The to-and-fro of Colossus vs Colossus PvP: Zest’s amazing PvP pt.2
As I mentioned a little while ago, I’m currently rewatching all of Zest’s PvPs since the ro8 in GSL 2014 Season 1. I’ve recently come
to realize that he’s actually even better than the hype says. In particular, he has some of the most perfect and inspiring PvP ever
seen. In particular, his match against Rain (who you also must count as one of the very best PvPers in the world), is amazingly good.
Both of their personalities and playstyles come through in this awesome match, and I find myself rewatching some of the games 2-3
times, pausing at certain points and rewinding to better understand what is going on.
I, myself, am an anti-fan of Colossus based PvP, ever since the Immortal/Zealot/Archon style was introduced last year. Imagine my
distaste in game 2 of Zest vs Rain in the ro4 of GSL Code S season 1, as the 2 best Protosses both choose to focus on Colossus based
strategies on the dirty map known as Daedalus Point.
Regardless, I watched carefully, taking notes all the way. This game turned out to be one of the PvP’s I took the heaviest notes on so
far. Some beautiful stuff happened in this game. Let me share some of it with you.
The map, as previously mentioned, is Daedalus Point. This means Twilight openings. Obviously. The architecture of the map makes Blink
play the most solid and versitile opening, and both players open up with fast Twilights, acknowledging this.
Zest goes into Blink, while Rain chooses DTs. In the meantime, both players grab Robos. As Zest sees DTs, he discontinues Stalker
production at 4. This is actually a great number of Stalkers, when you think about it. 4 Threatens single-volley Probe kills. On top
of this, Stalkers get weaker and weaker as a PvP progresses, so the more you make, the more damage you are going to need to do with
them. Since Rain opened DTs, he also opened with Immortals (this is just something you do with DT openings when playing normally, for
a variety of reasons). If you study Rain’s play in addition to this, you will see that he almost always makes 2-3 Immortals minimum,
with any build, to stabalize. Stopping at 4 Stalkers was really cool.
Right after their Robos, both players choose to make a Nexus, and quickly go into a Forge afterwards. When 2 top level players go for
(somewhat) similar tech routes (which have answers for each other, i.e, these openings), it is silly to go and try to kill your
opponent. He will just be slightly more greedy than you and defend normally, coming out reasonably far ahead. Thus, the Forges.
Zest grabs 3 Sentries, while Rain only grabs 2. Last year, 3 was the norm for Sentries, but this year we are seeing more and more
players grab 2. The reason to grab 2 is obvious: PvP is more understood, meaning you don’t necessarily need as much scouting. On top
of that, spending 100 gas less than your opponent on a unit that may not affect the game in a huge way can be a nice edge.
Why does Zest grab 3 then? Well, you have to remember that Rain opened DTs with Immortals while Zest got Blink, and was unable to do
any damage. The extra Sentry certainly would come in super helpful if Rain decided to attack, with what is now, in a heads-up battle,
a superior composition. For Rain, there is absolutely no way that Zest can do an actual attack. Rain’s composition would smash it. He
only needs the 2 Sentries for scouting, not for defensive purposes.
Now, before his Natural Nexus finishes, Zest starts his gasses there. This is partially because he’s spending so much gas on Sentries
at the moment, and partially because he’s going for a super-fast Colossus follow-up. Really, both are related. The obviously share the
very limited gas resource, but those Sentries which can block against a fast Immortal attack, also buy you time to get Colossus out.
For your opponent to realistically attack you up a ramp, he will need a way to break Force Fields. If he goes for Colossus, he’s
slower than you. Archons are a bit too clunky to get this early in the game as well. Colossus is a solid choice here.
Rain also decides to go for Colossus, but only after 3 Immortals. Good old Rain, nice and safe :D. Zest quickly scouts this with a
Hallucinated Phoenix, and instantly drops another Robo. This is years and years old. When both players are going for Colossus, the
easiest and often-times best counter is to go for more Colossus. Colossus need death-balls to be effective, and you simply don’t have
them this early into the game. With your opponent going Colossus, he simply can’t attack you.
Obviously, this truth about going for even more Colossus vs your opponent also going Colossus is true for both sides. So what if both
players go for double Robo Colossus? Well, they can’t attack for even longer, that’s what. And what’s that mean? 3rds!
Zest promptly takes his 3rd after the 2nd Robo and a couple more safety gates.
Now clearly, this isn’t the only reaction for Colossus vs Colossus. It was the most common at the professional level back in Wings of
Liberty, but there are some other options as well. Rain took another one of these options. The second he scouts these 2 Robos (and
don’t forget, with 3 Sentries for Zest and 2 Sentries for Rain, the scouting is almost non-stop), he takes his own 3rd base and adds a
bunch of gates.
So let’s take a look at what these two players are doing, what their game plans are, and what needs to happen for them to win or lose:
- 2 Robo Colossus into a 3rd base.
- Late game oriented. If left alone, he will have the ultimate army.
- Other strategies will have a stronger army than him for a short time.
- Must create his Deathball and win a straight-up engagement.
- 1 Robo Colossus into a 3rd base and additional gates.
- Mid game oriented. He will have a stronger army for a short period of time.
- Unless he does critical damage, it will be a tricky transition into the late game.
- He must deal at least some damage in the mid-game in order to be able to transition his soon to be weaker army into a stronger
Both players are completely aware of what is going on. While various players would feel more comfortable in one position over the
other, or might consider one position to be leading, it is most definitely still anyone’s game. It now comes down to the tiny extra
things each player does which will decide the game.
Rain stops Probe production and makes a Warp Prism. He moves out towards Zest’s 3rd base. It’s time to put on some damage with his
Zest sits his main army in his Natural expansion. To move down towards his 3rd would be suicide, as his army would become vulnerable
in the open to the large gateway based force of Rain. Instead, Zest sends out his 4 Stalkers from the early game (which would have
almost no impact on any battles that could happen at home) to harass Rain’s 3rd base.
In the next moments, Rain kills the 3rd base of Zest. Zest kills off some Probes with his Stalkers, and forces a few Zealot warpins to
chase them off. Rain continues to sit on the other side of the map for a little bit longer, but Zest continues the Blink harassment at
his 3rd. It is pretty darn effective, and Rain pulls back to his 3rd with his main force (partially to deal with the harassment,
partially because he knows that Zest’s army is getting very scary indeed).
After Rain killed the 3rd base he starts a Stargate. The Colossus count quickly becomes 8 for Zest, 3 for Rain. It is clear that he
must get Stargates. This is one of the most interesting points in this entire game. In my opinion, he started the Stargate far too
late. Generally in a situation like this, you would want to start the Stargate as you moved towards your opponent’s 3rd base, not
right after you killed it. There could be a few different reasons why Rain did this…
- He thought Zest would commit to defending the 3rd base, and wanted every resource put into his actual army.
- He wanted to warp in Zealots to Zest’s main, and force an army split which he could then take advantage of with an attack up the
ramp (this idea could have been foiled by the forced warpins at his 3rd to defend vs Zest’s Blink harassment).
- Maybe something else, though I’m pretty sure all the other reasons I came up with are below Rain’s level.
Whatever the reason, the Stargate did start a little bit late, which may have ended up ultimately costing Rain the game.
Anyways, as Rain retreated, Zest calmly took his 3rd base again. It was very timely, as the main base was running out, and he kept up
what was basically a 2 base economy the whole game.
Zest very quickly scouts the Tempest production (from 2 Stargates), and immediately starts warping in Stalkers. He also makes some
Zealots, Archons, and an Immortal. The Immortal was a bit weird, but still not unreasonable. Everything else makes a lot of sense.
Zest attacks shortly after the scout (but still longer than I thought it would take him, probably just for another production round).
The battle is a bit weird. Zest comes right up the ramp (makes perfect sense for him) to get that straight-up engagement which was
mentioned earlier. He has the superior composition (at least until more Tempests are out). He should win any straight up battle. The
thing that gets me, is that Rain sat right there and fought. It felt pretty clear that with only 2 Tempests, he needed to buy some
more time. If he could have kited backwards a bit more, and let his Tempests do a bit more work, he might have won this game. There
are 3 peices to the puzzle of Rain fighting where he did that make me question whether he should have tried to kite back and delay a
- Time Warp. If he kites back under a Time Warp, he will take much more damage.
- 3rd base in close proximity to the Natural ramp. If he kites back, Zest can easily attack backwards and right to snipe the 3rd
base, which has Probes at it. Rain’s main is basically dry. 2 base vs 3 base is not NEARLY as bad as 1 base vs 2 base, as far as
economy goes. Losing his 3rd would be a tremendous blow.
- Kiting back either means splitting his army onto 2 sides of his Natural Nexus (where the piece on the left can be easily picked
off), or kiting back into a very focused choke point, which would amplify the 8 Colossus’ splash damage and range.
After much thought and consideration, I do think its a combination of these 3 things, as well as a bit of a mistake. I really do think
that battle could have been handled better.
Either way, Zest broke through, even if just barely, and ended up taking the game.
I felt like this game was just absolutely brilliant by both players. So many smart moves and great, intelligent, forward thinking
plays. Something you don’t get to see from lower level PvPers very often.