A StarCraft 2 Pro Guide

StarCraft 2 Pro Guide

How do I get out of Diamond in SC2?

We have finally made it to the peak of our existence. We are Diamond players everybody, and we finally understand that we are just so bad at this game.The only mindset you can afford to have if you want to get into Master tier and above is that you need to be a better player, not you are the better player. There is a popular meme around the community where Bronze and Diamond are the same, because they know they have a long way to go before they are going to be any good at the game.

The reality of it is at Diamond you are among the upper echelon of players who understand the game, but are still falling short of true greatness at the game with our indecision among other mistakes we’ve been able to ignore because of our higher level of understanding. You can rest easy knowing not many Platinum players are going to be able to challenge you, but every other game is going to be an uphill battle with every mistake being followed by over reaction and ultimate defeat against the Master level players.

If you aren’t Diamond 1, you may not be ready for this guide, but it will help you reach that level, but let's get into it.

What do I need to advance my rank?

“You don’t get to choose what you’re passionate about.”- Artosis on StarCraft. First things first then, without the passion for the game, you’re not going to reach the pinnacle of the game. Without even taking into consideration your mental capabilities and innate ability to play the game. You need to be able to eat, breathe, sleep, cry and bleed the game. This goes for anything you do in life not just StarCraft. If StarCraft is something you want to be good at, then you have to show the passion for it. Watching every chance you get, playing more often than not, and getting past all of the roadblocks that appear physically and mentally. You’ll know if it’s what you want really early into it all, and there’s nothing wrong with it not being what you want at the end of the day.

But if it is, then let’s get into it. You have to respect that at this point your mistakes are less Macro and Micro related, those mistakes are still there but they are less so. More of our mistakes at this point lie within the boundaries of decision making and memorization of counter builds for whatever it is you see your opponent doing. We struggle with being able to play as fast as possible while making the best possible choices in what we should be doing.

Upon recognizing our current errors we only have a few places to turn to help fix those problems. We need to utilize them as frequently as we can.

We can’t just use our replays anymore we have to dive into our replays and sites like SC2 Replay Stats offer a lot more in depth information for us to see when we are trying to find where it all went wrong in a game. Pro matches are fairly frequent and plenty of streamers offer coaching to players willing to sit down with them for an hour or two. Some also offer coaching for a single replay, and that can go one of two ways but usually you’ll get a more positive set of suggestions than not. 

A lot of what we struggled with before we ever got to this point is still a problem for us to some extent. Pinpointing everything we are still struggling with is the ultimate first step.Struggling at this level is not the same as struggling before. Before, we used to be supply blocked for a minute on average, now we are supply blocked for 20 seconds on average and we really gotta work towards 10 second average or even lower,

Do I need to memorize every build path?

There are a near infinite amount of build paths to a finite amount of effective builds for each race. The key is memorizing what all of the possible build paths lead to and reacting or proactively building against what you see your opponent building. Scouting comes in many shapes and forms as you know now but the importance of scouting should never be understated. The hardest part of understanding what you see when you do scout is knowing that you’ve seen the same thing countless times before. At the highest level of play it needs to be second nature to see a specific opener and be able to respond accordingly, or fall back on a backup plan if your initial opener falls short.

Playing every race is exceptionally hard and playing against any race comes with its own difficulties. At the end of the day all that matters is your reaction to you enemy and being able to consistently play your best game. Your best game revolves around knowing your 1/1 timings or 2/2 timings. Bracing yourself for the possible Ling/Bane all in, or having enough tanks to fend off any enemy units trying to get into your base. When you can successfully identify what your opponent is doing and react accordingly, everything else you have been practicing thus far becomes its most useful. All the production you have with all of the economy you’ve been mapping out, when you know what yo build and when to build it and already have the means to mass produce you’ve increased your chances to win against any opponent by ten fold. 

On the reverse side of things if you are unsuccessful in hiding key aspects of your own build, your opponent gets the same chances as you do. This is why vision is so spectacularly important, if you know what you’re looking for, know what to do when you see it or don’t see it, and can turn it around so that you opponent misses something in your build path, then you have all the advantages.

There are a few ways to help familiarize and memorize a majority of the build orders. You can watch the Pro games play (and you should for so many other reasons) or go back into your replays and study your opponents build pathing. They won’t always be perfect and the Pros will have a much better indicator most of the time but you will still gain a level of understanding for what your opponent is trying to accomplish, and knowing is half the battle.

In this case, practice makes perfect, the more you can play and recognize what’s going on, the more you will be able to remember what their next move should be and because you know that, you’ll know what your own next steps should be. 

Should I still be focused on Macro?

You have heard it a hundred times already, but even at this level of play your Macro potential far outshines you Micro potential. The A-click is too strong when compared to how much wasted time we spend microing units. Your splits could probably use some work if you’re a Terran or Zerg player, and as Toss it wouldn’t hurt to be a little more efficient when you make the decision to go Blink Stalkers. However, your ability to save units isn’t near as important as your ability to snuff out your enemies army. 

By now you’re more than capable of keeping your production up in most scenarios and you have figured out all the most efficient hotkeys for yourself. Unfortunately we can’t always keep up with everything. The key here is to continue using the same set up as you have been every game you’re permitted to do so. Grid building isn’t really going to change how well or poorly you place your building and by now it isn’t an argument worth having with yourself or anyone else. I use them, some people don’t. Some pros use the grid, others don’t. Just do it, or don’t.

Spell casters are going to be more effective at this point and utilizing them in all of your armies effectively is going to be the difference between a Diamond 2 trying to play like a GM and a Diamond 2 closing in on being a Masters player. It can be more efficient to put spellcasters on their own hotkeys rather than tabbing through your army to find them so begin practicing the hotkey method.

Most people that are practiced enough suggest using hotkeys and they really are faster and more efficient, it is really only a manner of getting comfortable with the overall idea of forcing yourself to use them, just like you had to when you learned you can hotkey in the first place. When games go on longer it is important to get to a point where you can efficiently recognize when you should expand again and again and where you should attack when the game gets to certain points where timings aren’t exactly relevant anymore.

Late game scenarios can go two ways. Either the map begin to mine out and one person spreads themselves a little too thin and the bulk of their army gets destroyed without enough time to rebuild it. Or one player wasn’t able to efficiently trade out resources and the constant fighting eventually eats away all of their money breaking the stalemate and allowing the other player to win.

In this case you need to be able to keep track of what your capable of and if you have an opportunity to go for the throat, don’t hesitate and have your brain ready to tell your hand to go for you production hotkeys in case things go south. The late game for any matchup gets increasingly difficult the further along it gets. It almost reverts to a more intricate version of the early game where you have enough units out on the map already but their positioning is exponentially important. You can’t just A-click into their main base and expect the best outcome.

Decision making is tested more than ever at this point in the game, every decision you have made thus far means everything if you win and nothing if you lose. Taking small positional advantages is the right way to go about things and slowly picking off your enemies units will inevitably draw the game out even longer, but will slowly and surely give you the advantage in the long run.

They will be attempting to do similar things or catch you army while it is over extended, watching for counter plays and mistakes from your opponent are the best ways to wean control of a game that goes the distance.

Am I playing the right Race?

There is no single best race in the game, though we all seem to complain about how our chosen one is the weakest. Knowing what unit counters what unit is key and making a sufficient amount of a unit to counter a sufficient amount of the unit they are opposing is the only way to surefire counter your enemy. However, there are other ways to outplay units you may not have necessarily countered, after all, more shit usually counters less shit. When you find yourself able to properly counter an opponent  then you are on the right track to consistently being able to be one step ahead of someone. All this being said each race has its own advantages and disadvantages that you should exploit and attempt to make up for.

Zerg suffers from it’s units being weaker overall than the units from other races. There are some units though that literally make free units even while you’re at max population. Zerg economy can be super important because the more you have the more you can build, but even more so because of the spellcasters like Infestors, Vipers, and Swarm Hosts. Infestors and Swarm Hosts are probably two units that up until this point haven’t had a big enough impact on your games to warrant their use in a majority of your games. But these units pay for themselves almost always. 

Infestors can control units but even more importantly large mechanical units such as Carriers and Battlecruisers. With a little extra brain power you can use this to force your enemies units out of position or to even kill their friendly units. They also are able to slow down armies making it easier to pick off important units as well as spawn Infested Terran to put out some fast DPS attacks en masse.

Swarm Hosts are great for breaking an opponent that has dug themselves into a nice defensive position. Waves upon waves of quick damage dealers that are essentially, cheaper Broodlords. The main drawback to them is their slow movement speed and the fact that you have to wait a short time to send out another wave. Vipers are able to blind enemy units for a short time as well as grab enemy units and move them out of position. They can regain energy by killing a friendly unit or leeching off a friendly building, giving them a little more power going into the late game.

These three units are often overlooked in lower ranks because they are too difficult for players to utilize effectively, but they certainly shore up some of the disadvantages Zerg has. Terran has a hard time vying for air superiority when playing TvZ or TvP and their units for the most part lack utility. This is where the Specialist units come into play. Ghosts, Ravens, and Liberators are infinitely important units that Terrans normally weill shy away from using early game, and then forget about them in the later portion of a game.

Ghosts can reign down nuclear winter upon an enemies army or base, most people know to look for the red dot that shows where the nuke is going to land, but there are ways to manipulate your opponent to do what you want. If you can hide the dot, perfect something will manifest itself into an advantage, but if you manage to scare a player enough you may be able to pull their army in a certain direction more favorable to your army position. Ghosts also have the EMP ability which is useful for silencing spellcasters and can use the ability Snipe to tick down the masses of Broodlords or dent the Protoss ground army. Ravens are detectors and have a few different spells, one affectionately known as the “Dorito Dust” is called a seeker mine, which more or less lowers the value of armor your opponents hit with it have. Auto turrets can be helpful in some situations but the disable and seeker missile are both exceptionally strong utility that Terran players at all ranks are really missing out on

Liberators are strong units, and you probably have been using them in a lot of your games for some easy defense or harass. There is an upgrade many people forget about however that extends the range of a liberators siege mode, making them an essential part of a less mobile army that can help snipe out units before they reach the fight, or hit more units at a safe distance while covering the rest of your army. Terran thrives in it’s upgrades and relatively speaking needs them to win any game efficiently. Looking for the best unit composition is easy when you take into consideration all the different upgrades available to you.

Protoss suffer from being expensive units, luckily the Khala helped them realize that sustaining the units they have already produced is more efficient than just reproducing more and more units. You put a lot of money into a Protoss army, losing any amount without causing significant damage to the opponent is going to hurt you at every step in the game. Luckily there are a few buildings and some units that offer enough utility to sustain and out damage enemy armies if utilized correctly. One of the best things a Protoss player can build is Shield Batteries. They offer sustainability to any Protoss unit’s shield. One Zealot can kill twenty Zerglings in the right scenario with just one Shield Battery. This kind of thing makes up for the prize of a unit by ensuring that the unit can get more done and pay for itself in efficiency. Unfortunately Shield Batteries have limited energy that needs to recharge and can only be used defensively on one unit, but the positives outweigh the negatives almost every time. Some people even use them offensively.

A lot of the Protoss units offer Area of Effect damage that wreak havoc on poorly positioned units such as Colossi and High Templar/Archons. One in particular however one shots anything you can hit with it, The Disruptor is a Protoss unit that can pay for itself ten times over, if you’re able to handle the intensive micro that comes with it. It shoots out a death ball that kills anything within its radius upon detonation. The trick is that you control the balls movement (when you want to) and if the Disruptor gets targeted down before the ball can explode, the ball disappears. Oracles are a hit or miss unit and really require some extra practice from players. They can be a really big pain for players to deal with and have a mass unit stun as well as Revelation that shows a targeted area and units that get hit are shown for a short period of time, causing some players to wait before attacking as to not get stopped immediately by the Protoss forces.

Each race has pros and cons and effectively knowing how to cover your chosen races weaknesses while abusing your enemies weaknesses is just another step on the path in the right direction. Don’t always overthink it, but try not to assume that your opponent only one because their race is “imba”

Where do I go from here?

Take care of your mental and physical health. Both are far more important than your hopeful career in StarCraft. Not only that but both are either going to be roadblocks or propellers for your ability to play the game. All things from taking care of schoolwork to eating a little healthier are going to hinder your performance if ignored, or make your gameplay an improved experience when taken care of.

Recently the community as a whole has escaped the stigma of overweight, unhealthy, and violent people. As the Esports scene becomes more and more prominent this will continue to trend positively. The reason it is becoming this way however, is because pro players don’t perform well when they are in an unhealthy state of being. This goes for both mental and physical health. Failing to take care of yourself is going to make the grind harder to endure, while doing what you need to do outside of the game to give yourself that healthy environment is going to improve your ability to grind as well as your performance when doing so.

When struggling with tilt, outside forces are only going to make it worse or increase your chances of becoming tilted. When making a run for that GM border it is important to factor in how the people who got there did get there. They didn’t just play the game 15 hours a day and sleep 3 because they watched GSL for 6 more hours. They took the time to stop playing when they needed to and start again when they were refreshed and ready for the next game.

Being a progamer is a lot of work, in and out of actually playing the game there are a lot of things you need to account for. But first and foremost, yourself, and then how to be the best at the game. Take your time getting there, it’s been around for twenty one years already, it’s not going anywhere

 

Cameron Carr image

Cameron Carr

9 November 2019
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