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Beginner's Guide by shockwaveXPOW

Version: 1.0 | Updated: 04/13/2004
Highest Rated Guide

Starcraft Beginner's Guide

Revision 1.0

Shockwave (shockwave_xpow@hotmail.com)
Copyright 2004 by shockwave
All trademarks and copyrights contained in this document are owned by
their respective trademark and copyright holders.

None of this information can be reposted anywhere outside of gamefaqs
without my express permission.  


      A. Cloning


This is a beginner's guide to Starcraft, it is primarily geared
towards players who are looking to go online and do decently well in
multiplayer against other humans.  It is also helpful for people who
are trying to get through the campaigns but some of the principles may
not apply as directly since the maps and computer tactics in campaign
play can be very different from multiplayer play.  The sort of advice
in my guide is also generally applicable for RTS ("Real Time
Strategy", of which Starcraft is one) games.  I won't go through my
credentials, but hopefully this guide is written well enough to speak
for itself and makes logical sense.

This was posted on the Starcraft general discussion forum,
and is reproduced here.  I would recommend visiting that forum to ask
about specific questions.  Starcraft is a complex game and there is no
guarantee on the quality of advice you will receive through reading
random online guides (I guess that applies to my guide as well,
you can be the judge).


Here are the five basic skills that I think every new player should
start out trying to get decently good at.

1) Always be building peons (SCV/drone/probe) from your town hall
   (town hall (CC/hatchery/Nexus) and put the peons to use on
   minerals/gas. Don't ever stop. Your CC/Nexus should always be
   flashing, your main hatchery should always have at least one drone
   building from larva. If you need to queue up peons, do it, but try
   to avoid having to do that since it ties up resources. When you get
   gas, typically put a maximum of 4 peons on it if unless it's far
   away from your hall.

2) Never be held back by your supply limit. Always build supply early
   enough in advance so that you're not waiting for your next
   depot/overlord/pylon. E.G. Generally you should start building your
   first depot/overlord/pylon when your supply reads 8. In later game,
   build it much earlier if you're pumping units faster.

3) Try to keep your resources as close to zero as possible by spending
   whatever income you're getting. If you have a barraks, make sure
   it's always making marines. If it's making marines and you have
   leftover money in the bank, build another barraks or tech, expand,
   etc. Just don't let your money sit in the bank.

4) Dont make too much static defense (cannons/ bunkers/ turrets/
   sunkens/ etc.). Build those minimally. E.G. 2-3 cannons is about
   enough for each base you have, use mobiles for the rest of your
   defense. If you follow steps 1-3 well, you should not have to build
   any static defense early. In recreational play, never incorporate
   an early sunken/cannon/bunker into your regular build, you do not
   need it. So, do not start off building a forge and cannons with
   Toss, make a gateway and zealots instead. If you're losing because
   of following this advice, ask on the forum and we'll help you
   figure out what you're doing wrong.

5) Scout early. You'll want to use either a peon or an overlord if
   you're Zerg. When your supply reads 10, take a peon off your
   resources and send him around the map. Just hold down shift and
   click on various spots on the minimap.


I would recommend the following steps to actually getting better at
the game, working your way up from first computer opponents to real

1) Go through the single player campaigns, at least the Terran one,
   they're fun and they teach you various basics. Make sure you log
   onto b.net at least once so you can get patched to the latest
   version. Don't worry too much about strategy when going through
   this; e.g. you may not be able to practice the Big Five in some
   missions if resources are limited or you're forced to build a lot
   of static defense to survive.

2) Next, try playing some 1on1's against the computer. I would pick
   simple maps like ladder/LostTemple or Challenger. Play until you
   can beat the computer consistently. Stick with one race, I
   recommend Protoss because they have the simplest build/economy
   structure but any race is fine.

3) Then try playing 1on1 against the computer without building any
   static defense until you can consistently beat it. Try to beat the
   computer as fast as possible, play aggressively and send your first
   units to attack when you get them, don't let any units sit in your
   base doing nothing but instead be constantly on the offensive.

4) Get online and play against real opponents. Start by creating "1on1
   newbies only" games and kick out anyone who has an appreciable
   record, or not if you don't mind getting slaughtered. If you lose,
   save the replay, watch it, and figure out what your opponent did
   that beat you. Then try doing what he did against your next
   opponent. This way you're always copying people who are better than
   you. If you need practice, you can always play against the comp and
   get good at executing your learned strategy until you're
   comfortable with it.

5) If you can't get online and are creaming the computer regularly,
   try adding more computers. 1on2 should be manageable without having
   to build any static defense. If you can't do 1on2, do 2on3 where
   you ally yourself with one computer.

6) If you have specific questions about strats or things you've seen,
   post them in this forum. Do not post very generic questions like
   "How do I get better at Terran?", but rather stuff like, "My
   opponent made a bunch of wraiths in my last TvT game, I have no
   idea why but he did beat me, can you explain that strat?" Do not
   post those kinds of questions in this thread; this post's intention
   is to give a broad overview of general strats versus race-specific
   help such as counters and build orders.


Let me explain some of the rationale behind the Big Five now. For
basics, my philosophy is that economic management is the key to any
RTS and thus should be the first thing you learn how to get good
at. If you can get money in as fast as possible, and spend it as fast
as possible, then you'll do pretty well, and that's what the Big Five
focuses on. If on the other hand, your opponent attacks you and you
die with 1000 minerals in the bank, that's wasted money that could
have e.g. been another 10 zealots or what not and you may have
survived the attack. Making peons constantly means that you are
getting resources as fast as possible. Peons make up for their cost
very quickly. There is a limit to the number of useful peons you can
have especially on smaller maps since only one peon can mine minerals
at once, but I wouldn't worry about that for now. Most newer players
forget to make peons and thus never come anywhere close to reaching
that point. If you are oversaturated, it's no big deal at the
recreational level.

At recreational level, I also believe it is more important to make
sure you're spending your money on SOMETHING, versus fretting about
the best unit or tactic to use. We can talk about specific tactics for
race matchups, but that's more advanced and is likely to cause you to
focus more on advanced stuff versus making sure you have the basics. I
could e.g. teach you one tactic that can win you most of your newbie
games with little effort, but that doesn't buy you much in the long
run. Instead, for now, just make sure you build anything with your
money so that it doesn't sit around in your bank account. Good things
to spend your money on include: 1) more units 2) more unit-producing
buildings like rax/gateway/hatcheries 3) upgrades 4) expansions
(building a CC/Nexus/hatchery near another group of minerals).

For Protoss, for example, you'll start off making probes and probably
build your first gateway. When that gateway is done, start making
zealots out of it while you're still making probes and pylons. At some
point, you'll have enough money to build another gateway, an
assimilator for gas, or a cybernetics core for tech. Doesn't matter
what you make, just choose one of those and build it. In later game,
the principle is usually:

1) Look at your production buildings, make sure they're all making
   something (zealot, goon, carrier, whatever).

2) If they are all making units and you still have enough money for
   another production building, start on one.

It's not uncommon in later game for you to have 10 gateways by this
principle, especially if you're playing on large maps with lots of

As a general principle, try to avoid queueing for creating units as
Terran/Toss, because this ties up resources. If you queue up 5 SCVs in
your CC, that means there is 4 SCV's worth of minerals that's waiting
to be used but is not actively being used, this is 200/0 worth of
resources that could be going towards your next barraks or supply
depot immediately. For a more extreme example, suppose you have one
starport with 5 battlecruisers queued up. Four of those battlecruisers
aren't actually being built so the queue is just tying up
resources. You should instead have 3 starports building 1
battlecruiser each.

Queues are a convenience but have their drawbacks. In late game, you
can't be producing at 100% efficiency such that you start a new unit
everytime the previous is finished, and you'll probably have some
surplus of resources so queueing may not tie up your resources
significantly. But at least in early game, try to never have more than
2 units, even if that, in your production queue.


As you do get better and start figuring out what to build, that's when
scouting becomes important. You send an early scout out for two
reasons. One is to start getting to know the map, even from basics
such as whether you're on a land or island. The second is to find your
opponent's base and get some idea of what he's doing, such as what
race he is. In advanced play, recon is very important, as most
decisions are not made blindly. Heavy emphasis is placed on figuring
out some way to take a peek at what your opponent is doing and then to
adjust what you're doing based on that.


Static defense is all structures that have an attack. A common
question is, "Why not build a lot of cannons and static defense?
Cannons are great units -- they detect, fire at land and air, have
awesome range, and straight up will kill units better than most other
Toss units for the same cost." Cannons are deliberately made better
than mobile units where the tradeoff is that they DON'T MOVE. You
cannot beat your opponent by having a well defended base. A good
opponent will see this and just leave you alone while taking expansion
spots around the rest of the map. Remember that at your level of play,
economics has a huge impact on winning or losing. If your opponent has
2 bases and you have 1, it doesn't matter how well defended your base
is, you're going to lose in the long run.

Sadly, playing single player missions tends to encourage mass static
defense. Building cannons works great against the computer because
it'll just mindlessly throw forces at your cannons and get them
slaughtered. Some single player missions are in fact very hard to beat
without building static defense. This encourages very bad habits for
multiplayer. The computer isn't smart enough to figure out that it
should just ignore your cannons. You can build a bunch of tanks and
bunkers and then go out to lunch, and when you come back the computer
will have no units and no resources because it wasted them all against
your defenses. Players will not do this, though.

Getting more concrete, suppose you start out building 3 cannons
early. That's great defense and your opponent will see this when he
scouts you. This is good news for him though because he knows you've
been spending money on defense versus mobile units so he's safe from
being attacked by you. 3 cannons is a bit more cost than a Nexus, so
this means that if you both are getting resources at the same rate, he
can for that same money plop down a Nexus at the nearest resource node
for free. Now you're essentially going to be fighting one base against
two, and you will lose unless out of some miracle.


I will now address the issue of map choice, as an addendum in response
to comments below. My intention is not to make a strong statement that
will cause controversy, but to share some knowledge that can help you
make informed decisions.

There are generally two broad classifications of maps, so-called
normal maps versus money maps. Money maps have overwhelming resources,
enough that you will never have to worry about expanding or running
dry. This includes zero clutter map, big game hunters, and fastest
maps. Money maps simplify the game in many ways because you can focus
just on one base strategies. And it makes some parts of basic skills
more challenging because, for example, it's much hardeer to keep your
resources near zero and it's not atypical to max out on 200 supply and
still have near infinite amount of resources. On the other hand, money
maps tend to reward strategies that are typically not feasible in
other games, such as turtling (building a lot of static defense) and
teching to capital units such as carriers, i.e. "turtle & tech".

If you folow the Big Five principle on those maps, you should still
have an advantage over someone who does not because e.g. he builds
many cannons. But, it is far easier at a beginner level to win by
turtle & tech than to play conventionally, so money maps tend to favor
these kinds of tactics at that level.

The type of map and experience you choose for yourself is up to you,
and e.g. the vast majority of recreational Starcraft players prefer
money maps because those simply the game to an extent that they don't
have to learn some aspects of the Big Five. My only strong
recommendation is that you start with land maps, since island maps add
a whole new level of complexity and at beginner level usually involve
memorizing some canned build order and attack regardless of the


One of the frustrating parts about Starcraft is learning to defend
against rushes, i.e. very early attacks. Even new players can learn
some build order that will work against most players since some
attacks are easier to execute than defend against. A common one is a
zergling rush where you don't make any drones and just build an early
spawning pool, this is a "do or die" attack but it often works against
recreational players. If you follow the Big Five, you should be well
equipped to deal with any early game attack. If you are attacked
before you have many units, use your workers for defense. If you are
attacked and have units but don't have enough, the solution is NEVER
to build static defense. Watch the replay and see how he got so many
units, it's likely that he either has better economy management, or
more unit producing structures. For example, if you build a
cybernetics core and gas for tech and he builds 2 gateways, then you
will probably get run over by superior forces. Just modify your build
order next time so that you don't tech as fast, but instead make early
units. Just remember, there is NEVER a need a to build static defense
to stop early rushes in recreational level. You should always be able
to adjust your build or use workers.


If you want to learn more about advanced tactics, I would recommend
watching replays on sites such as WGTour (
http://www.wgtour.com/rep.php?datab=broodwar ). Just click on the
replays and save them to your "maps" directory. Watch how the pros
play, and ask questions on the forum about things you don't understand
and we'll be happy to explain.


Overall, pay attention to your resources and learn by watching your
opponent's replays when you get beat. Ask questions on Blizzard's
Starcraft Forums ( http://www.battle.net/forums/board.aspx?
ForumName=sc-general ) for anything you're confused about. Check out
the Starcraft Compendium ( http://www.battle.net/scc/ ) since it
overall has pretty good advice. Get good at the Big Five. Watch your
replays afterward to make sure you are actually building peons nonstop
and that you're not letting money stockpile.  

You may email me if you need help, but I strongly discourage that
since you're not likely to get a prompt response.  The more appropriate
means is to just post on Blizzard's Starcraft Forum and get an
instantaneous response from any number of the helpful posters there.


A. Cloning

Cloning is one of the most often confusing topics discussed on the
board, yet it is a fairly important technique that any beginner can
learn with very little practice.

Cloning is a method of coordinating simultaneous attacks, the word is
a misnomer because you're not really duplicating a unit, it's more
that you're getting a bunch of units to do the same thing to different
targets. If you've ever seen the comp lockdown 12 BCs all at once and
wonder if you can do the same, the answer is Yes and cloning is the
technique that does this for you. This technique originated in War2
when someone figured out how to get sappers (similar to infested
terrans) to all charge into a base at once and then branch off and hit
separate targets.

Here is an explanation of the technique. I will use as an example the
process of getting your first 4 peons most quickly to different
minerals at the start of the game.

1) Select all your 4 peons. 
2) Right-click them on one mineral patch. 
3) Immediately de-select one peon in your wireframe portraits window 
   by holding down SHIFT and clicking on one wireframe portrait. 
4) Right-click the remaining 3 to another mineral patch. 
5) De-select one peon again. 
6) Right-click the remaining 2 to another mineral patch. 
7) De-select one peon again. 
8) Right-click the remaining peon to another mineral patch. 

If you do this correctly, then all 4 peons will reach different
patches at roughly the same time. Hopefully the instructions are clear
enough that you can practice this a bit. I suggest creating a dummy
game against the comp on slowest speed, and just try this repeatedly a
few times until you have it down.

Other examples 
There are countless scenarios where cloning can allow you to do
amazing things. Sometimes I'm even accused of using some sort of hack
by beginner players when I use cloning techniques against them. I'll
give some examples of where this can come in handy.

Scourge are the most cost effective unit in the game hands down, but
they are fairly difficult to use. If you just attack-move them,
they'll tend to overkill units or waste themselvse on things like
interceptors. The big problem with scourge is that they will
overdetonate on targets. Right-click 12 scourge on one wraith and they
may ALL detonate on the wraith even though it only takes 2 to kill it.

It would be great if you could get your scourge to behave
better. Cloning is an easy way to do this. Let's consider the example
of scourge vs. wraiths. It takes 2 scourge to kill 1 wraith. Suppose
he has 6 wraiths and you make 12 scourge. You can clone your scourge
to kill his wraiths using the same technique above. Replace "mineral
patch" with "wraith" and "peon" with "scourge". The only trick is that
you want 2 scourge per wraith, not 1, so we'll modify the technique a
bit. Assume you can somehow see the wraiths, either because you have
parasite or they're attacking something of yours. You do need a little
distance to do this unless you're really fast or are playing on a slow
speed, so I would start about a screen+1/2 away.

1) Select all 12 scourge. 
2) Right-click them all on one wraith. 
3) Deselect one scourge. 
4) Deselect one scourge. 
5) Right-click the remaining 10 onto another wraith. 
6) Repeat 3-5 until you have no scourge left. 

You can also do this against bigger targets such as carriers. I'll
take 12 scourge, right-click on one carrier, deselect 6 scourge,
right-click the remaining on the next carrier. Etc. If you're worried
about your scourge getting shot down before they reach their targets,
just add 1 more scourge per target than necessary. 3 per wraith or
muta, 6 per carrier or BC, etc.

As I mentioned above, you can get ghosts to lockdown targets
simultaneously with this technqiue too. Suppose you're fighting
against BCs. Comsat to see where the battlecruiers are, and replace
"peon" with "ghost" and "mineral patch" with "battlecruiser" in the
above rules. Hit "L" and tell all your ghosts to lockdown one
battlecruiser, then deselect one and tell the rest to lockdown
another, then deselect one and tell the rest to lockdown another,
etc. In detail:
1) Comsat where his BCs are. 
2) Select your 12 ghosts. 
3) Press "L" for lockdown and click on one BC. 
4) Deselect one ghost. 
5) Repeat 3-4 until you have no ghosts left. 

I will also use this occasionally for scouting, particularly in team
games, if I want to get a bunch of cheap units to go to different
areas of the map without much effort. For example, with zergling:
1) Select your 12 zergling. 
2) Right-cilck them soemwhere on the mini-map where you want to explore. 
3) Deselect one zergling. 
4) Repeat 2-3 until you have no zergling. 

If you have burrow, this is even better. I'd hotkey my zergling to
some temporary hotkey before sending them off, then wait until I see
they've reached their destination on the minimap, then select them
with my hotkey and hit "U" to burrow them wherever they are all at

You can also do this with vultures and spider mines to get them to all
lay mines at different locations. After you're done cloning, re-select
your vultuers, hold down shift, and click back to your base. This will
make your vulturse all speed out to their destinations, lay their
mines, then run back home afterward.
In detail: 
1) Hotkey your 12 vultures to 5. 
2) Select all your vultures. 
3) Hit "I" and click on some spot on the minimap. 
4) Deselect one vulture. 
5) Repeat 3-4 until you have no vultures. 
6) Hold down shift and click back to your base. 

Another annoying uses 
I'll also use this with BCs on the rare occasions I have them. Let's
say I'm planning to attack a base but see some scary things
there. I'll comsat the base, then clone my BCs to yamato different

If I'm playing Zerg and want to humiliate my opponent, I'll sometimes
build a fleet of queens, parasite his drone or SCV in his base, and
then clone the queens to spawn broodling his peons.

If I have SVs and am playing against Zerg, I'll comsat where I think
Zerg units are, and clone my SVs to irradiate different
targets. Irradiate is cheap so you should definitely try this out a
few times. This is absolute murder to him. Suppose he has 6 ultras
sitting around nearby, and I have 6 SVs. I can use the technique
similar to with vultures and mining to get the SVs to irradiate
different ultras and then run back to base.

For ZvZ, scourge use is absolutely critical since ZvZ is typically all
about air power and map control with mutas. Scourge use often
determines who wins this matchup. I would suggest just cloning one
scourge per muta. This doesn't kill the muta, but it does bring it
down to a measily 10 health. Your other units can then take care of
his near-dead mutas. One easy way to clone is to have scourge ready,
then bait your opponent into attacking some unit. For example, I'll
leave an exposed spore colony somewhere near my base, or some
overlords. Once the mutas start attacking, I'll immediately clone my
scourge from hopefully nearby. If you do this right and take 12 of his
mutas down to 10 hp each in early game, it's pretty much GG to him
because there is little he can do to recover until he can get hive and
convert those into full-health guards or devourers.

Using comsat to spot for cloning lockdowns or what not is very handy,
as the ghosts will still clone even after the comsat wears off if they
have not reached their targets by then. However, if you are using
comsat to target burrowed or cloaked units, your clone will abort with
an error once the comsat wears off, so you may have to re-comsat to
maintain your lock. Also, if your targets move significantly after you
lose sight, you may not get your clone off. This is because if a unit
is given a target and sight is removed, the unit will go to the last
known position of the target.

I hope this has given you some taste of the wonderful world of cloning
in SC. In Warcraft3, the computer will clone for you -- if you tell 12
ghosts to lockdown one BC, only 1 will do so. In SC, since we don't
have this capability, you'll just have to do it yourself manually.

Cloning opens up a whole world of possibilities to even the beginner
player, and is something that can be practiced and learned fairly
quickly. Again, if you need practice, just play against the comp on
slowest speed and try cloning your first 4 peons to separate
patches. If you get good at this, gradually raise the speed until you
can clone on fastest. Then try it in different in-game situations.

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