Soo vs sOs: Fifth Time’s the Charm?

At last, the series we’ve been waiting for has arrived: Eo “Soo” Yun Su vs Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin. A thunderous clash of style, smarts, and story. What a treat it was.

In one corner, we have Soo. This man has fought and clawed his way to the GSL finals for the fifth time, something no one else has ever done. Despite this fact, he has never won. Will this legendary Zerg confirm his cursed career as an eternal silver medalist, or stand as a shining beacon of perseverance?

Against him we have sOs, one of the most feared players of all time, and last season’s grand finalist. A man that has won everything under the sun but a GSL championship. Tastless called sOs the “definition of a winner.”

On top of their successes and history, we have a clashing of brilliant minds. Soo is a stone wall of Zerg. His macro is perfect and his speed and intuition are remarkable. He completely embodies Zerg. He sees everything, he has units everywhere, and when you try to attack him, his numbers are simply overwhelming. Soo has a keen sense of when and how to take fights, and has some of the best Zerg mechanics in the world.

On the other side of the spectrum is the scariest player a solid Zerg like Soo can imagine. sOs is most likely the smartest player in the world, and because of that, no one wants to play him. He has a thousand different builds and he may never do the same one twice. He has a seemingly endless bag of tricks, and he always knows which one will hurt the most. He’s thinking what you’re thinking he’s thinking YOU’RE thinking, then he’s doing the opposite. He’s throwing mind games and fake-outs around like other Protoss research Warpgate.

 

Game 1

Game 1 was like watching someone punch a brick wall. sOs came in with his “Harlem Globetrotters” moves, full of finesse and multitasking, juggling around his adepts and warp ins.

 

 

…But almost no drones died. An attack designed to kill at least twenty workers was crushed almost perfectly. Artosis rightly pointed out that Soo would probably just roll him over in a few minutes, and he did.

 

 

Game 2

In Game 2 sOs appeared to be going with the exact same build. Fast expand, one Oracle, one Phoenix, some Gateways. sOs came in with yet another Adept attack with the intent to cripple, but this time it worked. He used Soo’s memory of the first game against him, canceling shades he would have previously completed and vice versa. This attack killed 20 drones as intended, in addition to a few from his surviving Oracle.

 

 

By the time Soo launched his signature Hydralisk/Baneling sledge hammer of a push, sOs had some juicy Storms waiting. Constant Warp Prism harassment would keep Soo at home while sOs began a full air transition. With an economy too weak to build anything but Hydras, Soo’s final attack would get absolutely crushed by Storms and Interceptors.

 

  

 

Game 3

Game 3 began with a double Pylon block from sOs and evolved into the standard double Archon drop.

Soo’s kiting would prove too strong, and handily pushed back sOs’s multi-pronged Warp Prism pressure.

After sOs botched a retreat and loses critical units, Soo poured all his money into Ravagers. Some well placed Currosive Biles would separate the Protoss’s Immortals from their support units and close out the game.

Game 4

Game 4 was the best of the whole series. Both players finally had the chance to showcase their incredible improvisational skills and strategic wit. sOs took an early lead with a Sentry/Immortal/Adept attack. With some clever Adept shades and Force Fields, sOs killed the third hatchery and even a few drones while his own third finished up.

 

Artosis made a great point here; the old Soo would likely find his position irrecoverable and launch a complete all in. But this is the new Soo, a more confident Soo. He’d try for the catch-up game. Soo would stabilize with Lurkers, forfeiting map control to the Protoss. In response, sOs would pump out a high count of Immortals and Storm tech, the perfect composition to surround and flatten Soo’s impatient Lurker push.

 

aOs would have an untouchable ground army for the next few minutes, but played hesitantly and patiently. Little did he know that a greater spire was on its way to make his Immortal ball obsolete.

The real chess match began when Soo’s Broodlords came into play. Confronted with six Broodlords and enough lurkers to rule out a forward blink, sOs knew a fight was out of the question.

 

With no chance of an air transition or sufficient anti air force, sOs had to get creative. He spent the rest of the game putting on a master class on how to play against Broodlords.

Repeatedly, Soo set up his unstoppable army on sOs’s side of the map, and repeatedly sOs counter attacked. More so he coaxed Soo to follow with tempting pokes. SOs would kill a base, bring the Broodlords all the way back, and recall to a newly finished Nexus. Then he’d wait, rinse, and repeat. It worked remarkably the first three times, killing Hatcheries and running the Broodlords all around.

Soo wasn’t falling for it any longer. He cut down the Protoss economy with lone Lurkers and packs of lings. By the time sOs had finished his fourth bait-and-switch, sOs had no economy to jump back to, and had not even enough firepower to finish off the newest hatchery. GG.

 

Game 5

In Game 5 Soo got the sOs special with extra cheese. When you think of a StarCraft player that can whip out a never-before seen strategy in a crucial match, sOs is your man. The most standard opener in the PvZ matchup has been DT Archon Drops for months now. Sos was playing perfectly standard, right? Wrong.

 

Soo had fallen comfortably into thinking he was facing a build he’d dealt with countless times in practice. The DTs drop off in my main. No worries, I have a Spore Crawler. But this is SOS! Another Prism came in with another hit squad of DTs.

 

Before long, there were Archons and Chargelots killing the Lair while another force hit the third. The beating would not end there.

 

  

Grouping up at Soo’s new fourth, sOs would charge onto Zerg’s creep like a wrecking ball, boxing the Zerg into the corner and flooding with Speed Zealots.

 

Game 6

This was the most one-sided game of the series, even more than Game 1. A Pylon rush failed completely, largely due to a lack of focus fire on the Hatchery.

 

 

After the attempts to damage from sOs’s Adepts and Oracles were mostly wiped out, Soo would once again launch a deadly Hydra/Baneling attack. Once again, he would wipe sOs off the map.

 

 

This series puts Soo at one of (if not the) best Zerg in the world. Equal to Dark and maybe better, Soo showed some of the highest level Zerg vs Protoss we’ve ever seen. It was his minimalist defense against sOs’s warp prism play – the quality of his engagements.  Soo showed how to out-maneuver a quicker army and how to retain a high drone count in the face of blistering aggression. The question that remains is, does he have what it takes to go one step further?

Tasteless: He is the perfect range of Zerg, there’s really nothing he can’t do.

Artosis: Win a GSL?

 

ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF AFREECA.TV

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SHOUTcraft Kings: March

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my fifth Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in StarCraft over the past week.

 

Highlight Games

 

GSL Semifinals – Eo “soO” Yoon vs Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin (Abyssal Reef)

GSL Semifinals – Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob vs Kim “Ryung” Dong (Daybreak)

SHOUTcraft Kings – Joo “Zest” Sung Wook vs Tobias “ShoWTimE” Sieber

SHOUTcraft Kings – Stats vs Artur “Nerchio” Bloch

GSL Semifinals – Stats vs Ryung (Daybreak)

 

 

GSL Semifinals

 

 

soO vs sOs

 

Echo

Game 1 on Echo was an interesting idea from sOs. Here he attempted to keep soO on the defensive through repeated multiprong Adept harassment while teching up back at home. Instead he continually traded out waves of Adepts for very little return. By the time sOs had completed PsiStorm it was just too late. soO army easily overwhelming sOs in the end to take an easy lead to the series.

Whirlwind and Proxima Station

This game would set the theme of the series. Where sOs maintained the role of aggressor while soO’s defensive ability would be put to the test. sOs would break soO’s defense on Whirlwind, getting himself into a favorable mid game to tie up the series. Again on Proxima however soO’s defense would hold out against sOs’ series of aggression letting him take 2-1 lead.

Abyssal Reef

As they always do, things eventually did get interesting on Abyssal Reef. sOs took a massive economic lead early into Game 4. Taking out soO’s 3rd Hatchery with an Immortal drop reinforced by Adept Warp-Ins. From there soO maintained an airtight defense that allowed him to get back into the game. sOs would again take a massive lead after soO attempted to engage sOs’ from a choke point. soO would lose most of his Lurker based army in the engagement forcing him to retreat. A tech shift into Brood Lords would catch sOs off-guard letting soO again bring himself back into the game. Unable to fight soO in a head-on engagement sOs instead used his superior mobility to his advantage. While sOs played a strong tactical game for a while he was eventually cornered and without a base to retreat to. Putting soO at a 3-1 lead.

Cactus Valley and Newkirk Precinct

sOs went into Cactus Valley with a standard Dark Templar-Prism build. Following up with a second Prism and a second wave of Dark Templars sOs dismantled soO through multi-prong harassment. soO wasn’t able to recover from sOs’ early lead taking us to Game 6 on Newkirk Precinct.

It’s possible this match could have gone to a Game 7 had sOs’ play been up to standard. Or at least the same level we saw in Cactus Valley. Instead he went for a Pylon rush into soO’s third failing to kill the hatchery after a lackluster engagement. He would later attempt to followup with a massive Adept push but seemingly forgot to research Resonating Glaives. soO took a huge early advantage just by holding off sOs’ attempts at aggression which sOs would never recover from. Running over sOs in the inevitable counterattack, soO closed the series advancing to the finals 4-2.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Hatchery bleeding almost as heavily as sOs’ supply

 

 

Stats vs Ryung

 

Abyssal Reef

Stats had a rough start to Abyssal Reef losing his first Oracle to a Widow Mine. Shortly after his third was to cancel by an early push by Ryung denying any chance of early aggression. Stats and Ryung fell back into a defensive game for a short time to build up their tech. As both players entered their mid-game tech the game became a street fight.

Stats made the first engagement with an army of Colossi, Adept and Phoenixes. After trading out his Adepts for worker kills Stats was forced back and Ryung made his counterattack. Stats’ main was brought to its knees by Ryung’s bio-drop, having most of his expensive tech taken out. But Stats would retaliate with Adept harassment sending Ryung’s worker count plummeting.SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Behind the frantic attacks at eachothers bases Ryung teched into Ghosts while Stats built up his High Templar count. The final stage of the game was decided by EMPs and PsiStorms. While Ryung landed several solid EMPs Stats’ superior positioning let him deal crippling damage with PsiStorms deciding the game.

Act II

Echo was decided in just over 30 seconds where Stats found a gap in Ryung’s defense to land a Prism right behind the mineral line of Ryung’s main then cutting off Ryung’s army as he attempted to fall back. One game later on Cactus Valley, Ryung crippled Stats’ economy in the same way, exploiting a gap in Stats’ defense to make a massive drop into Stats’ 3rd base.

This put the series at 2-1 heading into Newkirk Precinct. Apparently not wanting a repeat of Cactus Valley, Stats’ defensive game was completely on point in game 4. Defensive play made all the difference in this game as both players made attempts at harassment. While Ryung had some relative success with a single Reaper, overall Stats’ was able to clear Ryung’s aggression taking very little economic damage in the process while dealing economic damage on the other side of the map. This created a huge economic gap that Ryung wouldn’t recover from.

The deciding moment of Proxima Station actually took place in the first few minutes of the game. Stats attempted a proxy StarGate but failed to do anything with it. After losing both his Void Rays while failing to secure any real economic damage, Ryung was given a massive advantage he never let go off taking the series to Game 6.

Daybreak
SHOUTcraft Kings: March

Well, you don’t see that everyday

Stats went for another proxy StarGate again on Daybreak. And if possible, this went just as bad as the last. While he did get some damage in, he would lose his Oracle for it. A widow mine drop into Stats’ base would level the game for Ryung and propel him into an advantage. From there the game entered a deadlock with both players seemingly determined to take the game as late as possible. Stats kept up his attempts at aggression while teching up in the background. Each took there own turns attempting to cripple the others economy. Stats focusing on small economic attacks. Ryung on the other hand went big, pinning Stats’ 6th base with a Tactical Nuke. At one point Ryung had as many as three silos available.

For all their tactics however, it eventually it came down to a final engagement. Stats having repeatedly picked off Ryung’s Ghost with Feedbacks and had the advantage with free use of PsiStorm. And after several Storms weathered down his army, Ryung was forced to tap out advancing Stats to the finals after a 4-2 victory.

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

 

 

SHOUTcraft Kings: March

 

SHOUTcraft King: Han “aLive” Lee Seok

 

Streaks

aLive: 4

Kim “herO” Joon Ho: 4

Stats: 3

ByuN” Hyun Woo: 2

 

 

Map Pool Updates

 

New Maps

• Ascension to Aiur by SidianTheBard
• Blood Boil by Avex
• Sequencer by NegativeZero
• Defender’s Landing by YoungRustler

 

Dropped Maps

• Newkirk Precinct TE
• Bel’Shir Vestige LE
• Cactus Valley LE
• Honorgrounds LE (Please for the love of Tassadar NO)

 

Mapmaking Community Discussion

 

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Diva Cup

Diva Cup Insight With Allayrce

 

Just over two weeks ago, AfreecaTV, organizers of StarCraft II’s flagship event, GSL (Global StarCraft II League), announced their first ever female tournament, the Diva Cup.

With the Diva Cup just days away, I got a chance to talk to the event organizer, Allaryce, for some insight into the tournament and the female StarCraft scene.

Note: This interview has been edited and revised for clarity.

 

The Diva Cup

 

The Game Haus: How did you first become attached to this project?

Allaryce: “Someone from Afreeca Global reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in running a female only tournament, so of course, I said yes! I started participating in tournaments only 3 weeks after I first started playing so running a tournament is something I’ve always wanted to try.”

 

To your knowledge, how long has the Diva Cup been in planning?

About a month

 

What can you tell us about the behind the scenes planning involved in this project?

“When it comes to running a tournament, it’s pretty simple. You figure out the format (this one is double elimination), the players, and the prize pool. Since Afreeca was providing the prize pool and I got other additional sponsors, the rest was easy!

The only tricky part of the planning comes from finding a time and date that works for all the players considering they’re all in different time zones. It’s all about staying on top of communication between everyone, even while I was away for IEM Katowice in Poland. With my work schedule and other obligations I have, it’s also great to have the team at Afreeca work on the promo/PR stuff for the tournament.”

 

At risk of asking the obvious, is there a story behind the name “Diva Cup” or is it just because of the Overwatch character?

“Yes, it’s inspired by the Overwatch character. D.VA‘s lore, for anyone who doesn’t know, is that she’s a pro StarCraft II player who became the GSL Code S champion at 16 and went undefeated for 3 years. I would love to see that story step out of fiction and into reality. Someday, I hope we can see a female lift up that trophy in a moment of glory on the big stage!

Many people seem to think that I, as a female, have ignorantly chosen this name for my tournament. To me, that’s very laughable. It’s meant to be a double entendre. It’s meant to be a provocative and funny play on words. I hope that people can appreciate my sense of humor and laugh with me! Even if they can’t, I would encourage them to look past the name and focus on the players instead!”

 

 

“I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play Starcraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.”

 

TGH: One of the key criticisms that has been brought up regarding female-only tournaments has been: why is there a need for a male/female division? How would you respond to this question?

 

Allaryce: “There’s no defined male division, it’s just that they’re more likely to sign up more often for online and offline cups. Girls are more than welcome to join and there’s nothing stopping them but themselves. I can only speculate that a few of them don’t feel like their skill levels are up to par and therefore don’t enter. I refuse to speak for the other girls and make assumptions about this matter since it’s not a question I’ve asked them about. Everyone has their own individual feelings about it and deserves their own voices.

For me, the Diva Cup is a way to highlight the many female players in the scene that people may not know about. It’s not meant to be a gender divided issue.  Many of these girls don’t promote their social media as much or may stream every once in a while. Others participate in the FSL (Female StarCraft League) or they just play on their own. This is a way to bring awareness to them as players and promote their play.

I’ve asked many of my guy friends how many girls they think play StarCraft II and many of them estimate around five and are surprised to learn there’s about 20+ that I know of. It’s not sexism… It’s just unawareness.

There was a really great article published by Polygon that explains the need for female tournaments and uses Chess as an example. In summary, the female demographic is under represented and it’s a good way to foster growth in the community and encourage other girls to try the game and compete!

I also hope that these girls will join more online and offline tournaments, regardless of results. There are many that cater to all skill levels no matter the player. Regardless of the reason why girls play in female tournaments or gender neutral tournaments, what’s important is that they’re putting themselves out there to compete and enjoy the game we all love to watch: StarCraft II!”

 

 

“I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see SCII being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree.”

TGH: I’d imagine it’s also potentially demoralizing on many levels to see a competitive scene so male dominated. There’s a psychological aspect there that isn’t often explored.

I’ll use a contrasting example, if my first competitive experience were to be against 100 women, I think it would make an already intimidating situation exponentially more so. And if I were to get crushed, it would psychologically reinforce the idea that I didn’t belong there.

Regardless of the reason, I think it’s important to have events like these to let the female StarCraft world know there are competitive outlets available for them.

 

Allaryce: “I, personally, don’t know anyone who’s cocky enough to enter a tournament and expect to win. I’ve spoken to a few of my friends who are pro gamers and almost all of them are very humble about their skills. They mostly just want to perform well enough to their own standards. When it comes to competition, failure is inevitable but it’s how we cope with our losses and come out stronger that matters. It’s a character building tool, if anything, which is why I think tournaments are important. This is one of the reasons I enter tournaments no matter what skill level I’m at.

This is why it’s called ‘tournament experience.’ You’re forced to face your opponents head on, in real life, in defeat or victory. How you choose to handle your sportsmanship says a lot about yourself.

Again, I cannot speak for the other girls, nor would I want to generalize their experiences. I, personally, don’t think it’s demoralizing to see StarCraft II being a male dominated scene. Anyone who plays StarCraft II enjoys the competitiveness to a certain degree. Many people have different reasons that drive them to play the game. That being said, seeing it be male dominated encourages players like me to do better and raise myself up. I can still find role models in the men because I see them for the player they are and not their gender.

Speaking from a personal perspective, I have never once felt like I didn’t belong in the scene. Quite the opposite, in fact. People have been nothing less than generous with their time when it comes to teaching me how to play and my understanding of the game. They encourage and inspire me to improve every day. Some even go as far as to ask me ‘so… when are you getting GM?’ I love the Starcraft II community!”

 

Follow up question; do you think growth of the female StarCraft scene is possible and what do you think is necessary to foster further growth?

“Yes I think it’s just about having a community they can be a part of. This game can be quite intimidating to get into, regardless of the gender, so having friends to talk to is important!”

 

Players

 

TGH: So now let’s move on to the participants. Who would you say are the players to look out for?

Allaryce: “Based on her track record, I think Koshkii has a really good shot. Miyako also seems to be a favorite among some of the girls so I’m looking forward to casting their games! We also have a few newcomers that I haven’t seen play before so I think it’s still anyone’s game.”

 

Any personal predictions?

None

 

Fair enough, any players you would like to see participating in (potential) future Diva Cups?

“Most of the girls, on average, are diamond and above so I encourage any of the other girls to get to diamond and come to compete!”

 

If you were competing yourself, where would you rank yourself among the competition?

“I’m a bit out of practice because of my work and travel so I don’t think I’d make it past the second bracket. I only get maybe two to three hours of practice these days. Some of the girls are better practiced and have a better shot!”

 

Allaryce

 

TGH: Finally, let’s talk about StarCraft a bit. What are your thoughts on the current state of the game?

Allaryce: “I think we’ve seen some of the most exciting gameplay lately in premier tournaments and even online ones. I’m excited for the new changes to Zerg (which is what I main) and to see how that translates amongst the top players. I’m also excited to play on a new map pool! Who isn’t hyped for that?”

 

It really has been a great year of StarCraft gameplay so far. IEM produced so many amazing games and the GSL Quarters was just one mic drop moment after the next. It helps as well that we have a really exciting map pool at the moment. I would be surprised if there’s ever been a map that has delivered as many amazing games as Abyssal Reef has in the short time its been live.

 

If there is one change you can make to StarCraft what would it be?

“I think if they made it free to play, it would be really great for people who are hesitant to pick up the game. We’ve seen that kind of success with LoL and DOTA so I think Starcraft II could benefit from it as well. They’re starting to finally move towards DLC, which I think is a good direction but there needs to be a good balance for people who can’t afford some of it.

I think for everyone who’s purchased the game up until now, they can release some kind of exclusive skins or content to ease the transition. I’m no expert about what this would mean for Blizzard internally, so I’m not sure how feasible the strategy is.”

 

I share this sentiment. Though I think it’s still a bit early to go free to play, currently. Of course I’m no expert on this either but I think there needs to be more micro-transactions available than what we currently have to make it a feasible model. I expect there will be a huge spike in traffic and interest if StarCraft II does go free to play, the game should be well stocked with cosmetic options to capitalize on that. Blizzard is on a good track at the moment.

 

 

TGH: Finally, any last words to close?

 

Allaryce: “Regardless of viewership, I’m really happy to be working on this tournament with Afreeca and give these players a platform and a little extra cash! I’m also excited to cast with my friend Temp0 since we see each other at events often but have never done a cast together before.”

 

 

Tune into the Diva Cup on Saturday March 18th at 12PM PST on Afreeca.tv/Allaryce

 

For more from Allaryce follow her on Twitter, AfreecaTV Global and Twitch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Stefan_SC2

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Skytoss vs Zerg - Leviathan

Unit in Review: Zerg vs Skytoss

To start with the obvious, late game Skytoss vs Zerg has been a community concern for a while now. The balance team has been attempting to address this, but a large part of the community has felt they’ve been consistently missing the mark up to this point. As of the latest fix, Terran has now officially been dragged into a Protoss/Zerg feud.

As such, I think it is a good time to look at the road up to this point so we can try to figure out where we have to go from here.

 

The Carrier-Corruptor Conundrum

 

Naturally, we need to to first talk about Corruptors. The current answer to the Carrier problem. At first, the balance team focused on nerfing the cost of Interceptors before it became clear it did nothing to solve the core issue. Now, Corruptors have always been a hard-counter to Carriers. The latest update which buffed their ability to hunt, just makes them more efficient at doing so.

Corruptors still get zoned out by Archons and PsiStorm though. Attempting to chase Carriers with Corruptors behind an Archon frontline is effectively suicide. This has always been the core problem, and this update does very little to change this.

Interestingly, while this update was meant to help ZvP, it actually has a much more profound impact on ZvT. Corruptors were already very effective against many Mech-Terran and Starport unit compositions. Even before the buff. As it is now, Corruptors can out-micro or out-damage every Terran air unit, making them the undisputed kings of the sky in ZvT.

So it raises the question, if buffing Corruptors isn’t the answer to Carriers, then what is? Well, I think a good starting point is looking at units that aren’t already great at doing their jobs. Rather than ones that already are.

 

Swarm Hosts

 

Now, understandably, when you think of a unit for countering Skytoss, the Swarm Host usually doesn’t come to mind. For starters, it doesn’t even attack air. But when you consider the defensive nature of Carrier strategies, the value of Swarm Hosts become more apparent. Teching into Carriers is a massive investment for Protoss which provides a window for Zerg to attack. The problem is currently, Zerg still struggles to break a Protoss turtle, even during this window of “vulnerability.”

Skytoss

We’ll call it “Mutate Electromagnetic Disruption… Wings?” Yeah I have nothing.

If Zerg is unable to break Protoss’ defense, then the obvious answer is buffing the Zerg unit designed around breaking fortified positions. A shield damage upgrade seems the safest option as it entirely avoids interfering with ZvT and ZvZ. Naturally a concern would be Swarm Hosts becoming too oppressive against Protoss in the mid-game. For this reason, gating this buff behind an expensive upgrade with a short research time seems apt. An expensive investment makes the upgrade an actual decision rather than a go-to; but a short research time ensures that it can still be used as an immediate response to scouting a Carrier turtle.

The investment behind Carrier strategies means Protoss is supposed to be vulnerable during their production. If Zerg scouts a Protoss walled in and vulnerable for an extended period, then logically the Swarm Host should be able to break Protoss during that time.

Ultralisks

Patch 3.8 rebalanced the armor of the Ultralisk, resulting in a net of -1 after Chitinous Plating. But as of how the meta has played out since then, perhaps that nerf is no longer necessary. The obvious effect this would have is Ultralisks can more easily drive back Archons. Since Ultralisks have never batted an eye in the direction of a PsiStorm, the only real issue would be Void Rays. But Zerg does have other means of dispersing Void Rays, as is, namely Parasitic Bomb.

Admittedly, this is the one I was hesitant about. Since I’m not entirely sure what the impact on ZvT would be like as a result. But given Terran’s main counter to Ultralisks are Ghost’s “Steady Targeting” which ignores armor anyway, I’m inclined to believe the impact will still be less than what Corruptors are currently doing.

 

Vipers

Naturally, I had to save my favorite for last. Even as a Protoss player, Vipers are among my favorite units in the game. When it comes to picking off units, Vipers are the best in class. That’s really what the problem has always been here. Corruptors can kill Carriers. They’ve always been able to. But they need to actually get to them which is where Vipers have always excelled. The problem is, to get within range to “Abduct” a Carrier, the Viper has to risk entering the range of the Protoss’ High Templars, consequently getting Feedbacked to death.

It’s a bit of a tricky situation. Because Abduct and Feedback have the same range, you can’t buff the range of one, without becoming a hard-counter to the other.

One possibility is to temporarily increase the range of Abduct by increasing synergy between the Viper’s spells and abilities. I’m of course referring to “Consume.” Consume has always been intriguing, but for an ability with the occasional side-effect of killing your own structures, sometimes you could get a bit more value out of it.

Giving Vipers a temporary buff after using consume is one way to do that. A temporary range buff on Abduct would allow Vipers a home-field advantage against Carriers and High Templars. Most importantly, it makes engaging Zerg’s base with Skytoss a much less straightforward affair.

Skytoss

Let’s be honest, “Consume” is easily the most ominous animation in the game. And any excuse to see more of this can only be a good thing.

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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IEM XI

StarCraft Weekly Recall – IEM Katowice Special

Welcome to my fourth Weekly Recall, a recap of all the major events in StarCraft over the past week. What better way to celebrate one month than with an Intel Extreme Masters World Championship special recap.

 

Intel Extreme Masters XI – World Championship

 

Because there’s so much to cover, we’re going to be changing up the format a bit this week. The priority here is getting you to the good stuff.

 

Group Stage Highlight

Zest vs Nerchio: Newkirk Precinct

 

Quarterfinals

 

Players

Han “aLive” Lee Seok, Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, Koh “GuMiho” Byung Jae, Jun “TY” Tae Yang, Joona “Serral” Sotala, Park “Dark” Ryung Woo, “ByuN” Hyun Woo, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob

 

Highlight Games

aLive vs Innovation: Newkirk Precinct

aLive vs Innovation: Abyssal Reef

Byun vs Stats: Newkirk Precinct

Byun vs Stats: Cactus Valley

 

With the exception of Dark vs Serral, the IEM Quarters was a street fight for a sport in the next round.

To comment on Dark vs Serral, Dark at the moment seems to be near unbeatable in ZvZ. He delivered Kang “Solar” Min Soo a 3-0 defeat one round earlier. Solar, notably defeated Dark 4-3 in the finals of the last SSL. It seems since then, Dark has focused on refining his ZvZ to the frightening point he is now at.

The final score of the TvT’s speaks for themselves. Both Gumiho vs TY and aLive vs INnoVation went the distance. Of the two, however, aLive vs Inno was the show to see. Whereas Gumiho vs TY played out as a cerebral game of chess. There was a very savage form of strategy being played between aLive and Inno. To the very end, neither player would budge. This was a pattern defined from the very first game, as INnoVation brought the game to an almost deadlock for several minutes after having his economy entirely wiped out.

IEM XI

Command Centers are overrated anyway.

 

ByuN vs Stats

Despite the final scoreline, ByuN vs Stats was arguably the best match of the day. Despite ending 3-1 for Stats, in a round with two full best of 5’s, at no point in this series was any player in clear control. Most of the games were won through almost unthinkable comebacks. Game 2 in particular featured both players trading commanding leads before the end.

Even aside from the incomparable ferocity of their competition, there is a fierce rivalry story building between both players. ByuN, the current World Champion, was the one to eliminate Stats in the Semifinals of the WCS Global Finals in November. They faced again in the Round of 32 at GSL 2017, Season 1, where Stats defeated ByuN 2-1 in the Group G Winner’s Match. Every time these two face is always a spectacle, and the ferocity of competition in their games continues to escalate.

 

Semifinals

 

Highlight Games

aLive vs TY: Abyssal Reef

Dark vs Stats: Proxima Station

Dark vs Stats: Newkirk Precinct

 

aLive vs TY

 

Act I

A back and forth series if there ever was one. aLive and TY spent the first few games swapping roles of aggressor and defender. The first game on Newkirk had TY taking complete control of the game from the get-go through repeated harassment. One game later on Proxima, aLive dismantled TY in the same way, pinning TY into his base, unable to respond in any meaningful way.

 

Act II

Cactus Valley was the first game that showed a clear battle for control. aLive opened with Cyclone harassment, TY returning in kind with his Helions. By midgame TY had taken map control. After taking a favorable engagement on the open map, he sieged the base of aLive, forcing evacuation of his third and pinning him to his natural. Establishing a clear economic advantage, TY had Cactus Valley won. However, an eager attempt to end the game early resulted in a massive mis-positioning that left his third completely exposed. This allowed aLive to counterattack, forcing TY out of the game in one swift, decisive strike.

With his back against the wall, TY came into Honor Grounds determined to make a case. Similar to Game 1, TY pinned aLive down with harassment. While never establishing control, aLive did manage a valiant fight, finding retaliatory damage where others would have folded. Ultimately, he had no economy, and was eventually overwhelmed in one crushing engagement.

 

Finale

This brought us to Game 5 on Abyssal Reef. For such a scrappy series, this match could not have ended in a better way. This was a non-stop skirmish, start to finish, with both players clawing at the others base in a constant struggle to return economic damage. aLive started the game with an early push into TY’s third, forcing him to evacuate the Command Center back to his main. TY responded with a drop into aLive’s natural, while sieging a pair of tanks across the gap, completely decimating aLive’s worker count. He would then double around to aLive’s third, forcing lift-off and taking a massive economic lead.

IEM XI

Tally-ho

Not even a minute later, aLive would make a retaliatory attack with Ravens into TY’s natural and landing Vikings into his main, managing to pick off at least 20 workers in the attack, leveling the game from a harsh disadvantage. Unfortunately, perhaps the most critical moment of this game happened off-screen around this time. As aLive made his retaliation attack, TY managed a drop into aLive’s base to finish off the third Orbital Command he bruised minutes prior. aLive continued to siege at TY’s base for several minutes, leveling himself economically and taking an upgrade advantage. When TY eventually did stabilize his base, the fact that he still had an Orbital Command to move to his third put him at an economic advantage from that point forward.

An advantage TY would further secure with a drop into aLive’s base, denying aLive the breathing room to rebuild a third. Unable to keep up with TY economically, aLive would eventually have his army wiped out in a retaliation attempt shortly after, ending the game and advancing to the Finals 3-2.

 

 

Dark vs Stats

 

Proxima Station
IEM XI

Come to daddy

Games 1 and 2 of Dark vs Stats were among the best of IEM. Proxima Station is a map with a secure pocket expansion and a tight choke point on its third. This makes it ideal for defensive strategies. With Zerg currently struggling against late-game Skytoss, Carriers are a natural choice on Proxima. While Stats dictated the pace of the game through constant harassment, Dark’s vigilant creep spread. It let him slowly march a blockade of Spore Crawlers deep into Stats’ territory and allowing Dark to push the burden of engagement onto Stats.

The need to stop Dark’s creep spread forced Stats’ eventual misstep, which Dark capitalized on without hesitation, Abducting Stats’ Carriers with his Vipers and running through the ground army with Ultralisks.

 

The Marathon Event

The second game on Newkirk may have been one of the scrappiest PvZs in StarCraft history. A marathon game with almost non-stop aggression on both sides. Multiple times, Dark looked just on the edge of breaking Stats, only to be pushed back. At one point, he even leveled Stats’ main base and all the air tech, only for Stats to survive by buying time through counter-aggression.

Stats’ resilient defense put Dark into a situation where he was forced to move into Stats’ side of the map.IEM XI Having nearly completely mined out his side of field, Dark invaded to steal one of Stats’ last remaining bases. Stats responded by decimating Dark’s side of the map and boxing Dark into one expansion. Eventually taking the fight right to Dark, even after blanketing his army with repeated PsiStorms, the final engagement ended up being too close to call. Not until the final units were left standing did it become clear that Stats had just won the game.

Dark’s position on the map ended up being the pivotal factor. After trading out his army, Stats was able to Warp-In a reinforcement of Stalkers at the nearby WarpGates right outside of Dark’s base.

From this point forward, Dark seemed completely unwilling to play a late game, opting for early all-ins and timing attacks. Stats’ resilient defense would prove too much for Dark, however, allowing Stats to close the series, advancing to the finals 3-1.

 

Grand Final

 

Highlight Games

Abyssal Reef

Honor Grounds

 

Without question one of the closest finales in the history of StarCraft 2. This match could have been a best of 11 and I would put the odds on the series going to the final map.

 

Newkirk Precinct

If you ever wanted a guidebook on defensive PvT, this game is it. Stats took control of Newkirk from the get-go just through his airtight defensive play. TY played an aggressive game, attempting to find economic damage. His attempts at harassment were consistently deflected on multiple fronts though. From here, Stats just played the game by the book. Returning harassment damage but never compromising his defensive positioning as he teched up into splash damage.

After crippling another aggressive push by TY with a single Purification Nova, Stats would safely push out after playing a highly cost efficient game, eventually overwhelming TY with relative ease.

 

Proxima Station

Proxima, on the other hand, could not have gone more differently. TY opened the game with a widow mine proxy can, getting in massive economic damage in the early game as Stats failed to accomplish much with his own Oracle. TY’s harassment game was much more on point in Game 2 compared to Newkirk.

This economic lead TY took in the early game would pay dividends in the late game, allowing him to hit a window of vulnerability for Stats as he attempted to tech into High Templars. TY hard engaged into Stats just before PsiStorm could complete, ending Game 2 in dominant fashion.

 

Abyssal Reef

This took us to Abyssal Reef. If you’ve been following, you already know this is going to be amazing. This one, beautiful map put out one amazing game after the next for all of IEM; and this may have been the best in show. TY took early control of this game, dealing near crippling damage, taking out Stats’ third. Within minutes, Stats would retaliate with an Adept drop, closing the economic gap. Able to stabilize just a bit, Stats teched into a Templar Archives almost immediately, clearly not wanting a repeat of Proxima.

This would end up paying off, as Psionic Storm would complete as TY attempted an engagement. Several PsiStorms would cripple TY’s army, letting Stats take the fight and forcing a retreat, putting himself in a favorable position.

Unable to take Stats in a head-on engage, TY split his forces up, resorting to multi-prong harassment. Several defensive PsiStorms would prevent TY from getting any real economic damage, but kept Stats at bay. Unable to mount a full on attack into TY’s base without leaving himself exposed to harassment, Stats attempted to transition once again into Thermal Lance Colossi and Tempests.

With Colossi on the field, Stats made another attempt at sieging TY’s base. Expertly taking advantage of the general low mobility of Stats’ comp, TY outmaneuvered him, making a beeline to his base. This baited Stats into splitting his army in an unfavorable position, allowing TY to get a surround. With Stats’ army split up and superior positioning that prevented him from even retreating, TY easily took the engagement, ending the game.

IEM XI

What’s wrong with this picture? That’s right, 720p

 

Paladino Terminal and Bel’shir Vestige

What followed from here were two quick harassment focused games, back to back. On Paladino, Stats quickly overwhelmed TY with a Phoenix, Double Oracle push, ending the game and tying the series once again. On Bel’shir, TY decimated Stats’ economy with Helion harassment, coupled with a Widow Mine drop. TY then quickly followed up, showing us for the first time his Liberator, three Siege Tank push. With his economy in shambles, Stats was unable to mount a defense.

Honor Grounds

TY returned again with his Helion, Widow Mine harassment. Stats however was much more prepared, deflecting the Helion attack with seemingly little effort and intercepting the Widow Mine drop with a few defensively positioned Stalkers.

From here TY followed up again with his three Tank push, though instead of having his Liberator cover his Siege Tanks, this time he sent his Liberator to harass the mineral line of Stats’ natural. This time, in a much more stable position and without the Liberator complicating matters, Stats easily took the engagement.

With his push stopped, TY returned to drop attempts. At this point however, Stats’ defense was as airtight as in Game 1.

The game entered a deadlock at this point, with both Stats and TY trading failed attempts at economic harassment. TY would eventually find his opening. Again, taking advantage of the low mobility of Stats’ army, TY would make a doom drop into Stats’ base. Stats would lose both forges in this attack and TY would further secure his upgrade advantage.

TY pressed his advantage further by sieging a mass of Liberators over Stats’ fifth base, forcing every probe in the area to evacuate. At this point TY seemed to have a near unbreakable hold. Stats in turn would exploit the lack of mobility of TY’s Liberators to maneuver out of their attack range. Stats would lose all of his Colossi in the attack, but would succeed in wiping out the bulk of TY’s Liberators.

After a short period of trading bases, Stats would eventually corner the rest of TY’s army to end the game and bring the series to Game 7.

 

Cactus Valley

This was a short and one-sided game sadly. It was an unfortunate end to one of the closest, most intense finals in StarCraft history. TY again returned with his three Tank, Liberator push, and Stats fumbled the engagement hard. He left only one Stalker to deal with the Liberator, and initially forgot to focus fire his other two Stalkers. By the time Stats attempted to correct this oversight, both TY’s Liberator and Siege Tank had gotten in several seconds of near uncontested damage, nearly wiping out Stats’ ground army by the time the Liberator went down.

TY closed the series 4-3, becoming the IEM Katowice Champion.

 

Featured images courtesy ESL.

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GSL Logo

GSL Quarterfinals: sOs Breaks the Wheel

Matchup 1: TY vs Soo

What a wild series. If you are familiar with both of these players, you’d probably assume it would be a drone-fest on Eo “Soo” Yoon Su’s end, and ferocious non-stop harassment from Jun “TY” Tae Yang.

But the GSL is about winning, not about how. Soo, one of the more macro-centric Zergs players, whipped out the cheesiest page in the Zerg playbook for Game 1. 12 pool, double 14 gas; Soo wanted blood and he wanted it now. Ravagers marched across Whirlwind with hopes of an easy Game 1, but it wouldn’t make it past TY’s ramp and his well-microed Cyclones… gg.

Game 2, we saw TY throw the cheese right back. Proxying three barracks at Soo’s 3rd, TY easily killed the natural hatchery and just went home.

After taking huge economic damage from incessant bio/tank drops and base snipes, Soo was forced to shove with his Broodlords. It looked promising at first for the four time GSL runner up, until a huge marine flank stimmed in from the North. A 180 degree arc of units would collapse on the Broodlords and put TY at match point.

Game 3 was completely different. TY for some reason decided  that it was the time and the place to switch to Mech play. His hellion harassment got shut down pretty handily, and Soo found a window of opportunity to make eight Swarmhosts. By the time TY pushed out on Soo’s creep, he was confronted with an unstoppable wall of free swarm units, and oddly didn’t retreat despite having no answer for Soo’s Broodlords. Soo would march right to the clunky mechanical production line of TY’s mech and force him to tap out.

 

With a win finally on the boards, Soo decided to confirm his balls of absolute steel and try the exact same cheese that was utterly embarrassed in Game 1. But it worked? Arriving mere seconds earlier than his last attempt, Soo was able to camp the production and eliminate TY’s Marines and Cyclones before they could meet up. With nothing to stop the rush, TY surrendered.

 

On to match point! Who doesn’t love a good match point? Countless hours of practice and preparation culminating in a 20 minute match to decide who will carry on their dreams of a GSL trophy, and who will grumpily watch it from home.

It would come down to Abyssal Reef.

TY was desperate. Widow mine drop, hellion run bye, banshees – all deflected. Soon it was Soo who held control of the map. TY stopped dropping and Mutalisks started to run the show.

At just before 15 minutes, Soo showcased some incredible killer instincts.

Put yourself in his shoes. You are mining happily on your side of the map, your opponent is building a Planetary at his 5th, and is likely producing Liberators and Ghosts.

It’s a risky fight to take, but in one minute the Terran will be completely locked down and will be creating the perfect Terran vs Zerg army. 3-3 Ghosts + Liberators – a terrifying army to face.

So Soo attacked with everything. It cost his whole ground army, but the Command Center fell. Well worth it… But TY had another base floating into position.

What now?

“AGAIN” said Soo! Hitting before the Planetary once again, Ultras chased the army. Zerglings ravaged the 3rd, and TY is dead!

Matchup 2: Innovation vs Stats

Next up was the much-anticipated rematch of the IEM Gyeonggi Grand Finals this past December. Lee “Innovation” Shin Hyung had taken it 4-0 in one of the shortest and most one-sided Grand Finals of all time. So far in 2017, he has the most convincing argument for best player on the planet.

The series would start on Cactus Valley. In a quick game that looked like a flashback to IEM Gyeonggi, Innovation seemed to be simply too strong for Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob.

 

After Innovation’s Siege Tank push got over-run with only a few volleys left on the third Nexus, Stats looked like he might stabilize. That heroic stand, however, would ultimately leave his forces spread too thin. A few minutes later Innovation would pounce on the exposed Colossus and steamroll over the rest.

 

 

Game 2 on Newkirk was a disaster for Protoss. Stats’ pylon rush started off great, and Innovation’s 90% completed Command Center looked as good as dead.

In what would end up being a fatal mistake, Stats targeted the reactor to the walling barracks instead of the Command Center and got pushed away mere moments before canceling it. Casters Daniel “Artosis” Stemkoski and Nicolas “Tasteless” Plott commented that the error would likely have lasting effects on Stats’ mental composure.

Sure enough, Innovation’s far bigger army would overwhelm that of Stats, and in an attempt to demoralize Stats completely, Innovation dropped some celebratory manner mules.

Tasteless kindly provided a haiku about how that game went:

“Innovation

Taking Stats

Mashing him up into a ball

Throwing him behind his head

Half Court Shot

Swishes through the hoop

Innovation never turned around

Somewhere, out of nowhere, glasses land on Innovation’s face.”

Stats, however, was not amused.

Game 3 started off standard.

Protoss scared off Terran’s +1/Stim timing with Phoenix/Adept. Stats killed some SCVs with a counter attack, but began to fall behind on tech. With a chance to close out the series 3-0 at the 10 minute mark, Innovation loaded up five Medivacs within spitting distance of Stats’ main. With that much bio and three Liberators against just Adept Phoenix, unloading in the Protoss main would surely be checkmate. What could go wrong?

“Stats is for real right now” -Artosis

8 Phoenix – that’s what. Stats didn’t hesitate. He knew his opponent was playing impatiently, and pounced at the mistake with murderous quickness. Shading in from the North came Stats’ Adepts. Innovation was forced to dig in for a fight he didn’t want to take, and as a result lost his whole army and the game. Stats was still alive.

 

Game 4 looked even better for Stats. Armed with the same composition of Phoenix/Adept, Stats held off Innovation’s trademark aggression with minimal worker losses.

 

Confronted with an impenetrable defense of Liberators and Widows, Stats said “no thanks” and bypassed all of it with Psionic Transfer, shading into the Natural. With a Warp Prism reinforcing in the main, Innovation soon found his production smothered. We would be going from ANOTHER 0-2 to 2-2 Game 5!

Game 5. Best Terran on earth vs best Protoss on earth. One match. Let’s get into it.

The game started with a minor build order advantage for Stats. Two-Base Colossus vs a three Barracks opening. Innovation had a very hard time finding damage. A line of pylons in the main repeatedly pushed back increasingly scary doom drops. Stats’ Colossus held down the 2nd and 3rd bases.

In a play that Innovation was not expecting, Stats pushed out with everything he had.  Sacrificing his third base without a fight, Stats was going for the jugular! Forward blinks! Disruptor hits! “HE’S GOING FOR THE HEART” Tasteless shouted. He’s on the production! There’s nothing left!

And just like that, the best player on Earth was no more.

 

Matchup 3: herO vs sOs

Kim “herO” Joon Ho wasted no time bringing out the cheddar. Not wanting to be out-smarted by the master of mind-games, herO started the series with a low ground cannon rush. Despite being spotted quite late by Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin, his first Stalker and a perfectly timed Photon Overcharge would keep the Cannon’s at a safe distance. HerO was hopeless to stop sOs’s counter attack.

 

Game 2 began Phoenix vs Phoenix until sOs pulled the EXACT same move he did against the EXACT same player in the GSL back in 2015.

SOs found an opportunity to ambush the Phoenix Fleet and eliminate their options for retreat, slaughtering every last one of them. With air dominance and a potent harassment option, sOs’s economy and army would spiral out of control and he would easily defeat the army of herO and take the game.

Game 3 was fairly standard. SOs attempted to punish herO’s Nexus first with a pair of Adepts and a pair of Oracles, finding some good damage. HerO’s gateway counter-attack masterfully shaded Adepts into the main to force a response from the army of sOs. This allowed the rest of herO’s units to focus down all the defensive pylons and eventually break the back of sOs.

Game 4 looked even more dominant for herO. After a successful Stargate opening, herO attacked. SOs, in a very gutsy play, decided to take the fight out in the field instead of in range of his defensive pylons. He was on his way to crush the attack when a clutch Statis Ward froze a large chunk of sOs’s Adepts and allowed for herO’s retreat. Down in bases and tech, sOs was forced to go all-in. HerO’s higher Immortal and Archon counts would allow for an easy victory. For the third time in the Quarterfinals, the favored player was on the chopping block.

 

Game 5 was the most dramatic game of the year in many ways. Two long time rivals who have seesawed back and forth for “Best Protoss in the World” for years… were on a match point with unsettling and superstitious pretenses… Every eliminated player so far had decisively won their first two games. TY looked on another level than Soo twice in a row. Soo made him look weak in Game 3. He crept into his psyche like a pack of zerglings. Now TY is gone.

 

Innovation made Stats look like silver league twice in a row before a disaster in the sky would stop him from ever having his third and final win.

Now sOs, aka $o$, aka the Money Toss, one of the most feared players of all time, was looking to be the third in a row to fall to a reverse sweep.

SOs started Game 5 with some Adept run-byes, ramping it up to the point of nearly killing herO. In a clutch move that would keep him alive, herO blocked sOs’s Adepts from escaping with his own Adept shades.

 

From there the game would just get weirder and weirder, a place sOs excels. His Adept attacks returned with increasingly more firepower, while herO tried to break his opponent with a Gateway force.

 

For a few minutes, not even the casters knew who would win. Finally, sOs cleaned up his main base and countered with a critical mass of Adepts and a Warp Prism. The Cucaracha had survived.

 

Matchup 4: Maru vs Ryung

Games 1 and 2 went about the same way. Kim “Ryung” Dong Won’s knowledge of Siege Tanks beat out Cho “Maru” Seong Ju’s multitasking and bio control. We saw some interesting Liberator vs Viking play and some risky drops, but Ryung just seemed to have a deeper understanding of the matchup.

Game 3, Maru would catch Ryung off-guard with a huge doom drop of Tanks and Marines. It would cost Ryung 20 SCVs and some production before he could clean it up. With the sustained damage, Ryung would fail to protect his 3rd base to a followup attack, and type GG.

 

Game 4, I am sad to say, was a complete throw. After dismantling Ryung’s economy with lightning fast multitasking, casters Ried “Rapid” Melton and Brendan Valdez were already talking about Game 5. Moments from going into our 4th consecutive decider’s match, Ryung charged in from the North, catching all of Maru’s tanks exposed and un-sieiged. Despite having no income, Ryung would counter drop everything he had in Maru’s main for a very cutthroat checkmate.

All photos courtesy of AfreecaTV

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3.11

Community Concerns – Patch 3.11

Micro-transactions. Often described as the plague of modern gaming. But for much of esports, they’re the very foundation that keeps them from collapsing under its own weight.

Very few know this better than the StarCraft community does. The ability to support the scene through micro-transactions has been one of the most requested features by players for years. These requests were finally answered in Patch 3.7. The introduction of the Collection Tab brought with it unit skins and new in-game advisers or Announcers. Since then, Blizzard has continued to support the Collection tab with a steady supply of new Announcers. Alongside a healthy rate of Co-Op Commanders releases, players have had many opportunities recently to keep the scene funded.

However, one area that has been notably lacking are unit skins. The launch of the Collection tab brought three new skins for purchase in StarCraft II. A month later at Blizzcon, The War Chest, StarCraft’s answer to DotA’s Compendium, was announced. Promising unit variations were among the list of rewards. Since then, information has been scarce.

Now Patch 3.11 brings bundle packages for unit skins as well as other purchases. This is, of course, a good thing. But the fact is, it’s been over four months since 3.7, yet those three skins have been the only releases. And now rather than releasing a new line, Blizzard is bundle packaging the only three skins that are available.

While not bad, it’s very easy to see why more than a few red flags have been raised.

 

The War Chest

 

 Before we can discuss what we want to know, we should first establish what (little) we actually do know. And that is The War Chest.

As said before, The War Chest is StarCraft’s answer to DotA’s compendium. They’re a single purchase, seasonal item that unlocks rewards over the course of a season just through playing the game. Most notably, faction specific skin lines. Like the compendium, a percentage of the proceeds from The War Chest will go towards the World Championship total prize pool. The latest update on this upcoming feature came in late January. On Janurary 25th, it was announced that the current ETA on the first War Chest is Q3 of this year.

Now just to be clear, this isn’t a bad thing. Of course, it isn’t a good thing either, it’s just a thing. New features take time to develop. This is just to be expected. As a general rule of thumb, the more you attempt to rush out a product, the probability of that product releasing as a busted piece of crap rises exponentially. That’s just science.

There’s no reason to rush development on this. Contrary to what many seem to believe, Blizzard isn’t out to spite StarCraft. They’ve done a damn lot to support StarCraft in recent years. This is a project that’s potentially profitable for them. It will release when it’s ready. So all there is to say with regards to War Chests is patience is a virtue.

So what else is there? Well, nothing. That’s literally all we know at the moment. This is actually where the concern starts.Patch 3.11

 

Everyone’s Got a Theory

 

From the initial announcement, it sounded as if themed skin lines would be specific to War Chests. Or, at the very least, faction themed lines. But there has been absolutely no information about non-War Chest affiliated skins. This has naturally raised speculation as to whether there just aren’t any plans to release any. A few of those themed skins were previewed at the announcement, and the initial line does look somewhat uninspired in comparison (in my opinion of course). So I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a bad thing. But the lack of transparency is odd, to say the least.

Naturally, in the wake of information, speculation has risen to fill the gap.

Perhaps the most thought-out rationale was raised by TheSkunk_2 who speculated the original engine limitations may still be a mitigating factor. While unit skins have been a heavily requested feature for years, Blizzard’s stance on the matter for a long time was that they were unable to without raising the system requirements. It’s speculated that while a handful of cosmetics have surfaced now, the engine still needs work before they can start featuring unit skins en masse.

Many others proposed the initial line just didn’t sell enough to warrant a revisit, while some suggested the art team is just occupied with other projects.

Whichever you fancy, they all rose from the same source. A lack of information to work with.

 

Required Reading

 

All we really know on the matter is that there is a lot we don’t know. What’s more concerning is that we don’t know, why we don’t know, what we don’t know. And that’s never a fun place to be in.

A good starting point is actually being transparent about why there is no real conversation taking place. Then perhaps taking a few of the questions that there’s been absolutely no information about. An example being Structure skins, which has not been discussed in any way, despite being a long requested feature. While we do know there are certainly beautiful structure variations within the game, we have no idea if there’s any intention to bring them into multiplayer.

StarCraft has actually come a long way in terms of community engagement. The balance team actively tries to keep the community in the loop regarding what changes they’re considering and why they’re considering it.

But in other aspects of the game, we’re still very much kept in the dark. And it is reason for concern because at the end of the day, when it comes to cosmetics and micro-transactions, we’re the ones that are going to be buying these things. So we should have at least some input into what’s on the menu.

Patch 3.11

 

 

Featured images courtesy Blizzard Entertainment and Gamespot.

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recall

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my third Weekly Recall, a recap of all the major events in StarCraft over the past week.

 

GSL Season 1 2017 – Quarterfinals

 

Players: Jun “TY” Tae Yang, Eo “soO” Yoon Su, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, Lee “Innovation” Shin Hyung, Kim “herO” Joon Ho, Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin, Kim “Ryung” Dung Won, Cho “Maru” Seong Ju

 

TY vs soO

The first match of the quarters got off to a confusing start, with soO attempting a 12-pool Ravager all-in. 12-pools in general are much more common against Protoss than Terran. After having his all-in held, then being pulled apart from every angle by TY’s multi-pronged aggression in the next game, soO looked minutes away from being the victim of one of the hardest stomps in GSL Quarterfinal history.

Then TY decided to make things weird. He went for, an admittedly intriguing, mech build against soO. Of course, there’s a reason mech isn’t often used against Zerg. And that reason is the Swarm Host. Mech builds are high power, low mobility compositions, and the Swarm host does nothing if not punish low (or lack of) mobility. At the highest echelons of the Zerg tech tree, Brood Lords also excel at devastating stationary positions.

So naturally, it was hardly surprising when TY’s mech build was overwhelmed by soO’s Swarm Host, Brood Lord based army.

Game 4 saw the return of soO’s 12-pool Ravager all-in, and this time on a two player map, TY would be unable to hold.

And just like that. Just as quickly as we were looking at a potential 3-0 stomp, the match was brought to Game 5.

SoO made full use of the open map on Newkirk Precinct. He was repeatedly taking fights in the wide open areas that favor Zerg. SoO was able to keep TY at bay for the majority of the game, eventually overwhelming him. Completing the reverse sweep, soO advanced to the semifinals 3-2.

 

Stats vs Innovation

Innovation started the Match with two fairly clean wins on Cactus Valley and Newkirk Precinct. In both games, Stats opted for a defensive early Colossi opening. In Game 1, Innovation took a favorable early engagement, trading out his siege tanks for most of Stat’s Gateway army. Pushing out Vikings on the resupply, Stats’ Colossi based army was overwhelmed on the followup attack.

Say it with me: Instant Karma

In Game 2, Innovation took advantage of Newkirk’s terrain to pull Stats’ defense apart with a two-pronged attack. Punishing Stats’ inability to secure map control, the fast followup push almost completely surrounded Stats’ defense at his third, ending the game in a rain of MULEs. This put Stats in a familiar position, having lost 0-4 to Innovation at IEM Gyeonggi, barely two months ago.

On Daybreak, Stats swapped out his defensive Colossi strategy for a mobile Adept-Phoenix build, hitting Innovation with waves of harassment. Taking repeated damage at home and completely unable to respond, Innovation had to attempt a doom drop to get himself back into the game. Anticipating the desperate attack, Stats easily intercepted Innovation’s Medivacs, bringing the hammer down on Game 3. Taking the Adept-Phoenix build back into Game 4, Innovation put up a bit more of a fight. In the end, Stats took full advantage of his superior air mobility to crush Innovation’s main army.

Stats brought back his Colossi build for Game 5. Reading Innovation like a book, he set a row of pylons in anticipation for an incoming doom drop on his main well. He did this before the attack happened, and crushed the attack once it did. After a repeat failed doomdrop into Stats’ main, Stats took the fight to Innovation, ending the game in convincing fashion and completing the reverse sweep.

Recall

herO vs sOs

A failed cannon rush by herO brought a quick end to Game 1. Both players started off on relatively even footing going into Game 2, both starting on Phoenixes. After attempting to transition out of Phoenixes, however, herO lost his footing in the game. PvP is always a dangerous matchup to transition in. Very often when you start mirror tech paths, you end up locked into it out of risk of your opponent walking over you with superior numbers.

By transitioning out of Phoenixes, sOs was given free reign of the skies and would use his superior air mobility to bleed out herO’s mineral lines.

Taking advantage of the large four player map for Game 3, herO took a greedy early expansion to secure an early economic lead. Deciding to commit to harassment after having scouted the expansion late would put sOs even further behind and the game would quickly snowball into herO’s first win.

HerO took an early lead in Game 4 on Daybreak with some strong StarGate micro, getting solid economic damage done with an Oracle and several Phoenixes. A well placed Stasis Ward would secure a fight at sOs’ base for herO, and he would close the game a few short minutes later.

The final game on Abyssal Reef was easily the best game of the match. Very back and forth, sOs opened making multiple attempts at adept harassment in herO’s base, trading out for little more than other combat units. HerO would pick off sOs’ Warp Prism and followed up with a push into sOs’ base. SOs’ retaliation would spin the game into his favor, completely wiping out workers at herO’s natural. SOs would corner herO in his attempt at getting retaliatory damage, wiping the rest of his army. This advanced sOs to the semifinals, 3-2.

Recall

Who knew, right?

Ryung vs Maru

Many would have assumed that this would have been the most one-sided match of the Quarterfinals, and they weren’t exactly wrong. This was a straight up chess match. Ryung, for the most part, was constantly ahead in the game.

The first two games saw Ryung putting Maru on the defensive while exploiting gaps in his positioning. Ryung is often said to be one of the most hardworking players in the StarCraft professional scene. In the first two games, it really did show. He showed a far more refined understanding of Echo and Whirlwind than Maru. Knowing exactly where to doom drop based on Maru’s positioning. At one point, even playing hide and seek with a cornered, almost dead cyclone to get it out alive. Ryung was in full control of the first two games. At times, he even made Maru, the number one ranked player in the world, look like an amateur.

Maru, however, was able to show much more assertion in Games 3 and 4. On Daybreak, Maru showed off some interesting Raven harassment in the early game. Later, he took advantage of poor positioning, when Ryung sieged his full army of tanks against Maru’s highly mobile composition. This allowed Maru to freely doom drop into Ryung’s main, dealing crippling damage that would spiral the game into Maru’s favor.

The final game on Newkirk was perhaps the best game of the week. Maru was once again in total control by virtue of his multi-pronged aggression. Game 4 was over if not for Ryung’s patience to acknowledge his desperate position, hiding the lion’s share of his army to wipe out Maru’s tanks as he moved up his siege line.

Ryung advanced into the semifinals, 3-1.

Fun fact: Whoever won the Reaper fights at the start of every match, went on to win the game.

 

Balance Team Community Feedback

The changes on the test map are in the final stages and will go live in a future patch if no further issues come up. Reapers in TvZ are now being looked at, and changes to KD8 charge are on the table. Changes currently on the table include increasing the ability cooldown or removing its damage to structures.

Changes currently on the Test Map that may go live sometime in the future are listed below.

Terran

Widow Mine: +shield bonus damage on splash reduced from +40 to +25

Zerg

Corruptor: Movement speed changed from 4.1343 to 4.725. Acceleration speed changed from 3.675 to 4.2. Parasite Spore weapon damage point (ie. attack delay) changed from .1193 to .0446.

Hydralisk: Health increased from 80 to 90

 

Community Highlights

 

The new WCS Website is now live.

Rotti just wants his due credit.

Nate makes the top of StarCraft Reddit again.

Juiced_Potatoes unearths a childhood relic.

 

 

Community Content Highlights

 

From BaseTradeTV, performed by Temp0. Lyrics by Rifkin. Abyssal Reef of course, designed by SidianTheBard.

 

PiG takes a look at the Ravager 1-Base All-In

 

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Stefan!

AoE

Protoss Insight – Blazing your Path

Let’s talk a bit about Area of Effect (AoE), or more specifically, AoE in Protoss vs Terran. While Protoss and Terran start on relatively even footing, as Terran’s army complicates, Protoss needs to tech into some form of AoE in order to keep from being overwhelmed.

Each form of AoE comes with its own benefits and limitations that can severely affect your defensive ability. As such, it’s important to have an understanding of these limitations when planning your strategy.

 

Disruptor

 

First of all, I’ll start with the unit least commonly seen in Protoss vs Terran. It’s easy to see why; the Disruptor is a unit that’s too easy to out-micro for Terran. Drag and click on an empty Medivac and the threat of the Disruptor is gone. Even discounting Medivacs it’s still not exactly reliable. Depending on a unit for AoE that can be dodged with proper micro is more akin to gambling than an actual strategy.

It’s not to say the Disruptor isn’t without its benefits. Their ability to force caution makes them solid defensive units while pressed into your own base. In a desperate situation, reliability becomes much less of a concern, and Disruptors are Protoss’ ultimate Hail Mary play.

At max range, a Disruptor actually outranges a tank in siege mode. Against heavy mech where Medivacs are less common, the Disruptor actually is a bit of an underrated unit. While still not 100% reliable, the lower mobility of mech comps heavily stacks the odds in the Disruptor’s favor.

Against the standard MMM, Siege Tank, Liberator, Widow Mine, the Disruptor is found lacking. But against mech builds and in desperate situations, they actually become a viable option.

 

Colossus

 

Once the most hated unit in the game, the Colossus has fallen far from grace in LotV. Following a well earned 20% nerf to their damage output, the Colossus isn’t seen outside of niche builds in PvP and PvZ. The Colossus has found its place however in PvT.

With Extended Thermal Lance researched, the Colossus boasts massive range that heavily punishes any overly aggressive Terran bio-ball. The Colossus’ greatest asset, however, is its tech path. Both Observers and the Warp Prism are produced from the Robotics Facility. In any matchup, Protoss will always want to get Robo tech out as soon as possible.

Being able to produce your core units out of Robo tech heavily streamlines the process as well. You avoid resource dumps into detouring tech routes which leaves windows of vulnerability. This makes for a very safe build path.

Naturally, the Colossus is not without weakness. While it makes for a strong opening, if Terran is given time to mass Vikings, Colossi can quickly become vulnerable. Colossi become liabilities the longer you stay on them without switching tech routes. For this reason, it’s important to use your initial window of power to your advantage. This can mean any combination of securing an expansion, pressing an enemy vulnerability, or safely making a tech switch. It’s important to get value out of your Colossus early because, if given time, they eventually become giant walking resource dumps.

AoE

 

Psionic Storm

 

High Templars are an extremely versatile unit against Terran. PsiStorm can be used to devastating effect against most Terran compositions. It’s a flexible ability that can be used both offensively to crush an engagement, or defensively to force an enemy retreat. AoEThe Templar’s most underrated ability, Feedback, is exceptionally powerful against Terran in the right situations. Really, the only thing in StarCraft that feels more satisfying than blowing a fully-loaded Medivac out of the sky with a single Feedback is doing so to several.

Of course, for its versatility, High Templars suffer from many of the Colossi’s strengths. Getting out a Templar Archives, researching Psionic Storm, and producing even a handful of High Templars takes an absolutely massive investment of Vespene. And even after, Templars aren’t able to use PsiStorm immediately after being produced. High Templars have to first build 25 energy more on their 50 energy starting point.

For this reason, it’s important to treat teching into Templar Archives the same as taking an expansion. Doing so leaves you heavily vulnerable for a period of time, so it’s best to do so as you’re making an aggressive move on your opponent.

 

Archon

 

By virtue of its design, the Archon naturally suffers from all the flaws of the High Templar. Unlike the High Templar, Archons have limited range and become vulnerable during engagements. However, again, unlike the Templar, they’re actual combat units and can hold their own if pressed. They can also be exceptionally effective with Chargelots, Adepts, or Immortals to cover behind.

Overall, during engagements, it’s important to get rid of as much energy as possible from your High Templars before merging them into Archons. While solid combat units with strong AoE, they’re also very vulnerable for their massive cost. Even so, you shouldn’t depend on them as your main source of AoE. However, they are exceptional at cleaning house once your Templars are spent.

AoE

 

 

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Protoss vs Terran: The Judo Build

 

It’s no secret that Protoss players have been pulling out their hair more than usual when we play Terrans. It seems they have SO many options in the early and midgame, and Protoss must walk a knife’s edge not to see the manner mules fall.

Today I’m going to break down a Protoss style that has kept me alive through the entire gambit of known Terran builds. Whether they be stinky cheeses, triple-pronged pressure builds, calculated timing attacks – SCV pulls or macro builds, this build can handle them all.

Here it is:

14: Pylon

16: Gateway

17: Gas

19: Gateway

20: Cybernetics Core (don’t forget the second Pylon)

2 Stalkers Chrono-Boosted!

 

Send them across the map immediately (a surprising number of Terrans are not prepared for this).

This is a fairly inexpensive poke that can scout, force a defensive response, or sometimes deal huge damage (the greedy Terran will sometimes have to pull SCVs).

If a bunker is completed at the natural base, go home. If there’s no bunker, take a look up the ramp – odds are good that its just a few marines – focus fire them down and start to work on the barracks add-ons or pick off SCVs that come to repair (Careful of Widow Mines or Siege Tanks).  Try to delay mining from the natural expansion for as long as possible without losing your Stalkers.

 

27: Nexus

27: Gas

Adept – this is incase a late reaper appears

30: Stargate – Chrono-Boost 8 Phoenix

While Phoenix can be a great harassing tool, for this build we are keeping them at home and in secret. Keep them on the outskirts of your main base to prevent drops from unloading, and be vigilant of your mini map – a successful widow mine drop can be catastrophic – lift or kill them before they burrow.

(Note: If your Stalkers did a lot of damage or are still uncontested, make an oracle first – you could send some adepts and potentially win the game right here!)

 

Mothership Core – Use Photon overcharge very sparingly in the early game, you may need two or three to hold off a large bio force.

Robotics Facility and Twilight council

Observers and Resonating Glaives

4 more gates + Forge

 

 

Make sure your Phoenix and Mothership Core are both bound to control groups for fast response. I have my Nexi bound to 1, ground army to 2, Phoenix to 3, Mothership Core to 4, Observer to 5, Robotics Facility to 6, and Stargate to 7.

 

 

 

 

 

So your stalkers got pushed back or you chose to send them home. It’s okay! Your base is now completely locked down.

Phoenix are protecting your main and your Mothership Core and gateway units are at your natural. Make a pylon behind your natural mineral line for Photon Overcharge and your economy is, for now, untouchable.

 

You are now prepared to handle:

Marine Cyclone pushes

Tank-Bio pushes

Tank Mine Liberator Bio Pushes (with a little finesse)

Bio drops

Mine Drops

Cloaked Banshees

3 Barracks pushes:

As soon as you spot the 3 Barracks play, stop Phoenix production immediately. Focus on mostly Adepts and Pylons at your natural, but a Void Ray and a Sentry can be very helpful if you can afford them.

 

 

 

The goal of this build is to use your opponent’s aggression against them.  Much like the martial art of Judo, where the aim is to use the opponents own mass and center of gravity against them, your mission is to encourage the enemy into committing completely so that they might fall harder.  Feigning weakness can be a lethal trick – consider showing three Phoenix when you really have eight. Maybe you send a scouting shade of 10 adepts when you really have 20 – Anything you can do to make attacking seem more enticing.

 

Sun Tzu would have been amazing at Starcraft

 

Identify pushes early on with observers, and above all crush the army without letting anything retreat. Phoenix are excellent at this. They eliminate Liberators, lift and incapacitate Cyclones, Widow Mines, and Tanks, even chase down speed-boosted Medivacs.  On the ground your Adepts will be able to do the same – Psionic Transfer onto the Terran’s reinforcements to ensure nothing survives. Wipe out a few harassment attempts or timing pushes completely and you will have a substantial lead and a very tilted opponent.

 

 

3rd Base: With an observer at your opponents natural ramp, take a third base. A few pylons, cannons, and a mothership core can handle up to two medivacs of pressure until the Phoenix in your main and the gateway force at your natural arrive. (Be wary of two-pronged attacks!)

 

Transitions:

After you’ve locked down your third base, start teching into Colossus. If you see a tank-heavy or mech composition, make a second Robotics and a Forge and crank out Immortals and double upgrades.  If you see a a lot of Vikings in response to your Colossus, consider either switching back to Immortals, or throwing down a SECOND Stargate.  Winning the air battle decisively with a strong Phoenix fleet will allow your Colossus to “War of the Worlds” to their hearts content.

 

Thermal Lance warms my Protoss heart

 

Weaknesses:  The strongest response to this style is to play passively with Marine/Murauder/Widow Mine.  Adept/Phoenix does not scale very well if the game goes long, so a Terran that goes up to three bases with pure bio before moving out on the map will be your greatest threat. A critical mass of Marine/Murauder/Medivac can simply melt your army if you take a bad fight – especially if you tank a few Widow Mine hits.  Shading on top of the bio is the best way of ensuring that every Adept is shooting, but is also a great way to lose a game in the blink of an eye if the numbers are against you. Note that Adepts are especially weak against Bio balls with healthy Medivac counts, so try to kill or damage them with your Phoenix while the Terran army is marching across the map.  This may additionally force out stimpacks and buy time.

 

Win Conditions:

Your victories with this style will look one of two ways.  Most likely your opponent will lose some harassing forces, forfeit map control, and fall behind on supply. From here you are free to get Double Forge upgrades, 4th and 5th bases, and tier 3 splash damage – what Protoss dreams are made of.

The other option is to launch a very powerful Phoenix/Adept attack to cripple the Terran’s economy.  This might be your best bet if the Terran loses a lot of units on the map or is playing overly greedy. A minute’s notice is all that’s needed – throw down 4 more gates and make a warp prism.

 

 

Showcased beautifully by Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin in Game 1 against Lee “Bunny” Jae Sun (Sc2links.com => GSL Code S => Match 4) in his GSL games this Friday, this timing can be extremely deadly.  At about 7:30, 3 base against 3 base, sOs shaded a huge number of Adepts onto the Terran Army and lifted the tanks – Meanwhile a Warp Prism set up in the Terran main for 8 more glaive adepts.

With some clever adept shades, you should be able to cut your opponents SCV count in half – or even shade right onto the Barracks for the check mate.

 

Try experimenting with different timings on your 3rd base, different numbers of Phoenix, and different transitions.  I think you’ll find yourself happily mining on 4 bases more than you thought possible!

Photos Courtesy of tapoutlife.com, tabletopgameandhobby.com, and AfreecaTV respectively
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