Saturday, 31 December 2011

Life in the Middle 31/12/2011

My meteoric rise to the top of my Platinum league and straight into Diamond may have to be but on hold for a while as this week I struggled to maintain even a 50% win-to-loss ratio let alone exceed it. Do I even want to even go up to Diamond? I'd have to change the name of this weekly piece to something like 'Life at the Beginning of the Top' or 'Life After the Middle' and I am terrible at coming up with names. Over the course of the last week I have been kicking around the top 15 of my division reaching as high as one but always falling down. This week I finish as 7th in my Platinum division.
Only a small increase in rank this week but a lot of experience gained.
Overall I am finding the leap up to Diamond much greater than the oneup to Platinum; I've only played four Diamonds this week but I only won one of them. The Diamond that I did beat was a Terran, which is my best match-up by far, but it wasn't a very satisfying game as 2 Rax early Marine pressure finished him off. I think that my main problem with Daimonds at the moment is that my macro slips too much for me to be able to keep up with them, far too often I forget to build SCVs and drop M.U.L.E.s. I struggle to keep up with Platinum players macro let alone Diamonds, so that's what I will focus on next week.
TvT is my speciality I won 76% of my games making up for my poor TvZ and abysmal TvP.
An interesting question is whether early aggression can be considered cheese if it is followed up by a legitimate strategy? My Terran and Zerg openings are both 2 Rax into Seige Marine followed up by a (relatively) fast expand. Quite often the opponent is unprepared for the initial Marines, who can cause quite a lot of damage, so leaves before they see my Tanks rolling in so to them it must seem like cheese. The build is not all in as the expansion is quite quick and it can easily be held off by a single bunker or well positioned spine. It takes advantage Terrans who go for tech over units in the early game and of a Zergs who don't scout well. Against a Zerg the Marines don't have to do damage as it forces the opponent to produce lings which greatly affects their economy.
The initial attack killed a Hatchery the follow up won the game.
Despite Protoss being my first race I now wish that they didn't exist; they are driving me crazy. I only won 32% of my TvPs this week. I've tried various builds including 1 and 2 Rax FEs but no matter what I do I always seem to be outnumbered by the opponent and then forcefields split my army anyway. When it comes to Protoss my game sense is so off that I can never predict how many troops the opponent should have or when Colossus and High Templar could start appearing. Despite scouting as much as I can I always feel blind as to what to expect from a Protoss army. The thing I dislike most about TvP is how useless Mech is and how you pretty much have to go bio.
Storms and Colossus are the bane of my life.
I got a  Razer Deathadder for Christmas so maybe that part of why I have been struggling so much more this week than last, as I get used to it using it, but I also think it's because I am playing a higher class of player who I'm not quite yet ready to face. 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 and happy New Year.  

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

It never ceases to amaze me how creative, helpful and generally brilliant the StarCraft 2 community is and I want to talk about one aspect of this; how players who were just opponents can put aside their victory or loss and give each other advice on how to improve their play. Despite not having met this person before and knowing you will probably never encounter this person again two strangers can both try to help the other one out and overall improve their understanding of the game. Obviously, as it is the internet, you will get abusive messages too but even these people sometimes offer advice in-between insults.
It can be really helpful for someone of your own level to tell you were you went wrong and to point out where and when they were most vulnerable and how you could have exploited their weakness. When someone of a much higher level tells you how to improve an aspect of your play it can be beyond your capabilities and sometimes it's easier to improve in stages rather than to try to do it all at once. Also your opponent, having witnessed the game first hand, will have will have advice that fits the game rather than the more general advice you may find in other places.
I may be more approachable that others because I always say gl hf at the start of the game, gg at the end and am always up for bantering throughout so maybe that makes it easier for people to talk to me after a game. If someone says something bm at the end of a game I will sometimes try to explain where they went wrong from my perspective and how they could improve though not everyone wants to hear it. Sometimes you just play better than the opponent and sometimes you win because of the build you decided to go but there is always advice you can give to help other improve and if you can help someone else I think you should.
Practice, hard work and analysis of your own games is vital if you want to get better at the game but often it takes someone else pointing out weaknesses in your play for you to notice them. The best bit of advice I received was from a Zerg player asking why I played so passively after my initial attack and why did I let him macro so hard? To this I had no answer. Scouting is something I excel at at so I knew every time he expanded and let him do so unhampered. In the end I couldn't win because he could send max army after max army at me. From the next game on I started playing more aggressive all the way through using discrete armies to prevent expansions going up and trying to do as much damage as possible before rolling the next one out.
In the middle leagues racial differences shouldn't make much of a difference because you are supposed to be playing people who can use their race as well as you can use your so instead of complaining about balance and ask them where you went wrong. If other people are at all like me they will be happy to offer their opinion if asked but don't want to come off as arrogant by proffering it . The mentality of people helping each other improve at and enjoy StarCraft 2 more is part of what makes the community built around the game so great and I hope it continues to do this more and more in the future. 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.   

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Life in the Middle 24/12/2011

Being home for the holidays has given me a lot of free time to play, and whilst I was supposed to be revising for exams in January, I managed to play 56 games this week; despite not playing for two days due to illness. This week was very much defined by the beginning of Season 5 which saw me promoted to Platinum and since that point I have only played Platinum players and managed to hold my own as I won 57% of my games. You can read about my Season 5 update here. I end this week as a rank 10 Platinum, next week I should be able to break the top 8 and hopefully it will only take a few weeks of hard work after that to get promoted again. I am mostly going to talk about TvZ as this is what I played and struggled with most this week.
From rank 1 Gold to rank 10 Platinum; not bad for a weeks work.
It has been an odd week against Zerg; I started using a 2 Rax FE build but it took me a while to get it right. I now always apply early Marine pressure to try and force Lings from the opponent and prevent their early game economy from being too strong. Before I was promoted I only won 33% of my TvZs but after, as I started to perfect this build, it went up to 70%. This increase in performance came despite all my opponents being Platinum. I saw DeMusliM using Banshees a lot in TvZ so I started to use them in the later game to take out expansions and keep my opponents economy down, whilst macroing behind Siege Tanks and bunkered Marines.
I really like Entombed Valley for macroing up behind Siege Tanks and Marines, though the fourth can be hard to secure.
In general my game sense has greatly improved and I have stopped being surprised by Broodlords and am nearly always prepared for them with Vikings which can then be used to take out expansions and tech structures. I am having problems with Ultralisks at the moment; they always seem to pop out when I am desperate for a fourth and have to move my ground army out a bit to secure it. What is the best way to deal with Ultralisks? I dislike going Marauders as they are bad versus Lings and can't shoot air units, Banshees are easily killed by Mutas if there is an detector around and staying Siege Marine doesn't seem to be cost effective especially if there are Banelings present. So what is best?
These Ultras uncontrollably tear through my army.
Against Zerg I never know when they are weak enough to go for the killing blow after deflecting their late game units like Broodlords and Ultralisks. I never trust that a Zerg is weak and always kill them slowly and carefully because they could still have a lot of money in the bank; this often frustrates the opponent but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I guess looking at larva levels is a good way of gauging their strength but I always think that it is a trick and that the Zerg must have loads of bases or units I don't know about. I think that in general I am overly paranoid and this sometimes leads to me being too slow and the opponent getting back into the game.
Unexpected mid to late game Banshees are well worth their cost.
I used to think that Random players only knew how to cheese but in the middle leagues I have yet to play a Random who didn't try to play legitimately. If anything I am more likely to over-prepare for what I think is coming and try to defeat them with early pressure. Often a Random's build isn't as refined as a player who has chosen their race; but if anything this makes them more deadly as they are less predictable and could try almost anything. Randoms also have the psychological advantage, making you want to scout earlier, and making you fear that they must be good if they can play every race to such a level.
The standard Terran cloaked Ghost rush.
As this is already quite long I will only briefly talk about the other two match-ups. I am finding that Platinum level TvTs require a lot more thought and APM than Gold level because they are so much better at exploiting a weakness in your defense and destroying you for it. Siege lines mean that even if a player is behind they can get back into the game if you let them, which with my relaxed attitude, I often do. I am finding Platinum level TvPs manageable as long as my opponent doesn't fast expand, which because of Sentrys I don't know how to punish, and I find Colossus follow-ups are hard to deal with.
Early game force fields are so annoyingly restrictive, especially as Sentry's can cast as soon as they warp.
If you enjoyed this article then you can follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran. Check out my other articles including my Season 5 Update. Thank you for reading and have a happy holidays.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Season 5 Update

On the EU servers Season 5 started on the 21st of December and I was pretty confident that I would be promoted to Platinum because over the last week I have only played the highest of Gold and Platinum players and won a good proportion of them. I was pretty sure that even if I lost my placement match I would still be promoted, as my MMR was high enough to play against my first Diamond this week, and sure enough I lost my placement match but still got placed in Platinum.
Back into Platinum.
I wish there had been an epic struggle backwards and forwards and that my return to Platinum, where I was originally placed before getting demoted at the beginning of Season 4, had been hard earned but I simply lost because I played poorly. My opponent was a Platinum Protoss so the plan was to go for a 1 Rax FE but I forgot to actually fast expand and accidentally threw up another three Barracks before realising what I had done. Whilst getting up my expansion I decided to attack into a much larger force and then even managed to botch up my retreat as I left half of my forces behind. My defeat didn't take much longer and whilst I was happy to get promoted I was really annoyed at myself for playing at such a low level.
For some reason it seemed like a good idea at the time to attack into a much larger force.
Before things started to pick up again I continued to perform poorly for another two games as I lost to a Platinum Terran and another Platinum Protoss. The Terran out macro'd me so despite me winning nearly every engagement he always had more reinforcements and I couldn't keep up. I played better against the Protoss but a few fundamental mistakes led to me losing. I dropped two loads of troops at two different bases but at this point he just attacked me and I didn't have enough troops in my main army to hold. I missed about three EMPs on his High Templar so got badly stormed. When I watched back the replay I discovered that he had expanded to one of my possible thirds, on Arid Plateau, 14 minuted into a 26 minute game and I never realised.
Missed EMPs allowed storms to ravage my troops.
My first win came from against a Platinum Zerg, which is normally my worst match-up. I was trying out a 2 Rax FE as suggested by a beautiful and attacked with my first seven marines when I saw that he had got six ealry lings and an evo chamber. The game only lasted 6 minutes and wasn't the most satisfying win. After the game I went to look at his profile but accidentally clicked add as friend and had to sheepishly explain that he didn't have to be my friend and that I mis-clicked. When I looked after my next game he had 'disconnected' and I haven't seen him since. My second win wasn't from a very interesting game; my opponent went very early Colossus but to do so heavily cut probe production. I scanned his first Colossus as it was made and hurried my Starport, that was already on it's way, and built a second one to get out a lot of Vikings. My third went down as I went in for the attack. I used my Vikings to draw his army to a cliff then engaged with my bio as my Vikings killed his Colossus.
Early Colossus and early upgrades meant that my opponent didn't have enough units to defend my attack.
So far I only have a 40% win-rate now that I am back in Platinum but still feel hopeful that this time I can conquer the Platinum league and wont be pushed back down to Gold. Over the last couple of weeks I have been playing very well against Platinums and being home for the holidays has meant that I've had a lot more time to play. If you enjoyed this article then you can follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran. Check out my other articles including this weeks Life in the Middle. Thank you for reading.   

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Life in the Middle 17/12/2011

This week being the last week of term I have been extremely busy at university finishing off coursework and being dragged into socialising (yuck) but I still managed to play 26 games. In a couple of days Season 4 should end and Season 5 will begin and I am hoping to go straight into Platinum. Out of the 26 games I played 19 were Platinum and I managed to beat 10 of them, which is over 50%, and each loss helps me in my next fight. Overall I won 62% of my games and have ended this week as top of my league, though it seems like whoever of the top 3 or so players in the league played most recently is on top. I am mostly going to talk about TvP as that is what I have played and improved in the most.
Top of my league again.
Last week I was having major troubles against Protoss, only winnings 33% of my games, however that has changed now. My first two games this week were against Platinum Protoss and whilst I lost both games I started to try out a new build which led me to victory against the next 7 Protoss I played. The third game I played was against the same person as in game 2 and I really wanted to win this time and knew he would attack early on so I prepared for the attack and macro'd really hard. The attack never came but I had a lot of bio with stim, combat shields and concussive shells so I decided to attack him instead and easily destroyed his army; it wasn't even close. It's one of the most satisfying feelings to win against someone who just beat you.
Being back home for the holidays means playing on low settings again,
The build I have been using against Protoss is a 1 Rax FE but instead of expanding straight away and not being able to defend it I just use the Command Centre to get out extra SCVs, call down M.U.L.E.s and use scans for scouting; I actually use it as a base when I go for my attack or I have held off their early Pressure. With the high SCV count you get you can easily support 5 or 6 Barracks and produce a lot of Marines and Marauders and all their upgrades. Since using this build I have never gotten into the late game, I have only lost once with it and my first attack has won me the game every other time, so I don't know how well it would deal with lots of Colossus.
6 Rax and upgrades can easily be supported by one base with a lot of SCVs but you have to expand soon after.
In PvT I am never sure when to start producing Vikings because a big bio army can deal with a couple of Colossus in the early game but after there are more than that Vikings become necessary really. However, to get out Vikings you have to build a Factory and then a Startport so the tech is a bit out of the way and takes time and resources which could be spent on more troops instead and those troops could be what win you the game earlier on. It's not like Vikings are the only useful unit from a Starport, Medivacs are great too, but in getting up to Starport tech you sacrifice getting out more bio units to win straight away; so when does just bio stop being enough?
You need a lot of units in the early game in TvP.
In both TvZ and TvT I lost a couple of games simply because I didn't siege up my Seige Tanks on the front-line and was unprepared for sudden attacks. At the beginning of the week I was struggling against Terrans, which is normally my best match-up, because I was consistently surprised at how much better a Platinum's macro is compared to a Golds and how quickly they can rebuild after an early attack. Now that I am much more confident in TvP TvZ has gone back to being my worst match-up. In TvZ it seems to me that the onus is on the Terran player to prevent the Zerg from macroing but leaving your base means that the Zerg can easily counter you. I was supposed to stop rallying to the front-line but when I sense I'm near victory I can help but push and it often costs me the game. Next week I need a new build to try against Zerg so any suggestions? I tried a similar build to what I use against Protoss but with Siege Tanks instead but I found that by time I was ready to attack I was ridiculously out macro'd.
Unsieged Tanks on the front-line can spell doom.
If you enjoyed this article then you can follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran. Check out my other articles including my Updated Terran Impressions and my article on the Season 5 Map Pool. Thank you for reading.     

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Season 5 Updated Map Pool

The Season 4 lock has already begun and within the next week or so Season 5 will begin and bring with it an updated map pool. Since last season Blizzard has been prioritizing tournament ready maps on the ladder to to give every game the tournament feel, reduce unfair starting positions and to allow the pros to more effectively practice on ladder. Part of creating a more tournament appropriate map pool was removing close position spawns for the larger maps where spawning in close positions almost always led to short games; last season Metalopolis and Shattered Temple had their close positions removed. Abyssal Caverns and Nerazim Crypt were the only two unsuitable maps left in the map pool, but these have now been removed and will be replaced by two new maps. I like Blizzard's move into a more tournament like ladder that is more competitive and takes away some of the starting position bias to help focus on actually playing and having fun. If, like me, you forget which map is which there is a picture of all of the current maps that have made it into Season 5 at the end of the article.
Abyssal Caverns(left) and Nerazim Crypt(right) have been removed from the map pool for Season 5.
The first new map is called Arid Plateau and like Xel'Naga Caverns only has two starting locations. The entrance to your natural expansion is quite wide so will be harder to keep than in some maps. The choice for third is not immediately obvious as the closer one is more easily accessible whilst the further away one is more vulnerable to attacks through some destructible rocks in the back. The centre of the map is very open with only a few choke points so should allow for run-bys and surround attacks. Taking both Xel'Naga towers looks as though it will give you sight of the width of the map so they will be useful to have. As all the expansions are so open I am concerned that Zergling counter attacks will be overly effective and that Protoss especially will struggle to defend their chosen thirds for fear of run-bys or drops.
New map Arid Plateau.
The other new Map is called Entombed Valley and is a large four base map. Concerned with recent criticism over rotationally symmetric maps Blizzard have created this map to be horizontally, vertically and diagonally symmetric so that no player has an unfair advantage over the other. The second and third both look relatively easy to secure as both are accessed through small ramps, but after that additional expansions will be harder to secure as they are all quite open. Again the centre of the map is quite open however there are also quite a few choke points to funnel your opponent through. It looks like Terrans will be able to easily turtle, defending their ramps with some siege tanks and bunkers, before moving out with a strong army. Protoss will probably forge fast expand quite a lot on this map as they can completely block off one ramp and then just defend the other. For close positions it looks as though it will be easy to get close to the enemy through the slip paths whilst avoiding the central Xel'Naga tower.
New map Entombed Valley.
Both of the new maps look interesting to play and there doesn't seem to be any glaring inherent issues with them yet. The other maps returning this season are: Antiga Shipyard, Metalopolis, Shakuras Plateau, The Shattered Temple, Tal'Darim Altar and Xel'Naga Caverns. Antiga Shipyard and Tal'Darim Altar are both rotationally symmetric so may struggle to stay in the map pool for much longer as they are. In some situations a Terran can shell an opponent's third with Siege Tanks on Antiga Shipyard and many Protoss hate Tal'Darim Altar as it almost forces you to go four gate so it wouldn't be surprising if one or both of them was removed for next season. In the future I would like to see more maps taking hiatuses from the map pool for a couple of seasons, like Metalopolis was, to keep them fresh; Xel'Naga Caverns in particular is getting old. I, for one, am totally ready for Season 5 to begin.
Antiga Shipyard.
Tal'Darim Altar.
Xel'Naga Caverns.

The Shattered Temple.

Shakuras Plateau.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Life in the Middle 10/12/2011

This week started off really well but after winning a lot of games in a row I started getting matched against a lot of Platinum players and I simply couldn't keep up. After the brief win-streak I slowly started losing the majority of my games before picking myself up again. Towards the end of the week I was performing really well again, winning eight out of the last ten games I played, but this has shown that I am not yet ready to go up to Platinum. It has also shown me that I shouldn't get complacent because there are always people better than you to put you in your place and I was getting lazy last week because I was winning so many games. Yet again I finished 2nd in my league but it has been a real struggle to just break even.
Still a rank 2 Gold.
This week I noticed how little Terrans react to what you are doing; generally they seem to stick with their plan from the beginning of the game, which may be well thought out, but it means you can win a high proportion of games just by reacting to what they do. I like going 2 Rax into Factory for this very reason; you can apply early Marine pressure, and sometimes win through that, but it is not an all in strategy and so you can expand behind some Siege Tanks and be safe for a while to macro up. If the opponent goes 3 Rax you can defend it with a bunker before getting Siege Tanks out and crushing them. If they go cloak Banshees your attack comes before they have cloak and you can be well prepared for their arrival. If they go Seige Tank Viking you can distract them before getting out your own and playing a standard game. I won 82% of games like this last week and 75% this week so for now I am going to stick with this strategy.
I find that 2 Rax into Factory helps you deal with anything in the early game.
I think the most important part of TvT is knowing what your opponent is doing because Siege Tanks and Marines have such high DPS that drops and sneak attacks can cripple you in seconds, so to me scans are worth more than M.U.L.E.s. I probably over scan but I'd prefer to lose the minerals than be surprise at what's coming. Likewise in TvZ I probably over scan looking at their main to see what tech they have in the early game, and whether they have a Greater Spire or Ultralisk Cavern in the late game, but I think that it is definitely worth it. Having said that, Zerg often notice when you over scan and build their tech in other places. I played a game where I was certain there were no Broodlords because I kept scouting the Spire so I was completely unprepared when they arrived; my opponent must have built and upgraded a second Spire. In TvP I don't think scans are as useful but it is always nice to know when a Robotic Bay or Templar Archives go up.
That awekward moment when nine unexpected Broodlords appear outside your base.
In general I have been playing much better versus Zerg which is great as they are the match-up I'm least comfortable with, even though they are the race I have played against the most overall. Last week I lost to every Platinum Zerg I played and only won 46% of my ZvTs, this week I beat 3/5 of the Platinums I played and won 55% overall. The main problem I am having is with Mutalsiks; whenever I leave Marines in my base to defend they attack my forwards troops and wipe them out and whenever I rally all my Barracks to the front line they initiate a base trade situation and I always underestimate how quickly all my stuff will die. Mutalisks often seem to kill me after I try to move into the main so maybe I should be less greedy and retreat at that point and expand? I'm a great fan of Tastosis' "When you're ahead, get more ahead" saying but against Zerg I always want to keep pushing and not give them a chance to re-macro up.
I'm always too greedy with my first army, I should do damage then retreat and expand.
This week I have been having a lot of problems versus Protoss, which is a shame because last week was the  first time I felt confident against them, but this week my win-rate versus them has gone down to just 33%. Admittedly six of the games I played I was up against Platinums but I also struggled against Golds too. I played the same person three times in a row and lost the first two times but won the third game after a lot of fighting backwards and forwards, even though he didn't gg I was proud of myself for beating my first Platinum Protoss. Even if I build a lot of Vikings I always lose to Colossus, as my troops always seem to have melted away by time the Colossus are killed, can anyone offer some advice?
I don't even know how to approach an army like this.
Last night I played 21 games in a row but I didn't want to stop because I was performing badly, so I ignored the rising Sun, and kept playing until I was doing better. When you start a loosing streak do you prefer to stop playing or to stick with it and play through the losses? Despite how bad every loss would make me feel I decided to keep playing and tried to keep a positive attitude throughout, though every gg came through gritted teeth I made sure I always said it. I think gl hf is important at the beginning of a match as a reminder for both you and your opponent that it is a game and is supposed to be fun.
Thanks to How Cheese Fails I managed to survive an all in Nydus Worm in my base.
If you enjoyed this article then you can follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran. Check out my other articles including my Updated Terran Impressions and the Story of How I Got Into StarCraft. Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Update Impressions From Playing As Terran

For ten weeks now I have been playing as Terran so I thought I would update the Initial Impressions I did in the first week with how I feel now. In my initial impressions I basically said that Marines are good, M.U.LE.s are amazing and that the mechanics are a lot harder than I expected and whilst that's still true there is a lot more to Terrans. In this article I am going to talk about my thoughts on the Terran units, their late game army, expanding and my thoughts on mirror match-ups. I may only be Gold but this is my understanding of the Terran race as it is now.
I like this picture because I actually managed to hold off this attack but I don't have anything to say about it.
Marine Marauder is obviously an important part of any Terran's army and very useful due to their high damage output and ability to be healed and dropped by Medivacs. Marines are the backbone of the Terran army and have the advantage of being able to shoot air unlike Zerglings and Zealots. The Marauder is generally a brilliant all round unit that is especially good versus buildings and armoured. When I first started playing as Terran I used Reapers quite a lot but I rarely use them at all any more. I find that Hellions are a much more effective harassing unit which don't take so long to make and can be built two at a time from a Factory with a Reactor. Sometimes I will send out four or five Reapers in the late game to take out harvesters in poorly defended bases but a drop is just as easy to do. Ghosts are a really good unit that I am terrible at using; I watch pros play and am amazed by what they can achieve but when I try it's never as effective. Ghosts are definitely something I'd like to use a lot more in the future as their snipe, cloak and EMP make them indispensable.
Marines DPS is ridiculously good so they can be used to quickly take out structures and retreat.
I think that Hellions are the best Terran option for harassing the mineral lines in the early game as they don't take you too far off the standard tech path and can do so much damage. Against Zerg I usually get up two Factories so that I can make four Hellions at a time then switch the Reactors for Tech Labs to start Siege Tank production as Hellions become less effective. Hellions are pretty useless in the late game except for in TvT if the opponent is going Marines; Heart of the Swarm will change that of course. Siege Tanks are amazing in TvT and TvZ for obvious reasons but I like to use the in TvP too. I find that if I have Siege Tanks in TvP I am much more likeley to spread my troops out and so am much less susceptible to Colossus and High Templar. Also Protoss players often disregard everything else to target the Siege Tanks allowing your bio units to attack unmolested. I don't like Thors because they are slow and cumbersome so I only use them (begrudgingly) against mass Muta.
A few Hellions can completely lock down mining and kill lots of harvesters.
The Terran air army is also very effective with each of the units having clearly defined roles. Vikings are great  anti air units but are terrible versus Mutas so only effective in the late game for TvZ, when Broodlords start to appear. Likewise Vikings are most useful in the TvP late game when Colossus start to arrive on the scene though not before that unless there are Voidrays and Carriers. In TvT you can never have enough Vikings as air control is vital for the sucess of your ground army. Medivacs are important in every match-up for their ability to heal and drop units behind enemy lines. Banshees are a great harasser if the opponent doesn't know they are coming, however, I don't like using them because I've never really had any success with them. Likewise with the Raven I have rarely ever used them as I prefer to use scans and Missile Turrets to detect. The last Terran air unit is the Battlecruiser, which is only really seen in TvT late game as far as I'm aware, because of it's effectiveness against Siege Tanks, Maries, Thors and Hellions; everything the opposing Terran is likely to have in the late game.
Standard late game Terran army, does the Battlecruiser have any other use?
I find the late game Terran army the most difficult to control as you have so much to do, but that may be just because I am less use to playing them compared to the other two races. As a Terran there is a lot to think about as you enter an engagement; are your Siege Tanks in siege mode? Where are the enemy High Templar/ Infestors to EMP? Where are your Vikings to engage the Colossus/ Broodlords? Do you need to Stim all your troops? Do you need to stutter step? It's a lot to think about in a very short period of time as Terran units like the Marine are very week and don't take very long to die; especially against the high tech units of the enemy races. Also if you are stutter stepping you can't do anything else at the same time. I think it's often underestimated how much a Terran has to do in a battle, however, you should think twice about attacking into a well prepared Terran.
Why would anyone ever attack straight into this?
As a Terran I'm not always sure when the best time to expand is, though bunkers and Planetary Fortresses make it easier and less stressful to do. Siege Tanks, Bunkers and Planetary Fortresses can lock down ground like nothing else in the early-mid game; you even get 75 minerals back when you salvage a bunker. When you play as Zerg it's not a case of if but when to expand; you already know you are going to have to fast expand just to keep up with the other races. Protoss can do a lot off of one base so aren't as pressured to expand as Terran are and even if they are denied from expanding they can still reach the highest techs and produce a lot of units. As a Protoss I often left expanding until as late as possible but as a Terran I always feel the need to expand relatively early on.
Makes me laugh every time I see it. There is Baneling bombs under my troops that thankfully never explode.
Compared to PvP and ZvZ Terran versus Terran is a nice and relaxing experience as it's played at a much slower pace and often gets into the late game. TvT can be very frustrating as the enemy slowly pushes into your base whilst you can do nothing about it but in general I prefer it to the other two match-ups. Whilst Siege Tanks can obliterate your army in seconds you often have your own to fall back on and prevent your opponent from destroying you straight away. Air control and drops are vital for success; you can't just rely on Mech and Marines all the way through the match-up. ZvZ is the rock, paper, scissors of Speedling, Baneling, Roach whilst PvP is normally three or four Gates into some for of tech after; Dark Templars, Colossus, Blink Stalkers, Immortals or drops. Recent patches have meant that PvP is more likely to get into the late game but it's still very unstable at the beginning. I prefer TvT to either of the other two as it is much less volatile and less APM intensive.
Air control and a much bigger army spell doom but it still takes time to push into an opponents base in TvT.
If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran and 'stumbleupon' me with the button below. Check out my other articles including my story of how I got into StarCraft and this weeks Life in the Middle. Thank you very much for reading.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Life in the Middle 3/12/2011

Up until now I have been limited by my terrible internet which meant that I could only play during certain times of the day and that if I had the audacity to try at other times I would be punished with crippling latency. Often having university in the morning, when my internet was good, meant that I couldn't play as many games as I wanted to; that changed this week. We upgraded our internet, which means that my playing window is longer, so I have managed to play a lot more games this week. In the future I will be able to play a lot more too and this will undoubtedly be a good thing if this week is anything to go by. My target was to get into the top eight of my league and I managed to get all the way up to 1st in my division, before losing a couple of games, and ending up 2nd.
This week rank 2, next week Platinum hopefully.
I play hyper aggressive in the early game then go quite passive  except for against Zerg who I always feel like I have to keep pushing. Versus Terran and Protoss I go 12/14 Rax and apply early pressure with my first five marines before putting down a factory against Terran and another Barracks and some Tech Labs against Protoss. I started the early attacking in TvT so that they would be distracted, and give me enough time to get out some tanks and an expansion of my own, but you would be surprised by how often Terrans aren't prepared for this. Against Protoss it's not as effective as Stalkers out-range Marines so often a quick retreat and a Bunker is what it takes for survival but I still like to early pressure just in case something can be done.
Bio is amazing in TvP until Colossus and High Templar start to arrive.
Zerg is what I am having a lot of trouble with; I only won 46% of my TvZs as opposed to 62% of my TvPs and 82% of my TvTs. My usual strategy is to go straight for a Factory with a Reactor and get out four to six Hellions before switching it out for a Tech Lab and getting out some Siege Tanks, all the time producing Marines. The downside with this strategy is that if you do no damage with the Hellions the Zerg will be way ahead economically and sometimes they can get up too many Mutas for your Marines to handle; though when done properly the Seige Tank army at least allows you to expand safely if not kill them outright. I want to try out PuMa's mech play versus Zerg, as it was pretty effective against Sheth in NASL season 2, I just need to find the build for it.
I only realised how close to destruction I was when I watched the replay... he didn't detonate.
At the beginning of the week I was playing against high Silvers and mid Golds but after having a nine win streak against mid to high Golds I have started playing Platinum players again. I like having win streaks but it is far too stressful and takes my mind off the game, I find that losing every couple of games keeps me focused. Unfortunately of the four Plats I have played so far two were Zerg and absolutely annihilated me, showing me that I am not yet ready to make my way up into Platinum, though the other two I faced were Terran and I managed to beat them both. In one of the TvTs I played my opponent thought he had out macro'd me because I had two hidden bases and half my army out of sight. By the time he found my hidden bases I had loads of Siege Tanks and Battlecruisers to add to my other army, that were already managing to hold off all of his forces. It was satisfying to be the one with hidden bases for once, and not the one surprised, as I usually am.
The relieving army was bigger than what was left of the rest of my army and probably quite a shock.
This week I've achieved my target of getting into the top eight by climbing up to rank 2, next week I plan to play even more and hopefully get back into Platinum. If you liked this post then please follow me on twitter at @RobinTerran and 'stumbleupon' me with the button below. Check out my other articles including the story of how I got into StarCraft and my Super Mario 3D Land review. Please feel free to comment in the section below, thank you for reading.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review: Super Mario 3D Land

It's often said that to see what a new Nintendo console can do you look at what they achieve with their flagship enterprise, Super Mario, so does Super Mario 3D Land light a beacon for the 3DS's future? The game is split up into eight worlds and each world contains five to eight sections overall giving you 48 levels to play through, each with three hidden stars to collect. After you have 'completed' the game for the first time you unlock 48 special levels, which are based on the original levels. The special versions vary from very similar to wildly different as enemies, items and even the level design are changed to different extents. The special levels also include new items such as the statue leaf that allows you to turn to stone whilst falling and poison mushrooms that power you down. Like in previous iterations of the series Mario can attain Power-ups like the Tanooki (Raccoon) Leaf, Boomerang Flower and the Fire Flower.
Many of the core mechanics stay the same.
The graphics are bright and beautiful in their simplicity, with blocks of colour and smooth surfaces, giving the game an aesthetic somewhere between Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 64. Levels vary a lot from flying ships to haunted houses but I never found myself astounded by what I saw and whilst it is always obvious where you have to go levels could feel like a collection of idea rather than a cohesive environment. The 3D of the game isn't too overwhelming and in general works really well. In blockbuster films they often really shove the 3D in your face with stuff flying at or away from you but for the most part the 3D is subtle and more about level design than cheap thrills. Whilst 3D games are nothing new actually being able to see them in 3D really helps with the general mechanics of the game though you can play this without it and you wont lose much of the experience.
The game is littered with items and secrets.
The boss fights are disappointing and repetitive with only three characters arranged in a variety of ways over 18 encounters; Bowser, Boom-Boom and Pom-Pom aren't enough to keep boss fights interesting. The Bowser fights always involve you traversing obstacles and dodging fireballs to get to a button to drop him in lava and you always have to jump on the other two's heads three times, with only environmental changes to make any differences. Yet again the story revolves around Peach being kidnapped and Mario having to go save her, so there is nothing new here, and it's barely worth mentioning. If they never plan to add any story they should get rid of the cut-scenes altogether as they don't add anything to the experience and have been done to death over the series' lifespan.
Underwater and sliding levels add variety.
There is a lot to love in Super Mario 3D Land; the animations, the sound effects and the music all combine together to make a wonderful experience, that Nintendo have perfected over the years, but it never really pushes the boat out. It may sound like I am being negative but despite all the downsides I really enjoyed my time with this game as it has some really fun levels and a lot of character. Just because it is suitable for kids, and aimed at all ages, doesn't mean it should be considered a child's game and however manly you think you are you will still enjoy playing it. Super Mario 3D Land is a good game though I think that both the developers and the 3DS system can do better. Whilst it's set quite a high benchmark I don' think it will take long to be beaten; it's arguably already been surpassed by The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but do we count remakes?