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For playing to win, what building/unit upgrades are the most helpful and which ones are a waste of time. For example, the Zerg Brood Queen seems worth the resources for the extra larva, but burrowing seems like a waste in a close game.

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Do you ever play to lose? Also, burrowing is never a waste. Burrowing can give you that extra edge in a close fight with good micro, burrow your targeted units and then unburrow them. Also, burrowing is good with roaches and Infesters for sneak attacks and mineral line harassment. –  Mark Aug 2 '10 at 21:43
    
Also, the queen isn't just "worth it" I think the queen is considered "essential" –  McKay Aug 2 '10 at 22:02
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This is too subjective. –  tzenes Aug 3 '10 at 6:19
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I disagree. While pretty general, it is a valid question which can be supported. While all upgrades are viable in some situation, certain situations arise far more frequently than others, and are therefore more useful upgrades in terms of frequency of use. –  smdrager Aug 4 '10 at 4:30
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2 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The Queen is not "research", it is a 100% vital in every game as Zerg. Unless you are rushing, you should be getting her immediately after your spawning pool finishes. Inject larvae as often as you can (you must be vigilant). Also the spawn creep tumor is very useful. Create 1 and use it to spread a "creep highway" across the map, which helps give you vision and get your units to their destination sooner.

The upgrades for each race depend on which build you go.

Zerg

  • zerglings: zergling speed EXTREMELY good for microing
  • roaches: movement speed is needed in the long run. Tunneling claws can give you the drop on your opponent.
  • infestor: mind control is great if your opponent makes any high-tech unit (i.e. collosii, immortal, battle cruisers, thor, etc.0

Terran

Absolute best upgrade is the slow for Marauders. Marauder's are a very powerful unit with the slow upgrade. They are an extremely strong unit especially with the slow upgrade.

If you get tanks, siege mode is definitely worth it.

Get your orbital command on your command center ASAP (not really a research, but an structure upgrade which is vital). Mules are amazing miners, and will get you about 300 minerals in their lifetime, so get them often and consistantly.

Protoss

  • Blink for stalkers
  • Thermal lances for collossi. If you get Collossi, you MUST get thermal lances. They are awesome.
  • Psi storm for High Templar

I hope these answers help you.

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Great answer, but you should remove the subjective comment about Marauders being imbalanced. –  RodYan Aug 3 '10 at 19:25
    
I have done as you said, though I still think they are the most powerful T1.5 unit. –  smdrager Aug 4 '10 at 3:39
    
Don't forget charge for zealots. A great counter to Marauders are Zealots with charge. –  Mark Aug 4 '10 at 6:05
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Stim for terran if you plan to go MMM. And nobody mentioned warp gates for protoss yet... I don't think I have seen a single pro game where protoss doesn't get warp gates. –  en1gmatic325 Aug 4 '10 at 16:50
    
Blink if you can pull it off. –  György Andrasek Aug 11 '10 at 0:13
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The answer is and always will be: It depends.

It depends on what your opponent is trying to do. It depends on what you're trying to do. There is no one "best" strategy that will work every time, and there is not an upgrade that is "never" useful.

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/concur - Blizzard stated in it's recent SC2 BlizzCast that they want all units (and implied every upgrade) to be situationally a good idea. –  McKay Aug 2 '10 at 21:38
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Yes and no. This answer is a cop out. Certain upgrades are definitely better than others. Yes, they may have their place in certain games, but some upgrades will be sought frequently while others used very infrequently. –  smdrager Aug 4 '10 at 3:41
    
for example, there is really no situation where a zerg player would not want a queen. whereas many many games do not involve ultras. –  Peter Recore Aug 12 '10 at 18:04
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