Dealing With Harassment
Sun 12th Aug 2012 - 6:09pm: Starcraft II
Dealing with harassment is probably one of the most frustrating parts of Starcraft 2. The feeling that “if I leave my base I’m going to get destroyed” is such an uncomfortable way to play the game. That’s why being able to deal with harassment can be so critical to not only surviving games but coming back to win them.
Harassment takes a few different shapes in Starcraft 2 but each can be stopped with the same level of awareness and skill. While the methods of harassment change from race to race and game to game, generally harassment is considered minor attacks that affect your workers and are not intended to win a player a game (directly) but rather to give an advantage. The reason these attacks are so annoying is because you need your workers and while they are getting attacked, there is just so little else you can do.
So step 1 in defending this is simply knowing that it’s coming! Map vision is such a vital part of Starcraft because without it you are essentially playing completely blind. Having Pylons or Observers around the map, having a good Overlord and Creep spread are all ways which players can easily increase the amount of vision that you have on the map.
In reality, harassment only works for one reason: the element of surprise. If a pack of Mutalisks swarm into your mineral line only to be greeted by 3 Archons, those Mutalisks are going to die a pretty quick death. Being able to see what is going on around the map and knowing how to respond is crucial to solid gameplay.
Many harassment techniques are set ups to divert your attention to one area of the map while they attack another. That’s why knowing how to respond to each given situation is so vital and why map vision is as well.
There is such a careful balance required when dealing with harassment because in each instance a player could easily over or under react. Over reacting causes you to forfeit any strong position on the map and leaves you open to a two pronged attack. However, under reacting is just as bad because it could lead to you losing valuable parts of your army for no real gain. For example sending 3 stalkers to deal with 15 Mutas. You just lost 6 Supply for absolutely nothing and are going to continue to lose infrastructure and workers.
If you know it’s coming, it then comes down to reaction times, control and splitting. Seeing a two pronged attack coming and being able to defend it are two incredibly different things. This ultimately takes immense amounts of practice, however, these battles are typically won with positioning over army size. Players are so hesitant to want to leave units defending their economy because it makes their army weaker without realizing that if there is a two pronged attack coming, their opponent’s army is weaker too! This realization, while seemingly obvious, certainly needs to be mentioned! Try and get your armies into a strong position and use your buildings to your advantage. Funneling your opponents around in your base will give you a better concave and provide more damage.
I feel like I mention it in every article but defensive structures and units are so vital to thwarting harassment too! Photon Cannons serve as both detectors and attacking structures, these are so useful for defending against Dark Templar attacks or even Cloaked Banshees. It never hurts to have a few around your workers. Missile Turrets and Sensor Towers can provide great vision and detection of things going on around your base. Players always seem to hate constructing these buildings because it seems like a waste of money in the immediate moment, however, I strongly feel that a few hundred minerals to keep you alive in a game is more than worth it.
Utilize your army!
As I mentioned above, it is almost always a good idea to leave some units at home, guarding your economy. And it’s also good to be smart about which ones you are leaving behind. If you are a Protoss player, leaving a couple of High Templar behind your base is one of the best ways you can defend against either Mutalisk harassment or Terran drops. This is where control and reaction times come into play. If you have vision to see a drop moving in, prepare your High Templar to hit the Medivac with a Feedback and always have a few Stalkers or Zealots for backup. Terran can do similar things by utilizing Ghosts to EMP Warp Prisms with Marine backup. Zerg is a little bit different because of the immense mobility afforded to them with Speedlings they can usually be able to reinforce fast enough before any significant damage has been done.
What if you just need to get out of your base? When you’re being harassed, harass back!
While this seems a little bit counter-intuitive, it can actually have significant success. If you are constantly getting harassed and can’t even get out of your base, make some effort to harass your opponent drawing his attention and forces away from your base. This leaves him with the choice of either moving in to attack you or going back home to defend.
It seems impossible and it seems like you’re stretching yourself incredibly thin, devoting resources to harassment, but if you feel like you’re going to lose anyway, give it a shot! Using Warp Prisms or Medivacs or even just Speedlings can provide a great way of getting out of a tight situation. It takes conscious thought and effort to realize this is what you need to do but in the end it will most likely provide some result.
At the end of the day, harassment is all about positioning and map awareness. You need to see what’s coming in order to defend it and you need to be able to make the right choice when that time comes. Splitting your army is hard for most players because they always want that little bit extra fire power, but sometimes those units are better spent for defensive purposes.