Polt vs. Blink Stalkers


IEM Cologne was packed with great games. Polt’s performance was astonishing, and really showed his intelligence. Specifically, his tactical reaction to the literally most hated TvP build blink Stalkers build has the potential to shake the metagame.


There are two blink Stalkers build: one base all-in or two base. Two base blink Stalkers is more frequently used and is arguably the best PvT build now. The key strength of this build is that Terran still have a hard time to defend against it even if it is scouted. Another reason for the huge success of this build is the map pool. Quite a number of maps now are hugely favorable for blink Stalkers. Given how wide the area Terran have to defend on these maps and the 14 vision range of the Mothership Core, Protoss have the advantage to strike where Terran is weakest.

Building four to five bunkers is a norm reaction to stand a chance to hold off the attack. Protoss now learn to fake all-in by making only minimum commitment to the presumed all-in, while they invest the resource to macro up behind that. This further complicates Terran’s decision making.

Polt’s build

Polt is perhaps the most “go to one build” Terran out there now. For more than six months, Polt has been doing a 12/12 Reaper into three barracks opening for TvP. Although almost every other Terran also opens up with 12/12 Reaper in TvP, Polt sticks to his three barracks variation majority of the time. For a more detailed analysis, please watch the video below.

Unlike other more main stream three barracks variation, Polt’s variation does not have an add-on immediately on one of the barracks.

Polt’s tactical reaction

If you have not watched, watch it first. Polt vs. Classic (game 4)

At 6:20 (in game time), Polt scouted the blink upgrade. He moved out with all of his army (12 Marines + 1 Marauder) across the map. Importantly, he rallies his barracks at his base. Classic only has three Stalkers and a Mothership Core. This move forces the Mothership Core to expense energy for photon overcharge. He then retreats his units (losing a few Marines), and hides them on the left side of the map. At the same time, he prepares as usual at his base by building bunkers.

Classic moves out with his units after another round of warp in. Polt saw them moving out with a Marine at the watch tower. He moves his hidden units to Classic’s natural soon after. Classic has nothing at home to defend against this. Damage is assured at Protoss’ base. The thing is, can Polt defend the blink Stalkers with a smaller army at his own base? The result is yes, and that basically won him the game when you add up the damage he has done at Classic’s natural.


Evaluating Polt’s move

The small force of bio at the beginning exploits the basic mechanism of Protoss. Unlike Terran, Protoss do not produce in a linear fashion. Protoss put down the buildings first, then “burst” produce using warp gate. A two base blink Stalkers build requires Protoss to put down multiple gateways before warping in Stalkers to execute the attack. Terran have the army advantage at that time frame when  Protoss spend the resources to put down buildings instead of producing units. Intuitively, this small attack should not accomplish anything because of photon overcharge. At face value, that’s true. However, this effectively removes one time warp from the Mothership Core when Protoss is ready for an attack. I’m sure I don’t need to elaborate on how critical a time warp is during a blink all-in.

When I was watching this, I thought Polt would just retreat back to base and defend as per normal. But I am no Polt. Polt hid that small group of units on the left side of the map instead. The counter attack was well timed (8:30) after he saw Classic’s Stalker position at 8:15. This move made it extremely awkward for Classic since he had to decide if he should do a defensive or offensive warp in. Classic chose to do one round of warp in at his natural, and attack with his blink Stalkers at Polt’s natural. That single round of warp in cannot fight Polt’s force heads on at Classic’s natural. The main turning point is when Classic basically did no damage at the other end. Personally, I had done something quite similar, but I could not hold at my own base. It ended in a weird base trade scenario whereby I cannot win with the leftover force at opponent’s base. The success of Polt’s move has much to do with his build. You should not have enough to units to attack and defend at the same time if you do other variations (e.g., two barracks variation).

Polt’s move was not a coincidence, as he had done it several times in the tournament. Polt succeeded with the same tactics against Rain in game 2. This time round, things are a little different. Rain did not sit at home with his units, but tried to destroy the rocks at Polt’s backdoor. Thus, when Polt’s initial poke arrived at Rain’s base, there was no photon overcharge. Similar to Classic, Rain decided to do a defensive warp in in response to Polt’s attack. Rain did a better job by warping in in his main and not at his natural, as the units would have got sniped by Polt. Nevertheless, it’s hard to micro on both ends.

In the final, Polt tried to do the same thing against HerO twice (game 4 and game 6). HerO obviously knew what was up on Polt’s sleeves, and did not fall like his Protoss brothers did. In game 4, HerO did not commit to a blink attack and wanted to catch Polt’s counter attack force. Polt also saw that HerO retreated, and hence, he also moved back to his base. This indirectly cancelled out a blink attack.

In game 6, Polt also tried to be aggressive in order to delay HerO’s blink. If HerO did not loss those Stalkers, he probably could have picked off most of Polt’s army in the middle of the map. He could then close it out with a blink attack. Just theorycrafting.

Polt’s aggressive move seems counter intuitive as you should all-in defend against an all-in attack. It exploits specific weakness of a blink Stalker build. Moreover, this tactic works against fake blink all-in too.

Anyway, great games. You got to watch the IEM Cologne games. My tweet was picked by ESL =)

iem twitter


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