Moving to

In an effort to realign content, I will be moving this blog to It isn’t up yet, but I figured I would post forewarning in case I am not able to make a smooth transition. I will post again afterwards.

Since I’m posting, here are a few tidbits.

First, I’m excited for the upcoming launch of the Legacy of the Void (LotV) beta! There aren’t too many surprises in the announcement, but I’m glad to see it coming so soon. There will probably need to be some changes to Spawning Tool to accommodate Legacy of the Void, but I haven’t really figured out the details there. Hopefully I can get into the beta early and play the game.

Second, speaking of playing, I played a game this morning, which is more noteworthy than it should be. The game was unremarkable, and I feel bad for my opponent. I went for a Reaper expand into a (not very good) 10 minute timing attack while they opened 3 Hatch before Pool. I saw 1 Overlord early, so I took a slightly different path to their base, and in the process, I think I might have (unintentionally) perfectly skirted around the vision of 3 Overlords. I think they were probably surprised.

Third, I think I’m going to play around with more Ghost builds. I saw this reddit post lamenting the diminishing importance of the Ghost, and I figured I should give it a shot. I don’t know any Ghost builds or how to even integrate Ghosts into a composition other than late game TvP, but I’ll report back on what I find, hopefully.

See you on the other side at!

Put myself in my opponent’s seat: beating the mirror matchup

As Maxilicious from TerranCraft pointed out, I have been getting away from my roots in writing about Heroes so much recently. Good point. The posts about Heroes haven’t been brilliant: they’re just observations from playing regular games. I’m pretty sure it’s been months since I have last played a 1v1 ladder game, so I sat down and played a game. It went okay: I won a ZvZ.

It can be hard to read the build orders for exactly what happened in the game, but roughly, my opponent opened with a big Zergling push, then we both settled into Roach/Hydra. Eventually, I broke through with Swarm Hosts and better upgrades and won. Our macro was so-so. There weren’t really any cool micro plays. There were a few key decisions, however, that I want to touch on briefly.

First, I scouted no expansion and guys pulled out of gas. This was a pretty easy read for some sort of Speedling attack. I kept Overlords in a line and a few Zerglings sent around to scout to watch for the timing, and that came with plenty of time for me to get Roaches out to defend.

Second, I avoided the Zergling run-by by putting myself in my opponent’s seat. I knew that there were more Zerglings out on the map after I tried to expand and wasn’t fast enough to cancel the Hatchery. I figured I was ahead since I had my expansion for longer and had teched up to Roaches. I wanted to move out to push but realized that if I were him, I would go for a run-by as soon as I saw the army on the map. As such, I split my army leaving half of my Roaches uphill to defend while moving out with half. It was a good call as I crushed the run-by, got an expansion going, and went for a full attack soon.

Third, I got overconfident in an attack. I figured I was ahead and would probably overwhelm my opponent with a Roach/Hydra attack. I was wrong. Given that there wasn’t an immediate counter, I figured that it was probably close-ish, but I definitely lost my whole attacking army. Despite having slightly better upgrades, I probably wasn’t ahead in army supply, and my opponent had faster reinforcements. I should have been more careful and just leveraged my positioning into getting further ahead.

Fourth, I transitioned into Swarm Hosts and static defenses. There were more run-bys and good army movement by my opponent to pick off bases, but most of the fight was in a straight line. I knew it was a stalemate otherwise, so I went for (what seemed to me to be) an early Hive for +3/+3 and started building Swarm Hosts. My control was poor with Swarm Hosts running out to rally points and dying unburrowed, but I did get enough to slowly push in.

I think that point 2 was probably my proudest moment. I play random, so I do roughly see all matchups, and I don’t feel good about any of them. That perspective, however, is probably something I should leverage more: I should use strategies I hate against other players myself. Conversely, I should anticipate what I would do either to press my advantage or to come back in a game, and prepare against that. This might be harder for non-random players, but at least it’s something to apply in mirror matchups to break the stalemates.

And one more thing: Fantasy Proleague signups are open. I haven’t paid much attention to the last few seasons, but I made a team anyways!

TvX Reaper opening into Mine drops into bio

In my posts so far, I have emphasized a macro-focused, reactive style. I think focusing on macro is the best way to learn how to play, but nailing your build and keeping your money low alone isn’t going to win you games. To play reactively, you need to scout and know how to respond to what you see, but even more importantly, you need to micro to deal with it.

That’s kind of where I’m at in my development, and unfortunately, it’s not going so well. I don’t play particularly quickly, and I’m not good at switching back and forth between micro and macro. Repeating reactive, safe builds hasn’t helped me develop that, either, because not enough of my games turn to micro-intensive styles.

Since I’m playing Terran nowadays, I’m using Reaper openings now. I feel cheesy doing it, but it’s astoundingly good practice to micro 2 Reapers around your opponent’s base while executing your build. The build gets a quick expansion and uses Widow Mine drops and Hellion harass into the midgame to keep your opponent off-balance. That gives you the opportunity to transition into your favorite bio composition.

Even better, the opening generally works against all races. You may tweak things slightly depending on what you see, but good harassment is good. Things probably start to diverge around 6:00.

Here are the build orders from 2 games from Polt that he posted to YouTube.

Polt’s TvT Reaper opening against Mech

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 11 Barracks (I think this was a mistake)
  • 12 Refinery
  • 15 Orbital Command, Reaper
  • 16 Supply Depot
  • 16 Reaper (lost a worker, sees no gas)
  • 19 4:10 Command Center
  • 4:25 20 Factory
  • 4:40 Reactor
  • 21 Supply Depot
  • 22 5:05 Barracks (poke in with Reapers)
  • 5:25 Starport (start Marine production), Widow Mine
  • 6:15 tech lab on Barracks, Refinery
  • 6:50 Medivac
  • 7:00 Barracks, Refinery
  • 7:30 tech on Stim
  • 7:40 1 Widow Mine drop (other Mine at opponenemt’s ramp)
  • 8:00 Engineering Bay
  • 8:30 Mine drop, sees mech, Siege Tanks
  • 9:30 push out with army, drop in back
  • 10:30 Command Center
  • Marine/Marauder/Tank/Medivac
  • 14:00 4th base

And the M4 Carbine against Zerg:

Polt’s TvZ Reapers into M4 Carbine

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 12 Refinery (delay SCV slightly)
  • 15 Reaper, Orbital command
  • 16 Supply Depot
  • 18 Reaper (attack with both when done
  • 20 Command Center
  • 21 4:20 Factory
  • 22 4:30 Reactor
  • 23 Supply Depot
  • 25 5:40 Swap, Bunker, Hellion x2 (to 6, then Widow Mines), Tech Lab
  • 5:55 Refinery
  • 30 6:05 Starport
  • 7:00 Viking
  • 7:10 Stimpack
  • 8:00 Medivac, harassing with Hellions and Reaper
  • 8:20 Command Center
  • 8:30 Drop leaving with Medivac and 2 Mines
  • 8:50 Engineering Bay x2, Refinery x2
  • 9:10 Barracks x2
  • 9:50 Barracks x2
  • 11:00 Tech Lab x2, Armory, Barracks x4, moves out to 3rd base
  • 12:00 Factory

Just a few notes:

  • Feel free to lose the Reapers at your discretion. If they survive, you can watch for expos or take towers with them
  • Your money will get high when you supply is in the upper 20s before you can blow it all on Hellions. I think you can get a Bunker, earlier 2nd Refinery, and 2nd Barracks in that gap
  • An alternate build is to go for a quick 3rd Command Center around 5:00 with those extra minerals. See Reality’s build in TvZ (youtube, twitch)
  • There are lots of units being cranked out all along the way that I’m not noting in the build

Finally, here’s a game from yours truly against Protoss. My Reaper harassment works okay, and their Oracle harassment works even better. A few Widow Mines in my base and a poorly timed push from my opponent seals the victory for me. Overall, it was pretty gratifying seeing the new build work, especially in TvP, which I have recently been having difficulty with.

To recap, at some point, you need to learn how to micro while sticking with your build/macro, and trying out harass-heavy builds, like Reaper openings, are a great way to do that. Reaper openings are surprisingly versatile and can definitely lead into any type of bio build.

(edit 5/4/13: adding reference to 3 base build)

Get your ladder on while you still can!

Blizzard says that the ladder lock is coming at midnight on Wednesday, so you all have about 22 hours from now to try to get into the division you want to be in. Or if you think you’re at risk of dropping off, maybe you shouldn’t play for the next 22 hours.

Myself? I’m set. I started the season in Gold when I went 4-1 in my placement matches. It didn’t take much to get into Platinum from there. Since then, I have been slowly moving up and playing better and better opponents. That culminated in tonight, when I played 3 matches, all against Masters league players. Yikes.

I first got slaughtered in a TvT when he delayed my natural with Reapers and Hellions while taking 3 bases and getting a crazy Mech army. Then I got slaughtered in a ZvZ where I didn’t defend up against an early Baneling attack, putting me behind for the Muta switch. Then I played a TvZ, where he went for an all-in against my complete wall off with Siege Tanks behind it. That got crushed, and I denied his 3rd and eventually beat him after failing to macro while I was winning. That win pushed me up to Diamond. Hooray!

Okay, maybe you don’t feel so good about getting advice from a Diamond league player. And I’m not going to lie: I think that’s probably about how good I am. I don’t actually ladder nearly as much as I should: watching and writing takes a lot of time, and when I do play, I often play 2v2 with my friends because it is actually more fun to hang out with friends and play instead of dealing with ladder anxiety. I haven’t played more than 3 ladder games in a row in awhile since I’m usually shaking too much and need to relax. And that’s why I have only played 27 games this season (though I’m actually really proud of that).

Anyways, the ladder lock is a good opportunity for me to fill you in on what’s coming up in StarCraft for me.

First, I’ll be shooting to write here twice a week. With the HotS release, I was writing almost daily, and that was way too much. I think twice a week is sustainable.

Second, I’ll keep laddering for the sake of this blog. Since I’m much closer to my aptitude, however, I need to pick a race, or else my play will stagnate. At the moment, I’ll leaning towards playing Terran, which means there will be more Terran content in the future. I’m accepting all opinions/petitions/recommendations for other races in the comments

Speaking of Terran, I’ll be posting the recap on Apollo’s Terran tutorials soon. Unfortunately, I think Terran has aged the least gracefully, but his builds are still a good framework. After that, I’ll be watching the pros and get the Terran Strategy article together.

Third, I’m open to recommendations on content moving forward. The Terran Strategy article was as far forward as I had thought, and I’m open to suggestions for content after that. I discussed computational modeling of StarCraft before, so I might think more on that. I could just keep doing build orders, though I recently have thought I should instead put more specifics on liquipedia instead. Since I mentioned I play more 2v2s, I could write more about that as well.

Let me know what you would like to see. You can find me on twitter (@warstrekkid), or you can comment on this post, or find me wherever else on the internet. In any case, get those ladder games in while you still can move leagues! And ignore the complete double-standard when I tell you that the best thing you can do to improve is to play more!

Apollo taught me how to hold a TvT tank push

Replay 1 (TvT on Neo Planet)

Replay 2 (TT v TT on Bone Trench)

In preparation for my Terran guide, I have been watching Apollo’s Tutorials REVAMPED, just like I did for the Zerg and Protoss guides. Although Apollo plays a reactive style, I mostly try to synthesize the intended build and game plan without the specific reactions to his opponent. Even though I don’t add these details to my notes, I still note them, and in a game earlier this evening, it paid off.

In this TvT game on Daybreak, Apollo sees early gases and a late expand from his opponent. Upon scouting the Factory and Starport as well, he predicts a Tank/Viking push. Apollo’s opening is a 1 Rax Expand into 3 Barracks with Stim and then Tanks. His reaction is to put down an extra Bunker, and when the Tanks come, he lets them wail on his Bunker while he repairs. When his Siege Tanks complete, he sieges them on the high ground, then breaks the attack with Stimmed Marines.

In my TvT on Neo Planet, I saw early gases but went for Apollo’s 1 Rax Expand anyways, despite Reapers being a threat in HotS that Apollo didn’t have in his WoL tutorials. A scan later revealed a Factory, so I left Marines around the 2 walking paths on the map. That soon revealed a Marine/Marauder/Tank push coming for me, so I kept working towards a Tank (thank goodness you don’t need to research Siege anymore) and pulled my SCVs to repair my Bunker. That held fine, and when I got my Tank sieged, I destroyed one of his Tanks immediately then pushed and destroyed the other and his army. At that point, he tapped out.

So in my guides, I focus a lot on the big picture and what you should be shooting for, but games aren’t played in a vacuum. For example, in the TvP I played immediately before, I macroed and got to 3 bases, but when the big engagement came, I wasn’t ready for his composition at all and got rolled when he instantly reinforced.

So thanks Apollo for that win. Your videos have certainly taught me a lot and affect my play in more subtle ways, but in this game, copying your response instantly won me the game. That’s pretty gratifying.

P.S. The 2nd is a long TT v TT I played with my friend. It’s 50 minutes of us bludgeoning each other until they transition into Battlecruisers and we hang out for the win. I’m sure it won’t be worth your time to watch, but it was a lot of fun to play.

Trying to play like Stephano

Replay Here

Like usual, I have managed to over-promise on the amount of free time I have after a major change. So far, I’m 2 weeks out of school and into working full-time, and I think I’ve only managed maybe 2 non-trivial StarCraft play sessions so far. I’m enjoying life quite a bit right now and have managed to do many different things, though I’ll try to stay dedicated to this game as best I can.

This morning, I played the linked game first. It’s a ZvP on Metalopolis, and it went pretty well. I tried out the Stephano style (described in my post here), which involves a quick gasless 3 base opening into spine crawlers in the midgame to get to Brood Lord/Infestor as soon as possible. My opponent opened Gateway first on the high ground, so I didn’t take my third immediately, but I did soon after. Overall, the game went as well as I could’ve hoped: I got to the late game quickly, had my initial, poorly balanced army smashed, fell back to the spine crawlers, and used my huge trust fund to put together the perfectly composed army. In short, it worked.

The game, however, was altogether quite passive. My opponent didn’t really ever put much pressure on me, and I should done a few more run-bys. I think that sort of play is more in my mechanics than the build itself: I just don’t have the multi-tasking and decision-making to execute run-bys along the path of my strategy.

Still, a win is a win, and afterwards, I managed to go 4-1 playing random on random 2v2 ladder. Even better, I won with all 3 races. Playing random and playing multiplayer are both much less stressful than laddering 1v1 Zerg, and I recently have considered playing random again to deal the my ladder anxiety that has largely kept me out of the game for the past 2 weeks. The most important thing, I think, is that I just play more, so we’ll see if I can muster up the will without changing the conditions.

My first “real” game

Replay here

I watch a decent amount of Starcraft and really enjoy it. There are the rushes, the mid-game engagements, and the late-game deathball fights. And for the first time a few minutes ago, I got to experience that myself in the sickest game I’ve played since early beta*.

In short, it was a 35 minute long ZvP involving several near max battles, lots of expansion killing, and my first ever use of Brood Lords on the ladder. Although I’ve never played into the late game before, my excessive Starcraft watching taught me pretty much what to do, and when my 8 or so Brood Lords, 8 or so Infestors, and a bunch of random units beat back his deathball, I knew I had won and got the “GG” seconds later.

Some things went well that game, including early Zerglings in his FE, solid holds, Brood Lord/Infestor play, and Zergling runbys to pick off expansions. Most things didn’t go well that game, including a low worker count early game, bad engagements, upgrades, bad Infestor control (in 2 battles, they ran out in front of my Roaches to all die), slow composition changes (Roaches against Immortals is bad news), and macro (specifically, not spending larva). But in all, it worked out.

Having played through it, I have a lot more respect for the pros. I’ve watched enough that I know what they’re supposed to do, and sometimes, I tell myself that I can do it, too. But deep into a game with my hands shaking, a half-dozen bases, multi-pronged attacks, uncertainty of my opponent’s composition, and constant threat of being crushed, the game is way harder.

My nerves should calm down over time as I get into more of these situations, and I have a lot of lessons from this game. But in any case, I think I’ll be on a high from this game for awhile.

* I wish I had the replay, but it was a TvZ with lots of Thors, Nyduses (Nydi?) in the back of my base, and a bunch of trades

Back in Diamond for Season 6

Replay 1 Replay 2

Season 6 of ladder play has begun, and so have I. I just played 2 quick games, both of which went pretty well. The first ZvZ went along smoothly without any Zergling/Baneling play at the beginning. Transitioned into Roach/Infestor and rode that to victory. The second game was ZvT, where he tried some elevator play with Marines and Hellions, but I had plenty of Zerglings to deal with it. He made a few other mistakes (leaving Tanks unsieged and undefended), and a large flock of Mutas convinced him to tap out.

Watching the replays, my macro was not very good in either of them. Now that I’ve learned about the macro hatch, I’m getting a lot of larva, but I’m also not spending them. This happens sometimes from being supply blocked, but in general, I’m just not checking them often enough, so my supply and money go up and down, roughly in sync with when I’m injecting. Day[9] talks about the mental checklist of “making pylons, making probes”. I guess without specific production buildings, I need to do a better job constantly keeping my money low and building things.

I think it’s pretty popular for Zergs to want to work on never missing an inject: I think I might get to that only after I remember to use the larva I already have.

Transitioning into mid-game ZvZ

Replay 1 Replay 2

ZvZ has quickly become my least favorite matchup as it’s by far the most stressful. You can develop big advantages and disadvantages within the first few minutes in Zergling/Baneling engagements from things as little as looking away to macro and coming back to see a baneling pop in the middle of everything. Personally, my hope is just to get out of the early game not tremendously behind, but that is difficult.

One reason why is that I’ve found that a lot of Zerg are pretty greedy and go hatch first in ZvZ. And at my level, it’s really hard to avoid losing outright to Zergling/Baneling aggresion. I played 3 games at lunchtime, and in both ZvZ games, my opponent went hatch first, so to avoid falling behind with my 14 gas 14 pool opening, I went for it. In both, I managed to kill the hatchery, but the rest unfolded very differently.

In the first, I expended a lot, but managed to destroy his expo. I tried to expand behind it, but I forgot the bit where he needed to build up a lot to fend off my aggression. I wasn’t properly prepared, and he sniped it without me canceling. At that point, I was pretty flustered, fell way behind, and soon lost.

In the second, I managed to destroy his expo, then immediately fell back with my own expo and into a defensive position. He tried to go for a big roach push soon after, but since I was playing defensively (knowing I had my expo up for longer), I fended it off easily and got the win later on.

There were many other lessons along the way, but I was particularly glad to see that I had instantly learned from the previous game and managed to make the adjustment. Hopefully I can keep it up: both today and yesterday, I have played 3 ladder games, going 3-3 over the span of them. I think Day[9] offered the New Year’s Resolution to play 3 ladder games everyday. I laughed it off given my typical schedule, but given how often I peek in to watch a full game on a stream, I probably have the time for it. I’ll of course keep you updated here.

The Macro Hatch is not to be underestimated

I once read somewhere (probably reddit), “I’ve never built a macro hatch and later regretted it.” I’m now a believer.

I’m traveling at the moment, and the best thing to do on planes and in the airport is to practice SC2 against the computer. I usually play against “very hard” and don’t have any problems, but today, in either my first or second game, I played a ZvT and lost. So I played the matchup again and was close to losing. Basically, the computer comes with a marine/marauder push around 6 minutes, then comes again around 9 minutes. I usually barely fend off the first attack with my 14 gas 14 pool 20 hatch opening, but I was taking a lot of damage. The 2nd attack was the real kicker as I would just be settling into my economy when it came.

I tried defending with banelings for the 2nd push, which worked well enough, but I felt like it was very early to be committing so much into it. After losing one 4-5 games in, I figured I needed a different approach. That time, I dropped a macro hatch right around 7 minutes. I can’t understate how much of a difference it made.

In the 2 games I played with the macro hatch, I just had more stuff. More drones, more zerglings, more money. I could tech faster while keeping a high zergling count for defense. Instead of trying to scrape together a defense for the 3rd push, I was desperately trying to keep my money low and oversaturated my main and natural expansion while getting ready for a counter.

I’ll need to play around with the timings on the macro hatch, since I have now only played about 4 games with it. Regardless of where it ends up in my builds, it’s a good reminder about how important of a resource larva are to Zerg.