Hone your instincts, read your opponent, and dominate the mirror match!
Hello! Bombs here, bringing you an in-depth guide to scouting in Terran vs. Terran! In this article, you will learn both when to scout the enemy and how to make sense of the information that you uncover. Scouting is key to victory in Starcraft: without a proper read on your opponent’s game plan, your chances of winning fall dramatically! Let’s look at the most common openers that you’ll encounter, and how to recognize and respond to each. Although it’s not strictly necessary, research has shown that you remember things better after writing them down: I’m gonna ask you to get paper and a pen, and take notes on the most important points that I mention!
It’s hard to disagree: scouting is important. But when is best to send that brave SCV into the darkness? I find that the best time is right after you start building your Barracks, because scouting then gives you a good amount of time to identify what the enemy is doing and still answer properly. Some people prefer to scout after the Barracks is built, but that’s already very late already! If, for example, the enemy did a Proxy Reaper build, you will have no way to stop it! To defend against a Proxy Reaper, you must have this information before your own Barrack finishes, so you can start planning immediately.
Make it your TvT standard to always scout right after you start your Barracks!
Before we discuss exactly how to scout the enemy, there’s an important detail to touch on: Terran players will normally use one of two general opening strategies. If you scout and don’t see signs of either build that I explain next, your opponent is most likely doing an all-in. These two openings are The Tech Opening and The Macro Opening.
The Tech Opening
This build starts its first Gas at 15 Supply, starts Barracks at 16, then takes its second Gas at 17 supply. As you can see, this build is VERY Vespene Gas heavy, which means early access to technology. Terran employing this opening are prone to early harassment, but this strategy focuses on getting both Gases so fast that the player can tech to whatever is desired. For example, a Tech Opening can lead into diverse strategies such as Proxy Thors, Fast Banshee with Cloak, or just a Marine-Siege Tank-Liberator push.
The Macro Opening
The Macro Opening starts similarly with 15 Gas, and 16 Barracks, but the Terran player begins building a second Command Center immediately after the Barracks finishes. This build swaps early progress up the tech tree for a better economy. Of course, the natural disadvantage of a fast expansion is that it trades this economic boost for more area to defend with less initial troops and technology!
The clearest difference between these two builds emerges after the Barracks is finished. At this point, a Tech Opening player starts a Factory while a Macro Opening player builds a Command Center. This reference point is extremely important, as misinterpreting your opponent’s intentions is guaranteed to leave you playing from behind! Every time you scout, you must look inside the enemy base to see if he is doing the Tech Opening or the Macro Opening – and if you can’t identify either, be on the lookout for an all-in!
Let’s go through a few examples together.
Your SCV reaches the enemy base. As you scout, you see two Gases taken and he starts producing a Factory right after his Barracks finishes. What does this mean?
As discussed earlier, a player who has already taken both Gases when you arrive at their base is 100% using a Tech Opening. Building a Factory right after the Barracks confirms that.
You get into the enemy base and see both Gases taken, but his Barracks finishes and there’s no Factory in sight. Your SCV takes a walk around his entire base and doesn’t find anything else, and at last survey he still isn’t building a Factory. What does this mean?
Think about it: the opponent took two really fast Gases (implying fast technology), so when his Barracks finished, he should have built the Factory right? Well, if his Factory isn’t inside his base where else can it be? It’s probably a proxy Factory – a dangerous situation that we can now scout and properly prepare for.
Say you get into the enemy base and notice a lack of a Supply Depot on his ramp, though there is one behind his mineral line. As you scout you see no Gas taken, not even one Refinery! You can’t immediately locate his Barracks and his SCV count also seems lower than yours. Is your opponent tilting? What does this mean? Why he would not build even one Refinery and stop producing SCVs?
This is a Three Proxy Barracks build with only Marines: the opponent’s SCV count is low because he’s trying to save minerals and build Barracks close to your base ASAP!
Let’s say you get into the enemy base and see no Barracks at the door (Kappa). You find two Gas Refineries already done and gathering, but you also notice that his SCVs number seems low and he didn’t start to produce his Orbital Command when your Barracks finished. What does this mean?
Why would your opponent collect so much Gas if not for a Tech Opening? They must be using the extra Vespene for some kind of cheese. The real giveaway is the lack of an Orbital upgrade: this indicates Proxy Reaper, since this means the opponent can use the 150 minerals to build another Barracks instead!
Your SCV reaches the enemy base and sees one Barracks being built. You check the mineral line and see normal SCV counts and only one Refinery. When his Barracks finishes, you follow the SCV headed for his natural and see him starting a Command Center. What does this means?
Easy read, through and through: he’s doing the Macro Opening!
So now we’ve addressed the main things to look for with your initial scouting SCV. This should already help you to read your enemies openings, but I’ve got a little more to share: before we finish, I’m going to speak a little about scouting in the mid-game.
There are two solid rules of thumb that I use to help scout what strategy my opponent is going to pursue after a standard opener. The possibilities can be overwhelming if you don’t know what the key pieces of information are! Is he going Banshee after his expand? Is he doing a Marine-Siege Tank drop? Is he going for a Raven and Vikings early? You will have a good foundation for understanding your enemy’s game plan after reading this next section!
This is something I share with all my students that play Terran, and they love it!
If you see your opponent open with two Gases and then start a Factory right after the Barracks, he is doing the Tech Opening. Of course, the Tech Opening has many different strategies available to it! One of the most dangerous is the Banshee Timing: the fastest Banshee can arrive at your base at around 4:20, sometimes more or less depending on the size of the map. Now the question is:
How can we know exactly what he’s going for?
To get that information, you must Scan the enemy main base at exactly 3:05. At this moment (roughly), you will have another 50 Energy in the Orbital Command, which gives you the possibility to use a MULE Calldown. However, at 3:05 your opponent should already have built the pieces for whatever strategy he is pursuing. By Scanning at the appropriate moment you will be able to tell if it is, for example, a Banshee Timing build. For Banshee Timing, by 3:05 he should have landed the Starport on his Tech Lab, giving you a clear signal as to what tech he’s employing.
Another sample situation: you Scan at 3:05 and see one Barracks with Reactor, a Factory, and a Starport without add-ons. What does that mean? It can’t be a defensive opening because if he were playing defensively he would have at least a Tech Lab on his Factory to produce Siege Tanks. If his Starport and Factory don’t have any add-ons, that implies he is going for early aggression with a Medivac. Sometimes you won’t be 100% sure exactly what your opponent is going for, but if this Scan eliminates one or two possibilities, like letting you know that you don’t need an Engineering Bay or to make a Raven because he isn’t going for Banshees, you’ll already be benefitting from an extremely helpful hint that increases your chances of winning!
On the other hand, if your opponent is playing the Macro Opening, you should see that he started building the Command Center at his natural right after his Barracks finished. In this case, we need to adjust our scouting timing slightly, as when a player does the Macro Opening he delays his Factory by 30 – 40 seconds compared to the Tech Opening. Accordingly, we must delay our Scan by 30 – 40! Just like when playing against the Tech Opening, scanning at 3:40 ~ 3:50 will get the same information you want, to better understand what exactly he is going for and what units he is producing. Now supposing you’re also doing the Macro Opening: I suggest that when your expansion finishes, start the Orbital, then when that Orbital finishes (around 3:30 if your build order is sharp!) wait for 3:40 – 3:50 and Scan! Now you know what’s up!
Armed with this information, you should be able to better interpret the intentions of your Terran opponents and claim an advantage in the matchup! Those of you who took notes on this article will also better remember the most important details in the heat of battle. That wraps up my guide to TvT scouting! Thanks for reading and please share with your friends, and follow me on Twitter at @Bombscoach! I hope you enjoyed and learned from this article – if you also want to learn how to deal with each one of these situations in more detail, consider booking coaching sessions with me, and if you have any questions feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Good luck on ladder, Captain!