I have found that I have no problem setting my buildings as control groups, but I rarely set my army as control groups. Some people have suggested that you set your whole army as one group, and then individual unit types as others, but I never get around to this because it's so labor-intensive and I feel like I never have time because I'm always doing something else, and always creating new units so my groups are never really accurate. I never really had this problem in WC3 because the units were less expendable (granted they're not expendable in SC2, but they are MORE so than in WC3. I think this is because of "upkeep") so creating groups made more sense.

I know that if I'm going to get better at this game I need to learn to use control groups for units, but I'm just having issues creating/maintaining them.

How do I effectively set, and add to, control groups?

  • 3
    If you reword it to something more along the line of "How do I keep my control groups up to date with all of the changes that are happening with my army and buildings?" that might make it better.
    – McKay
    Aug 25, 2010 at 17:40
  • 2
    Please do not include answers about your control group schemes as those are largely subjective. Instead focus on the mechanics of the game and techniques that use them.
    – tzenes
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:13

5 Answers 5


Select Quickly

First thing to do is remember how to change what you have selected quickly, so that you don't spend any extra time trying to get a box around just the right guys to set to your group. You might already know all of these but:

  • Ctrl-Click = Select all units of the same type
  • Double-Click = Select all units of the same type
  • Shift-Box = Add all boxed units to the current group
  • Shift-Click = Add or remove the clicked unit from the current group
  • Shift-Num = Adds selected unit to control group dictated by num

Shift-Click and Ctrl-Click work on portraits too. And these work together: "Remove all units of that type from my group" is Shift-Ctrl-Portrait Click.

Group By Role

You will always want to group by units that you will be giving the same orders to, so you don't have to alter the group any after you select it. I find my groups work out like this:

  • Attack that way
  • Kill that scary ground unit
  • Kill that scary air unit
  • Detectors

I sometimes group by move speed as well, because sometimes you just need any troops here right now!

Almost is good enough

Finally, remember that its ok to miss a couple guys because new guys were built, just go pick them up immediately after. (I find Shift-Box to be the most useful for adding the new guys to the group.) All the guys in a group won't arrive at the same time anyway, and having MOST of the group start moving toward where they are needed is better than none. Just update your groups before you move away from your base, or whenever you give them new orders, but AFTER the order.

  • 2
    I do like this answer, but I think that's largely because its a good answer to a different question: "What are the methods of creating Control Groups?" Its almost a shame you had to put in here rather than in a better question.
    – tzenes
    Aug 25, 2010 at 17:43
  • @tzenes. I try to give my best answer to the non-subjective parts of a question. Posting subjective answers doesn't help any more than posting subjective questions. But it looks like I need to think more about if a question will be closed or not before answering! I'm happy to receive the tzenes mark of approval for a Starcraft answer anyway. Thanks! Aug 25, 2010 at 17:55
  • 1
    @tzenes I think rephrasing the current question to "How do I effectively set control groups", and basically asking for what strategies/foci to concentrate on for general effective gameplay instead of a poll would work. People will contribute their own strategies as a consequence of addressing the general concern.
    – Grace Note
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:07
  • @Grace I agree, I'm actually going to edit the last part
    – tzenes
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:11

I usually set my army to control group 1 and when new units arrive you can ctrl-click the new units then shift-1 will add them to group 1 even if you don't have group 1 selected.

To use the different abilities on the different units in group 1 I just tab through them. Same applies to buildings. So for instance if I were playing as terran and had my factory and starport set to group 5. I can tab between selecting the factory or the starport.

Its a good idea if you are attacking in two places at once to have both groups hot keyed differently.

another example of having different units assigned to one group and to their individual group is when you have a group of stalkers, immortals, zealots together. Stalkers move faster so naturally they always end up in the front attacking, taking damage which is not their ideal location, and they're also blocking your melee zealots. So if you had immortals and zealots hot keyed to 2, you can attack with them first.

There are really too many different play styles to list though.

  • 1
    +1 - I forgot that Shift+Num adds to that group. I need to incorporate that into my game play! Aug 25, 2010 at 17:45
  • upvote for the shift+# comment
    – Hurrikane
    Aug 25, 2010 at 19:47

There is no one most effective method. You have to do what suits your strategy and your race.

I personally prefer to separate the groups based on the physical positioning they will use during battle. As a protoss player, I typically keep Zealots, Immortals, and non-blink Stalkers in Ctrl + 1, and Colossi and Sentries in group 2, simply because those units work best when they are far away from the front lines. I might use group 3 for either blink Stalkers because they have to be able to move very independently, or possibly for High Templars or an aerial strike group.

In my opinion the way you hotkey buildings is more important than how you hotkey your army. Having units out of position is definitely really bad, especially for things like Siege Tanks and Colossi, but the ability to instantly spawn more units while barely taking away any time from your battlefield attention is more important. My personal preference is to use Ctrl + 4 for all Warp Gates, Ctrl + 5 for all Nexuses, Ctrl + 6 for proxy Pylon, and Ctrl + 7 and 8 for Robo Facilities/Stargates.

Hitting the hotkey for a unit or building group twice will center the camera on it. That's how you see the pros instantly switching views between their army and their base without clicking on the minimap. The following is my favorite solution for the "Warp Gate" problem where Protoss players have to look away from the battle to produce reinforcements.

Say I'm attacking with a main force and I need to warp in, some reinforcements, I double tap 6 to center the camera on my proxy Pylon, press 4 (or W) to select all Warp Gates and warp in some units in the Pylon's power field, select them and press Shift + 1 to add them to my first group, double tap 4 again, hit 5 and Chrono Boost all the warp gates with all my Nexus. This sounds complicated, but once you get the hang of it you can do it at amazing speed. Most people don't know that you can Chrono Boost warp gates to decrease the Warp-in cooldown time.

If you're playing as Terran or Zerg it's even easier to do this. Simply keep your camera on your army, hit the hotkey for your unit producing building, set the rally point to one of your own units or a location near your army, and build a bunch of units.

Also, when building workers for new expansions, I like to make all Command Centers/Nexuses/Hatcheries build workers at the same time and simply send them over, as the worker production speed can be triple or double that of producing workers only at the new expansion itself, not to mention you can build and waypoint before the expansion is even finished building. That's the advantage of keeping all main buildings in one hotkey.

  • I will say that I use almost exactly the same control group scheme as Zerg, with Overseers on 4 and all Hatcheries on 5, Queens on 6-9. That said, this is a largely subjective answer.
    – tzenes
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:14
  • 3
    I like this answer myself. Sure, it's rooted in personal experience but it's the helpful kind of personal experience. You even highlight your common schemes (separate by position, and emphasis on buildings) and why you find them useful.
    – Grace Note
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:19
  • @Grace its not the separation scheme that I dislike, its saying: 1 front line, 2 is back line, 3 is casters... etc. A better answer would say: its often important to separate your front line units into a different control group from you back line because....
    – tzenes
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:35
  • @tzenes It says "separate based on physical position", followed by "this is how I myself do it with Protoss". Perhaps it could be enhanced to more clearly explain the general reason why positioning is useful (in the same way that building priority is explained), but it does already implicitly provide such reasoning with the choices made for Protoss.
    – Grace Note
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:42
  • @Grace I think it was the reasoning which I really wanted, not just a list of how he sets things up.
    – tzenes
    Aug 25, 2010 at 18:53

For SC2, I use this system:

  • 6, 5, 4: Groups of armies. 6 is the main group, and I work to the left for additional groups. Perhaps 6 for main army, and 5 for a group of Ravens, or 5 for Medivacs.
  • 1: Command Centers
  • 2: Unit buildings (Barracks, Factory, Starport)
  • 3: Upgrade buildings (Tech Lab, Armory, etc.)
  • 7: Repair squad of SCVs
  • 8, 9, 0: Rarely used; possibly another repair squad or other non-battle group.

This is influenced by the fact that I use a split ergonomic keyboard, so the 1 through 6 are on the left side of the split, and the 7 to 0 on the right side.

This scheme does get tricky sometimes since I'm using grid hotkeys; I find that I tend to hit 6 instead of T in the heat of battle, which doesn't always have the desired effect. But it usually works out.

Also, something I've found helpful:

Assign groups with Shift-# instead of Control-#. You only need to use Control-# to replace a group, and nearly always I just want to add units to a group. In SC1, I used to reselect the whole group with the added units and hit Control-#, but in SC2 I've trained myself to use Shift-# to create or add the group, and it's a lot more manageable.

  • +1 for the Shift instead of Control, I need to get this annoying habbit gone. :D Jan 4, 2011 at 15:36

Use the right Shift and Ctrl key. I use left Shift + Ctrl for groups 1-7 and the right ones for 8-0. This way I can always group with my left hand.

My groupings are:

  1. Command Center - so I can scan instantly (1 c). This is the main reason.
  2. Main army. (MMM) - This way I can easily stutter step or pull back.
  3. Different army. (Tanks)
  4. Caster or other units I have to focus on. (Ghosts, Banshees)
  5. Barracks
  6. Factories
  7. Starports
  8. to 0. Stuff I need to focus on. (Drops, Upgrades etc.)

The reason I separate all the production buildings is to save APM. Tabbing costs actions I can save by using more groups.

In big battles I rarely rely on groupings, usually I tend to select individual groups in real time with my mouse.

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