Greetings my fellow gamers! For those unaware, Starcraft 2 is the biggest game of the RTS genre currently (and since its launch back in 2010), with the biggest playerbase and the largest amount of tournaments (and also the highest prize pools).
Today’s article is going to be focused on a list of things you can do to improve your skill on SC2. All you need to know before we dive deeper into a more detailed insight is this: it doesn’t matter if you have no gaming background on other Real Time Strategy games – if you put in the time and dedication required you will be able to get progressively better at StarCraft 2 and even be able to reach the GrandMasters league.
I will be basing my general tips on this article on my own experience – I’ll tell you guys a little bit more about it below.
My experience in RTS
Before I got started with Starcraft 2, I had never really played any other competitive RTS – my experience was limited to toying around versus bots on Age of Empires and the Warcraft franchise (mostly War2 and War3) when I was a little kid. My real gaming expertise was on the MOBA and MMO genre – and almost nothing from the skill sets that kind of games require transfer over to SC2.
After dedicating some time focused on improving my mechanical and overall abilities on RTS, I managed to reach the top 1% of the North American server, despite starting out in Bronze League. It was an extremely fun and rewarding experience that I’d definitely recommend to anyone – the beauty about a 1v1 competitive esports is that you can clearly recognize your own improvement and progress as time goes by.
Don’t be discouraged from trying! I’ve heard a lot of people say they won’t give StarCraft 2 a try because the game is “too hard”. While the skill cap is absurdly high, you can play and have fun from the absolute lowest level, you don’t need high APM or insane micro skills to be able to enjoy the action. And also, the climb through the rankings is a lot of fun as well.
How can you get better in SC2?
In this section, I’ll list some of the things that helped me out the most during my journey from Bronze to High Masters (even got a little peak at GM for a while).
Watch your own replays after each match
This is probably one of the most important things you should do if you’re looking to improve on the game. It is extremely common for MOBA/FPS players (or any team esports in general) to blame their teammates for their own shortcomings. In a 1v1 battle like StarCraft, you don’t have that luxury. If you lost, it’s your own fault (combined with your opponent’s merit, of course). There is no point in crying imbalance, you got to take the losses head on and try to find solutions to the holes in your strategy.
Watching your own replays after each game (especially after your losses, but also rewatch the matches you win as well) allows you to focus on important aspects of the match that you failed to realize or account for in real time – Starcraft 2 is a very fast paced action, even the most experienced gamers will have weaknesses they have to address constantly.
There are a number of questions you have to keep asking yourself while analyzing a replay:
- Were you able to keep up with production while you made an attack?
- What about when you got attacked?
- How many times (and try to figure out why) did you get supply blocked?
- Did you expand at the right timing?
- Would you have done more damage if you could muster an attack earlier?
Likewise, would it be better had you not committed to the attack and just pulled back without engaging?
Write down these questions and try to come up with some of your own to help your analysis. As you start to get the hang of things, you’ll be able to blast through your replays recognizing the most important parts of it – and then you can focus on getting better on that specific weakness you found.
Watch professional streams
This is also very important if you’re on a path of SC2 improvement. Watching pros on their own first person perspective will give you a lot of insight and help with your overall game.
Try to notice how they set up their hotkeys (and think if you can improve your layout somehow), the amount of time they spend looking at their bases or at their army. Try and pick up on some micro tricks they might be using to save time or optimize an attack.
Before choosing someone to watch, browse a little between all the streams and watch a little bit of each one of them. That’s because Starcraft 2 can be played in many styles, and it’ll be more helpful to your climb if you watch someone with a style similar to yours (so you can kind of mimic what they’re doing).
When you get a solid grasp on the race you’re playing, you can start watching streams of the other 2 races. Those will give you a better insight into how they defend, their timing attacks, expansion strategies and much more. Knowing your opponent’s potential and abilities will also help you greatly during your journey.
Practice your Micro and your Macro
At the lowest leagues, I would recommend focusing solely on the macro aspect of the game. The reason for that is simple: most players below platinum have a lot to improve on their macro and you can straight up win vs them if you can keep up your production without getting constantly supply blocked.
Improving your micro will come in handy once you reach High Diamond and Masters, because that’s when a few more units surviving an engagement here and there (or killing more workers / units with your initial harassment) can really swing battles in your favor.
To practice this outside of a match’s environment, you can use some custom games. There are a bunch of them focused on the fundaments of macro and micro, so you can pick your favorite. I would recommend Darglein’s micro trainer and Marine Split Challenge, as those are the 2 custom maps that helped me the most, even after reaching Masters League.
Practice Build Orders
Executing your build orders well is extremely important in Starcraft 2. An attack that might kill your opponent at the 7-minute mark, might be completely deflected (and even lose you the match) if it strikes at 7:30. Getting your BO down to a tee is mandatory if you want to get past the initial leagues.
There are plenty of guides with BO’s around the internet. I suggest you choose a good one and write it down – and start practicing it on custom games against easy bots before trying it out on the ladder with your points at stake. You can also download replays from events such as ESL or HomeStory (they usually release every single replay from the event after it’s over) and copy from a professional. Or you can write one down while watching someone streaming – you can choose whichever suits you better.
Focus on learning 1 build order for each matchup first, then once you’re executing them perfectly, start adding more variety on each different matchup (so your opponents won’t be able to guess what your opening is every time).
These are just some general tips to help you to improve StarCraft 2 skills along the way – I hope they can be helpful to you as they were to me. Don’t worry if you get stuck in a league for some time, keep working hard and dedicating your time to improving and you will be rewarded eventually!
Thanks for reading, and see you! Good luck!