One thing I’ve always struggled with in RTS games is scouting. What are some effective methods of scouting what your opponent is up to in Starcraft 2, especially in the early game? How do you accomplish it without losing focus on what you are doing back at your base?
Certain units are better at scouting than others, but you should always scout constantly. There are a couple units which work well for scouting:
- Early worker -> a definite must, usually at ~10 supply, but if you think you can do it around 12-13, even better
- Tier 1 units (marine, zergling, Zealot) -> they’re cheap so suicide them into your opponents army to see what he has been building
- Air scouts (Overlord, Observer) -> you may have to sacrifice these for intel, so I suggest you place one at the top of the opponents main, and one at the bottom. This way you can move in and quickly see his entire base
- Terran specific (Orbital Command and Flying buildings) -> I actually recommend building an extra barracks and flying that in to scout. It has a lot of HP and should see plenty. Also, every MULE is worth 50 energy and gets you 250 minerals. Usually a better use of 50 energy than a scan (though not if you need to see invisible).
- Protoss specific: In the expansion Heart of the Swarm hallucinate no longer needs to be researched and is a fantastic way to scout. Hallucinate a phoenix and fly it where you want to scout.
Goals of Scouting:
- Scout a build order (opponents starting production) -> When did he build a spawning pool? Did he go 2 Gate or Cybernetics core? Techlab on his Barracks or Factory? These will help you deal with early agression
- Scout attack forces -> Knowing when an enemy is coming is vital. The more time you have to prepare the better. Place a unit near his ramp and control those watch towers if you can!
- Scout composition -> Knowing mid/late game what your enemy forces look like, will allow you to better adapt. Lots of Roaches? Build some immortals. Tons of Marines? Morph some banelings. Colossus? Vikings!
- Scout expansions -> leave some Tier 1 or spare units at various expansions on the map so he doesn’t sneak in a free base.
When to Scout:
- Every chance you get
There is never a bad time to scout.
Note: I would caution against assimilator trick. While it is slightly better as protoss than other races, you are essentially wasting resources and forcing him to play a more Tier 1 focused and aggressive strategy. If I only have minerals I’m going to build a lot of Gateway/Barracks/Hatcheries and push out cheap units instead of teching. Not a good position for my opponent who had to sacrifice 150 minerals.