World Of Warships Saipan Guide for Random Battles

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This week I realized that I’ve played a 250th battle in my Saipan. It is probably a large enough number to warrant a forum post which summarizes my experience with this incredibly fun boat.

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Below are my current stats with the ship. I don’t mean to brag (well, maybe just a little bit :)). Rather, I want to establish my credibility, and make it clear that what I’m going to describe in the following sections works quite well for me. And yes, my solo win rate/damage/airplane kills are pretty much same.

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A couple of quick disclaimers before we dive into details:

(i) This is the way I play the ship. I happen to have quite a number of strong opinions on how Saipan and carriers in general should be played. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone who doesn’t do what I do is a n00b that should immediately uninstall; I firmly believe that you should play first and foremost in a way that will make the experience fun for you. If, for example, you find the air superiority loadout to be more fun (be it because you like shutting down enemy CVs, or because you don’t have much luck with manual torpedo bomber drops) — more power to you. However, I must point out that if you want to win more often than not, my methods are probably going to be better than whatever alternative approach you choose.

(ii) As the title suggests, this is a guide for Random Battles only. Saipan in Ranked is a whole other beast that I don’t really want to get into.

Loadout

Okay, let’s begin. First, any new Saipan player will immediately ask himself/herself: which loadout should I use? One with three fighters and one dive bomber squads (hereafter refered to as 3/1), or one with two fighters and two torpedo bombers squads (2/2)? I, for one, firmly believe that 2/2 is the correct answer here, and in fact I played every single one of my battles save one with that loadout. Let me explain why. In my opinion, these are the main duties of a Saipan (or any carrier) player, from most to least important:

(1) Killing enemy ships. Don’t ever feel bad about expending a torpedo sortie on a ship with 1K HP, unless he was going to die within 5-10 seconds of your strike anyway. In WoWS, even if the ship has 1 hit point left, the salvos still do full damage and the torpedoes are just as deadly. You see a BB crawling back behind enemy lines at 1K health? Kill him, that way he doesn’t heal up and come back to citadel the bejeezus out of your team’s ship. You see an RN cruiser at 1K hiding behind terrain? Kill him, so he doesn’t smoke up when the consumable is off cooldown, and wreck your teammate with impunity for a minute or two. An absolute majority of games are won by kills, always remember that.

(2) Damaging enemy ships. This is a corollary to point #1. If you take off half HP from an enemy battleship, it will become that much easier for your teammates to kill that ship. Remember, absolute damage doesn’t matter; the percent damage does. For example, generally cruisers should be prioritized over battleships if you’re certain in your ability to hit them with minimal airplane losses, just because losing 20k health is so much more impactful for a cruiser than a battleship (not to mention that cruisers don’t have good torpedo buldges and will take full torpedo damage).

(3) Protecting your ships from the enemy, i.e. preventing the enemy carrier from killing and damaging your ships. Yep, this is a less important task than killing and damaging the enemy ships. If you have to choose between protecting your strike airplanes that are going to target and protecting your fleet from the enemy air, most of the time the former is a better choice. If you play air superiority game, the best you can hope for is shutting down the enemy carrier (which is not always possible). That means you simply eliminated two carriers out of the match, and now it will come down to a coin toss based on the skill level of the other 22 players. Why would you ever want that?

(4) Scouting. That’s right, this is the least important carrier duty. Let’s not forget, we’re talking about Random Battles here. Truth be told, most players won’t be able to properly utilize the vision you’re giving them. If I have to choose between killing and damaging enemy ships, and trying to enable my teammates to kill and damage enemy ships, I’ll almost always chose the first option — because I know that Saipan in my hands is most likely much better at killing and damaging enemy ships than my teammates. Now, don’t for a second think that point 1 is always more important than point 4, for example. Use common sense. You have to call off a strike for a half a minute in order to wreck the enemy bomber clump? Do it. You have an opportunity to shadow an IJN destroyer that’s harassing your advancing fleet on the strong flank, even at the cost of less efficient strike? Do it. Always do the thing that will get you closer to victory.

Anyways, now that I’ve listed your main objectives, let’s return to the loadout questions. The 2/2 loadout is better at killing and dealing damage, the 3/1 loadout is better at protecting your fleet from the air and scouting. It should be clear by now why I will whole-heartily recommend the 2/2 option. Your realistic alpha damage is much higher (i.e. you’re much more likely to hit most of the torpedoes than most of the bombs). Your damage over time from flooding is much higher. You can stack damage over time much more easily. You get more flexibility with strikes, for example being able to kill a badly damaged ship with one TB squad, and going after somebody with another one. The aircraft turnaround time is a bit lower. Besides, having two fighters instead of three won’t make you impotent when it comes to defending your fleet from the air or to scouting. I shoot down, on average, more than thirty aircraft every single battle with the 2/2 setup. This isn’t the Ranger dilemma, when you have to pick between a fighter-less strike loadout and an air superiority loadout that does little damage; you can have your cake and eat it too.

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Side-note: for Ranked 3/1 is better, because vision and being able to effectively attack destroyers is a lot more important there. And that’s all I’ll say about Ranked.

Upgrades & Signals

These are the upgrades I run on my Saipan:

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Air Groups Modification 1 (AGM1) — pretty obvious. You will use your two fighter squads extensively every  battle, so +10% to DPS is welcome. The other upgrade is nearly useless anyways.

Air Groups Modification 2 (AGM2) — same thing. Bonus to fighter survivability and especially ammunition is nice (you get an extra strafe and a half out of it). These fighter upgrades mesh well with the air supremacy commander perk. FCM1 won’t give you all that much, because you turnaround time is already very low. AAGM2 is nearly useless as well.

Damage Control Systems Modification 1 (DCSM1) — a bit better than useless. This distinguishes it nicely from the other two upgrades that are completely useless.

Steering Gears Modification 2 (SGM2) — I have this on all my boats. Torpedo dodged is HP saved. Helps quite a bit when the enemy carrier is trying to snipe you.

Now, signals:

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Juliet Whiskey Unaone — Saipan’s areal torpedo don’t have the best flooding chance, +15% is very nice. As for magazine detonation, carriers in-game don’t have magazines, so we’re all good :)

Victor Lima — same. Though the increase in flooding chance is only 4% here, so only run this flag if you have enough of them in stock.

You can run whatever you want in the other two slots. I’m running flags that increase commander XP because I use my Saipan to generate free captain XP. Instead, you might run November Echo Setteseven for example, to make yourself slightly more safe against carrier snipes. Up to you.

Captain skills

The core eleven-point build is as follows:
Aircraft Servicing Expert (ASE): bonus to aircraft HP and service time

Expert Rear Gunner (ERG): because, apparently, one-seater Skyraiders can shoot backwards in this game. I just imagine a pilot spray-n-praying with a handgun over his shoulder, Annie Oakley-style

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Torpedo Armament Expert (TAE): better torpedo bomber turnaround time

Air Supremacy (AS): increases your fighter squad power by 33%, makes Saipan borderline OP

Dogfighting Expert (DE) (+10% ammunition for fighters)

Now, Torpedo Acceleration (TA) isn’t core, but it’s still nice to have, at least in my opinion. Mind you, this won’t make your torpedoes reach the aim point faster, despite an increase in speed (from 35kts to 40kts). The torpedo warhead arming distance is time-dependent, so they’ll reach the target point at about the same time. However, faster torpedoes will allow you to strike at turning targets with greater ease, and also the distance between torpedoes decreases (albeit very slightly), which could mean the difference between getting three torpedoes on target, and getting two or even one.

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That now leaves us with six points to spend. I would recommend Concealment Expert (CE) + Adrenaline Rush (AR). CE enables you to stay a bit closer to the fleet, bringing your surface concealment from 11.9 to 10.0km, making you a tad bit harder to find when an enemy carrier is trying top snipe you. AR accelerates the reload of your aircraft by as much as 20% (however, the time for take-off remains the same). The catch to AR is, you’d have to take a large amount of damage and then survive long enough for the higher aircraft cycling rate to matter. So, it is for the most part useful if there was an unsuccessful carrier snipe attempt against you.

This is our final captain build:

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Couple comments on other options.

Firstly, you can pick Basic Fire Training (BFT) + Emergency Takeoff (EM) instead of CE+AR. BFT makes you safer against carrier snipes (+20% AA DPS is nothing to sneeze at). EM helps against DDs that have managed to sneak to your ship and are shooting it up — you’ll be set on fire, and damage control won’t help because you’ll just get light up again (so save it for ~3 fires!), but if you can still cycle torpedo bombers while on fire you have good chances of killing that DD and surviving. Still, I believe that CE+AR is better.

Secondly, a side-note about the one-point Evasive Maneuver (EM) skill: not worth it on Saipan. You’ll forget to use it properly from time to time (i.e. clicking near carrier for returning aircraft, and only hitting the F key when they’re under attack or have gotten to the carrier), thus increasing the bomber cycling time. And your airplanes are fast enough to out-run enemy fighters anyway. However, this is a great skill for tech tree USN carriers, which incidentally means that Saipan requires a dedicated captain.

Below, I’ll describe some hints/pointers I can think of, both general as well as specific to a particular phase of a typical match.

 

General tips

 

Look at the map, often

 

Study the tactical situation carefully and act accordingly. The real power of the carrier is applying pressure anywhere on the map; select targets based on (from most to least important):

(i) How dangerous they are to your teammates.

(ii) How dangerous their AA is. Minimize TB losses, you can completely lose your two full TBs squadrons exactly four times in a given match, and that’s that.

(iii) How close they are to you; given your fast servicing time most of the time is spent flying to and from target.

(iv) How easy they are to hit: slow rudder shift, long hull. For instance, I rarely land more than two torpedoes out of three onto New York / New Mexico, because of their short and stubby hull. Fusos, on the other hand, are fairly easy to hit with all three.

 

Generally, I prioritize heavy-hitting battleships with mediocre AA and little AA cover from nearby ships. IJN and KM BBs are the prime candidate here, multiple torpedo hits on Izumos and Freddies are fairly easy, and will make the match that much easier for your teammates. Don’t be afraid to go after cruisers, particularly cruisers that are not very maneuverable (e.g. Molotov), or don’t have DF (RN cruisers) — a single torpedo bomber squad can easily cripple a full-HP cruiser.

 

You can also start going after battleship with heavy AA (e.g. NC/Iowa), if you have no better targets, or it’s important to damage them for one reason or another. Make sure they’re not near other ships with decent AA, their AA alone will hurt.  Even better if they’re not at full HP, that means they’ve probably lost a good number of their AA mounts. Stack your torpedo bombers, to minimize the exposure to AA. Most of the time expect to lose at least a couple TBs before they even make a drop against NC/Iowa, and more on the way out, so make it count. A few know-hows:

(i) Ship’s AA aura can only attack one aircraft squadron at a time. That means that when your bombers enter and leave AA aura in a stacked clump, they’ll take less overall damage when compared to bombers that enter that aura one after another. This is very important — always stack bombers that are entering strong AA! This also reduces the amount of micro-management, because you can do a single manual drop command for both stacked bombers. Just be sure that your bomber clump doesn’t get strafed by enemy fighters.

(ii) AA AI is generally dumb, and will shoot at the first airplane that enters that aura. If you see your CV teammate going for a ship with heavy AA, follow those airplanes with your TBs fairly up-close (few second behind, or so). This way his aircraft will take the brunt of the damage, and your TBs will drop in full strength.

(iii) When you lose an aircraft, your torpedo cone moves forward a little bit to re-adjust. Aim slightly behind the intended aim point, if you know you’ll lose aircraft on the way

(iv) It’s super easy to aim when there is only one aircraft left in the squad — the torpedoes will travel right in the center of the cone. That way you can easily land torpedoes even when your torpedo bombers are panicked by DF or enemy fighters. Keep this in mind.

 

Manual torpedo drops are your best friend

 

Always, always, always use manual torpedo drops. If you’re not good with those — load into the training room mod, and practice them until you are close to flawless. You should be able to reliably hit maneuvering battleships, maneuvering cruisers, and also DDs that are sailing in a straight line. I cannot stress this enough — good manual torpedo drop mechanics is bread and butter of a good Saipan player. Also, did you know that you can queue up a manual strike? This is useful against AFK or beached ships if you have another pressing task, for example if you have to micro-manage your fighters.

 

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Strafes are your second best friend

 

Learn to utilize strafes, much like manual torpedo bombs they’re a must-know for a successful Saipan captain. Your four airplanes will kill every single enemy squadron when strafing them from behind. Almost all enemy airplanes in the screencap below died to just one strafe of my fighter (couple of TBs lived, I killed them with the next strafe).

 

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Head-on strafes can be effective too, if you are not able to setup for a proper strafe from behind, be it due to a lack of time, or because there are enemy fighters, or because the enemy CV is good at dodging strafes. They will kill 1-3 airplanes in each enemy squadron, depending on RNG. Don’t forget to shoot down catapult fighters and spotters — this denies enemy vision, makes your own torpedo bomber strikes much easier, and just generally annoys the red players. I would also highly suggest using strafes here, you don’t want to get locked up in someone’s AA aura, these catapult airplanes can sometimes last for a very long time if you just click on them.

 

Patch 0.6.3 introduced a fighter disengage mechanic, which makes Saipan ridiculously overpowered in the air. If your fighters are locked up in air combat, you can alt-attack out of it at any time. Now, here is the kicker: all other carriers lose an airplane for this luxury of disengaging. But not your little CVL of doom! With this mechanic you should almost never lose fighters in 1v1 combat, as long as you pay attention. Strafe away once your fighters become locked up, and then either run away (you’re faster than Ranger/Hiryu airplanes), or, better yet, strafe the enemy fighters as they sit there all confused. Right now there is a glitch (?) in the game, whereas the enemy fighters will remain “glued” to their place for a couple seconds after your fighter strafes out of the dogfight, this makes killing them very easy with properly timed double strafes. In the screenshot below my fighter was locked in with two of Hiryu’s fighters. I strafe in with another fighter, and strafe-disengage my first fighter for free. Enemy losses: 6, my losses: 0.

 

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Another small protip. Fighters which are locked in combat don’t occupy the same spot in the sky, so you can successfully strafe the enemy while keeping your airplanes intact. Why even waste ammo on a strafe-disengage if you don’t have to?

 

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DOT the i’s (and also BBs, CAs, and CLs)

 

Utilize damage over time (DOT) mechanics. If you notice some BB using his damage control party (DCP) — torpedo him once the invulnerability period runs out. If you flooded a BB and he used DCP — ping him, and tell your teammates that he’s got no damage control, and is a prime candidate for burning. You could also try to stack DOT with your torpedo bombers (attack with one, wait for DCP to be used and to run out, attack with a second one). I must admit, though, I rarely try this, due to how unreliable areal torpedo flooding is. Plus I’m generally an impatient guy.

 

DF? What DF?

 

Don’t be afraid of going into active DF, as long as it’s not from a powerful AA cruiser. This is the reason why we stacked airplanes earlier: even if RNG is less than favorable, one of your squadrons should make it to the target. Screenshot below shows my attack with panicked aircraft at the start of the game. That Freddie ate three torpedoes for 23463 damage, and missed the fourth one by a very thin margin. Yes, you’re likely to suffer heavy losses when you do this (only two airplanes made it out in this situation), so don’t make going into DF a habit throughout the game, you’ll quickly run out of airplanes. However, at times (e.g. start of the game) you just can’t strike anything not protected by DF in this phase, because the enemy team is together. Plus, heavily damaging an enemy ship despite DF is bad for the enemy’s morale, and might cause the red teammates to start arguing with each other, making you more likely to win.

 

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Fancy feet

 

You can juke catapult fighters with relative ease. They’re controlled by a very dumb AI, and will only attack you when you’re inside a certain range of the ship, and/or in proximity to them. They are also generally slow to re-adjust their course. Your torpedo bombers are fast, and can avoid them with a bit of micro-control, to drop the torpedoes before the catapult fighter gets to them and panics them. This is an important skill to have, given how many battleships nowadays save one or two catapult fighters to defend against air strikes, so I suggest you practice this in the training room as well.

 

 

Now, for tips on various phases of a typical match.

Early Game

 

Before the match even starts take a careful look at the enemy ships, and make a mental note who should be avoided. Try to not go anywhere near Atlantas (they’re especially nasty because they can attack your airplanes before becoming visible), Kutuzovs, and Baltimores — they will shred through your airplanes with Defensive Fire (DF) very, very fast. Iowa/NC/NO should be generally avoided as well, though you can start attacking them during mid-game. Pretty much all other ships are fair game, but of course don’t try to go after Cleveland if there is a juicy Nagato nearby. Again, use common sense.

 

I’ve come up with a fairly specific way of launching aircraft at the start of my games. Launch torpedo bombers first, of course. As the second bomber squad becomes active, I assign both my fighters to guard each bomber (they start taking off at this point), and I also maneuver the first bomber to stack the two TBs on top of each other. Some of the benefits of stacking bombers are outlined above; one more reason for doing so during early game is because this way both of your fighters will be close behind your bombers, which gives you a bit more protection against enemy aircraft. Again, be really careful with enemy fighter strafes, or you’ll be a sad panda.

 

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When it’s very early in the match people still don’t pay attention, and you might be able to drop torpedoes on a cruiser before that player manages to activate DF. I do this fairly regularly (and chuckle evilly in the process).

 

Be sure to get your carrier moving, and don’t stop unless you’re certain there is 0% chance of some DD sneaking up on you, or the enemy carrier trying to do something funny. At the start of the game, it is sufficient to move around in a circle at full speed.

 

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If your torpedo bombers have striked the enemy and are already almost landing on your carrier, and there is still no sign of the enemy aircraft (or red strike aircraft is suspiciously missing), your spidey sense should be going off. More often than not, it means that the enemy CV player is crawling along the map’s edge, in a vain attempt to snipe you. Move both of your fighters back, and cover the probable approaches (see the screencap below). Make sure to pay attention to a possible “spotted” warning, it will go off before you see the enemy airplanes. When you see an enemy strike attempt coming, you have at least one fighter in position to do a head-on strafe (if the strike aircraft is covered by fighters), or an annihilating strafe from behind if there is no fighter cover (ahem, strike Ranger). In the mean time, move your second fighter close to the carrier, in order to panic airplanes that are dropping bombs/torpedoes (quickly switch fighter focus from one to another to accomplish that). Adjust your carrier’s path to keep the enemy airplanes on the bow/stern, and don’t forget to ctrl+click in order to focus enemy airplanes for a 30% AA DPS boost.

 

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I’ve been a target of an attempted snipe a couple dozen Saipan games, give or take, and because of this strategy the enemy has not managed to accomplished that feat even once. Well, not counting the one time when I got DC’d. Thanks, Comcast.

 

Mid-Game

 

Okay, your first one or two strike are in, your carrier is moving, you’re safe from an attempted snipe. Now determine where exactly your team is moving, and follow them. Don’t just circle in one spot if you see an exposed flank, that’s how carriers randomly die to being spotted by some sneaky DD. Don’t go to the map’s, edge, it’s best if you stay kind of close to the “front-line”, to minimize the bomber flight time. Note, here I did two things: (1) moved away from my initial spawn point, which was about where that Pensacola is now (2) stayed relatively close to my team, instead of running off along the bottom map’s edge into the left corner.

 

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Do your best to provide air cover for your team, and to spot the enemy fleet (especially DDs that are capping, or that are annoying your team with torpedoes out of stealth). As we’ve discussed above, you should prioritize escorting your torpedo bombers, if they’re in a danger of being attacked. Generally, if you’re facing two+ enemy fighters (AS Ranger, 2/2/2 Hiryu, etc), always escort your bombers unless the enemy CV is very bad. However, if you’re facing just one or even zero fighters, or your torpedo bombers are returning to your carrier, feel free to roam with your own F4Us. Spot the enemy DDs (especially ones that are capping, or are good at stealth torping). Posture to prevent the enemy strike aircraft from reach your teammates by moving to constantly be between your ships and them; stay close to your ship’s AA auras. In the screencap below I was able to zone out the 2/2/2 Hiryu’s full strike package until almost 15:00 in the match; by then I’ve already conducted two full strikes of my own.

 

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End-Game

 

Now, if you’ve handily winning or losing as the match is drawing to a conclusion, simply try to do more damages and inflate your stats :child:

 

If, however, the match is still in balance, try to concentrate on the tactical situation even more — you’ve now become the deciding factor. If you’re running low on airplanes, be extremely careful with target selection. Don’t throw away your remaining TBs to get a torpedo hit on a Kutuzov, unless it is a win condition. If you’re running out of points in domination, quickly figure out who you can kill quickly and assuredly, in order to get the points back.

 

You’ll often need to kill a DD with your torpedo bombers, most often to protect a cap. The great thing is, even if you’re running low on airplanes, it’s a very low-cost affair in terms of torpedo bomber losses (unless it’s a Fletcher with DF, or Udaloi/Akazuki with manual AA, or something like that), and you can take your sweet time to line up the drop. I generally use single TB drops (too lazy/confident for doubles), and this often bites me in the rear, so you might want to be more patient than me and go for cross-drops. However, I’d estimate that I still mage to hit a DD in every other single-TB drop, so it kind of evens out. TBs will always out-turn a DD, and that enables you to do two things: either try to catch him in a perpendicular drop during a rudder shift, or drop behind him and trap him inside the converging torpedo tracks. Both methods will often lead to a kill. However, this takes quite a bit of practice, so training room is once again your friend here.

 

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Replay With Commentary

 

I took one of my better Saipan battles, and just commented my thought process and various actions throughout the match. It will reinforce the points above with visual demonstration.

 

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/133728218

 

Summary

 

Saipan has a tremendous ability to carry, I’ve had games where more than half of my team was dead before the enemy lost a couple of ships, and still was able to claw my way to victory.

 

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This is definitely one of my top three favorite pixel boats, and I’m extremely grateful to LittleWhiteMouse for her excellent review, which convinced me to buy Saipan when this ship was first on sale :)

 

Good luck with your Saipan battles!

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