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TL;DR: TvP is my worst matchup and I've been reviewing my replays in order to identify my mistakes / what I ought to do differently next time. However, I'm starting to question whether I'm going about things correctly as I don't seem to be faring any better in this particular matchup. I'd appreciate folks' input on this particular game with regards to what I could have done better in this game, so I can compare it against my self-analysis (below).

Background:
In an effort to improve at TvP (my worst match-up by far), I've begun (an attempt to) review and analyze my replays with an eye toward finding key mistakes that cost me the game. In many instances, macro was the culprit. However, in recent games, I'm starting to think that it's my approach to engagements (w/ his army) that is to blame.

For context, I am in silver league, with just over 200 or so games under my belt. I started playing SC2 midway through 2015 Season 1.

Take for example, this game I played earlier today. I've reviewed the replay and attempted to identify the reasons I lost the game but I would appreciate if folks could confirm, correct and/or supplement my analysis. (Your comments would help me help myself when reviewing future replays, if that makes any sense).

Synopsis:

  • The game starts off with my opponent attempting a cannon rush at my natural. I pull SCVs to take out the warping cannons but the cannons do warp (albeit with limited HP remaining) and I end up losing 4-5 SCVs in the process - given the SCV losses, I think I'm marginally ahead at best (due to the fact I began constructing a second CC in my main and I think I can expand much sooner than my opponent).
  • The game then enters enters an economy-building phase. At around the 12 minute mark, I attack his natural with a marauder-heavy bio army (which I discovered in the replay had a 25-supply lead on his stalker-heavy army, which also had zealots). I start my 3rd base as I move out. The timing is later than the usual 10 minute push but I figured that we were both set back by the cannon rush. He was slightly ahead on upgrades - he had +1 attack & +1 shields, while I had +1 attack and stim but I decided to attack after seeing I had a larger army, a large part of which countered his (i.e., my marauders vs. his stalkers). However, after a few quick warp-ins to replenish to his lost stalkers along with Photon Overcharge, I decided at the time that I didn't think I could trade effectively with him so I elected to retreat.
  • The game then entered the late-game phase - up until this point, I've been able to simply overwhelm my Protoss opponent with macro/sheer numbers, but as my opponents have been getting better (this opponent was gold in 2015 Season 1; the previous season's ranking is probably more accurate than his current ranking given the ladder reset at the beginning of this season), this has proved more difficult. Nevertheless, I think it's more useful to look at the first 15 minutes of play, given that is where Terran would ideally have ended the game.

I think I made two big mistakes:

  • I think my first big mistake was not preventing him from expanding to his natural. He expands quite a while after I expand and, although photon overcharge would have prevented me from destroying his main, I think I could have contained him to one base.
  • I think my second big mistake was retreating during my attack at the 12-min mark. After watching the replay, I think I probably could have taken out his natural (albeit at the cost of most that army).

Other self-critiques:

  • I elected to add more barracks and make marauders/marines in lieu of medivacs prior to my 12 minute push because I thought that higher numbers would give me a better chance.
  • Related to the previous point - following this decision to go for a more mineral heavy army, I ought to have reallocated SCVs away from gas and toward minerals. Although my overall spending quotient (67), it is largely due to the fact that I ended up banking gas. My SQ for minerals and gas separately was 82 (which could be better but is also not terrible) and 48 (which is just terrible), respectively. (As reference, my opponent's SQ was 57, with a mineral SQ of 54 and a gas SQ of 61, but I don't know if this metric is as relevant for Protoss given the warp-in dynamic.)
  • Lastly, I think I ought to have taken a 4th much sooner - possibly immediately after my 3rd base, given I was able to saturate my 3rd base instantly.
  • At this point (around the 15 minute mark), I stopped my analysis given that it seems pointless to analyze late-game mistakes which wouldn't have occurred if it hadn't been for my early and mid-game mistakes.

I would appreciate any thoughts/comments/criticisms. This particular matchup (TvP) is proving to be the most difficult one for me (by far).

  • Replay analysis can be hard, especially when it's your own because while looking at the replay knowing the reasoning that you had behind actions can influence how you look at it. You have to be able to look at a moment in the game and be able to determine who's ahead, why and what each person can/should do. Look at an engagement and see who came out ahead, why, what each person could/should have done. Try watching from the opponents pov. You'll be suprised what you may discover. I'll have a look at the replay when I get home, but that's just some quick tips on replay analysis. – Aequitas Apr 29 '15 at 22:48
  • all good points. i know that i have a hard time judging who's ahead bc my assessment is colored by the fact that i know the outcome and bc I don't yet have a good grasp of which army would win in a fight (assuming reasonable micro, which i clearly don't have yet). will watch from his view. – iceman Apr 30 '15 at 0:16
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I'm going through your replay as I type this, so I will mention things that I notice as I come up to them and pause the replay as time progresses. There will be a part where the game is technically over, but I will still analyze the decision making process as the game progresses, in case if the same scenario comes up again and it is still any ones game. If you need a practice partner: Dance.943

Step by step analysis

The first thing I noticed is you sent the scouting scv out even though you opened reaper first. This is not a bad idea, but it doesn't quite fit the opening you have going. An instance where you would want to send an scv around that time would be when you plan to go command center first and wish to e-bay block the protoss expansion. Instead you have the reaper coming out exactly 1 minute later, you are not going to gain any less scouting information from the reaper, and you are losing out on 40 minerals / minute with that scv not mining.

Now the reaper does come out and you notice your opponent is cannon rushing you. This is not a problem at all because cannons cannot move, and they are not in your main. There is no reason to pull scvs because the cannons are not a threat and you would only be losing out on mining time. Instead this should tell you that your opponent is weak at home because he invested 300 minerals at your natural, this will delay his cybernetics core which means no mothership core at home to defend against the reaper (plenty of worker kills for you). Keep your workers on gas and either a) Build a tech lab (marauders) or b) build a factory (tanks) to push back the cannon threat, and then build your command center in your main (expansions do not need to be in your natural until the threat is dealt with, produce scvs off both cc's and transfer when you have secured your natural)

When scouting with an scv, don't pull it back home so easily. You stopped his cannon threat, and then you placed an expansion. Had you kept your scv by your opponents base, you could have built an engineering bay to block his natural expansion.

At around 5:50 the protoss player will choose their tech path after fast expanding. You see his cannons so you know that his tech is delayed, and you saw the timing on his Nexus so you can assume that he is going to place his tech buildings around the 7 minute mark. That is around the time that you will want to start your factory, specifically because had your opponent gone robotics he could have placed the support bay around the 8-9 minute mark, and would have colossus around 12 minutes. Also because medivacs force the protoss player to tech to either blink, charge, colossus, pheonix, or storm. To counter the threat of the colossuss you would need the vikings or the ability to produce them as soon as you spot it.

At 9 minutes he attacks you with 4 stalkers. You should actually be the one attacking him, this is nearing the mid game mark where the protoss gateway army becomes obsolete without charge / blink. Your goal is to hit them right before they get their significant tech choice out.

At around 11:30 when you scanned your opponent, scan his main. Protoss rarely place their tech in their natural, and if you apply pressure with your army, you are going to see his natural anyway. Your goal is to see what tech path he is going, so that you can counter.

When you move your army out at 12 minutes. This position you are currently in (the aggressor), you should also be taking a third base. And have medivacs producing!

After you attacked his base, you saw he had a handful of stalkers. You might have been able to kill them all and take the nexus, I do not know for certain, but it would have been close. Another option would have been to run up his ramp. You killed his MSC so he cannot photon over charge the main, he has no zealots so his stalkers are too vulnerable, you would force his army to come to you while you snipe important tech structures or un-power buildings / supply block him. The possibilities are endless and in the end the choice you made was still a good choice, I like how your army is positioned at his third.

The engagement the second time... You scanned and see high templar, your first priority should be to avoid the incoming storms. You stim your units and attempt to catch your opponent off guard by focusing down his high templar. Good idea, bad outcome. Templar only have so much energy, and as you saw, even though you completely ate all of his storms, you still had an army left over capable of destroying his. Lesson: If you do engage in a scenario like this, rather than focusing down the high templar, instead split your units up so that they do not all get hit by the storm. In the end he will run out of energy, he will turn them into archons, and you will be in the exact same scenario with the exception that not all of your units will nearly dead. After that point, focus the pylon so he cannot warp in, it will buy you a little bit more time. If you do not think you can take out the pylon, back out.

at 17 minutes he attacks your 3rd. Your opponent's army is now located between yours, and a planetary fortress = A rock and a hard place. Best scenario here is to have your scv's repair the planetary and attack him from behind with your army. Attack click units will focus the closest threatening units, so if he were to engage your army from here, he would have to get out of range of the planetary or else some of his units would still be focusing it.

at 17:35~ you see his high templar, you only need to grab 2-3 marauders to attack them, not your entire army. That is what costed you that engagement

at 18:25, the micro actually hurt you. In this scenario because your opponent has only 3 zealots, it would be better to focus fire them and then re-stim and studder step into your opponents army. Stalkers are the 2nd worst cost efficient units in the game, the worst being the hellion without blue flame. If you see more zealots, then that is the queue to fall back to your army.

My reaction to your thoughts

You mentioned you think your two biggest mistakes are not denying his expansion and the engagement at the 12 minute mark. I am going to have to disagree with you. The engagement at 12 minutes was not one that put you behind in any means. Preventing someone from expanding is never something that could be considered a mistake because mistakes come from reacting, and preventing an expansion is not a reaction, it is a preemptive decision.

My thoughts on the two biggest mistakes

I think the two things that hurt you the most this game were not having medivacs out sooner, and the way you handled your army against high templar and psionic storm. If you treat high templars like banelings, I think the engagements would have been much more in your favor.

  • this is awesome - i appreciate the detail. reading and digesting now. will respond shortly. – iceman Apr 29 '15 at 23:56
  • this is so helpful. re: dealing with HT appropriately - your analogy of responding to storms in a similar way as responding to banes makes sense (and is simpler than dodging). (micro is easily the weakest part of my game, imo). re: medivacs, i watched the replay again and you're right, a handful of medivacs would've healed the marauders that survived the storms. thanks again! – iceman Apr 30 '15 at 0:11
  • i see what you're saying that preventing him from expanding can't be considered a mistake - but would you agree that pushing much earlier than around 12:00 (say 9-10 min) would have been better? or was the 12 min timing the right choice? (i can't help but feel that an earlier push would've exploited his weaker economy but i may well be wrong in that assessment.) – iceman Apr 30 '15 at 0:13
  • Pushing sooner would have definitely been better, when your stim completes, that is a good timing, when your +1 upgrade comes in, that is another good timing. But the same goes with timing attacks, you will have to learn them by watching your opponent. You will want to look for when his tech comes in, and then focus your timing attacks on hitting a minute or so before that point. – DanceSC Apr 30 '15 at 0:32
  • Like the first thing I look for in a protoss army is the sentry and zealot count. If he has more then 2 zealots then early pressure will be a little difficult, and if he has sentries in his army I know that he is teching (sentries are defensive). If I see 6 or more sentries and more stalkers then I prepare for his attack. When he attacked you with 4 stalkers, you didn't see zealots or sentries, that is a good time to attack him. – DanceSC Apr 30 '15 at 0:40
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So you scout a cannon rush and it looks like you just panic and are unsure what to do. It's at your natural there's no need for any alarm at all, just snipe his probe and then you can just leave it, you can kill it off later. You're reaction is bad, because you were about to expand realized you couldn't there and just floated all that money. You also wasted a lot of money by 1. not mining with all those workers and 2. losing a LOT of workers. 6 workers at this stage of the game is a HUGE deal. You are incredibly far behind at this point.

There were several options available to you after killing his probe. You could have focused the top cannon with your workers and reaper, this would have caused it to die before completing, this way you could go back to mining and let the reaper just kill off the pylon and then the cannon. Meanwhile you can expand a little further away in your natural so that the cannons can't reach (and ideally can't see) it. Never lose workers in this sort of situation.

I don't think that that would've been the best choice however. A better choice would be to send your reaper directly to your enemy, after going forge first, there's no way there can be a stalker or moco out, and I'd nearly guarantee that you got a decent number of worker kills, it depends on if they put down 0,1 or 2 cannons down to defend.

With the reaper off to kill off helpless probes, you can either, expand, or put down a few more raxes, say 3 more and just go for a quick push, with all the money they spent on static defenses, there's no way that they could have an army that could stop yours, obviously cannons would bolster their defensive capacity but it's unlikely that you would do no damage, at the very least you can stop them from expanding or even making too many buildings, without cannons to protect everything you will likely be able to pick off some outlying buildings.

At this point you're very far behind and you should've been 100% unable to win, the only reason I'd say you still have a chance is because they are doing a terrible job of making workers and you have actually caught back up in workers (actually surpassed him). If they had good macro you're reaction would've cost you the game, but this isn't the case so you are still in it.

You're supply blocks are holding you back quite a lot.

With how far behind their army must be due to that cannon rush, you should be being aggressive with your army, poking around seeing what damage you can do.

If you're going for a stim timing; by the time stim finishes, your army should be at their base. You're attack goes quite well regardless, I don't think you should've pulled back, you could've done a tonne of damage, probably even won the game. But it's okay to pull back ofcourse since you engaged well and came out ahead of that. But you are using stim so you're units take a lot of damage, you need to go back home and be defensive until you get medivacs to heal them up.

(also you're floating a lot of money at this stage)

Then you walk into a few storms and lose.

Except that he decides to attack your planetary, if you reacted a bit faster with the repairing and the sending of your army you would've dominated that fight, as all the zealots and archons are on the wrong side and attacking the pf instead of your units. You do okay in the fight regardless.

Then walk into a storm and lose.

You really need those medivacs a lot sooner.

Another thing which plays quite a big impact, is that you never rally reinforcing troops. This would've helped you so much a few times in this game. Either make sure to constantly collect them from your rally point, or you can shift the rally point, click first somewhere near your base to set it as normal, then hold shift and set it on a few of your army units. (make sure you add them to your control group when they get near)

By this stage you're way too far behind in upgrades and sheer army numbers to have a chance of winning. (ouch that last storm)

  • i agree that the biggest mistake of the game was one i didn't even address in my original post - it was the way I handled his cannon rush. i didn't think the supply blocking was too bad in this game - although my supply is often close to the supply limit, i thought i was building depots continuously (but i could be wrong, i'll go back and check). yeah, late-game tactics were poor - slow reaction-time in the attack on PFs, weak unit comp (i.e., lack of medivacs) and taking the full brunt of storms...every single time, haha – iceman Apr 30 '15 at 17:33
  • Yeh, that was definitely the biggest factor in this game and if you don't look at how badly he macrod while cannon rushing I would say that it was the largest factor in you losing, the only reason you stood a chance was because of terrible macro on his part that let you catch up. The two big mistakes you outlined were both important too, they just happened after your biggest mistake. Often times in terms of strategy you are going to want to look at the biggest mistake that you make first, which would be the handling of the cannon rush in this instance. – Aequitas Apr 30 '15 at 22:35
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    I wasn't particularly looking at ur macro, as the question was more about strategy (although u could have won with better macro) but I noticed at one point you weren't building anything for quite a while and noticed that it was because of a huge supply block I'm not sure if you got blocked often but even just that one block I noticed, puts you behind by quite a lot, a minute or so as a guess. If you get blocked and have energy just drop a supply thing, it's worth it. Focusing on your supply blocks will definitely help you improve. Remember it's better to have spare supply than not enough. – Aequitas Apr 30 '15 at 22:41
  • Yeah, have an scv constantly building supply depos. When the scv is done just have it rally to the next spot to build a supply depo. Yes you lose out on mining time but it helps you improve by forcing you to pay attention to the idle worker and remember to keep building supply depos – DanceSC May 1 '15 at 21:12

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