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StarCraft Portal: Micromanagement


Micro, or micromanagement, refers to how units are controlled. It generally includes all the commands given to units: the movements the player controls, the abilities the player executes, where armies are positioned, where the player attacks, where the player retreat, etc. When executed correctly, microing can turn the tide of a battle or, perhaps, the game itself. How the player controls one's units before and during a battle can make a significant impact on game play.


Scouting is how information is gathered about the opponent. In the early game, scouting is done by sending a worker unit to the opponent's base to determine what early decisions the opponent is making. Scouting itself utilizes one's micro skills so that the player can make more informed decisions about one's macro. The longer the player keeps the initial worker unit alive in the opponent's base, the more information one will have about the opponent's early decisions. Later on in the game, there are a larger variety of tools with which to scout the opponent. In the later stages of the game you will want to be finding out where your opponent is keeping his units. For example, are they in a base, outside of a base, or in the middle of the map? The player will also want to know what type of units the opponent has, what type of units the opponent is currently capable of producing, and what type of units the opponent may be working towards in the future. When a player know all of these things, one will be better able to make better decisions on where to allocate one's resources.


Before any battle, positioning is generally a primary concern. Positioning is picking one's battle location, somewhere favorable for the one's units to kill the opponent's units. Forcing the opponent to come through a choke point or up a hill to engage one's already-positioned units is a great advantage. Positioning is also how a player lays out the units in one's army. One example of a way to position an army is with higher value ranged units in the back (e.g. Hydralisk) with lower value melee units in the front (e.g. Zergling). This way the Zerglings in front can take up damage for the units in the back to deal the attack. To optimize firepower, units can be spread out. If ranged units attack simultaneously as a front (rather than moving into range one at a time), the army is much stronger. To flank is to attack an opponent from multiple sides. It negates any sort of retreat, as the opponent is enclosed, and it negates splash damage on one's army because the opponent's fire is distributed across multiple fronts, and one's army automatically achieve the aforementioned "spread" to attack simultaneously. To surround means ordering units to not just directly attack the opponent's front-most units, but to first move among and envelope the opponent units such that one's forces are able to attack more than one enemy unit at a time. The principle of the surround calls for one's units to not all simultaneously attack the same opponent units as they will get into each other's way, causing steric hindrance.


In harassment, players engage their opponent with groups of highly mobile units, looking for gaps in defenses while avoiding a direct confrontation. These attacks rarely win the game outright, but serve to either punish the opponent for playing too greedily, or force them to construct expensive static defense, such as Missile Turrets, Cannons, or Sunken Colonies.

Battle micro

During a battle, there are several techniques that can be applied to pull the fight into the player's favor. To focus fire is to order units to attack a single enemy unit rather than relying on the Artifical Intelligence, or AI, of the attacking unit, thus systematically killing off the opponent army. Two damaged Dragoons do more damage than one full-health and one dead Dragoon. Retreating individual units that are taking fire to allow them to live longer will increase the time it takes for the opponent to kill one's army, allowing the player more time to kill the opponent's army. After the retreated units are no longer under attack, they can be ordered to join the fight again. This technique is called dancing. Another common technique is to use hit-and-run tactics against enemy units with shorter range or higher rate of fire. For example, Vultures can alternate between attacking and running from a pack of chasing Zerglings because of its faster speed and ranged fire.

Micro Commands

Unit selection

Unit selection of units and buildings is done in several ways.

Command Keys Result
Basic select left-click or left-drag Left-clicking a unit will select it. Additionally the player can click-drag to box-select multiple units. The selected units will appear with a green circle around them and their wireframes are displayed in bottom center console. Buildings cannot be box-selected by a drag or box-added/removed from selection.
Select type Ctrl+left-click or double-click Will select all units of that type on the player's screen up to 12. For example, Ctrl+left-click a Marine will select all the Marines in the screen up to 12.
Remove selection Shift+left-click or Shift+left-drag This will add or remove units from the current selection.
Remove selection type Ctrl+Shift + left-click Adds or removes all units of the same type to or from the selection.

General Commands

Move.png Move

Move is probably the most frequently used command, and is vital for good micro. Simply right click, or M, a location and the selected units will travel to that location in the shortest path available. It is common practice to issue several move commands in quick succession before any of the previous commands have been completed in order to make the units travel in a specific path. When moving multiple units, their behavior can be difficult to predict, as some units may block the others' path temporarily and cause some to go a different direction initially. To avoid this, a user can quickly re-issue the move command several times to ensure that all the units in a group travel to the destination quickly. When grouping units, they may all move in formation or they may clump together and attempt to form a line. The difference is determined by Magic Boxes. If Move is issued on a player's own unit, the commanded units will move until they are close to the targeted unit. Moving the targeted unit away from the others will cause the other units to follow it.

Advanced micromanagement techniques are based on these fundamental principles. For example, when combating Lurkers with M&M, the move command can be used to have the Marines form a line perpendicular to the incoming forces before engaging them and avoid splash damage that would have been taken otherwise by the Lurker spines. By commanding Medics to follow Marines, they will not heal and can conserve their energy, which can useful when the M&M group gets Plagued. The Move command has such numerous applications that listing them all would be extremely difficult.

Stop.png Stop

By clicking the Stop icon or pressing S, the selected units will cease all movement and attacks. Often the Hold command is used instead when a player is engaging enemy units and does not want the units to stop attacking. Stop is useful for arranging units in conjunction with the Move command, making a worker block a ramp, stopping the observer over Turret trick and even Hold Lurker attacks.

Attack Move.png Attack/Attack-Move

Clicking Attack, or A, and then clicking an enemy unit will cause your selected units to move towards the enemy unit and attack it until the enemy unit is destroyed or out of range, or until your selected units are destroyed. (More commonly this is performed by right-clicking on the enemy unit) By issuing the Attack command on the terrain, the selected units will move towards that location and attack anything controlled by the enemy that is encountered while traveling. (Attack-Move) This can be used in place of Move to avoid being caught off guard when moving units, and can be frequently used in battle to ensure that all the units in a group are attacking and not standing idle.

Patrol.png Patrol

When commanding a unit to Patrol, , or P, a destination is targeted and the unit will then travel back and forth from its current location to the target destination, attacking any enemies that it encounters. This is similar to Attack-Move, except that the travel is repeated. This is commonly used by Zergs on Scourge to patrol strategic locations to prevent Dropship Harassment. It is used with Mutalisks to snipe Scourge. Patrol is especially useful with Vultures. With proper control, this can allow Vultures to attack without any loss of speed. (See: Vulture Patrol vs. Zealots) Patrol also allows the Spinning Overlord Trick.

Hold.png Hold

Hold is a very useful command. By simply pressing H or clicking the Hold Button, the selected units will simply stop moving and will not move from their current location until another command is issued. Additionally, if there are enemy units in range when ordered to Hold, the units will immediately attack the enemy units as long as they are in range. Because of the immediate attack, hold is preferred in battle over stop, as there is a greater delay between the command and the units' next attack. Hold is used with Dragoons in conjunction with the Move to destroy spider mines in the absence of an Observer as well as "dancing" goons to move the ones with low HP away from the enemy while still attacking. Hold is often used for Mutalisk Harass as well as blocking ramps and holes in wall ins with Zealots or Dark Templar.

Command Set Rally Point.jpg Set Rally Point

Set Rally Point, or Y, designates a location where newly spawned units from production buildings and town halls will gather. It issues a Move command, not Attack-move command, so care should be taken especially for long-distance rallies such that the newly produced unit does not endure a dangerous path from its creation to the rally point. The Set Rally Point is often used at the town hall to direct newly formed workers to a spot next to the mineral line. The command is also commonly used for production buildings, such as a Gateway, Factory, or Hatchery to direct newly created attack units to gather at a united point, ready for attack.

Worker/Harvester Commands

Command Gather.jpg Gather

Gather, or G, commands selected workers to gather resources from designated mineral field or vespene geyser. The command can also be issued by using right-click on a resource

Command Return Cargo.jpg Return Cargo

Return Cargo, or C, commands the worker to return carried resources to the nearest drop-off point and then resume gathering. This command is restricted to workers carrying a load of minerals or gas.

When a player is enduring harassment, such as by Zerglings inside the main base trying hit-and-run tactics against worker units, it is common to clump the workers together at a mineral/gas and then issue the attack command. Once the Zerglings retreat or are eliminated, it is generally more efficient to select the worker units and select C than issuing a Gather command on a piece of mineral. This is because the workers will return to deposit the harvested mineral to the closest town hall before returning to harvesting minerals, while a worker which is already carrying a load of minerals being issued the Gather command will move to the mineral patch before returning to make its deposit, thus delaying the mineral gathering process. The Return Cargo command, when issued to workers without a load of minerals or gas, will just return to the mineral line without making a trip to the nearest town hall.

Protoss Command Build Basic Structure Protoss.jpg TerranCommand Build Basic Structure Terran.jpg ZergCommand Basic Mutation Zerg.jpg Build Basic Structure/Mutation

Build Basic Structure for Protoss or Terran and Basic Mutation for Zerg, all using B, are race-specific commands to produce a basic Building, such as a Gateway, Barracks, or Spawning Pool. Whereas a Protoss Probe or Terran SCV are used to perform the the command and can resume harvesting duties, the Zerg Drone is consumed in the process.

Protoss Command Build Advanced Structure Protoss.jpg TerranCommand Build Advanced Structure Terran.jpg ZergCommand Advanced Mutation Zerg.jpg Build Advanced Structure/Mutation

Build Advanced Structure for Protoss or Terran and Advanced Mutation for Zerg, all using V, are race-specific commands to produce an advanced Building, such as a Templar Archives, Queen's Nest, or Science Facility. Whereas a Protoss Probe or Terran SCV are used to perform the the command and can resume harvesting duties, the Zerg Drone is consumed in the process.

Command Cancel-Halt Construction-Mutation.jpg Cancel or Halt Construction/Mutation

Cancel Construction or Mutation, or Esc, is used on a Protoss, Terran, or Zerg building to cancel its construction. This command destroys the building and refunds 75% of invested minerals and gas. In case of Zerg, the player also receives back the mutating Drone, consequently increasing supply by one, even beyond the current cap. This is exploited in some tactics, such as the Extractor Trick.

In Terran only, the command Halt Construction, or Esc, can also be used on a SCV to stop the construction of a building. This command differs from the Cancel Construction command in that it is executed on the SCV unit, as opposed to the in-production building. Further, a building that has been Halted can be left in place, resumed at a later time by selecting an SCV and right-click on the unfinished building, or cancelled at a later time by selecting Esc on the partially completed building itself. The command frees up the SCV performing the construction for another task, such as a higher priority construction or repair. Notably, if an unfinished building gets damaged, it cannot be repaired until its construction is first complete. The Halt Construction command is sometimes used by the Terran to block technology advancement or construction by the opponent. For example, the Terran player may start building a Refinery on a Protoss player's vespene gas geyser, or build an Engineering Bay at a Zerg's natural expansion to prevent a Hatchery from building in the same location; in both examples, the building is halted shortly after construction, then cancelled when the opponent has sufficient forces to destroy it.

Command Repair.jpg Repair

In Terran only, Repair, or R, is used to repair the Terran player's mechanical units and buildings, as well as friendly units and buildings in a team game. Buildings which are under construction cannot be repaired until construction is finished.