The game is Starcraft II played in a series of 1v1 matches, with the winner being the first to four victories. The map is Metalopolis, which features four starting positions behind narrow ramps, and two gold mineral expansions in the center. The races are randomly determined, just like real life generals. The players are Tom Chick, ranked 5th in his division in the silver league, and Kelly Wand, who has one of those dragon icons in Warcraft III but hasn’t even played the stupid campaign in Starcraft II.
The score so far: Tom: 3, Kelly: 1
Game five, after the jump
Tom: Since this will probably be our last match — we’re playing to first of four wins — my only goal this game is not to be the Terrans. When the match loads and I’m greeted with a lovely glistening spiked hatchery, I consider this game a moral victory no matter how else it turns out.
Kelly: Since this will probably be our last match, my only goal is not to let Tom enjoy playing his favorite and best race even once. And I’m stymied even in this. Zerg on zerg. Another civil war. What a wretched way to end the series. Uh, I mean, yay! Spawning pool!
Tom: I don’t know a lot of Starcraft II, but what I do know, I know reasonably well. One of the things I know reasonably well is making a beeline to mutalisks. Kelly knows this about me, as he’s seen me in action during plenty of 2v2 games, where he cranks out ground forces while I tech to mutalisks. He’s like the Soviet Union in World War II, desperately throwing manpower into the war to buy time, and I’m the US, hanging back until we get a good air force going, at which point we sweep in, win, and look all heroic. Since this is exactly what Kelly expects I will do with the Zerg, I will do no such thing. Instead, since I’m leading the tournament and probably on my way to concluding it, I’m going to win this game by doing something different and unusual. I’m going to win with zombies.
Kelly: Tom’s single overlord rush doesn’t impress me anymore. Fine, I’ll just make anti-air to kill it. Zerg anti-air only takes about ten minutes to assemble so I have time for a booster hit as well. Seems like a waste to have this many minerals and no gas, though. One token futile zergling rush for auld lang syne. I heroically attack with 18 zerglings. They all die. I blink lethargically at my monitor. What was I doing again? Oh, yeah. Air. Anti-air. One of those. Thank god this debacle’s almost over for good. Tom whines over Skype that he’s missing a couple drones from my debauched debauchery.
Tom: Now that my pair of spine crawlers have spiked Kelly’s zerglings to death, it’s time to expand. I build a second hatchery and move the spine-crawlers to defend it too soon, only to realize that, oops, there’s no creep here yet to plant them. Man, that was embarrassing. That’s why we don’t post replays. People would see that stuff.
Kelly: Hesitantly I send out a hydralisk raiding party to fuck with Tom. He’s got giant centipedes that start vomiting zombies at me so I retreat, something playing against Tom has begun making feel like second nature. I also start a second expansion two clicks north that to my surprise Tom doesn’t seem to spot. Haha, zerg can’t scan. Racists.
Tom: I’m primed and ready to go with a couple of infestors, some hydralisks, and a modest smattering of zerglings. When Kelly attacks with a bunch of hydraliks, I cleverly spit out a whole mess of infested Terrans. But Kelly runs away, which screws up my plans, since the infested Terrans have a really short lifespan. If he doesn’t stay and fight like a man, the infested Terrans will be completely wasted. I give chase, and stupidly include the infestors themselves in the “give chase” order. Infestors don’t really fare well when they charge at a wall of hydralisks.
Kelly: Infestors don’t fight too good without their zombie farts. Good to know.
Tom: I’ve got a good bit of creep going around my base, and I’m extending it up towards Kelly’s base. Creep helps all Zerg units move faster, but my creep gives me line of sight, so I can see Kelly approaching. Except in this case, he’s just dancing around with a mess of hydralisks, engaging in unsavory and — frankly — unmanly hit-and-run tactics. Why won’t he stand and fight a bunch of infested Terrans? Is he afraid of them?
Kelly: Don’t these zombies eventually die of starvation like the ones we beat in 28 Weeks Later and World War 2? Maybe I can just wait them out. I know the centipedes do something like mind control too, more reason to hang back. I know Tom likes mutalisks from that one night in his uncle’s pickup so I start to crank out a few of those. I’m sure Tom’ll have twice as many in half the time but it’s still good practice for my nightmares later.
Tom: I’m getting frustrated because he’s making me waste my infestor juice. So I’m bound and determined to hunt down this cowardly squad of guerrilla hydralisks. That doesn’t go so well for me, becuase it’s hard to hunt something that runs away from you faster than you hunt it. But what will go well for me is an ultralisk. I’m making one. This will be exciting. I almost never get to use these guys. Here’s how it will look going up the ramp to destroy Kelly’s base and win me the game:
Kelly: One reason I’ve sucked so hard thus far is probably having played too much Warcraft III, which has hero units with town portal scrolls so I’m overused to a dynamic where I’m only a hotkey away from being able to return to defend my base or zip out of battles where I’m overmatched. Army position is way more critical in Starcraft. And Tom’s cocky ravenous horde seems to be content chasing my battered hydras north, leaving his unprotected base tantalizingly near my massing mutas. He probably has some defenses there waiting for me, but let’s find out. Worst case scenario, I get some valuable intel. I fly my mutas over while Tom’s main force keeps chasing my decoy hydras further and further away…Turns out Tom did sandbag some units at his base: a bunch of overlords. I kill a few and try to wreak havoc around his gas extractor lines. I learn after a few dead mutalisks that queens can hit air. Just like in r.l.
Tom: So all that dancing around with his stupid hyrdralisks was to distract me while he flew in some mutalisks to kill my drones? Well, it worked. I have to walk, or wriggle, or slither, or whatever hydralisks do, all the way back to my base to chase them off. By the time that happens, he’s killed half of my drones and a few overlords. Luckily, my macro has been terrible, so I’ve got a lot of money saved up with which to build spore crawlers in case he tries those shenanigans again. And in retaliation, I will now march my entire army and its pair of ultralisks into his base and give him the what for.
Kelly: Understandably nettled at my muta hit-and-run chicanery, Tom sweeps into my base.
Tom: I have an ultralisk, a handful of hyrdalisks, and infestors tossing out infested Terrans as if they were confetti at a parade!
Tom: All is going well, so I briefly look away to go check my bases, and when I come back, Kelly has managed to kill everything. His base got decimated in the process, but I expected that I would do that and still have an army. Nope. I can’t tell who’s winning at this point, but I’m pretty sure it’s not me.
Kelly: Most of my buildings are gone, but a bit remarkably he didn’t finish off my lair. I also have two expansions percolating merrily up north but nothing in the way of units, structures, or will to live. Resignedly I scramble to rebuild before he comes back and finishes me off. I don’t really understand infestors but since my infestation pit is my only structure still standing, I start spawning a couple of those. Tom likes them so they must do something awesome besides make those ephemeral zombies.
Tom: My suspicion that I’m not winning is confirmed when Kelly shows up with some mutalisks and I have nothing that can kill them. He’s killing queens faster than I can make them, I have no vespene gas, and I need time to get my larvas converted back into an economy and an army. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for some zerglings hiding in the cover of the spore cannons I’d built earlier?
Kelly: Upon re-learning that queens can hit air after losing only four mutalisks, my bedraggled miniscule ground force shows up at Tom’s expansion to see what’s up. My pair of lovable infestors start daintily spitting out one infested Terran at a time until Tom helpfully explains that shift-T enables them to do this en masse. These stand around in the goo and start shooting stuff. Tom sends out a few waves of zerglings, which my upgraded and slowly gathering hydras alternately scamper from and decimate. Wait, zerglings? Does that mean that unlike r.l., Tom’s finally out of gas? And I have two expansions up and running? How did that happen? To Tom’s credit, I’m pretty baked.
Tom: I’ve lost but out of spite I opt to keep fighting, so the game goes on for another ten minutes. Also, although I lost this militarily speaking, it’s worth noting that I have a grand creep highway going almost all the way to Kelly’s base. If the winner was determined by who did the most for the Zerg infrastructure, it would be me. Dig it:
Kelly: Though I have Tom bottled up right where he had me bottled up in game 3, he nobly extends the game for about ten minutes out of love for all mankind but nothing further of consequence transpires except a bunch of dying guys on his end. Haha, now he has to write more. Shit, now I have to write more.
Tom: 3, Kelly: 2