Tom vs Kelly: Starcraft II, game one

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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.

Game one, after the jump

Kelly: After Tom and I waste a week deciding that a Starcraft II tourney would be less excruciating than our actual original idea of racing two goblins to 20th level in WoW, Tom thankfully “remembers” that he uninstalled WoW. Though I’m lower ranked and more baked than Tom, I have a couple reasons to feel confident about my chances. I did after all pulverize him a few years back at Warcraft III so badly on a LAN, he muttered some speech about how Blizzard RTS’s suck at matching players of varying skill levels and retreated to a tank game with a control system slightly less elaborate than a plasma wakefield flow-chart programmed in Braille by Stephen Hawking on acid. I also made mincemeat out of him at a man’s game, Culdcept Saga, back before Tom became too racist to appreciate its math-based lore. On the downside, Tom beat my ass at Rise of Nations, Rise of Legends, Majesty, Warlords, Battle for Middle-Earth 2 and pretty much every shooter ever made. I win 3 of the first 4 games that Tom declares were “test runs.” Tom also proposes the perplexing condition that we play while talking to each other over Skype, presumably so he can hear my build order sound fx and distract me with his gibbering. But when it comes to gibberish, there can be only one.

Tom: Bleh. Terrans. I’m a Zerg man. Oh well, I’ll make do. I start at the 12 o’ clock position and send a peon to find Kelly’s base. I figure knowing where he is on the four-player map is worth the economy hit of having one less peon at work.

Kelly: Here comes an SCV. Haha, Tom’s Terrans. Racist.

Tom: So he’s the Protoss right next to me at the 3 o’ clock position. I’ll finish blocking off my ramp and defend it with a few marines. I’ll make a beeline for a pair of starports with reactors to pump out a mass of vikings. These will fly across the small gap between our bases, raid his economy, and win me the game.

Kelly: When you’re playing a 1v1 match in an RTS, psychology is an important ingredient. But we’re talking about Tom here, so I focus on another ingredient: psychology. One time when Tom deigned to 2v2 with me, he used a textbook Reaper rush and so far tonight he hasn’t made a single one. That means he’s sandbagging something. My suspicions are further confirmed when he scans my base at 6:23. That clinches it. Tom’s going to rush me. Through the magic of Skype, even between his casual remarks about Paul Walker’s hair I can already detect the bitter almond taste of his treacherous giggles.

Tom: When you’re playing a 1v1 match in an RTS, psychology is an important ingredient. For instance, I’m used to playing against my casual gamer friends. I’ve somehow managed to convince them that I’m better at RTSs than they are. This means they’re reluctant to attack me, because they think I’ll be ready for them. So I enjoy the luxury of determining when, where, and how the fight begins. It’s much easier to win an RTS when your opponent isn’t aggressive. Unfortunately, I apparently haven’t convinced Kelly Wand that I’m better at RTSs than he is, because he attacks me.

Kelly: Tom is way better at RTSs than I am. Ergo, I better rush his ass before he does the same to me. Keep your enemies close and all that. I send over a slapdash gaggle of zealots, stalkers, and sentries to feel out his defenses or at best throw him off balance. While en route, I mull over a very interesting question: which of the sentry’s two shield abilities is the good one again?

Tom: I’m on the verge of sending over a bunch of vikings when Kelly’s attack arrives. Through skillful use of his sentry’s guardian shield, he easily dispatches my marine defenders, so I have to pull back my vikings to drive him away. I’m a bit worried about where his surviving stalkers have gone, so instead of hitting his base, I scout around a bit to make sure they’re not skulking around. By the time I fly over to attack his base, his stalkers have just gotten home and his defensive photon cannons are just being finished. My timing sucks. But my micro sucks worse. In the ensuing skirmish at his probe line, I lose about a dozen vikings. He loses one (1) photon cannon, one (1) stalker, and not a single (0) probe.

Kelly: Now that I know Tom’s massing vikings, I hastily begin assembling crude anti-air defenses, but Tom considerately waits until my surviving and reinforced stalkers return and my second cannon’s finished before wading into my probes. And, subsequently, my stalkers.

Tom: So it’s going to be stalkers, huh? Yeah, that’s what I would do. Time to get some marauders out. Sheesh, I’ve got 1200 minerals. My macro sucks as bad as my micro and my timing. I hope Kelly’s macro sucks, too. Speaking of macro, I start work on a second command center at my base, which I’ll fly out to grab an expansion. Just to keep Kelly on his toes, I fly six vikings out to land in the hidden corner off his base cut off by curtains of steam. From here, I march out to kill some of his probes. I kill three of them, but his stalkers are loitering about as if he expected me to attack him again. I try some micro shenanigans based on hiding in smoke, but these accomplish exactly nothing. I’m not sure what I was thinking. That stalkers can’t shoot through smoke? That it works like a one-way mirror? That smoke is to Terrans what a guardian shield is to the Protoss? None of that pans out, so the final tally is a bunch more dead vikings in exchange for killing maybe three probes.

Kelly: Tom scans me again. What a dick. Since this is generally the sneakiest time to build something else that they won’t be expecting based on their “intel”, I start up a robotics facility. Since Tom’s still probably massing Vikings, which can attack colossi with impunity, I’ll have him just where I want him.

Tom: I fly my expansion base way around the map to grab the starting position at 9 o’ clock. Kelly will never scout over here! I harvest riches unmolested! I send eight vikings out to hunt for his expansion and prep to build a battlecruiser or two. This will be fun.

Kelly: It finally occurs to me to expand. I pick the area just south of me. Tom’ll never think of looking there.

Tom: What the…? Kelly walks a colossus up onto my base and blinks in 11 stalkers. He knows how to use blink? My vikings are way the heck across the map hoping to jump an expansion they still haven’t found. My homeland defense force consists of five marauders and two hellions. You can imagine how that goes (i.e. I lose everything and kill only a single stalker).

Kelly: Since I’m an idiot, I love the lack of thought necessary for the stalker/colossus combo. Stalkers take out the air and blink up to whatever area the colossus has just scorched its way through. Your only issue is stealthed banshees but based on how Tom’s viking micro’s been thus far, it appears unlikely that he’s contemplating anything as advanced as stealth.

Tom: By the time I get my vikings back to base, he’s chewing up my SCVs. The vikings take out the colossus easily enough. But once they land to go toe-to-toe with the stalkers, it’s the third time I’m on the losing end of the unit counter equation in which stalkers trump vikings. The result is Kellywand with a half dozen stalkers traipsing around breaking things and killing dudes while I try to built up more units and evacuate my flying buildings. I march my SCVs over to the base I’d set up at the 9 o’ clock position while Kelly’s stalkers commit a pogrom against my base.

Kelly: Ha ha, Tom made a fusion core. For what, exactly? Man, I can’t believe Bruce Geryk thought brain surgery was a better use of his time than the sight of Tom’s buildings flying away in flames. I wonder how he’d feel if Tom beat him at a brain surgery sim. At least this series won’t be a shut-out for Tom. Kinda better than I was hoping for, to be honest. I guess I won’t have to play my hole card after all. It’s around this point while I’m smugly congratulating myself that I lethargically notice I haven’t been mining any gas at all since Tom’s ill-fated viking kamikaze sortie killed my three gas probes way back when. Hm. Why isn’t Tom surrendering? Or saying much? There’s an old racist saying: never trust a quiet Tom.

Tom: As he commits his atrocity against my base, he’s actually shooting the tech lab off my barracks so I can’t make marauders. How does he know to do that? He even taunts me over Skype for having built a fusion core. By the way, I have 3600 minerals. I suck so bad at macro. I upgrade my expansion base to a planetary fortress for when the stalkers come sniffing around.

Kelly: Tom steals a tactic I used against him in a scrimmage game earlier and has a planetary fortress down there. And way more production structures than I anticipated. Usually I beat my friends at games by wearing them down with my monastic tenacity. But Tom’s not one to give up on a play while there’s so much as a hail-mary left. For the first time, it occurs to me I could lose this.

Tom: Bah, he’s found me. The planetary fortress drives stalkers off. I’m trying to get tanks and marauders going, but it’s a mess rebuilding my base and repairing damaged buildings and setting up new tech labs and unpacking boxes and hanging pictures.

Kelly: Tom’s almost finished unpacking his boxes. Like a rising fog, I can feel the momentum shifting. That planetary fortress is pretty annoying, actually. Probably a huge mistake teaching him that in a mere test game. But it’s also a crutch.

Tom: He shows up again with a colossus this time, but I’ve got a small defense force along with the planetary fortress to drive him off. I think I can bounce back from this!

Kelly: Stupid colossi. Jesus. If I can just take out his dumbass fortress, maybe I can get back to serious business like romping all over the map with stalkers looking for his inevitable secret labor camps.

Tom: I try to head off an attacking force, but this time he shows up with void rays. Oops. I have hellions, marauders, and a couple of tanks. Those do exactly bupkis against void rays. My useless units wave cheerfully while void rays kill my workers and raze my base.

Kelly: After all that, Tom folds to a trio of void rays. Thank Christ that’s over. Maybe I can end this godforsaken series in four games. Then I can get back to serious business like enchanting my pants in WoW. The way Paul Walker enchants Tom’s.

Tom: 0, Kelly: 1

Tomorrow: game two