Back on the SC2 grind again

I started playing StarCraft 2 again last week and got my ass handed to me on a silver platter. I obviously can’t compete against all those youngsters who have too much time and energy drinks on their hands. I need a plan.

This time I decided to learn just 3 good builds and learn to exploit them well. Before I just went on with the flow, which worked pretty well when everything was new and game wasn’t very balanced. That doesn’t work anymore. You actually have to concentrate even on the lower levels.

These are the builds I am using at the moment (I am playing Protoss, it seems to fit my mindset best) in a 1v1:

PvP: DT rush to Archon/Zealot

I hate mirror matches. Usually PvP is a race towards a 4 gate, but it gets very boring very fast. It is always the same, unless opponent try to cheese you with a proxy 2 gate or cannon rush. This build has stealth, aggression, touch of mind games and a pretty strong mid game transition.

Basically I try to get 2 Zealots and 1 Stalker as fast as possible and go poke the opponent with them. If they try to use some cookie cutter build, they usually have either 1 Zealot and 1 Stalker, or in some cases, same combination as me. Key point here is to mess with opponents mind so that they think me going to standard massive gateway army. Usually I get them by surprise and manage to do some damage with intense micro. I draw back so that I have some units to defend against 4 gate aggression (which is unavoidable). After retreating, I scout the base surroundings constantly to spot the proxy pylon, which is there 7 out of 10 times.

After the initial poke, I get two things: speed upgrade for Zealots and 2 Dark Templars. Also, warp tech with a proxy pylon when 2 Dark Templars are ready to roll. If the opponent isn’t on your doorstep (it depends if I found the proxy pylon), I warp Dark Templars near his base. If he doesn’t have any detection, it is GG after mineral line invasion. If he has, I draw Dark Templars back and start merging them to Archons.

If I was the first aggressor, opponent doesn’t usually attack straight away. They try to assemble huge death ball and come storming in after that. This is good, because it gives me plenty of time to make 4–5 Archons and sh*tloads of Zealots. After I have about 4–5 Archons, 12 Zealots and 2 Sentries, I go and rotflstomp his base, starting from the expansion. At this time, even though they would have 1 or even 2 Colossi, Archon/Zealot army rips them apart. Sentry forcefield is also useless, because Archons are massive units and they just stomp through forcefields.

Win rate against Protoss: 80 %.

PvT: 3 gate FE to High Templars

Terran always attack against Protoss in early game. Always. Its a natural law, like gravity and taxes. If they don’t, there is a Banshee rush or something non-standard incoming. They come either with Marines or Mariners/Marauders. In some cases, they make a Hellion rush, which is pretty bad, but 9 out of 10 times Terran relies on brute force, because it works.

This build relies on early gateway defense, with a fast expansion and +2 armor upgrade, Zealot speed upgrade and High Templars. I start by putting down 1 gateway, and based on a scouting I drop either 2 more gates and expand or expand just straight away. Only time I rely only on a one gateway before Nexus is when I see them taking an early expansion. Every other time I make 2 more gateways and start pumping out Zealots as fast as I can without chronoboosting. When they come, I usually can convince them to bugger off.

At this point, my second Nexus should be on its way. It is imperative to get the +1 armor upgrade and speed upgrade for Zealots as soon as possible. I use all my chronoboosts on those. Build some Sentries with the Zealots too and get the warpgate tech and don’t forget the +2 armor upgrade. Warp in 3 more gateways and start warping in Zealots, Sentries and some Stalkers, if you suspect a Medivac drop.

If they come at this point with just a 1 Medivac, your army should be able to stomp them easily. If they wall up and try to tech up to tanks/standard MMM ball, you should have plenty off time to get High Templars and psionic storm. In engagements, activate Sentry shields first, shoot 2 psionic storms next, attack with all ground units and start sniping the Medivacs with High Templars. You should kill them easily.

Sneakiest ones like to drop a small force on the main base mineral line shortly after the main force engagements. If you see this happening, just pull probes to a second base mineral line and warp some Zealots and Stalkers to deal with the drop. At this time, your main units should have killed most of the attacking main force. Drop 3rd Nexus immediately and go for their expansion. If they don’t seem to have any proper defense, just kill them. If they have, just finish of expansion and retreat and tech to Colossai. Take a map control and finish them off.

Winrate against Terran: 70–80 %.

PvZ: fast Immortal and Sentry

Zerg can be annoying. Like Terran, Zerg like to attack against Protoss early either with Zerglings or Roaches. This build is about getting Immortals out as soon as possible. It means taking an early expansion with a forge as a protection. So, build order is Forge + 2 cannons > Nexus > (Gateway + Cybernetic Core >) Robotics Bay > Immortals. You should get as many Zealots as possible without chronoboosting for early defense, before the Immortal is ready. I usually don’t get Sentry before Immortal, because the Immortal build is pretty gas heavy as it is and few cannons and Zealots is adequate defense.

Warning: if they don’t come to you with roaches (they should be knocking on your door at latest when your first Immortal is ready) or you don’t see any Roaches while scouting, you should be ready for Mutalisk harassment. Warp in craploads of Stalkers and drop 1 cannon on each mineral line. After Stalkers, continue with the Immortal production (add 1 Robotics Bay as soon as you can afford it) and make Sentries too. There will always be roaches.

When they come, use Sentries Shield and try to split the Roaches with forcefields. After a short and brutal fight, go for their expansions and nuke it. Go for the main base after that. Even if they are able to spawn more Zerglings and Roaches, you should be able to stomp them easily.

Winrate against the Zerg: 70 %.

I have had pretty good success with these builds. I am in a upper silver league now (not even close to my best rankings), and about to hit gold. Time will show, do I ever get back to diamond league.

Leading a web design agency is like playing StarCraft 2

If you don’t happen to like gaming, and StarCraft 2 especially, this story isn’t necessary for you. But, if you do happen to love entrepreneurship AND gaming, enjoy.

I am a dedicated SC fan. I loved SC1, SC:bw and SC2 was the second best thing that happened last year (best thing beeing my wife’s pregnancy, but thats another story). I honestly screamed out loud out of joy, when a friend popped a SC2 beta invite for me. So far, I have over 500 1v1 games under my belt (and about 300 games on the beta stage), so I pretty much know my limits on the game. I suck at it.

I am also founder of a small digital media agency in Finland. During the last few years, we have grown from man-and-a-dog -company to a 5 person digital media agency, with several sub contractors and respectable client base. So far, I love it. Every day is different (in good and bad), and you can pretty much blame yourself if something goes wrong. On the other side, when something goes just the way you have planned, you feel like flying. Oh, the ups and downs of the enterpeneurship!

There are a few things that are in common with both entrepreneurship and SC2.

Resources are limited

In SC2, obtaining as much resources as fast as possible (and constantly) is crucial to your success. If you don’t get enough minerals and/or gas, you dont have enough units for defending or attacking. If you dont have enough supply (3rd resource of the game), you end up slowing your unit production and the enemy will crush you like a bug. Which, in case of the Zerg, is pretty accurate description anyway.

This is true in business too. You need to have constant flow of cash to survive, and every glitch in the resource harvesting will slow you down. And, like in SC2, if your workers die, you dont have any income. Its pretty simple, really.

Bigger army wins

There is no going around this one. The bigger the army, the better the odds are for your victory. If your army is small, you just cant hope to win battles with your enemies. If you fight a huge battle, you can lose few arms and legs, but it doesn’t matter that much, if there is enough reserves to draw fresh marines from.

In business, this has been true for a some time. Times are changing of course, but bigger is still considered better, eventhough there isn’t much correlation between those two. But, if you can build an balanced army, you can survive any kind of encounters.

…but not always

We do love stories. Everyone has probably heard the story of David and Goliath, where the smaller but more agile David wtfpwns bigger but slower Goliath. Its a classic. In SC2, its pretty normal that outcome of the battle is usually defined by the unit micromanagement (actions per minute of the player has serious impact on the micro management). This means that gamers control whole armies, but micromanage the crucial units in the battle. Faster players can run in circles around the slower players, and end up winning battles with smaller an cheaper forces.

This doesn’t work that well in real life, though. Micromanagement can be good, but if you do it too much, you end up shooting yourself on the paw. People aren’t computer generated units. And uhm, if you poke a single unit enough times, it will start to crumble and complain. Nobody likes to be poked all the time.

Upgrading is cheaper than you think

In addition the micro management skills, there are other things that have a huge impact on the outcome. Units can be upgraded (more damage, more defence, special attacks), and units have very different abilities. You need to know all the unit types, including those that your enemy uses, because different units have a very different kinds of strategic and operational abilities. For example, some units cant shoot on air, and some air units cant shoot to ground. And some units are sneaky bastards, that can turn invisible and put a knife in your back. You need have a special scout to detect these.

In real life, you can, and should upgrade everything whenever possible. If you have extra resources available (time, money, know-how), you should use every oportunity to upgrade your processes, educate yourself and others. It will pay back on the long (and short) run.

Scout or die

In SC2, if you don’t scout constantly what your opponent is doing, you are asking for trouble. If you don’t know what kind of unit composition the enemy has, you cant prepare with a proper counter. If you don’t scout the enemy base, you don’t know where to strike. If you don’t scout the whole map, you might miss the time window when enemy expands (which will lead to your demise, because soon enough your opponent has more resources to spend in units and upgrades).

Again, its the same with business. You have to scout opportunities, and you just have to know as much as possible what your opponents are cooking up. I must admit, I suck at scouting, but I get better at it. And like in SC2, you get better with each time you win or lose.

Bigger teams are better

In SC2, there are different kinds of game modes (1v1, 2v2, 3v3, 4v4 and FFA). The bigger the team, the easier to avoid mistakes. Yeah, you can screw things up royally, but there is usually a teammate around that can give his/her helping hand (or claw/psionic blade).

And, like in SC2, its easier to run a business, if your team is full of equally good players that are willing to communicate and work for the common goal.