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StarCraft II - The Art of Scouting

Posted Fri, Jun 25, 2010 by Stow

Massive armies can win battles.   A superior economy can give you the advantage to win battles.  However, the most often overlooked resource of modern RTS gaming is intelligence.  In StarCraft II, this is no different.  The knowledge of what it is, and where it is regarding your opponent’s army is invaluable.  Proper scouting is key to victory, and there are a few ways to go about it.

This man may not look like much, but not only will he harvest everything you need over the course of the game, but also give you the majority of scouting intel you could ever ask for.

But he might die trying, too.

The game is won with intel on your opponent!

It falls unto the lowly worker to venture out into the dangerous wastelands to find where your opponent is.   When you specifically choose scout is up to you, but if you are against a Terran it needs to be around your 9tth or 10th worker to ensure that you can get in before they wall off.   Of course, the opportunity cost of sending a scout out that early is huge when your mineral patches are nowhere near saturated.   The cost of defeat when you can’t see that your opponent is fast teching to Banshees is even greater though.

Step 1 – The Hotkey

Most people balk at this, but take your scout and make it a Team via the Ctrl+# of your choice shortcut.   Should you see something, pressing this twice will instantly center the screen on your scout and give you a status update.  You need to be able to issue accurate commands very quickly, but at the same time, not forget that you have a budding base back at home that needs constant production of workers and an eventual teching up to your units of choice.  What are those units?  That’s what this worker is trying to find out.

Step 2 – The Dance

Once the scout is in, your goal is to keep it alive as long as possible.  Move to every corner of their base and get intel on everything that is happening.  Is there a pylon in the corner?   Make note of it and scout it in a minute if your scout dies to see if a hidden tech switch is happening.  Are there two barracks with tech labs down?  If so, there are a lot of Marauders in your future.

Advanced Scout Tactics

First, you can queue actions.  Hold down the shift button and right click a few times in a circle of way points, and your worker will evade attackers and chasing workers for a while so you can manage your base.

Second, don’t be afraid to use an offensive building as a scare tactic.  Many people flip the moment they find a pylon in their base.  A hidden bunker can lead to a scary siege later.  And drones can even heal and free up an additional supply for a split second by building an Extractor and then cancelling it.

Countering Enemy Scouts

Knowing your opponent has a scout in your base is frustrating.  You need to get it out ASAP while not sacrificing too much to get it out.  If you suspect a possible hidden pylon or other building, send one of your workers on an attack command at it.  If they fight back, send a second and have the first one return to mining.

Workers can run faster than any basic unit aside from the Zergling.  Proper control and waypoint usage can keep your worker alive until Stalkers hit the floor versus Protoss, so rush to ranged units if you have a scout preventing you from making your next tech move.

Scouting Further

When the worker can no longer get to where it needs to go, what do you scout with next?  Another worker.  You might balk at this, but the majority of the time in the mid and late game you’re just trying to keep tabs on their expansions and their army.  This does both for you.

Should you need to reveal more, everyone has a trick up their sleeve to make it simple to be aware of your opponent’s plans!

Terrans – Floating Buildings go a long way.  Usually you’ll have an idle barracks sitting around.  Fly it around the map!   Use the waypoint shift-queue system to set up a series of orders to have the barracks fly between bases, fly in the back of your opponent’s base, or hover over vulnerable siege positions, or dropship routes

Zerg – Overlords, overlords, overlords.  Overlords should be everywhere, and if your opponent realizes you have an overlord at every resource expansion on the map, you might need to scramble to defend them.  Map control is one of the most vital parts of the Zerg game, and Overlords give you the intelligence needed to gauge your opponent’s progress and adjust your plans accordingly.

Even with the addition of new spells to the Overseer, your predominant usage of mana is going to be to spawn Changelings for free scouting and possible infiltration.  Hide them anywhere and everywhere, especially alongside the units they blend in with.

Creep Tumors also provide a solid sight radius, and can basically leave half of the map fully visible under your control if left alone.  Most players won’t bother to hunt and destroy these tumors, so take advantage of this and reveal everything you can—and get the speed bonus from the creep as well!

Protoss – Observers of course dominate the stealth recon game, but a random Dark Templar can get you intelligence and cause your opponent much grief.  Throwing one every now and then at your opponent’s undefended expansions can reap far more rewards than an observer noticing it.

Hallucination provides one of the best scouts in the game—whatever you want it to be!  It’s free and it can take a decent bit of punishment before it goes down.  Hallucinated Phoenixes can see almost everything every time before they die to gunfire.

In StarCraft II, victory is decided by knowledge.  With so many counter units and so many devastating abilities that require a specific counter, you have to be armed with the knowledge of what your opponent is getting.  A generic army may win sometimes, but if your opponent focuses on something unorthodox, you may get steamrolled!  Scout early, scout often, and never let your opponent have the advantage of surprise!
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