A Second Look at Engagements
Mon 7th Jan 2013 - 6:35pm: Starcraft II
In a previous article, located here, I addressed the idea of picking the right engagements. I realize that it was fairly concise and did not examine many things in much detail, it was mostly an overview, however, in this revised look at the topic I hope to provide more insight to hopefully allow for you to have more success on the ladder!
When it comes to the bottom line, attacking in SC2 is the most important thing. No matter how amazing your macro is or no matter how well you can scout and keep map presence, if you don’t know how or when to attack, you’re going to have a bad time. There are so many factors in the game that can affect the outcome of a battle: vision, high/low ground, reinforcement rate, upgrade disparities, spell use, unit composition, economy and even a few others. With all these things to keep track of and manage during a battle, it should come as no surprise that without knowing the right engagement, things won’t turn out too well.
One of the most crucial things worth mentioning in regard to engagements is the importance of the defender’s advantage. This is something many people forget, don’t realize or just don’t think about, but I can’t stress it enough. It is almost always better to be defending an attack than to be the one on the offensive. The reason for this is quite simple. If you have a firm position, let’s assume you are at your base, you have a number of things going in your favor.
Your reinforcement time will be much quicker than your opponent’s, you can have established defenses and perhaps even additional static defenses such as Missile Turrets, Spine Crawlers, and map terrain will almost always be in your favor. The last point about map terrain is not always true, however, many maps, around bases, offer cliffs and ledges for the defender to position units like Siege Tanks or flying siege units like Brood Lord. These positional advantages can be of immense use during an attack.
Having a presence on the map, while obviously a very strong tactic, is also tricky and dangerous. If you are holding center watch towers or attack paths, you absolutely need to be aware of everything your opponent is doing, otherwise, you open yourself up to immense amounts of harassment and run-bys which can lead you to not only losing your positioning, but your economy too. While holding the center of the map, try and take control of as many watch towers as the map affords. Keep an eye on attack paths and always have a method of scouting your opponent’s base. Sending Observers or sacrificial Overlords can go a really long way to you holding the position. While you might lose the investment of the unit, the information gathered can be immensely useful.
So when you do this? What are you looking for and what does this have to do with engagements? Scouting while retaining map presence provides a great many things including ease of mobility back to your base or into your opponent’s. If you manage to get a scouting unit into their base you need to be on the lookout for a number of things which provide an indication of what they are doing.
Upgrade facilities: if you see upgrade facilities, take note of how many, if there are two going simultaneously, odds are you have a window to take advantage of because they are most likely waiting for a specific upgrade timing, be it 1-1, 2-2 or 3-3 before they will really move out. Making note of your opponent’s upgrades at the moment and seeing the facilities working can let you compare upgrades and know if you should make your way out. An attack at this time can catch them off guard especially if the upgrade had recently started, the initial investment of the upgrades will set their army back.
Expansions: catching the creation of an expansion can be huge because it affords you at least two things: the ability to stop the expansion, or do significant damage to infrastructure. Let’s assume your opponent is going for an expansion at their 3rd. Odds are they are going to have some units there to defend, but considered they have invested in the expansion, they probably won’t have all that much. This gives you as the attacker the ability to simply run up, snipe the third and leave, probably unscathed. Or, you can send a few units to handle the expansion to pull them out of position and run into their natural. In times like this, the geography of a map can actually work against the defender. Taking an expansion generally means your army is relatively small (barring maxed situations) so you’re almost forced to send your entire army to handle any threat, leaving other areas of your base completely exposed.
Amounts of and new infrastructure: as with almost all of the previous things, spotting this can let you be aware that your opponent is planning some later game attack and means their army will be weaker. Spotting the morphing of a Hive can give you an opening to hit before Brood Lords or Ultralisks. This can be of great value considering your opponent is likely saving up for these units and you can delay them significantly by forcing money (and larva in the case of Zerg) to be spent on things they didn’t want to have to spend on. If you scout a massive amount of Gateways or Barracks, it seems pretty obvious they are planning on a huge attack in the immediate future, it might be advisable to retreat home and prepare to defend.
The above indicators really just give you an idea of what you should be looking for when scouting a base and allow you to see potential openings where your opponent will be weak. Once you’ve decided to attack, the engagement ensues and you must make sure to not squander your advantage.
Equal vision can be incredibly important. You never want to be in a situation where your opponent has Siege Tanks raining fire on you and you have no vision of them to take them out. This is why it is generally important to make your way to the same level of elevation, or at least have accessible methods of providing vision. Terran players can utilize scans to see up ramps and cliffs and destroy high ground units. Simply having air units with you can make the vision pursuit much easier.
When attacking, don’t get over zealous. If it isn’t working as well as you’d hope, just leave. An unfavorable engagement obliterate your chances of winning a game. Be aware of your opponent’s units. Does he have Sentries? Can he force filed you in? Are tanks waiting for you? You need to be aware of all of these thing before you commit to any engagement.
As with just about everything in this game, success comes with one’s ability to scout and anticipate their opponent’s next move. Engagements are no different. If you suddenly realize that you are in no position to fight, retreat. If you are holding the center of the map and see the other player coming and you don’t feel like you can make a stand there, go back to your base and establish a defensive position. Take advantage of their movements and that units generally clump up when going up ramps making Fungal Growth, Psionic Storm or Siege Tank blasts all the more effective. All of these things can make defensive engagements significantly easier.
This article didn’t deal too much with positioning, my previous work on the subject, however, did which can be seen here . The goal of this article was to provide some further insight into when it might be advisable to proceed with an engagement rather than how to make the engagement itself.