Some balance-free thoughts on players’ approaches in GSL Group D matches

starcraft 6 - Some balance-free thoughts on players' approaches in GSL Group D matches

Just caught up on GSL Group D matches and wanted to float some observations, hopefully some higher-level players can comment. In particular, I thought the matches were interesting since we got high level macro play in all of the non-mirror matchups, so it was kinda cool to see how these super standard macro players approached the MU. Spoilers below, of course, and not a lot of recap (I'll assume you've also watched the games and don't need a lot of reminding).

tl;dr – I wonder how Dark's ZvP response would have fared against the actual 2 base immortal push that Patience faked. I think Innovation's TvP build that he used 5x today was pretty cool, and Stats definitely didn't seem prepared to play against it correctly. I think Inno's TvZ was a bit more old-fashioned today, and Dark showed why (i) he's still considered the premier ZvT player in the world, and (ii) why this style of TvZ went out of fashion.

ZvP/PvZ – We really didn't get much of this, only Dark v Patience opening series. G1 wasn't very interesting I think, Dark just showed up with some typical decisiveness (12 pool, roach nydus off 46 drones to punish a 3-base Patience).

G2 was kinda interesting: Dark fell for the fake immortal allin and responded with no-lair 45 drone mass roach. I don't know whether a DT split would have worked better than sniping the third (as Artosis suggested), since Dark probably would have started spores immediately when he sees the shimmer (he's staring at his base/Patience's prism) and so the DTs wouldn't have gotten huge damage. Also, I don't think Patience knew Dark hadn't started lair yet, so he took what damage he could. Patience then follows up with a fake third CIA push off 47 probes, while Dark has retaken his third and droned up to 60. I think Patience makes a pretty big mistake right before his +1 & charge finish, since he thinks he can trap a few roaches, but suddenly feels like he has to take the fight since he's losing zealots. Even if he doesn't make this mistake though, Dark is already pumping roach ravager for a roach nydus, so he may have had enough to hold anyways? The mindgame of "fake immortal push into DTs into fake third into real immortal push" should is definitely really cool though.

The more interesting question for me is whether Dark's response of 45 drone mass roach would have held a real immortal sentry push, the kind that In-Depth has been discussing lately. Imagine if Patience scouts no lair (which he should do before pushing), then if he just masses immortals off 2 base and does a later push. I think Dark would have grabbed a few more drones, when he scouted no push (hitting the cyber core w/ 8 lings), but not have started lair, so it seems his preferred response to these immortal pushes is just hatch-tech mass roach off 3 gas 45-50 drones, which doesn't seem to be the same conclusion Noregret and Artosis arrive at on in-depth (all of those games had lairs, ~42 drones and 4 gas + roach speed). I wonder what the difference is, since I'm not personally playing at that level?

PvT/TvP – Oh boy, when INnoVation pulls out the same build in all 5 games in such a heated MU, you gotta think he's very confident in it like he claimed in group selections. I haven't actually seen it on Terrancraft or anything, so I took some notes:

  • Bunker for early safety
  • Mine drop for small map presence in early game.
  • 1 tank + marines + raven to defend blink stalker pressure/snipe obs (disables on potential prisms too)
  • Pushes out with: 100+ energy raven, 2 tanks, stim/CS, 2 medivacs, +1 attack, lots of marines.
  • Behind push: 3rd CC, 4th/5th rax, concussive shells, +1 armor, rally 2 mines + 2 marauders + 2 marines towards the tank push

I think Stats seemed pretty surprised by the build too, so maybe it's a fairly new/optimized build, since the first big push seems incredibly strong with both tank/raven sophistication and medivac/bio raw dps. You can see that the raven energy always goes into anti-armor missile against gateway openings and disables against colossus openings, which were the only major two openings that Stats showed today. Innovation's only loss in TvP today was when, instead of doing the tank push at the third (on Cobalt), he dropped the main w/ just bio + raven. I guess it's b/c Cobalt has a pretty open third, so tank positioning isn't as easy, or rush distance is just longer. But it seems to be a build that's pretty strong against the popular protoss openers today, really punishing the third base that's popular these days, while not being too behind on either midgame tech or economy. That being said, the push really has to do damage since the third CC is so delayed.

Stats showed some pretty classic PvT builds too, going up to anywhere from 2-4 colossus before transitioning to disruptor or opening light blink pressure into double forge 8 gate to defend his third. These seem to be the flavor-of-the-month PvT macro builds, save the more aggressive prism gateway varieties, and they both seem to be pretty weak against Inno's build, so I wonder what the next innovation (ha) will be. It does seem like Stats misplayed slightly: Artosis constantly talked about being out on the map and forcing out raven energy/tank sieges, which probably could have delayed Inno's push long enough to get more units out and hold. It's a bit tricky though, since inno rallies concussive marauders with the push, so you can only stall for a short bit before stalling becomes expensive as well. Also, if the mine drop is still alive, it can also force you to keep some units away from the defense. I wonder if a single HT for feedback might become meta at some point, if you're going for the mass gateway style.


TvZ/TvZ – Dark showed some absolutely vintage ZvT today, as a big Dark fan I am happy 🙂 I feel like this swarmy ZvT style is really why extended bio midgames went out of style in the first place. G1 was quite an uphill battle, and Innovation played really well against the ravager ling bane (RLB) that Dark pulled out (after committing to the early roaches, it seems to make sense to just keep them as ravagers). You notice that this RLB style requires one more macro hatch compared to hydra ling bane (HLB), since you really don't produce ravagers after your initial batch, so you make a lot more ling bane. It is also an even burstier/fragile composition than HLB, and so it's really just meant to buy space until hive, which was a bit hard. I think Dark pushed back a bit hard against Inno, who was really pushing hard off his 3 base with a delayed fourth; he probably could have tried to sacrifice more ground and save more units, which buys him more time to tech to hive, since Innovation is really banking on doing huge damage to Dark w/ such a late fourth. But it's kinda hard to tell, Innovation by all rights should be able to convert his advantage after such a bad opening from Dark, and indeed he did.

G2 made me so happy as a Dark fan. You can see Dark taking double fifth bases, since he's expecting to lose one base to the midgame push (which he does); this is an old tactic in ZvT that we see surprisingly little of nowadays (I guess the rise of both battle and tank mech disfavors this sort of play). Innovation took a pretty surprising gamble with the doom drop + push, since he left so little bio behind with his slow-to-siege tanks, and Dark really swallowed the mid-map push while buying enough time against the doom drop to clean up with reinforcements. The game just never went Innovation's way from there, with vipers, ultras, nyduses (I really missed these! I haven't seen many of these late game nyduses since Dark used them back in 2016 against TY) and general ling bane runbys chipping away at Inno until he conceded. That Inno was still able to make so much happen after losing his tank core (including pushing all the way to kill Dark's fourth) is a testament to Inno's skill, but I think this sort of "counterattack, chip at the army and re-expand while conceding ground" is really Dark's MO in lategame ZvT (you might remember him using the same style against Maru in their early clashes of 2018, though Maru pulled through with his big 130 supply push despite being whittled down to just 30 SCVs). It seems ridiculously strong.

I think G2 from Inno's perspective though, really shows why Terrans haven't been favoring hard midgame TvZ anymore. At the time of inno's doom drop, I think Dark had just morphed enough banes to swallow the main push regardless of how much inno dedicates to the drop, despite there being 6 tanks. New repug is just such an open map, HLB can engage so well in the middle of the map (of course, given Dark's tremendous creep spread here as well). I think this is why we've seen players like TY/Maru really change pace exactly just after the 2/2 push timing, to instead retreat, add CCs and tech into ghost lib (or just go straight to mech in general). It seems better to save your tanks for defense than trying to force damage on the 2/2 timing push. Innovation seemed to try a slightly more dated, aggressive pushing style that didn't quite work out as Dark responded perfectly. I think if he had grabbed a more abusive tank position and hit the 2/2 timing more sharply, he might have still done damage, but Dark's creep spread made that very difficult to do indeed.

G3 was pretty unnoteworthy from a "approach to the game" standpoint, but the surprise mutas really caught innovation off guard. I just really admired how stupidly patient Dark was against the seemingly-pretty-scary allin that inno was forced into. You can see the difference between how much ground he's willing to give up here vs G1, since he knows inno is down to 7 SCVs. From the moment inno pushes onto creep after seeing the mutas (10:41), over a minute elapses and 2 bases fall before Dark finally commits into inno's bio, after he is quadruply sure of victory. But the game was already long over by then I think.

I guess from the TvZ perspective, we really see why Terran are trying all these alternative styles (BC/speed banshee/battle mech openings), since the classic bio -> 2/2 tank bio timing -> parade push is really quite figured out at the highest level. Nobody will execute that better than inno himself (barring Maru on a good day). Maybe this is why inno claims TvZ is broken nowadays, but he didn't really show us the more TY TvZ style where the 4th CC is super early and macro orbitals/ghost lib are very fast as well. I think that style would still have struggled against the form Dark showed today admittedly, but it would have been nice to see the two giants duke it out 🙂 I imagine Dark probably would have teched into the less dynamic BL/viper/infestor/ultra sort of style we see a lot of nowadays, so it's also kinda nice that we always saw an active zerg in the TvZ matches.

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