With the addition of two new maps, Gold Rush and Crossing Fields, to the ASL4 map pool, there is a possibility that new strategies will emerge. In order to further our understanding of the maps and their quirks, we have enlisted the help of two pretty cool guys; ex-pro and Australian extraordinaire Legionnaire to analyze Crossing Field with a small blip on Gold Rush while our newest recruit who is a current top amateur, Ty2 will analyze Gold Rush. Feel free to comment below and happy reading!
A word of warning. I have not played on these maps. This is simply a statement of how I see these maps, and how I think they might play out.
Contrast in new map styles
They have done very well in the map selection. Whereby Gold Rush is one of the most heavily harass style maps, I think I've ever seen, Crossing Fields is the complete opposite. It is a much more brutal macro map. Both players have 3 safe bases to power off of. Excluding super-early rush choices to punish the greedy, OR, the two base all-ins that can occur, most games will revolve around who can power up the fastest and transition into mega armies. The late game will revolve around avoiding starvation as players are forced to expand away from their safety net and towards the enemy.
Some details for this map can be found here. However, my first thoughts are this:
- Defensive base setup, with 3 easy starting bases - all with gas.
- Very macro friendly.
- Multiple ridge lines in center.
- Narrower outer ring/strip which is where the lessor macro races will want to fight.
- Not great for harass style play.
Next we look at the likely expansion locations and mineral counts. I would always expand forward first where I can:
- The mineral location are all normal amounts. Where as the rear expansion they are not.
- Most players can easily get up a first, if they treat this map no differently, then it guarantees a free back expansion.
- TvP and PvZ might require players to expand backwards first. As the front is quite open, and difficult to block effectively versus lings. While Terran might prefer safety, as they will have numerous tanks by the time they go for their forward expansion anyway making it super safe.
The following areas show unbuildable locations.
There are a few dark patches leading to the front natural expansion that you can be built upon which I didn't mark. These spots help Terran with turrets on pushes, but mainly in a defensive capacity. Simply because they are so far away from your natural. So Terrans are faced with a choice here, push forwards and be be safe from drops. Or maintain the high ground advantage and remain on the ridge line, however expose themselves to the wrath of shuttle play.
Here we look at the natural flow of the map. The green indicates your natural late game expanding route. Which would normally be used as a staging point for your defensive troops, and attack launch point as well.
However the best attack path for T/P is along the pink line, it's a smaller path making it harder for flanks and making it more beneficial for engagements. However, at the end of this line are two small ramps, which will really bottleneck players.
This clever design forces players to choose the orange path which goes through the middle. Where engagements will be slightly tougher.
Reinforcements will likely use the yellow path to help with flanks. While late game harass will likely use this route to attack both the third and fourth along the edge of the map.
- Free natural expansion. Else Free third for those thinking early mid aggression. Or a free third for those more passive/macro orientated players, who want to max and push with 2-1 tanks. (pvt)
- Ridge line defense.
- Ridge line offence. Defend the line and attack the 4th.
- Easy third. Great for TvP, TvZ.
- Exposed 4th. Very hard 5th. Later game will be tougher for ZvT/P. or for PvT.
- Forward expansion combined with limiting scouting leads to difficult choices for your opponent, and allows you to choose a rush timing off two base, or macro up on three.
- Narrow passageways around the edges. This will result in strong TvP, PvZ games. The weaker matchups need to try and avoid this and fight more in the centre. Where they then have to deal with ridges.
The rear expansion is weak long term. It has 6x 1200 minerals per patch. That's 20% less minerals per patch than normal. And 47% less minerals in total than the main. While also having 60% less gas. This is almost perfect for Zerg, but is awful for other races.
When that is combined with the two easier bases only having 7 mineral patches, players are going to become short changed when they try to transition to the mid/late game. The other bases are going to be hard to hold let alone mine out, but that’s going to happen sooner than most players would expect.
I don't think we’ll ever see the two middle bases ever being mined.
Two player maps can cause probes and drones to behave strangely. Resulting in them building gas buildings in their opponents bases! However, I think it is less likely in this case, simply because the bases are so easily defended, and players can simply take the rear expansion immediately.
Two player maps can have severe long game - stagnation issues where a player simply starves as they mine out and can't expand.
Random guesstimation based on gut feel says T>P>Z>T (if the stats prove me wrong, it's because the players... uhhh... don't know how to play on it properly).
I don't really know TvZ, but I suspect 3 easy gases and map ridges will cause lurker issues for the Terran.
- T can power with no real threat.
- The less macro races matchups need to avoid the middle in most cases, and fight along the narrower side paths. These narrow passages make TvP stronger, and PvZ stronger.
- Matchups that require you to macro more beyond 3 bases might struggle.
- TvP will primarily be 3 base play. Macro up and go safe 2-1 push out. The longer the game goes, the better for T with this style as P have to expand towards you, making your pushes (defensive offence) stronger.
- Might offensive rax, and transition into expand behind/double expansion to hurt Protoss greed.
- They will need to lay mines in their main late game along with a ring of turrets to stop arbiter play.
- ZvP/ZvT. Since this is such a gas heavy map. Ling muta, into lurkers. Zerg will just mass, mass, mass lurker up on the ridges to buy time. Defilers vs Terran will be more of a pain, as the distance between mains on a two player map is generally less. However, T and P both should be hugging the cliff lines of the side passages to make engagements more favourable.
- Which expansion did they take first will provide knowledge as to how the game will unfold.
- 3 gases. Expect lots of gas heavy units. muta/lurker/ultras / templar / archon / SV/tanks
Beware the seemingly useless corners!
At first glance, the corners are strange and appear useless. The units movement path generally avoids it, and even if they do, the very corner isn't scouted. The Red line shows the click location whereby the scouting scv will take the left or right path. In most cases they will bypass the corner section entirely.
TvP. If Terran can get some tanks around the back corner, they can easily block the passage, and make life miserable for the hapless Protoss. A floating engineering bay with a proxy fact, or just some slow wandering tanks will be trouble. Vs Zerg, Terran could even double supply depo and make the pathway ling proof.
TvZ. Once every generation, a player of such incredible skill will come along that they will win 3 star leagues and be awarded the golden mouse. When such a player exists, it is best to work out how they might apply their game style to a map.
There is a reason JulyZerg was so awesome that he had a month named after him. And this map feels like it was designed specifically for him.
Every second game versus Terran, I would see him hide 2 hydras out of the way in a secluded location, and once he sees the Terran moving out, the - now - lurkers would just slowly waddle their way into the undefended base and the game would be over.
This map is perfect for it. In fact, they designed an out of the way area, and a ramp and pathway into the natural just for this exact purpose! Worse, the unit pathing to the 3rd expansion makes scouting the corner very unlikely, and even IF they clicked on the side that will scout the high ground, they won't see the very corner of the map as the 'useless' area here is quite large.
Terran need to be vigilant and scout this spot every single time prior to moving their m&m forces out.
While Gold Rush is perfect for harass style play, Crossing fields is not. The back natural is hidden in a corner. If you think of any target as having a 360 degree attack angle, then any corner immediately makes 3/4 of the attack paths impossible (edge of map). Then to compound matters, 1/2 of the remaining is through the main base, leaving a very narrow potential attack route. A few turrets/canons/dragons/hydra and that avenue of harass becomes impossible.
The forward expansion is even less likely. There is no area to hide in, and any drop would be landing right on top of the enemies main rally point. You can't even use it as a sneaky entrance into the main, as the ramp is right next to the edge of the map, hence the likelihood of flying over enemy troops makes it too risky.
Harass is never impossible!
However, the apparent strength of anti-drop potential, will potentially make harass viable. Players will become complacent, and will build 1-2 defensive towers - at most - and assume they are safe.
The following shows 3 avenues of attack. The circles are likely defensive structure locations.
A) Is a straight run in. This is unlikely as I would expect most players will build 1 defensive building (at the lower circle location), or leave a unit or two to stop this.
B) This is the most likely path into the rear expansion while trying to circumvent the most likely defenses. The problem this leaves, is the exit is out the same way, which is exactly where any supporting troops would now be marching.
C) Since the most likely path option (b) is so close to the main mineral line, this is where my preferred option would be.
An attack run through the back part of the main, dropping and trying to hit the main minerals, before making a choice. Retreat the way i came and live, or go for gold and fly along the map edge of the map and into the corner. No defenses would be along here. However, this makes the escape route harder, as reinforcements would be running over your exit route. So any harassing player would need to get in, take a pot shot or two at the mineral line, and then take out the defensive turrets in order to create an escape path. A tough ask.
Additional Harass Potential
I can definitely see Terran utilizing drops on this map. Protoss (might) have a single canon there but is more likely not to. Clunky Protoss units would also need to run up two ramps, and around their own buildings to try and help out, leaving plenty of time for sneaky vultures to cause havoc. So dropping vultures in the main on the high ground, laying mines and then running down into the rear expansion could prove devastating. The same can be said for Zerg. however, they can generally respond faster and easier, and overlords positioned over the sea, and cliff areas will be key for drop mitigation.
Considering the map locations, perhaps a proxy starport or robo at the expansion just across the ocean near the rear expansion would be viable. Players need to scout that spot every single game. Perhaps add a pylon or supply depo for additional visibility.
DT drops into the main, which can walk to the expansions can also work mid/late game.
Muta play may be effective while macroing/expanding behind attacking the natural rear expansion. The Zergs will have enough gas to muta and have a a lurker or two protecting new bases to prevent zealot run bys.
Late game. Doom drop play into the main will become nicely viable. The armies will be out defending the further afield 4th, leaving the main undefended. If the rear expansion is still mining, the attacking drop could then run down and do some damage there as well.
This becomes particularly strong if in ZvX matchup. Particularly if Zerg have managed to take the 5th near their enemies rear natural. As if the control the region, their enemy will have limited vision, and the drop distance is very short. Crack lings may be weak in health but are devilish creatures when it comes to turning bases into rubble.
Early Game Potential
Beyond cheese rushes these will be quite linear in a sense. You have 3 options;
- Expand forwards.
- Expand back.
- Rush and expand.
The problem really is the main is a high ground base, with a super useful, super easy back expansion. So any rush can generally be mitigated, and the defensive player ends up ahead.
The best cheese style I can think of is a proxy-rax near the front, then a proxy starport near the rear expansion to drop some vultures.
Else the JulyZerg lurker waddle.
Mid Game Potential
The Mid game is where most of the action is going to occur. Both players have powered up nicely on 3 bases and will be trying to deny the 4th as much as possible. Whoever does this the best will simply win.
Players do need to be wary. This is a map where you do not want to over-saturate your smaller mineral lines. The rear will mine out quite fast and you don't want to stagnate too soon. Being forced to overextend with a new base too far away before you are ready. This is one benefit for Zerg, they are unlikely to ever mine out their 3 primaries. While the others will start hitting the wall much earlier.
I think it will be a real mistake for players (think PvZ) to head straight towards the 3rd expansion of the zerg when attacking. They should always go via the 4th near your rear expansion. Else always have a zealot or dt at either of the 4th/5th expansion options. This is a map/game of starvation. And you have to avoid the normal 'go for the kill' mentality and focus on future resource elimination. While doing that, just over turtle on your defenses.
Late Game Potential
Late game both players will suffer. It will simply be hard to maintain any 5th base. And players will likely keep losing their own 4th/5th. This is where Terran should prove stronger. When you have an (obviously overpowered) tank that shoots a screen away, it makes defensive play much easier. At this point i would move into turtle mode.
In TvZ, most Terrans do a mech switch and just flat their rax for scouting. On this map, I wouldn't. Instead I would use them to build a wall near my new expansion. If they can control that 4th they will win.
If anyone ever lets Terran take out the third expansion, they are in for a world of hurt, Terran will simply walk around the edge of the map, over to the corner and along the narrow path, before siege up taking out the forward natural as well.
ZvP. I can see Zergs constantly taking the 4th/5th at the same time, and every now and then losing one or the other. It will be hard for them to get enough minerals for the ultimate army. They just have nowhere to expand except towards danger. PvT will have the same fate. The macro race in whichever match up it is, (ZvP, PvT, ZvT) will always struggle on two player maps.
- Much more standard macro style gameplay for early to mid game. I think mid to late, the macro races will suffer and fade as they are forced to expand towards their enemy and struggle to maintain their expansions. Except for Terran. Their defensive offense, will allow them to crawl forward obtaining expansions. But their mains will be extremely exposed to warp ins and drop play. ZvT will all be about obtaining and _holding_ the 4th and 5th. It will be interesting to see if Terrans choose to take the exposed back expansion, which can be easily blocked off with buildings and a tank or so, or take the more natural forward expansion as a 4th.
- I think TvP early mid game will be quite boring on this map. Terran might rush into macro, but nothing more. Protoss won't be able to do much but macro. If Protoss are too greedy, a hidden starport vulture drop in the back could prove devastating.
- PvZ. I think Protoss will play straight up. Gate first, expand behind and then power. I think Zerg will have a hard time taking and keeping their 4th/5th. Roaming speed zeal groups can be fearsome.
- TvZ an abundance of lurkers will make it difficult for T. I suspect we'll see more SV and tanks than normal in this matchup. If Terran can live past the early to mid game, they will win by pure attrition and starvation. Zerg won't be able to expand anywhere.
- ZvT. If I was Zerg, i would be planning a 4 base build, that doom drops the Terrans main. This would be particularly beneficial a minute or so after the mech switch. The main is quite open and would be hard to defend it all. A few lurkers near the ramp will slow the army, and you can attack two bases for free. If they pay particular attention to attacking the armories at this point, then do a muta switch while Terran cleans up the leftover units, Terran will be unlikely to have enough anti air to stop it. But once again, T do have SVs... and lots of gas!
You don’t want to be the player caught crossing your opponent's field at the wrong time.
An abrupt reveal, progamers are hastily preparing on the new map with matches less than a week away. An ominous skull adorns the middle, a premonition of the pitfalls of greed perhaps? The ambitious three player map, Gold Rush, purposely breaks away from modern map design, promoting creative and wild games. Its design is reminiscent of the maps Troy and Outsider to push the envelope of what is strategically possible.
The foremost unique feature of the map is the several assimilator pairs placed decisively around the entrances of expansions. With two assimilators, all units can pass. With one destroyed, only small units can pass. With both destroyed, no units can pass with the exception of the smallest unit, the ghost. Accompanying the assimilators are two neutral zerg eggs that both need to be destroyed before allowing entrance of ground units.
The assimilators dramatically open up new avenues of strategy. Players can abuse the defensive capabilities of the assimilator surrounded bases. By walling in their natural choke, players can isolate themselves with access only to the outer bases. Greedy fast expansions, heavy use of drops, utilizing air units, and a whole plethora of strategies can be employed.
Attacking on the map will be far easier than defending. The large area of the mains and expansions are welcome invitations for harass by drop play. There is also a staging ground in the form of the bases accessible by only a small choke. Attacks from them can go to either the main or an assimilator base. In addition, the high ground connected by a ramp from the natural is another location to worry about. Gold Rush is too vast a treasure trove of opportunity for players not to seize. The player who strikes first may strike gold.
The assimilator bases are excellent for scouting, having workers enter the natural or main through the passing of the mineral patches. They're also potential proxy sites, hiding tech and spawning units under the nose of the enemy.
The bases towards the middle are precariously close to the front lines of battle, won only through map control. Races that struggle with map control and benefit more from being farther away will stay mostly dependent on the mains, naturals, and assimilator bases. The wide open middle lends itself to various maneuvers and tactical plays for surrounds and sneaking units around.
The most transformative to the battlefield however is the looming danger present right in the heart of every natural and main. Each natural is connected through the assimilator bases to the mains of other spawning locations, an uncomfortably close affair. Decisive attacks can hit at a moment's notice through the covert guise of the hidden outskirts. What is usually a game of colossal clashes can quickly devolve into a battle of rats, skirmishing on the cramped narrow paths.
For the players, adopting a wildly different style to Gold Rush's strengths is of necessity, not choice. The ones with cunning, finesse, and a technical mind will succeed as the full repertoire of the contestants will be pushed to their limits. The ones who excel mainly in the brute force of macro oriented games may struggle.
Preparation for the map will be different and slightly more laborious than for others. Players will ideally practice versus not only the best, but with several different practice partners. That way players can anticipate and understand how to play versus different strategies. Unfortunately, the map has an overwhelming number of possible strategies and even less time for players to prepare. Therefore, players can't only account for strategies used against them in practice. They must also have the intuition to predict possible strategies and their counters far ahead of time.
Terran is disadvantaged due to the lesser accessible assimilator bases. A single recall can destroy both assimilators, denying rescue from Terran forces. Also, the bases are not within siege mode just outside of the assimilators. That allows Protoss to safely take the bases with little fear of losing them outside of Terran's own dropship play.
Defense against recalls is difficult with the large area of the assimilator bases to cover. The travel distance between Terran's natural and third is too long for Terran to defend a recall in timely fashion. Terran can only reliably secure the secluded bases for the early, mid, and early late game, limited by possible shuttle play.
The next immediate base is a mineral only, with only six mineral patches to the seven of the assimilator bases. However, the center expansions surrounded on three sides with eight mineral patches is a boon to Terran. The small choke needs only a single barracks to wall off. A few well placed siege tanks and repair can make even the most remotest of bases secure. Unfortunately, given the long travel distance from the natural and being surrounded by high ground makes arbiter recalls a prevalent problem.
The isolated assimilator bases are optimal proxy locations for reaver drops. Terran can scout with an SCV, but being impassable by ground units, the buildings can be built incredibly close.
That is not to say Terran has few options, as dropship play is highly encouraged for the same reasons arbiters are. The large perimeter of the mains, secluded nature of the assimilator bases, and the high ground overlooking the naturals are optimal for dropships.
Additionally, some features of the map actively work against Protoss. The mineral only and small choke base are vulnerable to Terran pushes. Protoss cannot easily exceed three bases without going to another main base. That requires a dangerously forward position in map control or a long, cramped travel route via the assimilator bases. The route is made riskier by destroyed assimilators. Terran benefits from the close distances and Protoss expanding towards them, so late games are not entirely skewed in favor of Protoss.
Zerg is slightly favored due to the safe and fast third base, having only one choke to worry about at the natural. Zerg has the flexibility in the type of play, going for a standard expansion at the other main natural, or going for an unstandard close assimilator third. Protoss similarly can take an assimilator base as their second base, forgoing early defense.
In the midgame the acquisition of a third base couldn't be simpler for Protoss, having an easily isolated third base. By then Protoss can easily kill the assimilators, only worrying about the possibility of drops. However, depending on if Protoss spawns counterclockwise or clockwise to Zerg, the farthest assimilator expansion might be farther or closer to the Zerg's base.
Strategy wise, either race can opt to focus on expanding on assimilator bases by relying on air superiority. Protoss can use sair/reaver as the ultimate dynamic attack and defense composition. Zerg in parallel can go for fast air carapace with mutalisks and scourge. Drops from both can used on the favorable terrain from the previously mentioned staging ground.
Alternatively, if Protoss decides to play more standard, the bases closer to the center can be obtained to compliment an aggressive style of expanding where Protoss is attacking. The close mineral third is in close proximity to the natural and the base with one small choke is highly defensible.
Early game wise Zerg can slowly eradicate the neutral Zerg eggs in the way to launch midgame attacks. Targests include the Protoss main, natural, or third. Protoss units would be too busy to kill the assimilators off before Zerg attacks. Entire games can revolve around Zerg pressuring the points of entry by dropping.
Zerg on the other hand can play with a safe turtle, air heavy style. They need only get the two close assimilator bases while only needing to defend the natural choke. Zerg could otherwise play standard, getting the far natural of another main as the third to gain easy access to a fourth, and a fifth assimilator base.
The matchup on this map feels a lot more changed than others. Usual trends of ZvT revolve around the Terran abusing Zerg's attempts at getting a third gas which are completely mitigated by the assimilator base. The usual bio midgame will no longer be characterized by +1 4/5 pressure into a mech switch, but by mid and late game SK Terran.
Terran can wall off at the natural in all three locations. A forward 8 rax can be placed near the mineral only where it's close to the Terran natural and the Zerg's natural. After the attack, the barracks can be floated to the natural to complete a wall off. Due to the three player map, there will be no disadvantaged possibility of spawning cross positions.
At the chokes of assimilator bases, factories can be proxied and floated over.
Fake mech plays where Terran transitions from mech openers into bio can be used to great effect with vulture drop openers.
Excessively greedy plays that skip the usual volatile mutaling versus bio ball midgame can be used. Several greedy playstyles can be used. Crazy Zerg, opting for drop play with fast Lurkers, and extremely fast defilers plays are possible.
Zerg can also play standard, taking advantage of a readily fast fourth. Unfortunately, the predictability of the third base Zerg is going to take, and the closer travel distance that isn't apparent on four player maps will make the task much harder.
Mutalisk harass is mostly ineffective for the same reasons drops are effective. There's large amounts of even ground that Mutalisks can't abuse. Terran will know where the Mutalisks are coming and there's no high ground ridge overlooking the natural. A few missile turrets can be placed at the top of the natural ramp to mitigate harass.
The outlying paths between mains and naturals can prove deadly for Terran if Zerg goes for a dark swarm push. Terran is further disadvantaged by being unable to easily get assimilator bases adjacent to either the natural or main of Zerg due to the danger of dark swarms.
The high ground the mineral only has its back to are vulnerable points of Zerg for Terran to ferry units. Furthermore, the high ground near the naturals are points of attack where Terran can pose a slight threat to gas.
As the game continues, Zerg can take the base with one small choke, optimal for placing Lurkers to deter marine forces. The base is also small, reducing the area needed to defend versus drops. Adversely for the Terran, bases near the center due to the close proximity towards the Zerg are susceptible to dark swarm.
Overall, similar to on Outsider, Terran must take the initiative in aggression, constantly dropping on Zerg and expanding themselves.
In collaboration with Crossing Field, the diversity of map style is a good test of the players' ability. Gold Rush right out the door encourages fast paced, early aggression as the harass heavy map in heavy contrast to Crossing Field's macro oriented style. While players need to play to the map's strengths and stretch their creativity, they also need to back their ideas with solid execution. That is the synthesis only the best can accomplish. Race imbalance is not largely prevalent as all races have unit compositions and strategies that compliment the map. Moreover, map features benefit the races at various stages of play. Victory and defeat for players teeters on being as daringly creative as the map they're playing on, embracing its spirit. Exciting games await us all.