I am going to be creating a couple guides for Terran since I am currently on break and have some spare time. So I felt I should explain the mechanics and mindset so I can get a good foundation on what is expected of you when doing builds. These guides are meant for improving and reaching the tip top of GM. Majority of my experiences are from laddering on the KR server, tho some of my experiences in the past on NA still remain.
General mindset you should place yourself for macro style in every game you play is to think how can I be as greedy as possible and get away with it. This can be a number of different things.
1. Having the minimum defense possible with the combination of scouting and knowing timings while having either a tech advantage/expo advantage/upgrade advantage/best compostion. Something that can get you a strong foothold in the mid/late game.
2. Knowing when to stop being greedy and identify when your opponent is being too greedy and punish him for it.
3. Use your micro to cut as much corners as you can and don’t rely too much on static defense unless nesscary. How can I tighten up this build further?
4. Execution time for keystrokes. You want to have the miniuim amount of strokes to do each action and the fastest way to do it.
5. Once you gain an advantage, make sure you don’t lose this advantage and use it to gain something in return. This can be either slowing down their expos, or getting your expo earlier.
6. Get rid of bad habits. Focus on doing good habits and either punish yourself with push ups or a slap to the face. Serious about the last one. =P
7. Stop being a little bitch and ladder. Get over it, we arn’t perfect but you want to improve. To be the best you have to beat the best but how the fuck are you gunna get there if you don’t learn from your loses. If you suffer from worry about your stupid points so much you arn’t fit for high level play, plain and simple because in high level play you need to win games and if you chicken out cuz your afraid to lose then you don’t belong in competitve gaming.
8. Blame yourself for the loses. Don’t blame the game, the race or the players. There’s a difference between raging and frustration. When raging your wasting your timing bitching to death ears, frustration atleast you know you have a problem with your gameplay. I don’t rage, I just move on and let that last game be a lesson for being a dumbass.
9. Improving, not trying to win. This is something people may disagree with. Some may say winning means your improving. Imo, I differ on this aspect. Winning implys you reinforce what you already know which is fine unless you know 100% sure you won’t learn anything from this. Therefore, playing to improve and not trying to win, testing builds so that later on once perfected can be very potent. Following some of these advice on this guide which are harder to execute but in theory are the better ways to play, etc… I find the most enjoyment of playing this game by testing stuff and having fun seeing how far I can push himself. I don’t get pleasure from winning atleast for practice purposes.
10. You should never rely on a type of build that hopes on your opponent in making a mistake. No where is that acceptable in competitive play. You never see professionals rely on their opponents to make mistakes in any sport, what they do instead is to learn to capatalize on it, but thats a whole different concept. You should instead solely rely on your skills and your skills only to pull you thru not the other way around.
These are the mindsets are needed when going macro oriented play. Tho, very general, it is very hard to get a good balance between them and mastering one set of them. But you do want to aim for them.
Greed is an important tool to learn. How far you can push this can totally change the outcome of your game. Greed can be not making bunkers, or getting an early expo. Do not confuse this with blind greed, what you need is calculated greed. Such as having your marines on the edge of the ramp in a cocave formation instead of relying on a bunker. With this you can get your barracks earlier or your gas earlier therefore have either a stronger 2 base push or faster 3rd expo. Can either have a supply depot wall and make your raxes as your wall instead of a bunker backed up by a pre-spread of marines. Building the expo on the bottom instead of in your base or sending your scout at a later time, building orbitals instead of relying on planteries. A lot of things contruibute to this calculated greed. How well you scout and what timings you are looking for, most importantly exact timings on when their expos start or gas timings. Of course there are cases where you are in such a good postion that all you need to do is survive and that is when you have to recognize that situation and stop being greedy. Or that the build order of your opponent cannot be stopped by just pure micro and you must build bunkers. Blind greed can sometimes be good in a bo3/5/7 along as its hidden. But its generally not a good way to practice for ladder.
Greed is a tricky thing to learn and balance and one of the hardest things I had to deal with. It takes tons of games inorder to tone it to the right amount but in the end you still soon find out that you are able to win games easily. This is also to say that your micro has improved and your mechanics aswell inorder to make this possible.
Sometimes I even just leave games where I even get a small disadvantage from which I could have avoided. The point is that I try to perfect my build in a way where I never get a disadvantage from and once I do get one there is no point because all the timings and order of the build will be offset. So learning from this game is pointless to me. This is usually early portion of the game but to improve the quickest you can’t be doing mistakes too early. You will just be learning from a disadvantage which you should never have in the first place. It has no place in a tournment environment.
Many of the lower levels are very build order oriented players and worry way too much about composition. I say do away with that and focus purely on mechanics and less about build orders. I agree once you get to a certain level build orders become very important but that is because you will then be high enough that every little thing matters.
There is no excuse that you can’t macro perfectly for the first 10 mins, absolutely. Once you play tons of games you can pretty much do this without thinking much at all. It becomes ingrained into your skull.
The best tip I can give you is to play without sound. JUST DO IT. This will punish you for not looking at your supply or minimap harder and force you to always look at them. This was the best way I was able to improve the quickest in my macro by just turning off the game sound and blasting music. Do this for a good 2 months and revert back and you will see a large difference in your macro and awareness.
Force yourself in uncomfortable situations. I am not talking about in terms of getting a disadvantage, but more of ‘you know this is the best way to play but you are doing something inferior’ type of deal. Such as you know 1 rax expo is the best build for this matchup but you don’t do it. DO IT. Force yourself to learn the ins and outs of it. It may take you a total of 1000 games of this one build but it will be very solid build that you can rely on as your backbone build. Don’t always assume that just because you can’t hold off a certain build that its not possible. Find a way, until after 100 games and it still becomes a problem even tho you tried tons of options with perfect macro/micro possible then you can ditch it. In my experiences, I use to think that way, just cuz its hard it isn’t possible but I just kept doing it and watched players able to pull it off all the time and said to myself ‘well if they can do it wtf can’t I’. You should be able to 1 rax expo in all MUs and be safe. But the transtions are different for each. That will be explained in another guide.
Some noticeable traits I’ve seen in players in the lower leagues is how they position their hand on the keyboard. You generally want your hand fairly spread out so you can hit as many keys easily and have each finger able to hit mutiple keys on the keyboard and none overlapping. This in theory should reduce the amount of time in reaching for the desired key aswell as make it more possible to use more control groups. There is no excuse if you can’t hit 7 on your keyboard. Remove your Windows key and your Caps lock key so you know that you hit the wrong key when you were aiming for ctrl.
I generally do not recommend changing the keyboard hotkeys too much other than some exceptions such as the 9 and 0, patrol, land/lift, location keys, planetary fortress, blue flame, ship upgrades, load/unload bunker. These are pretty far off but its still possible to hit them with my thumb but to make my macro more smooth I had to change them.
You should have a minium of 3 army groups and min of 5 building groups, one for each building orbital/rax/fact/starport/upgrades. I however use total of 5 army groups, but not all would be used all the time. I have keys specfically for tanks/bio+medivacs/air/ghosts/2nd army. This is for me to easily memorize and for late game situational control. Once you have everything in a control group you will find out that you will have less time searching for things and more time DOING THINGS. I have started experimenting with adding my upgrades into my orbital control group which frees up hotkey 8 for something else. Up to your preference really.
Reason why I frown upon players who use one group for all their buildings is that it limits the rally points of the buildings. I have builds that have specfic buildings rallied to different places at once. Also I come from a BW background so that also comes into play. Also sometimes I want to specficly build things from my starport and don’t want to tab thur twice to get there. Or I want to hit my factory group twice so my screen jumps to that location so I can research seige. You don’t have those options with tabbing. Only con is that if you want everything to rally at one point it takes more actions, other than that macro cycles take the same strokes. You want to have your army in as many army groups since in theory this will improve your control if you are fast enough. Clicking is far inferior compared to Clicking + keys. Execution time is very important skill.
Another thing to note is that you want to think about how many strokes it takes for you to do a specfic action and whether there is an alternate way to get the same effect with 1-2 less strokes. For example, A moving your army of Tank/bio/medivac/ghost around with 3 control groups. Reducing it to just 2 actions. Having your tank/bio/medivac on one group and ghost in another but then having your tanks in another group. That way it takes 2 actions to move your army around instead of 3 and you can easily seige in time.
Location keys F1-F4, THESE ARE VERY VERY IMPORTANT. I cannot stress how important these are especially for terran. When dropping mules in the middle of microing, avoiding drops, starting/landing expos, checking saturation or transfering scvs. You will soon find that you have more time to do more things because you arn’t scrolling around so much. Saving a couple scvs or possiblity even saving them all while still able to micro your harassment can save you tons of games. In the start of every game you should set your location keys on expos that you are going to take in sequence. This way you don’t waste time setting them up later.
Use control to hotkey your army and regoup them easier instead of double clicking. Also use control and hit your idle worker button to highlight all of them then hit a location and click on mineral patch. Time is money.
Don’t click your command card. Only time you should be looking at the command card are for mule/scan high to see whether you have enough energy and whether you started an upgrade. You should utlize all the hotkeys in your disposal. Never click your command card. If you still have a habit clicking the command card I recommend use a sticky note and paste it right on top of it.
If you still are learning the game then you shouldn’t be putting too much emphasis one what keyboard or mouse you use. As long as its close to factory standard devices come you can easily get GM with that equipment. Until you start being more competitive and join lans + tourneys then it would be recommended to get some gaming gear. The first time I got a gaming mouse and keyboard was back when I was barely hitting GM. Overall the equipment allowed more control especially the mouse was a big change for me. The amount of pressure it took to click changed how I microed a lot of my units. The pressure in keys also slightly uped my macro but not enough to be game breaking, its more of a relief for the long gaming sessions.
Lower your graphics to low, you are not here to watch HQ movies you are here to win at starcraft. Turn off all the garbage that is cluttering your screen. It makes it more simpler to micro armies and macro without pretty flowers in the way. Less clutter will making your eyes easier to adjust to and less crap to think about.
Health Bar always on.
Flyer helper ON. Reason is for medivac drops and to see whether your banshee is on the high ground or not. Helpful to know if your medivac can start auto unload when you click D on it. Other than that this is also useful if you play protoss for the warp prism elevator technique. Storming mutas, landing vikings or balling up your mutas.
Hide menu bar, clutters your screen and you dont’ want to misclick it in the middle of the game.
Sound OFF, explained above.
Game Timer ON, Super important.
Control groups, Either hidden or unclickeable.
Display build grid. Very important when learning new maps and building walls.
Turn off Alerts. I sometimes misclick these overall not that useful anyways.
You should be able to go thur your macro cycles fairly quickly, somewhere around 2 seconds will suffice. If it takes longer than 2 seconds you are too slow. I can do them in 1 second. You want to aiming to slim down that number because macro is such a core part of the game that if you do slim it down imagine the amount of time you can use for micro and other things. Its also very important turn down your key press delay in your control panel keyboard settings.
The way I was able to learn to hit these keys as quickly as I can was to go into notepad and just ferociously spam these. Aswell as keys that were hard to hit for me. Do my macro cycle over and over until it was smooth and quick. Until you get to a point where you don’t even think about doing your cycles. You need to get to a point where you build a sort of cycle in your macro rotation. Here’s an example of my thought process while macroing.
1) Micro for about 10-15 seconds then start step 2.
2) Look at supply. Do I need depots? if so, Location key > SCV > Depot > Look at minimap > Repeat step 1.
3) Look at resources. Gauge how much of each building I can produce. (Sometimes I skip this step if I am in a battle)
4) Go thur my buildings and produce units while looking at minimap.
5) Any mules to drop? Sometimes I do this step blindly immediately after step 4. Repeat step 1.
Generally you want to do your macro cycle as quickly as possible and giving your full attention on micro. The more time you spend doing your macro cycle the less effective you are.
SCV saturation is a large part of the game. This in itself is very important for the flow of the game. If you would have not made those 6 extra scvs you would’ve had 2 more raxes. Imo, you want a max of 20 scvs for minerals and 6 for gas total of 26 for each base. 16 for each mineral line is optimized but you will have some scvs building structures and you want to have a little bit over saturated because some mineral patches require 3. Good way to gauge is to hit your location key, highlight the mineral line only and look at the bottm of your screen. If you see 2 full rows of scvs then you need to start thinking about stopping scv production. You hear pros talk about its generally a good idea to keep making scvs for the lower leagues. I guess I can agree slightly because there are a lot of other problems that lower leagues have which can help them when they lose a group of scvs but if you polished your skills enough this would be a recommended skill to learn. Having not spend resources on useless scvs and spent them on starting an expo or more production would change the flow of your mid game quite significantly. I would say if you plan to expand, start up the scv production after the expo has started. That way you are a little bit over saturated and can transfer when the orbital finishes and landed.
Do not queue, inorder to optimize your macro you cannot start anything that isn’t started immediately. This includes upgrades, buildings, units. Don’t use an scv to start a chain of depots, use instead 3 scvs to build all 3. Select a couple scvs start the depots then hold shift and click back on a mineral patch, this goes same with buildings.
Your intial mules should be microed so they don’t waste their 30 minerals on their last trip. On certain mineral patches if the mules does its last trip it will die before reaching the CC, therefore wasting 30 minerals. This isn’t something huge but its something if you have the APM to do which you should because macro in SC2 is super easy. Late game drop your mules on seperate minerals if not you lose 30 minerals each time.
Build your production tightly together and your upgrades inbetween your main and natural. That is generally the safest place to build so they don’t get sniped by mutas or drop play. Then place some depots on the edges of the cliffs to spot drops quicker. When late game comes into play you want to place some of your production in other bases so that if in a base trade scenario occurs you can still produce. Build your production in a row from top to bottom with each row 2 hexes apart. This will give you the most space possible on tight maps.
When doing scv transfers or getting your scvs back on mining gas as quick as possible after some harassment, you want to get your scvs back on gas ASAP. The best technique is by having all your scvs clicked on a gas geyser then hold shift + click on 2-3 scvs that show up on the bottom console. Repeat this for the 2nd geyser then click on a mineral patch.
Never chase your enemy’s scout. You need to maximize your mineral income and any deterance to that will hinder your build to having an offset. Only time you should pull an scv to deal with his worker if you cannot rotate your scv building a building (explained below).
If you are very serious about Starcraft you can also change the way you box your units. Boxing from the Top Right to the Bottom Left allows your mouse to be closer to the minimap. This saves tons of time when moving armies by minimap instead of dragging your mouse all the way from the Bottom Right to click on the minimap. This is just a slight advantage but it can add up, especially with harassment, having that extra second to react, or faster relocation of army.
You shouldn’t scroll as much. I’d say I scroll about 20% and the rest are a combination of double tapping my control groups or clicking on the minimap. Scrolling is very popular in the lower leagues and its sort of a bad habit. Many of the times people scroll to watch the battles and not actually micro. If you are watching the battle and not macroing your wasting time. You should by just galancing at the army gauge that whether you will come out on top or not. Whether its worth the effort to even micro and whether you have enough time to go back and macro and jump back in. Like in TvT marine/tank vs marine/tank. if the engagment if in an open area I seige my tanks then stim my marines but box some from the side and flank a little so the marines from the main army can get more of a concave. But if the battle takes place on a 4 forcefield wide choke I just siege, stim and A move then go back and macro and jump back in time to see if my marines need to back up from seige fire. Cases where I stim to engage a protoss army but there is small amount of time before they can reach and start firing I sneak in a macro cycle quickly then micro my army.
If want even more edge, you may want to fix your mouse to 1:1 pixels so your mouse clicking is more accurate and you have more control with your mouse. You should play with a mouse with 1600 DPI atleast. If you want to be the best you need to be fast. Refer to this link: http://donewmouseaccel.blogspot.com/2010/03/markc-windows-7-mouse-acceleration-fix.html
Another thing is the scroll speed. I have mine all the way to max. Again if I can move quickly I can react quicker. This is your preferance but having it slow scroll speed won’t be as fast to micro with.
You can halt the scv building on a structure by click on T, then tell them to build the structure again by click on the structure. This will rotate the scv around the building if timed right. If you continue to do this, your scv will rotate in a circle randomly. That way in some cases you don’t need to pull a 2nd scv for the probe harassment and lose mining time. You can also use this tactic to keep your scv on the inside of your base so that he doesn’t get attacked from the outside. This is especially useful if you find yourself in a situation where melee attackers are attacking your wall but your wall is not entirely complete or started late.
When using hellions its better to attack perpendicularly to your targets even tho moving to that location might lose a hellion. Usually this situtation is good when if you do lose some hellions you will still able to one shot your targets. Also when attacking your enemy’s mineral line if he makes an scv line, target 3-4 scvs up the line so that the search area effect will kill the scvs that are behind the intial target inorder to optimize damage.
If your enemy worker sneaks into your base and you are donig a build that requires both gases and your enemy has the potential of stealing your gas. Place a worker on hold position on one of the 4 corners of your unmade gas geyser. This will prevent your opponent from stealing your gas and doesn’t require you to create your 2nd gas geyser so early. Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, Southeast, are the possible positions to block. You can also do this aganist your enemy’s 2nd gas to delay them. Usually good to do aganist a protoss before the 4:10 stalker or his first zealot comes out.
The fastest way to learn this skill is to watch every single replay. Learn not just timings but most importantly gas timings, chrono, queen timings, egg morph timings, rax/pool/gateway/cyber timings and expo timings are the only real and easily scoutable things possible. Everything else that is scouted is luck based. You want to search for where your opponent is placing their gas into and how you can scout that and when. Do you know when a standard stalker should come out? Do you know the proper time for an expo to start for a 1 gateway expand? Can you identify when speed finishes? When should mutas come out? When would the first standard banshee come out? Timings are important but I don’t rely them so heavily. I don’t actually know when a 6 roach rush would hit me or a 1 gate expo into 7 gate hits because I can defend them easily if scouted. I just solely rely on my scouting to identify whether they are expanding/teching/being aggressive. Until the game gets much more figured out and it becomes a must to learn more timings these are usually what goes thur my mind. General mutas timings are important so you know when to position your marines to interrcupt them and not make turrets too early. Things like a general time for a 3rd expo and whether is that 3rd actually a greedy one? Whether I’m in a postion to attack it or expand aswell. Hive timing based on how much gas used. A lot of the game sense can only be gauge by the gas usage and whether they take the 3rd and 4th gas quick or not can show a lot. Generally I don’t learn specfic timings of attacks. Only things I memorize are things I know if they play standard it should not change. Such as DTs, Void rays, banshee, baneling/hatch cancel, mostly from 1 base. Builds other than the opening vary a lot so its hard to gauge if its a 6 gate + tech or a 7 gate all-in without burning a scan and getting lucky. I don’t rely a lot with scans so only scv scouting and xel naga control are what I use for info.
You should generally know that you made a bad decision with your army. But the real true test is whether you know when to take expos and whether you know how to defend them properly. Whether you are ready for a tech switch. Positioned your army correctly to stop drops and counter attacks. There isn’t an easy way to explain other than learning from your mistakes and knowing how to correct them. Generally turtling is a good thing to do if you have no clue what to do in this situation. Its something you can always lean back on. But don’t overdo because once higher levels identify them they can certainly abuse it so then you will have to react to that.
When watching replays that you’ve lost, understand exactly where you got a disadvantage. This will prob be hard thing to depict because it isn’t always army size that counts. It could be postioning, slow tech, building placement, scouting info, etc. See the points where you slipped on macro/micro. If you did any mistakes in the first 10 mins its very important you fix them before moving on. I am always very picky on little things that I could have done even tho there is no threat of it coming. Always ready for whatever that is getting thrown my way. Until I know exactly what my opponent is doing can I relax but from the moment the game starts I am worried until I gain some sort of advantage I can work with. Basically need to be on your toes. So you really want to be very picky and find holes even those this particular game it didn’t happen and elimate the possibilities as the game goes on.
When watching Vods from professionals note why they did the strat. Is it a mind game strat? Is it based on map or the player? Is it metagame? A lot of strats you see in the vods won’t simply work on ladder due to the fact they are played in a tournment enivornment in a best of 3 or 5 and probarly would only be used once. When I watch vods I don’t look at them particularly for build orders but more on how they do their decision making and what makes their decision making better than mine? Same thing goes for streams. What is it that I would do in this situation compared to them? Does it match? If not why? Is it the right choice given the information they have? What would help improve on this decision making? These questions need to go thur your mind as you watch videos of starcraft.
This is the last of your concerns. Once you have gotten to a point where you have solid standard builds and know many of the standard timings and have solid mechanics which can push you into late game then you can consider this option. This is when you can start creating your own style. Try to find small timings to abuse, or unexplored territory such as mech, or maybe even an entirely new way to tackle a certain compostion.
I watch bw vods and streams when I have time to ponder on a strat that I have been having problems on or want to tweak. BW has been more developed and thiers tons of small things players do throughout the game to counter and react that I can possibly take from. To be honest, there are tons of things the current pros don’t do enough. A prime example of this 1-2 army group syndrone, this 1 A move without spread or moving zealots in the front. Maybe its because sc2 isn’t rewarding enough for positional or tactically maxed armies. But nothing the less, if you don’t see pros doing it, it isn’t nesscarily not good. Bisu once totally flipped the PvZ matchup upside when he introduced this Forge FE into corsiar DT play. There are definately tons of unexplored territory out there, as more maps allow for easier and easier natural expos the possiblites can increase due to easier time to hold, therefore more tech options.
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