[HoMM3] Quicksand turns the tides

HoMM3 player Chris67132 stylishly navigates a tough early spot with style and Quicksand, a normally underwhelming spell he picked up from a level 2 spell shrine. Chris knows that a good or bad opening causes ripples that influence the whole game.

(10:00-11:00) With his main army positioned in the east with few targets in range, he faces a choice between burning multiple turns without deveoloping or putting everything towards beating “lots” of demons. Wasting time is asking to slowly lose down the line, so puts everything towards beating the Demons, knowing that he’ll also need a bit of luck with the random placements of his Quicksand to stand a chance. He also remembers from his last run that the wandering monster stack there was merely a “pack,” (10-19) one category smaller than “lots” (20-49), which gives him reason to believe the number demons will be closer to 20:

(11:03-15:40) The informed guess about the numbers proves true, with exactly 20 demons appearing in the group, the lowest amount possible for lots. He gets enough luck with quicksand to impede several Demon stacks over the course of the fight. He buys more time for his shooters by tempting demons to attack singleton out-of-the-way gargoyles. All told, the demons are delayed from closing with the shooters long enough for the ranged damage to take out almost all of them, cinching the much-needed win. The victory will allow him to him take the now-little-guarded neutral city early:

[OW] Maintaining Momentum

In these clips we see early game momentum in action. YouTube and Twitch Overwatch analyst ‘flame’ here reviews map 1 of Runaway vs LW Blue in the APEX Season 2 semifinals. This is a King of the Hill map, where a team wins by possessing the central point for enough total time. For readers unfamiliar with Overwatch, check the wiki for hero abilities.

In the initial engagement, LW Blue’s Saebyeolbe tries to leverage Tracer’s mobility and damage, quickly crossing to the enemy back line looking to pick off Cox playing the squishy support Ana. The tactic fails, as Cox undoes the damage by grabbing a health pack. As you can see in the video, Saebyeolbe desperately tried to deny the health pack, but being at full health was unable to actually pick it up. He pulls out to rejoin the main fight, but the enemy Winston’s Barrier blocks his damage. LW Blue players all wipe. Of note, LW Blue’s own Winston died to a single shot despite his very tanky hit point pool, knocked off the map to his death by Lucio. The tactical shot dodged the need to eat through Winston’s tankiness. Losing both the 1v1 and the 5v5, LW Blue gets off to a rough start:

“Playing McCree into a good D.Va is really hard, like you see right there they just press forward and there’s nothing they can do about it…I like that they just pressed in; they didn’t have to back up…no reason to give them ground. They (Runaway) have better heroes for engaging so they just engage.”

Flame claims Runaway has stronger engaging heros at this skirmish on LW Blue’s half of the map, and in that there’s only one real mirror-breaker to look at. Both teams field D.Va, Winston, Lucio, Ana, and Tracer at the start of the extended skirmish. The mirror-breaker is Genji for Runaway vs. McCree for LW Blue, setting up a tactical aggro vs control situation. McCree is more of a long range stationary firing platform. He has a hard time escaping from multiple opponents at once, but if guarded can lay down consistent high damage from range. Genji’s damage over time is lower, but he has spike potential against squishy targets and is very mobile. The Genji comp has more tools to win in a close up brawl among the squishies, while the McCree comp has better tools to get ahead in a ranged standoff, using their tanks to defend more often than dive.

LW Blue’s Winston, D.Va, and Tracer started in front screening against the push, with McCree, Ana, and Lucio
coming from the base. Runaway blasts past the front line with their movement abilities, closing on the squishy back line and splitting them from their tanks and Tracer. LW Blue’s Winston, D.Va and Tracer, cut off by the dive, go for the point unsuccessfully. The LW Blue back line, relatively immobile and split from their tanks, falls quickly to the dive:

The LW Blue Tracer ran from and survived the fight above. She spots a window to knock out D.Va’s mech suit and possibly finish off Winston, but his shield barrier keeps him alive with a sliver of health and baits Tracer to her death. Flame rightly notes the importance that Kaiser (the Winston) survived with low hp. In Overwatch, heros ultimates charge more quickly based on the damage dealt, shielded, or healed. Winston’s large but mostly empty HP pool lets Ana and Lucio heal him and power out their ults to help keep the steamroll momentum going. And the momentum does keep going, with Ana using Nano Boost on Genji, who pops his Dragonblade and dives for 4 kills and escapes. The dive knocks back LW Blue’s regroup momentum by another respawn cycle while Runaway is ticking up point control time and charging ults:

Following this point, Runaway needs to mess up and throw away advantage to lose. They do try to throw, losing control of the point briefly while at 99% to winning, but they win the teamfight after respawn and finish the game victorious.

[WC3] Don’t yield map control without a good reason

In this orc vs human Warcraft III ladder match, Grubby playing orc points out that the opponent failed to properly scout and counter Grubby's play. The opponent instead pursued a turtle-and-tech strategy that gives up early information and map control, and is punished.

The human should scout which neutral camps Grubby goes for. Creeping, i.e. clearing the neutral camps, is a very important early source of experience points and items. The human worker unit, the peasant, has the unique ability to temporarily transform into the hardier militia unit. Armed with scouting knowledge, the human player should counter Grubby's creeping by using his own hero supported by temporary militia to quickly clear the camps far away from the orc's Blademaster hero:

[SupCom] Heaven critiques a replay

Supreme Commander YouTuber Heaven reviews a replay and in the process addresses key cross-game ideas. Topics raised include efficient resource gathering strategies, harassment, prophylactic (i.e. preemptive) defense against predictable threats, opportunity costs of idle or ill-chosen units, the importance of converting an advantage into a greater one, and unit efficiency improvement via increased alpha-damage of massed lower-dam units.

This particular map, Loki, has trees near the players' starts that can be reclaimed for energy, allowing construction of power generators to be deferred. However, not all reclaimable trees are created equal: some are actually "tree groups" that can be sucked up by a single reclaim action and contain more energy, while others are less efficiently-reclaimable single trees:
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[PA] AndreasG on the ComReclaim foundational build order

Planetary Annihilation YouTuber AndreasG presents a fundamental build order for maximizing income in the initial couple minutes of play. The economic foundation laid by this build is capable of supporting transition into various strategies. Here I've pulled a couple moments of insight with cross-game relevance, but if you are playing PA yourself, it's certainly worth checking out the rest of the video.

It is important to place the initial bot factory close to the core metal points, to minimize the time the early fabricators ("fabbers") waste in travelling to construct the metal extractors ("mexes"):
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[AoE2] Key commentary selections from EGM Grand Finals Game 1

I previously posted the games of TheViper vs Daut in the Age of Empires 2 Escape Gaming Masters grand finals. Here I've pulled out some key moments in the coverage of game 1.

Right off the bat TheViper makes a grievous error with the placement of his initial lumber camp. The camp is badly blocked in by trees, causing a bottleneck of wood-delivering villagers at the small accessible portion. TheViper in effect has fewer villagers than he should, due to the accrued idle time. It does not take long for the difference to make itself felt, as he is left without the option of placing down a Dark Age rush ("drush") timing barracks:
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[HoMM3] TheKnownWorld on Using Multiple Heroes

Heroes of Might and Magic III YouTuber and Twitch streamer TheKnownWorld presents a short and sweet argument for using multiple heroes, backed up by clear comparisons and helpful tips.

One especially hard-hitting point in the video is the day 3 treasury comparison between the single- and multi-hero examples: even though hiring extra heroes costs 2,500 gold apiece, the faster rate of exploration and access to more loose resource piles means that the multi-hero approach largely pays for itself.

[OTC] Opening tactic of temporary chems investment: a good idea poorly executed

In this clip from an Offworld Trading Company tournament, player adorfield recognizes that the neutral colony’s modules are consuming chemicals, gradually increasing the market price. Adorfield bought 60 chemicals early, knowing that he could sit on them for a period and then sell them at a profit.

This is, on its own, a sound plan. However, the plan should have been aimed at selling the chems as soon as the profits were enough to let him buy the HQ level 2 upgrade for additional tile claims. Instead, adorfield did not sell his stockpile, locking up thousands of dollars that needed to be used to jump start in the critical moments of the opening. The plan actually delayed his development rather than accelerating it.

Meanwhile, an opponent with unstifled development was able to use their faster HQ level 2 claims to snatch away the high aluminum tile adjacent to adorfield’s base. In this moment we can see how the error snowballed against adorfiel and seriously hampered his opening. Yes, the price of those chems will continue to rise, which does provide some benefit, but waiting for the price to rise further came with an enormous opportunity cost of upgrading later than his opponents.

[SupCom] Early aggression in an FFA hurts both participants relative to the other players

YouTuber and commentator Gyle notes early in this free-for-all that many players try to avoid early conflict. This idea crops up in other games with FFAs as well. Two players conflicting early burn resources on aggression while the noncombatants are free to instead invest in their economies.

And indeed in this case despite one player coming out on top, both of the two fighting players end up clearly behind the others in terms of mass income.

[Stellaris] Macsen on the early game

YouTuber Macsen Lets Plays makes great content for single-player 4X games on high difficulties. His commentary is insightful, and his diligence with adding YouTube annotations to clarify or correct is seriously impressive. Here I've pulled out some important points from his Stellaris opening guide, especially ones that parallel ideas of strategy in other games.

Macsen starts off pointing out the importance of quick starts in 4x games:
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