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Posts Tagged ‘Basics’

Starcraft II: Surviving patches 14 and 15

The first phase of Starcraft II Beta ends June 17. While it would seem that Blizzard could take it easy and review the latest beta data at their leisure, they actually put out two patches this week. Patches 14 and 15 toned down Terran Mech play a bit, streamlined Zerg upgrades and reduced the strength of several popular upgrades.

While the game will no longer be playable, the client should still be able to show replays, which will enable great shows like Day9 Daily and Shoutcraft to continue casting.

Terran

At the start of Beta Terran play was dominated by Barracks units, mostly thanks to the strength of Marauders. However, Mech has slowly begone more and more powerful. When Siege Tank splash damage (all splash damage actually) was moved from the edge of the target unit to its center, splash suddenly hit many more units. Siege Tanks supported by Vikings and Marines or Hellions became a powerful play style. Perhaps a bit too powerful, since all Factory units received nerfs. The upgrades of Hellions and Thors (to air) lost their bonus damage to Light, while Siege splash damage was reduced from 60 to 50 per shot.

Vikings were hit as well with a reduction of their ground damage. People who realised that Viking ground damage was not bad at all were using large groups of them to gain both air control and do serious harassment on the ground.

The Reaper speed upgrade was reduced to 50/50. The strength of Reapers is in the very early game and there is no time to get upgrades then, so while it may seem a buff, it will rarely be used.

Protoss

Almost nothing happened to the Protoss. Archons now build in 12 instead of in 17 seconds, but they remain an expensive, mediocre unit compared to the High Templar.

Zerg

Zerg had so many upgrades to deal with and these were streamlined a bit. And perhaps the Ultralisk gained the upgrades to make it a viable end-game unit!

The Infestor and the Ultralisk no longer need a speed upgrade for their, respectively, burrowed and normal movement.  The Ultralisk also gained 50 hitpoints increasing its survivability (basically, another Sieged Tank shot is needed to bring it down). Meanwhile, the Brood Lord’s upgrade damage was reduced by 1, which is makes the Ultralisk more viable indirectly. The Roach upgrades for burrowed movement and burrowed regeneration were combined, which is fair since Roaches are no longer overpowerd at all anymore.

Energy costs were reduced for both the Corruption ability of the Corruptor and for the Infested Terran of the Overseer.

The change that I personally really hate is the increase of Overlord speed from 50/50 to 100/100. Scouting with Overlords was already pretty risky, so I felt the speed upgrade was absolutely needed to give them a chance. This also means that gaining the ability to do effective drops nows costs 300/300, which seems a bit expensive to me.

Conclusion

There were no enormous changes this patch, which is to be expected this close to launch. Balance is perhaps not yet perfect, but it is fair enough for release. I hope more effort will be put into effective matchmaking and Battlenet functionality.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: , ,

Starcraft II Basics: Scouting

May 30, 2010 1 comment

Scouting is one of the most important things to do during a Starcraft II map. If you do not know what your opponent is making, it will inevitably leading to nasty surprises. This article will cover several of the basics, including timing. Protection against scouting will be dealt with in another post.

Scouting is sending one of your units over to the opponent’s base / point of interest (like expansion spots) to find out what kind of units and buildings your opponents currently has and to get an idea of what he is planning. If you do not know where your opponent’s main base is, then that is the first priority of scouting. The distance between bases both on the ground and through the air is often an important factor of what will be built.

Timing

When to scout remains one of the most difficult things to learn for beginning players. Looking at your opponent’s base all the time may seem like a good idea, but by doing that, you are actually wasting resources. E.g. a Terran player using all energy of the Orbital Command to scout is not gaining minerals through M.U.L.Es.

The question to ask yourself is: Will information about my opponent impact the decision I am about to make?

For example: If your plan is to always build two Barracks and get one Extractor first whatever you opponent is doing, then you do not need any information from him up to that point.

For example: If your plan is to go all-in then you will probably not have to resources to do extensive scouting (you do need to know where your opponent is located), so scouting at this point will actually delay your attack.

For example: Can I safely expand now? depends on if your opponent has strike force ready to attack you.

For example: (As Protoss vs Terran) should I sacrifice economy to build a fast Stalker? depends on if your opponent is making fast Reapers.

There are many, many decisions to be made during an SCII match, so it is important to get as much information during a single scouting run to cover more than one decision. Learning that is a matter of experience.

Race specific

Every race has its own scouting methods. Basic workers are a good choice in many cases, although specialized units can be much more effective at it. However, scouting with those will automatically give your opponent a clue about some of your tech: e.g. do not scout with a Banshee if you are planning on using it to do a mineral line attack.

Terran

SCV’s make excellent scouts during the early game. Once the Orbital Command is up, it can be used for 50 energy. Note, however, that 50 energy could also be used on gaining minerals through M.U.L.Es. Fast air units like the Viking and Banshees (with and without) cloak are excellent choices as well. Personally, I like scouting with a Raven, because it can do some pretty safe harass with autoturrets as well. Reapers make fast and mobile scouts that can do massive damage to workers as well.

Protoss

Probes are good scouts, but the Observer is the true scout of the Protoss. It is difficult to stop as it is permanently cloaked. Phoenixes work as well. If you are investing in Sentries, the hallucination of a Phoenix can also be used as a cost-free scout.

Zerg

Zerg drones are good scouts, but they are soon overtaken by the cheaper Zerglings Speedlings can run through the smallest openings to get a total view of a base. They can also be buried at expansions to see if your opponent is building there. The Overlords make good early game scouts, but they are very slow without speed upgrade and thus vulnerable to early ranged units. A single Marine can take out a badly positioned Overlord and that will invariably lead to a supply problems. Later in the game speedy Overlords can do suicide flights. Overseers make excellent scouts as well. They can also drop the Changeling, but that will often be spotted.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: , , ,

Zerg week II

This posts continues the discussion of basic Zerg concepts in Starcraft II from last week. While patch 8 had some positive and negative effects, the concepts below remain valid. That said, I have played enough Zerg for now. I really want to try some Terran and Protoss strategies that were employed against me.

Easy harass

Harassment forces an opponent to choose between losing forces/buildings or spending resources on base defense. A bunch of Speedlings (Zerglings with movement speed upgrade) can wreak havoc in a mineral line, but the king of harassment is the Mutalisk. A group of them can move quickly from weak spot to weak and destroy workers, buildings and whatever else is not well protected. Roaches moving underground with upgrade can also do surprise strikes, but most people are prepared for roaches these days.

Early defense against air

Zerg are vulnerable to an early rush by air units, because they have no regular anti-air till the Hatchery has been transformed into a Lair. However, an air rush with Banshees, for example, requires a signficant sacrifice for the opponent. If you scout an early banshee or void ray, simply build two Queens (you want one at each expansion anyway), because they have decent anti-air and they can heal each other. Two Queens should be able to protect the base until the first Hydralisks are spawned. A Spore Crawler can help as well, but it lacks the healing synergy. Still, it is useful as a detector later on.

Detectors

Detectors are vital to prevent a strike by cloaked and burrowed units. The Zerg have arguably the most vulnerable detectors in the form of Spore Crawlers and Overseers. They are necessary to prevent strikes from Terran Banshees and Protoss Dark Templars (rarely built though and easily scouted). Also, the main information source for Protoss is the Observer, a permanently cloaked flying unit.

On the other hand Observers and Ravens (Terran) can detect burrowed units and the static defenses (turrets and cannons) can as well.

Banelings roll in, while Zerglings have been drawing fire

vs Terran

The dominant strategy for Terran so far has been to wall in and mass Marines, Marauders and Medivacs, eventually with tank support. Even without healing the M&M ball is a danger to almost any Zerg force. The most effective way to deal with them is with Banelings. Unfortunately, they need both a speed upgrade and burrow to be really effective. The Terran player has several harassment tools: early air strikes with Banshees, Overlord harassment with Vikings (again making use of the weak early anti-air of the Zerg), running Hellions to the mineral line, striking with Reapers.

It’s important to keep the economic advantage against Terran while defending. Losing a force as Zerg is not a problem as long as the replacement can be paid for. Of course, if the opponent does not protect himself well, a group of Banelings can blow a Supply Depot at the block and let speedlings wreak havoc inside. Note that tanks in Siege mode do splash damage to all units, friendlies included. Mutalisk harrasment works well, but the Terran player has plenty of tools to deal with them in a real fight (Marines with stim pack, Vikings in number, turrets, even Thors). Ultralisks can plow through any ground Terran ground force, but they require many upgrades to be viable. The Brood Lord is much more effective as a game ender, but it needs protection from Mutalisks/Corruptors.

The Protoss player has been spamming cannons out of fear for Mutalisks

vs Protoss

Protoss own the ground, but their anti-air is weak. A sizeable group of Mutalisks will destroy the Protoss, but it is important not to get overrun by a ground force. Protoss are less effective against blocking their base than Terrans. An early attack is almost always worth it. Roaches were particularly strong against Zealots, but a bit less since patch 8. One unit to watch out for is the Sentry: it is an effective fighter against Mutalisks, it can deploy a shield around it that reduces ranged damage for all friendly units (including Roach spit) and it can spawn temporary force field blocks that cannot be passed: they can split or trap a force. Another is the Immortal: it’s shields reduce heavy hits and it does massive damage to armored units. Zerglings and Hydralisks can make quick work of them though, but they need protection from the inevitable Zealots accompanying the Protoss forces. A Colossus, on the other hand, will destroy just about any Zerg ground force, hit it with air before it gets close (Corruptors are especially effective).

While scouting the Protoss base, keep an eye out for Pylon placement. Sometimes it is possible to take out several buildings by destroying just one or two Pylons. This will set the opponent back a lot. Of course, it’s a beginner’s mistake, but it should always be exploited.

Just like against Terran, the Zerg should take the economic advantage. If the Protoss player is not pressured enough he will be able to make a Carrier swarm and that is very difficult to stop. Corruptors can do it though if managed well. If the game lasts till the highest tech level, than the Brood Lord (protected by Mutalisks and/or Corrupters) is the finishing unit of choice. Ultralisks are not really an option, because they get completely wasted by Immortals.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: , ,

Zerg week

April 5, 2010 1 comment

I dislike the Zerg. I really do. They were the villains of Starcraft and Brood War and I have never liked playing true villains. I dislike their insectoid look and hive intellect. I hate how creep covers the otherwise nice looking terrain. However, I really enjoy playing them in Starcraft II. In my post last week I concluded that Zerg was probably the strongest race in Beta at the moment. To be able to better combat them I decided to play Zerg and only Zerg for a week. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the play style.

Here is an overview of basic aspects of Zerg play. Links to unites ans structures are to the excellent Starcraft Wiki, which is much better updated and information heavy than the official site.

The Queen

The Queen is the most important unit of the Zerg. Her primary ability is to produce extra larvae at a Hatchery, which allows Zerg to quickly amass a large force. She can also spread creep over the map through creep tumors and heal other units. Furthermore, she’s the first anti-air unit that can be produced (she can also attack ground). Because she is intended as a purely defensive unit, her movement speeds off creep is really slow.

Fast Expansion

Fast Expansion (FE) is more a choice than an ability. The Hatchery, the Zerg main structure, costs only 300 minerals, which is significantly less than Command Centers and Nexuses. This allows Zerg to expand quickly with the least economic risk of all races. On the other hand, it is almost necessary, because Zerg are mostly limited by the number of larvae they can produce. An extra Hatchery with an additional Queen is necessary to keep competitive with Terran and Protoss who can operate from one base more easily.

Tech switch

Terran and Protoss build specific buildings to produce specific units. Complex units require additional passive buildings (e.g. Thors are built in the Factory, but there must also be an Armory present). A Terran player who wants to make a group of Banshees will have to build one or more Starports first and then produce the Banshees one by one. All Zerg, on the other hand, from the lowliest Drone to the giant Ultralisk come from larvae first, although some units can evolve afterwards as well (e.g. larvae are used to create Zerglings and Zerglings can morph into Banelings). Which units can be created depends on the presence of specific passive buildings. Thus after building a Spire, all present larvae can immediately be turned into Mutalisks.

This allows Zerg to quickly respond to enemy units, but it is also a vulnerability: if the base defenses can be breached and a building can be destroyed, the Zerg player can no longer make the corresponding unit.

The opponent tries a sneak attack by breaking through destructible rocks. However, the Overlord has spotted him.

Map control

The cheap Hatchery allows Zerg to quickly expand. Placement of creep prevents the build of non-Zerg buildings. By placing Overlords and buried Zerglings on strategic locations (like at mineral patches, so you can see when your opponent tries to expand) it is possible to safely view a larger portion of the map than non-Zerg. Winning with Zerg is winning the macro game: your opponent may destroy large portions of your forces, but multiple Hatcheries and Queens combined with a large amount of minerals and gas allow the Zerg player to immediately rebuild and attack again while their opponents has not recovered from the initial battle. In general, a Zerg player has to winning the economic battle to be able to win the game.

Harassing

Fortunately, the Zerg has also one of the best units to harass the opponent’s mineral lines: the Mutalisk. This fast Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground attacker has a bouncing attack that does damage to multiple units. A group of Mutalisks can quickly destroy a group of weak enemies. However, Mutalisks are relatively expensive. It is necessary to get a full gas production from at least two bases to get a sizeable group of Mutalisks without leaving your other defenses open. Mutalisks are not very sturdy. They have to be careful around static defenses until they are massed. The High Templar’s psi storm can be devastating to them, but their speed allows them to quickly move out of it. A group of Terran Marines with Stim-packs can annihilate a group of mutalisks easily, especially if they have Medivac support. The best way to use a small group of Mutalisks is hit-and-run: attack a mineral line, then attack another base. Either your opponent will: loose all his workers, have to leave units and multiple spots (and thus spreading his forces), build static defenses (and those resources cannot be used directly against you anymore).

The Mutalisks can destroy a significant number of SCV's at this unprotected base before the opponent can respond. Note that there is a barely visible buried Zergling just North of the Command Center.

There’s more

The post next week will deal with other basic aspects of playing Zerg, like how to deal with specific Terran, Protoss and other Zerg.

Categories: Starcraft II Tags: , ,