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two McRave games

Here are 2 McRave games. The first is what will probably turn out to be the biggest upset of SSCAIT 2017, and for journalistic balance (look at me! I can pretend to be objective, just like a reporter!) the second is a win over a tough opponent that has given McRave trouble.

McRave is currently at #3, and it will probably finish there. So I find it striking that both games show easy to notice weaknesses on both sides. All bots have a long way to go to become truly strong.


As I write, McRave is #3 and FTTankTER is #69 out of 78 entrants, with fewer than 50 games remaining to play in the tournament. There are a couple of unplayed games that theoretically could unseat this one as the biggest upset, but it’s unlikely. What I find most remarkable about the game is not that the result was such a reversal, but that it came about because FTTankTER played better. McRave didn’t lose because of a bug (at least not one that I can detect) or by playing a risky strategy and getting unlucky, but because of missing skills.

McRave-FTTankTER started with McRave fast expanding behind a single gateway and FTTankTER rushing with marines.

marines arrive at the front

McRave did not make an initial zealot, but waited for its cyber core to finish so it could get straight to dragoons, the key unit at the start in PvT. Making 1 zealot slows down dragoons a trifle but adds safety against all kinds of cheeses and fast rushes, so it’s probably smart. But even without, McRave could have held. When a small number of marines show up at your front, they are weak. Marines gain strength in numbers because they are ranged units, but workers are faster and tougher than marines without medics or stim. Just pull workers and defend until your gateways produce. Workers can easily win fights against small numbers.

Instead, this happened:

Protoss pulled probes only after losing its first gateway, when the marine numbers had grown. The probes did not try to surround marines, but mostly milled around in front of the marines as if playing dodgeball. Nearly every probe was lost before the dragoon entered the fight. McRave was too optimistic, first in ignoring the attack, and then in continuing to throw away probes. A fallback plan would be: Abandon the natural, retreat the surviving probes, wait for the dragoon, and try a coordinated probe-dragoon defense of the main.

FTTankTER is clumsy and wasn’t able to finish off its helpless opponent, but the no-kill time limit ran out and terran won on points.

I think McRave shows some wider vulnerability to marine all-in attacks. McRave-Oleg Ostroumov is an example. Since McRave has lost fewer than 10% of its games, its weaknesses are apparently not easy to exploit.


CherryPi won its first game over McRave when McRave played a standard forge expand. In the second game, McRave played differently and CherryPi never seemed to notice. It was still a fight, though.

When both players learn, it becomes a race to see who can learn more and faster. With only 2 games, we can’t tell how the race would have turned out.

The game McRave-CherryPi on Benzene opened with McRave building 2 gates and CherryPi playing overpool into second and third hatcheries at the natural. CherryPi droned up as if McRave had fast expanded, which it should have known didn’t happen because its zerglings made it to the protoss natural. Zerg was underdefended, and McRave’s zealots killed a couple drones in the zerg natural and started hitting buildings.

Then a sunken started and the zealots retreated for no apparent reason. Protoss should at least take swipes at the morphing sunken until zerglings appear. The protoss scout probe in the main saw the zergling count and location, so McRave could have known it was safe. In the game above, McRave was overconfident; here it is overcautious. It is a sign of not truly understanding the situation (so far, no bot does). In the picture, the zealots have just retreated.

protoss retreats unnecessarily

Wuli beat CherryPi 2-0 with its heavy rush, but McRave likes to tech faster. CherryPi added to 3 sunkens and continued drone production, still seeming to assume that McRave had fast expanded. McRave poked repeatedly at the front without committing much or achieving much; at least it impelled zerg to spend on fighting units instead of drones. McRave often had a vanguard of units doing the combat and a rear guard that stayed out of the fight. I got the impression that McRave was not hiding its strength, but was just confused.

CherryPi had mismanaged the opening and was contained. Lurkers or mutalisks might have forced protoss back, but CherryPi got the lair late and did not make either; it wants to win with low-tier units. Sticking with zerglings and hydralisks and making many drones, zerg soon needed to expand more than it safely could, and put a hatchery at the nearby mineral only base, barely outside the containment. McRave soon scouted it—and did nothing. Protoss continued to poke at the front and ignored the third base. It could have detached a couple of rear guard zealots to take it down; zerg could have done nothing. The picture shows protoss defeating an inadvisable zerg foray near the mineral only third. After this, McRave ignored the third and made another poke at the front (even if the bot doesn’t notice creep, protoss had seen the hatchery with a probe). In the minimap, McRave has just started its natural nexus.

smashing a zerg escape attempt

Finally McRave felt confident enough to split its forces and kill the expansion. Before it died, CherryPi started a fourth base in the lower right corner. CherryPi was ahead in workers but had only 2 mining bases, while McRave had a far stronger army and a mostly successful containment (it only leaked a few drones).

After finishing the zerg third, McRave seemed to realize how far ahead it was and broke into the natural. With drones killed and a second nexus to make more probes, McRave had effectively caught up in economy and its army was more than zerg could face. In the picture, a high templar is storming drones that decided to fight instead of running away. The drones might as well do that; the only place they could safely run away to was the main, which was already saturated.

storming drones

CherryPi did not go down easy, but protoss was too far ahead. Oddly, though McRave made many templar and they accumulated plenty of energy, that one storm was the only one in the game. The high templar stayed in the rear guard where they were too far away to contribute. Also, both bots seemed confused by the neutral building block on the map, and got units stuck behind the block. I expect that from rough bots like Steamhammer, not from polished competitors.

CherryPi showed its curious strategic rigidity, where it believes without scouting that it knows what the opponent is doing—in this case, it even scouted that the opponent was not doing what the zerg opening assumed. To me it seems strange, because in Steamhammer the first major feature I wrote was the strategy boss which solves this exact problem, and it greatly boosted zerg’s strength. McRave showed surprising caution and slowness in taking advantage of opportunities.


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McRave on :

Definitely huge upsets in this competition for me, lots of low tier bots beating me in ways they shouldn't, but all bots have that issue at some point. I got lucky with CherryPi I think and yeah my templar never want to storm for some reason.

Bytekeeper on :

Oh I missed that game. I never thought FTTankTer could ever beat another bot unless it was failing miserably. But even in this case it's sheer luck ;)

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