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Peerless Plays - Breaking Down INnoVation's TvZ

Welcome to Peerless Plays, a Team Acer segment on the strategic stylings of the Acer StarCraft II team. Today’s entry features INnoVation’s unparalleled Terran vs. Zerg matchup, with highlights from the recent ASUS ROG NorthCon 2013 tournament.

The View From The Top

Rare is the occasion that a playstyle developed for competitive StarCraft goes unanswered. The evolving metagame and constant cat and mouse between aggression, economy, and technology, coupled with the mechanical rock, paper, scissors design of the races and their units, tends to keep individual players on their toes and responding to new and varied threats.

This is not the case with  Lee 'Acer | INnoVation' Shin Hyung in the Terran vs. Zerg matchup.

After nearly a year of top 10 overall power ranking placements to his name, INnoVation is a force to be reckoned with in any scenario, as both his current and all-time second best TvZ ELO show. How has the Terran prodigy of 2013 continued to dominate his opponents despite Hellbat and Widow Mine changes, continuous metagame shifts, and his playstyle becoming a known quantity? There are a handful of very specific elements of his game-winning maneuvers that bear mention.

A Magician Never Reveals His Secrets

In game two of his best of five series against Zerg StarTale.Life at the ASUS ROG NorthCon 2013 tournament, INnoVation showcased some of his trademark techniques for dismantling Zerg aggression. Meta shifts favoring aggression and map control have led to a lot of Terran players favoring the Reaper opening, but INnoVation bucks this trend and opts for a low-ground Command Center first build into defensive Marines at a bunker protecting the bottom of the ramp into the main on Yeonsu.

Seeing the early Zergling pressure and anticipating the upgrade direction of his opponent (Metabolic Boost and 1/1 melee/carapace), he places his eventual third base Command Center as part of a protective wall on the exposed mineral line side of his natural expansion. This provides the defensive position required to handle the Zergling intrusion, but also furthers the highly economical, mineral-heavy opening INnoVation is pursuing.


A tremendous marriage of economic value and strategic defensive positioning.

Knowing his opponent will be gauging the negligible impact of the initial pressure and responding to the economic advantage a third Orbital Command will provide (whether or not it transitions into a third mining base aggressively), INnoVation’s keen game sense allows him to create an impressive production backdrop for his impending Stim/Medivac timing; he uses the opportunity to have his Factory build an additional Reactor, while the initial Reactor built by the original Barracks is opened up for a new Barracks to be built directly into.

Production ramp-up is critical to INnoVation’s engagement timings.

With a brief, but valuable, timing window open to him, INnoVation moves his army out towards Life’s third base, where he will eventually take an 11:45 engagement against the Zergling/Baneling composition of the talented young Zerg player. INnovation smartly baits the attack from what should be the perfect mechanical response to his army build by backing towards the ramp below the Xel’Naga tower, where he is able to surgically dissect the ball of Banelings at a safe distance and absolutely minimize the surface area for the melee Zerg units. Seconds later, his surviving Marine/Medivac army is in Life’s natural expansion, forcing the Zerg player to concede.

Based on a handful of minor strategic decisions - the early Bunker, the protective wall using the third Command Center, the faster Reactor deployment across his production facilities, and the crucial location of his primary army engagement - INnoVation is able to turn an otherwise challenging matchup into a work of showmanship, using what becomes an all but uncounterable, error-free methodology.

The Build

For an even closer look, here's a recap of INnoVation's build order and a link to the relevant VOD segment:

10 Depot
14 Command Center
15 Barracks
16 Refinery
@ 100% Barracks, start Orbital Command, Bunker, and Marine production
@ 100% Command Center, start second Orbital Command
21 Factory
@ 2 Marines, start Reactor on Barracks
24 Depot (start to wall off at the natural)
28 Depot (finish wall off on main ramp)
@ 100% Factory, swap it to the Reactor and start Hellion production (build 6 total), build Tech Lab with the Barracks

From here:

Build your 3rd Command Center
Finish the natural wall with Supply Depots
@ 100% Tech Lab, start Stim
Add a 2nd Refinery, double Engineering Bays
Morph a third Orbital using your Command Center
Add on two more Barracks, while using the Factory to start an additional Reactor (after 6 Hellions)
@ 100% Engineering Bays, start 1/1 upgrades
Starport at 9 minutes
@ 100% Stim, start Combat Shields
Add an Armory (~9:45)
Start Marauder production once you have a standing Marine army (~90 total supply)
@ 100% 1/1 upgrades, start 2/2 upgrades
Move out at 11 minutes with 2 Medivacs

Watch the VOD on Twitch

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