Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Starcraft 2 Macro Tips from Day9

  • Keep your eyes on the minimap most of all
  • Hotkey all your production buildings
  • Use F5, F6, F7 keys to hotkey screen locations
  • Do "tapping" of production-building hotkeys before, during, and after combat.
  • Know your reaction in advance, before you go look on the mainscreen what's at the back of your base (you're likely sending some marines against a drop or air attack)
  • Send your worker to the build location BEFORE you have enough minerals, to be ready for the exact moment when you DO have the funds
  • Hotkey your scouts
  • Check rally points when combat starts.  Don't end up sending units to die in dangerous places

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Starcraft 2 Strategy: Zerg Solutions to Containment

If you play Zerg very often, you have probably run into the bunker rush, or just not had enough units to move out with, while you opponent sits outside your base.  Heck, they might merely be force-fielding your ramp and preventing a quick expand.

Why does this hurt?  Larvae.  It's what stops Zerg from building to full capacity (even with Queen injects), and allows the contain to continue.

So what do you do?

This situation calls for an in-base hatch.  This means building another hatchery inside your main, for the sole purpose of generating extra larvae.  If you position it really well, you can use it to spread creep for spine crawlers - but ensure that it can't be hit from below.

Second thing:  Get a Roach Warren going.  You need ranged units to break a contain, and the Roach is both tough and has decent range (as of patch 1.3, anyway).  Zerglings, when you're trying to move through a choke to an entrenched position, are merely a distraction to your opponent.  Banelings, however... are also a decent option if they aren't killed too quickly (this is where the distraction comes in handy).

Third:  Make sure you're sure you can break the contain before sending out your forces.  What stops him from coming into your base is a mass of units ready to eat him.  If you throw these away without killing him, you won't have enough time to build more.

Last, do not attempt to build Mutalisks on 1-base!  Mutas are far too gas-heavy, and for the few Mutas you would be able to build, you could build FAR more Roaches, which will get you out of the contain.

Starcraft 2 Strategy: When you lack larvae, build more Queens

I ran into this in a recent game, and although I lost the ZvZ match to a Roach contain, I found that I had money, but no larvae.  But yet, I need more units.  So, I built Queens!  This allowed me to break the contain, and had I built a ton of Queens earlier, I may not have lost. 

The good things about Queens:
  • They can heal
  • They damage air and ground (in case your Zerg opponent accidentally rallies Overlords to your base, too)
  • They are tough
  • They only require minerals to build
  • They can spread creep (even ZvZ, this gives you vision and your units really don't perform any better or worse than his)
The bad things about Queens:
  • They aren't an attack unit (unless you REALLY spread creep like crazy)
  • They consume minerals you should probably be spending on drones or (another) expansion

Starcraft 2 Strategy: Cheese builds and Anti-Cheese builds

Today we'll talk about Zerg vs. Protoss cheese.  I was introduced to an interesting cheese build, where the Protoss player uses cannons, as usual, but then proceeds to build a Gateway inside the Zerg base as well!  Since Zealots are very powerful against Zerglings, especially in small numbers, if the Gateway finishes and a Zealot gets out, it's game over for Zerg.

So I'm playing a custom Obs-Xel'Naga game against AluCard... no, I'm not sure if it's THE Alucard from SC1, or if it's someone similar, but he's Diamond-ranked, and he just used the build, while I observed the game, to destroy another Zerg player.

The key to beating this cheese is to pull enough drones (I'd say at least 5-6), to destroy what he's building, in this order:

1.  Probes

You really have to kill his probe, or he will keep building things.  You don't want that.  You also want to force him to send another probe, reducing his economy.

2. Photon Cannons

If a cannon is being built, you need to take it out, before it takes you out.

3.  Pylons

The other buildings are tougher, and they can't do anything without pylons.  A smart protoss will drop a bunch of pylons, but it's easier to kill them than the buildings they power.

Once you get all those things down, he should give up. 

If he doesn't, counterattack his base with your accumulated Zerglings, whether they have speed or not.  Do not wait!  You need to hit him with whatever you've got and finish him off before he can wall his base in.  If, by stopping the cannon rush early, he is able to wall his ramp off, expand and build a ton of drones (until about 30 supply or so).  After that, scout what he's got, prevent him from expanding himself, and you should win the game.  A mutalisk harass wouldn't hurt either - but get that second base up first!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Starcraft 2 Strategy: Using a Meat Shield

I say "have more stuff", and you say "duh".  But there's a deeper concept here, and one that you'll see players like White-Ra use, that will also work surprisingly well in the custom scenarios such as Desert Strike.

Concept #1:  Ability to absorb damage.

Generally, and with exceptions, lots of small units have more hit points than single large units, cost for cost.  Low-tier units cost less gas, and are faster to replace than higher-tier units.  Therefore, if you have more of them, your opponent has to deal more damage to you to destroy your army.

Concept #2:  The meat-shield

Yes, I said it.  And yes, I'm implying it.  Those zealots really just are pieces of meat, ready to be shredded, that get in the way of the enemy destroying your heavy damage-dealing, important units like Colossi and Immortals.  Or Siege tanks.  Or Hydralisks.  Every race has a meat shield unit:  Marauders for Terran, Zealots for Protoss, and Roaches for Zerg.  Protoss have Force-Fields through their Sentries, which also act as barriers behind which their big units can shoot.

So... try it sometime - build more cheap units that have good damage absorption, and you'll notice that you don't have to waste as much money on the fragile, expensive units, because they'll stay alive longer to do their massive damage.

Starcraft 2 - Gaining or Preventing Critical Mass

You may have heard of a concept called "critical mass" when talking about Starcraft 2 and its strategies and tactics. This term means "An amount or level needed for a specific result or new action to occur", but in Starcraft 2, is usually referring to when you have produced and accumulated a certain number of one unit type, such that the number of units becomes more dangerous than they are individually.

Typically, the following units can gain "critical mass":
  • Marines (with Marauders)
  • (Blink) Stalkers
  • Siege Tanks
  • Mutalisks
  • Void Rays
  • Carriers
What tends to happen in games is that once your opponent achieves these numbers, they become really hard to stop, unless you have been accumulating units directly against what he's been massing.  Even if you have a balanced army, with a certain amount of anti-air or etc, his critical mass will generally do more damage than you can absorb while killing his mass, OR that he can use his mobility, slow unstoppable advance, or range to destroy key structures, but yet you will have a hard time countering it or attacking into it.

I've played several 2v2 and 3v3 games where one person masses one of these units and pretty much walks over bases like they weren't there.  To counter this strategy, you must SCOUT OFTEN.
Massing is a poor strategy if you can build counters against those units in time.

The other game aspects I can mention are key to success in any game:

  • Pressure your opponent with harassment or even trade units to keep numbers down
  • Expand more often than your opponent
  • Defend against his harassment better than he defends against yours.
  • Force him to build other units than the ones he'd like to mass, to defend against your harassment
 I discourage massing, because unless you are truly pro with your micro, or unless you've heavily scouted and the opponent's aren't massing the counter-unit, small mistakes can cost you the game.  For example, while your mutas might be able to outmaneuver a pile of marines, if you happen to fly directly over them, stimmed marines can really deplete your Muta count, and the unit-trade of marine kills for muta losses is a poor one.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Starcraft 2v2 Team Games: Aggressiveness as a Defense

In a recent 2v2 team game, my Zerg partner was the type of player who liked to sit back for a bit and macro up, whereas I advocated early aggressiveness.  Whether I played Terran or Zerg, aggression seemed to pay off - the opponents were thrown off their game, assumed that we were going to keep sending units, so when we backed off for a bit and pumped economy, they would be preparing for an attack that could come any second, but never did, thus setting them behind economically while we surged ahead.

What's sad about some of the greatest resources on the web, where Diamond-level game-casters tell us all about great strategies and show top-level games, is that there's really nothing I've found (so far) for team games.  It seems that the focus is all on 1v1.

The main problem with 2v2 is that it's possible to completely overwhelm an opponent by about the 25-food mark simply by having you and your partner send 3-4 units each to one opponent's base, especially if they are Zerg and can't wall-in.  To anticipate this early aggression, you also have to have minimal defense, meaning you're probably going to have to make some attack units regardless, sacrificing economy.  However, if you make attack units, don't attack, and your opponents don't attack either, you are behind on economy and you're eventually going to get rolled over by a larger enemy army.  Thus, early aggression gives you both scouting, defense against their early aggression, and keeps your economy even with your opponents', and might even help you win the game.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Trash Talk: Making People Feel Bad

So I just had an experience where my practice partner, of all people, was giving me some trash talk.  Now, sometimes it's all in fun, but he's better than me, and when he repeatedly beats me and trash talks me as he's decimating me really doesn't make me want to play again.  It's possibly time to find another practice partner - aren't they the one to help you improve and want to play again and again?

I know that some people do this on ladder, although I don't know why.  Does it make them feel big to make someone else feel small?  Sure, maybe they are just figuring out what this whole "social conduct" thing is about, but for the rest of them, they're just ruining someone's day.

3v3 Team Games

Today I played some 3v3 team games with some Starcraft 2 friends, and found that early aggression is the key to success.  The other lesson was if you're NOT going to attack really early, don't sacrifice economy for defenses, because if they DON'T attack, you'll be behind.

One of the prime reasons for this is that you get to combine the power your armies and push against a single point, and your opponents have to struggle to react to it. 

I had a terrible time keeping control of the sensors towers in one game, and that allowed the opponents to both know when WE were coming and consolidate their forces.  Lesson learned there:  if you're going to try for the sensor towers, don't just throw away units - move a good chunk of your forces there (and move them away if you see something coming you can't beat)!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Lose and Keep Losing

I just read a post on TeamLiquid.Net that reminded me why one shouldn't get so nervous on ladder games - go in with the expectation that you are going to lose.  No wait, lose and improve.  Yes, you can get higher in the ladder by following your same, 80% success-rate build order, but chances are you won't learn anything, and you won't ever be able to counter those one or two builds that beat yours.  You may even encounter a single race that you can never beat, even if you regularly stomp the other two races.

Experiment with build orders.  Do some crazy things.  Try attacking at different supply milestones.  Try seemingly stupid things you read on TeamLiquid.  Try copying a pro's build.  Try practising your marine-micro, or dropping banelings from Overlords on TOP of marines!  (What fun!)

So... lose, and keep losing.  Keep learning.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Watching the Pros: Tips from GOM (GSL)

  • Scout EVERY base location at around the 30, 50 and 80 food marks.  Hidden expansions will put you behind, and you'll wonder why.
  • When facing Siege tanks, spread your units out.  A big round group of anything will get demolished by siege tanks, whereas a long line still gets you the concave you need while minimizing splash.
  • There is no reason to tech too fast.  A safer play will win you more games.
  • When behind, expand in a remote location.  The gold bases are especially good - even if you can't hold them and they get destroyed, they make up their initial cost very quickly.
  • When ahead, avoid the temptation for a final battle.  Get more ahead by taking another base and securing your own against drops, harassment by air units, etc.  Hold key areas of the map and go for map control / containment.