“Oh, hello, BlueInk. That’s a nice base you have. But you don’t have anybody there to defend it, huh? Oh, well. Guess I’ll just Prismatic Beam everything to death. GG”
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
It sometimes takes a humbling experience to help us realize how much we don’t know.
My first loss after a hot streak of 6 wins knocked me out of Silver league into Bronze. Granted, I knew I had been placed in Silver due to a lucky in during my placement matches, and it was unlikely that this ‘grace period’ would last forever. I had a long string of failures in my first few ladder sessions, and it was bound to catch up with me sooner or later.
But seeing the notification, saying that I was placed in bronze “based on performance” had me sitting back and evaluating what I was doing wrong.
Reflecting on my matches and replays, it slowly dawned on me that I was focused on the wrong things. Many of my wins came from clever uses of cloaked Banshees and canny Siege Tank placement – showcases for micromanagement. What the pros will tell you, what any player with a record of wins greater than losses knows, is that micromanagement (hereafter called ‘micro’) is just about the last thing you focus on as you develop your playstyle.
Instead, one must first develop their macromanagement, or ‘macro’. Basic principles, like when and where to build, how often to produce units and where one’s focus should be at any time. These are the building blocks of better play, like footwork in fencing, keeping one’s guard up in boxing or the use of one’s pawns in chess.
As a Terran player, there are three things one must always, always be doing to be successful. They’re things I plan on focusing on as I struggle to return to Silver-level play and rise beyond.
The Space Construction Vehicle – SCV for short – is the Terran building unit. Like Protoss Probes and Zerg Drones, a player can’t maintain an economy or expand their base without them. From the beginning of a match to its end, one must constantly be producing more of these little guys to ensure bigger, better things down the road. One of the first things an SCV will build in a Terran base is a Barracks, and the Barracks should always be producing Marines.
The Marine’s a well-rounded unit. Balanced for both ground and air targets at range, just a few of these Gauss-rifle-toting power-armored colonists and former convicts can keep the enemy at bay. Collected in Bunkers or upgraded with better weapons and armor, if the Barracks is churning out Marines you’ll have a potent force for attack or defense before you know it. This isn’t to say that every Barracks you build should just build Marines. The other Terran infantry units compliment the Marines quite well in certain situations. But if you send out your army to assault the enemy base and aren’t producing constantly from your Barracks, when the enemy attack comes (not if – when) they’ll happen across a ghost town.
Getting supply blocked sucks. It happens when the amount of units being produced exceeds the amount of supply resource available to your forces. In Warcraft this resource was called ‘food’ and made a touch more sense. You don’t want to make an army you can’t feed. Bad things happen. The solution is to have your builders taking a break from mining minerals and gas to make the structures that produce more supply. In the case of Terrans, that means Supply Depots. Once the initial structures are in place – Barracks, Refinery, etc – it behooves you to pepper a Supply Depot or two into the mix as you expand your base and build more advanced structures.
In addition to keep you from getting supply blocked, building Supply Depots will help you spend your resources. You don’t get bonus points at the end of the game for minerals unspent or gas sitting in your Command Centers. Build more buildings, units and research to soak it up. When in doubt, as Terran, build more Depots and Barracks. No matter what your force composition, more Marines won’t hurt and you’ll want to be able to support them.
I wouldn’t have been able to refocus my play without help. From bouncing my initial reactions to demotion off of my wife to getting advice from the folks at the TeamLiquid forums, I doubt I’d be as enthusiastic to wade back into an arena that’s so thoroughly kicked my ass. But just like rejection for the writer, 404s for the programmer and calls from bill collectors for the responsible adult, this is how we learn. Without our failures, we’d never know enough about ourselves to reach for, achieve and enjoy our successes.
More on that tomorrow. For now, I will continue to build my macro skills and learn the ins and outs of cutting and commentating replays for public consumption. I might hold off on posting such supplements until I return to Silver league, however. I mean, who wants to watch a Bronze level newbie stumble through basic gameplay?