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FFA tactic: hyper expand mass BCs
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Date: 01/06/00 12:01
Game Type: Starcraft
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Report Rating: 9.4, # of Ratings: 5, Max: 10, Min: 9
Lifetime Rating for shockwave: 8.9231
A FFA on Lost Temple,
Shckwave Style

(Mass BC, early expand tactics)

Map: Lost Temple
Races: T, P, Z (random/random/random)
Starts: T:3, P:9, Z:12
Victor: Shockwave(T)

Some of my most enjoyable games are on FFA's, but most are just too involved to BR sensibly. I'm reporting on a game I played last night because I had an opportunity to try various interesting strats. There are no screenshots, I don't expect this to be a stellar battlereport, but I'm writing to share some new strategies that I think may give a beneficial read.

Last night, I was moping around for a quick 2on2 and ended up in a pub game on Lost Temple. My opponents had fairly good records, and I got an incredibly lousy partner (7-14-0 or something similar), so I figured this would be a challenging game. Unfortunately, my partner left the game immediately after it started, a common occurence and I assume because he randomed and didn't get his race of choice, so one of my opponents suggested a FFA and we decided to duke it out. Normally I assume that when one person suggests FFA immediately and the other agrees wholeheartedly immediately, this means I'm in for a 2on1 (although that was not the case this time), but I figured that would be even more challenging.

Unfortunately, I had randomed to Terran. I was at 3, randomed ZERG was at 12, randomed TOSS was at 9, my partner who left the game was TERRAN at 6.


I always choose Protoss on FFA's. This is personal preference, but my inclination with Protoss is to just ride it out into late game and then to use my BGH-like accumulated resources to create a "Finger Of God" type offensive. For those of you unaware, FOG simply refers to the almost unstoppable corsair+dweb/carrier/arbiter/shuttle+temps combo. Toss also of course have the ability to exceed supply using dark archons, and supply is always a factor in late game FFAs. Finally, Protoss tend to have the most cost effective attacks and defenses, which is important in FFAs.

The Master Plan
The Master Plan I adopted in this Terran FFA was quite simple: Expand immediately, stay alive long enough to mass BCs, clean house. There is a twist to it, though...

In a previous 2on2 game, I had witnessed a truly bizarre strategy on LT by Whoop/Ronin's team where Ronin built 2 early CC's to float to the island expansions. In fact, I have witnessed even stranger tactics in team games (usually larger ones such as 3on3's) where the Terran player will build up to 10 SCVs, execute an SCV rush on an opponent's base (usually picking on Zerg), and meanwhile float his CC to a nearby island and start his econ over. So all credits go to Ronin for his strat, which I'm copying here with some mods.


Obviously, islands afford the best defensees. In FFAs or even team games, especially on maps like Lost Temple, games are often decided by which team is able to control islands effectively. Islands on LT in particular have an insane amount of resources. If you can secure an island expansion without your opponent's knowledge and use that as your primary resource intake despite even conceding your more lightly defended main, you can still win the game.

Early Builds
My build went 8th->depot, 10th->rax, then bunker, depot, CC, CC, gas. All structures were all placed at my choke in a classic Terran wallin, and I added a bunker behind for extra security. Here is a pic stolen from Heartcutter's report at that illustrates the wall-in that you can use at Temple 12 or 6:


In case anyone is still unaware, the front-gate Terran wallin prevents all graphically medium sized units such as zealots, hydras, SCVs, lurkers, DTs, etc. from being able to get past your choke without first destroying one of the structures comprising the wallin. This is particularly effective against zealot rushes, and you can e.g. hold off an indefinite number of computer zealots because they will just run back and forth trying to get your marines behind the wallin without realizing that they need to destroy the depot first to get to them.
There are a couple of drawbacks to front-gating. One is that if you are early ling rushed, you will be at a disadvantage because your marines will be at your gate, whereas your SCVs will be back at your mineral line where they cannot immediately help defend. The other is that it leaves fewer buldings for your wagon wheel at your base and splits your defenses.

Since this was a FFA and I didn't fear any early ling attacks, I knew that my wallin would be a sufficiently safe idea. Meanwhile, I sent two SCVs to distant spots on the map: one to the northwest side outside of 12's base, another to a spot between my base and 6, and started CC construction at both places. These were to immediately float to island expansions.


It's important that you construct your CCs at spots that are close to the islands so that there is minimal float time. However, you should also construct them out of the way so that casual forces don't venture upon your CC. It can be disastrous, and there will be no way to recover, if some unit chances upon your SCV and destroys it before it can complete the CC. If you are close enough to the expansion, it may be worth it to construct your CC in base or nearby and then float it a longer distance. On some maps such as Aftershock, island expansions are fairly close to most starts so you can just make your CC at your base.
No matter what you do, though, it is almost always best to make a CC at a safe location if you can help it and then float it to your expansion. This is particularly useful on a map like Lost Temple when you are expanding to your natural: Make your CC on your plateau, then float it down. This way, your CC cannot be destroyed during construction, and your opponents will also not be able to recon to see that you're building a CC there until it's completely done.

Up to this point, there was really no action, as expected. Nobody was attacking, and I assumed that my opponents would be pursuing tech builds and expanding to their naturals soon. It's rare to see a rush BO in a FFA or early low tech units, although I'd certainly keep this an option if I can execute small cost-effective attacks. For example, Mark4's one-marine-one-SCV early game rush can punish a Zerg player going late pool with minimal loss to yourself.


Should I attack early in a FFA?
Attacking early can be effective in taking out one opponent, but I find that they generally leave you at a disadvantage as a result. Obviously, most people will not 4-pool, since you may kill one opponent, but it leaves you in a 1on1 where your remaining opponent has a far better resource advantage than you. Furthermore, early game attacks that pit unit against unit are rarely extremely cost effective even if you win the battle, and thus can set you both at a disadvantage in relation to your other opponents.
My philosophy in FFAs is "maintain the status quo, unless you are the one violating it". Always try to make sure there is a balance of power and that one player is not getting too strong compared to the rest. Don't focus on attacking one player too much, and don't waste your units. E.g. If A is getting too powerful, I tell B and we both concentrate on A and avoid conflict with each other. I focus on extremely cost effective attacks such that I can weaken my opponents without hurting myself. After all, if A attacks B, both are weakened and C ends up being more powerful in comparison.

First Blood
Although I have no guarantees that my opponents will adopt the same FFA philosophy -- e.g. I have been victim of very counterintuitive strats where in a 3-way FFA, one person wastes a lot of money offensive cannoning me aggressively such that I die but he is severely handicapped in the resulting 1on1 -- I bank that they are at least semi competent and will not throw forces away at my light defenses.

I guess wrong. ZERG, who is at 12 next to my 3, scouts me with an overlord and attacks with a modest force of lings and hydras. I have a filled bunker and a tank, but siege mode is still researching out of my single fact. Everything at my choke is destroyed and I am left to fallback to my main and start rallying my tanks there. I have no marines since I have gone 1 rax, but I have ample SCVs. Taking marginal losses, I group some SCVs around one of my tanks that has just finished constructing, tell the rest to attack, and try to delay until my other tank finishes building. I end up taking marginal losses and ZERG eventually loses his whole attack force spitting at my tanks being repaired by 5 SCVs each. This was my only setback: if siege can finished in time, I could have held my main without losses and gotten my economy rolling much much earlier.


When setting up siege defenses, some people like to stick their tanks flush against their ledge so that the sieges have maximum coverage. This can often be a bad idea unless you're playing against another Terran who is using tanks against you. The closer your tank is to the ledge, the more exposed it is to counter attack from below the ledge. If you turbo newbie, for example, it is often a good idea to recess your tank a bit from the ledge so that it is completely safe from counter attacks from dragoons or hydras. Your tanks still have tremendous range and should be able to cover your choke or your turbo newbie sufficiently: what you sacrifice in range, you get back in added safety.

At this point, I comsat TOSS and see what I dread most: 2 starports and 2 cyber cores. I notify ZERG of this, complement him on his attack, and announce to him that I'm crippled and that he should think about defending himself against TOSS if he doesn't want to get overrun as a result.


I find communication to be imperative in FFAs. Some may disagree, but I have no qualms about announcing to the whole world that my recon shows one opponent going DTs early, or that another has secured a strategic expansion, etc. I don't adhere to any rules in FFAs other than forbidding permanent alliances, and I will say anything as long as it ultimately benefits me. After all, "There can only be one," and everyone in a FFA should understand that temporary cease fires or agreements are still just a result of each person selfishly trying to win. Note though that some people do not believe in talking during FFAs. If you're unsure, communicate rules beforehand so that someone doesn't get mad that you scouted them early and saw they were going DTs and then leave the game, as has happened to me before.

Using The Islands
ZERG leaves me alone for a bit, I have no idea whether he and TOSS are undergoing any skirmishes although frankly I'd be surprised given the heavy losses that ZERG has just undertaken. My two expansions are up and operational, and it is of course imperative that I keep building SCVs continually out of both of them. Because I went 1 rax, 1 fact at home, I have tons of minerals at this point, so I make several turrets at each island, enough to make any terran turtle proud.


Resist the temptation to just start mining with your first SCVs at your early islands. It is CRITICAL that you maintain control of each island; if you lose either of them, you will not have forces anytime soon to reclaim them. And since you do have spare minerals and most Terrans are always gas-limited, you should be beefing up your defenses such that you completely discourage any direct attacks on your expansions.
I build enough turrets and a couple of bunkers such that not even a speed upgraded shuttle will be able to get through, or even a mass hydra drop is guaranteed to suffer tremendous casualties in taking either expansion. They'll need late game island busters to take either island back cost-effectively.
It is particularly imperative that you defend your islands strongly and early because any good FFA player will try to claim island expansions quickly on a land map due to their strategic value. Your advantage is that you get there first and deny them.

Confident that my islands are secure, I beef up more defenses at my main, slap down a starport, sci facility, and 2 armories, and start my mass BCs master plan. This again is credited to Ronin, he also went mass BCs in his 2on2 although he eventually lost, but only primarily because his partner got overrun and Ronin forgot about his island expansions and stopped buliding SCVs on them.

I also make another CC at my main and expand to my natural. I'm reconstructing defenses and have a tight wallin now with bunkers and 3 tanks at my main. At this point, it is critical that I don't lose my main, since all my tech is there. I would build my tech on islands, but I need every square inch of those for turrets and bunkers. Hopefully my opponents do not have guardians or carriers yet. Even if so, I should have enough BCs in relatively short time to deal with taking back my expansions if I lose any of them.


One minor suggestion: Right after your sci facility is done and you're waiting for your physics lab, immediately start building SVs out of each starport if you feel safe. You'll want your SVs as early as possible so you can allow them to charge up manna.

There are some other minor skirmishes. ZERG sends a couple of lurkers to my base where I have no turrets, but a quick comsat and tank shots take them out. TOSS still hasn't harassed me at all, although both parties are aware of my island expansions due to observors and overlords. I'm starting to get worried from TOSS because he's doing as any good FFA player should: lay low so you don't anger anyone, expand like mad, mass your unstoppable fleet and attack by surprise. Comsat keeps tabs on him, though, and it looks like he's just going for mass shuttle drops with corsair support.

The Armada Arrives
The rest of the game is very straightforward. I max out supply at around 12 3/3 BCs, I have around 6 to 8 fully upgraded SVs, and a dropship with 8 SCVs tags along for repairs. If you're paranoid, you can also bring a few meds with restore to counter plague and lockdown, and the meds also are useful because they automatically heal your SCVs in case they take any incidental damage.

By this time, my islands are starting to run dry, so I kill my SCVs to free supply. The most efficient, yet somewhat cruel, way to do this is to irradiate an SV and patrol it above your SCVs. I don't have the luxury of just psi storming them. I can keep my CCs and just float them to new expansions as I take them out with my BCs. I also expanded to the old Terran's base (my partner who had left the game), since often that is the last place people will recon.


Remember to queue up BCs when you are maxed out on supply and have enough resources to do so. When I'm maxed out, I also make sure that my starports all have BCs queued up to build. This way, if one of my BCs dies or somehow I suffer casualties that bring me under supply, one of the starports will immediately starting bulding a BC without my having to micro. Thus, I always hover near supply limit, and my BC fleet will automatically replace itself even if I lose it in its entirety. If you have enough money, which I did, you can be outrageous and build 12 starports each with BCs queued waiting for supply to free itself.

My fully upgraded doom fleet then goes to have a ton of fun. There are innumerable things you can do with 12 BCs and 6 SVs. You can orb (defense matrix) your BCs and mindlessly macro them. You can keep your use comsat to spot targets and clone-yamato or clone-irradiate them, then bring BCs to clean up. Things to particularly watch out for are ghosts, arbiters, defilers, and dark archons. A good stasis in particular can really ruin your day.


Should I yamato anything that threatens my BCs?
It's very important is to use yamato sparingly and wisely. I only yamato things that pose a significant threat to my BCs. Yamato is expensive and you don't want to be caught without it when you need it. I don't waste yamato on spore colonies, photons, or other meager defenses. Those will damage my BCs, but e.g. a spore colony only does 6 damage against a 0/3 BC and I can certainly repair it afterward.

I should say that another effective counter against mass BCs is scouts, of course. Fortunately, nobody builds those, since carriers and corsairs also both beat BCs cost-effectively. Wraiths are great anti-BC as well. If you do see either, you may want to consider mixing in a few valkyries, since 3/3 valks just about break even against 3/3/3 scouts and are marginally cost-effective against 3/3 wraiths, or you can just rely on EMP and defense matrix. Valks aren't my unit of choice, but they can really cream the competition if you're way ahead of your opponents in upgrades.

Here's some Starcraft nerd talk for you. The big problem with using valks in large games is that they will tend to suffer from the sprite overload bug. This is not just a rare bug; you can pretty much expect it to happen in any large games (i.e. involving more than 2 players), particularly 3on3's.
Starcraft can only support a certain maximum number of graphical entities (sprites) on the screen at once, and valkyries use TONS of sprites when they fire. Each missile is a sprite, the smoke trails also take up sprites. When there are not enough sprites to accomodate your valkyrie fire, such as when there are many other things firing at the same time, your valkyrie will not fire at all. This can happen to other units too, but it is primary evident with valks since those uniquely require so many sprites just to fire a single shot.

Cleaning Up
I attacked TOSS first and cleaned out his peripheral expansions to rob him of income, then hit his main, using comsat judiciously to spot for potential threats. He didn't have nearly the type of anti-air to do any significant damage, only some carriers and corsairs, and I ended up wiping his base clean. I generally proceed slowly: I'll engage in a major battle, then stop to unload my SCVs and repair any damaged BCs completel, then move onto to the next battle.


Remember to repair your BCs after battles if they're moderately damaged, especially after severe attacks such as getting plagued. Also remember to keep enough resources so that a Terran can have enough money to repair your BCs.
Repairing is fairly simple: Select your 8 SCVs, shift-queue them to repair all the BCs by right-clicking on each one. I'll usually select all BCs, find the most critically damaged, and move that away from the clump and have the SCVs repair that first. Also, things tend to get pretty cluttered, so it's useful to have your SCVs hotkeyed so you can select them all easily. Remember not to hit the hotkey while they're in the dropship, or you'll lose the control group. For example, if have them hotkeyed to "1" and hit "1" while they're partially unloaded, "1" will be reassigned to include only the SCVs that have unloaded.


Another tip when using a BC doom fleet is to build turrets in spots that you capture. This gives you a "firebase" fallback in case your BCs encounter very heavy resistance and you need some added firepower, and it also gives you a spot of recon so you can spot any attempts from your opponents to re-expand to those spots. Finally, it gives marginal defense if you want to float one of your CCs from your dried out islands or natural to captured locations.

Everything was fairly routine after this. I was surprised that 10 devourers can take down a BC in my group of 12 before I can eliminate them, but I proceeded more carefully afterward and comsatted ahead of my BCs to clone irradiate any devourers. I saved yamato and used it on ZERG to first mass-yamato his hive to death, then mass-yamato his greater spire.


If you're a Zerg player, don't get leave your critical structures without redundancy, since e.g. losing a greater spire can be a very bad setback.
Yamato-ing the hive or spire is one of the most demoralizing things you can do to a Zerg player, and there is really no way to spot a bunch of BCs from hit-and-running your hive. For kicks, you can also destroy his queen's nest so that it takes him even longer to tech back to hive level. If you can't destroy the hive, just yamato the greater spire. This is worth doing oftentimes even if you lose some BCs, since the Zerg player will spend the rest of the game rebuilding his greater spire. This is why it's important to have redundancy: it's a good idea to have at least 2 spires in late game on different fault lines (err, different bases) since you'll want dual upgrades anyway if you're going air.

It was all cleanup from here on. I did lose a few BCs, but I'd generally just I'd watch my control group and pull away any that were getting critically red so I could repair, so in the end there was little my opponents could have done at that stage to have stopped my doom fleet at that stage. The real issue wasn't that a BC/SV combo is unstoppable, but that I was able to get a big resource advantage in mid game and convert it all into units immediately.


Remember to attack fairly early once you have your BC fleet. Your resource advantage doesn't mean squat after a while if you're maxed out on supply and have tons of resources sitting around. There it loses its advantage, since e.g. another Terran player can have the same sized fleet with far fewer resources because you're both limited by supply. Furthermore, since you invested in dual armories early and made the sacrifice to get early upgrades, use that to your advantage and don't sit around while your opponents catch up in upgrades. In late late game, everyone is going to be at 3/3, so nobody will care that you plopped down 3 forges and got 3/3/3 dragoons super early and sacrificed your econ as a result, if everyone has 3/3/3 units by the time you decide to attack with yours.

I hope you enjoyed this BR and that it was educational to read. I try to focus on more unusual types of play so that I don't risk boring you with the usual run of the mill strats. Note though that consequently, you'll have to be judicious about deciding when to use these, since e.g. quick expansion does entail some pretty big associated risks.

I apologize for the lack of screenshots, but it is rather difficult for me to import screenshots since I do not have ready access to an FTP site where I can store the images. Also, someday, I will post a report where I lose so that you guys don't think I'm one of those pompous guys who posts to inflate his self-ego, even though that may indeed be true ;-).


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