It’s PiG here, writing this email from my rather warm studio on a sweaty Wednesday afternoon in Sydney! I realised I haven’t been in touch for quite a while and it’s time I reached out and let you all know what’s happening. The old newsletter was simply a bot-message aggregating my highest viewed videos and social posts. Whilst it was a great way of catching up on some of the most entertaining content, it felt a bit soulless. I realised I have a lot more going on in my head week to week, from facing challenges getting rushed by zerg players right through to learning mental techniques for living a happier life. I’d love to share a personal story each week with some of my challenges and things I’ve learnt. I will still share my most viewed content below for those who want to catch up!
So without further ado - welcome to the Reflections #1 Newsletter!
Struggles on the ladder
It’s been a wild few months after Blizzcon in Seoul + LA, shortly followed by an insane Homestory Cup in Berlin. Add in the hectic holiday season and there have been a lot of breaks in my ladder play. It started to show rather quickly as whilst my cheesy plays and intuitive strategy requests were still winning games, they were getting harder and harder to pull off consistently. My macro games were starting to look more and more inconsistent, with upgrades never being on time, buildings not lining up and my game-sense falling apart under the slightest deviance from a standard game.
I felt like it took more effort and I was more tense and on-edge whilst playing, desperately trying to maintain my level of play, and finding it harder and harder to commentate whilst I played, the gaps of silence sometimes extending for 15 or 20 minutes through a game and I’d feel I was letting my audience down, not delivering the content that I want to.
Getting down on myself over being less entertaining as a streamer, over my play lacking, over my MMR dropping - all of this added up to a breaking point where I was having more off days than on, and it felt like some of the magic of streaming Starcraft was disappearing.
It felt like one big problem that was too complex and overlapping to tackle all at once… and you know what … it was! Thankfully at these moments of stress, pressure, pain and frustration - 10 years of brutalising myself on the ladder kicks in, and I start to coach myself and had an inner monologue that went something like this:
Ok so it all seems bad, horrible and overwhelming? It feels too hard to do all these things at once? That’s because it is! What would I tell a student who explains how he can’t beat terran and they’re broken and OP?
These are all sayings and phrases that carry an integral piece of wisdom. That is humans suck at multitasking and are easily overwhelmed. No matter how exceptionally talented we are at something, mastery comes from isolating details and slowly working on them and building up a skillset. It is not something that magically happens all at once overnight… and likewise maintaining that mastery is the same. When we enter a downturn in performance we have to remind ourselves to focus on the tiny details, to review the individual pieces of our performance and slowly tune them back up. No detail is beneath us, we must be humble and embrace the challenge of focusing on areas that we thought we had already mastered. Mastery over any skill is a tool, it must be sharpened, oiled and maintained. If you leave it outside in the rain it will get rusty and break down.
So besides waxing all philosophical on you… what did I do to get back on track to start enjoying laddering and streaming Starcraft Ladder again?
Multiple streams focusing on individual races for many hours at a time to get maximum reps
Re-writing every build order from scratch, in excruciating detail (you can see most of these in the bottom of the book of filth, a publically viewable google document: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17IX0S9Lu4ALiaOq0J0xkeBu4ZCZzXhH9ePtbmYUHQ0U/edit?usp=sharing
Analysing replays and breaking down problem strategies I was facing and writing branches of my build to react to set problems
Slowing down and focusing on macro over micro until the order and structure of the builds was subconscious muscle memory. Only then slowly allowing more bursts of APM towards micro, tactics and harassment
Moving the goalposts: Ignoring wins, losses and MMR and instead counting a clean and properly structured execution of my macro, building timings and upgrades as a win
Respecting my opponents. Reminding myself that I actually LOVE unorthodox plays, where players try to figure out and test the boundaries of the game. It’s up to me to prove the weakness of certain strategies by executing a tight response and crushing them!
I’m happy to say this process has been working and I’m enjoying ladder more than ever! I just had a really fun stream today and can’t wait for tomorrow. I just need to remember that regularly working in some of these practice techniques is key to keeping me where I’m at. For every 3 or 4 days of fun, free-flowing ladder and commentary, there should be at least one day of focused practice, with a focus on tightening build orders, studying losses, slowing down and focusing on improving my own play rather than beating my opponent.
I hope you’re all having a great January!
P.S. Don’t forget to check out the latest episode of The PiG Show with TLO! We spoke about Korean teamhouses being poor for extended practice, his wrists getting destroyed and his slow recovery and the healthy habits he had to develop over many years, both mentally and physically: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxNCSEpqVkc&list=PLFUDU8AOevUfOSaYw20UPts37mhSX0PAn&index=7&t=3s