Photo Credit: ESL
StarDust: Set'em Up, Knock'em Down
StarDust is a fantastic player who can take control of a series in a way others rarely can. His penchant for being a smart aggressive player makes him special. As a veteran of the game, StarDust understands that being one dimensional is a weakness, and being able to play the mental game is just as important as good macro or unit control. While regularly doing aggressive builds and using powerful timings StarDust became known to some as an individual who wins off the back of cheesy play.
The beauty of Stardust's play however is that his all ins are not just meant to win one game, not win one match, but change the way the opponent thinks. They must always be prepared for what may or may not come. With a great understanding of what builds work well on which maps, StarDust will play the mental game. This is his advantage. He will abuse a powerful build if given the chance, he will make his opponent think twice and he will exploit that moment of hesitation. In this article we examine a game he played against Flash where he does exactly this. An all in on game one changes the way Flash plays game two. StarDust takes Flash out of his comfort zone, and he uses this to his advantage.
StarDust will set you up, and then, he will knock you down.
StarDust vs. Flash, Game 2 on Overgrowth
StarDust spawns in the bottom left and Flash in the upper right on Overgrowth. In the previous game of this series, StarDust had opened with an extremely aggressive build: a proxy gateway rush with pulled probes. Flash therefore abandons his normal command center first and opens barracks first, going straight for a reaper to ensure his safety. StarDust, knowing Flash won’t secure an early econ advantage with Command Center first this game, opens with a one gate expansion to deflect the reaper and go into the midgame in a better position than he ordinarily would against Flash.
This was made possible by winning the mental game
StarDust moves into the midgame with a Robotics Facility and a single forge, being aggressive with his first stalker and doing a little damage while keeping Flash busy and concerned. True to his hallmark aggressive style, the second unit out of his robotics facility is a warp prism, relying on his pressure and the one observer to keep him safe, rather than focusing on a defensive play to survive. He adds on colossus and blink quickly, and drops a couple zealots in Flash’s base when Flash moves out to pressure. To buy as much time as possible for his rapid teching, StarDust keeps his warp prism in Flash’s base as long as he can to keep the army off the map. His control is good, and he is able to save the warp prism, flying it to safety.
StarDust deflects a drop in his main, losing only a pylon. StarDust sees Flash’s third being constructed in Flash's main and takes a third of his own (his finishes about the same time Flash's lands). Flash commits to some multi-pronged pressure but it’s deflected and punished slightly: StarDust is able to kill off a few units. Once he confirms that Flash’s posture is going to remain aggressive (the telltale signs being that Flash takes the third to the south of his main rather than to the west of his natural and that his army remains mid-map), he sends the warp prism back up to harass the third and main, and force Flash to pull back.
Flash chooses to ignore this force and commits to a very heavy attack at StarDust’s third. Some very well placed forcefields allows StarDust’s low zealot count army to win the engagement, protecting some of his colossus and doing tremendous damage. Flash commits to the attack rather than retreating, and manages to destroy StarDust’s third base, but loses his entire army for it. StarDust’s killer instinct kicks in, and he goes straight for the kill on Flash’s third base, walking directly across the map without wasting any time. Because Flash decided to ignore the zealot drops at his bases rather than pull back to defend it, his economy is in shambles.
The timing on this warp prism couldn't be more perfect
Stardust, up thirty supply, reach’s Flash’s third base location, but Flash has wisely retreated the Command Center, and loses only his refinery and supply depot there. Not wanting to be flanked and knowing he has time, StarDust moves around the map to attack from the other side while rebuilding his third and adding on archons and storm. StarDust opts not to commit, knowing that with his third up and Flash’s denied, along with his tech advantage, Flash cannot possibly win a longer game, while StarDust might make mistakes in the engagement if it were to occur now.
More warp prism harass keeps Flash’s production line busy as he eventually retakes his third. Flash is however still down 30 supply and just now has ghosts popping out. StarDust pokes, and manages to land some key storms on the vikings. Flash manages to get his ghosts down in the nick of time and lands a huge EMP on all of StarDust’s clumped templar. Despite the EMP, StarDust had banked energy for long enough to still have a few storms left, and manages to land them directly on the army several times. Flash, being down a substantial amount of supply, is forced to tap out.
Predictions for this match are admittedly a little tough to make. StarDust’s PvT as of late in tournament matches has been less than stellar. He’s not entirely alone though, a number of Protoss have been struggling due to the more Terran favoured map pool and general adaptation to Protoss strategies that were once dominant.
StarDust first and foremost however is a fighter and it would be wrong to write him off against MMA. StarDust’s strength has always been in his unpredictability, and while this may have resulted in the nickname “Cheesedust”, the following fact remains: Stardust is an extremely flexible player. His biggest strength is knowing how to put an opponent in an unfamiliar and awkward position.
One map might result in a macro game, the next might be a committed all in, and then in the third match the apparent all in is really just an aggressive transition into macro play.
In order to win this series StarDust needs to play smart. As a veteran (remember, he’s been playing since 2008) the ability to plan a series and keep calm under pressure should be easy. As long as StarDust can keep cool, plan his strategies, and execute he can definitely beat MMA. It’s going to come down to smart vetoes and even smarter build choices. As long as he can get momentum in his series, StarDust can take more chances; he needs to put MMA off balance and throw a final hay-maker for a knockout. MMA won’t even know what hit him.