myopic game play puts you off, keep clear.
Atago Black (2018)
Some of the oldest premiums in World of Warships also rank as some of the best. Atago is one such ship. At this stage, she’s ostensibly a tier 9 Japanese heavy cruiser shoe-horned in at tier 8. I think this says more about the sorry state of Ibuki, the tier 9 tech-tree ship than it does Atago, but I digress. One of the charms of Atago is how easy she is to play, boasting great speed, concealment and firepower. Her guns reload a bit more slowly than other IJN heavy cruisers, but her torpedoes have amazing fire arcs and hit like trucks. Furthermore, she has a Repair Party to help give her some longevity.
The last time I reviewed Atago was WAAAAAY way back in January of 2016, almost four years ago (cripes!). The ship herself hasn’t changed much in that time, though the game has sure changed around her. Stealth firing is no longer a thing. Captain skills have been completely overhauled. Smoke mechanics are different. AA has been put through the wringer. Yeah, this is a review I definitely want to come back to.
Thankfully, there’s easy ways to “try out” Atago by simply playing the IJN heavy cruiser line. What holds true for Mogami 203mm, Myoko and Ibuki largely holds true for Atago. The major difference between them, as I said: Atago has a slower reload, is a little more stealthy and she has great torpedo arcs.
Would I Recommend?
You bet your buns, hons. Atago is one of the best premiums in the game for simply being a fun, interesting experience. The caveat here is that you have to enjoy your Japanese heavy cruisers.
Graf Zeppelin Black (2019)
Welp, there’s a lot to say about Graf Zeppelin and little of it good.
Graf Zeppelin is the weakest tier 8 aircraft carrier — tech tree and premium both. This is owing in no small part to the fragility of her aircraft. On top of this, she struggles from longer restoration times of her reserves and a smaller hangar capacity. Added onto this, the striking power of her ordnance is specialized, limiting her effectiveness against destroyers in favour of bullying cruisers and battleships. She might have been good at this role if it weren’t for the aforementioned fragility of her planes and reserves. Graf Zeppelin is one of the easiest carriers in the game to effectively deplane — she’s not a forgiving aircraft carrier to play.
She’s not without her strengths. The speed of her aircraft shouldn’t be understated — they get to and from targets faster than anything else at her tier. Her dive bombers have a perfectly circular reticle, allowing her to engage in attack runs from any angle without aiming penalty. Their AP bombs hit like trucks, with monstrous levels of penetration (over 300mm). Her bombers and torpedo bombers are fast. Her torpedoes are long ranged. Her rocket hits are meaty. Lastly, she has some downright meme-worthy secondaries with almost Massachusetts-level of accuracy.
But when you look closer at her ordnance, only her AP dive bombers come out looking decent. Her torpedoes are individually quite anemic with an enormous arming distance relative to their speed, making it difficult to hit fast moving, agile ships. Her rockets are painfully inaccurate and she doesn’t fire many of them — her individual hits are nice, but getting those hits on anything but a predictably moving vessel is a real challenge. Once you factor in Graf Zeppelin’s aircraft survivability issues, you end up losing planes for less returns than you might enjoy with other carriers.
I don’t have a full review of Graf Zeppelin. I tried to review all of the premium carriers in early 2019 when Wargaming re-released them for sale, foolishly thinking that the CV rework must be close to completion and there wouldn’t be many changes.
Well, not even a half patch later, a lot of that work got undone. A full patch later and all of it was rendered moot. So I threw my hands up in frustration then promptly fell ill and sidelined the whole project until I was better at handling the almost-deads from which I was afflicted. This would, ostensibly, provide time for Wargaming to get their act together and finish the damn rework. We’re still not there yet, though the changes have been much slower as of late and seem focused more on the individual performance of problem (overpowered) ships rather than wholesale mechanics changes.
Would I Recommend?
Not on your life. Stay clear of this one until the CV rework finalizes officially and either Graf Zeppelin gets a little love or the other CVs at tier 8 get brought down closer to her power level.
Massachusetts Black (2018)
Massachusetts is one of the greatest success stories among premium ships. Wargaming took an already solid design in the form of Alabama and modified things to make a distinct and altogether unique premium. In short, Massachusetts is a brawling South Dakota-class battleship, trading a bit of main-battery accuracy for some of the best secondaries in the game and an improved Repair Party to boot. She is agile, she is hard hitting and she is mean.
Massachusetts review is largely intact, with the only major difference being (surprise-surprise) to her AA power. Massachusetts’ anti-aircraft strength is very good — at least as good as anything can individually claim to be under the rework. She’s a no-fly zone for tier 6 carriers and she can badly damage tier 8 squadrons when played properly. Tier 10 carriers can still make their runs, but it gets expensive over time. They’re not likely to harass you in this ship until you’re exposed or on low health.
Would I Recommend?
Very yes on toast. Massachusetts is one of the safest premium purchases you can make in the game right now. She can be used as a traditional American battleship trainer or you can choose to specialize a Massachusetts-specific commander for the extra luls.
Scharnhorst Black (2019)
Every now and then, Wargaming catch lightning in a bottle. Atago. Atlanta (post-upgrade), Massachusetts. Scharnhorst is also one such premium — a hands-down brilliant ship with a balanced suite of strengths and weaknesses that makes her a joy to play. Armed with small caliber (for a battleship), rapid-firing (for a battleship) main battery guns, deck mounted torpedoes and a solid secondary battery, Scharnhorst has a little of everything on offer. She’s fast, she’s well protected and she handles well.
She’s not without her weaknesses either. She’s patently unable to overmatch anything thicker than 19mm worth of armour with her AP shells. Her HE damage is lackluster (though it does have high penetration). Her anti-aircraft firepower is definitely wanting. Top tier, this ship is a monster. Bottom tier and you’ve got to work a little harder.
Scharnhorst’s review is old, having been published back in August of 2016. So naturally any of the AA material and commander skill commentary doesn’t apply. Similarly, the meta has shifted, most notably towards IFHE spamming ships. Scharnhorst is generally resilient against these vessels, owing to her thick amidships deck plating. This also provides her reasonable (but not perfect) defense against Musashi’s 460mm AP shells when she’s up-tiered.
On the whole, Scharnhorst’s flexibility, agility and speed has helped keep her relevant. What’s more, the new Matchmaking changes means that she faces carriers less often than the other Black ships due to her tiering, which is a huge plus. Finally, Scharnhorst is a PVE monster, being eligible for select Scenarios while still being an absolute unit in Co-Op.
Would I Recommend?
Yes. As good as Alaska is, I am of the firm belief that Scharnhorst Black is the best of the 2019 Black Friday ships on offer currently.
Sims Black (2019)
Sims is a venerable premium, dating all of the way back to the Closed Beta pre-order bundles from March of 2015. She is an incredibly agile American destroyer — tier for tier, she’s one of the most nimble ships in the game. Her gun turret traverse is similarly insane, whipping through a 180º turn in less than 6 seconds (!). Top this off with some good AA firepower, and an American Smoke Generator. Furthermore, the original Sims has improved experience earning coefficients. I’m not sure if this carries over to Sims Black — it should, but be aware that this might not be a thing.
Sadly, Sims is feeling a bit long in the tooth in the current meta. She’s under-armed, with only four American 127mm/38 guns with a longer reload than the five-gun Mahan. Though she has two torpedo options, the choice is between Farragut-style, painfully short ranged fish with a decent speed and long ranged, terribly slow “sea mine” style torpedoes that have warheads that wouldn’t be out of place at tier 3 and hit like muffin kisses.
This lack of hitting power is compounded by her poor stealth rating. Sims does not up-tier well as a result. This ship could really use some love.
Dust off your Wayback Machines, the last time I looked at Sims was back in June of 2016. This predates the CV rework, the commander skill rework, the smoke changes, and stealth firing changes, just to name a few mechanics overhauls that have happened since. Back then, there wasn’t even any German, French, Pan Asian or British destroyers to contend with, to say nothing of ships like Haida.
Sims hasn’t aged well, largely for the reasons stated above. She used to be a reasonable alternative to Mahan, with more agility, faster firing guns even if she had less of them. Now Mahan out shoots her by a huge margin which is very unfortunate. Sims has the potential to be a good knife fighter despite this. You just have to make use of that dodge and wiggle.
The good news is that her AA power is respectable. While this won’t provide immunity against carriers, it does feel nice to bloody their nose.
Would I Recommend?
No. This is a shame, really, as I think she has one of the nicer Black camouflage schemes. Sims could use some love, in my opinion, before I could recommend her in good conscience.
Tirpitz Black (2018)
Tirpitz is a Bismarck-class battleship that sacrifices access to her Hydroacoustic Search and AA power for deck-mounted torpedoes. The Bismarck-class are huge vessels, well armoured (from shells at least) and powerful secondaries. They were, up until the introduction of the Massachusetts, the best secondaries you could find in the game, tier for tier. Sadly, while they’re still capable, it’s hard not to look at what happened with the American premium without a touch of envy.
Still, Tirpitz is one of the best brawling battleships is the game, owing to the combination of her deck-mounted torpedoes, her powerful secondaries and her turtleback-protection scheme. She’s nigh impossible to citadel reliably, making her perfect for close-range actions. The upcoming buff to German dispersion will be a welcome one, though Tirpitz wins no prizes for her main battery gun performance.
I last reviewed TIrpitz in the closing days of 2017. (My god, that was two years ago!) Thankfully, there hasn’t been a whole lot of change since then with the biggest mechanics change since then being the CV rework. Tirpitz, understandably, doesn’t fare well under constant aerial harassment though she has it better now than she did when Graf Zeppelin was in her prime (Graf Zeppelin could one shot her previously on a single pass). So things are kinda-sorta better, even if they’re worse?
Massachusetts’ addition was also a bit sad for Tirpitz. She used to be the default, heavyweight brawling champion and now it’s a close contest.
Would I Recommend?
Yes but with a big ol’ butt. Tirpitz still has it where it counts but she’s not the solid performer she once was. Scharnhorst is the better buy, tier for tier, there’s no question there.
No Colours Anymore
So there we have it, some quick updates for you. The summary is this (assuming you don’t already have a non-Black version of these ships):
- Scharnhorst B: Highly recommended
- Massachusetts B: Highly recommended
- Alaska B: Highly recommended
- Atago B: Highly recommended
- Asashio B: Conditional
- Tirpitz B: Conditional
- Sims B: Not recommended
- Graf Zeppelin B: Avoid it like the plague.
If you already do have these ships and you’re just out to collect some fancy looks for some of your favourites then let’s not pretend that my recommendation is going to sell you one way or another. I sadly do not have any details on the odds of the Black Friday crates, so be especially careful with how you spend your money this holiday season.
Good luck, everyone and thank you so much for reading! ♥