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Starcraft 2 Multiplayer Advanced

Advanced Strategy Concepts

Actions-Per-Minute (APM)

APM represents the average number of key-presses or mouse-clicks for every minute of gameplay. The higher your APM, the more orders you are issuing. In order to become a better player at StarCraft 2, especially multiplayer, you will have to work towards achieving a high APM.

Multiplayer in StarCraft 2 can be broken down into three basic categories: Tactics, Micromanagement and Strategy.

Strategy represents a plan for achieving your overall goal, i.e., the complete destruction of your opponent. In order to use strategy effectively, you must have a solid understanding of the weaknesses and strengths of all units. Often, a player can win with much fewer units than his opponent if he properly uses “countering” techniques. With this in mind, a high APM is not a guarantee of success. Issuing a ton of actions doesn't really matter if your opponent effectively counters your intent. Hence, great strategy trumps a high APM; but great strategy plus a high APM is virtually unbeatable.

Players can get confused as to the difference between Tactics and Strategy. Think of tactics as a short-term, improvised plan whose sole purpose is to deal with a current, unfolding situation. In order to employ effective tactics the player must have good map knowledge, awareness of choke-points and easily defended high-ground locations. Even better, the tactical player will know how to counter an army of enemy units with minimal forces.

Micromanagement is what makes strategy and tactics possible. It is also where APM, or Actions-Per-Minute, is of critical importance. The more actions you can compress within a single minute, the faster your base will expand, the more forces you will muster, defenses you'll create, etc.

For reference, one of the best Zerg players on the planet is capable of sustaining an average 400 APM through a typical round. That is 7 actions-per-second! Is that even human? Barely.

The “A” in APM

Having a high APM may give you temporary bragging rights but if the majority of your orders have no tactical or strategic benefit, it's a lost cause. Doing 200 things wrong a minute will only work towards your opponents victory. Therefore, it is far more important to have an APM that is reflective of good tactics and strategy.

One of the key elements that goes into an effective APM is efficiency. Efficiency can be streamlined by having an overall strategy in mind. One of the ways in which advanced players achieve efficiency is by using Openers, sometimes known as Builds. These are per-determined actions for the early part of a new round, a checklist of sorts that is based on your game race and the race of your opponent or opponents.

We'll be exploring opening Builds in the racial strategy section of this app.

Understanding Unit Armor in SC2

StarCraft II has expanded the role of unit armor when compared to the original StarCraft. Advanced players will use this knowledge to their advantage, striking the enemy with units the are especially effective against the opposition armor-type.

Light Units

In general, light units are fast but lack decent armor and can be killed quickly. In the early stages of a new round, the majority of units you can create will be of the Light variety.

Terran Vs. Light Units: Hellions are excellent at demolishing light units.

Zerg Vs. Light Units: Roaches are excellent at felling light units, but attention must be paid so you don't get surrounded. Banelings are also good against light opposition, enhanced with area-of-effect damage and a slight bonus. Against light air units, the Corrupter will be effective.

Protoss Vs. Light Units: Colossi and Archons are especially effective at harassing light units.

Armored Units

Armored units generally have a slower rate-of-fire, but the damage they inflict more than makes up for it. Armored units will account for the majority of forces you create and fight against in the later stages of a multiplayer round.

Terran Vs. Armored: Marauders and Tanks are excellent at punishing armored ground units, while the Viking will be your bread-and-butter for securing your air-space from aerial units.

Zerg Vs. Armored: A bunch of Zerglings can be very effective at taking down armored units, especially when supported by several Ultralisks.

Protoss Vs. Armored: Stalkers will help in your struggle against armored units, but the Immortal is especially effective with its 150% damage against armored modifier. The Void Ray can be a true menace when charged-up, capable of attacking both land and ground armored units.

The Mechanics of Unit Upgrades

In general, every unit upgrade equates to an additional 10% damage, and each unit can be upgraded three times.

For example: a unit that normal inflicts 1-14 damage will receive +1 at the next upgrade. A unit that normally inflicts 15-24 damage will get +2. A Protoss Zealot typically inflicts 8 damage and can strike twice per attack, but upgrading with Ground Weapons Level 1 will increase the damage for each strike to 9, for a grand total of 16-18 damage.

An Immortal, which normal deals 20 damage with a +30 modifier against Armored targets, would be boosted to +2/+3 damage from a Ground Weapons Level 1 upgrade.

The Essential “Wall-In” Tactic

This is a very common tactic that will be used against you quite often, so you might as well come to terms with what is going on so you can start doing it yourself.

Basically, you will be creating a defensive wall near the choke-point that leads into the heart of your base. The purpose of this wall is to slow down the progress of an enemy advance and/or inhibit enemy scouting of your intentions and assets.

Just because you have wall-in your base doesn't mean you are limiting your expansion options. Each race has certain methods of handling their wall-in tactic. For instance, Terrans can float the majority of the buildings away from the main base and towards a new expansion. Protoss can warp in new units via Pylons or Warp Prisms, while the Zerg can scurry around, undetected, via their Nydus Network.

Terran Wall-In: The Terrans have an easy time of walling-in since all of the units are range-based, allowing for simple defense from a distance. Better yet, your Barracks and Supply Depots, which represent the heart of your defensive wall, can raise or lower, allowing your troops to easily bypass the wall for a quick excursion. Considering the Bunker afford any troops inside a +1 range modifier, this increases the potency of your wall even more, especially if you have a couple SCVs constantly repairing any damage your wall is taking. Throw in a few Siege Tanks behind your wall and the enemy will have serious problems trying to penetrate your base.

Protoss Wall-In: Protoss need to be careful with walling-in, especially against a Terran opponent, as your Zealots will require fast access to those range-units. Your defenses may actually work against you here. Matters are a little different when dealing with a Protoss or Zerg opponent, as your Stalkers and Sentries can wreak havoc. Use the Sentry Forcefield to block line-of-sight into your base, depriving the enemy of attack options.

Zerg Wall-In: Zerg have no early-round options for walling-in, though matters will change once you have Spine Crawlers, allowing for quick defense of your base entrance.

Dealing With Wall-Ins and Choke-Points

You are no doubt familiar with creating choke-points, allocating defensive units to impede the progress of an enemy ground advance through a narrow section of the map. Done appropriately, choke-points can really chew up ground units who are unprepared. So, how best to deal with a masterfully defended choke-point? Depends on your race:


Terran: Use Siege Mode on your Siege Tanks to soften up defending targets. A Ghost EMP is also effective, as is a Hunter-Seeker Drone, thanks to its area-of-effect damage.

Zerg: Infestors and Banelings will do most of your dirty work. A little Fungal Growth thrown into the mix can really turn the tide of events in Zerg favor.

Protoss: Psi Storm will be most effective at dealing with a well-defended choke-point. Sentry Force Fields can also be used at great advantage.


When an enemy has walled-in his base, his intention is to deny you access within by craftily placing blocking structures, ultimately keeping secrets from you about his intentions, tech and army build-up. Obviously, not knowing what the enemy is doing is unacceptable. Therefore, we must penetrate the wall-in tactic.

Terran: Use your Siege Tanks to strike the buildings blocking your entrance. Try to position your tanks beyond the range of any defending range weapons. If you have access to a Yamato Gun, use it; it works wonders against buildings, in a very short amount of time.

Zerg: You can distract with Mutalisks and let your Brood Lords strike from range.

Defending Against a Zergling Rush

It's going to happen sooner or later: your opponent will launch a Zergling rush towards your base within the opening minutes of a new round. You are caught unprepared, still in midst of getting your base organized, and within seconds, you are left with nothing but a loss.

Chances are very high that a Zergling Rush will aim straight for your workforce. Once your workers are killed, your production will grind to halt and you will most likely not recover. Therefore, we must prevent the eradication of your workers.

The first thing you want to do when seeing a Zergling Rush penetrate your base is to immediately begin organizing your workers. A lot of players will send their entire work force towards the Zerglings in the hopes of quelling the rush, and while this may prove effective, it also seriously undermines your resource gathering, which in turn hurts your rate of production, which in turn puts you at a disadvantage against your opponent.

Your opponent will probably be using 6-9 Zerglings for his rush. Gather half of your workers and have them continue gathering resources while the other half will be your rush defense. If you have any actual military units, keep them positioned near your resource gatherers. Eventually, the Zerglings will near your workers and begin attacking. This is when you want to bring in the other half of your work force, either flanking the enemy or coming up behind, having all of your workers join the fray until every last Zergling is eradicated.

Customizing Hotkeys

There are a ton of shortcut-commands in StarCraft 2 that, once remembered, will go a long way in helping you rise up the leaderboard in multiplayer. While the vast majority of commands are perfectly fine at their default locations, wise players will customize certain aspects of their hotkeys for maximum efficiency and strategic value. Here are some pointers:

  • Orbital Command should always be hotkeyed so you have immediate access to Scanner Sweep, which in turn allows for detection of cloaked, enemy units.
  • Hotkey your scouts for fast access. You are sending them out to look for trouble, so you want to be prepared for when the find it!
  • Get in the habit of using the same hotkey for units with special abilities, like Siege Tanks and Wraiths. The less fumbling around in the heat of battle, the better.
  • Keep ground forces allocated to one bank of hotkeys while air units clam another bank. Never deviate, so the system is burned into your brain.

Automatic Matchmaking Modes

Once you've completed your initial placement rounds, you will be placed into an appropriate division and league that matches your abilities. 100 players comprise a Division and you will usually be matched against players from within your Division unless none are available. In that case, will pull a player from another Division for the next match.

Leagues are composed of several Divisions, including Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond.

There are many modes of play available, depending upon your taste: 1V1, 2V2, 3V3, 4V4, Free-For-All and Co-Op Vs AI.

Understanding Structure & Unit Energy

Several key units and buildings require a specific amount of energy before they can use their special abilities. Most units will begin with a pool of 50 energy, though starting energy can be upgraded. All units requiring energy for a special function regenerate at .5625 per second, or 34 energy per minute. A fresh unit will reach maximum energy in 4-minutes.

Standard Speed
Accelerated Speed

Racial Economic Boosting

Each race has access to specific boosters that will greatly increase your harvesting ability. The trick is not forgetting to use these boosters as much as possible. It's easy to forget about econ-boosters, but if your opponent hasn't...then you are in big trouble.

Protoss Chrono Boost: Once your Nexus has Chrono Boost, it can be used to speed production or research by +50%. Chrono Boost has an energy cost 25. In the early stages of a new round, use Chrono Boost to crank out Probes in groups of two. Once you hit about 16 Probes, you can begin boosting your Gateways while researching Warp Gate. Later in the round, Chrono Boosting Warp Gates will allow you to fill your ranks with units at a faster pace

Zerg: Spawn Larvae, an ability of the Queen, will be your central economic booster. Casting Spawn Larvae will allow for 4 larva units to be produced every 40-seconds. The wise player will use Spawn Larvae on all available Hatcheries at every available moment.

Terran OC: The Orbital Command is an essential element of the Terran economy, allowing for the call-down of a M.U.L.E. That is basically an SCV on steroids, capable of collecting 270 minerals in a minute, compared with 60 minerals for a normal SCV.

Racial Transport Drop Strategies

Moving your troops around via the various racial transport methods is a critical element of playing multiplayer successfully. Before we dive into racial specifics, here are some basic facts to keep in mind:

All transports can carry up to 8 cargo slots worth of units, except the Nydus Canal. Transports are especially flimsy and prone to damage, so their movement when fully loaded should be watched like a hawk. The Zerg Overlord is very slow and will be a sitting duck, so Zerg players should use the Nydus Canal for the majority of unit transportation.

Transport Data

Warp Prism
Nydus Worm

Terran Transport Drops: Mix Marines with Marauders, enhanced with Stimpacks, and drop them near an enemy worker line for a tasty meal. Drop several tactically placed Ghosts and make use of their EMP on opposing forces before launching a full-scale raid. Drop Siege Tanks on an elevated ledge that overlook an enemy base or expansion. Drop a Thor on the outskirts of a battle and let its 250mm cannon mop up forces.

Protoss Transport Drops: Send an unloaded Warp Prism to an enemy expansion and call in several Dark Templars. Eradicate an enemy worker line by dropping in a few High Templars and unleashing Psionic Storm after you've researched Khaydrian Amulets. Humble Zealots can wreak havoc on a worker line for a quick-and-dirty hit-and-run tactic. See the enemy initiating an expansion? Drop a few Immortals on his head from a Warp Prism, call in a few support units, and enjoy your worker line meal. Yummy.

Zerg Transport Drops: The Zerg don't “drop” like the other races, instead using their Nydus Worms wherever the Zerg has a line-of-sight. The crafty Zerg player will by using the Nydus Network to quickly move units from expansion to expansion, as well as initiating rear, surprise attacks against the opponent. It's important to keep in mind that Zerg units can be loaded quickly, but they don't unload at the same speed.

Air Superiority

He who gains air units first will be able to place incredible pressure on the opposition. Once your opponent comprehends your air force, he will be forced into spending resources on counter units and air defenses, tilting the balance of power in your favor. Once you have this upper-hand, continue fielding air-units and keep the pressure on, slowly dwindling the options and forces of the enemy.

Whereas Minerals are used to create the bulk of your ground forces, Vespene Gas is the primary resource for building air units. You can use this knowledge to your advantage if the enemy is busily fielding a ton of air units, as you know sooner or later, he will run out of gas and hence, run out of air-units, allowing you to be fully prepared for a follow-up ground-based invasion. If you want to slow down enemy air unit production, launch raids on their Vespene gas facilities.

Units With Anti-Air Abilities

Terran: Ghost Sniper, Ghost EMP, Raven Seeker Missile, Raven Point Defense Drone

Protoss: High Templar Psionic Storm, Mothership Vortex

Zerg: Infestor Fungal Growth, Overseer Infested Terran, Infestor Neural Parasite

Defensive Tactics

For an alarming number of players, defense usually comes down to whatever units the player happens to have handy, usually a few stragglers milling around Barracks that were never given a job. Don't let this happen! Defense is critical; not something to be used as a last resort and not something to neglect.

First and foremost, a good defense against the enemy can only occur if you know what is coming. You can only know what is coming if you've been properly scouting the enemy. If not, every unit the enemy throws at you will be a surprise and you'll find yourself constantly scrambling for a foothold against an ever-rising tide.

How you handle defense and the options available is entirely dependent on the race you are playing. Here are some defensive tactics for each of the three races:

Terran Defense

Use your SCVs to repair damaged buildings and units; this helps strengthen your defense. SCVs can also be used to accelerate construction, ultimately tightening your defense in a shorter amount of time. You can also set a few SCVs on a patrol route so they can constantly monitor and repair any incoming damage; just make sure Autocast Repair is toggled.

Terrans have the unique ability to attain an upgrade that strengthens the armor of all buildings; something you will want to make use of in the middle part of a round. Additionally, you can enhance the range of the Planetary Fortress, Missile Turrets, and Auto-Turret/Point Defense Drone of the Phoenix. Another handy upgrade for defense will be increasing the capacity of your Bunkers.

The Ghost, Thor, Siege Tank, Banshee and Raven will form the heart of your defensive units.

Defensive buildings consist of the Missile Turret, Bunker and Sensor Tower.

Protoss Defense

Warping units for defense will be your bread-and-butter, though you will want to be extra cautious that you offload units safely away from the enemy, as they will be sitting ducks when emerging. If your opponent is attempting to push through a choke-point, a well-timed Psionic Blast will make short work of his forces.

Make use of your Sentry's Guardian Shield, Hallucinate and Force Field to really cause your opponent grief. If you're defending a choke-point, a Force Field can block an enemy advance for up to 15 precious seconds.

If the enemy is coming full-force with Marines or Zerg armies, use the Guardian Shield to minimize incoming damage.

Zerg Defense

Zerg can be a challenging race to play defensively, but they are not without options.

You will want to make full use of Zerg Creep, as it allows for a 30% increase in unit speed, which in turn will help swarm enemy units during a defensive need.

Once you have Burrow available, you can protect your Drones and military units by hiding them in times of stress, hopefully affording you enough time to bring in reinforcements.

Create a Nydus Worm close to your army and use it to travel along the Nydus Network to all connected bases.

The Queen will be valuable in the early portion of a round, as it is effective against ground and air units, often making the difference in holding off an early enemy rush. Two Queens are even better, as they can use Transfusion to heal the other.

Using the Infested Terran ability of an Overseer can help create enough units to fend of a minor assault.

Spine and Spore Crawlers will be the heart of your defensive structures.

The Delicate Art of Losing...and Improving

StarCraft II is a very humbling game, even if you consider yourself an expert of all things Real-Time Strategy. Sooner or later (probably sooner), you are going to lose. In fact, you will lose quite often. You may also lose at an alarming rate, especially if you are new to the genre. All this losing is enough to break the spirit of most players, so much so that many may never attempt a multiplayer game again.

Don't fret. Don't quit. Every loss is an opportunity to learn something. The person who is beating you was new once, but he stuck it out, learned from his mistakes, overcame his frustration, and is now smiling as he throttles you into submisison.

Terran Strategies

Terran Multiplayer Tips

Upgrade Orbital Command on your Command Center once your Barracks is complete.

Don't forget the M.U.L.E, which can be called-down as a mega-SCV, capable of farming a ton of minerals and enhancing your economy.

Remember key upgrades for unit types: Stimpacks for infantry, Cloaking Field for Banshees, and Siege Tech for Siege Tanks.

Protoss Strategies

Protoss Multiplayer Tips

Use Chrono Boost to decrease the build time or research time of any building by 50%.

Research Warp Gate tech from your Cybernetics Core and upgrade your Gates to Warp gates. Now you can teleport in Gateway units near your pylons.

Chrono Boost a Warp Gate to speed-up unit production.

Protoss Vs. Terran: If your Terran opponent is harassing you with nothing but ground-based units then set up a Protoss Sentry. When a rush of Terrans arrive, use Guardian Shield to help protect your assets.

The Phoenix unit is excellent at mopping-up enemy workers. It's even better at killing a single, powerful unit via the Graviton Beam.

When using Immortals, used ranged-attacks on Armored units only.

Using 'kiting' techniques when employing an upgraded Colossi against enemy forces.

Colossus: The Colossus doesn't care about terrain, plus it inflicts area-of-effect damage, making it a punishing unit. However, it is also a sitting duck against opposing air units, so support your Colossus with Stalkers or Sentries.

Dark Templar: Excellent for scouting enemy base expansions.

High Templar: The High Templar's Psionic Storm can turn the tide of battle, even when all appears hopeless.

Sentry: Great against Zealots and Stalkers, especially when used with Guardian Shield and Force Field.

Zealots: Increase their movement speed ASAP.

Protoss Versus Terran Tip: Transport Immortals via Warp Prism to an enemy base and start slaughtering their workers and taking out key structures. At the first sign of enemy ground forces, move your Immortal away from the action.

Powerful Protoss Unit Combinations

Zealot/Sentry: Zealots attack from front, Sentries attack from range. Use Sentry Force Field to segment opposition into bite-sized chunks.

Zealot/Immortal/Sentry: Zealots serve as frontal defense. Immortals strike from the back. Sentries use Guardian Shield and Force Field from a flank position.

Colossus/Stalker/Sentry/Zealot: Zealots block front. Colossi pound area-of-effect damage from the rear. Sentries use Force Fields and Guardian Shields from a flank. Stalkers support Colossi by defending against enemy air-support.

Zealot/Stalker/Sentry/High Templar:Effective against all enemy unit types, espeically when utilizing the High Templar's Psionic Storm.

Zerg Strategies

Zerg Multiplayer Tips

Once your Spawning Pool has finished, send forth a Queen and use Spawn Larvae on a Hatchery.

Upgrade Hatchery to a Lair and research Burrow.

Increase Larva production by creating a second Hatchery and Queen.

Zerg Versus Terran: Know which Zerg unit effectively counters specific Terran units. For instance, Banelings/Zerglings counter Terran biological units. Infestor/Roaches counter Mechanical units. Hydralisks counter Banshees.

Zerg Versus Protoss: Spine Crawler/Mutalisk is an effective combination against the Protoss, thanks to the mobility of these two unit types.

Zerg Versus Terran: Beware of Hellions! Slow down their routes of advancement by placing Spine Crawlers at key locations.

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