The essential StarCraft 2 strategies to brush up on before Xel’Naga Finest
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We had the chance to sit down with Jonathon ‘Wardi’ Ward and chat about the most important tactics in different StarCraft 2 match-ups ahead of the new weekly tournament.
It’s hard to believe but StarCraft 2 released almost 10 years ago, and saying that the game has evolved over the years is an understatement. Strategies used today are unrecognisable from the methods that were employed during the release period. After three expansions that added different units and a lot of balance patches, it’s time to take a look at how things stand now.
1. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, which is the best match-up of all?
If you’re planning on entering Xel’Naga Finest, you’ll need to be prepared to take on any race, and it doesn’t hurt to know your own inside out. Mirror matches, or matches where both players play the same race, have their own unique strategies for StarCraft 2. For Zerg versus Zerg, Wardi told us that it has always been about Roach versus Roach. However, the match-up has seen some change recently. “There have been some melee-upgrade openings which transition into a Zergling-Mutalisk playstyle which can lead to some changes from the usual Roach wars,” he says.
Protoss versus Protoss meanwhile has a lot of different openings. Wardi refers to the match-up as a “clown-fiesta”, and because of its “high volatility there are a lot of proxy strategies being used which make it difficult to get up into the mid-game dream of Zealot-Immortal-Archon.”
Terran versus Terran used to be a chess match on steroids, with mainly Tank Marine Medivac being most popular. However, the match-up changed as time went on. “TvT is all about the Ravens! There are a few different openers which generally lead to the same point: getting to three bases with two to three Ravens. From there a combination of Marine-Tank and Mech styles have been popular lately,” Wardi explains.
2. To go all out, or not to go all out?
Cheeses are strategies that are designed to straight out win the game if it remains unscouted by the opponent. Every race has a set amount of cheesy tactics that they can employ. “For Terran the proxy rax is always dangerous,” Wardi says. “It creates a situation where every slight piece of micro, scouting and decision making can really become game ending. From proxied marines to proxied reapers, there are options for every match-up.” (Proxying is the act of building key production facilities outside of the player’s base. Players do this for two reasons. The first reason is to make sure the building isn’t scouted, and that the units produced from the base reach the enemy base quicker).
Wardi says Zerg has some crazy all-in approaches for the mirror match-up now. “The 12 pool drone pull – you open with a spawning pool before building any workers and you pull all but one to three of your drones across the map to fight. With the drones you also have minerals to build spine crawlers and your opponent's defensive execution has to be absolutely perfect to defend.”
Protoss always had a lot of different cheeses in their arsenal. One of the most popular ones is the cannon rush, where Protoss players build high dps photon cannons in the base of their opponent. Wardi says that the strategy has evolved from what it used to be, he says: “What used to be a couple cheeky cannons to deny a base now turns into a proxied Robotics Facility with shield batteries galore to create an unkillable Immortal-Warp Prism play.”
StarCraft 2 is famous for players delivering game ending damage in the blink of an eye. One baneling explosion or a single marine drop can outright end the game. In terms of volatility, Wardi thinks either Terran versus Terran or Protoss versus Protoss are the most explosive match-ups in the game. Wardi explains: “PvP for the early game – the difference in builds and the variety of proxy strategies makes it very dangerous. Meanwhile in TvT a fight or game can swing so quickly due to one very successful drop or a better engagement due to Raven usage et cetera.”
While you can still get a very strong Protoss army and group it all together, it only works if you are also on the map with a Warp Prism harassing, otherwise the other races can just pick you apart
Of course the three different races also have other strategies that don’t involve Cheese. Protoss used to be very much known for deathball compositions where the player would march around all of their units in one big lump. However, Wardi says that the game has more or less moved away from that. “While you can still get a very strong Protoss army and group it all together, it only works if you are also on the map with a Warp Prism harassing, otherwise the other races can just pick you apart. Because you have to expand more now, spreading out your army and having a more mobile army generally tends to come into play. If you do see a death ball, it's probably going to feature mini death balls in the form of disruptors, those things hurt!”
3. The classic match-ups
Terran versus Zerg used to be the absolute poster child for StarCraft 2. The match-up was arguably the most exciting and most iconic for the game. Wardi says that the match-up has just come off a strange year-long cycle of playing Bio or Mech off a Battlecruiser opening. The weird thing is that Battlecruisers are a Tier 3, late-game Terran unit. Wardi explains that the early Battlecruiser creates a lot of pressure, so “it keeps the Zerg busy and also keeps you safe from attacks, while you can transition into Mech safely behind further BC production or Bio off of just one BC. This style comes and goes and is currently mixed in with a lot of cloaked Banshee and Hellion openings, or just a fast three Command Centres into Bio.”
Terran versus Protoss meanwhile revolves around 1 Barracks, 1 Factory and 1 Starport openings (often called 1-1-1). Terran do this to lightly pressure their Protoss opponents “with widow mine drops before the Terran has to make their major choice of whether to go third command centre or Barracks two and three after the opening; typically we are seeing mostly Bio in this match-up.”
It's my personal favourite to watch against Bio as it's super mechanically focused, with action all over the map all of the time
For people that played in the beginning of Legacy of the Void, Zerg hasn’t changed all that much. Wardi explains that Zerg versus Protoss now revolves around “a Roach Ravager opening, to deal with Adept build orders from Protoss, which then transitions to Zerglings and banelings added in later. If they can get away without Roaches, there are often Hydralisks alongside the ling-bane.”
Zerg versus Terran meanwhile is back to the Classic Zergling, Baneling, Mutalisk compositions. Wardi explains that it’s a composition that keeps coming back in the meta: “It's my personal favourite to watch against Bio as it's super mechanically focused with action all over the map all of the time.”
If after reading, you have an itch to start playing the game, or return to it. You’re in luck! StarCraft 2 multiplayer is free for everyone to enjoy, so you can jump straight into the ladder and try out some of the strategies that were discussed above, or tune in on the Red Bull Twitch channel to watch them play out live in stream.
Wardi will be hosting Xel’naga Finest every Wednesday from 6pm CEST, so be sure to register to play.