Midgame Moves: Taking Time between Games to Review

  • Padraic Murphy

Midgame Moves focuses on the crucial middle portion of a competitive game of StarCraft II. All week, we’ll be looking at what can happen during those central moments of a heated battle. 

When you’re in the heat of a StarCraft II tournament series, one of the most important things that you can do for yourself and your playstyle is to take a moment between games and analyze what has been happening thus far. After a game or two against your opponent, there is a wealth of information you can examine to prepare for the next game in the set.

In a tournament environment, players generally enter matches with a plan in mind; there are builds they want to execute and strategies they want to employ. After finishing any number of games, regardless of outcome, your opponent’s strategy may become apparent to you. If you give yourself time to take it all in, this can allow you to morph your own style into something more appropriate for the situation.

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I spoke to WCS caster Jared ‘PiG’ Krensel and Psistorm Gaming manager Stefan ‘PengWin’ Mott about what players can do between games to give them a better shot at winning the series. It turns out there’s a careful balance of looking at one’s own play and worrying about what your opponent is doing.

“Since StarCraft is such a physically demanding game in terms of speed of execution, it's actually far more important to analyze your own play after a loss and look for things you can improve in your baseline play,” says PiG. “The important [part] of this is to figure out what you missed in the game.

“Watching replays is key for filling in the blanks in the story that has played out. Since StarCraft II is a game of limited information, our journey as players to improve at it is an endless game of trying to develop better game sense—a better understanding of where you are in the in the game compared to your opponent, without seeing the entire map.”

For PengWin, it’s the level of detail you’re getting during your review time that matters. That, along with getting an outside perspective, can help you apply new tactics to the remainder of a match.

“You can learn a lot from a single game of StarCraft II, and effectively see into your opponent’s preparation from the way the first game or two goes,” says PengWin. “After every game, it’s important to go back and think about the details, the timings, and try to glean every speck of information you can. This also helps you to focus on the task at hand and not get too caught up in the frustration of a loss or get too carried away after a win.

“That being said, there’s only so much you can learn from your perspective, which is why it’s important at times to have a friend, teammate, or coach come up and advise you on the game, as the spectators will have been able to have a much closer look at the exact build and approach that the opponent took.”

In practical terms, a between-games evaluation of your performance can mean confronting uncomfortable truths and doing some on-the-fly problem-solving.

“This is why you'll see me on my stream constantly trying to guess how much economy my opponent had at key moments—say right when they hit me with a huge Immortal / Charged Zealot attack,” says PiG. “If I guess the worker count incorrectly, it means I had poor game sense and didn't take into account something that had happened in the game. Maybe I was further ahead or behind than I thought—and as such I immediately scour the replay for what I missed to fill in the blanks. If you don't take the time to do this, you'll find your losses very mystifying.”

No matter if you’re playing custom games with friends, in an automated tournament, or fighting for points in the World Championship Series (WCS), these valuable tips might be the difference between another disappointing loss and a thrilling victory. Midgame Moves continues this week with more informed tips to keep your skills sharp.