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After watching some of my replays, I realized that when playing against other Terrans their economies jump significantly larger than mine even though I don't keep unspent resources long (average unspent about 200-300), and I think it's due to the use of Mules. Is this true? Do Mules significantly impact the initial economy size of Terrans? I realize that one Mule can produce about 250 minerals at no impact to supply requirements, and that the rate they pull in minerals is significant.

So, my basic question here is that if I'm not using Mules I really can't hope to compete economically with a Terran who is?

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Day[9] half-jokingly pointed out that 1 mule = 30 workers (under fairly extreme conditions) – Nick T Dec 14 '11 at 18:46
@NickT What extreme conditions would those be? – Sorean Dec 14 '11 at 18:51
@Sorean… go to 48:20 – Nick T Dec 14 '11 at 19:29
Terran mules OP! I forgot about that Funday Monday, thank you. – Sorean Dec 14 '11 at 19:37
@Sorean -- yup, accepted a few now. – lucidquiet Dec 15 '11 at 1:06
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Short answer: No.

Long answer: The reason is fairly simple. You will fall behind in income. If you fall behind in income they will be able to make more units/tech up more than you. This will win your opponent the game in the long run. Think of it this way, if you have more money, you can get more stuff.

Now keep in mind that you might want to keep enough energy for one scan just in case you need detection for a cloaked banshee, but with proper scouting of your opponent you will know if you can spend the energy on a scan or a mule.

You will always want to use MULES to keep your income up, ideally dropping them at your expansions before your main. The reason for this is to extend the time that you can keep mining from your main base which is generally more secure. If you end up mining out your expansion quicker it's not a big deal because it's a more exposed position so you want to gain as much as you can from it in the shortest amount of time.

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If you don't use Mules, you're going to fall behind economically against:

  • Terran players that do use Mules
  • Protoss players that don't ever need to pull more than 1 drone off of minerals
  • Zerg players that Spawn Larva.
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Also, Protoss players that chronoboost drones – kkaploon Dec 14 '11 at 18:43

What the others said is true, but here's some extra things to consider:

  • Going bio is very mineral-intensive and comparably cost-inefficient to builds that incorporate higher-tier units. The success of this build largely depends on your ability to maintain map control and remake units faster than they are killed by your opponent. This requires a sizeable investment in infrastructure -- 10+ barracks with reactors/tech labs off three bases is not unheard of. Just making these will set you back more than 2K minerals plus some gas, and you'll need significant mineral flow to keep the production facilities utilized.

    Ideally you'll want your every command center to be orbital, and if you are forced to build a planetary fortress, this could be considered a small economic win for your opponent.

  • Mech is much more gas-dependent, but you go this route, you'll seldom be able to secure a third base before you are maxed and move out. You will need to invest in defense, which is pretty much mineral expenditure only, and still be able to build your army at a steady pace. Taking your time to max out can afford your opponent the opportunity to trade armies at a loss and still remax quicker than you due to their map control and likely superior economy.

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