Warning! Not for the Faint of Heart! To those of more determined minds, I believe you will find this useful.
Honestly, I am playing an MS-1 (T1), AT-1, T-26, SU-18 (T2) and LTP (Prem T3) Russians, the Strv fm/21 (T1) and the L60 (Prem T2) Swedish units. All of these are sucky to play, imo. That said, I am determined to do my best and sucky or not, I gotta make them do what I want.
My experience is only really in terms of number of matches. That said, I had a sort of 'epiphany' on my playing at around 6800 matches, where I was at about 48.23% Steady and Overall WR. Since then, my Overall WR has steadily trended upwards and my general recents are usually around 56% or so lately. I think the biggest change was that I decided I was going to focus on playing and not blame anyone else or anything else for my performance.
As I was going through that shift in perspective, I changed the way I play very markedly. Suddenly I felt like, because I wasn't triggered into 'trying to get' something to occur before I started playing, I was calmer and more alert. I wish I could have played like that when I first started this game.
So, in any case, I am basically a contrarian player suggesting new players take longer playing their sucky low tier units and get past the desire to rush up to tier 5 'where the game can be learned.' The truth is all the mechanics work the same way at those tiers as they do at the top tiers. As I am suggesting a contrary course of action, I know that my advice might be deemed 'unsound,' to put it politely. I will please ask anyone to examine my stat history and see where I had my "sea change" of attitude and perception at I think it was 6685 matches or so. You can check it out on VBAddict, WoTLabs in finer detail than here.
I don't claim magic status or 'great player' status, not by a long shot. That said, if you look at the difference from then till now and see the trend, recognize that it is EXACTLY THIS CONTRARIAN VIEW that got me there. I think that should speak clearly to any player that would prefer proof over my opinion.
So, if I were to advise beyond spend more time in lower tiers and longer on each unit, even well past 'useful' research points, it would be to look at tiers 1 through 5 as the Beginners to Intermediates on the 'slopes' of WoT. For a while, learn to get the feel on the Green Circle Bunny Slopes, then move to the Blue Squares. Once you can verify you can excel at those, then you move on to the Black Diamonds (Tiers 6-8) and then the Double Black Diamonds (tiers 9-10. )
Crew Training is an overlooked function of time in a tank. Not just for the crew, for you as well. Crew training is important over time. If you think you can do it, try a hundred matches in a single unit. Then trade up. A hundred matches should tell you that you know the tank well enough to know if you have it 'figured out' or 'mastered.'
It will also provide your crew enough training to make it worth bringing them along to the next tier if they can apply for the job. 20K retrains to 75% of the new tank OR 90% of the previous value, whichever is greater. Once your crew hits about 83%, it's worth bringing them along as they are slightly more highly trained than a Regimental 75% crew.
A better crew is a better crew. If it's the same cost, then what are you having to decide, right? The first time you change classes (at T2, then again usually at T3 and T4 or T5 (depending on when your Nation Line gets its first heavy tank) you might probably want to just put in a new crew altogether, but again, if you CAN bring a more seasoned tanker up from a lower tier you will no longer play, why not?
Now, if you ARE going to remotely take my advice, don't think it will be easier. I do believe, however, it will make you a much better player overall.
Focus on not rushing up a line -- instead focus on learning the mechanics of the game and applying them to the tank you are in right now. If you apply them now, guess what? They start working now.
Do damage, survive, cooperate and hopefully win. All you do should be applied to those concepts. Camo and Vision/Spotting; Angling Armor and Ammo Penetration; Cover and Terrain. These things will begin to work for you immediately once you learn to apply them to your unit. Period.
As again, this is a contrary point of view, allow me to relate a small true life tale of how this might work:
I play all units and am attempting to do at least 50% in all of them that I play. So for me, it's a hundred matches at least or until I hit that mark of 50%. Longer still if I find I like that particular unit.
I have to admit, I don't think I'm ever going to sell my AT2. Might always keep my T1 Heavy. I love the T67, but I don't know, there are way too many times I am rekt before I know what hit me in that, too. I hate my T5 German Leopard more than my T4 DW2 Hvy and *that* tank made me stop hating the Churchill T5 British Hvy. I really like my JgPzIV (my only T6) German TD, but I pretty much feel like I can't break that 50% marker at the moment.
Do you see the similarity to what I say at T5 and T6 compared to what you say and hear at tiers 1-4? I'm telling you, that situation does not change. You have to see the landscape truthfully and then, instead of wail and moan about it, know that you can adapt to the situation and overcome the obstacles to win -- and still have fun doing it.
That is what I did. It is why I recommend staying longer in each tier and in each unit. Treat it as WoT's version of Master Miyagi telling you, "Wax-eh on," [motioning with the right hand], "and wax-eh off!" [motioning with the left hand.] You are in training and you have your white belts or whatever color it is for the first group. (for those that fail the movie reference, Karate Kid -- the original one. )
When you get to tier 5, you're going to find that there are still (apparently) Seal Clubbers, too high a tier match and you're "useless" in your Bottom Tier position. There's still: gold ammo, RNG, crap teams, rofl stomps -- in short all the same crap you complain about now or hear others complain about now don't go away.
What are you going to do now? They (the issues and complaints) just get more expensive and the salt gets more highly iodized. It's not the tier, it's the player.
You focus on you playing well and stick with those lower, cheaper, sucky tiers until you do well enough to feel you do know your tanks (I would suggest a 1st Class or Ace Mastery, combined with a WR in the 48-52% range to act as something like a "regimental" certification) and that your crew is ready for more responsibility in upcoming matches -- and more challenge.
Sorry for the long response, this is stuff on my brain lately. I plan on posting some guides soon, although before I do, I am thinking of asking for a few volunteers to vet my information, which is based primarily on my new way of playing and how it changes the nature of play in the first place. It's nothing earth shaking, I promise, it's just not 'traditional' peer-gaming thinking when it comes to how to apply your self to the game.
Hope any of that was helpful, useful or remotely entertaining!
GL, HF & HSYBF!