Terran Timings: The Art of Defense and Offense
The Terran army has a lot of tools at its disposal, to be sure. With a tier 1 unit (Marine) that is easily the most versatile in the entire game, paired with the macro-machine that is the Orbital Command, even the most inexperienced players should have an easy time keeping up with their opponents. However, one must see beyond the mechanics of their own Terran army in order to push through Bronze and Silver leagues. This week’s article focuses on various timings to be aware of when playing Terran, and how improved awareness can lead to improved gameplay.
When you’re first starting out, very basic macro mechanics should be ironed out immediately. Are you constantly producing workers? Are you keeping your money low? Are you being as active with your units as often as possible? Assuming the answer is “yes”, it’s time to think about some slightly more advanced tactics and timings. The Stimpack upgrade is probably the most attractive early game upgrade you should be thinking about, as it boosts attack speed for a negligible amount of HP. It takes 170 seconds to research, and if your gas intake is up to speed, you should be able to begin the research on your first tech lab within the first few minutes of the game.
Theorycrafting aside, you should be going through a paradigm shift at this stage of your play that incorporates upgrades into your solid basics. The bottom line is that upgrade-less Marines don’t get the job done as efficiently as Marines with upgrades. Nine times out of ten, it’s better to wait for the upgrades than to move out with nothing. If Stim is too long of a wait for your liking, Combat Shields are arguably just as good, and for a fraction of the research time. Even the added HP could be the difference between a successful attack or defense and failure. Concussive Shell isn’t as much of a big deal unless you’re going heavy on Marauders early on. But if you are, why not wait a few seconds for that extra debuff?
While upgrades should be on your mind, you need to also be aware of the clock in regards to your enemy. Zerg timings are probably the most important to note, as their units are fast and more capable of hit-and-run harassment than those of Protoss or Terran. Early on, you need to see if they have fast expanded. If they have not, make sure your scouting SCV stays alive long enough to see their tech path. This is not optional! If your go-to plan is to open with Hellions, a blind Roach counter will defeat most non-pro players. Likewise, if you 1-1-1 into Banshee harass, a Baneling bust will ruin your day. Those first two or three minutes of the game are crucial when playing Zerg. I’d go so far to say that if your scouting isn’t fruitful, burn a scan. It’s better than an early GG.
The next thing you need to always be aware of is the 8-10 minute mark. This is when the bane of everyone is on the field – the Mutalisk, one of the fastest flying units in the game. Blind counter these guys every single game if you have the spare minerals for Missile Turrets. Turrets are your insurance – it’s better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them. Mutalisks will ruin your day if not planned for. They will keep you on one or two bases for a very long time, or they will force you to move out into a ground army that you cannot handle. I typically start building Turrets at 8:30, and go overboard on Marines as soon as I have static defense. A Thor or two are certainly a welcome addition to any army as the splash damage requires your opponent to waste a few keystrokes on the “Magic Box”. I’ve killed as many as eleven clumped and injured Mutalisks with a single Thor volley. I’d say they’re necessary, but if you’re more comfortable with Marines, they work just as well.
With Protoss, the most important thing you have to be aware of is whether or not they’re setting up a four-gate. This means that the Protoss can instantly warp in four units per cycle anywhere on the map (usually right in front of your base). Around the 3:00 – 4:30 mark, it should be obvious whether or not they’re setting up for an aggressive push. Burn a scan or two, just make sure you know where all their buildings are. If you spot it, don’t freak out! Build a couple of bunkers and prepare for mass repairs. Your main focus at this point is to maintain a constant production of Marines and Marauders, with possible Hellion and Medivac support. Once you see that the units aren’t coming in as frequently or as aggressively, it’s probably safe to go out and find any proxy pylons. Once you’ve done this, it’s more or less a sure victory as you’re way ahead in economy. Don’t get too caught up in when a four-gate might “run out of money”, as they say. I’ve seen it weaken as early as nine minutes in, and as late as twelve. The sure bet is to just get a feel for the attack, and respond as necessary. If your opponent isn’t active with his forcefields, it’s a waste of energy to be thinking of when everything will settle down since you can repair a bunker all day and night and be fine.
Remembering timings is something that should eventually become second nature in your routine. They say time is money, and in Starcraft that couldn’t be more true. Knowing what potentially might be coming will save you wasted minerals and gas, or even units. Watch replays of your favorite Terran players to see how they scout, and how they respond to perceived threats. Like any game of strategy, if you want to get better at Starcraft, you have to put in the research hours. It could be the difference between hovering in Silver, or hovering in Platinum and higher.