Fun fact about my APM from Sc2gears

I installed Sc2gears a few days ago and took a look at the motley assortment of replays I have actually saved. I’ll be saving all of them now going forward, but for right now, there’s not much to look at. I’ll let you know if I learn anything important from my play.

Here’s one thing I did notice, though: APMs over time. APM (actions per minute) isn’t a perfect metric for how good someone is, but it’s okay. It’s not as important as some learners would suggest, and it’s not as useless as some pros would suggest. Fun facts about me, though.

I have a couple games from over a year ago. Back then, my average APM was 74, with an EAPM (effective APM: remove redundant clicks) was 61. Not great.

I played 2 games in the airport as I was flying back to the west coast for classes. That was at the end of my big spurt over break. My APM was 125 with an EAPM of 103.

I played 2 right after installing Sc2gears. My APM is at 114 with an EAPM of 91.

For what it’s worth, both games I played today were against the computer, 1 of which I let drag on for awhile at the end while I went for broodlords when I could have just won. Even so, both of the games at the airport were also against the computer.

Clearly even 3 weeks of inconsistent playing can be a drag.

Working with Ultralisks

“I go ultras when I’m really far ahead and I want to lose”

– Destiny

Since FruitDealer in GSL1, ultralisks have been a really sad story for Zerg. I don’t think I’ve ever seriously built them, and I haven’t been impressed with them in pro play. I just caught Jjakji v. Nerchio on Daybreak in the IPL Fight Club (game 5, maybe?), where Nerchio stuck with ling/infestor/ultralisk, and it was very sad.

The commentators really hit the point correctly in that ultralisks don’t work on a map with narrow paths: they block each other too much, and lings can’t slide by either. Jjakji really compounded the problem by building Orbital Commands and PFs everywhere to further constrain movement. Instead, Nerchio had to fight up ramps, through chokes, and into sniping ghosts and the mass of the Terran army.

Another problem I noticed, in this game and the last one on Shattered Temple, was that Jjakji was always retaining his medivac count. When Artosis was streaming and reviewing his play during the holiday season, he really focused on the point of chasing down and killing medivacs after engagements. Marines and marauders are comparatively cheap to medivacs: make Terran players rebuild those medivacs and tighten them up on gas a little bit. It was just sad to see double fungals go off on huge clumps of marines and fail to kill any of them because 8 medivacs were ready to heal them up.

What does give me hope is Zerg using better mobility in these circumstances. One thing Nerchio did really well was small ling counter-attacks and run-bys, and he actually cleared out Jjakji’s buildings in his main. That sort of mobility, from the speed of units, overlord drops, or nydus play, can help Zerg avoid those unfavorable engagements in the middle.

The best inspiration about this type of play comes from Mystic, who pulls Chita in every direction in this ZvP on Metalopolis. He can be everywhere at once, dodging the Protoss death ball and saving units by retreating into Nydus Worms. The game is a little old, but it’s truly phenomenal and was an early inspiration for me on how cool Nydus play can be.


Casted by HD

Laddering 2v2

My vacation is over: I just played 5 ladder games. Admittedly, they were just 2v2s with Julie, but they, on the whole, went very well. We managed to go 4-1 in placement and are a platinum-level 2v2 team! Here’s the rundown and replays:

  1. (replay) These guys were idiots. They both floated to the gold, and with just a few zerglings, they were out of the game.
  2. (replay) Sadly, the only game we lost. We had a pretty big advantage with a good engagement at the beginning, but a few mutas took out a bunch
  3. (replay) Also idiots. They were double zerg, so I went 10 pool to be safe, but then they went infestors and nydus. They had no chance.
  4. (replay) The best played game of the bunch. They (double terran) had an early contain on us, but we managed to break it. I tried to muta harass, but they had a ton of turrets everywhere. Fortunately, we managed to put together a really good composition of banelings and the protoss deathball, kept them on 2-3 bases, and eventually won.
  5. (replay) I’m not tremendously proud of this game, but we did a roach/4 gate all-in, and it worked. Had I gone lings, we would’ve been in trouble, but fortunately, one guy was teching to templar, and the other had a bunch of hellions. Pretty simply done.

Personally, my play wasn’t great. I wasn’t macroing well, missing creep spread, didn’t have my tech going, etc. I think there’s a lot to work on. One nice thing that did come out of it, though, is that I’ve realized I’m more comfortable with 1s now instead of multiplayer games. What I think that means is that I’ve finally developed enough of an understanding of strategy that I know how to react and how to play through a 1v1, instead of just mucking around in big games.

Regardless, I’m happy we got into platinum and very proud of how Julie played. I guess the vs. A.I. days are behind us now, as we ladder and keep progressing that way.

Just a little rusty

I played 3 games last night after being off for 2 weeks, and it was a little rough. Julie and I play 2v2s together against the computer and can usually win against the “very hard” A.I. Last night, however, was harder than usual as I worked to get my fingers back underneath me. I was able to immediately setup into my new control group setup,¬†but everything else was worse. I made a few poor decisions (not getting defense in time, teching too slowly) and couldn’t macro as well (missing injects, not spreading creep, and such). I wasn’t quite as sharp as I was right when I left, but I was still better than I was at the beginning of my winter break, which was a plus.

The most interesting change was coming back to my normal setup. While on break, I was playing on my physical Macbook Pro, with the built-in keyboard and 15-inch screen, and a portable optical mouse. My actual setup is a separate keyboard, 23-inch screen, and heavier optimal mouse. It was a little disorienting but ultimately not too much of a problem. I’ll readapt as I work the rest of mechanics up.

Stephano’s muta-less ZvT

My Starcraft separation continues amidst other things in life, but I did get to watch 2 or 3 games from the SHOUTcraft Invitational 4 finals this weekend between Stephano (Z) and Thorzain (T). My opinion of Thorzain goes up and down, but he has already participated in one of the best ZvT finals I’ve ever watched against DRG in the Dreamhack Valencia finals (VODs here). That series was traditional Marine-Medivac-Tank against Ling-Baneling-Muta and really showed how back and forth it could be.

The Stephano-Thorzain series (VODs here), however, shows how Stephano completely blows that matchup apart. Best I could tell, Thorzain played it by the book: early hellion pressure while expanding, transition into marine-tank with some early pressure, and then into the midgame. Stephano completely crushed this by going for a ling-infestor composition with a lot of lings early. This did a few things for him:

  • the tank count never got very high because Stephano had so many lings out. When the first push came, he just kept pumping lings. Without a sufficient number of tanks, Thorzain was always vulnerable
  • to make them less vulnerable and more effective, Thorzain spread his tanks. When he did this, Stephano used Infested Terran bombs to have the tanks splash and kill themselves
  • with low tank counts, Thorzain’s marines were vulnerable to fungals and banelings, and that completely opened up the game
  • since Stephano had the infestation pit and not a particularly heavy commitment to the midgame, he got Hive quickly and started tier 3 before Thorzain could really ever build his perfect composition

SC2NoobSchool appears to have a tutorial about this style, though I admittedly haven’t watched it myself. I’m not really sure how terran is expected to deal with this, as Thorzain even stuck by hellions a little longer in a few games, to no avail, as the ridiculous ling count always got a surround.

We’ll see how popular this style gets as we get back into tournament season.

Doing some cross-training in Azeroth

I haven’t played any SC2 in about a week now, but I have managed to squeeze in some of the campaign from The Frozen Throne. I had played Reign of Chaos a long time ago but never got TFT, so I’m just completing my Blizzard experience. I figured all of my Starcraft experience would make it much easier, and I could just crash through it. I was so wrong.

The campaign on hard has been pretty difficult for me. A large part of my difficulty is that I still haven’t learned the interactions between types of attack and armor. I actually haven’t even really figured out how much damage units deal and how many hit points they have. I mostly play by instinct, try to form balanced armies, and mass up for big pushes. It doesn’t work well.

Warcraft is clearly a very different sort of game, and I can’t quite wrap my head around it. Worse, it’s revealing my poor micro control as I can’t keep up with all of the spells I need to use while pulling units back and target firing. That problem is probably exacerbated by me not really knowing what’s effective.

In any case, I’m undeterred. I don’t know how to play any differently, so until then, I’ll just rely heavily on auto-saves and the knowledge that I’m making steady, if slow, progress, and that I’ll be done soon enough.

Counting chickens before they hatch: proactive control groups

Zerg is kind of funny in that almost everything has a penultimate form: all units start out as eggs, and all buildings start out as drones. The nice part about that is that this means that things can be on control groups before they’re done. I see this being helpful in 2 ways.

First, you can put buildings on a group before the drone makes its way to the final position, which the other races can’t do. I’ve been thinking that one thing I can do is to put all of my tech buildings (spawning pool, evo chamber, spire, everything) on 0. That way, I never have to look at a building to start upgrades. This becomes very easy if I get in the habit of adding the drone to 0 when I send it to build.

Second, you can put eggs in a group before they’ve hatched, which other races can’t do (except maybe off of warp gates). One of the big mistakes I often make is bad rally points, either sending units to the enemy base long after an attack has ended, or not rallying new units to a push. While practicing my 10 pool (very necessary for multiplayer games), I started adding lings to my attack group once they were turned into eggs, which worked really well. This is also a relatively easy habit to get into: once you build all of the eggs you want, control-click them at the bottom to select only the new units (wouldn’t want to add larva to the group!), and then shift-add them to the right control group.

I think I have seen ViBE do both of these things before, but he also has insanely high APM, so it might be tricky to execute regularly.

My new command group setup

Back in Brood War, I played with my first hatchery on 5, and following hatches on subsequent control groups. That was as complex as it ever got (well, comsat on 0, but I didn’t play much Terran anyways). At some point during the Starcraft 2 beta, I switched over to put all hatches on 4, all queens on 5, and units on 1 through 3. This was pretty consistent with other races as well: nexus/CC on 4, gateway/rax on 5, robo/factory on 6, stargate/startport on 7.

I don’t think I’m good enough to take advantage of having the hatches on multiple control¬†groups, and since I use the backspace inject trick, I need all my queens on 1 as well. The main problem, however, was that only 3 groups wasn’t enough for my units. Moreover, I needed to use them differently with different unit compositions, and I can’t hold that much in my mind either. Tragedy hit when I put my mutas and banelings on the same control group: while harassing with mutas, my banelings just rolled in to their death.

As such, I’m switching it up so that my hatches are on 5, queens on 6, and units on 1-4 as such:

  1. Main army (lings, roaches, hydras, etc)
  2. Banelings/secondary army (I like the idea of being able to split my army)
  3. Infestors
  4. Mutas/Brood lords

This new setup has been giving me a lot of grief as I’m trying to unlearn my old ways. My muscle memory should figure it out pretty soon, however, and I think it will help me avoid silly mistakes.

And just to finish up, here’s a replay from today: I think this is the first conventional ZvT that I have ever won. He did some hellion harass that I held off, I did muta harass, we had a marine/tank versus ling/baneling/muta battle that I crushed. I think the 2 keys to victory here were 1) not allowing him to hold his 3rd and 2) having great map vision with OL spread to see incoming attacks and drops. The 2 big things to improve on are 1) droning (he had more workers than I did for most of the game!) and 2) larva injects. I missed a lot of them, unfortunately, and it meant that I was really skimpy on units at times where he could’ve walked over and killed me. That should help with the drone count, too.

Promoted to Diamond thanks to Jimmy

Replay Here

I would like to think Destiny and Jimmy Hayes AKA SicKShoT for managing to get me into Diamond League today! If you haven’t seen it, there’s a hilarious video of Destiny coaching Jimmy how to hold off a 2rax as zerg, with the most famous result being the meme, “Jimmy NOOOOOOO!” I watched it last night after seeing another reference to it on /r/starcraft, laughed really hard, and tucked it into the back of my mind that the correct response to a 2rax is 1 base roach. Who would’ve known it would be useful so soon?

On Shattered Temple, I scouted the Terran close by air and noticed that he wasn’t taking his gas. I instantly remembered Destiny’s advice: this either means 1 rax expand, which can be killed with a roach all-in, or 2 rax, which can be defended with roaches. He comes soon enough with a ton of SCVs and marines, and using a roach rush, I manage to hold it off. He GGs soon after.

So here’s to you, Jimmy: after miserably losing 3 games today as I was getting matched up against Diamond league players, the advice you received pushed me over the top.

Turns out upgrades are pretty good

Replay Here

Just played a ZvZ on Arid Plateau where literally everything went wrong for me. Watching the replay, I was behind the entire game in almost every metric, then managed to win off of a desperate all-in. Allow me to describe in a few bullets:

  • He 11 pooled me. I went hatch first, and accidentally built my pool even later than I should have
  • Thankfully, I drone scouted the rush at his ramp, canceled my natural, then microed well enough to hold
  • He was ahead on workers and went in for a roach push while I was rebuilding my economy
  • Thankfully, I saw his roach warren go down with an OL scout and got my units out just in time, with spine crawlers to boot
  • Through the middle of the game, he had more units attacking and more workers at almost every moment
  • Thankfully, Arid Plateau is really narrow entrances into the natural, which nullified a lot of his advantage. And spine crawlers were good, even though my placement was awful
  • He got up a 3rd base while continuing to pressure me and even nydus’ed to force me to cancel my 3rd and scramble to the back of my base
  • Thankfully, I had +2 ranged attack and squeezed out a few hydras at the end. And he never transferred his drones from his mined out main to his 3rd

Had he been a little better, I would’ve lost that game very badly. Instead of macroing behind his immediate advantage as he rushed me while I flubbed my build, he tried to go for the kill, and the map worked really well to my advantage to stay on 2 bases.

Lesson 1: upgrades and tech are really good. I’m certain that the +2 was the difference because he had more roaches than I did

Lesson 2: spine crawlers are really good in enclosed spaces, but I need to position them better. The 2nd spine crawler should’ve been in my mineral line, closer to backdoor side