The vod will handle most of the “how to play it” but is also written in the build overview. For the mostpart thought the written guide will be about “win conditions” and especially about hitting a maxed out all in against a maxed out opponent. For the first week strategy will be the main focus rather than mechanics/techniques.
This week I will write a bit about win conditions and this build is designed to train one of them specifically; hitting a maxed timing with a superior army. I believe that mastering several different win conditions is an important part of making good unprepared in-game decisions when the game gets into a new situation. To give an example, perhaps you are trying to build the same army as the opponent but you have 10 more workers allowing you to comfortably sit back and defend knowing that in two minutes of game time you will have a larger army simply due to having mined more resources. Now suppose the opponent kills 20 workers. If you don’t change your game plan drastically you will simply lose since the plan relies on having a higher economy which you don’t. Some examples of what you could do is:
Fake an attack and chrono boost workers trying to get back to the worker count you had previously hoping they don’t punish you for being so greedy (aka rely on hidden information and abuse one of the opponents likely plays (where they don’t attack))
Instantly all in so that current worker count does not matter since the game will end soon
Hit a maxed all in, it will take you longer to get there if your opponent makes the same army, but you will eventually have a larger army due to having less supply tied up in workers
Tech up greedily and hope not to get punished, similar to the first point in that you’re hoping for the opponent not to scout and attack, but also similar to the previous point where your new win condition is to have a more powerful army. This time the power comes from tech rather than army supply though.
Counterharass and try to deal similar damage to the opponent.
probably more options.
Note that all of the above are viable solutions in this general situation, or certain combinations of the points above. But every game has specifics that will make some of these decisions better and some worse. For example maybe the opponent is completely safe against aggression already which makes the counterharass option a bad one. Or maybe the opponent just started a great tech transition which makes points 3 and 4 useless since your army will never be superior. Or maybe the opponent has great scouting so points 1 and 4 will not be hidden anymore and therefore too easily punished by an attack, unless you have a great defensive setup perhaps because of the map and static defences in which case that is no longer true.
The important part to take away from this long introduction is the following. What happens when you have experience with all of the points above is that firstly you can execute the best option much better, and secondly you will have an easier time visualizing how that option will play out in your current game allowing you to more often make the best decision in game. What I find for a lot of players is their discomfort to play multiple different win condition which makes them very predictable and makes comebacks harder than necessary for them. This week we learn one of these in more detail, but also discuss what different win conditions there are. The focus of this week is learning to properly hit a maxed timing, a key win condition for Protoss.
Continued strategical rant on win conditions
Choosing a win condition is closely related to identifying your advantages and disadvantages in a game. It is always important to keep track of you and your opponents worker count, tech/ups, aggressive army potential, defensive army potential, harss potential, harss defence potential, base count. Oftentimes the game can be played in a very simple manner just by giving each of these a score between 1 and 10 (not explicitly)* and choosing your win condition based on that. For example if you have a strong defensive army potential and the opponent has a weak aggressive army potential and you have equal tech and workers you can focus on improving your eco/tech/ups as long as you have have also higher harass defence than they have aggressive harass potential. Or if you have a higher aggressive army potential than they aggressive army potential but less than their defensive army potential you can move to the middle of the map and deny bases. If you can maintain this for 2-4 minutes depending on how much minerals the opponent has on their bases they will be starved out of income and you win because of that. (depending on exactly how mobile their defences are and if a counter attack can be deadly or not, and how spread out their bases are). And as a final example, the simplest one, if you have a higher aggressive army potential than the opponent has a defensive army potential just go kill them.
*Note how I separate defensive and aggressive army potential rather than simply using army strength. This is because the two can be wildly different for many different reasons, for example a void ray immortal based army can be powerful but struggles with attacking due to slow speed and inability to warp in aggressively (since they are not gateway units and you might lack gateways even if you wanted to warp in other units). Map layout is key, static defence/queens is key. Even harassment comes into play when some units are forced to defend certain locations. If your opponent builds an army that looks strong from an attackers eyes ask yourself if that army is also a strong attacking army. If not consider playing high eco/greed.
**Also note that the score will not give the complete story, for example you still need to keep track of when the opponent has timing potentials which will suddenly change their score significantly. When it comes to harass potential and defence it is usually best to make sure you are defended against all possible types of harass the opponent has available rather than giving a score. As an example having extra shield batteries would deceivingly increase your harass defence score but will in fact not help against 2+ oracles as an example, or if you have 30 blink stalkers defending you’re still not defended against cloak banshees without detection.
As mentioned this is useful when making in game decisions to deviate from your original game plan, but can also be used as a foundation for the initial game plan or strategy. This week the foundation was to start out with equal eco (by scouting and mirroring) while trying to gain a tech/upgrade advantage and not taking damage to harass. Continuing the game from there the goal is to use the superior tech/ups to hit a powerful 200 supply attack on a lower worker count. it it critical to maintain a higher defensive army potential than the opponent’s potential aggressive army potential while not taking damage to harass.
(See previous paragraph if you skipped previous section)
By building phoenixes we are continuously safe against harassment. The perhaps trickier part is staying alive, aka keeping your defensive army potential always higher than the opponents aggressive army potential. Because we play low eco this is easier than usual though and as soon as 1 colossus is out any full bio attack is highly cost inefficient. And any 2 base push with power units like tanks can be shut down by several colossi and phoenixes. Because we want as much tech and infrastructure as possible and of course it doesn’t hurt to have a small worker lead before getting to your worker goal it is important that you don’t make army when you don’t need to, scouting and reacting will be key to achieve that. Feel free to look at the build order notes or the vod for more information about exactly how to open, all I will say here is that the faster you get the first colossus the easier it gets and support it with 1 shield battery if you’re afraid of getting it sniped by bio.
Open regular fast expand into oracle followed by phoenixes. Build a robo as soon as you can afford it followed by a robo bay. Build phoenixes when you can but you don’t have to chrono it unless you’re afraid of harassment coming soon. Get a forge when you feel like you can afford it. As soon as you’re safe against harass prioritise getting the colossus asap, for example if you scout a 3 rax opener or if you kill their 2 helion harassment building additional phoenixes will take priority behind colossus/staying alive - infrastructure/upgrades
Take a 3rd when they build their 3rd cc or a bit before, continue making phoenixes and colossus. +1 Phoenix weapons is important due to their low damage against vikings/libs. Avoid building gateway units unless you have to, you will preferably hit a timing without stalkers or zealots, but you can throw them away later if you have to build them to stay alive. Get stargates 2 and 3. If you feel like harassing get prism speed and a 2nd robo and 2-3 prisms and colossus drop the opponent while phoenix harassing elsewhere or use phoenixes with range to support them against vikings. This is hard to do and optional.
Take a 4rth, this is the final phase. Don’t overbuild probes, stop at 60-70 or less if the opponent has less. If the opponent builds liberators or vikings make void rays and ideally 4 tempests to 1 shot vikings and use as range advantage to force the opponents vikings to fight your void rays head on. If the opponent makes a big ground army build colossus/disruptor instead and support it with some sentries. Against a pure ground army a maxed army with several colossi will win even if phoenixes does not contribute much to army. Upgrade your army and try to time them out with your maxing out. The game will end soon after your maxed attack, this is an important thing to remember, so try not to have expensive upgrades on the way or useless static defence at a base that will never be attacked. You want all your resources in the army.
This is a timing so certain timing concepts apply. We want to hit as soon as possible with as much resources invested in the attack as possible. Some common problems here can be for example making 2 last carriers and then being maxed. If you attack before they are built they will be resources and even supply not in the fight, a disaster when going for this win condition. If you wait until they are built you will also have a disaster which is that you will have built up a massive bank and you’re forced to hit a full minute or more later just waiting for the carriers, so this time hitting much later and again having lots of resources not in the attack. The solution is to build units that build quickly towards the end, and if they move quickly you can even move out before they finish. For a mech player hitting a maxed timing this usually means reinforcing the last round with helions, for a zerg this usually means building zerglings last for any timing, and for protoss this usually means that the last units built in a timing are all warped in directly into the battle. But we don’t want warpgate units! With this build specifically you should make a final 1-2 rounds of phoenixes while moving out with the recently created void rays/tempests around 186-192 supply since they build fast and move fast. Chrono boosts should also be used as late as possible in order to make the timing as powerful as possible, but if you need to use them earlier to stay alive that is not the end of the world. To avoid taking damage to a counter attack/baserace/harass while attacking make sure your phoenixes has taken map control before moving out.
A final option when going for this win condition is to kill some of your own workers when hitting maxed to make a couple extra army units. This can be good with this build specifically if you have spare minerals since gateway units are really bad so you want to just make as many gas units as possible. Play around a bit with this to learn how many is a good number to kill. But it will not just cost workers, it will also cost time since you have to build more units before attacking.
Extra notes on how to play with the max out all in win condition
A general rule for hitting powerful timings is to build things in the following order: Economy ( chrono early) - Infrastructure/ups (no chrono during this phase, sometimes on key upgrades) - army (chrono as late as possible while still spending all energy) but this can leave you vulnerable from delaying the army so much. Just keep this in mind so that when you have enough defences you can aim for this order as closely as possible. The reason for this is that when getting the economy early you will get a higher amount of total mined resources. And the reason for the infrastructure coming before the army is twofold, for one it will give you more options with what army to make since you build army later and can then react more to the opponent, and two infrastructure typically use up less resources/build time than building army. You income often also steadily increases. If you swap the order and spend money of army before infrastructure you will either be forced to build too many structures or you will build up a bank while waiting for the buildings to finish. (As an exact example, a 150 mineral warpgate takes 46+7 seconds to finish and will spend 100 minerals every 20 seconds if you warp in zealots once completed, which is approximately twice as high resource usage / time compared to when it is building. For other gateway units than the zealots the resource usage/time is even higher) The reason for starting upgrades early is obvious, otherwise they will not be completed for the attack. Upgrades such as colossus range that does not have a follow up (unlike +1) can be timed out to finish with the timing rather than getting it asap, and chronoing it would be a waste unless you need it desperately to stay alive.
Oftentimes this timing can be good when you and your opponent have equal tech but you have less economy and you both are fairly close to maxed out. If your opponent realizes the threat of this they have two options, either use defenders advantage given by map or static defences or tech up before you max out. It is important that you choose an army that does not give your opponent a positional defenders advantage. For example in TvT with tank marine vs tank marine (no medivacs) you will not be able to attack into the opponent just because you have a bit more supply worth of army, and the longer the opponent defends the more you will hurt by having a low eco. In the build I described we have a range advantage in the colossus + void + phoenix (and tempest viking) which prevents the opponent from turtling behind a PF or using a choke point on the map. Now the second option as I said was for the opponent to tech up before you hit. This can be tricky since you often hit a relatively early timing for your army strength, but if scouted you might want to attack sooner. This can either kill an opponent that invested too much resources in tech or force them to max out on lower tech units before their tech finished. After forcing them to max out without using their new tech you can wait until your own max out before actually engaging.
And a final note is on the value of having a bank. If you hit a proper timing you will not have a bank when playing for this win condition but the opponent most likely will (unless all their money lead is put into tech improvements). This can be problematic for example in PvP where the opponent gets to warp in 15 chargelots just seconds after the fight starts (In this situation it might be best to at least save up bank for 1 warpin before attacking). Another potential problem is if you for example hit a timing without antiair and the opponent masses mutas after losing their army. Other times the bank matters a lot less, for example if you kill a terran army and quickly walk onto their production, or if you have an army with high utility sitting between bases taking out zerg units before they can group up. Be aware of this before the fight starts and also after by playing as if the opponent has a large bank after the fight. This means that killing bases and workers might not matter at all if they can kill you after spending their bank. So instead you should target the production. This is especially true if you killed your own workers before going for this attack, or if you chose this win condition because your bases run out of of resources or any other reason preventing you from playing the longer game.
Having units at home to defend is pretty useless if the opponent does not counter since it will take away your only advantage which is the army supply lead in the final battle. Likewise you don’t want static defence since you want all resources invested in the timing. The phoenixes prevent the opponent from setting up counters/harass but if you don’t have that option it can be problematic. The best example I can think of is trying to hit a maxed carrier timing against a zerg only to lose against massive zergling counters. In this situation you might be forced to leave 1-2 oracles and get dt tech and also get static defence. This is a nice trade-off though, the more zerglings the opponent makes the more you’re allowed to leave because that means the opponents anti-carrier army will be smaller. Other times you don’t have that luxury and this win condition can be completely shut down because of counters, for example if you have a massive zealot colossus army against a terran that counter-doom-drops to baserace.
This win condition will only work either if you have less worker or if you have superior tech (or a mix of both). These 2 situations might be played out differently, I just wanted to note that. For example having less workers will always put incentive for you to attack as soon as possible, while the superior tech could transition to a base denial win condition if the opponent will not take the tech advantage any time soon and defenders advantage is in existence. Base denial can also be interesting as a win condition on equal bases which can favour the player that has had less workers for a longer time, but only in some situations where this is possible to do for an extended time without losing the tech war significantly.
A difference with this maxed timing compared to a regular timing is that the supply of units is of critical value. Maxing out on power units only can be problematic since the gas/mineral ratio can be too high. However this synergises with the low worker count which typically increases the gas/mineral ratio. But you also need to be efficient with the gas. In this build specifically storm would be a good addition to the army, but as a maxed timing it would delay everything so much or force you to put lots of zealots in the army. What I did instead is add void rays which are less gas/mineral heavy and oftentimes serve a similar role as storm/archons which is pure power/pushback. Note that phoenixes are much more supply efficient than they are cost efficient with an equal supply to the zealot.
|53||4:21|| ||asap, cut phoenix production when you're safe against harass to get this|
|80||5:30|| ||can be delayed, depends on situation. Usually I recomend getting this after the 3rd base. Dont sacrefice colossus production for this.|
Learning how to do it
Understand everything I wrote about and try to put into your own words when this win condition is useful.
Do some self reflection to ask yourself if you ever use this win condition and what win condition you usually use.
Play games with this win condition to get used to it. Ideally try to do it from different situations, not just with this build. As mentioned the power of mastering this is that you can make better in game decisions. See if ladder prevents a good opportunity for it when you play any strategy. If you can’t find a good opportunity in game ask if you had any when watching your replays.
Watch replays and try to see if you’re able to attack with all resources invested in the attack. Think about when you want to hit and make it explicit when playing, for example say “after 2 more rounds of void rays I make 1-2 rounds of phoenixes and attack. Then look at which upgrades you have time to start and which require chrono and which do not require chrono.
After you are comfortable with this win condition choose a new one and make a strategy around it just like I did and train that one, for example base denial or a win condition based on playing with an eco advantage. Or if you are not yet comfortable feel free to try to build your own strategy around this win condition.
Force yourself to try this win condition even when you think its a bad idea sometimes to make sure your intuition is correct. Sometimes you will be proven false and learn a lot in the process. (Winning does not necessarily mean it was a good decision though, it might simply have been a big mistake by the opponent)
The goal is to learn to use this win condition in any game, not just with this start, so think about which advantages you have from the list I gave and when it is a good idea. After many units die or if you scout a sudden change of plan by the opponent all of these has to be reevaluated and hence so does the win condition. Train this thought process in games and if it’s too complicated to do in game pause a replay before and after a fight and analyse what the best win condition is before and after the fight to practice this skill. Maybe this is overambitious for now since this might be the first win condition you explicitly train, in that case simply try to state if this one win condition would be good before and after the game changing events.
If you struggle playing phoenix colossus consider swapping the phoenix for blink or something else you’re more comfortable with. Phoenix colossus deserves an entire guide for itself which I haven’t made. But keep in mind that stalkers are less supply efficient than phoenix, but they are also less gas heavy which perhaps allows you to add storm.
If you keep dying to attacks, try starting this win condition when you’re ahead. For example after killing a base of the opponent go back and decide what maxed timing you want to hit, or after defending an attack of the opponent. This will allow you to train the win condition.
Get a shield battery in each mineral line to help defend against harass, it might not be necessary with the phoenixes but it’s also not very expensive.
Hit the timing with chargelots instead of without gateway units, it might make the macro more familiar.
Additional difficult techniques/Improvements
make fake attacks, this can trick an opponent since you’re playing low eco.
make an effort to hide the tech
The best way to play theoretically is to balance different win conditions so that you can adapt, for example by playing a defensive style but getting gateways earlier than necessary only so that you have the option to attack if the opponent is very greedy. At the same time you should not blindly "do a little bit of everything", the different strategies need to be coherent and the sacrefice of building the gateways earlier need to contribute a lot to the potential timing while being a small cost for the defensive style in order to potentially be relevant. But even if the cost for the gateways is low it can be completely useless if other factors prevent you from attacking even when building the gateways, for example if the opponent already has an army or if your army cant stand on open ground, this is why it is often easiest to decide on a single win condition. If you want to challenge yourself try to conciously balance more than one win condition at the same time.
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