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I see a lot of Protoss going blink early, maybe due to HuK's popularity and his innovative blink play. I usually see twilight council after the first gateway. Usually they will have blink researched before they even begin attacking. I feel that this is TOO early but I am not at the level to be criticizing pro build orders. When I do a blink rush, I get the twilight after my 2nd or 3rd gateway and blink is ready during my first engagement with 9-12 stalkers.

The thing is, delaying blink as long as possible gives you room to adjust your build depending on what you scout. The moment you plop down the twilight council, you're getting pretty committed to an expensive early tech. With regards to tech, isn't the rule of thumb to delay it as long as possible until you can actually use it?

In other words, the way I see it, the pros are getting blink almost a minute before they actually need it.

The only reason I can think of to have blink ready before the start of the battle is to get around a wall or forcefield, either to force an engagement when you know they're not ready or to get instant vision of high ground for warping in. Even though that's extremely risky, the pros do it successfully. I don't :)

There are of course many other uses of blink, including:

  1. Sneak cliff jump into opponent's base. For this though you either need a hallucinated air unit or an observer, which is irrelevant at this stage of the game.
  2. Blinking back injured units. But this is also not very useful so early. This blink-back micro is not really necessary if your stalkers have a clear path to retreat. At this point in the game you can't have many stalkers, and you can just walk them back just as easily as you can blink them back. Later in the game when you have so many units that stalkers are clumped up and there's no clear path to walk backwards, THEN blink-back becomes effective. Yes, there are nice tricks with blinking to low ground or around buildings that aren't possible without blink, but this is a good reason to have blink ready DURING the engagement, not before.
  3. Retreating or chasing. Again, this is not something that will be necessary at the start of your engagement.

So is that risky forcefield jump the only reason people get such early blink? What makes HuK's or Kiwikaki's blink rush builds better than mine?

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Day[9] discusses Huk's Blink strategy in depth here and kind of agrees with you, but doesn't really go into details of why blink comes in this early. –  CruelCow Jun 30 '11 at 13:00
    
If you have a terran teammate he can get scan early and the sneak cliff jump becomes much more feasible early in. –  Jed Daniels Jul 1 '11 at 16:30
    
This question made me use Blink in a team game where I used mass stalkers and had a Terran player contained but he had Tanks at his front door, I simply used an observer to blink into the side/back of his base to catch his workers off-guard... :) –  Tom Wijsman Jul 4 '11 at 11:18
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4 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

There are two questions here:

  1. Should I get Blink Early?
  2. Should I get upgrades before I can use them?

I'll answer the second one first.


This is not a behavior which pro's restrict to just Blink, but you'll notice it is also common with Grooved Spines, Zergling Speed, Infestor Energy, Siege Mode, Colossus Range, and a slew of other unit based upgrades. In fact, I would go so far as to say this is actually Standard Practice. Take the simplest case: Zergling Speed. The entire point of the 14 Gas, 14 Pool opening (usually referred to as the "safe" Zerg opening) is to have 100 gas when your Spawning Pool finishes. Many players (such as Artosis) will say that Zerglings are essentially useless without speed, and that it's so crucial that you get Zergling speed to establish scouting and map control that you need to be getting it ASAP.

Ok, sure, Zergling speed is super helpful, but so is an ability like Stim, why aren't people rushing Stim? Well the truth is, people are rushing Stim. In order to maximize the Stim timing window (the time between getting Stim and your opponent catching up on the Tech tree), players will start getting Stim long before they need it (or can support it with Medivacs). In fact, the correct Stim timing push has your army of a dozen or so MM, about half way across the map in case you find your opponent doing some sort of all-in. Sure it might be useless for the extra 10 seconds it takes to get to your opponents base, but running into an opposing Zealot/Stalker army half way across the map, and you start getting that Stim earlier and earlier.

Grooved Spines and Colossus Range are perhaps the most pronounced examples of getting upgrades early. I don't know a single player who builds Hydralisks before at least starting this upgrade. On the Protoss front, it is considered standard practice to have your range upgrade finish before you start your second Colossus; any build which gets 2 or 3 Colossus before range is considered "usual" or "crazy." In fact, if you see your opponent has 2 Colossus you can almost guarantee he has the range upgrade and plan accordingly. For both these units (Hydralisk and Colossus) providing long range support is so essential that the upgrades are frequently prioritized before the units which use them.

Blink

But, ok, what about Stalkers? Many players NEVER get Blink because they've gone down separate tech paths, so it's not an essential upgrade like Zergling speed or Colossus range; and the people who are getting Blink aren't always doing it as they army pushes out (although a lot of players do). So why are they getting it SO early?

Blink has the unique place of being an incredibly powerful offensive and defensive ability. I don't mean the ability to pull back injured units or escape, I mean when your Stalkers are sitting in your base it gives you greater coverage. You're able to react to Drops/Banshee and Zergling/Mutalisk harass far faster and more effectively than you could previously. This gives you a solid position in the mid game with which to build into your late game.

Blink also functions extremely well at providing map control. At a speed of ~3 (2.95), Stalkers are extremely fast units, out pacing most others in the early game. This makes them ideal scouts and units with which to exhert map control. Getting Blink early increases their effectiveness at this role. As map control is about the ability to respond, just having Blink is enough to do this, you do not even need to send those Stalkers out.

Finally, Blink is an aggressive ability. It allows you to engage in places you wouldn't otherwise (even if you're only blinking out injured units). For a player at the level where a missed opportunity is no different than a mistake, someone like Huk cannot afford to need Blink and not have it. Should he see a chance to engage his opponent or push back, this ability becomes invaluable.

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As always a very helpful answer. I guess the tl;dr is that I am overemphasizing the need to delay blink. The tiny benefit of delaying blink is not enough to overcome the risk of not having it early enough. –  tenfour Jun 30 '11 at 15:43
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I would say that your point 2 is wrong.

Blinking micro is most important in the early game, it becomes completely useless when the enemy can one-shot your stalkers. Early, it helps you to keep your stalkers alive and therefore helps you to maintain static DPS for a long period of time (which is something a non-blinking enemy can't do).

In late game, the blink micro is useless. Blink retreat and shift blink is still very valid, even in late game.

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I disagree that blink micro is useless late game. It can be an effective way to get your stalkers to the high ground, or blink out of dangerous areas quickly (such as an area affected by a HT P. Storm). That said, I agree that it's actually most useful early game. –  Wipqozn Jun 30 '11 at 12:28
    
I am not talking about early game vs. late game - only very early game. I mean, why have it ready when your stalkers are only half way across the map? The way I see it, it should ideally be ready 15-20 seconds after you first engage the enemy. –  tenfour Jun 30 '11 at 12:31
    
@tenfour Well, that is a generic issue, you should get every technology when you need it. Having a technology researched without a use for it is a waste of money and time. –  Let_Me_Be Jun 30 '11 at 12:40
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You might not be able to control when you have to fight. I haven't analyzed the build order, but generally if you put a lot of money in early tech your army is initially rather weak.

So possibly Huk knew that around a minute before his desired attack timing there was a point where he was weak to a counter attack, but if blink was already done he would be able to defend. So by getting blink earlier his build gets more robust.

Even if in some specific game that early blink goes unused for a while, in other games that timing might be vital to defend against early aggression.

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I think you are underestimating the strengths of blink.

Let's go over the blink uses again...

Blinking back injured units

This ability is essential. Although you can retreat injured stalkers without blink, this takes time. And, if your opponent controls his units properly, it will cost you some stalkers. In a stalker vs stalker battle, the opponent stalkers can walk-shoot the retreating unit, which makes retreat almost useless.

When fighting melee units blink allows to have more free shots than would be possible otherwise. When fighting zerglings it allows you to switch layers of stalkers easily. Normaly you can't do it because your units are clumped up (you want them to be against zerglings) and the unit you want to retreat is surrounded.

Retreating or chasing

This one is of great importance too! If you do have blink, your opponent does not, and you meet him with a superior force, you score a win! This fact alone makes blink a very nice upgrade to have.

Another scenario is if you start an engagement, but then your opponent brings reinforcements, or you just understand that the opponent has too much and you should not have attacked in the first place. If you try retreating without blink, you usually lose a stalker or two, which is very significant. With blink you are away in an instant without losing anything and can push again if you like because, given good micro, you don't risk at all!

To the subject of zerglings again... Blink allows to break out of zergling surround easily. This allows Protoss to actually move out of his base with stalkers without fear of being eaten. Stalkers with blink can always escape and ensure the Zerg takes heavy losses while chasing them. Stalkers without blink will definitely die without doing much given enough speedlings.

Forcefield circumvention

You mentioned this in your question, but I'm not sure my understanding is the same as yours.

As I see it, blink is used not so much to blink to the enemy as to blink from the enemy:

  1. You walk up to the enemy.
  2. The enemy tries to cut your army in half with the force fields.
  3. The otherwise doomed half of your army blinks over the force fields to the safety.
  4. If your opponent has zealots, you benefit from force-fields, shooting over them without zealots reaching your stalkers.
  5. You wait for the FFs to expire and repeat. (eventually the enemy will be out of force fields)
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You're right, I underestimated the value of blink. And to complement your comment about zerglings, against terran, it allows a stalker to break away from marauder slow - both of these examples are important extremely early in the game. –  tenfour Jul 4 '11 at 7:46
    
Indeed, I forgot about Terran altogether! :) –  Rotsor Jul 4 '11 at 12:54
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