Monday, August 30, 2010

Starcraft: Know Your Opponent

For those familiar with PvP in any game, the mantra "know your opponent" shouldn't be new.  Very simply put, the more you know about the person/team you're facing, the better you are able to anticipate and counter their moves.  No brainer, right?

In a Starcraft, unless you're playing against friends, you generally do not know the person(s) playing on the other side.  It is, after all, a semi-randomized matching system.  What you do know, however, is the race the other person has chosen.  If you haven't been paying attention to that on the loading screen, do it!  It could mean the difference between a win and a loss.

After playing a lot of 1v1 and 2v2 over the weekend (and netting myself a rather sweet "bronze" league ranking... yeah, I'm that awful right now), there seem to be only a handful of strategies.  At least at the lower echelons of play that I'm haunting, there are.  If you can identify the opposing race early, you can prepare pretty accurately.  Here's the breakdown of what I've been seeing.

When facing a Protoss opponent - I would say something like 90% of Protoss players right now are using the "Void Ray" tactic.  Simply put, they race the tech tree to build a quadrant of Starports early in the game, and show up with the fleet maybe 20 minutes into the game.  It's a pretty effective strategy.  With air, you minimize terrain effects (something Blizz has really lent weight to in this iteration of the game), and with the Void Ray in particular, they have a pretty solid range that will pretty much let you pick apart an opposing defense.

To win against a VR rush opponent, you're going to need good air defense.  For Terran, I've seen a guy build a whole bunch of Thors, and that worked pretty well.  Also, Vikings are a solid choice.  If you're also 'toss, you can always try to out-race them, or go with your straight air support units.  For Zerg, a mass of Hydras seem the way to go here.  A strong counter attack is key here.  If you can chop their legs out while they're trying to attack you, VR's aren't the fastest killing machines in the book, you may be able to hold off and defeat their force. 

Referring back to my last SC post, protect the probes!  If you're expecting a VR rush, then don't worry so much about blocking your base off.  Keep construction tight, and keep air defenses around your home base.

When facing a Terran opponent - I've seen two effective strategies here.  The first is a sending in a mix of ground troops.  Lot's of them.  With medivacs.  This tends to be the majority strat.  Other strategies tend to revolve around mass producing one type of unit.  I've seen Thors and Vikings used effectively as well.  In addition, a lot of Terrans try to rush with Reapers right away.  They're pretty easy to get early and can circumvent defenses. 

Since most Terrans take a ground approach, work more on your ground defenses against such an opponent.  Blocking off helps, but don't forget the ability of Reapers to jump up walls and forget to protect the rest of your base.  Marines are decently effective against air, but larger armored units will tear them up. 

When facing a Zerg opponent - The Zerg are all about fast numbers.  There's a reason we verb-ized the race to connote "speedy overwhelming death".  Look for 'lings early.  Blocking is especially effective here.  When a rush doesn't succeed, a good Zerg player will likely go for Brood Lords and Hydras.  Don't count on using cloaked units effectively against the Zerg, as they tend to have a lot of airborne detectors.

If you're successful at surviving the rush, get ready for BL's and Hydras.  Air turrets do very little against the range of the Brood Lord, you're going to need air support in the form of units.  Keep your frontal defenses strong, as Zerg are less likely than the other races to try to get in behind you.  Counter attacking is key to defeating a Zerg opponent, as they likely build a large wave at a time to try to wear you down.  If you can dual task both an attacking and defending force, you have a good chance of catching them with they're spiny pants down.

With being able to tell so much about someone just by the race, you can easily see the appeal to learn each one so that you can effectively play on "random".  Choosing random doesn't give you away, and can leave opponents especially vulnerable to rush.  When facing a random opponent, it's probably worth your while to send a worker unit to scout early, just so you know what you're facing.

These tactics, at least, are what I'm seeing from the matches I've played.  What has been effective against you?  What should we watch out for? 


  1. OO,

    I Just went through your analysis section. This sounds quite wrong on several parts.

    I think the biggest issue that you are currently have is "Prepare Well".
    You are probably not putting enough pressure on your opponent.

    have a look for Will help you a lot.
    Sure even following those blogs will not work without practice. I am doing far to less games. Roughly 25. But with the aggressive strategy so far I can win .5 in silver league.

    Usually only loosing straight away to cheese. Because I have not enough practice yet.

  2. Right, I've learned a bit since writing this through practice. I talk a little in a subsequent article about shoring up your early build order by playing the AI, which I've found helpful.

    The biggest point I wanted to make here is that it's important to have an idea of what you're opponent is likely to do. The more research/experience you have, the better off you'll be, of course.

    Pressure is indeed a key part of the victory.