I remember looking up to some of the top players never thinking I'd be that good. But now I'm already competing with some of the top players, I don't know how to feel. That's not really saying much though, and when I say top players, I mean foreigners, which there isn't much of a scene for anyway, but it's something. There's really no secret to getting better. Sometimes, and I'm pretty sure regardless of rank, ever player has had the experience of someone saying you're so pro. There's nothing to being good though. I think my biggest mentality change was always having confidence in my ability, knowing that my opponent is human too and there are certain weaknesses that his race is bound by. Losing still feels bad, but when I lose, even in the most horrible way possible, I always feel like my opponent is in reach. I can see what mistakes I made and take the loss with a straight face, feeling better prepared for the next game. I still know though that even when I feel like there's always places to improve, there are going to be opponents who I will never or very few times take games off of.
I remember an anecdote Day9 was telling, maybe during one of his BW dailies that there are some people that he can never win against, listing off some top foreigners of the time. I was kind of shocked, because here I was listening to the guy who taught me pretty much everything about StarCraft strategy. He can analyze with such depth pro level games and he has a systematic, logical way of approaching problems, solving them, and improving. The man with seemingly all the answers, with excellent knowledge of the game, 300 apm, and who competed at the top, couldn't touch certain players. Albeit he wasn't at his peak form at the time, that's probably the hardest part of playing this game, or life in general, that even at your best there are some obstacles that can't be overcome. They have to merely be accepted and moved on from. I'd love to be as good as Flash or Jaedong, but even then I know I don't have the same raw intuition, unreal execution, commitment, love for the game, seriousness, and indescribable game sense the best pro players have.
The only competition so far I've had is the Nation League run by iCCup and the one-day tournaments run by tournament admins occasionally. I'm in team America, a combination of all countries in the Americas (North, Central, and South). Previously in season 1 I was in team Canada, which was really a combination of US and CA players but there weren't enough US players to form a team.
Season 1 was pretty bad as far as performance, probably one of the most depressing experiences of my life. I remember we won the first week of the league against Chile. I had to play the ace to my dismay. The ace who was also the captain of their team was pretty bm. I joked to Dragon, our captain and best player that I'm not like Vegeta from the show Dragon Ball Z who channelled his anger into raw power.
The match was a bo1 and the map was circuit breaker. The good part of circuit breaker is that there's an in base mineral only expansion which favors Zerg slightly as they can make use of their 3rd hatch which is usually just for macro. I decided to go for 3 hatch lurker, a slight anomaly for me, but I felt confident in going for a pure macro/heavy lair style instead of the quick hive and defiler usually seen. I think I'd already played my TLS Championship ro32 match versus Koget on that map, which, spoiler alert, I lost. I remembered how fast my minerals went up and I realized it was because of the quick 3rd base, but I felt reluctant and weirded out by the strange flux of income, so I hesitated to put down hatcheries. This time around though, I learned to put down the hatcheries quickly knowing my income would get much higher than usual. The game ended in a base trade when I saw my opponent's army had gone undetected going across the map which is bad of me. I happened to have my army near his base though so I just went for it. While his production was sacked i slowly picked away with my zerglings and lurkers his whole army which by some miracle whittled down to nothing.
The first week presented a beacon of hope for the future of team Canada, but like how life usually goes things don't go according to plan. The team lost the next week, which afterwards we humorously dubbed ourselves "onedefeated" as opposed to undefeated the week before. Again we lost the week after that before I stopped going. We'd lose usually 1 to 4, the only victory mustered by Dragon, our ace. I felt pretty bad failing the team like that, but I've learned not to take losses too hard considering that the league is a team effort and is mostly for fun anyway. We got some better players on the team, but despite their best efforts the downward trend continued. I did stick around for the last two weeks though which the team won. It wasn't significant at the time because we woudn't have been able to make playoffs even if we won the two remaining matches, but it was the principle of saving face that kept us going.
Season 2 started off fresh against team Russia-A, the second Russian Team which was created because presumably there were too many Russians to put on one team. I felt unusual that day because I had been playing StarCraft like clockwork. The split, the build, the micro, and the macro all felt automatic. I wasn't getting nervous or having shaky hands. Playing almost felt like I wasn't consciously there, instead I was looking at myself play. I played against fr.werdi, a protoss, where in game 1 I opened 3 hatch hydra into a dizzying overlord drop play which is really good on the map we were playing on, Mist. After the game was done I realized my arms were sweating and were really cold from where the sweat was sliding along my skin.
The second game I outmicroed him from the early onset of the game when he tried going 1 gate fast expand for light aggression, gaining a tremendous lead, but I didn't spend my money properly and had trouble managing my resources. I got over 1700 minerals and even though I felt like I built 17 defilers I hadn't even seen one, so when his army came over all of my naked lings and lurkers got crushed. The third game I picked medusa to play on. I did a simple hydra/lurker build I do on medusa all the time. There are some backdoor stacked buildings, which are like rocks in sc2, which I abused to take the third game. We eventually lost though in a nailbiting series that went down to the ace match.
The second week we played against Poland B, again similar to Russia-A was just a secondary team to the main team. I played against Yeti, not one of the most high level protosses, but I made the classic mistake of underestimating him. I felt pretty tired at the time too. I think the first game i went 4 pool but my opponent was going 1 gateway, then added on a second one. That was a bad build order loss. The second game I picked the same map I did against werdi from week 1, medusa, and won handily. He went forge expand, but it was badly done. In the third game I saw his true colors and realized the decision making in the first two games. He was going for a dragoon reaver push off of one base. When I saw the cyber core I instantly decided to do a speedling rush with a drone drill to break up the zealots at the ramp. However, my gas was timed late, made only after I scouted his cyber core, so the push didn't come out as fast as it should've. Also, I made another classic mistake of going for last second guessing builds instead of sticking with my original plan. I've mentioned in previous blog posts that I've done this mistake lots and lots of times, but I still do it. I blame my sleepiness. My zergling all in did some damage, but eventually i had to drone up. His reaver had already come out and I knew i had to get some hydras to defend. By the time the push came out though I was unprepared. Once he had won the main engagement one sidedly and razed my natural base, I knew it was over. Hanging on with all of my will by a thread, macroing off a single hatchery, the reality had dawned on me that I had failed my team. Luckily my other teammates had pulled through, with a win from the single 2v2 round, and a win from one of of the 1v1 matches. Again like last week, the victor would rise from the ashes of their fallen comrades and bloodied battlefield in the ace match.
Thinking about the last few games, I realized what had happened in my opponent's thinking. He was planning on going for a dragoon reaver push the first game. Upon seeing the 4 pool lings he went 2 gate though. In the second game because there was no ramp, but just a wide open space, he felt nervous and went for forge fast expand. That's why his wall in, general mechanics, and overall timings weren't optimal because he's not used to it. His entire playstyle revolved around a Dragoon reaver 1 base style and he was playing in the ace match vs. Dragon's Zerg. I told the ace, Dragon, that Yeti might go for a dragoon reaver push. Words were not enough though to shield Canada from a devastating 3 to 2 blow as Dragon lost 1 to 2.
The following week wasn't much more eventful as we had to play against team EU, one of the better regarded teams. I played against Octzerg who has a hyper aggressive and unorthodox style of zerg. The problem with playing him was I wasn't sure how to best play against Zerg. I had been split between playing Terran vs. Zerg or Zerg vs. Zerg. The first game I decided to go Zerg, but lost due to making too many lings in defense, which delayed my 2nd gas a lot. Eventually my opponent far outstripped me in Mutas. The funny thing about that game was Octzerg went overgas and I went 12 pool. I was in that exact same situation versus another team member yesterday at the time, but I was the overgas zerg. You can either expand and drone, or commit to more zerglings and mutas if you see the opponent zerg making spores. I decided to do the latter which failed, and I thought octzerg would do the same. Unfortunately he never made any lings, so I overdefended way too much and never waited to see if he was going drones or lings.
The second game I decided in conflicted fashion to go Terran this time. The plan was simple, go for 2 rax. I knew my opponent was going to go for overpool to be safe against any early rax builds because they're so good on the map, Tau Cross, that we were playing on. I made some medics soon after looking to apply pressure. There were a lot of close times octzerg attempted backstabs and caught my army on move command with zerglings. That's how octzerg is tricky like that and makes you nervous, constantly poking and prodding. The initial harass ended up being a failure anyway, as he had too many sunkens. The zerglings had delayed my marine push from defeating him before mutalisks could come out. The only saving grace was he sunk a lot of economy into his zerglings. I defended his initial mutalisk harass, teching to science vessels and siege tanks for a siege push. Once I finally began pushing out a heightened moment of panic occurred. Four lurkers had appeared out of the brush, now burrowing in the face of my army. I mangaged to split at the last second, moments away from losing my army, and the game. With the lurkers dealt with handily I sieged his natural. I built a bunker near my entrance to defend backstabs. Carefully progressing, my siege tanks systematically winning his defensive positions, octzerg was forced to engage again, and this time I had come out the victor. Forging on, with no units to contest my marines as they walked into his main, he gg'd.
The third game was on the map destination which is highly uncomfortable for a bio terran to play on. There are too many narrow bridges to attempt to have tanks siege on that marines can't surround to protect. I decided to go for a 2 rax academy build and mine out some stacked minerals, a second entranceway to the main. The strategy worked well for me in the last season. As I walked up to octzerg's main through this entrance, he was well aware, and had made mutalisks. Unfortunately I couldn't hit him before the mutas were out. He made a sunken colony to zone me out and even went so far as to pull his drones. I pulled my marines a little too late away from the path of the drones mineral walking, but still on attack command I killed a fair number of mutalisks and drones. However, the counterattack I couldn't deal with well. The mutas eventually battered me to death with my horrible base layout and not having turrets in time. Another loss again, and the team had lost 1 to 4.
The next week fared better against the Nordic Team. I played Arcneon, definitely a good player but I've played him on some off days. I had been practicing two really awesome cheeses I had full confidence in.
One was the 2 hatch hydra drop. I came upon this strategy against a guy named MOJO years ago. I had considerable difficulty beating it as Protoss even when I knew it was coming for the 15th time in a row. The hydras are there before any higher tech has kicked in, and you have to somehow defend your entire main base instead of just your natural where you can cannon. Also, the presence of speed hydras makes you think zerg is going 3 hatch hydra so an unfamiliar protoss makes many cannons at their natural. I realized how to recreate the timing when I thought about the 2 hatch lurker drop build. I've known it for a while and thought about how the hydra den is not made so it finishes at the same time as the lair does for the fastest possible lurkers. Instead, the hydra den is placed down the moment the lair finishes. This is because the drop upgrade must be upgraded first, and the hydras are only morphed into Lurkers when they are dropped in the main base of the opponent. That is faster than morphing the hydras into Lurkers and then loading them in overlords to drop in the main base. That is because the time it takes for hydras to be made into Lurkers is quite extensive. This time I made the hydra den when the lair was 90 percent done, researching speed first. It was a genius play and so many of my protoss adversaries had trouble with it.
In game against arcneon though I made some mistakes. Ideally the first corsair that protoss makes should scout my main. However, the path from my main and the stargate the corsairs spawned from had my overlords in the way. I should've moved them, dropping elsewhere. Unfortunately the corsairs also took several hits on the two overlords. Ideally, even if protoss knows of the drop, the overlords should tank enough of the shots to unload fully the 8 hydras. Comically, my opponent did not realize I was dropping even though he saw two overlords so close to the ridge of his main base. He did spot the drop with one corsair though that just spawned, and he killed one overlord which unloaded only 3 hydras. His zealots were there too. My hydras made short work of them and killed off some of his probes. However, DT's were just spawning and finished them off. I upgraded overlord speed in a frenzy, trying to continue the pressure. His two DT's that killed my dropped hydras earlier were making their way to my base. My opponent also made many corsairs, but his control was a bit scatter brained, carelessly losing them to hydras. In one precise moment he striked with his DT's, prefaced by his corsairs suiciding into my overlords in the face of 8 hydras. One DT killed 5 drones at my natural, and another DT, going up my main, which I panicked when I was inches away from blocking it, killed two more drones. Dealt with haphazardly, I sought to counterattack immediately knowing time was running out. When my overlords unloaded their units, my opponent had a paltry force of zealots and DT's, dwarfed by the army I had mustered. I had gained the lead in the series.
The second game on Fighting Spirit I again went 3 hatch hydra, the second cheese build I've been working on. There is a certain frustrating element for protoss, where if they fall too behind, no matter how many cannons they make Zerg will always outpace Protoss with pure hydras. Cannons alone are no good as protoss needs either high templar with storm, speed zealots, or any higher tech. If Protoss is too far behind and is forced to make pure cannon to defend, then Zerg will win. I find the 12 hatch opening to be best for this as I feel zerg is economically slightly ahead of Protoss. Arcneon made a cannon assuming I went overpool, but he could've made a gateway before. After that, he sent zealots out for harass, sending them to different locations: one to my natural, another to the 3rd, and again to my natural, losing them with little gain. His base setup was also bad, as he could make only one row of cannons instead of 2. The starting positions even more favored me because the way his gateway is positioned lets my hydras without range kill off. The forge is easily picked off by my range upgraded hydras, all adding up to my final breakthrough when his cannons paled in the face of my assault.
That was how I won last week's nation league match. Sweetly won, the team pulled through 4 to 1. The week went by quickly and I'm in a good mood I'd say. To close off the blog I'm not really sure what awaits me. I think I put too much of my emotional health into StarCraft, I just need to learn to have fun with it more, after all, everyone else is I feel. There's also the adverse feelings that arise from competition. There's the euphoria of winning, but also the sadness that I know too well, inflicted upon the people you had to defeat inevitably to gain such a hard won feeling. Until next time, I'll update you with my most recent thoughts on the turbulent world of StarCraft.