Through our Midgame Moves series, we’ve shown the importance and the impact of switching up tactics in the middle of a StarCraft II game. Success or failure against an opponent comes down to reading and reacting to the game within the game…that is sometimes within another game. Whether you open up with a cheesy aggressive move or carefully “sell” your opponent on the idea that you’re doing something only to pivot to what you intended the whole time, there are tells that your opponent can read.
We caught up with veteran WCS personality Kevin “RotterdaM” van der Kooi, whose participation at WCS Valencia marked his 99th live event as a caster, to get an understanding of what he looks for when a tech switch is coming in StarCraft II. After bearing witness to so many transitions, successful cheeses, and deceptive switches over the years, RotterdaM is one of the few people who has probably seen it all. As somebody who literally sees the game from the livestream audience’s perspective, what does Rotti look for?
“We eliminate certain actions. If [a Zerg] is worried about an eight [Warpgate] Zealot attack, but he knows that all four [Protoss Vespene Geysers] are up and running, he knows that’s not the case anymore because nobody needs four gases if you want to make an eight ‘Gate Zealot attack. So then, he’s much more worried about the heavier units: the Archon switch or the Immortals,” explains van der Kooi. “Four gases [for a Protoss] means that they are, at the least, not trying to end the game in the next minute. In Legacy of the Void, that’s simply not possible. There’s not really any build that’s good with four gases that early on.”
Of course, as a working caster who can take in way more info than even the broadcast observer, RotterdaM has a much easier time reading the game than even championship-level players. Essentially, even the elite players are reduced to simply guessing while staying on guard for any potential deception. “Rotti” knows what’s coming up next after a player takes a second base. The best players can only rely on experience, study habits, and their opponent’s known tendencies. This can be a blessing and a curse.
“sOs is the type of Protoss who’s really really good at executing almost everything. It’s a very scary combination when he’s not just unpredictable but his execution is good with almost everything. When you see a Dark Shrine, against most people that means against Zerg they’re going to make a couple Archons and harass,” says van der Kooi. “sOs is the type of player that can do a lot more with just Dark Templars, and, with really good multitasking, would even go for something as crazy like Shadow Stride.”
The debate about which race in StarCraft II has the advantage and when (and in whose hands) will likely never end. RotterdaM has spent a career telling it like it is and acknowledges that options for deception differ depending on the race of units, even with an expert at the controls.
“There’s a limited amount of tricks that I think Terran can pull off,” van der Kooi begins. “TY for instance is a master of positioning and in a way that comes down to mind games as well. [He] is more a player that you need to keep an eye on his army movement because he will make pushes you don’t expect but can really catch you off guard. And then the [army] composition doesn’t even matter that much.
“In spaces when Terran often gets ready to transition and worry about the next phase, Solar is [a Zerg] that can still hit you with the previous phase of units. So, you need to really keep track of his army composition and his movement. Just because he has a Hydralisk Den, don’t blindly assume he’s going to sitback and make Hydralisks. He can still hit you with Ravager-Baneling and stuff like that.”
The potential for deception and the ever-evolving creativity of StarCraft II players makes for a unique viewing experience for fans. With these tips on what to look for, your midgame experience as a member of the audience might have you calling out what’s next before RotterdaM himself. Thanks for joining us for Midgame Moves and be sure to catch up on any pieces you may have missed.