Midgame Moves: The Surprise Tech Switch

  • Padraic Murphy

Professional StarCraft II games often feature both players utilizing a specific, preferred army composition. As parts of their army are picked off, players will refill their ranks with the same units and commence fighting again with a renewed focus on that initial strategy.

An alternative approach is to catch the enemy by surprise with a mass tech switch. It’s not an easy maneuver but, when well executed, it can be the key to victory.

For an examination of the mid-game tactic of tech switching, I looked to WCS casters Jared “PiG” Krensel and Ravi “feardragon” Pareek to help explain some of the finer points of tech switching in StarCraft II.

For PiG, selling the illusion of what you’re trying to do is what makes a switch effective. “This is very unique to each situation. Similar to transitioning off a cheese, you should look to force a specific imbalance in your opponent’s composition by committing very hard in one direction,” says PiG. “For instance, going for mass Ultralisk versus a Protoss and forcing [the opponent to create] mass Immortals, then quickly swapping into mass Mutalisks as their army doesn't shoot up. The important thing is to create enough damage, threat, and chaos that your opponent is one step behind trying to strengthen their position against your previous army, to the point where they are completely unprepared for your next step. A key to this is finding the right moment to use your original army without getting it slaughtered by the counter you forced out. Counterattacks and going for the economy rather than a front-on fight can be key here.”

                        immortal_500w.gif

For feardragon, the timing of it all is very important; since you’re essentially creating a vulnerability, you want to do it on your own schedule.

“Being able to utilize tech transitions as the game progresses is key to having a strong late game. Whenever you make a big switch from one tech to another, whether it be an advancement or a lateral move, there will be a period of vulnerability. So you need to pick your timing carefully,” says feardragon. “That period of vulnerability and how stable the new power you get is will vary from unit to unit. For example, moving into High Templars for Psionic Storm can take a while because you not only have to get up your Templar Archives, but you also have to research Psionic Storm. The upside is you can have lots of High Templar [already] warped in beforehand and you'll have a sudden massive power boost to your army when it completes. Compare that to Disruptor tech where the power curve is far more gradual, as you don't have to wait a long time to research anything, but you can only create one Disruptor per Robotics Facility at a time.

“Play around and get a feel for what those vulnerability periods are like for different units and the experience will help you determine when you can get away with a tech switch to get the additional power that comes with it!”

That’s a quick look at tech switching from two fan-favorite WCS personalities. Stick around as Midgame Moves week is just getting started. Stay tuned for more tips to keep your StarCraft II skills in shape!