Starcraft 2: Aggressive Gameplay Guide
Fri 23rd Nov 2012 - 8:52pm: Starcraft II
Starcraft 2 is a very dynamic game. There are many different decisions that need to be made at any given time and, in my opinion, one of the most game defining decisions that needs to be made is when and how to be aggressive. During the game, there are a number of factors which can severely limit your ability to be the aggressor in terms of offensive actions, however, I do believe that there are other ways you can play aggressively that are not necessarily directly related to your army.
The goal of this article will hopefully allow you to examine your in game situation at any given point in time and decide if you are capable of engaging in battle or if there are other avenues you may want to pursue beforehand.
Without a doubt, this is something that many players struggle with. I have seen many games of my friends and even my own where the decision to finally move out of your base just never really occurs. It feels too scary, you feel that if you move out or attack you will just get crushed in an exchange so it leads to the massive turtle style we see a lot of players using.
Obviously, this is not to say that I have any problem with sitting back and playing the macro game, that should always be an option, but the fact is that I see many games where the player just sits back in his base and blindly makes units because he has no map presence, no scouting information or anything of the sort.
The first step to being aggressive is knowing what you’re up against. Blind all-ins aren’t so much aggressive as they are risky so take the time to analyze your army against what your opponent has, check upgrades, make informed decisions! So how do we do that? Well, it’s not all that complicated really.
Each race has their own unique ways of scouting their opponent to find out exactly what is going on so I won’t dive too much into that. Suffice it to say you need to remember to use these abilities! Don’t get so caught up MULEing that you never scan their main, don’t be so caught up with Colossus production that you can’t spare 20 seconds to Chrono Boost out an Observer, don’t be so worried about your supply that you can’t sacrifice an Overlord. This is the problem I see most often. Players get so caught up in “macroing” that they forget what they need to be looking for in their opponents. Here’s a rough guideline of what you can look for.
Upon scouting their base look for a few things:
Expansion – did he take an early expansion? Especially something really greedy like a Nexus first? Are you in a position to punish that? Do you feel comfortable throwing down your own expansion and playing a macro game? Which paths do you take? Upgrades, tech? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself!
Upgrade structures – always be on the lookout for these! Specifically, the amount of them can be a huge determinant in what your opponent is doing. If you spot a double engineering bay you can safely assume that he has no intentions of engaging you any time in the immediate future – the questions posed above then come up again.
If you spot 1 upgrade facility, it might be a little bit more tricky. Focusing on one upgrade at a time isn’t nearly the resource dump that double upgrades are. So, while your opponent may still want to wait to hit you with a +1 timing or something along those lines, you can never completely count out the chance of aggression coming your way.
Advanced Tech – spotting this is a pretty obvious indication that you’re not going to be attacked for a bit. If you spot a fast Fleet Beacon (I know it’s an exaggerated example) you can be pretty damn sure that he isn’t going to come at you until he has at least a few Carriers in his army!
A massive army – a pretty good indication that he plans on attacking soon! Once you’ve spotted the army though you need to be able to deconstruct his units and decide what exactly you need to be able to counter them with and start thinking about the positioning of your army. However, this is an article about being aggressive so we won’t really talk too much about defending here!
An army advanced – this can be a bit of a tricky situation to be in. When you see your opponent moving out on the map the natural response is to tighten up and get ready for defense, create extra units and prepare for an engagement. However, if you can turn a defensive situation one into an aggressive one, you’re at an advantage.
Think about what you have at your disposal. Drops, Warp Prisms, Zergling run-bys! These can be excellent mechanisms of aggression that for your opponent to choose whether to engage you anyway, split up his army, or retreat and deal with your counter attack. Pulling your opponent in multiple directions is a key aspect of aggression.
Once you’ve spotted these things and assessed the situation you need to make the choice of whether or not you are going to be aggressive. If you spot a really fast expansion out of your opponent, odds are he won’t have much of an army. So, you can try and force the issue right there, or you can take your own expansion. This decision can be extremely costly though because if you, ultimately, are not successful with your engagement, your opponent is up an expansion and you have no advantages to fall back on.
Perhaps the most important thing you can remember about aggression in Starcraft is that it does not necessarily entail the committing of your entire army to an attack! If you take nothing else from this article, please remember this! The mere illusion of aggression can be more than enough to make your opponent uncomfortable and stay in his base a little longer. It’s called posturing.
If you look like you want to attack soon, you immediately put your opponent in a defensive mindset which buys you additional time to continue to execute your plan. Just showing up to his front door, not actually engaging, but sitting there, containing him, is an excellent example of aggressive play in Starcraft. You can’t be afraid to do this. You don’t necessarily need to have your entire army with you, but ti is simply this illusion of pressure that can cause your opponent to force out extra units and spend money on things he doesn’t necessarily need rather than tech or expansions.
This illusion of aggression is such a powerful tool and the real trick to it is being able to realize that you’ve succeeded and to not commit to hard to the contain! If your opponent decides to come at you with an army that will crush yours, just leave! Don’t stay and waste units, that will never get you anywhere you want! Remember to think about your macro during this time, you have time, so use it! Throw down expansions or additional tech! You need to make the absolute best out of this situation.
In a future article I am going to break down the scouting “a massive army” section more. What exactly you’re looking for in an army and how to get the most out of an exchange!
Thanks again for reading! Please feel free to leave comments or feedback! I’m always looking for ways to improve!