NoseKnowsAll: Just for some quick background information, I’m a mid masters Terran and Protoss player in HotS (and diamond Zerg), and I’m the head coach for the bronze through gold /r/starcraft_strategy coaching sessions (usually) held every Saturday. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how to help players understand their openers without sitting over their shoulder and reminding them to get that Tech lab on time or to continue building Probes constantly.
What I’ve come up is what I like to call:
“The Advantage System”
The Advantage System is a way of assessing your opening build and then coming up with a way to remember the important parts of the build so that you execute it correctly even if you are not executing it perfectly. Obviously, if you’re diamond+ and can execute builds up to the 10 minute mark perfectly then don’t bother reading on unless you want to help other lower league players out.
StarCraft 2 is a game that plays out after players have chosen which advantages they want their opener to have. The three advantages are as follows:
Any good opening build, then, has two advantages, and sacrifices the third in order to power those two advantages more.
Example 1: 1rax FE -> 3rax+Reactored Starport TvX. This build gets a very fast Command Center and then powers hard into getting the important Bio upgrades and Medivacs. The advantages to this build are economy and tech, while it sacrifices having a large army until much later (This is why holding all-ins is hard to do – your army is just a bunch of random marines cowering inside/near a bunker until your economy kicks in).
Example 2: 3gate Oracle All-in PvT. The advantages of this build are both army and tech, while you sacrifice an economy (you stay on only one base with 24ish probes) in order to do it. This is why if you don’t do damage with this push, a Terran player will have the economy necessary to roll over you in a standard follow-up attack.
Example 3: 1gate FE -> DT Drop PvT. This build’s advantages are economy and tech, sacrificing army until much later.
Example 4: FFE -> 6gate PvZ. This build’s advantages are economy and army, sacrificing tech until much later.
Example 5: 1gate FE -> Colossi. This build’s advantages are economy and tech, only getting the army once your first or second Colossus has popped.
You might now be saying – “Great, I can now identify which two advantages any build in SC2 has. How exactly is this helpful to me as a bronze-plat player?” Well the answer is that once you’ve identified which two advantages your build has, when you are performing that build order in a game, YOU HAVE TO BE TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THESE ADVANTAGES given to you.
For instance, when you 1rax FE, the most important thing you have to be doing is constantly building SCVs. Once you have determined that one advantage of your build is that you get a strong economy, then you must be 100% certain that you are constantly building SCVs–otherwise one of the advantages of your build is instantly gone. Likewise, if you delay your tech too much with this build (say, by forgetting gas or not placing your factory down on time) then you will again be removing one of the advantages this build is supposed to give you. It’s totally fine to miss a marine here or there (this build doesn’t give you army anyway) as long as you are building those workers like crazy and being precise with your factory timing.
Likewise, when you Oracle all-in in PvT, it’s totally fine for you to miss a Probe or two while you are executing the build – economy is not part of the advantages this build gives you. However, if you’re not constantly warping in out of your warp-gates or forgetting to start your Oracle perfectly on time, then your tech will be delayed and your army is not going to be big enough for the all-in you’re preparing to do – no doubt losing you the game.
So now – to all you bronze-platinum players out there who aren’t 100% perfect with building SCVs/Probes or making units out of your Warp gates/Barracks, I want you to do the following:
1) Identify the two advantages your build gives you before you start your next game. If it doesn’t give you two advantages or it’s too middle of the road (a reason I believe that 3gate FE in PvT and PvZ is dead), then find a new build.
2) Take advantage of the advantages your build gives you. Don’t stress too much over the third advantage in SC2 that your build doesn’t give you, but you better be striving for perfection with the two advantages you have.
3) Review the game and see how well you took advantage of the natural advantages your build gave you. Try to find a way to improve on your advantage-taking if it’s not perfect.
SC2 is a game with three advantages: Economy, Tech, and Army. All good build orders take advantage of two of these. In game, don’t miss SCVs/Probes for economy builds, don’t forget gas/tech for tech builds, and actually attack at the correct timings for army builds.
Feel free to ask any questions here or on the original reddit thread; I’ll be checking both. I’m not sure exactly how this applies to Zerg players, for they don’t exactly have “builds” per se. However – for all-ins such as the roach/bane all-in in TvZ, you can clearly see that it is an army/tech build.
Once you’ve nailed down your own build orders, and fully understand how they work, you can further the Advantage System into the game itself. Not only can you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your own build, but you can also assess the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent’s builds. Then, you can in-game compare your build to other builds, so that you know how to position your army and furthermore how to transition into the midgame. I would suggest this to all players who fully understand the advantages of their own builds – try scouting out what your opponent is doing and categorize his build according to the advantage system too. Then you can react accordingly knowing that you have a better advantage in one category and disadvantage in another.
Example: You are 1rax FE’ing (economy/tech) vs a 3gate Oracle all-in (army/tech). You have an advantage in economy and a disadvantage in army. Thus, you must defend his push with more bunkers/turrets/pulled SCVs (because your opponent has the army advantage). However, if you keep up your SCV production, then eventually you will be able to take advantage of your economy advantage and win the game.