Analysis of ByuL’s reactive ZvP in Proleague

Proleague (SPL) is back for 2014. I have become a bit of a StarCraft snob and think that Proleague is by far the most exciting and interesting StarCraft out there. It’s a bummer that they have changed the time this year so that all matches start at 2AM (at the earliest) for me, but I’ll happily follow along with Fantasy Proleague and by watching VODs.

Having just rewritten my Zerg versus Protoss strategy guide, I’m very excited about a game I just watched between IM ByuL and Remember Prime. Played on the new map Sejong Science Base, I think it perfectly illustrates with the type of safe, reactive Zerg style that I had seen before and was recommending for you to try.

Link to the VOD

ByuL opens with a 15 Hatchery, 16 Spawning Pool. He takes his gas at 3:35 (17 supply, after the Overlord), which allows him to get Metabolic Boost for his Zerglings early. He makes 4 Zerglings as soon as the Pool finishes and sends them to scout his opponent.

ByuL Zergling Scout Continue reading

WCS Season 1 Finals brought to you by: Hellbats

Unless you’re in Europe (or similar time zones), I hope you caught the WCS season finals last night. Well, at least I hope you caught the semifinals because both of those series were very entertaining. The finals were mostly forgettable as INnoVation rolled SoS, which is really too bad.

I think it would be fair to summarize all Terran play this weekend as Hellbats. Terran strategy has shifted to drop-focused play, and they’re really preferring Hellbats over Widow Mines. I noticed that even when Hellbat drops appeared to be ineffective, Terran still didn’t fall behind. My guess is that the combination of

  1. cheap Hellbats (it’s cheaper to fill a Medivac with 2 Hellbats than even 8 Marines)
  2. money spend on required static defense
  3. lost mining time

make it a tricky proposition to deal with right now. The INnoVation versus aLive quarterfinal game was just painful to watch. TvT seems the most affected by Hellbats at the moment because mech has become the standard style (as opposed to bio or bio-tank), but we’ll see if that mobility swings things around again.

Anyways, I got 1 interesting strategy out of this. On Neo Planet S, SoS pulled out a Tempest-High Templar strategy on INnoVation that looked awesome (VoD here). Standard TvP is bio with Vikings for Colossi and Ghosts for High Templar. SoS’s plan was to use Tempests to shoot down everything, and when the Vikings and Marines came, he would back off onto 1 of the many high ground areas around the map and storm the Vikings/Marines. The strategy is very gas-intensive, so a lot of minerals get dumped into Photon Cannons (Tempests are slow to defend against a mobile bio army) and Zealots to take damage and harass.

By this game, SoS wasn’t playing very well, which has been attributed to nerves. There was a time when INnoVation wasn’t mining, so I like to think that the strategy might have worked. I think it is pretty specific to Neo Planet S and its rings of high ground, but you should try it on other maps and see how it goes.

Let me know if you want me to write up any rough timings or build order from the game.

A few thoughts from the MLG Winter Championship


It’s been awhile since I have spent all weekend watching StarCraft, but it felt great. The 2013 MLG Winter Championship in Dallas was different in several ways. First, it was the first, major post-release Heart of the Swarm tournament, and many of the players came with their new gadgets. Second, it didn’t have an open bracket, so all of the focus was on the championship bracket. Finally, it was single elimination, so the stakes on each game were higher than ever.

There were a ton of cool builds, but in my mind, the big story was Medivacs, which even IdrA appreciated. All of the Terran players showed very dynamic play, and it seemed like they were constantly attacking in 3 places simultaneously, which left the casters looking in all the wrong places. The best series was Flash (T) v. Innovation (T), the semifinal games between 2 KeSPA players. There’s something all you Terran players out there can aspire to do.

The finals were also awesome as Life (Z) took out Flash using an aggressive Ling-Baneling style. He started the first game with a 10 Pool, and that really set the tone for the rest of the games. I would need to rewatch the games, but I believe he used a 3 base build, with +1/+1 and a quick Lair for Baneling speed to overwhelm Flash. I was pulling for Flash, so forgive me for being defensive, but it really seemed like Life had his number. Flash used a quick Stimpack into +1/+1 Marine/Marauder/Medivac/Mines (M4? Can we call this build the “Carbine”?), and for a guy who often seems psychic, he demonstrated an amazing lack of map vision by moving out at critically bad times. And since both of them kept going back to the same builds (other than that crazy 2 Rax in there), Life came out ahead.

Major props to Life, though: he was aggressive, and it worked. I think the accepted Zerg style has shifted towards this very defensive strategy, obsessed with being 1 base ahead and trying to get to the late game ASAP to bring out the big guns. I personally haven’t seen as much aggressive play as what Life used this series, and he punished Flash for not being ready, again and again.

Given that, would you guys like me to review the games and put together a writeup on Life’s play that series? I have a few other posts I would like to do in the backlog (and I’m also assembling basic guides for each race), but if there’s demand for it, I would be willing to go through the replays again and catch some timings from the finals series. There are already a few posts around the interwebs (post 1, post 2), but if you would like more detail, I can give it a shot.

Should I post on Life's Ling-Bling ZvT?

  • Yes (79%, 11 Votes)
  • No (14%, 2 Votes)
  • Don't Care (7%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 14

Loading ... Loading ...

PvT Dark Templar Build Order


I have to admit: I don’t know how much most advanced buildings cost. They all cost something like 150 Minerals and 100 Gas. Or maybe 150 Gas if they’re really spiffy. So when I heard that the Dark Shrine got cheaper in HotS, I mostly just thought, “Okay, so I don’t have to rapidly hit D for as long to get it out. Assuming I already have enough money anyways since I’m probably floating 2K resources anyways.” It is astoundingly relevant for pros, though, so DT rushes are back.

And they’re not even too much of a commitment anymore. In Sase (P) versus MVP (T) on Cloud Kingdom in Game 4 of the MLG 2013 Winter Championships in Dallas, Sase went for DTs behind a 1 Gate Expand while getting upgrades. Just a few DTs caught Taeja offguard and destroyed 16 SCVs. Not bad.

Sase’s PvT DT Rush

  • Standard Protoss Opening
  • 21 Nexus
  • 21 Mothership Core
  • 23 Assimilator
  • 24 Stalker
  • 26 Pylon
  • 34 5:30 Twilight Council
  • 6:30 Dark Shrine

Remember, a DT rush sets you up nicely for either Blink Stalkers or Zealot-Archon as a follow-up. Sase ended up using mind games and went for Zealot-Archon while actually going double Robo Colossi behind it.


Terran HotS Build Orders from MLG Dallas (hint: Medivacs)


I told you that the big Heart of the Swarm (HotS) changes in Terran were the new Reaper and Widow Mines. For Reapers, removing the Tech Lab requirement, adding the speed upgrade out-of-the-box, and regenerating health would turn it into the harass unit it was always intended to be. For Widow Mines, well, they’re just pretty imba. In the first round of MLG 2013 Winter Championships in Dallas, however, the story seemed to be Medivacs.

The Ignite Afterburners gives the Medivac a short speed boost, which makes drops extremely powerful. Since the boost doesn’t require an upgrade, and you can slap a Reactor onto your first Starport, early drops are scary, especially for Protoss. Almost every map has the 3rd curled around against the main base high ground, and while the Protoss is running a few Zealots back and forth between the bases, Medivac drops can bounce back and forth between the bases and deal damage with almost no cost. Pros will probably figure out how to deal with it and educate us all, but in the meantime, you should abuse it.

In game 1 of Flash (T) versus Bly (Z) on Neo Planet S, Flash opened with a 2 Reaper Bunker rush, which worked, so he added on a 3rd Reaper to keep the harassment up. He then added 4 Hellions, which all looks a lot like qxc’s TvZ. The trick comes next, when instead of Widow Mines, he immediately gets Stimpack, adds on a bunch of Barracks, then builds his Starport onto the Reactor for double Marine drops. Granted, none of us have sick drop micro like Flash, but I like the idea of it.

Flash’s TvZ Reapers into Double Medivac Marine Drop

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 12 Refinery (cut SCVs all over the place to get things down on time)
  • 14 Orbital Command
  • 14 Reaper
  • 15 Supply Depot
  • 17 Proxy Bunker
  • 17 Reaper
  • 21 Reaper
  • 22 Command Center (on high ground)
  • 24 Factory, Reactor on Barracks
  • 26 Barracks
  • 27 Hellion, Hellion
  • 31 Tech Lab on Barracks
  • 33 6:40 Stimpack
  • Barracks, Barracks
  • 7:50 Starport
  • Drops!

But maybe you’re not all about the Reaper opening: I know I can’t macro and do Reaper harass simultaneously. In that se, you might like MVP’s (T) opening against Feast (P) on Cloud Kingdom in game 4. A popular opening we’re seeing in TvP is a CC Reactored Marines build. It feels like a 1 rax expand build, except you do get the early gas, which I think is supposed to threaten Reapers when the Protoss scouts and sees the gas. The Reactor is as good as the extra Barracks you would get from a gasless opening, and you can swap it onto your Starport when the time comes.

Note that Taeja (T) does something very similar in Game 1 on Newkirk City against Sase (P)

MVP’s TvP 1 rax expand

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 15 Refinery
  • 16 Marine
  • 17 Supply Depot, Orbital Command
  • 19 Reactor
  • 21 Command Center
  • 22 Marine, Marine
  • 24 Factory
  • 25 Supply Depot
  • 28 Bunker (defensive)
  • 5:45 Starport
  • 10:20 Stimpack (this is notably late)

And if you liked being greedy in Wings of Liberty, you can still be greedy. Taeja and Flash were both doing 14 CC builds to mix things up (in both TvP and TvZ), and it appears fine. There’s not a lot to say, but here’s the build from Taeja versus Sase, game 4 on Cloud Kingdom:

TvX 14 CC (HotS)

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 14 Command Center
  • 15 Barracks
  • 16 Barracks
  • 19 Bunker (at choke into natural)
  • 19 Marine, Marine
  • Double gas around 32 supply

Playing Protoss in HotS

This Thanksgiving has mostly been consumed by sleep, reading for book club, and playing Borderlands with friends, but I also got in a decent amount of StarCraft. About half of it was 4v4s, but I also played 3 ranked games as Protoss in HotS for placement, all of which I won. I think the last guy I played was silver (not sure how accurate HotS ladder is, though), so I guess this is just working up from the bottom.

Overall, I didn’t get to play around with new units much. The first game was against Protoss, and I attacked with 3 gates, and he didn’t even have warpgate yet. The second was against Terran on Cloud Kingdom, and poor map awareness on his part (and decent awareness on mine) allowed me to see reaper harass and various widow mines coming in via watchtowers. The final game was against Zerg, which I will discuss soon.

I didn’t get any Oracles out, though I should try that soon. I did build a few Tempests, though I’m not really sure what the benefit of that was. And I did build Mothership Cores, but I didn’t use any of the abilities. I believe they’ve changed since I tried out the game months ago, and in a ranked match, I didn’t want to take the time to read.

One big improvement for me was that “x/24 workers” thing over the Nexus. Like most players, I do a poor job building workers; I think I often end up with about 10-15 workers on minerals per base in most of my matches, and I’m not very good at checking.  Having that dialog bit was a good reminder, though, and I think it evens the playing field for those without spectacular mechanics.

The last game I played against Zerg was particularly interesting because he went for a Swarm Host rush on Antiga Shipyard. My poor map awareness meant that I missed him taking over the space at the bottom of the ramp to my natural, where he had a few Swarm Hosts, Queens, Spines, and Spores. The Swarm Hosts continually spawned the Locusts, and when I tried to push down the ramp to take them out, the spore would snipe my observer before I could spot and hit them. Having never seen anything like this before, I got flustered and couldn’t figure out a good composition to beat this build. Regardless, I macroed well enough to rush down the ramp, break out, and get a 3rd.

Through the middle of the game, he used a lot of corruptors and overseers to kill any observers I had, and then planted the Swarm Hosts to slow me. This actually neutralized my Colossi really well, which was the best answer I got for the Locusts. Again, I managed to overwhelm him, control the center, and beat his late game composition of Brood Lord/Swarm Host with a lot of blink Stalkers and some blind storms over his Swam Hosts.

I’m glad I won on mechanics, though he clearly had a build that I didn’t know how to deal with. I guess these are the surprises to expect from a game in beta. You might be wondering why I’m playing Protoss, given that I started this blog as Zerg and mentioned that I recently switched to Terran. Since I’m planning testing all races, I thought it might be nice to make the circuit starting with the race I’m least likely to play in the long run.

The more honest answer, though, is that I’m getting ladder anxiety about HotS, too, despite the fact that I know that the game is incomplete and probably not very stable. To fight that, I’m trying to play with my weakest (well, least-emphasized) race so that I don’t feel like I need to be performing particularly well with it. Still, that hasn’t gotten me through placement yet on HotS.

In the meantime, I seem to have a spare HotS beta key as I won one with a bad joke and received another for preordering HotS from Amazon. I thought I might share it with a friend, but it turns out that NONE of my friends want the beta key (probably also a factor in my low motivation to ladder). As such, I guess I’ll hold a mini-contest here.

Leave me a one-sentence comment with a suggestion on how to overcome ladder anxiety, and if your suggestion helps, I’ll pass along the key. I say one sentence simply because I don’t trust myself to be reliable in this contest (e.g. giving it to another friend anyways), and I don’t want you to waste a lot of time crafting a response when I’m being unreliable.

Quick thoughts after an hour of HOTS

I personally wasn’t blessed with a Heart of the Swarm beta account, but Julie was, and we played around with it today for an hour or two. Julie played 2 games against the AI with Protoss, and I played a Zerg and a Terran game against the AI. Then, I played an unranked TvT.

The units were largely as described. Admittedly, the experience was somewhat underwhelming. The units are interesting, but they weren’t mindblowing to use after having seen them in action.

The graphical and interface tweaks are nice. The weirdest part for me was the workers being automatically sent to mine at the beginning of the game. It’s a nice touch since a lot of games will lag on entry, though I don’t know why Blizzard hasn’t introduced an in-game counter at the beginning instead. That also helps with the sometimes surprising start. Otherwise, I’m mostly fine with things.

The TvT was interesting. I went 2rax Reaper into mech since that’s where all the action is at, and yes, the Warhound appears to be the real winner here. I ended up losing after a really good start, mostly because of poor control on my side, but I was disappointed that mixing in Hellions was pretty worthless, and Thors even melted to the Warhound.

When I think about it, it all feels beta-ish and underwhelming, but I can’t deny that I’m excited about playing StarCraft again. After playing that TvT, I thought that I might try laddering WoL again to get my skills back in shape. And being able to play unranked games will do wonders for ladder anxiety. If I get back into it, I’m sure you’ll hear about it here. In the meantime, enjoy all the pros coming out of the woodworks to stream again.

Observations about the KeSPA Exhibition, MLG Spring Championship, and Heart of the Swarm

Hopefully you didn’t miss the yet again biggest weekend in StarCraft 2 eSports, which was this time held in Anaheim. I actually managed to watch quite a bit of it, so here are some thoughts.

Stephano v. MKP in the Championship Bracket

Phenomenal. Now, it seems difficult to not be a Stephano fan because he consistently delivers great series of games. In my mind, this series showed how pro SC2 has become truly refined. It was slight mistakes in a single major engagement that really determined 2 of these games. In the first game, Stephano attacked from 3 sides but didn’t quite get the tanks killed fast enough or fungal enough Marines to death. In the second, MKP got too far onto creep without sieging and cleaning it up and got trapped. The final game went back and forth with trades and sacrifices. Great games.

KeSPA Invitational Tournament

I watched all of Flash’s games and the 2nd and most of the 3rd of Jaedong v. Bisu. Sadly, I dozed off for the apparently embarrassing parts of Jaedong’s play, but overall, I thought the games were solid. Flash was sometimes clumsy with small groups of units, but his micro in big engagements looked good, and he maintained his macro throughout the matches. I thought the early game was quite interesting, with the Marauder rushes and quick Mutas. The builds seem almost too straightforward to be used professionally, but there’s apparently some merit to them, and the games ended up playing out more normally. I’m looking forward to where they are in a few more months.

Heart of the Swarm

Watch the unit update, Battle Report 1, and Battle Report 2 if you get a chance. Overall, I like the changes they’ve made since the Blizzcon announcement and am actually quite excited to play post-expansion. The Battle Reports are somewhat silly as I think it’s clear that they were playing to show off the new units and how overpowered David Kim is. The race I’m least excited about is Protoss: the Oracle looks more annoying than anything else, and the Tempest doesn’t seem like it adds much to micro control. In any case, it’ll totally be worth playing when it’s released. Hopefully it brings a few more friends into (or back into) StarCraft 2.

Will Proleague change the metagame?

Brood War pros may only be Masters league on the Korean server, but you have to admit, it is fun to watch them play in Proleague.

I watched the first night of Proleague and have caught a few games here and there before heading to bed, and I have constantly been wondering whether we’re going to see something new from the Brood War pros. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before their understanding of and familiarity with the game brings them up to a competitive level against the current StarCraft 2 pros, but will they converge to the accepted play style, or will they bring new builds and looks to the game? I’m hoping for the latter, and a few things are giving me hope.

First, I have seen some strange stuff. Maybe Motive is weird, but how do you play Protoss without Colossi? But what about these guys, playing PvP without Colossi? Phoenix v. Phoenix fights aren’t actually that much fun to watch, but it’s certainly a strange game state to end up in. And proxy reactored Hellions into a Viking-Siege Tank contain? In the end, the midgame looks normal and it doesn’t work, but that early game was more fun than most TvT I watch, which maybe has some Marine pressure that gets held off by a single bunker.

Second (which the last game I mentioned is a good example of), these guys are all about aggression. Call it cheesy if you want, but 2 base all-ins are fun, unpredictable, and possibly devastating. Some of it fails and makes the player look really bad (Jaedong’s Roach play in his first game comes to mind), but it’s refreshing. Artosis made the point that cheese can be the first step in learning to get better, and to be honest, I don’t really remember what people were trying when SC2 was first released and whether it’s the same stuff that we’re seeing in Proleague now.

But it is fun to watch, and you even get a bit of both worlds in Proleague to wield against the Brood War hipster. To show Julie, I played a game of Brood War the night before Proleague. Despite funky mouse acceleration problems in OSX, I impressed myself with my play: I’m way better than I ever was now that I’ve learned how to macro from SC2. If you haven’t in awhile, fire it up: it’s frustrating, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Apollo’s analysis of a bad engagement

I happened to catch the last game between Bomber and Stephano in the GD Studio SC2 Arena this morning. Forgive me if I’m a little stale on the metagame, but Stephano’s style felt very similar to his ZvP. His third comes later and his tech comes faster, but he depends on heavy upgrades and just enough ling/roach/infestor to carry him through the midgame.

I agree with Apollo that he rushed into things and didn’t commit. When he goes into the last engagement with 4 Brood Lords, some Infestors, and a few lings and roaches, he probably could’ve come out much more favorably had he gone for it. Stephano does a great job running his lings by, and between that and Broodlings, he could’ve gotten a surround and let tank splash damage mop up the army.

In the end, though, the better advice would’ve been not to take that engagement. He might have noticed the lack of Vikings and felt that he had a timing there, but without his 4th saturated, he would’ve been safer getting a few spines and using that as an anchor for a push.

qxc mentioned something about this in the last State of the Game, but Zerg is really pushing to get to the late game as soon as possible, which is a little strange. Stephano especially wowed a lot of people with extremely effective Zerglings in the early and mid game. Perhaps he found that other players were locking down better, but constant pressure feels like the right way to play Zerg.

But this is all theorycrafting on my part. I’m just proud I played a few games of random 2s last night. It turns out that playing random 2s instead of Zerg 1v1 is much less stressful, and now that I finished Mass Effect, I might be playing more StarCraft 2 until I pick up another game.