Strategic retreats win the day for Zest(p) over TY(t) for the season 1 Global Starcraft 2 League (GSL) finals.
First, let’s talk about the secret build that TY busted out for the finals (Games 1, 2, 6) and Zest’s counter to it. In these games, TY opened with a 2-Hellion harass supported by 1-Reaper or 2-Marines at around the 3:30 mark. The basic idea was to get a run-by with the two Hellions causing the Protoss force to get pulled back. Then, the Marines/Reapers do infrastructure damage somewhere else. Ideally, the Hellions get some good scouting and a few worker kills while the other units poke in and escape to fight another day. Zest countered this early aggression by always getting an early Mothership Core and some defensive Adepts. Adepts were used to clean up the Hellions, and Photon Overcharge was used to repel the second prong of the attack.
As soon as he cleaned up TY’s poke, Zest countered by sending his Adepts across the map with the Shade ability. At this time, he also had a Warp Prism to warp in Stalkers at TY’s base. Now this is an early attack that is much scarier than TY’s initial poke. Just a few Adepts can do major damage to light units, so TY’s Marines, Reapers, and SCV’s are not an effective counter. Furthermore, the Warp Prism can perform a hack version of Blink. Whenever one of the Protoss units gets low on health, the unit is sucked up by the Warp Prism and immediately dropped behind the other units to do more damage while giving it a chance to recharge shields. This “hack-Blink” was ridiculous and awesome at the same time when Zest used it to dodge a Widow Mine shot in Game 2. Little things like this effectively countered TY’s two Hellion opening. The early poke ultimately did not work out very well for TY in games 1, 2, and 6. However, Terran players should still give consider this build, and see if it works better when it is not against one of the best Protoss players in the world.
Now we get to talk about the fun stuff. In game 3, TY knew that Zest was going Blink Stalker, so he went for a marine push with a single Thor-Medvac combination as support. The Medvac ferried around the Thor so that it could counter the Blink Stalkers. Blink Stalkers engage very well against Marines because they Blink micro away as they are damaged. A Marine has range 5 and a Stalker has range 6, so the Marines are only be able to attack the front line of “fresh Stalkers”, while the weak Stalkers can continue to do damage from the back. But with the Thor’s long range of 7, blinking away isn’t effective. The Thor can clean up low health Stalkers that blink to the back, while the marines can kite forward and backwards to hammer the front line. But, Zest was able to keep his cool. He had already gone for a three base play versus TY’s two base play, so Zest had a simple strategy: pick some good engagements then retreat. The stall tactic worked, and Zest won the game.
In game 5, TY went for a Liberator harass with a mid-game Tank-Vac push. The Liberator harass was supposed to prevent mining time on Zest’s three base economy, while TY built up his army on a two base economy. Then the Tank-Vac, Marine army could have moved in with superior numbers. That is what should have happened–except it didn’t because Zest kept his cool. A simple Liberator harass was easily repelled by blinking a group of Stalkers underneath the Liberator. Then Zest slowed the 2 base push, and let his three base economy win the game on its own.
Both the Thor build and the Tank-Vac build are brilliant in their own way. A timing attack with these units that hits at the natural expansion before a sizable Protoss army can be built results in a win for TY. However, the timing attack always hit toward the middle of the map, which ended in a lost battle for Zest, but not a lost game. By engaging for as long as possible, Zest was able to amass units (especially Immortals) at home in the background. This stalling tactic allowed Zest to feel the full benefit of his 3 base economy while TY struggled watching the games slip through his fingers. Because the Terran army was never given the opportunity to fully utilize a timing attack, Zest won each game with ease.
It would be interesting to see TY’s style of play utilized in a three base or four base economy. Using Tank-Vacs or Thors to counter Blink Stalkers could be very effective in a long game. In either strategy, you would be forcing the Protoss player to go Immortal, but the Mech army would be unexpectedly mobile. Medvacs could ferry the mech army around the map, like TY has shown us, creating an ever-present threat for the slow Protoss army.
Anyways, we just finished reviewing the first season final of GSL 2016. Be sure to watch the upcoming games in WCS, and let us know if you guys were into DreamHack, GSL or any other big games in the coming weeks. Otherwise, see you next week!