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StarCraft 2: Terran Strategies Overview

Continuing our Strategy Overview series with the Terran race, we explore commonly used strategies in mid to high level of play in StarCraft 2. The Terran race is a totally different animal from the Protoss race previously explored here, and, therefore, the format will not be exactly the same as before – the rugged space hicks are actually not as straightforward as they seem!

To start off, we’ll focus on the common rush-type openings, before moving on to the more general gameplay strategies.

Reaper Rush

The Reaper, The Terran’s jetpack-equipped infantry unit, has been hotly discussed from day one. This super fast, ranged, cliff-jumping, light-damage dealing, tier 1.1 unit takes down workers in three rapid shots and can infiltrate an enemy mineral line before he’s able to produce a single unit. The fastest variation calls for building a Barracks and Refinery before the first supply depot, attaching a tech-lab to it and getting a Reaper out as soon as possible.

Since this is an economy-crippling build, the goal in this rush is to inflict more economy damage to the opponent than the Terran player has sacrificed for it. In low-mid levels of play, groups of 2-3 Reapers will be gathered first before an attack. However, in higher level play, players can smell a Reaper rush a mile away, and so, the Terran player will send his first Reaper to attack as soon as it emerges from the Barracks.

Doing it wrong: Reapers approach the Terran choke head-onYou’re doing it wrong

Reapers are basically invulnerable to tier 1 melee units and can kite those forever while taking shots at them if proper micromanagement is applied. The only exceptions are Zerglings on creep and Speedlings, which can catch up with the Reapers and quickly surround them. Still, with the Reapers’ ability to jump up and down cliffs, their survivability and harassment potential are greatly increased.

Some are calling it the “Terran 6pool” because of the somewhat obnoxious feeling one gets from being attacked before any defensive capabilities are available. However, just like early Zergling rushes, Reaper rushes can be defended against as well if one scouts ahead and prepares accordingly.

Counters:

  • A single Stalker or Marauder in the mineral line, Roaches
  • ~2 Marines per Reaper
  • A Spine Colony or Photon Cannon + whatever units are at hand to chase the Reapers

Fast Banshees

Banshees, the Terran’s rotor-spaceships, are somewhat slow and can’t take a lot of hits, but dish out damage at an incredible rate. Despite being relatively high on the tech tree, the Terran’s walling-off abilities make this strategy both relatively safe and hard to scout. Getting these out to the field quickly gives the Terran player a good chance to find his opponent lacking any meaningful anti-air capabilities. With more than a couple at hand, the Banshees are very capable at hit and run attacks against anti-air defenses and units, wearing down the opponent until the mineral line is exposed and the workers are good for the picking. However, even single Banshees can take out their immediate counters in one on one battles – Both Queens and Stalkers lose to a Banshee in a head-on fight, and groups of Marines are not guaranteed to repel it as well. When the defenses go down, two Banshee volleys are enough to kill one worker! If that wasn’t enough, delaying the Banshee attack a little longer can allow the Terran player to research Cloak for it, making its harassment (and game ending-potential) even more effective.

Counters:

  • Missile Turrets with Marines, quick Vikings with Ravens
  • Spore Colonies, quick Hydralisks with Overseers
  • Photon Cannons, Stalkers with Observers added later on

Marine Rush

As simple as it gets. Get a bunch of trusty Marines and send them to the enemy base, mowing down everything on the way. This build was very uncommon in the early days of the beta – the simplest things are sometimes hardest to see – but it’s been gaining traction as of late, despite the nerf to the Marine build time in patch #6. After getting a first Barracks and an Orbital Command, three more Barracks are quickly added (before the second Supply Depot, for brave players) and Marines start being produced in masses. The gang heads out to the enemy base, trying to take advantage of their long weapon range and concentrated DPS to quickly and painlessly take down any target of opportunity. With some micro inserted into the mix, the Marines will run back a bit after each firing cycle: this makes them take less hits from melee units and prevent them from getting surrounded as well as makes it harder for shorter ranged units to engage with their full attack potential. When the Terran player finally pushes his Marine force into the enemy base – usually supplemented by more and more waves of rallied reinforcements – the opportunity to deal a knock-out blow to the enemy economy is great, and the game is often decided right at that point.

Counters:

  • Bunkers, especially with Reapers OR very quick Siege Tanks
  • Banelings, Roaches and/or Spine Crawlers in sufficient numbers
  • Quick Colossus, dancing Stalkers, Cannons + Force Field in chokes, Charging Zealots

Hellion Opening

Hellions, the StarCraft 2 Firebat/Vulture hybrid, have been seeing more and more use throughout all stages of the game. Still, one of their most effective uses is early in the game, where few offensive units are available. Their linear splash damage effect makes them particularly suitable for killing workers – especially if these try to run away – and makes the Hellion one of the units most benefiting from good micromanagement. The Terran player will get a fast Factory right after the first Barracks, on which a Reactor addon is pre-built, and then move the Factory over it to quickly start pumping out Hellions for a devastating drive-by on the enemy economy. With their bonus damage against light targets, the Hellions remain very handy later on, if Zerglings, Banelings, Hydralisks, Zealots, and Dark Templars come into play. While the Hellions can’t survive many hits, their relatively long range allows them to stay safely behind the rest of the Terran army, scorching enemy units without inflicting friendly fire damage in the process.

Upgraded Hellions devastate the Protoss worker line

Counters

  • Blocked ramps and choke points (units on Hold Position work well!)
  • Static defense in the mineral line

Standard M3 Ball

Ahh, the dreaded M&M&M army. Much has been said about this unit composition – comprising Marines, Marauders and Medivacs – and not surprisingly so, as it can be seen in the vast majority of Terran games, in all match-ups. The reason, of course, is the incredible robustness and all-roundedness of this build – and some would say: ease of use. The M3 ball, composed of easy to mass units, capable in both defense and offense, mobile to the extreme yet beefy enough for a stand-up fight, is clearly the “correct” go-to strategy in many situations. With Marauders dishing out heavy anti-armor damage, Marines – the highest DPS/cost ranged unit in the game, who have a great anti-air weapon – and Medivacs, the mobility and healing granting fliers, the M3 ball can be where it needs quickly, counter almost any unit composition, and stay alive long enough to get the job done. With the three upgrades added – Combat Shields, Concussive Shells and Stim Packs – the ball can serve many Terran players for the entire match.

Perfect Combo - A big MMM Blog with a Thor on the side

When building up for an M3 ball, one would best be served by quickly setting up two extra Barracks after upgrading to an Orbital Command. One Barracks should have the Reactor addon while the other two get a Tech-Lab. From then on, pumping out units is an easy affair, and the ball is quickly formed by continually building two Marauders and two Marines at a time. This build allows the production of a relatively heavy army while still teching up and/or getting unit upgrades – a must for a dedicated M3 ball. When a small complement of M&Ms is gathered, a Starport is built to supplement them with Medivacs.

The M3 ball is made! This well-rounded army can then push out, look for weaknesses in enemy positions, drop on unsuspecting mineral lines, or serve as cannon fodder for Siege Tanks.

Counters

  • Siege Tanks, Cloaked Banshees
  • Fungal Growth, Banelings + Swarm, Brood Lords in the late game
  • Colossi or Psi-Storm with Charging Zealots

Mid-game transitions: Siege Tanks, Thors

Once the Terran player has opened with one of the above and successfully transitioned into the mid-game, the time comes to choose a unit composition that will best serve the next transition – into a victory, or at least into the late-game. The Terran race has a variety of options and answers for all situations, but some counters are very hard and serve almost no purpose against anything but their intended targets.

Siege Tanks

The Siege Tank, one of the Terran’s most symbolic units, returns to serve the same role in StarCraft 2 – ground-control and crowd-control. With the huge damage and splash effect, Siege Tanks are effective in all numbers, whether by softening up enemy units for an M&M blob or by completely denying an area of the battlefield from ground units when large enough numbers are used. Often, the Terran player will quickly get a couple of Siege Tanks after settling into the game and march straight towards the enemy base, slowly wearing him down with the help of the incredible long range of the sieged-up tank artillery cannon. From then, the Terran player is a Siege-Tank push away from victory – slowly leap-frogging the Siege Tanks closer and closer to where it hurts while keeping the enemy contained inside his base.

Counters

  • Siege Tanks, Banshees
  • Swarming the tanks when they unsiege, Brood Lords
  • Immortals, Phoenix Gravity Beam, Dark Templars, carefully managed Charging Zealots

Thors

The Terran Thor, still a menacing unit despite the recent size cut, has slowly managed to find a niche on the battlefield, thanks to some patched-in changes to its attributes and a greater understanding of its role in the game a couple of months into the beta. Despite its cost, the Thor has many advantages and is very useful in many army compositions – and sometimes, even just by itself.

Thor Doom Drop an Unsuspecting Protoss

Since the Thor is able to take down many units – including workers – in one volley of its cannons, Thor drops can actually be very effective if done right. A Terran producing a Thor quickly and dropping it on an enemy mineral line will rack up a few worker kills easily and will also be able to deal with many offensive units unless they swarm him all together – in which case, it’s back to the Medivac.

Thors are also a great addition to an M&M ball when deciding to push out with one. Its great anti-air attack, which deals area-of-effect damage in a small radius, is a perfect complement to Marines against flying threats such as the Mutalisk and Banshee. The Thor’s special Strike Cannon ability is great when dealing with other Massive targets, since, despite not dealing much more DPS than its normal attack, the bombardment stuns the unit in place until it dies. Also, since abilities ignore the Immortal’s hardened shield, the Strike Cannons destroy a fully-shielded Immortal in one use.

What is the Standard

When Terran players wish to play it safe and solid, they’ll often wall-up inside their base while gathering the standard M&M force. Constantly scouting the enemy, additional units will supplement this basic army to counter upcoming threats to the Terran infantry: Hellions for masses of light units, mainly Zerglings, Banelings and Zealots; Vikings for heavy air units, such as Brood Lords, Void Rays, Carriers and Battlecruisers, as well for decapitating Colossi; Siege Tanks to deal with masses of tier 1-2 units; Thors to deal with light-air swarms; and eventually, Battlecrusiers to put the hurt on everything or break down turtles. Some pressure can be applied using Reapers, Banshees or Hellions, as described above, until the Terran player is ready to seal the deal with a well-timed push.

Addendum: Terran as the Real Infestation

While fighting the Zerg often feels like dealing with bugs that keep harassing you all over and are impossible to get rid of, the Terran race can actually play the infestation game just as well, “infesting” the battlefield and never releasing their hold on it. The Terrans have always been the turtle-friendly choice, but in StarCraft 2, thanks to some new tools and additional mobility, the turtle can now more easily spread around and hold more and more of the battlefield. Almost every Terran unit can be treated like a mobile turret with various properties designed to keep enemies away from the Terran mining operations. Their units have the longest range, their buildings are bulky and durable, and their static defenses – Bunkers, Missile Turrets and Planetary Fortresses, provide the most robust defense.

The Thor often makes more sense when seen as a walking turret, patrolling the base and guarding it from Mutalisk invasions; Vikings, one of the slower flying units, have an incredible range of 9, and are more than suitable for taking down Void Rays trying to penetrate the Terran base before they even think of charging up. With Siege Tanks, the building armor upgrade, the Raven’s Point Defense Drone and Auto-Turret, and the amazing staying power of infantry backed by healing Medivacs, a well-built Terran fortress is indeed the hardest to break.

Fortressing - Terran Player claims the high yield

A Terran player playing the infestation game will periodically take over an expansion, sending many SCVs to quickly put down defenses and buildings as well as Siege Tanks and the other necessary walking/flying turrets to secure the area. The purpose, of course, is to create a stronghold that the enemy will have to spend many more resources to remove than it took to secure. Slowly taking over the map while occasionally harassing the enemy, this strategy is often hard to deal with even if it’s seen coming.

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40 Comments to “StarCraft 2: Terran Strategies Overview”


  1. Chef — May 30, 2010 @ 5:52 am

    6 lings + speed stops reapers every time

  2. FibDynamo — June 2, 2010 @ 1:24 pm

    Very nice Terran guide, probably the best I’ve seen. Keep up the good work!

  3. Shokz Guide — June 5, 2010 @ 10:09 am

    Great guide, thanks man!

  4. vangogh — July 28, 2010 @ 7:36 pm

    A very nice informational guide, thank you for your time and effort in making this article =)

  5. Chrispy — July 30, 2010 @ 6:59 am

    Easily the best I have seen. Build lists would be a nice addition.

  6. JT — July 30, 2010 @ 8:49 pm

    Great guide, much appreciated :-)

  7. guest1 — August 8, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

    genius

  8. Brahmabull115 — August 11, 2010 @ 3:27 am

    Very nice; I’ve been looking for something like this guide for. Days!

  9. osk — August 11, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    One of the best comprehensive guides out there!

  10. Aaron (SkyHawk) — August 12, 2010 @ 12:26 am

    a better M&M ball in my opinion, while it might take a little bit more time than even the one pictured above would be marines with technology increases from the bays. when used right, marines can punch through even the toughest defenses. period, even against colossi and carriers which seem to be their most difficult enemy. I’ve seen 25 or so marines kill 4 Thors with Medivacs and Siege tanks with just some armor and weapon upgrades, and then plunge into the heart of the enemy base, destroying him. they also provide good defense against any rush tactics, like reapers, zerglings, void rays (with the help of turrets, and even clocked banshees (again with a turret or so and a scan here and there).

  11. web designer in austin — August 12, 2010 @ 4:49 pm

    nice tutorial, do you have one for protoss I am trying to learn that race too

  12. Ben — August 17, 2010 @ 6:50 pm

    Awesome guide, I have been collecting together strategies in my blog article (Link: http://daily-grind.net/?p=345) to help new Starcraft 2 players get started without getting completely annihilated by veteran players.

    I have included a link to this page too, I hope you don’t mind.

    – Ben
    The Daily Grind
    http://daily-grind.net
    PC Tips, IT Tech, Gaming with a splash of random nonsense.

  13. The Mysterious Dr. X — August 22, 2010 @ 7:09 pm

    The Marine Ball in and of itself, supplemented with medivacs is a great tool. The key it, and what most players forget, is that not all strategies work for al races. Pure marines work against zerg players. Even Banelings can be tricked into vain suicide volleys. The marine is an underused unit, methinks, and that’s too bad for them. The M&M&M ball is easily my favorite in this well written advice!

  14. MedivacFan — August 31, 2010 @ 4:31 am

    Very well explained article and a great public service to beginners and intermediate players. Keep up the fantastic work guys.

  15. bobby — September 6, 2010 @ 6:25 am

    wonderful guide. the M3 Ball can also be used easily to transport units to the enemy’s base directly, avoiding the big crowd at the chokepoint, also avoid the possibility of being choked up at the entrance. This way you would be able to destroy more units and buildings too.

  16. NJ — September 16, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    Yes; M3 Ball, or mmm, or mass m is the most effective IMO. I always upgrade their att/def from the eng. bay, which is a natural progression as I build turrets and factory then to starport/armory. My games with this as the initial strategy usu. ends in a win in about 20 minutes; if not, then it goes to mass vikings, or mass tanks to hold off the aa or heavy ground respectively. Anyone have any Nuke strategies to incorporate? I have yet to really have the ghost/Nuke as a staple to my builds… Best guide by far. cheers

  17. exstile — September 20, 2010 @ 7:49 am

    as for the idea of adding the ghost/nuke strat. i would use the m3 ball and hole up just outside the enemy base, just outside of their visual range and then send in 2-3 ghosts up to the choke points on hold fire stance. having multiple nukes built and use nukes to break outer defenses down before sending in the m3 ball or even send in a single mdivac with a small marine strike team to give a line of sight and launch nuke from outside of base.

  18. Nazen — September 25, 2010 @ 3:18 am

    Look at the bug after 1.1 patch at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GpQ1kuAngQ 😀

  19. Heart of The Swarm — September 27, 2010 @ 5:45 am

    Ah, man, gotta love the Thor, being carried away with the Medivac :)
    Also.. Hope the Terran ball gets nurfed :(

  20. os — October 3, 2010 @ 7:31 pm

    Best Terran guide I’ve seen! great job!

  21. Frosty — October 27, 2010 @ 10:54 pm

    Sweet job on the strategy guide bro! I can’t wait to try these out! =D

  22. Terran Strategy — November 16, 2010 @ 2:55 am

    Wow, very in-depth post. Thanks

  23. Anonymous — November 26, 2010 @ 2:21 am

    I love star craft……I got an site to set star craft as my new hollow custom homepage…….New Hollow Custom Page

  24. Mark — January 1, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

    Just wanted to say on your reaper rush article. Well its a little incorrect. You stated that you need to get a barracks and a refinery before building your first supply depot. So here’s the deal. You have to have a supply depot to even build a barracks. Just wanted to give you a heads up so that maybe you can fix that for future readers. But other then that very good stuff. :)

  25. Nama — January 9, 2011 @ 11:42 am

    It’s OUT OF DATE man, Barracks require supply depot due to 1.1.2 patch. Remove this shit couse it’s old.

  26. Drew — February 24, 2011 @ 12:13 am

    Nama, you’re a computer nerd trying to sound cool. Shut the fuck up.

  27. Sanje — April 27, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

    v

  28. Sanje — April 27, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

    Good guide. However! I do the banchee rush differently and i think it works better. It is more risky, but with the right multitasking skills at your base entrance and the enemies mineral line it is HIGHLY effective especially on 3v3 or 4v4. —- Supply Depo at 9 pop. Barrack soon as u can while still getting more scv’s. Build BOTH refineries. next. Get orbital comand right after, should be at pop 13 or 14. Now the idea is to get cloaked banchee as fast as u can, and build bunkers at entrance with any left over minerals. so get factory.(Factory can be used to bloack as well). Then to starports with tech labs. Get cloaking FIRST!. Then pump out Banchees and rally them to a safe zone just outside where u will be attacking their minerals. This is important because u have to be watching ur banchees the whole time to make sure they dont get detected so u can flee. You should by this time have 2 bunkers at your entrance. get tanks with extra minerals. The next step is all skill. dont worry about expanding till u really have or have extra minerals. the idea is to herass the hell out of them so your allies can build up. (It helps to have zerg allies in this strat.) Constantly be attacking there minerals, and fleeing if u get in trouble to save units and come back with stronger force. once u have about 6 u can take out a nexus, and hatchery fast enough where they couldn’t even get to u in time if they wanted to. Comstat Scanning is also important to see what your going into and what detecting turrents can be picked off to make room for cloaking. This strat is a bitch move LOL. but i think it’s completely legit, because it takes multi tasking skills and if they see it coming they’ll be smart..get detectors or rush your base.
    Get this strat down and your guarteed to be a valuable asset in a 3v3. it works well in any match up though.

  29. Starcraft Build Order Tester — June 12, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    Sadly reapers are sadly so badly nerfed nobody uses them in any build order tester.

  30. a sc2 fan — August 12, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    the best strategy is to build a barrack near your oponents town, not too close to be detected, but close enough to harrass him. I tried that and it bothered this terran player. then he found it and brought in 5 seige tanks. I lost to a marine rush with medivacs for backup

  31. unknown — April 4, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

    well i do the expanding so much i dont protect but i have the rest of the map while there in there single base alsoe i think the most important thing is expanding but great stuff dude

  32. Mike — April 12, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

    been having difficulties completing starcraft 2 campaign so i was looking for a great strategy guide that i could just download and i found one that really seems to be working for me! if anyones curious just check out this link. this is the good stuff guys promise!

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  33. terran player 101 — July 2, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

    another great terran strategies is to build a huge fleet of 5-7 battle cruisers and 10-15 vikings. use the vikings for anti air and if no other air units are around convet them into ground mode. great hard to stop strategie.

  34. Anonymous — July 2, 2012 @ 7:32 pm

    another great terran strategies is to build a huge fleet of 5-7 battle cruisers and 10-15 vikings. use the vikings for anti air and if no other air units are around convet them into ground mode. great hard to stop strategie.

  35. Anonymous — August 1, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    Gooooooooooooooooooood stradegy

  36. ThugLife — March 17, 2013 @ 9:44 am

    Although this article is out of date, as a SC2 newbie, I feel it offers some good ideas to think about and it doesn’t hurt to know what strategies came before current ones. This is well written and I hope the author writes a new one in 2013.

  37. toms shoes day — June 22, 2013 @ 10:39 am

    Graphics are in fact fastidious source of lessons instead of content StarCraft 2: Terran Strategies Overview | SC2 Blog, its my know-how, what would you say?

  38. Chaos — December 9, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

    Thanks It’s a great guide for beginners. It helped me alot

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  40. Fred's Camping Shack — December 1, 2015 @ 4:20 am

    Do you have any video of that? I’d care to find out some additional information.

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