Here’s today’s set, which we’ll be playing from the perspective of player 2:
There’s Centurion for absorb, which is the most powerful absorber in the game. There’s nothing else in the random set that hard counters it, so we can safely assume we’ll be going for a high economy setup that has the tech necessary to buy Centurion – in other words, we’ll definitely have all three colours of tech. Looking at the rest of the set, there’s nothing else in Green, so we’ll want to make sure we’re just on one Conduit to minimize the amount of useless Green tech we have. Our focus will be on the Blue and Red units.
Now that we have a rough sketch of our strategy, we can start to fill it out. A few questions: can we zoom in a bit on the economy size we want? “high economy” can cover everything from 20 Drones to 27. We don’t need an exact number of Drones that we’re aiming for, but it would be nice to know if we’re aiming for the “20-23” zone or the “24-27” zone. Another question is: what specific tech setup do we want? The bare minimum tech setup we want is one Conduit, two Blastforges, and one Animus. However, a lot of the units in this set allow us to spend our tech resources cheaply – for example, spending BBRR per turn only costs 10 gold if you’re buying two Hellhounds. So we might want to add on more tech than just CBBA. Another question: how will we handle our attack? There’s various good attackers in the set – Hellhound, Grimbotch, and Electrovore – but there’s also good absorb denial tools in Thermite Core and Manticore.
We’ll start by thinking a bit more about what economy size we want, besides simply “high economy”. Typically Centurion pushes an economy size pretty high – I would guess around 25 Drones is the default for Centurion games – but we can look at the rest of the set to adjust the economy size up or down depending on how suited for aggression or defense it is. For defense, we see Doomed Wall and Blood Pact. Doomed Wall as soak is around the same efficiency as Wall, but it is nice because it means that we won’t run out of Wall supplies very quickly. Blood Pact is pretty inefficient defense that is only used in emergencies, so it doesn’t have much of an impact on economy size in a game like this. In terms of attack, there are various good attackers, as well as some good absorb denial – good absorb denial generally means it’s worth it to start up your attack faster, since the threat of your attack being absorbed isn’t as high. So, overall we should adjust our desired economy downwards from 25 to somewhere in the low 20’s.
Given that we’re aiming for an economy in the low 20’s, we will probably want to stay on just CBBA tech – if we got, for example, a third Blastforge, this would work well early on when we could spend BBRR per turn on two Hellhounds, but later on when we want more defense we’ll find ourselves overteched.
Now we can think about how we want to build up our attack. Thermite Core used to be an insignificant unit that barely factored into a plan when set reading. However, it recently got buffed, so that instead of denying 1 absorb per turn it can deny 2 per turn. Even though its lifespan got shortened, this was a huge buff, and now Thermite Core is a powerful unit with a large impact on a set. It’s safe to assume that in a set like this with a big absorber we’ll want to start off our attack by denying absorb with Thermite Cores.
Even though we’ll be using Thermite Cores to convert our attack into Pixies, we still need to think about what we’ll be using for attack in the first place. Most likely, the answer is Tarsiers early on, combined with Electrovores a bit later, and Grimbotches even later after that – we don’t want to buy Grimbotches until they’ll actually be able to get defensive value on the last turn of their life, which, assuming our opponent is also going for Grimbotches, won’t be for a while. We might also use a Hellhound here or there, if our tech allows it, and the same goes for Manticores, but the bread and butter of our early attack should be Tarsiers and Electrovores, with Thermites for absorb denial.
Now that we’ve clarified our economy size, plan of attack, and tech setup, let’s think about what specific build we’ll use. You’ll notice that none of the units we plan on making early involve Green. In fact, the only unit we plan on making with Green is Centurion. After that, we’ll probably use Green on Forcefields or the occasional Gauss Cannon, simply because that’s slightly better than not using the Green at all. But the point is, we really don’t need our Conduit until two turns before we want to make our Centurion – and if our opponent has the same plan we do of going for Thermite Cores, then that won’t be for a while. As player 2, our usual builds involve making a Conduit very early. So instead, let’s consider an unusual build.
Since we want to start our attack off with Tarsiers, the tech building we most want to start with is Animus. Normally people don’t start off with Animus in high economy games since any Animus first lines are too inefficient. But since none of our efficient openings seem to be any good anyway, since they involve making a Conduit that we don’t want, let’s go for an inefficient build that gets us the economy size, timing, and tech building that we want. How about: 1. DD 2. DDE 3. DDD 4. DDDA
Here we skip the Conduit on turn 3 in order to have enough Gold for three Drones and an Animus on turn 4. The turn after, we’ll have 20 Gold, which will let us make two Tarsiers, a Blastforge, and two more Drones, which should set us up to keep adding on Tarsiers and Thermite Cores while still filling out our economy and the remaining tech we need (a Conduit and Blastforge).
If our opponent doesn’t go for Thermites – if they do actual damage – we’ll be heading towards Centurion quite quickly. If they do go for some kind of absorb denial strategy, involving Manticores or Thermites (or both), we won’t want a Centurion until later – instead we’ll want to just defend their threatened damage with regular Walls and Engineers (making a Doomed Wall would be a blunder, since the Doomed Wall would simply die without getting to block).
It’s possible our opponent will choose to stay on two Engineers, trying to go for an absorb denial strategy and neglecting Centurion. In this case we’ll still go Third Engineer, but we’ll go for the more normal DDDC into DDDB build, since we’ll want defense up faster. Against someone staying on two Engineers, we won’t need to focus on absorb denial as much, since they won’t be well set up to go for Centurion.
To try out something new for this series, I played a game with this set against another good player. You can see how the game went here: m9JVG-y@xvf
Commentary on the game (spoilers ahead):
Mrguy went for a two engineer absorb denial strategy. Since he went for Blastforge first, I decided to continue to go for the Animus, rather than Conduit into Blastforge, since I didn’t need that much absorb that quickly. However, through adding up attack while making Thermite Cores and Drones, he was able to get a significant lead and won the game. I’d say the main factor that led to my loss in this set was that I underestimated the strength of Thermite Core – once he decided to stay on two Engineers, I believe I should have gone for a masterbot opening (2. DB) and played an absorb denial strategy.