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.

HotS beta: the perfect reason to practice

Thanks to a bad joke in a reddit HotS (Heart of the Swarm) beta key giveaway, I spent 2 or 3 hours this evening practicing StarCraft again. Yes, amidst all of the excitement of the new game, I didn’t play any games from matchmaking. I can explain, though, and this is really a good thing.

Julie and I were going to play HotS tonight since we’re both in the beta, but I didn’t know when she would be available. Not wanting to leave in the middle of a match, I instead just played some 1v1s against the computer, which is only available on very easy. This basically meant that I was practicing builds. Particularly, I have moved back into playing Terran recently, and with everything new in mech, I went mech.

After 5 games on different maps, I realized how much I needed to work on. Since playing with my friends a few weeks ago, I have been playing quite a bit of StarCraft: it’s all 2s and 4s, but still, I’m back to playing. It was rocky, and I had a sneaking suspicion that was macro was sloppy. Well, playing against a computer that doesn’t attack with more than 2 Marines was opportunity to focus on that alone, and it was bad. I

  • was not building workers constantly
  • was getting supply blocked a lot
  • was allowing my money to get really high
  • didn’t have nearly enough production buildings
  • forgot key structures

A few games in, I smoothed out a lot of this and was playing much smoother than before.

Repeating basically the same mech build 5 times was also a good way to learn to refine the build. As it turns out, a lot of my macro problems were related to minor hiccups in my play. Money can get high if I’m low on gas because I don’t know when to build geysers. Supply blocks happen because I tied up all of my money at the wrong moment. In the course of working on my build, I made some small tweaks and discoveries that really helped:

  • figured out when I needed to pay attention and not in the first few minutes so I could scout without forgetting a building
  • learned when I would hit gas shortage later and built refineries earlier for that
  • sequenced add-on building more optimally for the units I wanted
  • played around with the timings (absolute and relative) for Starport/Raven, vehicle upgrades, and another Factory for production

It’s been quite awhile since I have hammered out games against the computer, and I don’t think I ever quite did it for mech. The ironic part of this is that the focus on macro meant that I didn’t really figure out how to use the battle hellions or widow mines. That hopefully will happen soon.

Hopefully, I’ll also do some matchmaking as well. There are a lot of good things going for HotS right now that aren’t true for WoL (Wings of Liberty):

  • unranked matchmaking is less stressful
  • the metagame and balance are shifting rapidly, so expectations should be low
  • the novelty is just that much more exciting

I’ll report back on how that’s going if there’s anything interesting. In the meantime, let me know if you’re on the HotS beta and want to play. Preorders are now giving out beta keys for a lot of vendors, so they should be easy to come by.

Also, there’s a ton of good pro StarCraft happening until the end of the year. Specifically, the World Championship starts tomorrow night, and I’ll definitely be tuned in. It really looks like WoL has matured, and I’ll report on anything interesting I see in the games.