Breaking even on 35k is just a good example of how forgiving T10 economy is, with reward ships costing only half the upkeep of a regular ship with premium camo. But for credit grinding, it's not what you are looking for. T9 premiums that count as proper premiums, or stuff like Kobayashi Kii/Roma have a better credit earning and credit earning on a proper game will do much more for earning creds than just not losing them on crap games.
If you are an idiot, you can play it as long range HE spammer. Or you play it like the decent player, murder cruisers with accurate AP, shoot surprise AP at broadsides due to topkek concealment, shoot AP into BB superstructures, use AP to citadel GK at range because of funny shell arcs, while tanking damage midrange as everyone tries to kill squish BB (just to realise that 32 mm plating cannot be overmatched by guns of less than 460 mm and the citadel belt is no joke) and underestimates your rudder shift and outbrawling Kremlin, because you can angle, but Kremlin cannot. It will just eat 14-20k HE salvos even on its bow, until you get its side and end him. And sure, Kremlin may have good rudder shift, but Thunderer is better, while keeping up with the turrets.
I agree though, it's easy to get over 100k damage in it.
HE dpm-wise, the difference between Conkek and Thunderer is not as large as one would think and at range, the Thunderer can often keep up by just landing more shells.
It's less toxic, because:
People are used to Conqueror by now
People often can try shoot back
Thunderer often loads AP
It's a BB, so majority of players are less upset about it
It's not Russian
For all the outrage thrown at the Smolensk, the Thunderer isn't exactly a ship that should get off free, imo, given how absolutely bonkers it can be. It has Conqueror concealment with guns that absolutely wreck cruisers, a dpm that is augmented by its silly accuracy and reload, turret traverse just shy of balanced Kremlin so you can terrorise the cruiser population. And they cannot angle, because you overmatch them and if they are angled 50 mm plating cruisers, snipe their nose or load HE. Even if Moskva is fire resistent, it sure will miss the large chunks of hp it loses to HE. Smolensk is a threat, yes, but for cruisers, a far less severe one than a Thunderer that has a brain. Against BBs, Smolensk is a flamethrower and pens the superstructure, but Thunderer can citadel you mid-range and HE pen you anywhere except the citadel belt at any range. 24 km away? Smolensk wouldn't be an issue. Thunderer can still hit you for 10k and a couple fires. If it loads AP, the Thunderer's arcs are lazy to the point you actually pen the friggin deck. Close-range? Thunderer outbrawls the likes of Montana, Kremlin, Republique, Bourgogne, Ohio with relative ease. Just load HE till you have their side and use the rudder shift to not give yours. People will appreciate bouncing shells off angled 32 mm plating just to get slapped in the face by HE salvos. And sure, one may argue Thunderer is fragile for a BB and has no lolsmoke to hide behind, but honestly, it's still a BB, it still has an hp pool that is no joke with an improved repair to back that up and it just needs no further gimmicks to stay afloat. Yes, it gets overmatched and citadelled from most angles by Yamato, but that's about the biggest flaw. It otherwise does a decent enough job soaking up damage and tanking potential, due to rudder shift memes, concealment and just being 80+k hp. For a BB, Thunderer isn't necessarily more vulnerable than Smolensk is among cruisers with no hp, so when people hit it with HE, it loses already not insignificant chunks of its hp pool. If BBs shoot HE, all but two T10 BBs can HE citadel that thing. Thunderer HE on Smolensk is basically the greatest cure for that cancer, regularly citadelling it for 8.2k (~1/4 of its hp pool), killing the turrets (80 mm plating is nothing to 457 mm RN HE), killing the torp tubes, killing the engines, killing the rudder, stripping off the AA, etc. When the HE hits, you know that Smolensk player just found their balance. And having trouble with CV? Well, you could play Smolensk with its good AA. Or you could play Thunderer, with BB-grade dps, reinforced by defAA. Against stupid, Thunderer will just shred planes with ease, against good players, neither will be fine, but Smolensk is a potential devstrike for any AP bomb CV (potential oneshot for Enterprise). Thunderer meanwhile is at least 80k hp and 33% of the cit damage can be restored.
Am I saying Smolensk is a balanced and fair ship? No, it absolutely is stupid. But Thunderer is certainly not a ship that should be seen as "less toxic", or as a fine addition to the game that is perfectly fair and balanced and not deserving of at least some criticism. And the best part about it all. For all the crap Smolensk gets about being too forgiving, the Thunderer is a goddamn BB. Most forgiving class of all. Just like the scrub Smol can do ok by sitting in smoke and burning the world, Thunderer can sit at 20 km and do the same and not give a damn about the reduced repair, because who shoots it anyway? And if so, well, just turn your ship. Meanwhile unicum Smolensk, trying to play around objectives, killing priority targets, being a royal annoyance... well, Thunderer can do that too. DDs hate getting hit by the HE, radar cruisers will not take well to overmatch AP, BB camping a crucial spot and needing to get removed, burn them down. All the while, you can tank for your team and if you get hit, stuff bounces off most of the time, while a mistake in Smol can cost you way way more. Obviously, with Kremlin being more prominent, Thunderer gets overlooked, but is that a valid reason to just overlook Thunderer?
And I'd totally recommend Thunderer over Smolensk, because it's a BB. Whatever game changes come, Thunderer has an easier time dealing with it. whether it be IFHE changes or subs pinging ships in smoke and wrecking everything with stupid torp mechanics, Thunderer takes it all better than Smolensk. Heck, IFHE changes basically would be a straight up buff to the Thunderer. Thunderer is a safe investment.
I never seem to get enough use of this function :P