Saturday, 28 January 2012

Life in the Middle 28/01/12

After winning my first match this week I could tell that it was going to be a good week and generally felt very positive; eight consecutive loses later my feelings had somewhat changed. Coincidently, at roughly the same time, I found a link to Drewbie's guide, with his strategies and timings, so decided to try them out to see if they would help me stop sucking. By playing better for the rest of the week I managed to end with a 50% win-rate, which isn't great, but is back on track. I wasn't planning to, but this week focuses on TvP; when it came to writing this I had a lot more to say about Protoss than I realised. I end this week as a rank 6 Platinum, so I am pretty much where I was last week.
Still in the top eight.
I've won 80% of my TvTs over the last couple of weeks so I didn't want to change that, but for a while I adopted Drewbie's techniques for the other two match-ups. I think I will continue with Drewbie's TvZ as I like having an early expansion whilst still applying pressure. The build gets out a set of reactor Hellions to scout and do damage before going into Seige Marine with an early expansion. People always seem to panic when they see Hellions, which only makes them more effective. Roaches are the standard answer to Hellions but when you only build two and follow up with Tanks and Marines they aren't so effective.
These two Hellions did 500 minerals of damage and denied a lot of mining time.
I was playing Protoss back when the 1-1-1 build was unstoppable and, whilst it never really trickled down into whatever league I was in at the time, I was super frustrated when watching my favourite players lose whatever they did. This is how I feel now when playing against Protoss, so have been trying to find a way to get my win-rate up. When going bio early game pressure is nearly impossible because Stalkers are so fast, in the mid-game it's impossible before Medivacs because of force fields, and in the late game if you lose one battle it's game over 90% of the time; so I wanted to move away from relying on bio so much.
Sometimes it feels no matter how much you drop and outplay you are still behind.
I think the main problem with going bio in PvT is that it's hard to do damage before Colossus or High Templar come out, and when they do it only makes it harder. It's frustrating to be pigeon holed into having to play a particular way, which still relies on you fighting units that directly counter you, which the Protoss can easily switch between. Fighting High Templar and Colossus require different compositions and fighting both at the same time is a nightmare. None of a Terran's tier 3 units are effective against Protoss which is probably the biggest problem.
I denied his expo whilst dropping and expanding myself as well as killing all his Ghost before the final engagement and was still owned.
In the last PvT I played this week I went for a 1-1-1 all-in because I was really annoyed at Protoss; as it worked I think I will keep at it next week and see how it goes. I had been trying Drewbie's TvP, but only to limited success, so I thought it was time to give something else a go. I liked going 1-1-1 as it gives you access to new units and new strategies and completely changes the feel of the match-up. With other builds I hated how you have to do all the pressure to stop the Protoss from accumulating a doom army by dropping and denying expansions and yet you are still behind and have to engage perfectly to win.      
I love the wide range of units the 1-1-1 offers.
If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter at @RobinTerran or follow the blog from the pane to the right. Thank you for reading. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Life in the Middle 21/01/2012

Being a student and generally adverse to hard work my first week back at university took a bit of a toll on me, but I still managed to play 30 games and even won 60% of them. Nearly a third of my games this week were against Diamonds, and of these I managed to win over a half, so I'm starting to think that I wouldn't do terribly in Diamond. However, quite a few of the Diamonds I played were Terrans and TvT is where I excel. I have still yet to beat a Diamond Protoss, but I did come pretty close with the new build that will discuss below. I end this week as a rank 8 Platinum; hopefully it wont take too much longer to return to the top of Platinum and maybe sneak my way into Diamond.
Recovering well from a post exams slump.
Day[9] did a daily on EmpireKas' TvP, so I thought I would try it out, and it has since become my standard build. The build involves getting three early Command Centres off of 1 Rax, then going into drop play with fast upgrades. The built leaves you vulnerable early on, but gives you the advantage in the mid to late game with a strong economy and plenty of production. When I failed with this build it was always obvious why, either I didn't have enough units early on or left dropping until too late, so if I keep applying myself to it it shouldn't take too long to improve. I desperately need to get better at TvP as my win percentage is still below 50%.
Early bunkers are vital to surviving with Kas' build, but if you do it is well worth it.
I tried Ghosts against Broodlords twice this week. The first time I built them was reactionary, so when the Broodlords hit I didn't have enough and they didn't have much energy, so I got annihilated. The next time I faced Broodlords I was ready with Ghosts and did a lot better at killing them with a mixture of snipe and Vikings. I still lost the game but I did it with more style than usually do. I am going to stick with Ghost in TvZ as they have a good range of other uses too, but if the opponent doesn't go Infestor Broodlord are they still cost effective? Also, what's better to target first the Infestors or the Broodlords?
Ghosts are great versus Broodlords but Overseers and Infestors still make it a challenge.
I think that it is very important to use the units you feel most comfortable with in the game. For a long time I tried to use Hellions in TvZ but I found that using Marines for early aggression meant that I could do a lot more damage. Using Marines also leaves you less vulnerable to Roach counters, whilst still allowing you to get quick Tanks out. I often find that people don't know how to use late game armies effectively and think that just having higher tech units gives you an instant win. It's all very well saying, you should have x amount of y unit at z point in the game but if you can't use them well you might as well not go out of your way to get them and stick with what you are good with. A prime example of this is when Terrans get out un-upgraded Battlecruisers versus 3-3 Marines.
At multiple points in this game I should have lost but this Random's poor unit control let me pull it back.
I won 80% of my TvTs this week, so I am very happy with where that is at at the moment; I even managed to beat all four of the Diamond Terrans that I played. Check out my other articles, including In Defence of Terran which made me consider changing the name of this blog to Degrees of Polarisation based on people's reactions to it. If you enjoyed this article then you can find me on twitter at @RobinTerran or follow the blog from the pane to the right. Thank you for reading.

Friday, 20 January 2012

In Defence of Terran

Having played every race I can safely say that Terran gets the most consistent hate; people complaining how OP Terran are or how ridiculously easy it is to play as them is common on ladder. I want to debunk the myths and hopefully change your perception of Terran. In some ways I think that Terran suffers from being in the middle of Protoss and Zerg; in general their unit costs, health and damage output are somewhere between the other races. Zerg works on the premise of swarms of cheap weak units, whilst Protoss has strong expensive units, but Terran doesn't have such a strong identity and is a bit of a mix of the two.
Early game TvP is very hard if the Protoss sees you expanding and just pumps out units.
Before continuing I just want to say that every unit in the game is OP in certain situations, you just have to know how to use them, and no unit is inherently broken. Marines, Marauders and Medivacs are some of the units most often lamented for being over-powered. Medivacs are important as Terran units don't have shields or regenerate health over time and Terran can't directly stand up to other armies, so drops are essential. Other races drops can be just as effective as a Terran's; they are just less common. Marauders are very hard to defend but one thing I will say about them is that they are countered by the cheapest units.
Marine Marauder drops are pretty effective but a few Spines and Cannons can make them so much less so. 
The Marine is a very controversial unit so I think it deserves it's own section. In general the counters in StarCraft 2 are very severe and there are multiple counters to each unit. Even the Marine, despite all the jokes, are very vulnerable to many units. Like any unit in the game the Marine can do a lot of damage if used well but can also be killed very easily in many situations. I think that Marine and Marauder effectiveness probably does increase too much with your ability to micro (and stim), which is a bit unfair as their equivalents don't so much, but in general I don't think Marines are as imbalanced as people say.
I've never quite understood why Zerg is allowed to spam Zerglings but Terrans get cursed at for making mass Marines.
M.U.L.E.s are controversial but between Protoss being able to Chrono boost, Zerg being able to build multiple Drones simultaneously and M.U.L.E.s wasting hundreds of resources they aren't as bad as they initially seem. In fact they are much needed for a Terran to stay up economically in the early to mid game. Late game is where M.U.L.E.s are most often considered to be overpowered but M.U.L.E.s are still needed for the rest of the game so what can be done?
M.U.L.E.s are pretty good but I'd prefer to have a way to not rely on them.
This is my personal opinion but I think that Terran is the hardest race to play in engagements; there is so much for you to do with very little time as Colossus, High Templar, Infestors and Banelings can melt an army in seconds. Terrans have to split their units, Siege their Tanks, target fire with their Vikings, EMP with their Ghosts all whilst stutter stepping some units to keep them alive. I may just think this as Terran is the race that I have got furthest with, so I have to control my army more during battles to ever win. I always feel like I have to play better than the other races to stand on even ground; but then every race probably feels that way.
Protoss has so many units that can melt a Terran army so quickly.
Remember, you are playing people who can use their races at roughly the same level you can play yours and not playing people at the same level as you but with different races. The difference may be subtle but it means that next time you lose to someone on ladder don't blame their race, whatever it may be, they probably played just better than you, or just did a build that happened to counter yours well. Part of what makes StarCraft such a great game is how unique the races are with different units and mechanics. So, next time a different race beats you don't QQ, learn from it and improve; there are multiple ways to beat each strategy and raging isn't one of them. This is applicable to Terrans too.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Life in the Middle 14/01/2012

There was no Life in the Middle last week as I had exams this week and was panicking about how unprepared I was for them, but now that they are over I will be returning to writing 'Life in the Middle' every Saturday as well as another piece about StarCraft or general gaming every Wednesday. I continued playing games, usually as a reward for doing even the smallest bit of work, but overall fell quite a few places in my Platinum league. I end this week as a rank 22 Platinum, but now that exams are over I can start to focus on improving again; hopefully it wont take long to climb back to the top of Platinum and eventually into Diamond.
Down to rank 22 but now that exams are over I can refocus and hopefully get back into the top 8 soon.
For a couple of weeks I was considering buying a fancy new £100 keyboard but I have since come to the realisation that the best equipment for you to use is what you are the most comfortable with. My current keyboard may not glow in the dark but it's what I'm used to and what I am most proficient with. Even with an expensive new keyboard I wouldn't necessarily improve so I might as well save my money; I got a Razer DeathAdder for Christmas and had to stop using it because I was better with my old mouse. Having said that, and being the massive hypocrite that I am, I have started using my DeathAdder again as I've fallen so far in my league that I might as well learn to use the mouse as I work my way back up.
Macro and constant pressure are the two most important concepts for TvZ.
Over the last couple of weeks I have played a lot of Diamonds and am slowly starting to win a higher proportion of them, but I am still not playing at Diamond level. TvP is my worst match up so naturally that's what puts me against the most and I still haven't managed to win a single one of them yet. I won two out of three of my versus Diamond Terran games and I think I could have won the other one if I hadn't disconnected. I only beat one out of the three Diamond Zergs I feel a lot more comfortable in TvZ in general now. My games versus Diamonds are still quite rare but their increasing frequency makes me hopeful that after I start playing more seriously and more regularly again a promotion wont be too far off.
I nearly beat this Diamond Protoss after this engagement went so well but was unsure about whether or not to push.
I take part in the EU Collegiate StarLeague (CSL: EU) and the last two times I played I was against Diamond Terrans and won both times. I think It's only my TvP that is really holding me back at the moment, which is really frustrating as I was always led to believe TvP was easy, what changed? For a long time now my TvZ win percentage has been around 50%, my TvT has been around 70% but I only win between 25 and 50% of my TvP. My TvT is good enough for me to advanced, I just need to improve at my other match-ups.
A drop in his main meant that this Diamond Terran had to either return home or attack; he chose wrong.
I have started to use Ghosts a lot more because they are so very useful versus Protoss but I have yet to fully utilise them versus Zerg as Vikings seem like a much better counter to Broodlords to me. Middle league players seem to rarely get Infestors for some reason so I don't build Ghosts in TvZ as much as in TvP. In my opinion there is nothing more satisfying than EMPing a group of High Templars and then sniping them all. I still struggle to use Ghosts effectively in combat as there is just too much other stuff to do at the same time.  Between positioning your army, controlling small groups of troops and getting your Vikings to attack Colossus or Broodlords when are you supposed to have time to also EMP and snipe with your Ghosts?    
I started experimenting with Ghosts in team games and love them.
Thank-you to all the people on the NA servers that offered to help me improve but as I am British I am on the EU servers so I cannot play with you. I read all comments left and reply to as many as I can so please feel free to leave a comment on here, Reddit or Twitter. If you enjoyed this article then you can follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran or follow the blog from the pane to the right. Thank you very much for reading.