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A Ghost of a Chance
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Author:.Praetor
IP:c-67-164XXXX
Date: 08/29/10 02:08
Game Type: Starcraft 2
Labels:Famous Reporter(1), Starcraft(1), Great Writing(1), Text Only(1)
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Report Rating: 8.0, # of Ratings: 2, Max: 8, Min: 8
Lifetime Rating for .Praetor: 8.2987

   

So I reached third in my Diamond 1v1 league the other day. Which was unfortunate. See, I'd been #1 in my gold league, nice and comfortable, and went on a 5-game win streak against diamond players, fueled in large part by my early dual-stargate anti-Terran build. Although I random, I've been getting Protoss a lot lately. Then the genius algorithm jumped me up to diamond, skipping platinum altogether. I've since gone on a horrible losing streak, as the game is now matching me up against opponents which are so far above my actual skill its embarrassing. Even in gold league my actions per minute are usually 50% of the opponent's stats. What to do, what to do? Free For All! Always a good answer.

I random, of course, and I'm up against a Protoss, a Zerg, and another random. We're playing on Metalopolis, not my favorite map. If you're unfamiliar with it, there are four starts (north, south, west, east) with a natural each, two normal expansions at the northwest and southeast corners, and two rich expansions in the middle, all but the naturals on plateaus.

Strategy, Smategy

I random to Terran, which displeases me. Although its cheese is effective in 1v1, I frequently have problems with capable generals who favor mobile troops in FFA. I prefer Protoss in FFA because cannon spam can defend expansions while allowing your army to stay in one unified efficient group. But no matter. I don't think I want to go air, because Metalopolis is pretty compact, meaning its fairly likely that before my fleet reaches critical mass I will get overrun by a large blob of [insert random ground troops here].

So, sighing, I accept the inevitable decision to go heavy infantry and attempt to fortify my way to an expansion advantage. It's my go-to strategy for Terran playing FFA on smallish maps, where I've had disappointing results with it. I don't have a better idea. Sue me.

To that end, I go supply depot on 10, CC on 14. I might get rushed and killed, but then, I probably won't. Just in case, I get a barracks on 16 supply, completing a wall-in with the supply depot and budding CC. Once the CC finishes, I float it down to my natural, and start a second barracks and a reactor for the first. Yes, reactor. I dunno why. Marines are more flexible if south went early void rays? Is there even a Protoss in the south?

I had sent out a scout, way-pointed while he built my first barracks. Let's see... he died to what was probably an early stalker at the north main, judging by the cybernetics core at his ramp. Just then two zerglings waltz into my base. I probably ought to re-complete the wall-in now that my CC is down at my natural. They're only scouting, and my two slow-as-heck marines down one of them before the other scampers off to parts unknown. Probably Zerg at the south base then.

This is probably good, as Zerg tend to avoid heavy air, especially on small maps, except sometimes getting a cloud of corrupters to counter enemy air. One of my biggest fears on a map like this (or Lost Temple) is the player at the base closest by the land route will go for a ground army and see you as his greatest threat, while the player at the base closest by the air route will go for an air army and also see you as his greatest threat. Or at least a prime raiding target.

In any case, later events will show I was right for the wrong reasons. The red Zerg is actually at the east main, and scouted well, while the purple Zerg at the south main simply didn't scout me that I noticed. Back at my territory, I happily played SimCity, getting my main and natural up and running, trying not to screw up supply (I'm terrible at managing supply, one of the great benefits of Terran is that dropping insta-supply from the orbital command means this doesn't screw my game up as much as it usually does) and getting three barracks, two with reactors, one with a tech lab, and two starports with tech labs. I built refineries early at both of my bases and realized that with my infantry (especially marine) heavy build, I didn't really have a lot of outlet for gas. On a whim, I decided to build a bunch of ravens and get raven upgrades. Why not?

Positioning

Only one small skirmish occurred in the early part of the game, for me anyway. A zealot wandered into my refinery line at my natural, just outside the range of my single bunker, and killed four scvs before my pack of marines came down from my choke and put him down. I re-routed my rally points to my natural and continued building up, including a few tanks and siege mode. To my surprise, a follow-up attack by Teal (the Protoss in the north) did not materialize, despite stalkers killing my SCV at the northwest expansion (the SCV was looking at possible bunker real estate).

Gasp, he's following my plan! Occupy expansions, fortify them, and dare your opponents to attack (while secretly hoping they don't). It's time for a fight then. If there's anything that'll get me to strike in an FFA, its taking an expansion near me while letting me be the aggressor, with the advantage of choosing when to strike.

I gathered my strike force (~18 marines ~5 marauders, 2 tanks, 4 medivacs, and 7 ravens) and prepared to move in. I saw his defense force was small and vulnerable, so rather than sieging, I simply advanced. A mixed group of zealots, stalkers, a sentry, and high templar (eek!) defended. Two storms hurt my infantry badly, but four medivacs and being arranged more or less in a line rather than a circle kept them from being annihilated. My forces were still strong enough to defeat the outnumbered Protoss ground forces.

With cannons still warping, probes to be killed, and expected Protoss reinforcements (his army wasn't big enough to be the total of his forces), I covered the area in Raven auto-turrets. Teal cut through about half of them with dark templar and stalkers before losing some dark templar to my infantry and deciding continuing wasn't worth it (most of this report is written from memory, but I didn't even notice the dark templar until the replay), and I started a CC, two bunkers, and two missile turrets in the area. I then started the laborious process of shuttling more tanks in (my ramp area was too crowded for them to simply walk forward), caught up on supply, got my new expansion running, started upgrades, and tried to inch my tanks forward to hit Teal's natural expansion, which is very close to the northwest expansion.

Attrition

This resulted in several more stalker kills as he tried to blink in, but misjudged the distance, and landed in front of my bunkers and still in range of my tanks. My forces massacred his, although he did blanket the un-bunkered troops with psi-storm.

While I did all this, Teal expanded to one of the rich mineral expansions in the middle. And I didn't even notice. Starcraft II is much faster-paced than StarCraft I, and I frequently neglect scouting mid-game because of this. A major mistake in this free-for-all. Similarly, the two Zerg in the southwest were fighting tooth and nail but I had no idea what was going on there. I didn't even know for sure purple was Zerg.

Teal was keeping stalkers, high templar, and two void rays on defense at his natural, with his line of five cannons. I tempted a few stalkers forward with raven turrets and killed them, while also completing a bunker on the low ground close to his cannons. So close, actually, I end up having to repair it as it turns out to be in range after the raven turrets die so I can bring up a tank. During the raven harass, I also kill a void ray and three stalkers with seeker missiles, of all things. The high templar were moved before I could find and kill them.

The High

Checking my supply, I see I'm at a healthy 160-ish, better than I'd expected, meaning my army is pretty healthy. This pleases me. As the defenders at Teal's natural are thinned and I move in some M&M to finish the job, Teal finally makes his move. Bringing twelvish stalkers and two void rays over from his rich mineral expansion, he blinks onto my main's plateau and starts taking out buildings. Defending are three tanks, and, uh, a missile turret way down in the corner at the most common drop location.

Um. Oops.

To this point in the game, I'd been fighting very cost-effectively against Teal's army, and building up massive monetary reserves. I'd been slacking on upgrades, but had at least a few for air and infantry, the marine life upgrade, and most of the air tech upgrades. In general the game was going very well. I'd been expecting to roll into Teal's main soon, increase my army to 200 support, check what remaining minerals were on the map to tie up the victory, and increase my unit production capability in case of a sudden reversal in the field.

Despite my confidence, that didn't happen. Instead, everything went to hell. Teal reams my main, the only redeeming events in the battle being three banshees to decimate Teal's stalkers until their cloak runs out. My unit production is near crippled, and in desperation I lash out. Intending my main infantry body (at a rally point between my mining bases) and my force at teal's natural to unify I order them to move outside my natural. Move they did, with my tanks and supporting infantry from Teal's natural not using attack move, and losing significant strength to stalkers Teal was sending to reinforce his assault on my main.

Worried about my lack of reinforcements, I begin several barracks at my northwest expansion. The only good news is that teal didn't have observers and his initial stalker force in my main has been killed. The void rays are still going to town though, and Teal brings eight or so more stalkers into play. My ravens have severely injured the two void rays with seeker missiles, but lost several of their number trying inefficiently to place turrets. When teal pulls back from a few turrets and my bunker at my natural to consider how best to assault it, I bring my main infantry body up the ramp and engage the Protoss units. They successfully destroy the task force, including a third void ray, in a very messy battle.

I move these men to join two injured tanks and a few supporting infantry to assault Teal's rich mineral expansion, getting reactors for my new barracks at the northwest expansion. Only two bunkers remain as defense there. At my natural, I frantically build supply. The attack on the rich mineral area goes well initially, despite a psi-storm. Several warping stalkers are also killed.

The Low

And then the dark templar attack. Dark Freaking Templar. Against an enemy who he'd seen employ ravens en masse. And they catch me with only one turret as detection at my northwest expansion. They quickly bring down this turret, taking minimal losses from my bunkers and go to town on my defenses. I abandon the attack on the rich mineral expansion, which to my disgust I can see has been just about mined out, with the nexus' shields heavily damaged. Utilizing comsat from my natural, my last remaining forces kill some dark templar, but a wave of zealots and stalkers from teal crushes my last surviving resistance. Knowing my mined-out natural is next, I move six SCVs up to my former main, starting five more barracks.

I've lost. Or I should lose now. I expect to lose. But when it comes to Free For All, I have a little Mark4 in me. Sometimes, I just refuse to die. Looking up at the bank, I have over 6000 minerals and a few thousand gas. Enough for an army... if there was any place to build one. This isn't just because my macro was a bit off this game. It's also because Teal destroyed my production buildings before annihilating my army piecemeal.

My slim hope, the single ray of possibility, was the mysterious Zerg players to the southeast. Purple had been fairly talkative, pretty much explicitly begging Teal to attack the Red Zerg as Purple gave ground. Terran players float command centers into corners to be jackasses all the time, right? Teal had just recently annihilated all the buildings at my former main, right? His current attack forces were all ground troops.

Persistence

I employed one of my rarely-used weapons: the lie. I typed in a simple "gg northeast." The purpose of the wording was two-fold. First, the good game acronym is intended to get Teal to believe I was surrendering. Second, the reference to northeast was ambiguous; I hoped it would indicate to Teal that I thought he or Red could still win, reminding Teal of his remaining opponent without making it obvious I'm begging him to focus on other objectives rather than finishing me. To complete the lie, I watched my natural fall to a largely-zealot force without lifting off the command center with orbital command or trying to save my 20+ SCVs there.

Teal had no reason to believe I was going to be a stickler about this whole losing thing and suddenly his army is gone. The talk tells me Red has dominance over the Zerg side of the map, and he shifts his focus to Teal. I have some free time at my renewed main. I built five barracks, a command center (with orbital command), several supply depots, and about 16 marines, before thinking maybe I ought to spend my gas too. I continued building off purely saved money, creating a ghost academy, a factory, and a starport with tech lab. Placing tech labs on my barracks, I researched cloak, even bought a nuke, and started heavy ghost production. When my gas reserves were very low, I began more marines and even eventually started two ravens.

And Then There Were Two

Red takes a bit of time to put Purple and Teal down. Purple is rather upset at Teal's ineffectiveness, and a strike at one of his own bases. Teal laughs it off, mentioning it doesn't matter because Red is so far ahead of both of them.

Well that's a little scary.

When Purple is defeated and Teal leaves, I have a fighting force of five mauraders, twenty marines, and five ghosts. I continue production and sit in my old main. A scout Red sent out that died during Teal's assault on my natural a long time ago indicates Red should know I'm here, but it takes awhile for him to arrive. Looking at the replay later, it appears Red didn't realize Teal had left and killed all the buildings in Teal's main. Finally, Red's grand army comes for me. He moves up my ramp, then attacks south into my buildings. I cloak my ghosts, and move north to meet him. My forces have grown to 5 marauders, 25 marines, and 17 ghosts. Red's army significantly out-numbers me: 4 zerglings, 42 hydralisks, 2 overseers, 15 mutalisks, 4 roaches, 1 baneling, 2 corrupters, and 2 infesters.

I have two advantages. First: upgrades. My infantry have 2 attack and 2 armor. His ground forces have one missile and one armor. Second: Red's overconfidence. He thinks he's just mopping up. He has a morphing hatchery at the rich mineral expansion that hasn't been mined out. He has over double my support.

Not carefully microed, the mutalisks separate from Red's ground forces due to their higher speed and are almost instantly shredded by my infantry. I even waste a few sniper shots on them. Our main attack forces engage, and again I benefit from Red's slow realization that this is a genuine battle. The overseers move in only slowly, so my marines take the brunt of the hydra attacks. Red's two infesters are trapped behind the hydra line, and I manage to kill them with ghost sniper rounds before they can use their area-effect attack. For the rest of the battle I do nothing other than spam sniper shots on hydralisks, using every ounce of energy left in my ghosts' reserves.

And they fall. It seems impossible that the hydras don't annihilate everything, then their lines are thinned and it seems like even now, my forces must lose, as there are no more hydras milling about in the back and all are firing. And then the last of the hydras die. I recover from my shock just in time to get my ghosts to kill the two overseers, and move my infantry out.

Previous comsats and old scouting information have told me that there are only three sources of minerals left on the map, assuming the Zerg mains and naturals are mined out, a safe assumption. There's about 60 minerals left in a tiny pile at Teal's natural, about 800 minerals in small piles at the northwest expansion Teal kicked me out of with dark templar, and nearly 2000 minerals at the remaining rich mineral expansion.

I move out my forces, which have been reduced to 1 marauder, 3 marines, and 12 ghosts. They make it to the Red mining base, killing only a few stray zerglings on the way. Some of the drones run away, I kill an overlord or two, and I nuke the expansion for no other reason than to hasten the destruction of the hatchery and clear the area of any cloaked creep tumors which could prevent me from landing my CC, already on its way over.

The ghosts annihilate the undefended hatchery in record time, as 20-30 zerglings stream into my main. I cancel one of the ravens, am pleased to see one finished and send it to my forces, and lift off everything moveable, order the SCVs to the rich mineral expansion, and send the floating buildings to my army - abandoning my main to its second and final destruction.

I set two barracks and a starport down at the rich mineral expansion, sending a factory and a barracks to scout red to the south and southeast, and another floating barracks to keep tabs on the remaining minerals at the northwest.

At this point I realize in horror that I have no SCVs left - none escaped the second destruction of my main as I made the mistake of not moving them with my army. I have a command center and plenty of minerals, but no support to make more SCVs. I can hardly afford to start killing off my own troops. Suddenly the game has changed again. I don't just have to defend this resource node, I have to stop any attempt at red from getting minerals, which means the northwest minerals are just as important. In the meantime I can clear the rich mineral nodes with mules to prevent red from getting them, then move to the northwest to defend those resources.

Red doesn't know I'm out of SCVs, so he feels the pressure to react quickly. He scouts and distracts my forces by walking four spore crawlers up the eastern ramp to the rich mineral plateau and follows them with ~20 zerglings. He intended three queens and two hydralisks to follow, but pulled back when he saw how fast the zerglings died to ghost fire. I killed his spore crawlers, relieved they hadn't been put to better use. I'm still uncertain whether they detect while not burrowed. I suspect not. Realizing my barracks in the area were useless, I send them to the northwest expansion to open up space.

Red marshaled his remaining defense, and implanted four spore crawlers a few spaces back from the edge of the rich mineral plateau, presumably for detection. He also brought up six spine crawlers and implanted them in the creep at the very edge of the plateau, just as my MULEs got to work.

In response, I set up three raven turrets as they implanted. Red supported this push by attacking with three zerglings, two hydralisks, and three queens. I engaged with my forces, sniping two of the queens and killing the zerglings and the hydralisks. But in doing so, I took significant damage from the spine crawlers embedded in low ground, losing all my marines and three ghosts, taking my forces down to nine ghosts and one marauder. Some of Red's spine crawlers had been reduced to yellow health. I also floated my starport, as it was in range of one of Red's crawlers.

Red then tried to push uphill with a few of his crawlers, creep tumors on the low ground just managing to extend the creep to the high ground. With my ghosts range, however, I managed to kill a spore crawler and bring a spine crawler to the orange before it retreated. I also took a hit from a spine crawler on one of my ghosts.

Red's next move was to morph an overseer (in my sight range too, probably to try and tempt me into sniping it and taking damage from spine crawlers, the tricksy bastard), get a creep tumor on high ground, and move up two more crawlers - this time both spore crawlers.

Ghost range was just too long though, and I safely killed the spore crawlers. In desperation, Red uprooted all his spine crawlers and moved uphill, leading with a queen. I sniped the queen before it could do anything. Red burrowed his six spine crawlers as soon as he made it up hill. I took out two of them with ghosts before they implanted, and stuck around to finish the rest. Red moved his swarm of overlords around above the spine crawlers trying to disrupt my sniping and focus firing. When the dust settled, all of Red's spine crawlers were dead and I was left with six ghosts - most a few hit points from death.

Red did not surrender. By this time he must have realized that I had no SCVs, and may have been trying to figure out how to get a tie. But no creative answer came to him, and he wasted 300 minerals he had been saving (presumably for a hatchery) on twelve zerglings. Taking them and approximately the same number of drones, he engaged my ghosts directly, with overlord support as distraction. This attack failed miserably, not even killing a single ghost.

I summoned three more MULEs, close to mining out the rich mineral expansion. Red began smuggling minerals from the north west expansion with his remaining drones, and I responded by moving my ghosts out and killing the last remaining spore crawler on the low ground. When the rich mineral expansion mined out, I evacuated the plateau I was on and headed northwest with my CC and army. Ok, squad.

As my MULEs got to work at the northwest expansion, I finally felt safe enough to free up some supply. I executed my marauder and two ghosts, all of which were deep red in health anyway, leaving me with ten supply: one raven and four ghosts. Finally, I made an SCV and began to make things right.

With my still surviving barracks and starport I made a few marines and a viking once I had enough supply. Red surrendered on seeing the viking and the evidence I had support and SCVs again.

Thus ended the closest FFA game I've played in SC2 (and I've played a few close ones), and the first game I had any urge to battlereport.

Lessons Learned:

Scout.Scout.Scout.

A second production node is a huge asset late in a FFA game. This has saved me in the past, but I didn't think to construct one on this small of a map - I could have though, I obviously had ample resources.

Ghosts are far more awesome than I'd realized. I need to make more of them vs. Zerg.

Sometimes, there's something to be said for pure stubbornness.

Lies can be powerful weapons. Use them carefully. Ok, I knew that one already.

A link to the replay of the game.

I heartily recommend the replay, as you can see what the Zerg were up to the whole time (it was a FFA style battle where both sides tried to preserve and build their armies while pressing each other in unconventional ways). Including the replay is also my way of saying, sorry, no screenshots.

You can also click on my name in the replay section to view my other replays, a large pack of FFAs and a smaller pack of 1v1s.

If you want to find me on battle.net or send me hate messages, my handle is MisterFred and my code thingy is 734. My playtimes are erratic.


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