The Shokz Guide, Starcraft 2 Guide

StarCraft 2 Fundamentals - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: What to do (Fundamentals)

There are several things which you should be managing at all times while playing Starcraft 2. These things are the fundamentals to having good macromanagement (managing/developing the overall game as opposed to controlling individual units), and are the most important step to being a good player in general. To have good fundamentals, a player needs the mental capacity to multitask, and the APM (Actions per minute) to execute the fundamentals, while at the same time formulating proper strategy and executing tactics. This requirement to multitask is one of the biggest reasons for why SC2 has such an intense skill curve, and why even professionals vary significantly in the mastery of the fundamentals. Study this chapter carefully, practice daily, and soon the fundamentals will become second nature to you.

There are three basic things that you should always do while playing SC2: Spend your resources, Obtain and control information, and maintain an adequate food supply.


Spend your resources

Resource investment in Starcraft 2 works within a function of exponential returns, as with any investment in real life.

    For example, investing 100 dollars into Google in September of 2005 could give you returns of 250 dollars in 2007, whereas investing 100 dollars into Google in September of 2004 would give you a return of 500 dollars in 2007. Waiting that year meant that year’s potential growth in the investment was lost, so then, in 2007, when you needed the returns back, you only had half as much as you could have had, had you been quicker to act!
    Similarly, the faster you gather your first minerals, the faster you can produce more workers to gather more minerals, and so on. Thus, your efficiency in the early game will have an exponentially greater impact on your strength in the mid game, and even more so in the late game. The extra 500 minerals you had 5 minutes into the game could have been 5000 minerals 10 minutes into the game, had you invested it! The importance of constantly spending all of your resources can therefore not be overstated.

However, it is extremely important that you invest your resources appropriately. There are three basic categories in which you can spend your resources: Economy, Army, and Technology. You will typically want to split your investment in all 3. However, knowing which one to invest in at any given time is crucial to having strong fundamentals.


Economy

Investing in Economy will give you more resources to spend later in the game. You can invest in economy by building more probes(workers) or by expanding. During a typical game of SC2, you should almost always be producing probes.

  • Worker production: Once you have a certain number of probes gathering from a single mineral patch or assimilator, you stop gaining any benefit by assigning more probes to gather from that node. In most cases, this occurs when you have 3 probes per mineral patch or assimilator. This is called being “fully saturated.” You typically will want 3 probes in each assimilator, from the moment the assimilator finishes until it runs dry. You want as many probes as possible mining from your minerals, but when you start getting more than 3 per patch, it’s time to transfer some to a new expansion.
    • Why? The more probes you have gathering minerals or gas, the more saturated your mineral line or assimilators. However, there is a diminishing return in probe investment, while saturating your mineral line. This is because workers spend a certain amount of time gathering from a mineral field or assimilator, and a certain amount of travel time going to and from your nexus. As the number of workers per mineral patch or assimilator increases, the time that those workers, as a collective, can spend gathering increases, as additional workers can gather while the others travel. Because of the distance between a properly placed nexus and a mineral field, the travel time is short, and having three probes is enough to ensure constant gathering from that node 100% of the time This is called being “fully saturated”. It’s usually a bad idea to have more than 3 probes gathering from a single assimilator. You should also generally never have more than 3 probes per mineral patch (this is called “super saturation”), but there is one exception (intent to maynard).
  • Adding additional probes to gather from a mineral field increases your income by a constant amount per probe until you have 2 probes per mineral field, and then by a decreased amount until you have 3 probes per mineral field. After that, you get no additional benefit from adding more probes.
  • Expanding is building a new nexus by a mineral line and/or vespene geysers. This area is called an “expansion”. In almost every map of SC2, there is an expansion very close to the starting location (or main) of each player. This intuitive expansion location is called the “natural”. The natural will be the typical first place to expand to in any given game.
    • It’s important to remember that the cost of expanding is not only the minerals for the new nexus, but also for the probes you will need to gather at the new expansion. When expanding, remember that it’s always best for both bases to be equally saturated. However, remember that the two vespene geysers will require an extra 6 probes for full saturation. With this in mind, when you get a new expansion going, you should do one of two things:
      • if you have more than 2 probes per mineral patch at your existing bases, you should divide your probes evenly amongst all of your bases, such that the ratio of probes per mineral field at every base is equal. This is called maynarding: transferring workers from a saturated mineral line to an unsaturated mineral line, to quickly equalize saturation and greatly increase efficiency (by reducing the aforementioned diminishing returns).
      • if you have 2 or less probes per mineral patch at your existing bases, you can simply produce probes at your new expansion without needing to shift them between bases and still mine optimally. It’s generally easier to just divide them evenly (maynard them) anyway, as that allows you to use every nexus to produce probes simultaneously and still receive optimal benefit.
    • whenever you mine out an expansion, it’s a good idea to evenly split the idle probes between your existing bases in a similar fashion. Alternately, if a new expansion is just going online, you can forgo the usual transfer and simply send all of the ones from your mined-out base instead for instant saturation.

During a typical game of SC2, you should almost always be producing probes. The exception to this is when you have to devote every mineral to your army; or for teching more quickly, with a specific build order in mind (more on this in chapter 3). Please do remember, though, that this only applies when you are trying to achieve a specific goal; if you do not have a specific planned use for the additional minerals, always produce probes.

You should typically seek to expand when you have either put yourself at an army advantage (by killing significantly more of his combat units than you’ve lost), or when your current mineral lines are approaching full saturation. Expanding is a big investment, and will always reduce the potential size of your army in the short run. The earlier you expand, the bigger the relative investment.

Try to always produce probes and often consider expanding, to remain economically competitive with your opponent.

Don’t forget to build your economy, even while battles are taking place!


Army

Another way you can spend your resources is by building combat units, like zealots and stalkers. Army production is limited by the amount of resources you have, and production cycles. For example, it takes 42 game seconds to produce a stalker from a gateway. This means that you can produce one stalker every 42 seconds with a single gateway. If you build another gateway, then you can build 2 stalkers every 42 seconds(one production cycle), or one stalker every 21 seconds on average. The more production buildings you have, the more units you can produce per cycle, the more quickly you can build an army. You should try at all times to spend all of your resources left over after building probes and teching on combat units. If you find yourself with a lot of minerals or gas left over after using all of your production (this is called floating), make some more unit producing buildings to spend it! Have a contest with yourself to see how close to 0 you can keep your minerals and gas all game, while still expanding and making probes!

  • Seek to have a balance between your income and the number of unit producing buildings you have. If you have too many, you will not have the income to produce a unit every production cycle, and thereby lose efficiency. If you have too few, you will not be able to produce units quickly enough to use the resources you are accumulating.
    • For example, stalkers cost 125 minerals and 50 gas. With 2 gateways, you can make one stalker every 21 seconds — or about 3 every minute on average. Therefore, if you have an income of 375 minerals and 150 gas per minute, then you can produce stalkers out of 2 gateways nonstop.
  • It is important to always maintain an army which is comparative to or greater in strength than your enemy’s. If you invest too heavily into economy or technology, and your enemy scouts your vastly inferior army, he may decide to attack immediately and eliminate you.


Even if you have more production buildings and resources than your enemy, he can still out produce you if he more consistently uses his production buildings every single cycle. Make sure that you use as much of your production as possible whenever you can, unless you’re certain that no units you can make from that building would be helpful at all.

  • The correct units to build and include in your army will depend upon what units your enemy is building, and what tech is available to you. Both of these things are other parts of the fundamentals.


Don’t forget to build your army, even while battles are taking place!


Technology

The last way to invest your resources is in technology, or tech. Tech is what allows you to build new buildings and units, to access new abilities for your spell casting units, and to research upgrades for your units. Investing in tech is as important as in economy or army, because without the right tech, your army will likely be largely ineffective!

  • For example, before you can build units which can attack flying units (air), you must build a cybernetics core. If all you have are zealots, you will have no way of defeating an air army.
  • Tech is limited by resources and time, required to build the tech structure, or research the ability or upgrade.

It is important to tech quickly enough to be able to appropriately deal with anything your opponent throws at you. Knowing what to tech to, and how quickly, will depend upon scouting. You have to know what your opponent is doing before you can counter him. It is also important to know whether your opponent will be able to counter your tech before you ever get it.

  • For example, Dark Templar require the Dark Shrine before they can be constructed. Dark Templar rely largely upon their permanent invisibility. If your enemy already has detectors (allowing him to see your Dark Templar) then the Dark Templar will be largely ineffective and a Dark Shrine may be a poor investment.

Investing too much into tech too quickly can, of course, hurt your economy or army. However, you should always steadily tech throughout a game, as it opens many more strategic and tactical options for you. We’ll talk more about this later on. For now, though, remember to stick around at each level of tech for a short time while making units before moving on to the next one in order to keep yourself from being overwhelmed.
Don’t forget to advance your tech, even while battles are taking place!


Obtain and control information

We’ve just gone over the ways you can spend your resources, but knowing what is the appropriate investment at any given time depends largely on your collection and control of information in the game, which includes hiding information from your opponent. Information is obtained by scouting, and information is hidden by denying scouting. There are multiple ways to do both, and are all limited chiefly by your APM.

Information in SC2 can be simplified to two main subjects: What you are spending your resources on, and where your army is located.

  • What you are spending your resources on is very important to your enemy:
    • Are you expanding? This will mean that your army will suffer, so now might be a good time to attack you.
    • What way are you teching? Knowing how you tech tells your enemy what you are capable of doing, and lets him know exactly what he should do to respond. As in the previous example, if he scouts your dark shrine, then he knows to be prepared for dark templar.
    • What kind of army are you building? Knowing how you tech, and knowing how you use it in your army are two different things. Seeing exactly what kind of army composition you have assembled will allow your enemy to more appropriately build a counter force.
    • Also keep in mind that “gas doesn’t lie”. For example, if he has both of his geysers before mid game, then he has a reason. If he doesn’t have both geysers, you can be pretty confident he isn’t building air, or any high gas tech, etc. Just keep in mind that the amount of gas he’s taking in determines what he can build as much as anything, so keep an eye on it.
    • The location of your army is equally important to your enemy:
      • Is your army heading toward his base? If he scouts this, he knows he should prepare for an attack.
      • Is your army far from one of your expansions? He may find an opportunity to attack your expansion before you have a chance to defend it.

Knowing the location of your army will tell him where to position his army in general.

So how do you scout? There are many ways.

  • The earliest scouting method in most SC2 games is sending a worker straight into the enemy’s base before he has any defenses, to see how he is teching in the early game. This allows you to check for any early aggression that he might have in store for you, so you can quickly build an army to defend against it (a good example of when you might want to not build probes or tech). Depending on how long you keep your worker alive, you may also see what kind of mid game tech he has in mind as well. Sending a probe to the enemy base in the mid game and later can also be a useful scout. The probe will likely die before ever setting foot inside the base, but it will see exactly what kind of army killed it, which is information you need. You can also send a probe to various expansions around the map, to check if your enemy has expanded to them.
  • Protoss observers are very powerful scouts, as they are permanently invisible and thus naturally discreet. They’re also flying units, so it easy to get them into your enemy’s base.
  • Any flying unit is a possible scout, because it can possibly circumvent any ground forces that would otherwise physically block an attempted scout.
  • Moving your actual army up to your enemy’s base to “poke” at him will often reveal important information, such as his army composition and defenses, allowing you to determine whether you are ready to actually assault his base or not.
  • There are other creative ways to scout as well. For example, the Protoss sentry has the hallucination ability, which allows you to create a phantom protoss unit of your choosing. Experienced players will often use this ability to create a quick flying unit (the phoenix) to fly through the enemy base, without the risk of losing any real units.

How to deny scouting or fool your foe:

Denying an enemy from scouting you can be just as important, or more important than scouting him. Certain strategies rely on surprise more than others.

  • Hide tech buildings. You can hide tech buildings in back corners of your main, or even proxy tech buildings some place hidden on the map. Proxying tech is an extremely effective way of hiding it from the enemy, but also risky, as it puts the building far from the protection of your base.
  • Kill would-be scouts before they have a chance to gain the information they want. If you’re teching in a new direction, don’t let your enemy get into your base to find out. If you are playing against Zerg, kill his overlords if they try to fly into your main, before they get a chance to spot your new tech.
  • Build the tech or production building just after the enemy scout has left your main. One of the most deceptive methods of information control is to make the enemy think he knows what’s coming, and use it against him. This will fool him into believing he doesn’t have to worry about whatever it is you are about to do, at least for a few minutes until he tries to scout again.
  • Do the above after canceling a building in construction. If your enemy sees you constructing a certain tech or production structure, he will be rather certain that you are going to use it. After you get his scout out of your base, you can cancel the structure and build something entirely different.
  • Don’t forget to scout, even while battles are taking place!

Maintain an adequate food supply

This final part of the fundamentals is certainly the simplest, but just as important. In order to spend your resources (building probes and army), you must have the food supply available to do it, and often times even scouting will depend upon having the food available to build the necessary unit immediately.
Supply can mean the difference between easily defending against an attack, and losing horribly.

The key to maintaining an adequate food supply is knowing how much food you are using each production cycle, and building an appropriate number of pylons every time you go back to build more units.

  • For example, if I’m building zealots, stalkers, and sentries out of 4 gateways, I need to build a new pylon every single production cycle, because each of those units requires 2 supply, and a pylon gives only 8 supply. But I have to keep in mind that I’m also producing probes, meaning I actually need more than one pylon every single production cycle.
  • Glancing back to check your supply very often is a good habit to avoid becoming supply blocked. This simply takes practice.
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