Note: This is the old and incomplete version of the Anti-Cheese guide, the full and updated version is included as one of the bonus guides in TGM. It was made to help players deal with cheese about 5 months ago and I have left this version for everyone to see so if you were wondering the type of quality/content provided in TGM this is the closest to a free sample chapter you can get You can subscribe here and members can access the full version directly here.
I define cheese as an unexpected strategy, but one easily countered when scouted correctly. It usually involves the "cheeser" sacrificing his economy by cutting probes/pulling scvs to execute a certain rush or tech timing attack. Because most cheese also reduces the mechanical aspect of the game, it allows "more overall skilled" players to get beaten by "cheesers", and sometimes the victims of these cheesers understandably get angry and rage.
The point of this guide will be to teach you how to beat the various forms of cheese and not let it deter you from reaching diamond league. Alot of players get angry / discouraged when losing to cheese and it hurts their development as players as they either lose motivation and stop playing or start cheesing themselves, which is the wrong way to understand the game. They also go to sc2sea and start making silly rage qq threads like this which i have to close.
This is however not the optimal attitude to have! I will show you that the road to Diamond/Masters is actually a very easy one, and once you understand cheese it will be even easier! When someone cheeses you want to be happy and think to yourself oh i know what cheese hes doing, its going to be an easy win because i know exactly how to counter it, and if i dont im gonna learn how to. Having this attitude will improve your game tenfold because, as opposed to wasting your time QQing and whining, you will instead be actively seeking the optimal ways to counter the cheese you lost to, which will ultimately improve your game understanding and therefore skill.
Basically players lose to cheese because:
1) They did not scout it and therefore they weren't prepared. (Proxies, 1 base all ins)
2) They did not have the knowledge of the optimal way to counter it. (Wrong decision making or making the wrong unit combination counter)
Therefore in a nutshell, the two solutions to counter cheese would be
1) To scout well so you are prepared.
2) Have the strategic knowledge to know how to counter the cheese.
Scouting is easy enough and can be made a habit quickly, but how do you learn this strategic knowledge? Well i will teach you now by going in depth over the more popular cheeses, how to scout/identiy them, the common mistakes people use to counter them, the right way of countering them and a replay to see it all in action. Good scouting and the right knowledge is basically the key to counter all forms of cheese.
I have also purposely created scenarios to face these cheese in disadvantaged situations in terms of map and build orders, for example getting 6 pooled on steppes of wars and 12 gating instead of on 10 or going 1 rax FE vs Void rays on metalopolis to show you that even in these situations, the cheese will be beaten if you have the right knowledge.
Type of cheese: A popular build ever since oGsMC used it to beat Rain in the GSL finals. On two player maps, the protoss makes a gateway in your base. There are two variations, the first is 2 gateways with zealots (allinish) and the second is 3 zealots into very fast stalkers which is alot stronger.
How to identify: If you're playing on a 2 player map vs a protoss, it doesnt hurt to send your barracks-making SCV(12th one) abit earlier to have a look around the inside of your base.
Common Mistake: If you scouted on time and found the gateway has just started building, it is a big mistake to target the probe or the pylon. Pylons can be easily remade and you won't be able to destroy them all. Another mistake is rushing for 1rax maruders or factory tech. You will not get that in time.
Optimal way to counter:
If you scout correctly when the gateway has just started building
If done correctly the gateway will be destroyed before the first zealot is out. If he makes another gateway, send another 5 scvs. Once his gateways are down, you will also have a free pylon to kill and you will have a huge economical advantage after defending the cheese, as he will have to defend your counter attack with no gateways in his base.
If you didnt scout on time and the gateway is almost done, dont worry you can still easily beat this cheese.
The moment u see an empty base immediately scout your inside base and be preapred to delay your orbital for abit to throw down your second barracks and a bunker ASAP, with a decent sim city.
Continue kiting the zealots and running back to the bunker when he approaches till you have enough 5-6 marines. Do not fight with scvs unless you have to but instead endlessly kite the zealots and go back to your bunker.
Always remember to pull your scvs back to the safety range of your bunker. Once you get a small force of 4-5+ marines you could kite him to infinity. Vs 1 gateway tech into stalkers, 2 rax marines alone with decent micro will easily beat it before/while the stalker comes out and he will have to remake his gateways giving you a huge advantage. If you're not confident with your micro pull some scvs, but you shoudn't have to.
Some basic kiting with all marines near full life.
Download the replay beating this cheese as in Scenario A here.
Download the replay beating this cheese as in Scenario B here.
Type of cheese: Probably the most popular cheese, because its so easy to execute yet it does well in nearly all levels of play and matchups. Hence players tend to get angry when they lose to "lesser skilled" players who beat them with this easily executed "4 gate cheese". There are two main variations of this, a very fast "Korean" 4 gate rush where you stop making probes after 18 supply, with mostly zealots and some stalkers and no sentries and a more economical 4/5 gate rush with sentries. I will focus on the fast 4 gate rush vs Terran and Zergs because in PvP sadly 4 gate is the standard build to go and that requires a whole section of discussion under Protoss Strategy.
How to identify: With your scouting drone/scv you should always check the chrono energy saved up on the nexus. If he has at least 60+ energy when his cyber is done he is probably saving up for a fast warp gate push. Time you scout correctly such that it leaves his base just before his stalker comes out and you manage to get a good look of his base.
Things to look out for are 1) missing 3rd pylon (3 gates hidden somewhere else on the map, or he has stopped probes so he only needs 2 pylons) 2) just mining from 1 gas and of course 3) chronoing his cybernetics non-stop. A trick if you are zerg is to stay out of vision but near his cybernetics. You will be able to see if he is chrono boosting it even through the fog of war.
Common Mistake: When you see him doing a fast 4 gate rush, you have to know that hes taking a huge ecomonic sacrifice. All you have to do is focus on surviving and you will come out far ahead because of your superior economy.
Terrans: Not making bunkers, not scouting your base for hidden pylons or expanding. Zergs: Not making sunkens, making too many drones, too many sunkens too little units (especially on maps with wide chokes like meta/xnc u need more units)
Zergs: Assuming you're doing the standard pool > ling speed > hatch build. Based on your drone scout's information, if you suspect a 4 gate you want to get your roach den immediately. Do not get lair for now, just focus on surviving, so you want to be making a roach ling army from just 1 mining gas.
Get 1-2 sunkens depending on the confidence of your micro. Try to use your speed lings to kill the probe to delay pylon warpped in reinforcements. Try to let lings focus on the stalkers and roaches on the zealots. Basically with 1-2 sunkens and units spent on Roach/ling you will be able to defend the 4 gate relatively easily.
A nice ball of units especially important to defend on maps with wide chokes like XNC where sunken positioning can be abused by your opponent.
Download the replay beating this cheese as Terran here.
Download the replay beating this cheese as Zerg here.
Type of cheese: A very powerful cheese on maps like Metalopolis because the mineral line can be harrassed with voids, and a strong one at low levels and versus certain terran build orders. Very popular in the early seasons of GSL.
How to identify: Time you scout correctly such that it leaves his base just before his stalker comes out and you manage to get a good look of his base. If his chrono energy is low and he hasn't expanded it probably means hes teaching to either Robo/obs or geting a stargate for voids.
Common Mistake: Not making bunker at the front AND at the place he is likely to warp in. Another mistake is getting mass marines to counter instead of getting vikings ASAP. Mass marines might hold it off but the toss can do some serious damage with good FFs + void control. Also if you do not have starport tech your ramp will be FFed and the toss can expand safely without having to fear dropships bringing your army out.
Optimal way to counter: You need to follow a strong BO, the one i personally recommend gets a factory relatively fast. Make a bunker at the top of your ramp and at the place he is likely to warp in. Marines and bunkers are to stall till you get your vikings out.
Scvs are ready on auto-repair after you scout his push below your base.
Once you have a viking the voidray harrass will be shutdown as vikings outrange voidrays and if controlled perfectly, the voids wont be able to even land a shot on the vikings and you can kite them.
After you survive do a timing attack. Because of the investment in his push there will be a window where he won't have enough DPS tech to defeat your MMM ball.
Download the replay beating this cheese here.
Type of cheese: A one base all in, recently popularised on SEA by nGenMaster who did it to perfection. Clever zerg players mix it up by pretending that they are going to expand by bringing a drone to their natural for you to see while they are actually teching to banelings in their base. Other Zergs like nGenMaster make their pool on 12 and pressure your wall non-stop until they have banelings.
How to identify: You need good scout timing, firstly look if hes saving larva for when his pool is to complete, if he is and morphs 3 eggs as soon as his pool finish u can gaurentee that those are 6 lings which are going to pressure your wall.
The importance of using a timing scout with a scv hidden in the path where his overlord is unlikely to move.
After avoiding the intial lings with your scout, if you get a peek into their base its perfect but if you cant then scout his expansion at the 3rd min mark and if theres still no hatchery you are facing a zergling/baneling or 7RR 1 base all in 90% of the time, so get ready for it.
Terrans: Using dual supply depots to wallin. This is bad because 1) depots have half the life of production buildings and 2) if they are near to each other both can die to splash damage from the same group of banelings targeting one depot. A supply depot needs only 6 banelings to destroy whereas a barracks requires 13. So these mistakes lets your opponent need less banelings to bust your wall and you will also end up supply blocked. Protoss: Making 1 zealot 1 stalker or making 1 zealot 1 sentry. Both these are not the optimal way to stop a good zergling wall pressure. Also, players who dont wall in are facing close to an auto loss. Another mistake is not chrono boasting your gateways non stop while defending.
Protoss: If you see him saving larve for that early 6 lings, chrono 1 zealot BEFORE your cybernetics core.
Make sure you have 2 zealots before your sentry, this is to kill the zerglings trying to break your wall and with good micro your wall should be close to full life.
Surviving the baneling bust will now depend on good FFS and micro such that you dont let too many banelings up at once and you quickly replace the zealot walling in your choke with another one. Make sure your zealots you use to wall in are seperated slightly so they both dont get hit by the baneling splash.
If you mess up your micro, make an emergency wall in with your pylon to wall in your base while you stall time for more units, chronoboosting your gateways.
Download the replay beating this cheese as Protoss here.
Download the replay beating this cheese as Terran here.
Type of cheese: A fast one base play that works alot better on protoss than terran.
How to identify: You need good scout timing, basically if you scout at the 3rd min mark and theres still no hatchery at the zergs expansion, you are facing a zergling/baneling or 7RR 1 base all in 90% of the time, so get ready for it.
Common Mistake: Teching. Although the compelte failsafe measure to stop this is to get a forge, i feel it disallows you to pressure later on so i prefer to get 3 warp gates ASAP.
Protoss: 3 warp gates saving your chrono for the first sentry and warp gate research. Your intial force should look like this - 1 stalker 1 zealot 1 sentry when the 7 roaches approach.
The sentry is to stall with 2 good FFs till your warp gate research is done. If you are in trouble warp in an emergency gateway to block off your choke while you stalker/sentry outranges the roach and gets free shots from behind the safety of the wall. The whole purpose is to stall time till your warp gate research ends as when you can warp in your next 3 stalkers you will be able to defend easily.
Example Replay: Download the replay beating this cheese here.
Type of cheese: An easy to counter cheese when scouted early but a very tough build if not scouted fast enough. Who can forget how ActionJesus beat Nony 6/7 pooling twice in dreamhack?
How to identify: With your scout the first thing you should do when looking at a zergs base is to pay close attention to his worker counter.
You have 12 probes already but you can see that the zerg only has 7 drones. So you dont even need to scout his spawning pool before knowing you have to prepare for the rush. This gives you an few extra crucial 5-10 seconds to stop probes and get your buildings up faster which will make it easier to stopp the rush.
Common Mistake: Pulling all your probes off mining and fighting with probes/scvs before your marine/zealot is out or not making a bunker/forge. This is the biggest mistake i see even present at high level master play. You should never fight headon with your workers. The workers are meant to hit and run so the zerglings dont kill your cannon/bunker while stalling time for your zealot/marine to come out. When your zealot/marine is out you can comfortably engage.
Optimal way to counter: Remember you are in survival mode so if you live whilst facing minimal losses the game will be easily won.
Terran: This is simple enough, stop scvs and make a clean wallin with 1 marine shooting from behind the wall while it gets reapired by scvs. If you didnt wallin in time 1 bunker at your mineral line will stop the rush, just make sure you pull scvs when the marine is out to guide it to the bunker safely.
Protoss: I feel the optimal way to stop this is by making a forge and pylon to wall in next to your gate, especially if you gated on 12 or 13 supply.
Stop probes at 12-13 supply for the extra quick forge and pylon.
Use about half of your probes to stall (but run away when zerglings switch taget to them) till your cannon / zealot is up.
If your cannon is up and he fails to do damage the game will be won easily
Example Replay: Download the replay beating this cheese here.
Terran cheese/allins are by far the most complicated and hardest to stop type of cheese. Even several high level Master league players i have asked to show how to defend against various Terran chesses had difficulty stopping them even when they knew it was coming. As such the most effort will be spent on this section and it will be carefully broken down and explained in the full version.
A big thank you to all the players who have helped in letting me demonstrate how to defeat the cheeses in customs and also for the discussions. Namely sheepy, benji, jesse, oxy, edge, juicy, lide, hut.
Wow, awesome guide! If only I didn't have to learn some of that stuff the hard way Btw you mention sunkens instead of spines.
Also, I'd like to bring up a point I think might be valid. After holding off a proxy gate, I believe you should push your advantage in the form of tech, rather than doing an early timing attack. I've seen some replays, including one TvP with Naniwa, where the terran nicely held off a double proxy gate, attacked with just MM soon after and got owned. Had they teched to cloak banshees, I think the protoss would have had much more trouble dealing with that as his own tech is somewhat behind. Perhaps that approach could be appropriate after holding off any type of cheese?
But i dunno, put me in my place if I'm just talking shit :P
Even the smallest donations help keep sc2sea running! All donations go towards helping our site run including our monthly server hosting fees and sc2sea sponsored community tournaments we host. Find out more here.