In this guide, we tackle how to remember what you learn from replays. Using an SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) software like ANKI to help drill in your what you're supposed to do and when.
People often say that you should learn from your mistakes and that you should not make the same mistake twice. That sounds reasonable and is quite easy to apply to many things in life. Fell over because your shoelaces aren’t tied? Always tie your shoes. This is not so easy in Starcraft though. Chances are you’ve died to a cannon rush, zergling rush or a proxy rax more than once. Why can’t we fix the mistake and just stop losing? This is because matches in StarCraft are often more complex than they seem and require you to learn multiple tactics and follow a precise strategy in order to win, in other words they require multiple fixes, many of which are unknown to the losing player. For example learning to kite a stalker against marines and learning to pull probes at the right times, and mineral walk the probes to surround better and prevent bunkers from finishing with smart army movement etc. But this is not the only reason we lose to the same thing multiple times, my goal is to give people a new way to solve this problem, using a SRS (Spaced Repetition Software) . But first we need to discuss tactics in Starcraft.
Habits & Tactics
I am a firm believer that tactics make up a large part of a Starcraft player’s skill. Some of them are commonly used and extremely important and to an experienced player obvious. Like putting 3 workers on gas or using a guardian shield before a battle. Experienced players will not even think about these tactics consciously anymore, they are trained habits that require minimal brain effort and time to do. Training a tactic into a habit is the end goal, and these will typically stay forever without any further training or focus unless we try to change them. These things can happen repetitively even if we know about the tactic that solves it, just knowing about it is not always enough in Starcraft because the game is so fast-paced and requires you to constantly focus on many things simultaneously. So using the habit and tactic terminology, let’s go over how to make a new tactic into a habit.
The only thing we need to understand about habits is taken from Charles Duhigg’s book “The power of Habit”. In the book, he describes the concept of the habit loop. Which consists of a cue, a trigger for an action followed by the action itself and then a reward. For purpose of StarCraft, we’ll swap the term action with the word tactic. Repeating this loop reinforces the habit. I found that in Starcraft it can be very helpful to clearly identify the cue for the Tactic. Let me give a quick example. I will use the same tactic as I mentioned previously, putting 3 workers on gas. The cue for this is seeing a refinery, assimilator or extractor is finished and has less than 3 workers in it. The action is boxing 2 workers or clicking 2 workers and then right-clicking the gas. The reward is the small sense of achievement that you feel for having taken care of something at your base.These are all small but simple. Because the cue is so simple and is followed by the action 100% of the time this is very easy to make into a habit. So the first thing we want to do is identify a cue that is as efficient as possible and as simple as possible, this can be a tradeoff. For example we might make a habit to build a new depo right after the first one finished to have 1 scv per base continuously building depots. This is very simple which is great, but not as efficient as it could be because it will sometimes lead to having too many. Take some time to decide on your cue because this is very hard to change after the habit is made, you will basically need to start over completely, and changing a habit can even be harder than creating one. I want to also emphasize the importance of the reward after doing the action, allow yourself to feel good instantly after doing it and maybe even smile. Watch replays where you do it and visualize yourself doing it again and enjoy it! This will speed up the process of habit creation.
Using an SRS
SRS is a digital flashcard organized into decks. It keeps track of the scheduling of when to look at each card. This is done in exponentially increasing time intervals which means that the repetitions required to remember a card for a year is actually only a handful, so it's a very time efficient memorization method which is only possible with elaborate scheduling performed by the SRS. a very popular example program is Anki.
This will ensure that we know about the tactic throughout all of our games. This could be helpful when doing active problem solving in-game. So for example, if we play zerg and have a structure that no longer has creep and is bleeding out, we will think about how to solve the problem of lacking creep at the structure. This might make us remember a trivial tactic, spreading creep with a tumor from a queen, but if we know about other ways of spreading creep we might consider all of them and choose the most efficient for the purpose.
Knowing about a tactic is generally not enough is that Starcraft is such a fast-paced game, most of our actions are not the result of active problem-solving.
Starcraft is a game of habits, most tactics that an experienced starcraft player make are subconscious and habits trained long ago. The key is identifying a clear trigger for the tactic that you want to learn, and when you want to perform them. This can be a specific game time, at a certain unit count, when attacking, after scouting X, after X happened or after doing X. Using SRS and practice games the goal is to over time turn this into a habit, so that after the trigger appears in-game it will remind you of the action, and in some situations it will even make you do the action without consciously thinking about it.
So to summarize, the above method:
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