When I started DX-ing in 2001 I had only wire antennas, and I made it to 300 with just wire and 200 watts. AT about 275 it became so difficult that I put up an Cushcraft MA5B then a Force-12 C3SS. BTW – I worked P5/4L4FN with 200 watts and that MA5B . . .
When I started I had a low dipole on 40M, but when we hit the bottom of Cycle 23 I got more serious and put up Christman Phased verticals on 40M. That difference was just like the difference going from a low wire to a 2 element yagi – as far as results are concerned. I am sure that a 2 element yagi up only 50′ is a bit better than phased verticals but maybe by 1 dB – not enough to worry much.
40M is my second highest total band. Since with Mixed Honor Roll, I worked an ATNO wherever I could. I did not start out trying DXCC Challenge, so in the beginning I would work an ATNO on one band and try to work them on another band or mode for an insurance QSO. If I were chasing DXCC Challenge, my 40M woul be a lot closer to my 20M totals.
But now that I have been through one full cycle – almost a cycle and a half – I realize that it is very possible to work DXCC Honor Roll with just two verticals, a phasing box and some coax. And furthermore, getting to 100 on 160M – with VK0EK, FT5ZM and three African stations in my 160M totals – reminds me that verticals are very good antennas.