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Why do terran players float buildings with their armies? Does the computer automatically target buildings?

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2 Answers

up vote 17 down vote accepted

There's a couple of advantages to having a floating building with your army.

  • if you otherwise lack Air Units, they provide line of sight to shoot up cliffs
  • if the building is over your army, it is much harder to select the units under the building for focus-fire, since the building is in the way.

Generally, any building that is being floated (by a good player, anyway) would otherwise have been idling - Barracks after switching to a mech army, for instance, or command center without a mineral patch to land at.

There may be other reasons, but those are the biggest, I think.

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They could also just be moving the building somewhere, and the army is there to protect it. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Nov 30 '11 at 23:09
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The OP's suggestion of screwing with the AI is a huge one. It's a serious pain to get units to not target the building. It's an excellent way to "split up" the enemy army in the most frustrating way. –  tenfour Dec 1 '11 at 0:41
    
Also buildings soak up some damage if the opponent does not micro properly. –  ayckoster Mar 4 '12 at 4:47
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@BlueRaja-DannyPflughoeft that is rare unless you're looking at low-level play. Buildings are usually being moved through relatively contiguously controlled territory and have sufficient health to prevent them from being sniped. For Terrans, they're usually just using a factory in early-mid game for up-hill vision. –  Nick T Apr 19 '12 at 17:00
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Raven Dreamer has listed two great reasons for floating buildings. There's another more nuanced reason that experienced Terran players use.

There's a detail about the Seige Tank that makes floating buildings very useful.

  • A seige tank's sight range is 11

  • A seige tank's attack range in seige mode is 13

This means that a seige tank can actually hit farther than it can provide vision for. So if a seige tank is in the front line of the army, then it's effective attack range in seige mode is 11. But if a player floats a building in front of the tank and provides that extra 2 range, then the player can take advantage of the seige tank's full attack range.

This is critical in TvT. Imagine a Red Terran and a Blue Terran. The Blue Terran has a tank line right outside the Red Terran's natural expansion, but is not giving his or her tank extra sight. How can the Red Terran push out with his or her own tanks?

Red can float a barracks over Blue's tanks, giving Red's tanks extra sight. Then Red seiges up 12 or 13 range away and can shell the Blue tanks freely without any return fire. (In Brood War, an attacking unit would reveal itself from fog of war, so the Blue tanks would actually fire back, but with a delay.)

There's actually a nice video on this. The Red player is providing vision with Vikings.

You can also do this by scanning, dropping mules, running up a cheaper unit (marine, hellion) or sighting with a flying unit (usually medivac). But if the building's not being used, then it's a great tool because a barracks costs no gas, less minerals loss than a scan, has no energy limitation and is hard to harass because it has 1000 hp.

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