Assembly Winter 2012 shows how imba Polt is

Julie and I watched Polt v. Stephano in the ASUS ROG Assembly Winter 2012 finals (replays) over lunch earlier today, and it was pretty phenomenal. Polt managed to win 4-1 after losing the first game, and he was in terrifying positions in each game. From huge Baneling hits in his main base mineral line to Mutas unchecked at an expo where he had dropped all of his MULEs, it felt like he was always on the edge of defeat. Some may interpret the games as a sign of how imbalanced Terran is to come back in situations like that, but I think a better read is that Polt wasn’t quite that¬†far behind, and Polt himself is imba.

I apparently am a fan of Stephano v. Terran series, and this is no exception. He pulled out some new tricks, and I’m still amazed that even though he managed to do pretty much what he wanted in a lot of those games, he still lost. If it were anyone other than Polt, he would’ve had it, but with Tank positioning and Marine splits and target fire like that, there’s not much you can really do.

meanysc2 on reddit made an interesting observation earlier:

one thing I have realized about stephano as I have been watching his ROG games is that he uses his infestor eggs very cleverly. It is widely known that he pops those eggs out to absorb tank fires but there are a lot of times when he just throws 3 out and not attack. I have realized that this is to see how many tanks there are at least in range of the position that the egg is in. You’ll see that he throws the egg in different position of the field. He will only attack when he knows that he has got the right amount of lings to win the push. I’m kind of surprised that none of the casters who have obviously seen more games than me have realized this.

I myself hadn’t noticed this either. I knew about the Tank shots thing (basically, you get to discount 1 round of Tank shots while your Zerglings run in), but the positioning gauge is also interesting. That sort of play is far beyond my own ability to take advantage of, much less perform, but something it’s something to think about.

So congrats to Polt. Although I usually cheer on other Zerg players, Polt was just working so hard in those games. I couldn’t help but be a fan.

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

Advice on Arranged 3v3 Ladder

Just played placement matches with Julie and my friend Jordan, and we went 3-2 to get placed into gold league. I’m pretty happy with that and thought they both played pretty well.

Quick observation: in 3v3, there are 2 main strategies: rushes, and air. In 2 games, we got rushed. In 3 games, we were attacked by air (1 banshee, 1 phoenix, 1 muta). So if you don’t get rushed, get defense in your mineral line soon.

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.