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Every SC2 tutorial emphasizes that beginners are best served by focusing on two aspects of the game: (i) mechanics and (ii) macro.

I understand what is meant by "macro" (i.e., making sure you're constantly collecting resources, producing units/buildings, and expanding when appropriate).

My question: what do experienced SC2 players refer to when they say "mechanics"? Is it simply fluency in the various keyboard hotkeys used when macro-ing / micro-ing?

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Mechanics refers to the game engine and all possible interactions with it. While you do not need to execute every action perfectly, you need to be aware that it is possible. Without time pressure you should know how to execute every command in the game and understand its result. This is not limited to the race you play.

To learn these start with the most obvious ones and work your way to the more hidden mechanics:

  • Learn and use all hotkeys
  • Learn all units their abilities, upgrades, strengths and weaknesses (e.g. EMP removes all energy and shields from all enemies in the area of effect additionally it reveals cloaked units)
  • Know the tech trees and requirements for each unit and building
  • Understand the basics of each races bonus: SCVs, scans, larva injects and chrono boost
  • Use the interface (e.g. minimap and resources display)
  • Understand the benefits and consequences of burrowed and stealth units
  • Understand how warp in and nydus worms work
  • Learn how HP and shield regeneration work
  • Animation canceling (aka stutter step)
  • ...

Many of the mechanics are introduced in the campaign. For the more advanced mechanics you either need to look at forums or listen to professional matches with casters. From time to time they explain what just happened.

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    Most of the things you have listed would not be classified as "mechanics". To have good mechanics you don't need to know what an upgrade is but you should be able to research while doing everything else. Mechanics is simply the execution of everything. – Aequitas Apr 6 '15 at 22:26
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Mechanics do not always refer to the game engine and all possible interactions with it, but rather, the proper thought process and execution. A player that has good mechanics is one that understands the game well enough to make split second decisions, and have a clear understanding of their long term and short term goals. Often you will see this in the form of choosing the better of multiple scenarios, or simply preparing ahead of time for the potential threats that could come their way.

Every SC2 tutorial emphasizes that beginners are best served by focusing on two aspects of the game: (i) mechanics and (ii) macro.

Macro is your base management, and Mechanics are your ability to react and adapt accordingly. To know when it is optimal to scout your opponent and how to react to what you do scout.

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