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.

 

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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

 

 

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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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Adept

Unit in Review: The Adept

Lynching the entire Protoss player base has been the hot topic of discussion in the StarCraft II community recently, as is the norm following any major Protoss win. That said, it seems wrong to waste the opportunity to talk about one of the most controversial units in the game while everyone is yelling about it. Of course, I’m referring to the Adept.

Even amongst the unfiltered hatred there are very valid criticisms about the Adept, let’s not be mistaken. It’s a unit without a clear method of counter-play which is never healthy design. To Blizzard’s credit, they have tried interesting, but ultimately unsuccessful, ways of providing workarounds. It’s a delicate subject because there’s really no statistical evidence to show the Adept is imbalanced. However, it is undeniably a frustrating unit to play against which has always been the core issue.

What makes the Adept so frustrating, why have previous design changes failed and what can and should be done? These are the topics of today’s discussion. So let’s get into it.

 

Psionic Transfer

For the unfamiliar, Psionic Transfer is the Adept’s ability to project un-targetable shades of itself. After 7 seconds, the Adept teleports directly to the location of its shades. Now, what makes the Adept frustrating isn’t its ability to teleport. Rather, it’s the Adept’s ability to cancel it.

If it were not possible to cancel Psionic Transfer, the solution becomes obvious: just follow the shades. Instead what we have is a mind game, for which there is no clear solution. Attempting to follow the shades will only result in the Protoss canceling them. If you stick with the main body, then the shade goes through. Attempting to split your army creates the worst possible scenario where the Protoss can potentially prey on the divided force whether they decide to commit to the shades or not.

Adept

Now this commitment went badly for Stats but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The solution becomes obvious then, why not just take away the ability to cancel the shades?

Indeed, this is hardly a unique idea. In fact, it’s been brought up for as long as the Adept was available for testing in the Legacy of the Void beta. And since then, the balance team’s stance on the matter has been to avoid creating overlap with the Stalker. Now, this is a frustrating response for many reasons, which I’ll get into in the next section. And given that Blizzard has gone to great lengths to dance around this idea despite how often it comes up, it indicates their stance on this hasn’t changed.

Blizzard’s solution for shades was admittedly clever. They cut the vision of the shades, effectively making them blind, making it much riskier for Protoss to commit to shades, and giving opposing players the ability to counterplay by dodging the shades. This worked in the short-term, but eventually players learned to gauge the amount of resistance they should expect at certain timings. Giving rise to the YOLO strategy. Accepting that you don’t 100% know whether it’s safe to teleport in, but you have the statistics on your side, so YOLO.

 

Stalker-Adept Overlap – The Design Dilemma

To start, the Adept and Stalker are functionally different in too many ways. The Stalker with its ability Blink, which allows the Stalker to immediately teleport a short distance, functions as an assassination unit. Blink allows the Stalker to pick off priority targets before they’re able to respond. Alternatively, it’s a precise tool for picking off an enemy unit, particularly transport units, attempting to retreat.

Adept

The 3 tank, Liberator timing. The Liberator sieges from the sky while the Tanks zone out from the ground.

Unlike the Stalker, which can attack both ground and aerial units, the Adept can only attack units on the ground. Furthermore, the timed delay on the transfer limits the Adept’s ability to make decisive assassinations, even more-so when you consider shades are restricted by terrain.

The design overlap explanations become even shakier when you consider Liberators and Siege Tanks. The Liberator is another unit that was added to StarCraft II with Legacy of the Void. And much like the Adept, the Liberator has been cause for more much frustration. Particularly, the Siege Tank and Liberators both fulfill very similar roles. They are both stationary units that excel at zoning control. This overlap between Liberators and Siege Tanks has been cause for some of the most oppressive strategies over the last season, most notably, the 3 Tank-Liberator timing which has been largely responsible for the Phoenix-Adept meta of PvT.

This sends a very confusing message that design overlap is fine when it comes to creating oppressive gameplay but when it comes to solving oppressive interactions, then it becomes an issue.

It’s just not a valid concern. Even if there was an overlap, which there isn’t, there is no argument to be made between whether toxic design should be upheld to avoid creating redundant design.

 

The trade-off

As I mentioned before, the balance of the Adept really isn’t in question, only the design is. So removing the Adept’s ability to cancel shades will have to be compensated somehow.

Damage Point

One of the more elegant possibilities is reducing the Adept’s damage point in exchange for the shade nerf. Damage point is the initial delay period between an attack command and the attack execution. This does not directly affect a units damage per second but has a large effect on a unit’s micro control. Units with a lower damage point are able to stutter step with better efficiency. This means, for the nerf the Adept could be given better potential for micro control.

Smoother Power Curve

Another possible solution is creating a small percentage splash damage buff as a tier upgrade above the Adept’s research upgrade, Resonating Glaives. The net result of this will be a direct nerf to the Adept’s early game survive-ability but creates more utility for the Adept in the late game. The Adept, traditionally a unit that becomes useless in the late end of the game. This change would effectively soften the Adept’s power curve, trading out its early game dominance for longevity.


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Brood War

Brood War Adventures – Preparing for the Journey Home

 

A few weeks ago I wrote an article talking about the possibility of a Brood War Renaissance. It’s 2017, and Brood War is once again completely relevant to current events. This is not a wishful, “what if” piece. This is it, we’re actually on the trail. I have to wonder how many esports writers over the years have thought of this moment as a wild dream.

For so many esport writers and athletes, their passion for craft started with Brood War. Most went on to other games and other projects: League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch. Yet Brood War was the starting point of that passion, and it’s for that reason it holds a sentimental place in the esport world. With that in mind, it’s a powerful experience to be here, writing about a game that meant so much to so many.

It is no secret that Brood War has a steep learning curve, even by StarCraft 2’s harsh standards. You’ve likely heard so much about it. What I’d like to talk about are the things they don’t tell you. The walls you run into that catch you off-guard.

 

Map Vision

You’ve heard so much about Brood War’s pathing issues that affect your ability to get around the map. But what you didn’t expect is the almost completely black screen you’re met with once you get into a game. Unlike StarCraft 2, which features a greyed out map from the start of the game, the maps in the original are completely black until you explore them for the first time in that game. This means that before you get into a game, it will be worthwhile to spend some time studying the map layouts.

A good starting point is just picking a single map, study it and play an AI game or two to get a feel for the terrain. Lost Temple and/or Luna are good options for their popularity. There’s a useful page worth looking at containing a list of the most popular maps in Brood War, courtesy Team Liquid.

Once you’re comfortable enough with a map that the black screen isn’t as much of an issue, try hosting a few games on it. If someone refuses to play you on a map you’re familiar with, just call them an LotV scrub and block them.

Brood War

Luna: an infamously straightforward, macro-focused map. Good for learning the basics of the game.

 

Builds

If you’ve done your research on Brood War, you’ve likely heard and perhaps even studied a few of the more famous builds. As commendable as that is, just forget them. At least for your first month. Macro in Brood War is an exceptionally complicated affair. Your first goal is to be able to start producing units. Rather than following a strict build order, just keep a priority list in mind and a general idea of what your end game strategy will be.

Of course, this is not to say Builds should never be used. Build Orders are especially important later down the line as you’re looking to refine your technique with pinpoint accuracy. But you’re better off avoiding them until you’re at least comfortable enough that you’re producing units at a steady pace.

 

Basic Defensive Tactics

 

Positioning in Brood War is everything. Even more than in StarCraft 2. In your early studies on maps, it’s important to identify choke points and open areas you’ll either want to hold or avoid depending on what race you’re playing. If you’re playing Protoss vs Zerg, for example, you’ll want to avoid straying in open areas or risk being surrounded. Furthermore, you’ll want to focus on positioning your units on choke-holds. With Zealots positioned at the bottom of the ramp and Dragoons holding the top. Zerg players will want to focus on baiting Protoss into open territory, usually by threatening map control.

It’s worth noting that in Brood War, attacking into high-ground from the low ground is suicide. This is due to units having a percentage chance of missing when attacking units at an elevated advantage. A final point, specifically for Protoss players, don’t be afraid to split your units. In StarCraft 2, Protoss can’t split units in the early game, but this couldn’t be more different in Brood War. Creating lines of defense is an important tactic for all races. Especially when making an attack into an enemy position, it’s good to have a defensive position held for your assault team to fall back to in case the attack goes badly.

Brood War

Priority zones: Green – A Ramp Protoss can favorably hold with Zealots and Dragoons, Blue – A funnel Terran can exploit using Siege Tanks and Spider Mines, Red – An open area Zerg can use to flank from multiple angles

 

 

Featured images courtesy Team LiquidAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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Proxima Station

Protoss Insight: Stats’ Three-Act Performance

While reception towards the generally one-sided GSL Finals between Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob and Eo “soO” Yoon Su was less than warm, undeniably Game 2 on Proxima Station was a showstopper. The mind games played by Stats embodied everything that makes us love strategy games. This grand performance from the best Protoss in the world gave us a lot to learn from. Let’s take a closer look at Stats’ strategy on Proxima Station.

 

The Premise

Before we get into the strategy, we should first talk a bit about the setting. In the late game of Zerg vs Protoss, Protoss is generally favored. Particularly, late game Carrier builds. Proxima Station itself is a very defensive map. It has a safe pocket expansion for its natural, and while the third is a bit more exposed than the main and natural, it’s still a highly defensible location.

For this reason, Carrier builds are very common for Protoss players on this map, where Protoss can safely wall off and greedily rush to their expensive late game build.

 

The Show

With this in mind, Stats set his bait. He opened his game by expanding directly into his third. This let Stats feign the premise that he went for a very greedy three expansion opening. Stats played out this act even further by walling off with a StarGate at his third. Knowing Protoss’ preference to play turtle strategies on Proxima, soO’s scouting information showed all the signs of Skytoss preparations. By the time the first Void got out, soO was already sold on the premise and started preparations to punish a greedy Carrier rush.

Proxima Station

The Twist

With the bait taken, Stats started preparations to put his real plan into effect. Instead of committing to air tech, Stats invested into a mass of Warp Gates. At this point, soO was in the middle of preparing a Hydralisk timing attack to punish what he thought was Stats’ Carrier rush. If Stats was really going for a greedy triple expansion into Carriers, he would have been vulnerable for a short window. A massive Hydralisk push would’ve been able to break Stats’ defense and end the game before he got to a critical mass of Carriers. Instead, soO was hit with waves of Adepts, the hard counter to his Hydras.

Proxima Station

The Finale

Stats’ plan didn’t end with the counter, however. After warping in a mass of Sentries into his main army, Stats began his final attack by making a huge warp-in of Adepts into soO’s main, baiting the Zerg back. As soO was dealing with the diversion, Stats made his real attack on soO’s third. As soO attempted to respond, the Protoss blocked off the ramp to the main with Forcefields.

With a small mass of Sentries available, Stats could have kept soO locked into his own base for as long as he needed. Shut out of his third, soO could only watch as Stats crippled his economy and was forced to tap out, bringing the show to its close.

Proxima Station

 

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SSL

StarCraft Weekly Recall

Welcome to my seventh ever Weekly Recall, a recap of the major events in the StarCraft Week.

 

StarCraft II Starleague (SSL) – Premier

 

Players

Joo “Zest” Sung Wook, Han “ByuL” Ji Won, Cho “Maru” Seong Ju, Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, Park “Dark” Ryung Woo, Kang “Solar” Min Soo, Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin

 

Highlight Match

sOs vs Solar

 

Zest vs ByuL

 

Often it seems Zest’s biggest issue is his self-confidence. It seems ironic to say that about Zest. Someone who looks like they would be voted most likely to date a Victoria’s Secret model.

But lately Zest just seems completely unwilling to play into the late-game. Instead, he prefers to close early through timing attacks. In Game 1 on Overgrowth, Zest attempted an Adept all-in, from which the game was decided once ByuL held.

Again in Whirlwind he over-extended an attack that he could have used to set himself up for a healthy mid game. Instead it seemed like he wanted to close the game through Archon harassment. Zest over-extended his harassment, rather than teching up while he had map control. After losing all four Archons, the game was pretty much over.

SSL

The irony of Zest’s situation becomes all the more apparent when you consider Game 2 on Daybreak. The only game that went relatively late was the only game that Zest won. Deciding the game from a fight at disadvantageous positioning with superior crisis management. Using his available PsiStorms perfectly to deflect a baneling flank.

In the end, ByuL’s defensive ability to hold Zest’s early aggression in Games 1 and 3 saw him through to a 2-1 victory.

 

Maru vs Stats

Stats’ form at the moment is the stuff of a legend, considering this series was played the day after the most important Protoss vs Zerg of Stats’ life. This was against Maru too, one of four Terran horsemen. Stats didn’t break a sweat here. Game 1 on Daybreak was heavily in Stats’ favor from the first engagement.

After dismantling Maru’s MMM attack, Stats expanded into four bases while transitioning out of Phoenix-Adept into Thermal Lance Colossi.

Near the end, Maru attempted a retaliatory attack onto Stats’ 4th with perfect timing just before Stats finished production of his first Colossi wave. The Protoss lead was already too massive at this point. Properly understanding the situation, Stats abandoned the 4th to buy time to get out his Colossi, which shut down Maru’s attack, ending the game shortly after.SSL

Newkirk was another stomp, but largely a build order win. Both players went for proxy air tech openings, but Stats was able to scout out Maru’s StarPort and dealt with the worker before it could complete construction. The Oracle out of Stats’ proxy StarGate secured massive value, decimating Maru’s mineral line on his natural and the handful of marines protecting it. The game was a landslide in Stats’ favor from this point, and he easily closed out the series 2-0.

 

Innovation vs Dark

 

Dark took control of Game 1 on Newkirk early with repeated zergling harassment. By the mid-game, Dark had such a commanding economic lead, it would have been easy to say the game was his.

The decisive moment of the game, however, came when Innovation made a doom drop into Stats’ main at the perfect time as Dark made a push with his slow Ultralisk-based army across the map. The damage was catastrophic, and on the retreat Dark’s army was eventually pulled apart and dismantled from all sides.

For a Dark fan this would have been a hard game to watch. Even Dark seemed almost unable to process the sudden flip in advantage, trying to fight on from an impossible situation to the bitter end.

SSL

Game 2 on Overgrowth was completely in Innovation’s control from the get-go, however. Innovation, unwilling to give Dark breathing room, hammered Dark again and again with harassment while he macroed up a death-ball behind it. By the time the final engagement came, the game was long over.

 

sOs vs Solar

 

sOs kept pressure on Solar throughout the early stages of Game 1 on Whirlwind. The critical moment came at the eventual head-on engagement where Solar crushed sOs’ main force with his superior positioning. Solar took the advantage here to keep sOs in check with a Roach drop.

Then, in a move you would expect from sOs himself, Solar set a baneling trap, coupled with surprise transition into Swarm Hosts. Caught off-guard in the worst way, sOs tapped out within seconds.

Game 2 on Overgrowth was much more of what you would expect from sOs. Opening with a proxy Gateway Adept all-in, then a Dark Templar follow-up, both of which Solar held comfortably. Solar was well ahead early in the game and prepared for everything except sOs sneaking an expansion into a Gold base. After putting on a spectacular defense, Solar was forced to tap out after realizing the massive economic gap.

This took us to Abyssal Reef. Meeting every expectation, it was the best in show for the night. sOs almost had Solar’s back against the wall early on after a massive Adept warp-in following a WarpGate explosion. Solar, however, quickly leveled the game with a baneling run into sOs’ army. From here, Solar took control, shutting down base after base with Swarm Host guerrilla tactics.

In the end, Solar took the fight right to sOs after securing a massive lead at a critical time. He hit sOs just before he could finish PsiStorm research to close the game, ending the best series of the night, 2-1.

SSL

 

 

Brood War v1.18

 

StarCraft and StarCraft: Brood War, Patch 1.18 has been delayed at least a week. Pushed back from its originally planned release from March 30th.

 

For specific information, see Blizzard’s official thread.

 

 

 

Featured images courtesy SpoTVAfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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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, a feat that only the great Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun has 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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