Saturday, August 6, 2011

Learning Starcraft II

I haven't been much of a blogger. But I do like recording and analyzing my thoughts on gaming. But instead of just using Google docs, I thought I'd resurrect the blog a bit to try and train myself to have regular periods of contemplation where I can record my progress and look back on what I've learned. So I'm going to start a diary of my Starcraft II play. My goal is to regularly write down my thoughts on the last few games. I want to capture at each post:

- What I've been trying
- What I've learned
- What I want to improve

I'm surprised there aren't more blogs like that actually. I'd love to see other players go through this exercise and maybe I just haven't been able to find them. There's lots of streams and replay packs sure, but SC2 is such a thinking game and it takes so many games to really learn or analyze a new strategy that I'd rather read the player's own post-game self-analysis than watch their 20 games.

So here's my first entry:

First of all, I regained my diamond status last night. Really not sure why I got placed Platinum to start the season, but it was an easy climb back into diamond. PvP is going well. I've been doing better getting a good read on when to one-base all-in, when to hold off a gateway push, when to robo, when to expand. Previously I was kicking myself for expanding too often when my opponent was one-basing. One game I scouted a heavy early zealot force and correctly anticipated a zealot-archon one-base play, which has been quite popular lately. I decided to try a one-base collosi-zealot defense and won. It seems counter-intuitive but my thinking was that even though archons counter zealot, collosi counters zealot harder, as long as I can get up at least 2 collosi. Thermal lance isn't as important so I skipped it for the initial battle in favor of a few more stalkers for dps. As I hoped, my zealots just lasted longer than his and I collapsed his meatshield. Not sure if I got lucky on that but I'll continue trying that defense.

Another thing I've been doing consistently well is holding off 2gate cheese. My first gateway always produces zealot-stalker-stalker and with chronos on this gateway, this appears to hold off a zealot rush. The initial zealot dies but the 2nd stalker creates a tough situation for zealots because I can split up the stalkers and make it very painful for the zealots to try chasing them down. Splitting up the stalkers is key.

One thing I think I need to keep working on is better 4gate defense. I'm still confident that I can hold off a 4gate with a 3gate but I recently lost a game where I tried and the problem is micro. I think you can almost ignore everything in this fight except for one thing: how many hits does each players' zealots get on the opponent's stalker. Every Z-on-S hit that you can land on your side or prevent on their side counts huge and I need to micro with this one goal in mind.

PvZ is up and down a lot depending on my opponent's skill level. My opener is always 3-gate pressure where I run down 2 stalkers as I warp in 3 zealots for a total of 4 zealots, 4 stalkers with another warpin of whatever I want close behind. My problem is that if this does well, it usually wins straight up. But good players hold it easily with a combination of lings, spines and queens. Fine, it's not an all-in and I macro up and am consistently in a better eco position after the push fails. But what happens then is I can't maintain pressure because of ling runbys so his macro goes through the roof and he passes me. Once infestors are on the field, I'm done. I have no idea what to do. Collosi, blink stalkers, templars, I've tried everything. Something I've seen in another stream that I want to really work on doing is catching the zerg army out of position. I need to be a lot more aware of how I can manipulate and anticipate his movement by pressuring the 3rd for example. If I can catch his army en route from behind the infestors can be cleaned up in no time. I just need to have much, much better army positional control.

PvT is doing well. I was really surprised to find that the 3gate stalker build above that I developed for PvZ works really well in PvT. Stalker-heavy builds seem counter-intuitive vT but early stalker pressure is really strong versus marines or FE bunker defenses and can straight up beat almost any terran tech cheese (rush to banshee, raven, or mech). Of course my expectation is usually a 2 or 3 rax defense to hold the ramp and then I expand and contain for a few minutes until drops become a threat. I usually think the 9 or 10 minute mark is when I need to pull back but I want to refine that based on the unit mix I see at the front (more marauders must mean later drops). Another variation on this build I'd love to have the guts to try is one-gate expand into 3 gate. I've seen it used in a lot of pro play and lost to the terran equivalent enough to know how strong this can be.

My problem is that mid-game I lose to 2 things: ghosts and drops. I need to be way more conscious of my map control, map awareness and drop prevention. Stimmed marauder drops, i.e. nexus snipes, just frustrate the hell out of me. Incidentally I lost a PvZ game last nite to heavy baneling drops on my probe lines and it's the same story... I don't know how to deal with a dropping player.

When ghosts are out I cannot, for the life of me, keep my army spread out to prevent EMP. I need to never ever forget the EMP threat and micro way better. Something I need to do better is pre-fight scouting, where you're set up for a big fight and you quickly scout your opponent's position and composition. Of course for terrans this comes as second nature with the pre-fight scans, but Protoss has to suicide a zealot or probe to accomplish the same. Poking with HT to try and feedback ghosts seems like a necessity but it just seems ridiculously difficult.

All in all, better scouting and better positioning are what I'm trying to improve. My mantra has been "Shape the defense" meaning I need to pick the correct shape of my unit formation depending on my opponent's composition. Ghosts require spreading. Drops require splitting. Infestors require flanking. Runbys require gap-control. I have a terribly ingrained habit of just one-grouping my whole army into a clump at my weakest point. If I could just break that habit I'd be way ahead but I quickly start slipping mid-game once my mind gets distracted with tech choices and macroing.

No comments:

Post a Comment