I recently came across Dromar's blog documenting his BW progress/journey and was inspired to document and share my progress learning this game. My goal is to share the perspective of a "serious casual" BW player (i.e., not intensively training and massing games everyday) and how it's possible to still thoroughly enjoy the game and see improvements.
To give a sense of what that means, I play about 2-3 1v1s per week (hard to block off uninterrupted time since I'm married with a toddler and have a pretty demanding day job), and squeeze in some Solo/UMS Practice between them (maybe ~20-30 mins a day at most). As far as my background, I started playing in mid-May when SC:R was announced. I don't really have strong RTS experience (dabbled in BW back in the day in the campaign, never managed to beat the AI without cheats, also dabbled in Command and Conquer / Red Alert, was never really amazing).
To start off, here are some stats from my first 54 games. I'll show overall first, then broken down by pre-ladder vs. post-ladder (more on that later). I main Protoss.
OVERALL (54 games):
vP (16 games) 6-10 = 37.5%
vT (17 games) 5-12 = 29.4%
vZ (21 games) 5-16 = 19.0%
PRE-LADDER (22 games):
vP (7 games) 1-6 = 14.3%
vT (8 games) 1-7 = 12.5%
vZ (7 games) 0-7 = 0.0%
Average APM ~70ish
POST-LADDER (31 games):
vP (9 games) 5-4 = 55.5%
vT (9 games) 4-5 = 44.4%
vZ (14 games) 4-10 = 28.6%
Average APM ~130ish
I'm 14-39 in the last 54 games (27.7%)
I'm 12-13 in the last 25 games (48.0%)
Here is a dump of the replays in case you're interested (missing one loss where I forgot to save the replay).
Here is a graph that shows a 10-game (forward-looking) moving average winrate over time:
The first thing that jumps out at me from these stats is how much better I've been doing since ladder came out. I've pretty much doubled my win rate. Now, there's at least two factors at play that I think go well together:
A) I'm now playing more with people around my skill level
B) I'm improving
A makes B easier. And I think I'm improving faster than my MMR, so I'm often playing with people that are obviously worse than me. So my winrate is probably a bit inflated. But no matter! Overall, I'm pretty happy with my progress, and especially grateful for the ladder. It isn't perfect, but it's so much more fun to play online now than it was in the past trying to find games on BNet without getting completely stomped.
Some thoughts on the matchups
Not sure why I'm doing so well on this matchup - I actually don't have any builds learned.
I basically open like a standard PVT, and then heavily emphasize reavers and shuttles after. Seems to work often, although more often than not it looks like my opponent isn't even really using a build order.
Early on I died a lot to DT cheese, but quickly/eventually learned to get observers ASAP and/or sniff out whether DTs were coming. Overall I don't enjoy this matchup quite as much as the others, since I don't really have an intuition for the logic of the matchup, so I often feel like I'm flying blind. Easy to fix though.
Using the 2-Gate-Range-Expand build.
Such a scary matchup early on for me. I died a lot to mech pushes. Took horrible engagements, had no idea how to engage also. Read a lot of pieces on this but didn't really make much difference - I think I just wasn't mechanically there yet to be able to execute them. This youtube video by L_Master was key for my level - simple: don't engage, and if you do, immediately make sure you macro zeal reinforcements, retreat if all your zeals die. Actually worked really really well. Later on got better at mixing in HT.
Now I'm pretty comfortable in this matchup - just not 100% against early aggression like FD, but I'm getting better at dragoon micro and am pretty comfortable picking off marines as I kite back to my base from their natural (practicing solo against the computer is really helpful for this, since they always do a massive M&M push at ~7 mins).
Also still don't do zealot bombs or stasis very much yet. Will come with more practice, probably at higher MMR levels as I start to face scarier mech pushes where the Terran doesn't just push forward blindly but does the slow march of death. Recalls are FUN.
Learning a second build now (1-Gate-Reaver) for some variation.
Using the +1 Sair/Speedlot (aka Neobisu) build.
By far my worst matchup. I think it's pretty normal for a Protoss There's a number of different ways to die or get severely disadvantaged early on - I learned through painful experience just how important scouting is in this matchup. Made silly errors from scouting in many losses, e.g., spot early gas but no lair but thought MUTAs and died to speedling rush, spot spire but didn't switch to cannons and more sairs, forgot to scout for 3rd/4th hatch in other locations (then die to ultras later on).
I also died a LOT to mutas. Still struggle against it. Early on I over-built zealots and forgot to mass a critical mass of corsairs. Scouted spire but didn't respond appropriately with cannons. Later on often overcommitted to sairs and fell behind and eventually lost on the ground.
Still haven't really won a "standard" PVZ (won a few where the opponent missed key elements like lurkers and mutas), especially in the lategame (vs hive tech with swarm etc.). My most satisfying win was breaking out of a hydra-lurker contain and overwhelming the opponent with the mid-game deathball. Was a tad disappointed when I watched the replay and realized he died because he essentially did an all-in (didn't expand or macro behind the contain so had nothing to fight me with when the contain was broken).
Some thoughts on how I improved
* Don't really analyze pro replays, but I often analyze my own replays (mostly losses in more detail)
* Practice build orders in single player vs computer - learn to execute under (some mild) pressure
* Practicing some micro UMS (not super often), focusing on push-breaking Terran mech, and the insane hotkey training UMS where you have to keep a probe alive from a chasing zealot while building up to a civilian rescue (still haven't beat that one yet XP)
* Watching a lot of matches
* Reading a lot of strategy discussions, especially on the TeamLiquid forums
* Tutorial videos, especially ones by L_Master and Day9's Let's Learn Starcraft series
* Getting feedback on my play from friends (e.g., on Discord) and from a Youtube commentator
* Learning to use hotkeys! Game-changer for macro once I started using 09 for nexii and 876 for gateways
* Process-wise, focused on one safe/ok build order per matchup (actually only for PVZ and PVT) and focus on getting better at macro (constantly produce units/probes, keep money low, expand, etc.)
These all look very much like the standard advice, just spread out over longer periods of time. The point to me is that it works! You can get better even if you're not training intensely every day.
Overall I think I'm getting to the point where my macro isn't too shabby - seldom get supply blocked, constantly make probes and units, can usually hit 100 supply at 10-min mark, even under pressure. I often don't max out in ladder games though. I think my expansion and tech/upgrade timings could definitely be a lot tighter - need to trade off against making tons of units all the time. I also often forget to upgrade.
I think it's also time to really focus on improving multitasking. Part of this will come from the hotkey micro UMS. It seemed completely undoable at first, but now it's feeling like I can actually do it.
This will help with the micro I need to improve, especially:
* Shuttle/drop micro (e.g., zealot bombing and HT drops during Terran push-breaking, harrass)
* Probe scouting early game
* Corsair control/scouting while executing build order
Finally, I need to get a lot better at scouting. I'm doing a good job of getting vision and not getting caught by surprise by pushes, but I'm not doing a great job of actually knowing what's going on and appropriately responding, especially early game. I've started counting SCVs on gas for Terran, but can never remember in-game what they mean. Ditto Zerg.
I'm definitely still a noob, but am having fun improving! Comments/feedback and practice partners welcome!