What it All Means: Learning from Pro PlayThu 5th Jul 2012 - 7:03pm Category: Starcraft II
We all want to follow pro Starcraft players by example. It can be a great way to improve- taking ideas from the best could enrich your play. But it could also confuse and frustrate you. Taking the right approach is vital here, and that's critical thinking.
You remember critical thinking from school, right? It's that thing your teachers said they would teach you at the beginning of every year, and then never mentioned again, in any way. Well, you're going to have to use some of it here. Critical thinking is how Stephano went pro from a measly 4 hours a day laddering with no team. Does that sound good to you?
A lot of people spend their days miming pro builds they saw their favorite player do, without understanding the reasoning behind the build, or even if it's a good build. What was good one summer day May 2011 against a delayed Speedling Expand on close positions Metalopolis, may not be good for you. In fact, when you see one pro player pull off some amazing play that punishes the other pro player right in his weak areas, you're probably looking at some kind of niche response build, one that should almost never be done. Don't fall into this trap. Those who do fall for it tend to be some of the most frustrated, angry, and complaining players on the ladder. You know. The Starcraft racists.
But you are not one of them, fine gentleman or gentlelady of the nerd sport. No, you are going to be a Starcraft scientist, by following some simple procedures:
1: Investigate. Pick a good build with a style you like. 1 Rax speed Reaper Hellion Medivac Expand is not where it's at. Use your judgment to save yourself time later.
2: Discuss. This is another time-saving measure. Ask some friends what they think of the build. They might tell you right there that it gets crushed easily somehow, or they might say it's great. Though, if that's the case, you still need to test it for your skill level.
3: Replicate. Make sure you can do it. For real. You need to be within a few seconds of perfection.
4: Analyze. Plot a graph. What? Yeah I said it. You're a scientist now, you plot graphs. Find out how many units you have during the entire early game. Go through the replay, and every 30 seconds, you will record the number of units you have. Next to that, you will do the same thing for a replay of someone, a potential adversary, playing standard. Be sure to offset his production by 30 seconds, to account for walking across the map.
5: Break. Find your weaknesses. Look for the very weakest part of the build order, when there's the biggest potential army size gap in your enemy's favor. Count the exact units, and get a friend. Hit the unit tester, and see if you can hold him off consistently, atop a ramp. He should be at or slightly above your skill level. If you can't hold him off 80% of the time, that build sucks. If you can... do the same test, except now compare your build to an all-in. If you can't hold that 60% of the time, that build sucks.
If you can't think of any way to modify it, drop it. If it's a fast expand build, you're allowed to fight with workers, but not if you have to throw a lot of them away. If you're facing a worker-pulling all in, then go ahead and lose a few more workers of your own. But adhere strictly to those rules.
6: Test. Find your strengths! After this attack happens, what would be your options? Is it possible for you to kill him? Are you even ahead? Can your tech do the job? Find this out and then go practice, and you'll be able to understand your wins and losses. See how far it can get you on the ladder.
7: Investigate again. Persist! You can only gain from this type of analytic research. At worst you will come out with a respect for professional mechanics and decision making, some better micro skills, and a deeper understanding of the game. Who could complain? And you'll sooner or later come out with a sweet personal play style!
And the reason we should go through all that trouble for a personal playstyle, is that it's the most fun way to play the game!
Professional play is rich with insight, but only if you know how to draw from that knowledge. Starcraft is hard, but it's never arbitrary, which means it's well suited to analysis and critical thought. If you think, study, and really care, you will get promoted.