And knowing is half the battle

There has been a lot of discussion on the topic of Starcraft 2 rankings recently, and I thought we might take this time to sit down and have a chat about them. At their core, rankings seek to address the eternal questions of “Who am I?” and “Am I a man?” and more frequently, “How can I prove that I’m a better person than my friend Bob?”

Throughout the ages, man sought to prove his dominance over his fellow man. This was instinctual ever since we first left the trees for African plains. However, early man lacked the comforts of Battle.net 2.0. Instead, he was forced to resort to cave paintings, local competitions and iCCup. In these days, ranking was not something that happened between you and your 99 friends, but rather a letter grade which was bestowed upon you like a tardy student at the end of 2nd year English.

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The Magic Box

Pandora's BoxRight now, the Magic Box is one of the most interesting things happening in Starcraft 2 game play (5 rax reapers is less interesting based on its straight forward usage).  At its core is the idea that “Hard Counters” don’t really exist in Starcraft 2 and that, rather, how you use your units is more important than what they are.  Those people familiar with using Speedlings against Hellions or Tanks against Marauders have already encountered this strange Phenomenon.

To help you understand this, it’s probably best if I start by explaining what a “Hard Counter” is.  The concept of a counter unit is very much based in the children’s game Rock-Paper-Scissors.  For those unaware of the game, children simultaneously choose one of the three titular elements, each of which wins against another element while losing against the other differing element (same elements are considered draws).   A first glance at Starcraft seems to indicate a similar trend: Hellions do extra damage to light units (which Zerglings are) and can be upgraded even further in this capacity; by comparison Zerglings do not do extra damage to Hellions and, further more, clump up causing them to take additional damage from the Hellions’ AoE .  This would imply to the layperson that an army of Zerglings will lose to an army of Hellions.  Strangely enough, you’ll see many Zerg players actually employ Speedlings (speed upgraded Zerglings) in defense against Hellions.  While this may seem counter intuitive, if the Speedlings can surround the Hellion (thus preventing escape) they are very effective at killing it.

As Day9 might say, “[Hard Counters] deeply bother me.”

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Macro vs Micro

Still one of my favorite images

In Real Time Strategy games, and to some extent turn based ones too, there are these two concepts of Macro and Micro.  Macro here refers to the economic theory of resource distribution, and Micro to micromanagement of units. Despite what many people will tell you (and the above image suggests) these are not two sides to the same coin; they are radically different concepts that make up the heart and soul of an RTS game.

While these concepts really apply to any RTS game, most of this discussion is going to be in reference to Starcraft 2 as that is where I have the most familiarity.

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