March 17, 2011

The 5 Golden Rules of Macro: How to Macro Effectively

Often I see people complain on forums that they keep losing games and they don't understand why. Sometimes I download one of their replays and notice that they were sitting on a 2k mineral trust fund -- for half the game.

Most players in the Platinum leagues and below have a tough time managing their resources. It can sometimes be difficult for some players to get a solid grasp of the Starcraft 2 macro game. Sure, everyone understands that you have to spend your minerals, but the Macro game is made up of several components that go beyond resource spending. It is an absolutely essential part of the game that you must master if you want to compete at a higher level.

The General Macro Theory

There are 5 general rules of Macro that any player at the Platinum league or below should master if they want to improve. Here are my tips.

1. Resource collection saturation
2. Sufficient production structures
3. Constant unit production
4. Sufficient supply
5. Keep your next expansion in mind.

In depth discussion and exceptions after the jump.

What exactly is Macro?

The term "Macro" was coined to describe the general resource management aspect of real-time strategy games. It refers to the way in which a player effectively gathers and spends his resources. A player with a superior Macro game will almost always have an advantage in Starcraft 2. This is due to the increased unit production capacity of his bases. No matter how good your micro management is, 2 marines will always beat 1 marine.

So how do you maintain a good Macro game? Let's go over the rules. Bear in mind that these are general rules that are subject to some exceptions which I will discuss.

1. Resource collection saturation

Resource collection saturation refers to optimizing your base for maximum resource gathering. One base (8 mineral patches and 2 gas geysers being the Blizzard standard) can support 30 maximum harvesters before the extra harvesters become useless. Each mineral patch and geyser can support 3 harvesters. However, this does not necessarily mean that you want 30 harvesters -- 24 on minerals and 6 on gas -- in each base. The optimal number is somewhere between 2-3 per mineral patch and this number depends on the situation.

A simple method to count probes on mineral patches.
Since I don't want to bog you down too much with the number crunching I will simply say that this rule is best followed by simply maintaining harvester production all the way up until you grab your second expansion. You should always be making harvesters. Once you grab a second expansion you can take about half of your harvesters and send them to the second base. This way the mineral income is optimal. Once at your second expansion you can continue building harvesters in each base until both bases are saturated with harvesters (2-3 per mineral patch).

There are a few exceptions to this rule. One exception applies when you are shooting for a timing attack that requires cutting harvester production in order to save minerals for offensive units. Another exception is when you are on the defensive end of a timing attack and you need extra minerals for defensive units or structures. Finally, you also generally want to cut harvester production when you have 2 bases fully saturated.

2. Sufficient Production Structures

Once your bases are saturated for optimal resource harvesting you must ensure that you have the production capabilities to spend your resources. Often, insufficient production structures plagues players from the Bronze and Silver leagues.

The general rule of thumb is to have 4 production structures per base in order to maintain a constant production and not have excess minerals. This tip, just like the 2-3 harvester per mineral patch tip, is highly dependent on various factors. The number of high tech buildings producing high tech units, such as a Stargate producing Carriers for example, will have an effect on your optimal structure count. Your rate of unit upgrades will also affect the number of production structures your base can support.

I recommend starting with the general goal of building 4 production structures per base and getting a feel for how well that fits into a particular build order. Once you secure your first expansion and transfer harvesters, you will have extra income to build an additional 4 structures to complement the second base.

3. Constant unit production

The most important point I want to make here is that your structures should always be busy. You should rarely have an idle production structure. This is a structure that is not doing anything. Generally speaking, this is an indication that you do not have enough minerals to support your structures. More often however, you are likely just forgetting to use your structures.

Spend your resources! If you are having trouble spending and you have an adequate number of production structures, consider placing your structures on one hotkey. This way you can just hit "Tab" and cycle through each structure while keying in the order to build a unit.

4. Sufficient supply

Just like constantly building units, this rule is easy to understand but difficult to follow. I often watch Huk play live ladder matches and I see him get supply blocked too. This happens to the best of us. I was able to overcome an almost constant supply block issue by posting a note on my monitor that read "PYLONS." A good way to break your habit is to practice building a 200 supply army without an opponent. Check out this article for a map that helps train you.

5.Keep your next expansion in mind

The last aspect of the Macro game is what ties everything together. You must expand at appropriate times in order to: 1) Use your extra harvesters that you are constantly producing, 2) Increase your overall income, and 3) Replace the bases that run out of minerals.

In order to expand at appropriate times you can simply keep your next expansion in mind. Doing this allows you to push your gameplay strategy in a particular direction. For example, you could be considering expanding to the rich mineral fields in Lost Temple. Having this expansion in mind well before you actually expand there will mean that you won't forget to break the rocks. In fact, you will probably do so when your army is idle. Also, keeping your expansion in mind will remind you to consider expanding at appropriate times. Such as when you attack your opponent and leave him in a defensive mindset.


  1. as general rule try these...

    if all your production buildings are making units and you still have enough money, then make another production building, if you have enough money to make 3 units per building then double your buildings.

    when you are making lords, make 1 lord for each hatch, 3 base and 3 hatch then 3 lords

    make 2 hatches per queen and dual inject your hatches.. hold shift hit V click and then click again on the next hatch

  2. I think a lot of the macro inexperience comes from having trouble knowing the right number of production buildings that a base can support.

    Though this isn't a big deal for Protosses mainly focused on Gateway units, it becomes more of a problem once players start implementing Robos and Stargates into their builds.

    Also, Terran macro is a bit tricky considering that the ratio of Barracks, Factories, and Starports per saturated base is not the easiest value to figure out, especially considering the sheer amount of variables to consider when trying to figure out that ratio.

    A majority of inexperienced players will often underestimate how many production facilities they need, which becomes an especially big handicap when they try to improve their macro. However, there is always that minority of players that will overestimate their production facilities (13 gateways off of one base LOL), though I think it is better to over-achieve as opposed to under-achieve when trying to improve macro.

  3. This was really helpful. Thanks!

  4. I will try the "4 production per base". I tend to build 4 or 5 and then stop, even after expanding, which I suppose is why I end up in the ridiculous mineral counts.

    Also with terran a big problem I'm having is running out of gas. I'll have 5k mins and no gas. What else is there to make aside marines?

  5. In terms of spending minerals there is not much else that only requires minerals for Terran. However, the problem is likely not with the fact that you aren't building enough Marines. You are probably missing production cycles. Post a replay in the forums or email me one and I'll help you isolate the problem.