PvT: The Guillotine Build

Are you SICK and TIRED of losing games to players that are better, smarter, or more handsome than you are? Have you had ENOUGH of all those Trisha-Tryhards out there thinking they are entitled to the win just because they “played and studied the game diligently for years”?

                     “Ooooooh look at me I can make supply depots on time, give me money”

 

Well then try the Guillotine build – the best way to cut that smarty-pants head right off before they can even play the game!

The Guillotine build is a fast and easy way to plop down 16 supply of Protoss magic right into your opponent’s Main at just past 4 minutes! Inspired by the original cheeser himself, Mr. Maximilien Robespierre, the Guillotine build is the best choice for squelching counter-revolutionaries or Macro Terrans.

       “Lmao uninstall”

               -Maximilien Robespierre

The Build:

13 – Pylon – Send Probe to Proxy location – somewhere close but avoid normal Reaper-scout locations

14 – Gateway

16 – Gas

18 – Cybernetics Core

19 – Gas

20 – Mainbase Pylon (for an SCV scout to see)

20 – Proxy Pylon (for Robotics Facility)

21 – Robotics at Proxy

23 – Adept (chronoboost)

23 – Warp Gate (chronoboost)

25 – Gate at Proxy

25 – 30 MINDGAMES ALERT: This is Roughly when a Reaper will arrive, build a cheeky Stargate right in his face.

After you’ve zoned out or killed that aristocratic piece-a crap with your Adept, cancel the Stargate – this will throw them off your rancid cheesy scent.

 

 

 

25 – Start an Immortal (chronoboost)

31 – Adept #2 (chronoboost)

33 – Warp Prism (chronoboost) – Shade both Adepts to Proxy location

33 – 3rd Gateway

When the Warp Prism is done drop the two Adepts and one Immortal on the edge of Terran main and warp in three Stalkers.

Unleash your inner Puck and Micro your damn heart out

Step 1: Speed and Secrecy

You want to find a balance between #1: Hitting as fast as possible and #2: Not being discovered.

The second Main-Base pylon will slightly slow down the drop, but a decent player will notice its absence.

The Stargate fake will slightly slow down the drop, but will also disguise your all in.

Step 2: Ready the Blade

Make sure the Adepts arrive at the proxy location on time. Make sure your three Gateways and Warp Gate research are done before your Prism reaches their base and that you have plenty of available Supply to work with. Rally the Prism to the Terran main and hop in from its flight path with your Immortal/Adepts for maximum speed.

Step 3: Off with his head!

Drop on and Warp in at the edge of Terran’s main

Move command towards the production and try to engage any Bio or Cyclones they have before the SCV pull arrives – focus down any Viking or Liberator with Stalkers and protect the Prism.

If they withdraw patiently, kill add ons (Rax or Factory reactors, Stim) first and then Production structures in order of tech (ie Stargate first then Factory).

Pick up and drop injured units as efficiently as you can, only warp in when the Prism is safe.

Rally additional Immortals to the main base Cliff and elevator them up.

Keeping both Immortals and the Warp prism alive at the end of the first scrap is your top priority – with some fancy micro they can defeat small packs of units or stray Tanks indefinitely.

Note: you often won’t outright win with the first drop and will have to lift the surviving 8 Supply after killing 10-12 SCVs and a chunk of Terran units – it’s sometimes the 2nd or 3rd drop/warp and the 3rd or 4th Immortal that forces checkmate.

The Warp Prism must not die:

Vikings and Cyclones are the greatest threat to your Warp Prism until the Marines have stim – watch for Widow Mines.

Your three Stalkers need to always be in between any Vikings and your Warp Prism – Stay very far away from Multiple Cyclones.

Multiple Cyclones:

Chronoboost Immortals.

Stay a screen length away with the Prism and focus-fire them down with all available units.

Siege Tank:

Warp in only Adepts – Shade on Tanks/Drop Immortals.

All Bio:

Keep close with Prism and juggle hurt units.

Elevator/Warp Trick:

The fastest way to move an army from the low ground to the high ground is to drop two Immortals on the edge of the Terran main and enter “Phasing Mode” so that it can Elevator low ground units and warp in new units at the same time.

 

 

 

 

                                                      This is what Terran nightmares are made of

 

Viva la France and Enjoy!

                                                             “Get out of my Game, Claude” [Warning: May induce salt/democracy]

Replay for Reference:

http://drop.sc/replay/5224189


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PvZ: The disco build

Are you looking for a goofy new way to style on Zergs? Are you sick and tired of that dumb and overpriced Warp Gate upgrade? Do you believe that every mineral patch is rightfully yours? Then the Disco Build is for you!

 

The Disco Build is an Oracle-centered macro build that operates on three simple facts:

1: Oracles are hilariously good against Hydralisks, Lings and Banes (Ultras too!)

2: Stasis Wards and Photon Cannons go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly

3: Money → Carriers → Winning

Here’s the build:

Nexus first Forge Fast Expand and Probe scout – keep scouting until you see a 3rd base

18 – Nexus
18 – Forge
18 – Gateway
20 – Cannon
22 – Cybernetics in main
23 – 2 gases
25 – Hodor Zealot
29 – 3rd gas
32 – Stalker to patrol main
36 – Stargate in the back of your main
38 – 4th gas
40 – 2 more cannons if Zerg has no 3rd base, watch for Dropperlord
48 – Build 1 Phoenix:
The Phoenix and Stalker will be able to deny all but the double Speedlord scout, and the Pheonix will be used to scout and kill Overlords
48 – Mothership Core
50 – 2 more Stargates
54 – First Oracle – keep hidden at home
60 – Build 2 Pylons at 3rd Base location and send Moma Core
Build Nexus and 3 cannons at 3rd
Do the same at your 4th base about a minute later
When you have about 10 Oracles, drop a pair of Stasis traps at your 3rd or 4th base (whichever doesn’t have the Mothership Core) and head across the map.

Getting the Party Started:

When you get to the Zerg’s base you are going to want to utilize an OP strat called “Judgement.”
If you see a few Hydras or Queens, lay down some mean green dance moves.
If you see an exposed Hatchery – it’ll be gone in about .003 seconds.
Kill Queens before Spores, kill Drones if you can – use that big Protoss brain of yours.

Ow” -Queen

Bottle Service:

After your initial attack – your Oracles will be used primarily to protect you while you make the whole map your very own Protoss dance floor.
This can mean distracting the Zerg with harassment or simply mowing down any Zerg units with the misfortune of attacking you.
Rush out your 3rd and 4th bases – with a few Cannons and Stasis Wards they will be untouchable until a Spire or a committed Hydra timing.
From there expand as quickly as you can and spend all surplus minerals on Cannons and more Nexuses (Nexi?).
It is ESSENTIAL that you know what their response is, so send in that lone Pheonix on a suicide mission at about 9 minutes to find out.
Hydra Den:
  • This is what you want
  • Keep pumping Oracles and research +1 Air Armor – if you’ve done any damage at all the Hydralisks alone will never beat Mass Oracle
  • Add more Stasis Traps and Cannons
Infestation Pit:
  • Business as usual – just Revelate for burrowed Infestor ahead of your Oracle pack and split them up into smaller groups when you get to 25-30 Oracles
  • Check for a Hive periodically for possible Vipers
  • Expand, Expand, Expand

Hive:

  • Be patient with Vipers and don’t even get close without thoroughly pre-spreading
  • Your opponent might make a few Ultralisks to help bust through your Cannons – Oracles laugh in their general direction

Spire:

  • This is going to be the scariest option. Revelate larva to find out if it’s Mutalisks or Curruptors
  • If the Zerg Air can camp your Stargates it’s checkmate – immediately build about 10 cannons around your Stargate cluster (you should have about 5 by now) and build a Fleet Bacon and Phoenix range.
  • Build additional Cannons in every mineral line – keep in mind Curruptors are terrible guests and are known to urinate on people’s property when they drink too much
  • Make a few Phoenix if Muta, Mass Void Ray if Corrupter
  • Build a 2nd Cybernetics and research double air upgrades and even shields if you’re really rolling in it

Corruptors:

  • Corruptors are the correct response to this build in my opinion, but they won’t be able to effectively slow down your expanding.
  • Oracles are still much faster than Curruptor so run them around the map while you expand aggressively
  • Split up your pack into smaller groups to place Stasis traps at Zerg’s prospect bases and kill new Hatcheries
  • Some Zergs will make a pack of Curruptors to zone out your Oracles while an anti-ground army like mass Ling/Bane tries to kill bases. When you scout this add more Cannons, Stasis Wards and wall tight with Gateways if necessary
  • Versus Roach/Curruptor add more cannons/stasis, build Void Rays, and keep the Curruptors busy at home

Mutalisks:

  • Oracles no longer leave the protection of Cannons until Phoenix win the air
  • Tag the Muta flock as often as is safely possible
  • If you have 5 secure Bases already just skip Phoenix and build OP Carriers

Your eventual goal is the Golden Armada with a Mothership, 3-3 Carriers and Oracle support.

Add on more Stargates and donate some Probes when you Max out.

Why it works:
Zerg has some units that are great vs Oracles and Carriers: Curruptors, Infestors, Queens, and Vipers
Zerg also has some units that are great vs Structures: Zergling, Baneling, Roach, Ravager, Lurker, Swarmhost, Ultralisk, Broodlord
Their problem is that Zerg doesn’t have a unit that’s great at both. None of the “structure-killing” units can touch Oracles or Carriers, and none of the Anti Air units can cost effectively kill a base- so the Zerg has to make a difficult choice.
They can
A) Sit back, Spore up, try to expand against lightning quick Oracle hit squads, and eventually go toe-to-toe with a split map +3+3+3 Carrier Fleet with a 10k 10k bank, or…
B) Commit to a timing attack that could completely fail, leaving them helplessly behind against your +3+3+3 Carriers and 10k 10k bank.

Tips:

You will be confronted with various combinations of the above units. For example: Hydra/Infestor/Corruptor or Hydra/Ultra/Corruptor/Viper
Your hardest task will be fending off these armies before your Carrier count is strong enough to help – be patient.
  • Sacrifice or trade a base if need be – let your Cannons and Stasis traps buy you time
  • Wait for the Zerg air to separate from the Hydras for just a moment and pounce on them with your Oracles
  • Set up a concave if they have Infestors or Viper
  • In case of Emergency – In rare circumstances I’ve lost too many Oracles early on and I could no longer fight the Hydralisks – I’ve had some success with throwing down 10+ gateways, a twilight council and (ugh) Warp Gate for a massive 4 base Chargelot all in – not a Plan A or even a Plan B but a complete hail mary.
Match for Reference:

Good Luck, Have Fun – and don’t forget to dance!


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Protoss Harass

Protoss Insight – Introduction to Multitasking

Very often when learning a new skill, your win rate will plummet for a while before you can come out stronger. This is a consistent phenomena, even if you’re attempting to learn a build that is supposedly stronger. This is a seldom stated fact of StarCraft II that sometimes catches newer players off-guard. It leaves you with a feeling of starting over from square one each time you attempt to pick up a new skill and is one of the key reasons the game’s learning curve is known to be infamously treacherous.

Multitasking is just one of these skills but especially in Legacy of the Void, it is a pivotal part of the learning process. Harassment has never been more important in StarCraft’s history as it is in Legacy of the Void. A player’s ability to multitask their production behind harassment is a determining factor in their efficiency.

Today I’d like to talk about a simple harassment tactic new Protoss players can use to soften the learning curve.

 

Basic Concepts

Under most conditions, the harassment game consists of three layers: production upkeep, harassment micro-control, frontline micro-control. What we’re going to do is eliminate one of these layers. Or at the very least, greatly soften it.

Adepts, Oracles, Dark Templar into double Archon drops, Disruptor drops, Storm drops. If you ask about Protoss harassment tools, these are the tactics that immediately come to mind. While they’re all powerful forms of harassment, they also require a decent level of micro-control to use.

Zealots, the Protoss baseline unit, rarely enters the conversation. Perhaps for good reason, Zealots (or more specifically Chargelots) aren’t the best units for hitting specific targets. While they do hit hard enough, their design is the opposite of control. A fact we are going to exploit to create a harassment style for players with low actions per minute (APM).

Protoss Harass

 

Scouting

This is a decent general purpose tactic but does not match-up well against an aerial all in. Against Zerg and Terran you’ll want to do an early scout on their gas geysers. If both are taken there’s a good chance the enemy is taking the fight to the skies. Protoss is far more gas dependent so you’ll want to monitor their Gateway count instead.

 

The Art of War

“Never argue with an idiot. They’ll bring you down to their level and proceed to beat you through experience.” – George Carlin

 

As a beginner, you don’t have much APM to spare, that’s something you can’t help in that moment. Instead of fighting on their terms, you can try to bring them down to your level.

The general idea here is by warping rounds of chargelots into your opponent’s mineral line, you are forcing them to split more APM holding your attack than you are spending on harassment.

Of course this style isn’t completely free of micro-control. As with all Protoss drop tactics, keeping your Warp Prism alive is imperative to keep your opponent on the defensive. In that respect, this is why this tactic works as an excellent harassment introduction. The basics are the same as the core drop tactics but the execution is far less APM intensive.

 

Notes and Limitations

For what you gain in APM you give up in control and consistency. Setting a horde of Zealots loose on your enemy mineral line generally gets work done, but you don’t know for sure that someone’s not going to get distracted by that shiny Command Center just inches away.

Furthermore, for the most part you are resigning to letting these Zealots die. As your baseline unit, Zealots are very inexpensive. If they can get some solid economic damage done (ie. if they do kill out a decent amount of workers) it’s generally very worth it. But it’s important not to overindulge. Investing too heavily into units you’re not getting back can result in your opponent proceeding to just walk over you, even if you do get your money’s worth in economic damage.Protoss Harass

As you get more comfortable with the ability to control multiple fronts, you can start moving into more APM intensive drop styles. Dark Templar into double Archon is my harassment style of choice and is a good step up from this introductory level.

Alternatively, you can attempt to mix Chargelot warp-ins with other forms of harassment. Trap notably mixed this style with his pristine Oracle control against Solar in the GSL 2017, Season I.

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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The Reaper is Growing Up

Last week we saw Hyun “Byun” Woo and Cho “Maru” Seong Ju change the way we look at Reapers in Terran vs Zerg. They were producing Reapers off of five barracks before even building a Factory – historically a very cheesy, very all-in build.  The difference was that after their first few Reapers, they stopped harassing Drones and instead darted around on the outskirts of the Zerg’s creep.  They were delaying third bases, killing Queens and Creep Tumors, and even surviving long enough to help the Marine/Medivak push minutes later.

Coming of Age

Caster Ried “RAPiD” Melton smartly compared this evolution to that of the Oracle.  For a long time, the Oracle was purely an early game unit. You build it as fast as possible, kill as many workers as possible, and eventually it would die.  In 2017 we now know that Oracles have fantastic utility in every stage of the game – tagging armies, revealing cloaked units, placing down stasis traps, and aiding long range units like Disruptors and Tempest.

Similarly, in the right hands, a pack of Reapers can greatly increase the survivability of a small bio force.  Maru and Byun use the Reapers’ KD8 charges to delay clumps of Banelings while Marines shoot Zerglings. Add some good splits and stunted creep spread and you have yourself a dead Zerg.

The Build:

Supply Depot starts to wall the Natural ramp

Barracks, Gas, Barracks, Barracks, Gas (All Barracks walling natural)

Constantly build Reapers out of all Barracks

32 Supply – Command Center Low Ground

36 Supply – 4th and 5th Barracks

42 Supply – Engineering Bay

47 Supply – 3rd Gas, +1 Weapons

61 Supply – Factory, Add Tech Labs and Reactors to Barracks

69 Supply – Stimpack & Switch all Barracks production to Marines

75 Supply – Starport (Reactor Factory for Add-on Swap)

78 Supply – 3rd Command Center, +1 Armor

77 Supply – Push or Double Drop

Goals:

  1. Delay the Third
  2. Kill Queens and Limit Creep
  3. Force out units instead of Drones

When it comes to microing Reapers, no one can hold a candle to Byun.  He makes the underutilized KD8 charges look almost too strong.  These grenades do a flat 10 Damage to all affected and, more importantly, launch them into the air, rendering them useless for about a second.

Byun uses these grenades to anticipate Zergling movement and deny ling surrounds, and to isolate and kill Queens. I’ve even seen Byun use grenades to create pockets of escape like an offensive line does for a running back. Warning: this is very risky if you are not Byun.

 

While telling someone to “do Byun’s Reaper Build” is a lot like telling someone to simply shoot threes like Steph Curry, you don’t need Byun-level micro to pull off this build. Provided your macro doesn’t slip terribly, a pack of 20 Reapers can do a lot to slow your opponent’s creep spread and economy.  Without creep to worry about it isn’t terribly hard to keep most Reapers alive if you play safe – which leads me to the whole point of this article.

Reapers + Marines

In the past, we rarely saw Reapers fight alongside any other type of unit besides the occasional Reaper/Hellion combo. Byun and Maru showed in their GSL games that the synergy between Reapers and Marines has been greatly overlooked. Maru showcased this combination brilliantly in game two of his series against Soo. He was constantly throwing down grenades in the path of oncoming Ling/Bane, turning the fearsome swarm into a bouncy castle from hell.

Versus Roach Ravager

The most common response to three or five-Rax Reaper is mass Speedling with a few Queens, but many Zergs opt for a Roach/Ravager counter attack. Look no further than Game 1 of Maru vs Dark, where Maru uses KD8 charges to slow down Dark’s push every step of the way. By the time they reach the Terran base, the Roach Ravager force is weakened and outnumbered with no way of retreating.

 

 


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Videos Courtesy of AfreekaTV

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StarCraft: Remastered

StarCraft Remastered Preview – The Midway Checkpoint

We’re currently nearing the three month mark since the official announcement of StarCraft: Remastered. Incidentally, we’ll be crossing that mark around the same time that we, in the northern hemisphere, head into summer. With that, we’ll be within the three month window of StarCraft: Remastered’s release.

At this point, we’ve either (optimistically) passed the halfway mark or (more realistically) we’re soon nearing it. With that in mind, I think it’s a good time to review what we’ve learned in the last few weeks as we explore the possibilities of what’s still to come.

 

Ladder

One of the biggest gaps separating Brood War from modern esports is the lack of an automated matchmaking system. Introducing a global ladder to a 20 year old game is an ambitious undertaking. Given the scale of the project, we’re not at all likely to see any form of an operational ladder, at least until the new StarCraft client goes into open beta.

In the meantime, we were given our first look at the new global leaderboards within the last few days.

The most interesting feature of the new global standings is very telling of how serious the Blizzard Classic Games Team is about preserving the culture of the longstanding Brood War community. Players are able to view the online status of any player on the leaderboard. This is a feature currently absent from the StarCraft II ladder as well as most modern leaderboards. I’m sure to most, it seems almost irrelevant.

However, it is a feature highly relevant to the Brood War culture that has survStarCraft: Remasteredived for over 20 years through chat-based match requests. Indeed, it is almost archaic by modern standards.

And yet a culture was built upon this foundation, and in South Korea continued to thrive well into 2017.

A key concern has been the impact of the new matchmaking system on Brood War’s unique social structure. It goes without saying, attempting to introduce an automatic global ladder while preserving the sense of intimacy of a chat based system seems entirely impossible, yet with a simple online/offline flag they’ve managed to preserve a little sense of this, an unexpected feat that I can only offer Blizzard the highest praise for accomplishing.

 

Keybinds

Of the new features Blizzard has taken the time to highlight, this is the only one to date the community has been given the opportunity to test. Rebind-able hotkeys was a feature available in the earliest builds of the 1.18 Public Test Realm (PTR). It was removed after 1.18 went live and has not been available for testing again since.

But for the fortunate few of us that were able to test this feature, the impact absolutely cannot be understated. Very early into the 1.18 PTR, a profile for rebinding Brood War hotkeys into StarCraft II’s  popular grid format emerged. Created by a user on the Team Liquid forums.

StarCraft: RemasteredTo put as simply as possible, the experience of playing Brood War using Grid was amazing. Despite being 20 years old, it felt like an entirely an entirely modern game, it was almost cathartic. With the visuals of the game being updated (though some would argue that matter is simply a difference in art-style preference), the controls were really the only major anchor tying StarCraft to 1998. That anchor was been pulled and the ship made good course.

Unfortunately, given the length of time Keybinds have been off the PTR, it’s not likely to return until the new client emerges. If I’m to be honest and speaking as someone that started their StarCraft journey with StarCraft II, if custom hotkeys were still available on the Brood War PTR, I wouldn’t still be playing StarCraft II today.

There’s been no word on the new client, though there were expectations of an announcement being made at the recent ASL Finals. Still, StarCraft: Remastered was unveiled on the day of the StarCraft II GSL Finals, with GSL Season 2 soon coming to a close, there’s still hope of more information just around the corner.

 

 

Featured images courtesy Blizzard Entertainment.

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The Sledgehammer Build

Today I am doing something outrageous. Something very ill-advised. Something I may come to regret…

Today, I am unveiling to the world… my greatest cheese.   The culmination of thousands of games, years of experimenting, and countless in-class hours spent devilishly theory crafting. Ladies and gentlemen…

The Sledgehammer Build

Inspired by game one in the round of 32 at Dreamhack Open Valencia in July of 2015 between American-Protoss Arium and Korean-Zerg Symbol, the Sledgehammer Build is a one-two punch of robotic power that is terrifyingly difficult to hold – EVEN if they know it’s coming. I’ve used this build hundreds of times, beat many a salty Masters player, and I can count the times it’s been held on one hand.

 

Step 1: Get the fastest possible Robotics Facility

To accomplish this you are going to want to make your first Pylon at 13, then a Gateway as fast as possible, then the Cybernetics Core as fast as possible. Gasses should be taken at 14 and 18 supply.

Step 2: Mind games

Before your Robo finishes, make a Stalker, then a Sentry. The Sentry should hold the door at the ramp (which you walled of course), and the Stalker should patrol the edge of your base to deny the Overlord Scout. After your first Immortal, make a Mothership Core and send it to your natural along with a probe to make a Pylon. This will make your opponent think you are expanding. Start three additional Gateways whenever you can afford them without slowing down your Immortal drop.  You will naturally float 400 minerals at about the time your prism leaves so take a natural Nexus.  This is meant to be scouted and hint at a macro game. In other words: “Make drones please!”

 

Step 3: The Golden Boys

Beeline your two Immortals and Warp Prism to the enemy base – I usually hit the third first. Send your Mothership Core a screen length ahead to spot Overlords. Timing is key, so rally your Prism straight to their base and have your Immortals ready in its flight path to hop in. Your primary goals are to kill Queens and to force out and kill Roaches and Zerglings. If possible, make your opponent THINK that this is your big plan – your ace in the hole. I will often warp in a wave of Zealots to force more units, but killing Queens and army units is the priority – killing Drones is not necessary.

 

 

Micro tips!

This build works exponentially better if you are good at juggling units in a Warp Prism. Arium demonstrates this brilliantly in his game against Symbol. Picking up the damaged Immortal and dropping it behind the healthy one is incredibly effective – and it’s fun! Use surfaces like mineral patches and buildings to your advantage, and be VERY careful of Queens focusing down your Prism – this will result in an instant loss.

Step 4: The Sledgehammer

During this Immortal pressure, you have been doing two things: making as many Sentries as you possibly can, and making another two Immortals. When your fourth Immortal is finished (or earlier if you smell blood), send everything across the map. Right before attacking, warp in a wave of Stalkers if Roaches, and Zealots if Zerglings.  Hallucinate three Archons and move them to the front, pop a Guardian Shield, and charge in like Braveheart. Odds are good your opponent will have nowhere near enough to defend. If they do, throw down some choice Forcefields and Time Warps and micro your heart out. The prism should be used to pick up Immortals close to death and warp in additional Gateway units. Congratulations – you just pissed off a Zerg player.

 

 

Ways it can be held:

I’ve seen this build held two ways: fastest possible Mutalisks or a perfect engagement with Zergling Ravager. As soon as Mutalisks are spotted, all warp ins should, of course, be pure Stalker. Maybe even hallucinate a fourth Archon to tank some additional damage (provided you still have a guardian shield). For Zergling Ravager, make sure your Immortals are shooting Ravagers instead of lings, warp in a few waves of Adepts or Zealots to cover your soft Sentry/Stalker underbelly, and most importantly: DO NOT LET CORROSIVE BILE HIT YOUR SENTRIES. This can wipe out your Sentries incredibly fast, leaving the rest of your army very exposed.

Transitions:

Let’s say your opponent sees it coming and spines up his natural base. You pick off his third but decide it unwise to attack further. You should have a superior army if he turtles up, so double expand! Make some more Immortals and Gateway units, and keep that nerd contained on two bases! From there you can go into Blink, Glaives, Disruptors, you name it.

Play around with variations. Try different timings on when you shove with your main army, different Gateway compositions, and different Sentry-Energy usage.

A match for Reference:

http://drop.sc/replay/4924369


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Sound Structure – Intriguing Designs That Hit The Mark

A week ago I wrote an article discussing the most stressful units in StarCraft II. Here’s the followup to that piece, a discussion of some of the most interesting designs StarCraft has given us. Here are units that prove that it is possible to create gameplay that is satisfying for the player without causing your opponent’s blood pressure to spike.

 

Stalker

Perhaps a trigger warning is necessary here for victims of the Blink-Stalker era. Either way, I do maintain my point from last week. Aesthetically speaking, my honest opinion is that Stalker is the Little Nicky of StarCraft designs. The Stalker’s gameplay, however, is another story, and in a way, distinct.

Among all core units in the game, the Stalker is by far the weakest in terms of raw dps. For its lacking offensive ability, the Stalker boasts superior mobility. Once its ability Blink is unlocked, the Stalker becomes unrivaled in its ability to pick-off priority targets.

Stalkers can’t survive prolonged engagements without the support of units higher up in the Protoss tech tree. Instead, as its name implies, the Stalker functions as a sniper unit for both cutting off units attempting to retreat, and giving the Protoss the ability to dictate the terms of engagement. The latter is usually achieved by using blink to hard engage a dangerous target before it can react, or up to higher ground to secure a tactical advantage.

Like most standard Gateway units, the Stalker functions as reinforcements in long engagements; they will eventually fall-off without actual heavy firepower at the rear, so focus fire is imperative.

The idea of taking a mobile low damage unit and making it a race’s core is a tough sell but the Stalker carved its own niche with its distinct and satisfying play-style. Now if only it didn’t look like a concept reject for Genesect.

 

Ghost

Conceptually, the Ghost seems like what you would get if you told a 10 year old boy to make a StarCraft unit. To start, it’s a spellcaster built to counter other spell casters. It can stealth and has massive burst that can shred even the tankiest units; if need be, it can call in a Nuclear strike, which, appropriately enough, is nowhere near as broken as it sounds.

That’s pretty much the theme of the Ghost. It’s a unit that, on paper, sounds like it should be all kinds of busted, but isn’t. The fact that it’s on one of the furthest ends of the Terran tech tree has a lot to do with this. Furthermore, its more outlandish abilities either require additional research or further investments to prepare.

Design

The Tactical Nuke is worth particular note for being the first supply pit in StarCraft. Ironically,  it is the best example of a supply pit done right. In both StarCraft and StarCraft II, each Tactical Nuke requires further investment to build. Usually only one could be prepared at a time. Although in StarCraft II, both the direct and opportunity cost is significantly lower than its predecessor.

The significant investment that goes into preparing even a single Nuke makes it a rare sight. But it’s still an exceptionally powerful tool that can be devastating in the right situations regardless. The rarity of the event just makes it that much more of a spectacle for both players when it actually does happen.

 

Arbiter

My personal favourite unit from StarCraft I, and possibly just StarCraft in general. The Arbiter is the unit at the furthest end of the Protoss tech tree in Brood War. Furthermore, even despite its heavy cost and even heavier build time (longest in the game, yes even longer than the Carrier), it has three further upgrades to research that collectively take close to 4.5 minutes, and 450 minerals/450 gas to complete.

In that way, it’s very unique. Most notably, for a unit at the furthest end of the tech tree, its direct offensive ability is almost non-existent. It has an attack, but it’s mostly negligible. Rather, the value of the Arbiter comes entirely from its spells and abilities. Of its three abilities/spells, the Arbiter starts with one, its Cloaking Field. Cloaking Field, as you can guess, cloaks (grants stealth) to every unit in an area beneath it.

Design

Its only two spells, both of which need to be researched, are Recall and Stasis Field. They both feature their own respective strategies for which they act as the focal points. Stasis Field freezes any unit caught within the spell’s area of effect. Under stasis, units are completely immobile and cannot be attacked for its duration. It’s a particularly powerful tool against Terran and Protoss for shutting down Siege Tanks and Reavers, respectively.

Recall is a global spell that teleports all units under a 5×5 spell area directly to the Arbiter. The Mass Recall strategy centered on this ability usually involves flying an Arbiter directly into an enemy base and using recall to teleport an army onto the enemy’s production facilities.

The Arbiter is unique as the only final tier support unit gated behind massive investments and research upgrades like none other, but somehow ends up being undeniably worth it.

Side Note: You’ve probably noticed from the Ghost to the Arbiter that there’s a reoccurring design principle here that StarCraft II ignored. That principle being – if you’re going to give a unit some seriously busted-ass spells, stick it at the furthest end of the tech tree and lock its potential behind a million upgrades.

 

Viper

I didn’t mean to order this list but it happened anyway, I guess this would be the number one spot. As much as I love the Arbiter, the Viper just wins on so many levels.

I’ll start with Parasitic Bomb, which proves it’s possible to create a spell for punishing mass-air deathballs without being a spell that instagibs mass-air deathballs. Furthermore, while Parasitic Bomb will significantly slow, if not stop, the advancement of a mass-air army, its effect can be significantly mitigated with practiced micro control that feels very satisfying to outplay.

This is a very rare mechanic in StarCraft where a punishing spell can actually feel somewhat rewarding on the receiving end for having successfully mitigated the full effect.

But by far, Viper’s most intriguing ability is Consume. It’s an ability that uniquely allows the Viper to replenish energy by sucking the life from (damaging) your own Structures. Not only is the spell absolutely ominous to watch, particularly when watching a swarm of Vipers kill their own Hatchery, but it adds a distinct depth to the Viper. After exhausting its energy, Vipers can be pulled from the front-line back to the Zerg’s base to replenish their energy at the cost of damage to their own structures, after which it can return to the field.

The Viper has its own synergy between its abilities, spells, and the battlefield itself. An intriguing novelty unlike anything else in StarCraft that I can only describe as an absolutely beautiful model of sound game design.

Design

 

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ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Toxic Design

Stress Spikes – The most questionable designs in StarCraft II

Balance revisions are once again in season in the StarCraft world. And while these changes are far from insignificant, it will be a while before the next major overhaul. As such, I thought I would get an early start on the list of units that should be considered for the next renovation.

The units in this discussion aren’t on here because of poor balance, and to be clear, this isn’t a balance discussion. Rather, today I want to look at units infamous for their toxic design.

Most of the units here serve important roles in their race’s design. But in some cases, those roles could stand to see some revisions, into forms that accomplish similar goals but in a way that doesn’t inspire players to put their fist through their monitors.

 

Oracle Fly-by

There are many units in StarCraft that can cripple you if you’re not prepared for them. The Oracle, however, is a special case.

If your anti-air is mispositioned, an early Oracle can end the game. There’s an indescribable feeling you get seeing an Oracle fly-by and realizing your grave has already been dug. Some would suggest you could say the same thing about detection and stealth units. The thing is, workers can run from a Dark Templar or Banshee. Try as you may, there’s no running from an Oracle. It raises the question as to why Pulsar Beam is necessary in its current form, especially with Stasis Ward becoming more common as a means of harassment.

 

The mine that got away

It’s not exactly surprising to say the Widow Mine is a unit that inspires a special kind of loathing. But I’ve always been of the firm belief that it’s not the Widow Mine’s damage that makes it a toxic unit. Rather, the most toxic thing about the Widow Mine is watching it get away – watching a mine being dropped into your mineral line and then just barely failing to kill it before it borrows is an exasperating feeling that’s made worse knowing you need to evacuate your mineral line immediately and deal with finishing it off before you can get back to work.

Nerfs to the Widow Mine were a huge talking point earlier this year but it seems surprising that the Mine’s 90 HP never came into question. For reference, the Widow Mine’s predecessor from Brood War, the Spider Mine, only had 20HP. For that 20HP, the Spider Mine could only hit ground units, could not be moved once set, were only good for one-shot and yet were still widely used.

The Widow Mine is not going to get its health cut anytime soon. That would be a balance call rather than a design call. But the next time issues with the Widow Mine come up, rather than just cutting its damage again, maybe think about adjusting its durability instead. Personally, I would even be in favor of the Mine getting a damage buff if it meant a durability trade off.

 

Throwing Shade

I’ve gone through a lot of this already so I’ll be sparing on the details here. Psionic Transfer was an interesting experiment but the results are back and they don’t look good.Toxic Design I almost feel it’s a cop-out to include this because of how vocal the community has been about this ability. But still, the balance team hasn’t really done anything about it so maybe it’s not as obvious as I thought. Sure they cut the shade vision, but all that did was make the shading process into guesswork.

This arguably made the Adept even more toxic to play against. At least when the Adepts had vision you could reasonably predict when the Protoss would commit or not. Now that the shades are blind, you really never know when the Protoss is going to go full yolo. This new layer of unpredictability means that the act of activating Psionic Transfer alone is enough to keep an opponent on the defensive.

The community has been vocal enough about this that the fact that Psionic Transfer still exists in its current form can only be described as stubbornness on the balance team’s part. Yes, we Protoss players have had our laughs with this one but the joke is getting old. The ability to cancel shades needs to go.

 

Supply Pits

Let’s talk about offense vs defense in esports. As a rule of thumb, you generally want defending to be somewhat more skillful than executing an attack. This is done to encourage aggressive tactics and discourage passive playstyles that risk creating boring or monotonous shows for audiences. Supply Pits are units that take this concept to the absolute extreme. These are units like the Disruptor and Seeker Missiles that are exponentially harder to defend against than they are to use. And failing to defend against them can at times have game-ending results.

Spending 10 minutes building up an army only to lose it all in a second is a unique experience, and one not often seen in the RTS genre. Being on the receiving end of a Supply Pit is easily the most toxic experience in StarCraft II and one of the most toxic experiences in any esport.

With this in mind, the damage fade of splash and AoE damage is worth reviewing at least once. We can call it a social experiment. And if there is any aspect of StarCraft II that’s worth experimenting on, this is it.

 

Why does my Core Unit look like ass?

Toxic Design

It shoots lasers from its eyes. You know, just in case the design wasn’t dumb enough as is.

While we are on the topic of bad design, let’s talk about the Stalker. Granted, the Stalker is badly designed in a different way but it still makes me want to break my screen so here we are. Every race has one or two core units. These are units that are generally useful at all points in the game which are capable of fun micro-mechanics. Terran has Marine-Marauders, for Zerg: Hydralisks and Ravagers. If you only started playing StarCraft some time in the last few months, it’s easy to think that our Core unit is the Adept.

To a certain extent, the Adept has become a core unit despite scaling poorly into the late game. But Protoss has had another core unit for years prior to Legacy of the Void and that is the Stalker.

Toxic Design

It’s a Winter’s Veil Miracle

If I had to describe the Stalker, I would say it looks like the result of an underachieving demon possessing a mashed-on beetle. I wish I could say that was an exaggeration, that really just is what the Stalker looks like. Just like it isn’t an exaggeration to say the Stalker is possibly the single ugliest unit ever designed in the history of the RTS genre.

How or why the Stalker’s current design came into existence is a mystery. My theory is that some famous Protoss player slept with Dustin Browder’s wife and this was his revenge. Whatever the case, I think we’ve been punished long enough. Zerg has their sleek Hydras, Terrans have their badass Marines but somehow Protoss got stuck with Little Nicky.

WarChests are coming later this year, all I ask is that we get a skin that makes the Stalker not look like ass.


 

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Protoss vs Terran in 2017 – A Historic Low

 

I am very unhappy with Protoss vs Terran right now. This has been a really popular subject lately. Although I am neither a professional game designer nor Artosis, I do adore Starcraft 2 and want it to be as good as it can be. With the departure of David Kim (peace be upon him) from the Starcraft 2 team, I’d expect some rather large changes coming in the near future.

 

Anyone who’s been watching top Starcraft 2 this year knows that Protoss vs Terran has been almost entirely Phoenix/Adept. There are exceptions, like Warp Prism Adept all ins, Cyclone all ins, and Stats, who seems to be the only Protoss alive to play defensively without it. Phoenix Adept games CAN blossom into interesting late game slug fests, but most of the time they end when either the Bio ball or the Adept ball snowballs into an unkillable mass of hitpoints. I’m talking 25 Adepts losing the game and 28 Adepts winning it.

 

Although Adept Phoenix isn’t overpowered, it isn’t abundantly easy to play either. However, it is boring to play, and even more boring to watch. The game is often decided by one big Adept shade onto the Terran army. Either there are enough Adepts and the Phoenix kill everything else, or there are not enough Adepts, the Phoenix drop like flies, and the game is over.

 

If you are forgetting how awesome PvT in Legacy of the Void can be, watch TY vs Parting at Dreamhack Roccat from back in late 2015.

 

 

The games had nonstop action all over the map, nail-biting micro battles, creative strategies, and climactic GG timings. Now compare that to a 2017 Phoenix Adept game. Every game looks more or less the same; the endings are dull, and evenly matched players will take quick and empty wins off each other.

 

Solutions

Now, the hard part. Let’s talk solutions. When I dissect PvT, it seems to be the fragility of the Blink Stalker opener that forces Protoss down the Phoenix/Adept route. Without a mobile anti air force to shut down Medivacs and Liberators, harass can become overwhelming very fast. This problem began when the “Tankivak” combo was removed in favor of more damage, and Blink Stalkers’ openers became nearly obsolete over night. With only Phoenix to handle air units and Tank/Liberator contains, Protoss had to choose a cheap unit that could close the distance to tanks instantly – the Adept of course. Due to the vital importance of the Adept ball’s cumulative HP, it became detrimental for the Protoss to diversify their composition at all.

I’m not suggesting an outright buff to the Stalker. Although I believe they are the root of the issues with PvT, Blink Stalkers have of course gone through meta swings of immense power and killing potential. In addition, Stalkers seem to be in a perfectly good place versus Zerg and Protoss. So what can be done?

Idea #1: Buff the Sentry

The Sentry was one of the coolest units in Wings of Liberty, and one with a very high skill ceiling. Watching players like MC and Parting use force-fields masterfully to control the battle was incredibly interesting to watch. I’d argue that PvZ was at its most interesting when the Protoss army was Sentry based. That is, after all, core to the design of Protoss. Expensive power units designed to control the battlefield and keep enemies at bay – not to Yolo masses of Adepts onto Bio in an outcome I could work out on a calculator.

Protoss has very few early-game options for scouting. With more Utility out of the Sentry (a simple energy cost reduction would do), Protoss would have an easier time scouting and handling Multi-Rax pressure, bringing back a more complex unit composition for the mid-game. An extra Hallucinated Archon or two could be invaluable in breaking a Siege Tank contain, and some extra force-fields could help your Stalkers survive the aggressive stims that make Colossus so unattractive.

The Sentry is all but gone from the game. You’ll see one per army for Guardian Shield, and an occasional Force-field/Recall Hatch snipe, but there are no more Parting Force-field Donuts.

 

 

Idea #2: Nerf the Adept

This has been thrown around a lot lately, and it would certainly hurt. The 3.8 patch was one of the most frustrating times for Protoss players in years, and a further nerf to the unit could make our collective win rates plummet. An HP nerf to the Adept might relegate them to a harass-only role.  This solves our Phoenix Adept problem but leaves Protoss high and dry against Tank pushes, which leads me to…

Idea #3: Reduce the Cost of Zealot Charge to 150/150

With a more accessible Zealot Charge, Protoss players could survive against Tank Pushes without Phoenix Adept.

 

These are just ideas. I’m sure there are a dozen reasons why each one would be disastrous, but thus is the impossible task of balancing this game.

 

When all is said and done, it’s the Strategy and Micro that keeps me coming back to Starcaft 2. It’s the Poker and the Chess, it’s taking that perfect fight and microing your heart out. I like seeing two armies clash and not knowing who will come out ahead. I like watching Byun win a fight with inferior numbers, and I like watching sOs mind-game someone into the dirt. Protoss versus Terran has no individuality right now. Whether you open like Hero, Classic, or Dear, all that skill, knowledge, and experience only stand to give you a few extra Adepts for when the “Big Shade” happens. The only actual choices the Protoss have during the fight are, Shade or Don’t Shade, and What to Shoot/Pickup with the Phoenix.

The Protoss players we have right now are so clever and talented. It really makes you wonder when they all decided that this is the only way to reliably beat Terran. While I’ll confess this piece is certainly more criticism than solutions, we as a community need to make it clear to the new balance and design team that Protoss vs Terran is in need of a change.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of BumbleBee of TeamLiquid

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