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Another one bites the dust7/11/2017 2:20:00 PM
Published By: LittleWhiteMouse

The Gerkin of Armageddon.  The Doomsday Baby Dill.  The original Deathpickle.
 
Quick Summary:  A Super-Saiyan Tenryu with a smoke generator, stealth-firing torpedoes, and guns that can be upgraded to some of the most accurate weapons found in the game.
Acquisistion:  Iwaki Alpha was awarded to testers in March 2015 for those players who had played 100 matches during the Closed Alpha period.  It has not been made available since short of the rare press account.
Patch and Date Written:  Patch 0.6.7.  June 30th to July 11th, 2017.
 
Closest in-Game Contemporary
Tenryu, Tier III Japanese Light Cruiser
Degree of Similarity: Clone / Sister-Ship / Related Class / Similar Role / Unique
 
Iwaki is a theoretical upgrade  with improved engine and weapon performance of the Tenryu-class.  She's better armed and much faster than Tenryu, on top of which she has a whole load of gimmicks which sets her even further apart.
 
 PROs
  • With upgrades, Iwaki has some of the most accurate guns in the game with good fire arcs.
  • Powerful torpedo armament with a 10km range and 16,267 alpha strike.
  • Very fast with a top speed of 35.0 knots.
  • Tiny turning circle of 580m and a 3.8s rudder shift time giving her amazing agility.
  • Good surface detection range of 10.1km stock, allowing her to potentially fire torpedoes from stealth.
  • Equipped with four upgrade slots at tier IV.
  • Has a Smoke Generator consumable.

CONs

  • The entire midsection, from keel to deck is a citadel.
  • Exposed, unprotected magazines vulnerable to HE fire in the bow and stern.
  • Tiny hit point pool of 18,600hp.
  • Slow stock turret traverse.
  • Short ranged main battery of 10.2km
  • Poor forward torpedo arcs.
  • Short ranged AA defense with only modest DPS totals.

This one has been on the books for a long time.  You don't know how excited I am to be able to cross this one off my list.  Short of providing a review for a Kitakami (and I don't know how I'm going to get access to one of those), I will have finally cleared my backlog of older premiums to review.  Hooray! 

Part of the problem with reviewing this ship was getting my hands on one.  I am a Closed Beta Tester.  I joined the game about two to three weeks after Alpha Testing concluded, so playing one of these (without breaking the EULA) was really tough.   Thankfully, I finally given access  through a temporary Press Account provided by Wargaming and played as many games as I could in her in the time allotted (sadly, no Kitakami on the account -- otherwise you guys would have got a two-fer).  While I could have easily theory-crafted this review earlier, I really wanted to have some hands on experience with the ship before commenting.
 
Now, just to ensure that I'm not all sparkly-eyed about the one ship I cannot have, I made sure to drag in the surliest gentleman I could find to assist me with this review.  Their credentials include having Iwaki Alpha forever.  So, rest assured they are blasé about the ship to counter balance my flappy-armed, super-bouncy enthusiasm.   You all know him and his grumpy puss:  Lert!  He's (finally!) back in his box and provided us with some insight on the Deathpickle.
 
The Lertbox

I protest! I am not a gentleman!

It's been a while since I did one of these, hasn't it?

The subject of today's review is the Alpha reward ship. Iwaki is a theoretical upgrade on the Tenryu platform and is better than it in every respect. You know, as one might expect for a ship a tier higher. For this Lertbox I will be trying a variation on what I normally write. As the chances of Iwaki ever being released again in any form are slim to non-existent, I will be describing what you might do when you face one in a same-tiered cruiser, rather than how to defeat a same-tier ship while driving an Iwaki.

I will be describing this encounter from the viewpoint of the three most popular cruisers by battles played over the past two weeks, which at the time of writing this are Duguay-Trouin, Phoenix and Kuma. The remaining tier 4 cruisers are quite similar in many respects to these three, so I believe this to be a decent cross-section of ships to compare Iwaki to.

 

Poor lambs.  They didn't stand a chance.

Options
Iwaki Alpha has four upgrade slots at tier IV instead of the usual two.  Normally this isn't available until tier VI.  On top of this, she has access to the IJN module, Aiming Systems Modification 0 which provides a huge list of upgrades, including buffs to the traverse speed of her guns and torpedoes and a 40% reduction to her shell dispersion (!).  Last, but definitely not least, she has access to a Smoke Generator consumable.  This is a special version with only a 15s emission time as opposed to the normal 20s found on destroyers.  The smoke lasts longer than normal tier IV destroyer smoke, having a full duration time of 80 seconds instead of 73 seconds.

Consumables:
  • Damage Control Party
  • Smoke Generator
Module Upgrades: Four slots, with access to Aiming Systems Modification 0 in slot one.  Otherwise standard tier VI cruiser upgrades.
Premium Camouflage:  Tier II to V Standard (Type 9). This provides 30% bonus experience gains, 3% reduction in surface detection and 4% reduction in enemy accuracy.  As a fun little aside, Iwaki Alpha's camouflage is noteworthy because it was the one of the first (if not the first) camouflaged ships available in the game.  This originally didn't provide any bonuses and effectively was a unique skin.  It earned the ship the moniker of "the Pickle" with all sorts of descriptors tied to this (Death Pickle being the one I heard most often).  Little did we know that almost all IJN ships would soon be able to paint themselves to match.
 
You must install Aiming Systems Modification 0 immediately on Iwaki Alpha.  You'd be a fool not to.  When you slap it on there, her stats change in the following manner:
  • Her main battery traverse changes from 8.49º per second to 10.23º per second.
  • Her torpedo traverse changes from 25º per second to 30º per second.
  • Her main battery dispersion drops from 103m at 10.2km to 62m.

In your second slot, I strongly recommend Aiming Systems Modification 1.  This takes the aforementioned stats and drops them even further.

  • Her main battery dispersion drops down to 58m at 10.2km.
  • Her torpedo traverse increases again to 36º per second.

In slot three, take whatever you like.  I prefer Damage Control System Modification 1 but it's really up to you.  The gains are minimal for any of the upgrades for this entry.

In your final slot, I highly recommend Propulsion System Modification 2.  You're going to be sitting in your smoke often enough that it's handy to give yourself a head start when you need to get moving once again.
 

Firepower
Primary Battery: Five140mm rifles in single turrets in an A-P-Q-X-Y configuration.
Torpedo Armament: Six tubes in 2x3 center line launchers mounted on either side of the funnels
 
 
 
Iwaki Alpha gets the same torpedo armament as Furutaka but a full tier lower.  These fish are phenomenal and what's more, the platform on which they're launched has a big trick up it's sleeve.  An Iwaki Commander with Concealment Expert can get her surface detection down to 8.6km, giving her a 1.4km stealth launching window with her torpedoes.  The general lack of spotting aircraft means that these torpedoes are unlikely to be detected until they close with their prey.  While they are visible at 1.5km, opponents at low tiers are often unaware anti-torpedo tactics and attempt to dodge at the very last minute.
 
The only flaw with Iwaki as a torpedo ship are the horrible forward fire arcs of her launchers.  This is limited to a little over a 45º arc approximately 80º off her beam with a rearward bias.  Veterans of the IJN Heavy Cruiser line will be familiar with this kind of limitation.  Like with all IJN Cruisers, swinging the ship around to let loose a broadside of torpedoes will often just get your ship blown out from under you if you attempt it against a wary opponent while spotted.  Such attempts are an easy telegraph of the coming torpedo attack and any veterans slumming it down at tier IV will have their eyes open for such an opportunity.
 
When these torpedoes do hit, they hit hard and with one of the largest module-damaging explosions at her tier (only rivaled by Battleship caliber HE -- though these do not have as much penetration power).  This puts every ship they strike at tremendous risk of not only sinking from multiple hits, but single hits are quite capable of one-shotting even a Battleship with a magazine detonation.  The torpedo defense of lower tiered dreadnoughts just isn't up to scratch and these catastrophic hits are far more commonplace at this tier with ships like Iwaki being one of the culprits.
 
 
 
Iwaki is armed with an unimpressive number (5) of unimpressive guns (the IJN 140mm rifle) with unimpressive range (10.2km).  It's made worse that you're only ever bringing four guns to bear. These are the same weapons on Tenryu and Kuma.  Overall, they have rather lousy ballistics, low shell damage and very bad penetration values.  What you're left with is a cruiser that really struggles when facing other capital ships.  This armament is more than sufficient to bully destroyers but they are not up to scratch to let you go toe to toe with other cruisers, even when she's top tier. 
 
The best feature these guns can boast is a very high fire chance -- base 10% per shell.  Battleships will learn to hate and fear you, especially when you bombard them from smoke and set them ablaze from stem to stern.
 
There is a ray of sunshine, though.  Thanks to her module options, namely Aiming Systems Modification 0  and Aiming Systems Modification 1, Iwaki can have the lowest horizontal dispersion value found on any capital ship in the game.  Aim properly and you'll hit your target almost every time -- it's really quite nice.  This can (generally) make up for the lower number of guns she sports, particularly when you get the drop on an enemy ship.  However, once they find the range to you, short of some epic butt wiggling or hiding in smoke, they will out trade you every time.

The Lertbox

Duguay-Trouin vs Iwaki:

The Frenchman has an advantage in hit points and firepower, but most other categories go to the Iwaki. The Japanese ship has better speed, accuracy, armor, stealth, torpedoes and agility, not to mention her smoke. However, you have a very comfortable five kilometer buffer where you can hit her while she can't hit you back. The problem is that you won't be able to see her without someone else spotting her until it's too late and she's in range.

Once you have her spotted though, keep your angles in mind and make your overwhelming firepower count to try and delete her as quickly as you can. Aim for center mass shots, but keep your angles in mind because you're softer than your opponent and her 140mm guns will hurt you badly if you show just a bit too much broadside.

Once you've smacked her around a bit she's very likely to smoke up and send a surprise package of seafood your way, so be ready to pop your hydro acoustic and push into her smoke to bully her with your firepower. You might try using your torpedoes, but the fast and maneuverable Iwaki is difficult to hit with such slow fish.


Manoeuvrability
Top Speed: 35.0knots
Turning Radius: 580m
Rudder Shift: 3.8s
Maximum Turn Rate: 7.26º per second.
 
Iwaki is a cruiser with destroyer levels of agility.  This probably makes some sense as a destroyer leader, and it's not like this agility is misplaced.  Without it (and her Smoke Generator), she'd be a victim waiting to happen.  Her most impressive feature, by far, is her amazing top speed.  She caps out at 35.0 knots which is nearly the fastest ship at her tier, with only the German V-170 being half a knot faster.  This allows Iwaki to run down and pursue any prey worth chasing while also being able to open up the distance on anything bigger than her short of a Phoenix-class cruiser.
 
Iwaki has an excellent rate of turn at 7.3º per second that's almost fast enough to out traverse her turrets.  Aiming Systems Modification 0 makes this a non-issue as it greatly improves her gun handling -- as if you needed more excuses to equip this.  To put her rate of turn into perspective, USS Clemson, the tier 4 American Destroyer has a maximum rate of  turn of 8.6º per second which doesn't place Iwaki Alpha that far behind.  So not only as she as fast (or faster) than many of the destroyers she faces, she can also evade just as effectively.  Were it not for her larger size, she'd be an absolute nightmare for enemy ships to try and hit with guns, bombs, or torpedoes.
 
Durability
Hit Points: 18,600
Maximum Protection: 63mm
Min Bow & Deck Armour: 10mm
 
Iwaki Alpha is a ship that allows for very little margin of error.  Generally, it only takes two mistakes to get this ship sent back to the port.
  1. The first mistake is letting something shoot at you.
  2. The second is letting something hit you with said attacks.

Iwaki Alpha is one big floating citadel.  She has enough armour to arm the fuses of any AP shells that strike her amidships and not enough armour to repulse anything bigger than destroyer-caliber.  Combine this with the painfully short ranges of low tier maps and you've a recipe for disaster.  Iwaki melts under fire.  Battleships will one shot you.  Cruisers can one shot you with a well placed volley.  Destroyers will destroy you in as little as two hits of their torpedoes. 

The good news is that in low tier matches, it's rare you'll encounter anyone that knows how to properly use their AP shells, never mind aim effectively.
 
And that AP/HE disparity at low tiers would be great except Iwaki's powder magazines lie completely outside of her citadel.  These are largely unprotected, with no more than 10mm of armour.  While this will be too little to arm the fuses of most AP shells, this does leave them open and exposed to high explosive fire, particularly from 305mm battleship caliber shells, bombs and torpedoes so prevalent at lower tiers.  Detonations in this vessel are, for a cruiser, quite commonplace, and shouldn't be unexpected.  Sadly, Aiming Systems Modification 0 provides no protection from magazine explosions, so brace yourself for experiencing the occasional bout of fun and engaging fireworks displays at the expense of your ship.
 
So this makes for a fun bit of irony.  While Iwaki would succumb very quickly to AP fire, the inexperience of your opponents may just get you detonated dramatically instead through the use of derpy HE fire.  Ah, justice never tasted so sweet.

The Lertbox

Phoenix vs Iwaki:

You are the bully in this engagement. Bigger guns and more of them, better range, more hit points, better armor, the same speed and Hydro-acoustic to warn you of incoming torpedoes and ferret your opponent out of smoke should she smoke up. When faced with a Phoenix a savvy Iwaki driver might simply choose not to engage, knowing you have the advantage in a direct slug fest.

Iwaki doesn't have the speed to close to engagement range, so as long as you keep your distance you should be able to bludgeon her without fear of reprisal. Should she smoke up, close the distance and push in. Use your hydro acoustic consumable to give you an early warning of incoming torpedoes, and simply devastate her with your far superior guns.

Of all the tier four cruisers, Phoenix is perhaps the most well equipped to take out an enterprising Iwaki, and a smart Iwaki driver will avoid a direct confrontation. Unfortunately for you, any Iwaki you will encounter will be driven by someone with 2+ years of experience.

 

That's a whole lot of 'nope'.  Iwaki will surprise your opponents with how agile she is, but this will only last for so long.

Concealment & Camouflage
Base Surface Detection Range: 10.1km
Air Detection Range: 4.8 km
Minimum Surface Detection Range: 8.6km
Main Battery Firing Range: 10.2km
 
Iwaki feels like a big ol' fat destroyer and this holds true with her concealment rating.  For a while, she was one of the stealthiest cruisers available in the game, though the British cruisers have made this trait considerably more commonplace.  Properly specialized, Iwaki can get her concealment below 9km which allows her to use her 10km torpedo range to engage enemy ships from a position of stealth.  This can be devastating, especially against the novice Captains that frequent low tier matches.
 
Her concealment is a necessity, however.  Iwaki is such a vulnerable ship that her only real defense when things go wrong is to silence her guns and hide.  In the claustrophobic environments of low tier maps, this isn't always an option however which can make playing her successfully quite challenging.  It's almost a blessing when you face tier V ships as it means you are (likely) to be on a map where her concealment can be used.
 
Her fallback will always be the use of her Smoke Generator.  I tried very hard to save the limited number of charges of Iwaki's smoke consumable for aggressive plays rather than defensive -- to set up opportunities to finish off ships with gun fire or to mask a close range torpedo launch, but this wasn't always an option.

Anti-Aircraft Defense
AA Battery Calibers: 25mm
AA Umbrella Ranges: 3.1km
AA DPS per Aura: 31

For anti-aircraft defense, Iwaki has five triple 25mm mounts.  This provides some medium range anti-aircraft firepower which might shoot down a plane or two, but that's not really her best defense against enemy air groups.  Dive Bombers are your bane, while auto-aimed torpedo planes are only an issue if they set up a cross-drop upon you.  Even then, Iwaki's best defense against aircraft will always be her speed, agility and, (if worse comes to worst) her smoke generator.

The Lertbox

Kuma vs Iwaki:

A more even matchup. Both ships follow a very similar design philosophy, that of a small but fast, lightly armed destroyer leader. You have the same guns as Iwaki, but can bring half again as many to bear, and with superior range. With more hitpoints and armor, any direct gunnery duel between an Iwaki and a Kuma should go to the Kuma. Be wary of Iwaki's torpedoes though, they're considerably superior to your own with better range, speed and damage.

The Iwaki is slightly faster than Kuma and has a tighter turning circle, but the real difference between these two ships lies in Iwaki's smoke. Here too the same basic advice goes, once Iwaki smokes up, activate hydro, close in and bully for the victory.


Adding Omega to your Alpha
With her 140mm guns, Iwaki might not optimize perfectly as a trainer for some IJN Destroyer Captain builds.  If you've focused on trying to pad the awful performance of he 127mm/50s on your IJN DDs, those skills will do you no favours with Iwaki.  Otherwise, she's a good ship to train up commanders for the Japanese cruiser and destroyer lines.
  • Priority Target should be the first skill you grab.
  • Follow this up with Last Stand.  Iwaki takes a lot of damage to her engine and steering gears, much like a destroyer.
  • Arguably the best skill at tier 3 is Torpedo Armament Expertise to reduce her reload time down to 68 seconds.
  • And finally, take Concealment Expert to get her surface detection range down to 8.6km.

Other useful skills include Adrenaline Rush, Demolition Expert, Vigilance and Radio Location


But when push comes to shove, she can still play her trump card.
 
Overall Impressions
Skill Floor: Simple / Casual / Challenging / Difficult
Skill Ceiling: Low / Moderate / High / Extreme
 
Iwaki is an unforgiving ship.  She has a lot of advantages, but one misplay is going to get you sent back to the port in a hurry with your citadel blown out or simply overwhelmed by even a small volume of return fire.  In the hands of an expert, Iwaki is a predator -- a barracuda among small fry.  She's fast, she's agile, she's accurate and she strikes so very, very hard.  Setting up these attack runs in the tight confines of low tier maps is a really uphill battle, though. 

Mouse's Summary:
  • I feel so dirty.
  • I can understand well why veteran alpha testers love this ship.
  • So many baby seals died to bring you this information.
The Lertbox

Iwaki tops the leader boards for tier four cruisers, but that's more to do with the caliber of people playing her than with any quality of the ship itself. She is a destroyer lead with superb torpedoes, mobility and a smoke consumable, but sacrifices dearly for these advantages with all-round rather mediocre firepower and very low survivability. A savvy Iwaki driver will always seek to avoid a direct confrontation with same-tier cruisers as they all out-gun her, forcing the Iwaki driver to employ wits and strategy to beat her opponents. She truly is a destroyer lead, playing much like a large destroyer with a citadel.

Still, with the caliber of players driving her and the specific tool set she brings to the table, an unchallenged Iwaki is a dangerous opponent. This is a ship that flourishes with player skill, and is owned exclusively by very experienced players.

PS. If you ever run into MaliceA4Thought driving his Iwaki, murder him with extreme prejudice and tell him I sent you. It'll be funny.

 This one has been on the books for a long, long time.  Iwaki Alpha has aged very well in World of Warships.  She was unaffected by the removal of stealth-firing with main battery guns in 0.6.0. The more recent skill overhaul back in the Winter/Spring of 2017 was kind and skills like Priority Target have simplified playing this fragile ship. She did take a hit back in 0.5.3 when Basic and Advanced Fire Training no longer affected her 140mm guns, but the addition of Aiming Systems Modification 0 seems to me like a reasonable trade-off. 

For as well as she has aged, Iwaki is an increasingly rare sight and she's likely to become largely irrelevant to the low tier meta balance.  On the North American server, it's rare that more than 100 games get played in Iwaki Alpha in a given week.  There were nearly twenty times as many games played in the Arkansas Beta.  This isn't an outlier, either -- other servers report similarly low numbers.  On the EU server, the Iwaki Alpha accounts for less than 0.1% of the total game volume played by tier IV vessels in recent times.  If you played tier 4 exclusively, you'd have to play 30 to 35 games straight before you were likely to run into one of these ships and that number is only going to drop as time goes on.
 
When it came to prioritizing a review of Iwaki Alpha, this lack of relevance compounded the problems of access.  Why waste time talking about a ship no one can get and so few people play?  I'm glad I could scratch this one off my list, but it feels entirely academic.  Iwaki Alpha is a pink unicorn -- a rare sight that, short of Wargaming incentivizing tier IV game play, is likely to vanish almost entirely over the life of this game.
 
I enjoyed my time playing with this fossil, but how could I not in such an overpowered little monster?  Her fragility was meant to keep her balanced but her Smoke Generator largely makes this a non-issue in my opinion.  She hits too hard.  She's too fast to catch and too stealthy and agile to stay visible for long with gimmicks to facilitate her escape.  I felt super powered while playing her.  She may be unforgiving, but once you hit your stride?  The enemies just don't stand a chance.
 
Angry YouTube Review
How would the ship rate on an Angry YouTuber scale of Garbage - Meh - Gud - Overpowered?

GARBAGE
- Grossly uncompetitive and badly in need of buffs.
Mehbote - Average ship. Has strengths and weaknesses. Doesn't need buffs to be viable, but certainly not advantageous.
Gudbote - A strong ship that has obvious competitive strengths and unique features that make it very appealing.
OVERPOWERED - A ship with very clear advantages over all of its competitors and unbalancing the game with its inclusion.
 

Thank you, Lert, for the Dogebote review.  I'd have placed her at overpowered.Lert and I differ on the point of her power level. He has more experience with the vessel, having owned it for two plus years. I got to play it over a weekend. What I saw impressed me greatly. Your own mileage may vary.
 
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