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 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.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Stay on target...

So far the new focus on strategy has yielded 2 wins out of 2 games, and both against what I would call "good" bronze league terran players - ie with 50+ wins in the league and a decent win rate.

Both times I've made mistakes. The first game I had some micro mistakes that cost me quite a few units - separating my infantry from my sieged tanks at one stage cost me four tanks, for example, but generally my macro was pretty strong - by keeping him on one base I had such a huge macro lead that I could afford to lose the units. In the second game I had some much better micro - including an initial push to snipe a supply depot without loss and a drop which took another depot without loss. Both of those attacks supply-blocked him. I also dealt with a hellion drop in my own base quite easily. I eventually just rolled over his base with my tank superiority. I took far too long grabbing my third and fourth gas though, I will have to remember that next time - I ended up with loads of minerals and no gas, because the only units I could make for long periods were marines and turrets.

Still - it felt good to have two really solid wins. I'm sure I'd have managed to lose at least one of those games previously, or at least they would not have been so one-sided, and it makes me think that with the right strategy I might improve further.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


So, I've been thinking a lot about my build order, and watching a lot of Terran replays, and what I've seen is that there are lots of different ways to play terran. Cloud, for example, relies on mainly infantry and vikings. He doesn't seem to build tanks - marines and marauders form the backbone of his armies - and he's aggressive about expanding early. Sjow, on the other hand, seems to love hellion play, particularly with the weapons upgrades, and drops. I think it's important to pick a style that you are comfortable with, and to have in mind an overall plan. With that in mind, I have the following general plan and I'll try to stick to it in future games:

Overall objectives

To keep opponent on one base for as long as possible. On maps where that is difficult (Delta Quadrant or Jungle Basin) to attack with a strong tank/viking push and try to break the front.

Rough build order

- Build 2 barracks, 1 with a tech lab and 1 with a reactor
- Build marines and marauders
- Research stim
- Build a factory with a techlab and a starport with a reactor
- Move out at around the 5:30 mark with whatever I have and push gently at the front of his ramp
- While pushing out save up for an expansion
- Build another 2 barracks, another factory with techlab and an armory
- Try a drop at around the 8 minute mark
- Mass troops for a big push at about 14 minutes


- It's important that before the first push engages I have some idea of whether I'm being rushed, so I'll scan the top of his ramp before I get there. I'll try to snipe off a couple of units with stim, or take a supply depot. The important thing is that he thinks I'm going to be aggressive.
- Leave a couple of units near his natural expansion if possible, so that if he expands blindly I can kill off his worker. Again, this should worry and discourage him from moving.
- It's important that for the early push and the drop I try to save my units wherever possible. The purpose of these attacks is not to win the game or even kill workers, it's to worry him and encourage him to turtle.
- For the big push I'll siege my tanks up near the front of his base and use my vikings to try to get vision up the cliff to allow me to shell any buildings near the edge. I'll build missile turrets at my contain and near my base.
- On large maps I might take a third once the contain is up.


If my opponent tries a big attack early such as a roach rush or a 4-gate then I'll need to shelve the expansion and play defensively. I'll need to scout that if possible.

On Delta Quadrant against Terran I might go for something completely different like a 4 barracks marine-only attack. I've tried that before and it usually works if I have about 8 or 10 marines at 5:30. Otherwise it can be brutal to try to break the frontal base defences.


I'm not trying to say this is some kind of uber strategy or that this is how you should play Terran. This is how I'm going to try playing for a bit though - hopefully being more rigorous and trying for consistency will help me improve.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Noob terrans

One of the things I find most frustrating about Bronze League is the massive variation in player skill. Take for example the two zerg players in the post below. The first player scouted me, and then successfully executed a cheesy but still valid early rush. The second guy fast expanded, held off my counter push (although with some losses) and then beat me with a proper baneling bust strategy. Both of those guys knew what they were doing.

Since then I've played two terrans. The first allowed me to pin him in his natural expansion. I had total map control, dealing with his one attempt to take a third. He made no effort to break out and attack me - even when I (with true noobish comedy effect) nuked my entire frikking army, he sat there and let me replace the contain before eventually starving him out.

The second terran I played had only played about 8 games ever, none of which he had won, and again he sat in his base and allowed me to lock him in. There was a half-hearted attempt to take a second base, which was easily crushed by the small force I'd left just next to his natural, but other than that he just sat there and waited for me to crack his (not very well defended) base.

I think that my league position in Bronze is probably artificially inflated by wins against these guys. I seem to always beat the real newbies, but it's the harder games where I really need to work and focus.

The problem is that when you start the game you don't know how good your opponent is! The last terran game in particular when I saw zero aggression my mind was racing - I was expecting cloaked banshees, I was checking the islands for hidden expansions, I was dropping and checking for thors (I actually saw an armory, and it turned out later from the replay that he did in fact research the 250mm strike cannons upgrade, but he never built any thors...). In the end though I could have won the game in 10 minutes with a siege tank push, but my worries about macroing properly meant that it took closer to 20 minutes...

I sometimes try to infer from my opponent's portrait how good they are - if they have the medivac portrait, for example, they must be reasonable. That doesn't always hold true though - I personally sometimes use one of the basic portraits on the basis that people might think I'm even worse than I am.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Heart of the swarm

So, after the bright new dawn of me deciding to blog about my SC2 experience, I logged on last night and played three times. I play Terran, by the way. Two of those games were against zerg, and there were two defeats. In my other game I played and beat a pretty awful turtling terran (I should say that I beat him even though at one stage I managed to nuke my own army by accident - I was trying out ghosts for the first time!).

Game 1 - vs Random on Shakuras Plateau

This guy rolled zerg and 6 or 7 pooled me. I always, always wall off when I face zerg, and do so slightly earlier than normal - I build my supply depot on 9 supply instead of 10 supply, and then send that worker to scout. The reason for this is that cheese is so common in lower leagues, especially by zerg players. I get those 6 zerglings turning up early about 50% of the time I think.

The problem here was that I built my second supply depot in the wrong place so there wasn't a complete wall off, and took a while to cancel it and rebuild. At this time my scout reached his base and I saw a couple of zerglings - I thought "shit, 7 pool!" and frantically tried to rebuild my depot but the zerglings arrived about half a second before I replaced the supply depot in the right place. In my panic I hadn't started building my marine from the barracks and the zerglings were in my mineral line before I even started to do that. Sigh.

What to learn then? Well make sure the wall off is in place! I might also not scout with my worker after the first depot is built but wait until after the barracks is built. It's a slightly later scout, but should mean I have more minerals and can therefore complete the wall faster.

Game 2 - vs Zerg on Blistering Sands

Another defeat. This time against a non-cheesing fast expanding zerg, who baneling busted me off two bases and killed me with a pretty large swarm of roaches and mutas.

I actually started quite well here, with an infantry push on about 6 minutes that killed the queen at his natural, the lings protecting it, and a bunch of drones. I then left him alone for ages (huge mistake right there) and when I pushed again at the destructible rocks at his back door I saw a few roaches lings and banelings shuffle past on the way to my base. I stopped hitting his back door to intercept the push, and I killed all the roaches and banelings although the zerglings cleaned up my infantry. Again though, I left him alone, and when I eventually expanded (so, so late) he just charged forward in a mass and went through the front door like a hammer.

So what did I do wrong? I was so, so late in expanding. I didn't harrass the FE enough, I had far too much gas and not enough minerals (hint - build SCVs!), I didn't tech to siege tanks in time to repel his push. I was too slow too slow too slow. Bah. This one hurt to lose, because I *knew* I was messing up. I perhaps got complacent after the first push, even though I know that if your opponent expands and you hit them hard at their expansion, any damage you do is only making up your economic disadvantage, not putting you ahead.

Nevertheless, I had been determined to push at about 5.30 with whatever infantry I had, and I did that and it worked well. I did the same in my next game against the terran player and took two supply depots and put him firmly on the defensive. The difference was that in the second game I followed it up with more aggression and eventually won. I think I'll do that all the time in future.

I think I need to decide on a build order and try to stick to it. At present I'm trying to do lots of different things ("maybe I should make some hellions..."), or to decide on the fly how many production buildings I need or when to expand. This not only makes all my builds a bit rubbish, but it's hard to learn what I could do better each time. My next post will be my build order from now on.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Rank 20 in Bronze League division Grizzly Oscar, 76th percentile in Europe, win ratio 51.4%

Some background first. To paraphrase the mighty Totalbiscuit, my name is Everblue and I suck at Starcraft 2.

I'm a keen gamer although historically most of my gaming has been offline. Some offline games I've loved:

Football Manager
Pro Evo Soccer
Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic

My only real experience of online gaming (apart from some fairly epic LAN parties with the original Halo game back around the turn of the millennium) was World of Warcraft, which I've been playing since 2005. As I type this I am leader of a raiding guild, and despite being casual in terms of playtime I've raided to a reasonable level - top 10% of the raiding population approximately which means top 5% of the player base, and my guild was top 20 on the server at the end of the most recent expansion.

Recently though I've become disillusioned with WoW, and I started looking for a change of pace. I discovered Starcraft 2 through the "I Suck At Starcraft" series created by Totalbiscuit and I've become hooked ever since. I am bad though. Really bad.

My macro is terrible, I am too defensive, and I barely micro at all (running away from a vastly superior force counts as good micro from me). This blog is about me hopefully learning to play better. My first goal is to get out of bronze league and into silver, and establish myself there. The idea behind this blog is to force me to think critically about my game, to analyse some of my defeats, and perhaps to get some advice.