The Beginner’s Guide to Starcraft 2 Part II: Hotkeys

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As a beginner, the first thing that you need to be doing is learning how to use hotkeys. Starcraft 2 is a fast-paced game and stuff will be happening within split-seconds. You want to spend those half-a-second moments focusing on what is important rather than looking for the right button to click.

First things first, boot up a custom game versus the AI. We’re going to use this to configure our hotkeys. Once the game has booted up, hit F10 and then:

Menu > Options > Gameplay > Check “Display hotkeys on Command Card.” 

Screenshot2015-07-18 19_03_47

Once you go back into the game, you’ll notice that your Command Card now displays what hotkey you should press in order to activate corresponding commands. If you still don’t see the hotkeys, return to the Gameplay options menu and uncheck “Simplify Command Card”.

From now on, do not click anything on the command card at all. Simply look at the corresponding hotkey and hit it in order to issue a command. It’s easier, faster, and it won’t take your mouse away from the action on screen!


Control Groups

In order to control your army better, you can assign them into control groups. In order to assign units and buildings into control groups, first select the unit (or building) that you want to assign, then hit CTRL+<any number from 1-0). From then on, when you hit the corresponding number you assigned the unit (or building) to, you automatically select them. If you want to add a unit into an existing control group, select the unit and then hit SHIFT+<corresponding existing control group number>. Removing a unit or building from a control group is a little bit trickier. With the control group selected, SHIFT+CLICK the unit you want to remove. Once the unit is deselected, remake the control group using CTRL+<number> again.

Control groups are essential for army control and it’s usually a good idea to use them all the time. You can have a total of 10 control groups, one for each number on the keyboard.

Control Group Tips:

  • If you bind similar buildings to a control group, you can use the functions of both buildings as one. For example, binding all my Hatcheries to control group #5 will allow me to hit 5, press the Select all larva hotkey and it will select all larva across all Hatcheries. Similarly, binding all Barracks into control group #4 will allow me to build Marines using a single control group by hitting 4 and pressing A, the hotkey for building Marines, a number of times.
  • If you bind different buildings and units to a control group, you can press Tab to shift through them.
  • Generally, it’s recommended to have 2 control groups for army controls, have your town halls (Command Center/Nexus/Hatchery) on 1 control group and have another for your production buildings.

Miscellaneous Hotkeys

  • Pressing F1 will allow you to select idle workers. pressing F2 will allow you to select all your army units. Despite this, it’s still advisable to have army control groups for better control. I tend to have spellcasters on control group 2 with the rest of my army in control group 1.
  • Pressing SHIFT after issuing a command will allow you to queue another command. For example, I ordered my army to move (Right Click) to a location A. Pressing SHIFT then pressing attack (A+Click) on another location B will tell my army to move to location A and then attack-move (where they move aggressively) to location B.
  • In order to jump to your bases quickly, there is a hotkey called Base Location hotkey, default Backspace. Hitting this key will cycle your camera view towards all of your active bases. If Backspace is a bit too far for you, remember you can always rebind your hotkeys to your own preferences.
  • You can also make use of location hotkeys. They are a bit like control groups but instead of units, you save camera locations. I personally don’t use them since I click on the minimap to readjust my camera but you may find them helpful.

In summary

  • Use and remember your hotkeys. Never click on your command card. It’s okay if you forget your hotkeys from time to time but make a conscious effort to use them. They literally shave off seconds you can be spending on more important matters.
  • Proper control is an important advantage so use your control groups! Use control groups when unit building and production as well.

Next up: Choosing a Race

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