Opening Moves: Scouting for Valuable Intel

  • Dave Oliver, Blizzard Entertainment

For the rest of StarCraft II's Opening Moves Week, check out the previous articles on map vetoes, racial planning, cheese, and tower defense.

Every game of StarCraft II has a lot going on. One of the most essential components is gathering information on what the enemy is doing. Scouting the opponent has to happen early and often, so it’s an invaluable skill to master. Kevin “Qxc” Riley and Mikolaj “Elazer” Ogonowski provided us with a deep dive on how they look at this essential part of the game.

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"Sometimes it's as simple as a worker scouting and seeing certain tells. Sometimes it requires predicting your opponent's actions because of how the timings work out. But the key concept is if you can accurately predict what your opponent will do, you can also craft a specific build to counter them. There are two big timings that are similar in most matchups: the initial scout to see if they're on one base or two bases, and then a scout a few minutes later that checks for the transition—basically seeing if they are going for a two-base attack or a third base."

"Besides that, scouting is important to check for tech pivots like Hive, Colossus, Psi Storm, mech, etcetera. General map awareness is always important past the early game to check for drops, Mutalisks, [and] Warp Prisms as well as additional expansions. When scouting, you're looking for how your opponent has invested their resources, especially checking for unusual or unsafe tech switches that can be punished. Scouting is basically a way to keep your opponent honest and exploit their build if possible."

"Tangentially related to scouting is map awareness and control. While scouting often refers to getting in their base and seeing what they are currently doing, map awareness is more a player's ability to know what their opponent isn't doing. For example, if I can see everything on the map except your base, I gain a lot of negative information: you aren't expanding here, you aren't dropping there, your army isn't on the map, etcetera. That's extremely important to making good decisions because it creates a reaction time buffer. If your opponent isn't on the map, there's a 30-second to one-minute reaction before any aggressive action can actually get to your base."

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"Depending on the map you are playing on, you scout for different things. Personally, right now in Zerg versus Terran, I try to use my first Overlord to scout if Terran is going for 1/1/1 opening (one Barracks, one Factory, and one Starport) and what type of units is he making with it, or if he is going for a greedy three-base opening. I try to react accordingly to the units I see. If there are many Hellions, I might add a Baneling nest or many Queens. If it’s three bases, I could try some all-ins or just play greedy myself.

"Against Protoss, the three main options are Stargate openings, Twilight Council upgrade openings, or Dark Templar/Archon drops. For each, you need to react differently. For Stargate you might just get a Spore Crawler per base and do whatever you feel like. For Twilight Council upgrades it might be Stalker all-in or Adept pressure, but a Roach Warren is usually a good reaction. And against an Archon drop, I would recommend rushing to get a Lair and getting Hydralisks out as fast as possible. But scouting Archon drops on time might be difficult, so if you won’t get a Lair on time, Spore Crawlers and a Roach Warren will also do."

"And Zerg versus Zerg is the most difficult one. The first two Overlords need to spot all the one-base all-ins that can come at you. That could be an early Spawning Pool, a fast Baneling all-in, and a hundred other less popular variations. That first Overlord should go straight to your opponent’s natural base and the second should cover the path that Zerglings will most likely come from when it comes to all-ins like that."