Dictionary – SC2 Terms for New Players

If you’ve found your way here, chances are that you’ll have been to a StarCraft 2 forum, seen a ‘cast or generally delved a bit deeper into the StarCraft community. There’s a whole bunch of terminology floating around out there, and to enjoy or get the best out of any caster or person’s knowledge, understanding at least some of it is a plus!

Find below a big chunk of basic StarCraft 2 jargon, broken down into general and race-specific sections. If you disagree with any of the definitions below, great! Let us know how we can refine them by emailing us or posting below..

There are many good StarCraft 2 dictionaries and terminology guides – so this one aims to go into a greater level of context to be helpful to new players. For a great dictionary for those with more StarCraft familiarity, check out Team Liquid’s excellent definitions guide.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

Terran Specific | Protoss Specific | Zerg Specific

A-Z; A StarCraft 2 Dictionary for New Players

1/1, 2/2, 3/3 – describing a player’s current level of unit upgrades -in terms of weapons attack power and armour. 1/1 refers to the first level of upgrades – for example, Terran 1/1 could be Infantry Weapons / Infantry Armour available from Engineering Bay, or perhaps Vehicle Weapons / Vehicle Armour available from the Armoury. 3/3 refers to the unit type being fully upgraded.

All-in -when a player chooses to fully commit all of their forces to an attack – usually with a “win with this play or lose straight away” mentality. Exactly like the poker term from which it gets its name! A Rush is one example of an all-in, however there can be a slight difference in terms of the attack timing. An All-in can happen at any point in the game, whereas a rush generally refers to an early game play.

APM (Actions per minute) -the amount of mouse clicks and key presses performed by a player in a minute. APM is used as a measure of a player’s overall activity level and dexterity – a higher APM can often be tied to a player manipulating their buildings and units more skilfully than another player. However, APM is not always useable as an indication of actual skill – so don’t worry too much about this as a new player! Speed comes with familiarity and practice, and it’s far more important to nail good decision making and good play habits first. You can check your APM should you be curious in any replay of a multiplayer game that you save – activate the option on-screen once you’ve opened your replay.

Base-trade – when players are both attacking each other’s bases whilst not defending. This can occur virtually any time in a game – if early game, there is more chance of it being more of an All-in play for both players. In longer games, a trade could be just of expansions, or of main bases. If a base trade doesn’t result in one player losing outright or being put in a position that is impossible to come back from, advantage after one generally goes to the player with more units, a better mix of remaining units or the capacity to rebuild a base once the trade has taken place.

Build Order – a sequence of production of units and buildings in the early game period of a StarCraft 2 match. These are generally defined by a number of Food/Supply along with a building or unit to be built once that particular supply level is reached. Build orders generally are used as a template of “instructions” in order to give a player a solid foundation/setup to pursue a particular game strategy, or to allow creation of particular mixes of units. As a new player these are useful to examine and to play with to learn strategy, but should not always be followed religiously! Scouting to enable you to judge your actions against what your opponent is doing is just as key as a good execution 🙂

eg – Terran Build Order for a 2 Barracks, Fast Expansion strategy

  • 10 Supply – Create a Supply Depot
  • 12 Supply – Create a Barracks
  • 14 Supply – Create a Barracks
  • 15/16 Supply – Upgrade Command Centre to an Orbital Command
  • 16 Supply – Build a second Supply Depot
  • Constantly produce Marines and depots as needed.

“Cheese” – general term for an unorthodox strategy that takes a certain amount of risk in order to force a win quickly – generally by surprising an unprepared opponent. A “cheese” or “cheesy” play quite often is some varient of All-in occuring early on in the game. If the cheese play fails, then the player making it usually has an instant disadvantage to their opponent in terms of economy, food or both.

Examples of “Cheese” include the below, although the term can also be used as a reference to any strategy that someone believes to require little skill.

4 Gate, Cannon Rush (Protoss)

Bunker Rush, Barracks Rush (Terran)

6 Pool Rush, Roach Rush (Zerg)

Caster – term used to describe any unit that uses triggered (casted) special abilities that cost energy (eg High Templar, Ghost, Infestor).

Casting – players commentating on games, producing podcasts or vods.

Contain – when one player keeps the other pinned down in part of the map. This could be their main base, main base and natural expansion or a larger area. “Containing” an opponent is all about getting map control – making sure that the contained player is unable to move his army freely, expand to new resource locations or generally move how

Cliff Walking – being able to go up and down cliffs, an action that only two units can currently take – the Colossus and Reaper.

Deathball – a large army of units – generally Protoss, often a mix of Zealots, Stalkers, Sentries and Colossi. Deathballs have a reputation of being hard to stop once they are large in size with upgraded units.

Drop – using an air transport unit (Medivac, Warm Prism, Overlord) to drop units around the map. Drops are mostly used as a form of harass – moving units quickly into enemy bases to cause damage. Drop as a term can be used for any race, but is mostly used to describe Terran action with the Medivac. This is because both other races have alternative methods of mass transport – Protoss can warp in using the Warp Prism as well as drop; while Zerg use the Nydus Worm / Network in addition to Overlord drops.

Economy – a player’s resource gathering capacity – usually expressed in terms of worker numbers, worker saturation or expansions. One measure of this is your income rate, which can be seen as information in your replays. Consistently expanding your economic capacity is key to keeping yourself in any longer length game, and is generally done by constantly training workers up until an optimum number for the amount of bases you have active (saturation). “Damaging the economy” generally refers to attacks which either destroy enemy expansions or workers.

Expo/Expansion/Expand – creating a new resource gathering base (Command Centre, Hatchery, Nexus) anywhere apart from where you start the game. Your first expansion is generally always to your natural expansion – the resource area straight outside your starting point. Unless playing a cheese or a fast-win strategy, expanding is key in order to keep your economy growing along with your capacity to build structures, units and upgrades. Some early game strategies attempt to gain an economic advantage over the opponent by building an expansion quickly. These are known as a Fast Expand (FE).

Fast Expand – expanding markedly earlier than usual, very often within the earlier part of the first ten minutes of the game. Fast expands generally form part of some build order plans, although they can be triggered as a response to a favourable early fight.

For example – if  a player kills several enemy units early on, he may feel safe enough to fast expand – knowing that the enemy will take time to replace their losses, and may not be able to attack him for a short period. Of course, knowledge of the enemy’s position from scouting is key here.

Food – another name for your Supply.

Harass – putting pressure on another player with units, usually in a highly mobile and hit and run fashion. Harassment can be conducted in a variety of ways with a variety of different goals. The most simple goal is simply to distract or slow the opponent from their play, allowing you to take some form of lead. More specific harasses can target economy (trying to kill expansions or workers), army (picking off units aiming to come off the better in any engagement) or tech related (aiming to kill key structures to prevent upgrades or unit construction). Harass can be with any number of units, visible or cloaked.

Macro (management) – managing and keeping your game plan and strategy moving on a LARGE scale. Macro tasks generally revolve around managing Economy (ensuring you are harvesting enough resources to support the unit product you need) and Production capacity (ensuring you are spending those gathered resources sensibly and as often as possible without excessive queuing). Macro activity examples could be ensuring you always have a worker being trained, or that you always are producing appropriate army units as often as possible. As a new player, it is important to work on smooth macro above micro tasks.

Main – your main or starting base. Generally where you have most of your production and tech structures, and the thing you don’t really want to lose..

Map Control – being in a position where you have better visibility, ability to move your army and overall control of the map. Unless your opponent is not scouting or is turtling, you’ll generally need to contain your opponent somehow in order to gain map control.

Micro (management) – managing and keeping your game plan and strategy moving on a SMALLER scale. Skill with micro tasks generally enable you to get the best results or information out of your gameplay actions and units. Micro tasks often involve unit control techniques for groups of units (stutter stepping – Marines/Marauders, blinking – Stalkers, burrow – Zerg units); individual ability use (EMP – Ghost, Psionic Storm – High Templar, Fungal Growth – Infestor) or even single unit control (worker scouting, Banshee harrass etc).

Micro is worth understanding as a new StarCraft player, but shouldn’t be your largest priority when learning the game initially.

Natural – your most logical (well, Natural!) expansion point for new resources. This is usually the closest resource patch to your starting base.

Push – an attacking move of units.

Proxy – a structure built away from your main base, or in closer proximity to the opponent’s base than your own.

Proxy unit producing structures (usually barracks or gateways) can be used as part of cheese and rushing strategies by decreasing the distance taken for units to travel to attack. Proxy pylons (Protoss) can also be used to aid warping in units closer to or inside enemy bases.

Rush – (see All-in)

Saturation (Workers) – the optimum number of workers harvesting resources on one base.

Varying degrees of explanation and detail are available for this, as after a given number of workers are built, any more do not increase mining efficiency/rate (diminishing returns).

The basic absolute minimum to be efficient before the return rate per worker starts dropping off is always 3 workers per gas geyser (3×2=6) and 2 workers per mineral patch(8×2=16) = 22 total.

Beyond this number, each worker you add gives *less* of an increase to your income rate. You can have up to 3 workers per mineral patch (8×3=24) should you choose – beyond this, there is no benefit in having extra workers
mining on that base.

Scouting – the process of observing what an opponent is doing. This mainly involves getting insight into any of the following – an opponent’s build order, unit composition, expansion plans or unit movements. Scouting often, getting the right information and deducing the right conclusion from that information is key to

Build order scouting – scouting what your opponent is building throughout the game can give you vital clues as to how they intend to proceed to play, the amount of “danger” you are in and what potential options you can pursue safely. For example – spotting a Protoss player creating a Forge within the first 3 or 4 minutes of a game could indicate that they are trying to cannon rush you. There are many building “tells” for all races that can help you react and plan to your opponent. Suffice to say, be patient – playing, watching replays, casters and vods is a great way to learn – there’s no quick fix to this.

Early Game Examples: Early or fast expansions (all races), Nexus energy (Protoss) or timing of gas harvesting (all races).

Unit scouting – spotting what your opponent is producing. In a very basic way, this can allow you to adjust your unit composition/unix mix to compensate (althoughy you should avoid Rock-Paper-Scissors adjustments). With a deeper tactical understanding, this can again shape your game strategy by providing a sign of what your opponent is pursuing.

Example – Terran – Early game Hellions could signal a mech strategy.

Expansion scouting – spotting when and where your opponent is creating new mining bases.

Example – spotting a fast expansion from an opponent usually gives you the freedom to fast expand yourself, providing you are on top of your macro and unit production. Alternatively, if you have anticipated or spotted the fast expand, you could attempt to exploit your opponent’s probable lack of units with a fast attack.

A split generally refers to a micro move of units where the army is split up for some purpose, whether it be for offensive or defensive reasons.

In Terran terminology, it’s often used to refer to separating infantry units in order to avoid Area of effect attacks from Colossi (Protoss) or Banelings (Zerg).

Stutter-stepping– A micro manoeuvre with Terran Marines and Marauders, where units are forced to move just as their attack animation starts on screen. This gives the units more movement time and shortens the amount of time between attacks.

Supply– the amount of units you have compared to the amount of units your existing supply buildings or units allow, usually visible in top right of the screen. Ensuring you always just have more supply capacity than the amount of units you have is an important skill, until you are Food Capped – at 200/200 supply and unable to make any more units without deaths in your army.

Supply Blocked / Locked – being unable to create new units because you’ve hit your supply limit for your current buildings. This is indicated by your supply figure turning red (in the top right corner of your screen eg – 72/70)

You want to avoid this if at all possible, however, creating too many supply structures (depots, pylons or overlords) so you have a large amount spare is an inefficient use of your money early to mid game. Ideally you only want to be constructing supply structures when you’re close to the limit, and timing them so that they finish when you’re beginning to make more units. Balancing your unit producing with keeping on top of supply is an important skill that forms part of good macro.

Tech – generally refers to a particular pathway of unit production or research type. It can also refer to a singular strategy, or small amount of specialist units added in for a certain strategical reason.

eg- “Ghost Tech”, “teching in Ghosts” – this could refer to either the buildings necessary to acquire Ghosts (a Ghost Academy being constructed) or the act of adding a small amount of Ghosts to a Terran Army – perhaps to combat energy heavy units in opposing forces (High Templar, Infestors, Battlecruisers/other Ghosts).

Timing Attack (advanced)  – making an attack at a particular time you may have an advantage due to a potential difference between your and your opponent’s strategies.  These differences are caused (or chosen) in a couple of different ways.

Player Based Timing – when a key piece of tech or an upgrade finishes for one player, giving them a short term army strength boost (weapons damage, armour etc).

Terrans often push forward when they complete stimpack if it makes sense with the game, as the upgrade markedly increases the effectiveness of their infantry at that point in the game.

Opponent Based Timing –  For example – your opponent has fast expanded early in the game, and as a result has less minerals available for units. For a short time, he may be more vulnerable.

Timing attacks require an in-depth knowledge of both your own and your opponent’s Build Order, as well as how those both play out in terms of key timings of events in a “regular matchup” of the two. As a result of that, it’s not something you should worry about overtly as a beginner, as at lower league levels good Macro and unit control tends to be the first focus. However, you’ll hear the term mentioned in streams and videos of pro-level players.

For a more technical and in-depth explanation, check out Team Liquid’s Wiki entry.



Unit composition/unix mix 


Wall-in/Wall off





Bio ball

Bunker Rush






Cannon Rush


Four (4) Gate

Proxy Pylon

Robo (2 gate robo)



Burrow Micro

Lair Tech

‘Pool (4 pool, 6 pool)