Strategy Corner #1: PvZ late-game with Socke and MC
I. The State of Late-Game PvZ
II. “Change We Can Believe In”
III. The (Semi) Typical Setup
IV. The Beginning of Something New
V. Where the Magic Happens
VI. Socke's Ground-Aggressive PvZ
Let’s face it, PvZ has been a very static late game match-up ever since the power of broodlord-infestor combo was fully realized. We’ve seen the top protoss players on the scene come up with various ways of dealing with this style of zerg play, and they all have one common theme, three bases or less. We’ve seen SKTParting utilizing his infamous “wonwonwon” immortal sentry all-in build off of two base, and we’ve seen players like SKTRain, ST.Squirtle, and nearly everyone else utilizing 3-base all-ins intended to hit before broodlords are complete.
The days of pros relying solely on a clutch mothership vortex to suck up poorly clumped broodlords have been gone for months, so what’s a protoss player to do if he wants to go beyond 3 bases? Luckily, a couple of fresh and solid solutions have been in the making for months by top protoss players SKMC and aTnSocke, and we’ve recently seen just how good they are in the GSL Season 1 2013 and IEM Katowice, respectively.
Now let me be clear, these options have been floating around for a very long time. We’ve seen variations of these styles before, but the difference is that these guys are actually making it work on the big stage against top pros. In one case, MC's style is made stronger from the recent Infested Terran nerfs (reduced HP allowing them to die to a single psi storm, and no upgrade benefits), while Socke's style doesn't benefit from this quite as much. Let's dive into both!
SKMC, the ObamaToss, is back in the best form we’ve ever seen him by far. He went 4-0 in his GSL Code S Group against FXOLeenock and STCurious. I know what you’re thinking, but shockingly enough MC got at least three bases in every single game. But we’re not here to talk about three base, we’re going to look at his completely dominating performance on Daybreak against ST.Curious in which he got five. He made fighting a late-game broodlord-infestor army look easy.
MC's mid-game setup:
FFE -> Stargate opener (5 phoenix),
~10:00 third nexus,
robotics facility, stick with one forge
MC opens up Stargate in this particular game as he did in most of his others, getting five phoenixes out on the field to harass and gain map control. Strong solid play, and something we’ve been seeing plenty of from all top protosses.
MC takes his third at the ~10:00 mark, which is about as early as you can safely take it with a Stargate opener that transitions into Robotics play. He continues his upgrades off of one forge and starts his colossus tech. When MC has just two colossus, Curious hits with a brutal roach/hydra/corruptor timing that wittles MC down to this meager army.
It’s tough to make out from the screen cap, but MC is down by nearly 80 supply and it’s the 14:00 minute marker in this game. MC has held onto his economy, but with no colossus out, no fleet beacon on the way, and no templar archives, how can MC possibly expect to pressure before the unstoppable broodlord-infestor? Well, the answer is he doesn’t "pressure", at least not in the most traditional way (constant zealot harass, three-base timing before broodlords, DTs, etc). He goes Skytoss.
MC's mid-late game transition:
Fourth base (after holding off aggression in this game)
Void ray production begins as fourth base is established
Three additional Stargates added
Throw away bulk of immortal/sentry/stalker army in multi-pronged aggression (deny bases, tech structures, and free up supply).
Since Curious pressured so heavily off of three base without infestors, MC knew he had a lot of time before the broodlord-infestor composition hit critical mass, which is one reason why he had enough time to get his skytoss composition rolling. If MC had tried to do a head-on push without splash, he would’ve traded ineffectively against the roach/hydra composition, so instead he played defensively and grabbed his fourth base with an immortal/sentry/stalker composition while getting his mothership. As the fourth base is finishing up, MC starts to make a single void ray out of his Stargate, and Tasteless proclaims “Whyyy do you think he’s gonna get a void ray here?” Well, he’s not getting just one or two, he’s going to get nineteen+ void rays over the course of the game.
While denying expansions of Curious with zealot run-bys, MC begins +1 air weapons and three more Stargates for a total of four. Now with this infrastructure, a lot of players would expect mostly carriers, but MC just continues to pump out void rays while getting psi storm and templars as well. This is what MC decides to do with his immortal/stalker/sentry composition.
There is just so much going on at this point in the game, but he is starting to clear up supply in the best way possible. Broodlord-Infestor has now been out on the field, but it hasn’t hit critical mass. However, MC knows he can’t effectively utilize his unit composition in a head-on engagement, so he beings to do multi-pronged aggression. He is sacrificing his stalkers to snipe tech in the natural of Curious, and the smaller circle on the minimap shows the fifth of curious being sniped by MC’s three immortals, which he is completely comfortable losing as long as he kills something. Meanwhile, in the production tab, storm is almost finished and four void rays being produced at a time. Also, note that because of this committed multi-pronged aggression, MC is safe to take that fifth base while continuing +air attacks and shield upgrades (for both his air units and his archons).
But wait, I thought void rays were bad against broodlord-infestor with corruptor support? Well, since the nerf to Infested Terrans, they aren't nearly as strong as they use to be, not to mention that they die to just one full psi storm. The game continues in this fashion until each player reaches what they consider to be their “ultimate” late-game composition.
(Unit Composition Numbers are approximations and fluctuate as the battle continues for a few minutes)
SKMC: 1 Mothership, 14 Void Rays, 4 Carriers, 3 Colossus, 15 High Templar, 4 Archons
STCurious: 12 Corruptors, 20 Infestors, 11 Broodlords
Here’s what the first engagement looked like at Curious’s newly acquired sixth hatchery:
MC has two vortexes, but he really has no intention of hitting the broodlords with it unless the opportunity presents itself. He’s much more concerned about zoning out the corruptors that try and close the gap, and he does just that. In fact, MC’s entire play with skytoss is based on zoning, using a combination of psi storm and the threat of vortex to keep his air-based composition safe. Not to mention he exclusively leads his pushes with his three colossus and four carriers. He absolutely crushes this engagement, and continues to push forward.
One word for this engagement: Wow. MC charges right through the center of Daybreak against Broodlord-Infestor, which is usually a suicide mission. In this case, MC plays the positional game so strongly, only exposing his colossus and carriers marginally while dancing back and forth with high templar. The void rays and mothership stay tucked back, waiting for their moment to strike. Storms continue to rain down on infested terrans, corruptors, broodlords, and Curious is desperate to close the gap. However, he realizes he can’t wait any longer and charges into an arc of what is now nineteen +3 void rays. Everything immediately melts, MC loses nothing. Uhhhh, what? Curious GGs, and Tastosis along with the rest of the world is shocked to see a non-gimmicky skytoss absolutely crush through the “unstoppable” broodlord-infestor-corruptor mix.
So what if skytoss isn’t your thing? You like protoss, you like macroing, but you hate void rays and slow-as-hell carriers. Well, aTnSocke has just what the doctor ordered, a fun pressure-heavy style of PvZ that goes beyond three bases and doesn’t even include a Stargate. Check out the Vlog below that walks through a game between him and Acer’s Nerchio on Cloud Kingdom.