Homestory Cup continues to be a fresh supply of wonderful replays and build orders. While this guide isn't inspired by a top GSL Korean player, it is someone who maybe you aren't quite familiar with if you don't pay attention to the 2nd tier of foreign players. Hellraiser is a Ukrainian Protoss who has been making a decent splash towards the top of EU recently. While most people would recognize players like ShoWTimE, Harstem, or PtitDrogo as the resident tier 1 EU Protoss, Hellraiser is trailing very close behind them and has been putting up solid results. He's especially been quite strong in PvP including a 2-0 over ShoWTimE in the WCS Austin Challenger groups. He also just barely missed out on making the playoff bracket at HSC in the tough Group C. I also see him and Harstem practicing a lot on Harstem's stream trading games all the time.
From him we get to see, what I guess, is a continuation from last week where we do some more blink disruptor play! With how popular Stargate builds have been lately (seriously, the amount of games I had to go through to not find a Stargate variation was absurd) there has been some blink builds also coming back to try and gain an advantage vs them. This Sentry first version with a few extra Stalkers out helps to do that in the safest way possible.
The way this build opens is very similar to this old BotW in the sense that it gets more early units out of the gateways than most builds. The concept being that it delays tech in favor of being safer overall since it has more units early to hold of early pressure while still expanding relatively early. Since this build goes into blink first instead of a Robo, the extra units out of the Gateway are Stalkers instead of extra Sentries. This in combination with the first early Sentry allows you to scout and react to whatever your opponent is doing.
There are some blink builds that go for a faster Twilight just off of the first two gateway units (you can even go Sentry/Stalker into blink if you wanted to) but they can be a bit risky to do vs early pressure builds. With things like 6 Adept openers and 4gates being so popular recently, it can be strong to get a lot of early Stalkers out to help defend. Hellraiser shows us how to do this while going into blink to help control the mid game and then does a disruptor transition to compliment the heavy Stalker focus.
To explain the build a little more in detail for anyone who is unaware of how it should work, the normal 2gate opener starts with a Stalker and Sentry along with Warp Gate right when the Cyber finishes. Having used the previous two Chronoboosts on probes, you should be left with one more to use on WG once it finishes, so be sure to do that to provide yourself with a little bit of additional help vs early pressure builds. To know what you should be worrying about with your first units, you can pylon block their natural after you make your 28 Pylon at your own natural. This forces the opponent to show their hand as to what early units they made so that you can properly prepare. Cancel the Pylon once you know what they've built. If it's two stalkers then the first stalker is used to look around your side of the map for any proxies since that can signal aggression. If you see adepts then you can keep it scanning outside your natural to follow them as they try to poke at your front while you leave a probe at your wall to block it any time they try to shade up. If it's one stalker (which implies the other unit was a sentry) or you see directly the stalker and sentry, then you don't have much to worry about but you can still send the stalker around to make sure you deny a probe rescout. The sentry this entire time stays at the edge of your main base waiting until 3:33 where it gets 100 energy to send out a hallucination scout to check what the other player is doing. Behind this you should have gotten the next two Stalkers and then expanded at 32. Hellraiser expands at 33 in the source replay because he accidentally made one extra probe. Once the next two stalkers are out you should start another two to get a total of FIVE (5) Stalkers out of the two gateways and the one Sentry you made. It's at this point you get your Twilight Council to go into blink and also a Pylon. If you wanted to do the slightly greedier version of this build you would have gotten the Twilight immediately after you start the stalker/sentry and then either expand or start another stalker out of the gateway.
Something that's very important that Hellraiser forgoes this game (presumably just a corner that was cut expecting Drogo not to go for Stargate. which he was not doing very often at HSC) is a Shield Battery in the mineral line. Even though you are making a lot of early units, you still want a Shield Battery in your main mineral line to defend vs Oracle openings. Oracles kill workers fast, so even with a lot of stalkers gunning it down it can still get quite a few probes before it dies. Simply getting a Shield Battery completely negates this. It's at this point you should resume probe production (since you should have paused it at 24 Probes after you make your 3rd Pylon) and go into blink.
This is also when your hallucination scout should have gotten to his base to scout what tech was made by your opponent. In this source game, Hellraiser saw a Robo being made with a lot of early units which meant that Drogo was going for the build that I linked above. In response he still decided to continue with blink but then got a Robo of his own and a Forge to go into a macro game. He could have even gotten the Forge a little bit earlier if he wanted to. Had he seen a Stargate play I wouldn't have been surprised to see him forgo the Robo and instead powered off of the two gateways and done a heavy blink pressure while expanding. At that point you could go straight into chargelot/archon/immortal and hit a similar convergence point as Classic's build above. He could have also added more gateways to do a 1.5 base blink all-in. Seeing a Dark Shrine would have simply resulted in him making a Robo and making sure his wall wasn't breached by hold positioning his units on it and getting an extra Sentry if necessary to forcefield. If the opponent was also going blink he could play either similarly to how he played vs Robo or gone aggressive if he wanted to try that avenue.
Regardless, even in what is considered the worst build order match up that he could have drawn, Hellraiser still sticks to his blink. He does this to put a little bit of pressure onto Drogo with his blink stalkers, but also to transition into a more nonstandard style that is merely a ghost of its former glory.
Blink Disruptor in PvP
Once upon a time (before 4.0 and the Charge buff) blink disruptor was the end all be all in PvP. With the change to the disruptor in 4.0 it became a bit different. Nowadays, it's very rare that you see someone go disruptors since it can be difficult to find a timing to make it work. Hit too early with not enough disruptors and your opponent can easily negate them with micro. Hit too late and your opponent has enough Phoenix to lift them all up.
Despite this, Hellraiser manages to find a happy medium to make them work, and also has a late game transition planned. As I mentioned, the response to someone going disruptors is to go into two Stargate Phoenix to lift up the disruptors and cancel their shots. This makes the disruptor player have to micro more intensely to keep the Phoenix away from the disruptors so that the shots can land. It's also important to go into a 2nd Robo quite quickly when going for disruptor styles so that you can get a good head start in the number of disruptors you have before they can match it in phoenix.
Hellraiser attempts to do a blink disruptor push into Drogo's 3rd base when he has six disruptors out but at that point Drogo had enough phoenix to dissuade Hellraiser from fully committing. Had he gone a little bit earlier I think there was a good chance that he could have denied the 3rd base after sniping a few phoenix in the main of Drogo. But like I said, it's a bit of a fine line you have to walk. If you try to engage when you only have 2-3 disruptors and the opponent properly baits them out of intercepts the shots with minimal losses, the you can quickly find yourself on the losing end of the fight and potentially the game. So you need to be very careful and patient with when you take your shots and only do so when you know you will be able to get a good connection. You could also shoot them out to zone the other army away if you know your army can definitely beat his if you get a good shot off. Your stalkers can then work on canceling the 3rd base themselves and as you send out shots one by one to keep your opponent off of you can take your victory and retreat home.
When the disruptor and phoenix counts get higher though, you have to have some very cautious play to get good engages. Hellraiser shows some pretty good examples in his attempted push at the 3rd as he patiently waits for the phoenix to get too close to snipe them and walks back with his army and uses some of the disruptors in the back to fire and force Drogo to disengage.
Once you get to the point where any engage would be an awkward stalemate of phoenix vs disruptor not knowing who should attack first, it can be difficult to know how exactly to play out the rest of the game to close it out. A common option to is to transition into Colossus once the phoenix count gets too high and Hellraiser shows why this can be such a strong choice. Colossus are basically nonexistent in PvP because of how expensive they are and how little damage they deal to anything other than Zealots. This is the only situation where going for Colossus is actually a smart move. Having forced your opponent into making so many Phoenix, the Colossi act as a source of consistent splash damage that can't easily be dealt with. Phoenix can attack the Colossi but kill them so slowly that the other player is left with an awkward choice. Do they try to kill the Colossi as quickly as possible by having all of the phoenix target them, thus letting the disruptors shoot freely? Or do they hope they have enough phoenix to lift all the disruptors while letting the Colossi deal their damage and also let the stalkers kill off the phoenix? In combination with a chargelot/archon switch that happens at the same time, Hellraiser ends up with an army that is extremely awkward to deal with if you have spent the entire mid game making a bunch of phoenix.
This entire time Hellraiser was also constantly upgrading out of his Forge, so he has +3 Attack to go along with these colossi and the accompanying archons and chargelots. Drogo went for the option of lifting as many disruptors as he could, which let the stalkers kill them all off and also let the colossi consistently deal their damage. It's also important to note that phoenix don't exactly kill disruptors very quickly either, so if you only lift some of them and try to kill them then that's not going to work either. Drogo can't even click on all of the disruptors because they're shoved in the middle of a huge death ball so he loses all of his phoenix while also most of his ground force since a lot of the disruptor shots were able to get off.
Overall, this composition is definitely very micro intensive and requires some special treatment to get right, however if controlled properly and timed with the proper transition it can be extremely deadly to play against.
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