Far Seer

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Being gosu

Tactic from another peon.

So, you wanna be gosu? A Guide for The Average Hardcore Gamer

I'm a pretty average hardcore RTSer, I picked up the game and won pretty consistently, maintained a solid win% and picked up playing random without a hitch. Sure I can cut down your average gamer in a heartbeat, I can even hold my own against solid hardcore gamers. But if WC3 gamers had a class system, I have never been able to break into the upper class. The only time I’ve broken into ladder was clawing our way down to 650 in 2v2 AT, and by the end of the week we were unranked again.

I intend to change that, so I try to assess my own skills once in a while in an attempt to really make progress in turning myself into a god damn master of WarCraft 3. The following is the result of my most recent assessment of things I need to work on to really become a good player.

The key to being a good player is a mixture of skill and plain consistency. It doesn’t matter if you are a better player if you lose in the clinch. This is a guide to being a solid competitive player in any game, as much as it is a guide to WC3.

Being Ahead of the Game

Point One: Starting the Game Right

One thing I've noticed from watching replays of top players, and even my own replays when I'm 'on my game' about the very start of a game is the amount of clicking on your first buildings. This seems like a minor point, like nothing even, but it shows something. It shows you as a player are checking on progress. By clicking on these buildings to check them out you are avoiding being caught surprised when something finishes and are unable to build immediately - reassign the peon (if not shift assigned before building), and not waste any time.

The point here is not so much to save the .3 seconds of peon time and build speed as much as it displays a level on concentration. You are attempting to be pro-active to react to something that will happen instead of something that is happening. You are planning in advance, and you as a player are focused, you are aware of the state of your forces, you are aware of the progress of events, and you are hopefully aware enough to avoid any common and stupid mistakes (missing farms being the worst example).

Maintaining this level of concentration and trying to be pro-active is the most critical facet to playing a good game in any RTS.

Point Two: Creeping Properly/Keeping a Level Head

When you watch a replay and you see someone fight creeps you can at a glance see mistakes that even gosu players make. Not dancing early enough, moving a hurt unit in against creeps first, etc. You casually mouse over the units, or even just look at units being hit the most, and say to yourself "he should dance that huntress".

So why is it that when you are actually in the driver seat that you let 3 ghouls die to creeps guarding one of Lost Temple’s natural expansions? Because you as the viewer are completely detached, completely calm, and at ease - whereas you as the player are not. You as the player are thinking about what the enemy is up to, if you are doing this fast enough, if you need to build farms, if you should tech now or save up for a second hero. It’s because you aren't keeping on top of the events in the game.

Strive to maintain a level head and deal with the most important issues first. Currently that issue is not letting anything f'n die to creeps, react fast and fluidly - the same as when you were building your base, look at which units are actually being targeted the most instead of just focusing on the unit bar at the bottom - developing the ability to asses what will happen while fighting (much like assessing what will happen in your build order) is far more effective then just reacting to what is happening (what you are doing by checking the unit bar at the bottom).

I’m going to emphasize that point again because it is important that we have an understanding on this critical point. When you look at the icons at the bottom for health and you start to see them go down, what you are actually doing is reacting to what is happening: a unit is taking damage and once it has taken a certain amount of damage you might run him away.

What you should be doing is looking at where the units are and where the enemy is. If there are more enemy units closer to a specific unit, that unit will soon be taking damage faster then the rest of your units. By realizing that before the unit is actually taking damage you are much better able to cope with the situation since you anticipate it. It might not matter quite as much when fighting creeps, but when fighting your enemy it can make or break a close fight. It is the macro of micro, and the best way to learn to do it is with easy creeps - so take advantage of them not just to gain experience for your hero but to gain experience for you as a player (yeah that’s cheesy I couldn’t resist).

Everything Counts (even small amounts)

Point One: Creeping Revisited

The first and most common thing that will give you an advantage over your enemy is how well you handle creeps, if you take a loss or just plain take more damage then he does you give him a free advantage. This happens by you taking on creeps you can’t handle, taking them on sloppy, or having other random creeping related accidents.

The thing to remember is, in the very early game whoever took the least damage from creeps will control the map. All things being equal the result of five units fighting four units is not having five win with one standing. By having five units fighting against four, it means that two can gang up against one, killing it in half the time, and for a little while three can gang up on one, and so on. The results of five vs four is two or three from the five will walk away from the fight. Chances are in a more real life situation your enemy will see you getting the upper hand and run, at this point you can sleep, entangle, bolt another unit. In which case he’s lost three units and you’ve only lost one, maybe you can even snag a hero instead of another unit, and all this from not getting one guy killed by creeps.

It all adds up.

Point Two: “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – the clash

There are two goals to skirmishing in WC3. Neither of them should be winning the game flat out, but you are a hardcore RTSer, you know that. The point of a skirmish is to feel out your opponent, and to try to gain a small edge. If you’ve copped your feel, and it looks like it’s going to be him who gains the advantage you run like a scared little girl.

When running, bad things happen. Heroes get entangled, slept; units can get stunned or slowed. This is all very bad, and it can make running into a worse situation then just fighting it out. Learning to judge if this is going to happen during the first fight is complex, and really is something best learned through experience. But if you pay attention to positioning you can make a good rule of thumb: if you are strung out and he isn’t, do not engage. If he is strung out, and you aren’t, engage fast - positioning counts as much as numbers do.

Running in team games is much more difficult, since it can lead to you abandoning your teammate, or being abandoned by your teammate. Learning to work with another person and get a feel for how they play the game is a critical skill to develop, and can only be gained by playing with the same person over the course of many games. Further, sometimes you and another player will just have too different a style of play, and never be able to really work well together.

It is important though to support your teammate as much as you can in this situation. If you are hurting and decide to pull out of the fight, but your teammate thinks he can keep going for a while. Support him. Keep your heroes on the outskirts of the fight, and throw in a chain lightning, blizzard, or frost nova as often as you can. Even if your teammate is delusional and will not win it, you might be able to help out enough to make it close, or at least help cover his retreat. Don’t get frustrated, and don’t yell. People don’t react well to that, and all it will do is make for a less efficient team. Supporting a bad decision and playing it out as a team is better in the long run then not supporting it and losing as two individuals. Even if you lose that game, it’s a lesson you learned as a team, and won’t make next game.

Further, be aware of the costs of running. If it’s a close fight, and could come down to the last unit or two unlike SC or most other RTS games it can be better to fight it out then to run. In most RTS games if you just choose to get the hell out of a fight the losses are pretty minimal. On the other hand in WC3 there are so many slowing and stunning effects, that running from a close contest will result in him picking off important units or worse, picking off a running hero. This is an important point because it is counter intuitive to most RTS players: It is often better to fight out a close fight you aren’t sure about then it is to run after you have engaged them. This also depends on your enemy. NE for example with root and cyclone can pick off units all day, not to mention any light damage you deal to them can just be healed up from a moonwell. Running from a NE is usually a costly operation. Whereas when playing against an orc, a strategic retreat probably won’t hurt you much (purge and stomp being the only slowing effects).

But if you realize you are weaker then your opponent, don’t engage again until something has changed. The more you run, the more you let entange/sleep/stun/slow take their tolls on you. Instead of engaging and running, avoid combat completely. Creep hard, tech, mass units, pull out your dirty harassment tactics, launch hit and runs against his peon line. Do what ever you can to strengthen yourself, and weaken him in small amounts. But for the love of god, don’t straight up fight it out again – you will either lose everything, or units will get picked off while you run putting you in a deeper hole.

The trick is don’t turtle either. Stay aggressive, look for an edge, force an edge. Just don’t fight him face to face till the situation has changed.

The Big Picture

Point One: Creeps are the Third Resource

Don’t think of creeping as something fun to do in the beginning until you get big. Creeps are a resource. Being scared and allowing your enemy to deny you of creeping is just as bad as him denying you an expansion. Every time you keep him stuck in his base while you are out creeping is a huge advantage. Be creative, there are plenty of ways in this game to force an enemy back into his base while you are still out creeping, make use of them (raiders instantly come to mind).

Killing his hero(s) is a big deal, it means you should immediately take one of three courses of action:
Creep like mad. You are gaining both gold, and experience while he waits in his base for his hero to resummon thus solidifying your advantage.
Go in for the kill.

Expand and/or kill one of his expansions.

The right decision here is again complicated, when a player is intimidated by level or a “name” player they usually opt for A instead of B or C, this can allow for a come back that should have never happened. Be smart when faced with this decision, it can make or break games.

Point Two: When Losing

You can win losing games by being sneaky, determined, and stubborn. Don't quit when you can still win. This is especially true in the late game, where sometimes if you can drop a single enemy expansion you can cut the legs out from under an overwhelming army. Keep fighting unless it is REALLY over.

And I don't mean just don't quit. I mean don't give up. Keep playing, keep trying to win. Don't just roll over and accept a loss. I've won games that I shouldn't have by just not giving up, and not rolling over and playing dead. People get sloppy when they are winning, and if you look hard enough you can usually find something to exploit. On the same note, don't get cocky just because you are winning - you will make mistakes.

Point Three: When Winning

Don’t let him get away with a come back. Don’t let him surprise you, don’t leave him alone for too long. A good player who feels he is losing, will redouble his efforts, try to change strategy, try to surprise you. If you haven’t heard from him for a while after winning the last two skirmishes, don’t just creep endlessly. You need to feel him out, you need to press your advantage, you need to make sure he isn’t going to suddenly show up on your doorstep with a 90 pop army comprised of wryms, necros and 3/3 crack ghouls.

Keep the pressure up, mass is the biggest skill equalizer. A big fight against high upkeep armies can be amazingly difficult to keep track of as 30 spell effects go off. You lose track of heroes and all you see is a big jumble of protection icons. It doesn’t matter if you are good and he is bad when two big armies clash (its really far worse in 2v2 with 4 big armies). As even most good players can’t figure out what the hell is going on.

So don’t let it get there. Keep harassing him, keep pressure up. The smaller the scale, the bigger your advantage is. 10 units are much better than 2 units while 40 units isn’t that much better than 32. Cash in your 10 – 2 unit advantage by sacking one of his expos while you can.

There is no I in 2v2 Arranged Team

Point One: The Long Haul

It’s probably going to take you at least 30 games as a team to even break top 1000. It will probably take you many more to break top 500. In order to have a team that goes the distance, you guys are going to need to learn to work together.

That means as much about respect, and trust as it does skill. If you don’t trust your partner’s decisions, or you don’t respect his game - do not play together. It is a formula for frustration. For example I played with a real life friend of mine who was a bit of a newb. I didn’t respect his game because of it, if we lost I blamed him, if he made a mistake I was twice as harsh in my opinion. In watching some of the replays I realize he was quite a lot better than I thought – but since I didn’t respect his play, I was overly harsh on it – and I didn’t have any trust in his decisions (even if he was right). The combination of the two was an awful 26-21 record. We shouldn’t have lost a lot of those games, but I didn’t have enough faith in his decisions, and because of it we didn’t play as a team. Even two good players will lose if there isn’t that mutual respect. Worse even, it will be frustrating, and no fun.

Point Two: Have Faith

This is a lot like the last subject. But you gotta have faith in your teammate. If you are getting attacked, and he decides to counter attack instead of helping you, you must have faith in the fact that he made the right decision, that if he came to help you it would have been suicide. If you don’t have faith in your partner enough to trust his decisions, do not play with him.

Point Three: Communication Is Key

Use Alt-G a lot (the flashing exclamation point, can be done with alt-click on the map or minimap too). And I mean it, a lot. It is the fastest way to communicate. When offering my current teammate a decision (attack here or here) I ‘bang’ two spots, he bangs one (or vice versa). We go there. We don’t need to type at all. You can bang a creep spot or an enemy expo and offer the same choice really fast. It can also be great for getting someone’s attention or pointing out something. If you see a flicker of red on the mini-map, make sure your teammate saw it as well. Bang the spot and say “enemy moving”. Make use of it. I watch recorded games where the other team never uses it, and it becomes clear why they lost.

Point Four: Review Your Games Together

After a game is over, review it with your teammate. Decide what you both need to work on after it was over. Email each other with recorded games (yours and other people) and make notes. Going over your mistakes together is critical to both of you getting better, and getting better as a team.

Identify your weak spots, and try to fix them. With one partner (37-18 many of those last losses came due to us not playing together for a few days and not playing well) we often lost to a really well executed hard early rush, but if the game went longer we rarely lost. It was a big weak spot once we made level 7 and worse at level 8. If we had just addressed it earlier, and worked on it more it would have made a huge difference.

It’s Just A Game Right?

Point One: Don’t Be Afraid

You are facing a level 12 AT 2v2 team that’s ranked in the top 15. So what? The worst and most common mistake you can make is giving them too much respect, don’t walk in thinking about how much better they are, and how they will beat you into a whimpering bloody pulp. Play harder. Play like there is money on the table. Play like you are going to win. Play like you are going to embarrass them. Play like you want to win. Remember, the last 40 wins they had were because people looked at the levels and just gave up. Don’t be number 41.

Be ready for a very hard, very early attack, but stick to your game. Don’t suddenly try that thing you saw once because that’s how the top players play. Play your game.

Point Two: Don’t Let Talkers Rattle You

I am a talker. Once I set up my first peons I’m immediately talking to you, I’m the civil kind so I just ask where your from, what you think of the game, where your spawn point is. It doesn’t affect my game, and to a certain extent it helps me. I will continue to talk to you as my units are charging into your peon line. I’ve seen conversation throw others off though, and if you are one of those. Don’t indulge me. A GL/HF and no further response.

The non-civil talker can be much more difficult to handle, as personal insults and trash talking can throw anyone off their game. Fight fire with fire, or ignore it. If you win a fight throw back twice as much trash talk. Usually the kind of person who talks trash is also the kind of person who can be affected by it back. Just don’t let him know he has you rattled.

Point Three: Don’t Panic When the Tower Rush Comes

Make sure you plan out a method for dealing with all known cheese. As long as you don’t panic, you can counter them. So… don’t panic, and carefully counter. You can stop it if you just think about the best response.

Point Four: Let the Losing Streak End

Before it ruins your record. If you lose a few games straight, stop playing and do something else for a while. If you keep playing you will go into the game with a losing, negative outlook… and you will lose. Go outside, get a drink with some friends, watch a movie, hit on that cute blond who is always at the coffee shop at this hour. Just stop playing. My 1v1 record is a mediocre 30/13. EIGHT of those thirteen losses happened in one day when I hit a bad losing streak and refused to stop playing until I won one. That was stupid. Learn from my mistake.

Point Five: Mind/Body

WarCraft 3 is a mind game. It’s all about focus, concentration, and fast thinking. You have probably played games at 4am while utterly exhausted, and know that you have trouble concentrating and keeping track of even basic issues. You get sloppy from missing farms in the beginning and progress to losing heroes in the middle until you finally lose the game in the end.

The same thing happens if you’ve spent too much time devoted to WarCraft 3. The average person can only maintain a high level of concentration for a couple of hours straight, after that your focus begins to deteriorate. By playing in excess of four hours a day you are not going to make yourself a better player, chances are, in fact, that you will develop sloppy habits and make stupid mistakes. Once you feel yourself losing focus, or games start to blur into each other, do not watch replays or read WC3 sites (something I am guilty of spending far too much time doing). Obsession does not make you better, in fact it tends to confuse and overwhelm. You over-think and you overload yourself with information. Its just like any other obsession, doing anything 24/7 will not make you better at it, it will make you robotic and inflexible. Not the smooth, fluid and aware you should be.

The right thing to do is try to maintain something of a healthy lifestyle / attend to the social life you have been neglecting. You would be amazed at how working out for half an hour a day can help you focus, and maintain a much higher energy level even in WC3. This will keep you happier, make your play time more enjoyable, less frustrating, and will allow you much higher levels of concentration, focus, and speed. The result? More wins, and a better all around time.

You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.

The Conclusion

Build orders, and unit combinations are important to know. Knowing how a wand of negation can negate an army of skeletons fast is good, but it doesn’t help you if, as a player, you never take the time and thought required to get and use it in the game.

All good players know build orders, all good players know unit combinations and race match ups. Hell, even a bad player who spends an hour a day reading forums knows all the common ones. What separates good players from great players is the ability to actually use all the tools at their disposal, the ability to actually do it in practice and when the pressure is on. This requires that you as a player stay focused, think constantly, and as cliché as it sounds, adapt to the situation. You need to be able to very quickly assess what kind of player your opponent is and adapt to him as much as the units he chooses to field.

The bottom line is thinking is what separates the scrubs from the competitors. So for the love of god man, think.

Good Luck, and Have Fun, and if you found this helpful throw peonintraining a message on US East and let me know you dug it.

Disclaimer: Caution! Kids, don't try this at home!