It can be easy to forget that StarCraft II has a defined victory condition. With most matches ending when a player knows that they cannot continue to put up a meaningful fight, they type a courteous gg and simply leave the game. The real win clause of a StarCraft II multiplayer match, though, is to destroy all your opponent’s buildings.
Every so often, a match will come to a point where players decide that their best chance of winning is not to engage the opposing army, but to instead skirt around enemy forces and destroy the rival’s buildings as fast as they can. When both players find their armies on the opposite side of the map and choose to commit, the base trade has begun.
Base-trade situations can technically happen during any phase of a StarCraft II game, but when they begin it almost always signals that the end is near. Fast-paced and extremely intense, players must make the right decisions before and during a base trade to ensure victory.
As a WCS caster and StarCraft tutor, Jared "PiG" Krensel has seen all kinds of game states spiral into base-trade scenarios. He says that the first step to winning a base trade is knowing when to initiate one.
“There are two key scenarios that make it a smart choice to initiate a base trade: whenever your army is worse in a head-to head-fight, or whenever you have a far more mobile army with higher damage for clearing buildings, like Marine/Marauder, Zergling/Mutalisk, Zealots, and Immortals,” he explained. “Often you will keep your army on the opponent’s side of the map, but preferably hidden and out of vision, and wait for them to push. When they hit the middle of the map, you dive in and start eliminating structures. If they turn around, you can escape with many units after inflicting massive damage; or they commit to the base trade, but you have a large head start.”
PiG said that once the base trade begins, you need to immediately save your workers—get them out of your base and try to lead them to your army, where they can be defended and hopefully begin building a new base. “Likewise, you should stop your opponent doing the same,” PiG said. “You should also prioritize targeting workers, especially in bases where they are mining, sniping down their main production facilities to stop them producing army, and removing any key tech: for instance, Dark Shrine, Spire, or Starport's building-cloaked Banshees.”
As for your own army, PiG said it’s important to split your army and queue attack commands to clear multiple targets at once. “Once you know your opponent's production is busted and they can't make [any more army units], the only threat is their army over in your base, so you can safely split up and destroy many bases at once.”
Thanks to PiG for helping us this week. Throw him a follow on Twitter and Twitch. Be sure to check out our earlier Endgame Moves—Identifying the Endgame and Destroying the Turtle—and join us tomorrow for tips from professionals about how to analyze your replays.