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At GDC last week Dustin Browder, Starcraft II's lead designer, talked about how Blizzard's development was intensely focused on making the game an e-sport . One of the most interesting points he made is that an e-sport can't just work for its players: it also has to be interesting for spectators.
“We did anything we could to make this a more watchable viewing experience,” says Browder. Anyone obsessed by the intricacies of Starcraft II, and PC Gamer is guilty as charged, would say mission accomplished. But what if you're curious rather than obsessed? Don't know a drone from a battlecruiser? Where to start?
Over the following pages we'll take you through ten awesome games of Starcraft II, old and new, where you'll never see the same strategy twice. They showcase some of the world's top players, commentators, every race combination, and the majority of each race's units. Some of our favourite matches are on GOM.tv , but they require a paid-subscription to watch. Our picks are free for everyone.
We've taken the liberty of preparing a basic glossary , but we'll leave the rest in the capable hands of the casters. No excuses: stick the kettle on, sit back, and let's get ready to rumble.
Terran Vs Zerg
Cast by: Artosis
An incredible, incredible game – if you watch only one match, watch this. MvP is currently the top ranked Starcraft II player in the world, champion of the most recent Global Starcraft League (GSL), and a titan of a Terran. Idra held S-Class status, the top rank, in the GSL before his departure last month: he is a Zerg monster.
Cast by Artosis, one-half of the GSL's S-Class commentating team, this is the closest thing here to the Korean professional games (though you get one for free at GOM.tv before having to subscribe: we'd recommend Tuesday's between July Zerg and Nada ). This match is a long, involved battle fought on multiple fronts, and an absolute belter.
Protoss vs Zerg
(If you have any issues viewing this match, watch it on Blip.tv )
CAN ANYONE STOP THE MONSTER THAT IS WHITE-RA ?!? So scream a jillion nerds awed by the Ukrainian Protoss and his mastery of their deathball. White-Ra (at the moment going by Duckload-Ra thanks to a sponsorship deal) is currently the top player in Europe, has a nasty tournament-winning habit, and if you need any more build up then he's also known as The Beast From the East.
What lamb shall come to this slaughter? Step forward, LaLush ! Not the most promising name, but this smiley Swede is a killer in disguise. This game begins with a fight, has fights all the way through it, and ends up in a massive endgame battle that showcases a certain unit perfectly. It's a great game, a real slugfest of a match, and the ever-excellent Day and SOE do it full justice.
Protoss vs Protoss
Cast by: xHydrax
Huk is a Canadian progamer currently playing in Korea, and all you need to know is what his fans call him: Huk Norris. Bosh! Mana is less well known but certainly no patsy, as his appearance in the final of December's Dreamhack tournament showed. This PvP has great micro throughout, with beautiful use of Dark Templars and some exquisite dancing from both player's Stalker armies.
This one's commentated by xHydrax, who deserves a shoutout: a Portuguese caster, he doesn't quite have the name of an HD or Husky yet, but fully deserves to. He's analytical, passionate, and (to paraphrase Brian Clough) speaks better English than my friends from the home counties.
Protoss vs Zerg
Cast by: scReddit
Kiwikaki is a brilliant Protoss player who, in this video, demonstrates exactly why. We've been careful not to spoil the results of any other games, but this is here for one reason: an exquisite and totally gangsta combination of Blink Stalkers and Mothership that eviscerates his Zerg opponent.
Terran Vs Terran
Cast by: diggitySC
Who is the mysterious Hitler? Nobody knows. This replay from battle.net turned up a couple of months ago featuring this masterful enigma facing off against Nada . Now he's a different story: Nada's known as the Genius Terran, and is statistically the greatest Brood War player of all time. He's not bad at Starcraft II either, having made two GSL quarter finals thus far.
The game is a classic TvT tank war, which can often result in standoffs – but here, both players are far more aggressive and mobile with their siege lines, pushing and pulling their armies around for the whole game. This is cat-and-mouse with several tonnes of military hardware, a mindgame as much as a territorial war, and the final resting place for an awful lot of marines.
Terran vs Zerg
Cast by: HDStarcraft
This is an oldie but a goodie. Boxer isn't a Starcraft legend: he's the legend. Known as The Emperor, Boxer exploded onto the original Starcraft scene in 1999 at a time when Terran were rarely played competitively, and guess what happened next. Boxer has played at the highest level of Starcraft since, excepting a few years of compulsory military service, recently changing over to Starcraft II, and is currently Code S in the GSL.
Fruitdealer ? Ex-Brood War player, the champion of GSL's very first season, an incredibly imaginative and aggressive opponent, and undoubtedly one of the greatest Zerg players Starcraft II has yet seen. This is a showmatch from Blizzcon 2010 just after that first GSL season because... well. Everyone loves a bit of old school versus new school, don't they? HD's a incisive guide through a game that's a cracker, with both players constantly being forced to act and react until one makes too many mistakes.
Zerg vs Zerg
Cast by: AskJoshy
Zerg on Zerg is usually the least sexy pairing around – but this game isn't just any Zerg on Zerg. Held at last year's Blizzcon invitational, it pitches the incredibly solid Zerg Sen against The Little One , a race-hopping genius that just can't stop coming up with creative ways of destroying opponents.
The core of the game, as in most ZvZs, is the Roach – an ugly, resilient and easily massable infantry unit. But here that familiar play's spiced up with Infestors, Ultralisks and even offensive Spine Crawlers in a cocktail of Fungal Growths and base-sniping. It's not pretty at times, but the action's off the charts.
Protoss vs Zerg
Cast by: Siraz
We've already met Huk, but who's this Nestea fellow? A Starcraft veteran formerly known as ZergBong (his ID had to be changed thanks to SCII's word filter), this king nerd was the champion of GSL's second season and is a relentless, implacable foe. This one builds to a hell of a climax, with a relentless assault being met by incredible defensive control, tier 3 units running around all over the shop, and nearly every base on the map taken. Lovely.
Terran Vs Terran
Cast by: EonShiKeno
The mirror matchup for Terrans is often derided as little more than tank wars: a buttload of marines, maany many siege tanks and a giant clump of Vikings for both sides, staring each other down for eons before one big ruck ends it all.
And to be fair, that is how a lot of TvTs end up. But it doesn't have to be that way! This game between HasHe and NamhciR (both top players on the NA server) is a battle for the skies over a truly gigantic map – starring Banshees, Ravens, Vikings, and the big daddy of them all, the Battlecruiser. A series of bruising encounters split the map in half, and both players kill about a hundred SCVs each before the dust settles. The eloquent EonShiKeno is the caster: at thirty seven minutes this is the longest game here. But if you've made it this far, you know it's going to be well worth it.