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Staraft 2 Guide: Back to Basics

So you've bought Starcraft 2 and you've decided to delve into the rather considerable multiplayer component. However, you are getting stomped flat over and over by players that seem to get better units in a quicker time frame than you. Sounds like you need some education on the basics of Starcraft 2. While Starcraft 2 is hardly a casual strategy game, it's basics are easy and simple to learn, and the de-emphasizing of micromanagement of units has made it much more newbie friendly! No more worries of getting steamrolled at 3 minutes into the game.

Early Game

The early game mostly involves resource gathering and basic unit production. Each race has ways to increase their resource production, but it doesn't matter if you aren't producing enough workers. The basics of resource gathering are really simple, but very important to understand. The same goes for early units, as they are important to protect
  • Each mineral and vespene patch, if the Nexus (or whatever your home structure is, we call every race's home a Nexus) is as close as possible, is optimally harvested by three workers per patch. In general, this means somewhere between 21 and 27 workers for minerals and six for vespene per site. You don't need to measure how many, though. Just glance at it. If you have a worker on every field and a wave of workers coming back to your Nexus, you are good on resources.
  • Workers will automatically work if you set the rally point to a mineral patch or established geyser. They will also automatically disperse to the best position when they reach the mineral field.
  • If a worker grabs a mineral or gas canister while carrying the opposite type, it will destroy the resource. Only gather with empty-handed workers!
  • Around the time that a player gets their tenth worker, they should be getting some unit-producing structure (spawning pool, barracks, or gateway). This helps fend off early game rushes.
  • If rushed without a standing army, don't be afraid to attack with workers. It delays your teching a little, but it can save your base and result in a win.
  • Trying to produce units while not having enough supply is called being "supply blocked." This is very bad, and you want to avoid it as much as possible. You will get a feel for when to produce supply units as you play more. Getting supply blocked early is a common issue with new players. Just remember to get your supply up!
  • Rushes in the early game tend to be whatever the first unit produced is. Marines, Zealots, or Zerglings. If played right, you can avoid an early game rush defeat.

As you begin to produce units, you start to reach the mid-game. The mid-game of Starcraft 2, if you make it that far, is characterized by a strong ground presence and limited air support. It's also important to expand to new locations to increase your resource gathering capabilities. Finally,mid-game can also be a tech race to late game, which is its own section.
  • Mid-game units are generally strong on ground, but weak to air. Some player go air for mid-game, but its an easy counter, so air unit forces are generally reserved for the big guns late in the game.
  • Expanding is key in this stage, as is hunting enemy expansions and protecting your own. Mid-game is where one player is likely to get map dominance, which often means a win due to the increased resource gathering and production.
  • Standing armies are more useful than static defenses at this point, and will be for the rest of the game. Static defenses generally go down too easy to mid-game units like Stalkers, Marauders, or Roaches.
  • Be careful not to let enemies harass your economy to death in mid-game. Typical harassment strategies include Stalker warping, Reaper cliffjumping, and Mutalisk harass. These are easy to counter if you have a small force in your base, and Mutalisks especially can be defeated by a simple missile turret or two.
  • Cloaked units also begin to make an appearance in mid-game, so detectors like anti-air structures and the flying detectors (Observer, Overseer, Raven) are important. After all, you can lose to a Dark Zealot rush if you have no detectors!
  • At no point in mid-game should you have over 1000 minerals. Vespene storage doesn't really matter much. It's generally good for resources to hover around 400-500, as this allows for another expansion if needed.
  • Mid-game is characterized by a mix of smart micro and macro. Losing units at this point is more costly than late game, and you want to prepare your army for the coming storm.
Late Game

The late game of Starcraft 2 is defined by three things: sprawling bases, massive assaults, and heavy focus on air dominance. All of these are important to the player that wants to win if a game makes it to this stage. However, the victor is often determined through mid-game dominance of the map, so a lot of time the late game match-up is hardly even.
  • Late game is when the big air bruisers come out. Void Rays, Carriers, Battlecruisers, and Brood Lords are nasty folk that will tear your forces apart if you don't know how to counter them. Generally, you do not want to allow another player to gain air dominance. If you do, it spells game over. However, you can alleviate air dominance with large groups of AA units, like Vikings and or Corrupters, and a strong ground army.
  • When you hit late game, your main base and first expansion should just be getting mined out. Don't worry! This is natural. In general, it's unlikely for all the resource nodes to be taken at that point unless it's a team game. Simply expand more and watch your minerals. Always keep enough to rebuild your home in late game, as it's when you are most likely to lose bases very quickly.
  • Most players will give up if you take out their structures, which keeps the game from being prolonged. This is why you often see ground drops, warping in, and baneling busts in late game play. Defend your structures if at all possible, and if you are about to lose them, cancel production to keep resources.
  • Losing your base while eliminating the enemy base is known as a base trade, and a base trade will often result in a game over for the person who expanded less. To base trade, simply attack a player instead of defending when he assaults you. Base trading is an effective strategy if you have another fully staffed expansion, as you can avoid the typical issues (lack of resources or production facilities) involved in base trading.
  • Do not be afraid to commit to an attack. You should have plenty of resources to fund replacements for any losses. Don't be a chicken in late game: all or nothing is your motto.

With these tips, your general Starcraft 2 play should improve considerably. There are a number of specific strategies for each race, however, that deserve coverage. You'll have to wait until later for those! In the meantime, practicing in 2v2 or 3v3 leagues is a good way to get build orders down. Watching replays, videos of the professionals, and playing against harder and harder AI opponents are other great ways to improve your awareness of the game. In the end, though, nothing is better than taking on other human players to improve your skills. After all, Starcraft 2 is easy to learn, but it has a high skill ceiling for those that want.

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