General Strategy Insights
The mechanics of the game change every minute. The first few minutes (2 to 3 minutes) of the game require player's full focus on determining his or her build order and possibly pumping out a few basic army units. The build order is simply the order in which the player chooses to build structures and units. The number of different possibilities allow a variety of different buildings to be created in the order which will be consciously chosen by the player.
The First Mistake: Ignoring the Build Order
Probably one of the most common mistakes a beginner Starcraft player can make is to start creating units and buildings with no regard to the build order. Usually this happens because the player simply doesn't know why choosing the build order is important.
While the beginner player is not aware that the importance of sticking to a particular build order is something that the designers of the game actually thought about, a more experienced player will take advantage of it to get ahead quicker and will likely use that knowledge to win the game.
If you would like to learn more about build orders follow this link. If you already know something about build orders, the next logical step is to figure out whether you want to use a short or long-term strategy (e.g.: micro or macro).
Choosing Strategy Time Length: Micro vs. Macro
Within the first minutes of the game, the player should normally worry about whether to use a short-term or long-term strategy. Ideally a good short-term strategy has room for further evolving into a long-term strategy. A short-term strategy is commonly referred to as a micro strategy or more commonly just micro. The sign of a well-plotted strategy is one that has room for adapting to new conditions. And if your short-term micro tactics should fail, there shouldn't be a reason why it can't evolve into a long-term strategy, commonly referred to as the macro strategy or simply macro.
At the start of the game, the entire map is covered with what is known as the fog of war. This is the area that is not revealed to us, unless one of the units or structures is positioned in that area. It's important to keep an eye on what the enemy is up to early in the game. In fact, I use one of the first worker units (drone, SCV or probe) to immediately scout the enemy's base.
Scouting the Map
In the beginning of the game the player should scout the enemy base early with one of his worker units available from the very start. Using your worker unit (such as drone, probe or an SCV) it is possible to do a quick enemy base "drive-by" which will reveal the structures and the units that are being built by the enemy player.
Scouting the enemy base early in the game will not reveal the exact strategy the enemy player has chosen. This is simply because there hasn't been enough time for the enemy player to build anything concrete, however, this information can reveal potential intentions of the enemy. It is up to you to figure out what the player on the opposing team is plotting based on the limited information provided by the scouting unit.
One of the examples of that can be based on the following logic. If your scouting unit spots early vespene gas collectors at the enemy base, it's likely that the player has chosen the macro (long term) style of gameplay because he may be preparing for building units that require vespene gas, which usually means massive units that can only be built later on in the game. However, that can also mean that the player may be preparing to upgrade regular units to 2nd or 3rd levels of strength. In this case we should also pay attention to whether the enemy is constructing a building that allows specific upgrades.
For example if a Zerg is building an Evolution Chamber, that means the player is looking to upgrade the defensive (armor) or offensive (weapon strength) abilities of his army. of course that might also mean that he is preparing for building a Spore Crawler to defend against a flock of Mutalisks or other air-based units. The more you practice the easier it becomes to identify the intentions of the enemy player since, while the game allows many possibilities, the common build-order patterns repeat themselves over and over again.
Being Prepared for an Early Attack
A well-planned early attack can make the entire difference on the outcome of the game. Often such an attack is referred to as a rush. One of the most popular rushes are the Zergling rush, because the Zerg race is capable of producing zergling units very fast early on in the game. In fact Zerg have the fastest rush in the game which can be devastating to an unprepared player, especially on smaller maps.
Depending on the enemy's race there are many ways to prepare for an early attack. For example, when I play as the Zerg race, I usually take one vespene geyser and focus the rest of my drones on mining minerals. By the time my drones collect 100 vespene gas from the geyser, I redirect them to mine minerals. At this time my Spawning Pool should be completed and I immediately use it to research Fastlings. Theoretically, this will give me enough time to prepare for an early attack from Protoss or Terran, or even another Zerg. At this point my drones are no longer mining vespene gas, but the vespene geyser only cost me one drone (50 minerals) and an extra 25 to actually morph into for a total of 75 minerals in expense. The same amount it would cost to maintain 3 zerglings.
It would be nice to be able to wall-off as Zerg, but Zerg's organic structures are only allowed to be built on the surface of the creep. There is a very slim chance that the creep will be expanded to the entrance ramp to our base early in the game, unless you focus on building an the queen unit early on. Instead, Zerg players are generally forced to focus on building units instead, as part of their early game stategy. While the enemy player is trying to find where I am located on the map, build offense units, and then send them over to my base for an early attack, I use that time to get the Fastlings upgrade. While the enemy player's army is marching toward my base, I will use the Fastlings upgrade as the advantage to have more powerful units by the time they actually get to my base.
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