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"The only sensible counter to the 13 pool is the 121/2 pool (experts only)"

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Date: 09/22/10 11:09
Game Type: Starcraft 2
Labels:Famous Reporter(1), Starcraft(1)
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Report Rating: 8.7, # of Ratings: 3, Max: 9, Min: 8
Lifetime Rating for .Praetor: 8.2987

I wander into an FFA game on a slow day, much as I often wander into FFAs, aimless and with only a dim sense that the format will provide some excitement. I haven't actually played any FFA in quite some time. I've been not playing StarCraft or working on my Zerg 1v1. Which sucks less now, and as a result of this practice my ladder opponents are much easier on the whole (amazing the benefits a losing streak can bring).

As the map begins to load, I can see its Quicksand (SON OF A BITCH), easily my worst FFA map. I think I'm something like 2-9 on it. It's a six-player map on the desert tileset that also sees service in the 3v3 ladder, but I don't think it's a potential selection for the 1v1 or 2v2 ladders. Even though it's a six-player map, Quicksand is probably the smallest, fastest FFA map that can choose for you. All the mains lead to a central area (chokes but no ramps) with a single sight tower. There are no naturals, but there are three low ground expansions, each connected to two mains by a ramp blocked by rocks. In nooks along the side of the central area are three gold mineral expansions, each also between two mains, but a different pair. That makes for a total of twelve bases (six mains and six expansions), which is the same number as, say, the new temple (4 mains + 4 naturals + 2 islands + 2 golds = 12). Quicksand, however, is not only a smaller map, but has more direct land routes between main bases. And no matter where you expand, you're infringing on some other main base's natural expansion territory. Unless you're lucky enough to have an empty main next to you. All in all, it's a hellish battlefield of early skirmishes, rushes, map-prompted double teams, and necessary defenses of heavily fortified expansions. Then when you do finally secure some territory, beat off attacks from both your neighbors, and collect your remaining grizzled, veteran troops, a noob-fleet of 60 void rays from the untouched guy with two empty mains next to him (remember: 6-player map, 4 players to a quick match FFA) flies in and wipes you out in two seconds, while the idiot who built them tells you simultaneously that FFA is so easy and it's all luck.

I hate Quicksand.

So why don't I remove it from my map selection options? For the challenge. To actually win on the map feels so sweet - and the struggle to do so is frequently intense. I do get some good news from the loading screen: I'll be facing a Protoss, a Zerg, a Terran (I chose Random). I like variety. Keeps you on your toes.

I pull blue Zerg in the northwest corner start, which means my neighbors will be the north main, with a low ground expansion between us, and the west main, with a gold expansion between us. My opening strategy on this small rush map is simple. Power quickly to 14 drones and get a queen out. My overlord, scouting to the south, sees a red Protoss player. He has a gate and a forge building. I start a second overlord for more drones, and save for a hatchery at the gold mineral expansion near me. This is what we call a "high-risk" opening. I'm not bothering to get early zerglings, despite the fact this is frequently a map with early battles and rushes. And I'm taking a gold expansion, always seen as a provocation in an FFA (even though the total available minerals is not superior to a regular expansion) - the gold expansions are all also part of the middle high ground, and thus easily accessible to all players, not just the other main that is also close to it. The low ground expansions, with ramp leading down to them from the middle, and farther away by land, are generally safer.

But what the hell? It's Quicksand. I have a hard enough time winning - take a little risk. Go for the reward. Besides, an early forge for a Protoss in FFA generally means a defensive build - one that includes an early second base. If I grab the gold natural before Red can fortify it, he won't be able to do quick damage because of his defensive build, and he'll be left to stagnate on one base or grab the low-ground expansion in the southwest corner instead. And my second overlord scouting the north main hasn't seen anything yet on the side of the plateau near me, so I send him to the other side near the north main's minerals to watch over the base.

Oops, nope, the purple Terran at the north base was simply defending the area around his CC rather than his choke. There are his barracks... marines... my dead overlord...

Multiple barracks. Oh well, obviously time for a lair and drone-pumping. It's Quicksand, might as well play high risk rather than be frustrated with one base. Purple might not kill me. I get to hydras quickly and start to pump them out of my two hatches when my bases are running at high capacity. I also throw down three spine crawlers at the gold expansion on principle and start a spire after I have a few hydras. Why hydras - a unit I never liked much in SC1? Well they excel at little except stopping air raids. But they're at least competitive against pretty much everything. With a gold base meaning I should be able to put together some numbers to make up for the fact they're not hard countering anything, the unit's ability to respond to pretty much any type of attack is at a premium.

By this time my scouting drone has told me that Teal (Zerg) occupies the south main, one spot over from Red. He's also taken the gold expansion in between (for some reason in between looks very weird spelled out as text to me (when I say it out loud I speak and think of it as one word) his main and the southeast corner start. The southeast and east mains are, of course, both empty. Which if you're paying attention makes Purple and Teal lucky bastards who only have one immediate neighbor. My heroic scouting drone (didn't die - AMAZING) also tells me Purple (the Terran in the north) has started a CC at the last remaining gold expansion, between his base and the empty eastern main.

Well that explains the lack of attacks on my expansion so far - the more distant players have decided they also want to expand instead of pouring troops into a general scrum/base killing exercise in the middle.

Not Red though - he's got a one-base army and teched to voids. There are also very few cannons in his base, despite the early forge. So here comes his army: two voids, 9 zealots, and 5 stalkers + an immortal for ranged backup.

Note to readers: this is NOT the way to do voids in FFA. Super-fast (with basically a naked main) teching to an earlier-than-possible-in-1v1 void ray or 2 can work. A two base mid-game surge of 6-8 voids with minimal cannons as defense can work. A 3+ base with a little defense to a late-game giant mass of voids can work (although frankly, other strategies are better). A few voids for raiding purposes attached to a primarily ground army off of one base is screaming "I'm a 1v1 player who is following my standard build. Isn't It cute? Lol... wait, why are you laughing too? Why do I always lose FFA?"

Red might have been able to kill my expansion if he managed his troops properly. (Although even as the first skirmish began I was estimating he had very little chance [5-10%] of actually winning the game, and had already relegated him to that status of player that should be encouraged to conflict with other opponents or eliminated if his attention turned my way but should not be considered a real threat.) Instead, Red cautiously sent his voids in first, targeting a defenseless spine crawler, then turning and trying to retreat his slow-ass voids as he realized I had a queen and ~5 hydras north of the hatchery who had run underneath his voids, then sending in his ground troops after losing his two void rays to kill... one spine crawler.

The ground troops attacked my two remaining spine crawlers while the hydras and a few random lings kept right on killing: only one zealot and the ranged support remained alive when numbers finally overwhelmed my defenders. I lost the damaged extractor and about half my drones before hydras reinforcing from my main put down the stalkers, immortal, and lone zealot. I replenished my drones quickly before building more troops in my now defenseless main, because I'm starting to not get panicky while under attack as Zerg, and happily noted that the three spore colonies (crawlers, whatever) I threw up in the seconds between the void ray attack and the ground attack were completed and healthy.

I am definitely not one to overdue defensive buildings as Zerg, although that can be a valid strategy on some maps. In my main I had no defensive buildings at all, relying instead on the base being a staging area for my production. But I wanted to be able to add hydras from my expansion to any attacking army - spore crawlers at the expansion very close to Red let me do that. After the ground attack, I also replaced my spine colonies and started an infestation pit.

I found after resuming hydra production to the maximum extent my gas production would allow (range and +1 ranged attack and a spire also underway) I had enough minerals to mix Zerglings into my force as well. So I got two extractors and a queen at my naked expansion, and drones to run the extractors. None were on minerals yet, and I wasn't going to transfer any over there from my other bases and risk the drones been seen in transit.

My naked what? (No, damn it, you're supposed to appreciate the literary device, you sick-minded pervert). I used my scouting drone (remember him) to expand to the low ground expansion between the two empty mains in the east/southeast. I picked that location because mains get more scouted that low ground expansions, both because they're mains and because empty mains are usually used as expansions by random enemies before the low ground areas are - high ground being more defensible. Since I was investing some minerals in what I intended to be a naked expansion, remaining hidden was more important than being defensible. I went for a naked expansion rather than Zerglings just before the first attack on my gold expansion since I usually just fritter small numbers of Zerglings away pissing someone off rather than making good use of them. Sad, but true.

During the attack itself, I'd seen a small batch of purple marines, ~12, heading south, presumably to hit Teal's gold mineral expansion. I saw this due to my excellent creep expansion this game (something I almost never do well). At this point my creep was just reaching the middle of the map near the sight tower (hence seeing the marines travel from 12 to 6), in addition to connection my main and gold expansion and covering the low ground expansion between myself and Purple. Looking at the replay later, those marines had actually come from the low ground expansion between my main and Purple's after busting through the rock wall between the expansion and Purple's main, but I didn't notice that because of the attack I was dealing with. The marines stimmed and killed three mutalisks and some zerglings before broodlords and hydras noticed and massacred them.

Red chose this time to build three cannons on the north side of the entrance to his base. I was afraid he was going to build a second batch on the low ground between his base and my gold expansion, cutting off my minerals with a late o-cannon, but Red lacked that kind of creative trickery. Scouting drones informed me that the east starting position was still empty, but watched by a Teal overlord, and the existence of the Broodlord/hydra army composition. I was nearing a Hive myself, had just built a few corrupters, and figured it was probably a good idea to get a greater spire soon myself.

But before I could get around to doing much of anything, Red attacked my gold expansion again (now about mined out). The attack actually came really quickly after the first, despite all the little things I've described between the two attacks. About the time it takes to build two void rays out of one starport with some chrono-boost help, actually. The attack force consisted of two void rays, five zealots, two stalkers, and an immortal. One void ray took heavy damage from a spore colony before moving out of range and focusing on my queen. I sent my corrupters down to kill the air units and considered.

The hydras that killed the first attack had been pulled back to my base. I knew that Teal had scouted my gold expansion, and assumed Purple had as well. An attack from either was certainly a possibility, and at this point I wanted to evaluate a situation before risking valuable combat troops. I'd have sent them to reinforce right away, given the modest size of the Red attack, but I'd just spawned four changelings at my expansion to go scouting, and they fooled... well... me into sending the corrupters first. Then I noticed they were changelings, mentally hoped no one was watching my mistake (they weren't), and sent in the hydras to slaughter Red's troops. I lost the three spine crawlers (again), an extractor (again) and more drones than last time (a little over half, due to my idiotic delay in reinforcements). The good news is that I didn't lose any fighting units except the queen hanging around the area.

I sent a few drones down from my main base to finish mining the area, but didn't rebuild my spine crawlers this time. I was virtually certain Red would attack there again. Either he'd build a last-gasp force from his main and take it out for who knows what noob reason, or he'd have expanded to the southeast corner and would attack again out of inertia and shame at not killing the expansion twice once he felt comfortable militarily again. A smart player would secure the southwest low ground corner between himself and Teal, and leave my gold expansion in place in order to project weakness to both myself and Teal in order to try and buy time to build up.

But I think we've established by this point my opinion of Red as a player. If he didn't kill the base, it would only be because a real enemy got there first. So I pulled my hydras back again and hoped the minerals would mine out before the expansion was destroyed. My naked expansion had just been brought up to near-full mining capacity, so I was no longer dependent on the gold expansion. My creep spread was still going strong, to the point where I now had most of the middle under surveillance and still watched over the low ground expansion between my main and Purple's. With a drone at the empty east main, the only unclaimed regions I didn't have under surveillance was the southwest corner low ground expansion and the southeast corner main. I assumed by this point Teal had the southeast main, as he'd shown an ability to expand in a timely fashion when he grabbed his gold expansion - and this same gold expansion helped cover the entrance to the southeast main. The southwest low ground expansion might be held by either Red or Teal or might even be empty as both stared at each other across a no-man's land much as Purple and I were doing. I dearly hoped Teal didn't have both.

It was obvious I was in a bad position. It'd be obvious to you too, but I'm too lazy to include a screenshot of the map. Purple and Teal were both very close to each other (as travel time goes). But psychologically, travel distance is less important to determining your 'neighbors' as who lies in the path of your next most obvious expansion. In FFA, there's also a tendency to expand out along the edges of the map and avoid cross-map travel (and all the potential people who might see cross-map travel and decide to attack. This can be useful as scouting is bad in FFA in part because you don't want to express interest in another person's "area," and because it would take too many sacrificial drones, overlords, etc, to keep track of everything you can keep track of in a 1v1 game. This helps things like my naked expansion. But Purple was itching to attack. I know this because I have a gold expansion about to mine out - he has a gold expansion started a little later, but which has probably been littered with mules (in fact, he mined his out first). With no additional expansion, I had to assume he would finally make a real move. At the same time, Teal had shown no tendency towards offense, but if he continued to expand into the southeast area, he would notice my near-naked expansion soon. In fact, it was a miracle he hadn't done so already. Both players were thus in a position where the ordinary flow of the game would lead to a major attack on my main or my only heavily producing expansion.

So why did I put myself in this position? Well I had no choice. They started with an empty main next to them, I did not. To compensate, I had my cross-map expansion, but its very placement to avoid detection meant that it should be sandwiched between the two any second now. Of course, maybe Teal is throwing away all his troops on a stout cannon-templar defense of the southeast low-ground expansion held by Red.

Hey, a man can dream.

With my southeast low ground expansion up and running strong, I decided on at least a token defense in the area and spawned seven hydralisks with the larvae I had sitting around. I used said hydras to bust the rocks to both empty mains, and the scouting drone I still had at the east main to start a hatchery. Yes, it was directly below a Teal overseer, but I figured there was a good chance Teal would figure the area was in Purple's sphere of influence, and trust to the Terran to shut it down. Purple, meanwhile was doing whatever it is Purples do when no one was looking.

As I started my new expansion at the east main, Teal figured this was a good time to move his expensive overseer (seriously those guys cost a lot) away before I killed it with some expansion defense. Obviously, he wasn't aware of my playstyle. Well between losing another drone I'd sent to the southeast corner main to confirm Teal had expanded there (and take it if he hadn't) and the overseer taking some hydra fire from the idiot defenders at my low ground expansion, I knew the jig was up. How to respond?

First I put some creep tumors down with my queen to retain vision of the area if I lost it (none had previously been placed in order to keep the visible evidence of the expansion to a minimum). Then, since I hadn't immediately sent forth my entire army, Teal took the decision out of my hands. Some broodlings came over the highground to the south and began a cautions siege of the expansion. I took my seven hydras, killed the brood lord, then watched them die to mutas, brood lords, more hydras, a few zerglings. I think a few banelings were even on their way before the hydras went down. My queen, conveniently on the save side of the base, retreated to the east main. The drones burrowed, and I said goodbye to the expansion. Two teal ultralisks also stood around and looked pretty after the rest of the army destroyed everything but the drones that managed to burrow in time. For whatever reason, Teal didn't continue north and kill my hatchery at the east main. If Teal is reading this: thanks.

Hatcheries destroyed at the east-southeast bases: 1.

Immediately after Teal moved his army back to his now mined-out gold expansion (an excellent position for defense or projecting offense), Purple moved across the no-man's land of the low ground expansion between us and destroyed the rocks leading to my main with a little over 50 marines (2/2 with both tech lab upgrades). My greater spire had completed, but no brood lords had been morphed yet. Luckily, I'm not an idiot, so I didn't send my army off to engage Teal when he destroyed my expansion. I had 30 hydralisks, 10 mutalisks, and about 5 zerglings to defend. A hatchery near the ramp meant that once the marines made it up and engaged, a good number of units on both sides could attack, but not all of them. I benefited from hydra range here, and Purple's lack of fire-and-move commands, because only the first line of marines (about 1/3 of them) could attack at once, while two lines of my hydras (most of them) were attacking back. In addition, Purple only brought along two medivacs - not nearly enough given he stimmed his marines as well. I lost five mutalisks to not realizing the attack was beginning before pulling the others back, and half my hydralisks before destroying the attack force. I considered this a damn good trade - although in resources it may have been nearly even. Unharmed were my roughly 10 corrupters, many of whom were morphed into brood lords immediately following the attack. That's timing for ya.

Now some players would be yelling 'doubleteam!' right about here and either trying for sympathy or bitching to an audience that couldn't care less. But frankly, I'd expected that exact situation because of the map position. Although part of me would almost rather Purple had killed my last expansion as a prelude to a battle royale between Teal and Purple over the east-southeast resource nodes. That was not to be. I tried to instigate combat, despite my expansion in the way, by clever truthiness. "Um, Purple, you do realize Teal has the entire south east right? 5 bases in total."

Teal even helped me out by confirming my information: "hey, don't give away my clever plan."

Good time for a Red attack. He confirmed he had the southwest low ground expansion by attacking my gold expansion, which may have had one extractor still working. The proud Red army consisted of three colossi, seven stalkers, ten zealots, a phoenix, and three void rays. (OMG, that's more than two!!!!!) Actually, probably about equal in power to my army after its clash with Purple. But there was no need to find out. Red was just killing my gold expansion because (insert noob reason here). Creep tumors tell me he then turned around and went after Teal's mined-out gold expansions. You go, Red!

Not surprisingly, a Teal army emerged onto the creep soon after and marched its way into Red's base. "Um, that's not good."

Ya think?

Checking the replay, total losses to Teal: 20 zerglings, 3 banelings, and... uh... almost all of the health on one of two ultralisks. Those are all supporting troops. The main force was a mix of hydras, corrupters, and brood lords. I tried to gain some pity points (and encourage enemy conflict) by complaining that my expansion had been destroyed by Red and Teal's hadn't. On the other hand, Red lost 20 zerglings, 3 banelings, and most of an ultralisk more than I did.

While Teal tore down Red's main, Purple was hunting down the creep tumors projecting creep across the low ground expansion between our two mains with a raven and ten fully-upgraded Thors. I didn't realize it at the time, but according to the replay that was essentially his entire fighting force, excepting the Planetary Fortress + turret spam at his now defunct gold expansion. Red quit shortly thereafter, I assumed (but didn't know until the replay) it was when Teal rolled into his mining base in the southwest corner. At this point my east main expansion was running at nearly full capacity and I'd even started another hatchery at the low ground expansion I'd previously occupied after seeing Teal hadn't yet taken the base - not in an optimal position, but set a bit off to the north to try and keep hidden. This of course, was signal for Teal to send 20+ drones into the area and start his own hatchery as I frantically canceled mine, hoping he hadn't seen it. My 10ish burrowed drones would just stay burrowed.

I tried to convince purple of the dire need to destroy Teal, informing him that he'd have 5 bases to Purple's 3. (Counting mined-out bases. I was also wrong in assuming Teal had already assumed control of the southwest corner. Teal may have been irritated, or he may not have cared, but either way he decided to attack my main. I think he was feeling his oats after killing Red and assumed that with all my talk, I was sitting in an empty base. Thanks to creep tumors (I REALLY have to spread those more when I'm not the only Zerg in an FFA) I saw his force coming, sighed, and prepared to meet it deep in the bowels of my main. It's a Zerg base, you bet it has bowels.

And then something beautiful happened.

Purple had a left-over raven auto-turret on the path from the center to my main, which had been used to kill a creep tumor generating creep down onto the low ground expansion. I hadn't removed the turret because, well, why accidentally lose one zergling or spend 50 queen energy from one of my completely full-energy queens to top off a scratched hydra? This turret was important because it gave Purple vision of the high ground. This vision was important because Purple had several Thors guarding the entrance to the low ground base which was now his only mining income. Remember how small Quicksand is? This means they're standing right next to the high ground path to my main base. A big grin developed on my face as I noticed incoming Zerg troops get auto-fired on by the giant Thor army.

At this point Teal is slightly ahead of the other two contenders in food. He has 192, I have 174, and Purple has 162. I have the most drones at 50 (but many aren't working), Teal has 45, and Purple has 40. Teal isn't going to take shit from anyone, so he fights back at the Thors. But he must have had his whole army selected, because as his hydras are doing considerable damage from the high ground (most of them can hit, the Thors are that close), his air forces also move in, and 10+ mutas in addition to 7-8 corrupters are absolutely massacred as they clump up directly above the massed Thors.

Still, Teal has a much larger army - or at least started with one, and the Thors start to pull back after killing the Teal fast air forces, a smattering of hydras, and losing four of their number. Teal's brood lords coming into play may have something to do with that as well. Teal begins to pursue onto the low ground, then regains his senses, and moves his army back into the middle to regroup. Purple sticks his Thors right next to his planetary fortress; the replay also shows a new batch of Thors and marines having been produced in his base, accounting for the rest of the food.

Well I don't know how bad Teal's losses have been (very bad, he's down about 60 food, which means maybe 20 air units and 10 hydras), but I do know something just happened. When it comes to FFAs on Quicksand I am certainly not above kicking a man while he's down, so I move out with my entire army. If Purple is the kind of player that slowly turtles and builds until all but one opponent is dead, well, there's not much I can do about that but turn the expected battle over the southeast bases into one I win. I'm certainly not leaving them to Teal - and if I can actually keep my grubby little hands on them for a few minutes, well, this is a happy thought.

My own fighting forces had swelled to eight brood lords, a similar number of mutalisks, four corrupters, 25+ hydras, and a little over 20 zerglings. They faced an almost identical number of hydralisks, but Teals hydras had much less support: three brood lords, a corrupter, three roaches, and an ultralisk. In addition, my forces had superior upgrades: 3 carapace and 1 or 2 attack versus a few scattered upgrades for Teal (purple's troops were fully upgraded). I managed to control my troops just well enough to engage as one force, without pointlessly sacrificing my speedy zerglings to a completely clueless attack-move.

Go me!

As my troops began their assault, Purple unexpectedly sent his six Thors that survived Teal's attack onto the high ground, and hit my forces in the rear. Frankly, I have no idea why he did this. I would suspect he assumed my army was farther than it was, and was trying to hit my main while I was gone - but the ramp between the low ground expansion would be better for that than the front door, and I don't think he had any way to see my troops. Maybe he had ordered them to join his other forces in his main, but the direct ramp was blocked by something so they took the long way around. I don't know, they engaged all the same. Luckily, hitting me in the back was decent positioning, as my brood lords were hanging back of the main army, and quickly occupied the Thors with broodlings.

gogo hydra attack-move!

Zerg on Zerg action.

mmmm, threeway action

Shit! Thors!

I win both battles convincingly, losing only one broodlord (and a few hydras) to the Thors (also leading me to believe Purple did not realize he was about to engage my forces). In the overall battle, I lost about a third of my hydras and all of my zerglings and mutalisks (to hydras). I could have been more careful with the mutalisks, but I wanted to down Teal's brood lords fast and I was doing cute things like using the corrupter +damage taken spell on the lone ultralisk involved in the battle.

My hydras rushed into the southeast low ground expansion I'd held before and Teal took from me, followed by the brood lords. Teal must have had some units in production during the battle, because a small task force of mutalisks and corrupters, ~8 hit my trailing brood lords. They brought down three before my hydras responded and found they were facing three of Teal's own brood lords. Well I still had four corrupters, and the end result is that in addition to my three dead brood lords, I lost three more hydras, but killed two enemy brood lords and his air task force. The last enemy brood lord I let escape to his mined out gold expansion. I could have chased it with the corrupters, but I didn't want to lose them to reinforcing hydras or something while I wasn't watching.

My hydras finish the low ground expansion while my brood lords take out spine crawlers guarding the southeast corner main. They kill some hydras spawned for emergency defense too, and lose one of their number. I unburrowed my ~10 drones that were still at the low expansion and started a hatchery there. My hydras moved on to finish the southeast corner expansion (oddly upgraded to a Lair) while Teal tried a little mis-information, complaining that I attacked him after he tried to help me. Sure, you weren't most of the way down the path into my main when those Thors hit you. Not at all.

Hatcheries destroyed at the southeast resource nodes: 3.

Purple had regrouped his forces, and sent a sizeable attack group into the middle, consisting of 7 Thors, 37 marines, a medivac, and a raven. They mowed through Teal's mined-out gold expansion, causing Teal to complain about double-teaming. To be fair, he probably didn't notice the Thors attacking me in mid-battle when I was already engaged with his troops. But it's moments like these that make people who complain about double-teaming always seem stupid. I've watched the replay of every FFA game I've played in SC2 - even the shitty ones - and only once do I think there was a game where two players colluded.

Purple chose to head to the southeast corner staring position rather than Teal's main, wisely checking the available minerals. Oddly enough, there was nothing there but a shrinking patch of creep. His medivac got ahead of the main force when Purple's army started down the ramp into the low ground expansion and was destroyed by my waiting hydras. With about 20 hydras and 4 brood lords, my army in the area was inferior to Purple's task force. But broodlings kept the main body from coming down the ramp, keeping most of the marines out of the battle. Not all of them though, and the hydras suffered terribly from Thor fire even as they did a good job taking out the front edge of the Purple mass. Eventually Purple pulled his forces just off the ramp itself and re-engaged. Not much had changed, except all the units could attack due to the fact that enough marines and hydras had died. Taking down the guardians... excuse me, brood lords, by targeting them with the Thors, Purple finally killed my task force.

As I dealt with the attack, I took a half-second to send ~30-40 zerglings which I had been building in my main down into the low ground expansion (on attack-move) between my main and Purple's, then turned my attention back to the battle at the southeast low ground expansion. I love zerglings for just this late game fire-and-forget kind of function. While I was worried about the Thors, I wanted to take out Purple's last mineral source - meaning that if I got his army too, he'd be effectively out of the game.

The marines all died, but three Thors survived after finishing my army in the southeast. Looking back up at my zergling attack, I saw a Planetary Fortress that had gotten down into the red but was now being repaired by about a billion SCVs. #(&*. I scrambled fresh troops that were in my main, sending them to the southeast, then burrowed the eight drones that had survived my inattention at the southeast low ground expansion. The Thors destroyed twelve zerglings scrambled from the east main and southeast low ground hatcheries, turned and destroyed my southeast hatchery, were brought down to 2 by the zerglings coming from my main, then finally destroyed when ~15 hydras trailing the zerglings from my main finally finished them off (I had multiple hatcheries and doing OK with queen spawning larvae).

Hatcheries destroyed at the southeast expansions: 4.

Now the game was truly up in the air. Looking at the replay, Purple had a small troop advantage, with 6 Thors and 13 marines (and 2 planetary fortresses, one relevant, one not relevant), but felt the need to defend his only mining expansion, which had just almost fallen. I had 13 hydralisks and 40+ zerglings, having spawned another large wave as fast as the larvae allowed. We also had about the same income, each mining one base to near full potential. I had some minerals in the bank, Purple had gas. I assumed Teal was in a similar position, excepting not having a mining base. This assumption was based on the troops and activity I'd seen from him and the assumption he'd taken over the southwest low ground expansion from Red and mined it out. In reality, Teal had NOT taken Red's old expansion and his spending on frantic reinforcements and the defeat of those reinforcements had left him with almost no minerals or troops. He did have a few infesters though.

Purple's feeling comfortable again, so he marches 4 Thors up the ramp into my main, the same path he'd opened with his marines earlier in the match. My main is undefended, so while my zerglings cross the map I lose a hatchery and an ultralisk cavern before the mass of lings arrives and surrounds his Thors. I still lose a fair number of lings as his Thors are fully upgraded (although to be fair the lings are at 2/3), and because my lings can't all attack at once.

Ultralisk cavern you ask? Why yes, I did play this game soon after the patch. Yes I did see the videos some good fellows posted of ultralisks and planetary fortresses. And yes, I did start two ultralisks before the cavern was destroyed. They finished spawning when the Thors died, and I counter-attacked to the low ground expansion, targeting the planetary fortress with the ultralisks. Purple knew a counter attack was coming though, and already had every unit that could be scrambled on the way. The marines were stimmed before the ultras took their first swipe, and while I got the SCVs and some of the marines down into the yellow with the Ultra splash, they simply died too fast. Probably shouldn't have led with them. I managed to pull my hydras and lings supporting the attack out before losing too many of them though. Still, minor victory to Purple. Not something I want to let happen when the game is this up in the air.

What I didn't see until the replay is that even as I started pulling my forces back, Teal infesters were spawning infested terrans into the contested base from the leading to my main from the center. Right into the path of the marines and Thors that had just killed my ultras. So of course, none of the eggs even hatched before they all died. Heh. In the middle of all this conflict, I'd started another hatchery at the low ground expansion in the southeast, the same one that was my first cross-map expansion and which I'd briefly re-occupied before the Thors showed up. Unburrow drones (again) and by the attack-counterattack debacle was done with, the expansion was on its way to profitability. I was also moving army production to corrupters, on the assumption that I'd need more brood lords and their spell is theoretically also good against Thors.

Purple floated an orbital command over the east starting position, and retreated it after seeing my actively mining base there. During the game that seemed like pretty ominous foreshadowing. Sure enough, Purple immediately sent two Thors and eighteen marines, keeping most of his army on defense. It was an interesting game, strategy wise, since Purple frequently decided to stay safe at home while utilizing task forces only on offense, as compared to my own habit of refusing to commit without my entire force. This tended to mean I won battles pretty cost-efficiently. On the other hand, Purple's task force obliterated the hatchery at the east starting position and moved south to the southeast low ground expansion, ordering his troops to attack on the hatchery there. They destroyed the building as my zerglings surrounded them, which allowed me to kill the Purple forces with the loss of only 15-20 zerglings. On the one hand, efficient destruction of Terran forces. On the other...

Hatcheries destroyed at the southeast expansions: 6.

Fortunately, yet another expansion was completing its construction at that moment in the southeast corner main, and I moved my drones down there to continue mining - I also finally managed to devote funds to transforming corrupters into brood lords again. Scouting Teal zerglings ran by the southeast low ground expansion, seeing the destruction and backing away from my much larger army. Teal wasn't genuinely trying to get back in the game, he was doing a small amount of long-distance mining from the southwest corner low ground expansion and trying to do something cute with infesters and now zerglings.

The minerals at the low ground expansion occupied by Purple were now running very low, so this time he gathered his entire army, 7 Thors, 45 marines, and a medivac, and headed directly for the southeast low ground expansion, where I had just transferred drones back north after starting the base again. I had 5 brood lords, 4 corrupters, 66 zerglings, and 13 hydras on defense. Our positions were reversed - I occupied the high ground at the southeast corner main, the Purple army was on the southeast low ground. I decided to attack, thinking by starting the combat with a wave of broodlings, it would be a good situation to position myself while the Terran troops worried themselves with that. This was probably a mistake. In any case, my army streamed down the ramp and the brood lords went to town and the marines stimmed.

My corrupters quickly downed the medivac and cast their goop on four Thors before pulling back. The zerglings did a fine job of making zergling sounds as they died en masse, and my hydras got into position due to the zerglings sacrifice. Nor were the zerglings completely wasted. All the marines in the attack died - now it was just a matter of hydras and brood lords versus Thors. Unfortunately, Purple brought SCVs this time and was repairing his Thors. I was able to bring their number down to five before all my own units were dead, excepting the corrupters. Assuming it was hopeless, I prepared a final defense at the southeast corner starting position. Five spine crawlers were planted, the surviving corrupters morphed to brood lords, a few zerglings were spawned, and my queen received orders to man up, which she didn't like at all.

Luckily, Purple was bringing an orbital command with him, and his Thors looked around and realized they didn't have detection to clear the creep tumors at the southeast low ground expansion for a few crucial seconds. Finally, he came up the ramp into the southeast main. I engaged with the five just-spawned brood lords, unleashing a few waves of broodlings, then pulling back behind my hatchery before he could manually target the lords. The broodlings were supplemented by zerglings from the expansion itself and a few streaming in from my main, but SCVs kept the behemoths alive with no losses.

Still, his Thors were damaged when he moved them forward and I reengaged with my brood lords - and the SCVs repairing the lead Thors came into the range of my badly-placed spine crawlers. The Thors had moved forward to ensure mining ended however, and in the space of about two volleys killed the hatchery. My brood lords had nowhere to run though, and they stuck in the fight. Another mini-wave of eight zerglings came from my main, and without SCV support the Thors finally fell. I was left with three brood lords, most of my spine crawlers, and a handful of zerglings. A new hatchery was already budding, built in the remains the destroyed one during the battle.

Hatcheries destroyed at the southeast expansions: 8.

Unbeknownst to me, Teal had taken the opportunity to infiltrate six infesters into Purple's base, and destroyed a barracks, a starport, a factory, and a handful of marines and supply depots with infested terrans. It took a little while for Purple to decide to restart production, but eventually a scan ended with three infesters fleeing for their lives. Also, we learn one badass marine can take three infested terrans on his own.

I've assumed at this point that Purple is out of money, and I'm just going to be building up forces to take out Purple's two planetary fortresses, while Purple marshaled his reserves in a futile attempt to defend for a tie. Just to be safe, I've taken my handful of scattered zerglings and sent them to the southwest low ground expansion - which I STILL believe to be mined out. Lo and behold, half the minerals are still there and teal is long-distance mining. I start to lay into the drones, and Teal complains bitterly. Well how was I to know he'd taken out part of the Purple main?

I kill a queen and a few buildings in Teal's main before broodlings and Teal's long guarded zergling scouts scare me away. A tiny task force of three hydras and a drone are sent to join my zerglings and occupy the southwest low ground expansion - more to keep it out of Teal's hands than because the resources are vital to what I consider a mop-up effort. Between wondering what could be so fun as to prompt Teal to stick around, noticing gas also being long-distance mined, and previous comments about burrow, it's not that hard to guess what units Teal is using, so I spawned three overseers to cover the southeast and my taskforce in the southwest. It was open season on infesters.

I killed Teal's zerglings trying to stop my expansion in the southwest, but was paying attention to the southeast when he brought his infesters in. My hydras and the overseer caught one anyway, but I lost the hydras, my zerglings, and the hatchery to a swarm of infested terrans. Erg. This crap needed to stop, so I headed out with an overseer, another small pack of zerglings, and changelings for forward scouts. Unfortunately the infesters had moved out of the way, and I didn't find any infesters before hunting season ended. How to tell when hunting season ends? When the "dead" Purple terran in the north has collected all his reserve cash and started stomping your main into dust with 12 marines, 6 Thors, and 5 ravens + copious SCV support.


I'd lost touch with my Tao. Putzing around with Teal, I'd only been paying scattered attention to developing the southeast corner main and southeast low ground expansion, largely neglecting serious consideration of my army composition. After all it doesn't matter, I'm just mining until I put together a massive force to take out some stupid planetary fortress. I looked around and I had, well, 60+ zerglings and the three surviving brood lords from the last big battle. At least I'd built something. But if I'd genuinely been paying attention - if I had the killer instinct I should have had, my army composition would be something other than three tons of zergling.

But if Teal was distracting me, he was also distracting Purple. The replay shows he brought his infestors into Purple's base again and killed a few supply depots. After leveling my main, Purple brought his army back through his main, and then marched south - right at Teal. Purple ripped through Teal's undefended main, but the broodlings from the destroyed buildings took crucial hit points off the marines and even a few SCVs. More importantly, I had time to scramble a few units as my main fell, then curse my lack of ANY backup tech building in the southeast (minor FFA mistake, a second hydra den or spire across the map is cheap and great insurance), then start a new spawning pool. Zerglings come out of my massed larvae as soon as the new pool finishes, and suddenly my main concern is the ravens. My total anti-air forces consist of: a queen, a corrupter, and two mutalisks.

Purple spends a little bit of time transferring his orbital command and SCVs to the southwest low ground expansion before heading in for the final showdown. I have one trump card, and it doesn't take a ton of micro to play it: 138 zerglings. Still, my surviving spine crawlers are placed optimally, my lings held in reserve, my brood lords ready to move forward after the spine crawlers engage. My anti-air will be the only thing I micro in the battle once the lings are released. It's all about raven kills.

In the end, Teal's death buys me enough time to complete a lair and start a spire before Purple cautiously moves into the southeast starting position, first taking out a spine crawler with the big Thor cannon thing. Buildings get stunned too, apparently. I end up having to pull my broodlords back - I want the Terran army to be outside of the constricted choke area. Finally I unleash the lings and Purple's caution means I have time to start several corrupters during the battle. A tide of angry zergling teeth seals the victory. The Thors, one flank blocked by a cliff edge, take awhile to go down, but they do eventually explode, and my zerglings immediately head for the only unwatched resource node. I find Purple's attempt to being a planetary fortress, crush it, and bring my own drone over.

Purple has a little bit of stubbornness in him, and sticks around. He's not quite done yet. I have no problem with this; it's an FFA trait I definitely respect. After the last raven is hunted down - thanks again creep spread, approaching the middle from the southeast this time - a few banshees raid my southeast main base, taking out my spire and my spawning pool before I cut off their retreat. Blue even finds eight marines and a medivac somewhere (he had a brief period of mining at the southwest expansion during the final battle) and drops the eastern starting position, where I have one working extractor and a seal-the-victory hatchery watching the area. Sigh...

Hatcheries destroyed at the southeast expansions: 9.

But after corrupters destroy the medivac and my ling army puts down the marines its game, and Purple surrenders. A darn good FFA. There are many, many points where minor changes could have swung the game in another player's favor. If Purple's Thors hadn't been in range of the teal strike force entering my main one of them probably would have won. If Purple's Thors hadn't blundered into my battle with Teal, would he have had an overwhelming doom army for his follow up attack on the southeast? If purple had macroed better at a few points in the game, could he have simply overwhelmed me in one of his attacks? If I had macroed better before my counterattack against Purple's planetary fortress, would it have gone down? Would it have gone down if I followed with the ultralisks instead of leading with them. Would it have held and left me without a threat to prevent a push into my main? Could Teal have gotten back into the game if he'd seriously attempted to restart the southwest low ground expansion?

These are the good games folks, the ones that stick with you. The ones that get me to write what is probably my last battlereport. (Sorry Maareek!) I hope you enjoyed reading it.

Link to the replay.

Finally, the only other screenshot I've taken with SC2: Zerglings casting their ritual spell!

I thought ritual spells were a Strifeshadow thing?

Adding to the hilarity: Some guy complains about teaming while his enemies fight each other.


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