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Work in Progress USS Black2/15/2017 3:28:28 PM
Published By: LittleWhiteMouse
USS Black is still a work in progress.  Please be aware that all of the statistics and performance discussed here are subject to change before release. 
 
Hell and fire was spawned to be released.
 
Quick Summary:  A reward-version of the Fletcher-class Destroyer with Radar.
Cost:  Black is not for sale and can only be earned by achieving Rank One in five seasons of Ranked Battles.
Patch & Date Written: 0.6.1, February 11th, 2017.
 
Closest in-Game Contemporary
Fletcher, Tier 9 American Destroyer
Degree of Similarity: Clone / Sister-Ship / Related Class / Similar Role / Unique
 
 USS Black is a Fletcher-class destroyer but, like most premium ships, she has a few changes to make her stand apart from her sister ships.  The changes summarize to the following:
  • Black has access to the USN Radar consumable as an option in her third consumable slot.
  • Her deck armour is 19mm instead of 13mm.
  • The torpedoes she launches are slower, longer ranged and harder hitting than Fletcher's with a faster reload.
  • Black swaps out the two twin-gun 40mm Bofors mounts behind her #2 turret for a pair of twin-gun 20mm Oerlikons instead.
  • She's slower than Fletcher by 1.5 knots.
  • She turns slightly better than Fletcher.
 
PROs
  • Armed with five, rapid fire 127mm rifles.
  • She can fire up to ten 13.7km range torpedoes, doing 21,600 damage each and a with reasonable 96s reload per launcher.
  • Decent anti-aircraft armament for a destroyer, including the option to take Defensive Fire.
  • Excellent handling, including a small 560m turning circle, a 3.0s rudder shift time and 34º per second turret traverse.
  • Good concealment values, dropping down to 5.8km with proper specialization and providing a huge stealth-firing window.
  • USS Black can combine smoke and radar, making her the ultimate spotting & support ship.
 
CONs
  • Her 17,100 hit points are on the low side for a tier 9 destroyer.
  • Horrible gun ballistics which makes gunnery of any target outside of 10km punitive.
  • Her torpedoes are the slowest ship-launched fish in the game at 43 knots, taking a full two minutes to reach maximum range.
  • On the slow side for a higher tier destroyer with a maximum speed of 35 knots.
  • Her consumable "options" aren't really optional.  If you take anything other than Radar in her 3rd slot, you're a fool.
  • Doesn't appear to have Missouri's massive credit-earning potential.
 
Here it is.  This is the second reward ship for Ranked Battles, requiring primacy in five seasons to unlock her.  Even in her preview state, Black has caused a lot of fuss.  This seems to be a trend with these reward vessels. This is not likely to ever be a common ship.  While it can be argued that over time, more players will have reached rank one in five seasons, the natural attrition of the player base will also see some of these veterans hang up their cap and stop playing.  Flint isn't commonplace.  Black promises to be even more rare.
 
That doesn't undermine the dangers to the meta that an unbalanced ship can present.  Still, the alarm that has met Black's preview statistics has been considerable.  While not quite an Alabama Drama Llama in scale, the sky is once again (or is it still?) falling in certain community groups.  I stress that what we're seeing presently is nothing more than a preview of the ship and not her final form.  Things can change.  Hopefully this thorough look into USS Black's current build will provide enough insight to see where changes may or may not be needed.
 

Black shares the same camouflage scheme as USS Flint, the first premium reward ship for Ranked Battles.  #GetBoat

Options
Black has the same options as the Fletcher-class but with the added bonus of getting access to Radar in her third consumable slot.  You have to swap out Engine Boost for this.  Her Radar is identical to that found on Baltimore and Missouri, with a 9.45km acquisition range for 35 seconds.

I firmly believe that Wargaming made a misstep with Black's consumables.  Swapping her Engine Boost for Radar is a non-decision with radar being optimal in the majority of situations.  A more balanced option would have been to make players of USS Black choose between a Smoke Generator and Radar.  Thinking this would balance her is, of course, contingent on believing that a destroyer having radar is acceptable at all.  We'll see if this consumable combination survives testing.
 
Consumables:
  • Damage Control Party
  • Smoke Generator
  • Engine Boost or Defensive Fire or Radar
Module Upgrades: Six slots, standard USN Destroyer options.
Premium Camouflage:  Can I call this tier 9+ standard?  It provides the same bonus as the Missouri:  A 3% concealment bonus, a 4% increase to enemy gunnery dispersion and a 100% bonus to experience gains.
 
Firepower
Primary Battery:  Five 127mm rifles in single turrets in a superfiring A-B-P-X-Y arrangement.  P turret is forward facing behind the torpedo launchers.
Torpedo Armament:  Ten 533mm tubes in 2x5 launchers mounted before and behind the rear funnel.
 
Black is armed with five 127mm/38 Mark 30 naval rifles.  These are the same guns first seen on the Benson-class destroyers at tier 8 without any significant improvement in performance.  This staple of the USN Destroyer line is known for its tremendous rate of fire and excellent gun handling but also its famously poor ballistic qualities that lead to a very high shell arc over range.  So while Black can potentially dish out monstrous levels of damage, landing those hits is considerably more of a challenge than the 130mm of Soviet Destroyers, for example. These weapons are very much par for the course for American destroyers and offer nothing in the way of surprises for veterans of the American destroyer line.
 
 By tier 8, destroyer caliber guns begin to lose the arms race versus the armour values found on capital ships.  Even upgraded with Inertial Fuse for HE Shells, her rounds cannot penetrate tier 8+ Battleships anywhere except their superstructure.  Her 127mm guns can only penetrate 21mm of armour without the skill while being able to best up to 27mm of armour with it.  This value is important -- it's sufficient to damage the bows and sterns of all cruisers and select deck areas on most of these ships. 
 
But it's as a destroyer hunter where these guns excel, provided you can close the range.  Their very fast turret traverse rate of nearly 34º per second allows the ship to be thrown into evasive maneuvers while maintaining her gun lock on target.  This makes her a very real threat to any rival torpedo or gunship.
 
Like USS Sims before it, Black has what the community has often referred to as "naval mine" torpedoes.  Their speed is downright laughable at 43 knots (115.1 meters per second under the game's compressed distances).  It takes these torpedoes almost a full two minutes to reach the end of their impressive 13.7km range.  With a 96s reload, this allows you to put a second salvo in the water before the first is little more than 3/4s done their first run.  The good news is that they have a very short surface detection range of 0.9km.  However, given their slow speed, her targets have approximately 7.8s worth of reaction time which is fairly standard.  Their real weakness is if they're picked up early.   They're so slow that some ships can turn away and even outrun the darned things.

Black's torpedoes are, at best, area denial weapons.  While possible to ambush someone at point blank range and make their life miserable (and short), more often they're used as a fire and forget series of water-mines, helping push the Reds away from a given area.
 
During testing, there was a bug present where Black's torpedoes weren't doing anywhere close to the right amount of damage.  Though listed as capping out at 21,600, their damage was all over the map and never where it should have been.  Several of the testers and I took USS Black out into training rooms and slammed fish into various bots, ensuring we got midship strikes with single torpedoes. Strikes against ships without anti-torpedo defenses never got higher than 12,804 damage.  Hits to the Yamato's torpedo bulges did 8,368.  Yet hits to a Mogami (A-Hull) did 13,093 while hits against the upgraded (C-Hull) did 12,397 damage.  This is despite the torpedo bulges for these three respective ships reducing damage by 55%, 13% and 18% respectively.  The math doesn't add up.  Bug reports were filled out.
 
Did I mention this ship was still very much a work in progress?
 

Black's torpedoes will be a heck of a lot more fun to use when they work properly.
 
 
Maneuverability
Top Speed: 35.0 knots
Turning Radius: 560m
Rudder Shift Time: 3.0s
 
The Fletcher-class, and by extension USS Black, has great agility.  With a tiny turning circle and excellent rudder shift time, Black appears equally well set up to dodge fire as Fletcher.  However, it should be noted that she's 1.5 knots slower than her sister ship.  But there's more to this ship than that.
 
Black bleeds speed faster than Fletcher does in a turn while maintaining a comparable maximum speed with her rudder hard over.   It takes Fletcher approximately 20.4s to drop down to 30.6 knots in a turn while Black will drop to 30.3 knots in roughly 12.9s.  This makes the Fletcher "skid" more through the first leg of the turn while Black's hull bites in.  Thus,  Black has a quarter of a second's advantage in progressing through a 90º turn at top speed and almost two-thirds of a second for full a 360º turn.
 
Though Black has the same rudder shift time and turning radius of Fletcher, Black is slightly more agile in a turn despite their similar stat profile.  Who'd have thought?
 
Durability
Hit Points:  17,100
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 19mm
 
One of the strange differences between Black and Fletcher is Black's deck armour.  It's 19mm on Black versus the 13mm found on Fletcher.  This isn't a significant change but it has two highly situational benefits. 
 
First, it provides some protection against high explosive shells smaller than 120mm in diameter.  HE Shells of this size, without a buff from the tier 4 Captain Skill, Inertial Fuse for HE Shells will simply shatter on impact for no damage.  However, this caliber of gun isn't too commonplace within Black's matchmaking spread, being limited to the main battery of the Akizuki and the secondaries off of Russian and German Cruisers (yeah, like those are worth fussing over) and some of secondaries off of German Battleships (okay, THOSE are worth fussing about).  
 
Second, 19mm armour provides some defense against AP shells.  Anything smaller than the 283mm off the Schanrhorst is unable to overmatch Black's armour.  If (for whatever reason) a heavy cruiser decided to shoot AP shells, this creates a chance for the shells to ricochet off her deck if they come in at too shallow an angle.
 
Yes, I know.  Neither benefit is going to come into play very often.
 
Overall, Black's hit points are on the low side for a Destroyer -- well behind the German Z-46 and the Soviet Destroyers (including the new ones which are also works in progress).  It's only against the Yugumo that she has any advantage.  Thus, engaging enemy destroyers isn't without risk -- Black simply doesn't have the big hit point totals to trade fire effectively, especially if she begins to struggle to land hits.  
 

This Akizuki didn't have the Inertial Fuse for HE Shells skill on her Captain.  Short of hitting Black's superstructure, she couldn't hurt her with her HE.  Had she been shooting a Fletcher, it's possible some of the splashes against her upper hull might have struck the deck and penetrated, but that's very unlikely given their flat trajectory at this close range.
 
Concealment and Camouflage
Surface Detection Range: 7.4km
Air Detection Range:
4.0km
Minimum Surface Detection Range:
5.8km
Concealment Penalty while Main Battery Fire:
+3.81km (vs 12.9km gun range)
 
Black has excellent concealment values for a tier 9 destroyer, bested only by the Yugumo.  When fully kitted out for stealth, she weighs in with a 5.8km surface detection range and just over 9.6km when firing her guns in open water.  Without boosting her range with Advanced Fire Training, this gives the ship a 3.3km stealth-firing window with her main battery.  It's not unreasonable to see why there's very little need to extend the range of Black's guns, especially given the punitive ballistics at targets more than 10km away.
 
More importantly is how this rather small surface detection range allows Black to shadow enemy ships and keep them spotted.  There is no ship currently in the game that is as adept at spotting as Black.  By keeping her guns silent, she can creep along, trailing enemy vessels from a safe distance.  Should they try and blow smoke, she can make use of her Radar consumable which has a 9.45km range to continue to provide eyes on a beleaguered target.  The only answer to such sneaky spotting tactics is to hope that a friendly ship can spot Black and put an end to her shenanigans, usually in the form of aircraft or an enemy vessel also equipped with radar, like a Soviet Cruiser.
 
Black's worth is often measured by how well she can support her team.  Black gives you some very powerful tools for controlling vision, with an American Smoke Generator, which provides 127s worth of cover to team mates while at the same time lighting up the enemy.  In this way, under ideal circumstances your team can see the enemy and the enemy won't see yours.  Black can continue to contribute by dropping her fish without losing her concealment values.
 
Where her torpedoes are concerned, Black has an enormous stealth firing window when specialized for concealment.  This is an obscene 7.9km.  However, it should be noted that it will take Black's torpedoes 52 seconds to reach a target that's a mere 6km out.  That's a long time for a ship not to make any course adjustments, so it's best not to use the lead indicator on the torpedoes and instead go for more of an area-denial approach to hedge your bets.
 
Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Gun Battery Calibers:  127mm / 40mm / 20mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 5.0km / 3.5km / 2.0km
AA DPS per Aura:  54 / 34 / 37
 
It's possible (though admittedly a bit of a waste with Black) to turn this ship into a passable AA escort.  It's unlikely that this ship will ever be without some form of buff to its AA firepower, as Captain Skills aimed at improving her firepower will also affect her AA suite.  This provides Black with an approximate DPS value per Aura of 64 / 41 / 45 which is rather respectable, especially for a destroyer.  However, this isn't going to dissuade tier 9 and 10 air-groups from loitering in your vicinity.
 
It's only with a heavy investment in skills and (for some reason) taking Defensive Fire that Black can make her anti-aircraft armament into a very real threat to enemy attack planes.  As this would require you to drop Surveillance Radar, it's really not worth it.
 
 
Black's AA firepower is enough to dent attack plane squadrons.  But like most destroyers, you'll want to keep your AA turned off most of the time.
 
Overall Impressions
Skill Floor: Simple / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: Low / Moderate / High / Extreme
 
Playing destroyers in general isn't easy.  However, Black is a little more forgiving than most.  The Fletcher-class is already one of the better destroyers at tier 9 (and arguably, in the game as a whole).  Black provides a set of training wheels in the form of her radar consumable to make life just that little bit easier for an inexperienced player.
 
In the hands of a veteran, the combination of Black's consumables, concealment rating, agility and torpedo armament make her an enormous threat to the enemy team.  For players who enjoy the support role, I can think of few ships as exciting as the (arguably overpowered) potential that Black provides.  With the monopoly on radar for a ship with such a small surface detection range, Black will inspire many rage-threads in the future, I have little doubt.  This ship lives to use and abuse spotting mechanics and strip any pretense of vision control from the enemy in local engagements.
 
Mouse's Summary:  
  • Black is a Fletcher-class destroyer with Radar.
  • If you didn't know it already, the Fletcher-class is hella-good in World of Warships.  And now it has radar.
  • The most rewarding use of this ship is through the control of vision in an engagement.  Spot the enemy and protect your own team with smoke.
  • The torpedo bug annoyed me to no end.
  • Black is still very much a work in progress.  Be aware this is a preview, people, not a review.
So, this is a rather late preview.  It's not a lack of effort, but moreover from a change in preview policies from Wargaming itself.  Community Contributors should be getting earlier access to ships.  What's more, we should also be providing our content much earlier within development cycle.  But this in turn presents a problem:  Ships early in their development cycle aren't necessarily well balanced and are likely to undergo a change or two before release.
 
This should explain why I'm saying, over and over, this is a preview.  This is why you'll see "Work in Progress" (WiP) watermarks on videos produced by my fellow contributors.  It's also why there was a bit of concern about articles like these going into extensive depth about the current statistics of a ship rather than simply a broad overview.  My own release was delayed until I got the specific okay to go into the minutia of this upcoming release.
 
Playing USS Black was a real treat for me.  First, it's a Fletcher-class and I have a real soft spot for the Fletcher.  When I was little, my father had an old DOS-box he liked to keep running long past obsolescence which had a game "Wolfpack" on it.  This pit Type VII, IX and XXI U-Boats against American Fletcher-class destroyers.  It had a hot-seat PVP mode.  My father would always play the Germans and I would get to take my turn as the Fletchers trying to defend my poor freighters and tankers from his predation.  This mostly involved me chasing after his pillenwerfer and blowing the snot out of them with copious amounts of depth charges and hedgehog mortars.  My father loved lording his gaming superiority over his then eight-year old daughter...
 
USS Black brings back the warm fuzzies of those memories.  Instead of chasing down U-Boats, I instead get to chase down enemy ships trying to hide in smoke while screening my own forces.  It's a very rewarding style of play and it's such a shame that it's limited currently only to the Black.  With that said, it's not without its dangers to the meta of game play.  If Wargaming were to make such a combination more commonplace (either through many USS Blacks becoming available within the community or through the addition of Radar to a destroyer-line), combat in and around capture points would certainly chance towards the more passive.  The only thing worse about being the first ship spotted is being the only ship spotted and focused by the entire enemy team.
 
I personally think that combining radar AND smoke one a low surface-detection ship is the wrong way to go.  I hope to see USS Black have to choose between the two.  But who knows?  We'll see how her development continues.
 
In Closing
As a final reminder, take what you've read in this preview with a pinch of salt.  There's plenty to discuss, maybe even a few elements to be concerned about but I would hold off on brandishing torches and pitchforks if you object too strongly about something you see in USS Black.  Similarly, don't get too excited or married to the idea of a particular combination of stats if you think this ship is a must-have.  Things will change. 
 
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