Improving Your Macro
Fri 27th Jul 2012 - 7:33pm: Starcraft II
If you spend any time on one of the community websites you have undoubtedly heard people saying “forget about this or that, focus on your macro”. The thing is, if you are a new player, do you necessarily know what that even means? Probably not. And the reason for that is because macro is one of the most complicated aspects of the game and one that is able to differentiate between good and great players. Before we can discuss methods of improving macro, it is important to understand all of the different aspects of the game that fall under this very general term.
Macro consists of: training workers, building Supply Depots/Pylons/Overlords, spending Chrono Boost/MULEs/Larva Injections, getting upgrades, building army, expanding, multitasking and generally spending your money – all on a constant basis.
It seems pretty complicated right? It’s for that reason that when you get told to just “forget about builds, focus on your macro” it feels very overwhelming and difficult. As it should! No one has perfect macro. Many pros are near perfect in that respect but this is something that a lot of players struggle with. I know a lot of people who, while laddering, get stuck in a league simply because their macro is lagging behind the rest of their game.
Now that we know what macro consists of, let’s break it down.
Spend your money! Keeping your money low is generally considered a sign of good macro. Of course there are going to be situations in the super late game when you start building a bank (that is to be expected) but if you are on 2 bases and sitting on 3000 minerals, you probably have a problem. The first thing to think about is: “do I have enough production?” If you are earning money faster than you can spend it, increase your infrastructure! Build a few more Gateways, go double Forge, do something that will spend your money but will also help you in the game long term. Think about it this way: for every mineral that you aren’t spending, you are making your army worse. Try and keep your money low!
I have no doubt that the biggest stumbling block for lower level players are building workers and obtaining supply. Always keep these two things in mind because both of them are critical to the building of your army. If you have no workers, you can’t create an army, similarly, if you don’t have supply, you have no space for an army! It is vitally important to get into a habit of constantly creating workers and constantly getting supply. Think about it. If you’re a Protoss working on 4 Warpgates, every time you do 1 full warp in, you just spent 8 supply and need another Pylon. It’s good to get used to building a Pylon or 2 every time you do a warp in just so you can keep up with your supply.
Spending the energy from your Town Halls (Nexus, Command Center, Hatchery) is also critical to strong macro. A Zerg without extra larva is as good as useless, same goes for a Protoss without Chrono Boost to keep up in worker production with the other races.
Expanding is another area of macro which many have issues with. I will probably be writing a specific article on the approach to expanding in the future but for the moment a general rule of thumb is whenever you are gearing up for a major attack (that isn’t completely all-in) throw down an expansion. This will allow you to fall back to a superior economic position if your attack is able to do some relatively significant damage to your opponent. Worst case scenario you just cancel the expansion and you’re no worse for wear.
In the above I’ve examined a few of the different aspects to macro and some thoughts on how you can improve it for yourself. However, in order to actually be able to do any of these things efficiently, you need to have somewhat of a streamlined interface.
Hotkeys are your friend!
Keeping your Town Hall on one of your control groups is one of the easiest ways you can improve your worker building efficiency because you never actually have to look at your base. You can be in the middle of a battle, tap the control group for your Town Hall, build a worker and resume the fight; all the while you have been watching what is going on in the battle. Obviously this is significantly more difficult that it sounds. It takes a level of concentration and awareness to be able to remember, during the heat of battle, that “oh crap! I need more Drones!”
The same goes for the utilization of your infrastructure. Having all of your Barracks, Factories, Starports on control groups can allow you to continually reinforce your troops during battle. This again takes some level of awareness to remember that this needs to be done but ultimately, will drastically improve your gameplay.
The using of screen locks is also extremely beneficial to proper macro. Being able to jump to a Nexus or a proxy Pylon with the single push of a button can make the reinforcement process or the building of supply much easier. Screen locks are something that took me a while to get used to but now I simply can’t live without. I would strongly recommend players rebind their Screen Locks from CTRL+Shift+F(x) to just Shift+F(x). It makes the creation process much simpler and more effective. You change these settings by getting to the Menu > Hotkeys > Global > Camera
When you play your next game I would really not advise you to try and accomplish all of these things, it simply won’t work. Your builds will feel sloppy and so will your gameplay. Instead just focus heavily on one or two of these aspects, primarily workers and supply! Focus on building workers and never getting supply blocked, this will let you feel so free and flexible during gameplay and allow you to accomplish so much more than you realized. Once you get to the point where you feel like you’ve got that down to a science then you can move on.
Keep in mind that when you initially try and focus on improving your macro you will feel more slow and awkward, that’s normal, it comes with the territory. Just remember that with enough practice these things will become second nature and will improve your game.