When I made my first blog post here (which also happened to be my first blog on any site ever), I thought I would do a series of entries, each about a different game franchise or a feature common separate games. That was almost a year ago, and obviously I never got that far. Instead, since I've been getting more and more into StarCraft II lately, I think I'll dedicate an entry to that. Before I go on, I would just like to note that I'm not a good player by any stretch of the imagination, and neither do I play that much, but everybody has to start somewhere, right?
First of all, I would like to introduce you all to my second cousin T0ng. Unlike me, he has never played the original StarCraft, but then my experience in that game is limited to casual Versus AI games, and T0ng has the benefit of having played a greater variety of other RTS games. Whereas I've played Protoss right from my days in the original, he jumped straight into Terran, and it wasn't long before he was comfortable with them, and I've found that we complement each other pretty well.
After T0ng and I practiced the hell out of Versus AI games in SC2, I decided to dedicate the measly remainder of my Practice League matches to testing our teamwork against other novice players before finally mustering the courage and breaking the barrier into the competitive scene. Just the other night, we had our five placement matches, and here's the gist of what happened.
This match, where we played a team of Protoss players on a lava map whose name escapes me at the moment, was quite an eye-opener for the two of us. Now, I have to confess... Before playing our placement matches, we agreed that we would lose all of them and get placed in Bronze League so that we can work our way up from the bottom. We would play a relaxed, defensive game and wait for the enemy to inevitably come and crush us – that was the plan. However, things did not turn out that way.
In the beginning, we had a few laughs when I chased the enemy's scout probe around with one of mine, but when I survived an early attack by an outnumbering force of Zealots by making surprisingly good use of my ramp, I started to become emotionally invested in the game. I was still working on getting my fourth Warp Gate up when the enemy pushed again, this time with a forward Pylon. T0ng and I fought back desperately and managed to destroy the Pylon, driving the enemy away. Now, my instincts told me to pursue, as we had a sizable combined army, but T0ng reminded me that we meant to ultimately lose the match, so we held back.
I was getting quite nervous at this point. Because there were no Xel'Naga towers near the centre of the map, I sent a probe to patrol the area, just to keep a lookout. When I saw the enemy expanding there, I told T0ng that we absolutely had to stop them from taking the middle, and we sent our forces in to engage them, completely abandoning our game plan. It was a massive battle, the likes of which I had only had in Versus AI games prior. The whole screen was full of Zealouts, Sentries, Stalkers, Marines, Marauders and Medivacs. When the dust cleared, the enemy was retreating with a couple of crippled Stalkers. Without another thought, we sent the remainder of our forces into the heart of their base, and before I could even establish a forward Pylon to speed up reinforcements, both of our enemies had surrendered. That was when my cousin and I burst into nervous laughter, both because we had exceeded our own expectations, and at our own stupidity of going all-out in a game we had meant to lose.
Matches 2 through 4
Worried that we might get placed into a league too strong for us if we kept this up, T0ng and I agreed to play a lot more risky in the four remaining games so that we don't end up winning by accident again. Of course, we knew there were opponents out there that could kick our asses even if we tried to win, but we didn't want to get fluked into Gold or Diamond something. Matches 2 and 3 I hardly remember because they were pretty straightforward. We went for early expansions, dove into battles we knew we couldn't win, that sort of thing.
Something amusing happened in the fourth match, though. I again messed up half-on-purpose by grabbing an early expansion and teching for Dark Templar, while T0ng seemed to go for his usual Marines and Marauder opener. We were playing a Terran and a Zerg that game, I remember. They broke through our defences and wiped our my expansion, though we still had some fight left in us. That's when one of the opponents typed, "GG". This kind of rubbed me the wrong way, the way they assumed the game was as good as over. They were probably right, but I still felt we could make a recovery. So I warped in my three Dark Templar and cut down about half the Roaches in my base before he noticed they were dying and burrowed. Up went a Photon Cannon, and the Roaches ran away crying.
We managed to survive quite a while this way, and with T0ng's backup we took down another Terran army, Siege Tanks and all, Scanner Sweep notwithstanding. I actually jokingly typed "GG" back at them, which probably seemed a lot funnier at the time because of my nerves. But when I found myself investing all of my resources in Dark Templar, I knew I was only fooling around. I had some fun playing hide and seek with the enemy's Infestors, but soon all I could do was slip through a couple of templar and kill the workers at one of his expansions as their overwhelming forces decimated my and T0ng's bases. We didn't feel too bad, though. We had intended to lose, after all.
Our final placement match was another curveball. We played a team of Protoss and Terran, but this Terran had some mean Banshee harassment tactics in store for us. We survived the first attack or two quite well, and thanks to my incorporation of Immortals into my army, we were able to take the middle of the map from them. This was, however, when the Banshees started raining bombs on our workers.
Having three Warp Gates at my disposal, and quickly building a fourth, I was fortunate enough to warp a detachment of Stalkers straight into the trouble zone and do some damage control. My expansion was close to my main base as well, which made it easier to chase off those pesky bombers. T0ng, however, was not as fortunate. He had lost all of his workers in the bombing run, and for some strange reason he had opted for a golden mineral deposit further away instead of a safer, closer expansion site. This expo was promptly discovered by the Protoss player's observer and demolished by his Stalker-heavy army. T0ng surrendered, and I felt the urge to follow suite. I had an army of eight Immortals with a reasonable accompaniment of Stalkers, Sentries and Zealots – the group that couldn't get to his expanion in time. I wanted to at least sick 'em on the enemy before quitting.
Well, I sent them to engage the Protoss opposition, and guess what? I completely wiped them out! In my panic, it had slipped my mind that Immortals make minced meat of Stalkers due to their damage bonus against armoured targets. Not only that, but their heavy shields also gave them protection against the Banshee's bombs. To my surprise, I was able to grab a third expansion and send them just enough reinforcements to demolish both opponents' bases. After a short game of cat-and-mouse, the enemy surrendered with a polite "GG", and I was greeted in the lobby by a raging T0ng, who was still convinced we had lost. I'll never forget the sound of his voice when I told him that we had actually won.
So in the end, T0ng and I were placed in Silver League. We haven't been able to get together and play since our placement yet, but I look forward to the new challenges that lie ahead of us. I have no idea what kind of opposition to expect in Silver, but even if we're "out of our league" here, I'm sure it's only a matter of time until the game moves us back to where we belong. For now, though, that's Division Tarsonis Foxtrot!