The graph above shows the balance between Terran and Zerg starting from the dynasty of Bonjwa Ma Jae Yoon (sAviOr) to today. At first glance, one can conclude that the two races simply had their transient moments of dominance, hacking away at each other to and fro. However, if you think of the era, the players representing that era, and the strategies representing that era, you can put meaning to every detail in this graph. writing is based on analyzing this graph and recovering the trends in strategies in TvZ and ZvT.
(* Note: The graph shows TvZ winrate. That is, the higher the graph, the better the Terrans are doing.)
1. August 2006 to November 2006 - 3-hatch muta to 4 gas
Shinhan Starleague Season 2 - Lee Yun Yeol (NaDa) win
Pringles MSL Season 2 - Ma Jae Yoon win
This is the era in which the so-called 3-hatch - muta control - defiler, the Zerg's three-legged strategy, is perfected. There is the incident of Zergs winning 10:0 on Arcadia vs. Terran.
During this era, Zergs follow Ma Jae Yoon's 3-hatch muta into 4 gas build. Terrans have a lot of trouble fighting against the mutalisks and lurkers of a 4 gas Zerg and eventually die to defilers [note: yes, he means that the 4 gas was complete before Hive]. However, Lee Jae Ho (Light) successfully secures a win against Zerg on Arcadia and the Terrans start fighting back.
2. December 2006 to March 2007 - Longinus and Reverse Temple, the 1rax cc
Shinhan Starleague Season 3 - Ma Jae Yoon win
GomTV MSL - Kim Taek Yong win
Zergs struggle through the Longinus + Reverse Temple combo. The Terrans nonchalantly block their entrance and go 1rax cc, sometimes even without a single marine. During this time, Terrans achieve 71:57 (55.47%) against Zerg and Ma Jae Yoon records 14: 9 (60.87%).
The Terran trend during this era is a 1rax cc fitted to the favorable maps. The Terrans' fast expo allow them to gather marines and medics that much faster, and the mutalisk's ability to stall time decreased accordingly. Due to this stall control, Ma Jae Yoon's 3-hatch into 4 gas build is destroyed. As a result, Ma Jae Yoon changes course from a 4 gas Lair to a 3 gas Hive and gives up the Lair timing macro war. This build works surprisingly well, and this build becomes the norm in ZvT for a while to come.
3. April 2007 to August 2007 - The rolling of the Ball
Daum Starleague - Kim Jun Yeong (GGPlay) win
GomTV MSL s2 - Kim Taek Yong (Bisu) win
Shinhan Proleague 2007 - Samsung Khan Win
(The upward bulge to the left of the graph includes the wins and losses during the Longinus and Reverse Temple era.)
Zergs utilize Ma Jae Yoon's 3 gas to Hive build more and more effectively. The Zergs gain a foothold in the strategic war against the Terrans. In particular, Kim Jun Yeong, who perfects the strategy of using 3 gas to Hive, stalling with a few Zerglings and Defilers and amassing Ultralisks, wins the Daum Starleague and leads the so-called Ma Jun Dong era.
The wind changes direction at the end of June. On June 24, 2007, Lee Sung Eun (firebathero) defeats Ma Jae Yoon in the GomTV MSL s2 RO8 in a BO5. 3 gas provides the bare minimum gas requirement for Zergs to tech to Hive effectively. Lee Sung Eun showcases a strategy of fighting skirmishes with the Zerg for map control while keeping his units alive, slowly eating away at the Zerg's gas. In this way, he makes it difficult for the Zerg to get 4 gas.
By the time Kim Jun Yeong wins a Starleague in July 2007, the Terrans had already caught up and their win rate is rather high. Kim Jun Yeong's win signifies the last gasp of the 3 gas to Hive build.
September 2007 to February 2008 - Crazy Zerg, 2-hatch muta
GomTV MSL s3 - Park Sung Gyun (Mind) win
EVER Starleague 2007 - Lee Jaedong (Jaedong) win
GomTV MSL s4 - Lee Jae Dong win
Bacchus Starleague - Lee Young Ho (Flash) win
Considering all past Zerg trends, perhaps the biggest force and impact is made by the Crazy Zerg build. Looking back since 1999, arguably no other build has ever decreased the TvZ win rate so much as the Crazy Zerg. In particular, Blue Storm, practically built for muta harass, helps a lot.
Crazy Zerg is developed as a counter to the Terran Ball after the advent of 3 gas Hive. Instead of putting gas into Lurkers, Zergs only hatch mutas and zerglings and survive the Lair phase into an explosion of Ultralisks. Because of mutas and lings, Terrans have a hard time moving out before Vessels. By the time they gather enough of a force, their marines and medics face Ultralisks sitting in their nat. And then, the 2-hatch muta, the so-called 6:30 build, is introduced. Led by Park Myung Soo and Park Chan Soo, the resurrected 2-hatch muta build is especially effective on Blue Storm, and even Terrans expecting 2-hatch muta are obliterated by strong muta control and sometimes even mutas alone are enough to finish off the Terran.
Terrans respond with the so-called 7-rax build to counter Crazy Zerg. The idea is to increase the barracks count suddenly to achieve a timing push during the Zerg's Lair phase when all they have are mutas and lings. Without Lurkers, Zergs find it impossible to push back an ungodly mass of marines and medics, and eventually, Crazy Zerg dies out.
The greatly effective 2-hatch muta build, the so-called 6:30 build, does not make it out of Blue Storm.
5. April 2008 to October 2008 - Zerg's Dark Ages, the Resurrection of 2-hatch muta
EVER 08 Starleague - Park Sung Jun (JulyZerg) win
Incruit Starleague - Song Byung Gu (Stork) win
Arena MSL - Park Ji Soo (forGG) win
Clubday MSL - Kim Taek Yong win
2008 Shinhan Proleague - Hwaseung win
Besides the fact that the Zergs are in despair, not much can be said during this time. There are only 86 TvZ's. One only needs to compare the ZvT stats, 33-53 (38.37%), to the Longi&ReTem era stats of 44% to realize just how bad it is. In particular, Othello 16: 9 (64%) and Tiamat 5:0 (100%) are quite revealing.
The commonality in both these maps is the existence of a close-by 3rd gas expo. This feature is epitomized in Othello, where you can take a 3rd right after your nat. This 3rd allows Terrans to quickly expo as well as reduce the route towards the Zerg. As soon as the Terrans take the third, the distances become shorter, and the Zerg race that relies heavily on mobility faces great pressure. Other maps that share this feature are Colosseum, Wuthering Heights, and Andromeda.
The popular Terran build at the time is very effective. For the first half of 2007 and even 2009 today, the 1rax cc and 3-hatch muta are so-called textbook builds that did not change very much. The 2008 first half in between these times is no different. The 1rax cc against the 3-hatch muta followed by the Ball is the Terran's reliable build. From there, variants such as a fast engineering bay into fast upgraded marines makes it even harder for Zergs. Added to the destruction of the Crazy Zerg strategy that was popular for the latter half of 2007, the frustration keeps growing.
The first effective response led by Jaedong is the Lurker-first opening. At the time, Zergs found it hard to deal with Terran's fast third. Flipping this logic around, using Lurkers to quickly take a third for Zerg is Lee Jaedong's Lurker-first strategy.
This sort of strategy is not new. It was seen in Lee Jaedong vs. Lee Young Ho, on Loki 2, GomTV MSL s4 RO8. Considered by many to be an epic game, Jaedong chooses lurker-first. Because Loki 2 had easy-to-take 3rds at the center-left and center-right, lurkers could be used to defend this location quickly and secure future gas expos.
But just as this strategy failed in this game, Jaedong's efforts end in vain. He is able to secure a few wins, but because the third is so exposed, it is difficult to defend with a small number of lurkers. In particular, once the Zerg and Terran both take their close 3rds, the rush distance becomes that much closer, forcing Zergs to defend the Terran's hanbang right in front of the Terran's base.
As Zergs continue to struggle, August 10, 2008 draws near.
Though not counted by KeSPA, an extremely important game is played on that day. It is the TG-Sambo Intel Classic Season 1 finals between Jaedong and Flash. In this series, Jaedong beats Flash 3:0. Considering the turmoil that Zergs have been going through, this result is remarkable, all the more because the first match is played on Othello's 16: 9 TvZ.
Jaedong's 3:0 hinges on the 2-hatch muta. The 2-hatch muta during this era is a response to 1rax cc. A major weakness that plagued the 2-hatch muta ever since its inception was its absence of an early game army. One could only defend with speedlings, but marines and medics are hard to defend against without sunkens.
With an early cc, Terrans are forced to delay the academy and extra barracks, delaying their marine and medic timing. As a result, the 2-hatch muta becomes macro-intensive much sooner than before. Consequently, a Terran going 1rax cc has to endure a long period of muta harass before Vessels kick in.
In the past, maps such as Blue Storm that allowed easy SCV kills attracted the 2-hatch muta build. Nowadays, the 2-hatch muta build is a textbook build for many maps. In particular, since October, maps such as Medusa, Destination, Chupungryeong, Harmony, etc. come with easy-to-muta-harass ledges and feature gas expos not near the center of the map but off to the side. These factors help the Zergs strike back.
Batoo Starleague - Lee Jaedong win
Lost Saga MSL - Park Chan Soo win
Winners League 08-09 Proleague 4th Round
In this way, the TvZ win rate slowly decreases. August is a turning point, at 5:5, and the trend continues to close to 40%.
This trend starts disappearing from October 17 until suddenly, in December, Terrans start winning like crazy. It is the rediscovery of the mechanic build. October 17 marks the date of Fantasy vs. GGPlay, Incruit Starleague RO4. Here, the so-called Val-iath, or iloveoov-style mechanic strategy, comes about, a combination of valkyries and traditional mech units rediscovered by Fantasy.
This trend is realized but stopped fairly soon. However, late November, Shin Hee Seung (Upmagic) introduces his own style of mech play and achieves a 9-1 record against Zergs. This style becomes the 'New Hope for Terran' and the TvZ win rate skyrockets. The mech play during this era is due a rediscovery of vulture spider mines and valkyries. Range-upgraded goliaths and valkyries efficiently shut down the mutalisk card while endless harass using cheap vultures throughout the game cooks the ire of Zerg and also observing Protoss players.
This mech era meets its end in the February of 2009, but no strategic trend has had as much of a major impact on the match up as Crazy Zerg and this mechanic play.
Nonetheless, this mechanic play is slowly evolving into Vionic (Valkyrie + Bionic) play. Recently, all maps come out favorable to muta harass. In such maps, 1rax cc openings get eaten alive by 2-hatch muta. In particular, during the Winners League finals, Jaedong vs. Iris, the fast mutas on Sin Chupungryeong indicate just how weak 1rax cc has gotten.
Due to that reason, the current trend is to annul the early muta threat using Valkyries and build up a marine medic army afterwards. In particular, with the power of Valkyries, the 2fact build that disappeared after the discovery of clumped muta control is resurging, and the Terrans are starting to strike back.
But still, the 2-hatch build is viable and TvZ seems to be at a 5:5 standstill for now.
I think a lot of edits can still be made to this article. I appreciate your helpful feedback.
- By Kim Yeon Woo (elcarim)
1) I found it unclear what the author meant by 3 gas Hive during Ma Jae Yoon's era that ended with Kim Jun Yeong's Starleague win, because the 3 gas muta to Hive build is still being used today. It might be either a 3 gas Hive rush, which Ma Jae Yoon was fond of doing, or simply the same build as today used on less favorable maps (Longi+ReTem era).
2) Some people mentioned Queens. The vibe I was getting from the author was that he only included skeletal, essential builds that greatly influenced the game. For example, 2 hatch muta is worlds apart from 3 hatch muta. Games Jaedong won against Flash during the GomTV finals might NOT have been possible without 2 hatch muta. However, it is arguable that games won with Queens could have been won without them, in the form of an extra Lurker or two. Also, Queens were not responsible for the surge in ZvT wins during that era (early 2009) -- it was the 2-hatch muta variations that countered mech and bionic builds alike. I believe the author wanted to point out that 2-hatch was the emergent trend.