Starcraft 2 Metagame

So if you haven’t watched GSL Season 2 Finals, they are being spoiled.

NesTea beat out Fake Boxer 4-3 in a best of seven series. NesTea also beat SlayerSBoxer in the semi-finals 4-0. All of these games were Zerg vs Terran and the vast majority of them were mostly over by the 10 minute mark.

When you watch BroodWar games, you’ll notice that almost every game is macro oriented. You almost always see fast expansion builds, outside of the occasional cheese attempts. This is partially due to the highly evolved metagame where rush/all-in builds typically are ineffective unless completely unscouted.

However, watching these 11 ZvT games was quite disappointing. The majority involved Terran attempting some sort of 2 barracks or proxy barrack strategy that if successful, won the game straight out. If not successful, they would attempt to regroup but would be behind for the remainder of the game. That makes for very boring matches overall. SlayerSBoxer attempted some sort of early game cheese all 4 games and fail all 4 times. Fake Boxer had at least 4 2-rax marine pressure builds, although he succeeded twice.

Why is this the case?

1) NesTea is so good that Fake Boxer and SlayerSBoxer did not think they could win without using cheese. That’s the reason I felt Jaedong 4-pooled Flash two times in a row in the Korean Air OSL finals. Jaedong was getting stomped by Flash in normal play, so he was forced into doing crazy things like 4-pools. I don’t see this being the case as NesTea made some pretty big errors (game 1 and game 2 especially). In fact, Fake Boxer was up 2-0 but still tried to do the same sort of things.
2) There is something wrong with the metagame.

Take a look at BroodWar TvZ. Terran will do a 1 rax into CC (or 14 CC if it’s Flash). He can then either transition into SK Terran (marine, medic, science vessel) or mech (tank, vulture and goliaths for any anti air). Zerg on the other hand will normally 12-hatch (or maybe 3 hatch before pool) and then go mutas, transitioning into ling/lurker/defiler.

If Terran chooses SK Terran, Zerg is forced to harass Terran in order to stop the initial Terran push. The marine/medic ball is too powerful against anything Zerg can throw directly at it (at least until Defiler’s with Dark Swarm). Therefore, Zergs use Muta’s mobility to maintain map control, snipe marines, snipe SCVs, etc. Zerg is trying to stall Terran long enough to get 3rd base and Defiler Tech. Terran is trying to push and stop this. It’s a back and forth fight that is exciting to watch and can go either way the entire time.

If Terran chooses mech, Zerg still tries to harass with Mutas to keep Terran’s army count and economy down. If the Terran army gets too big, it is unstoppable, so Zerg is forced to prevent this. Zerg will do a lot of quick harass attempts with mutas or mass expand because the Terran’s immobile army can’t move out. It’s slightly more boring due to the turtling nature of Terran, but at no point do you know who definitively has the lead until the first major battle. It’s exciting to watch when the Terran finally unsieges and pushes out.

What is the major difference here? In BroodWar there is a lot of action the entire game and despite all this action, the game remains very close. In SC2, there is always early aggression which basically decides the game. If the Terran is able to inflict damage on the Zerg, then they win. If the Zerg survives the initial push, Terran is screwed. I almost feel like Terran are forced into early aggression to force Zerg into making units. Otherwise, Zerg can just drone up and out macro.

The units are a big part of this I think.

Zerglings with speed and creep are too fast. Terrans can’t compete with this and are forced to have 1 big ball of units that moves out at once. Otherwise, you are guaranteed to get surrounded and killed. In BroodWar, due to cheap medics and firebats, this wasn’t a real problem. Mass Zerglings just get raped by a marine/medic ball, especially with firebat support. In SC2, you can just mass Zerglings and rape everything early on.

Banelings – Is a huge tide changer too early in the game. Good banelings can just outright win a game early on. It also means that Terran’s have trouble walling off and making a big army, which ends games quickly.

Mutas – Give so much map control to Zerg that Terrans have to try and finish the game before they pop. In BW, after the initial set of mutas that harass, they are never made again. Why? Because Terran has Science Vessels with irradiate or goliaths. Both of these HARD counter mutas. Therefore Zerg just builds lings/lurkers/defilers because they are more cost effective. In SC2, Thors were “supposed” to counter Mutas but with magic boxing you need marines with stim to support them, meaning you also need medivacs. Plus Thors are so slow compared to Goliaths that Terran is once again forced to have 1 big ball of units that moves out together, or else they are screwed. Having Mutas forces Terran to tech Thors, Marines, Medivacs, Stim, Combat shields, and weapons/armor for both mech and bio. Back in BW you either tech bio exclusively, or mech exclusively.

Really, I’m not complaining about Zerg being imbalanced (actually, maybe I am). I just really dislike the way the units were made such that they encourage types of play that are boring to watch. I think Terran has some cheesy and annoying things early on that can win them games. But if it goes on too long Zerg just gets too strong. Therefore, Terran is Forced to be super aggressive early and win before 10 minutes. Otherwise they are just lost. Look at BW. You have crazy late game imbalanced spells like Psi Storm, stasis, recall, Dark Swarm, PLAGUUUUU, irriadiate, EMP, and just mass tanks. All of these spells are stupidly powerful. But they balance out because everyone has stupidly powerful spells. Terran late game spells consist of nothing (Hunter Seeker is pretty mediocre). Yet they have to contend with 1 baneling, 1 psi storm, or a few colossus wiping your entire bio army in 2 seconds.

Overall, none of these games in the semi finals or finals were really entertaining. These were about as exciting as the Flash vs Jaedong finals where Flash just stomped on Jaedong 3-0. But the reason those games weren’t fun were because Flash is just a beast and outplayed Jaedong. The GSL grand finals went 4-3, as close as it comes, but was still boring. The seventh game of the grand finals was Fake Boxer 2 rax marine pushing with his SCVs and failing.

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