Heading back to school tomorrow, after my 380 games on ladder since season 5 started(hardcore right?). Thought I’d write a little(and by a little I mean a lot) about my experiences in the matchup. I truly love this matchup, even though I rarely, if ever, win late game, even if I want to complain because I’m playing on a 4 year old laptop on a 10mps connection and storm+max armies make me lag, even if I think that it’s dumb that protoss can switch between stalker colo and zealot archon storm with ease, while marauder Viking gets owned by zealot archon storm, and marine ghost gets owned by stalker colo. It's really taught me to appreciate the game, and the beauty of strategy.
A Long Long Time Ago: Interestingly enough, I was having the most trouble with tvp when terrans were DOMINATING, and I’ve been doing really well since I’ve buckled down and fixed it. Honestly, one of the best rules of being a better sc2 player is to say FUCK balance. Anytime I start believing something is imbalanced, I start giving myself slack for losing, and that’s not acceptable. You HAVE to believe every game is winnable. If your gasless opening dies to pressure, it's either because you missed a scout timing or you shouldn't be allowed to do it. That's the mindset. I think Naniwa said "if you lose to an all-in it's because you played too greedy".
I started my journey when I realized how awful I was at the mu back in Augest 2011. I felt like I was just pressing buttons and hoping for the best. Scanning at 11 seemed like a good idea, look for colo, respond (this was before the days double forge was popular) I’d win, I’d lose, until one day I was sick of it. I wanted to KNOW the matchup. So I approached it as a student. I downloaded about 20 replays of pro and gm players, and watched them all. From the protoss perspective. I didn’t want a new build, I wanted to know how it was played. I created a huge list of all the games and what happened, the timings for everything. I separated them into colossus versus not colossus. I began to realize some things. It turns out 75% plus of protoss players got a robo at 6:30, regardless of whether they were going colo or not. Curious.. I hopped on ladder to get mauled, but I didn’t care, I wanted timings. Eventually 30tvps later, I came up with a list, which I update to this day:
Standard first zealot (3:45) Stalker first (~4:00)
Cheeses: Early second gas timing (3:30) 4 gate timing(hit at 6-7) 6-8 gate timing (hit at 8-9) 3 gate vr (stargate starts at 4:10, done by 5:30, first vr by 6:10, 2 vr push by 7:30) 3 gate robo cheese (robo by 4:30, watch for immortals at 6, 7. Push by 7:30-8) Dts hit at 7:30
Macro Timings: Standard a gate fe (5:00) Fast 1 gate fe, holding core or stalker(4-4:30) Standard robo (6:30) Double forge templar: Forge by 6 5-6 gates by 9 Twilight council by 9 (done at 10) +1/+1 by 11:30 +2/+2 by 15:00, charge+storm done Colossus: Robo bay by 8 First colo by 10 Range by 11 3rd bases by 13
Macro Push Timings: 2 base colo (13:00) 2/3 base gateway/upgrade (15:00) Don’t ask me if they’re all correct, it helps me sleep at night okay?
It’s one thing to know timings, it’s another to apply them. Most players have a hard time exploiting weaknesses because they’re using pro builds that they don’t understand. I know my build VERY well. It’s the low gas style that I posted thinking everyone would love because it holds every cheese relatively easy except 3 gate immortal all ins, sets up a first 3rd, and has a timing push, but alas, it was not the case. Whatever. Crafting My Build: After being stomped on using a select style 1 rax fe into 3 rax factory->starport with 9:00 medivacs, a protoss player suggested I try a 4 rax push. He said if I was good enough, I could get all the tech lab upgrades and +1 by 9:00ish. I should continue by getting a fast 3rd and trying my best to deny the protoss 3rd (his name was Pikachu or something I believe). It turns out I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t get all the upgrades to line up, I had a few struggle games with him until I won one, but that was all it took. I was hooked, and the idea was there. 4 rax timing. All the tech lab upgrades. +1. I basically reverse engineered the build. That’s how I ended up with times, not foods, for my build. 5:30 3 guys in gas gives me 100 gas by 6:30, enough to start stim which takes 3 minutes to finish, I’ll be good to go by 9:30. 2nd tech lab at 7:00, done by 7:30, start combat shields, about 2 minutes, done by 9:30. Start engie bay by 6:10, done by 6:50, start +1, about 20 seconds short of 3 minutes, done by 9:30. I wasn’t sure anyone else was doing this sort of deal, but as long as it worked I’d do it.
After 8-10 hours of theory crafting, playing the computer, getting use to the new build, I’m playing a 1 rax fe with a reaper scout into a 4 rax 9:30-10:00 timing push with 23 units, +1, stim, combat shields, and concussive shells. Heavy on the marines, Fast 3rd, later factory. Cool.
The Beginnings: The early days of the build reminded me of going reactor hellion against zerg in platinum league in early June. It was simple. Make hellions, get into base (because no zergs knew how to spine or queen block), kill all drones, win. Except now it was make units, get into base (because no protoss could properly force field ramp), kill all units, probes, natural, win. Even as I crept into masters, I could jam units into the front, produce even trades, and with an extra base and even army count after the exchange, I could pull an easy win. It was at this time that I realized how incredibly delicate the spell was. It’s the only thing that allows protoss to stay alive for nearly the first whole 12 minutes of the game!
I played through what felt like 50-60 tvps, studying all my games, cheese in particular, eventually adding more scout timings with a reaper or scv, scan timings, etc. I eventually made more lists for myself, telling me more about what my opponent was doing, without needing to scan. Without scouting it dies to: Offensive 6-8 gate pushes late expands(3 gate, 3 gate robo defensive)
It Does Well Against:(puts me in a position to win, protoss usually has to pull probes or barely holds) Any colo player who gets robo bay started later than 9:00. Double forge play with a robo when forges start later than 8. It trades even with 5 gate robo immortal pushes. Any stargate play.
It Autokills: Almost every play who misses force fields at the ramp Fast thirds
Pros Of The Build: I aim to start my 3rd by 9, get the gases up asap, and move for a push when 2 or 4 medivacs are out to put pressure on the 3rd. +2/+2 is done by 14-15 and I’m also maxed by then, and I can push again, starting my 4th, denying protoss 4th, aiming to kill. +2 +2 puts me at even footing with double forge players, the fast 3rd gives me extra gas to go double medivac/viking, I can drop the main while hammering the front since I’m ALWAYS ahead of protoss in food.
Cons Of The Build: 3 colossus pushes, although outdated, are still very strong against this build. My factory starts at 8:30, and I NEED at least 2 medivacs before vikings, so I can’t even start Vikings until 11. I didn’t discover this until VERY late.
The Learning: I rofled through many a crying protoss, at one point boasting a 82% win rate across 30 games. Then the losing began. My opponents began playing better, preemptively force fielding the ramp, buying time for their colossus. I couldn’t break it; not with my late factory timing. Luckily my timing wasn’t a cheese nor gimmick. I began to see my timing push as a new age 2 rax, designed to let me get my 3rd up safely, and punishing protoss early thirds. But the games were hard. Any game that dragged to let protoss get up a 4th or 5th was a lost game for me if he wasn’t starving. Any time the protoss took the initiative to engage with colossus death balls, it was a struggle. I remember one game in particular where a 4 colo push forced me to fit both my 3rd and natural on shatter temple, killing all my scvs and depots on the outside. I bought time to remake an army before meeting him to defend my main, which I successfully did, and eventually counter pushed to win (he was mad).
Cool game, but it shouldn’t have happened.
The Fix: It wasn’t until I really started analyzing my losses that I came up with a solution. My low gas style was hurting my ability to deal with colossus effectively at its normal push timing. Yes I could scout and go double starport, but I just didn’t have enough time. I had enough Vikings by the time I was pretty dead.
This is what we call being unprepared. In other words, it looked like I had to find a way to go double starport faster. I could get my 3rd and 4th gases up faster, but there was still delay on my factory. I could move my factory to 8:00 instead of 8:30, but was 30 seconds really what I needed? In the end I decided to rescout with my reaper if it was alive at 7:30. If I saw robo bay, factory at 8, double starport and halt my upgrades. If he was going double froge, proceed as normal. Nice. I’ve come to see a lot of hot fixes as really simple moves. I can always start something blind if I need to, and cancel it if I can. I can always go double starport, and if I don’t need the extra reactored starport, make banshees or ravens instead.
What's next? Well I've noticed that going blind double starport or going factory too early is really cramping my ability to produce units non-stop, one of the strengths of opening 4 rax. I'm really aiming to shut down colo play early and go for an early win on a saturated 3 base, following up with multiple drops and pushing with 7-9 rax. I kind of like the idea though. Even quad medivac production for a little bit gives me a big advantage in pre 14 minute engagements. the speed I can get them lets me do mass drops into the main where protoss might not be able to engage well, or limits the effectiveness of the early game sentries is they're still around. Who knows. I guess I'll find out when I graduate and have time to play.
I'm also having success with reaper expand into 4rax. Often i can simply overwhelm the prptoss because he relies on early sentries but i do a double drop in the main at 1030 while stimming the remaining (a few dozen) units at the natural. I am super struggling with people who open zealot archon 2 base..
Thaniri.336 NA, Thaniri.207 TW, SteamID boblepoh.
happyft United States. January 09 2012 17:10. Posts 449
Awesome blog. I think this is the best part of sc2 -- figuring out solutions to problems. I remember back in the day when I solved defending 3 gate nex into fast 2 colossus attack using 2 rax bunker pressure CC into fast starport (which almost every tvp was like back in the day). After a couple dozen losses and analyzing every replay, I realized the timings and figured out I just needed to tighten up my macro and I'll have enough units and tech to survive. And that one game I finally won, I completely crushed him, and I had an unbelievable avg unspent resources of 290. Oh man that felt so good :D
MrRicewife Canada. January 09 2012 17:30. Posts 416
I had nearly an identical experience a few months ago..winning a bunch of games with 4 rax pressure timings and then it suddenly stopped working when toss's were nailing their forcefields or going blind 1base colossus. Everything in TvP feels like a gamble, nothing feels as safe as the safest builds in TvT/TvZ. Kinda the reason I stopped playing often.