The Minimap

I’ve spent my last couple games working on actually looking at my minimap. I don’t have any rules I am following to do this, just whenever I find myself with spare time, I am look at the minimap.

The first thing this made me realize was that I wasn’t scouting or getting any data about my enemy. As Protoss I get observers, I am now making a few and tossing them at various points on the map so I can catch when the enemy is moving toward me, and which base they are aiming for, as well as catching drops as they leave/approach.

A result of this has allowed me to catch drops WAY faster. See it coming and warp in a few stalkers to deal with it. As well as repositioning my army to get an more advantageous approach to kill their army. I even caught a build that would normally destroy my build, so I could tech switch and do so major damage and prevent them from doing serious damage.

Long story short, it turns out the minimap and scouting are very important. This has had me destroying every silver I play against and hope this will be the wave I ride into Gold.

You’ve Been Promoted: Silver!

I came back to the game about a week ago and got placed in Bronze. Which is totally fine since I’ve been out of the game for a while. I’ve been winning most of my games and knew it was only a matter of time before it bumped me up to Silver.

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I am playing with some of the builds from http://protossbuilds.wordpress.com/ while focusing on my mechanics. Making sure I am making probes and pylons, getting my expansions as I can, and scouting. Once I start to feel a bit more comfortable with that, I’ll be trying to pick a definite build for each race. I’ll be leaning toward safe macro builds because that has generally been my style.

I hope with my practicing a couple games most days of the week I’ll be able to get further up and into Gold. That will be my definite cue to pick my builds and get solid at them. Once I make it into Plat my builds will actually start to matter, I don’t expect to make it into the Plat for a couple months, but I hope to before AHGL Season starts, if anything for intimidation factor.

AHGL Season is Nearing!

The AHGL is a corporate vs corporate Starcraft 2 and League of Legends league. Last year was my first year participating and I took over as the captain of the Mozilla Starcraft 2 team. The skill level in the league is really varied (Bronze to Master) and there are two sub leagues, A and B. A league teams have Masters players or are mostly Diamond and higher. B league teams are Diamond and lower, Mozilla’s team falls into that one.

Intro out of the way, I just realize that the preseason is coming up soon! The organization and such starts in October and the first games are November/December! What that means is I should probably start playing Starcraft 2 regularly again. Despite saying at the end of last season that I was looking to change races, I think I am going to stick with Protoss.

I’m going to start going through VODs of recent tournaments and chatting with my friends to see what the safer builds in each match are. I find myself most comfortable when I can get to 3 bases, though from what I hear that is less easy these days so I may need to learn some 2 base strategies. I’ll check back in later with what builds I’m going to focus on learning, as well as how I plan on training.

Heart of the Swarm: Player vs AI

Spent a bit of time tonight playing the new Player vs AI. It is pretty fun. It makes you play through the difficulties until you hit the Elite level at which point it maxes out. Now I am not a great player but I am evidently good enough to be the AI at the highest level PvAI goes to, but despite that it doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable to me.

I even learned while playing through the lower levels of PvAI. The hard computer hit me with a 6-8 roach timing attack and I barely held it. I realize my build was rather deficient! It had gaping holes that hadn’t been capitalized on during ladder sessions, because the builds that could, had fallen out of favor in recent history. It is wonderful to see this because it made me rearrange and tighten up my build a bit. I was excited to play against the harder AIs and see what else I missed!

In HotS, the AI has been taught to use multiple builds, so no longer does it do the same thing every time. Sometimes you are against a bio early pushing Terran AI, other times the Terran AI comes at you with hellions followed up by heavy mech play. This variety lets you test how a build does, and what it needs to be able to react to at minimum to survive on the ladder.

With this new tool, I am going to take some time to figure out what build I am going to use in each match up. After that, work out a couple transitions in the build to account for the opponent’s tech. Then practice the hell out of them so they are super tight. At that point they’ll be ready for the ladder.

Day[9] has stated that a very tight build, even if it isn’t a great build, will get you really far. TheJaKaTaK asserts that with good mechanics you’ll go a long way. Perhaps if I combine these:

  • Solidify and tighten up my builds for each match up to the point that I know them so well I don’t have to think about placement of things, order of buildings, scout timings, etc.
  • Work my way through TheStaircase getting my mechanics and understanding of the various units to be stronger.

Alternating between these, perhaps using one to warm up for the other is likely where I’ll go with this. It seems like a great vehicle to carry me on the road to HotS Gold League and perhaps, with enough effort, even Platinum League before the game is released.

TheStaircase

I’ve off and on used a system called TheStaircase. So much so that I am even working on thestaircase.org. It has a really intuitive style for learning SC2 and getting better. It was actually a lot of my motivation behind making SpendingQ.

I’m doing this part time mixing with full unit play. I’ve made it out of the first step a few times, even up as far as the 4th step. But this time instead of only shooting a single league higher I am trying to hit the benchmarks for Master level players. This means really paying attention to my macro, less on the side of expanding enough and more on the side of spending all the money I have coming in.

It is a common theme for me, and I imagine others, to be doing pretty fine spending wise while you are on one base because the income rate is so low. When you are in the process of saturating your second base is almost easier because probes build fast and when chrono’d will burn your minerals really fast.

Once you have a second base saturated, even while you are saturating a third it is really easy to not be building units fast enough to use your minerals and gas. This appears to be two problems compounding each other. The first is that the player wont know how many production buildings to have for their base count and expected unit composition, so they can’t produce fast enough to burn their income. The second comes from not building units on every cycle they can, this is leaving buildings not producing, not using your larva as soon as possible, or missing warp in cycles.

The solution comes two fold as well. It requires you to research your build, play it a bunch of times, and really know and understand the amount of production you need to spend your resources. The second is paying attention and not letting buildings sit unused, which comes from playing more games and having that be a focus of your play.

In the coming weeks I plan on having a weekly wrap up of the things I have worked on. I’ve started doing this daily with some other things in my life and I like. I feel like in a week I’ll have the same amount of progress/information as a single day of work (5-10 hours of practice in a week, 6-10 hours of work in a day.)

Look for the updates in the future!

Psychological Mistakes

A quote from The Art of Learning really hit me this morning:

Disappointment is a part of the road to greatness. When a few moments pass, in a quiet voice, she can ask Danny if he knows what happened in the game. Hopefully the language between parent and child will already be established so Danny knows his mom is asking about psychology, not chess moves (almost all mistakes have both technical and metal components–the chess lessons should be left for after the tournament, when Danny and his teacher study the games).

This appears to be a flaw for a lot of people. The first analysis immediately after a game, players tend to focus on the details of the match, “If I had just scouted more, if I build X rather than Y.” This is contrary to what Josh Waitzkin says about paying attention to the psychological mistakes immediately after.

In StarCraft 2 we have the luxury of being able to watch replays. I can look back and see all the technical mistakes I made very easily. This doesn’t retain my psychological state though, which is much more ephemeral. I am going to make this a component of my practice and play. How did I feel, was I feeling rushed, behind, overly confident, was I able to enter flow or not. These are questions I need to start asking myself.

Resistance is Silly

One of the first things that is brought up in The Art of Learning is the how the author had started learning chess on his own and had developed some bad habits. Then, once he had a real teacher, he fought that teacher about the best ways to do things. I find the same issue in my SC2 playing.

Commonly on my stream someone will suggest that I add voidrays or full on skytoss. Or they comment on how I don’t micro at all and just a-move my army everywhere. These are things that are definitely holding me back. I’ve stopped doing these things at one point or another because I don’t feel confident in them and my methods have worked so far to make me better.

I play slow (low APM) so I try to avoid things that I have to speed up my play more for. I don’t take it well when people criticize this part of my play because I feel helpless to it. This is something that I am going to have to let go of because maintaining it will result in a very hard ceiling for my skill.

Going forward I am going to spend a little time each practice session pushing my boundaries. Doing phoenix harass, oracle harass, prism play, blink micro, etc. If I never do it, I’ll never be comfortable when I need to do it. If I push myself to learn it, then I will get a chance to internalize things I am slow at so I can do them at a faster rate.