Part 2: http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/viewblog.php?id=271998
Part 3: http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/viewblog.php?id=281817
In my previous blogs, I discussed my descent to what I had imagined must have been the deepest depths of the North American ladder. The longer I played, though, the more I realized I was not being completely accurate. I have, it seems, barely scraped the surface of just one of the many hells encapsulated within the bronze league. Normally, I scoff when someone describes themselves as "high gold," or "high silver," thinking them braggarts who fancy themselves better than they really are, but I can't think of a better way to describe my own preeminent position within my league. I am, as much as it pains me to say it, "high bronze."
When I first began worker rushing and my MMR settled, I noticed I would play almost exclusively against bronze leaguers. Now, I'm facing a silver leaguer or above in about one of every four matches.
Welcome to bronze, bitches.
So what happened? I would not attribute it to any improvement in my worker rushing abilities. I've been using the same method since the beginning: Send workers and attack move. If they focus fire a single worker, I move it away, but I generally don't do anything more sophisticated than that. Hell, if I see them attack move, I immediately leave the game, so it's not like I'm somehow forcing victories through dexterous micromanagement where others would fail.
Why, then, has my MMR risen to the point where I am almost silver doing nothing but worker rushes? For that, I think we have the new ladder maps to blame. When I heard the news that Blizzard was removing close spawns, I was extremely pleased, which might sound odd coming from a worker rusher. Surely, I would want the spawns as close as possible, right? Well, while a close spawn is obviously preferable, and advantageous in any given game, knowing more precisely where my opponent's base may be located has turned out to lead to more overall victories. With the new map pool, after thumbing down three maps, four of the five remaining maps have either two, or functionally three spawning locations. So that means in almost every game I play, I can find my opponent's base with one or two guesses, effectively allowing me to win more games than when close spawns were included. Indeed, in the older pool, Shakuras Plateau was my winningest map, even with the close spawn potential of Shattered Temple still in effect.
"But wait," you might be thinking, "shouldn't you be losing? Aren't silver players better than bronze players?" As it turns out, no. No, they are not. So long as you show up reasonably early with your workers (made more likely by this season's changes), a silver or gold league player will shit his pants as readily as any bronzie. And then once I'm in their base I apparently have a 50% chance to win, as absurd as that statistic should be in any universe governed by a rational God. Removing close spawns and altering the map pool has streamlined the process of worker rushing considerably.
Another important factor is the ladder reset, which had a significantly different meaning to a worker rusher than it did to the serious players.
Workers of the world, unite!
Because with each passing season, fewer and fewer people play (if you believe some TL posters, I alone am responsible for driving away hundreds of bronze leaguers one worker rush at a time), and the leagues therefore shrink. So while in season three, my MMR was resting firmly in bronze territory, it has now evidently overlapped into silver as the bronze league has constricted slightly. The opponents should be the same, but the new leagues give a clear demarcation between bronze and silver, whereas before it was just a bunch of bronze and thus impossible to tell who was "high" and who was "low."
I have also arrived at this unique position at the top of the bronze league because of another aspect: I do not leave games needlessly. I do not leave games against Terran opponents, as some worker rushers do, and I do not leave games to lower my MMR before starting a session of portrait farming. So, unlike those worker rushers who dwell in what I imagine must truly be the bottom of the bronze league, I have floated to the top.
One final reason for my heightened MMR: I only play during peak hours. I have noticed that during off hours, such as when I would stay up late to watch the GSL, the opponents I would find on the ladder would have a dramatically lower chance of losing to a worker rush. I would get one win for every ten losses, and often, because of the reduced player pool, I would keep meeting the same players over and over again. Because I generally play video games at night, this had the effect of artificially tamping down my MMR every time a worker rush session dipped into the midnight hours. When, instead, I only played after schools let out and before 22:00, I could go on huge winning streaks, five or six games in a row, broken only by a single loss before another streak emerged. This is an effect I have noticed in other games as well, and I have deemed it the "Neckbeard Hypothesis." It states that:
Within a given region, after 22:00, the proportion of neckbeards online increases while the proportion of normal people simultaneously decreases, until the following day at 15:00, where the percentage of normal people once again overtakes the percentage of neckbeards. Because neckbeards on the whole are better at their chosen video game than the average person, this means that average player skill is highest during the periods of greatest neckbeard activity, and lowest during the periods of least neckbeard activity.
So, basically this means that if I time my play hours to right when schools are letting out, I can encounter the largest possible number of bad players while minimizing the number of good players I have to face. Since I must imagine that the ability to hold off a worker rush is closely linked with player skill, this method leads to the greatest number of wins per hour while minimizing time spent losing.
From my new vantage point upon the peaks of the bronze league, I shall continue my promised anthropological research into its inhabitants. I will take this opportunity to talk about some of the highest level bronze players, and their slight superiors in the leagues above.
While mid and low bronze are packed full of enragés, the upper echelon is full of what I have come to call the "incredulous."
As the name suggests, they are often a bit confused.
As one blog respondent explained it, there are people in the low bronze league who actually encounter nothing but worker rushes. At first, I noticed I would routinely match up against the same person twice, even three times in a row. Often, to my delight and their chagrin, I would successfully defeat them multiple times with the same rush. But as time passed, that phenomenon waned. My estimation is that if I started leaving games to lower my MMR, I would once again enter this domain of failure populated by only worker rushers and their victims.
Instead, trying to be as honest as a worker rushing portrait farmer can be, I've reached the point where there are so few of my kind that my opponents react with astonishment upon seeing me. It seems that you can either win a worker rush because your opponent is completely horrible, or because they are mostly horrible and simultaneously taken aback by sight of workers in their base.
Hey man, don't shoot the messenger. Or attack move his workers.
Because worker rushers rarely stray from the darkest recesses of bronze, when one shows his face in the light of silver, his opponents are bewildered and thrown off their guard, more confused than angry. How could this happen to them? They aren't one of those people, those noobs in the bronze league that everyone makes fun of, having to deal with worker rushes. They're silver! Honestly, that just doesn't happen in the silver league. They're better than that, aren't they? Surely! This is beneath them.
"Hmph. Your rush is dreadfully vulgar. My property value is lowered just hovering near you."
Often, they become a sort of high-class terrorist, indignantly refusing to accept their fate. This was not supposed to happen to them when they hit the "Find Match" button, and they're going to make their disdain known as only the upper crust can, snobbishly.
"Get to work you filthy fucking prole."
Ultimately, though, their heads are as easily severed as any pleb's, and they are defeated just as the kind they so desperately struggle not to be. Their ratings rise as they improve their other, non worker rush-related game mechanics, and they eventually make it out of the reach of my lowly bronze grasp. Occasionally, though, after they have a long losing streak we will meet again and I, a humble Cerberus, gatekeeper to the bronze, will defeat them and remind them how truly awful they actually are.
Not all members of the highest tier of bronze are so pretentious. A few brave amateur souls fancy themselves above their station, and have sought to raise their place within the ladder just a few rungs. They are fierce, dedicated, and above all, clueless. They are the tryhards. The wonderful irony behind the plight of the tryhard is that they don't have to try hard at all. The onus to try is mine; I'm the one executing a strategy that should never work. As I said, if I see someone attack moving their workers I immediately concede defeat and leave the game. So, the only way I can even identify my opponent as a tryhard is for them to be both incredibly bad and in possession of an extreme, if misguided, fighting spirit. Tryhards are a rare breed, for most people who truly have the desire to win will simply opt for the quicker route, i.e., figuring out how to beat a worker rush. Most of the people I encounter are, after I become acquainted with their particular brand of crazy, easily categorized. This guy's a rager, this guy's a whiner, this guy's a noob, and so on. Tryhards, on the other hand, are so rare that each one has his own unique flair, and the games they produce are incredibly memorable. I would be remiss, then, if I were not to take this opportunity to give some detailed accounts of a select few of these games.
The first match I would like to share is between myself and BusRider, clearly a fellow proud of his proletarian heritage. Let us see how he handles his own workers.
We spawn on Metalopolis, myself as the blue Terran to the north and he as the red Protoss to the south. As I begin my march toward the nearest spawn location, my opponent shares some kind words.
I think we know where this is going.
I, per usual, say nothing and check the first base. No luck. As I head toward the second base, a seventh SCV, newly trained, joins his friends en route to the Protoss base. BusRider sends out a scouting probe just in time to miss the train of SCVs entering his base. One enters a bit before the others, and he immediately sends a probe to attack it, perhaps fearing some sort of devious proxy barracks that I might plant within sight range of his nexus. That imaginary threat thwarted, however, he seems to miss the six more that trail in through the minerals and begin attacking his other probes. Two lose their shields immediately.
I'm pretty sure I didn't make 108 actions this entire game, let alone in this minute.
My opponent does something resembling an attack move, but it doesn't look quite right, so I stay in the game and we trade a few SCVs and probes. At this point, he has five probes, six including the one lucky enough to be sent out on a scouting mission, whereas I have only four SCVs, two of them heavily damaged. It looks like he's going to win, so I almost decide to leave the game when, for no apparent reason, my opponent decides to run away. I give chase and we reengage in the open field. After a bit of micromanagement, I am left with two nearly dead SCVs to one full health probe. Unfortunately for my opponent, he seemed to have forgotten he had a probe at all, and he lets it sit there while my pair of SCVs kill it without resistance.
So, satisfied with yet another victory, I take my two hero SCVs, nearly defeated and in critical condition, and begin the process of whittling down the nexus. For a moment, all is quiet, and then BusRider decides to reveal his tryhard nature to me.
We shall see who has the last laugh out loud.
Immediately I know what's to come. Though I haven't seen it, I know he must have a scout probe hidden somewhere. I check my workers' condition: 10 and 25 HP. I sigh, knowing that if he attacks the weak SCV he should be able to kill it, retreat, and regenerate his shields before going to work on the other one. The replay reveals he has his probe queued up to attack the weak SCV and things are looking quite grim. There isn't much I can do, but just to give myself the greatest possible chance of victory, I position my two workers next to a mineral patch. As soon as I see his probe come into my field of vision, I spam a few clicks on the minerals and then attack move the ground behind them. My SCVs immediately lash out against the invading probe. In a panic, my opponent lets his probe's orders fall off and instead of focusing the nearly dead SCV, he attack moves. Unfortunately for him, the AI chooses to attack the SCV with 25 health. With twice as much firepower, my workers manage to destroy his lone probe handily. My opponent is first confused…
I love it when a plan falls apart.
…and then furious.
Well, they do say that it's good to let it all out. I'm not quite sure what it is, though.
This next game I was pitted against a tryhard who tried so hard that I was forced to reciprocate. I have never had a worker rush that went this long and required me to exert this much effort. This game was the most incredible display I have yet witnessed in my roughly one thousand worker rushes. This mindblowing gem from the bronze league lasted an astounding 12 minutes and I produced only one worker. I think I displayed more APM in this single game than I have over the previous 100 combined. I have been including replay packs with each blog post not with the idea that anyone would actually watch them, but merely as proof that this shit is actually happening. In this case, however, you might actually want to take a look, because I don't know if even the best writers of the modern English language could fully capture how ludicrous this game was.
I meet my opponent, KnockedOut, on the Shattered Temple. We spawn in lateral cross positions, myself to the east as the blue Zerg and he to the west as the red Protoss. KnockedOut wishes me "glgl" and things began normally as I send my initial drones to check the close air spawn, followed by the far spawn. My drones run past his scouting probe, his first pylon, and then finally into his base as he, like the kid who has taken a karate class but has no idea how to actually fight, positions his probes in a ridiculous combat stance.
The fetal position is not an effective countermeasure to a worker rush.
He immediately loses a probe due to his bizarre posturing. Realizing his error, he attempts to pull back and take up the fight in more open ground. Because workers move at the same speed, a player can retreat at any time. So, in my games where my enemies do not simply roll over and die, I have come up with a technique to entice them to stay: I use a weak worker as sacrificial bait. If a bronzie spies a worker he can kill, he will often be more inclined to engage in a fight, even if it means charging headlong into awkward angles and causing him to lose three times as many probes as he manages to kill. This method works well on KnockedOut. I end up trading one drone for five probes, making the worker count six to five.
However, something dawns on my opponent—he has 100 minerals left in his coffers. Like most bronze leaguers, he has forgotten to macro during the battle.
I think this just about sums it up.
So, he queues up another couple of probes and once again the situation is looking quite grim for my prospects of winning. He refuses to fight while the other two probes come out. Often, when my bronze opponents manage to acquire enough minerals to produce a probe, they forget to change the rally point, so the worker pops out and immediately gets swarmed and killed. I would have no such luck this time. When his probes are complete, KnockedOut gathers his forces away from his nexus. Rather than give pointless chase, I decide to use another tactic to force my bronze opponent to fight me: I start nibbling his nexus to pieces, hoping to draw him back home and put an end to this. KnockedOut proves to be a craftier sort, though. He does something that I have never seen any other player attempt. His own mineral line suffering a drone infestation, he starts long distance mining.
Now generally, I worker rush while watching a progamer's stream. So at this point in the game, I'm listening to CatZ dulcetly sing along to a Spanish love ballad while probably planting a hatch in some Protoss's base. The first time I see probes return with minerals, I have not been paying enough attention to my own game and think it's just some antebellum remnants that he's just now decided to deposit at his nexus. As he franticly attempts to return the resources, I manage to surround a probe and kill it. Thinking he would leave again and distracted by the canción filtering through my headphones my attention drifts and he returns to quickly assassinate a drone. I mange to kill one of his in kind, though, and as the next one is about to die we engage in yet another high stakes game of tag.
Duck, duck, you're losing to a worker rush.
Finally, we both give up on the strenuous chase and fight again in the open. This engagement ends in a draw, as we lose two workers each, leaving us both with three. He returns to long distance mine and I go back to my nexus-nibbling. When he returns again, minerals in hand, the existence of his covert mining operation finally dawns on me, but with only three drones I can do little more to stop it than peck at his shields and hope he fucks something up. He successfully deposits his minerals to the nexus, now at half health, which brings him to 45 minerals. Things were looking even worse. I had only two things going for me: months of worker rushing experience, and the slight hull damage I had manage to do to some of his probes. His next trip brings him to 60 minerals, and he trains another probe. After it pops out, he is now again in the probe lead, four to three. But instead of finally ending this marathon of stupid, he decides to run his three workers around in circles while the newly trained fourth stands idle and does nothing. Finally, he manages to completely screw up and gets a probe stuck behind his pylon, which he had no business being behind anyway.
Maybe this is what they mean by "ineffective" APM.
We are now three to two. I micro my weakened drone around in frenzied circles. Annoyed by such work, I give up that tactic and instead attempt once again to use him as bait, but I end up losing the drone while the probe I intended to gank sneaks away with just one hit point. We are now even once again. I decide the best thing to do is to finally finish this damnable nexus while he goes back to gather some more minerals from his natural. He returns and realizes he won't be able to produce any more probes before his home explodes, so he attacks one of the drones gnawing on his base. He gets it to half health before the nexus falls, and then I severely fuck up. Rather than take a moment to regenerate health, I immediately counterattack and finish the probe whose hull has only one health left. However, this leaves me susceptible to losing my already weakened drone, which is precisely what happens.
I blame lag.
I know immediately the folly of my decision, but there is nothing I can do to stop what happens. In that split second I feel like time skips a beat, giving me just enough time to lament, why? Why, after a thousand worker rushes, would I fuck up something so elementary, so ordinary? How stupid could I be? I give the order to run, but the drone dies regardless. We are now tied, one worker apiece.
There is nothing but a pylon left for him, so naturally I attempt to start working on killing it. However, he constantly hounds my drone with his probe, each time pulling back before taking hull damage. The shields of the pylon regenerate too fast, and this tactic proves untenable, so I decide to withdraw back to my base. I should mention now that I am fighting not only his probe, but an invisible enemy: the draw timer. While a normal player might never encounter this mechanism, as a worker rusher I have seen it many times. After going a certain amount of time without producing or destroying a building, producing a unit or an upgrade, or harvesting gas or minerals, the game declares that in three minutes, should none of those occur, the match will be declared a draw. As you might imagine, I am often in situations where these things happen, or don't happen, as it were. Normally, I would just mine a mineral and reset the timer. In this case, however, I can't do that without risking drone death.
Upon arriving at my base, I find the probe still chasing me, as it obviously has nothing better to do. Then, I make yet another critical error. As CatZ continues to hum the tune of a Lonely Island song dully into my ears, my addled brain is telling me that a drone will beat a probe in a stand up fight, which is true, if you both attack move and watch. The done should regenerate enough health to narrowly win. However, my drone is still at half health from his unsuccessful stint as a pylon demolitionist. Dumbly, I decide to attack his probe anyway. Of course, KnockedOut, having absolutely nothing else to spend his APM on, simply micros it away when the shields wane. Now I have left myself in a terrible position. I have an eight health drone and a ticking clock. His shields are going to regenerate much faster than my health will, and he can just chase my drone forever or until the clock times out.
I make the judgment that I have only one chance to prevent a tie—I need to reset the fight. I need to run around until my drone returns to full health. Then, maybe I can make something happen. With the timer winding down, I plot out a wide course of circles for my drone to run as it regenerates. As KnockedOut simply watches as his probe gives chase, he says the thing I hate more than anything else.
Oh, it's on now, motherfucker.
An offensive GG. My resolve is now steeled. I will win this game. Furious, my APM shoots into the 200s as I micro in circles around one of the ornamental statues in the middle of the map. Finally, my drone reaches full health and I return him to my base. I position him adjacent to a mineral patch, drain my opponent's probe's shields, and right as he retreats to regenerate, I stealthily mine a few loads of minerals. The draw timer is reset with just 30 game seconds left. I breathe a sigh of relief.
When the probe reaches maximum shield capacity, he returns to harass my drone, but I rally him around the hatchery until he has once again regained his full amount of hit points. Healthy again, I drive off the probe and mine another load of minerals. Finally, after a couple such happenings, KnockedOut realizes the futility of this dance, and admits defeat. This time, unironically. I immediately and literally laugh out loud, the only possible reaction to such a silly game. I shake my head in happy disbelief and grin, for a new hero has emerged. I call him the "Stallone Drone."
The presence of the tryhards is at times vexing, but it adds another element to what would otherwise be a repetitive and humdrum activity. I can't help but wonder how the two skillsets of fierce competitiveness and utter cluelessness have collided to create these individuals, but I must admit they are amusing.
I was going to end this by saying that I'm running a bit dry on ideas, but the ladder always has something new in store. I do need to spend less time writing and more time worker rushing, though. Hopefully, when I return, my SCVs will have pandas painted on them.
Part 5: http://www.teamliquid.net/blogs/viewblog.php?id=286351