Basic Mechanics

StarCraft is a largely a game of mechanics, and I mean that in the best way possible. Unit compositions and counters are important, but the core of the game is multitasking, maintaining mining and production (“macroing”), and fine control for your army (“microing”). Here’s a look through the basics of that.

Keyboard Hotkeys

Although you can do almost everything with just the mouse, StarCraft was meant to be played with 2 hands. Your left hand should rest on the home keys, and from there, you can ¬†construct and research anything and send commands to all of your units. There’s a Training mission where you can only use hotkeys, so try that, and forever on, play like that.

Control Groups

Take a look at the liquipedia section on control groups. There are 2 primary uses for control groups, both of which are very important.

First, you can place your army on a hotkey. As you build more units, add them to the army, so you can command all of it with only 2 button presses.

Second, you can put your buildings on hotkeys. This is very helpful because you can build new units without needing to look at the buildings. StarCraft will even smartly distribute these commands, so if you have 4 Barracks on 1 control group and hit “a” 4 times, it will make 1 Marine from each Barracks.

For reference, my usual setup is:

  • 1 – primary army¬†
  • 2 – secondary army (sometimes Tanks, sometimes 1/2 of my army)
  • 3 – casters (High Templar, Infestors, Ghosts)
  • 4 – fliers/harass units (Mutalisks, Phoenix, Banshees)
  • 5 – Command Center/Nexus/Hatchery (all of them)
  • 6 – All Queens (Zerg), all Barracks/Factory/Starport (Terran), all Robotics Facility/StarGate (Protoss)
  • 7, 8, 9 – Unused
  • 0 – All buildings with upgrades (Evolution Chamber, Engineering Bay, Forge, Spawning Pool, etc)

The Mental Checklist: Probes and Pylons

The most educational StarCraft video I have watched was Day[9] Daily #132 – Back to Basics: The Mental Checklist. I highly recommend watching it, but my short version is that there are 3 basic goals to macroing:

  1. Build SCVs. Check your Command Center, build workers continuously and never queue them
  2. Build Supply Depots. Check your supply in the upper right corner. If you’re close to your supply cap, build another worker
  3. Keep your money low. Check your money in the upper right corner. If you can spend it, spend it (but don’t queue anything)

If you do those things, you will gather lots of resources and constantly turn those into immediately valuable things.

Shift Queueing

One of the best additions in StarCraft 2 was queueing commands by using the Shift key. Watch Noob School for a demo, but the idea is that you can issue a series of commands to a group of units by holding shift. This is useful for:

  1. navigating a unit’s movement around the map for scouting or drops
  2. sending a SCV or Probe back to mining after constructing a building
  3. sieging Tanks when they arrive at a location
  4. sending a Probe to build several buildings
  5. and more!



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