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A Year of Starcraft II

Rectification

Working overnights at work this week has really screwed up my schedule (both sleep and otherwise); I have not been playing as much as I should.  I have probably not played more than 4 hours in the last 3 days (and streamed even less).  I’ve kept up with watching Day9, SoTG, and some streams (it’s infinitely easier to throw one of those on at 6 in the am and watch until I start nodding off than playing for some reason), but I don’t feel like I’ve done enough to hold up my commitment to this year.  So, Tuesday, November 15 I will try to rectify the situation.  Normally my day off (I’m just going to move that to today because it’s my last overnight and I am beat), I will instead be playing and streaming for five hours.  From 7pm to 12am central I’ll be on.  Hopefully it will help me reset my schedule and get back into a rhythm.

In actual SC2 news, I’m solidly back in the top of my gold league, playing the random platinum.  I feel better, back to where I was before at least, but still not good.  Working on spending my minerals (now that I’m back to droning well) helps a lot, to the point where the games in which I truly focus on it well are won handily.  Macro, Macro, Macro is the mantra, right?  Why do I suck?  Macro.  How do I get better?  Macro.  Why did my opponent win?  Cheese…  Wait, I mean Macro.  I’m going to keep focusing on this for the week, really trying in every game to spend every last mineral as quickly and profitably as possible.

Good Morning and GLHR.

Working My Way Back Up

After spending another few days raging and being on tilt (as one stream watcher suggested), I had a conversation with Combust (he of being around since the beginning and helping a lot), who, after I told him of my problems, suggested I wasn’t droning enough in the early game.   I realized almost immediately that he was spot on.  It’s not a small thing, certainly, but it was not completely obvious to me. Not obvious, because the games were inevitably quick losses or long crappy games where I had plenty of time to get up to my usual 80-90 drones.  Being low on drones in the early game throws the whole feel of the game off.  Starved is a good word to describe the feeling of my early games, until I built up a good base of drones (if I got there).

This was solidified last night when I watched Day9 go over Nestea’s ZvT.  Drone is king in Nestea’s games, and should be in mine.  I’ve been working on it, maybe even going overboard on the droning, but I’d rather lose with too many than not enough drones.  It is amazing how much my game opened up after doing this.  Almost immediately, I felt back in the zone while playing and started working my way back up the ladder.  It feels good and I am actually really enjoying playing every game, no matter win or lose.

Another thing that kind of struck me this week was a comment someone made on SCreddit (can’t remember post or situation, sorry).  They said, “Everyone starts out on an even playing field.”  I had never really thought about it like that.  I know that sounds strange, but realizing that I was not immediately behind or trying to make up for some deficiency I had, and instead playing with the idea of “stay even or get ahead” helped maybe more my mindset when playing rather than my actual play.

Now that I’m droning so much, my minerals are skyrocketing.  Seriously.  Long games can hit over 5000 minerals banked.  This is what I’m going to work on this week, trying to keep myself droning and spending at the same time.  I know it’s okay to stockpile some gas if I’m waiting on mutas, but I’d rather play with the mindset that anything over 500 is bad.  It’s a reversion, I know, to go back and work on this again.  I remember doing this a couple of months ago, but I think it’s the best thing I can think of to help me get better while playing the way I am now.   I may be better at it than I was a couple months ago, but I’m still not good.  So, that’s what I’ll be working on this week.

I will be doing some more overnights this week and the next for work, so my schedule will shift around a bit.  I did a four hour day (of play, then 2+ hours of watching Day9 and State of the Game) to make up for missing a day last week, but I don’t really want to do that again.  I don’t like missing a day, so I will instead be playing earlier, from 7pm to 9pm, on those days coming up.

Goodnight and GLHR.

The Suck

It’s been a week since I’ve updated this blog, but it seems even longer.  It has been a hell of a week, SC2-wise and other.  As I, a retail peon, head into the holiday season I find myself more and more tired at the end of a day’s work.  Which sounds like I slack off all year otherwise, and is probably correct.  But, hey, I put in work when it’s needed.  Speaking of work, my schedule is about to do some weird things, as I do a few overnight shifts to get ready for Christmas (-_-).  So, I will go ahead and take Tuesday off like normal, but may stream either Wednesday morning, evening, or Thursday afternoon for four hours.  I can’t honestly say what will happen, it depends on how I react to the shift.  Late nights are normal for me, but I have a strange habit of needing like four hours after getting home from work before sleep.

In Starcraft 2 news, I suck.  Seriously.  I have been playing crappily for a while, and my placement match confirmed it by placing me into Gold.  I was more pissed off at this than I should have been, and have been consistently raging at my sloppy play and stupid losses for this week.  I didn’t post a blog about it all because I didn’t want to sound like I’m whining.  I’m not upset at the game, at the other players, or the ladder ranking.  I’m pissed at myself.  I don’t know what’s going on with me or my play.  It’s as if I went to sleep one night playing one way, and woke up to playing a different and crappier way.  Any idea I had of learning timings and builds and suddenly being a diamond player are completely gone.  I know part of the reason I have been playing badly is my annoyance at myself is making me play less.  I will get pissed off at doing something stupid (in one game I somehow cleared my main hatch’s way points so that my drones just sat there at the base) and stop playing and instead go watch some more of MrBitter’s 12 Weeks with the Pros.  I am about halfway through, have learned a lot that has helped in some match-ups, but some of it seems out of date, because of the patches.  But it’s like I said, I know that I’m playing worse, but I couldn’t tell you why.  I watch replays and I can see the mistakes, but it’s as if I’m missing something much larger.  I guess all that I can do is keep on playing, trying to make something work.

Goodnight and GLHR.

On Making Time

As I have tried to expand my game knowledge of timings and builds, I was struck with how hard I find it to make time for Starcraft II outside of my allotted two hours.  I want to spend more time on teamliquid, learning the prevalent builds, counters and what has been used before and may be worth trying now.  I want to analyze all of my replays, going over them in minute detail to pick out the small and large holes in my game.  I want to study pro games (Nestea, Idra, Sheth, Stephano) in depth and mimic what they do and how they do it.  All of these are things I could and should do, and they would, without a doubt, help me in my effort to become a better SC2 player.  But (yeah, there’s that but), I find myself distracted by the ephemera of the game, and all of those shiny things in life that have longed distracted me from actually working on anything.  Hopping on Reddit for 15 minutes at the end of the night turns into two hours of mindless surfing.  Sleeping in a bit on my day off turns into vegging for a few hours while watching television, dragging my ass out of bed, and then again with the Reddit.

For the first two or three months (not exactly sure where it cut off), I didn’t play any other video games except for SC2.  I feel I made the biggest strides and gained the most knowledge during this time.  But when I started playing other games, I felt like my progression slowed and I wasn’t thinking as much about Starcraft.  It’s not so much that it’s a bad thing to play other games, but that it takes away from what I’m trying to focus on.  I have stopped playing other games, now, as I have been trying to focus more, but, like I said, other things are still getting in the way.  Really, forcing myself to do something is apparently the only way I will actually do it.

So, I’m going to add an hour to my requirement.  An hour of study, be it reading actual game related posts on teamliquid, working on learning builds, studying timings or analyzing replays (both mine and pros).  I have the time.  Shit, I have nothing but time.  I work, go out with friends occasionally, but otherwise don’t have much of anything requiring my attention.  It sounds kind of pathetic, but I actually like it like that.  And it allows me to devote even more of my time to Starcraft.  That desire, to get better, to see this year through to the best of my capabilities, is still there.  I just have to make myself accountable to it.

Goodnight and GLHF.

Mindset

As I look back on my week+ of scouting, I know I’m doing better.  I’m doing each of the scouting pokes that I know to do in almost all of the games.  It has helped my game play immensely and, like I said, a great deal in an economic sense as well.  I drone more now, in addition to getting upgrades quicker, I think.  But as I finished my games tonight, I was struck by a situation that I realized happens all too often.

It was in the mid-game of a match vs. a Protoss, and I had poked in with a few mutalisks, to do some harass and see what was up.  I took out a few probes and was then chased out by stalkers.  After watching the replay, I realized I had seen his multiple warp gates ready in his main, but it didn’t actually register as I played.  He pushed soon after, I repelled and pushed back, only to be met by a large group of 2-2 stalkers.  It was pretty much lost there, as my mutas had been lost on his push and I only had +2 attack on my roaches.  The point of all this was my not thinking about what I was facing.  And I realized I do this way too often in games.  I may be taking in all the information I can with scouting, but I’m still not trying to figure out what is actually going on.  I had also, in this game, seen an extra forge, so I should have figured on more upgrades also.

I’m not sure how to practice this, or even work on it, really.  It’s more of something I’ve become aware of and have to focus on myself.  I should keep asking myself questions about what my opponent is doing, what I’m doing, and what could happen.  Someone said that I should always be asking, “What can kill me here?” and work off of that.  It’s really another thing to add to my mental checklist, a thought process rather than a game mechanic.

I’m going to keep the scouting as a focus for this week, I know I can work on it more.  I will also endeavor to think about what I’m seeing, rather than taking everything at face value and just being happy to see what my opponent has at that moment.

GLHR

One Thing Leads To Another

Yesterday was yet another dismal day of poor play and okay scouting.  I started off the day by watching Day9’s new mental checklist daily.  I tried doing the exercises along with him, and practiced for a bit, but when I went into a game, I felt off somehow.  Like I was confused as to what I was doing because of all of the separate things I was trying to focus on.  I kind of feel like I was trying to play someone else’s way, or worrying about how I do what I normally do.  I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I was flustered as hell in the first couple of games.  When I made an effort to scout, and just scout, I was fine.  I may not have won many of the games, but I did know what was coming and what my opponent was doing.  Some glaring errors of unit composition ruined what otherwise would have been good games, I think.  But it wasn’t until today that I hit a stride with the scouting.

Today went a lot better.  Something strange happened as I got better at the scouting: I suddenly had plenty of time to drone.  For example, after seeing only 5 stalkers and a few sentries, I knew I could use a round of larvae to populate my third.  I think I also took thirds and fourths (even a fifth!) much quicker than usual because of this.  My macro slipped a bit, as I was not used to having so many minerals so early, but that’s fine with me for now.  I didn’t keep the scouting up perfectly, by any means, but simply throwing some overlords, overseers, and lings at their bases and checking for expansions kept me apprised of what was going on.  I did do some attacking, using mutas as a mix of harass/scout in the mid game when it became difficult to sneak a peek with my other units.  Also, along with the droning I had time to do, I made it a point to spread creep wide and far and keep control of the Xel’naga towers in most of the games.  I guess it was just one of those days where everything comes together.

It sucks that I have to work all weekend, MLG Orlando sounds like it’s another great tournament.  I’m going to try to catch as much as possible on the VODS, but it just isn’t the same as live.

Tomorrow, more scouting, scouting, scouting.  Goodnight and GLHR.

 

Scouting and Patience

I spent some time today on scouting, as that is what I’m working on this week.  It actually seems to be going well.  In particular, in a game vs. Zerg I continued to poke and prod with lings (okay, I took out an expansion which is attacking, but it was there and looked so easily grabbed), used overlords, overseers and changelings.  I knew pretty much what was coming at all times.  I still lost, though.  I had too little gas to deal with the giant ball of mutas he had at the end.  I think I wasted the gas on ultras and also took my fourth’s gas way too late.  I’m not going to worry about the loss, though, because the scouting was good.

I also had a chance today to play a couple of games against OnYourWifi (link is to his stream), another redditor.  He was kind enough to give me a few games and some tips (he’s in diamond league).  I can’t say I did great (I didn’t), but it was fun and he gave me some things to work on.  Most importantly, I think, was having patience in game.  I wasn’t doing the heavy scout/no attack in those games, but I might as well have been.  I spotted his push and then just sent each wave of units in to die.  Had I waited, letting him slowly work his way to my base and then attacked en masse, it would have been a much better engagement for me.  Another good point was my penchant for just making units to feel safe.  It is nerve wracking for me to just sit there with a few units, waiting for attacks, so I make a few units each round of larvae.  This is cutting into my drone output and has to stop.  Scouting should help me feel safer, I believe, so this is part of that.  Also, I needed to take more bases.  This is, I think, part of that nervousness of not knowing what’s coming.  So, as I’m scouting, and when I have the minerals, I need to expand.  OnYourWifi was saying that some master’s Zerg will have a third by 9 minutes vs. Terran.  Crazy quick, maybe, but at least a good benchmark to keep in mind.

I’ve started learning some of the timings, and continue to work on my notebook.  I think it’s going to be a constant thing I have to go back to, to get all the timings memorized and know what to look for.  Not a quick glance and I’m good thing, but a good long while of studying.  And then the metagame will change and I’ll have to learn what else could be coming and when.  It’s actually pretty cool, because I like that kind of game.  I’ve always been looking for a game that’s deeper, that I can figure things out on.  I guess I should’ve been playing RTSs sooner.

I finally purchased a mechanical keyboard and it came in today.  I have to say it is pretty damn nice.  The clickety-clackety (and that’s exactly the sound now as I type) is addictive.  I went with the SteelSeries 6Gv2  and I’m liking it.  I was actually kind of confused as to which keyboard to purchase and kept putting it off.  I knew I wanted one, but they are kind of expensive and I didn’t exactly need one.  But as soon as the spacebar on my old keyboard started sticking, I knew it was time.  After looking at a bunch of keyboards, I finally just went with this one because, honestly, it’s the one Idra uses.  That is such a fanboy statement, I’m kind of embarrassed to say it.  It’s actually the first time I can think of where I purchased something based on someone else’s use.  Kind of strange, but, hey, I can always say I’m supporting a Starcraft sponsor.

That’s it for now.  I just wanted to point out, 3 blogs in a row.  I’m trying to make myself do this more.  I know I let it slide, and that sucked, so I’m working at it.

Goodnight and GLHR.

Going For It

So, I have decided to go ahead and do the MLG next year, at the end of this experiment.  It seems like the perfect end to the year, a way to take the skills I’m learning and use them for something exciting.  Hopefully I can post the replay packs from the games I get to play, along with a couple from each month in a large pack.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  There’s still a lot of work to do.

I’ve added quite a bit to my SC2 notebook, but came up with a few additional ideas so I’m going to start over.  I figured I’d let you know how I plan to set it up.  I got a good start from a bunch of TeamLiquid posts (so much information there, I get lost in that forum like I get lost in tvtropes), but want to organize everything in a way that helps me study and see things at a glance.  I think doing a section for each match-up, listing the major builds and their timings is a good start.  But I want to put these into an easy to read at a glance list on a single page for when I’m playing or need a quick refresher before a game.  So, that list will include major timings, and will be color coded to the gases taken early.  This was originally a way someone was helping me with ZvP scouting, and it worked well so I’m going to put this into play here.  A different color for no gas early, 1 gas and 2 gas will let me know at a glance what I’m dealing with in a general sense.  After that, continued scouting should help me out with what I need to build.

After a day or two working on scouting, I have realized I’m focusing too much on attacking and winning.  This is not putting Day9’s way of improvement into practice.  So, for the rest of the week, I’m not going to attack until my opponent does.  I’m going to try and embrace the Zerg way of reacting and scouting.  The losses may add up, but I don’t care.  I just want to get better.  My scouting needs so much work, this is the only way I can make myself focus on it.  There’s no way I can sit there at ten minutes in without scouting, that would make me way too nervous.

I’ll be back at it tomorrow.  Goodnight and GLHF.

There’s This Joke…

About conjoined twin brothers, who share an asshole, and one of them is gay and the other is not.  In other words I feel like I’m getting screwed in the rear constantly lately.  (I’m aware I completely butchered the joke. Sorry.) I’d like to blame it on external factors, and say it’s just a slump I’ll pull out of, but I know it isn’t.  I’m just not focused lately.  It has become hard to sit down and put the effort in that I need to.  The consequence is me losing a shit-ton of games, which would be fine if I were working on something in particular, but I’m not.  And therein is part of the problem, I’m just playing not practicing.  I’ve been treating SC2 as a game, not as something on which to work harder. Letting this blog go so long without updates, not working on specific areas of my game, playing in less than super-focused mode, are all symptoms of my original failing that I”m trying to fix by playing for this year.

I’m still loving Starcraft, don’t get me wrong.  I have just gotten myself into a bit more of a spectator mode.  State of the Game, Day9, DjWheat, and all the tournaments (IPL3 is great) pull for my attention.  Tonight, after watching IPL for about four or five hours, I was tempted not to play at all and call myself good for the day.  It would have been perfectly okay at the beginning of my year, I think I did it for a day during an MLG, but not now.  Yes, all of this is great and the game is amazing to watch, but I want and need to get better.  It’s like I have to keep kicking myself to do what I know I should do.  My focus has to be my play, not just the game.  I don’t want to be incredibly lazy by White-Ra’s standards (see the last SoTG).

I had an idea the other day that I’d like to share.  It comes with some bad news, which pisses me off but spawned this idea.  Okay, now I’ll go ahead and say it, instead of just talking about it.  I’m still doing it, aren’t I?  First, I can’t go to MLG Orlando.  Scheduling at work screwed me (one co-worker out with surgery, another already had vacation taken then), and I’ve been trying to figure a way to still go before saying anything about it, but I honestly can’t get out of work for that long.  My idea, however, is to go to an MLG at the end of the year and compete.  Whichever one is closest in date and location to June 8th.  I’ll take about 10 days of vacation, practice non-stop, and go play.  I don’t care if I’m still platinum or whatever then, just the fact that I have to play with people watching.  I also liked the idea of having a sort of test at the end of the year.  I’m still unsure how to go about doing this, or if I could even get in, but it is kind of a fire lighted under my ass to get better for the end of year.  I don’t want to embarrass myself to badly.  I don’t even know if I’ll do it as LeTemps (I don’t want people to think I’m an attention whore), but it would be more meaningful if I did.  Anyways, that’s my idea.  I’m going to let it sit for a while and decide next week if I’ll do it.  Jesus, it’s scary just thinking about it now.  I need to practice so much.

Starting tomorrow I’m going to go back to streaming two hours every night.  I started to get back into that, then out of it when I got some BM that pissed me off (I deserved it, but felt like I was getting kicked when I was down), but I won’t let it get to me anymore.  This week, my night off will be Monday, as I have to travel that night for work the next day.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about my games lately.  Suffice it say, my play feels like an unfolding lawn chair.  If I scout, I don’t have creep.  If I make units, I don’t have drones.  I’m just missing so many little things that it’s all adding up.  So for this week, my focus is returning to scouting.  I’m going to learn the timings and scout to know what’s coming.  I don’t care if I have no units to defend, I will at least know what I’m facing.  My notebook is too empty, I need to rectify that by putting some actual work into it.

Goodnight and GLHF.

 

Thoughts On The Last Week

First off, I find it pretty damn incredible that Screddit is still interested and cheering me on. I mean, perhaps it’s only right since you are the reason I am sitting where I am today, but still, pretty freaking cool.  I also found it hilarious that little old LeTemps’ promotion post was one of the top posts of that day on WordPress with 40k+ hits.  Someone somewhere was scratching their head at that.

The other night, after a few practice matches with some friends that I have played with since the beginning of my year, we were talking about something or other and got on the subject of the game Go.  If you are unaware, it is a great board game invented in Japan (I believe), that is usually compared to Chess in its depth and intelligence (not sure if that’s the word I’m looking for).  I brought up an old manga I used to read that got me interested in the game- Hikaru No Go.  The other two had not only heard of it but read it, and played Go.  I mention this because it is a very peculiar thing for me, both to find someone who plays Go and who also read the manga.  I had this feeling, after that, that perhaps Starcraft II is my home, as it were, in a community sense.  Similar interests, great people, and I feel like I belong.  After a few months, I know that after a year I will continue to play and keep myself in the family of Starcraft.

Game wise, an interesting thing has happened in the last week, along with the promotion, I have become more confident in all of the match-ups.  The promotion actually came on the heels of 4 wins Vs. platinum Terrans, what I considered my worst match-up.  I don’t actually know what’s changed, and to be honest that is one of the most confounding aspects of this game.  I believe it to be because I’ve picked a progression and tech path for the match-up, like I did vs. Toss and Zerg, and that has let me actually play as well as possible without having to think of what to do next.  But I’m not sure that this is the case.  I’m not suddenly winning every game vs. Terran, but a larger percentage of them.  Early hellions is annoying still, as I don’t like roaches vs. Terran, but with a few just to hold them off if I scout it early enough, it’s not that bad of a tech offshoot.  Just as a note to anyone wondering, my build for T is 15 hatch, 14 pool, 14 gas, ling speed, bane nest, lair (generally).  I will go mutas mid game, then switch into Ultras with the ling/banes.

Vs Zerg I’m still trying to end the games early with a mass ling and banelings.  If I face too much of a defense, I can generally move into a macro game, so I think it’s a good build for now.  I try not to go mutas every game that stretches into the macro, but it really seems to be a good mid-game unit, a kind of buffer until I get to Ultras.  Yes, I do Ultras here too. I don’t really mind that it is considered a crap unit, I like it and it’s working for me at the moment.  Build here: 13 pool, 15 gas, 15 overlord, 15 queen, ling speed, bane nest, 21-25 hatch.

Vs Toss I do a similar early hatch build as I do with Terran, but instead of ling/bane, I go roaches.  I get a few lings for scouting, then mass roaches and try to get the upgrades as quickly as possible.  After the lair and roach speed, I will throw down a spire to get Corruptors if I see or suspect Collosi.  Then it’s on to Broodlords.

The depth of this game amazes me, after looking over those builds that I put up.  I mean, even with a set progression, each game is completely different.  A few seconds late on a drone or building and I am put in a completely different situation than I was facing in the last game that I either hit the timing or did it early.  It’s pretty crazy and kind of scary.  I guess that’s what makes it so addictive.  There’s perfection there, somewhere.  I just have to find it.

My first day of platinum was kind of kick in the face.  Game after game of just being creamed.  I remember a similar feeling after being promoted to gold, so I wasn’t too worried, but it did kind of feel like I didn’t belong.  Today, however, I was doing well in the couple games I played after watching Day9’s latest Newbie Tuesday about timing attacks.  I thought it was interesting how he said the viewers that sent in replays were surprised with how well the timing attacks actually did, because it coincided with a kind of realization I had myself.  The other day I realized I was doing well when I attacked and not so well when I sat back for a longer time. It was surprising because of how I was told to, and generally do, play:  macro, macro, hold off attack, macro, attack.  At least something similar to that.  I think I’ve actually passed that point where that is the best strategy as Zerg, and now it is time to do my own attacks as I macro.  It’s going to be hard to make myself change the way I play so completely, but it should at least be fun.

Goodnight and GLHR.