The Reality of Build Orders

By Kevin “qxc” Riley of Complexity Gaming

Assume the following:

Any opening or build order can be optimized against

Thus, it follows that any build, no matter how standard/strong can be countered. What does it mean for a build to be standard? Standard generally means that it works in the majority of situations, but no build is flawless.

For instance, Protoss opens ‘standard’ robo/forge. If Terran expects or decides to play risky, they can cut early production and tech to get a fast 3rd CC (which is unsafe vs many 2 base timings). Terran gets an advantage vs ‘standard’ play.

The idea is pretty simple, but has profound implications. Sometimes the optimizations made are more subtle rather than a full 3rd CC or something similar. Bomber vs viOLet from Red Bull Atlanta had Bomber making some much smaller, but still incredibly significant optimizations to take advantage of what he expected viOLet to do.

Bomber vs. Violet from redbullesports Battle Grounds Atlanta on Twitch – Starting around 1:15:30

Bomber stops hellion production at just 2 hellions. While unsafe vs many timings (ling flood, ling bane timing) and also potentially vulnerable to the completely uninhibited creep spread and droning of Zerg, unless the Zerg knows hellion production has halted he will not in turn be able to optimize vs this change in pace. The extra four hundred minerals saved allows Bomber to add his barracks much earlier than usual and begin transitioning into an incredibly potent pure bio force that slaughters viOLet.

This is a more subtle example than the 3 CC example I mentioned above. As there are so many factors that go into a build, there are also a lot of variables to manipulate to optimize a build toward a specific goal. Players can cut production to get faster economy, or optimize for production by inhibiting production to hit an earlier than usual timing. There are a lot of ways to alter the flow of play and so, I propose the following:

There is no ‘strongest’ opening/build order in any matchup or any situation.

StarCraft is simply too complicated and (more importantly) allows for too many different strategies for my initial assumption to not be true. Given the initial assumption that any build/opening can be optimized against, it must follow that there is no perfect way to open every game. One thing to note is that my entire argument rests on the additional assumption that there is at least some degree of history/manner to predict an opponent’s decisions whether it be the current meta or past games that are available.

If, in every single game you play a ‘new’ player who has no manner of knowing the probability with which you’ll perform different openings/builds, then the ‘best’ play will be the standard one, as that will be best against the most number of builds. This distinction in approaching the game is one of the key differences between ladder heroes and tournament champions.

The next time you watch a top level StarCraft tournament featuring players like TaeJa, Jaedong, Solar, HyuN, Pigbaby, Bomber and more, keep a close eye on how they change up their style from game to game and series to series. While it can be scary to “roll the dice” by doing lower probability builds, staying the same is an even more assured defeat as your opponents get a solid read on your tendencies and make the small optimizations that allow them to start ahead and stay ahead for the rest of the game.

Follow Kevin on twitter @coL_qxc