Starcraft 2 Beginners General Guide to Micro and Macro

Author: Babyface

Hi! Now that we have all gotten our feet wet with the starcraft 2, I thought I would write a short guide to help beginners develop micro and macro skills for multiplayer. Please note this is not the end-all stop for micro and macro knowledge, it is here to help beginners get started, and to hopefully teach a few tricks to help micro and macro skill development. This guide was primarily written for Terrans, but may be adopted for other races with a few changes. So with that lets get started:

First a quick description for those who do not know.

  • Micro: "Micro management", or effective use of your current army. Tactics include focus firing, using your available hard counters on their most effective units in a specific fight, effective ability use, speed, timing, and accuracy, and so on. An effective micro use leads to a higher kill-to-death ratio on individual units in your army, extending each unit's life, use and effectiveness.
  • Macro: In a nut shell, building/upgrading your base(s), expanding, maximizing and effectively using your economy. Easy at first, but becomes more difficult later into the match while you are doing micro. An effective macro use increases the rate in which you are able to produce and replace units, upgrade units and continue in the tech tree.

Skilled use of both functions are required to be effective in multiplayer matches.

So lets get started!

The Basics:

Hotkeys: You must absolutely positively learn hot-keys for your race, all of the ones you will commonly use during a match. It is critical for both effective micro and macro. Beginners, you will increase your speed dramatically if you follow this step. Don't skip it. Honestly, the easiest way to learn these are to do custom maps against 1 AI, on medium, as much as needed till you know them to the point you can do them without thinking about it. Learning your hotkeys is critical for a good macro - so you can manage your base without looking at it. So you can think of "what" you are going to accomplish in terms of your overall strategy, and less of "how" you are doing it. Some hotkeys that are essential are unit abilities(R - Snipe), building(C - Command center) , unit training(M - Marine) Upgrades(Z - Tech lab) ect.

Control Groups: Everyone knows and loves control groups, but there are more uses to them than just your main army. For an effective macro, assign building(s) to control groups in a logical manner. This is discussed more below. Again, effective control group management is critical for good micro and macro.



Ok, to begin with, staying on top of your macro during a fire-fight with the enemy, can easily make or break your match. Lets use an example:

Its 5 minutes into the game and you have your first strike force in good accord. You got a marine/marauder ball rolling. You head out of your base to assault their base. Mid field, you meet his army, a couple of zealots and stalkers. You are great at micro, but tend to forget about your macro at times. You focus fire his army down and lose a few units, but continue on to his base. You begin to harass him, but he already has a smaller new force defending his base, plus a couple of void rays which wipe out your marauders. You spend about a minute harassing. After you back off or lose your units, you notice that you have 1000 unspent resources and 700 gas. You have next to no army to speak of, while your opponent's army is both teched to counter and has units. He could easily launch a counter attack and overwhelm you and you do not have the tech to defend. Game over man, game over.

Preventing situations like this is all about having effective, efficient, and fast control over your base, and having presence of mind. All of this comes with practice.

(Tip 1) To begin, here are some tips on control groups:
Standardize them. Standardize your control groups, so you can quickly switch between units in groups and use them effectively. This greatly helps with both micro and macro. It is not always possible to always have them standardized (being flexible to situations) but it goes along way to help your speed. Here is my "standard" build:

1: Primary Marine/Marauder/Medivac Attack force
2: Siege Tanks
3: Ghosts
4: Vikings/Banshees
5: Designated builder(s)

6: Barracks’
7: Factories
8: Starports
9: Ghost academies
10: Command centers

TIP: While you have multiple unit selections (Say, Barracks and Tech Labs) you can switch between the different unit selections with TAB. This is helpful to use different abilities/upgrades while still having them all selected.

(Tip 2) The general idea is to have a strong focus on micro, while effectively managing macro and economy with minimal direct attention. That is to say, 80%-95% of the time, your eyeballs are on your army, moving forward with map control and the rest of the time managing your bases. This is how it is done:

  • Control groups: Control groups allow you to manage your base without looking at it. This is very effective while doing micro. You can be back-stabbing a colossus in the face with your group of mauraders, and telling your base to build more marines and set the rally point on your army to help kill the additional void rays your opponent is making. In other words, it is possible to keep the focus on your micro and pwning your enemy, while still making effective use of your economy to create replacement units and tech.
  • Control group jumping: Control groups on buildings also allow you to -quickly- look at your base, and back to your army. Example: Double press 6 to see available barracks, then double-press 1 to get back to army. Use this often to drop MULES from your command center!
  • Hotkeys: Learn them so you can -quickly- build buildings, units, ect. in your base with minimal time spent looking at your base.
  • Designated builder(s): Assign 2 or 3 SCVs currently mining to a group. do NOT use this group off the bat, but rather use it later into the match when you are microing. The idea is to be able to -quickly- build buildings and continue teching with minimal effort, focus, and time.

    Use example:

    You are scouting for expansions with your main force. While you are doing this, you need to tech up to siege tanks, and build a few supply depots. Double Hit 5(Focus on Designated Builders), V(advance building) f(factory) place. b(build), s(supply depot), place. Shift-right click minerals. Double Hit 1(focus back on army). You just spent 1-2 seconds, are building a factory, and supply depot(s), and told your SCVs when they finish them to immediately return to their mining duties, and you are free to continue macro'ing your army. It is also a good idea to put repair on automatic on these guys to be able to quickly get a group of SCVs to repair a structure (bunker, supply depot, ect)
  • Economy and unit replacement management: This one requires presence of mind, and alot of practice. This is effectively building units throughout the match and effectively using your economy so it doesn’t balloon into uselessness. You have to keep in mind to keep looking at your supply, your resources, and to keep building units, even when you are under attack or you are attacking. Effectively doing this can make or break you. Use control groups on buildings and hotkeys for units to greatly increase speed and control of units and buildings.
  • Rally points: You can set rally points on pretty much anything. One effective use includes reinforcing your army mid-stream. Use: select your barracks(s), build a que of some marines and marauders. Look at your army, and right click the rally point on a unit (I usually pick units that are tough and generally will have a better chance to survive, so the rally point wont break). Any unit that now spawns will automatically be set to follow that unit out of the barracks.



(Tip 1) Scout. Scout. Scout scout scout scout scout. And then scout some more. This is absolutely vital to your success in multiplayer. Effective scouting can tell you how your opponent's economy is doing, how big their army is, what his army composition is, if they have expansions, ect. That one 50 mineral SCV you used in the beginning of the game could save you 600 minerals in marines if your opponent is going early roaches... The gamble is ALWAYS worth it. Scout. Do it early, and do it often. Do it through out the match. Your opponent is human, they think just like you do. They will be doing the same thing, adjusting -their- strategy to hit your weakness. I typically scout my first SCV after building a supply depot (10 supply). Much earlier if it is zerg.

  • TIP:An example would be if you were facing protoss, and an early scout picked up a cybernetics core. There is a chance he is going stalkers. You can start building more marauders to counter his force to compensate for this. While you are doing this, scout again to confirm your initial hypothesis. Stay flexible and keep your intelligence on the fly.
  • TIP: While scouting, you must develop the knack of gaining as much knowledge from as little intelligence as possible. This is developed through experience and practice. Suggest you watch replays of pros. Watch what they do -after- they scout. Do they change their build order? Do they change what units they are building? Are they teching less? or more? ect.

(Tip 2) LEARN COUNTERS!! Learn what units counter what effectively. Know them second nature, so you can make quick and informed decisions on your economy and army composition. Knowing hard counters and using them effectively will GREATLY increase your kill-to-death ratio.

(Tip 3) Practice to be able to mentally estimate unit strength. Can 3 marines effectively kill 2 reapers with micro? without? Can a un-sieged tank kill 2 hydras? Learn to estimate your unit's strength to be able to quickly make informed combat decisions on the fly.

(Tip 4) manage your units with an overall goal in mind. Don't just let them sit around in your base, use them. Put pressure on your opponent. Use them to defend an expansion while it develops. Scout for enemy expansions. Enforce map control and pressure. Harass your opponent. ect.

(Tip 5) Focus fire. Use this to quickly eliminate units in your enemies army. Take for example, 5 marines vs 5 marines. One group uses focus fire, the other doesn’t. The one using focus fire will kill all 5 of the other marines and will likely end up with at least 2-3 remaining marines.

(Tip 6) Hotkeys for abilities. USE THEM. Stemmed marines and marauders are devastating, especially if micro'd. Effective use of ghost Snipe and EMP can cripple large armies, giving you a decisive advantage in spite of size.

(Tip 7) Shift commands. You can give Shift Commands to your units to make a "queue" of commands to perform. Use this with scouting to have your SCV check for expansions in multiple spots!


So there you have it! If you have any other tips or critisims, feel free to add.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff. Thanks

geoff said...

first off i think you're sniffing glue, micro is when you use a small force with their powers properly and macro is when you use a large group of units to overwhelm with numbers. if you dont understand that then dont write guides moron

Erik said...

was very helpful, thanks!

Erik said...

Thanks was helpful!

Jake said...

Babyface - I absolutely LOVE your guide. I hate to say it, but I've been researching primarily openings and build orders for the various races, and while it's done me a world of good, none of it would matter without the words here your your guide. Just because I beat the Hard computers EVERY time now (for the first time since release), learning somebody else's build orders should NOT make or break MY game. However, learning what is composed in THIS guide (which, a lot of this you learn from experience... But sometimes you just need a swift kick-in-the-a** to get you moving in the right direction)... Your guide was JUST the kick I needed to take my game to the next level. Many thanks to you, fine sir! You're a gentleman and a scholar in my books, no matter what your 9th grade Spanish teacher told me!

Geoff -
While you were once correct, the times seem to have changed. I've been reading multiple guides on this game for months, now... Terms seem to have changed - for instance, Macro seems to mean control of the game as a whole (your bases, your units, everything, collectively, that forwards the game), while Micro seems to mean a mixture of what it used to mean (what you said), and 'just controlling localized strike forces individually and positively') And even if you were correct, even being that he may not have been a living-dictionary in your eyes, was his guide not an eye-opener? Will it not help Novice and Advanced StarCraft II- (and really any RTS-game-) players alike? I respect that you have an opinion - but next time, focus on sharing the opinionated observations WITH a little constructive criticism. "HEY! Your terms suck, but your guide is very nice!" would have been a much more effective way of seeming like an intelligible human being. Not to mention the fact that every game has different terms. (EX: StarCraft: "Zerg" is a race. World of WarCraft: Zerg is a collective strike force of ANY and even ALL races joined together in a fair-to-decent number). To put it in simpler words: Please, either help the man improve his guide, show your appreciation, or scram!