Content of the article: "Yahagi – the half-aed guide"
Before you read: The following text may contain sarcasm, inapproriate comparisons and way less numbers you'd expect from a review. It's supposed to be a fun read first and foremost while not focusing too much on stats. Also warning: a lot of possibly insensitive jokes lie ahead – if you are feel offended by it, I hereby apologize in advance.
Konnichiwa, dear reader! Welcome to the half-a**ed dojo. There are many reasons that might have brought you to this place where true warriors are forged. The most likely ones are 1.) that you just realized that this campaign offers more than just one ship this time and want to try *that other ship* at least once before going back to Massachusetts, or 2.) that you are a filthy seal clubber that wants to annoy the living hell out of new players in lower tiers (lol, admit it). In both cases – you came to the right place. Because this lesson is all about the new T4 IJN premium cruiser Yahagi. So let's find out whether the Yahagi gets elimiated in the qualifying rounds of this martial arts tournament or whether it will go all the way to the finals.
Yahagi is an Agano-class light cruiser that was commissioned in 1943. The Agano-class is best described as the military equivalent of the bunch of flowers a panicking man bought at the gas station on the way home from work because he suddenly realized that he forgot about his wedding aniversary – too little, too late and pretty half-a**ed even by those low standards. The class was born out of the IJNs "sudden" realization during the 1930s that the WW1 vintage CLs that made up the backbone of the cruiser force were utterly unable to effectively fight modern destroyers. But since the IJN staff was as stubborn as a mule and insisted on grandiose vanity projects (*cough* Yamato *cough*) the construction of the ships delayed way into the war. Fun fact: the first Cleveland class cruisers which were designed years after the Aganos (and were waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more capable in all respects) were commisioned before the Aganos.
Luckily this "too little, too late" problems do not really factor into the game as Yahagi is tiered a lot lower than its contemporaries – at T4. The ship features a 25.7k HP pool which is decent if unremarkable. One of the Yahagis defining features is its armor…or better put the complete lack thereof. Apart from the 60mm citadel belt Yahagi is completely coated in 13mm armor which can be penetrated by each and every main gun of any ship in the game – sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, it's not as bad as you might think, but I'll explain later. So while Yahagi definitely does not feature a samurais armor, it features a ninjas agility and stealth: you get 10.1km concealment, 36kt top speed, 690m turning radius and 5.1s rudder shift. Yahagi can pull off better dance moves than any J-pop band and can disappear faster than the self-confidence of a middle school boy that has to ask a girl out for his first school dance.
When looking at Yahagis armament the first thing you'll probably notice is the lackluster main battery rifle count, especially considering the small caliber. Yahagi features a measly six 152mm guns arranged in three twin turrets. Those guns feature a equally measly 9s reload. So you might ask yourself what saving grace the ships main battery has. The answer: 2600 maximum HE shell damage and 13% stock fire chance. Yahagis HE hits hard for a T4 CL and will set fire pretty easily – though the DPM loss is still noticable when comparing it to other CLs at the same tier. The stock range is 13.5km but with perks and inspirations can grow to a very decent 15.5km. You'll have to sling a lot of HE at range and limit your use of AP to very close distances as the pen is… I don't really want to make a joke about "small penetration power" in this context, sorry. The guns are the same that Kongo and Fuso feature in the single mount casemates and thus the shells are of WW1 vintage and feature poor penetration characteristics. Nevertheless they will reliably citadel cruisers in brawls. For everything else – stick to the HE. Oh…and the turret traverse is 30s…well, when playing at range that's not as bad as it sounds but still isn't good.
Yahagis biggest offensive potential is in the torpedo armament – the ship features two quadruple 610mm torpedo launchers. Yahagis torpedoes travel for 12km at 60kts and every balance lance hits for a massive 17.2k maximum damage. While the 120s reload is pretty long for T4 and the launch angles require you to be full broadside, a single torpedo hit will completely cripple every cruiser and multple torpedo hits will absolutely mangle every BB in Yahagis MM spread. And the best thing – Yahagi comes with a comfortable 1.9km stealth torping window. So while Yahagi definitely isn't the dojos best student in hand to hand combat, nobody can hold a candle to it in a lance fight.
When it comes to the consumable department Yahagi absolutely delivers. Like a real ninja it features a tool for every conceivable situation. You have access to two charges of standard hydro acoustic search, two catapult fighter that's active for 90s and two charges of
NOS speed boosts. This means that Yahagi has a little ace up it's sleeve for nearly every situation and gives the ship a pretty high level of utility. Need to make a quick getaway? Use speedboost! Need to charge an enemy smoke cloud to flush out a DD? Use hydro! Need to spot a BB through some islands to line up torps? Use the fighter!
So how do you channel your inner martial arts master and defeat your opponents? The first thing to notice is that Yahagi is all about offense and dishing out damage while not receiving any in return. Its playstyle is probably best described by shamelessly stealing from the motto of a dojo from a famous karate movie…let's just call it "Snake Karate". "Strike First! Strike Hard! No Mercy!". You always want to shoot first by using Yahagis range on both its guns and torpedoes and thus control the engagement. Don't get cornered by enemies and don't let them get the jump on you. You always want to strike hard as Yahagi is features mediocre reload speed on both guns and torps. This means that you want to make your shots count. You want to show no mercy to opponents as Yahagi is exceedingly vulnerable due to its lack of meaningful armor – if you have the chance to finish off an enemy ship, take it! If you don't, that ship could potentially land devastating hits on you even if it's a DD.
Yahagi has two possible ways to play it – as a long range kiting cruiser or as a grossly oversized DD with an emphasis on long range torpedo strikes. Both methods work and are built on the same rules – when fighting cruisers and DDs you want to use your agility and speed to dodge shells and will rely on quick getaways when running risk of getting overwhelmed. Every small caliber shell will hurt you and 8 inch AP shells (from ships like Furutaka or Pensacola) will overmatch your bow and stern for often catastrophic results. So when meeting CAs you get as much range as possible between you and them and annoy them from long range. DDs on the other hand usually don't stand much chance against Yahagi as the HE hits hard and the combination of hydro, high mobility and plane make it a challenge for a DD player. So if a cap features good cover (like on Strait for example) don't be afraid to contest the cap against a DD. Running them down with speed boost active is also pretty hilarious. Just watch out to not show too much broadside as gunboat DDs can easily citadel Yahagi with AP.
When fighting a BB though Yahagis playstyle does a complete 180° – you'll try to get to mid range (~8km) and show the absolute flattest broadside you can. On a ship with armor that bad this seems to be completely dumb, but trust me on this one. It's basically Yahagis "wax on, wax off" moment as it subtly teaches you a very fundamental aspect of this ship. Because Yahagis paper thin armor and slim profile will result in BB caliber AP shells just flying through the ship for overpens when you show full broadside. So do not try to dodge or angle against BBs that fire AP! Any BB caliber shell that hits you when you are angled will likely cause massive damage. The flat broadside will also enable you to get back to lesson 2 "Strike hard!" by retaliating with your eight 12km killjoys.
Who will be Yahagi-dos master student? You'll have three options here: Yamamoto, Mikawa or AL Atago – all of which bring their own unique properties that help Yahagi. Yamamoto will enable you to punch harder, Mikawa will enable to evade enemy attacks easier and AL Atago will help with your torpedoes and HE damage. My personal favorite here is Yamamoto with Scott and Kusnetzov as inspirations as he will help to increase the range( Beyond Range), fire chance (Igniter), AP punch (Punch Through) and shell accuracy (Fixated) as well as giving you more consumable charges (Fully Packed). I would actually **not** recommend using AL Atago over Yamamoto – Atagos Arsonist perk might seem tempting to buff fire chance and HE damage at first. But the 10% additional damage taken debuff will get you absolutely annihilated in Yahagi and you'll miss out on Fully Packed.
But…wait…there's a mysterious student that just entered the dojo. My god could that be? Yes, it's Raizo Tanaka!!! If you want to go full ham with your torpedo armament Tanaka is a valid choice as he'll considerably buff torpedo reload, concealment and torpedo damage.
So is Yahagi-san the new champion in town? Well, not quite. The comparatively low gun DPM and insanely bad armor prevents it from reaching the top spot imho. Also it's a little tricky to play so newer players might have a hard time at first. But – Yahagi nevertheless is a very fun ship to play that can do some serious damage and will drive new BB players insane when played right. Imho Yahagi is perhaps the best seal clubber among all T4 cruisers as it has a very high skill ceiling that good players can abuse to no end and utterly demolish and demoralize enemy teams. But the absolute best thing about Yahagi is – it's a premium and basically free! If you grind the campaign to get the Massachusetts you'll automatically get this gem when you reach rank 40. Even if you normally do not buy the admiralty backing to receive the ships – buy it this time as this campaign really is great value and you'll even be able to reach rank 40 and get Yahagi if you only play the last havoc of the campaign! So no excuses anymore – enter Yahagi-do Karate now and learn to beat up some low tier players when T7 teams frustrate the hell out of you once again!
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