For a tl;dr, just read the bold text!
First, I think it's best that everyone understands just how important artillery is. Artillery on your team is important when:
They are firing at targets in your vicinity. This is pretty much a no-brainer. If artillery is firing at the same target as you, or any tanks near you, you have the upper hand.
They are firing at targets that are not in your vicinity. Okay, so they're not helping you kill your targets. But that's okay! As long as the enemy team knows there's artillery actively supporting your team, they're going to be hesitant to push forward and put themselves in your artillery's line of fire. When artillery starts getting kills, the tanks on the other team will see that. It doesn't really matter which side of the map the artillery is firing on, because just by firing they're bringing down the other team's morale and giving you opportunities to attack when your target hesitates.
- They are not firing at all. This is not so much of a no-brainer. Let's say your artillery hasn't fired a single shot. Maybe they're afk. Odds are, the other team will still be just as hesitant to move up because they know there's artillery. They just don't know the artillery isn't firing.
Third, don't blame everything on artillery. They get blamed way too much for things that are (most of the time) not their fault. If you stop and think about it, there are a LOT of different reasons as to why your artillery didn't support you and you died. A few reasons are:
- Your team (and you) left a flank wide open. See example above.
- You did not communicate effectively with your artillery (see below).
- Artillery couldn't get a shot on your target(s). This is a very common occurrence, and artillery gets blamed a lot for this, mostly by people who haven't played artillery before. Depending on which models your artillery are, they very well might not have been able to get a clean shot on your target. If your target is sitting right up against a building or hill or any other obstruction, it's most likely very hard to get a shot on your target. This brings me to my next point...
Shell travel time: unless you're really good at artillery, it's very hard to hit a moving target. Your shot has to be calculated perfectly. And because of the arc that the shell travels in,the travel time is often a lot higher than most other tanks.
Reload time: most artillery are very powerful. This is balanced by the large amount of time they take to reload after every shot.
Movement: artillery usually isn't very agile or fast. It takes a while for artillery to change position or maneuver between shots. Also, in the artillery view, if you move your sights horizontally too far, your hull has to move to adjust and this resets the aiming time.
Aiming time: this is usually also quite long. And as I said above, when the hull moves, the aiming time is reset.
- Armor: some are artillery are strong and can take a few hits, while some are weak and get one-shotted. It varies, but artillery armor usually isn't up to par. This, coupled with their lack of mobility makes them very prone to small, fast tanks that easily slip through the front-line defenses.
Requesting fire. The default key for this is your "T" key. Simply aim at a target and press "T". This will ping the map, make a sound, and notify your team that you need help attacking your target. If you use this key, odds are you'll catch your artillery's attention and receive supporting fire in seconds. Just hang tight, keep the enemy spotted, and let your artillery support you.
Pinging the map. This is just as important as requesting fire. Hold down your "ctrl" key and left-click anywhere on your minimap to draw attention to a certain location. Artillery can see tracers, trees falling, anything that's destructible, etc. and if you tell them where to look, they'll be able to blindly shoot at the enemy and have a pretty good chance of hitting them.
Using chat. If you feel that the time is right, and you want to advance on your enemy’s position, let your artillery know by using chat. If you’re polite, and tell them you’re most likely going to spot a few targets for them, they’ll have your back.
- Okay, so let's say you use one of these three ways to get your artillery's attention. What can you do now? You can keep the enemy spotted. Not only does this help artillery, but it also gives you bonus XP if they hit targets you've spotted. You can also lure your target out of cover if the artillery can't hit them. This can be tricky, but use your imagination. Also, when you do get them out of cover, don't go for weak spots to try and damage them. If you hit them, they'll just roll back into cover and sit there, still alive. Instead, track them! Aim for their treads, immobilize them, and let artillery do its job. Nothing is better as artillery than having an immobile target to shoot at; it's like shooting fish in a barrel!
Thank you for reading this wall of text!