First Steps 3: An Intro to Strategy (Build Order Basics)

So far I explained a lot of stuff total beginners need in order to control the game – how to handle macro, how to generally prepare for battle, and how to scout. Yet, none of the information really provides any help for „strategy“. People often expect an intro to „good“ strategies, so they know what they should do, the „how“ to do things is of least interest. If you’re still a beginner and skipped the parts leading until here, be warned: Strategy (in the context of these tutorials) doesn’t help that much in the lowest ranks.

Also, this chapter will explain a lot of phrases, rather than „a strategy“. We will perform some analysis of deeper ideas first, so you can understand upcoming advanced techniques better. Consequently, this chapter is designed for D- to D ranked players. However, there’s a huge possibility that you already know some stuff, but looked at some principles the wrong way – trust me, there’s a good chance you did the wrong stuff but suceeded. Hence, if you’re stuck in the high D+ ranks or the low C- ranks (sometimes even up to mid C ranks), a look at this chapter might be of use.

  1. Wrong Legends – Fighting Stereotypes
    1. Brood War is hard to learn
    2. Brood War is figured out
    3. Only Koreans are doing it right – I have to learn from the Pros
    4. Improving, nothing else! I play hardcore!
  2. Definitions
  3. Types of Strategy
    1. The Rush: All-in vs. Aggression
    2. „The Standard“: Focussing on Economy
    3. The Timing Strategies
    4. What Strategy to use?
  4. Build Orders
    1. Absolute Timings
    2. Relative Timings
    3. The Stages of the Game
    4. Game Stages and Builds
  5. Means and Ends
    1. An Example: Means and Ends
    2. Some Simple Rules
  6. Preview: Advanced Techniques

Wrong Legends – Fighting Stereotypes

Brood War is hard to learn

True – it is. Especially when it comes to very complicated timings and underlying thoughts. Yet, any given match up will follow a general pattern, you will understand very easily. For instance, you will soon realize that a Fast Expansion allows you to macro up, or that a special unit combination can counter a variety of potential opposing army combinations. It’s really not as if every foreigner figured the game out; quite the opposite is true: many low ranked players have no clue why and what they do. If you learn principles correctly, you will improve fast. No hundreds of lost games needed.

Brood War is figured out

Following up – many people complain the game is figured out and that there would be universal strategies. Aforementioned points, such as the tendency to expand quickly, might trick you into believing it’s the only way to play. It’s not. First off, the expansion strategies have tons of potential variations, which require you to think a lot. Secondly, there’s always room to add your personal touch to the game – be it by not following the trends, or be it by adapting stuff slightly. Just try a few games and you will realize what I mean.

Only Koreans are doing it right – I have to learn from the Pros

That’s the biggest kind of bullshit I have read in my entire life. It might be fun for a Chess newb to watch a stream, on which a National Master tries to analyze the game of a Grand Master – but he will never truely understand the details. So is the case for Brood War. Again, you will see why Koreans play the way they do, but the details will escape you in the early stages of your career. Blindly doing what they do will not work, simply because you will lack the understanding or the mechanics or both. Do not try to copy their style without thinking.

Futhermore, there were and are plenty of top tier foreigners. There is something I tag as „American School of Brood War“: These guys always cherished Korea more than the rest of us. I do understand why they say real change can only come from Korea; no, not really. Mondragon for instance added revolutionary aspects to Zerg vs. Protoss and beat some Koreans along the way. Respect the Korean high tier professionals for their achievements, but don’t fall for the trap that everything they ever did is the only way to play the game. The average Korean casual is no better than you, nor does he know more than you. Chances are, that you can beat him by odd foreigner stuff. Since you will never turn professional, there’s nothing bad to it – play for fun, don’t play to cause you idiolize Koreans.

Improving, nothing else! I play hardcore!

Yeah, again – play for fun. You should spend about 60% of your training time to play what people will tell you is „standard“ or „a good approach“. In the rest of the time do whatever you like. Playing the same shit all over again is not only boring, it’s also frustrating. Feel free to do something utterly stupid, play different modes or wonky maps like Fastest Possible. There’s no downside to it. Add some variation to your game. As a matter of fact, many of the best foreigners came from non-serious modes. To list a few examples: Mondragon and the Templars of Twilight were BGH players; Koreans often play fun maps in the middle of the night, or wonky team games, they know are not helping them to train. They love the game, and they love many aspects of it. You don’t have to love the same modes, but you can switch – races, modes, maps, whatever you like. If it’s getting frustrating, it’s always better to take a deep breath and do something else for a while.

Definitions

Before we enter the realms of strategy we should try to understand what strategy really is. Trust me, almost none of the foreigners tried to make a difference in between strategy and non-strategy. They use strange synonyms and expect outsiders to understand the lingo right away. Yet, this odd language is – in my opinion – one of the main reasons people get stuck sooner or later. Without outside help, they rarely overcome a bad loss streak and give up sooner or later. Hence, let’s try to understand what we’re trying to learn here.

First off, strategy – in the context of any game or business model – is often defined as the allocation of all available resources to reach a specific goal. You invest money to get more money, you gather resources, build structures, train units and try to win the game with that. It’s such a non-saying definition, that it really doesn’t help. In the context of this guides, strategy will be a plan we have, to reach a specific purpose. We will try to learn to only do actions which have a higher meaning – we only train a unit, because we need the unit. We only attack if we think we get an advantage from it, not because there’s nothing else we can come up with. To sum it up: We will always use our means to our own ends. Strategy, in this tutorials, will not be a Build Order (which is explained later), or the idea to expand on a specific map at a specific time. It’s more about abstract ideas. The main difference between “strategy” and “non-strategy” will be a lot clearer, the longer you read on. For now, remember everything you do should have a purpose.

Now for the first very stupid synonym: Meta Game. Most wannabes use Meta Game as synonym for „the standard way“ to play, or “the standard strategy”. To elaborate, there are tons of ideas, which aren’t used anymore. For instance, Protoss in the early days often opened with one Gatway in their main base and quickly teched up, when they faced a Zerg opponent. In more modern Brood War these kind of openings aren’t all that great – they can be countered easily. Maps changed, and with that, the walking distances grew larger. A lot of the openings required short walking distances. So: They can still be put to work, however, not easily on modern maps.
Or another example „Meta Game“ can refer to: In the old days any Terran would use Marines and Medics in the early game against Zerg – no other units, no Vultures or Tanks. Using an opening and skipping Marines and Medics would be „against the Meta Game“. Doesn’t mean a game can not be won by using Factory units, it’s just not as common.

Now for the twist: Meta Game’s real meaning is only losely related to what people in the forums use. Meta means „in between“ and thus describes thoughts you do „before“ or „after“ a game. For example, analyzing your game plan of a past game in order to improve its weaknesses would be „Meta Gaming“. Or preparing a very specific opening for a very specific map in your head – that would be Meta Gaming. In this chapter we will not care for such things, as the true meaning of Meta Game is part of more advanced strategy.

Types of Strategy

Identifying strategy is anything but easy. Strategy according to chess players, would have a concrete goal: For example trying to attack the F2/F7 square against an un-castled king, or trying to get a pawn to the opposing eigth or first rank. In Brood War such thoughts are hard to make – most of „strategy“ is done before a game and then thrown over completely. In a game’s reality you will have to adapt and adapt over and over again. You can’t just stick with an idea, or pause the game to overthink.

Yet, if we stay on an abstract level, we can identify some very basic strategy principles – overall goals of our opening.

The Rush: All-in vs. Aggression

The Rush is the easiest type of strategy to understand. The opening (sequence of first buildings) aims to build a small, but powerful army. If the opponent scouts late or understimates the power behind a „rush“ strategy, the game can be ended early on.

In its most aggressive variation a rush can be played as „All-In“. Workers are left out and the entire focus of the macromanagement is to produce fighting units as fast as possible – for example only building two Drones  and placing down the Spawning Pool at six Supply; Zerglings are available very fast, most likely in a time frame in which the opponent has no fighting units yet. If the attack works, you won, if not, you lost – because you have no Drones to build reinforcements.

However, Rushes aim to put pressure on the opponent early on. You want to have an advantage very soon – by attacking and dealing severe damage. It doesn’t need to be „the overall“ goal to end the game with an early attack, it just increases the chances that you can.

„The Standard“: Focussing on Economy

What people refer to „Standard“ in modern Brood War is the opposite of a rush. You try to expand first and play defensive in the first minutes. Survival is key. The expansions early on allow you to build more units later – and with more units you can expand again, to get even more units. You will always try to prolong a cold war scenario, until you control most expansions on the map. Only in the late stages you attack over and over again, to slowly crush your opponent thanks to a better economy backing you up. At least on paper, it’s a lot more difficult in reality.

The Timing Strategies

There are strategies in between „Standard“ and „Rushes“ – designed strategies so to speak. Instead of rushing as in an attacking early, you try to generate a timing. You scout a „standard“ opening for example – a very fast expansion. Instead of going „standard“ (expanding) yourself, you start to produce an army. In the early minutes your opponent’s expansion is defended well, in the later game he will have a bigger army than you, because he harvests in an additional base. However, there’s a slight window in which his defenses are weaker than your army, and his second base doesn’t throw enough profit to create a big army – that’s where the „Timing Strategies“ hit.

Again, these can be pulled of as an All-In form, depending how much of macro is designed to only support a one time attack. Most timings need your attack to deal a large amount of damage, but do not require you to end the game. Killing his expansion for instance might just be enough to get out ahead level.

What Strategy to use?

Most veterans will tell you to play the standard strategies – thus trying to get a good macromanagement and end the game in the late stages. That’s a good advice. These kind of strategies train your mechanics along the way – you learn how to deal with your base and control your army, step by step. Each minute it gets harder. You will also face a lot of the rush and timing strategies, thus understanding how they work from an outside perspective. Really, to improve playing „standard“ is very good.

Yet, I already told you to only use these strategies in 60% of your time. They might get boring after a while. Also, you might never truely understand the variety of potential openings, if you never test anything else. Feel free to add other strategies to your portfolio as well – or play with another race for funs sake. Variety just adds, don’t assume you have to play this one way and mustn’t have fun.

Build Orders

Another common mistake: Build Orders and strategy are often used as synonym. Hence, if asked for a strategy, beginners are linked to Build Orders, especially if they have a RTS background. Even if they don’t, they got told Build Orders are what they need – without any explanation. This is not the case.

A Build Order is a list, which a player follows. It tells him when to build what and when to attack. The huge advantage of Build Orders is that they describe how a goal can be reached – in theory – in the fastest possible way. If you, for instance, want to play a Five Pool, you will train one Drone, save 200 Minerals and morph a Pool at exactly this time. There’s not faster way to it.

However, now compare the term strategy to Build Order – there’s a slight, but important difference. The Build Order helps you to realize your strategy in the fastest possible way, but not always the other way round. The example I just listed – 5 Pool – is an All-In Build. The goal, building a Pool at five Supply, is somewhat identical with your goal – to have the Pool early on by sacrificing Drones.

However, for the more complicated strategies, such as Timings and Standards, the Builds will not be identical with your goal. The Timing, just for instance, is a vague idea to hit the opponent when his defenses are down. Now, a Build Order will prepare your attack in a timing window: You will realize that there are cases, in which you have to abandon your timing, since your opponent uses a Build Order that could hard counter yours. However, a timing – the idea of your strategy – might still be doable, if you select a good Build Order as response.

The same thought can be applied to standard strategies and Build Orders. You will realize there are some Openings to pick from, followed by more Build Order Follow Ups for the mid game, and an even bigger amount of potential Build Order Follow Ups for the rest of your game. Hence, the more complicated your idea is, the more complicated the Build Orders will be.

It sounds horrible so far, but reality is a little easier. Screwing Build Orders happens sooner or later, and you will have to abandon the idea that there was some sort of written guide line for all parts of the game. For now, especially if you’re only in the lower ranks, you should try to focus on understanding Build Orders first.

A Build Order has two parts – the right and the left side of them. On the left timings are written down, in the right the action a player has to perform.

Absolute Timings

The notation for absolute Timings is as follows:

8/9 – Pylon

The 8/9 refer to the supply count a player should have. He has seven Probes, one in the making and one supply free to add another Probe. He has to save 100 Minerals and put down his Pylon. Pay attention to the fact that Build Orders leave out information as to how much resources you need to train a unit, research a technology or to construct a building. Also, the placement of buildings is sometimes very important (more to that in later parts) – but usually no information is given.

The reason no real time is used is fairly easy: In online games you will often see lag spikes. This means that the real time might be at 3 Minutes, but tanks to lags your in-game is only at 2 Minutes and 55 seconds.
Furthermore, sometimes the absolute timings have a deeper meaning. In our example the 100 Minerals for the Pylon are automatically gathered, there’s no way you can spend the money already on something else. Also, the Pylon will finish in a time frame, in which your nineth Probe finishes – thus enabling you to train a tenth Probe; if you build the Pylon sooner, no Minerals for Probes are left, if you build it later, no supply is left to build the next Probe.
Imagine you lose a Probe and you are down to 7/9 supply – no need yet to build the Pylon. This is especially important for late stages of the game. Sometimes you do need a Probe more and you can’t simply ignore a lost Probe (or at least should not ignore it).

Relative Timings

The second way to describe something in Build Orders is done like this:

@100 Gas – Research Speed Upgrade
@50% Lair – Morph Hydralisk Den

This can be understood rather easily – the @ refer to some event, e.g. having gathered 100 Gas. The first 100 Gas are then spent on the Speed Upgrade (e.g. for Zerglings), since this is the most important upgrade you need.

The second one is a little harder to hit, especially for beginners. If your Lair-Upgrade is about 50% you build a Hydralisk Den. Pay attention to these details, as you might have to save some Resources to hit the timing.

Again, a deeper meaning is hidden in between the lines. For instance, the @50% Lair entry will generate a timing, in which the Lair and the Den finish exactly at the same time. If you saved 200 Minerals and 200 Gas, you can immediately research a Lurker upgrade.

There are plenty of Build Orders using this logic, for instance allowing you to get 100 energy in two ComSat Stations when you attack as Terran, or finishing your +1 Ground Weapon Upgrade as Protoss at the time your first attack hits Zerg.

So, do pay attention when you stumble across relative timings – they can help you out a lot for future games. Don’t take notes like that for granted, or some random result of testing crude timings – they can be transfered onto other builds most likely.

The Stages of the Game

Once you opened a page like Liquipedia, or visited a popular strategy forum, you will soon realize there are dozends of Build Orders. It’s only natural to ask for a „good“ one to start out with. Some Build Order that’s universal – good against anything. Here’s the downer: Any Build Order can be countered, at least softly. Most depressing for a beginner is that he will have a hard time to realize he was soft countered – small details pile up and lead to devastating losses. Not only that, he might also still struggle with mechanical demands, e.g. minerals piling up. Hence this sub-chapter: It might help you to understand where you went wrong, all mechanical aspects left aside.

Any game of Brood War has three stages: The first minutes, in which you chose your opening is usually referred to as „Early Game“. There’s no real rule when the Early Game transitions into the mid game – most times you could say the Early Game ends, once your first expansion really kicks off and you unlocked the first higher tier upgrades – such as a Citadel, a Lair or Factories. The last stage, the Late Game, starts once one of the players added a third expansion and unlocked the first top tier technologies – such as Hive, Templar Archives and Robotics, or Armories and Starports. You get the drift – it’s all very vague, but you should be able to follow me here. If you need numbers, Minute 0 to 5 would be early-, Minute 5 to ~15 mid game and everything else late game.

Game Stages and Builds

Now for the identification of Builds and Strategies. You can easily realize if a Build Order supports an All-In Strategy – if the list is short and if you leave out a lot of workers, it’s very likely an All-In Strategy Build.

Now for the hard part: Separating Timed Strategies from „Standard Strategies“; the problem is that both utilize „timings“ along the way. For instance, a Timed Strategy will tell you to attack somewhen in the mid game with an army you prepared for exactly this purpose. It will further describe how the attack has to happen and on which location. Afterwards you are left on your own. You have to decide what to do with a half assed attack – you might have caused damage, but not enough to end the game. You’re now level with the opponent, but how to follow up is up to you. There’s no real actions left in the Build, e.g. when to take your third expansion, or if you should unlock further technology.

Standard strategies however are mostly not really there. More likely, there are dozends of potential openings you can chose. If you look at Zerg, you realize that – in any match up – you can either open with a 9 Pool, a 12 Pool or a 12 Hatch. Regardless of what you pick, you can follow up the opening choice with a second Hatchery in your Natural expansion (the one closest to your main base) and a third in another Natural on the map. Not too much changes in these scenarios, at least not on a beginner level. Obviously, a 9 Pool is there to put on extra pressure on your opponent early on with a number of Zerglings, while you start to pump more Drones a little later. A 12 Hatchery focusses on Drones early on, but leave you vulnerable to early attacks. A 12 Pool is somewhere in the middle, some kind of compromise between both options – safe, but not hard on your economy. Anyhow, you will be able to transition into several „Standard“ Builds – Builds that aim to start a race for advantages: A 6 Hatchery Hydralisk Build, or a rather dusty 3 Base Spire 5 Hatch Hydra.

Other examples can be found for Protoss – a Forge Fast Expansion can be done by going Cannons first, Gate First or Forge First; a Terran can fast Expand with Command Center first, Barracks first, or after his first Siege Tank was build (against Protoss that is).

Mind you, this was only the list for openings if you want to go for a long game. After the inital first minutes and depending on what opening you scouted, you can pick from a long list of choices. You can switch from your initial idea to go for a long game and instead prepare a Timed Strategy.

At this point we’re back to the introduction and stereotypes – this is where you get your first glimpse of Brood War’s depth: It looks as if most games are the same, but the devil hides in the details. A Factory a minute earlier might be a sign for a Timed Attack – otherwise Terran might go for a very passive aggressive long game, also referred to as turteling.

To overcomplicate the thought process so far: Standard Builds do use very similar timings than Timed Builds would use. For instance, Terran will attack Zerg in „Standard“ games at a moment of Zergs weakness, just after the early game ended. Afterwards Zerg will counter attack Terran once the mid game ended.

Means and Ends

And now we arrived at the end of the introductory chapter about strategy. We will untangle all the facts I just spammed and make life a little easier for you.

It sounds as if there is no standardized Build Order out – that’s wrong. Most Builds have in common that their instructions become increasingly blurry once you raise your third expansion. There are simply too many options to describe all potential scenarios. Also, veterans do have a good idea what choices they might pick. Don’t worry if you’re overwhelmed and if you’re still in the low ranks – your opponents are as lost as you are.

The check boxes are the symbol for “Beginner Builds” – example of PvZ Builds on Liquipedia

This being said, I recommend you to go to Liquipedia and pick some of the Builds – one or two for each match up. Learn them and go with them. For each race, there are symbols added on the overview pages – these will tell you that „veterans“ recommended Builds. They’re not omnipotent, but will serve you well; either because they will guide you long enough, or because they indeed can only be soft countered. The soft counter part should also not worry you in your first 200 games per Build. Afterwards, there’s enough to improve. For now, just remember to get the Builds done in real game, that’s hard enough to start out. Not impossible, but a neat challenge.

> Protoss Strategy

> Zerg Strategy

> Terran Strategy

Back to the header: When reading such a recommended Build, try to understand it while reading, not while playing. There’s a huge difference. Obviously, you have to learn the numbers. However, do ask questions.

1) Which step prepares the next?

We already saw that the 8/9 Pylon allows you to constantly produce workers. Hence, look out what kind of steps in a Build are crucial. It’s not too bad if you build a Pylon 2 Supply numbers too late if you already have 100 Supply. But missing out on two Probes in the first minutes might be huge.

2) Are there relative timings I should memorize?

There are a couple of relative timings we told you – for instance the 50% Lair – Hydra Den Trick, to be able to get Lurkers the fastest way possible. Yet, there are dozends of examples you might want to know. For instance, there are builds in which you research a +1 Ground Weapons Upgrade for Protoss, while you also research the Zealot Legspeed. The timing, if done correctly, will allow you to launch your first attack with faster Zealots and the +1; this is huge, if one of the upgrade misses your attack will be significantly weaker. Futhermore, if you understood the relative timing, you might know what to do ingame, if one of the upgrades is still underway. If you realize the +1 will take another 20 seconds, because you screwed up slightly, you can simply just wait – or move already in position. Not a bad mistake. However, realizing that you missed an upgrade entirely, will tell you what to worry about.

3) Why would I attack now? Is there anything else I should do?

Very global and major instructions should always be carefully analyzed. For instance, if a Build Order tells you to attack at X Supply, you should ask yourself what the purpose of the attack is. Especially „Standard“ Builds will not really tell you. If you realize that while you attack for the first time with a bigger army, you also have to expand the purpose becomes clear: You want to distract the opponent from your expo. If your attack doesn’t really do much damage, it’s not that important. Well, you shouldn’t just throw away your army. However, raising the expansion and securing it might be key.

If you ask these three questions while reading, you’re very likely to learn a Build the correct way. Also, for a post-game analysis of losses these questions come in handy. Try to view any lose twice – once to realize when you first made major mechanical mistakes (forgetting supply depots, overlords or pylons / piling up money); the second time try to find where you left what the Build told you to do and how you can do it better next time. Did you attack but not expand? Did your expansion go up later than it should have? Have you focussed too much on an attack?

Especially the third point, the question of the purpose of major instructions, is very important. Build Orders sometimes do not tell you very universal advice: Expansions, for instance, will allow you to go forth with your build. If you are late on expansions the entire build gets screwed up; you might think you did it right, but that’s usually the point where you went wrong – getting supply blocked for too long, building too little workers, or building expansions too late.

An Example: Means and Ends

The last paragraph needs an example for you to understand. One of the most common mistakes for Zerg against Terrans is their misunderstanding of Builds. Usually, you would see a game in which both sides Fast Expand. Zerg then takes the action by transitioning into the Mid Game with Mutalisks. He will attack Terran here and there, leave and expand a third time in the meantime. Then it’s Terran’s turn: He will leave his base with Marines and Medics and attack Zerg’s bases if possible – or at least challenge the map presence of the opponent.

Now for the mistake: Zerg watches a lot of Koreans and they see how many units Koreans snipe with Mutalisks. They kick butt, they kill tons of SCVs, Turrets and whatnot. Then Terran moves out and Zerg has Lurkers ready. But our amateur doesn’t, because he still attacks. Most times Zerg even does rather well with his Muta-Micro: he kills a bunch of stray Marines and sometimes even Depots and Turrets. What he doesn’t realize is that Terran, with time going by, is able to build two Marines for every lost Marine. At some point he can move out and kill the Mutalisks in open field, where micro is harder.

At this point Zerg is in desperate need of Lurkers. However, he can only produce Lurkers or Mutalisks – hence the third base is needed. An additional Geysir allows him to produce Lurkers, unlock Hive tech and produce other units at the same time. Only three or four Lurkers are usually enough on beginner level to do that – two on each base’s choke point and the game’s over for Terran’s first major attack. Terran himself has to go for Siege Tanks and Vessels.

Yet, Zerg didn’t understand the logic of the Build. He thought that it is required to kill a lot of things, so he can maintain his dominance over the map. However, the main purpose of the attack is to stall the first attack – to prolong the time Terran has to sit in his base. Even if Terran pushes out to soon, Zerg could kill the first push with some Zerglings and all his Mutas. It doesn’t matter if he loses the option to attack Terran’s base, as he will soon have Lurkers. Sadly, he completely forgot about Lurkers.

And here the chain reaction starts. With delayed Lurkers he can get a third gas. With no third gas he can only add Lurkers in low numbers and a few Defilers. Just enough to hang on antoher five Minutes, until Terran has enough Vessels and can get rid of Zerg’s defenses. No Ultralisks to challenge the rising amount of Terran units – the game was lost at the point Zerg forgot to expand.

Identifying mistakes like that is not easy going – not by a long shot. It usually does take a lot of convincing from coaches to point out the underlying problem: Not the Muta Attack, but the expansion timing.

Some Simple Rules

Now, let’s say you went to Liquipedia and found some recommended Builds. Just follow them. This goes for, let’s say, until you reached a higher D+ and finally struggle to rank up to C-. This is only natural. It’s less a case of „do not read further material“, but more a case of „don’t worry if you hit a wall on D+/C-“. That’s where the advanced stuff really does kick in.

Mechanics

For your first couple of hundred games you should mainly focus on getting down any build correctly. Spend 60% of your training time on exactly these builds, the rest on whatever you like. However, if you do something else, try to get info along the way – what plays out, what doesn’t. But always take this new information with a bit of salt: It might only work because it’s wonky and other low ranked players can’t deal with wonky. It might not be the best kind of knowledge. It’s there to round up your portfolio – for now.

Workers

Next, always focus on your worker production. Terrans and Protoss should pump workers constantly, until their fourth base is running. Only then, and only if you did not lose many workers to attacks, stop production. Always transfer workers to your new expansions. 6-8 for Fast Expansions, 10 – 12 for a third and the maximum (12-15) to a fourth base. If any expansion is mined out, transfer whatever is left to another expansion (except gas workers, keep them in).

For Zerg it’s a little different and I’m kind of underqualified to say anything. Theoretically speaking for any non ZvZ match up you want to have 12 Drones mining per Expansion, plus three more for Gas. That’s enough, you don’t need to transfer workers, except for your Natural Expansion to speed up mining – and in this scenario only up to four Drones maximum. Always replace missing Drones – if you use five of them for hatches, build five and send them to mine. It’s not too bad if your fifth expansion runs only on 10 Drones, but your main on 14. The average matters. Also, for new expansions, be prepared to spend one wave of Larvae on Drones – these you transfer. If you have no time, it’s also okay to produce Drones in the newly build Expansion.

Attack and Expand

As we saw in the example, do ask the purpose of attacks. Most times these are there to take an advantage from your opponent, even if only temporarily; or more likely, they are done to shield your expansion, by binding an opponent to his bases. Hence, if in doubt, do attack, but retreat if you can’t end the game. A hint: You most times won’t be able to end the game with an attack, a fact you will learn very fast. Instead, expand and be prepared to defend the expansion. Once you feel save and there are no instructions, attack and expand in the same manner again. If no attack is an option, use your army to defend the upcoming expansion.

Also, do not be fooled by thoughts like: His expansion just finished this second, my army is near, I shall attack!. That’s a bloody foolish idea. Since your opponent uses a Standard Build that anticipates this kind of behaviour, your timing will just be bad – unless he screwed up big times and does whatever. Even if this is a point already part of the „advanced Strategies“ it should be stressed out. If you aim to attack an expansion, your attack timing should hit slightly after it finished and workers were transferred. Chances are, that in the process of an expansion being floated over / warped in / morphed, the army of the opponent is in place and can still be defended. However, the upcoming short minutes after, the opponent has to a) transfer workers, thus having fewer income, and b) he will add additional production buildings, which will also take away resources for potential re-inforcements. Since you lack experience of judging when this time frame can be abused, you prolly shouldn’t waste too much thoughts of being „offensive“.

Attacks

At some point in the game there is no more expansion to take, or you feel like you should do something pro-active. Well, if you’re up ahead in at least one mining base, you can try to attack. If you are not, and have no info about the opponent’s forces – let go of the idea. Attacking a fortress will lead to casualties, heavy ones usually. It’s a coin flip, low ranked players are sometimes so bad it might work – but sometimes not. The effect you have is confusion – you can’t really understand if it was a good idea or not. Hence: only attack if you’re absolutely certain you have the upper hand in terms of workers backing you up; not only workers, but also production facilities. Chances are, the low ranked opponent has a large bank roll, is supply blocked at about 160, but has better capabilities than you. Consequently, you might get his army down to 80 supply, yours too – but he will add re-inforcements and – if you’re lucky – you’re only behind in 30 supply and have to fight an equal opponent again!

Main Goal

Your main goal is to get experience. A feeling for when attacks happen, which attacks are good, and which will destroy you. Take every loss as win – you win experience. If you are careful and can handle the fact that you lost, you can improve from there. Every good player has this attitude – maybe except Idra. He will try to not fall for the same shit twice. Keep your head up, if reading carefully, you will be able to defeat the lowest ranks really fast. Also, don’t worry if you’re stuck, sooner or later it’s bound to happen. Rather, have fun experimentating with small changes. This will take you a long way.

Preview: Advanced Techniques

In the upcoming chapters, we will finally provide some content for D+/C-/C players, who struggle with basic ideas. It’s also neat info for low ranked players, so if you want to learn more, don’t hesitate to learn more.

We will go further in detail about Builds, and where you get information wrong. Stuff like the Muta-Blunder will be expanded; we will look at the logic of transitions, and ask what people mean when they tell you to „fake“, „threaten“ or do some other stuff you thought you understood already. It’s not really strategy, more like techniques.

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