Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Replay analysis 20 March 2012

Replay is here


Ok, so this is just a catalogue of fail. It illustrates just how bad I am at the moment. My opponent was in silver league by the way, and he absolutely destroyed me (I have won TvT games against platinum ranked players not too long ago).

Let's start with the positives - the build was ok to start with. I could have added more barracks earlier, but the idea of 1 rax expanding with gas before orbital is fine. That, frankly, is the only positive I can take from the game.

Starting with the opening drop which took out two tanks in exchange for some marines, I kept losing engagements and getting further and further behind. The tragedy is that I could have cleaned up that stupid position of his by my base really early by simply attacking it on the low ground - I'd have killed both his tanks and all his bio on the low ground. I could have prevented his getting the gold up.

What, if anything, can I learn from that fiasco? Well:

1) My macro slipped really badly during the crisis management I was having to do. I need to work on that hugely - I simply was not building units fast enough. That contain should not have killed me - I should have build more units and broken out.

2) The hidden base was a stupid idea. I could easily have defended my normal third base with tanks. That lost me the game.

3) Don't try to engage a contain piecemeal - you lose lots of little battles. Better to macro up, keep the opponent at arm's length and wait for the perfect moment to strike.

4) I forgot to bind my engineering bay to a hotkey. Upgrades on the marines are key to this build.


So where has it been going wrong?

I’ve been in gold league since I stopped blogging last summer. I feel that there are a few reasons for this, but a big one is that the community as a whole is getting better at the game. I’m a better player now than I was back then, and yet I’ve stagnated. The purpose of this blog is to enable me to get better at a faster rate than everyone else.

I have been a mech player in TvT and TvZ for some time. I don’t particularly like mech in terms of its “look and feel”, but I do think it’s easier to play.

In TvP I experimented with mech for some time, but I could never really make it work and so I do what everyone else does – bio plus medivacs and vikings. I really dislike the pure bio style in this matchup – I hate that you can’t control space, and that the protoss can just kill you with his tech. You have to go bio because gateway units crush everything else, but as soon as the protoss gets colossus or HTs then you need exactly the right kind of counter tech and you need to use it perfectly, or you are just dead.

Anyway, enough QQ. This is about positivity – what can I do differently.

I want to play a marine-tank-medivac style in all three matchups. So that’s what I’m going to do, even if I lose games while I'm getting the hang of the style. My opening I think will be a 1 rax FE in every matchup – that keeps it simple and I can practice refining the build and gameplan.

So – how to get there? I think I need a more focussed approach to my practice, so my new schedule when I get online will be:

1) Begin with some micro exercises – either a marine split, or one of the micro trainer maps.

2) Build order and multitasking training. I will spend 15 mins practicing my build order in a custom game with no opponent. The idea is that you rally your units to the centre of the map, and only look at your base for a split second to build something, then switch back to your army.

3) I’ll then play 2 to 3 games, although I’ll stop if I lose 2 in a row.

4) I’ll pick one game and analyse it on here.

5) I'll play 1 more game to try to put right what I did wrong.

Hopefully this will help me improve.

Marine-tank gameplay

The goal of marine-tank play is to take up a good map position and force the opponent to attack into your tanks. Meanwhile you trade marines for your opponent's gas units and harrass via drops to try to damage their economy and tech.

So my goal will be to expand quickly and to protect that economy from early aggression. I will get my infantry upgrades and tech and once I have that I will try to move out.

I won't try to push and win, but the goal will be to contain my opponent on two bases while I take a third and get a supply lead. All the time I'll keep trading small squads of marines for damage to my opponent.

I will try tonight, and my next post will be my first draft build order.


OK, so it's been a while. Nearly a year.

I've not updated this in a long time, but I'm in a place where I think I need the blog again - I simply don't seem to be able to get into platinum league, my APM remains stubbornly in the 40s, and I'm in the middle of an epic losing streak.

So it's time to take stock. My goals for this blog:

1) Work out how I want to play the game

2) Work out builds that let me get there

3) Practice those builds to death

4) Review my replays and analyse them to see what I can do better

5) Practice my micro

6) Watch and analyse pro replays to see what they can teach me

7) I'm also playing some 2v2 these days and I might talk about that too.

8) I am *considering* getting some professional coaching. We'll see about that.

First proper post later today.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Is Starcraft fun?

The MMO blogger Tobold has an interesting post about winning and losing. He's talking specifically about World of Tanks, but his point could just as easily be made about the SC2 ladder - specifically that ideally you should win only half of your games. If you win more than half your games then it's not because you are a good player - it's because the matchmaking system messed up - it's matching you against people who are worse than you. If the matchmaking system was doing its job properly you would win half your games.

Likewise if you lose more than half your games it means that the matchmaking system is screwed up and you are being pitted against people who are better than you. It's not your fault, it's Blizzard's fault.

For this reason, the removal of most people's loss statistic was exactly right by Blizzard - focussing on win percentage is meaningless. A person in bronze league might have a better win percentage than someone in silver. Does that make him a better player? No! Does it make him better than someone else in bronze with a worse win percentage? No again! The second player might be being matched against people in a higher league right before promotion. The percentage tells you nothing.

So why play Starcraft if not to win? Well, because playing should be fun, right? The act of playing itself should be a pleasure. Well for me it isn't. Laddering makes me nervous, and during games I am a mess of jittery tension and fear - "Shit! Better build a supply depot!", or "I hope he hasn't got broodlords yet - please please please!", or "If I expand will he just come crush me?"

I would never say I enjoy myself while playing.

So why play?

Part of the reason I play is that I want to get better. I like the feeling of improving - I sometimes look back at some of my games in bronze to measure how far I've come. But part of the reason is the same reason I used to do long distance running and competitive rowing when I was younger - the feeling afterwards. The period after the game where I grab a beer, kick back and watch the replay. I look at the profile of the guy I've just (hopefully) beaten, and keep my fingers crossed that he was in gold or plat. I watch the replay once feeling great about all the cool stuff I did, and then once again from my opponent's POV thinking evil thoughts like "Bet you didn't expect that drop, ha ha ha!"

That warm glow after the win is the main reason why I play. Which is why it sucks to lose of course!

Monday, 4 July 2011

dApollo coaches Totalbiscuit

I watched a couple of videos on Totalbiscuit's channel recently of him (he's a terran player in gold) being coached by the caster dApollo of team Dignitas in the UK.



These are excellent for someone of my level. In particular there's a TvZ game, which is one of the two matches that I've been having real problems with. dApollo's advice to Totalbiscuit is to go mech for that matchup, on the basis that any sort of marine-tank build, as used by all the professional players, relies on excellent marine micro to avoid baneling splash damage. If your micro is not so good, mech is much easier. dApollo also said that the famous mech player Goody (who I really like watching) goes mech because his APM is low for a professional.

This has been a revelation for me, and I am now firmly a mech player TvZ. I have always had a problem with low APM, so changing my unit composition to something which stresses the things I am better at (strategy and macro) and places less emphasis on things I'm bad at (micro) really helps. I have tried mech TvZ four times and won three of those games against solid gold league zerg players - the sort of players who were steamrolling me when I was going marine tank. Mass blue flame hellions supported by siege tanks and thors is just awesome.

I am still working on a build order for this matchup - I've downloaded some of Goody's replays from www.sc2rep.com to try to find something I can copy. He has an early attack with 5 marines, three hellions and a medivac which he follows up with an uncloaked banshee and this seems to be absolutely devastating if done right.

The build order is your standard 2 gas 1-1-1:

10 Depot
12 Rax and make marines
13 Refinery
16 OC
16 Depot
@100 gas build factory
while factory is building take second gas
when factory completes make starport and start making hellions
when starport completes make a medivac
when medivac completes make a techlab, then a banshee, then rally the banshee to the zerg main

The medivac pops at about the time of the third hellion (ish), then you load up 5 marines and use the medivac to elevator the 5 marines and three hellions up the side of the zerg base. The goal is to kill the queen in the main and to do whatever damage you can before escaping. The zerg player may pull back the queen from the natural to the main, but then this second queen can be killed by the banshee, possibly leaving the zerg player with no anti air. You can then redrop any units you had left from the first hellion-marine attack.

I mucked it up the one time that I did it, but still took out one queen and a load of drones, and caused a massive overreaction into lings. I am quite excited to try it out again.

You can then transition into blue flame hellions, siege tanks and thors. The key I think is to get thors up asap in case he goes into mutalisks early on.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Bunker rush

Promoted to gold!

It was fitting, I think, that I got promoted after a TvZ, since my games against zerg have been what's been holding me back - I have a 80%+ winrate against protoss, about 50% against terran, but only maybe 20% against zerg.

I opened the way I always do - 2rax fast expand with no gas, then looking to get 2 more rax, 2 factories, then eventually going marine-tank-medivac. What normally happens is that I wait too late to push, let the zerg swarm power up, get delayed by a huge muta ball, and lose eventually to banelings and speedlings.

This time I decided to try a bunker contain and to be hyper aggressive to prevent myself getting crushed, so pushed out when I had 3 marines, rallying more marines to the zerg natural. I managed to get the bunker down and took out about 7 drones plus the queen at the natural before my first squad of marines died. I had promised myself that I would pressure constantly, so waited until I had about 8 more marines, dropped 2 bunkers outside of his vision but near the natural, then danced back and forth in and out of the bunkers, eventually taking out the hatchery at the natural, a bunch of overlords, another queen, and pushing into his main.

He eventually killed those marines, but I'd been macroing behind the push and came back with a siege tank and siegemode done and some more marines and the zerg player gave up.

Curse was down last night but I'll link a replay here when I get the chance later.

In general I'm very happy with the way the game went. I need to work on my multitasking - macroing at the same time as pressuring will be a good skill. Eventually I'll need to learn to take on zerg in the late game, but even then I'll need to pressure the zerg to stop him droning up and crushing me with his macro.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Update, and my TvP build

OK, so it's been a while. I'm now in high silver and pushing for promotion into gold. Of the three matchups, the only one I feel comfortable with is TvP - I almost always beat mid to high gold players in TvP and have beaten a platinum ranked protoss.

My strategy is heavy bio with ghosts for EMP and a few medivacs and vikings mixed in. I do a fast expand build, usually a 2 rax, as follows

10 - Depot
12 - Barracks
14 - Barracks
16 - Orbital
17 - Depot

Keep making marines. Scout around for an early proxy pylon once you have about 5 marines. Drop a CC on about 23 or 24 supply, then add 2 more barracks and 2 refineries get stim.

Put 2 bunkers by the natural asap, which should be enough to defend a 4-gate if you scout one.

Eventually I get 6 barracks, 2 with reactors and 4 with tech labs, plus ghosts. I push out when my first ghost is done, during time which I add a factory and a third base, looking to get a reactor starport and an armory. The idea is that the ghost EMP plus stim should be enough to do serious damage with the first attack.

I just love the power and robustness of a heavy bio army with medivac support, and ghost EMP is a really cool ability to mix in. I would love to be able to make bio work in the other two matchups, because there I am really struggling to make any kind of impression.