In this guide to microing in Starcraft 2, you are going to discover the best way to learn to micro like the pros! While micro will not make up for bad strategies or a botched build order, it is the icing on the cake that allows you to win close games. There are a lot of close games in Starcraft 2, so improving your micro can significantly improve your win rate.
What is Micro?
Micro refers to all aspects of unit control in Starcraft 2. This includes moving troops, splitting or combining your armies, attacking the opponent, defending against attacks, pulling away injured units, focus-firing enemy units, and casting abilities. Macro, the other half of Starcraft 2, refers to building new structures, training new units, and researching new technology.
Good micro is needed to efficiently engage your opponent in battle. In the early game, certain units when microed properly become strong counters to that unit. For example, a Reaper can beat a Zealot when microed properly. With good micro, the Reaper will not even take damage from the Zealot. However, if the Reaper is not controlled and just allowed to auto attack, the Zealot will destroy it with no problem.
The #1 Way to Improve Micro
The most important thing you can do to improve your micro in Starcraft 2 is to watch replays from professional gamers. These players are professional in part because they have amazing micro. Watching these pros play Starcraft 2 serves two purposes: it lets you know what excellent micro is and how to get the most out of your units plus it actually makes you better at micro by default.
After all, how can you improve your micro if you do not know what you are doing? If you just try to improve your unit control on your own without getting feedback from pro games, you might miss out on all sorts of strategies and micro tips that you would miss if you just practiced on your own.
While this may not be as intuitive, watching pros play Starcraft 2 will actually improve your own micro. We learn by seeing what others do and duplicating their actions. Humans are very good at this and it is one of the best ways to learn new skills.
This learning is no different from when a child sees an adult or an older sibling throw a ball. The child will often learn to throw without actually any practice or instruction. After watching the adult throw the ball enough times, the child will run over and try to throw it themselves, often quite successfully within the first few attempts. Our brain is very good at learning through observation, so just by watching pros micro well, you will get better at controlling your own units.
There are many sources for replays. GomTV.net tends to have the replays from the most skilled players, but only a few are posted each day that do not require a subscription. Another good source for replays is on YouTube. You can also search Google for the names of major tournaments followed by the phrase “replay pack”. Tournament sponsors will often release the full set of replays from their tournaments, which you can then download and watch yourself. Make sure you watch pro games from your chosen race, as watching pro replays that feature other races may not benefit you as much.
Other Micro Tips
While watching pro replays is a good start, there are a few other micro tips you should know if you want to improve your micro in SC2.
Know Your Hotkeys
Even if you know what to do, you need to learn your hotkeys if you want to have good micro. You cannot control your units or micro effectively if you do not know hotkeys. Good luck casting Force Fields in a line without using the “F” key to cast Force Field.
Study your hotkeys and practice them. Without hotkeys, your micro will always be among the worst of all Starcraft 2 players.
Use Unit Groups
In order to control large groups of diverse units, you will need to set up unit groups. Not only should you have the bulk of your army bound to a key, but you should also bind high value units that have abilities you want to cast to their own key. This way, you can quickly tap the unit group and then use hotkeys to cast the ability you want.
You will also want to bind units that may move differently from the bulk of your army to their own unit group. For example, a Protoss player may want to have a separate unit group for their Colossi when playing against Terran. This way, the Protoss player can move forward with their other ground forces while moving the Colossi backwards, helping the Colossi to stay safe and take full advantage of their range of 9 (at least with Extended Thermal Lances).
Practice With the Same Units
The final step to getting good micro is just to practice what you have learned. If you watch a lot of pro games, know all your hotkeys, and make regular use of unit groups, the only thing standing between you and good micro is practice.
However, your practice time will be diminished by default if you are constantly using different unit combinations in each game. When practicing micro, try to use the same unit and army compositions for many games in a row. These might not always be the optimal composition, but playing match after match with the same units will significantly improve your micro when controlling those units.