Courtesy Blizzard Entertainment

The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand.

I want to be a better player of StarCraft 2.

The first step in achieving a goal is having that goal in mind, stated as simply as possible. I’ve managed to get where I am today by keeping such goals simple and doing my best not to lose sight of them. I want to be a bestselling (or at least decently selling) novelist. I want to hold down a decent job in a good town. I want to not eat frozen pizza, ramen and PB & J every day.

Such goals are oriented towards changes in career, income and lifestyle. We also set goals for ourselves in our leisure, or at least we can. Sitting through the entire March Madness tournament is a worthy goal for some, while for others it’s beating the pants off of a beloved family member in chess or checkers or Magic or hold-’em poker. For me, delving more deeply into the underlying mechanics and strategies of StarCraft 2 has given me the motivation and desire to become a better player.

First and foremost it’s because I really enjoy the game. Even when I lose, I can see how an opponent stopped my offensive dead and came out of nowehere to gut my economy. Sure, it’s frustrating to lose. But as my goal is to become a better player, not necessarily to win, I use that frustration to teach myself. It’s a subtle difference. Instead of walking away and doing something less irritating, I make myself watch the replay, look for flaws in my play, see what the opponent’s up to and what they’re thinking.

Enemy psychology comes into it more than you might think. Not just their strategies and methods of play, but our means of anticipating, reacting to and, eventually, manipulating them. It may only be computer simulation of science-fiction armies blasting the snot out of each other on distant planets, but it’s still warfare. And Sun-Tzu has a few things to say on that subject.

I played the original StarCraft and its expansion, and while I liked the mentality and characters of the Terrans, there was something missing from their army list I couldn’t put my finger on at the time. I opted to play Protoss more often than not for the short time I was involved with multiplayer. But I never really committed myself to being a better player – I simply had other things on my mind at the time. StarCraft 2‘s Terrans have quite a few new tricks up their sleeves, from the hulking Marauders to the transforming Vikings to the mighty Thor. It’s such a signature Terran unit – covered in angular armored plate, tough, versatile and most of all, really big and really loud.

So as I progress and continue to improve my StarCraft 2, I’ll reflect on how the observation of both success and failure will contribute to both my enjoyment and the evolution of my playstyle. Due to a lucky break in my placement matches, I’m a Silver League player, better than Bronze but not as good as Gold. I want to get to the Gold level at least, and ideally move on to higher levels. I’ll apply Sun-Tzu’s teachings where I can and I’ll be sticking with the Terrans. I do like the other races, but this time around the appeal of the cowboys in space is undeniable and while every strategy may not involve a Thor, I have one or two in mind that I hope to refine as time goes on.

Hence… The Art of Thor.

Not to be confused with the upcoming movie from Marvel Studios.

I may post video supplements to go with the lessons I learn, and I’m going to be reading a lot of the Team Liquid wiki & forums as well as watching TotalBiscuit and Day9‘s videos on the subject. I highly recommend anybody interested in being a better player do the same, as well as watching this space. Even if I only do it in screenshots, I’ll be showing the impending and quite possibly painful process of learning not to suck at StarCraft 2.