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Thread: Starcraft 2: Expand Timing - when to put up an expansion
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    1. #1
      Moderator Moderas's Avatar
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      Starcraft 2: Expand Timing - when to put up an expansion

      This question gets asked a lot around here and many other forums. The idea of expansion timings is something that eludes many players until at least well in to Platinum. So, I have decided to go through some common and effective timings for each race. Note a few things about these-

      1. These are NOT hard truths. Just because something is listed does not mean it will work in all situations
      2. These are NOT build orders, these are timings. By reading the thread you will learn the difference
      Cons- Zerg and Toss must put the building down at their expansion location, so it can sometimes spread your army a little to thin. This does not work well with immobile armies like Terran mech, any immortal or templar heavy army, Roach/hydra (without creep), or an army with Broodlords and to a lesser extent Ultras.

      Terran specific timings


      One rax FE
      Pros- Very early expansion that doesnt delay tech by much. Still relatively safe due to the rax constantly producing units and availability of bunkers. This also gets your second OC extremely fast allowing an earlier than normal scan without harming your economy or an early double mule.

      Cons- delays first geyser by about 4-5 supply (about 3 SCV's). Can be rough to deal with very early all-ins like a 13/12 bling bust or a 2 gate chrono zealot, but good scouting can save the day here and allow you to get a bunker or two down.

      Tips for pulling this off-
      1. Both your CC and rax should be constantly making units. Do not make any addons until you are on at least 2 rax
      2. scout scout scout scout scout scout scout etc. you will NEED to make at least 1 bunker if you see any kind of all in, and I would suggest ALWAYS building a bunker at your natural when you move down to secure it.
      3. This probably goes without saying, but build your expo on the high ground. As soon as it finishes morph it to an OC and use its first set of energy on a mule or scan. After that, either move it to your natural and transfer SCV's (preferred) or if it isnt safe use both CC's to saturate your main faster.
      4. Do not try to put on early pressure. You are on one rax with no gas and 400 minerals sunk in to an expo, even if you case a decent amount of damage the counter attack will be fatal. This is NOT to say that you cant overlord harass with a marine or use a marine to chase workers off the xel'nagas, it just means you shouldnt commit to an attack.

      2 Rax expand
      Pros- More defense and offense capabilities with the early second rax. Also allows quicker transition in to 2 tech labs for double upgrades or 1 reactor 1 lab for a mixed army. Still a very early expo.

      Cons- delays geyser even more than 1 rax, making it a requirement to take double geysers as soon as your CC is started. This will also delay your expo, by how much is dependant on when you place the second rax. I usually place mine just after I place my second wall in depot because this placement barely delays the expo.

      Tips-
      1. Leverage your double rax. A 2 rax no addon opening will produce quite a few marines at a pretty quick rate. This allows you to take map control very early, something Terran players usually struggle with. You should have no problem controlling all Xel'nagas and denying any scouting as well as getting some good scouting of your own. With good marine micro and scouting the right openings from your opponent, an early 2 rax push can force your opponent to go very heavy on the units instead of tech.
      2. Consider delaying add ons. You have 2 rax which make marines at a decent rate. With a bunker or two your marines should be able to hold any super early attacks other than the possible baneling all in. Delaying addons saves you at least 50 gas which can go towards getting your factory earlier or just delay 1 addon for a slightly faster stim research.
      3. Learn to love marines. They are the best damn unit in the game, no questions asked. With stim they have almost equal damage per cost to a Zergling, a hella fast movement rate, 5 range (6 in bunkers), and 55 HP. If you plan on using a 2 rax expand get a good feel of your marines and use them to their fullest.

      Siege expand
      A siege expand is an expansion that is timed with the completion of siege mode. This timing is great due to the fact it is nearly impossible for a Terran or Zerg to charge a tank line (even just one tank) until very late game.

      Pros- Siege tanks are very good at preventing Bling busts. Tanks cover a large area, making it less likely for enemies to simply go around your bunker. Expansion goes down with perfect timing to grab the 2 expo geysers and go in to a 4 gas mech build or 4 gas tank/marine+upgrade. This build is also more effective against roaches or other tanks.

      Cons- Usually a later expansion than either rax option. You have to take at least 1 gas (recommended 2) before your expo, so your main will likely not be saturated fully. This build DOES NOT WORK if you will not be using tanks in your main army, they will be a waste of 250 gas minimum which could have been your port, medivac, and reactor. You also need to protect your tank with this build as the lone tank you move out with will be your damage dealer, if you let it fall to a speedling runby you will be in bad shape.

      Mod's note- This is my favorite build for TvT. It allows a decently early expo without delaying tanks.

      Reaper/hellion expand
      Either of these are done the same as the 2 rax or siege expand with 1 small difference. The
      Cons- Very early rushes (bunker rushes, proxy rax etc.) can get to you just after the hatch finishes, but with drones and your first couple lings you can repel most of these.

      Mod's note- I honestly can not think of a single downside to hatch first. Even though Artosis claims it isnt safe any more, NesTea went 14 hatch against FoxeR and FoxeR couldnt stop it even with a 2 rax marine+ all SCV's all in

      Pool first > expand
      - Close in timing to the hatch first but you put your Spawning pool down then Hatchery after replacing the lost drone

      Pros- Slightly earlier queen for larva or creep tumor. Slightly earlier lings for defense/scouting and crawler for defense. Slightly earlier access to ling speed upgrade.

      Cons- Delayed second hatch counteracts the extra time on the spawn larva/creep tumor. Early crawler cant move to natural until later.

      Expo behind roaches
      After the pool a roach warren is placed immediately. expo coincides with the hatching of 3 or so Roaches.

      Pros- VERY safe build. Roaches can hold off most early pressure alone, and with ling/crawler back up your should have no problem. This also sets you up for an early push to secure map control or punish an enemy FE.

      Cons- By Zerg standards this is about the latest you can put an expo and still be standard. You will NEED to use at least 1 queen energy cycle on a tumor to make sure your Roaches can defend adequately before the hatch pops. The time between them scouting your roaches and when your 2nd hatch goes in to larva production can be seen as an exploitable point.

      Mod's note- This is probably more common in ZvZ than anything.

      Protoss timings

      Forge FE

      - Recycled Brood War strat still used on some maps v. Zerg. Involves placing a pylon at your natural choke and using forge+ 1-2 cannons to semi wall off and expand behind it.

      Pros- Very early expo. Extremely safe vs. Lings. Cannons in the right position can take on 5-6 lings solo. Early forge allows a +1 timing push. Detection is already unlocked, allowing you to possibly go council first or stargate.

      Cons- Delays gateway and therefore delays tech. Delays gas. With new roach range roaches can usually find a way to fight 1 cannon at a time or snipe a building that is undefended. With enough speedlings (read: Lotsa damn speedlings) They can do a runby to damage your mineral line.

      Tips-
      1. Scout! if you see no aggression, 2 cannons is fine. If he looks like he may go speedling, 2 could be fine but go for a third if he is massing. Against Roaches i would always go 3 and make sure they cover each other.
      2. Chrono out a stalker. The Zerg will usually be confident that you are turtling with this build and begin to spread his ovies everywhere. An early stalker can quickly scout the map and snipe a few of them.

      -- WILL UPDATE LATER--
      Last edited by Moderas; 11-16-2010 at 09:20 AM.
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      Senior Member Fealorin's Avatar
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      Oh, I'm going to absolutely love this thread!

      Where do I begin?
      If you are terran and you have extra minerals, it NEVER hurts to throw down a command center and upgrade it to orbital!
      Even if you do not use it to expand, you still get an economy boost with extra mules/scans/depot drops! You can't go wrong!
      Recently I've developed the habit along with always making supply depots and scvs to also always make command centers and orbital upgrades! The extra mules and scans you can use is such a plus, and when it's time to expand, viola! You can just lift off and move an orbital over.

      When to orbital and when to fortress? I generally try to plant fortresses around high traffic areas and gold bases. Orbital commands are always good to be placed out of reach of the enemy. Fortresses are also quite powerful and can turn the tides of battles and wars! You need to respond quickly however if your fortress is under attack, because they CAN go down fast if you're not careful!

      Yes I am a HUGE fan of the 1 rax FE opening. Contrary to what Moderas says, if you do it right, you can throw down an extra 3 barracks after building your command center to mass units and be very powerful! You can do amazing things with this build. You can transition into almost anything you want very easily. The 1 rax FE is more of an opening for 1v1 (not recommended for TvT).

      With the 2 rax FE it ends up not being an FE, but a regular expansion and you'll want to make a push with the 2 rax expand. I am a HUGE fan of the 2 rax expand build for team games. I usually do a timing push around 5-5:30 on the clock which is right about when I have enough minerals to build my expansion CC. It turns out to work pretty well. From this I can transition into a mech game or an air game. If your team mates push with you, it's very strong and you can even take out at least one player.

      I am also a huge fan of the Fortress FE (strictly for 1v1). Many people think it's unsafe and vulnerable, but that's because a lot of people do not feel comfortable with it yet because they haven't really used it and played with it. I have had great success with the Fortress FE and it is THE build order that got me to the Diamond leagues!
      Last edited by Fealorin; 11-16-2010 at 12:19 AM.
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      Moderator Flamga's Avatar
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      This is actually the sort of thing zerg HAS to do to get ahead, especially vs terran cause of the mules.

      normally with zerg your expansion is included into your build order as its done so early, and attacks are negligible, and on the chance they are, you should be able to micro your queen and spines/lings to defend barely and get away with your expansion. Currently popular i see is the 15 hatch, which both myself and OMZ use religiously lol, however IdrA also uses a variation 15 pool 16 hatch (i think it is)

      The reasoning is that you cannot sustain any decent units without 2 base income, i.e. 1 hatch roach you will not have enough to ovie, drone and roach and then save for expansion. The other idea ive found is you can line up your 2nd hatch with your 2nd queen such that you get a tumor out and thne line up both hatches for larva spawn, the creep between hatches is key, fast reinforce is excellent, something terran and toss dont get.

      Also since zerg hatches are so cheap there is no reason to not expand (unless you have heaps of resources and need to spend them!) Generally 3 bases is enough to support 4 hatches so what people need to realize as zerg you DONT have to expand either.

      The main concepts moderas described work wonders, however as zerg dont be afraid to throw down 2 expansions to try to keep one, 300 minerals isnt much for zerg, especially as most units are gas heavy. Also get the expansion if you need the extra gas, it only takes 6 drones to saturate gas, but 24 to saturate minerals, do the maths

      Remember as zerg you should always feel that you are just surviving, you can ALWAYS reinforce anytime if you have the larva available!
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      Moderator SCVrush's Avatar
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      Damn, very good post, I havn't finished reading it yet. I'll post my opinion after I am done.

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      Senior Member woreyour's Avatar
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      wow this is nice because I am in the verge of practicing FEs as mid-late game macro is really a must know against good players..

      I hope you could also post detailed tips on what strat to go when it comes to using FE,be on offensive or defensive? (like if you need to go aggressive or defensive as some FEs like 2rax FE would likely need to be aggressive I supposed because of opponent's teching threat..)
      also if u can add racial specific strats as well.

      I also noticed based on experience (correct me if im wrong..) that if it is a mirror match if is often hard to really FE as the opponent can have an advantage in tech than you which is often greater since you have the same arsenal of units so not much countering of advantages.. and when the opponent can apply pressure and/or push + getting an expo it could be scary as he could gain just slight disadvantage with economy but better units and numbers. If so, is there any work around about it?

      btw yeah fealorin is really a religious follower of FE's I really noticed it a lot from him..
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      Senior Member IceCraft's Avatar
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      Fast expands are usually risky moves in mirror matchups, if you FE u need to be prepared to defend against aggresive builds, such as 4rax,4gate,roach rush. But you don't want to be behind if your opponent FE's, so you either have to play catch up, or aggresive.

      Best time to FE would be after killing your enemy's army, or doing alot of economical dmg (harvester kill) i.e hellion drops
      Also if you can contain your enemy and have map control you should be able to see any pushes comming out, and be able to respond correctly

      2 rax FE, is particularly a safe strat for terrans as bunkers are 'basically free' and when building the CC you can easily add an extra 2 rax, after your CC is done, you will most likely upgrade to orbital or fly over to teh expansion and mine, mules easily allow your economy to sustain 4 rax.
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      Moderator Moderas's Avatar
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      Added a couple more Terran timings as well as some Zerg and one protoss. I have a persuasive speech outline due in like an hour that I really need to get done >.>
      Add me: Moderas character code: 933

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      Moderator SCVrush's Avatar
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      Really well thought out post!, I am going to post this on the front page after the 3v3 game gets some exposure

    9. #9
      Member McWill's Avatar
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      nice post
      all good stuff.

      just want to say that while FE is dangerous in mirror matches it can be done.
      download the replays from MLG, HuK beats a 4gate with a 1gate FE more than once and quite comfortably... but it is HuK i guess xD

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    10. #10
      Senior Member Fealorin's Avatar
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      Holy shit! Can you guys imagine expanding every 4 minutes??

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