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While many comms just bang down what ever structure they are dropping, strategic placement of structures is actually a critical aspect of comming. Take marine spawn for instance; usually at the start of a game the comm will drop an IP an armory and 1-2 upgrade structures (obs, armslab). By placing the structures in the right places it makes it a lot easier for marines to kill any life forms that may attack your spawn. However, if you just throw down your base in any random form it makes it a lot harder for you to defend your spawn against lone skulks. Also try to place your obs in a position so that its "radar" area covers the entrances to your spawn. This way your marines will not be ambushed as soon as they leave.
Usually placing the IPs as far from the CC as possible is a good idea and placing the other structures against walls will leave no gaps for skulks to hide behind when attacking them.
The same can be said for TF placement at a siege point. You want your TF to be against a wall (corners are a bonus) but still close enough so your sieges will be within range of the hive. The same with the actual sieges. Try to place them against walls at the edge of the TF range. Try to place them so that marines can easily cover them and the TF at once.
There are however three structures that should never be placed against walls (and other buildings), these are IPs PGs and turrets. (both IPs and pgs can be shot over anyway so they can't conceal skulks).
If your IPs and PGs are placed against walls, aliens can camp them more easily by knocking your spawning/phasing marines into walls as they come through. Building your turrets out in the open at the edge of your TFs range gives them a greater area that they can shoot through, thus increasing their overall effectiveness.
While it may seem a bit of a drag placing structures at the start of the game (when speed is essential to find the hive) it eventually becomes second nature with experience. I find myself looking for a good spot for my bases on maps I have rarely played or haven't played at all. The main thing to remember is to try and give a good layout for your marines, because its alot harder to hold a TF that is either too close to a hive, too far away from a PG or just has too many hiding places for skulks. Try to keep in mind what vents are in the area and whether you think your marines will be able to hold the base your are dropping. If not, spending five seconds to find a more suitable location will save you grief in the long run.
If you need some help with spawn layouts there are some screenshots here.
Now that you have your base in order, it's time to decide what upgrades your going to be choosing. In this segment Im going to look at the advantages and disadvantages of each tech path.
First up is the Advanced Armory. The AA allows production of GLs and HMGs and grants access to the proto building. The advantages of the AA are obvious, more powerful weapons and access to proto upgrades. The two main disadvantages of the AA are the upgrade time and the fact you have to fork out another 15 res per weapon. Another disadvantage is the relative vulnerability of the AA. Even thought it has double the HP of a normal armory it still has the least amount of hp out of all the upgrade structures.
A lot of USA clans find that JP rushing on some maps can be very effective. While I am yet to be convinced of its full benefits, I can see a lot of potential for 5:00-6:00 minute rushes. (The two main reasons I am skeptical of this, is the lack of team work it promotes and the fact that one good lerk counters 105+res of upgrading.) On some maps though, JPs are almost essential (ns_orbital_cal) and a skilled team of JPers can be extremely destructive.
Unless you are in clan ROBOCOP, HA is rarely seen until after the 2nd hive is well established. HA can be extremely powerful but is easily countered by stomp. So always try to have 1 JPer in a HA mix, as he can scout new pgs and also is immune to the stomping onos (and can chase it down).
Next we move onto the Arms Lab. The Arms Lab contains 3 upgrades: Weapons (1:00+30seconds per level), Armour (1:00+30seconds per level) and Catalyst (40seconds).
Each weapon upgrade increases all marine weapon damage (except knife) by 10%. Each armor upgrade gives an extra 20 armor to marines. Catalyst is a droppable item (found in the ammo and medpack tab) that increases marine fire rate and move speed by 25% for 9 seconds. Before the recent armor patch, armour1 first was the standard. Now that marines have 30 armour, a1 has become less compulsory. That said, it's very rare that you see an arms lab not part of the first two upgrade paths, simply because you will spend the most resources on upgrades here and getting it early on means that you have more upgrades when attacking the second hive.
The advantage of the arms lab is that it almost never runs out of upgrades to choose from (except in huge pub games) because its very rare you see a team with 3/3 ups and catalyst. The disadvantage that it requires 40 res for the first upgrade (20 for the building its self then 20 for the upgrade) and the time it takes to research every upgrade is 9:40.
Last but most definitely not least is the obs. With such a variety of upgrades I feel that the obs is one of if not the most critical structure available to the Frontiersmen. With a diverse selection of upgrades and options, the obs presents itself as a crucial early-mid game structure. Phase gates (45 seconds) can give marines the early map control they need, while MT (1:40) basically counters the mc chamber in itself and scanner sweep (20 energy) is the only weapon marines have against cloak.
At some point in the game you are going to need an obs, and the new 40 energy start means that getting it earlier rather than later is a good strategy to adopt. Lastly we must not overlook the importance of beacon when trying to hold onto key outposts, saving spawn from attack or even just to group up your marines in a pub game.
When choosing which upgrade paths to take its important to consider two things.
A. What chamber will my opponent most likely be using?
B. What upgrades will suite my team and my comming style?
C. What map are we playing?
In the case of the first question, if you are unsure what chamber they aliens are taking, try going obs and arms first as they are the more versatile of the 3 paths and the AA can be upgraded after about 1:30 (once chambers have been identified)
As a general rule, motion counters MC, scan+armor1 counters sc (even with 30 armor) and fast weapon ups counter DC (HMGs help).
This brings me to the second question. If you are playing against international clans or the majority of your marines have bad pings (150+) then you should very well consider an AA as its alot more difficult to get rego with SGs than with HMGs (the HL engine seems to favour tracing with high ping to snapping single shots with high ping).
Or say you plan to put alot of pressure on the aliens early game by rushing there nodes. You are going to want early pgs with fast armor1 and weapons 1/2, rather than HMGs which cannot be researched before 2:00 (realistically 3:00).
And lastly, some upgrades are better suited to some maps. On origin or nothing, early PGs are a must so that you can gain early map control and put pressure on alien nodes.
Now that you have an idea of what upgrades you might want to choose don't forget BE ADAPTABLE. If you chose to get arms/aa and you find that sensory has come into play then you need to switch straight away to an obs.
Killing 2nd hive:
Now its time to bring it all together. The battle has raged for about 4:00 with a bit of back and forth action. It's now time to find out which hive the aliens are puting up and how to take it down. Once you find out which hive is going up (using scan, ammo or marines spotting), take a look at the clock. You now have 3:00 to get that hive down or the aliens basically win. At around 4:00 depending on what upgrades you chose, you should either have 1/1 upgrades (arms) or PGs(obs) or HMGs/GLs(aa).
Up until this point you may have been able to keep map control without PGs, but now you need them. If you haven't got them, get them hella fast. Also now that fades are on the board your marines can no longer solo with lmgs. Get your marines to group up, drop what ever weapons you can afford (remember welders) and make your way to the hive that is building, setting up a pg. Now is the time to decide how you are going to take the hive down.
When choosing whether to shotgun or siege a hive you have to take many things into account and its important to get it right because you generally only get one shot at it. First is what chamber the aliens have.
Generally its easier to shotgun down an SC or DC hive, because MC allows aliens to immediately reinforce. Use your obs to scan the chambers if you don't already know them.
Second is your current amount of res nodes. Generally sieging requires more initial outlay but you gain a lot of res back when recycling. Compared to a successful shotgun rush, which requires less res initially, but can require more res in beacon rushes and med spam.
Third is what life forms the aliens have at the time. If the aliens have a skilled lerk, shot gunning a hive down becomes a lot more difficult due to spores and umbra.
Lastly is the actual hive itself. Some hives are a lot easier to shotgun than to siege and vice versa. Take satcomm on ns_tanith a lot of comms think that its one of the hardest hive to siege so normally you would try to shotgun this hive down. But if you were attacking EC on ns_eclipse, sieging from outside the hive is a lot less risky than pushing into it. Another thing to consider is the skill level of your marines.
A contested (meaning the aliens are aware and are fighting back) shotgun rush is a lot harder to pull of than a contested siege. Some marines find it difficult to concentrate on attacking multiple targets. By sieging you only have to focus on killing life forms as the rush you.
If you choose to shotgun down a hive I recommend dropping 3 SGs, 2 HMGs (if researched), 2 packs of mines and as many welders you can afford(always drop welders with a gun.)
If you only have 50 res drop 3 SGs and 3 welders rather than 5 SGs).
Use the HMGs to cover so that the shot gunners can focus solely on getting the hive down. If you don't have an AA then make sure you always have 2 SGs fully loaded to kill life forms.
Also killing any chambers in the hive before shooting the actual hive itself actually makes it a lot easier to finish off the hive, because A) the aliens lose one level of upgrade and aliens can't make use of the actual chamber in the hive (eg. using the sc to ambush, or using an mc to flee from the hive). A fully built hive will take 35 level2 shotgun shells (assuming all hit, and the hive doesn't regen). Where as a just dropped hive will only take 18 shots as it starts with only 50%hp. So if you are shot gunning get in as fast as possible.
If you choose to siege the hive, then tell all your marines to stay out of the hive area until you tell them to go in. This saves you loosing weapons inside as sieging forces the aliens to fight at and around the TF/PG/sieges. Remember to drop your siege base in an organized way (1 pack of mines on the PG helps too). If you need some basic layouts see the link bellow. Try to set up at least 3 sieges while keeping at least 3 res nodes alive. The more sieges you put up the faster the hive dies and the less scans it requires.
If your obs is on full energy when you are sieging a hive, start scanning as soon as the first siege goes up. By the time you use up the other 4 scans, you will have almost enough energy to scan again. The only time you send marines into a hive that is being sieged is if the aliens get a gorge(s) or if you run out of energy and need your marines to spot the hive. Be aware when spotting a hive that you need to see almost the entire hive for it to show up on minimap. Look at the miniradar or press C when viewing a hive and once it shows up, the sieges can see it and will begin to fire. Also be aware that if the siege has line of sight it will fire automatically on its own (see generator on ns_orbital_cal)
Please note with the screenshots: in some SS there is more than one TF/PG, this means that both placements of the PG/TF are good to use. Do not however place 2 set of PGs or TFs!
Which ever way you choose to kill the hive always have atleast 2 IPs.
Also keep an eye on any skulks that may be attacking your res and send one marine to stop them and recap if needed.
Now that you know how to build a base, research upgrades and take out the second hive, these tips will give you an edge over your opponent(s).
Try to establish the hive as soon as you are done dropping your Marine Spawn. To do this, either listen for footsteps at all three hives and/or drop an ammo pack on top of where the hive should be. If the ammo pack won't drop then that is there hive. Be aware that you can't drop anything on top of water, so at CC on ns_eclipse you cannot use ammo to determine the hive. Make sure you tell your marines which hive it is.
Once you know the hive the marines on the other side of the map can rush ahead to cap res without pressure.
After you know the hive, try to listen around the nodes closest to the hive for egg or gorge noises and tell your marines which rts they are building. This gives the marines on the hive side of the map their next WP after capping the first node.
Number your upgrade buildings using ctrl+1-5 so you have them only one button away and you don't have to keep returning to MS to upgrade.
When ever your marines are pushing into a hostile area or attempting to set up a phase gate, use a scan from your obs if you don't have MT (even if they don't have sc) so they can either power build the obs or are able to quickly run thru the hostile area and get to their waypoint.
Learn the hotkeys. These help a lot; especially learn the meds and ammo keys!
Try to predict when a marine will need a med or ammo and drop it before he calls. This helps you to stay on top of the ammo and med requests.
Manage your resources and nodes. There is no point in having 40 res and spending it on weapons/upgrades when you don't have any nodes to provide you with income.
Try to establish an early PG in a central map position. This will give you greater map control early on and help to put pressure on the enemy.
Never set up more than one pg when attacking 2 hives. Either have the marine at the second hive distract them by spawn camping, or get him to attack the chambers inside the hive. The more phase gates you have on the map the longer it takes phasing marines to reinforce your hive attack (and it also creates a lot more ambush opportunities).
Never recycle built rts that are under attack. Recycling a building reduces its hp by half. Therefore the tower usually dies before you gain the 7.5 res back from it. And in the time it take a single skulk to kill one tower it usually generates more than if you recycle. But always recycle unbuilt rts(that are attacked) as you get 80%(12) of your res back and they already have 50% hp.
Never get out of the CC unless you can tell what is in spawn (and think you can kill it).
It's your job to continually relay information to your marines about what is happening in parts of the map they are not in at the time (this includes events in enemy parts of the map, such as new hives RTs, eggs and chambers.)
Try using the minimap in the bottom right hand corner to move around the map. It's quicker and easier to move around than scrolling.
When playing against SC try to find and kill their chambers using scan. This has a double effect on the aliens as it reduces their map control thru their SC network, and also reduces their SC upgrade level.
Keep telling your marines what your next move is about to be. Explaining a few steps ahead in your plan can give them a chance to evaluate and change their game play to suite your next move.
Try to keep an eye on the hp of enemies that your marines are fighting. Say a fade is running from topo on low health point that out to your marines so they can attempt to ambush him. Or say a marine is shooting at a skulk attacking nodes, tell him how much health they skulk is on so he can decided whether to reload or use his knife.
Try to drop accurate meds rather than carpeting an area with them. This A) saves you res. and makes it a lot easier for marines whose computers lag when meds are dropped. (Yes J I'm looking at you)
Never play for time in a prac. It's better to end the game fairly quickly (if you feel you have lost) and offer to play another map or redo that half.
This way you get more experience and its also a lot more fun for both teams.
Recycle PGs that are surrounded by aliens to stop your marines phasing through and losing there weapons.
Try to get a voice program such as ventrilo or teamspeak. Its a lot easier to understand long sentences on one of these compared to ingame. The only disadvantage is it uses more bandwith than ingame.
Play as many games comming as you can. Most aspects of your game will improve with experience!
Written by: Az0r