z33k|Shiva is a master random player and coach. He has coached a number of grandmasters and been responsible for game analysis for several semi-pro teams.
As a new player in the Starcraft community you will get over run with information, build orders, statistics, cheeses and the horrible shouts of imbalance towards certain races. While there is a lot of good information available, for a beginner to start to make sense of all this information is near impossible. In this; the first chapter, of what will be a series of basic explanatory posts, I will try to break down the basics of the fundamentals required to make effective use of all the other information available online.
Starcraft is a very complex game, it requires strategy, understanding of basic game fundamentals, it requires psychology and good mechanics(mouse movement, hotkeys etc.) in order to succeed. By mastering one of the above a player can get a pretty high rank if he adapts his play style to play to his strong points. Mastering the required APM(action per minute) to be a top-tier Starcraft player takes years of practice, and is generally not something a coach can help with. On the other hand, a good coach will always be able to rationally explain how to interpret scouting information and how to maximize efficiency off 1 base, 2 base plays.
The fundamentals(each of these segments will be followed up by a more detailed post later on):
The major issue for most of the players still fighting in the lower leagues is their obsession about the main picture frame of the game. The professional players spend less than 15% of their in-game time looking at the centre area. The below screen shot explain some most of the higher tier players move their eyes when playing, and it is a big help to incorporate into your own game. There are different systems, but the one explained underneath is most used.
Your eyes should follow the numbers below, constantly throughout the entire game. This is very difficult to implement. Do not be disheartened if you find yourself staring at a battle for too long, or needing to see the barracks to produce from them. Just remembering and trying to implement the instruction underneath will help a lot.
1. Glance at mini map:
• Do I see any movement from my enemy
• Do you have enough map control
• Do you see any drops/harass incoming
2. Look at your resources
• What can I afford to build with my current minerals and gas
• Did my glance at the mini map indicate I need defensive units, offensive units or economy/infrastructure units
3. Production (cycle through hotkeys)
• Execute your production through hotkeys
• Make units based on the information obtained in step 1 and 2
4. Micro your units
5. You have now obtained information about the strategic situation(1), the economic situation(2), your infrastructure/production in the near future(3), so what is left now is to use that information and execute the appropriate steps(this is a slightly more complicated part of Starcraft and will be the thoroughly analysed in a later post.
Knowledge is power, and so also in Starcraft. And knowing what the opponent can do, and maybe even more importantly what your opponent can’t do, will give you an edge that you can take advantage of. You might have watched streams where the professional players scout and instantly can deduce which exact strategy the opponent is using. This happens because at the very top-tier of Starcraft the differences between players are very small and their builds needs to have as good mineral and gas timings as possible. However at anything below masters scouting is trickier.
As help for scouting in lower leagues you will get very far by doing a reverse scouting. This means that we don’t need to scout exactly what our opponent can be doing, but mentally removing the threats he cannot possibly do. As examples I can list
If a Protoss starts off by placing a pylon in his natural, this means that we can eliminate any sort of major aggression the first 7-8 minutes at least.
If a Zerg makes an early pool, but takes no gas, this means we can eliminate speedlings, baneling-bust or roaches for the beginning of the game.
If Terran goes gas before barracks, you can eliminate any very early marine aggression.
Try to scout at the exact same time every time you scout. The standard is after supply depot for Terran, after the 9-pylon for protoss and overlord or the 10th drone for zerg (based on map)
Scouting at the same time every match will greatly increase your awareness to deviations to the norm. Typically, he has far too many barracks, or he has far too few buildings. Both of which are vital information to stop an early all-inn and eliminate cheese.
Also: Your drone scout is only an indication of when you next scout should be sent, but we will come back to this in a dedicated segment on scouting later on.
Under this subject I feel it’s important to split this up, as Protoss and Terran are pretty similar, where Zergs need to act slightly different.
As this is the initial basic post of this round of Starcraft lectures, I will only keep to the bare minimum of information. Hang along for the later articles if you wish to learn more.
Most bases have 8 mineral patches and 2 gasses. When the base is saturated you should have 3 workers per gas, and 2-3 workers per mineral patch. A fully saturated base is 3 workers per mineral field, but if you can, it’s more economical to expand and try to stay at 2 workers per mineral. Going from 2-3 workers should increase the mineral count by 50%, but because of the delay you get for having 3 workers per mineral, the change is far smaller. A base with 8 mineral patches will yield ~672 minerals/min with 16 workers, or ~816 minerals with 24 workers. Any extra workers beyond 3 per mineral field will not increase the income at all.
Until you hit Diamond league the main advice I can give to P and T is to constantly make workers. There shouldn’t ever be a time when your CC or Nexus does not produce workers. For Z early map control is very important. As a Z you only want to make attacking units when you have to. If you have good map control, vision, a ling outside their ramp and the xel’Naga towers, you should be fine to just making drones until you see the enemy moves out. Then see what army he has, and make the appropriate counter units.
Now, you don’t need to worry, I will not force you to start counting your workers on every base, since we know 16 is optimal on minerals, and 6 is optimal on gas, you simply need to box you workers with your mouse and look at the bottom on the screen. A good saturated base should have 2 full lines and 4 on the third line, like this (this only shows 20 workers, but that is because 2 workers are always inside a gas and won’t be counted):
But it still applies to all 3 races, never stop producing workers.
The next chapter in this series will look at Infrastructure and army composition. If you have any questions please feel free to send me a mail at Shiva[at]z33k.com and I will try to answer you all as soon as possible. I have also talked to Mosh about community practices for you guys, so let him know if you would be interested in this.