A path to Starcraft 2 mastery
August 4, 2010 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Now that Starcraft 2 is out, how do I go from beginner to skilled amateur or semi-pro?

I recently got Starcraft 2 after a long wait. I played the first game but in a very casual fashion and mostly centered on single player and games with friends. Now that I have the sequel, I find myself wanting to learn more and become better, at least enough to understand the core of the game and have some solid skills. I have no real intention of competing in big tournaments or being the best there is, but I enjoy learning the game and getting better.

The problem is that so far I haven't found a good, solid site where I can start from the very basics and progress through various skills, learning more as I go. Most of the sites and forums I have found so far are very disorganised and don't present any linear plan to improve. Sure, if I wanted the exact details on a "3 tank push" for terrans or a "3 gate robo" build for PvZ, I know exactly where to look. But why do they work, how they came about, why they are logical, how do you adapt to changing conditions, how do you choose an opener and a build order, all of that is fairly vague and not outlined clearly.

Message boards are fun but also suffer from being disorganised. I've seen a few youtube videos but there again, they're mostly short, specialized videos.

Strategy guides? I've seen the brady games guide on the rack and it seemed a bit basic (and already out of date in some respects). I've tried searching online but all I find are stupid SEO pages about the same damn guide, the results are completely polluted and useless, and I can't find any real review of that guide. So I have no idea if there are any real good guides out there.

I've downloaded a few custom maps meant to be trainers, but again they are overspecialized for my needs. I have a multitasking trainer which is tons of fun, but it is again context-free and provides absolutely no advice as to how to gain and improve multitasking skills. It just presents a scenario and leaves you to your own devices, which is great for those who know what to do and how to best do it, but leaves me hanging.

Ideally what I would like would be Starcraft 2 101, followed by 201, all the way up to a Starcraft 2 GED or even a masters'. Input? Ideas? Links?
posted by splice to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
1. Starcraft 2 is designed around the rock-paper-scissors mechanic, learn each unit/building and how to counter.
2. Play ladder matches.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:05 AM on August 4, 2010

One thing to note is that all the skill in the world won't get you around the need for a good enough APM rate.
posted by invitapriore at 11:08 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The best way to learn is probably to play the campaign on Hard difficulty or whatever simply to learn the mechanics and then to play multiplayer games. You will get destroyed. But, and there's the key, you can save the replay and then watch it afterwards and the replays are really stellar. You can see exactly what every player is doing, what he is building, his APM, everything. Everything. So you can see what your opponent is doing to demolish you and learn to do it too, or figure out a counter.

Worrying about APM at this point is like a little league player worrying about whether he'll play first base or second base for the Yankees.
posted by Justinian at 11:21 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know of any specific all-encompassing guides, but here is some information I think can help you learn.

I'd spend time on the team liquid forums (both the "Starcraft 2" one and "Starcraft 2 Strategy") - the quality of information there is very good. On the strategy forum they talk about specific strategies and why they work. For example, there is Sheth's ZvP Guide which goes over in detail how to play protoss as zerg. He goes over at least 3 different build orders, how to adapt them depending on how the other person plays, etc.

In addition, you can spend time watching technical commentary like Day[9]. You can find all of his content here. He looks into high level play and explains why a certain build or play is good. His "Day[9] Dailys" are about an hour of in depth analysis and are very helpful. Some good ones for new players are: Daily #0132 Back to the Basic & Daily #0126 Fine tuning an opening.

On Preview: APM is useful, yes, but even some of the best players (White-Ra for example) have APM in the sane range and are very successful.
posted by escher at 11:22 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was looking for something similar last night and found an excellent writeup of the basic skills on GameFAQs. It was the only FAQ for the game so far, but if more have been added since then it's "[name]'s multiplayer FAQ" or something similar. I'm at work, otherwise I'd link directly to it.

A couple of tips that surprised me were to skip the campaign unless you needed a tutorial in the absolute basics (like me, who hasn't played Starcraft over a decade, and even then it was cheating my way through the SP campaign) or you want to see the story (again, me), since it puts you up against situations and tactics that bear no resemblance at all to playing another human and provides you with a lot of "classic" units (Medics, Firebats, Goliaths, etc) that aren't available in multiplayer. Similarly, skirmishes again the AI on the higher difficulty levels are of limited use, since the computer will apparently cheat and give itself extra resources if it thinks you're getting too far ahead (like rubber-banding in racing games).
posted by Merzbau at 11:30 AM on August 4, 2010

wongcorgi, invitapriore, those are exactly the kind of contextless tips that I have little use for. Sure, APM is godly, but it's not the whole game, and far, far, far from it. The RPS tip is also far from the whole game, there is much more to it than that (micro, macro, build orders, scouting techniques, blocking techniques, etc. etc.). Having a high APM or knowing that hellions beat zerglings won't take me all that far.

I did stumble upon liquid but didn't look the forums over very much. One issue I have with forums is that, yes, there is quality info, but finding it is usually a long process, going through pages and pages of low content threads before finding something good, bookmarking that, and repeat. There's a lot of effort involved in filtering what's good, what's not, what's outdated, what's plain wrong, and I don't have the expertise required to tell what's what.

I guess lacking a complete course laid out for me, I will make do with threads here and there, commentary videos, etc. But I would really like an A-Z type of site or video series with a logical progression in learning.

I haven't been studying replays as much as I should. I know I saw some on youtube and thought to myself the observer tools were pretty nifty, but at this point, I don't know if seeing my opponent's actions would be much use considering I don't have a way of knowing why he does certain things, what could be improved, how I can counter his strategy and all that. I guess that's where the guides and the videos come in. Thanks for that link to the Day[9] videos. If there are more interesting series like that I'd love to learn about them. So far I've enjoyed the sc2noobschool videos but there are only a few of them and they're quite basic and don't really explain middle and endgame scenarios, only the opening, really.

That GameFAQs FAQ may be useful, I'll look it over. It certainly looks interesting and handily reinforces certain points I've picked up on, with reasoning and explanations. Thanks for that. If it was 10 times bigger I would be in heaven.
posted by splice at 11:55 AM on August 4, 2010

I personally have not played the game yet, but many people on another forum I frequent are recommending day9's match analyses.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 12:06 PM on August 4, 2010

Check out page 2 of the ArsT SC2 review. It has a little bulleted list of strategy sites. Replays of pro-level play (both with and without commentary) have historically been the most important thing for me on those rare occasions when I've tried to be amateur-competitive at an online game.
posted by kavasa at 12:24 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I found this post to be excellent.


It's a pretty good starting point. He basically says, do this stuff and learn to do it well, and you'll be doing pretty well.

If you master that stuff, then you can delve into the details.
posted by ChrisManley at 12:37 PM on August 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Practice. That's all you can really do.

Filtering the signal out from all of the noise is just part of the process. It'd tedious but unavoidable. Maybe in a few years bored teenagers will write more comprehensive guides but now is basically time to explore the frontier.

Nobody has any incentive to share this knowledge wrapped up with a nice little bow on top. There's no reason for people to lay things out A-Z. People at mastery levels aren't going to freely hand out all their tricks and tips, especially those that play for money. You basically have to analyze what they do and read/watch the analysis of others.

I went to school with a kid that was a champion of starcraft 1 in India. He'd light up about exactly what you had to do when. He'd teach what you had to do within the first four minutes of the game so that you'd be a decent opponent and then offer no further advice. Similarly, there are magic the gathering kids that will hand you a 300 dollar deck and destroy you with a few unopened booster packs. My point is that nobody is going to hand you instant-skills.

It's a ridiculous time commitment. The only thing more consuming would be to move to South Korea, learn Korean, and watch the four channels of Starcraft they have on TV there.

For those reading this that're just looking for interesting games/commentary to watch, Rise had fun with the beta.
posted by beardlace at 12:38 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Practice and have fun. That is truly the best you can do.

When you play on the ladder commonly a few strategies are popular at each moment (in the lower leagues at least). You lose to them a few times, then you learn how to counter them and then new strategies will be popular and so on.

I have been helped a lot by PsyStarcraft's replays. He cast his own games and usually tell how he think/thought during the game. He even has some games he cast live.
posted by furisto at 12:58 PM on August 4, 2010

There's a class for SC2 on University of Reddit that just started a few days ago. Should be exactly what you're looking for.
posted by DrDreidel at 1:03 PM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to play chess competitively, which is similar. Studying/memorizing strategy, openings, counters, etc. gets you better much faster than playing a lot of games. So, I'd recommend: Watch the pros and copy what they do. Review your replays. Test yourself with actual quizzes or practice matches with some kind of predetermined challenge (not rated ladder matches, so you can quit and keep practicing whatever part of the game you're working on) to verify you're actually learning. Play a few rated games only when you feel you're at a new level of learning (from your study of the pros' games).
posted by sninctown at 1:40 PM on August 4, 2010

I think the general steps to being awesome are as follows.

1. Work on your macro. Practice your economy until you can pump out massive armies very quickly. Nothing will really teach you this other than practice.

2. Learn the counters. Once you can build armies fast start scouting what your opponent is building and build the counter for it. The game has built in challenge missions that are pretty good for learning the right unit for the job.

3. Work on your micro. Things like pulling weak units off the front, focus firing, or dancing around your enemy will greatly enhance the effectiveness of your units. The catch is that you have to be hella good at multi-tasking to pull it off.

Oh yeah, learn your hot keys. My starcraft buddy (who is a way better player than i am) always yells "it is a two handed game!" when he catches me playing with just the mouse. If you can control group your production and you know the hotkeys you can queue up units without having to look away from the front.

I'm guessing this is stuff you already knew, but it bears repeating because what it really all comes down to is practicing this stuff.
posted by cirrostratus at 1:50 PM on August 4, 2010

HDStarcraft also has a number of tutorials mixed in with the games he commentates. just look at his stream and search for the tutorials
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 4:12 PM on August 4, 2010

cirrostratus's outline is good. I think the problem I'm seeing with your question is you're asking "how do I get to be a good player?" and wanting a procedural guide to how to set up a base, counter different attacks, and so on. You're not going to have a straightforward guide with a multi-faceted game; it'd be like asking "how do I become a good baseball player?" but with the caveat that you're controlling the entire team.

Practice, practice, practice. Get good at the basics, try some strategies, and when someone stomps you with a particular tactic, look for a tutorial on how to counter it. The next time, you'll do better. Then practice some more.
posted by mikeh at 7:29 AM on August 5, 2010

I've learned more from watching high-level commentated replays of games than from any strategy guide or forum.

Husky and HDStarcraft are 2 really well-known commentators of SC2 games, capturing and even hosting some of the most renowned tournaments.

Having a skilled commentary really helps to understand the dynamics of a game, and watching them play out lets you see in real time a lot more of the mental tactics and the more intricate push and pull responses that need to happen to really be great at Starcraft. They're also super-fun to watch!
posted by artificialard at 8:06 AM on August 29, 2010

Just found Shawn Day9's casts, which are probably the *best* way for an acquainted player to improve at Starcraft 2. He goes beyond the simple casting but really orients each cast with a lesson in mind, weaving in higher, overall strategic thinking with the tactic of the week. These videos are really explicitly to inform players on how to get better.
posted by artificialard at 3:42 PM on August 29, 2010

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