Elazer Shows the Power of Positioning

  • Dave Oliver, Blizzard Entertainment

When it comes to basic military strategy, flanks, ambushes, and pincer attacks can deal huge damage to an opposing force. Those same tactics transfer perfectly to a one-on-one game like StarCraft II where the strategic elements can run as deep as a player's imagination. At WCS Leipzig, Mikolaj “Elazer” Ogonowski showed us exactly how deep in his fourth game against Alex “Neeb” Sunderhaft in the quarterfinals.

To set the stage, the game is relatively even. Both players traded some early harassment on one another’s mineral lines, and both are going for slightly greedy economic plays. Elazer took a difficult-to-defend gold base instead of the more defensible natural expansion, and Neeb stuck with two bases while massing Adepts and Phoenixes. Despite how even this game is, Elazer’s unit positioning will end the game in just over a minute. It all starts with Neeb’s first major push.

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Neeb sends his force of Adepts and Phoenixes to attack Elazer’s gold base. It picks off a fair number of Hydralisks and a couple of Drones, but doesn’t deal too much damage. He does, however, have a mobility advantage. Hydralisks are slow and must take a long way around between the main base and the gold expansion, while Neeb’s Phoenixes can make a short flight between the two. Even the Adepts can shade rather quickly between the two bases, putting Elazer in a difficult spot. He manages to get control of the situation with some well-placed Banelings ready near his main base’s mineral line.

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These Banelings make some big connections on the attacking Adepts, and that significantly wounds Neeb’s ground army. Shortly after, Neeb retreats with his valuable Phoenixes since Hydralisks are finally coming into range. But Elazer is ready for that. He splits his Hydralisk force so that one smaller force pushes all of Neeb’s Phoenixes into a larger force.

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While a couple Phoenix kills may not seem like much, it’s enough to force Neeb to retreat and regroup. Elazer pursues and morphs in a huge number of Banelings to bust open the Protoss front wall and go for some counterattack damage.

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When Elazer comes knocking on Neeb’s front door, Neeb shades all his Adepts through the attacking force. His intent isn’t exactly clear. Is he trying to flank the attacking force? Is he trying to send out his own counterattack while he holds off the Hydralisks? Or is he trying to clean up the twenty Banelings before they finish morphing in the middle of the map? Regardless of his intentions, the Adepts finish their shades right on top of the massive field of Banelings just as they finish morphing. The ensuing explosions decimate the Protoss army in one shot.

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Neeb taps out right after this, and Elazer ties up the series. This play is a prime example of how battle planning can spiral into a convincing win, and Elazer’s tactics here show us just how well he understands this game and how to use his opponent’s position against them. Here’s the full clip in action: