In this blog I will write a little something about the process I went through getting up to par in skill level after my 3 year long break between 2005 and 2008.
Before I quit in 2005, I was probably one of the better foreigners, untill I tried out Lineage 2 and got completly addicted to it and pretty abruptly completely quit Starcraft. Also fuelled by the lack of tournaments at the time.
However, after 3 years of playing that game way too much, I got bored of that as well. And I was looking for another passion I could sink my heart in to. Early 2008, I occasionally loaded up Starcraft again to play with some old buddies like Artosis, Skew, and nyoken.
When I quit, the 'H' trick was completly unknown, and my friends mainly being terran, and zvt being almost all I played, this was a huge deal. I was shocked by how much the game had changed and how much the muta control had influenced the Zerg vs Terran matchup. Surprisingly enough, the first few weeks of coming back, were much easier than some of the months prior.
I came back and showed pretty good results vs the terrans I played with, using the old 3 hatch muta/lurker into hive / nydus swarm camp the 3rd base strategy. My muta were bad, but my macro was still there from the old days, and vs the american terrans in early 2008, that was enough to rely on. These guys were also friends with Machine and Lzgamer, so I started playing a lot of TvZ again as well. My results were mediocre, I won more than I lost but I was just sort of 'freestyling', using my macro mechanics that were still there to carry me through the games.
That was the point I was at when I met 'CleaR' aka iG.Clear, a Korean who loved playing with foreigners and was practising hard to pass courage at the time ( and certainly had the skills, but got unlucky and eventually gave up on the dream ). This guy would 3-0 me time and time again and try to pass on crucial timing knowledge that all the koreans knew, but that foreigners were for the most part completly oblivious to. He taught me that the 1 minute window after your 11 mutas hatch, is almost the most important time in ZvT because you have to use this time to the max by pumping drones to send your 3rd gas base so that it's fully saturated. If I could only keep terran busy with mutas while getting a lot of drones on my 3rd, I would be setup great for the midgame. So now instead of fucking around and just macro'ing around a bit, I actually had a clear gameplan vs 1 rax fe terran: Make an initial 12 lings to keep terran honest, wait for your 11 mutas, and keep him busy while getting a huge economy and lurkers. While I played more, my mutas got better and I succeeded more & more at getting setup great for the mid game, and was starting to win my games vs terran a lot more easier than before.
He also taught me another crucial fact that at the time, and even now, many zergs mess up: You can't go ultralisk off 3 gas. Maps like python were popular, and clear taught me that after you succesfully defended and droned up your 3rd, your next goal was to fend off a tank/vessel push untill you had defilers. You were then to use your defilers to secure a 4th gas ( Usually the natural of one of the main bases that you took on Python, where u could nydus down defilers and lurkers to the front, and just swarm camped while keeping scourge up to snipe any dropships or vessels that wanted to fuck with your plan. Once this was achieved, pumping ultras off 4 gas usually ended any game with relative ease. This has become the red line through all the ZvT's I have played with 3 hatch. Getting to 4 gasses and trying to finish the games with Ultras. Later I added in important subtitlity's like always getting plague and 250 energy, and using muta + plague to deal with vessels, reserving 1 defiler / 4 lurkers / group of lings for sneak attacks on a terran base while they are attacking you, etc. But the main pattern to follow in ZvT was set for me. I owe a lot to iG.Clear for teaching me so much and playing with me a lot.
For TvZ, I actually learned a lot from him too. While he was teaching me ZvT, he at the same time taught me exactly what was important for the Terran. I'll line it out for you:
You 1 rax FE. Follow up with M&M & F and try to make zerg throw down sunks, and make him cancel his 3rd if possible. After that, you defend mutas, and try to hit zergs 3rd or nat with m&m just before lurkers if you 4 raxed. IF you 3 raxed, you follow up with a tank/vessel push that you want to hit zerg with just before defilers finish. After that you mix in mines / 2 port and try to use vessels to irridiate key defilers and try to prevent zerg from taking a 4th. While also using double dropship tactics to mess up the zerg main, taking out key buildings such as a spire or a defiler mound to give you a window of oppurtunity to kill the zerg 4th base. If you can keep zerg on 3 gas, you can't really lose the game as Terran.
As you can see, playing a matchup both ways, can really help you understand exactly what is important for both sides and making playing them so much easier to do.
Both matchups now had a clear path set for me to follow; and I did. I learned that Terran was more and more a race. A race to get to the ammount of units that the Zerg simply could not defend. I started playing games with only one goal in mind:
'Have as many units as possible within the physics of Starcraft:Broodwar. If you can do this, there is almost no way the zerg can muster enough of an army to stop you before defilers, unless they micro/macro'ed perfectly.'
I was making sure I constantly made scv's. I would prioritize scvs above ANYTHING, just so I could explode in midgame with my exponential economy growth. This would result in many losses to ling allins, but my midgame army size was staggering. Zergs were telling me constantly that there was just no way for them to stop what I threw at them before defiler. The only goal in every TvZ I played was to just be overwhelmingly much bigger than any other terran by the 10 minute mark. Just following this simple concept, and with practise, and getting smarter about how to use my units & when. I started sweeping zergs with ease. Early in 2008, during TSL, I wasn't losing to almost any Foreign zerg player ever, and it was by far my best matchup. Just because I was 'racing' to as many units as possible. Every zerg went hive just fast enough for them not being able to defend the timing attack, but too slow to have defilers ready in time. A great guideline to follow. I was also inspired by a Sea rep, in which he basically let the zerg do whatever he wanted, but expo'ed macro'ed his ass off and just put all his units in the middle. And he always had exactly the right units that he needed to stop the zerg just by macro'ing perfectly, adding a 2nd port, and mines in time. I learned that 'as long as you macro like a beast, there is nothing zerg can get that u need to be afraid of. If you don't mess up, you'll have plenty of vessels when hes got defilers, and way more m&m than nessecary.'
At this point, my ZvT was above average ( actually not great, because I never really got to perfect my zerg unit control and still sometimes failed vs 4 rax builds to slow the m&ms down enough and prevent them from killing my 3rd), and my TvZ was very good for foreign Terran standards. I had the feeling most of them, except for the very top, were just still messing around, sort of copying koreans but not truely understanding.Thanks to these 2 matchups I qualified for TSL rather easily after a 3 year hiatus.
At the same time, I almost never played vs protoss, and had noone to talk to about that matchup. I was completly clueless, and whenever I played protoss I basically just did what every other brainless zerg did at the time, 4 hatch lurker ling, try to expo and let my macro carry the game. But this resulted in far more losses than wins vs good players, and in the 'Media' group there was no protoss to really play with, so I had no way to improve. Also it didn't bother me so much because I didn't lose a lot. But that's where I made a mistake. The only reason I didn't lose a lot is only because I almost never played a protoss!
And I was so obsessed with the beautifull mechanics of the ZvT/TvZ matchup that I just completly ignored it.
Then the TSL top16 hit me, and nony steamrolled me. Loooking back on those games, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing, other than just 'hang in there, try to survive, you will have hive soon and maybe u can do something with those amazing cracklings and ultras!!!'.
Sadly that didn't fly and I got kicked out of the tournament harshly.
After TSL, I decided I wanted to learn ZvP. But in reality, it was very difficult. I still had no protoss practise partners and still didn't have a clue about the matchup. Eventually it left me so frustated that I ended up quitting again from May till December of 2008. (wcg was during that time).
Then, while being bored of my short-lived poker adventure, on a rainy monday december evening, I watched the SKT1 vs Oz encounter where Jaedong wiped the floor with Fantasy and Bisu with such an impressive performance that it gave me chills. And the starcraft feeling took over again.
While I was watching the Bisu vs Jaedong encounter on destination over and over again, it hit me.
HOW DO YOU WIN Z V P ?!
Muta switches! You make mutas to kill all the templars and your hydras will rain hell on those helpless protoss units!
I started playing again, truely enjoying my newfound zvp 'strategies', that being the 3 hatch spire into 5 hatch hydra build, happily throwing muta switches, delayed mutas, and just pure hydra lurk in the mix. I felt so good about this matchup now, because I could just scout the protoss unit composition and knew exactly how I could counter it.
My TvZ was still good for foreigners levels, and my ZvT was ok but I stopped caring much for those matchups. My focus was mainly on ZvP. I had many ups and downs, but I always felt like I was learning and loved Starcraft again.
Since January of 2009, I was playing non stop again and my progress and wider understanding of my 3 matchups were showing in my results. I started winning clanwars for ToT every weekend, climbing the gosugamer rankings. I kept practising, not being frustated by not understanding why I just got raped, instead analysing and improving, trying to fix my flaws.
Right now, I feel like my ZvP is easily my best matchup. And I owe it all to the Bisu vs Jaedong game on destination. I feel like there is nothing protoss can do that I can't counter.
I thank you:
LEE JAE DONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Of course, I still have many flaws. And I lack the amazing unit control that the progamers, or even b-teamers have. However the feeling of actually knowing why you lost, when you lose a game is great. It's much easier to deal with than just being left completly puzzled (which still happens occasionally when I play pros). But I truely enjoy playing Starcraft. And eventually this led to a dreamhack win, a nice trip to sweden, a trip to germany to attend the DBBW lan. And many great games played in Starcraft. May it last for a long time to come! And also in SC2, if we must.
p.s: Sorry for unintentional bragging in this blog.
p.p.s : I advise anyone to watch Jaedong vs Iris with subtitles on Python, korean commentators have awesome game knowledge.
p.p.p.s: There are many very important nuances that I left out for each matchup, but this is all I could come up with after 24 hours of no sleep and being bored, not wanting to get dragged into writing a super detailed strategy guide