Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Starcraft 2 - More 2v2 Ladder

I'm gradually increasing my ranking with 3 different teammates in the 2v2 ladder.  What I've learned is:
  • Scouting is more important the longer the match goes on
  • There is such thing as attacking too late with a rush - your opponent's economy will outstrip yours the longer you wait.
  • It is vital that your opponent send whatever he has with your rushing force.  Even 3 marines can make a big difference when the number of defenders is so low.
  • Preventing your opponent from expanding or killing his expansion only works if you have enough troops to hold back his counterattack.
  • It is usually better to keep attacking a weakened opponent than to stop and go heavy economy.  Usually, you will forfeit your advantage and the scales will balance again, since you sacrificed early economy to attack, and the small amount of damage you can inflict that early in the game usually balances the cost of making the attack in the first place!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Zerg Strategy: Timing the Opponent's First Push

I was recently playing a series of games against Terran and Protoss Very Hard computer opponents, and I noticed that as Zerg, you had to make Drones constantly until about 30 supply, and then spam either Zergling / Baneling (vs Terran) or Zergling / Roach (vs Protoss) or I'd lose horribly to the computer's massive push.  Occasionally, the Protoss opponent would push slightly later, adding Immortals or perhaps a Colossus.  Making an excess of Roaches to defend this second push would render me very, very dead, even with 2 Spine Crawlers, unless I built a ton of zerglings to rip apart the Immortals and Stalkers.

So... figuring out when your opponent's first push will likely come, and with what units, will allow you to defend it without drones, and if you do this, you will be ahead in economy, and even a simple double-larvae spawn + all military units might let you counter-push and win the game, even on low-tech.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

PvZ - Lessons in Harassment and Pushes

I just played a whole bunch of games against my Protoss buddy, and here's what we learned:
  1. An early push of 2-3 Zealots from a 2-Gate opening forces Spine Crawlers or Zerglings.  However, it really doesn't do anything for the Protoss player, either - he ends up sacrificing economy to force defenses instead of Drones.
  2. If the Zerg player doesn't block his/her ramp and makes spine crawlers at the natural expansion, it's plenty easy to march your zealots right past everything and attack the main.
  3. A Zerg player can almost always get away with a hatch-first build on the newer, larger maps.  However, defending wide-open expansions with spine crawlers is a bad idea.
  4. The Protoss mid-game army really should include Colossi, even against Roach.  Colossi do SO much damage their splash effect that they are really worthwhile, and unlike High Templar, they don't run out of energy.  Immortals are good, but if the savvy Zerg player brings in Zerglings from behind, Immortals / Stalkers get trounced pretty badly.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Zerg 2v2 Strategies: The 10pool + Macro Team in ZZ

When you are your Starcraft 2 teammate are both Zerg, here's a strategy for you to try.  I've tried this out quite a few times and it seems to work well, especially when the enemy bases are spread apart.

The Builds:

The first player will do a 10-pool build, meaning that they will build drones to 10 supply, followed by a Spawning Pool, then an Overlord, then Drones to keep larvae from being wasted (you want to make a drone or two before your pool finishes), and then 3 Zerglings as soon as your Pool finishes.

Meanwhile, your ally will fast-expand with a 14 hatch build and scout on 10.  If he scouts an early attack, such as a double-10-pool, two gate zealot, 2-rax, he will 14-pool instead, and help you with the defense and counterattack.  However, it is still likely that even if the map is large, your early zerglings will mess with at least one opponent's build, and if you don't throw away the Zerglings too quickly, your ally will have time to get his pool up even if he's doing a 14-hatch.

Things your Zerglings SHOULD be doing:
  • Scouting
  • Destroying Pylons that power key structures
  • Harassing / destroying SCVs building structures
  • Kiting Zealots
  • Killing stray workers
  • Making sure your opponents cannot easily combine their early forces (if bases spread apart)
Things your Zerglings should NOT be doing:
  • Getting pinned in the worker line (his workers will kill your Zerglings and you'll lose more zerglings than you'll kill in workers.
  • Trying to kill more than 1 Zealot or more than 2 Marines.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Starcraft 2 Strategies: Denying Expansions in 2v2

One of the most effective things to do in Starcraft 2 when you're playing 2v2 is to deny expansions to the enemy while expanding yourselves.  It's not that important to destroy your enemy's main - that will come at the end of the game.  Instead, try to take the map and expand, while denying your enemy any expansions.

This strategies does two things - first, it gives you a bigger economy while only attacking in a hit-and-run style, then retreating.  Most of the time, the defenders won't mass their army near one of the expansions, but rather at their main base.  Their placement thus gives you the ability to quick-strike their expansions.  All you have to do is force them to cancel or to destroy the Nexus/Command Center/Hatchery, and retreat.  Don't go for the drones unless you are attacking with such a small force that you aren't going to be able to get the main building before the defenders arrive.

Better yet, do a two-prong attack.  Station your main army outside their base, and send good building-killers to an expansion (anything that does high damage to armored is good), and simultaneously do a drop on one of their mineral lines.  Most non-pro players will react by moving their WHOLE army to one location, which both splits their forces and allows one of your attacks to do good damage.  If they DO overreact to the harass, you can use your massed army to hit their front door and destroy some buildings or defenses.  After this, retreat - you will have likely lost some forces, and only the presence of your expansions (and the loss of theirs) will gradually gain you ground.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Starcraft 2 Protoss 3v3 Strategies

When you're looking for a 3v3 Strategy in Starcraft 2, it's important to realize how difficult it really is to wipe out three separate opponents when they have the defender's advantage.  Thus, you really need an overwhelming force that's strong against some of the toughest units in the game, which the opponent could field en masse.

If you've read my other 3v3 strategy, you'll note that specializing and making the big damage-dealing units for your team is a great way to use Protoss.  If you can get a teammate to feed you gas, you can get Colossus or Immortals out before the opponents will have enough of the counter units.  Chrono-boost allows you to get these units out even more quickly as well.

I suggest that the Protoss player go Immortals when you see mass Roach, mass Stalker, or Mech.

This unit hard-counters most big units, and many tough, mass-produceable units like Roaches and Stalkers.  Let your allies go with Colossi or Siege Tanks or Banelings/Infestors to counter mass-zealot or marine, while you annihilate pretty much everything else.  Mix in a few anti-air units, and you have quite the killer army.

Shutting Down Mass Muta
The other function of the Protoss player is to shut down Mass Muta strategies by threatening mass Phoenix.  Mass Phoenix can actually be better than you might think, even in straight-up army battles, because they can lift and kill high-dps units, such as Hydras, Templar, Ghosts and Infestors.  While this requires a lot of micro, it CAN turn the tide.  However, you should avoid such scenarios whenever possible, and instead use Phoenixes to snipe Overlords or other scouts, to discourage further Muta production, to maintain air dominance, and to protect against drops.

Photon Cannons
The Protoss player also has another item in his arsenal that can be overlooked:  Photon Cannons.  This single building can be placed virtually anywhere (except on creep), and can also defend against nearly anything (or at least slow it down).  Use Photon Cannons liberally at expansions (yours and teammates'), and you'll find that enemy harassment dries up quickly.  What you must be careful of is not to overbuild cannons before you have the economy to support it, otherwise you won't have much of an army, and you or your allies can be hit where you don't have cannons.  Cannons can't counterattack, either.  However, because team games tend to be longer than 1v1's, your side will eventually have the resources to cannon up key expansions and choke points.

I also think Chargelots are among the best meat-shield that you can get in almost any race.  They are fairly tough, small enough to be fielded in large masses, aren't worth using Neural Parasite on (unlike Archons) and only cost minerals.  Better still, they move in quickly and chew up other players' meat shields quite well (even Roaches, which are usually thought to be their counter unit).  Because of the mass of units in a big 3v3 battle, the Zealots will not be able to be kited, and will do great damage for their cost, especially with attack upgrades.  However, Zealots can also suck when faced by enemy Colossi and Infestors, so their use can be limited by the opponents' unit composition.  Yet, in 3v3, it's not as likely that the enemy army will be able to micro well, if only because of the sheer amount of stuff on the screen, and then Zealots can perform uite well (it doesn't matter if they are Fungal'ed if they are already doing damage!).

Dark Templar
Protoss also have the most annoying unit in team games:  Dark Templar (DTs).  Almost every player has lost a game to the sudden appearance of 5+ DTs in their main base, and a team game gives a Protoss player the ability to mass Dark Templar without the risk that their own base will be flattened by a counterattack if the DTs are spotted early.   If you aren't facing any Protoss opponents (i.e no enemy Observers), I recommend throwing in even 4-5 DTs at the front of your army.  They will prevent enemy melee units from reaching units directly behind them, and many opponents won't realize they even exist - stuff is dying so fast that they won't notice the extra damage from the extremely-powerful DTs.

Mass Blink Stalkers
Last, you shouldn't ignore the possibility of going mass blink-Stalkers.  Stalkers are a fast unit with decent damage, and should be used in packs to continually harass enemy locations.  Because they can stand up to or run away from many enemy units, and have the speed to run away from many more, Stalkers are great for harassment.  I recommend accompanying them with an observer, so they can blink to high ground when pursued by their one counter:  mass upgraded Speedlings.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Scouting: Rushes, All-Ins, Timing Pushes, Tech Switches and Macro Battles

Scouting really is the secret to the game.  You've passed Gold league, you know your macro.  You've learned the basic "elite" micro moves.  You know how to pick your battles.  Now... what the hell is my opponent doing?

The better you know the game, the more you will pick up from clues about what the opponent is doing based on the amount of time that has passed and what he would be able do have done in that time.

For example, if you scout the enemy base, and you know that a Terran opponent should have been able to make at least three barracks by the 4 minute mark, and only has one, chances are good that he has a hidden expansion somewhere.

I recommend sending a scout to the enemy base when you've hit 9 or 10 supply.  That is, you'll have 9 or 10 workers at this time.  The reason you send one so early is that some early strategies, such as the 6-pool, will require you to change your build order quite early to defend against the early attack.  Furthermore, your opponent can wall-off his base such that your worker scout cannot enter the base, thus denying you ANY scouting information.

You should check the following things with your early scout:
  1. Gas, present or absent
  2. Number and/or timing of Barracks, Gateways, or Spawning Pool
  3. Number of Workers
It's important to know that the ABSENCE of any of these is as significant as multiples of them.  If you don't see a Barracks and you really should be seeing one by this point in the game, check near your base for Proxy Barracks.

No gas for Terran and Protoss usually means an early attack or expansion, because they are forgoing tech in exchange for a fast expand or a low-tech rush.

The number of workers is also important, because early in the game, it is difficult to afford both workers and a constant production of attack units to offset the defender's advantage.

Starcraft 2 Strategies: The Defender's Advantage

New players to Starcraft 2 may not know the term "defender's advantage", or how it applies specifically to Starcraft 2.

In short, the defender's advantage is usually one of position or the ability to reinforce more quickly than the attacker.

Positional advantages:
  • Vision / Sight
  • Choke points near your base, either existing or made with buildings
Reinforcement Advantages:
  • Combat will be close to your unit producing structures
  • Structures are well protected behind a choke
What does this all mean?

It means that if your opponent builds mostly army with his resources, and you build your army and go attack him, by the time your forces get there, he'll have more stuff than you.  Thus, your only chance against his army happens if he decides to expand or tech rather than build attacking units.

And this, of course, is where scouting comes in...