The Beginner’s Guide to Starcraft 2 Part V: Unit types and Counters

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Each unit in Starcraft 2 has attributes that affects its targeting and combat efficiency. These attributes determine whether a unit can effectively counter another unit.

First off, units are split into Biological or Mechanical. Biological units are able to be healed by healing spells such as the Queen’s Transfusion and the Medivac’s Heal. The Protoss Archon and the Zerg’s Spore Crawler attacks also deal bonus damage to Biological units, as does the Terran Ghost’s Snipe ability. Mechanical units on the other hand, are able to be repaired. Currently, only SCVs and MULEs can repair.

Units are also classified based on their armor type. Unarmored units are classified as Light while armored units are classified as Armored. Furthermore, units are also classified as either ranged or melee, and either ground or air. Some units have additional classification, being Psionic, and Massive. 

Unit Counters

Some units are more effective against a particular set of units, typically dealing bonus damage to an armor type. This makes them a great counter units. For example, Banelings do additional damage to units with the Light attribute meaning they would be good counters to Marines, who are Light units.

You don’t have to memorize the attributes for each unit, simply click a unit and check! Unit counters are a lot more tricky as it’s a bit distracting to know which unit counters which. I’d chalk this one up to experience. As you play, you’ll slowly get the grasp on what unit performs better against a specific set of units, so I wouldn’t stress it.

It’s important to note that unit counters are not set in stone. Starcraft 2 is a much more deeper game than rock-paper-scissors. Other factors, such as macro and micro, can affect the outcome of a battle more than simple unit counters.

Let’s take our Baneling-Marine example. We know that Banelings counter Marines, right? Let’s say that after a battle, the Zerg comes out on top since he used a unit type that counters his opponent’s units. However, as the Zerg was too caught up in thinking about unit counters, he let his macro and production slip. He forgets to inject, he stopped making reinforcements, etc. Say that the Terran has better macro by keeping his money low by producing units during the battle. He can have another platoon of Marines ready for battle while the Zerg, who we assume has poorer macro, scrambles to field his reinforcements.

This is just one example on how good players can negate the disadvantages of having his units countered. Other things such as micro, harassment, abusing mobility and immobility, can also have as much as an impact on the battle as unit counters.

Examples

Take the following videos for example.

The Terran effectively negated the Banelings by a godlike control and micro. However,  Zerg can also micro his banelings to maximize efficiency against a Terran microing his Marines.

Starts at 3:44 if the auto-skip doesn’t work. 

Despite good control from the Terran, Lowko managed to come ahead on top of engagements through effective micro of his own, maximizing the potential for Banelings to counter the Marines.

Summary and Tips

  • Units in Starcraft 2 have different types and attributes.
  • These attributes affect the efficiency of units in combat.
  • Units that do bonus damage to specific units makes them good counters to that specific unit.
  • Unit counters are not the end-all-be-all of Starcraft 2 as effective control, better macro, or a nice combination of the two can negate the advantages brought in by unit counters.
  • Don’t stress out too much on learning and memorizing unit counters. Focus on the basics of economic management (workers, production, supply). Focus on making more units and you’ll know by experience what works best against what.

Credits: Videos belong to their respective owners.

Next up: Build Orders

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