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I'm a Starcraft 2 beginner (playing mainly Zerg) and encountered some situations where I ran into a much bigger army with an army of smaller size. This usually happens versus Protoss where they retreat a smaller army back to the big one (me following them stupidly) and they immediately reinforce at a nearby pylon.

My first reaction to this situation is to retreat and save as many units as possible. Slower units like the roach (without speed-upgrade) get easily sniped by stalkers. By the time I have roach-speed, stalkers can blink, resulting in a similar situation. Also, stimmed marines seem to be quite effective at taking out huge chunks of a fleeing army. I have the feeling that by running away I actually get away worse than if I had fought the enemy.

So the question is: How do I retreat properly? Is it viable to leave some units as bait and run with the rest of the army?

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5 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Depends.

Running away is the best option most of the time. A few things you can do:

When running away, slow the enemys (overall) attack by splitting your army and running in different directions, and away from your base/what you want to hide/defend/slow the enemy from getting to.

When you’re running away, micro. Let your units run away, stop them, run away, stop them … so they will still do damage according to their weapon cooldown, while still moving away.

Only if you don’t care about those units at all, you may want to just let them die or do as much damage as you can by focus-firing or sth.

Leaving bait is a very useful strategy. While running away, leaving one or 2 units can help. Just let them stay, or move them a bit to the side / away from your army (see split above).

Stimmed marines will have lost health, so it’s not without a negative result on his side neither.

And of course, you can also use your units to tease the enemy into your reinforcements, or to draw them away to go around his army with some zerglings or mutas to harass him and his army is out of place, and has to go back. Zerg is strong in speed an harassment like that. You can also tease your enemies army to make a flank, with other/new units.

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I believe that good solution is to not go in such situation.
Usually slow and power units (like roach) are used to systematically push to opponents base with scouting the front. Or you're sure that opponents is not ready for fast attack.
Fast units, like speedlings and muta, are good to harass, scout and chase. Use them!

so:

  1. if you want to chase - send your speedlings first and ahead opponent units to see if some huge waiting for you in darkness. Plus they can slow retreating units causing to move around zerlings;
  2. scout constantly;
  3. play more games so you'll know what forces you opponent could have at specific time for specific build
    for sake of example if it's 10:00 and you see only 5 stalkers you definitely know that your opponents have somethings else.
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Thanks for your response. I accepted the other answer since it gives advice to deal with the situation at hand. Of course you're right about avoiding these situations altogether if possible. –  bummzack Mar 1 '11 at 12:46
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Obviously it's best to avoid those types of situation, however:

Attack move the roaches into their army and go macro.

Based on your question, I'm guessing your less than diamond league. At that level of play, you are always better off focusing on your macro than the marginal possible gains of trying to kite roaches away from blink stalkers. In fact if you don't have much practice at kiting you could make it much worse.

By far the biggest leak in sub-diamond play is not bad decision making or bad micro but bad macro. Are you constantly droning, constantly making new units, never getting supply blocked, and expanding at appropriate times? If you focus on this first, I think you will find losing a few roaches to stalkers won't matter because you will have many more to replace them.

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You're right. I'd better focus on macro and spreading creep. I'm working on it :) –  bummzack Mar 1 '11 at 15:12
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Don't question yourself how to retreat this. If you need to retreat from most of your battles then your intelligence (in terms of map control and scouting) and strategic decisions aren't right, so you'll have to try to avoid those kind of battles.

Two options to give an example.

  1. Avoiding by not attacking his units, but instead attack his different expositions.

    Protoss has a big strong army, but they are often not that mobile. You can exploit this by attacking multiple expositions at the same time, instead of wasting your units into his front lines.

    Then by the time that he attacks you could have set up sufficient defenses or go for a base race.

  2. Use the right units so that get an advantage.

    Terran often plays with Marines, they are mobile but light: Banelings Banelings Banelings... ;-)

    Roaches are defensive units and will always be slower which disallows you to retreat...
    If you do want to attack with them then use them in a good army composition.

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Thanks. It's not that it happens all that much. Usually my scouting and map-control is fine ;-). I guess sooner or later everybody has to retreat from a battle that is unwinnable in his SC2 "career". I was just wondering how to get out of there with minimized casualties. –  bummzack Mar 1 '11 at 14:45
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I would add one more thing: retreating is much more quicker and effective if your army is on creep. So SPREAD IT OUT AS CRAZY! Build 1-2 more queens... They benefit you in few ways:

  1. provide more or less good anti air defense;
  2. if you have more then 1 queen per hatchery - they have enough energy and can heal each other, other units and buildings;
  3. they spread creep very good... do that constantly

As other people suggested, macro is much more important for beginners then micro. Just compare what is better:

  1. if you worry about 6 roaches and save 1-2-3 (during half minute way back to home) and have undefended base at home,
  2. or book 2 spore crawlers on home base, and some other units (that counter in the best way those army that is killing you)... and you will be able to wipe out those "pursuers".

Don't care about your "corpses". Just order them: move home (if you have defensed base) or move "away" to delay opponents attack on you base and use this time to defend yourself.

Try also to attack from different directions. That is named as multi-tasking: send some mutas to opponent main and attack his natural with your ground forces. Look of them for requires less attention and micro another... In this case opponent will think how to retreat... that is much better

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