Mediums are in an odd spot right now. In this thread I'm going to go over the state of medium armor both axis and Allied, and the environment they tend to find themselves, which effects their performance.
Bear in mind this thread will be mostly concerning the mainline non-doctrinal mediums in the frame of 1v1, I welcome the discussion of doctrinal mediums, but please understand the focus of the conversation. For the sake of the big picture I will include the doctrinal mediums.
The Soviet T-34-76:
The T-34 has found an odd niche of a flanker and support vehicle that is usually ignored for soviet doctrinal heavies that have more survivability. Everything Axis used to counter your T-70 will also counter your T-34, so there will already be counters by the time it hits the field. It will absolutely get policed by a P4 or even a puma, but has a nice suicide ability to drive home its expendability. This vehicle is usually purchased last after a heavy is built for holding a line, an SU-85 for policing armor, and a katy for countering team weapons are purchased. I'm not sure what to make of this unit, as soviet player seem to have made due without them, but they seem a bit too easily countered before they even hit the field. I would like to see them used more for such a staple unit of the Soviet army.
Overall it is lacking survivability, which I believe is intentional, as well as AT ability with other mediums, which I believe is also intentional. This may be the one mainline medium that I feel is in an okay place, but that would probably change if heavy tanks ever have their timings adjusted.
I seldom use it so I will divert to players with more knowledge on it than me. I mostly see it passed up for Soviet heavies and then purchased in a supporting role that can scare infantry and police p4s.
The USF M4:
A controversial vehicle to propose buffs to due to its first in show anti-infantry capability, a unique trait shared by every other unit in the USF roster, making it add nothing that the faction needs at the point at which it becomes available. Everything that countered your stuart will counter your M4, raketens, paks, shreks, pumas, and the p4 will all police your M4, leading most players to ignore this unit and get a jackson to actually deal with enemy medium armor, or a scott to deal with infantry without risking the unit. The usual times I see effective M4 purchases is when there is a large fuel income difference, however even then, the M4 is very vulnerable whereas a p4 would easily close out a game.
The smoke ability of the M4 is often sighted as a survivability tool, which I believe to be untrue, due to the long "casting" time, and the fact it makes the unit immobile when used. It seems to me that it is an offensive/utility ability meant to help the USF player make pushes rather than save a stricken m4, though of course there are situations where it could be used in such a manner, this is usually not the case.
The crew mechanic is one of it's saving graces, while it doesn't give the tank survivability it at least allows it to get back to the fight quicker than most mediums.
Overall its issues are an inability to compete with axis mediums, a vulnerability to all Axis AT options, and general lack of survivability.
There are a few doctrinal varients which seek to address these options, some of which I'm very fond of, such as the dozer blade raising the front armor from 160 to 200, which is still less than the P4, but it's at a point when you may start bouncing the once in a blue moon hit.
another varient is the M4A3(76), which seeks to address the AT ability of the vehicle, however the cost seems to not be worth what you get when it still retains the 160 armor, and still has penetration issues with some axis meium armor. The standard round has a pitiful penetration of 160/130/120, meaning you will probably be using the HVAP of 220/180/165 being the only one to relaibly penetrate the p4 (of 234 armor) at close range. This also makes rushing a p4 harder, as the ROF is reduced with HVAP, and of course, makes the anti-infantry capability pitiful.
The M4A3E8 boasts 215 armor, less than that of the p4, but the most for USF mediums. It's only downsides are one of the worst mediums in anti infantry capability and being in a fairly non-useful doctrine. The extra armor allows it to handily defeat a P4, though that may be after a bounce-fest, making it a king maker until heavy tanks arrive. I would like to see what spot this is in if it's doctrine ever gets another re-work.
The UKF Cromwell:
Used to be a kingmaker on the field that could just rush down a p4 due to its speed. I'm at a loss for the cromwell. It's the mobility the UKF needs but seems to be passed up for heavies as the valentine seems to fill its role for cheaper What the Axis used to beat that valentine will still beat a cromwell, so it's no wonder it's usually skipped nowadays. It gets phos shells as a strange utility I believe was meant proactively meant to improve survivability by shooting at AT crews, but it doesn't seem to help it too much.
The OKW p4:
The jack of all trades master of some. boasting 234 armor means whatever the Allies used to beat up your luchs will have trouble with this thing. The USF in particular has a hard time dealing with the unit, as the M1 atgun is pitiful, resulting in your opponent needing to spend valuable muni just to push a p4 away, and rear ech/lieutenant bazookas will more often than not bounce harmlessly. The p4 performs very well against infantry, allowing it to terrorize any allied elites that may have been pushing around Axis core infantry. While its penetration is fairly low, The large armor difference between it and the other mainline mediums lets it police them fairly easily, causing most Allied players to ignore their mediums and to go for tank destroyers. In fact, TDs are pretty much the only thing the p4 needs to fear, however even then, it gets a blitz ability to leave sticky situations, and its armor will likely hold out as TDs use their far penetration values trying to keep up. The one exception I would make would be the new USF bazooka experts, however they have a harder time penetrating a p4 than a shrek would an m4, but they still get a mention because I know they will be brought up.
Because of its great survivability and general purpose usefulness, the P4 is almost always taken over Axis TDs in the same tier. Which makes sense, why have yet another counter to something all of your other AT options already deal with? Unfortunately it seems they exist in an attempt to counter the doctrinal mediums the P4 may struggle to penetrate, however they are usually held off on to go for the more desirable panther.
The OST p4:
Starting with less armor than it's OKW brother but still ahead of the pack at 180 with more gained from veterancy, The problems with OST's p4 is pretty much the same as OKWs with the exception that it's a little easier to kill early on and to offset that it could very well be rolling with panzer tactician for extra survivability stacked onto it's blitz and already high armor.
There are a lot of options we have to try and solve the gap in ability between the mediums and allow more units to be useful. We could adjust Allied surviability, such as axis AT options, or Maybe increased armor with vet like the p4. (sandbags on shermans like coh1, as an example) another option is to lower P4 survivability (of course, dropping it's price to match). I sought to make this discussion with all the talks of the jackson, which I believe is unfair to criticize without first addressing the monsters that created it. I would very much welcome other perspectives and ideas, please let me know what your opinion is, or what I got wrong.