Learn Like Water
“To approach the game in a reverse engineering, or, theoretic way will not only benefit your knowledge as a player but it will also make you understand a lot more and also able to learn faster and better in different situations. So when the meta game does change, you can change with it.”
There is an idea from the chess world that I read in the book The Art of Learning a while back that all Starcraft players should be aware of. It is that players can spend a lifetime trying to learn all of the different openings and how they defeat each other. In the end that player is no better than the strategies they know and when their strategies no longer work they are left with very little understanding of the game. This is the fundamental flaw of the way that many people approach learning starcraft 2, and why on this website I don’t really write about builds.
The quote at the start of this article is from a video by the brilliantly-minded lastshadow who, at the time of writing, dedicates all of his time in Korea thinking about, and playing Starcraft 2 (despite not being supported by a team). In the video he talks about approaching Starcraft 2 like water (referencing Bruce Lee). He says it is important to try to understand the why and the implications of what people do in the game as opposed to knowing what the right thing to build or the right place to attack is.
Think about the way water acts. Water always tries to find it’s way down into the deepest points of whatever it contacts. Try to be like the water when you learn.
I recommend watching the VoD I am talking about – just skip forward to about 10 minutes if you are not interested in TvP.
Let’s Break it Down
This concept can be a little bit difficult to understand in your early days of learning SC2 so in my quest to be as beginner friendly as possible (I know what it’s like) I will try to break it down a little more.
We know it’s a good idea to harass the Zerg player in the early game because it forces them to make Zerglings instead of Drones. This is pretty common knowledge for most players and it is actually a pretty developed idea already. But as my ancient history teacher always used to tell me “we need to take another step”.
Let’s experiment in following the chain of effects harassing the Zerg player in the early game has. We know that it forces use Larvae that otherwise would have made Drones.
What else does it do?
It uses supply quickly. Zerglings are a much less beneficial use of supply than Drones are. What does this mean? In order for the Zerglings to be beneficial to the Zerg once he has made them he must use them to be aggressive. From this we can take our first implication of harassing the Zerg – they will be more aggressive in the early game in order to make up for their lost economy.
What else does it do?
It reduces their economy that they will have for a mid-game push. More Zerglings early means less of another unit later on. Now we are getting interesting! Harassing the Zerg early on weakens any mid-game pushes from the Zerg.
We can continue following this train of effects down further but we will stay here for this example.
You can apply this type of thought process into any situation – forcing Scans from a Terran, rushing for tech, taking an early expansion etc.
What’s the benefit?
What this actually does for us as players is gives us a fundamental understanding of the game. This type of understanding is the basis for every opener, every tech switch and every meta game tactic.
Aiming for this type of understanding will give you the ability to play well regardless of what balance changes are made, what new build is the ‘best’ in any given matchup and which race is imba this season.
A fundamental understanding lasts forever, builds change all the time.