Starcraft 2 Strategy Decision Making

Decision-making in Starcraft 2

While many people think that Starcraft 2 is all about adopting one of many strategies and playing rock-paper-scissors against your opponent's strategy, there are actually many decision points within each game where you have the opportunity to react to the situation and to your opponent. Well, what ARE those opportunities, and how does one recognize them and respond appropriately?

The Hellions are Coming!


Successful Harassment

Many people react the wrong way in Starcraft 2 after they've done damage with successful harassment. Why? Because they think they've one-upped their opponent by reducing his MILITARY strength. This statement is actually false, at least as it applies to the IMMEDIATE situation. Sure, a few minutes from now, your now-stronger economy will ensure you have more units than your opponent, but as of that moment, you are likely to have the weaker military.

Why? Well, simply because, even if you didn't lose your harassment units, your army is split up. The harassment units are either dead or hiding somewhere, and it's likely that his entire army is together. Furthermore, if you decide to expand or tech from this point, and he decides to spend any savings he has an go "all-in", you are going to lose.

After a successful harass, your opponent is going to do one of three things:

  1. Try to rebuild his economy and use any forces he has defensively, to stop further harassment and keep your army at bay;
  2. Immediately counterattack with everything he has, figuring that either his economy will never recover, or that you won't have enough units to defend because you built more "harassment" units than fighting units;
  3. Harass you back and try to even up your economies.

You need to scout to determine what he's going to do.

Signs of #1 include putting up bunkers, static defense (turrets/cannons/crawlers), spreading out siege tanks in defensive positions (up on ramps, etc). He may also even try to expand in a hidden location, hoping you won't spot it!

Signs of #2 is simply his army moving out. You should have a unit near his base so you know the instant he moves out. Other signs can include taking the Xel'Naga towers, scanning / scouting your base, or pokes at your base with one or two units.

Signs of #3 include the creation of Dark Shrines, the addition of Tech Labs on Starports, single or double medivacs moving around, or Spires / Mutalisks. The construction of new static defenses can also mean upcoming harassment.

What You Should Do After Successful Harass

  1. Check your own defenses. You are ahead now - can you hold off a push? Can you defend against counter-harassment?
  2. Get detection against cloaked units. Do you have vision of all possible approaches to your base, by land or air? Think about putting down a few static defenses to prevent him from wrecking YOUR economy in return.
  3. Continue to harass so that your opponent feels that he can't leave his base without you wrecking it. In the meantime, your stronger economy should get you further ahead.
  4. Expand, but ONLY if you feel you can hold off an attack if he brings everything. Even if you can't do this immediately, you should be able to soon, because he's if busy rebuilding his economy, you should keep yours ahead of his.
  5. Scout for hidden expansions.

You Just Won A Major Battle

In Starcraft 2, the game doesn't always end even if you win a major battle. Sometimes the enemy will reinforce just enough to hold you off, or have control of a choke point, or what remains of his army will easily counter the few units you have left. At this point, you are likely going to retreat with what you have, and you can consider the battle "won" if you traded your army efficiently, and perhaps also did some damage to his base or workers, or if your army is still bigger than his but not enough to finish him off.

So what's your strategy from here?


This situation is the best time to "get more ahead" by using your units to grant you map control, and take critical expansions while denying any to your enemy, who is now unable to engage you, or perhaps even unable to leave his base lest you crush it.

If you were the attacker, you should have expanded just as your army moves out, unless you think you can stream reinforcements for the final deathblow to your opponent. However, in most cases, expanding is safer to get you ahead.

You Just Lost a Major Battle

The game isn't necessarily over if you lose a major battle. So long as he's not cleaning up your base, don't quit! You still have some options:

  1. Harass. The best thing for you right now is to get ahead in economy, both so that you can recover economically, and even get ahead, or pin his army into his base so he doesn't just come back at you with another wave and finish you off. It is KEY that your harassment units survive, because you can't afford to replace them, and you need to keep the threat of further harassment ever-present.
  2. Expand recklessly. If he cannot finish you off, perhaps he has less than you thought. He may also expand himself, and not build the additional units required to finish you off. If you stay defensive, he's eventually just going to overwhelm you. If you are going to do this, you should ALSO harass, as above. If successful, you will prevent him from wondering what you're doing (expanding) because he'll be too busy fending off your harassment!
  3. Go for an all-in counterattack. This has the advantage of troop buildup just in case he decides to throw everything at you in an attempt to finish the game. If you can make him lose more troops than you do, the balance of power may shift, and YOU may end up with the stronger army and be able to deny HIM expansions, or simply go kill him as he attempts to solidify his lead.

Starcraft 2 and other great games

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