Just like in real life, world class Starcraft players have certain habits that are instrumental to their success. I played a few ladder games with world class players, and of course got destroyed. This article is a combined trilogy of three articles I wrote about what I learned from losing.
Back in the late 90’s when I was in college, I started a Starcraft clan. We called ourselves the Metal Militia, after an early Metallica song. We had over 50 members. One of the best features of the group was that we had one of the best clan websites out there. On the site, there were rosters, rules, calendars, map downloads, strategy guides, and more. This article from the original clan website might still be useful today. The concepts are general enough to apply to Starcraft, Starcraft II, or even other games.
One of the things that I can’t stress more is having adequate scouting. I don’t mean just sending a drone to find your enemy. I mean active scouting throughout the entire game. Now I admit that I don’t scout as much as I should, but tend to win my most decisive battles when I do.
With Terran, comsats are great because you can view any part of the map at any time. Your opponents can’t do anything about it short of attacking your comsat station. I always bind my comsat stations to the ‘0’ or ‘9’ keys so I can find them fast when I need them. Other than comsat stations, sending out individual marines is also good.
As for Zerg, send out your overlord early in the game. Most Zerg players do that, but few use their zerglings as scouts. Those early game zerglings are cheap and abundant. You can send each one out on its own in a different direction to scout. Later in the game, you can burrow single zerglings at every expansion patch and choke point. If you can do that, then the map is yours.
The Protoss have the best scouting unit in the game in the form of observers, though they are relatively high in the tech tree. Place observers at choke points and resource patches. Also, have an observer or two follow your main fighting forces.
If you can get a good intelligence network going on your map and effectively monitor all expansion patches as well as your enemy’s main army movements, then you have a huge advantage. You can build units specifically to counter your enemy’s army. You’ll also know when and where your opponents are expanding.
I also advise using small, inexpensive units to infiltrate your enemy’s base from time to time too. Sending a single zealot through your enemy’s base can give you vital information about their defenses and what type of units they built. I think it’s worth the resource cost for all the crucial information you can gather that way.
One more thing, you also have to remember that this also works the other way around. Your opponent is no doubt collecting information about you (if your opponent is a decent player). If you notice your opponent spying on you, be aware that he probably saw your main attacking force and may be building units to counter it. So what I do in this case is quickly switch units. It’s fun to watch the slaughter when your opponent sends 24 firebats into your base because he thought you had 12 zealots but really had 12 zealots AND 15 dragoons!
Using High Ground
Maps with cliffs can either be a blessing or a threat, depending on how you play. Fighting units from the high ground have huge advantages in Starcraft. First of all, units on high ground are 30% less likely to be hit when being attacked by units on the lower ground. Second, enemy units cannot see high ground without air units or other aids while they are on the lower ground. And finally, units on low ground automatically scramble to attack the high ground units when being attacked. The confusion caused by this leaves the enemy army in disarray.
Always watch your back when playing maps with cliffs over your resource patches (like on Showdown and Green Valleys). Air units or a few guard units on the cliff can usually deter such attacks. When taking advantage of cliffs, you have two options (which can also be combined).
Your first choice is to get early dropships and drop units on the cliff. It’s always a good idea to also drop a builder on the cliff too and build turrets, bunkers, or photon cannons on it to defend your attacking units. Siege tanks, high templar (with psi storm), and hydralisks are good units to drop on cliffs.
Your second option is to go for air units. 12 cloaked wraiths are ideal for hit and fade attacks on mineral patches. Scouts also serve well for that purpose. Guardians are probably the best air unit in making use of cliffs. Ground units have trouble defending against guardians firing from the other end of a cliff. Mix this with option one, and it makes for a potent “cliff attack.”
Also, remember to guard your base while you’re off raiding. Don’t make it easy for your opponent to ransack your base with 12 zealots, zerglings, or marines while you’re besieging their base.
Blocking Enemy Expansion
Imagine having the entire map to yourself. How do you do it? Simply block your opponent from expanding.
This works well for maps in which the starting bases have bottlenecks. Find your opponent early with a resource gatherer and lurk outside of his base just out of sight. Once you have your opponent’s base scouted out, send all of your offensive units to sit outside of his base just out of his sight. Try to block all exits out of his base. That way your opponent cannot expand unless he attacks you or gets dropships to transport builders.
While you’re lurking around at your opponent’s bottleneck point, continuously go up the tech tree and send higher tech units to reinforce your army. You also have the option of building defenses just outside of the enemy base to hold your position. Just make sure you keep building units to counter your opponent’s army. Regularly watch the enemy to see what kind of units you’ll have to defend against.
Now if you can hold the bottlenecks and keep the enemy from expanding, you have the entire map to yourself. Expand into your opponent’s expansions and crowd him well. Sooner or later your opponent will probably get frustrated and attack with everything he has. If you can kill most of his army, then immediately counterattack and wipe him out.