Archons and Toddlers

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Much better than working on the car

I know that I haven't played in a little while but it's been a busy week.  And today was looking to be the same.  I was going to change the coolant in our car since I thought it was overdue.  Well I got to digging in the service manual to make sure that I didn't miss anything and I found out that this antifreeze it supposed to be good for the first 6 years or 100,000 miles!  (The old stuff was more like 2-3 years or 50,000 miles).

So how about a little laddering instead?  Yeah I like that better too.  I was feeling a little rusty and had some of the nervousness of ladder anxiety again when I first sat down.  I think it's just a fear of really sucking since I hadn't played for a few days.  Well, here's how it went.

Replay links:
I started out with a comfortable win over a random who ended up Terran.  I saw that he was gold, and not tip-top either so I didn't think too much of it.  Then in game 2 I was just outplayed by a solid zerg opponent.  When I saw that he was gold too I wasn't feeling too good about my platinum ranking.  Game 3 was probably the low point of the day.  I lost to a pretty gimmicky gold protoss by playing right into his hands and basically doing nothing smart.

Game 4 was the high point fortunately.  I fell behind after a really nasty early cloaked banshee.  My observer was on the other side of the map of course.  That's something I'll have to get better at recognizing.  So from there I was playing from behind both on income and army size.  Fortunately I made some decent decisions, and both of our macro play was about equally mediocre.  So when it came to the first encounter I was rewarded with this.
I'm getting to really like storms.
And here it is in graph form.

When watching the replay my pride at the comeback win was tempered a bit.  I saw that during the first engagement he had two barracks that weren't rallied resulting in about 6 marauders and 2 marines sitting it out.  I think I still would have been okay, but I'm not certain.  Then later he had a bunch of idle workers that didn't get sent back to harvesting after repairing a command center.  His macro was getting worse at that point and he had loads of unspent resources so I doubt that would have mattered much.

Anyway, I still got myself supply blocked a lot and didn't expand as quickly as I should have at times.  I still feel like I just need loads of practice to get more comfortable with some things, and I don't really have time for that.  Oh well, I'll keep on plugging away.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Free food and a couple of wins

Today there's a promotion at Famous Dave's; a free meal for anyone named David!  Their BBQ is pretty good stuff, probably not tip-top Kansas City quality, but great for my unrefined palette.  So after picking up my ribs I sat down for a couple of ladder games.

I started the day out ranked 35.  I'm wondering if the match-maker system might start to re-think my placement as I've been up against a lot of gold players lately (high-gold mostly, but still ugh).

Game 1 was against a zerg.  I scouted a quick pool (it turned out to be a 10-pool as I saw in the replay).  I went ahead and did 2-gate before core.  I'm not sure if that's the textbook response, but it seemed like a good enough idea.  After I'd repelled the small early pressure I had 5 zealots sitting around doing not much.  I figured I might as well send them in and, if nothing else, pressure him so he couldn't drone so hard.  Well they basically waltzed in and won the game, so that was nice.

Game 2 was a PvP where my opponent executed a  smooth basic 4-gate.  I, on the other hand, executed god-knows-what and got rolled by it.  When you have an aggressive opponent with a reasonably practiced early build it's very unforgiving to any slips in your early build.
Well that's never good.  And this is what it looked like after all my probes had joined the fight (and died).

Game 3 I got another zerg opponent.  This was my favorite game of the day.  But that's easy to say since his macro was pretty weak making it easy on me.  He over-built corruptors slightly after he scouted my colossus tech.  So I only built 1 colossus at first and eventually switched to high templar.  I kept his expansions under control and even though my macro wasn't exactly pristine I eventually was able to just build up a much bigger army and a stronger econ.
Possibly the first time I've correctly used storm on the ladder.

So 3 games and 2 wins.  I'm ranked 22 now so I get the nifty little wings on the sides of my league emblem.  I wonder if that will last?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Getting into the swing of things

I had a good chunk of time today after a nice brunch with some family.  The guy who is doing the lessons was on and did 1 hour of my free lesson time with me.  We talked about a lot of the things to keep in mind for PvT and PvZ but it was really hard to absorb it all and play well at the same time.  I think a little of it sunk in, but he said that next time we'll concentrate on perfecting my macro.  I think what it really comes down to is that I just need more practice.  To really train my brain it may take a while if I can only play about 1 game a day on average.

After the lesson time I knocked out 5 ladder games in a row while my son took a long nap.  I think I started at rank 37.

The end result was rank 35 in my division.

Game 1 I lost to some quick mass marines.  My early build wasn't tight and I just wasn't prepared for it.  Game 2 was a good PvP.  I got a bit of an advantage after the first conflict but didn't capitalize on it, and then had a really bad second attack.  After that it was a slow downhill slide.  Game 3 was a PvT that I maybe could have won but I was stubborn about trying to win on macro alone and I built almost exclusively zealots and archons.  Eventually it slipped away from me as my opponents macro overtook mine and my inferior unit mix fell apart.

So 3 losses in a row.  I almost quit playing.  Almost.

Game 4 was against a terran who was almost as stubborn as me.  Even though he almost killed me early I managed to squeak out of it because he spent time shooting at my expansion nexus.  I went ahead and built colossus this time and also got him into a couple of unfavorable engagements.  With him only having M&M I was able to wipe out his army with the colossus.

Game 5 was I drew a zerg and when I scouted his early expansion I decided to pressure him.  Yeah, it was a 4-gate.  But not the best one since I got myself supply blocked again.  But I saw that he only had a handful of lings since he was teching a bit, so I brought out more zealots and was able to take the game quickly.

I can see now how frustrating the road to improvement could be for some people.  I think I'll need to just keep practicing away as I have the time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A kindred spirit

Pre-match summary:
  • Platinum rank 39
  • I'm going to stick to worrying about my macro until it's perfect, to heck with strategy (mostly)
This PvP started out with a nice surprise.  This fellow was the first one to recognize where my name, GooeyKabloey, comes from.  It's part of the title of Hamster Huey and the Gooey Kablooie, referred to in some Calvin & Hobbes strips as Calvin's favorite bedtime story.  I know that I spelled it wrong, but it won't quite fit in the maximum length allowed for a battle net nickname, and I thought that with the missing 'o' GooeyKabloey looked better than GooeyKabloie.  Oh well.  Anyway, I have fond memories of reading Calvin & Hobbes from when I was as young as 6.  I'm going to share it with my son too when he starts reading.

As for my performance, I did pretty well, but not perfect.  I got supply blocked briefly at 34, 42, and 50.  So that's obviously no good.  And I was a little late on a few probes early on.  The other small mistake was that after maynarding about the right number of probes to my expansion I forgot to change my rally point from my main.  So there's some things I can smooth out there that would have sped up my build.

Match highlight:
The main conflict from this game.  Even though he had more immortals I won because I just had a bigger force and a little bit better of a concave.  I should have had all of my zealots in front and used guardian shield sooner though.
Post-match summary:
  • Platinum rank 34
  • Not bad macro, but I know what I can improve for next time
  • Replay link
I haven't been able to schedule my coaching session yet, but I'll post when I have a time for it.  It's mostly my fault since I don't know when I'll be available and my wife does most of the planning for stuff!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I won free coaching today

I did a little thinking today about how I want to progress on the ladder.  There are a number of different areas to choose from to try to improve on.
  • Macro mechanics (pylons, probes, expansions, keeping money low, chronoboost)
  • Micro control (unit positioning, moving hurt units, using abilities)
  • Scouting (also ties in to map awareness and watching the mini-map)
  • Strategy (choosing what to build, anticipating and responding to your opponent)
  • Meta-game knowledge (popular builds, trends in each match-up)
I've learned from analyzing my own games so far that it is so very very tempting to concentrate on strategy and micro when analyzing your mistakes.  I'm sure that part of the reason that I've focused on those two is that they are possibly my weakest areas, but it's also where the action is when you watch a game.  It's much less exciting to analyze macro and point out where your cyber core was 5 seconds late and how you weren't building probes for 15 seconds etc...

This may sound strange but what I want to continue to concentrate on is my macro, even though that may be one of my strengths.  Why would I want to do that?  Because macro is the backbone, cornerstone, and foundation (yeah, pick your cliched metaphor) of good play.  Once that's established and solid everything else will be so much easier.  If I can get to the point where my macro requires about as much concentration as breathing then it will be easy sailing from there.

Many times when I've wanted to try a new strategy or micro trick I've found that when I concentrate on doing that right my macro slips and even if I pull off my original goal well I might still lose because my macro fell apart.  So I'm going to concentrate on my macro to the point of absurdity even if it means losing a few more games that I might have otherwise.  I guess I see this as the boring grind that will establish habits and reflexes to make higher level play more fun and easy when I get there.

Now then, what was the title of this post about?  Oh, that's right, apparently I've won 2 free hours of coaching from thanks to this contest that they posted to reddit.  I'm not sure yet when I'll be able to fit that into my schedule, but I'm looking forward to it.  How does this fit in with my training plan laid out above? Well I don't want to force someone giving me free coaching to do it some weird specific way so I'll just go with whatever they want to focus on and see how it feels.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A pattern seems to be emerging

Ok final game for tonight.  For real.
Pre-game summary:

  • Platinum rank 35
  • I didn't really think about a plan, just went for it since I've played a lot of games tonight (for me anyway)
  • Where's my wife at anyway?
I drew a PvZ this time and had some trouble early with his drone blocking my cyber core placement.  I've seen it happen in cast games plenty but it's the first time it's been done to me.  I didn't want my core to be late so I just put it down in any old place and tried to patch the hole afterwards with a pylon.  It didn't work so well.  But in the end that didn't result in too much damage, it just flustered me a little.

I just tried to build up and expand as best I could and when it felt like I really needed to stop him from taking a third I moved out.  It turns out my timing was spot on as he told me after the game.  Having contained him to two bases I confidently expanded again and continued to build up assured in my knowledge that a 3 base protoss could handle a 2 base zerg.  Well my macro wasn't stellar and one thing lead to another...

And that brings us to our match highlight:
What an ugly engagement.  I've seen better decision making while watching my son run into stationary objects.

Post-game summary:

  • Platinum rank 38
  • I need to just go to bed
  • And give my wife a call...
  • Oh yeah, here's the replay link

How to throw away a lead

Well we're just on a roll tonight with playing ladder games aren't we?

  • Platinum rank 34
  • Want to concentrate on basics again, pylons and probes
I held off an early attack and built a decent army lead in this PvP.  Then instead of either just extending my lead or going all-in to finish him I got all wishy washy and committed too much to an attack while also expanding.

Match highlight:
So I should win this no problem, right?  Those force-fields and my stubbornness say otherwise.

Post-match summary:

  • Platinum rank 35
  • Don't get in such a hurry to finish it.  If I see colossus in this situation back off and get some air.
  • Replay link

Tempted by the dark side

Well I went for one more game and finally saw my first cheese!  Unfortunately I was the cheeser...
Pre-match summary:

  • Platinum rank 38
  • The goal this time is good macro and crisp timing
Well I saw that it was a PvP and started worrying about how volatile of a match-up it can be.  Then the game started out with some bad lag (that's what we're talking about at the beginning of the replay).  When I scouted him I thought that my timing was a bit ahead of his and I decided to just go for it and 4-gate him.

Match highlight:
Ooh that force-field felt good

Post-match summary:
  • Platinum rank 34
  • I'm not going to rule out 4-gating if it looks like a good situation, but I don't want to make it my standard.
  • Replay link

Oh right... ghosts can do that

I got to have some Runza and locally grown sweet corn for dinner and I don't even live in Nebraska.  That was some good stuff though and I felt pumped for another game.

Pre-match summary:

  • Platinum rank 38
  • No real plan, just trying to wing it as I go (maybe I need to stay focused on trying to develop my basics)
  • Son is watching scooby-doo upstairs
Post-match summary:
  • Platinum rank 38
  • Very thirsty, a little embarrassed
  • Replay link
Match highlight:
Shields?  What shields?

Going into this battle I was sure that I had the game won.  I had expanded earlier and also won the first engagement so I thought I was ahead in both army and econ.  Turns out my macro wasn't so sharp, and also EMP is pretty good.  Oh well, onward and upward!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Game #4

Okay, my son is napping and I have a moment for another ladder game.

Pre-match summary:

  • Platinum rank 49
  • Still focusing on macro and mechanics, not so much on strategy
  • vs Z or T I will go a mostly standard gateway army until I can get to archons, then archon/zealot
  • vs P I will probably get a robo and decide from there
I will update this post soon after the match.

Post-match summary:

  • Platinum rank 39
  • I didn't really do a great job focusing on my macro, but I didn't need to.  The plus here was how I held off his first push and had some half decent force-fields.  The game was pretty much over after that as his economy wasn't strong.
  • I think the worst part of the game for me were the couple of times I got supply blocked.
  • Replay link
Well time to wake up the kiddo for dinner.

Match Highlight - Spot the lazy probe who thinks he can loaf around for 30 seconds until I notice him just because I completely missed clicking on a mineral field.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More toddlers than archons today

My son is about as good at potty training as I am at Starcraft 2.  He has all the basics down and has come a long way since he first started, but some of the more advanced techniques (wiping himself effectively and staying dry overnight) aren't quite there yet.  But just as I sometimes completely forget to put probes on gas, he has the occasional oops too.  He was standing in front of the toilet today about to get his underwear down when he peed all over the floor.  And just like having a bad game it happens, you learn from it, and move on...

So between that and mowing the lawn, going on a bike ride, helping my brother-in-law with his computer, and other random chores I didn't get any ladder games in today.  I practiced against the computer a couple of times on very hard just to keep my brain thinking SC2.  Sometimes I can do that when I can't really play a ladder game (you have to be able to pause when you have lunch on the stove and a toddler around).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

That one felt good

Replay link

This was a fun game, mostly because I got a little lucky and caught his army while he was attacking the rocks at his gold. Other than that I think we were fairly evenly matched. "Ladder anxiety" is already subsiding just by making a habit of this.

I'm going to go watch the replay now myself to check out how my macro looked.

Lack of sleep + morning workout = ?

Replay link

My son woke up at 1:30am and of course that means we wake up too. He always asks for water, which he knows is right next to his bed on his dresser, but really he just wants a little reassurance before going back to sleep I think. Well he got back to sleep but I didn't. At least not until after 3am. I know some people do fine on weird sleep schedules but it always makes me feel off. Combine that with going to the rec center this morning for a workout and I think I'm feeling a little taxed.

But despite that when I got in to my morning game, I thought that I was playing pretty well. I didn't make the same stupid early mistakes with my build as the last game, although I think I was late on getting tech up and getting enough gateways. I also didn't get my upgrades going. I'm wondering if it was my tired brain telling me that I was doing well despite all of that.

I'm guessing what it came down to was that my zealot/sentry composition wasn't the best for his mass roaches and I didn't have great force-fields. Of course I'm thinking that his macro was a little better than mine too. Please watch the replay if you have a minute and let me know!

Now it's time to fix some damaged grout in the bathroom, yay!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The BM begins early!

Okay, first game is over. Here's the replay.

If you don't want to spoil the results watch the replay first.

Well I tried to stick to my plan, but I think some nerves worked their way in. I botched my early build and went extractor before gate for some reason. There were some other early errors like that, but those will smooth out. Fortunately my zerg opponent didn't go for any early pressure so I was able to build up for a bit.

I haven't watched the replay yet but I suspect that his macro just wasn't very good because I didn't really have to adapt at all to what he was doing, and eventually just rolled over him by keeping up the pressure. My own macro was okay once I got past that ugly start, but it could certainly be better.

Here's a transcript of the in-game chat:

00:06 [All] GooeyKabloey: gl hf15:51 [All] Xenos: MAN YOU ARE SO KILLED15:53 [All] Xenos: SPAM ARCHON15:58 [All] Xenos: zealot archon16:00 [All] Xenos: zealot archon16:04 [All] Xenos: youre a ****ing testament ot toss16:07 [All] Xenos: enjoy being in gold forever
So I'll take that as a compliment to my macro I think. Also a funny note about his parting shot; I placed straight into platinum.

Preparing for round 1

Okay, so I know my schedule doesn't make it easy to play on the ladder because you have to have a bit of time set aside without interruption. But I have to admit that part of the reason is also ladder anxiety. So I'm just going to tell myself right now that I'm going to lose some games. Probably a lot. But if I practiced my mechanics and learned something then no loss is really a bad thing.

So what's my plan? Pylons and probes, that's my plan. I am not going to get supply blocked and I'm going to keep making probes. Aside from that I'm fond of charge zealots, and I'd like to give the new and improved archons a spin. Of course I'll have to adjust to what my opponent is doing, but I'm not going to prioritize that so highly right now. So what scares me with zealots and archons? Well obviously things that can kill me before I get to the archons. And most things that can do that can be mitigated with sentries. So good force-fields are a priority. I'll be concentrating on gateway and twilight council tech, so that means I will lean towards getting a forge and using cannons for detection instead of observers.

It will be interesting to compare this to what actually happens in the replays...

A gamer dad embarking on a modest adventure

I've been a fan of Starcraft since the original was released in 1998 when I was still in high school. I remember huddling with some friends around a printout of an early screen shot of the game before it was released. Someone had brought it to school to show off, and we all made up wild conjectures about what the units and buildings in the game would do.

On release day I had to go to work right after school, but I gave some cash to my friend who was heading out to buy it. He dropped my copy off with me a couple of hours later, and I was giddy to play for the rest of my shift.

As with most things (especially for me with my short span of attention) my interest waxed and waned over the years, but I would always come back to it every now and then. My interest in it renewed again around 2009. By this time I was spending a lot of time on reddit so I naturally found the starcraft subreddit fairly quickly. Also of note is the fact that by this time I was married and had a son too. The life of a gamer is a little different in this context than as a teenager with no bills to pay or diapers to change. So I've ended up more of a casual fan this time around, mostly watching the pros play and only playing a little bit myself.

Well I'm going to change that up a bit now. It's time to challenge myself on the 1v1 SC2 ladder along with all those young punks who play the way that I used to: all the damn time. I've dipped my toe in the ladder a couple of times, just playing a few games here and there. But not enough to really improve myself. So I'm planning to make this different. My goal will be at least 5 ladder games a week and I'll make a post here for each one along with the replay.

So in that spirit I'll be getting my son ready for bed, reading him a story, and telling him goodnight soon. Then it's off to the ladder.