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.

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.

Promoted to Silver

I was pretty bummed when I was placed in HotS and got placed into Bronze. In WoL I was Silver and the MMR tool said I was nearing Gold. So a placement into Bronze was almost a slap in the face. It made me want to quit playing right there.

Instead I started playing more and more, and found that I really belonged there. I was losing a majority of my matches still. Learning to deal with all these new units and buffs and nerfs to various abilities and didn’t deserve my previous rank.

Last night I was promoted to Silver. This is after 69 ranked games of HotS (this is not counting my unranked games and 1v1 with friends). I have been learning quite a bit while playing those 69 games. Some of it was getting better at countering various units. Some of it was just playing more so I can flesh out my playing style and my builds. And finally, lots of it was watching players like Wilko stream.

Next steps will be getting a bit more comfortable with skytoss, at least mixing it into my composition a little bit. As well as sitting down and playing with my build orders in a sandbox so I can figure out what order I should build things and what is the fastest I can complete it.

I am trying to stream at least an hour or two a day. You can the link to my twitch account in the side bar to the left.

Learning How to Practice

I’ve been pondering how to get better at SC2. There are a lot of opinions on this, watch soandso’s videos, use one generic build for everyone that teaches the basics, don’t care about mirco or winning and learn to macro, etc. I have been having trouble deciding between these and/or how to mix and match them so I feel like I am improving.

The first thing that comes to mind for improving myself is just playing more. I need to get to the point where I am getting several matches in on several days a week. I think of this as akin to eating better or going to the gym. What you do at the gym for those first couple weeks while you get used to going regularly is less important than building up the habit of doing it.

My next plan for improving is to play more on my stream and just listen to advice of people who are watching. I’ve not been good at this and in fact I rebel against their advice. While I can’t implement everything people suggest, I can work toward what they suggest and take it under advisement. My predisposition against certain units that are more micro heavy or I’ve had a hard time incorporating is no reason to just reject what a viewer suggests.

In that vein of thinking, it was noted on my stream that I don’t generally micro. In the interest of becoming more comfortable with microing I’ve started playing Darglein’s Micro Trainer. Playing though all the levels a couple times then focusing on Blink Stalkers, SCV Train, and Multiple Ability Control. Partially because I don’t even know how to do this effectively and partially because I need to teach my hands to do this. With the game timer, I figure if I do an hour of concentrated practice a day, my micro and mouse control will improve and I’ll feel more confident in using my unit’s spells.

Finally, there is TheStaircase, which is a very interesting way to learn to play. Unfortunately, because I play HotS, I am forced to make a best guess at my income rate so I can calculate SQ. This will be this way until GGTracker supports HotS which I hope will be in the near future. I am in the process of building a site that will be able to harness GGTracker’s automatic gathering of SQ for people (both the collective averages by league and for the individual player) so that you can see if you are passing or not. That said, because I am playing in the AHGL I can’t purely use this as I need to have my build orders refined for real play.

This is the start of my thoughts on training. I am going to go back and re-read The Art of Learning and see what thoughts and ideas come from that and adjust accordingly.