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10 Ways to Get Better at Starcraft II

July 31, 2010

So Starcraft II was just released a few days ago and many people are itching to play some multiplayer.  They sign onto Battle Net and join a quick match.  They get put in a placement match and about 5 minutes into the game their base is overrun.  Before you know what happened, it’s over and you just got dominated.

So here you are, looking for some tips and tricks and you’ve stumbled onto this article.  Good thing too because I’m about to give you some help on how to hand out your own butt kicking.  Some of these techniques might be old news for some of the better players, but these tips aren’t for Silver and higher players.  Many of these are tips that will separate an average player from a good player.  Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to having a complete Starcraft game or at least not suck as much.  Note: these are in no particular order.

1.  Scout the other player

Have you ever started a quick 1v1 and noticed that almost immediately the other player had a probe in your base?  Chances are that player is good. It is so important to either harass and scout the other player to see what he/she is building.  While pumping out probes or SCV’s you should take one of them and send them directly into your opponents base.  This is essential to your own strategy and build order.  For example: if you notice a Protoss player pumping out gateways at an alarming rate, you better be ready for a quick strike.  Without this probe, you may not have known that the opponent was preparing to end the game very quickly.  Assuming what the other player is going to do is almost certainly going to end up in disaster.

2. Don’t focus on using one strategy

Many beginner players, Copper and Bronze level specifically, tend to stick to one build order and one strategy.  They go into a match thinking they are going to go straight for a rush, or tech up for the long haul.  Often times a player will start the match that they are going to build X so they can get to Y.  However, many of the good players will adapt their builds based on what their opponent is doing.  This once again brings up the scouting the opponent.  If your scout shows that the other player is going for a quick expansion, but you decided before the match you were going to tech-up and go straight for higher units, you should change your strategy and go for a quick rush.  Since they are expanding they will have practically no army and would be decimated if you caught them napping.  Another example would be if you noticed that the opponent, who was Terran, decided to go straight for Siege Tanks, but you were building a lot of ground infantry, instead of just trying to overwhelm the Terran tanks, you should switch to air, which the Tanks can’t attack.  Always be ready to go from plan A to plan B or even to plan C depending on the flow of the match.

3. Learn how to Macro effectively.

This is what separates an average Starcraft player from a great Starcraft player.  Many of the great players have an APM in the 100+.  APM or Actions per Minute is how many things the player controls during a minute.  An average player tops out at about 50 APM and averages in the high 30s.  In Starcraft II you can group units or buildings to any number on the number pad.  Highlighting the object and pressing shift+any number will lock the unit to that number (I play on a Mac, I believe it’s control+number for PC).  So anytime you can press a number and be taken to that building or unit for immediate control.  Using this effectively is a key to becoming a better player.  For example, if you tied your Nexus (I predominately play Protoss so all of my examples are tied to that race) to the 1 key and your Gateway to the 2, no matter what you are doing at the moment, you can press 1 then E to pump out more probes.  Likewise for pressing 2, then either Z for Zealot or S for Stalker.  Having all of these commands at your finger tips at all times is essential for being able to mass gigantic armies relatively quickly.  I also recommend having all your workers tied to one number so if they try to attack your economy, you can quickly press that number and get them out of harms way.

4.  Learn Hot Keys

This is essential to becoming a strong Macro player as this goes hand and hand.  I felt that despite being so similar to Macro is was important enough to have its’ own section.  Knowing which combination of keys to hit to produce certain units is so important and I can no stress it enough.  If you know that clicking on a probe then hitting B followed by E will give you Pylons will save you precious seconds instead of having to click on the probe, then the building tab, followed by the pylon tab.  Those seconds all add up.  A complete list of all hot keys can be found in the Starcraft II options.

5. Learn to Micro

Once you’ve mastered your hot keys and Macro game, learning how to micro, short for micromanage, your units you can turn unfair battles into close or even victories.  In order to micro effectively you have to know what each unit can do.  Sentries can add force fields and shields with a press of a button.  These force fields can block off enemy units from getting close to the sentries and can ultimately change the flow of the battle.  Many new players think all they have to do is click on an enemy for it to attack, which is true, but the units don’t often attack who you want or use their special abilities.  Learning how to take down key enemies quickly while being outnumbered is huge.  Very good micro players can take out units that out number them and change the outcome of a match.

6.  Wall off you base

This technique if very useful especially when playing against Zerg players who like to rush in the beginning of a match.  The idea is to block off your ramp to your base by buildings.  Terran players can use supply depots and barracks to nicely block off any entrances.  What’s nice about Terran walls is that they can put the supply depots underground to advance their own units and bring them up once they leave.  Protoss players can use Gateways, Cybernetics Cores and Pylons to develop a choke point where they can force units to go.  This is extremely effective against a Zergling rush with a few Zealtos blocking the entrance to the base.  Zealots chew up Zerglings very quickly as their only real attribute is numbers and speed.  Once a few Zerglings get into your base it is all but over, especially in the beginning of a match.  Wall off the base or develop a choke point and this will help you out early in matches.

7. Be fluent in the other races

Just because you play Terran or Protoss exclusively that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a working knowledge of tech trees and units for other races.  Knowing that Protoss players have to build a Cybernetics core before they can make Stalkers is extremely important.  This allows you to know what your opponent is trying to do.

8. Know common strategies

This is similar to 7, but knowing what each race can do at each time of the game is important.  There are so many different strategies for each race, but I’ll give you a few that I run into the most on Bnet.

  • Terran Reaper Rush-player builds Reapers and builds them fast.  These units are the fastest in the game with their upgraded speed and can terrorize your drones/probes/SCVs very early in a match.  Units that have ranged attacks, like Stalkers can dispatch these pesky soldiers quite quickly.
  • Zerg Rush-simply put, the player builds Zerglings very quickly and overwhelms the opponents army and usually ends the match quite quickly.  Zealots or large group or marines standing behind a choke point can dispatch these units easily.  Also Hellions are effective as long as they have marines with them.
  • Four Gate-a build order that results in a Protoss player massing four gateways and pumping out a lot of infantry units, very quickly.  A cybernetics core is essential to researching warp gate technology and then a proxy pylon is often placed in or very close to the opponents base which enables the players to have an almost continuous stream of zealots/stalkers/sentries to overwhelm an opposing player.
  • Two Gate Robo-is where a Protoss player goes straight to building two gateways to secure his own base while building a robotics facility and bay to pump out immortals and eventually Colossi.  Very standard build used by a lot of players since it is safe and can stand quick rushes.

9. Know when to expand and when not to expand

Many times players will either expand too late in a match, too early or not expand entirely at all.  Knowing when to expand is based both on what your strategy is and what your opponent is doing.  If your opponent pushes for an early expansion, common for Zerg players, you should do one of two things.  One, if you have a sufficient amount of units, push.  They spent 400 minerals on an expansion and will surely be hurting.  If you can’t take out at least the natural expansion, this will set you back since they have now producing more minerals and gas than you.  If it works, the match is probably over, especially if you can destroy their economy.  Second, make your own expansion.  If you see the opponent not setting up for a quick rush, or tech-ing, you should look to make an expansion quickly to gain a resource advantage.  Of course this is always risky as you are opening yourself up to an attack but if you scouted well, you should know what is coming.  However, it is worth the risk if it works.  Almost every map has a safer, “natural expansion” which is often right next to your main base, but if you are willing to risk more there are “richer minerals” or gold, which give you more intake but are usually right in the middle of the map.  I can’t give you a straight answer on when to expand, only a guideline as each match is different.  Learn when/if to expand and it will help you out in your economy and the match.

10.  Practice, Practice, Practice

Knowing all the strategies, hot keys, Macro commands and tech trees mean nothing if you don’t go out and use them.  Whether it’s playing the computer on Hard, Very Hard or if you’re crazy, Insane, getting practice is very important.  Putting these tips into use is the only way to get better.  If you want someone to practice with, leave a comment and we’ll be in touch.

I hope this helps some of you guys make the jump from Bronze to Silver or even Silver to Gold.  I could go on forever on Starcraft strategies, but this will have to do, for now.  I have Starcraft to play.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Juan Chao permalink
    August 15, 2010 3:55 am

    Hey, this was pretty sweet tips, im already ranked 7 in my bracket in the bronze class but I would always be down for pointers. I play Protoss and am looking to keep going up in ranks. Drop me a line and well talk. Thanks again and God bless 🙂

  2. February 10, 2011 11:26 pm

    It’s laborious to seek out knowledgeable people on this topic, however you sound like you know what you’re speaking about! Thanks

  3. Todd Pettit permalink
    February 23, 2011 9:24 pm

    Hey I’m looking for a practice partner. Unfortunately very few of my friends play Starcraft and so I’m stuck getting my butt kicked in match making or practicing against the computer. Neither of these options give me feedback or tips. My name is hobofromhell and my character code is 533

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