A lot has changed since the Mikhail Kutuzov was first introduced in January of 2016. The first and most significant change was the overhaul of Captain Skills which no longer showed the same synergy with guns with a caliber between 140mm and 155mm as they did previously. The second change was the introduction of the Soviet Cruiser line in 0.5.4, giving another series of ships against which to compare the Mikhail Kutuzov. In short, the landscape of the game is changing and it's worth taking another look at this important Soviet premium.
Quick Summary: A large and fragile escort cruiser armed with twelve 152mm high velocity rifles. Superior to the Soviet tier 8 Chapayev-class in most respects. Can use a destroyer Smoke Launcher consumable but lacks radar.
Excellent range of 19.1km, best of the tier 8 cruisers.
Guns are high velocity with flat shell arcs, facilitating long range gunnery.
Good rate of fire of 7.5rpm and very high potential DPM.
Excellent AA power, particularly long-range AA.
Good rudder shift time of 6.5s
Has access to a Smoke Launcher charge. Can increase to 3 charges with skills and premium consumable.
Decent torpedo armament, with a quintuple launcher off each side and 8km range.
152mm rifles can struggle to do damage to larger capital ships.
Very little armour and a large, exposed citadel
Large surface detection range of 14.1km.
No anti-torpedo bulge or defense -- prone to taking full damage from torpedo strikes.
No float plane spotter, fighter or radar options.
The stock values of the Mikhail Kutuzov's guns have improved since she was introduced in 0.5.2. By and large, these changes were designed to preserve the maximums acquired through the Captain Skills, Expert Marksman, Basic Fire Training and Advanced Fire Training which improved Turret Rotation, Rate of Fire and Range, respectively. The end result, however, saw a slight boost overall in Rate of Fire, while keeping the other values if these skills (Expert Marksman, notably) were retained This means that right out of the box, the Mikhail Kutuzov is better than it was after 0.5.3.
She's even better when you compare her to the other light cruisers in her matchmaking bracket, that were not so fortunate in seeing their stats so favourably tweaked.
Light Cruiser gunnery statistics with the use of Basic Fire Training, Advanced Fire Training & Expert Marksman captain skills between patches 0.5.2 and 0.5.4. Note how the Mikhail Kutuzov's RoF & DPM increased.
The Mikhail Kutuzov is armed with twelve 152mm high velocity rifles. These have excellent gunnery characteristics, including flat trajectories which makes long distance gunnery very easy, even against high speed targets like Destroyers. My only real complaint with these guns is that her HE shells are lacking in hitting power against heavily armoured targets such as Battleships. Landing multiple-hit, zero-damage volleys is commonplace and plays contrary to the large potential DPM values these guns otherwise boast. Her AP shells are reasonably reliable.
It should be noted that the Mikhail Kutuzov's primary armament are identical to those found on the Chapayev -- the tier 8 Soviet Cruiser in almost every respect except for range. The Mikhail Kutuzov has an extra 1.8km range advantage over her sister ship without any drawbacks to her gun performance.
The Mikhail Kutuzov has six dual-purpose 100mm mounts which serve as secondary batteries for the ship, providing a small amount of defensive fire against ships that venture too close. Two are positioned forward and four facing aft. Only two may fire directly forward and directly aft, with an angle needed for these guns to track targets alongside the ship. They have an excellent base range of 5.0km and rate of fire of 15rpm. Their chance for starting fires is on the low side at a mere 6%. Overall, they're decent but I wouldn't expect much out of them in close encounters.
In addition, she boasts two quintuple torpedo launchers off each side. For those used to (and frustrated by) Soviet cruiser torpedoes, you're in for a pleasant surprise. These have an 8km range, which (let's be honest) is still inadequate for her tier, but manageable at least. The large number of torpedoes more than makes up for their modest hitting power of 14,400 alpha damage and at 60 knots, they're reasonably high speed too. It's unlikely you will find much use for these fish, but at least they are more versatile than anything else seen in the Soviet Cruiser line until the Dmitri Donskoi at tier 9.
Compared to the rest of the Soviet cruiser line, the Mikhail Kutuzov is downright agile. Her rudder shift time is a mere 6.5s with a 760m turning circle. This gives her the comparable agility to some of the IJN Heavy Cruisers, such as the Atago and Mogami. Her straight line speed 33.0 knots which pales a little compared to some of the other long legged Soviet Cruisers, but it's still more than fair and far from being a drawback. This does preclude her from running down some of the slower DDs in the manner that some of the more fleet footed Soviet cruisers are capable.
With her fast turret rotation, she won't throw off your aim in a hard maneuver either.
Durability and Defense
The Mikhail Kutuzov's armour scheme is utterly insufficient to protect her against Battleship caliber rounds that she faces -- full stop. Even when angled, you can and will be struck in the citadel, especially at close range by large caliber guns. It's decent enough that in medium to long range engagements with other cruisers that angling will protect you from the worst of the damage that you'll see. But as a large ship with a huge superstructure, she's very vulnerable to high explosive fire.
This is coupled with an enormous surface detection range of 14.1km which makes hiding the Mikhail Kutuzov exceedingly difficult. Even with a full set of concealment modifications, skills and camouflage, she remains an easy to spot surface vessel. The one saving grace is that the 152mm Soviet guns only seem to add about 4.5km to her surface detection range, giving her potentially a rather large area of concealment when properly specialized while still being able to engage enemy vessels.
To assist her in keeping herself safe from guns, she joins the Iwaki Alpha as one of only two cruisers with a Smoke Launcher charge. Identical to those found on destroyers, this opens up both offensive and defensive uses of this consumable. The Mikhail Kutuzov only starts with a single charge initially, but this can be expanded to 3 with the Superintendent Captain Skill and the premium version of the same consumable.
Unlike other high tier Soviet cruisers, she does not have access to radar. She also lacks access to any form of aircraft to extend vision around her. This limits her anti-destroyer abilities to the use of Hydroacoustic Search.
This is one of the Mikhail Kutuzov's greatest strengths. She not only has good AA strength, it's also clustered into two long-ranged brackets -- 5.0km and 3.5km. With 117dps coming from her dual purpose, 100mm guns, the Mikhail Kutuzov has one of the strongest long-ranged AA bubbles found from a cruiser in the game. When this combines with AA-skills and a Defensive Fire consumable, enemy attack craft waves melt away quickly.
This makes the Mikhail Kutuzov an excellent anti-aircraft escort vessel.
I have followed the progress of the Mikhail Kutuzov with some interest since her arrival in World of Warships, particularly as she dodged the Basic Fire Training / Advanced Fire Training / Expert Marksman nerfs that have afflicted the more senior light cruisers found in the game. On the one hand, I was glad to see that this expensive ship wasn't getting nerfed a month after Wargaming had sold it to their customers. On the other, I worried this might push the Mikhail Kutuzov into the role of the next Gremyashchy.
Like the pre-order destroyer, the Mikhail Kutuzov is better than the same tier Soviet counterpart found in the tech tree. You need only go through the checklist, comparing the Chapayev to the Mikhail Kutuzov.
Gunnery: They have the same guns, but the Mikhail Kutuzov is longer ranged. (Winner: Mikhail Kutuzov)
Secondaries: The Chapayev's torpedoes hit harder and are faster but she has less of them and they are painfully short ranged. (Winner: Mikhail Kutuzov).
Durability: The Chapayev has less HP and a similar armour scheme, but has radar. The Mikhail Kutuzov has more HP, better AA power and a smoke screen. (Winner: Mikhail Kutuzov)
Maneuverability: The Chapayev is 0.5 knots faster but has much worse rudder shift and almost a 900m turning circle. (Winner: Mikhail Kutuzov)
Concealment: The Chapayev is more stealth (Winner: Chapayev).
Now, I like the Chapayev -- though I understand she's not an easy ship to like. The Mikhail Kutuzov has a very similar, long range play style with escort qualities that I enjoy. However, like the entire Soviet Cruiser line, she is incredibly fragile. This results in a high risk, high reward type of play that isn't for everyone. You won't be successfully leading many charges with the Mikhail Kutuzov but you need to be flexible in order to help secure a win.
What concerns me the most is that this continues the trend of a premium tier 8 cruiser being arguably better than many of the research based tier 8 ships. I am not certain if this is a flaw of the Atago and Mikhail Kutuzov or more of a reflection of the tier 8 cruisers being in a rough spot. Certainly, few would argue that the New Orleans needs a look at. Though the Mogami performs well, a few quality of life changes would make her more enjoyable. The Admiral Hipper feels under gunned.
At least for her part, the Mikhail Kutuzov is a solid ship.
Would I recommend?
The cost of the Mikhail Kutuzov is rather high. Depending where you live in the world, this can be as much as three months worth of premium time. The Mikhail Kutuzov is not a good lone-wolf vessel. She's not a solo hunter-killer the way the Atago can manage on occasion as a top tier ship. Be aware that when you're purchasing her, you're picking up a support ship -- one that fights best from the second line when no one's looking at you.
The best analogue from the regular tech tree are ships like the Budyonny, Shchors and Chapayev. If you enjoyed these Soviet 152mm armed cruisers, then the Mikhail Kutuzov will be a sound purchase.
Your first slot is easy. Main Battery Modification 1 is the only one that makes sense.
For your second slot, you've got two good choices: Gun Fire Control Modification 1 should be your choice if you intend to just focus on doing the damages with your guns, particularly at long range. This is a good choice when you first get her and should be the default most players reach for. AA Guns Modification 2 is an interesting choice for players more interested in playing a support role. This increases your dual-purpose AA compliment from 5km to 6km and everything else onboard up from 3.5km to 4.2km which is very respectable.
For your third slot, it's really up to you -- they're all "meh" choices in my opinion. Though given the fragility of her citadel, you might find the most traction out of Propulsion Modification 1.
For your fourth slot, the best choice is Steering Gear Modification 2 to reduce her rudder shift time.
For your fifth slot, I would strongly recommend Concealment Modification 1 to reduce her surface detection range to 13.1km.
I would very strongly recommend grabbing the premium consumable, Smoke Generator 2, to give you an additional charge. In addition, Hydroacoustic Search is of less value for the Mikhail Kutuzov than Defensive Fire -- generally you don't want to be up close in this ship without a spotter plane to assist in unmasking torpedo strikes and destroyers, though your mileage may vary.
Recommended Captain Skills:
If you're progressing down the Soviet cruiser tree, then once you reach the Kirov, a lot of the same play style carries over to the Mikhail Kutuzov. This means there's quite a bit of overlap on skills. You need to decide, however, if you intend to specialize as an escort cruiser (with a focus on AA power) or long range gunnery. These two paths will largely determine how you select your skills.
For tier one, Situational Awareness should be one of the first skills you grab. For AA escort ships, you'll want Basic Fire Training to increase your AA power for your 15th skill point.
For tier two, I strongly recommend investing in Last Stand. The thin skin of the Mikhail Kutuzov means you will take a lot of critical damage from high explosive rounds, including hits to your steering gears and engine. This can help mitigate needing to reach for your Damage Control Party consumable.
For tier three, Superintendent is your best choice, to add an additional charge to all of your mounted consumables. Most importantly, this affects your Smoke Generator and Defensive Fire consumables.
For tier four, your choice varies depending on the role you choose. Demolition Expert is your best choice if you want to specialize in long range gunnery. Otherwise, Advanced Fire Training or Manual Fire Control for AA Armament is recommended with both being desirable for a dedicated AA ship, skipping tier 5.
For tier five, Concealment Expert should be picked up for players looking to specialize in long range gunnery. AA-escort ships can skip tier 5 and instead take another tier 4 skill and Basic Fire Training from tier 1.