Plus, I found the sweet spot. More on that in a second.
When I picked up the game again I found myself with enough experience to get into the Tier VIII Tiger II heavy tank, also known as the King Tiger. This tank feels like everything I wanted the Tiger to be: great armour, great gun. The thickness of the armour is not much greater than the tier VII Tiger but is sloped a lot more and I actually see bounces and deflections occur whereas in the Tiger they were extremely rare. As for the gun, you start with the long 88 with its penetration and upgrade to a 10.5 cm gun with about the same penetration and an average of 80 more points of damage with regular ammo (240 to 320). I'm still working towards the second gun upgrade which ups the penetration even more.
But what really makes this tank rock is that its tier VIII. The Sweet Spot of the ten tiers of tanks.
What I mean by that is that I'm rarely not in the top 5 tanks on my side of 15. This means that I am almost always facing tanks I can take on with little fear of being severely outmatched, and I often have lots of weak targets to prey upon.
There are three driving factors that make 8 the sweet spot:
The first is that the lower tiers require very little experience to grind through and you don't slow down significantly until tier 6-7. Added to this is that running up a second line of lower tier tanks in the same faction (i.e. doing Panzer II-III-III/IV line) benefits a lot from a previous run as a lot of already unlocked modules are done and don't have to be unlocked again.
The second is that ammo and repairs after matches get increasingly more expensive in the higher tiers where its very hard even with a premium account to make credits in a tier 9 or 10 tanks. Without an awesome match that your side wins you find yourself losing credits. Even in tier 8 a bad or sub-par match loses credits. Meanwhile in tiers 7 and lower you have to pretty much shoot your own teammates to be penalized to lose credits in a match.
And, thirdly, there is only two tiers of tanks above 8 so that you don't have to worry about facing a tank 3-4 tiers above you that can one shot you and you have no chance of even damaging.
This creates a glut of tanks in the 6-7-8 tier range, which means that tier 8 tanks are often the top dogs. And the occasion that I do find myself in the bottom half, the tier 9s and 10s can still be penetrated and hurt by my gun.
So yeah, having fun in the King Tiger. I still suck, but at least having fun :)