StarCraft 2 Amateur's Guide
How do I get to Diamond in StarCraft?
In StarCraft 2 a majority of players cap out at Gold and Platinum ranks. Some are able to peek through to Diamond but most can’t. There’s no lack of attempts to do it either, but it is difficult to get over the hurdles if we aren’t actively trying to improve specific issues we experience throughout the ladder. With the right amount of focus and plenty of time, it's possible to get our MMR into that diamond league MMR.
How do I improve Macro in SC2?
Here we need to remember that if we think our Macro is good, we are wrong, we’re too busy stutter stepping Marines and Harassing with Mutalisks to continue building our armies and keep up on production. Protoss probably have the hardest time getting production levels up as everything is so expensive. This is one of the reasons every second of the game should be utilized for something. If we remember that not everything needs our undivided attention and the better we can multitask the better off we will be.
We can use the hotkeys and control groups to more efficiently move around the map, control units, and manage production wherever you’re looking on the map. Terran and Zerg have it a little easier with their production buildings being able to produce multiple units at the same time, but it's almost necessary as a majority of their units get countered by Protoss heavy units.
This isn’t to say that Protoss counters everything, good tactics and positioning on the map can stop a Protoss Death Ball… sometimes. “More shit counters less shit.” - Winter Gaming. If you have more units with more upgrades and are more productive than your enemy, what reasons do you have for losing? If you have more economy than your opponent then who can resupply their armies faster and better?
When your taking fights and being efficient you can come back from a lost game, but when you take fights and are less efficient, as long as you have backbones to support your forces you can turn the tides of war against any enemy.This isn’t to say that being inefficient is the best way to play, it's just how RTS games are, better economy equals better production equals better odds of winning.
How do I improve my economy in an SC2 match?
Everything in SC2 is a step by step process. First, you do this, then this, and on and on and on until you either lose because your steps to victory were worse, or win because you quickly exercised your step by step list. Economy is a byproduct of the step by step system, you need it for everything sure, but you should consistently be making Drones, Probes and ScVs almost the entire game.
Of course this is dependent on what build path you’re doing, if you’re going for an all in maybe stop at 20-24 or if you’re going for a long macro build you should cap out around 65-75. Specific build guides are especially useful as most of them are based on Supply rather than Time.
For example a Terran Reaper quick expand guide looks a little bit like:
12-SCV 13- Supply Depot 14- Refinery/Barracks 18- Reaper 19- Orbital Command/Depot 20- Command Center
Probably not the most efficient build order but a very bare bones opener based off of SCV count, of course you would use the Reaper to scout, especially if you skipped the SCV scout, and use the first 50 Energy from the Orbital on a MULE to boost economy. A lot of builds like to follow that style, it is a very efficient way to commit build paths to memory. After memorizing them, the next step is doing it absolutely perfect is to do it instantaneously and working on a follow up that carries your momentum well, decision making becomes the last wall to get over.
Where should I be at in the game?
Like most games StarCrat can be broken down into three sections of time, early, mid, and late. Sometimes games don’t reach any further than early game. Build paths usually attempt to stabilize the player at a certain time in the game. It is important to note that if you are playing to late game or want to bust the game open early, you need to be prepared to handle things before or after if your opponent is able to counter your initial attack or defense.
To be fair, most of the time an early game push that fails just spells out a lost game. If you have the right failsafes prepared you may be able to regain control in the right situation, however having those fail safes in place normally take away from the initial push.
Playing for mid game usually means going for a timed push. It’s easily repeatable in every game but leaves you vulnerable early and late if you aren’t ready for anything. A 2/2 bio timing or roach ravager push are some normal timings and go from 7-10 minutes.
Late game is when games can get a little crazy, Late game is usually anything past 15/20 minutes and there aren't too many surefire strategies for any match ups that hold up well. It normally comes down to having the correct counter units and whoever has the more efficient trades.
Some ways to tell if you’re winning in the late game is the income you have versus what available income they have. You never want to float resources for too long but if your taking cost effective trades while your army is maxed out, it becomes easier to store up some of your income and the more you have to work with the better.
How do I efficiently practice?
As noted in the previous guide, and will be mentioned many more times, practicing isn’t just spam playing games. If you truly want to become a better player you have to use outside resources. Some things similar to these guides, watch the pros and some streamers, videos on youtube, etc.
One of the best ways to practice is using the rewind feature. After a game you can start the game over and rewatch how it all played out. Looking at how long you are supply blocked, how long you tunnel visioned and weren't paying attention to production, how far away your upgrade was from finishing when you decided to fight in the middle of the map without it. All of these things are especially important to recognize and adjust when making a push for the next rank.
Third party sites like SC2 replay stats are another way to condense this information and compare your gameplay to other registered players so you can more easily pinpoint what you need to work on. The last thing you ever need to focus on is Micro, Micro is nothing without Macro and if you’re Macroing well enough you wont need the Micro until you’re trying to get out of Diamond and even then, maybe not until you want to breach the upper echelon of players.
That being said, there are plenty of community made mods that can help you work on just your Micro specifically so you don’t need to worry about the Macro. These are useful for the insignificant times before Master that you find yourself in a situation where Microing is your only hope.
What are the best strategies to implement in StarCraft?
There are countless builds and there will be countless more that players come up with and are viable. Much like Chess any strategy that there already is will have a few different variations that can turn into a completely new build path that counters another build path. The main thing to worry about here is adaptation into other parts of the game. Being able to freely adjust to any situation will give you the edge over an opponent. Some Strategies though are near surefire victories.
Everyone forgets that there is an actual objective in the game. Kill all the enemies buildings. When you do that the game immediately ends. Sometimes players who are on fairly even footing will opt into a Base Race and provokes a decision to be made, do both players all in to kill all the others buildings first? Only one player can win, so who folds if anyone?
There’s also some all ins that involve workers or buildings. Most of these strategies are referred to as “Cheese” and get mixed feelings from the community. Some believe that all Cheese is strategically acceptable while some think it insinuates either disrespect for the player or utilizing an unfair attack against an ill prepared player. Cannon Rushes and Drone rushes are the first things that come to mind when people say Cheese. A common terran Cheese is proxying (building a production facility on the other side of the map instead of in a players base) so that the Reapers or Marines or whatever unit can get to the enemy's base faster than they can respond to it.
The reason the Cheesers feel no shame in these strategies, is because if the opponent becomes aware of the strategy being implemented then they have the opportunity to react appropriately and stop it. Don’t get upset about losing to Photon Cannon rushes every time, because you’re the one who couldn’t see it and counter it appropriately.
All ins often times end in either a quick victory or defeat for the all inner. All ins refer to builds that reach a threshold at a certain point and then everything rushes to the other side of the map attempting to catch the opponent off guard or unaware that 100 Supply is attempting to barrel though your base.
Zerg is the main Race for All ins but there are a few Terran and Protoss strategies that can be considered All ins. In these games the All inner usually doesn't waste any money on a backup plan and commits everything to breaking the enemy before a certain point in time. Spending money on a backup plan often takes away from the power of the strat, meaning more of a chance for it to fail for only a smaller chance to have a follow up ready.
How do I avoid Tilt in StarCraft?
Tilt is a little more easy to avoid in StarCraft because understanding that you lost because of identifiable mistakes means fixing those mistakes will grant you many more victories. Sometimes however we do get tilted and it's a hard hole to dig yourself out of because queuing up for another game never takes too long and we can get stuck in the rhythm of “I’ll win the next one” and not making any adjustments to our problems, causing us to lose more and more.
For League of Legends I have a two game rule, lose two take a break for an hour. It doesn’t really work for StarCraft because then you’re spending more time cooling off than you are playing the game, most of the time. SC2 is an animal of a game that fights you as hard as you fight it, because your opponent is almost always another human and the world's most dangerous game is mankind. Take that into account when you lose cause in the game of StarCraft, there are a lot of ways to practice and most of them don’t involve other people.
My best advice for tilt proofing yourself is to expect the worst outcome. Play like you’re already behind, it makes every loss less brutal and every victory that much sweeter.
If that’s not your style I agree with you as well, take a short break or play a Community mod or some other game to clear your head. Go over your losses and understand why so that you can fill your head with stronger ideas coming into the next game.
What is the Tournament Mode?
SC2 also offers another Ranked mode that ties directly into MMR, you can opt into hourly tournaments that simulate different WCS style brackets, these are good ways to play competitively without actually sacrificing your rank. Tournaments offer a more well constructed ranked play with the possibility of boosting your MMR which has its own perks . You can scout your opponent and see what kind of build they like to play, veto maps that they might have a higher winrate on, and treat it like a solid game of StarCraft.
There is one Tournament system that follows an actual Round of 16 with a winners and losers match. Another system is single elimination bracket stage. Both are a good change of pace from generic 1v1s and can wildly change a players playstyle and lift their spirits. Losing one game may have no effect on your MMR but winning two means losing the next game still gives your MMR a quick boost.
The only downside to tournaments is that sometimes you’ll have to wait an hour to get into a tournament with mostly players from the rank above you, usually this isn’t the case but sometimes you may have to start off with a miracle win to see any MMR growth. Winning a tournament gives you a trophy for that season and you can win as many trophies as your little heart desires. Each trophy is different from the season before it, which means some trophies won't be available for new players but that shouldn’t be a reason someone opts out of this fun game mode.
Alright, but what is Micro in StarCraft 2?
I am separating Macro and Micro in this Amateur Guide because as we reach the end of it I want it fresh in your mind. Reading this means you have taken a general interest in the game and have taken it upon yourself to learn how to improve. One of the best ways to improve is to recognize how bad Microing habits are in SC2, especially at lower-mid ranks.
Terran think that the first Reaper they send to the other side of the map decides whether or not they lose the game, and because they spend two minutes Microing it around the Queen or Stalker, they do. Protoss see the pros send out two Adepts to abuse the enemy Drones and they copy that, forgetting to build a Robotics Facility and lose to a Roach/Ravager timing because all they have are two Adepts and Stalkers without blink. Zerg get a little more leeway, especially in ZvZ because some of those games do falter based on Ling/Bane micro, except not at your rank. Why spend any time trying to get the most efficient Baneling explosions when you can just have more Banelings than your opponent?
Micro has its uses, but in low Diamond and below you don’t really understand the point of it. The only real Micro you need is knowing where and when to A-move across the map. The reason for all of this is we all struggle multitasking and when we start trying to micro we tend to forget about our production and build pathing. It isn’t to say that we always do, but for the most part we screw ourselves trying to be extra flashy rather than extra effective. By the time we get to those higher ranks and the Macro is second nature it makes those Micro plays a little more effective, but even then not much and in very specific situations. If you watch a pro view or high MMR streamers they spend an almost even amount of time looking at a fight as they do their bases sorting out production and economy.
In the grand scheme of things the negatives outweigh the positives of Microing and while it is more useful in later ranks, everything else needs to be second nature so that we don’t misstep along the way.
Some of the perks of early micro are picking off an enemies economy and scouting, the scouting is more important in a lot of ways but if you don’t know what you’re looking for it isn’t going to help very much in the end. That being said, there are a few basic things to look for such as unit composition and keeping an eye on where their army is on the map. Micro isn’t the only way to scout, which makes Micro even more obsolete in early ranks because using static vision prevents too much idle time in the production field.
More on the StarCraft 2 Pro Scene.
One of the most important things in any competitive video games is it’s Esport Scene. StarCraft has two main sections of pro play with the Global StarCraft League (Korean Scene) and the World Championship series (North American and European Scenes). Watching the pros is a great way to see how the game is played in its top tier. As stated in the last guide however, it may not benefit the player to try and emulate the pros. This is because of the simple fact that they are good at the game, and we are not. When we learn how to adapt quickly and make the split second decisions required then we can emulate the pros, but by then we might even be GMs ourselves.
Though this is only somewhat true, there are plenty of ideas we can borrow from the professional players, as long as we familiarize ourselves with how to most efficiently produce that build we can emulate. Understanding what counters it and when to not use that build has the ability to increase
How do I go Pro?
Many people are fine being gold/plat because the experiences they have in the game and their overall skill level are less important to them than the fun that they have in the game. The community is awesome and at the end of the day that makes it an easy game to play and enjoy. People like to offer their help in teaching you some of the basics and some just want to coach a worse player to help build the community up even more. Being able to fall back on the community (Away from the balance forums) is a great thing and that along with so many different scenarios and new opponents every game keeps it fresh and easy to requeue after a win or loss because with enough practice, it’s anyone's game.