Starcraft 2 Terran Strategies and Concepts
Multiplayer Tips, Rushes, and General Information on the Race
This is a very large article that will be refined and improved with my continually improving skills and understanding of Starcraft 2. Send tips and criticisms my way using the email address provided. If you send a big tip, I'll credit you however you like in a changelog at the bottom of this document.
The Terrans are a very friendly race for new players. It is perhaps for this reason, storytelling aside, that Blizzard made Wings of Liberty the first campaign offering in the Starcraft 2 Trilogy. In this guide, I hope to enlighten newer players to some of the strengths of the Terrans in multiplayer. Learn some of the common strategies employed by Terran players, and improve your tactics.
Terrans possess the unique ability to build their structures anywhere on the map, except upon Zerg creep. This gives them some advantages in building placement. Their unit production buildings may also lift off and relocate. Terran buildings are constructed by SCVs and the unit is tied up during the build process.
Because of Terran production buildings' Lift-Off ability, they can be constructed safely at the main base and relocated. Put them somewhere closer to the enemy base, and perhaps in a place they might not look. It's not a bad idea to make your expansion Command Center and move it after construction to its final destination. This will prevent the need to protect it during construction. Upon landing, it can be converted to a planetary fortress and defend itself against most early attacks.
Another benefit of Lift-off is that it can be used to build add-ons for a later building. Reactors take nearly a minute to construct, so you could have a Barracks make a reactor and later move in a Factory to take advantage of it. This would give you the ability to make two Hellions at a time much earlier, and could even be applied to a Starport for making quick Medivacs and Vikings.
Optimal Mineral and Vespene Gathering
When you first start a match, select all your SCVs and order them to your mineral line. As you create new SCVs, set the Command Center's rally point to a mineral node that isn't being worked yet. This will prevent a minor delay as the SCV will know where to go right away, and won't have to calculate which mineral node is best to gather. No matter your build order, you'll probably want to queue up two SCVs in the beginning so that each mineral node has at least one SCV working it. To optimally harvest minerals, up to three SCVs can be on each patch. So, you could have 24 SCVs harvesting from your starting base. However, you'll run out faster with three per node, so 16 is plenty.
Use either an SCV or your first Marine to figure out what your opponent is going to do. This is vital. You can't counter his attack without knowing what they're building. This is more difficult the longer you wait. Too early, and you won't really know anything. Players scout me just to see that I'm building my first supply depot. What did they really learn from that? Even if their ramp is blocked it will still give you a glimpse into their early unit composition. In many cases, you may not know the exact location of their base. Some maps in 1v1 have three alternate locations for a base that you must choose from. Scouting is particularly important here. Using a single unit to do your scouting can save a scan that could have brought you a M.U.L.E. or extra supplies.
Refineries are optimally collected with three SCVs, producing a beautifully orchestrated constant supply of Vespene. When you produce your first refinery is optional depending on the build order you'll be following. It's not a bad idea to start a refinery around the time that you've already paid the minerals for a Barracks. It can be worth delaying the Barracks for a refinery but in all likelihood your opponent will catch you and exploit the weakeness.
The Command Center - Orbital Command and Planetary Fortress
The Terran Command Center is unique in its ability to be adapted to one of two roles: utility or defense. After a Barracks has been constructed, the Command Center can adapt the Orbital Command upgrade. An engineering bay is required for a Planetary Fortress.
Orbital Command (150 Minerals) gives three abilities, each costing 50 energy. Upon taking this upgrade, the Command Center gains an energy pool that starts at 50, allowing for one of these to be used instantly then intermittently throughout the battle.
Scan has both offensive and defensive purposes. A large area of the map will be scanned, and any cloaked or burrowed units can be seen. Being attacked by Banshees or Dark Templar? Scan and have your troops ready to unleash upon the attackers and end the threat. Tactically, you can see anything in the enemy base and the advantages to formulating a strategy to deal with the opponent are obvious. If you're not very aggressive, you'll want to produce units that are best able to counter the other player's attack. It's wise to hotkey your command center for this reason alone. Only then can you quickly scan an area. Offensively, scan can reveal targets for your long-range units like Siege Tanks. This can enable you to hit defenders from afar before sending in your other troops.
Extra supplies will double the supply output of a regular supply depot. This saves you 100 minerals and the time/effort of ordering an SCV to make another one. You should usually have more supply than you're trying to build, but if production halts it will allow things to once again get under way. Making two of these can refund the cost of Orbital Command and then some.
Call Down M.U.L.E. will bring in a special gatherer that can be used as a scout, but primarily gathers minerals at 3x the rate of a single SCV. They can carry 30 (6x), but take about twice the time an SCV does to gather all of it. Their life span is limited (90 seconds on normal) and they're unable to attack. They can, however, repair units much like an SCV and for quick healing of your mechanized force this can come in handy. Clearly there is a debate between the MULE and extra supplies because both contribute to your economy.
In the Extra Supplies vs MULE debate, there is no clear winner. A MULE can make 8 or 9 trips to the supply line, bringing in around 270 minerals over 90 seconds. They don't compete with SCVs for minerals, but will make you run out faster and need to expand. Extra supplies saves the use of an SCV (6 trips to the mineral line) and grants a building worth 100 minerals. They both have their strengths. A MULE can help recover the lost minerals for going vespene heavy early. This can afford some tactical opportunities. An expensive unit like the Banshee can make a massive difference if deployed early in a battle.
Planetary Fortress (150 Minerals/Vespene)
The Planetary Fortress upgrade for the Command Center requires an Engineering Bay. It deals heavy damage to ground targets and cannot attack air. The primary role of the Fortress in my experience is to protect an expansion. You can upgrade the range of the cannon through the Engineering Bay. This will also affect your Missile Turrets and the Raven's Point Defense drone/auto turret.
The Ramp Block
Of the three races, Terrans are the best suited to blocking their own ramp. Their supply depot can lower itself into the ground to allow units to pass, and raise back up to prevent easy entry to the base. Learning this strategy is one of the first things you'll want to do early in your SC2 Multiplayer career. Look at the screenshot above. Note the placement of these buildings. It works on any map with a ramp.
Because the Barracks requires a supply depot to be constructed, you'll start by placing a depot on the outer edge of the ramp. The barracks can come next, followed by a second supply depot. When this is accomplished depends on the build order, but there's no real reason not to do this as it gives you a wall to prevent early rushes. Your Marines can fire down at enemy troops attempting to cheese their way into your base. Later, Siege Tanks can pound enemy units into oblivion from safety. It makes a massive difference in a battle for your enemy to need to go through this blockade to assault your base.
Although it may appear you've blocked the construction of a tech lab or reactor on certain maps, the Barracks can lift off and scoot to accomodate the production of these add-ons. Tech Labs and Reactors are every bit as durable as a supply depot so you won't be exposing your base to a weak point.
If you have difficulty pulling this off at first, choosing the display building grid option in the menu under gameplay can make it easier. You won't need this later as you will get used to what a successful block looks like.
Early-Battle Map Strategies
When building supply depots a little later in the match, build them near the edge of your base. All that unoccupied ground could be the staging area for an enemy assault force. Worse, a Protoss Photon cannon rush. It's your territory and in order ot protect it you need to see it. This will also serve as an early warning system. You'd rather lose a stray supply depot than have your mineral line assailed. Later, if you know your opponent will be using air units, you can place a missile turret here and there to provide not only some damage, but also detection. It's a shame to see a Protoss Warp Prism unload cloaked Dark Templar to assault your mineral line unopposed. Just as dangerous are cloaked Banshees.
Terrans have one transport unit that is specialized at carrying infantry, the Medivac. They heal biological units and can carry any Terran ground unit, including the slow Thor. They're great for supply line raids, giving your units a little more time to pound the enemy before the units are killed by the defenders. Medivacs should be used most times you are massing infantry. They keep infantry alive to do damage, period.
The Terrans have multiple options for detectors. The Raven, requiring a Starport and Tech Lab is the only one that's mobile. A hotkeyed Orbital Command Center can scan and reveal units. However, you'll need to make sure your troops are ready to open fire because they won't be revealed very long. This is also helpful when a Zerg player tries to escape you by burrowing their units.
For stationary detection they get two options. The Missile Turret is quite good against Banshees, being able to fire at them whilst simultaneously revealing them to other units. Anti-air support will often be needed however as a good player will focus fire on the Turret. Their other option is the Sensor Tower. It doesn't feature a large sight range, but anything cloaked that comes within its massive radius will be revealed if seen by one of your units or structures. This is a very powerful boon so be sure to pull one out if you see the enemy has built a Dark Shrine or suspect they're producing banshees. It's also useful against Roaches, as they can move while burrowed. This will also help to stop those pesky observers from sitting over your base, spying on everything you do.
Finding your Rhythm - The Terran Opener
Most of us want our matches to be over quickly to score a victory and move on to the next fight. The more time you give your opponent to prepare, the more likely you are to have trouble out of them. But, even in long matches, if you can outpace your opponent in technology and resource gathering, you'll be more likely to win. It's all about finding your rhythm and maximizing efficiency without any waste.
In most every case, you're going to want to make two or three SCVs and get them on minerals right away. That is the only way to afford the mineral-heavy buildings you need early in a match without spending too much time waiting around on resources to come in. Conversely, you don't want too many resources. Unspent resources means that you've overestimated how many SCVs you need to build up an army and don't have enough unit production buildings to spend them. You've hurt your efficiency in either case.
The only way to really refine your opening is to play many matches. There is a rhythm to be learned. If you time things right, your SCV will be heading to the ramp to make the first supply depot in a ramp block just as the 100th mineral rolls in at 10 supply. Let's have a look at a common Terran build order, and how to pull it off. This will also help you to understand how to read build orders here and elsewhere on the web.
Terran Build Order - Basic and Balanced
Here I'll show you a balanced build order that works for many fights. It has no particular strengths, but when you're done with the standard buildings affords much flexibility. Once you've got one each of the main production bulidings, you can then choose to build a second building of your choice and mass-produce a counter to the units your enemy is fielding. This build order won't skip any production, and should help you understand how to read a build order here and elsewhere on the web. If your opponent stomps you, you can always look at the build order tab on the score screen to see exactly what they did.
8/11 - SCV
9/11 - SCV - all 8 mineral nodes have 1 SCV each. Pull one off and set the Command Center rally point to that mineral. He's going to build.
10/11 - Supply Depot at ramp. SCV production keeps going at the Command Center. If you time it right, you won't hit the supply limit.
11/19 - Barracks at ramp - it will begin producing Marines until there are 3 or 4 to guard the ramp and fire down on early attackers
12/19 - Refinery - next 2 SCVs will go there.
14/19 - Supply Depot - this closes the gap at the ramp
15/19 - Orbital Command
16/27 - 2nd Refinery. 2 more SCVs will go there
20/27 - Tech Lab at Barracks to allow Marauders, Build Factory
26/27 - Starport, Tech Lab at Factory. Use extra supplies or bulid a Supply Depot
27/35 - Siege Tank, should still have some Marauders coming out. Research Siege Tech asap to help defend. Get Tech Lab at Starport as soon as possible.
At this point, you'll have one of each building and a powerful economy. You may choose to expand, but determine what the enemy has going for them and start training counters and extra production buildings of your choice.
Practice your build orders against the A.I. If you can't beat a hard A.I., practice some more. Play on the faster game setting to improve your reaction time for Multiplayer. This is also a good time to experiment and improve your timing and learn the hotkeys that will increase your efficiency as a player.
The Early Fight - Rushing as a Terran
Terrans are not nearly as good at rushing as the Zerg, but can pull out some solid firepower early in a fight. Keep in mind that if you can build it fast enough, even one tank makes a massive difference in an early battle. It's not hard to get a nice mixed group to the enemy base quickly, especially on a 1v1 map. You won't even necessarily have to scout. Most people in the lower leagues don't often expect the Terrans to actually try a rush, at that. Let's look at the various types of rushes a Terran player can pull off.
Marines Only Rush Build Order
The Marine only rush does have some success in Bronze League play, when many players aren't fit to handle a lot of aggression. Later, this should be replaced by the more powerful Marine/Marauder rush. The perk here is that Vespene is unnecessary and you can build as many Barracks as you need. However, should your attack fail you should be ready to switch to another mode and building a Refinery before you make your first attack would be wise so that you can have a backup plan.
10/19 - Barracks
11/19 - Barracks
13/19 - Marine
14/19 - Orbital Command
19/19 - Marine Find the opposing base with a scout and/or scan while you wait on your final marines, hotkey your 2 Barracks, and set the rally point just outside their base. Begin pounding at them and don't let up until it's over. If you need more supply, you can use the Orbital Command extra supplies ability to allow for more Marines. However, the longer you wait the more likely your opponent is to fend off your attack. Use combat micro to pull off wounded marines especially against the Protoss as a couple Zealots can ruin your attempt. Don't dilly-dally. After you've broken through their line head right for their mineral line to ensure economic victory.
Marine/Marauder Rush Build Order
This build order works pretty well against Protoss, but Zerg will stop it if they have enough roaches. Still, it's not as likely to fail against roaches as the marine-only rush. If you want to drag this out a little longer, go for starting your supply depot at 10/11 and make an extra Barracks and Engineering Bay. Grab an upgrade for your troops and attack just as it finishes.
11/19 - Barracks x 2, Refinery
13/19 - Marines start coming out
14/19 - Orbital Command
16/19 - Tech Lab at 1 Barracks, other still producing marines. Use Orbital Command for free supplies
22/27 - Concussive Shells, 1 Barracks producing Marines constantly, the other Marauders
26/27 - Supply Depot, scout enemy base and set rally of Barracks nearby. Begin attack at targets of opportunity.
I will add more Terran Rush Build Orders as I continue to experiment against real opponents. Feel free to drop me an email with your own Build Orders. Be sure to give me a description of the strenghts you see vs various opponents.