This is going to be the first time that I'm writing a strategic guide in English. I'm a staff member at broodwar.de. We've build a whole section for beginners, and because TL.net was so kind to offer us a lot of help (by allowing us to translate several guides) this is going to be my version of a „thanks a lot“.
We discovered that it isn't so easy to provide real beginners with high quality guides since a beginner doesn't know where to start. The whole „Newbie-Help“ section paid off during the last year and we were even able to host a dedicated battle.net server for the german beginners community. I observed those beginners playing a lot and discovered many stereotypical mistakes. This guide should describe how to start, how to prevent you from doing those mistakes and help you improving your own gameplay. It covers the very basics of the game while putting them into a beginner-friendly context. This guide is dedicated for beginners and low level players (around ICCUP D-/D/D+ players). It won't turn you into some semi-pro over night, but it helps you to learn StarCraft and explains how the mechanics you need work.
It doesn't really matter why you started playing StarCraft in the first place. I guess the most popular reason is the announcement of StarCraft II. You should always be aware that StarCraft is one of the oldest games out there. This causes a lot of problems you won't recognize so easy. The unit AI is quite buggy compared to newer RTS games. The community is very experienced and the lower level players are still quite skilled. Your first games online are going to be devastating losses. Still: this doesn't mean that StarCraft isn't a lot of fun.
I assume if you read this guide you didn't neccessarly play online before. If you watched a lot of streams before you may know at least something about the game. If you only read descriptions of the gamestory / watched VODs of StarCraft II previews and Battle Reports I suggest you should play the single player first to gain a feeling for the game. It's very important that you know the very basics of each race. Where the differences are, why Zerg are completely different from Terran or Protoss. What building needs a specific tech, how the units attack works like and which spells are available. Playing the campaign is quite nice since the story is pretty exciting. It should help you to chose your race. I think you should really focus on a single race if you're planning to give the multiplayermode a try. When you chose you're race you should start to read startegy guides around here and watch a lot of replays. You must know how a match up works before you're able to improve your own game. It isn't too important to know each match up in detail, so don't spend way too much time on reading guides and watching replays. Just make sure that you understand the general patterns that are used. Try to understand why Terran uses marines&medics versus Zerg, and why Terran uses tanks and vultures against Protoss. Or which units Protoss uses versus Zerg, and so on. You're going to have it easier when you learn things right from the start. It helps a lot if you used evey available unit in the singleplayer before – trust me.
I saw a lot of users over at broodwar.de that made the first mistake here. They watched some StarCraft II trailer, installed StarCraft Brood War and immediatly entered the battle.net. You can do that, but it will be demotivating. You cannot possibly understand why you lost, and it would take a lot of time before you discover where you failed in the game.
Even if those overmotivated users spend a little time on reading some guides or watched some streams, they focused on the wrong guides. They try to immitate the korean pros – which can only end in a big fail. They focus on learning the units statistics listed in obscure tables at www.battle.net. Those statistics aren't that much help as they seem to be. If upgrades are important they will be listed in „serious“ guides you can find around here. When this sort of user lost his first 10 games online they quit forever since they didn't understand what was really going on, they tend to think StarCraft is imbalanced or other stupid shit. You're not going to do this mistake if you're smart.
Understanding Strategy Guides
I suggested you should read many strategy guides. But you should now how to do this. Most of those strategy guides are written with some sort of strange „slang“. You first need to know what those strange numbers mean. You may stumble over something looking like this:
You don't have a clock inside the game that tells you how long you played. So need another anchor point that tells you how long you already played. The supply count in the upper right helps you out here. As you should have understood by now it isn't possible to write „build a plyon after 55 seconds in the game“. So the author tells you: „build a pylon when the supply count changes from 7/9 to 8/9 and when you have enough money for that building“. Many beginners just don't understand what this means and why the supply count is used to describe the time gone by within the game.
Another important point is this: most of this strategy guides are written for advanced players. It's very important for Terran and Protoss users to build workers all over the game. A beginner should never stop training workers at any point in the game. Those guides leave this out since a better player trains worker all the time without being remembered to do it. You're not going to train workers all the time because you simply forget it. Try to train workers and try to keep that in mind at any time.
You need to know that most guides are focussing on special situations in special match ups on special maps. Some guides – most time the real big guides – offer a general description on what you should play like in a special match up. Why a Terran uses mech-units like tanks or vultures when he faces Protoss. You should read them first. When you read those you'll be easier able to understand what you see when you watch replays or streams. When you think you understood why a specific unit mix is used try to use the same strategy online. You're going to do a lot better if you follow this strategy than experimentating with other unit combinations.
Besides general strategic guides there are Build Order focussed guides. They tell you how you can build a special unit combination for a timed attack. If you know a little about the general patterns you can start trying to use them. But you should be aware: most timed attack Build Orders are only effective in special situations. Try a few Build Orders. You will find out which ones serve you the most and which one is just too hard for your skill level. Focus on the easiest Build Orders (those you can handle the best) and try to improve them. It's quite dumb to try all Build Orders at the same time. This is going to slow down your learning process. Many beginners tend to try out each and everything they read. If you focus on a few Build Orders you can improve your mechanics and adapt your mechanics somewhen in the future on other Build Orders.
Chosing the strategy
I told you to focus on the right Build Order guides. But what are „the right“ Build Order guides?
To fully understand StarCraft, its strategies and the game itself you need to know that there are several ways to play and special terms that describe how the mechanics behind StarCraft work.
Micro, Macro and Multitasking
If you played RTSGames before you can skip this part and move on to the next topic. If you have no clue what Micro, Macro or Multitasking means, just go on.
„Micro“ or „microing units“ means to control your units. Giving them orders like „move“, „attack“ or „mine“. If you enter a fight you want to be in the best position. That is why you „micro“ your units as best as you can. Bringing them into an optimal position, make hit&run micro and so on.
„Macro“ or „macroing“ means to spend your ressources. In StarCraft you can't possibly want to save minerals. There are exceptions to this rule, but you will find out pretty soon when you save a lot of money in order to build a lot of units. Macroing covers pretty much everything that is related on managing your base. Building production facilites such as Warpgates, Hatcheries and Barracks. Researching upgrades, building Workers and send them to mine, training units, build supply facilities such as pylons, depots and overlords. And of course: expanding. Building up static base defenses. And so on.
Multitasking is the term that describes how good you can switch from macro mode to micro mode and back. Or from micro mode to macro mode and back.
There are several ways how your gameplay can look like. You can either focus on a microintensive strategy, which means you harass your opponent a lot while you macro less until your opponent eventually dies to your small and hard attacks, or you use a macrointensive strategy, which means you're expanding a lot and simply overpower your opponent with a giant army.
I told you that StarCraft is a very old game. In the ancient times when small maps like LT were used, the majority of the community focussed on more micro based strategies. They simply worked better then. Nowadays macrointensive builds are more popular. Most Build Orders are very effective against micro based Build Orders, simply due to their timing that guarantees safety.
I suggest you focus on macrointensive Build Orders and guides. They are very effective against most of the other Build Orders and strategies. Furthermore you will be able to learn more about the mechanics (which i will explain below). Don't understand me wrong: there are still many microintensive strategies that are quite nice. But they are – compared to the macrointensive strategies – quite hard to learn and even harder to perform. You can do a lot of mistakes when you use Macro strategies before they will be fatal for your game. A microintensive strategy simply doesn't allow that many mistakes. A silly pathfinding bug can fuck up your whole game. And even if a microintensive strategy works out for you, you won't learn how to manage a large army or more than two or maybe three bases, since the game ends in earlier stages. Most micro builds last until midgame before the game is over. Most macrobased games last during the endgame and provide you with much more information that you need to improve your game.
Control – they key to StarCraft
So much for our theorycrafting. Reading guides alone won't help you to win games. You need to learn how to macro, micro and multitask during the actual game. We discussed a long time what a beginner needs to learn first. I think we covered all the important things you need to know. If you read the guides, picked two or three Build Orders, you can start to improve your control. It isn't so important to fully understand StarCraft in detail. Well it's quite impossible to fully understand it since its strategic level is so deep. Most lower level players are better than a beginner due to their multitasking „skill“. They don't know so much about the game as it seems. They can simply do a lot more than you. They train much more units than a beginner due to their advanced control, not because of their StarCraft wisdom. You can gain a lot of information only by reading guides, watching replays and playing. If you improve the very basic mechanisms – meaning your control / multitasking – you will win a lot more. If you're up to a D+/C-/C level on iccup strategies and strategic analysis become more important if you want to advance. But this guide aims for D-/D players. So read the following part and try to follow it as best as you can, and you will reach the D+/C- barrier pretty fast.
If you watched First Person VODs before you should have recognized, that the players don't play mouse-only. They use their keyboard a lot. The following text explains how you can pimp your macro system a lot. We're trying to speed you up.
Hotkeys, Shortcuts and Waypoints
It's important for you to understand the different little helps that StarCraft offers. We're start with the shortcuts. When you played the singleplayer you should have seen that you can train units in production buildings via keyboard. If you select a gateway for example you can press „D“ to train a dragoon. This function is called „shortcut“. When you move the mousecursor over any given unit in the building frame at the bottom of your screen the name and a short description of the unit should pop up. The bold printed latter is a symbol for this shortcut. You must learn each of those Shortcuts. They work for buildings and commands too. If you select a fighting unit and press the „a“-key and rightclick somewhere on the map the unit moves with attack-order towards this point. The same works for move, patrol and mine. If you select a worker you can raise buildings via shortcuts.
The next thing that makes gaming easier for you is the „waypoint“ function. There are two different types of waypoints, the actual waypoints and the rallypoints. If you select a unit production facility and rightclick somewhere on the map you're setting up a rally point. If a unit leaves this „rallied“ building it walks to this rallypoint. Note: this unit moves there, which means it won't attack even it is going to be attacked by your opponent. So be aware. Setting rallypoints in your opponents base isn't the best idea if you don't intend to do a rush Build Order.
The actual waypoints work on your units. If you select a worker or a fighting unit you can press the shift-key and give them more orders. An example: if you select a probe and press shift, give it the order to build a pylon and give it an order to mine again while you still press the shift key. The probe now moves and builds the pylon and goes back to mining shortly after. This waypoints are very helpful. You can give more patrol-points to a fighting unit, stop SCVs and probes from being idle after warping in / constructing a building or giving a flightroute to your Shuttle/Overlord/Dropship. You can even mixe different orders: like move to point a, attack-move from point a to point b, and patrol from point b to point c.
Hotkeys are the last and maybe the most important thing to pimp your control. You can either bind 12 Units or a single building to one hotkey. If you select 12 Dragoons and presst CTRL+1 you group them together and bind them to the hotkey 1. If you press the key „1“ one time you automatically select those 12 Dragoons. If you press the key „1“ twice the screen will jump to those dragoons and put them into the center of your screen. You can „hotkey“ units/buildings to the keys „1“ - „0“.
If you press Shift+F2 you save the screen you're looking at the moment. Let's assume you saved your main hatchery on F2 and scrolled somewhere else. If you press F2 now you'll jump back to your main hatchery. You can save screens with this method to the keys F2, F3 and F4. Note: you can't save units/buildings to those F-keys, only screens!
Last thing to be explained: your minimap. The minimap helps you a lot. It helps you to keep an overview over your army, your base and the whole map. If you select a unit, you can give it an order either on the main screen or on the minimap. If you want to move a single dragoon across the map you can either select the goon, scroll down the entire map and right click when you see the target position. Or you can rightclick on the target position on the minimap. But: be carefull, since the orders that are given via the minimap are kinda sloppy. If you're clicking 2 pixels too far on the left it can be the difference between standing close to a minefield and standing in the minefield. It's ok to move your army over large distances that are „close“ to a dangerous area. If you're planning to attack, you should use the main screen to micro.
If you put the hotkeys, the shortcuts, the minimap and the waypoints together you can improve your control a lot. Here is an example why you should use your keyboard a lot, and how a hotkeysystem works.
We're comparing a fictional Protoss vs. Terran game, you being the Protoss. One time with a hotkey system and one time without. You have two groups of dragoons grouped on two different hotkeys. They're standing outside the Terrans base, ready to fight back any attack. You have your main base and your natural (the expansionspot that is next to your main). You want to train more units and you want to expand one more time.
0:00 You're looking at the choke of the Terrans base. Your army is there, the Terran is not moving.
0:05 You scrolled back to your main nexus and built a probe with mouse only.
0:09 You scrolled to your natural nexus and bilt a probe with mouse only.
0:25 You scrolled to your gates and built 4 dragoons in your four gateways. Mouse only.
0:26 You selected a lone probe
0:40 You scrolled to an expansion spot
1:01 You built a nexus there with mouse only.
1:10 You scroll back to the Terrans choke. You see: nothing but blue soup group.
What has happened? In Second 35 the Terran decided to push 20 meters in your direction and finished all of your dragoons. Too bad. You reacted too slow, and now you pretty much lost the game.
0:00 you switch trough our two dragoon groups by pressing their hotkeys twice. No movement. Good.
0:01 you press your hotkey for the main nexus one time and train a probe with a shortcut. Note: you're not jumping to it, since we only press the hotkey one time.
0:02 same with the nexus at the natural
0:09 you're jumping with a F-Hotkey to our gateways, select them with the mouse one by one, and train dragoons with shortcuts
0:10 you select a lone probe
0:11 you gave the probe order to move to the expansion spot (via minimap!)
0:14 you left-clicked on the minimap, and you now see the expansion spot
0:18 you placed down the nexus with shortcuts
0:22 you switch back to our dragoons via pressing their hotkeys two times. You're seeing the Terrans Tanks unsieging. Time to attack?
I hope this example underlines the importance of using a hotkeysystem / your keyboard. I can't possibly tell you how you should use your hotkeys. Which units/buildings you bind to a hotkey depends on your gamestyle, your race and much more factors. The most important thing here is that you are fast when you use it. The longer a game lasts, the more hotkeys you need for your army. The less hotkeys you use for single production facilities. A Zerg may need less hotkeys for hatcheries, the more he needs for his army. He can impossibly group all his army since he has a lot of zerglings. Just experimentate. Your main goal is to keep your minerals on a low level. You shouldn't have too much minerals. If you can keep your ressources on a low level and if you can keep your army out of dangerous situations well enough, you're doing it right.
A few things to make life easier
Using a hotkeysystem is a huge step forward. If you're using it you're definatly on the right way towards becoming a better player. But this alone doesn't guarantee you a gosu macro. You can still make a few things better.
Since i obsed a lot of rookies i recognized one thing: most of them have a really strange building placement. A gateway in the north of the base, a second one somewhere in the south, the next two grouped along the natural expansion. It's smart to group unit production facilities together. They should be placed somewhere between your main nexus/hatchery/command center and your natural expansion. If you hotkey one of those buildings you can jump there and manually select the other buildings one by one. You'll still be fast, and have enough spare hotkeys for expansions or your army / buildings like a comsat.
Try to rally your unit production facilities towards your chokepoint. That is the point your natural expansion ends, and the „normal“ open map starts. Your reinforcements arrive there, which is an advantage since you don't need to send them one by one to your choke point. If you press shift+CTRL+Hotkey 1-0 you can group the trained units to your already existing army. This makes life really easier on maps like Blue Storm where you have difficult choke points.
You may want to group similar units on one hotkey. Zealots on Hotkey 1, dragoons on Hotkey 2 for example. This is an advantage, since the units in the same hotkeys have the same moving speed, the same attack speed, same damage and so on. It's way easier to handle such armies when the hotkey groups are not mixed. Unit AI fuck ups can be prevented in that way. This won't be possible in the late stages of the game, but you can handle the first initial fights better. If your army is too big to group them on hotkeys, focus on the most expansive and most important units. And try to manually command the rest of your army with your mouse. It's possible, but it needs a lot of training.
I wrote a pretty similar guide to this one in german. What I didn't know back then was: most beginners read the guide and understood the importance of a hotkeysystem, but they didn't use it properly. This is why I'm underlining, that you need the hotkeysystem with a sort of routine, or it won't work on maximal efficency. A decent player has a routine in his mechanics. You normally don't switch your hotkeys in a diffuse and chaotic way. You don't look on your army, switch back to your production facilities and back to dragoons, shortly after take a glimpse and any point, and back to your army.
This is what you should do regularly:
Step 1: select your army. Is it in danger? Is it going to be attacked?
Step 1.1: If it is in danger: attack if you can win
Step 1.2: If it is in danger: retreat if you can't win
Step 2: Take a look at your supply limit
Step 2.1: Enough supply for units? Yes -> move on to step 3
Step 2.2: If no (that kicks in if you're close „0<x<5 supply points“ ): build depots/overlords/pylons
Step 3: Build workers in all your nexus / command centers (Zerg should think more about it, since they have a difficult larvae system)
Step 3.1: Send trained workers to mine
Step 4: Train units
Step 4.1: Send your reinforcements to your main army / group them onto hotkeys
Step 5: Take a look at the minerals: how much do you have? Decent amount: -> Repeat Step 1-5
Step 5.1: It rises although you trained units. Expand if you're in advantage or if the game is about to be a draw
Step 5.2: If you're not in an advantage, or if your opponent could prevent you from expanding: build more production facilities / build tech buildings
Step 6: repeat Step 1 – Step 6
You should run this circle through 2-3 times per minute. The ranking should be following: do not lose your army only because you don't check out the minimap / its position. Do not be held back by your supply count. Train worker.s Spend money. Expand or tech depending on situation.
You have to make a shitload of decisions during a normal game. You need to react on your opponents Build Order and strategy, on his expansion behaviour, on his army mix and so on. As total beginner you won't be able to make always the right decisions. Experience is missing. You can try to compensate experience by a good scouting. Many beginners tend to give away their advantages cause they don't scout good enough.
You have plenty of options to scout or to read (if you're a poker maniac) your opponent. You need to gather information where you can get it. Just follow your intution and don't think too long when you have to make a quick decision. Thinking over and over just keeps you busy with things that shouldn't keep you busy at all. Focus on macro. If you're macro is good enough you can do a lot more mistakes than you think. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try to get more experience.
When you had to make a difficult decision and failed (what happens often in the first games) don't bother. You'll learn fast, if you scout well. Just remember what you saw. Watch the replay afterwards and learn what you should have thought when you seen it. When you missinterpreted your opponents behaviour. He went for reavers before observers and hit you bad with a drop for example. What haven't you scouted, what places should you check out the next time?
Have you forgot to check expansions? Have you missed an important sign? You learn to ask the right questions and you learn the right answers. Step by step and faster than you think if you scout well enough.
Scouting means to check out your opponent and gather information, as said before. Scouting starts usually with a worker or the initial overlord. You run into his base before he has any static defense or fighting unit. Keep your worker alive as long as possible. Check out: does he intend to rush you? Is he going for a fast tech? Is he expanding? Whatever he does, this is going to give you the possibilty to make the right decision and gives you opportunity to respond.
After the early game scout (game between minute 1 and ~minute 8) you should still check few things. Use observers, overlords, single workers, single zerglings. Check out how big his army is, check out whether he switches the tech tree, or whether he is trying to expand.
As Protoss you can use following units:
A corsair vs. Zerg. This unit is very mobile and is hard to kill. Don't lose it because you don't pay enough attention.
You can send a probe towards the opponent in any match up. This gives you a short glimpse. It provides you with the information of how big his army is, which tech units the opponent has and if he expanded yet. Losing a probe is not a high price compared to the useful information you can gain.
Use observers versus Terran or Protoss. Due to their cloaking ability they're not so easy to spot. You can scout almost all of his base without you're opponent being able to kill it immediatly. You need observers almost in any non-all-in Build Order.
Use your overlords vs Zerg and Protoss. It takes a while until the opponent will be able to kill your overlord. Information you can gather until the overlord dies is important.
Zerglings are cheap and if you lose one you won't lose the game. Send them with move command towards his base.
If you're using Mutalisks you can fly around his base, without being in too big danger if you're acting carefully.
SCVs are the unit. A single Marine is okay too, if you still have one. Comsat + scan is the most powerful scouting tool ever. Don't wast all of your comsats energy to scout though, since you may need it against cloaked units. In Terran vs. Terran or Terran vs. Protoss you can use vultures with mines. You won't need all of the mines to push. Placing some mines around expansion spots and choke points is better than not scouting.
This is what you want to see:
The opponents choke.
It's important to know when your enemy moves out and tries to attack you. You can either place your whole army in front of the choke point, since you can retreat if his attack is too big. Or you place some cheap unit like a worker or a zergling in front of it. You don't need to check out the minimap the entire time, since you get a warning when you're being attacked. Depending on what match up you play you have to be very careful. An attacking Terran can kill your little contain in seconds. So always pay enough attention if you're standing close to the choke point. It's always a trade off between covering a huge area, not allowing your opponent to move out and you're army being in a safe position.
The opponents army size:
Is it big? Bigger than yours? You can see if you're safe or not, if you can attack or expand. And so on. If you need more tech units like observesr or counter units like Archons vs. Mutalisks.
The opponents tech tree: you can either scout for tech buildings as a templar archives, a hive or something like this. Or you can look at the opponents army and its mix. Check out for their upgrades too. Are those Zealots having Legs already or not? Do they have +1 attack Upgrade, or not?
Your opponents production capabilities.
You may want to place observers above the Terrans facilities, you may want to know how much barracks he has, how much gateways a Protoss built and so on. It's not possible to gather this information all the time. Still it's a very useful information.
And probably the most important information: the expansion behaviour.
In most match ups there are several rules when to expand. A Protoss needs at least one expansion more than the Terran has. If he expands, you should expand. A Zerg needs more expansions than the other two races. And so on. A player can gain a huge advantage if he manages to set up a secret expansion. When a player expands he has to be very careful. Losing an expansion can end the game. When you expand you're not able to reinforce your army for a short period of time since you need the extra money for a hatchery/command center/nexus and static defenses like sunkens, cannons or turrets. That gives your opponent opportunity to attack you when you're in a very dangerous situation – or he will be able to expand himself if you're too safe.
To be sure that you know whether your enemy expands or not, you should check out the expansion spots all the time. After 8 minutes – this is the time the „normal“ mid-game starts – you should place single units at the expansion spots.
A Protoss can move an observer over some expansion spots, fly around with corsairs or let a lone dark templar patrol between to expansion points. If you have enough money you can block the most important expansion spots by building a pylon near the mineral line. If you don't have enough observers or units you can use to check expansion spots use probes. You can always compensate the loss of a single probe.
Terrans are able to scan. Scan the expansion spots from time to time. You can lay mines at expansion spots or move a single vulture to them. You can use SCVs to check out the expansion spots from time to time too. Just place a turret near the mineral line to block possible expansions. In some match ups you won't need all of your buildings. In Terran vs Terran you don't need to have your barracks or engeneering bay standing inside your base. Just lift it off and fly them to isle expansions or to other expansion spots. Even if you're losing that stray building: the gathered information is of more worth to you than the time and money you need to rebuild it.
A Zerg is so much more mobile than any other race. It's very easy to scout well. Just put some overlord over the most important expansion sets, or command a single ling to them. You don't really need to do much more, since you can pretty much almost sneak by any opponent to check his expansion behaviour.
Your main goal is to gather information as said. You have to learn so much besides scouting, like macroing, microing and multi-tasking during the game. If you're scouting good you're playing with a legal map hack. You know where the opponents army is, you know how much expansions he has and you know his tech tree. That gives you much more time you may need to make decisions. You simply know more than without scouting.
Another good thing is: if you place fighting units or buildings in expansion spots you can slow down his whole expansions. You may have discovered this on your own: if you want to expand while you're distracting your opponent you'll only send a worker to an expansion spot. If your opponent placed a fighting unit like a zergling in that spot you're whole distraction strategy fails, since your worker is going to die to that fighting unit. And you have to retreat and try to expand once more. You lose a shitload of time and he gains a little advantage. Even if there is „just a mine“ or „just a turret“ placed you have to kill that mine or building before you can expand. A beginner/low level player can be pressured in that way since he has to put more energy in expanding than he expected to.
As mentioned before: games on a beginner level are often decided by the macroing skills of the players, not so much by decisions that are made. I guess it should be obvious that even a pro can lose to a bad strategy decision. Like going five pool on air maps. Still decisionmaking is linked to scouting and macroing/multitasking routines. You may want to reflect on your strategy.
I suggested that you pick a few Build Orders and train them. Your goal should be to optimize them. You will die to a lot of things. You're going to lose since your micro sucks, you die because your opponent is just a lot better, you die since you don't scout well. If you read strategy guides as I told you, you're able to learn of your fails. Losing doesn't mean you're a bad player, and you shouldn't go emo mode because you just lost to a cheese play. Simply watch the replay and try to understand why you lost. Every single lose tells you why your strategy didn't work. And you'll be able to prevent you from doing the same fail all over again. The more you play the better you understand your strategy.
But this replay analysis aren't as easy as they seem to be. A lot of beginners over at broodwar.de did just a lot of bullshit when they watched their games after a lose. They tend to focus on the wrong things and therefore missinterpreted the whole game. You have to put the replay you just watched into a context of a guide. A fucked up mass fight can be a sign for you to improve your micro. But not neccessarily. It could mean that your macro was just bad and you weren't able to reinforce your troops fast enough. A fucked up harass doesn't mean you performed bad and it doesn't mean you have to improve your harass. It could be the case that you just harassed for too long while you didn't pay enough attention to your macro system.
An ally of mine send me a quote of Chill where he said something like: beginners focus too much on finesse when they just should learn to do a lot of shit.
There is a big danger for rookies: you read strategy guides, watch replays and think you understand all of the information that is provided to you. Most guides are for advanced players that understand how a match up works, when they can do attacks, when they are able to expand and so on. The players in the replays are most times very experienced players with a really good control. When they use harass they use it in a very good manner. They can snipe out a shitload of workers before they lose too much mutalisks, for example. Rookies tend to watch this harass whereas they simply ignore the macro/expanding behaviour of the players playing. They focus on the wrong thing.
Let me give another example. Let's assume you read a guide for Zerg vs Terran. The guide tells you to go for three-hatch-mutalisks. When the mutalisks are out you have to harass the Terran, while teching further and expanding if it's possible. What you don't know: the suggested Build Order works best vs an fast-expanding Terran. A fast expanding Terran stands very safe vs any sort of rush. He's very static though, since he can't possibly train a lot of units right from the start. When he expands he gets a huge advantage when it comes to macro. He is able to mine more minerals that he can spend on more units. Until this economical/macro advantage kicks in he can't leave his base, because he needs his units for defense.
A beginner now uses mutalisks for harass. He attacks here and there and is able to snipe stray marines and SCVs. A harass needs a lot of control. So the Zerg is able to keep the Terran at his base, while gaining a few more minutes where he could expand and tech on further. That is what he needs to do, if he wants to keep up with the rising Terran economy. At some point the Terran is able to attack with his army while having enough units in his base to be safe against the mutaharass. The Zerg simply missed to go for lurkers and expand one or two times. Now the Zerg is in a huge disadvantage. The Zerg expanded once, but didn't manage to build drones at this expansion. He has like two or three lurkers and is around 65 supply. The Terran has two tanks, a vessel and two control groups of marines. He kills the Zerg.
Now the missinterpretation starts: the beginner Zerg thinks that the harass wasn't that good. He had to little time to expand and to mass more army. Fact is: he spend too much time on his harass and didn't tech on.
So always try to understand whether you simply fucked up a harass or whether you fucked up your macro. IF you're not sure try the macro explanation. Just relax next game, spend less time on a harass and try to expand and mass units. The faster you're able to macro well, meaning spending little time on macro issues like producing units, the more time you'll gain to harass on. It's important for any beginner to be more aware of their macro problems than to spend too much time on „unimportant“ issues. You can fuck up more fights and harasses if your macro works well. If you spend enough minerals and enlarge your supply count you're almost unstoppable for other beginners. If you need 2,5 minutes to macro (build drones, units and expand) you have 30 seconds to harass (kill some units) with your mutas in the first game. After like 20-30 games your macro routine just takes 1 minute and you'll be able to harass 2 minutes with your mutas. Your harass/micro/multitasking gets better when you focus on macro. It's not so obvious to rookies, but it works. Trust me.
A thing that is left out in almost any guide I read until now is the psychology. As a beginner you don't face your opponent so much as you face your own alter ego. Don't get me wrong: I don't mean to flame you for being an idiot. You simply are if you don't follow certain rules. Any player that is not confident in himself or isn't willing to improve their own game makes a lot of mistakes.
Limits of control
You'll soon discovere that you face huge problems when it comes to fully control the game. There are so much user-unfriendly things. The units AI, difficult maprelated things like very narrow choke points and so on. If you're still learning the hotkeysystem you're just not able to handle your units perfect. That doesn't mean you're and idiot or you're being an untalented moron. Simply try to find out how much you can do before you just overwhelmed by the game. At some point you have to much units to control, you're ressources are piling up and the general stress level gets to you. Simply relax and take it easy. Try to learn where your limits are, and work on those limits. Just do everyting one by one. Macro – watch your army – scout – macro – and so on. You get faster every game. Sometimes you get so much faster you recognize the learning effect. Most times you won't. The best thing is to save the very first games you played. After a month compare those early replays to your game now. It's a huge help for your ego, since you'll discover how much you learned.
The better you become the better are your opponents. You won't face low level players when you advance to higher ranks in ICCUP. The level rises. You'll be in stress. There are tons of situations that can creep you out. Goons, that are to stupid to move from point a to point b, reavers that won't hit a single SCV. You're opponent putting you under pressure by harassing a lot more. Same tipp as before: just relax and work it out all one by one.
There are some players that try to freak you out. By playing very microintensive. Always remember: the more anyone micros the worse his macro will be. At least on lower levels. You need to understand that he is under pressure himself. If his attacks won't work out he will be in a bad position. Just try to defend anything that he throws at you. Even if you lose a couple of workers, units or even one building or two: it doesn't mean you lost. If the first inital attacks don't kill you, the next ones won't kill you immediatly if you're prepared. The more you defend, the worse his situation is going to be. Try reverse psychology in stress situations. Don't panic if you don't have to. Don't suicide attack to counter, simply relax and hold on to your strategy. Macro, expand and eventually kill him when you're having an army big enough.
If units bug, don't blame yourself nor blame the units. It isn't your fault. If a group of dragoons bugs around a temple, a mineral, or a critter, just spend a little more time and give them orders again. If you freak out you'll lose control, you'll lose overview and eventually you'll lose the game. Losing a game without the opponent dealing any serious harm to you is just stupid.
The right mindset
You are going to lose so much games it will get to you at some point if you're not prepared. Losing in StarCraft never means anything bad. Except your Idra, and you lose street credibilty. You never want to flame your opponent for your loss. That's never a good idea. You are going to get flamed and noone wants to help you. Remember: this is only a game, and you're doing it for fun. A loss means you have more opportunity to improve your game. Any mistake you make helps you to get better. So, if your main goal is to become a better player loses are just a sign you're improving. Take them as a help, but never as a sign for you not evolving. If you don't lose you're not going to improve, simply you don't know what you could do better. If loses freak you out too much you should ask yourself whether you're playing StarCraft. Do you really want to play it for fun, or do you need any sort of attention since you're an attention whore? Losing and flaming afterwards is just a sign that you're a poor idiot trying to get attention for nothing.
Now I'm pretty much done. I can't offer you any more general advice. If you understood how important the hotkeysystem, a macrobased game and a good scouting is, you should really be able to advance a lot, if you read more guides. You're now able to help yourself improving, without asking for much help. It should give you an idea what to learn first, where to put the focus. I hope this was a help for you, and i really hope it prevents you from doing to much of those stereotypical fails that normal beginners tend to do.
I read anywhere in this forum that you should be a better player before you publish a guide. I don't have any recommendations, since I'm not a gosu player, and I don't consider myself among those „better players“. I played WGT, PGT and ICCUP, but never reached a blue rank. I was able to get C+ at PGT, that's about my skill. Still: I'm pretty sure, that those advices listed in this topic are very helpful if you still try to learn. Since I discovered that there are still much players beginning / coming back from inactivity after years, I'm convinced it could really help people. I'd be really happy if you're reading this guide without flaming me right from the start. If you consider it as „worth reading“ you could plant it somewhere in the liquipedia if you want to.
Regards, Gecko. Thanks again for helping us (broodwar.de) out by offering this much guides . Additional hugs, kisses and more thanks-stuff is going to: Quint (for helping me with translation/understanding issues), power[Xp] (for helping me out with understanding stuff), noob)hot( (for being the first sc2 pro and sharing much love) and all of former team [Xp] (who helped me getting a "decent player").