Forum - [SC2] Basic tips & Common mistakes Sticky Thread
Defender of the Universe Z-R0E
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Post 26773       April 03 '10 at 01:46 PM       Post edited by Z-R0E on April 15 '11 at 09:16 PM
Workers and Economy
More important than any counter or build order or tactic is your economy. At it's base, that's what SC is: who has better income. There is no hard counter when they can produce units 5x faster than you.

One of the biggest mistakes I see friends make when I watch them play is a lack of workers. I see 14 workers on minerals and 3 in each gas and I just want to cry for my friend. Let's break it down a bit.
-A mineral patch can have two workers mining from it at the same time (MULEs don't count).
-Most every base and expansion (so far) has 8 mineral patches (high yield have 6).
-When a worker takes the minerals from the patch to the base, another worker can take it's spot on that mineral patch.

So 16 should be the bare minimum you have on minerals, however upward to 24 is still going to net you additional resources. More than 24 and they're 100% waste. I don't have the numbers off the top of my head, but worker 17-24 is something like 30% less efficient than worker 1-16.

Because of this, it's a good idea (especially for Protoss and Terran) is to just continually make workers (even in excess of 24). Then when you expand, just take half of those workers and put them on your expansion and continue to pump out more workers. This way your expansion will be fully operational once it finishes.

Try to keep your workers balanced out across your expansions. It's better to have 16 workers on your natural and 16 on your main than 24 on your main and 8 in your natural.

As for gas, majority (99.99%) of the time it's still just 3 workers per geyser.
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Post 28858       April 25 '10 at 07:31 AM       Post edited by Z-R0E on May 05 '10 at 02:50 AM
Units: Make them
The other big pit fall I see people do a lot is they don't spend their money. Or when they do, they spend it wrongly. Let me cover a few key point here.
-If you're queuing while on one base & your natural, you're doing it wrong.
-However, queuing "a" unit towards the very end of a unit completion is okay, even good.
-You want to be making more money than your opponent, but to be broke at the same time.
-It's better to make the wrong unit than to make nothing at all.
-If you have tons of minerals but not much gas, build a marine/zergling/zealot. That will do you more good than 1000 minerals sitting in your bank. Or expand to get more gas.
-If you still have tons of minerals (500+ is "tons") and all your buildings are making a unit, make another unit-producing building.

"But Z, I'm horrible at macro and have bad APM and the sun is in my eyes" or "But then I just end up with a bunch of units at my base doing nothing while I'm attacking."
Here's what I do, adjust as you see fit.
I take all my army-producing buildings (barracks, factories, etc, but not my CC) as well as all my upgrade buildings (engineering bay, ghost lab, etc) and bind them to 5. Now when I go out to attack and I'm using groups 1-4 for my army, I'll hit 5 and spam some units and hit some upgrades (tab between buildings). Then you can just right click to where your army currently is and the new units will rally to that point. This way you can have a steady stream of backup coming to help your push.
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Post 28981       April 26 '10 at 01:00 PM       Post edited by Z-R0E on April 15 '11 at 09:06 PM
Z's views on how to get better
First, let me define "new player". I mean SC2 is the first RTS they've taken somewhat seriously. To not be considered "new", you would likely need a couple years of BroodWar of WC3 under your belt.

I've seen a lot of new players who want to get better, but I think they're going about it all wrong. I'm not just talking about @Z people, but people in general. In guilds or on forums. They're "skipping steps" for a lack of better way to word it. They read things like the TeamLiquid SC2 strategy forum and see people discuss mid-game transitions or builds that counter other builds.

Backup. Work on your mechanics first. Work on that first minute of the game. Above else, work on your macro.

Chill (TL strategy forum admin) was asked what he thought was the most important starting point for new players to get into. Evoke has re-posted them (later in this thread), but I want to cover & reiterate the first step specifically.

Forget scouting. Forget counters. Worry about not forgetting to continue making workers. Worry about having enough barracks (or whatever). Worry about not having any idle workers. Just focus on making a lot of stuff.

Chill's suggestion was to solely sit in your main. Make a bunch of shit, then attack-move it to your opponent. Don't even bother watching them, just keeping making shit. Do that until you're comfortable with having a huge army and are able to continually produce units as a second nature, without having to think about it. I'm going to suggest something different though.

Go play a computer. The goal isn't to win. The goal is to get to 200/200 supply as fast as you possibly can, while staying on tier1 units (so just barracks/hatchery/gateway). Expand, make workers, make units. But do it as fast as you can. Then try to beat your own record. So that you have something to compare with, I just did it in 12 minutes (according to the victory screen) as Terran solely making SCVs and marines. I know it can be done a lot faster, since I even got supply capped a few times and ended up with way too many excesses resources.

That's the sort of thing I think a lot of new players need to be focusing on.
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Post 29017       April 26 '10 at 07:54 PM       Post edited by Z-R0E on April 15 '11 at 09:09 PM
Terran Tips
MULE vs Scan.
When my friend first started playing she would always use her first 50 energy on her Orbital Command to scan. I'm hesitant to say this is "bad", as there might be times when it could help. However, I think the majority of the time you'll be better off with a MULE, especially with that first scan. Before I elaborate, let's discuss the MULE and how amazing it is.

A MULE can carry more minerals than an SCV, making it mine faster. In the time before it dies, a MULE will get you 300 minerals (assuming the player doesn't do something to make it not). Because of this, you have to consider that every time you scan it's costing you 300 minerals. Now, sometimes scanning is worth 300 minerals. DTs in your base and you don't have a raven? Yeah, worth 300 minerals for sure. Realizing your opponent has drastically switched his tech? That can indeed be worth 300 minerals too.

However, that doesn't mean scan is always worth 300 minerals. Let's talk early game. Unless you're super late getting your orbital command up, the opponent isn't going to have much. Is it worth 300 minerals to know that the Zerg has a spawning pool and queen? Even if you were trying to figure out timings, sending an SCV over would be 250 minerals cheaper. So I try to be reluctant with my scans and use most of my energy on MULEs, especially early game when you can just send an SCV over.

And just on a side note while I'm talking about MULEs and how awesome they are, when it's mid-late game and you have two, three, or maybe even four Orbital Commands up, it's so awesome to just spam E and click on mineral patches at a newly made expansion. It's like a money explosion.
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Post 29401       April 30 '10 at 01:42 AM       Post edited by Z-R0E on May 05 '10 at 02:51 AM
Expectations of improvement speed
Or "You're going to lose. A lot."

I see people have this problem even outside of SC2 and videogames. They start something, they put honest effort into it for a few months, then are disappointed by their apparent lack of progress. The problem is, they're comparing themselves to people who likely have had years (if not decades) of experience.

It takes a long time to get good at something like SC2. I'd compare it to playing a musical instrument in that it's going to takes a LOT of constant, consistent practice over a very long period of time. I guarantee 99.9% of people who are "good" at SC2 have an extensive prior RTS background. If you're going into SC2 without that, it's going to take a long time to "catch up."

That doesn't mean it's impossible, and it definitely doesn't mean give up. What it is saying is "it's okay to still be 'bad'." It's not something you need to be embarrassed about or hard on yourself for. I've been playing StarCraft for more than 12 years and I still only consider myself "above average".
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Post 29535       May 01 '10 at 01:18 PM       Post edited by Z-R0E on October 16 '10 at 12:38 PM
Thought I'd collate these here for easy reference since Shacknews is lame. These are newbie pointers for Starcraft2 by Chill.

Quote: Chill
Step 1

The most important thing in any economy-drive RTS is macro. Making "a lot of shit" can get you to platinum by itself.

For your next 20 games: Ignore timing. Ignore scouting. Ignore countering what he's doing. Ignore map control. Focus on getting a tight build that maximizes your economy and keep your minerals low at all times. Never miss a MULE calldown. Never miss a production round. Never miss a Supply Depot. Never make any building too late or too early. Never miss making a single SCV. Don't take your gas too early or too late. Then take your monstrous army, attack-move it somewhere, and keep making stuff. Don't even look at your army. Seriously.

Play 20 games like this and post the results. You should see vast improvement. Then you can move on to step 2.

At this point you should be able to make the same strong army regardless of your opponent's race or unit composition. Depending on how good you are at it, this should have carried you easily to the top of the silver league, and possibly into gold or bronze.

Step 2 is scouting.

Keep in mind step 2 is decidedly "Scouting", NOT "Scouting and countering". At the end of this step you should be able to infer what your opponent is making. If you still lose to it, that's perfectly fine. In fact I would argue that's the preferred result. If you try to add too many things into your game at once you will retain none of them. After completing step 2 you should be able to perform all the tasks in step 1 and be able to use some of your active thought to determine what your opponent is building.

I've seen a lot of posts of people complaining about scouting in Starcraft 2. Starcraft 2, like Brood War, is a game of incomplete information. It's easy to counter what you know is coming (that's why map hackers are so good!), but it's not hard to assemble the puzzle from small pieces of information.

Your first worker scout should arrive before he has any units. You can gauge how strong your opponent is almost directly to how long he keeps his first scouting worker alive. Seriously. In StarCraft 1 I would often not be able to kill good player's first Probe with 6 Zerglings until I got the speed upgrade. Bisu was able to do this to other Zerg progamers as well, and he was the best Protoss of all time. Practice running your worker around his base fleeing from enemy workers, marines and zealots, while keeping your unit production perfect. Since the AI has been improved you can long run from zerglings, meaning you will lose it pretty quickly. From the first scout you can ask yourself certain questions, such as:
- How many unit-production structures (barracks, gateways, hatcheries) does he have? The more he has the more likely he is to be attacking early with basic units.
- What buildings are there? Obviously a fast roach warren could be a trick, but 99% of the time it means he will be going roaches. A quick forge points to the likelihood of offensive cannons or a fast expansion. A lair before units means you should expect mutalisks relatively early. A robotics points to immortals, whereas a stargate points to void rays.
- Has he expanded? An expansion means he will likely play defensively.
- How many gases did he take and how early did he take them? 1 quick gas doesn't tell you too much, but 2 quick gases increases the likelihood of higher tiered units like void rays, mutalisks and banshees.
- Are there buildings missing? You need to know that "at this time he should have X buildings." If there are buildings missing, specifically pylons, you need to consider the possibility that he is building outside his base, which you should send extra workers to scout for.

At this point, you have probably lost the scouting worker. Although you've gathered information, you need to try again. Sending a second worker when appropriate, you are going to sacrifice it walking up his ramp. You will get a short glimpse of his army and the side of his base. You want to note:

- Has he expanded?
- What is his unit composition? If he has mostly marauders it's likely he's going to continue to make marauders. This applies to stalkers and roaches as well. Players don't often play mind games of showing information and doing something else, especially in something small like making zealots instead of stalkers. 99.9% of players will be very transparent.
- What is his building composition? Players often build buildings near the ramp, meaning you can take note of if he has a quick robotics facility, which barracks add-ons he is using, etc.
- Does he have the right number of units? If he has more units than you expected, he has probably sacrificed economy for unit production. If he has less units than you expected, consider that quick tech units (dts, mutalisks, reapers, helions, banshees) may be coming.

Discussion about other ways to gain information:
- Zerg overlords are free scouting. You should always spread your overlords on cliffs to scout areas. Consider sacrificing an overlord if you are unsure of what your opponent is building. Do not be scared to spread your overlords before they have the speed upgrade - that is the hallmark of a weak player.
- Scan costs the same energy as a MULE, and as such will cost you 240 minerals potentially lost. Consider building an extra barracks and floating it into your opponents base as it will give you better information instead.
- Observers are very strong in this game. If you can't infer what your opponent is doing, your first robotics unit should be an observer.
- The overlord speed upgrade is 50/50 and should be a no-brainer at lair tech.
- Overseers have energy and only one ability to use it on - changelings. Changelings should be cast whenever you can remember.
- Leaving a worker outside of your opponent's ramp but also outside of his vision is a great warning for when he is moving out. It gives you ample time to pump out one last round of units before the attack comes.
- Building depots / pylons around the outside of your base will give you early warning of reapers, void rays, medivacs, mutalisks and nydus worms coming into your base. Again, don't be worried about losing them.
- The Xel naga watch towers are critical in this game. You should put in a reasonable amount of effort to control the key ones with a worker so that you gain vision of his army composition and size.
- Don't forget to scout for hidden expansions and island play in the midgame!

Give that a try. At the end of this you should always know what he's doing and still be pumping out a nice army. You should also be losing games because you're making the wrong units, but we'll get to that.

Step 3 - Rushing

I was having trouble thinking about what should be the next point. We needed a concept that required scouting and running away workers, constant unit production, and subtly introduced the concept of unit control (micro). I was very proud when I realized in the shower that rushing is the unifying concept I was looking for.

This week, you are going to spend time trying to kill your opponent within 8 minutes. You should use one of the following build orders for each race:
Zerg: 7 Pool or extractor-first pool before overlord. The extractor-first spawning pool before overlord build's purpose is to get to 100 gas, stop mining gas and research zergling speed.
Protoss: 10 12 gate with chronoboost
Terran: 8 barracks or some form of 2/3 barracks marine rush

Why rushing isn't "GAY": People seem to think that the only way to play honorably is by sitting back and macroing up defensively. If the defensive players don't scout and don't build ample defenses, they are actually get a significant advantage over "standard play". So they are actually the ones playing with a gay style. Rushing keeps abusive, economy-builds honest.

Another huge point: If you are a competitive player, and something is so simple to execute and has such a high probability of winning, then you are playing IRRATIONALLY by not doing this strategy every game. Of course if you just play to have fun and not to win then you might not enjoy rushing. Keep in mind the purpose of these posts is to improve your game step by step, and not to maximize your fun. Also, winning is fun :).

What rushing will teach you:
- Very technically tight build order (every seconds count when you rush)
- Proper scouting (not too early or you will hurt your fragile economy, but need to know where he is when your first attacking units are out or else you're fucked)
- Keeping workers and units alive [like we learned during scouting] (you can use damage units or your scouting working to bait his attacking units away from his ramp to allow you to slip in)
- Harassing (You need to shut down SCVs building buildings and specifically kill workers whenever it's possible. Keep in mind that attack workers are not generating income! This is a simple point but if you can run your Zealot around for 20 seconds keeping 10 SCVs from mining, you've done several times more damage than if you actually killed one of those SCVs)
- Multitasking (you will mostly be watching the battle but need to make units!)
- Basic unit counters (roach = all rushes over, how do you deal with sentries, etc.)
- Basic tactical counters (wall = all rushes over, advantageous building placements, how to fight / defend with workers, unit positioning)
- How to live a rush yourself, what works well, what doesn't, what you like to see, what you don't
- Stress management (getting used to playing strategies that rest on razors edges)
- Critical thinking (need to decide what to kill IMMEDIATELY)
- Basic unit control (making sure all your units are attacking, retreating damaged units, reinforcing as quickly as possible, retreating your entire army until you have favorable numbers, targeting his weakest units)

Followup:
A rush doesn't need to kill someone. If you damage your opponent's economy enough, you can easily come out ahead after a "failed" rush.

If your rush doesn't do sufficient damage, consider the following before leaving: Dealing with the crisis management phase that comes after a failed rush will give you invaluable experience. It's not the main point of this week's lesson, just a nice side effect. If you want to just blast through, then you should leave the game after your rush fails, but I'd advise trying to fight it out.
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Post 29836       May 04 '10 at 06:30 PM       Post edited by Z-R0E on October 16 '10 at 12:30 PM
Ok, following on for absolute beginners. This is a transcript from Day9s audio podcast, which he made last year (so it's sc1). I made some edits from what I know, and highlighted what I think are very key points.

Day9 daily basics

Quote: Day[9]
Hey, what’s up everyone? This is Sean Plott a.k.a Day[9] and today I want to present to you Mechanics Part 1 - The Basics. In this audio, I want to describe what the essentials are for having strong mechanics. I want to begin by talking a little bit about how to hold your keyboard hand and then how to use hotkeys and the F keys effectively in your play. I’d then have to talk about the mouse hand, how to holding your mouse hand correctly, tips for improving accuracy, and general advice on how to control your units the way you want too. Naturally, I will be discussing mechanics with the idea of improving micro and macro so I will be trying to give lots of examples relating back to that. Great, let’s start talking about the keyboard.

So I keep my keyboard pretty close to the end of my table. Now if you take your left hand and you face it towards yourself, in the bottom right corner of your left hand you’ll a feel a really solid bone if you push there with your thumb. That is the bone that you generally want to have as your pivot point. So I generally keep my hand rested on that bone. Now something that is really really important that you do is that you keep your pinky at your left hand of the keyboard – or let me rephrase that - you make sure that your left pinky does not rest beyond the left end of the keyboard. Essentially what I am addressing is a problem that a lot of players develop when they first started to use hotkeys. Often times when players first learn about hotkeys and want to hit Ctrl-1, they hold the Ctrl key with their left thumb and press the ‘1’ key with their index finger. Obviously this isn’t a big deal if you only play Starcraft twice a year at a LAN party or something, but there is a lot of players that want to improve that get stuck with this sort of bad habit from the get go. I will go to Tournaments and see players who hit control 123 with their thumb on the control key. As a result when they want to do 1a2a3a, they tend to hit ‘1’ with their middle finger and ‘a’ with their index figure, and then ‘2’ with their middle finger and ‘a’ with their index finger, and ‘3’ with their middle finger and ‘a’ with their index finger. Obviously this is grossly inefficient because you are essentially bending your arm around the left side of the keyboard and hitting the keyboard sideways; moreover your fingers are incredibly far away from the keys that are used to build workers and build units and buildings and stuff.

You want to be holding your hand in the middle of the keyboard so that the CTRL key is hit by your pinky and then the 12345 keys are hit by your index finger or your middle finger or even your thumb for a lot of the higher keys, like if you wanted to hit CTRL + 8 or something. Moreover, don’t be afraid to have your hand move around the keyboard a lot. For example, when I want to do CTRL 0 and CTRL 9, I take my left hand and I move it to the right CTRL and then I hold CTRL with my thumb and press 0 or 9 with my index or ring finger. As a result, I don’t have to do something that is ergonomically inefficient like hitting CTRL with my left pinky and swinging my thumb all the way up to hit 9 or 0. It’s just as easy to move my hand a little bit to the right to take care of that.

In essence, I just don’t want any of you to think that you should ever keep your hand still. I’ve provided a sort of good default that you should rest at the left side of the keyboard but make sure that you’re constantly bouncing around. Not only does bouncing and moving around a lot allow you to do better things in Starcaft, but also it increases the movement and hence the blood flow to your hands so since you’re getting a lot of blood flow to your wrists and your hands that will help to prevent a lot of symptoms of carpal tunnel and exhaustion and what not. Alright Awesome! So now everyone has an excellent positioning for their left hand.

Let’s talk about hotkeys a little bit. First of all, allow me to say a rule that you should never ever break. Here it is: Do not every click on something that you could build or do by pressing the key on the keyboard. I’m going to say that again: Do not click things if you can use the keyboard. Don’t do it. Don’t be one of the Protoss players who says the ‘p’ key is all the way on the right side of the keyboard. I guess that means I will just click on the probe icon whenever I want to build a probe. That is horrendously newbie. Do not ever ever do that. I don’t care if you’re playing BGH and doing a 2v2v2v2 and going mass scouts. You better be pressing ‘g’ if you want to upgrade scout speed. Now, if you don’t know the hotkey, you should mouse over it, look at what the hotkey is and then press it. Then you will start training your brain to move your hand to the right position on the keyboard. Do not fall into this trap where you just start clicking on things that are somewhat inconvenient. The keyboard is just as powerful a tool as the mouse. You should use it.

I want to spend some time now discussing hotkey setups. When I say hotkey setups I mean what you have CTRL 1-2-3 and all the way up to 0 set to but before I do that I want to talk about the ‘F’ keys. F2, F3, F4. A lot of players do not use the ‘F’ keys because it feels a little inconvenient on the fingers to reach that high however they are absolutely essential for strong play so I am going to talk about them first. So that way when I do discuss hotkey setups like the 1234 all the way up to 0, I can also talk about how to incorporate the ‘F’ keys into that. So let’s begin with the ‘F’ hotkeys.

Let me briefly explain what the ‘F’ keys are for anyone who is potentially unfamiliar with them. So let’s say I select 12 Zerglings and I hit CTRL 2, every time I press 2 it selects those Zerglings. The ‘F’ keys work in the same fashion, however instead of selecting a unit or a building, it centers over a particular screen. So let’s say we are playing on Lost Temple and you are looking on your ramp, I can hold shift and then F2 and go do something else and then every time I press F2 my screen centers at my ramp. Nothing gets selected. It doesn’t matter if I have vision of that area or not. It just moves the screen there. The most typical use for the ‘F’ hotkeys is just to have one screen for each expansion. So I would have my main hot keyed at F2, my expo to F3, my second expo to F4. As a result if I get reaver dropped or storm dropped or vulture dropped, then I can hit F2, make a box around my workers, hit F3 and click on the minerals there and my workers start moving. F2 select the rest of the workers, F3 send them away. Using the "F” keys is clearly better than going to your main and making a box and then scrolling to your expansion, clicking on your minerals, and then scrolling back to your main. That takes too much time and all your workers will be dead by then. Another great use for the ‘F’ keys is for unit producing structures. Late game, a lot of Protoss and Terran players will have so many units that they want to use more hotkeys for those units. Moreover, since they have so many unit producing structures, there is no way that they could hotkey each structure individual. (In SC2, you can hotkey all your buildings together to one key and tab between different types) So these players will do is hotkey the screen of all their unit producing structures to F2. So they will hit F2 and go back make a bunch of units, and hit 1,1 and then go back to battle.

The f-keys not only make everything much quicker, but you’re much more accurate and less likely to make those mistakes. There’s tons of uses for F-keys, and the most important thing for you is that you just start using them. The easiest starting point if you’re uncomfortable with the F-keys, is to use them on your main, natural, and then second expansion. This way, you can be moving workers around much more cleanly using these F-keys. From there, as your hands develop more comfort with rapidly hitting F2, F3, and F4 you can branch out and assign more uses to those F-keys now that your hands are comfortable.

Now that we’ve discussed F-keys, I want to come back to discussing hotkey setups – what should your control 1,2,3, up to 0 keys be to allow you to play efficiently. First of all, your hotkey setup should be something you use to play more efficiently. So, if the setup doesn’t make logical efficient sense, it’s probably bad. For example, let’s say you’re a Protoss player, and you hotkey your nexuses as 1, 2, and 3, and your units as 8, 9, 0. If you want to be making probes you have to do 1p2p3p (you can hotkey all your nexuses together, and spam your probe button. This will evenly distribute the probes across all of them) and then to attack you do 0a9a8a. In both situations, you’re reaching across the keyboard in pretty much a really painful manner and that’s like totally bad for play because not only will that slow you down, but your hand will hurt, so that would be an example of a really bad hotkey setup.

(I think all these keys have changed. But if you have Classic keys set in options, then it's probably the same)

So if you want to make a good hotkey setup, you have to consider what hotkeys are going to be pressed a lot for each of the races. If you’re a Zerg player, for example, the s key is used all the time to make things, you know, like sz for zerglings, and sh for hydras, and so on. Terran players need to consider the m key a lot, because they’re constantly making marines against Zerg, and the t and v keys for tanks and vultures. Protoss players need to worry about z and d for zealots and dragoons. On top of commonly pressed keys, all of the races need to consider the really really important keys that they’ll need in an instant. The most obvious example is Terrans with scanner. Even though you’re not necessarily constantly scanning all game long, you do need to be able to do it quickly, like if you see lurkers or dark templar. Whatever hotkey setup you want to form, you should just take into account all of these factors when constructing things.

But by far the best word of advice I can give anyone who’s trying to make a hotkey setup is not to be afraid to just start using random hotkeys for anything you might think is important. For instance, when I’m playing Zerg, early on, I don’t have too many units or hatcheries, so I use the 4 hotkey as my "important building". So, for instance, I will hotkey my spawning pool as 4 early on. That way, when I’m microing zerglings around my opponent’s base, I can just hit 4m to upgrade zergling speed and I never have to leave vision of my zerglings. Likewise, I will use the spire as 4 in Zerg vs Zerg. So that way, if I – (again, I’m microing in my Zerg opponent’s base) I can just constantly check the progress of my spire so that way I can know when to stop making units and start saving larvae for mutalisks. In fact, any little nuisance that you can think of in your play, try to create a way that hotkeys can solve that problem, however big or however small that problem might be. For example, early game, when I’m just making my first four or five drones, it always really annoyed me that I had trouble lassoing the drone right as it spawned from the egg, and I always wanted to get that drone moving towards minerals as fast as possible, and on occasion I would screw up. (SC2 allows you to set a separate rally to minerals for the drones, but then again some people micro the early workers for greater collection efficiency) So, every time I build a drone now, I hotkey the egg as 3, so I have my scouting overlord as 1, my next overlord as 2, and any drone that’s about to pop out, I have it as 3. So when it hatches, I just click 3 and then start spamming on the mineral patch. There, problem solved! Naturally, your hotkey setup progresses throughout the game, so for example I just said that I used 1 and 2 as an overlord and 3 as a drone. Later on in the game, I have 1, 2, and 3 as units. And it’s totally okay to consider how these progressions will work in your play – when to override old hotkeys and put in new ones.

With that in mind, let me present three hotkey setups, one for each race. That way, you guys can use this as a reference point for your own hotkey setups. Let’s begin with the race that I play – Zerg. My general hotkey setup is that I have 1234 as units and then 567890 as hatcheries. Notice how easy macroing is when you have 5 and up as your hatcheries, because you can use your pointer finger on the number keys, the ring finger on s, and then the pinky finger on z. Contrast this with someone who uses 1 2 or 3 as their first hatchery placement. It’s really awkward to try to use three fingers. Most of the time, you end up being forced to use 2,2, which will slow you down tremendously, considering you’re building hundreds and hundreds of units every single game with Zerg. 5sz6sz7sz, going all the way up the keyboard, I don’t ever have to rearrange the way that my fingers are placed. I just simply stretch with my index finger a little bit more. The same goes for hitting 5sh and 5sm for hydralisks and mutalisks – I get to use three fingers in each of these circumstances. The 1234 for units is pretty self-explanatory. The a-key is right there and that allows me to maneuver my units totally effectively. I always have my main, natural, and second expansion hotkeyed to F2, F3, and F4, repsecitlvely. That way, when I’m making drones early, I can very easily split them around where I need to by lassoing the drone and hitting F4 to move it to my second base or lassoing the drone and hitting F2 to move it home. Likewise, if I’m getting storm dropped, I can just go F2, make a box, F3, send them to my expansion. There’s a few other little things I do with Zerg – for example, I usually have 0 as my important units such as defilers or queens, that way it’s very easy to access, and that’s not a unit that I’m going to be spamming a whole lot (I think queen gets used a lot more often in sc2 due to having to spam larvae) and remicroing as I would be with zerglings, lurkers, mutalisks, and so on and so forth. That way, if I have maybe four or five hatcheries, and haven’t quite hit six and getting ready to go into macro mode, I can use that 0 key to control my defiler or queen a little bit more effectively. I choose not to use F2, F3, and F4 to macro because I like to expand a whole lot as Zerg, and if I have four hatcheries at four different bases, it takes a long time to hit F2 and then make something and F3 and make something and F4 and then make something and then click on the other expansion and then make something. Considering larvae spawn every thirteen seconds, it’s way easier to just have all those hatches hotkeyed throughout the entire game.

Now let’s discuss a basic Terran hotkey setup. For Terran, my basic hotkey setup is fairly similar – I use 1 to 4 as units, 098 as scanner, and then 567 and 8 as unit-producing structures like factories or barracks. For the most part, with Terran, I tend to macro by clicking on my structures. I’ll hit 5,5 to ping back to a cluster of barracks, and then just spam m all the way along. Early on, though, I do have 567 and 8 hotkeyed as barracks, so for example, if I’m being very aggressive, I can just hit 5m6m7m8m, and you’ll note that that’s fairly easy to do if you place your thumb on the m-key. If I’m doing something more aggressive, like doing a fast dropship, I generally keep 5 and 6 as those factories still and then 7 as the starport. In general, though, 5 to 8 is just the unit-producing structures that I will occasionally need to build from when I’m not looking at them. Most of the time, though, I just keep all my unit-producing structures clustered, and then I hit 55 to ping back to it and to spam-build everything. If I end up with more clusters, I use 6 as the next cluster – so for example if I have a whole bunch of factories in my main and then a whole bunch of factories at an expansion, I’ll keep them both clustered, and then I’ll hit 55, build from the first cluster, 66, build from the second cluster, and so on. Again, 1234 is totally standard for units – 1t2t3t4t is fairly easy to hit if you move your thumb up, or you can even use your index finger. And then, naturally 0, 9, and 8 are all hotkeyed to scanner because those are the sorts of things you need to ping back to immediately. I don’t actually ever have my command centers hotkeyed, I find it very easy to do F2 s F3 s F4 s, use those screen hotkeys over my command centers. (Scanner is now on the command center) Not only is this useful because it helps you dodge storm and reaver drops, but that motion – hitting F2 s and F3 s – actually just feels very pleasurable and is very straightforward to do. (O_o)

Now let’s move on to a Protoss hotkey setup. My Protoss hotkey setup is actually very similar to my Terran setup. I have 1234 as units, and then 5 to 8 generally as my unit-producing structures, and I also macro in the same way. I hit 55 for one cluster of gateways and spam along that and 66 for the other cluster of gateways, and I spam along that. I do tend to have my nexuses hotkeyed as 098. Again, because I’m making a probe every thirteen seconds, it’s very easy to go 0p9p8p to spam probes very easily. Again, I use the F2 F3 and F4 keys to center over my three nexuses at my first three expansions, to move probes around for storm drop. With both Terran and Protoss, I do the re-rallying trick I told you about earlier, where I hit F2 over the cluster, and then F4 where I want to rally. That way, I can re-rally these huge clusters very very quickly.

I want to point out that none of these hotkey setups should be considered as the best hotkey setups for that race. I’ve heard a lot of Terran players use 1 and 2 as scanner because the 1 and 2 are right next to the s, and then they use 3, 4, and 5 for medic marine because it’s very easy to go 3t4t5t, for stim that is. Or a lot of Protoss players like to begin their gateways at 4 because they never really have that many units early game so they don’t necessarily need the 123 and 4 hotkeys all game long.

The most important thing to take from the examples that I provided is that I'm making full use of the keyboard. Every number from 1 to 0 had some use in every scenario. I was even using the F-keys in all three cases.

The best thing that you can do is to think of a complete hotkey set-up and stick to it religiously. For example, again, let's say that you're one of those Protoss players who likes to click on the probe to build it, instead of hitting the p key. You might say to yourself, "Well, let me use 0 and 9 as my nexuses, so I start doing 0p9p and I don't waste that mouse action." What's most important is that you just stick to it, that when you're in-game, you don't get lazy and start clicking on something. What'll eventually happen is, though you begin slow with your hotkey set-up, you'll begin doing it faster and faster and faster, and as your APM increases, the fact that you have an efficient hotkey set-up will allow you to play all that much better. An efficient hotkey set-up is the key to having good micro and macro simultaneously. There are many, many players who are good at just microing or good at just macroing, but by having a really good hotkey set-up, it allows you to be in many places at once.

Since I've spent so much time discussing the keyboard, I wanted to move on to the mouse. Remember how I talked about the pivot point for your keyboard hand being that small bone in the bottom-right corner of your wrist? Well, we want to use that same pivot point for our mouse hand: we want to be putting all the pressure for our mouse hand on that same bone that now is in the bottom-left corner of our right hand. That's why people always joke about the "progamer callus" being that bone, right there--that's because players tend to keep all the pressure of their hands there, first of all, because it's very difficult to cut off circulation when you're putting pressure just on the bone, and also because it's a very solid pivot point to allow you to control your hands in a very straightforward manner.

In fact, if you're at your computer right now, I want you to pick up your mouse hand and place it right at the edge of your table so that you feel pressure right on that bone. And then try moving it around: notice how easy it is to stop accurately and to move it around in quick bursts. Contrast this by moving your mouse hand way far up the table, to the point where, like, the middle of your forearm is now at the edge of the table. It's actually a lot more difficult to move around and control, because you don't have that solid base pivot point as that bone. I still remember the first day that I moved my mouse hand from way up on my desk all the way to the front of the desk. I had a tremendous improvement in my micromanagement, primarily because I was able to easily stop my mouse pointer once I hit a specific location. So, for example, if I wanted to click directly at point x with my mutalisks: before, when I moved my mouse hand to point x I would tend to shake a little bit, and I would be able to get close to x but not quite there: my mouse hand would always waver around at specific locations, but by having this pivot point, I was able to stop much more accurately.

Naturally, any discussion of a mouse comes with a discussion about sensitivity. First of all: do not use mouse acceleration at all. Do not use it; it is horrible and hugely detrimental to your play. You'll find you have big difficulties remaining consistent with your mouse movements if acceleration is on. Many operating systems call mouse acceleration "enhanced pointer precision". You want to make sure "enhanced pointer precision" is unchecked--I know Windows XP does this. In fact, if you're using Windows XP, it's actually impossible to remove mouse acceleration just using the basic menu options. So if you go Google "remove mouse acceleration XP", it will give you a registry key that you can enter into the registry editor that will permanently fix mouse acceleration. I actually do this at every tournament I go to: I manually go into the registry editor and put in the correct smooth-x and smooth-y curves so my mouse responds exactly as I want it to.

In regards to sensitivity, I notice that there's a lot of players who jammed their mouse sensitivity to the max once they saw players playing at 300 APM. Many 300-APM players don't actually have very high mouse sensitivity at all, and, in fact, if your mouse sensitivity is too high, it's really difficult to do those fine-tuned, precise clicks that you need to. I would recommend the mid-range sensitivities: don't go for anything too high, and don't go for anything too low, like what Counter Strike players use. You want to hit something in a nice middle range; I tend to be at the high end of that middle range, but, again, I've practiced it for a very long time and I'm very comfortable with it. Just choose one and stick with it until your mouse hand feels really, really good.

Once you're comfortable with your mouse hand, there's two general things you need to be very good with. One is making huge, fast sweeping movements, like if you want to make a big box around a bunch of units, or you need to send mutalisks from the right edge of the screen all the way to the left edge, immediately. The second is fine-tuned little movements, like if you want to right-click on just the exact SCV that's at low health, instead of the one that's just a few pixels away from it. Both of these require a whole lot of practice, so, naturally, you can improve by just playing a lot, but I strongly recommend playing some reflex games, like ones you'll find at missionred.com, and, in fact, I strongly recommend Minesweeper as an excellent game to help improve your mouse accuracy. When you play Minesweeper, you have to click at such a high rate, at such small boxes, that your head becomes really, really sensitive to fine-tuned movements with your mouse hand, and, in fact, there was a period of time when I played a whole bunch of Minesweeper, and when I went back to playing a lot of Starcraft I found that I had a much easier time controlling mutalisks and zerglings and clicking on exactly what I wanted to, even when I was nervous.

Even when you're just by yourself at your computer, chatting on AIM: if you're going to close the window, try to move your mouse pointer onto the X to close it as quickly and accurately as possible. For example, right now, when I'm going to finish this Audacity recording, I need to move my mouse hand to the stop button. I'm going to try to do that in as accurate a whip motion as I possibly can. Any time you're at your computer doing something with your mouse, just try to be precise with it. And the more conscious you are of this, the more rapidly you'll improve your control in Starcraft, without ever even having to play a game.

Last, if you want to improve your micromanagement with certain units, I strongly recommend downloading micro, single-player maps, or just playing against a computer and controlling the specific unit you want to. So, for example, if I want to practice mutalisk control, I will just open a 1 vs. 1 against the computer and micro it around. I also have a mutalisk training map of mutalisks against scourge. If I want to practice my vulture control and I don't have a Use Map Settings map, I'll just make one--they're actually very straightforward to make on your own--and I'll just plant a zergling at spread-out locations on the map and have one vulture. And after you play this for, maybe, 4-5 hours, just doing the control of one unit, you will have almost mastered that unit. I actually did this with my mutalisk control: I just spent 4-5 hours trying to make sure my clicks were just right to kill scourge, and after just one day of practicing, I had a tremendous boost in my confidence in Zerg vs. Zerg.

That about wraps up the basic discussion of mechanics. What we've covered in this is
How to hold your mouse and keyboard hand
and how to make sure that you have a good hotkey set-up
and how to practice fine-controlled mouse movements.
I hope this is enough as a good base-point that will allow you to improve your micro and macro and help you win more and more games, without ever even having to really change your strategy.

That's all for now. Thanks everyone, good luck, and cheers.