Friday, December 31, 2010

Void Rays

My favorite unit in the whole game of SC2 has to be Void Rays. Hu sen guaiya siha. Meggai na biahi esta na Siha gumoggue yu' gi duranten gof mappot na huego.

In my early days of SC2 they were my only hope against the harder levels (VH and Insanne) of AI difficulty. I could never make as many land units as the computer and photon canons don't last very long against masses of anything, and so Void Rays would be my salvation. I would fly them around sniping the enemy bases, slithering into their buildings and either taking out their command center/nexus/hatcheries or taking out key buildings to hopefully prevent them from building certain units I wanted to avoid. In those early days I lost plenty of Void Rays by staring down stimmed Marines, a scary gaggle of Hydras or Stalkers that seemed like they were on heroine, forgetting that they weren't fully charged or that Void Rays are freaking guaguan, expensive and so they shouldn't be thrown away in a battle which odds are good you will lose.

But naturally when you first get VR, they are like gekpu na yommok na guakka ni' gailaser gi i tatalon-niha, or for those who don't speak Chamorro, big flying cows that have lasers strapped to their backs. Void Rays are incredibly powerful if you can get them early. A two gate rush, with a fully charged Void Ray is a sight to see and gives you a powerful advantage. But as the game goes on, a pack of Marines or a handful of properly microed stalkers can instantly turn that very costly flying cow into vapors.

Early on I would not get a fleet beacon and flux vanes until I had five or six Void Rays, but now I've made a habit out of getting it after my first two. Although VR were both weakened and flux wanes made slower in recent patches, having vanes for my VR makes a huge difference, especially since I've started trying to play more FFA games against 5-7 VH or insane computers. Having that ability to move in and out quickly of a base before the huge mass of units the computer inevitably makes and marches around is essential since in those free for all matches, that mobile mass tends to make expansion difficult to impossible.

Unfortunately in the early games that myself, Leevin and Davis would play, my Void Rays would often save the day, but it became for me a crux, something which I could always rely on to win a game, but would also make my play one-dimensional. For most games I would make 20-30 units and end up with 300-400 kills, because all I was making were probes and VR. When I would try to actually make other units I would find myself feeling irritated when my meager forces would be magalamok ni' i AI, or swallowed up by the ferocious AI, and pine for my regal fleet of Void Rays. Thankfully now I've started to work on other strategies, but my favorite unit is still the Void Ray. And whenever we end up playing a level where we aren't sure what the best strategy will be, I always say, "I'm canoning up and going VR, good luck you guys."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Nick "Tasteless" Plott is a Starcraft 1 and 2 player and a commentator for Starcraft tournaments on GOMTV. On GOM he casts matches with his good friend Artosis. Together they are known as "The Casting Archon, Tastosis." Which you have to be a real SC geek to get.

Tasteless, is in my opinion the cooler of the two, mas paire gui' nu Guahu. Artosis is known more for the intellectual parts of the commentating and also the random trivia about things such as guinea pigs depending on who's playing. Tasteless is supposed to be the more play by play of the team, telling you what is going on and making lighter banter.

One thing that I enjoyed about Tasteless is that he always casts for noobs (i gef gadda' taguini giya Guahu), as well as more experienced gamers. When intriguing or unique tactics are being employed, he is always ready to explain the things in some detail whereas Artosis always reacts more with ambiguous and confusing statements such as "I can't believe it!" or the very confusing "This is it Tasteless!" As I sit there at my computer screen, mouth agape wondering "This is what Artosis!!?!!?!?!?"

I'm not the only one out there who likes Tasteless, as a theme song was created recently for him by a fan, Ken Ashcorp. The song is called "Living the Dream" and is both catchy, nerdy and very man-crushy in a way that only geeks can understand. During the 3rd open season of the GSL, they even made a video of it and played it during the final match between TSL_Rain and OGSMC (which starred Torch). If you are new to Starcraft then some of the jokes are "gehalom" or only for the initiated, and many of them refer to Starcraft 1 and so I only understand what they are by asking my brother. But the one's that I do understand are very endearing and funny. I hope someday someone writes a theme song for my life. Knowing my luck it would probably be to the tune of "F--k You" by Cee Lo Green.

Here's the song below from Youtube and also the lyrics. Info on how to download the song can be found in the Youtube page.

I've been watching you since Averatec Season 1
You entertained me to no end
Flash and Jaedong would have been a boring Muta-fest
If you weren't there to be our friend

You're just the perfect blend

Nick Tasteless Plott
Your commentary's getting me so hot
Got neurosis from Artosis cause you bunker rushed my heart
GG baby, lets go crazy cause the game's about to start

Seoul Korea
Is where I wanna be
I just wanna be next to you
And when that panda bear died
I remember I cried and I remember that you cried to

QQ is what everyone will do
When they see you climbing ladders up into Pro
When John's on your back cause everyone's Grack
Just be like Protoss and take it slow

Early game I'll buy your pylons
Mid game sees me tech to love
Late game your voice carries me away into the stars above
Just please don't lose to 6pool

Nick Tasteless Plott
Your commentary's getting me so hot
Got neurosis from Artosis cause you bunker rushed my heart
GG baby, lets go crazy cause the game's about to start

You can both raise a guinea pig farm
Just please keep on commentating GomTV
When I heard that you weren't getting commission
Well that just plain upsets me

Manlier than Chinro, sexier than Jaedong
Younger than Leenock, dick 5 foot long
Better than Boxer at so many things
But there's just one thing I'll never forget


Nick Tasteless Plott
Your commentary's getting me so hot
Got neurosis from Artosis cause you bunker rushed my heart
GG baby, lets go crazy cause the game's about to start

Nick Tasteless Plott
Your commentary's getting me so hot
Got neurosis from Artosis cause you bunker rushed my heart
GG baby, lets go crazy cause the game's about to start

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Sais na Hagoe

In one game during the GSL, the Zerg player Leenockfou, after winning a close match raised up 6 fingers to the camera, symbolizing the fact that a certain strategy, one he had used in the game he just won, was still viable. The move is called 6 pool. It comes from the fact that when you start as zerg, instead of creating drones to build your economy, you keep your six initial drones and have them harvest until you can build a spawning pool. As a result of this, you trade in your ability to compete in a longer game, for an early rush, which if not expected is very easy to defeat. In his match on Lost Temple against Guinea Pig in the 3rd GSL last month he 6 pooled, did some initial damage although not too much, but was still able to convert his dangerous all-in rush into a victory.

If you scout and see that your opponent has only five drones and a spawning pool, then they are about to 6 pool you. Na'liston maisa hao, sa' ti apmam magi i tinigong.

Yesterday I saw my brother Kuri get 6 pooled. Thankfully he scouted it early but it sent a chill down my spine, ha na'etdot i tatalo-hu, when he yelled "Ah crap I'm dead!" Fighting six pool requires being walled in and having an early unit which you fight them off until more can be made. It also means pulling your workers to help stall for time. Thankfully this particular 6 pool took place on Lost Temple, where it is very common for people to fast expand to their naturals. He was able to wall in with his already built forge and two additional gateways outside his natural. He got them up just in time, and although one gateway was lost, a canon was fished to scare them off. The forced turtling worked to my brother's advantage as he mined, upgraded, fought off mutalisk attacks, but eventually blew up his own gateways, expanded to the nearby gold base and fought back the zerg across the map, one expansion at a time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Army That You Have

Playing against the computer AI for the past few weeks has been an interesting experience. When I first started playing Starcraft 2, I found myself always struggling to catch up against the computer, especially on the AI difficulties of Very Hard and Insane. The normal pace at which I created units in the campaign mode was nothing compared to the speeds at which the computer could pump out a constant stream of units. Fihu kulang saddok i fina'tinas-na. Playing against the computer and its ability to always be creating and expanding, and not lose track of things the way humans do when the map gets scattered or the fighting gets brutal actually helps you appreciate the importance of timing windows. When you see high-level players compete against each other, the most obvious game is the one where they are trying to kill each others' units and buildings. A less obvious game is the vying for the ability to capitalize on "timing windows" or moments where your opponent is temporarily vulnerable, either because of something you caused through harassment or because of a choice your opponent made in order to expand or change tech. The best players can guess when these moments arrive and use them to take out their opponent.

When I first began playing SC2, I would simply build until I had the army I wanted and then start heading out. Against the VH or Insane computer this doesn't always work. You can only turtle up so long before the computer begins to expand and build enough units to blot out the sun. I've had matches where I killed 7 times more units than I made, but still lost. So many of those assaults take out a decent portion of my units and require that I build more before countering. Somehow the computer is still able to build up a comparable force fast enough that before I can even head out, I'm getting hit again.

Although I may be the only SC2 player to ever consider this, I could not help but think of former Secretary of Defense under Bush II, Donald Rumsfeld and his response to those who criticized him for invading Iraq with a force which could absolutely take out Saddam, but was nowhere near enough to pacify the country effectively. Mildly dissenting voices had said that more troops, hundreds of thousands of more troops would be needed, but Rumsfeld, high off of being at the helm of the biggest and most modern military in the world ignored them. After it was painfully clear that Rumsfeld and his crew had botched the occupation of Iraq, even people serving in Iraq started to find ways of speaking out and questioning their mission.

At a Townhall meeting with troops in 2004, this exchange took place.
Army Spc. Thomas Wilson: Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don;t we have those resources readily available to us?

Rumsfeld: It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it. As you know, ah, you go to war with the army you have---not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.---You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can (still) be blown up...
Given my political leanings, it might seem very strange to be quoting someone who I would definitely argue is a war criminal, but Donald Rumsfeld is a very quotable person, who sometimes meanders his way to standing on uncomfortable troops and accidentally speaks the truth of a situation with a thick layer of privileged douche-bag shellacked atop it. In this case, he is correct. When I first started playing SC2 I was always waiting to have the army I really wanted and in the campaign mode and on easier levels that is possible strategy. But against the harder computers, you wait too long and you miss all the possible windows at which you could have attacked. By the time you do move out, the computer has such a massive production advantage that you can't overcome it.

For the past few weeks, working with my two mas mafnot na SC2 na ga'chong, Leevin and his pare' Davis, we've been working on figuring out those timing windows, both how to make them and how to find them. This means not always attacking with the best force and of course not the ideal force either, but finding a way to make the force that we have, the best for the moment. This rarely means head on confrontation since the computer, especially in 3 v 3 always has so much more. It instead means using chaddek na tinigong, or rush attacks, surgical suicide strikes with charge zealots meant to take out their Nexus/CC/Hatchery, sneaking in with sniping air such as vikings/banshees or VR to take out their infrastructure, or other sorts of diversions meant to buy time to lure out their main army and then take advantage of the moment. We have gotten much better at it can now consistently beat the computer on VH on any map.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

GSL Finals

I have to admit, I was let down by finals of the GSL last weekend.

I was all excited and pumped up, I even decided to write about the GSL in my column in the Marianas Variety this week just to share even a faint engram of how excited I was. My brother's friend had GSL watching party, where we had pizza and endured the incredibly long and mind-numbing interludes between matches, only to watch TSL_Rain get completely outplayed by OGSMC. There wasn't really a lot of suspense, although there were some interesting plays.

I got the feeling that most people expected Rain to act like Bitbybit and simply all in rush every single game, but I felt like he was straining against that and trying to prove himself to be a bit more than that, and as a result a sort of cautiousness crept into his play. He made the unusual move of going siege tank against protoss in his first two games, as if to prove he wasn't one of those kaduku taisensia na all in freaks, he brought some siege, some marines and medivacs and would bunker like crazy just outside of MC's base. He wasn't rushing but trying to blockade. In both instances, his timing was a bit off. Although he had no way of actually knowing it, MC had already expanded in both games, the first to his protected natural, the second to a hidden base, and so the blockade didn't work since Rain was stuck on one base. In both cases he didn't press effectively, and so MC was allowed to come back.

This is not to say that Rain is not a great SC2 player. You don't get to the finals of the GSL by being lucky or super-cheesy. You have to have alot of skill just to play at that level. But you could definitely see Rain's newness in his play. He started off in a way that seemed to doubt himself and to doubt his style of play.

In the 3rd match, Rain was able to come back by playing with the mind of MC and tricking him into thinking he was going to go two barracks when in fact he was going for the infamous partial "Tasteless Build" to rush out cloak banshees.

In the 4th match, MC almost completely mindf-cked Rain by doing the cheesiest most despicable rush possible where you build your gateway in your opponent's main, pylon on 7, gateway on 8 and then just chronoboost out zealots to tear the base to shreds. The map was Steppes of War which is one of the smaller maps ideal for quick and brutal rushes and I like most people watching was anticipating a super fast Terran Rain rush, but MC shocked everyone (ko'lo'lo'na Si Rain) by rushing his attack before Rain had even built his supply depot.

The 5th game, was the final, although it was very close. Both players got attacks into each other's bases at the same time. Rain snuck blue flame hellions into MC's base and took out all his probes. Rain tried to defend off a zealot-immortals-stalkers-sentry force which invaded his main but could not. It was somewhat close, but ultimately Rain's command center could not escape as it was surrounded by sentries and stalkers picking it off.

OGSMC is a great player. The way he picked apart LiquidJinro in the round of four was so brutal it should have come with a warning for people watching. But I was disappointed that one of the more macro players did not make it to the final to make the last games more epic. It seemed that many players had practiced techniques to try to kill your opponent in that first timing window when they expand, or get them with some sort of blitz tinigong before they are even ready for aggression. I was glad that at least one of the final games (game 2) went to an epic level, with nearly all bases taken and so many things happening at once not even the commentators could keep up. I hope that in the next tournament however there is a good mixture, because the first layer of strategy, the mind games which take place at the very start can be fun to watch, but there is nothing more satisfying than a game which pushes the limits and endurance of both players and the audience by going far beyond what you could imagine at the game's start.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I wanted HongunPrime.We to win the 3rd Open Season of the GSL, but he lost in the round of 4 last week.

Although I had never heard of Hongun prior to this season, there were five reasons why I wanted him to win.

1. He plays Protoss and at the start of Season 3, there were very few Protoss and I wanted all of them to win. The winners of the first two GSL season were Zerg, and I see Terran as the choice-race for the cheesy.

2. In his match against JSLZenith (T) in the round of 32, Hongun used Carriers to help win his second and deciding match. As the commentators Artosis and Tasteless made clear, no one had used a carrier yet in the 3rd GSL and so their amazement and shock at it being used was priceless. I still chuckle when I think of Tasteless yelling at the site of carriers being made, "What the hell is that? I've never heard of those things!" And after Hongun had won screaming in disbelief "I don't understand the world anymore!"

3. EGidra thinks he sucks and although he knows an infinite more about Starcraft 2 than I do, I instinctively feel like I have to believe the opposite of whatever he says.

4. He uses VR and  likes to rush them without sentries or much other support, and I as a fellow Protoss who uses VR like I'll get some incredibly rare achievement if I rely on them too much, I have to admre his "spunk."

5. I don't know why, but when I see pictures of Hongun looking intently at his computer screen while he's in the gaming booth, he looks like my brother Jack.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


I played in an epic 4 v 4 earlier tonight. 4 VH AI versus me, two of my students and a VH AI ally.

The map was Megaton, which isn't too difficult a map to play on. It is easy to wall in and later expand out into your naturals. Within five minutes however one of my students had disconnected, leaving us his minerals, but nothing else, except taking up some space in our main. My computer ally seemed determine to constantly all in rush and so for the first ten minutes he just led a stream of zealots, sentries and stalkers to their deaths. Eventually the computer, who was 4 zergs countered. We beat them back, just the three of us and when it seemed safe enough we started to expand. The computer, as if to accentuate that he had no ability to be a team player, took two expansions at once, leaving me with the one closest to my starting point, but also right in the path of the roaring river of zerg units trying to wipe us out.

I built my nexus, set up some quick pylons and canons to defend and moved out four immortals and two colossi to defend. My puny army was no match for the massive wave of hydras, roaches and infestors that came. I lost my nexus and was forced to retreat back to the main. Once we had beat them, I built again. Lost it again. Built again, lost it again. By this point the computer was aggressively encroaching on me. Hitting my buildings with brood lords, mutalisks and roaches sniping my probes as they minded what little minerals I had left.

At this point, 20 mins into the game, I suggested to my remaining student that we quit and start over. I have no qualms about giving up on losing battles, especially when my gashed open and bleeding carcass is now the battlefield. My student however, much to my surprise, ha na'gof manman yu' when he suggested that we could somehow win it. I said, ok, secretly hoping that once he had felt the pain of being sniped on all sides by irritating zerg units he wouldn't be so hopeful. The only thing which was actually helping at this point was the fact that zerg would be focusing on my buildings, allowing my student's small fleet of vikings and growing line of siege tanks to come in and slowly take out their advance units.

I saw that the computer was only attacking on the left side of the map, leaving the rght side almost completely open. I snuck my remaning forces out through the northern ramp and built my new nexus (with 400 of my remaining 500 minerals) at the closest northern high yield expansion. My gamble paid off. While my student and the mainly taisetbe computer ally fought literal building to building battles in the main, I gathered up slowly my minerals. Built a set of new gateways and a Twilight council, chrono boosted zealot charge and started trying to take the pressure off the main by sniping their northen set of two expansions.
One thing which I've learned about the computer ai is that even at its most insane levels it does not ever leave units to guard its expansions. Every once in a while you'll find spore crawlers or missile turrets, but rarely any mobile units.

It ended up working. With the pressure off, my student was able to expand and start building up quick M and M and M forces to start harassing the southern expansions. It took a while but we slowly pushed them back, prevented them from getting new minerals and forced the creation of smaller, more easily manageable clusters of units, as opposed to that horrid, ungodly varied unit mass that the AI somehow always makes.

As we mopped up the remaining structures of the 4 zerg, I realized that I need to stop saying that we should give up the moment something goes wrong and that you won't rally successfully every single time, but sometimes you might, and when you do it is truly epic.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Kao Kesu, Pat Ti Kesu?

I asked the other day what is the definition of "cheesing" other than the sneaky things you do to your opponent that they don't like. I think I found out one of the ways of making a distinction between smart tactics and the sneaky tricks of the weak.

Cannon rushing is one of the "cheesy" tactics that Protoss can use. Photon Cannons are a structure which you are supposed to use for defense. It is as the name implies a canon which gives you some pretty solid defense against both air and ground units. But it can be used as an offensive weapon well, by placing a pylon in your opponents base and then setting up canons around to harass and give them a headache. There is a science to where you place your pylons. You can block off their ramp, try and put it directly in their main base.

A cannon rush can be a legitimate tactic and not always a weapon of the tactically weak. After watching it used in the GSL a couple times, used against my brother and also see others use it online I think that to rush it onto the main or even blocking their ramp is a tool of the desperate. It is an attempt to kill the other before you or them can even start the match. When these tactics are used against better players they tend to fail miserably. Because if they fail, you wasted a significant amount of resources with usually little to show.

The more intelligent use of canons in an offensive manner that I've seen is against the natural expansion and not the main. Setting cannons up to harass and taken out a recently build expansion. I've seen players use this most against Zergs who tend to expand the fastest in order to slow them down a bit. The cannons are not meant to kill the opponent, but simply to slow them down, while you can catch up and build your own expansion.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gaige Gui' gi i Chalan

Earlier tonight my younger brother Jeremy (or Kuri as I call him) reached 1000 1 v 1 quick match wins as Protoss. For his lofty achievement in the realm of playing alot of Starcraft 2 and being good enough at it to vanquish his opponent at least 1000 times he received an image of Tassadar a  which can be used for his profile. Tassadar played a huge role in the first Starcraft game, becoming friends with Raynor and Zeratul, eventually sacrificing his life to kill the Overmind.

For those of you who don't know, the word "chalan" in Chamorro means road, but it is also the ancient Chamorro number for "1000."

Sen maolek i che'cho'-mu. Kalang ti hongge'on, lao maolek sinembatgo.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I've been following the GSL in South Korea, and in the later rounds I've really come to wonder what the difference is between "cheese" and good tactics and well-timed rushes? Is the only difference that cheese is something that looks desperate when you do it? Is cheese something you do to mask how you aren't really that good at the game? When I first started playing Starcraft II I assumed that "cheese" was anything that kept the game from reaching the point where you would actually have a battle somewhere on the map with a decent enough number of forces that it would test the abilities of you and your opponent to manage said army that you have created. Basically anyone who attacked you when you weren't ready was "cheesing" you. But now I've seen entire pro-matches where people try to out-cheese each other as quickly as possible and so I'm not sure what's a good way to define it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tonde Hi Ni Iru Natsu No Kagerou

I didn't play much video games for the past six years because graduate school and things academic or activist. But since finishing I've carved out a niche in my busy life to spend time each day wasting it on delightful video games. I played Monster Hunter 3 for a while, Beatles Rock Start Band, Nobunaga's Ambition but earlier this year got addicted to the game I currently spend a few hours each night playing Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty.

After beating the campaign on Hard, I started to try playing online with others and it has made the experience even more addicted, working out strategies and tactics with friends. I've also started watching professional Starcraft 2 players in leagues and tournaments online and so I am on the verge of going full nerd on SC2.

As part of my growing nerd love I felt the need to start yet another new blog, where I can share my thoughts, my recent matches, what I've watched in tournaments such as the GSL. I hope to one day start a Guam clan of SC2 players and so if you like to play SC2 and are on Guam, email me.