Day(9) Podcasts

From Liquipedia StarCraft Brood War Wiki

On March 16, 2009, Day[9] posted up his first podcast. He made them available for the entire StarCraft community to listen to, and they have remained a good learning tool for both Beginners and Intermediate players. Below is a list of all of his podcasts and a transcript for each of them.

Day[9]'s Original Introduction[edit]

Hello Everyone!

This thread will be a compilation of every audio recording I've done to date. They all will be uploaded in mp3 format for easy DL and use! Moreover, everything will be organized according to topic for easy searching! Excluding the first 2, all audios will have ID3 tags for iPod + media player use.

Additionally, this thread will be the official "request thread" for topics you'd like me to discuss. Topics could be on: general structure of play, match-up specific play, issues w/ particular builds, micro/macro tips, analysis of certain promatches etc. Feel free to be as vague or as specific as you'd like. For example:

-"what is the underlying difference between 3hatch and 2hatch vs terran? Why should I choose one over the other?" -"I'm terran and I'm having huge trouble beating protoss on Medusa." -"Why did Hoejja stick with lair for so long vs Bisu?" -"How should I hotkey my units as terran to control late-game big MnM armies?"

Also, if there are any formatting issues or broken links, PM me!! I'll fix them as soon as possible. Feel free to post or PM any feedback. Such comments will help future audios. Thanks!

(All audio recordings and podcasts are intellectual property of Sean Plott)

All Podcasts[edit]

Ordered by Release Date[edit]

Organized by Topics[edit]

Hallmarks of Expert Play Series (HOP)[edit]

A podcast series providing high level tips.

Mechanics Series (MECH)[edit]

A podcast series focusing on improving micro and macro by using proper mouse, keyboard, and management techniques.

  • Introduction to Mechanics provides an introduction to the MECH series. Definitely listen to first! Length 3:44
  • Mechanics #1 - Basics describes good placement for keyboard and mouse hands, hotkey setups and exercises to improve mouse accuracy. Length: 27:55

General Game Theory[edit]

Podcasts addressing broad issues in logic, learning, improvement, and game theory.

  • Building Triggers and the Imaginary Player discusses how to create and fine tune your own responses to deviations in the game. Though fairly advanced, this audio applies to anyone enjoys practicing and constructing precise builds and play. Length: 25:26
  • Why You Should Play Against Worse Players explains why it sometimes isn't best to be playing good players all the time. The audio describes how playing worse players helps your mind become more comfortable and creative, allowing you to take your game to the next level. Length 16:53
  • A New Look at Build Orders presents the appropriate way to think about build orders to allow for flexibility and understanding. Length: 34:18
  • Relative Timings explains how to plan timings that can account for variability and help optimize efficiency. Length: 14:29
  • Sidestepping: The Art of Abusing Weakness reveals how to take advantage of an opponents weaknesses rather than trying to punch holes in his strengths. Length: 22:39

Zerg Specific[edit]

  • Stopping Mech focuses on the general theory of how a zerg can crush terran mech play. With the rising popularity in mech, underlying mech logic is key to forming builds and countering opponents. This audio also includes a framework for a ZvT build order. Length: 23:48

Terran Specific[edit]


  • Transitions and a Simple Goon Reaver Push uses a simple, effective goon reaver push as a case study for good transitions. Length: 13:13 IMPORTANT NOTE: I misspoke through this entire cast! I repeatedly say zealot after stargate. I meant zealot after cybercore. Not sure how i said "stargate" so many times when I was thinking about the core the whole time.

Podcast Transcripts[edit]

Stopping Mech[edit]

Section done by motbob

Hey everyone! This is Day[9], and I'm going to talk a little bit about defeating a Terran mech as a zerg player. So ever since Fantasy did his cute mech shit against GGplay, all anyone wants to do is mech. And that's fine; mech's cool; it's the current trend of the moment; it was never weak or strong. It's just an alternative type of play.

But the problem is that when I read the strategy forum or even watch the professionals play, I want to vomit. I feel like so much of the advice and the current ideas of how to play against mech is just totally wrong. Now, I'm a little unusual in that I've been around forever. I've been playing competitively for 10 years. There was a period way back when when mech was just as popular as it is now. That gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time practicing against and thinking about the dynamics of mech play. So I want to share a little bit with you guys about my experience against mech and what I feel is the correct way to think about and counteract a good Terran mech player.

So first, let's talk about the strengths and weaknesses of a mech build, then let's analyse what's wrong with current thought and play, and then I'll give some more concrete tips at the end and even a loose build that you guys can play around with.

So, let's dive right in and talk about the three major strengths and weaknesses of mech, in my opinion. Number 1: mech is good with big, one-punch-style pushes. Number two: mech is great at holding territory and playing defensively. Number three: mech is great at fucking with the Zerg early game.

Let's go ahead and talk about those three concepts in depth. First, I'll talk about this one-punch style army concept that I mentioned. This idea is that in small numbers, Zerg has an advantage over a mech army. In medium sized armies they're fairly even. But once you start talking about big, large armies, the mech army is way better than whatever Zerg can throw at it. So, the way this manifests itself in games is that Terrans will much often favor a timing push that is significantly later in the game, because early-game pushes are just so dangerous. In fact, it's often a bad idea to be very aggressive early on as a meching Terran player.

Number two: holding territory and playing defensively. With Siege Tanks and Mines and Goliaths, you can set yourself up and plant yourself and be almost impenetrable. Two great examples of this are Mind vs s2 on the Dec. 15th Proleague,

which is a great example of the way mech can "hold the line" in a way that MnM can't.

Another good example is Flash vs sAviOr on Baekmagoji.

Provided ID could not be validated.

Flash just had so much stuff that when sAviOr attacked with infinity Ultralisks, they evaporated immediately and Flash was just sitting there pumping his fist like a 15 year old.

The third thing is that mech is very good at screwing with the zerg early on. This is because they don't need that barracks, so they can do things like proxy barracks openings that don't really screw with the later stages of their mech build, and because vultures are so fucking obnoxious. They plant mines and dart around and kill drones, and whatnot.

So yeah, that is what a mech army is good at, and I'll constantly be coming back and referring to these things throughout this rant...thing. Now let's talk about what mech is bad at.

In order, the three weaknesses that mech has (in my opinion) are thus: one, mech has a huge problem with mobility; two, mech is not very good with applying pressure throughout the game; three, mech play has a weak mid-game (sort of an extension of the first two weaknesses). I'll talk about those in depth.

About mobility. Terran players often need to plant mines, but even if the Terran player isn't making many vultures, his tanks need to be sieged to maximize damage. So it's very difficult for a meched Terran to dart this way and that in the fashion that MnM does. And again (this is sort of an extention of the big push notion) the Terran can't really do these ninja-like things where it breaks its army into small pieces and splits up, because in small numbers, zerg is better against small groups of mech. So, Terran players suffer from a huge lack of mobility.

The second thing is the applying of pressure. Same thing: the Terran cannot break his army up and do dichotymous things, so the way mech players win is by doing huge pushes. Yeah, there's vulture harass in the mid-game, but I'll talk about how to negate that in a moment.

The third thing is the meched Terran's weak mid-game. That is the point in time when a Zerg player really needs to attack. The Terran player must play defensively in the midgame, because it can't push, and if it does vulture harass, it gets completely crushed by hydras. This is the point where Zerg can take a lot of expansions and win economically.

So, to recap, a meching Terran is very slow, but extremely strong. So the Zerg player cannot win by being cute. The Zerg player can't win with three lurkers and a dark swarm and feel clever. The Zerg player needs to win by having a lot of shit. And the way the Zerg does that is by creating a powerful economy by exploiting the Terran's midgame immobility.

Now, before I talk about good ways to deal with mech, I have to point out what is so bad about current theory and practice against mech. I can sum it up with the following: people play against mech the same way as they play against a MnM Terran. You just can't so that. For some reason, people think that you play a certain way against Terran, and it doesn't matter what Terran does. But against a meching Terran, you should treat it as a totally different match-up.

So let me list some things that are bad that you should not do. And yeah, there are obvious exceptions but on the whole, you should not do the following things.

-Don't go for a really fast mutalisk harass. I see a lot of players think they're really clever, getting their 3hatch, their spire, and going to kill a lot of SCVs, but the problem is that that doesn't work against goliaths. Against MnM it's great because the MnM sometimes gets isolated from each other and you can pick some off, and the SCVs can be taken out because the range upgrade is delayed blah blah blah... but goliaths have like infinite range and deal a fuckton of damage against air, so when you run in feeling so fucking clever, you leave with a bunch of dead mutalisks and the rest are red health. And that effectively gives you no advantage. It is very difficult to abuse a meching Terran with really aggressive harass. I mean, if you can pick off an SCV, do it, but don't make the cornerstone of your gameplay about getting an advantage with fast harassment because it will not happen.

-Do not rely on lurkers against a meching Terran. Against MnM, lurkers make perfect sense. Six lurkers can kill off like infinity MnM. I mean, you only need two lurkers to defend an entire expansion against Terran in the midgame. And again, a major purpose of lurkers is getting a little bit of map control in the midgame, because he doesn't have mobile detection. Meching players are already immobile in the midgame. They're not trying to attack in the midgame. They're going to wait until the later stages of the game where not only will they have detection, but they'll have an army that will completely kill the shit out of your lurkers. They'll have tanks and goliaths, which take many hits from lurkers and have very long range. So the fact that the lurker attack stacks is completely meaningless. In fact, if you do the math, you'll find that lurkers are extremely cost-ineffective at killing tanks, when compared to zerglings etc.

-Do not rely on defilers to beat a mech player. Now, this argument is a little tricky, but it's absolutely crucial that you understand this, or else your play against meched Terran will be crippled. Let's think about defilers against MnM. Defilers make perfect sense, because your lurkers that were oh-so-good in the midgame are now in serious danger from vessels and tanks. But hey, don't worry, you can throw down some dark swarms, and now you're totally safe against the MnM army. Now, against mech, it's not that defilers are bad, it's that defilers are significantly worse against mech when compared to MnM. Picture yourself getting ready to attack a mech army. It's spread out with tanks. The units are physically big, so even when they're as clustered as they can be, they're still fairly spread out. When the Terran has all his tanks sieged, and occasionally he'll have mines there too, your army will be eaten alive by the tanks, even in dark swarm, by the splash damage. You're dealing with 15-25 tanks against mech. You're not dealing with the 3-5 tanks you usually see against MnM. So, you just need to have a lot of units. You can't rely on the dark swarm. It is good, it might be the thing that tips the balance in your favor in a big battle, but you can't lock yourself into that mindset of "OK, I have my Hive, I need to get my defilers so that I can stay alive." That's the mindset that you have against a MnM player, not the mindset that you should have against a meching Terran player.

-Don't build Ultralisks. Ultralisks are great against MnM because the Ultra armor is so high that MnM shots barely do anything. The problem is against mech, it is the exact opposite. Ultralisks maximize the damage that a tank does. When a tank fires at a zergling, it can do at most 35 damage, because a zergling has 35 life. Against an Ultra, the tank does the full 70 damage, not including upgrades. When you throw splash damage and mines in there, Ultras get EATEN A-L-LIVE by a mech army. For an example, watch the second Youtube video. You will laugh at how many Ultralisks sAviOr lost at the end of that game. Now I actually did a calculation on this, about Ultraling against mech. It's shocking how ineffective Ultraling is against mech in terms of damage taken vs damage dealt. A much better spending of your money is on simple ground units, like zerglings and hydralisks. Those are going to be the core of your army, because again, against mech, you're not trying to make a "cute" army, with defilers and lurkers and Ultralisks. You just want an army that is a lot of shit.

Section transcribed by qrs

And part of the reason, I think, that ultralisk/zergling is so popular is that players will develop an enormous economic advantage in the midgame—correctly so—and at that point, it hardly matters what the Zerg does in terms of unit combination. Ultralisk/ling just happens to be what the player does to win, so he incorrectly learns that ultralisk/ling is the proper counter, when it is in fact not. Again, all of what I've been talking about: this whole medic/marine mindset: it's all just ways of saying that the Zerg is not taking advantage of the fundamental weakness of a meching player, and that is the midgame immobility. A Zerg player needs to establish an extremely strong economy then, and then crush the Terran in the later stages of the game, when Terran is trying to do that big one-punch push.

OK, great. Now that I've said all that stuff, I want to give a few general tips of how to deal with a meching player, and then I'll finish things up with a build that I've done that's extremely effective, and you guys can play around with it and do whatever. It's just a good solid base:

  • First thing: Hydralisk/ling should be the bulk of your ground army. That minimizes the amount of damage that your army is taking as well as maximizing the damage-output that your army is doing.
  • In addition to that, you need to continue to make a lot of mutalisks all game long, as just an important part of your army. It's not going to be a big component of harassment; it's just really key to ensure that the Terran player is continuing to make lots of goliaths, and plus, when you expand (as much as you end up doing against mech), you can build up a very large mutalisk army anyways: you'll have like two control-groups of mutalisks in addition to your big ground army, and that is really what you want to be looking for.
  • Now, in terms of transitioning, when you get that hive-tech up, an excellent method for busting a stationary push, or just, you know, a Terran line that's just sitting defensively and holding a whole bunch of expansions: a great way to bust that, when you get the hive-tech, is to get guardians. You can get 15-20 guardians without much difficulty, because, again, you're delaying your hive-tech by opting to expand much more in the midgame, so by the time you get hive, you have a really strong economy and a ton of mutalisks already. And that is what's going to really help you bust that push, because they have equal range to goliaths, and they can break the tank lines really well for your ground army.
  • In terms of defilers: Defilers should really be the latest evolution of your play, it should be the last thing you transition to and incorporate into your army, because, again, just having the units is the most important thing, and having the expansions. Once you get a defiler, it will always help your army some, but you want to make sure that that army is substantial enough.
  • And, in terms of ultralisks, you've already heard my thoughts on that: I wouldn't recommend playing with it unless you're really comfortable with your play, because frankly ultralisks are very difficult and technical to use, in that match-up.
  • And finally, the most important tip that I can give against a meching player is that minerals are more important than gas. When you get an expansion, don't make that first drone—make a geyser (sic). The bulk of your army is going to be zerglings and hydralisks and mutalisks, and you're going to want to be expanding lots and lots. Gas is not important as any of those, and minerals are critical. What's also great about the fact that minerals are the key resource that you need: it opens up the potential for taking a lot of mineral naturals that a lot of players just seem not to have been considering against a mech player. So, yes, again: minerals are the key resource.

So let me finish things up with a really strong build-order that's brought me a huge amount of success through the years. I don't know if people think about builds the same way I do, so hopefully I make sense....But on the same note, I'm trying to make a video series about how to construct a build from scratch, and please keep pressuring me to work on that, 'cause i need motivation.

So yeah, here's my build: So, as a Zerg player, you 12-hatch at your expansion, you open completely normally, and your basic opening is just the 3-hatch opening.

Now, if your opponent bunker-rushes, you just need to be able to deal with that. You should also be checking up on your Terran, because there's three basic things that a terran can do early on: Going 2 barracks, early expanding, and then getting fast gas. You need to find out pretty early on if he's going fast gas, because that's where the deviation occurs. You start off with the 3-hatch, because if he's going medic/marine you deal with that accordingly, and if you see him going mech, you veer off into the build that I'm going to say right now.

So if he's going a fast gas, the things that we need to worry about are:

  • some sort of gentle early harass, with vultures, like a hidden 1-factory
  • or there's 2-factory aggressive play
  • or there's 2-port wraith

Those are the three big things: 1-factory, 2-factory, or 2-port wraith.

This is the build I recommend: You gas on 18 (and you have 3 hatches at this point). You gas on 18, making overlords at the appropriate times. With your first 50 gas you get a hydralisk den, before your lair. And then you get speed for hydralisks, before your lair. And you're going to be making between 6 and 10 hydralisks. And you're also going to be getting your second gas at an appropriate time: not too fast, but when you fiddle with this build you'll feel about when it feels right.

And also, have your overlords clustered in your base, in a way that your hydralisks are ready to defend against 2-port wraith, but also so that those overlords are ready to start wandering out into the middle of the map, because you need them as spotters against mines.

OK, great. The reason this build is doing so well for us right now is we have negated those three big things (the 1-factory harass, 2-factory harass, and the 2-port wraith), and for everything else Terran does, we're still OK. "Anything else Terran does" is like a fast dropship, or some sort of fast-academy build, and when we have speed-hydralisks we can still deal with that, because they don't have tons of medic/marine. In other words, we're not dead yet. There's nothing that we're facing that has killed us or has some sort of huge advantage.

I'm not going to talk about how to deal with 2-port wraith, because, again, the focus of this is dealing with mech. I'm just saying those initial variations to let you know that you are still OK against those things with this opening.

Now, at this point, you'll be fairly certain that your opponent is doing some type of mech build: he's planted mines in the middle of the map, say, you've—I mean, if he went 2-factory aggressive, you see a lot of mech units, and at this point, Terran is focusing on trying to get that expansion up.

As a sample map, let's say we're playing on Destination and we are at the north position. We have those overlords at our natural, ready to slide to the right expansion and ready to slide out our front ramps to spot those mines. Now, in this build, we've made 6-8 hydralisks. We have speed. Do not get range with the next 150 gas.' Get a lair, and start planning on expanding. Your whole goal for the midgame is to have 4 or 5 hydras move out to an expansion and just sit to defend, you'll have another 4 or 5 hydralisks at your front and in your main, to just sit and defend, and then you're going to start expanding while getting mutalisks at the same time, and—and this is really key--and sending overlords to locations where you want to expand, because you need to clear out those mines.

Now, when that lair finishes, we're going to be going for a spire, and at this point, you're wondering: we're going for a spire and we have like 8-10 hydralisks, or whatever: what do we do with the rest of our larvae? Well you're powering drones like crazy. Because you're not worried about an early Terran push: he can't really push aggressively early on. So you're making tons of drones, you're taking one expansion at the right that's defended by those hydralisks, and you're on your way to getting mutalisks.

When those mutalisks pop out, they're great because they force the Terran to delay his push a little bit, which extends the Zerg's midgame advantage. Those mutalisks pop out, the Terran has to stop making tanks, stop making vultures, and begin pumping out goliaths. Now, you don't want to do aggressive harass, but you want to be in his face just enough to let him know that you have a lot of mutalisks. You only need to make like 9-12 at this point, and at this point you can start expanding to the top-right natural and the left natural, and you've already been making a whole ton drones and expanding a lot, and you can begin throwing down more hatcheries and some evolution chambers. And at this point you just start making tons of zerglings and hydralisks, favoring hydralisks, initially: don't start making a lot of zerglings early on, because that's a little weak. You want to start with a lot of hydralisks, and then you can add on zerglings and hatcheries at the same time.

And what ends up happening is, as the midgame progresses, he's forced to delay his push, and when he does come out, you have an absurd number of expansions: you have your main, your nat, the right natural, the left natural, and the top-right corner. And you can back-upgrade: you can get the hydralisk range, the metabolic boost for zerglings, and overlord sight-range, if you want, and just begin spreading around the map, and you will be surprised at how easy it is to have total map-control and a raging economy—and you still have a lair.

You can start teching towards that queen's nest after a little bit, but again, the emphasis of your play is going to be adding hatcheries, both as production units and at expansions, and then, for the rest of the game, you'll just have this amazing advantage.

Now, against a really good player, it's going to be difficult to make that advantage very large, so I do need to talk a little bit about later-game transitioning. As you get your hive up, it's a great idea to get guardians, but really the most important upgrade for hive is the adrenal boost for the zerglings, 'cause now you have a bunch of cracklings that are really cheap, in absurd numbers, against lots of tanks, lots of goliaths (because you've still been making those mutalisks), and a handful of vultures. (The mutalisks actually help to cut down on the vulture count tremendously, so that's really great.)

So yeah, and the rest of the game is fairly straightforward. If you're having a lot of trouble in the later stages of the game, it's a good sign that you did something wrong in the midgame, or that you're going ultralisk/zergling, which I told you not to do.

So, yeah...I hope that this rambling was useful to some people because I would have made a post, but I don't like writing as much as I like hearing myself talk. So, yeah....Merry Christmas, Team Liquid. Cheers!

Building Triggers[edit]

Section transcribed by qrs

Hey everyone, this is Day[9], and I want to talk about a pretty advanced concept called Building Triggers and the Imaginary Player.

So I created the Gimme questions thread a while ago, asking about questions people had, just for me to rant on about, and a huge number of them were about builds, like, If he does this, how do I respond with this? or, When's a good timing push, what's a good build, on this match-up, on this map? And so, rather than going into specific advice and trying to answer those questions, I figure it would be really nice to give some general advice that you guys can apply in a wide variety of situations. And I mentioned two at the start: the first is what's called "Building Triggers" and the second is what's called "The Imaginary Player". So let's begin with building triggers.

The notion of a trigger is pretty straightforward in itself: that if A happens, you do B. And even though this is really a sort of simple idea, it has powerful, powerful applications for improving you play. So let's begin with some really simple examples that I know everyone is familiar with: As Protoss, when your shuttle is halfway done, you start building a Robotics Support Bay. That way, when your shuttle finishes, you'll be able to start the reaver right on time. Or, in another example, when your Spire is at 300 hitpoints, you stop making things at all of your hatcheries: that way, when the Spire finishes, you have three larvae ready to roll at each hatchery, and you can pump out a whole bunch of mutalisks.

Virtually everyone has experienced the two triggers that I just mentioned, because they crop up in almost every single game. Any time Zerg is going for a Spire, he's going to be obeying this sort of Law of Larva-Timing. But, in terms of other triggers, people seem to treat them as though they're this mystical knowledge, that there's this oracle that appears every hundred years and dishes out some sorts of timings or whatever. But the fact remains that any player can build his own triggers if he does so in a simple incremental fashion, which is exactly what I'm going to talk about, with a personal example of my own:

Let's talk about Zerg vs. Terran on Gaia, one of my absolute favorite match-ups ever. Now, assuming that I'm not in vertical positions with my opponent, I love going hydralisk/lurker, because of the way that the middle of the map is kind of wide open but also kind of looks like a large path. Now, the problem that I have when I go hydralisk/lurk—or really that any hydralisk/lurk player has—is that if the Terran gets too many tanks, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop Terran pushes. If you have some number of medic/marine and 15 well-placed tanks, it's virtually impossible to break that with any number of hydralisk/lurkers. So, in the logic of constructing my build on this map, I knew there was a point where I needed to get Guardians, and the question is: when do I get Guardians.

At this point, a critical mistake that so, so, so many players make is to think that when late-game rolls around they can just feel it out: they'll be able somehow to "feel" when Terran has too many tanks and then they'll get the Hive. That logic does not work and you should avoid this at all costs. I mean, consider early-game: suppose I'm Protoss and I want to 2-gate rush a Zerg player: I never "feel it out". I never just say, "Well I can just wing this 2-gate rush." Instead what I do is get a precise, exact, optimized build, and follow that every single time I want to 2-gate rush a Zerg player and I make subtle adjustments based upon what the Zerg player is doing. There is no reason why you can't do this late-game. And that is exactly what I'm saying: that you want to have a precise plan of what to do late-game by creating your trigger and then you make subtle adjustments based upon what's going on. With that in mind, let's discuss how I came to answer the question, "When do I get Guardians in Zerg vs. Terran on Gaia?"

Step 1, and by far the most important step in building your own trigger: I chose a timing completely arbitrarily. I said to myself, "Let's get a Hive at 125 food: that's when I'm going to get my Queen's Nest and start teching up to Guardians." And I told myself I would play at least 10 games using this exact timing to see how it felt. In the actual games, I got crushed by tank pushes every single time: the Guardians were way late. So, great: now, all of a sudden, rather than trying to "feel my way" through the late-game, I instead established a hard decision with a very clear adjustment, which was: "Get the hive earlier." At this point, I backed off a little bit, and said, "Well, let me try doing it at 90 food." And when I did it at 90 food, the results were better—I was able to hold off the pushes a little bit more effectively in the late-game, but then, all of a sudden, I was losing in the middle-game: when the Terran's first push came out, I just didn't have enough hydra/lurk to kill it off. So immediately, I know that the trigger I'm looking for, the timing I'm looking for, is somewhere between 90 and 125 food, and I ended up settling at around 100 food as a decent time to start making the Queen's Nest and teching towards those Guardians.

An important note is that I didn't need to use food as a basis for establishing these triggers. I could have used any number of wacky things. I could have said, "I'll start making my Queen's Nest when my +1 attack upgrade is 75% done." Or I could have said, "Gee, let me start making my Queen's Nest when I get my gas done at my fourth base." I mean, anything you want to use as your trigger, totally go for it. Again, the most important concept in building your own trigger is first choosing a starting point and then incrementally adjusting that based upon your experiences in play. And the most important word there is "incrementally". By far the biggest mistake that you can make when establishing these sorts of triggers is to be too hasty in making your adjustments. That's why I said that I devoted 10 games to getting my Hive at 125 food. I devoted 10 games to getting my Hive at 90 food. Because I wanted to make sure that I wasn't making some sort of fluke in those games that would incorrectly make me adjust my play in a wrong direction.

There are two key aspects of this example I briefly want to touch on. The first is that this is a late-game situation. Many players feel really daunted by late-game scenarios, because it feels like there are so many variables and deviations, and there's a million ways you could have gotten there, and it seems like an intractable problem, trying to close down on a solid solution. But, as we saw in this example, I had a very simple question and there was a very simple process I followed. And, remember, if you just break it down into small enough chunks, there is no problem that is too hard for any player at any level to solve.

The second key point—and this is so, so, so important: if there is one thing you remember from this entire recording, let it be this—I never stopped to question whether my play was right or wrong. That is, I never said, "Should I be going Guardians?" I never stopped to do that; I never stopped to question whether I should be going hydralisk/lurker or anything like that. Rather, I said, "I am going hydralisk/lurker on this map, it feels like I need to go Guardians, when do I get those Guardians?" and I tried only to answer the question when. That is it. That is so important in the improvement of your play: to focus on a question and work on that. There are countless players in StarCraft who think the goal is to find "the right build". You see these players all the time: they're 2-gate rushing, you know, one week and then the next week they're going early-expand, Bisu-style, and then the next week they're just doing whatever the current trend in Proleague is. They keep changing and changing and changing. That is not your goal. Your goal in StarCraft is not to try to find "the right build"; rather, it is to find a build that you like that is based on solid logic, and then to adjust that build, and to work on it, and to incorporate newer, better triggers that make that build work.

Section transcribed by tribal_warfare

For example, one day I woke up and said "You know what, I'm tired of going mutalisk/zergling in zerg vs zerg. I want to go hydralisk." and I spent one season on PG tour just working on that build, making adjustments, trying to form new sets of logics, doing different openings until finally I had a solid build down. The following season I went 56-1 against zerg, I was playing an A+ level; and I say that not to brag but to point out that there was absolutely nothing special about my play. I simply started with some logic and then adjusted and adjusted and adjusted. I mean the one loss I had, was not to a phenomenal player at all. It was one of the first games I played that season. But he showed me that when I was doing my opening I needed to get twelve zerglings instead of ten. I had been relying on getting ten but it was just too little for his aggressive nine pool opening. And after that adjustment I could face nine pools in the future and hold that off. Again it was just these subtle adjustments.

I'd like to take the time now to answer a question I saw in the questions thread I created as well as to dicuss a conversation I had with Xeris about this very topic of building triggers, so I apologise in advance for potentially butchering your name but Oystein from Norway asked, "When you have taken expansions outside your natural in zerg vs terran do you ever make units from the expansions or do you stick strictly to drone?" I love this question because it has a clear motivation, it has an answer with some foundational logic and it can be turned into a question that can help develop a trigger to improve your play. So first of all, let me begin with the motivation. This totally was a question that came up in my experience as a Zerg player. You know, say the map is python and I take my main and my natural and then I take another main because I'm going for the standard sort of hive tech defiler play and what not. And I remember early on in my life time I would wonder when I had that expansion, should I just keep making drones? It seemed to make sense because I wanted to have my economy slowly getting better and better and the more drones the merrier right? Moreover, I could have a nydas canal linking my main and this expansion so I could have units in both places at once, and also when I take the natural as my fourth base I can just transfer drones from that expansion on down. It seemed like I could keep making drones. At the same time I saw all sorts of benefits to making units from that expansion. If I'm making a lot of units at that expansion then I'll have a small little army that I can just move right down the ramp and I can use that to defend my newly building fourth expansion. Also, if I'm occasionally making a defiler and some lurkers at that third base I can use those units to counter attack and a good example of this is GGplay vs Iris in the everstar[sic] league finals game five.

So I saw benefits to both. That said, to answer your question Oystein, yes, there is a time you want to stop making drones from that expansion and begin making units and the logic to this is that you have all your hatcheries make the number of drones that you want to get to the level of economy you want and then that hatchery can join in unit production and that ends up being much more efficient then just slowly adding drones one at a time at that expansion. But what is so key about Oystein's question is that now we can ask ourselves, when do we stop making drones? What is the appropriate level of economy? And now we are just starting an exercise in building a new trigger that will help us improve our play. And again, what I love so much about Oystein's question is that it has a natural motivation, it can be stated as a simple problem and all we have to do is use some simple logic to reword that that as a trigger building exercise.

In another example I was talking to my friend Xeris on the phone about one base dragoon/reaver on Requiem. Because Requiem has really close starting positions, one base and its aggressive play is really great against Zerg because the zerg has to stay low econ in the early game. So if you can get a really good timing push in there with dragoon/reaver it's surprisingly difficult to stop. As I was discussing this build with Xeris he asked me, when do I get Dragoon range? I know I want to have range when I make my push but I'm not sure if I need to get it earlier, you know, to hold off some sort of hydra/ling bust at my front. And I think that is a perfectly worded question for a trigger building exercise. So lets just outline the process that we would use in that situation. It's now time to pretend that I am a budding, young protoss super star. That I have taken it upon myself to figure out precisely when to get dragoon range on Requiem.

Step one. I need to choose an arbitrary time to start getting dragoon range so I have some place to work with, so I have some benchmark for comparision. When I say arbitrary, it's important to note that I do not mean stupid. You should always use some sort of logic to make sure you have a reasonable starting point. So, in my eyes a reasonable starting point is to get dragoon range to finish right before I make that dragoon/reaver push. So I'll say to myself that I want dragoon range to finish right as my reaver finishes. All of a sudden I have a complete army with shuttle, reaver and a bunch of dragoons with range, so now is a good time to attack. So my arbitrary timing might be, start dragoon range right when my reaver starts. What I might discover after a game or two is that the reaver finishes much more quickly then range. At this point I might say to myself, "Ok, I need to back range up. I'm going to start getting range when my shuttle begins as opposed to when my reaver begins." and lets say that timing works perfectly. So now, right as my reaver pops out, my dragoon range finishes and I'm ready to roll out. Then suppose at this time I find that my push gets crushed over and over again. I think to myself, "Hmm, I need to get that second reaver before my attack." As a result, I no longer need to get dragoon range so early. Let me start getting dragoon range when my first reaver begins, as opposed to when my shuttle begins. And then lets say that timing lines up well, and right as my second reaver pops out dragoon range finishes and I'm ready to roll out once more. I've made a minor adjustment based upon the success of this push and again, kept the focus in my mind on when that dragoon range upgrade was beginning. Further suppose that at this point I play made ten, fifteen, games and against every hydralisk/ling player, this push crushes them. I'm steamrolling zerg after zerg and I'm feeling much more confident in my play until I get to a player who is going two-base mutalisk instead of doing this zergling/hydralisk on opening. Against this sort of player I might find myself helpless against his mutalisks early on because I don't get dragoon range until right when these reavers finish so I might be having a huge difficulty dealing with mutalisk harass. It's important then to say, "Well, gee, maybe I should get dragoon range earlier." And then you plan it and try to get the timing aligned for when his mutalisks pop out. Having adjusted the dragoon range timing, I need to make sure my push hasn't been delayed too much because if I'm really good at holding off mutalisks players now I need to make sure that I don't equally suck against the hydraling players. What may be the case is that I find that I can get away with upgrading dragoon range early to hold off mutalisk players and my push has not been delayed so much that my push can't crush the hydraling players. Although this was an entirely theoretical exercise I think it is a completely reasonable exercise of how you would be adjusting play game after game. Note, I never stopped to say, "Is dragoon range good on Requiem?" I just began with the assumption that it was and tried to adjust the timing until I found one that worked just right for me.

As I mentioned earlier, what you'll sometimes find is that there are situations when you can delay dragoon range sometimes and will have to get it earlier some other times. All your logic will eventually condense down into a theorem that will allow you to precisely get dragoon range at just the right time every single game.

I've spent a long time talking about building triggers so now I want to talk about an abstract and very related concept called the imaginary player. This is the notion that, because you cannot see what your opposing player is doing through the fog of war you have to account for all possibilities of his play until you know exactly what he is doing. For instance, if I'm playing against a terran player and he went one-base fast gas and I can't get up his ramp to see what he's doing he could be going for a fast two-factory push, he could be going for a fast two-port wraith, he could be going for fast dropship, he could be going factory vulture harass to an expansion. I just don't know what he's doing yet. So I must assume that I'm playing against all of those possibilities, all of those imaginary players until I know precisely which one my opponent is. To many of you, I'm sure this sounds like I'm saying, "Be sure to account for these possibilites." but the notion of the imaginary player is in fact much, much deeper than that and it's critical for you to work out all sorts of timings and triggers to truely become a great player.

Once I have a build that I really like, that I think is solid, what I do is I get about five replays of that build against all the possible types of players I could play against. So, for example, lets go back to my zerg vs terran on gaia. Lets say I really like my lurker\hydralisk build. I'm going to make sure I've played this build style against fast expand, two barracks fast factory, fast gas and all the variations I mentioned earlier, against two rax fast expand, and against weird sorts of all ins and bunker rushes. I make sure I have replays against all of these variations. And that is when I figure out the timings for imaginary players. For example, I'll watch five replays of a terran who goes two rax into medic marine fast expand and I'll mentally line up all his timings with mine. I'll say something like, "Ok, I'll see his command center when my lair finishes." and I'll line up other things like say my evolution chamber generally finishes when his engineering bay starts or he makes his academy when my hatchery has this many hitpoints from being finished. All these sorts of little things. I can even doing things like "He makes this building when my food is at this much." I mean, every player is used to saying things like, "I make my overlord at eighteen." and I'm telling you that you should think things like "When I make my overlord at eighteen, that's when he makes his academy." and then I'll extend this further. I'll watch five replays against a player who went two port wraith and I'll get all those timings worked out: when his starports start and finish in relation to my lair. Against a two factory player I know exactly when that push leaves his base based upon what my food is. After hours of studying these replays I now have a complete mental picture of what all possible Terrans are doing based upon my play and the numbers I get from my build. When every game begins I'm always aware of all the things my imaginary terran opponents are doing and throughout the early parts of the game I'm constantly thinking to myself, "Which imaginary players can I cross off?".

Which brings me to an absolutely critical idea that all high level players abuse relentlessly, and that is what I call the non-trigger. The basic idea of a non-trigger is that if you know your opponents timings well enough, you know that if you see nothing at certain points in time you can cross imaginary players off your list. For example, suppose my terran opponent goes two rax and that's all I get to see. He could be going for a fast tank push, medic marine and early expand, or some sort of aggressive one base play. Those are the three imaginary players I have in my mind, and three imaginary players whose timings I know intimately. For example, if my player is early expanding I know exactly when I first see that command center and I can go "three, two, one," and if I see nothing I know immediately that he isn't fast expanding and I can begin preparing myself for a fast tank push and preparing myself to play against a one basing terran player.

This seemingly counter-intuitive idea is unbelievably powerful. That you always know exactly what your opponent is doing. That you can cross off all imaginary players until you have pin pointed exactly who your opponent is purely through key periods of nothing. Many players incorrectly assume certain situations in StarCraft are rock, paper, scissors because they don't acknowledge the power of non-triggers. They'll watch two professional players play and neither of them will scout each other very much, and when they finally confront each other the first player will have an army that absolutely crushes the second player. Many amateurs will look at that and say that "Oh well, the first player just won because of his opening build." but the fact remains that the opening player is constantly adjusting his opening because he is seeing nothing from the second player at key periods of time. Never assume that StarCraft is rock, paper, scissors. There is always a solution there. If you spend time practicing keeping track of all the imaginary players, focusing on what the non-triggers tell you, you will never be surprised in StarCraft. I probably get surprised by what my opponent is doing once every thousand games because I'm always keeping track of all the possibilities in my head.

Well, that about wraps up my rant for today. Hopefully some of you found that useful. I really hope that you guys can incorporate the ideas of building triggers on only to generally improve your play but also to discover timings in the builds that you like. Because there is no point playing a game like StarCraft if you're having someone elses fun. I also hope that you can incorporate the notion of the imaginary player into your play. Not just because it's obviously helpful and it will greatly bulster your confidence in game as you'll never be surprised but more importantly, I think that one of the most rewarding feelings I get in StarCraft consistently is just knowing what my opponent is doing, and then when I rewatch the replay, I was right. That is just such a powerfully cool feeling to be able to go "I know he's making his academy here and his engineering bay here and his expansion should be finishing about now" and when you rewatch it you're just dead on the money, and that's just such a confidence booster that you're right on track. Hopefully you'll use the imaginary player logic to build your own clever non-triggers that will give you perhaps the greatest joy possible in StarCraft - being accused of being a map hacker. That concludes my rant. This is Day[9], thank you very much for listening. Cheers.

Hallmarks of Expert Play Introduction[edit]

Section transcribed by qrs

Hello everyone. This is Sean Plott, a.k.a. Day[9], and today I'm going to be presenting the introduction to my brand new audio series, "The Hallmarks of Expert Play". So, the whole point of this series is to provide little short audio clips—like, maybe five to ten minutes long—each of which focuses on some important element of play, or just some thing that you can incorporate into your own play to improve. So, as opposed to some of these really long, 25- or 30-minute expositions I do about, you know, deep game-theoretic concepts, each one of these is going to essentially be like a tip of the day. Each of these audio recordings will have the same basic structure: each will begin with sort of a proposition, or a statement or a situation. Then I'll talk about the logic and some of the theory applying to that particular situation, and then I'll give an example, so that way everyone kind of knows what I'm talking about. And these—again, these audios don't have to be watched in any order at all; they're just the sort of things you want to pick up along the way, that are always useful.

So, yeah: I hope everyone finds these audio clips both stimulating and exhilarating. Good luck, everyone. Cheers.

Hallmarks of Expert Play #1 - Winning with an Advantage[edit]

Section transcribed by darkmarksman

Hello everyone, this is Sean Plott, a.k.a Day[9], coming at you today with the “Hallmarks of Expert Play #1: Winning when you have the advantage.” So this entire audio is motivated by a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine who's getting back into StarCraft again and he's been playing on ICCup. And the problem he's been having is that whenever he gets the advantage, he never really knows what to do. And in a lot of games, its clear to him that he has an advantage, and yet he'll still end up losing. And I think that's an entirely valid question: “What do I do once I have an advantage?”

I find this question interesting because it highlights a big issue in the natural evolution of a player from weak to strong. A lot of players, when they begin and they're sort of low to mid level players, their entire play revolves around these tactics or plays that are designed to win a game. Not give an advantage, but win outright. So an example of this would be in Terran vs Zerg. A terran player does a fast tank push build against an early expanding zerg. The goal of the tank push is to bust down the sunken colonies, you run in with a bunch of Medic/Marine, and the zerg is supposed to leave shortly thereafter.

However at some point, such players move on to plays that give an advantage, rather than win outright. So for instance again, let's say that same terran player all of a sudden now starts early expanding against zerg players and is working on that first timing push. That is designed to give to give the terran player an advantage. That middle push often times doesn't win, but kind of pins the zerg back to his natural and his expansion, as the zerg makes his way towards defilers. Now, for a good player, that's exactly what he wants. He loves having the zerg pinned, and he loves playing off that advantage. But for a player who's been relying so much on things that cause wins, its a very uncomfortable feeling when you're in an advantageous situation and you don't really know what to do.

So the advice I ended up giving my friend Tristan, and the advice I'm going to give to you now, is a list of four ideas that you should always keep in your mind anytime you're in the lead. You can think of them as sort of like a mental checklist to make sure you're not doing anything wrong to lose your advantage. Each of these items is going to focus a lot on the sort of mistakes that players make when they're in the lead, and how to avoid them.

Number One: Always make sure you have an endgame plan before your game has ever started. I see so many players that have a build that will lead them to some advantage and then when they get there, they arrive at this advantageous situation, they suddenly have no idea what to do. Their macro gets screwed up, they don't time their expansions or the rest of their attacks correctly, and that's what ends up losing them the game. And the way to avoid this is just have a very general, straightforward sense of what you're going to do in the endgame. And I'm not talking about anything specific, or anything crazy, just some basic framework that you can always be trying to go for.

So lets say you're a protoss player against a terran player. An endgame plan might be something like: “I want four bases, two stargates making arbiters, and fifteen gateways.” There's nothing too complicated or even very specific about this framework, but again, if terran comes out with a big push and you kill it, you know what you're going for now. You can maybe take those expansions earlier, or add-on more gateways, and the arbiter more quickly. But you still have something that you're going for. Your brain will always feel a lot less disorganized if you do this sort of thing, like, pregame.

Number Two: Scout every expansion on the map. I know a lot of players will say things like: “Scouting is very important,” and everyone is always aware of that. But it's so key the instant you have an advantage, to just take that little extra time to send a probe, or a, you know, a zergling, or some unit, just to make sure every single expansion is clear. Because I'm sure everyone has lost countless games where you're totally containing your opponent, you feel like you're about to win and then you go to the right side of the map and he has the entire main covered with a whole set of, like, tanks and marines and everything... it just ruins your day.

Number Three: When you have an advantage, don't try to win immediately with a big attack. This idea is sort of rooted in the fundamental theory of a better player. In any game, if you have two players, the better player, theoretically, wants the game to continue as long as possible. Because the longer a game is, the more decisions both players are faced with and on average, the better player will make more correct decisions. In other words, if a good player is against a worse player, the good player's lead will naturally extend itself over time. So, when you have a big lead there's no need to try to attack immediately to finish him off. You should focus on just letting the game play out, and again, focusing on that endgame plan that you have in your mind.

You know, in fact, so many games that I watch July play, he'll do this genius build and he'll get in this great situation and then he'll just start attack-moving the player's front and he'll end up losing. And it's so frustrating for me to watch because he's clearly just throwing the game away. You don't want to give that extra advantage to your opponent. That said, if it's clear you can win immediately then yeah, definitely go for it. But there's nothing wrong with letting the game play out and trying to win later and later with, like, hive tech units, or arbiters, or, you know, the huge maxed terran army, that's all fine. Always feel free to let the game play out.

Number Four: Make sure you're sealed up tight against harassment, and also, don't try too hard to harass your opponent either. This idea's underlying logic is similar to that of the previous idea in that when your opponent is at a disadvantage he needs to try to take big risks to pull himself back in the game. And a lot of those risks involve making a costly dropship or shuttle to try to do some major damage to you. So naturally, I should make sure that they can't kill me in any way.

But the second half of that, don't get too excited about harassing, yourself, seems a little counter-intuitive to a lot of players. Cause a lot of players will say, “hey, I have this big advantage, why shouldn't I use this as a good opportunity to do some in-your-face harassment?” Again, harassment is pretty risky if you're not careful. I mean, for example, a shuttle that has a dark templar and two high templar in it. If that dies somehow, that's a pretty big loss for the protoss player. That said, harassment is good because it helps give you an advantage. But think again. If I'm already in a position where I have an advantage, I don't necessarily have to get an even bigger advantage.

So for example, if I'm a zerg player and I've contained a terran player with a bunch of lurkers. That terran player doesn't have vessels yet, so I'm sitting, you know, happily outside his base. That doesn't mean I need to get a bunch of lurkers and do drops in his main to try kill off SCVs. I'm already in a good position to get defilers and push right into his main. And if I did try to be really aggressive with harassing and dropping with lurkers, I run the risk of losing too many lurkers and then the contain at the front of his base becomes very weak and I end up tossing my advantage away.

With these four ideas enumerated, I want to give a sort of big, concrete example that synthesizes everything together, so it's pretty clear how this entire checklist applies in a concrete situation. Suppose I'm playing a zerg vs terran on Tau Cross. I open up with a three hatch lurker/ling build, that is I don't do the standard mutalisk sort of opening. And then let's say the terran player tries to hold my front with a bunch of medic/marine and stop my lurkers, but I'm able to surround that medic/marine group, kill it, and now I can park all my lurkers right outside the front of his base.

At this point, I have an advantage. First of all, I've killed off his first pack of medic/marines, so we know his medic/marine numbers are going to be a lot lower. Second of all, I've contained him with lurkers, so I don't need to worry about a whole bunch of marines running around the map. As a result, I can feel free to make a lot more drones and expand to the places I want to expand to, when I know that this terran player won't be able to bust out until he gets science vessels. Third, because I have him contained, I know that the terran player is going to have real trouble scouting me and knowing what's up. So right now, I am in a good position. Terran is playing blind and I have map control.

Step One: What's my endgame plan? Well first, I want to take a third gas expansion, get another hatch, make sure I have two evolution chambers upgrading, and get a defiler mound. That's the first sort of component to my endgame. I'm not going to do anything crazy like expand three times or anything cause I have him contained now, I'm just going to do exactly what I was going to do before. Except now I know that I have the opportunity to maybe make a few extra drones there when I wouldn't have been able to before. Later on down the line, I will take more expansions and tech towards ultralisks, but for now, my game plan is to make sure I get that defiler mound, those hatcheries, and those upgrades running.

Step Two: Scouting. I take one of the zerglings, sometimes two, and I just briefly run around the whole map, both to make sure there aren't any expansions, and also to make sure he's not doing anything dumb, you know, like making four barracks in the corner of the map so he can sneak stuff around. That stuff can be really annoying. So this is just to make sure that the map control I think that I have, actually is there.

Step Three. I'm not gonna attack. A lot of times, terran players will make three or four bunkers when they lose their first medic/marine group, just to make sure that you can't bust in and kill them with a bunch of lurker/ling. The best part is, the terran player does have to make a lot of bunkers and get ready for this attack. Cause if he doesn't, he runs the risk of losing. However, though he's built all those things, you don't necessarily have to attack at all. So essentially, not only did the terran player lose his first medic/marine group, but now he's forced to make buildings he doesn't want to make. Buildings that you're not even going to attack at any point. So again, we're not gonna to attack, and throw our game away.

Step Four: Harassment. I immediately surround his base with overlords and make sure I have a bunch of scourge patrolling to make sure no dropships end up sneaking out. And I also am not going to go for drop and do any harassment myself. As I said earlier, it's inconsistent for me, with this advantage, to risk losing lurkers in a harassment attempt that will both delay my endgame and weaken my contain. So yeah, from terran's point of view, he pretty much has to play a straight-up game against me. He can't do any weird dropship harass, he can't sneak medic/marine around and delay my expansion, he can't sneak an expansion anywhere else. He has to play straight to kill those lurkers at the front of my base and then deal with whatever endgame army I have.

I'm in a great situation because I exploited the advantage that I gained early. I now am in the position where I can get defilers and push into his base to win; I can get a whole bunch of ultralisks and just attack-move to win. It's very clear now, what I'm doing with my advantage to sort of seal the deal in the game.

To recap, if you have an advantage, you should first always make sure that you're following your endgame plan, which is a plan that you devised before the game happened. Number Two, make sure you're scouting every expansion on the map, to make sure there's no hidden stuff that can have the game slip out from under you. Number Three, don't get overexcited and attack a whole bunch, or even get overexcited and expand a whole bunch. Just continue to play the game out. And, number four, make sure that you don't get harassed, and don't do any sort of harassment that would potentially cost you your endgame plan.

So yeah, I hope that this was a useful exercise for some of you who are trying to move more towards the advantage type play, and away from the 1-2-3-punch-win type play. So yeah, good luck everyone! Cheers!

Hallmarks of Expert Play #2 - Redundancy and Purpose[edit]

Section transcribed by TheAntZ

Hey, what's up, everyone. I am Sean Plott, aka Day[9], and I am experimenting with musical interludes. That said, this audio is Hallmarks of Expert Play part 2: Redundancy and Purpose. The two concepts I'm going to present in this audio are simple enough to state, but they have really powerful applications all throughout your gameplay, and the idea is that by keeping both of these in mind at all points in time, this will help you clean up your play a little bit and smooth things out.

With that in mind, let’s begin talking about redundancy. I was recently watching a friend of mine playing Zerg vs Protoss, and when his Protoss opponent went corsair my friend responded by getting both an evolution chamber to throw down some spores and he got a hydralisk den as well. Immediately I pointed out he should do one or the other because by getting both he's in essence double-defending against corsairs. That is, his play is redundant. You never wanna end up defending against the same thing twice because it's a waste of resources and, considering how fragile of a game StarCraft is anyways, spending extra money defending the same thing more than once can lead to huge problems later on in the game.

The notion of redundancy appears earliest on in a players evolution in terms of defence. Dont make too much static defence because having a big army accomplishes the same purpose: you dont need a huuuge pack of cannons at the front of your base if you have enough troops to adequately defend an attack. One or the other will do just fine. I'm sure at this point many of you are thinking to yourself, "Yeah, well, obviously I don't want to have redundant elements in my gameplay." That said, I'm bringing it up because it’s really easy for this redundancy to kind of sneak up on you, that in the moment of gameplay, you'll perform an action that seems totally reasonable, but it's really important to take the time and reflect and make sure it's not an unnecessary action.

So let's do some examples. A lot of Terran players nowadays really like that Flash style really fast +1/+1 upgrades for their mech army. The problem is I’ll see a lot of players get this armory but then they'll also get an engineering bay and make a whole bunch of turrets around their base to hold off a shuttle harass. If you get the armory that quickly, you can get goliaths to defend against the attack instead; by getting the armory with goliaths and then getting a bunch of turrets, you've effectively wasted a whole bunch of minerals on the engineering bay and the turrets. On Blue Storm you'll see Flash oftentimes, when he does his signature build, he'll end up getting a handful of goliaths to fend off the attack and then all that money that would have been spent on turrets and an engineering bay, he can instead spend on a command center, expanding once again really, really quickly. So by eliminating that little bit of redundancy he had these extra resources that he could use to his advantage. The type of play that Flash does in his style is what I would call removing redundancy outside of the game. Flash sat down before the game even started and planned out how he was gonna hold off that shuttle harass and get the +1 attack upgrade.

So, let me also take the time to illustrate someone playing redundantly by making poor decisions within a game. In many of the Zerg vs. Protoss games that I’ve played on Requiem, my Protoss opponents will opt for a two-gate zealot rush aggressive opening, because the starting positions are so close and because gaining control of someone’s front ramp is absolutely critical to gameplay. Let’s say I’m playing one of these types of games and the Protoss player prevents me from getting an expansion and I’m sitting in my main with two hatches and a bunch of zealots at my ramp. In this situation, I like to go lurkers because it’s a good way to sort of bust the ramp and since the Protoss has me walled, in he totally gets the opportunity to see exactly what I’m doing. So now I have a Protoss opponent who opened 2-gate and knows his Zerg opponent is going lurkers.

At this point in time my opponents generally make the exact same mistake every single time that allows me to win: they get both cannons and observers. Logically it seems to make sense because if you make the forge you can make a whole bunch of cannons on top of my ramp to, you know, to sort of bolster that wall-in. Additionally, you're gonna get the observers so that way you can see the lurkers too. However, this is how the game ends up playing out: I get 4 lurkers, a bunch of zerglings and I easily break the zealot cannon contain at my front. Afterwards, by the time I get to his base, he has 2 or 3 dragoons, and an observer that happily get to have vision of the lurkers and zerglings that proceed to kill him. By getting both the cannons and the observers the Protoss player ended up with not enough units. He was so mentally focused on detection, that he sort of forgot the idea that he needs to both have stuff to kill the lurkers and be able to see the lurkers at the same time. Ideally, the Protoss would do one or the other. If he opts for observers he could go 3-gate zealot/dragoon with observers and do a pretty good job of holding off this lurker zergling push which is what happened in my experience. Alternatively, he can get the forge and the cannons, and make a bunch of cannons at my ramp holding me in, as well as a bunch of cannons outside his natural expansion, so once I do break this contain, I get to his base and I can’t do anything more because there’s a wall of cannons and a handful more units, and then the Protoss gets to play from there.

As you slowly improve in StarCraft, not only will you see more ways to eliminate redundancy in your play but you'll also get the opportunity to eliminate it in ways you couldn’t before by using your new ingame skill. So for example, if you're really good at watching the minimap and moving your hydralisks around, you can delay getting scourge against dropships, because your hydralisks can hold off the drops just as well. Terrific: now you're a player who’s excellent at eliminating redundant components to his play.

Now this brings us to the next part of this audio rant which is the notion of purpose. Again, the notion of purpose is very simple to state, but has tremendously powerful applications to all levels of play. The notion of purpose is this. Any of the decisions that you make, such as units to build or buildings to make, make sure that each of them always has a purpose, and make sure it doesn’t just have a one-timey sort of purpose, make sure the purpose continues all game long.

The simplest example of this concept comes in Protoss vs. Zerg when the Protoss player early expands. He gets that forge so he can put cannons at his front and not die to any sort of early attack however it seems a little bit wasteful to get a forge that fast if its only purpose is cannons. As a result, we see a lot of Protoss players get the +1 attack upgrade really quickly. As a result, the Protoss player comes out with a really big fast +1 zealot legspeed army. Likewise, if you're a Zerg player against a Protoss player, and your opponent goes for a really fast corsair play, if you want to make an evolution chamber and spores to hold off the corsairs it would be a very good idea to start upgrading that +1 carapace upgrade very early, that way your evolution chamber isn’t going to waste just to hold off these corsairs.

At very high levels of play, making sure everything has purpose is the birthplace for some of the best builds and the most revolutionary styles we've seen to date. Consider Fantasy's Terran vs Zerg mech build that he used in the OSL semifinals against GGplay.

In these games Fantasy opened up with really fast vultures and then got a dropship and expanded really quickly, and he used the vulture harass in the Zerg’s main with his dropship to allow this expansion to get up and running safely and to potentially do a lot of damage to the Zerg. Now that opening by itself is very clever because its a great way to get a safe expansion and transition into mech. However Fantasy brilliantly started going valkyries the instant he got his armory up. That starport which he got so fast for those dropships: its purpose didnt end with the dropship harass. It was immediately put into use with all these valkyries. As a result, Fantasy didn’t have to spend so much money getting a bunch of factories and a bunch of turrets early to hold off a fast mutalisk counter-attack all Fantasy needed was two factories and these valkyries—valkyries that were key to his early game play.

In another example, let’s consider the modern state of Zerg vs. Protoss. A lot of Protoss players picked up on this Bisu-style build, which was dominating Zerg players for a very long time, until Zerg players started focusing on getting a bunch of scourge early and then getting hydralisks. That way, the scourge would sort of negate this air control that the corsairs provided, and the hydralisks would allow the Zerg player to get a little bit more map control. however a lot of Protoss players started to stop making corsairs when they saw all these scourge, 'cause naturally the Protoss player thinks, "Oh, a bunch of scourge? I'm not gonna get air control". So Protoss players would give up the attempt to get air control now, Zerg players have put that spire to more use, they've given that spire a greater purpose in the mid and late game stages. You'll see Zerg players get a delayed pack of 12 mutalisks like around 90 food, like really late pack of mutalisks, and because the Protoss player has given up on air control, the Zerg player has the opportunity to snipe off templar and to even potentially walk into the back of Protosses main.

Such examples demonstrate how necessary and powerful it is to sort of eliminate redundancy and to provide purpose to everything you do in your play. With players getting better and better and better, you end up walking along these razor-thin margins of resource management. So if you're spending too much of your resources in one direction, you'll end up losing very very quickly. Rarely will you hear me say that any particular style of play is best. Rather, what I encourage is for you to construct your own builds, for you to find your own solutions and to definitely keep these high level advice and idea in mind.

Why You Should Play Against Worse Players[edit]

Transcribed by qrs

Hey, what's up, everyone? This is Sean Plott, a.k.a. Day[9], and today I want to talk about why you should play against worse players. Now, I know 90% of you hear that and you just scream, "Blasphemy! Crucify Day[9]! He's dead wrong! You should only play against the pros!" People argue that, somehow, by playing against worse players, you will stagnate in this disgusting cesspool of newbies, and that you'll never learn about "gosu builds" and "gosu tricks" so that you can become "gosu x2". Obviously, though, I'm not saying that the path to improvement involves finding ten people who suck and only playing against them. And I'm not even arguing that you shouldn't play against players who are somewhat better than you, if not way better than you. However, I really want to emphasize that, not only is it OK to play against players worse than you, but, in fact, it is an integral component to your improvement. It is critical that you regularly play against players that are worse than you, to improve to higher and higher levels.

With that said, in this talk I want to do the following:

  • First, I want to spend some time talking about this "common mindset" I was referring to, this idea that you should only play against good players.
  • Second, I want to take some time to break that argument down and demonstrate why that doesn't quite hold up; that is, I want to illustrate the flaws in that line of reasoning.
  • Third, I want to spend some time backing the logic of why it's good to play against worst players,
  • and then last, I want to wrap everything up by giving a concrete example, by kind of walking you through one of my own personal experiences of improvement, and why playing against worse players was so important.

Let's go back to the beginning: let's start off by talking about what the current mindset of playing worse players is. One of the big things I hear people say a lot is that when you play against a worse player, you can simply have fundamentals that are strong enough and end up winning without having the correct strategy. So, for example, you log onto ICCup, you play against a D-level player, and he just has so few units that, really, it doesn't matter what you do. You just walk out, and you win every single time. Since you're winning so easily, your opponent isn't forcing you to change. He's putting no pressure on you to win; he's putting no pressure on you to adjust your play to something better.

Kind of along the same line of reasoning, people say that, therefore, you should play against the best players you can: that when you play against a truly good opponent, he'll be crushing you so badly that you'll start to realize that a lot of your tricks don't work, and you'll start to see which ones are remaining somewhat effective, and then you'll end up converging towards a better style of play.

For the most part, though, this whole view can be summed up with the idea of, "I want a challenge. I want to force myself to overcome some obstacle," because that's what people's idea of improving is: overcoming obstacles. With that in mind, I want to take the opportunity to move on to part II of this audio.

Let's break down this argument and see where some potential issues are. In StarCraft, build orders and styles play a key role in play, and a lot of times people will work on one style and then, for whatever reason, want to try a different style. If you're trying this new style for the first time ever, it makes no logical sense to try it against the best player possible. You want to go out and play it a few times and get the opportunity to run through your build from start to finish and build up some comfort with it, and then, that way, you'll start to say where your advantages and where your disadvantages are. A huge danger is that a lot of times players will dabble in certain styles, but they'll be playing against players who are too good, and these good players will crush these new styles, and then what happens is the player thinks to himself, "Ah. These new styles didn't work out so well. Look how badly I got crushed. As a result, that player ends up mislearning, because all his attempts at these new styles have resulted in failure.

Moreover, let's say you did stick with one style; let's say you really wanted to work something out. If you're playing against a better player, you just don't get the opportunity to become comfortable. The better player is spending so much time convincing you that a big attack is going to come here (and doesn't) or that a big drop is going to happen that doesn't, that a lot of times you start getting into your own head--there's these mind games that are going on that totally throw you off. On a less complicated note, sometimes, just the fact that his army is moving around the map, in good patterns, can make you feel so pressured that, you know, you forget overlords, you stop looking at the mini-map, and you might even get thrown off your build a little bit.

Most importantly, though, good players are very good at hiding their weaknesses. There's that Protoss player who will have two cannons at his front and the Zerg player will feel too intimidated to run in with zerglings, when he totally could have. I mean, how many games have you played when you go look at the replay and you say, "Oh man, if only I'd attacked here, I would have won!" Against better players, that thought oftentimes never happens when it should. You'll watch a replay, and at time x, if you attacked you would have won—but as you're watching the replay, that just doesn't register. You see the situation, and you think to yourself, "No, no, I definitely couldn't have attacked."

So clearly, in terms of learning, if you're only trying to play against the best of the best, or even players who are slightly better than you, you not only end up learning in the wrong direction by discarding potentially good strategies, but the strategy that you are choosing to work on, the build order you're doing every game: you might miss out on the opportunities that are present in that build, and you might not even be executing it as well as you could be. With that in mind, let me move on to the most important part of this audio.

Part III: Why it's important to play against worse players.

This entire section can be summed up with the following: Against better players, you learn what not to do. Against weaker players, you learn what to do. There's a great discussion about this in David Sirlin's book, Playing to Win. And what he says—which is true across a huge number of competitive games—is that good players are very good at hiding their weakness. Good players don't look weak when they actually are. Weak players, on the other hand, wear their weaknesses and exploits on their forehead—you know exactly how to crush that player. So what you want to do is you want to play against some worse players and see where those huge weaknesses are, or those glaring holes are, and start to abuse those. And then, as you start playing against better and better players, you still attempt those same abuses. And you adjust them to see if they work—or to try to force them to work.

It's true that playing against only good players will force you to readjust your strategies and your tactics and your tricks. The problem is that if you're only playing against good players, you're not expanding that enough; you're not expanding out to new builds and new tactics and new tricks; you're kind of sitting in this stagnant pool. And the problem with this is something I call working yourself into a logical corner.

Players stuck in "logical corners" are oftentimes the ones you see who just teeter between C+ and B-, with a record of like 150-180. And they just play tons and tons of games, and you look at their APM and they're fast players, so clearly they have the hand-speed, but for some reason, they just can't seem to broach[sic] those higher levels. You'll hear them say things like "No, I can't do that because I'll lose to this, and then I can't attack here, and then I have to make these-all defenses now, or else I'll lose to this"—and the problem is, though they've had experiences where these things were true, it doesn't make them rules that have to dictate the rest of their play for the rest of their life.

This kind of player should stop and say to himself, "What are some big problems that I'm having?" For example, let's say in Protoss vs. Zerg: "I don't feel like I'm attacking enough; I feel like every time I want to, I either get scared or I convince myself through some past game that I can't and that it won't work." So let's say that this player has been early-expanding in Protoss vs. Zerg and going corsair/reaver into mass ground—sort of the Bisu style of Protoss vs. Zerg. Let's suppose then he wants to be more aggressive: he should drop down to D-level and he should say, "OK. I'm going to start really harassing at this stage of the game."

Let's say he starts harassing at stage x or time x, just to throw, you know, a variable out there. Let's suppose that against D-level players he gets absolutely smashed when he does this: his harassment doesn't work, it's totally defended, and he thinks to himself, "Wow, that clearly is not a good idea, if it's already losing to D-players." However, let's say he readjusts it, and starts doing it a little later than time x, and he says, "Wow, I have so many more corsairs! But now I'm starting to do a huge amount of damage. In fact, now I'm winning games almost way too easily." What's great now, is that this player can then work his way up until he gets that time just right, and then, when he's back at that C+/B- level, he now has this time-frame where he's abusing this corsair/reaver aggressive harass. It might be a time that he never even thought of or saw in his previous games, because he was so scared of so many Zerg units.

The fact that he's abusing this reaver/corsair timing might help him bump from B- to B. But most importantly, he will gain a huge amount of confidence in Protoss vs. Zerg now, because all of a sudden, Zerg doesn't feel invincible. And that confidence will show in his play; he will play much more comfortably with his style, and that comfort might be what helps bring him from B to B+.

In short, it's always very useful to alternate between playing against weaker players and playing against stronger players. Playing against the weaker players will allow you to flesh out your ideas and see new opportunities that you couldn't before. And then you'll want to take those ideas and you'll want to test them against better players, once you're really solid. And once you've tested them, that's how you adjust them and change them and choose what works and doesn't. Alternating is what keeps the mind fresh and makes sure that you're always learning new things and not working yourself into some dreaded "logical corner".

I'd like to finish up this audio recording by sharing a personal story of mine: an experience where I played against worse players and I ended up improving far more than I would have had I just stuck with playing very, very skilled players. A few years ago, I was preparing for the WCG tournament, and this is when they had removed Estrella as a map from the map pool and they put in Peaks of Baekdu. So now the maps were Gaia, Azalea, Paranoid Android, and Peaks of Baekdu, so since WCG was coming up, I was naturally only playing on those four maps. And PGTour (or ICCup—I still tend to call it PGTour) was really, really useful, because that was one of the maps of the week, so I could always get people to play me, and it was against random opponents, so I was getting a huge variety of styles, so again: just totally normal, preparing-for-tournament style stuff.

However, I encountered a huge problem, because the first few weeks, the maps of the weeks were Azalea, Gaia, and Paranoid, the old three WCG maps. And on Week Four, I'd worked my way up to A-level, but the new Map of the Week was Peaks of Baekdu—a map that I had never played any games on. So when I began, I started by taking builds I liked on other maps and trying to translate them onto Peaks of Baekdu, and even though it felt kind of OK, I still got smashed by all these other A-level players. And in fact, I started to lose almost every single game, and I started to try different builds, and whackier strategies, and literally nothing was working.

And I remember I had just dropped down to A-, and I encountered a player, and we ended up playing about ten games, and of the ten games, I lost seven of them. And I remember that it just felt so hard, and even the wins I did get didn't really feel satisfying: I kind of had this {shudder} feeling about Peaks of Baekdu. And there came a point where I was getting close to dropping down to B+, that I said to myself, "I really just shouldn't even be playing against these A-level players. I'm clearly not good enough at Peaks to be here. And I'm not even learning anything. I'm just losing and getting pissed off."

Since school had just ended that week, I created a new account at D-level, and started to slowly work my way up again. So I was playing tons of Peaks of Baekdu—I was actually playing probably like 12 hours a day—and I started to really see what was good about the map and what sort of abuses there were, and I watched a whole lot of VODs, and formulated builds, and got to practice them against these weak players. And some of the builds that I started off with felt really uncomfortable even against the D-level players, and again: I immediately said to myself, "I'm totally not going to do this." And then, I converged to the style I really liked, that felt really strong, and I worked my way all the way back up to A- by the end of the week.

And when I was A-, something amazing happened: that player who I previously went 3-7 against, I encountered him again, and we were going to play another set of games together. And it had only been a week, but I had had a huge amount of time to sort of reformulate my play against these weaker players. And when I played against him, he was doing the same sorts of styles that he was doing before, but I ended up crushing him, like eight games in a row. And in fact, in those games? It felt so effortless. All his units felt slower and stupid, and his entire build felt glaringly flawed, and there were all these exploits that I abused all game long, and when his big attack came out, I had like five times as many units as he did.

In fact, in every single one of those games, I never felt like I was going to lose at any point in time. And that, right there, is probably the best feeling in StarCraft. Because it's really difficult to get an absolute measure of how good you are or how much you are improving, because even statistics like your PGTour or ICCup rank—that kind of varies depending on who you're playing against and whatnot. But if you get the opportunity to play the same player twice in a short period of time, and the second time you play him you feel overwhelmingly better, you suddenly realize that you have improved. You have taken your play to the next level and have left him behind.

The way I was able to do that was by playing against bad players. I reset my account and it allowed me to really see at a very, very basic level what was going right and what was going wrong. And then, once I had all this sorted out in my mind, I had the period of time from the C level up to the A- level to become comfortable with this build, to work out all the nuances and all the subtleties. Moreover, the style of play I developed was something I would never have seen just playing at the A-/A levels, constantly losing and saying to myself, "Oh, I've got to suck it up and, you know, just try to deal with these losses and learn." Only by dropping down to the D-level play was I able to actually see things much more clearly. As a result, Peaks of Baekdu became, eventually, my best of all the WCG maps, and actually still remains one of my favorite maps of all time.

In short: I want all of you to remember that by playing against bad players, you end up learning what to do: you end up seeing the true advantages and disadvantages of your play. And then you should take what you learn and test it against better players. It's always good to be bouncing back [and forth] between worse and better players, and in fact, if you can get that range of play to be right around your skill level, like players slightly worse than you and players slightly better than you, then you'll find yourself skyrocketing up, in terms of improvement, and skyrocketing up to higher ranks on PGTour.

So, I hope this audio rant was useful. Good luck, everyone. Cheers.

Introduction to Mechanics[edit]

Transcribed by Pokebunny

Hey, what's up everyone, this is Sean Plott aka Day[9] and today I want to provide an introduction to my series on mechanics. Before we begin, I need to stop and take some time to define what I actually mean by mechanics. When I say mechanics, I mean a players ability to enact his decisions, not a players ability to make correct decisions. Let's say we have a Terran player who's making a lot of medic/marine against a Zerg player. The mechanics of this situation are the Terran player's ability to control all those medic/marine very effectively, and the Terran player's ability to constantly make medic marine out of all of his barracks. Elements that would not be part of mechanics would be that player's decision to go medic/marine, instead of, say, mech.

Mechanics are absolutely critical to a player's success. I mean, for instance, there's probably many of you who have played games where you are against a worse opponent and you may have done a strategy that was bad, but because you were able to get so many more units, and to control them so much better than your opponent, you ended up winning. On the reverse side, it's actually horrible when the player is doing the correct strategy, but his mechanics prevent him from executing that strategy correctly. What ends up happening, is this player, who is thinking correctly, ends up deciding that his strategy is wrong, and he learns in the wrong direction, and we don't want that. Not only does strong mechanics allow a player to perform at a higher level, but most importantly, strong mechanics allow a player to learn correctly, and learn much more rapidly than if he had weak mechanics.

You know it's even kind of funny, because mechanics are so important that it sometimes can be detrimental to focus too much on strategy, especially for a beginning player, even though StarCraft is a real-time STRATEGY game. You'll end up with players who have a gimmick against each race, you know, they'll go lurker-ling fast against a Terran player, or they will go slow lurker drop against Protoss. They have all these different strategies, but they never focus on executing them very well. And then after a while when they're against sufficiently strong opponents, such players will end up having no options: none of their strategies work. And it's at times like these when players feel particularly lost in their play, and that's just a terrible feeling that I don't wish for anyone. However, if players focus on mechanics, not only do they end up being able to beat better and better opponents, but the strategy becomes much deeper. Because now, with things being executed so well, there's all of a sudden great options, I mean, having players be able to control vultures really well against Zerg has opened up an entire arena of mech play against Zerg players.

And so, since mechanics are such an important component of strong play, I'm creating this audio series to provide tips on how to hold your mouse hand, how to hold your keyboard hand, how to use hotkeys and F-keys, ways to practice and improve to get those mechanics honed down really well, so you can perform those strategies just the way you want. Some of these guides will be general in nature, others will be race-specific, I'll just be doing my best to answer any potential questions or issues you could have in regards to mechanics. So with all that said, I really hope you enjoy my audio series on mechanics. Good luck, and cheers.

Mechanics #1 - Basics[edit]

Section transcribed by Yaqoob

Hey, what’s up everyone? This is Sean Plott a.k.a Day[9] and today I want to present to you Mechanics Part 1- The Basics. In this audio, I want to describe what the essentials are for having strong mechanics. I want to begin by talking a little bit about how to hold your keyboard hand and then how to use hotkeys and the F keys effectively in your play. I’d then have to talk about the mouse hand, how to holding your mouse hand correctly, tips for improving accuracy, and general advice on how to control your units the way you want too. Naturally, I will be discussion mechanics with the ideal of improving micro and macro so I will be trying to give lots of examples relating back to that. Great, let’s start talking about the keyboard.

So I keep my keyboard pretty close to the end of my table. Now if you take your left hand and you face it towards yourself, in the bottom right corner of your left hand you’ll a feel a really solid bone if you push there with your thumb. That is the bone that you generally want to have as your pivot point. So I generally keep my hand rested on that bone. Now something that is really really important that you do is that you keep your pinky at your left hand of the keyboard – or let me rephrase that - you make sure that your left pinky does not rest beyond the left end of the keyboard. Essentially what I am addressing is a problem that a lot of players develop when they first started to use hotkeys. Often times when player’s first learn about hotkeys and want to hit Ctrl-1, they hold the Ctrl key with their left thumb and press the ‘1’ key with their index finger. Obviously this isn’t a big deal if you only play StarCraft twice a year at a LAN party or sometimes but there is a lot of players that want to improve that get stuck with this sort of bad habit from the get go. I will go to Tournaments and see players who hit control 123 with their thumb on the control key. As a result when they want to do 1a2a3a, they tend to hit ‘1’ with their middle finger and ‘a’ with their index figure, and then ‘2’ with their middle finger and ‘a’ with their index finger, and ‘3’ with their middle finger and ‘a’ with their index finger. Obviously this is grossly inefficient because you are essentially bending your arm around the left side of the keyboard and hitting the keyboard sideways; moreover your fingers are incredibly far away from the keys that are used to build workers and build units and buildings and stuff.

You want to be holding your hand in the middle of the keyboard so that the CTRL key is hit by your pinky and then the 12345 keys are hit by your index finger or your middle finger or even your thumb for a lot of the higher keys, like if you wanted to hit CTRL + 8 or something. Moreover, don’t be afraid to have your hand move around the keyboard a lot. For example, when I want to do CTRL 0 and CTRL 9, I take my left hand and I move it to the right CTRL and then I hold CTRL with my thumb and press 0 or 9 with my index or ring finger. As a result, I don’t have to do something that is ergonomically inefficient like hitting CTRL with my left pinky and swinging my thumb all the way up to hit 9 or 0. It’s just as easy to move my hand a little bit to the right to take care of that.

In essence, I just don’t want any of you to think that you should ever keep your hand still. I’ve provided a sort of good default that you should rest at the left side of the keyboard but make sure that you’re constantly bouncing around. Not only does bouncing and moving around a lot allow you to do better things in Starcaft, but also it increases the movement and hence the blood flow to your hands so since you’re getting a lot of blood flow toy your wrists and your hands that will help to prevent a lot of symptoms of carpal tunnel and exhaustion and what not. Alright Awesome! So now everyone has an excellent positioning for their left hand.

Let’s talk about hotkeys a little bit. First of all, allow me to say a rule that you should never ever break. Here it is: Do not every click on something that you could build or do by pressing the key on the keyboard. I’m going to say that again: Do not click things if you can use the keyboard. Don’t do it. Don’t be one of the Protoss players who says the ‘p’ key is all the way on the right side of the keyboard. I guess that means I will just click on the probe icon whenever I want to build a probe. That is horrendously newbie. Do not ever ever do that. I don’t care if you’re playing BGH and doing a 2v2v2v2 and going mass scouts. You better be pressing ‘g’ if you want to upgrade scout speed. Now, if you don’t know the hotkey, you should mouse over it, look at what the hotkey is and then press it. Then you will start training your brain to move your hand to the right position on the keyboard. Do not fall into this trap where you just start clicking on things that are somewhat inconvenient. The keyboard is just as powerful a tool as the mouse. You should use it.

I want to spend some time now discussing hotkey setups. When I set up hotkey setups I mean what you do you have CTRL 1-2-3 and all the way up to 0 set to but before I do that I want to talk about the ‘F’ keys. F2, F3, F4. A lot of players do not use the ‘F’ keys because it feels a little inconvenient on the fingers to reach that high however they are absolutely essential for strong play so I am going to talk about them first. So that way when I do discuss hotkey setups like the 1234 all the way up to 0, I can also talk about how to incorporate the ‘F’ keys into that. So let’s begin with the ‘F’ hotkeys.

Let me briefly explain what the ‘F’ keys are for anyone who is potentially unfamiliar with them. So let’s say I select 12 Zerglings and I hit CTRL 2, every time I press 2 it selects those Zerglings. The ‘F’ keys work in the same fashion, however instead of selecting a unit or a building, it centers over a particular screen. So let’s say we are playing on Lost Temple and you are looking on your ramp, I can hold shift and then F2 and go do something else and then every time I press F2 my screen centers at my ramp. Nothing gets selected. It doesn’t matter if I have vision of that area or not. It just moves the screen there. The most typical use for the ‘F’ hotkeys is just to have one screen for each expansion. So I would have my main hot keyed at F2, my expo to F3, my second expo to F4. As a result if I get reaver dropped or storm dropped or vulture dropped, then I can hit F2, make a box around my workers, hit F3 and click on the minerals there and my workers start moving. F2 select the rest of the workers, F3 send them away. Using the ‘F” keys is clearly better than going to your main and making a box and then scrolling to your expansion, clicking on your minerals, and then scrolling back to your main. That takes too much time and all your workers will be dead by then. Another great use for the ‘F’ keys is for unit producing structures. Late game, a lot of Protoss and Terran players will have so many units that they want to use more hotkeys for those units. Moreover, since they have so many unit producing structures, there is no way that they could hotkey each structure individual. So these players will do is hotkey the screen of all their unit producing structures to F2. So they will hit F2 and go back make a bunch of units, and hit 11 and then go back to battle.

Another extremely powerful use of the ‘F’ keys is resetting rally points and a lot of people seem not to even know about this, let alone use it. Here’s the idea. Suppose I am a Terran player and I have 6 barracks and they are all rallied right to my natural. Suppose then I take another expansion and I want to re-rally all my barracks so the rally point is a defensive position for my next expansion. An example of this would be a Terran player on Andromeda who takes one of the left or right expansions. He wants to rally one of the marines up there so they can defend appropriately Here is a great way to use the ‘F’ ketys to re-rally all those barracks in a accurate, clean and click manner. Go to the barracks in your main and hotkey that screen as ‘F2’ and then go to where you want to rally all of them and hotkey that screen to ‘F4’. You hit ‘F2’ click on a barracks, F4 right click on the ground, F2 click on another barracks, F4 right click on the ground and continue this process to all 6 barracks are re-rallied. You can end up doing this very very quickly. Using the ‘F” keys is way better than all the alternatives. A lot of players will go to barracks and they will try to rally using the minimap and the problem with this is that if they are off by just a few pixels then they can 1 barracks that is being rallied to a totally random location way off to the side or something. Or some players will try to click on the barracks and scroll to the area and click and then do this back and forth. The problem is that it takes so much time that a lot of players end up missing a barracks or 2 and then they will have 5 barracks going to the right spot and 2 going again to some totally random location.

Section transcribed by Saracen

The f-keys not only make everything much quicker, but you’re much more accurate and less likely to make those mistakes. There’s tons of uses for F-keys, and the most important thing for you is that you just start using them. The easiest starting point if you’re uncomfortable with the F-keys, is to use them on your main, natural, and then second expansion. This way, you can be moving workers around much more cleanly using these F-keys. From there, as your hands develop more comfort with rapidly hitting F2, F3, and F4 you can branch out and assigning more uses to those F-keys now that your hands are comfortable. Now that we’ve discussed F-keys, I want to come back to discussing hotkey setups – what should your control 1,2,3, up to 0 keys be to allow you to play efficiently. First of all, your hotkey setup should be something you use to play more efficiently. So, if the setup doesn’t make up logical efficient sense, it’s probably bad. For example, let’s say you’re a Protoss player, and you hotkey your nexuses as 1, 2, and 3, and your units as 8, 9, 0. If you want to be making probes you have to do 1p2p3p and then to attack you do 0a9a8a. In both situations, you’re reaching across the keyboard in pretty much a really painful manner and that’s like totally bad for play because not only will that slow you down, but your hand will hurt, so that would be an example of a really bad hotkey setup.

So if you want to make a good hotkey setup, you have to consider what hotkeys are going to be pressed a lot for each of the races. If you’re a Zerg player, for example, the s key is used all the time to make things, you know, like sz for zerglings, and sh for hydras, and so on. Terran players need to consider the m key a lot, because they’re constantly making marines against Zerg, and the t and v keys for tanks and vultures. Protoss players need to worry about z and d for zealots and dragoons. On top of commonly pressed keys, all of the races need to consider the really really important keys that they’ll need in an instant. The most obvious example is Terrans with scanner. Even though you’re not necessarily constantly scanning all game long, you do need to be able to do it quickly, like if you see lurkers or dark templar. Whatever hotkey setup you want to form, you should just take into account all of these factors when constructing things.

But by far the best word of advice I can give anyone who’s trying to make a hotkey setup is not to be afraid to just start using random hotkeys for anything you might think is important. For instance, when I’m playing Zerg, early on, I don’t have too many units or hatcheries, so I use the 4 hotkey as my quote-on-quote important building. So, for instance, I will hotkey my spawning pool as 4 early on. That way, when I’m microing zerglings around my opponent’s base, I can just hit 4m to upgrade zergling speed and I never have to leave vision of my zerglings. Likewise, I will use the spire as 4 in Zerg vs Zerg. So that way, if I – (again, I’m microing in my Zerg opponent’s base) I can just constantly check the progress of my spire so that way I can know when to stop making units and start saving larvae for mutalisks. In fact, any little nuisance that you can think of in your play, try to create a way that hotkeys can solve that problem, however big or however small that problem might be. For example, early game, when I’m just making my first four or five drones, it always really annoyed me that I had trouble lassoing the drone right as it spawned from the egg, and I always wanted to get that drone moving towards minerals as fast as possible, and on occasion I would screw up. So, every time I build a drone now, I hotkey the egg as 3, so I have my scouting overlord as 1, my next overlord as 2, and any drone that’s about to pop out, I have it as 3. So when it hatches, I just click 3 and then start spamming on the mineral patch. There, problem solved! Naturally, your hotkey setup progresses throughout the game, so for example I just said that I used 1 and 2 as an overlord and 3 as a drone. Later on in the game, I have 1, 2, and 3 as units. And it’s totally okay to consider how these progressions will work in your play – when to override old hotkeys and put in new ones.

With that in mind, let me present three hotkey setups, one for each race. That way, you guys can use this as a reference point for your own hotkey setups. Let’s begin with the race that I play – Zerg. My general hotkey setup is that I have 1234 as units and then 567890 as hatcheries. Notice how easy macroing is when you have 5 and up as your hatcheries, because you can use your pointer finger on the number keys, the ring finger on s, and then the pinky finger on z. Contrast this with someone who uses 1 2 or 3 as their first hatchery placement. It’s really awkward to try to use three fingers. Most of the time, you end up being forced to use too two, which will slow you down tremendously, considering you’re building hundreds and hundreds of units every single game with Zerg. 5sz6sz7sz, going all the way up the keyboard, I don’t ever have to rearrange the way that my fingers are placed. I just simply stretch with my index finger a little bit more. The same goes for hitting 5sh and 5sm for hydralisks and mutalisks – I get to use three fingers in each of these circumstances. The 1234 for units is pretty self-explanatory. The a-key is right there and that allows me to maneuver my units totally effectively. I always have my main, natural, and second expansion hotkeyed to F2, F3, and F4, repsecitlvely. That way, when I’m making drones early, I can very easily split them around where I need to by lassoing the drone and hitting F4 to move it to my second base or lassoing the drone and hitting F2 to move it home. Likewise, if I’m getting storm dropped, I can just go F2, make a box, F3, send them to my expansion. There’s a few other little things I do with Zerg – for example, I usually have 0 as my important units such as defilers or queens, that way it’s very easy to access, and that’s not a unit that I’m going to be spamming a whole lot and remicroing as I would be with zerglings, lurkers, mutalisks, and so on and so forth. That way, if I have maybe four or five hatcheries, and haven’t quite hit six and getting ready to go into macro mode, I can use that 0 key to control my defiler or queen a little bit more effectively. I choose not to use F2, F3, and F4 to macro because I like to expand a whole lot as Zerg, and if I have four hatcheries at four different bases, it takes a long time to hit F2 and then make something and F3 and make something and F4 and then make something and then click on the other expansion and then make something. Considering larvae spawn every thirteen seconds, it’s way easier to just have all those hatches hotkeyed throughout the entire game.

Now let’s discuss a basic Terran hotkey setup. For Terran, my basic hotkey setup is fairly similar – I use 1 to 4 as units, 098 as scanner, and then 567 and 8 as unit-producing structures like factories or barracks. For the most part, with Terran, I tend to macro by clicking on my structures. I’ll hit 55 to ping back to a cluster of barracks, and then just spam m all the way along. Early on, though, I do have 567 and 8 hotkeyed as barracks, so for example, if I’m being very aggressive, I can just hit 5m6m7m8m, and you’ll note that that’s fairly easy to do if you place your thumb on the m-key. If I’m doing something more aggressive, like doing a fast dropship, I generally keep 5 and 6 as those factories still and then 7 as the starport. In general, though, 5 to 8 is just the unit-producing structures that I will occasionally need to build from when I’m not looking at them. Most of the time, though, I just keep all my unit-producing structures clustered, and then I hit 55 to ping back to it and to spam-build everything. If I end up with more clusters, I use 6 as the next cluster – so for example if I have a whole bunch of factories in my main and then a whole bunch of factories at an expansion, I’ll keep them both clustered, and then I’ll hit 55, build from the first cluster, 66, build from the second cluster, and so on. Again, 1234 is totally standard for units – 1t2t3t4t is fairly easy to hit if you move your thumb up, or you can even use your index finger. And then, naturally 0, 9, and 8 are all hotkeyed to scanner because those are the sorts of things you need to ping back to immediately. I don’t actually ever have my command centers hotkeyed, I find it very easy to do F2 s F3 s F4 s, use those screen hotkeys over my command centers. Not only is this useful because it helps you dodge storm and reaver drops, but that motion – hitting F2 s and F3 s – actually just feels very pleasurable and is very straightforward to do.

Now let’s move on to a Protoss hotkey setup. My Protoss hotkey setup is actually very similar to my Terran setup. I have 1234 as units, and then 5 to 8 generally as my unit-producing structures, and I also macro in the same way. I hit 55 for one cluster of gateways and spam along that and 66 for the other cluster of gateways, and I spam along that. I do tend to have my nexuses hotkeyed as 098. Again, because I’m making a probe every thirteen seconds, it’s very easy to go 0p9p8p to spam probes very easily. Again, I use the F2 F3 and F4 keys to center over my three nexuses at my first three expansions, to move probes around for storm drop. With both Terran and Protoss, I do the re-rallying trick I told you about earlier, where I hit F2 over the cluster, and then F4 where I want to rally. That way, I can re-rally these huge clusters very very quickly. I want to point out that none of these hotkey setups should be considered as the best hotkey setups for that race. I’ve heard a lot of Terran players use 1 and 2 as scanner because the 1 and 2 are right next to the s, and then they use 3, 4, and 5 for medic marine because it’s very easy to go 3t4t5t, for stim that is. Or a lot of Protoss players like to begin their gateways at 4 because they never really have that many units early game so they don’t necessarily need the 123 and 4 hotkeys all game long.

Section transcribed by qrs

The most important thing to take from the examples that I provided is that I'm making full use of the keyboard. Every number from 1 to 0 had some use in every scenario. I was even using the F-keys in all three cases.

The best thing that you can do is to think of a complete hotkey set-up and stick to it religiously. For example, again, let's say that you're one of those Protoss players who likes to click on the probe to build it, instead of hitting the p key. You might say to yourself, "Well, let me use 0 and 9 as my nexuses, so I start doing 0p9p and I don't waste that mouse action." What's most important is that you just stick to it, that when you're in-game, you don't get lazy and start clicking on something. What'll eventually happen is, though you begin slow with your hotkey set-up, you'll begin doing it faster and faster and faster, and as your APM increases, the fact that you have an efficient hotkey set-up will allow you to play all that much better. An efficient hotkey set-up is the key to having good micro and macro simultaneously. There are many, many players who are good at just microing or good at just macroing, but by having a really good hotkey set-up, it allows you to be in many places at once.

Since I've spent so much time discussing the keyboard, I wanted to move on to the mouse. Remember how I talked about the pivot point for your keyboard hand being that small bone in the bottom-right corner of your wrist? Well, we want to use that same pivot point for our mouse hand: we want to be putting all the pressure for our mouse hand on that same bone that now is in the bottom-left corner of our right hand. That's why people always joke about the "progamer callus" being that bone, right there—that's because players tend to keep all the pressure of their hands there, first of all, because it's very difficult to cut off circulation when you're putting pressure just on the bone, and also because it's a very solid pivot point to allow you to control your hands in a very straightforward manner.

In fact, if you're at your computer right now, I want you to pick up your mouse hand and place it right at the edge of your table so that you feel pressure right on that bone. And then try moving it around: notice how easy it is to stop accurately and to move it around in quick bursts. Contrast this by moving your mouse hand way far up the table, to the point where, like, the middle of your forearm is now at the edge of the table. It's actually a lot more difficult to move around and control, because you don't have that solid base pivot point as that bone. I still remember the first day that I moved my mouse hand from way up on my desk all the way to the front of the desk. I had a tremendous improvement in my micromanagement, primarily because I was able to easily stop my mouse pointer once I hit a specific location. So, for example, if I wanted to click directly at point x with my mutalisks: before, when I moved my mouse hand to point x I would tend to shake a little bit, and I would be able to get close to x but not quite there: my mouse hand would always waver around at specific locations, but by having this pivot point, I was able to stop much more accurately.

Naturally, any discussion of a mouse comes with a discussion about sensitivity. First of all: do not use mouse acceleration at all. Do not use it; it is horrible and hugely detrimental to your play. You'll find you have big difficulties remaining consistent with your mouse movements if acceleration is on. Many operating systems call mouse acceleration "enhanced pointer precision". You want to make sure "enhanced pointer precision" is unchecked—I know Windows XP does this. In fact, if you're using Windows XP, it's actually impossible to remove mouse acceleration just using the basic menu options. So if you go Google "remove mouse acceleration XP", it will give you a registry key that you can enter into the registry editor that will permanently fix mouse acceleration. I actually do this at every tournament I go to: I manually go into the registry editor and put in the correct smooth-x and smooth-y curves so my mouse responds exactly as I want it to.

In regards to sensitivity, I notice that there's a lot of players who jammed their mouse sensitivity to the max once they saw players playing at 300 APM. Many 300-APM players don't actually have very high mouse sensitivity at all, and, in fact, if your mouse sensitivity is too high, it's really difficult to do those fine-tuned, precise clicks that you need to. I would recommend the mid-range sensitivities: don't go for anything too high, and don't go for anything too low, like what Counter Strike players use. You want to hit something in a nice middle range; I tend to be at the high end of that middle range, but, again, I've practiced it for a very long time and I'm very comfortable with it. Just choose one and stick with it until your mouse hand feels really, really good.

Once you're comfortable with your mouse hand, there's two general things you need to be very good with. One is making huge, fast sweeping movements, like if you want to make a big box around a bunch of units, or you need to send mutalisks from the right edge of the screen all the way to the left edge, immediately. The second is fine-tuned little movements, like if you want to right-click on just the exact SCV that's at low health, instead of the one that's just a few pixels away from it. Both of these require a whole lot of practice, so, naturally, you can improve by just playing a lot, but I strongly recommend playing some reflex games, like ones you'll find at, and, in fact, I strongly recommend Minesweeper as an excellent game to help improve your mouse accuracy. When you play Minesweeper, you have to click at such a high rate, at such small boxes, that your hand becomes really, really sensitive to fine-tuned movements with your mouse hand, and, in fact, there was a period of time when I played a whole bunch of Minesweeper, and when I went back to playing a lot of StarCraft I found that I had a much easier time controlling mutalisks and zerglings and clicking on exactly what I wanted to, even when I was nervous.

Even when you're just by yourself at your computer, chatting on AIM: if you're going to close the window, try to move your mouse pointer onto the X to close it as quickly and accurately as possible. For example, right now, when I'm going to finish this Audacity recording, I need to move my mouse hand to the stop button. I'm going to try to do that in as accurate a whip motion as I possibly can. Any time you're at your computer doing something with your mouse, just try to be precise with it. And the more conscious you are of this, the more rapidly you'll improve your control in StarCraft, without ever even having to play a game.

Last, if you want to improve your micromanagement with certain units, I strongly recommend downloading micro, single-player maps, or just playing against a computer and controlling the specific unit you want to. So, for example, if I want to practice mutalisk control, I will just open a 1 vs. 1 against the computer and micro it around. I also have a mutalisk training map of mutalisks against scourge. If I want to practice my vulture control and I don't have a Use Map Settings map, I'll just make one—they're actually very straightforward to make on your own—and I'll just plant a zergling at spread-out locations on the map and have one vulture. And after you play this for, maybe, 4–5 hours, just doing the control of one unit, you will have almost mastered that unit. I actually did this with my mutalisk control: I just spent 4–5 hours trying to make sure my clicks were just right to kill scourge, and after just one day of practicing, I had a tremendous boost in my confidence in Zerg vs. Zerg.

That about wraps up the basic discussion of mechanics. What we've covered in this is

  • How to hold your mouse and keyboard hand
  • and how to make sure that you have a good hotkey set-up
  • and how to practice fine-controlled mouse movements.

I hope this is enough as a good base-point that will allow you to improve your micro and macro and help you win more and more games, without ever even having to really change your strategy.

That's all for now. Thanks everyone, good luck, and cheers.

Variations on 5 Hatch Hydra in ZvP[edit]

Transcribed by Bearigator

Hey, what's up everyone? This is Sean Plott AKA Day[9] and today I want to talk about variations on 5 Hatch Hydra in Zerg vs Protoss. Whenever you read strategy forums you get a lot of discussions about 'what build should I do' and this sort of thing. So rather than do that exactly I figured it would be sort of fun to just discuss the variations on the same idea because lately we've seen a whole lot of 5 Hatch Hydra type stuff in Zerg vs Protoss and I just think its cool to sort of discuss the interesting things you can do with it, because there really isn't one set way to play a 5 Hatch Hydra build.

I'm going to begin this pod cast by discussing a brief history of Zerg vs Protoss and what Zergs have tended to do versus Protoss early expandings over time. Naturally I'll wrap this up once I hit the current state of Protoss, then I'll spend some time discussing why 5 Hatch Hydralisks came to be and why its so effective against the current style of play. Once I've spent some time discussing the most common variation of 5 Hatch Hydra, I want to spend time talking about two additional variations. And the whole idea of this is that anytime you are using one of your own builds, or trying to mimic another players build, its very useful to think about what the essence of that build is and to think of different ways that you can do it to play to your strengths, or just to play to whatever stylistic choice you have. So with that said, let us begin a brief history of Zerg vs Protoss.

When StarCraft first came out, Protosses pretty much never early expanded against Zerg. It was just 2 Gate or Fast Gas. After Protoss players became much more comfortable Early Expanding, and realize things like you don't need to get a whole bunch of units, you can tech once you early expand, the most typical thing that Protoss plays did was go for fast Zealot Leg Speed when they early expanded and the big first push was to come out with 4 Gateway Speed Zealots, with a super super fast +1 Attack Upgrade. Because Zealots are so mobile and because you have that +1 Attack Upgrade to kill off Zerglings, it was a really solid first push, it was almost impossible to not get a third expansion if you opened up this way. And uh, you could put a huge amount of pressure on Zerg by running wherever he had expansions. For the most part it kind of pushed Zerg back and put Zerg on the defensive for the midgame. Consequently the most typical Zerg counter to this was to double expand upon seeing a Protoss early expand and then go straight for a Lair and Spire to get Mutalisks, and Mutalisks were sort of the key to holding off this Zealot harass. The Zerg player would get a whole bunch of Sunken Colonies at each of his expansions and then he would use the Mutalisks to drive the, uh, to drive the Zealots back and the Mutalisks could also be useful in delaying that third expansion that the Protoss wanted to get so badly. With the Mutalisks pushing the Protoss player back on the defensive, and trying to pick of probes and do harassment and this sort of thing, the Zerg, still on just 3 Hatcheries, would proceed to get Lurkers very quickly to further defend from these increasing Zealot numbers, uh, and use these Lurkers to expand a bit more and then the Zerg could pretty much do whatever. He would generally add on more Hatcheries and get upgrades and tech towards Hive and that sort of thing. In essence, the Zerg player would get air control by getting Mutalisks and hence a good portion of map control. The Zerg would complete the map control by getting by getting Lurkers and then, with these 3 expansions, the Zerg would power drones and it was really really hard for Protosses to deal with this, because they had this Mutalisk harass running around, they had these Lurkers, then they had to get Observers to go make the attack, and then whenever they did make the attack Zerg just had so much stuff that it was just way too difficult to break him. Now all the Protoss players are whining about Zerg imbalance until Bisu comes along and crushes sAviOr 3-0 with this ingenious Corsair play. That is, instead of rushing for fast Zealot leg speed Bisu went for a whole bunch of Corsairs early. As a result, Zerg players really couldn't get air control, those Mutalisks were completely ineffective. Moreover, with all these Corsairs running around, protecting your Overlords becomes a big issue. The Zerg always has to have enough anti-air to repel the Corsairs from killing all his Overlords. So, that, uh, common transition in to Lurkers so that the Zerg player can expand a lot now has no validity. By getting Corsairs, Mutalisks to Lurkers to a lot of expanding and map control can not happen at all. Naturally, Zerg players responded by trying to kill the Corsair play before it ever got off the ground. You see Zergs doing every sort of all in play possible. However, once Protosses became comfortable enough doing this Corsair opening and learned to position their buildings and their cannons appropriately, it was discovered that this Protoss Corsair opening was just stable and you had to figure out a way to deal with it and that's when we had a trend of Protosses actually winning more games against Zerg. After Bisu, I think that the Zerg win rate against Protoss dropped as low as 46 or 47 percent. It was pretty brutal.

So Zergs were dying left and right until this Scourge into 5 Hatch Hydra play became really really popular. Here's the realization many Zerg players had. Previously the Zerg was rushing to Mutalisks. The Zerg was rushing to units because the Zerg needed those units to help hold off these massive Zealot numbers, and the Mutalisk is an excellent choice because not only can the Zealots not attack it but Mutalisks are also good at counter-harassing the Protoss player. However, against a fast Corsair player, there are no majorly threatening units that are coming out early. There's no big Zealot push to worry about so Protosses (Zergs?) can safely get a Spire, and then just get a bunch of Scourge and keep making Drones for a little bit longer. Zergs could now easily get 5 Hatcheries and a ton of Drones up and running before they made any units because there was literally no worry at all of an early Protoss attack.

So let's stop and think about how old school Zerg vs Protoss worked. The Zerg player began by getting air control with those Mutalisks and then getting map control with a lot of Lurkers and Zerglings. Zerg still wants those two things, so Zerg ends up getting Scourge, or I guess Scourge if you like pronouncing things correctly but whatever. So Zerg gets Scourge to deny Protoss air control, again not to necessarily take air control but to deny Protoss of air control by Scourging all his Corsairs. With 5 Hatcheries running with a bunch of Drones, there's no better choice for a map control unit then Hydralisks. There's no worry of Templar or Reavers early, nor is there a big worry about a substantial Zealot/Dragoon army to take down a huge clump of Hydralisks. So Hydralisks are the best choice for the early mid-game in terms of maintaining map control, and then later on since Protoss has been denied air control, the Zerg can get a whole bunch of Mutalisks later, once he has enough gas. And now Zerg has map control with his Hydralisks and air control with his Mutalisks and that's a very difficult thing for a Protoss player to deal with. But still note that nothing really has changed from old school Zerg vs Protoss till now. Zerg is still just trying to figure out ways to get air control and map control. In either circumstance the Zerg player's just using different units to accomplish the same thing.

So the basic play became Scourge in to Hydras in to Mutas. A great example of this idea being used in practice is July vs Best on Andromeda in the OSL finals. Best got a ton of Corsairs, but July was getting so many Scourge to take them down that there was virtually nothing Best could do to maintain map control. Meanwhile, July was able to expand along the entire left side of the map and when Best finally came out July just had so many units. In fact July did end up doing that transition back to Mutalisks too to abuse this whole air control idea.

So I’ve done a whole bunch of theoretical discussion but let’s discuss the concrete three variations of 5 Hatch Hydralisks. So let’s begin with the most common one. Most typically a Zerg player will see a Protoss early expanding and the Zerg will take his natural and his second base, or his mineral natural or whatever’s available to him, and the Zerg player will rush towards Spire as quickly as possible. So you’ll see a lot of Zergs go 12 Hatch/11 Pool/13 Hatch, and then they will get 12 to 14 gas, somewhere in that range, to get that Spire up as quickly as possible. Zerg stays on one gas for a very long time and then he adds on two more Hatcheries as his Spire is building as well as a Den, another Extractor and an Evolution Chamber for the +1 attack upgrade. Many Zergs also get Overlord Speed to deal with Dark Templar and a few Sunken Colonies here and there as well, but for the most part it’s pretty much all Drones, then a handful of Scourge and then a massive amount of Hydralisks. The Zerg also generally gets a third gas running fairly quickly at his third expansion and proceeds to get a whole bunch of Mutalisks after that big Hydralisk army comes out. So now the Mutalisks are helping us to snipe off Templar, to do a little harassment in case the Protoss player didn’t make any cannons in his main, and this combination with the Hydralisks is very very effective.

Let’s discuss some pros and cons of this build. First of all the underlying idea of this build is an effective counter to the annoying Corsair opening for Protoss. Second of all it’s pretty easy to do. There’s nothing that tricky about the build. In particular, you get a lot of units to hold off attacks, you don’t have to worry about doing anything technical to hold off attacks, like having two perfectly placed Lurkers to fend off a massive army until he gets Observers. None of that happens, you just have five control groups of Hydralisks and you attack move and smile. Moreover you don’t have to worry about Storm dodging nearly as much because your Mutalisks are designed to kill off his Templar when he comes out for his first key attack. However there are some significant draw backs with this style of play that you need to consider whenever you’re doing it. First of all, I would describe this build as, what I’d call a Tweener build. That is, it’s not like you are expanding a bunch and trying to hold until all this momentum kicks in, you’re not being really aggressive at the opening. You’re getting a bunch of Scourge kinda fast then getting a bunch of Hydralisks kinda fast on kinda a lot of expansions. It’s this very middle of the road style play. And though there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, the consequence of that style of play is it doesn’t really force the Protoss player to do anything. If the Protoss player wanted to make one Corsair and then go 4 Gateway with a Zealot/Archon push he could do that. If he wanted to make lots of gateways and then go Zealot/Archon with DT he could do that. If the Protoss player wanted to make a lot of Corsairs and then go Corsair/Reaver he could do that. There’s all the options Protoss has available, Protoss can choose which one he wants to do. As a result, those Hydralisks and Mutalisks that you have, you have to be putting them to very active use if you want to generate a strong advantage with this build. You can’t just get the Mutalisks and the Hydralisks and say “Well if he attacks I’ll pick off those Templar and attack-move my Hydralisks to win”. If you’re playing against a very good Protoss player he will have enough of a macro ability that he’ll be able to walk over you unless you’re actively harassing him with the Mutalisks and actively putting pressure on him with the Hydralisks. I know that many Zerg players are still most comfortable with momentum style play. They’re most comfortable sort of defending and holding and waiting till their economy kicks in, then they get this massive army that they walk over the Protoss with. When you’re doing this 5 Hatch Hydra build that is just the case. You’re relying on a ton of units, not very much defense and you need to be careful when you expand, how you position your units and how to maximize the effectiveness of the units that you have.

So to recap, this is a great way to play, I strongly recommend it if any of you want to use it, but I want to emphasize that it is not the only option. It has its strengths and weaknesses and there are ways of doing 5 Hatch Hydralisk in different fashion, so let’s talk about some of those.

Let’s discuss the second variation I’m going to present. This variation was seen in Jaedong vs Stork on Return of the King. I believe in the OSL Round of 8, in the most recent Starleague. Jaedong did the following. He opened up going 2 Hatch Lair, he was going for Lair very very quickly and Stork had the scouting Probe around long enough to see that Jaedong was doing this, but Jaedong eventually killed that scouting Probe and then ran his Zerglings up so Stork was now in the dark, just knowing that his opponent had two Hatcheries and was going straight for Lair. At this point I was completely convinced that Jaedong was doing an aggressive Muta/Scourge opening against Stork. You know it was just the standard sort of ‘if I get enough Mutas and Scourge I can just kill off Protoss before he has enough stuff to deal with me. So the Lair finished, Jaedong built a Spire, but then Jaedong surprised me when he build a Hatchery at his third expansion. I thought to myself ‘do you have enough money to do that and get a bunch of Muta/Scourge?’, and the answer is no. In fact, Jaedong was never doing that in the first place, he added two more Hatcheries and then a Hydralisk Den, and I realized that he was transitioning right back in to the general sort of 5 Hatch Hydralisk play. But what’s so genius about Jaedong’s opening is that now it forces Stork to get Corsairs that Stork might not want to be getting. Stork in his mind sees two Hatcheries and a Lair coming really fast. Stork thinks to himself ‘Oh, Mutalisks are coming. I will now make a whole bunch of Corsairs,’ but all of a sudden this Mutalisk attack never comes and Stork has a whole bunch of Corsairs lying around that he may not want to have built in the first place. Jaedong’s opening allowed him to say ‘Great, I am playing against a Protoss player who is gonna have a bunch of Corsairs. I am not worrying about a Protoss player who goes 1 Corsair and then straight in to fast Zealot Legs.’ So naturally, when I’m going to discuss the pros and cons of this build, a big pro is that it forced the Protoss player to do something in a passive fashion. Zerg didn’t have to do anything sexy with units, he just had to let Protoss see what he was doing and Protoss felt an imaginary pressure from his opponent from an attack that was never going to happen. Zerg now can sort of stereotype his play down one path since he knows Stork is going to be having more Corsairs than usual. And again, along with any 5 Hatch Scourge/Muta opening, this build that Jaedong did is very effective against Corsair openings.

So let’s briefly spend some time discussing the cons. The first and most obvious one is that you have a little bit of a damaged economy at the start. When you open with 3 Hatch, you do tend to get a lot more Drones then when you open with 2 Hatch. Another big disadvantage is that if you’re not very good at dealing with Corsairs, you’ve essentially brought on your own doom. I mean, don’t do this build if you don’t really like dealing with a bunch of Corsairs. So again, Jaedong opens up with an aggressive opening to force his opponent to do something. So, though he has a limited economy, he only has to deal with a very small subset of post-Corsair play.

Let’s now move on to a third variation of 5 Hatch Hydralisks. This style I’m going to describe was seen in By.Hero vs Bisu on Tau Cross on a recent Proleague match. By.Hero opened up by getting four Hatcheries before his gas. Once he did throw down the fourth Hatch he immediately got a geyser and then again started to tech towards lair. As opposed to the first two variations where the players got the Spire first and then the Hydralisk Den later, By.Hero got a Hyrdralisk Den while his Lair was building. The logic behind this is that the Protoss player is going to get his Corsair quickly and since Hero isn’t going to have the Spire up he may as well get a Den to make sure he doesn’t lose too many Overlords early. Hero was very careful not to make too many Hydralisks though. He only made a small few, just to hold off those Corsairs and maybe an initial attack, and then he got the Spire and the Scourge and played it off just like any other 5 Hatch Hydra variation. He continued to make a whole lot of Drones and got a 5 Hatchery and then the +1 attack upgrade for Hydralisks. However, Hero got those four Hatcheries up so quickly that he had substantially more Drones then what was normal. As a result Hero was able to get way more Hatcheries than usual and had this amazingly big army for when Bisu came out. In fact, of all the Proleague games that I’ve mentioned, I recommend this one the most because it was just so spectacular to see Hero get so many units and just to be able to attack-move over Bisu essentially.

The obvious big advantage to this build is the macro ability. By getting that fourth Hatchery so early, Zerg has a tremendously larger amount of units for the remainder of the game, and in a sense it forces the Protoss player down one of two avenues. One, the Protoss player either has to expand in order to keep up, or two the Protoss player has to be really really aggressive and in your face in order to make sure that economic advantage never really takes off the ground. There are some downsides to this style of playing. The big one is that you have to play a little bit more defensively, particularly in the early and the mid-game, far more so than you would in the other two variations I mentioned. First of all, if the Protoss player sees you going four Hatchery before gas, immediately the Protoss player is not worried about any sort of early Mutalisk stuff, so a lot of Protoss players can cut cannons in their back and cut anti-air in general and then they’re able to come out with a substantially larger ground army in the early mid-game. Moreover, that first Corsair from Protoss gets to see everything that Zerg’s doing. The Zerg is not going to have a Spire up nearly in time to take it out so, you know, the Protoss player gets to see everything and make whatever decision he feels is appropriate. Many Protoss players take advantage of this by saying ‘Oh, this player can’t put that much pressure on me early, so I can cut all the money for defenses. Now, I’ll put pressure back on him’. In my experience, I’ve had a lot of Protoss players start to put a ton of pressure on me with early Zealots and then with Corsairs and then with DT and then with Corsairs and Reavers, that after a while I just realized that I haven’t been making any Drones, I’ve only been making Hydralisks just to stay alive, and then when Protoss does come out with his attack force its too much and I end up crumbling. What I needed to have done was to spend all that time making Drones so when he came out to push I already had six or seven Hatcheries building units instead of the 4 or 5 I had due to this really pressure intensive harass. In short, the strengths of this build are economy and macro. Make sure you don’t get a in a situation where you have a bad economy and you can’t macro.

To recap, the first variation, that is the most common variation, is very strong as long as the Zerg player is very careful to make sure his Hydralisks and Mutalisks are constantly doing things. The second variation, the low econ, forces the Protoss player to make too many Corsairs early, which allows the Zerg player to play against a limited scope of potential mid and end games. And the third variation has very powerful economy and macro as long as you’re careful not to over react to harassment and early pressure. So I hope that you can use the ideas of this talk to help you tweak your own builds to make them more of the style that you like. And, uh, I guess that about wraps it up. Thanks everyone, good luck and cheers.

A New Look at Build Orders[edit]

Transcribed by Count9

Hello everyone, this is Sean Plott, a.k.a. Day[9], presenting today: "A New Look at Build Orders." Naturally, before I begin anything, I must apologize for the extended delay for this podcast. I just had a whole bunch of end of the year stuff going on, with finishing up all my school projects, and my finals, and now I have an internship starting up, and I had to do my laundry, and there's this really good taco I ate. But finally, I have some free time. Rather than ask for your forgiveness though, I figured it would be significantly more kick ass if I presented on what I feel is the most important component of StarCraft strategy, and that is how you look at build orders, and how you think about them in the proper way. I find build orders to be such an important topic of discussion because the way people discuss them in the forums is actually quite bad, and I would say flat out WRONG in most circumstances. So I’m going to divide this talk into the following four sections. First, I wanna ask the most basic questions about build orders, and I’m gonna answer them in this incorrect way I just mentioned, and I’m going to point out all the flaws in that line of reasoning. In part two, I’m gonna ask those same basic questions again, but I’m gonna answer them properly, avoiding the mistakes I discussed in part one, and more important, highlighting the strength and versatility of the proper line of reasoning. In part three, I’m going to take a very simple example of the proper thought process and build orders and apply it to a simple situation. As a result, I can go super-duper in depth into a build order that most people are very familiar with and isn’t too tricky. Then, in part four, I’m going to wrap up with a personal example of how I constructed a build order from scratch using this appropriate line of reasoning, and I’ll also include, uh, how I could’ve gotten side tracked or made a whole bunch of mistakes if I thought about it incorrectly. So, without further ado, let’s begin part one.

The two questions that I wanna ask that are really the most simple questions that you can ask are the following: “What is a build order?” and “How do we talk about it?” The reason I think it’s important to ask those two different questions is that, surprisingly, most people think that the answer to these questions is the same. They will say ok, the food is your unit count in the top right corner of the screen, and a build order is a list of instructions based on that food. So a build order, for a 2 gate opening with protoss would be 8 pylon, 10 gate, 12 gate, etc. and then when they answer the question how do you talk about a build. Well you talk about it using that unit count in the top right corner. We always discuss builds in regards to this food number, obviously there are good bits of truth in this answer because in the game staracft when you’re trying to figure out the appropriate time to build something you don’t have a clock in the game so using food or unit count as a notation is very very convenient and very accurate. Here is the big problem I have with the answer I just gave, if you think about it, this food based instructions set is extremely detailed, that’s a huge level of accuracy and precision in terms of telling you when to build things. And when you have something this precise, there had to have been some step before hand that led to that instruction set. For example, let’s take this recent shift to five hatch hydralisk into mutalisk in Zerg vs Protoss. A player didn’t wake up one day and magically have this perfect build order. He sort of shaped and sculpted a whole bunch of various ideas together and smoothed it down and refined it until he had a very clean smooth 5 hatch hydra into mutalisk buld order. That instructions set that we all use nowadays was the final end product of a very long process. Moreover, the concepts, all the ideas, the tests, the failures, the successes of this build when you just look at this list of instructions based on your food. The final product, this instructions set, is tremendously problematic for players who are on forums discussing, sharing, and learning new build orders. The two biggest problems, is that players can’t deal with variations in game play and they’ll also have no understanding of their builds. So for instance a player will learn this 5 hatch hydra build but what happens if suddenly his opponent gets a whole bunch of gateways early on and pressures him with zealots. That player will feel totally lost because now his instruction set can’t be used appropriately. If he tries to make drones here, when he gets attacked he’ll die so he’ll feel pressure to feel hydralisks. But now he doesn’t have enough money later to make mutalisks later and it’s just a big mess. Moreover, their understanding of the all the underlying of the build are lost, they might not even want to do this build on a new map, but they just do it anyways. And they have a whole bunch of failures and they just don’t know why. Or they will be doing the build perfectly making all the units they need to and getting all the timings right but they won’t be using the units properly, they won’t be positioning the unit properly. All these little subtle details along the way. With all that in mind, lets move on to part two.

I’m gonna ask the same questions again, but there’s one crucial idea I want to keep in mind. Remember how I said there was some step before this detailed instruction set, I want to make sure to focus on that step. That is the key to answering any question about build orders. So again, let’s ask the question “What is a build order?” A build order is an optimization of an idea. That is it’s the best possible way to do some thing. Now, I do mean idea in as broad a sense as possible. An idea could be something as simple as, “Hey, if I have +1 upgrade for my zealots for attack they can kill a zergling in two hits.” And we have a lot of builds that now revolve around getting that upgrade very quickly. Or a terran player might say, “Wow, zergs really like mutalisks and lurkers against me. Maybe I can try to kill them before even gets his lair tech going.” Now all of a sudden we have bunker rushes and fast tank pushes being motivated from this idea. Your idea could be something tactical, like “Wow, this bridge is very narrow, I bet if I controlled this my opponent would have a very hard time breaking out this front.” This is a great motivator for a huge number of builds. And although it sounds a little vague a build is an optimization of an idea, I want to use that definition because it is very important that I keep referring back to my initial idea. And make sure that I’m not contradicting that or violating it in some way. Now it’s time for the second question. “How do we talk about build orders?” I want you to know that this is the most important segment of this entire presentation. Alright, get ready! A build order is divided into several key components, these key components that are the tings that are critical for accomplishing your idea. A build order therefore is how you arrange these key components leading up to the execution of your idea. The most important aspect of this notion of build orders is that you can rearrange these key components and you still will en dup accomplishing the same big idea you had in mind if you do it right. Way way way too many StarCraft players think of strategies as this huge branching tree that you open strategy X. And if you see your opponent do this, you move down this deviations on the left. And if he does that, you move down this deviation on the right. What a clever player does, is he says, “I wanna go down this middle path. “And my responses are not gonna be going down the different deviations on the left and right. Rather I’m gonna rearrange the key elements of my build in different fashions to make sure that I’m always going down that middle path so that everything is the same in the end anyways. After I have figured out all the rearrangements based upon the various responces, that is when I fleshing them out and getting them down very precisely until at the very very end, I have an instruction set based upon food that I can execute every single time. Notice that the food instruction set that most people would describe as the “build order” was the last final thing we did when we were trying to make a build. And if all this sound super abstract and theoretical, don’t worry because I’m gonna move on to part 3 right now. A super simple example that will demonstrate these ideas in a real game.

So suppose you’re a terran player, and you’ve been trouble against zergs. Here is a good idea for a build order, you would say to yourself, “Hm, I’m having a lot of trouble against mutas and lurkers. Maybe I can kill that zerg player before he even gets them. I’ll need some tanks to break down his sunkens at the front, and I’ll need some medic marine to defend my tanks. And to run in once those sunkens are broken and hopefully if I do this right my zerg player will be dead before he even gets his lair tech off the ground. Great! Our big idea is killing zerg veofre lair tech with medic marine tank push. Now it’s time to identify the key opponents to this build. What are all the things rthat are necessay to make this build work. I came up with a list of 6 key elements, which might seem like a lot, but it’s a hella of a lot less than remembering every little instruction of some detailed build order that you find in the forum. So with that said, number one. I need to get two barracks up so I have enough medic marine to defend my tanks. Two, I need a factory so I can get tanks with siege mode. Three, I need to get an academy so I can research stim and get my uhhh firebats and my medics. I need stim for my marines and firebats because they’re really not very good without it. And potentially 6, for maybe an engineering bay. Again I want to list it because I might need it to build turrets to help bolster my push up front because he might have mutalisks up. But there’s a chance that my build is so good that it’ll crush the zerg before he gets mutalisks. So I might not need the engineering bay at all. One I need a second barracks, two I need a factory, three I need an academy, four and five are siege and stim, and six is potential this engineering bay. Alright, sweet. Right now note that we haven’t played a game yet. You’re just a terran player sitting alone in your room still devising a strategy, and it’s important that before you pick up and play that first game that you have some arrangement, some logical arrangement, of these ekey lements in mind. Most logical thing would first to start with the easy part. I think I’m gonna build my engineering bay last. Because again, I can’t conceive of needing it early because you can’t get mutalisks that fast. I mean, you know, the whole point of the build is to kill him before he gets mutalisks. And the only thing to get it early would be to get some sort of attack and defense upgrade but I don’t think that would be done in time for the tank push, so e-bay would probably come last. Siege mode would obviously come second to last because I would want to start researching it so that it would finish right when the tanks get to the front of his base. Stim would come next before that so I would have stim by the time I get to his base perhaps along the way. So right now my last three elements in order are stim, siege and engineering bay. Now I have the three perhaps most important components of this build which are the two factories, the barracks, and the academy. So continuing in this reverse the academy seems like the last of those three that I’ll get because I don’t need the firebats or the medics too early because I can just hold my ramp with marines early on. And again, I’m not rushing to get stim early so right now the only thrings we have left are the two barracks and the factory. And the last four elements in roder are going to be the academy, stim, siege, and engineering bay. And there’s a little bit of debate about whether I should make that second barracks first or that factory first. If I make the two barracks first I will have a lot of units early on and I’ll have a lot more medic marine for when my tank push comes out, but it’ll be a little bit slower. Likewise, if I get the factory first my tank push will come out earlier. But I’ll might not have as many units as before. Most important thing when you're faced with this pro/con analysis and you're not sure, is just to pick one. So right now I am just going to pick two barracks first, followed by a factory, then my academy, then stim, siege mode, and an engineering bay. Now it's time for me as the terran player to start playing the game. And what I'm gonna do now, is think about how to make these key elements relative to one another. I have an ordering for them but I might say, "Start siege mode when stim pack is half done" or something like that. Or, I might wait till my second barracks is finished before I even consider building my factory, or I might be able to build my factory while my second barracks is making.

All these sorts of things are what you flesh out through playing your build order several times in a row. Anytime you're doing a build in practice and you have these key elements all set up and everything seems to be going well you'll still have a handful of big questions that you'll need to answer. So for example with this fast tank push build an excellent question is, "Should I be cutting marine production at any time? Should I stop making marines at the start so I can get that factory up really fast and then go right back to pumping out marines from my two barracks?" If you're unsure again, just pick something and test it out.

So for example, let’s say I'm my terran player and I start out, I get my two barracks, which is my first key elements and I make five marines before I get my factory started, and then I do everything as appropriate. I get my academy a little while afterwards and then I get stim, and siege mode and move out with medic marine army once I have a tank or two. I might get to his base and say to myself, "Wow, I'm a little bit late with this tank push. He already has his lair units and I have trouble getting this tank push started. Moreover, I seem to have way too many medic/marine." Well, ok, duh, early on I clearly made too many marines because I seem to have an excess, and that also appears to have delayed my tank push. So then I might cut back and say, "Ok, well let me make only one marine."

So let’s say I've now done this build 10 times or something like that, and everything is feeling really, really good, I have all my timings set out, I have this ordering of my key components, and when I build them is based on the other key elements. I don't say something like, make my academy at 30 food. I would say something like, “Make the academy when the factory is halfway done.” As a result, I'll have a much easier timing set should I encounter any sort of variation.

Now with this in mind, let’s think about the true power of using this key component build order set. Let's say for some reason that in those 10 games I practiced where everything was feeling really great I was only playing against super standard zergs who did something like 3 hatch opening and they gassed on 16 and went straight for a lair for mutalisks. Suppose in my eleventh game doing this build I encounter some zerg player who's going 3 hatch mass zergling. He seems to have spent his first 100 gas on zergling speed and I'm seeing very few drones being made from those hatchers. What do I do now? Well the key idea of my build was to try to kill my opponent right before he got his lair units up and running, right before those mutalisks and lurkers came around. So, the appropriate way to respond then is not to discard this whole fast tank push strategy, it's to rearrange the key elements to respond to these zerglings. So an appropriate response would be to get the academy before the factory; as a result I can get more firebats and bigger medic/marine army—and later tanks, but again, this is ok, it's ok that my fast tank push is a little bit later because his lair is a little later as well. So again, I still get my stim and my siege mode and my tanks coming out with the same relative timing that I was using before. I just got that academy before the factory, that way I could get more anti zergling units so my later push could deal with his zergling army, but still crush him before he got those mutalisks out.

Suppose in my twelfth game using this strategy I encounter an opponent who's going fast 9 pool speed zerglings. I can't now suddenly just get one marine and go straight for my factory as I did in my original build. I should be getting a lot more marines early on to hold off that zergling number. Moreover, this again doesn't screw me up the idea of my tank push suddenly isn't invalidated because he got zerglings early. He still almost certainly will be expanding and getting mutalisks. So it's ok for me to make those extra marines and then proceed as normal, get my factory, my academy, my stim-siege, and possibly my engineering bay to wrap things up. Again, this is the key idea that I want to hammer home again, and again, and again. A strong player with a good idea for a build doesn't not look for ways to deviate from his build based on what his opponent is doing, rather he looks for ways to rearrange all the crucial elements of his build so that he can continue down the same path that he wants every single game. It's all about rearranging key elements, not about deviations and changing your game plan.

With all this in mind, I want to move on to part four, which is a personal anecdote of how I created a zerg vs terran build on Gaia using this build order theory I've just described. I started with a general idea, identified the key components, and then figured out how to respond to all the different possible terran openings to make sure my build order worked the exact way I wanted every single time. Before I say anything, let me briefly note that this build is not for vertical positioning on Gaia. That is, it is not for top right vs bottom right or top left vs bottom left. Those games play out totally differently and really weird so I'm not even gonna go into it.

So, let’s suppose my opponent and I are on opposite sides of the map. like I'm top right and he's top left, or I'm bottom left and he's top right, something like that. The big question I always ask myself whenever I'm developing a new build or a new style of play on a map is "what do I want my mid game to look like?" The answer to that question is my big idea of my build order. That has a lot to do with the fact that mid game tends to converge in StarCraft, which is whole other discussion, but again, just to sort of breeze right through it, I just ask myself what do I want in my mid game to look like? On Gaia, I note that in the center is a big, fat, wide open lane. It's not quite an open circle like on Lost temple or on Luna, it's more of a wide path. So when I look at that, in the mid game, I want a really big lurker-hydra army to crush terran's first push. That is my big idea, is to secure the mid game with hydra-lurker. Yeah, sure, I might be going for Guardians, and defilers, and Ultra's later on in the game and I might open up with lurker ling or something like that, but in the mid game I want to have hydras and lurkers as my main defense.

So, what are the key components to this build? Obviously I need the three upgrades, hydralisk speed, range, and lurkers. I also want two evolution chambers upgrading +1/+1. I want two extra gas so I have four gas total. I want those expansions to be my side expansion and my natural at the other main. I don't want to take the other main on my side because my big hydra lurk army is a little slow so if that main got dropped it's kinda tough to get all my units up there. However, if I just took the natural of that main my hydra lurk can just mosey right over there and defend it much more easily. I need a spire so I can get scourge to kill drop ships. Again my hydra lurk isn't too mobile, if I have a big hydra lurk in the middle to hold this push, and he drops in my main, it's pretty tough for me to get all the way back into my main, so those are pretty deadly. I also want overlord speed because it's really nice to be able to spot his army completely. I'm not gonna be doing any cute harassment stuff with mutalisks, so I won't get the vision potential given by those mutalisk. I need overlord position in really nice place. Again those overlord with speed are also instrumental in, in holding off dropships with the scourge. And the last component I want is Queen's Nest. I'm not going into extensive detail of what I'm doing in the late game, all I need to know is that I must transition to that at some point, so I may as well throw the Queen's Nest and the Hive in there. So my short list of key components is: Hydra speed, hydra range, lurkers, two evo chambers upgrading, two expansions, a spire with scourge, overlord speed, and one thing I didn't mention earlier is that I might need ling speed in some of these variations. Zerglings are very good early on. Let’s discuss now all the openings that terran can do and how I rearrange the key elements of this hydra lurker build so I have a big hydra lurk army in the middle. In virtually all circumstances I'm gonna be opening with the standard three hatch sort of build, I'm gonna be going 12-hatch, 11-pool, 13-hatch, totally normal opening, gets me a lot of drones, awesome.

Let’s talk about when my opponent does a fast tank push, the same tank push I've described earlier in this talk. First of all, think about what zerg actually sees, zerg sends his scouting drone out sees two barracks and refinery go up kinda quickly. But then that drone has to leave, fortunately I do have the following information, my terran opponent is pretty much not really expanding, doing some sort of one base play against me. So he's gonna be having more units early on and he's gonna be getting his starport faster with drop ships. So in my base I'm gonna open up with my standard three hatch tech, go for lair, and get lurkers and zergling speed but I'm gonna cut drone production and make sure I have enough units. I'm also gonna be getting my spire along side that lurker ling combination because I know that for example if he did some sort of fast tank push a lot of players will follow that up with a drop ship. or he might even go straight for drop ship and it's really important that as I push out more to the middle of the map that I have the scourge in time to kill any drop ship harass he's doing. A potential concern would be that if I'm getting that spire and I'm getting a bunch of lurker ling early on my economy would be wounded, not only do I have a lower drone count, but I will delay taking those two expansions that's part of my whole build plan to begin with. This is ok however, because although my economy is delayed, it's delayed proportional to my terran opponent. My opponent is one basing, so his economy is behind as well, so it's ok that I don't have nearly as many drones. It's more important for me to just not die. So in some circumstances if I know I won't be able to get out of my base, so let’s say he's really aggressively pushing, he has a bunch of bunkers and turrets outside of my base, I'm totally comfortable getting my evolution chambers early on. I might not get two evolution chambers to get the +1 range attack and +1 carapace but I'll throw down one to get the carapace upgrade early on. And again, if I'm still being held in my base and I can't take those two expansions, I'll get overlord speed. Once I do end up breaking out, taking those two expansions, and powering just briefly maybe getting 6 or 7 drones, that's when I'll get hydra speed and hydra range as well as another evolution chamber for that ranged attack upgrade. As a result, in the end, I'll have that same mid game plan that I wanted. I'll have all my expansions, my big hydra lurk army in the middle, but it will have been significantly delayed because of this early pressure my terran opponent put on, and again this is totally fine because my terran opponent equivalently delayed his expansion.

As a matter of fact I'd play pretty similarly if my opponent does some sort of two barracks fast academy type of play. I'd just make sure to get enough lurker ling to push him out and gain center control. And then I go right back to the same general style aiming to get my expansions, fairly quickly, followed by my +1/+1 upgrades, and if there's any delay I in getting those expansions I will just get my evolution chamber a little earlier and my overlord speed a little earlier.

In short, against one base play from terran that seems to be medic marine based, I simply delay getting my two gas expansions and focus more on getting all those critical upgrades and buildings first like the spire, the evo chamber, and the overlord speed upgrade. In some circumstances the terran player won't even expand for a while after his one base opening, he'll add on a third or maybe even a fourth barracks and start pushing you aggressively with one factory, and one starport making vessels, and 4 rax making marines. Since that's pretty difficult to deal with without making a lot of units, I will just happily delay my third and fourth expansion. I'll generally take my third gas right when I bust out of whatever early pressure he has, but I'm totally comfortable waiting a little while to take that fourth gas to make ensure that I am in fact making enough units to hold off that aggression. In all cases, the end result is that, in the mid game, I have a big hydra lurk army, I have four gas, two evo chambers, a spire, and overlord speed upgrade. And after I've done all that and I'm feeling pretty content, that's when I throw down the Queen's Nest and in all these circumstances.

Let's consider something totally different. Let's say I scout into his base and I see my terran opponent has one barracks and a refinery. Immediately I note he's doing some sort of fast tech opening. Briefly I'm going to ignore cases where he goes all out mech. Like does some sort of goliath, tank, vulture composition for the remainder of the game. I'm gonna stick to these medic marine army and well address that in a little bit. But so right now based upon medic marine openings he could be going for fast drop ship, he could be going for two port wraith, he could going for one factory vulture harass into expand and then get a bunch of medic marine. All these sorts of techy annoying options. If I see this, then I do again with three hatch but I will get a hydralisk den and then I'll get speed [sic] really early on. As a result I can handle some vultures running into my main, I can handle wraiths, I can fend those off pretty easily. I also can deal with even if he does weird stuff like goes one rax fast academy and comes out with super fast firebats or something like that. Cause I have these hydras with range [sic], I can hold all of that off effectively. And then, once I get my lair up, note that I'm getting lair before range for hydras [sic]. Once I get that lair up, I research lurker spines, and again, I move out into the middle, burrow a bunch of lurkers there, and I take my third and fourth gas. And everything's pretty much the same from here on out, I opened up with hydralisks and delayed my lair and made sure to get speed [sic] to hold off his early aggression stuff. But after that, I pretty much went for lurkers, took control of the middle, and now I'm expanding and powering drones and I'm going back and getting my +1/+1 upgrade. I'll probably will already have gotten speed for overlords already if I see him doing something like fast wraiths, if he's not doing that I may well skip it and get a spire followed by that overlord speed upgrade to sort of wrap things up. And again, my mid game is identical in this circumstance.

And then lets finally consider the most common opening for terran, he opens up with a one rax and early expand or even two rax fast command center. In this circumstance I'm more than happy to make a few extra drones, I'm still gonna be pushing out with lurker ling early, but instead of maybe 36 to 40 lings, if he was doing some sort of super aggressive opening, I might have somewhere like 18 to 24 lings. Just enough with my lurkers for me to push out to mid and secure that wide alleyway so I can take my two expansions. And then I'm very comfortable powering drones for a little bit and then I'll get my +1/+1 upgrades before I get range and speed. Cause again, I only need range and speed right before his big attack in the middle. And after I take these two expansions and I get my +1/+1 upgrades that's when I generally get my spire for the scourge and drop ship control.

An interesting thing to note is that I didn't mention overlord speed in this discussion against early expanding. What I discovered when I did this hydra lurk opening is that there were a handful of circumstances where I did have to deviate. One of those circumstances is when my terran opponent would early expand and get two factories very very quickly. When his middle game push came out, although it came out a minute later, around the 10 second, or 10 minute 30 second park as opposed to usual the 9 minute 30 second mark for a early push. Even though his push was a little bit later, it just had so many tanks that I had a huge amount of difficulty dealing with it despite the fact that I had this oversized hydra lurk army. As a result against an early expanding player I tend to get my overlord speed upgrade very quickly to see if he is getting that two factory playing. In circumstances where he is doing that, I generally just skip hydras altogether and I go straight for a Hive. I just generally do the lurker ling, and then go straight to Guardians, and Ultras, and defilers and all that good stuff. And also you'll note I skipped talking about mech. Hydra lurk is quite bad against mech play so I also have a transition out from that. Remember that I said against a one basing, gassing terran player, I generally open up with hydras with range upgrade [sic] and then go straight for lair. But if it appears he's going mech, I won't get lurkers I'll just throw done a spire. And that way he's forced to make some goliaths and he's forced to make some tanks early on to deal with my hydras. This allows me to take two more expansions as usual and instead of going a hydra lurker army I got a hydra muta army.

Lemme sort of recap cause I've done a whole bunch of rambling about all sorts of variations. In essence what I'm doing is against one basing medic marine players, I'm delaying my expansions and getting more upgrades and the spire and the scourge and all that critical upgrade stuff first. Against a one basing mech player, I open up with hydras. If he's continuing going medic marine I transition into that same lurker hydra play and if he's going more mech, I transition smoothly into a muta hydra with lots of expansions play. If he's early expanding I just push out into the middle as normal and expand a little bit more and make a few more drones and then go back and get all those critical upgrades and buildings like the spire, the speed, the +1/+1 upgrade. And if he is in fact going for this two factory, really fast, I just smoothly transition away from this hive type play. In all circumstances, I tried as hard as I could to make my big idea work, to try to get this hydra lurk army to work in the middle. And you'll note for the most part I got that to work in every case except for two, cases where he mechs and cases where he goes early expand two factory. All the rest of the time I did an excellent job of forcing the game to go down the exact path that I wanted to. So again, even if all this just seem like blabber the important thing to note is to force your gameplay down one path by rearranging the key components of your big build order.

So slight apologies for having a little bit long audio, this thing just ran over 30 minutes but hopefully this was really helpful and I'm actually I glad I took this long to talk about this concept because, really, thinking about build orders the right is so key to your learning. If you try to focus on all these food instruction sets, you'll get lost in all the details and miss out on the big pictures. So start on the big pictures and then work your way down as an end to that food instruction set for all these deviations I just described, I do have a loose notion of what I'm doing based on food. But all of that is based upon my foundational logic that I began at the outset of everything. So, good luck everyone, cheers.

Relative Timings[edit]

Transcribed by Count9

Hey what's up everyone, this is Sean Plott, a.k.a Day[9], and today, "Relative Timings." But before I can go on about that, we just have to stop and jam out to this song for a bit, ugh, god, it's so good.

That is one of my all time favorite songs. It's called "Snowflake" by Trentemøller on his album "The Last Resort", which you should all get by the way, because it will totally change your life. So speaking of changing lives, lets talk a little bit about the concept of relative timings in StarCraft. So in my last podcast, which was "A New Look at Build Orders" I mentioned the notion of relative timings here and there and I wanted to spend some time going into the concept in depth. So the idea behind relative timing is fairly simple, relative timing is the idea is making the unit or building or upgrade based on the progress of some other unit or building or upgrade. Not using the food in the top right corner. The classic example of this is lurkers. If I want to get lurkers as quickly as possible, I should get my hydralisk den and my lair to finish at the exact same time. This timing's really well known, you just make your hydralisk den when your lair is exactly halfway finished and both will finish simultaneously so you can start that lurker upgrade right away. Another classic example is with reavers. You start building your robotics support bay when your shuttle is half way finished. That way the shuttle finishes right when the robo bay finishes and you can start both simultaneously. So now that we know what we're talking about the most important question is why is this concept useful? And the idea is we always in StarCraft want to squeeze out as much efficiency as possible. Technically it doesn't really matter if your robo bay finishes a little bit early because you'll still be making the reaver right when the shuttle finishes, but in game like StarCraft where it's so intense and how you use resources is so important, why not figure out these timings because if you make that robo bay you might end up with a slightly later pylon or you may not have been to squeeze in an extra dragoon or probe. And not being able to do a little things like that, throughout an entire game, adds up tremendously. In general, there are three situations which relative timings are useful. The first is if you get thrown off early, or thrown off your build. The second one is for decision you'll be making late game. And the third one is for organization, for things like macro. So lets go through each of those with some examples and stuff.

So let's begin with getting thrown off your build order. Suppose for a moment that you're playing a zerg vs terran and you want to be going lurkers in the mid game. If you get bunker rushed early on you're gonna be using a lot drones to hold that off. You might lose a lot or a little or you might have to make a bunch of extra lings and you'll end up in this sort of unfamiliar circumstance. But if you remember your standard lurker timing you simply make your den when you're lair is halfway finished, both finishes at the same time, and given the circumstances, you're still getting lurkers as fast as possible. So this example might seem might seem pretty obvious, because you start the hydralisk den at such a close time to each other that it's kinda hard to mess up. However, this example highlights the key idea of relative timing, which is that you want to do one thing that requires multiple other things. So relative timing is figuring out how to get all of those things to line up. So a great example of relative timing and its power is in the old school Protoss vs Zerg style, and in old school Protoss vs Zerg, Protosses would early expand, and rather than go for corsairs, they would spend their first 100 gas getting +1 attack upgrade and then they would go for zealot with leg speed and they would gate 4 gateways and they would come out right when +1 finished and zealot leg speed finished, they both finish at the same time, and they have about 15 to 20 zealots, and that was a huge issue for a lot of zergs to deal with. But the problem is that a lot of zergs were really aggressive early on, some of them would try to do 2 or 3 hatch ling all ins, some of them would 9 pool, and a lot of these protoss players that were doing this build order would get screwed up and I would watch a lot of replays against my opponents and see that sort of thing happen where I would make a whole bunch of zerglings early and then once they got on their feet, they would start their +1 attack upgrade too early so it would finish and they wouldn't have leg speed done or they wouldn't have that many zealots. A really funny example: one guy got the zealot leg speed really fast and +1 attack upgrade really fast but he only had 4 zealots when he came out to attack and was totally not a problem to deal with. So in that example the Protoss was going for zealot leg speed and +1 attack upgrade and having a lot of zealots, those are the three key pieces of that attack. So regardless of what happened early game, whether he got to early expand normally, or he got 9 pooled or something like that, he should know when to start the cybernetics core relative to when he started the +1 attack upgrade so that he can get zealot leg speed and whole bunch of gateways and have everything finish right on time.

Relative timing is also very useful in the late game, when there is some action you'll be doing very often in a lot of your games but when you do that action is high variable. So a great example is getting arbiters in Protoss vs Terran. A lot of times it's up to the Protoss' judgment when he feels comfortable getting arbiters. So we're not going to talk about when it's right or wrong to do that, but what's important is that once you have decided to get arbiters how do you go about getting it in the most efficient way possible. Surprisingly not many protosses have this number stored in their head, they just generally make a stargate and a templar archive at the same time. And then when both are finished they start a arbiter tribunal. Technically you should start a templar archive when a stargate is at about 1/5 or 1/4 completion, that's when they'll finish at about the same time. All this really means is that the Protoss should start making the Stargate before the Templar Archives by just a little bit. And what's very useful is especially late game is that you'll be able to get 1 or 2 extra units in by making sure you line those up in the timing I just said. And again stuff like that might seem inconsequential but it definitely adds up over time if you know a lot of little relative timings. So still in regards to late game, relative timing is great for little tactics such as storm droppings. So suppose you're a Protoss player you have the robotics facility finished, you have your templar archives done, but you don't have templar, storm, or a shuttle. When should you research those three things relative to one another so that you can storm drop in the most efficient way possible? So theoretically that means when your shuttle unloads your templar or shortly before that is right when your storm finishes. Now we're talking about something that is a little bit more clearly useful. It's really great if you're a Protoss player if you don't have to waste the 200 gas upgrading storm if you can delay it as long as possible to build other units that you will need for defense.

The third really powerful application of relative timing is organization. Let's say you're a terran player and you're macroing out of a whole bunch of factories. You optimally want all your factories finishing units at the same time. So lets say you have 4 factories making vultures, you want all the vultures to pop at the same time you only have to go back once to those factories and hit v four times to build those vultures. A lot of terran players will have factories that kinda have a stuttered production, and they'll end up with units cued and that's really really bad to have units queued at your factory. You're essentially wasting money that you could've been using elsewhere. So they might have three factories where the vultures finish at the same time and one factory that's a little bit delayed so it has a vulture cued at all points in time. So how do we use relative time to avoid that? Naturally we're gonna be doing it the exact way we did before. Suppose I already have two factories and I want to make three more, when should I start factories 3, 4, and 5 so that they finish right when factories 1 and 2 have completed making whatever units they were making. So now I have 5 factories making nothing and I can start units in all those 5 factories at exactly the same time. Now I know a lot of you are thinking, "Oh, well that's a handy thing to think about." But I need to emphasize how cruuucial it is that your organization of your gateways and factories is really really good, because if it's not, you'll be, one you'll be shooting yourself in the foot, you'll at least be shooting yourself in the face for the whole game because there's a lot of players out there who are really good at saying, "Hmmm, now seems like a good time to add on factories and gateways" and they'll just immediately start building 'em without any thought as to whether appropriately timed. As a result, when all the gateways and factories finish, they have this stuttered, slightly off production in all their unit making structures and as a result they'll have maybe 3, 4 units queued up all over the place, and if you think about that's probably 4 to 500 maybe, even 600 minerals that are just sitting queued doing nothing. That's like an expansion, that's 4 cannons, that's a big deal. So definitely you get those relative timings set up right so you can have really smooth macro that will not only save you money but make macroing way way easier so that will naturally improve as well. So in your own gameplay, try to think of as many situations where you could try to get things line up in a relative manner so you don't have to rely on the food in the top right corner. Which allow you to play dynamic variable games a lot more effectively than you used to be able to.

So let's just finish by asking a whole bunch of questions, like a bunch whole of little brain-teasers for each race as motivation to figure out these sorts of timings. Lets begin with zerg, suppose you're playing a zerg vs terran and you're wondering how you can get defilers out before your opponent's first push gets to your base. The question you'd be asking is, "When should I start my Queen's Nest, to get Hive and defilers, relative to when my terran opponents starts his factory?" which will allow him to get science vessel. Answering that question will allow you to get defilers before your terran's opponent's first push. Lets say you're playing a zerg vs protoss, you want to have your spire with scourge out before your protoss opponent has corsairs killing all your overlords. When should you start upgrading to a lair relative to the progress of your opponent's cybernetics core, or even relative to the progress of his gateway so you can have your spire out to block his corsair. Lets say you're playing zerg vs. zerg and you're really tired of losing overlords all the time when your opponent's spire finishes and he gets mutalisks. So here's a question you to ask yourself, "When my opponent starts his spire, how many hit points does the spire gain relative to how far my overlord moves?" That is, if you figure something out like oh, if your overlord moves this far in the amount of time that it takes for a spire to build, I know around the time his spire's finishing based upon how far my overlord has run from his base. Lets say we're playing terran vs zerg, we want to make sure we push out before our opponent gets defilers, we want to hit him at this crucial time when he feels weak. Again, in the reverse sense, how far along should your factory be relative to your opponent getting Hive so that you know your first push doesn't have to deal with defilers. This would allow a terran player to compose his army appropriately if he doesn't sees queen's nest anywhere in sight, he knows the zerg is gonna be trying using a mass number of units to kill off his army as opposed to some cute defiler tech. Suppose you're a terran player against a protoss player and on destination you want to early expand with some tanks but then you immediately you want to get a drop ship with vultures that have speed and mines. You need to make sure you have enough tanks so that you're safe from whatever he's doing early on but you need to start making the vultures and that starport really fast so you can have that really early harass as well. So you should say, "When do I start making the starport and getting all those vultures relative to when I stop making tanks?" So by answering this question we are both safe and harassing as quickly as possible. So, last, suppose you're a protoss player against terran and you're having trouble against the timing of a fast +2/+1 push. So naturally you'll be able to get an observer into his base early so you will know that this is coming pretty far in advance but you really want to know exactly when his first attack is gonna come. Well you should ask yourself "How many minerals do I mine in my main relative to when he starts his first +1 attack upgrade?" So for instance, if you find out it takes 1200 minerals mined for him to get +2/+1 from the start of his upgrade, you'll be able to plan accordingly. You'll be able to click on the minerals in your main and constantly see how close you are to him getting +2/+1. So that about wraps up all the different sorts of examples, so hopefully this is gonna be a easy enough thing to incorporate into your own play so you can squeeze out as much efficiency as possible. Best of luck, everyone, cheers.

Transitions and a Simple Goon Reaver Push[edit]

Transcribed by Archaic

Hey everyone, this is Sean Plott, AKA Day[9], presenting today a simple Goon Reaver push for Protoss. So you hear me say time and time again that the most important component of having strong strategy is having really good transitions. It's linking together all the parts of your game in a seamless fashion.

For instance, let's take very standard Terran vs Zerg. The Terran opens up with a Medic Marine Tank Vessel push and when Zerg starts approaching Hive tech, Terran gets a second Starport and starts going Vessel. At this point Terrans tend to stop making tanks and they start making Vultures with mines because then they can save all the gas that they would have spent on tanks on those extra Science Vessels and the +1, +1 upgrades, or I guess +2, +whatever upgrades, at that point, for the Medic Marine army. And this simple transition is great because it allows the Terran player to move from a tank-centric mid-game, that involves a three to four Tank push and one Vessel, to a Vessel-centric late game, where the Terran has a full control group of Vessels and has Mines planted everywhere, and it's much more focused on mobility in the late game as opposed to some really strong, one-punch style push.

With that in mind, let's stop and look at UpMaGiC vs EffOrt, a Terran vs Zerg on Outsider. Upmagic opened up with a 3-Port Valkyrie-Wraith opening. It was really aggressive and really, really unusual, and it sort of threw EffOrt off kilter. I mean if you saw the live reports or the chats during that game, everyone was saying, "Awww, I love UpMaGiC, he always does these awesome, aggressive openings. Go UpMaGiC!" Personally, I like this style of play, but when I saw it, my immediate concern was, "How on Earth is Upmagic going to transition out of this? He doesn't have any important tech structures; he only has one Factory, he only has one Barracks. What is his stage two and how is going to get there without dying?" And if you watch the game, a lot of players were shocked when Upmagic lost pretty easily in the later stages of the game. EffOrt pretty much looked like he was losing the entire time, and then just won all of a sudden. And that is a direct result of the fact that Upmagic's play has a very difficult transition OUT of that 3 Starport aggressive play.

So with these two examples in mind, I figured that instead of doing some high level, long podcast that has lots of theory, which is a lot of my other podcasts, I instead would focus on one really simple, easy build that we could look at as an example to thinking about things in terms of transitions. The build we're going to learn today is a very easy Goon-Reaver push for Protoss. I specifically chose this build because pretty much anyone can do it. If you're a D level Protoss, and you're struggling in Protoss vs Zerg, I strongly recommend this build, because it's just so easy to pull off. So first we're going to do a really fast run through of the build and talk about why the transitions in it are so good, and then I'm just going to redo the build a little more in depth, so that way you'll have a very solid starting point to start fiddling around and crushing faces on iCCup.

So here's the basic play: Protoss opens up with a one Gate, fast gas opening, and goes straight for Corsairs. Instead of getting Dark Templar and expanding, which is the typical play, the Protoss instead gets a second Gateway and goes straight for Reavers. And when the Protoss moves out with his first push of Dragoons and Reavers, he generally wins, or he'll cripple the Zerg and win with the second Goon-Reaver push. And a lot of you are thinking that sounds way too trivial for me to make a big deal about it. However, all the components of this build work together so well. So the basic underlying idea is that the Protoss screws up the Zerg's economy enough early on, so that the Zerg cannot have enough units to hold off that Goon-Reaver push. And this is a subtle point that's really important to make.

A lot of players think, "Oh, I'm just gonna screw up his economy, I'm gonna storm drop him and harass him because that's - that's good." But you should be doing that harassment and putting him at a setback so you can take advantage of it in some fashion. With this Goon-Reaver push, the Corsair comes out and the Zerg now has to spend all this money dealing with anti-air, and he has to pull all his Overlords back, so he's lost information and he's lost all that money trying to keep his existing Overlords alive. But right when Zerg is feeling comfortable holding off that Corsair, Protoss is coming out with two Gateways worth of Dragoons and Zealots, so now the Zerg is spending all this money on Sunken Colonies at his front. In fact, a lot of times when you watch this build in practice, if the Zerg goes 3 Hatch, one of those Hatcheries tends to start building up larvae, because the Zerg just doesn't have enough money to build stuff from it. At last, when Zerg is feeling confident that he can hold off all these Zealots and Dragoons at his front, and hold off those Corsairs running around, a Reaver comes along, and pushes right up the middle of his base to those Sunken Colonies and then kills them. Moreover, this build is so awesome because it's so logical and easy to do. Pretty much anything that the Zerg does, this Goon-Reaver push can transition to a counter really easily. If the Zerg is making a ton of Zerglings early on, then the Protoss doesn't need to move out with his initial Zealot-Goon army, he just waits until he has a Reaver and deal with it. If the Zerg is going for really fast Mutalisks, well, Protoss already has two Gates making Dragoons, and he can immediately start making Corsairs out of that Stargate. If the Zerg starts going Lurkers, you can just get an Observatory because you already have a Robotics Bay (Facility). And all this is so easy because you got that Corsair early on, so you see exactly what the Zerg is doing, and you know exactly what position he's in. Plus, since you're one basing for so long, you don't need to worry about some sort of elaborate defense for your first expansion. You have a ramp with a whole bunch of units on top; you're fine. So we have all these easy transitions and most importantly, everything we do has purpose. We're not harassing for the sake of harassing, or messing up his economy for the sake of messing up his economy. We're doing all those things specifically because it magnifies the strength of our Goon-Reaver push.

So let's go through the build once more in detail and wrap things up. The Protoss will open with an 8 Pylon, 10 Gate, and in general, I like to keep those pretty close to my Nexus, just in case the Zerg tries to do some early Zergling stuff, there is no need for it to be all the way at the ramp, in the case I was 2 Gating, or something like that. Protoss gets 11 Gas, 13 Core, still hasn't scouted yet - I like to keep a probe mining in my base instead of scouting just because the extra minerals makes things just a little bit more smooth, and plus, you're not going to be doings any major deviations early, so scouting him ultra-fast, like after your Gateway or your Pylon just is not necessary. At this stage, I strongly prefer to get the Cybernetics Core before the first Zealot because as a Zerg player, it really messes me up much more when that Corsair comes out unbelievably quickly. In fact, a lot of times, I don't even have enough gas to start my Hydralisk Den at the time that the first Corsair pops out, so I always prefer the faster Corsair because of the horrible position it puts the Zerg in. And I know a lot of people really like getting that first Zealot early on, because they think they need it for the 9 Pool. You really, really don't. In fact, of all openings the Zerg can do, then 9 Pool is the most important to get the fast Corsair against, because the 9 Pool has NO defense against it; What anti-air is he gonna get? With just 8, 9 drones, or however much he'll have at the early game. That - the fast Corsair will screw over 9 Pool the most, and the way that you can hold off the 9 Pool, the actual Zerglings that get to your base is to make sure the second unit out of your gateway is a Dragoon. A lot of players, when they go fast Corsair, go Zealot, Zealot, Dragoon. You always, ALWAYS, no matter what the Zerg is doing, you wanna go Zealot, Goon, Zealot. Getting that Dragoon really, really, early, is absolutely key. It will allow you to hold off Zerglings much more easily and any Overlord that tries to sort of sneak in your base and see what's up, you can kill it without having to bring your Corsair all the way back.

So, at this point, my Corsair is getting ready to start running around his base, I have my Dragoon and my Zealot, and I'll be making a third Zealot - Or excuse me - my second Zealot, my third Gateway unit, and at this point, I have two choices: Based upon what my Corsair sees, I can either get my second Gateway, and then get Range, and then my Robotics Facility, or I can get my Robotics Facility, then my second Gateway, and then get Range later. In the first case, if I get my second Gateway really early on, I can put a little more pressure on the Zerg with just Dragoons and Zealots. Naturally, the disadvantage is that my Reaver is more delayed. In the second case where I get my Robo Bay, then my second Gateway and Range, this means that my Dragoon Reaver push is a little faster. I can still do pressure with Dragoons and Zealots in the early game, but it might as threatening, it might not force my Zerg opponent to as much as I want him to, and a really important timing to note: If you start the Range upgrade RIGHT when the Robotics Facility finishes, then the Range upgrade will finish right as your Reaver does, and you can move out with about 12 Dragoons with Range and Reavers. Personally, I prefer the second choice, I prefer to get my Reaver out a little faster and have fewer units, but make sure my push happens very, very quickly, definitely feel free to experiment, just wanted to make sure those two options were very clear.

Whichever one you choose to do, however, it's very important to note that around 40 food, or maybe even as low as 36, 37, you can start cutting Probes. You do not need nonstop Probe production when you're doing this build. Nonstop Probe production, SCV production is used to make sure when you're expansions finish, you can transfer Probes and SCVs to them to make sure they're operational at max capacity immediately. However we're not going to be expanding any time soon, so they're really no point in getting that many probes early on. Given the structure of this build, it's much more important to have all the units out, in maximum numbers, as quickly as possible. At this stage in the game, you have so many options. Your first push, a lot of the times, will kill him. If that doesn't work, and it looks like it did a lot of damage, you can choose to add some more gateways, and start really pounding him down with Dragoons and Reavers, and if you're low on gas, you can throw some Zealots into the mix. If your opponent seems to be turtling really hard and and going for Mutalisks, you can get a whole bunch of Corsairs and Dragoons, and you can do something cute like an elevator drop with your Shuttle. Or if you just think the game is looking pretty even, you can take your expansion. Again, the basic structure is just Corsairs into ground units into Reavers, and it's so fun, because you seize control right from the outset with the early Corsair, and you never let up, all game long, and you have so many options, no matter what the Zerg is doing, that it's just a very, very solid way to open.

And just a few other tidbits to note before I wrap things up, this build works great on maps that have very close starting positions. So, for instance, Requiem, is one of the best maps that I can think of right now , that I can think of right now. It would be much more difficult on a map like Katrina, where the starting positions are very, very far away, and the Zerg can be in a really good position defensively, with that fat ramp at his front, and the ability to make more Sunken Colonies there. So just keep that in mind whenever you're using this, that on maps where things look like they favor aggressive play, this is the build you want to be using.

So I hope all of you who listened feel like you have an awesome Protoss vs Zerg build to test out and most importantly, I sincerely hope that you can use this as an example to improve your own analysis of your own play to try and really flush out those transitions and make them really easy and really solid. Uh, I guess that wraps it up. Thanks everyone, cheers!

Sidestepping: The Art of Abusing Weakness[edit]

Transcribed by Archaic

Hey everyone, this is Sean Plott AKA Day[9] presenting, today, a technique that I call SideStepping. In this podcast, I'm gonna begin by going through some definitions and a really extended example of what sidestepping is, and then we'll wrap with a whole bunch more examples just so you have a much broader sense of its applications.

In a very simple sense, SideStepping is completely avoiding a strategy or tactic that your opponent would be really really good at countering or crushing. Now many of you are thinking that this is totally obvious, but I want to stop for a minute and think about the way your thought-process develops over time as you're playing StarCraft or really any strategy game.

So think back to when you were a disgusting, revolting noobie. The classic mistake that I'm sure you made and virtually all big noobies make is to obsess about defense. When the game starts, they freak out and build a million turrets, lining their base, fifty bunkers and thousand tanks behind it, and they never move out no matter what. Virtually anyone who's listening to this podcast right now has likely broken this shell long ago. Now you're all proud of the fast that you try to be aggressive and try to get in your opponent's face.

What's most interesting me, about this defense monkey phase, is that when those players break it, it's not really a gradual process. It's not that they get slowly less and less defensive over time. It tends to be that they figure out a strategy or tactic that works really well and then, subsequently, their entire thought process revolves around figuring out how to kill their opponent as quickly as possible. So for instance, when I was in this phase, in Zerg versus Terran, I just rushed for lurkers every single game no matter what. And if that didn't work, I would try to lurker drop him. And if THAT didn't work, I - Well, I lost. That was like my entire game plan.

Interestingly, this thought process becomes very hard to break, because it develops into more of an instinct or an impulse in the middle of a game, rather than a series of conscious thoughts and decisions. For instance, in a Zerg versus Zerg, one player's Spire might be behind one's opponent's by 300 hit points. A lot of times, this player will panic, send all of his Zerglings to kill his opponent, and it won't work at all. Now what position is this player in? Not only is his Spire tech behind, but suddenly he has no Zerglings whatsoever and is in virtually no situation to put pressure on his opponent for the rest of the game.

In Zerg versus Terran, you see a lot of Zergs open up with the standard 3 hatch or 2 hatch Mutalisk-Zergling harass, but they'll become so obsessed with the idea of being really aggressive and harass oriented, that they develop into a player who has no transition out of that phase; they will only Mutalisk-Zergling until their opponent is dead, or they've lost. You'll see the Protoss players start being concerned his opponent is taking the whole map so the Protoss will send his whole army to die to a giant defense of sunkens, spores and lurkers.

I made it fairly clear that each of these players is making a mistake. However, stop and think about what the thought process of that player is, in his post game analysis, not just in the game, but afterwards, when he re-watches the replay, and has time to reflect.

In the Zerg verses Zerg game, the player looks at the game and says, "Well, I was behind on Spire tech so he was gonna be ahead of me in Mutalisks, so I guess I need to figure out a better way to kill him before he gets those Mutalisks. Uh, my Zergling attack didn't work then, so I suppose I need to make more Zerglings or I need to wait a little while later to attack with those Zerglings or maybe a little earlier. Maybe I can kill off enough of his Zerglings so I can build a sunken colony in the edge of his creep."

The Zerg versus Terran player probably rewatched that game and said, "Hmm, it seems like there were some more holes in his defense that I could have abused with some more Zerglings, or some more Mutalisks. I guess I'll cut down on drones even more so I can abuse those holes with more efficiency and that way I'll be able to harass him to death."

The Protoss player says to himself afterwards, "Man, that Zerg player really was expanding a whole bunch, I guess I need to work on the timing of that attack, maybe micro my units better, and storm a little better, because I just can't let that Zerg player get all those expansions up or else I'm doomed."

Now this analysis seems okay, it's like these players kind of have the right idea in mind, however let's consider the opponent's point of view in all these situations. In the Zerg versus Zerg, the player who's getting the faster Spire, his build is designed to hold off Zergling all-ins, what's the point of getting a faster Spire if you did to Zerglings every time. The strong point of that build is making sure he doesn't die to Zerglings.

An early expanding Terran, in Terran versus Zerg, thinks to himself of ways to defend against these types of all-in attack and harassments. The strong point of an early expanding Terran is really good defense.

The Zerg player, who's expanding a lot, is not going to be throwing down expansions in hopes that the Protoss doesn't kill it, so he's going to make sure he has very strong defense for these expansions.

With that in mind, what are our earlier players doing? They were not trying to find weaknesses in their opponent's play, they were trying to find hole in the strong points of their opponent's play. And that's a subtle difference that I'm gonna gripe on for a minute, because if you start spending all the time trying to abuse the holes in your opponent's strengths, a lot of times you'll be faced with a good enough player who doesn't really have any holes. He actually, really is good enough to hold off that sort of attack. The easiest example is the Terran player in the Terran versus Zerg, who can look at you trying to do your cute harassment with Mutas and Lings and say, "Well, I guess I just need to make an extra bunker and a few extra turrets and then I win no matter what."

And that is what exactly what will happen every time. Therefore, we're going to talk about sidestepping; we're not going to be trying to puncture holes in our opponents' strengths, but rather we're going to exploit the weaknesses of our opponent's play so that we'll have a big advantage later on. Trying to sidestep your opponent's strength will become a key linchpin in the development in your builds and the ability to remain in a strategic advantage for longer games.

So, let's begin with an extended example of sidestepping, the build that everybody knows about. It's 5 hatch hydra, against an early expanding Protoss, Zerg versus Protoss. When I first started playing StarCraft, early expanding as Protoss was NOT the standard play. So when players started to use it more and more, Zerg players in 2001-2002 or so, began countering it with every all in that you could think of. They were doing the ling all-ins, they were doing the slow lurker drops, the fast Mutalisk and that sort of thing, because they were still locked in that mindset of, "Okay, he's doing something I'm not familiar with, I guess I gotta kill him now."

As Protoss players learned to play better defensively, Zerg players learned to sidestep the strong defense, and they began taking a third base with their third hatch. And, the Zergs would also abuse the fact that the Protosses were behind on tech by rushing to Mutalisks really, really fast. And then Zergs had a kind of leg up on everything. Then Bisu came along, and he popularized the fast corsair play against Zerg. And Zergs who have been going Mutalisk off three bases were suddenly getting crushed because Bisu would come out with 6,7 or 8 corsairs, demolish all the Mutalisks, and then eat up all the overlords. And then Zerg, on three bases, would have like five maximum food, or something, for half the game until he lost.

What's really interesting is that if you go back and look at a whole bunch of the Zerg versus Protoss games, right after Bisu's win against sAviOr—sorry, spoiler alert—right after that period, Zerg players started doing the all-in styles again. You saw a lot of players doing new-school Ling-Hydra busts. For instance, they would get Ling speed, and then Hydra range - not Hydra speed, just Hydra range - and they would walk up to the cannons with the Hydras, they would pick them off, and then run in with a bunch of speed Zerglings, and all-in that way. We saw the 2 Hatch Hydra busts being developed around then.

The players who didn't do those big all-ins early on were trying to do the exact same things they did pre-Bisu, against the new Corsair style. They were trying to jam the square knot into the circle hole, as you say. They were just trying to figure out a way to make Mutalisks work, and make the standard 3 hatch play work. However, since none of that was really working, we finally got to see the birth of 5 hatch Hydralisk, the play that we see so commonly today. 5 hatch Hydralisks was the first build that completely avoided the strengths of Corsair play and abused its greatest weakness, the fact that it is not very good at having a big mid-game army to control the center. The Protosses spent so much time and money going corsairs and building all the cannons, that when it's time to start making a mid-game army, he has to completely shift his tech tree, it's much more difficult to go for a big mid-game army when you've opened with Corsairs.

It's really kind of funny if you start and watch the Zerg versus Protoss from a total noobie's point of view. In fact, I had one of my friends over, who had only ever played StarCraft on BGH with his buddies and we were watching a high level Zerg versus Protoss together, and he was so confused because it seemed like no one was making any units nor any defense for like, the first 8 minutes of the game. This Protoss player expanding, built ONE cannon, then teched straight for corsairs, and then made ONE cannon in his main, and the Zerg was expanding a ton, making a ton of hatches, and Evo Chambers, and the only things he every really saw, unit-wise, was four scourge, and three corsairs. At that point, I had to explain to him that what the Zerg was really doing was avoiding the two biggest strengths of the Protoss early expanding build. He was avoiding attacking too early, with those well placed cannons, and he was avoiding getting any sort of air too early because Corsairs are just so strong against air. As a result, the Zerg's entire plan is for something later on down the line, that he's just avoiding the strengths completely.

Since I spent a good bit of time on 5 hatch Hydralisk, let's move on to some other examples so we can see the real strength of sidestepping in all our play in StarCraft. In a lot of recent Terran versus Zerg, we see Flash do this one Rax, one Factory opening, when he early expands. Flash will start making Medic-Marine out of one Barracks, and with that one factory, he'll actually start getting Goliaths with range. It's really weird, and really cute, and a lot of Zerg players have had tremendous difficulty defeating it. Similar to the previous example, a lot of Zerg players are trying to defeat this by just killing it with Muta-Ling early, doing some sort of all-in. Although we did see Jaedong able to take out Flash on Return of the King,

most other Zergs are actually failing miserably when they do this. The Mutalisk harass gets crushed, and the hitpoint amount of Goliaths are able to hold off Lings really, really well. The most brilliant response that I saw, however, was JulyZerg against Flash on Neo Medusa, in the GOMtv matches.

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To understand why this was so brilliant, let's stop and think about what's really strong about this Goliath-Medic-Marine opening. In general, Goliaths have amazing range, and Medic-Marine do amazing damage, when the Mutalisks are close enough. So, this means that Goliaths snipe at Mutalisk harass really well, and if the Mutalisks try to come and kill the Goliaths, there's a whole bunch of Medic-Marine there, ready to eat the Mutalisks alive. In other words, this Flash opening is really good at holding off Mutalisk harass. Even if there are some Zerglings that are able to sneak in, Goliaths have a good amount of hit-points, so the Marines can be microed behind it, and it is, again, very, very hard to kill. Even if the Zerg trys to do some sort of Lurker opening, the Goliaths, and the Medic-Marines can form a really nice arc, and once again, the hit-points of the Goliaths make the Lurkers significantly less effective. So, Flash's 1 Rax, 1 Factory build is most strong at holding off early to mid-game pressure. It's really good at keeping that fast expansion alive.

Traditionally, when Zerg players open up with Mutalisk harass, they transition into Lurkers, because you need those Lurkers in order to hold off some sort of Medic-Marine harass, or even a Medic-Marine attack that could kill an expansion. However, JulyZerg knew that this sort of attack was not going to in the early mid-game because that's not how Flash's build is designed; you can't do that sort of push with only one Barracks. So, JulyZerg correctly, and comfortably, made 5 hatches before his Hydralisk Den. As a result, July had a tremendously stronger economy when Flash was able to push out at a later time. Isn't that brilliant? I mean when you go back and watch that game, you pretty much see July doing no attacking early. I mean you're used to players like Jaedong who are just darting in and out with Mutalisks, and never letting up any pressure on the player, ever. But in that game, JulyZerg just didn't really even attack that much, but because of the way he responded, because of the way he planned, he was in a tremendously better position than Flash when it came to the mid and late-game. That, my friends, is truly the art of sidestepping.

Now let's move on to a completely different game: Pure vs Flash on Destination, also a game from the GOMtv matches. The game began fairly normally; Pure opened up with some dragoon pressure, and Flash opened up with an early expand. But it was really interesting that Flash threw in an extra factory while he was expanding, and pushed back against Pure early, and ended up tossing up a contain right outside Pure's double bridge. Pure's response is a really common form of sidestepping, which was not to try and kill the contain, because the contain is just so strong on the other side of the double bridge. Rather, it was to get a bunch of shuttles, and to counter attack Flash's main, because Flash is devoting so many units to keeping this contain alive. What was truly brilliant in that game was Flash's response, and it was fairly clear that Flash had actually planned this response into his play. Think about what most players would do in Flash's position: They would bolster up the contain, and then also try to bolster up the defenses in their main, trying to make sure they didn't die to this counter play, and also make sure that the contain continued to remain effective. You know what Flash did that was so brilliant? He abandoned the contain, straight up, really early on. He just set the contain up, when the first shuttle started to go to his base, he just ditched the contain, and never reinforced it for the remainder of the game. Pure's entire game plan revolved hurting a Terran because his army was so far away from his main. So Flash simply put his whole army in his main. What's even more amazing is the fact that you could clearly see that Flash had planned on sacrificing his contain. A lot of times a player will temporarily bring his units back to defend, and then return to bolster up the containment. However, when you watch that game, Flash pulled his unit back, and then threw down another Command Center, preparing to expand to his left natural.

The rest of the game was totally one sided, because Flash turned the game into a 3 base Terran who is very well turtled, had a solid defense, Tanks, Goliaths, placed everywhere, against a 2 basing Protoss who had spent most of his money not on gateways, but on lots of shuttles, reavers, and dark templar, for harassment, that never really came to do any damage. It was actually really funny watching that game, to see how long that containment had been abandoned, that Pure assumed that they were playing this standard sort of game, where Pure would be harassing so much, and exploiting this weakness. However, Flash made sure that weakness was never even there because Flash sidestepped the entire normal contain game that you would see in a Terran versus Protoss, and instead just played against the weakness of Pure's response beautifully.

I would like finish up with a personal anecdote of one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my entire StarCraft career. It's the story of how I developed a counter to a strategy I was having a huge amount of difficulty with, and I used the notion of sidestepping to come up with it. This is the story of Zerg versus Terran on Azalea (Azah Leah), or Azalea (Azay Leah), or whatever pronunciation you want for that WCG map that looks like a Swastika. So I'm gonna call it Azalea (Azay Leah). If you look at Azalea, it's fairly wide open, there's - there are no ramps, it's all on flat ground, there's a pretty wide open middle, the chokes are actually fairly large themselves. So immediately, I'm kind of leaning towards Lurker-Ling openings, because without any ramps or any narrow chokes, it makes holding a third or fourth gas pretty difficult to do. You know Mutalisk harass is pretty good on the map because the minerals are against cliffs, but I still prefer to do Lurker-Ling openings when there's that wide a space to deal with, and when the third and fourth gases are that hard to take.

Immediately, I started to really like going Lurker-Ling, however the big problem I encountered was the players who went 2 Rax, fast Tank push. A really good Terran player would get to my front before I had Lurkers. he would set up a bunch of Bunkers and Turrets, and he would start slowly pushing forward until he eventually was able to kill my mineral natural at the front. Timing-wise, my Lurkers would finish around the time my fourth or fifth sunken colony died. I did say that the chokes were fairly large, but not nearly large enough to flank a well positioned Bunker-Tank-Marine army. So the first few times I tried to just kill it, right when my Lurkers finished. He would kill my whole army, finish off the mineral natural, and then just walk into my base and win. In my next few attempts, I tried to make more sunken colonies, to stay alive a little longer, but then I was a little bit low on minerals and again, he was still in that same entrenched position right outside my front, and I just couldn't break it with the little bit of extra time I would get. I would maybe be able to get 7 or 8 Lurkers, but still I'm hitting two or three bunkers, a whole bunch of Medic-Marines and Tanks that are really perfectly placed right at my front. Then I started trying to get more Zerglings early on, to hopefully overwhelm his army with Zerglings before it even got to my front. Then again, I encountered Terrans who were good enough that they would micro, kill it, and then I would be in an even worse position than I was before.

I was feeling a little depressed because I didn't want to have to abandon this Lurker-Ling opening. It was doing so well against early expanders, against other one base play, against mech, I didn't want to ditch the entire strategy just because there was this one problem. So I started to really sit down and think, what is really good about this fast Tank push, and it really was the position right outside my natural, and I could not figure out a way to save that - excuse me - that mineral natural expansion. Suddenly, it dawned upon me that I didn't need to save that mineral only natural expansion. Resource-wise, I already have my other natural, with gas, up and running. Positionally, there's a much wider choke once you get past the mineral expansion, so if he did try to walk forward, I'd be able to flank him with a whole bunch of Zerglings and Lurkers, and he doesn't have a whole bunch of bunkers there because there's still creep. It's much better to sacrifice it, wait an extra minute or two, until I now have 12 Lurkers, and then five to six control groups of Zerglings, and then I can break his contain really easily and at that point, the fast Tank pushing Terran is pretty much screwed. He's devoted so many resources to getting there early, and then entrenching himself with Bunkers and Turrets, that he doesn't have nearly a strong enough economy to deal with my two fully functional bases, and my tech that is already headed towards Defilers, and a whole bunch of upgrades. The next few times I faced Tank pushes were so easy and it felt so great because he had this great position set up, and I would just not deal with it; I would happily move my drones away, and I had this line of Lurkers there, and it was just this eerie quiet before I came out with this giant army, rolled his front and won the game immediately. In fact, I remember a particularly kick-ass game where I was against some player who was 65-1, and again, the game felt just so easy and I felt like a man.

So, not only can sidestepping feel awesome, but strategically, it allows you to win games that you were having a tremendous amount of trouble with, just by stepping back, analyzing the situation, and making sure you're not trying to hit your opponent at his greatest strengths. If you're having trouble thinking of ways to incorporate some sidestepping techniques into your play, a great way to practice it is to try to make all of you games go on longer. For instance, let's say you're playing Protoss versus Zerg, and the Zerg comes out with a big attack and you absolutely demolish it. 90% of the time, you as a player would just go counter attack him and win. However, in that sort of circumstance, I want you to, instead, take an expansion safely. Abuse the fact that your opponent can not attack you, as opposed to the fact he can not hold off your big army. Make opportunities to create late game strategic advantage, rather than making opportunities to kill your opponent sooner. I was actually looking at some statistics recently, and most players' games are on average, 10–12 minutes long. Try to make yours 15–17 minutes long. Try to really challenge yourself to abuse long term thinking, and by doing so, you'll find that a lot of your early and mid-game plays will become much more clear, and the games will feel much easier along the line. And that about wraps it up. I sincerely hope that you take this advice and go kick some ass. Cheers everyone!

Hallmarks of Expert Play #3 - Having a Good Mindset[edit]

Section transcribed by Flaerong

Hey everyone this is Sean Plott, AKA. Day[9], presenting today The Hallmarks of Expert Play part 3: Having a Good Mind Set.

In virtually any pro-gamer interview you’ll read or see online, whenever they ask “How were you able to win today?” the pro-gamer always seems to respond, “Oh it’s because I practiced so much I haven’t slept or eaten in 3 weeks because I’ve only practiced tirelessly to win this match.” Of course, I don’t think anyone would argue against the fact that StarCraft is an incredibly difficult game that requires a huge amount of practice to maintain your skill level let alone improve a bunch. However it’s really easy to put too much emphasis on practice. I’m sure everyone has heard of the story of the kid who sleeps all the way through high school because when he gets home at 3 pm he does nothing but play StarCraft till 5 in the morning because he wants to be the best. However after a year and half of doing this, that kid is still C- and can not seem to get any aspect of his play better no mater what. So, though practice is very important, many people such as the kid I just mentioned will not improve based upon the huge amount of hours they play simply because they have the wrong mindset. These are the players that cannot reflect upon their game and analyze it properly and as a result stagnate for very long periods of time.

Naturally, with an introduction like that, I’d like to present on how to have a good mindset when approaching the game. I want to provide a structure to your thought process so that way you don’t end up in any sort mental prison that will prevent you from improving. Since, having a right mindset is sort of a vague broad term that encompasses a huge aspect of play, what I’m going to do is present 5 ideas, each of which can only help to improve your play, and hopefully other areas of your life too.

So with that in mind, let’s begin:

Section transcribed by amish

Number 1:

Always have a plan.

Note that I did not say always have a build order. Those are two very different things. A build order is just a set of instructions that you follow to optimize something. The plan is generally what that something is. You always need to know what your plan is first. So let's distinguish between these two even more with an example.

Suppose an intermediate Terran player has a build and versus Protoss on Destination that allows him to set up a contain outside the Protoss natural. Virtually anyone who would watch the game at this point, when the contain is all set up, would say oh yeah, the Terran is in a really good situation right now. The Protoss couldn't possibly break the contain across the double bridges the Protoss will have to do some sort of shuttle harrass or expand to that back mineral natural. Either way the Terran player is in a really great position. It's normally at a point like this when you see a Terran player totally collapse and lose the game in a silly fashion.

For instance this Terran player will overcommit to his containment and when the Protoss starts doing counter harrass drops they'll do way more damage than they're supposed to and the Terran will end up losing. Or sometimes you'll get a Terran player who'll get excited at the fact that he has this nice contain and they'll try to push into the natural and get continuously pushed back by dragoons, reavers and zealots. Note that I am NOT saying that the Terran player shouldn't push into the natural, and I'm NOT saying that a Protoss counter attacking will always work. Rather, what I'm saying is that the Terran should have already had a plan of what he wanted to do after that contain was set up. Whether he wants to play passively or aggressively is fine. It's most important that the Terran player had that all laid out in his mind in advance.

Moreover, when I say plan, I do NOT mean a series of responses or counters. Thinking of StarCraft in terms of responses and counters is actually this toxic mindset that completely polluted most forums on the internet.

Thinking too much in this "if he does A, I'll do B" mindset can result in what I'll refer to as very bumpy or very choppy play. Let's take Protoss vs. Zerg for instance. You'll see a lot of players will think too responsively and do something like "oh my opponent is making a lot of mutalisks, I'll make some corsairs now so I can hold that off"; and then their opponent starts getting some hydras and they'll say "I'll get storm to make sure I can hold that off at my front and maybe I'll get a few extra cannons" and then they'll get some dragoons when they see lurkers and they'll have to get some observers too and then they wanna make sure they get zealot leg speed.

What ends up happening is that they end up with this nonsensical silly timed army that can't really accomplish any task when they get to the end of the game. Those observers will come too early and they can't really do enough damage to the lurkers. You'll see this sort of player get storm for high templar and then have to morph them into archons to hold off some mutalisks. They'll have a whole bunch of corsairs that were also used to try to counter those mutalisks but now all the mutalisks are dead and they have a whole bunch of corsairs that can't really do anything for the remainder of the game because the Zerg is very good at defending his overlords.

This is exactly the sort of problems you'll encounter when you think too responsively. So, let's run through an example of having a really good plan. Let's take Terran vs. Terran on Destination. One of the key things that I immediately noted when I saw Destination is that the left and right expansions are crucial in Terran vs Terran.

Because they're high ground and they're both in the middle of the map, if you can control the ramp at both the left and the right expansions then you will end up with a resource advantage at the end of the game. In fact, you'll see a lot of players in Terran vs. Terran setting up siege tanks and turrets there long before they expand just because it's such a key tactical point that, by securing, guarantees late game economic advantage.

So let's say I wanted to play Terran vs. Terran on this map. Note that I suck at Terran vs. Terran. I'm awful at it. So, what I would do is first say: "What's my plan on this map?" "Okay, it is to try to secure the left and right expansion ridges so that way I can win in the late game with Battlecruisers or whatever. I just want to win by starving my opponent to death." At this point in time that's when thinking of a build order comes into play. Then thinking of these responses or counters comes into play because now that I have my plan in mind I can make sure that any response or counter I can do doesn't violate my underlying game plan. I can make sure my build leads all the way up to securing that left and right expansion ridge area. The build orders that I'll explore in the game would be something like getting many factories with vultures and mines early on to see if I can secure the middle region with vultures then get a whole bunch of tanks in the midgame before my third expansion or something like that. Whether it works out or not I'll find out through practicing, but all of this will be dictated by my underlying gameplan.

And let's further say that I'm practicing and I have these ridges secure and I'm in the middle of the game and suddenly it seems like one of his expansions might be vulnerable if I walked my tanks forward. Is that a good idea to do? Well, probably not because it completely contradicts my gameplan. Why would I give up control of a ridge to kill off an expansion when my entire build up to that point has been geared towards securing that ridge.

Obviously if I can kill the expansion and make sure my ridge is still secure at the left and right expansion, then yeah, by all means I'm gonna do it. But I'm always gonna question all my decisions first to see if it screws something up in my overall game plan.

Again, I'm AWFUL at Terran vs. Terran; however, I will have far more success than a player who is talented mechanically purely because my gameplan and learning is guided by this pregame decision and my underlying game plan.

Section transcribed by 538

Number 2: Don't see ghosts. This is another way of saying: don't convince yourself that things are true when really they only exist in your own head. You'll see this a lot of times when an intermediate player starts moving up the ranks on ICCUP. Let's say he's hit B- for his first time ever, and he's playing against an other B or B- player. In his head, he'll say: "Oh no, I'm worried that I'm playing against a better player" and he'll modify his play purely because his opponent is "better". For instance, a friend of mine in protoss versus terran was having a great deal of trouble against vulture harass, so he started to get his forge a little bit earlier, so he could build cannons at his expansions. However, as he moved up and started to play against better and better players, he just got increasingly worried about vulture harass. It's not that the vulture harass was actually doing more damage, he just felt more scared. As result, he started to build two cannons at his expansions instead of one, and then all of a sudden, he was getting his forge even long before his third expansion started. Really, what he was doing, was wasting a ton of money just to alleviate a fear instead of some sort of reality. On the reverse side, you'll actually see players do weird things against worse opponents. They'll throw huge armies in willy-nilly, "even if it dies, whatever, I have better marco anyways" or making like extra defense because "well, as long as I dont lose now, I know I can win later in the game". There is absolutely nothing clever about playing shitty against a bad player. You should play as well as you can against all players. The easiest way to fix this, is to keep a mental note of what you thought was scary in the game. Be it fear against a good player, thinking "oh, I'm scared of a vulture harass" or if you're against a bad player and you thought "oh, I'm scared of him doing some all-in". Keep note of what that fear was or what that thought was, and then re-watch the replay, and see if there was any validity to your claim whatsoever. For me, personally, I used to be terrified of a terran army, but when i went back, and watched the replay, i would go "wow, he had like 20 less medic&marine than I thought he did", and then I built up much more confidence over time when attacking these large medic&marine armies.

Number 3: Trust your own logic over whatever trends you might see in the strategy forums or the Proleague matches. More importantly, throw away all vocabulary and thought-process used on a lot of these community sites. So many words are tossed around freely, like counter, or standard or unorthodox or cheesy. These words are useful for discussion, you know, giving the people a sense of what's going on. I can say "oh, he played a standard terran vs zerg", and immediately the listener has much clearer idea of what's going on. However, in terms of analysis, it doesnt mean anything for something to be standard or not standard. Why is it that medic&marine is the standard in terran vs zerg? In fact, controlling a mech army is way easier than controlling a m&m army, so why isn't mech standard? The answer is that: none of it matters. You should only be looking for what is clearly correct for you. This means that if you're having much more comfort sticking to lair and going hydra-lurk for a long time instead of getting really fast defilers, then by all means you should continue going delayed hive. You should continue doing whatever feels comfortable for you. What every player should always be doing at all points in time is snacking around on various strategies, just making sure you are aware of what all the possibilities of all the other races are. And then, when you find a strategy you like, you should dig deeply into that and find all the possible nuances and variations and solutions that you can in that style of play. Never ever ever think that you should play standard because it is standard in any sense of the word. Even the use of the word counter i really really hate, because it implies there is an "if A then B" sort of interaction going on in StarCraft, which there isnt. Even saying something like "oh yeah, reavers counter medic&marine really well": Yeah, thats true, until you play against Upmagic, and then he manages to kill all your reavers anyway and you just lose immediately. Sure, going medic&marine against reaver might be tough to figure out, but if you find comfort in doing that, and you feel your play is much stronger and understandable when you do that, then 100% of the time you should follow your own intuition and develop your own style of play.

Number 4: Keep a very strong awareness of your mental state throughout the entire game. This includes things like panicking when something bad happens or getting a flood of adrenaline when you think you're at an advantage, or even when you get to that relaxed state where you think "oh yeah, I've won, there's no way I could possibly lose". All of these should be slowly weeded out so that way your brain is actually focusing on the game at all points in time. It was actually really funny when I started going to tournaments in 2001: I would do this inner monologue thing that I never did in my normal practice. I would sit down and say: "ok Sean. Focus on your build" And the game would start, and I go: "ok, you can do this, you're a really strong player Sean, dont worry about it man, you've got this. He might be good, but you're good too." And then all of a sudden I would have forgotten my first overlord, because I was busy talking to myself like an idiot. I mean, why on earth am I sitting there, talking to myself mentally in a game, when I have never done that in any practice game ever. Ideally you'd like to be in this state of pure mental focus throughout any game of StarCraft whether it be a tournament game, an ICCUP game, or even an ICCUP game against a player you think is really-really good. This is the place we call the zone. And to get into the zone, you need to spend a very long time working out any sort of tendency or nuance you have that could impact your play. The easiest way to clear out your mind to remain focused as possible is to just keep note of all the extrenous thoughts that can get in the way of your focus. And then, try to work out each one out one at a time until you have razor-focus all game long.

And finally, number 5, which is somewhat of a culmination of everything I've said so far: Have confidence in your execution, and skepticism and doubt in your analysis. When you're playing the game, you should be convinced that what you're doing is absolutely correct, so that way you can maximize your efficiency with whatever you're doing. Whether it'd be a really strong play or an absolutely flawed play. After the game is when you should look at your play and say "mhm, what did I do right and wrong here, what's a way that I could improve? What's a build that he could have done that would have crushed this a 100% of the time?" That is when you think of what adjustments you want to make for the next game. And of course, in that next game, you'll play with 100% confidence as though everything you're doing is absolutely correct. A huge issue that a lot of players deal with is that when they are in the game, and they get thrown off just a little bit - maybe they get storm-dropped or maybe they see a strategy they havent seen before -, that's when they start to analyze their play and to make these huge, large-scale adjustments. Unless making that adjustment was part of your plan, don't do it! You need to make sure that what you're doing is something you are comfortable and confident with. That is what's going to maximize your chance of winning, not some last minute, second-guessing strategy you pulled out of nowhere. If, for some reason you do find yourself in a situation in which you feel totally lost, try to choose something as quickly as possible in your head, and follow it through all the way. Then, after the game you can go back and say: "ok, I was totally thrown off by that. What would have been a good response in this situation, or what would have been a good way to avoid this situation entirely?" That about wraps up the little mindset-spiel I had, so hopefully you guys can use this to clean out your play, and make sure there's no sort of erroneous logic seeping into your analysis, and you can play with as clear and focused a mind as possible.

Thanks for listening everybody, cheers.

TvZ Midgame on Heartbreak Ridge: Fantasy's Play[edit]

Transcribed by Eiii

Hello everyone, it's your friendly neighborhood Sean Plott aka Day[9] and today I want to spend a little bit of time talking about Terran's midgame in Terran vs Zerg on Heartbreak Ridge. Whenever you're making a plan in StarCraft for what you wanna do it's critical that you think about the mid and lategame first, develop a really good plan for that area, and then do the opening last, think about what your exact opening build is going to be. This podcast is not going to explain that concept in detail, but instead it's going to be an example of using that sort of mindset to formulate really strong play in Terran vs Zerg on Heartbreak Ridge.

So, let's do the most natural thing and look at the map. Generally when people look at maps, they suck, right? They are so bad at looking at new maps. The first thing that people do is think "Hmm, how can I do my python build on this map?" And when that python build doesn't work, they complain about imbalance. And the second big mistake people do when they look at maps is to focus waay too much on tactics. They obsess about the fact that you can put a tank hereor there, or that mutalisk harass is really good here or "Ooh, how do you stop a reaver drop from coming through that?" and some of those considerations can be somewhat useful, but I'm choosing Heartbreak Ridge because the aspects of the map I'm going to focus on have a heavy impact on the strategy we're going to do, as opposed to the tactics or little abuses. So if you don't have Heartbreak Ridge open right now, don't worry! 'Cause we are only going to be talking about the broad characteristics of Heartbreak Ridge. First of all, Heartbreak Ridge has a circular dynamic to it. There's the top lane and the bottom lane and the middle. There's no defined 'center' like there would be on Python or Luna. Second, the mains are really far away from each other on Heartbreak Ridge. Compare this to a map like python, if you're 6 vs 3, the naturals are actually really really close in terms of walking distance. Moreover, on Heartbreak Ridge the distances seem even longer between the bases, because there's that um, I call them spokes, it's the little piece or ridge that goes up and then down and then up and then down, those little spokes coming off the middle make it even harder to get to your opponent's base because if there're lurkers up there it delays it even more, even mutalisks harassing from on the top of those spokes can be really hard for marines to move across, so the distances between the bases is very long. The last and perhaps most important point about heartbreak ridge is that expansions ore really difficult to take. in particular, Zerg has a really hard time taking a fourth gas in any match-up, especially in Zerg vs Terran. And even if you're playing Terran, it can be a little tricky and awkward to take that third gas that's right beside your natural. The first conclusion you should reach form this is Zerg is going to be very scary and very comfortable going three gas lurker/ling/defiler. Because there is the circular dynamic in the middle, Zerg can throw down swarms to hold off whatever push you're making in one lane, and then counter attack with lurkers and lings in the other lane. Moreover, because the lanes themselves are fairly narrow, Zerg can actually push Terran back. On a map like python when Zerg throws down a few swarms the Terran can go around. Uh, this isn't possible on heartbreak ridge. So that lurker/ling/defiler combo is very intimidating in the midgame. The second major conclusion you should reach is that Zerg is going to have a very hard time getting a fourth gas to either get a bigger army or transition to ultralisk or do some other late-game plan.

Now that we've analyzed Heartbreak Ridge a good amount, it's time to put on our Terran thinking hats and decide what our midgame plan is going to be vs Zerg. The first and most reasonable thing to do is just to say, 'is playing standard any good on this map?'. Well, let's think about it. The standard Terran vs Zerg midgame involves pushing out with a pretty decent group of medic marine, three or four tanks, and one vessel. The timing of this push is decided by when that first vessel pops out. Now, in your experience playing Terran, or even watching Terran vs Zerg, you should know that Zerg is always trying to get defilers out right when that first push hits his front. So from the Zerg's point of view, he's harassing, he's positioning lurkers, he's trying to delay this so that way Zerg can get defilers, throw down swarms, and push the Terran back. On Heartbreak Ridge, when Zerg gets these defilers out, we already know that Zerg is going to be in a really good really scary position. Are we suited to deal with that if we do a standard opening? Probably not, we have some tanks that aren't going to be as effective anymore because there's two lanes to defend, and more importantly we don't really have a very high vessel count to deal with an aggressive lurker/ling/defiler push. The only real way to make playing standard super-effective is if you do some little twist early on, if you move out very early with your marine and medic group to try to mess with Zerg before he gets going or something like that. So now we need to consider some alternatives. A first very reasonable one is to think, 'Hey, maybe I should just cripple Zerg before he ever gets his scary midgame army going.' As I mentioned earlier, it's a little awkward to defend that third gas, even for a Zerg player. So, I've seen Terran players get five or six barracks even before they get their factory. They end up with this unbelievably huge marine and medic army and they just pin Zerg down with so much, then the idea would be to make quick tech up to vessels after that. Obviously there's going to be some issues, for instance if you don't cripple Zerg, if Zerg's very good with defending and positioning himself, you'll end up with even fewer vessels against those defilers than if you had played standard.

However, the alternative I really want to spend a long time talking about is Fantasy's play against Jaedong in the Bacchus OSL semifinals game one. I absolutely loved Fantasy's midgame structure, for three reasons. First of all, fantasy's midgame was designed to be very very effective against that three base lurker/ling/defiler that's oh-so-effective on Heartbreak Ridge. Number 2, the way that Fantasy combated it took advantage of the fact that Zerg has a hard time taking a fourth gas. And three, the transitions leading up to the midgame were absolutely beautifully planned. Fantasy's midgame plan revolved around getting elements of lategame Terran play very very quickly—in particular, based on getting a lot of vessels and vultures with mines very very quickly. by having these two additions to a very big army, Fantasy was able to combat excessive defilers with all those vessels, and Fantasy was able to put mines along the top and bottom lane to prevent any sort of counter attack. The obvious danger to devoting time and money to getting those late game things is that you're slightly weaker in the early and midgame, you can't quite put a lot of pressure on Zerg. But, that's okay on Heartbreak Ridge, because defending a fourth is so hard for Zerg anyways. Zerg is pretty much committed to doing a three base strategy for a fairly long time. and the last point about the transitions you'll hear all about as I go through the game from start to finish. The most important thing to note in this game is that fantasy went for a starport very very quickly. For a long time in the game he actually had one barracks, one fact, and one starport, each makin' stuff. The clever part is getting to that situation without dying. So first of all, Fantasy opens up with a very very standard Terran opening, which is to go straight for a factory, just do a one barracks fast gas, and get a vulture out and use the vulture to do a little bit of harassment, but primarily to expand and defend the expansion from zerglings. After expanding and poking around with that vulture a little bit, Fantasy gets an addon on the existing factory, and begins building a starport. At the addon, fantasy upgrades mines and continues to make a handful more vultures. This continues along the idea of making sure the um, the expo is well defended. Fantasy now can plant mines at expansions, plant mines at the top and bottom lane, and get a little bit more control over Zerg. Now, here comes some serious brilliance. Fantasy was doing very ordinary stuff given what I've described his midgame to be. He was going for science vessels, halting vulture production at the factory and starting to build tanks. He was starting to build up marines and medics, but Fantasy also threw in a dropship to do vulture harass with those vultures he had been making early on. This is so brilliant because notice how it does not disrupt anything else that Fantasy is trying to do. It flows in seamlessly. While the science facility is building, so Fantasy can get vessels, Fantasy is able to build the dropship. It doesn't delay the time of anything. moreover, Fantasy already had those vultures out because he used them to defend his expo early. He didn't suddenly have to build some vultures and suddenly have to stop building science vessels to get the dropship. Everything was already there and already in place. That is perhaps the key difference between extremely good players planning transitions and extremely bad players. Bad players tend to just jam something in because it looked cool and looked effective in the game, and they don't put any thought into the overall interaction with everything else that's going on. At this point, Fantasy was able to do a decent amount of damage with those vultures. Meanwhile, back home he was adding on a whole bunch more barracks and was already producing tanks and science vessels out of that fact and starport that were build so early on. When Fantasy does finally push out, he has three vessels instead of one, and six tanks instead of three to four. Note that Jaedong was able to hold off this push, but Fantasy's play was already in full lategame swing. Vultures started planting more mines all over the place, that vessel count that was already big continued to get bigger, and Fantasy eventually wore Jaedong down, despite the fact that Jaedong was in that very comfortable, very scary three base lurker/ling/defiler mode. Fantasy was able to wear Jaedong down because of that fourth gas problem. Jaedong was having a really hard time taking a fourth gas given the structure of Heartbreak Ridge, and given Fantasy's midgame plan.

Now that was all fun talking about Fantasy and Jaedong's game, but what I really wanna do is stop for a moment and think about how you would have been able to formulate Fantasy's gameplan exactly on your own, because it's one thing to be able to look at other players' games and say 'Okay, I get what's going on there', but it's so much more useful to be able to stop and go 'Oh, I see what his thought process was, I understand his mental tools now, and I'm gonna use those to develop my own style and my own sort of play, so that way I can conquer maps that are not Heartbreak Ridge.' To do this, let's strip all the complicated stuff away from the midgame, and boil it down to our two basics wants. We want vultures with mines, and we want lots of science vessels for our midgame. Let's think about those vultures first. typically in Terran vs Zerg you start getting vultures with mines after you stop making tanks out of your factory. We've already discussed the Terran standard midgame on Heartbreak Ridge, and we decided that that wouldn't be quite as effective, that we're getting those mines a little bit too late. So, right now we have already figured out that we need too be getting vultures with mines early on. But we don't want to just jam vultures into our early game plan without thinking about how vultures interact with everything else. For instance, here's a really really bad way to go vultures—you have opened up with an early expand. You have three barracks making marines and medics and you've been holding off muta harass for just a little bit of time. Suddenly, you add on a factory and start making vultures with mines. First of all, vultures without speed at that stage of the game are going to have a really difficult time leaving your base with mutalisks planted all around. Moreover, the Zerg has a pretty good bit of map control so it's gonna be difficult to be able to plant mines anywhere you want to without him being able to just easily walk an overlord over there and take it out. So the only potential need those vultures could satisfy is keeping your front more defended from attacks with mines. However, you already have three barracks with marines and medics, likely a bunker at your front, you're already defended. The vultures, in a sense, are satisfying nothing that you need it to. A good way to think about how to put vultures into play or to think about some need that you have early on that some other units satisfy, and then to try to see if vultures can swap out for those units. For instance, we make a handful of marines and occasionally a bunker to defend an early expansion as Terran. Why not make a vulture so instead you can hold off any zerglings early on. That's exactly what Fantasy did in this game. He used the vulture to defend himself early on. But we've also said that we need to get mines early too. Well, we know that Zerg can be seriously threatening in the early game, so if we just get a few more vultures from that factory we've already built, then we can also get mines to hold off any sort of bigger attack, for instance lay down mines in case we're worried he's doing a ling allin, plus getting mines this early helps us control expansions we know exactly when the Zerg is intending to take an expansion. What we've done is listed some needs, some goals we have, and the vultures and mines are satisfying that early on already. With our front fairly comfortably defended, we can start getting science vessels right now, and then we can worry about adding on more barracks later. Already it seems like we've satisfied our midgame goals, we have those mines and vultures already in place for when we need to start producing them in the lategame, we also haven't made vultures in a way that screws anything up, and we're happily on our way to lots of vessels. So lets say you've done a good bit of thinking by yourself and you've decided that this is the build you want to do. You should go and start testing it and what'll happen is you'll notice a few things in that early and midgame stage. The first thing that you would probably notice is those vultures suddenly start to lose use. Not the mines, but the vultures themselves, they can't get in past the sunken colonies, Zerg probably has some muta around, that would kill them off very easily, it feels like the vultures are just hangin' out for a little bit of time. Moreover, you should also start to notice that it feels like you're not putting much pressure on Zerg. Normally you would have three or four barracks making medic marine, and you can always have the threat of attacking Zerg early on. But suddenly you have one barracks, one factory, and one starport, and zerg is pretty much free to power as much as he wants. The immediate next step of logic is to say 'Hey, can these useless vultures right now put any extra pressure on Zerg?' The answer is, generally, not because we've already said that there are sunken colonies and mutalisks everywhere. Because generally we don't have a starport when we can get a dropship. However, we're already on our way to a starport to get science vessels, and if we get that dropship, it doesn't slow anything down. All of a sudden, everything is starting to link together so these vultures that were useful early on are now useful in the midgame for harassment, and are useful right after the midgame because they have mines to hold off those defilers. That starport that was only useful right when the science facility was made suddenly is useful on the way there because we can make a dropship to it. Everything has perfect efficiency from the moment it's construed. It's not some temporary holder until you can get your strategy going. Nothing I've said takes a genius to figure out. All I did was said, 'Here's what I wanna do in the midgame', and then I said 'Hmm, here's how I wanna put vultures in my game so that they're actually useful, and here's how I want to get the science vessels out so that they're actually useful. And hmm, I have a few problems now. How do I solve them given my current setup?' And by solving them, I pretty much have described fantasy's play exactly. Totally frickin' awesome. Now, what I want you to do is to look at a new map that you've maybe been having trouble on, or a new map you're excited to play. Think about what would be really good in the midgame and then all your decisions afterwords are guided. All your decisions know that they're trying to flow into your midgame plan, and all the problems that start arising have very natural, logical solutions. And in the end, you will be a better Terran player.

Before I end this, I want to briefly touch on a question I know tons of people are going to ask. Their question is going to be, 'Well gee, why wouldn't I use Fantasy's build on a map like python?' My immediate response is 'Go ahead, try it, absolutely, there's no reason that you should dismiss a strategy on a certain map because you can't figure out a perfect way to play it.' What will probably end up happening though is because you're putting so little pressure on Zerg early on, Zerg will have a much easier time taking his fourth gas, because on python it is pretty easy to take a fourth gas on that map. So though your army will come out really strong with six tanks and three vessels and a bunch of marines and medics, Zerg will still be getting defilers as quickly as he normally would have, but he will also have that fourth gas under his belt. So, that feels like the danger of doing that Fantasy play on a map where it's easier to get a fourth gas. In a sense, that's exactly why um, standard Terran play is so effective on python. Terran can ramp the aggression up really early on with that first Terran push, and now Zerg is struggling to take his fourth gas once again. And Zerg doesn't have a lot of good counter-attack paths because it's a nice wide open center that Terran can easily control after he takes his midgame army. So, yeah! Hopefully I've given you some nice new tools to analyze games. If you're still struggling to look for a starting point, I'd recommend going back and looking at the Jaedong vs Fantasy game and thinking 'How would fantasy have responded if Jaedong had done 2 hatch muta? 3 hatch muta?' and start going through more, um, unorthodox strategies even, and think about how Fantasy's strategy would be flexible enough to deal with it. And with that, I end my first Terran exclusive podcast. Thanks for listening everybody, cheers!