StarCraft Art of War - Taking Your Third

General Discussion
This week, we’re analyzing:

Taking Your Third - Transitioning into the mid-game can be challenging, but learning how to take a third base is crucial to improving your StarCraft II skills. How do you safely expand to three base play and beyond?

Strategy, tactics, and skill. At the heart of StarCraft II are the legion of skilled tacticians and brilliant strategists leading armies of zerg, protoss, and terrans to war across the scarred battlefields of the Koprulu Sector. Knowledge is power; the greatest commanders throughout history earned their victories not merely by virtue of strategic brilliance, but also by applying themselves to rigorous study of warfare and the tactics used by those who fought before them. You too can tap into this valuable resource, and that’s where StarCraft Art of War comes in.

Are you a veteran player? Are you new to StarCraft II and striving to improve your skills? In this weekly feature, we invite players of all skill levels to ask questions, share their tactics, post replays, and provide advice for understanding and defeating today’s most popular units or strategies.

Art of War Rules:

  • Stick to the rules. All posts should abide by the forum code of conduct and the Art of War guidelines. Feel free to disagree with each other, but please do so respectfully. When you express opposing opinions, focus on the idea, not its author, their record, or perceived skill level.
  • Be constructive. The purpose of this thread is to share effective tactics and strategies; to adapt, overcome and become a better player based on current conditions. Claiming that a unit or strategy is overpowered isn’t conducive to learning better play and tends to just derail the discussion.

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  • Ask questions! These threads aren’t just for experienced players, but also players who are learning the ropes or want to improve their skills.
Taking your third is completely reliant on keeping your opponent on the back foot :) When they're on the defensive, you're free to expand! Got a drop going? Expand! Got a push going? Expand!

Don't get caught playing too defensively :)
I shoot for as third by the 7-8 min marker, after I've scouted nothing fishy. If there's some attack coming, I dedicate those 300 to static d or some other type of army.
I play random, so i have many opinions.

1. As Terran, Inever get a third, OR second if I don't need too, as i go attack at four minuted with a giant ball of marines and end the game.

2. As Zerg, I get my third at the seven minute mark, if it's safe.

3. As Protoss, I find it very hard to get a third base, and I always have to sneak it in while attacking.

Hope this helped!!!

Orion
Getting a third as protoss relies a lot on scouting and finding out what your opponent is doing. If there is an attack coming or I see that they are teching is the main thing I use to decide on taking my expo.

Even though I can get a good scout it is always hard to take a third against zerg because of the easy muta harras and the money it takes to put down cannons.
I play mainly as Toss, and trying to get a third can be tough, especially vs zerg. You have to sim city your third with gateways and use cannons to try and protect it from muta/drops.
As a Zerg player I find I can take my third vs non hellion terrans at about 7 minutes, if they go hellions I can't take it until around 10-11 minutes when I have mutas going, but then I get to double expand a lot of the time.

Vs Toss I can take it anywhere between 3 minutes and 10 minutes depending on the builds being used against me.

Vs Zerg I get to take a third base after the early game 1 or 2 base all in stuff has settled down, sometimes this happens really early around 6-9 minutes, and sometimes it never happens.

Pro Tip for Terrans - You can take a third vs Zerg with 1 reactor factory 6 hellions and 1 tech lab barracks and like 3 marines at the 5-6 minute mark and be safe from basically every all in except maybe 2 base roach baneling.
Terran:

I usually take my third about 11 - 15 minutes in T vs P. If my first push is successful and I do some damage, I am not shy to expand. If I get repelled pretty hard, I gotta set up for a counter attack.

The hardest part of getting a third for Terran is that each SCV is 50 minerals and now you are getting them in 3's, 150 minerals every 17 seconds really hurts as that is 450 minerals a minute, not including Depots.

If you take your third to early as Terran, you can snowball really well into the late game with a great income but you sacrifice your mid or early game to do it.

Against Zerg, I will usually take my third after I have tanks and Thors out. I have a timing push I get off before ten, my first expansion is ussually delayed to about 7 minutes so I am not really saturated quite enough to justify a third until about 13 - 15. If my first push does a lot of damage and drop his drones by a lot or deny his third, I will double expand as he is playing catch up on economy now.

T vs T, I fast expand into my Nat and get my third based on what is happening in the game. If I am ahead, I will expand early, if I am behind I will work on saturating two base first and try to get my third around 12 - 13.

I find my Main Base mines out about 15 minutes so I have to seriously consider my third to be at about 12 so I can transfer my SCV's. Any later and I am going to regret that I didn't make on in advance even if I haven't dropped it yet near a mineral line.

Ideally, I like 16 SCV's on three bases, 16 on each base working minerals, 6 on gas, 22 total per base as I get more income off three working bases with 16 scvs then I do with 2 working bases maxed out at 24 harvestors each mining minerals. If I can get that nice spread before hard saturating every base, I ussually find I win but to get that, I really need to do optimal damage on any push I make before ten minutes so I can double expand.
As a Protoss player these are some steps I take before my third:

Vs P:
If the game extends past 1 base battles, I expo to my natural and defend unless I see him expanding too. Then I generally wait until I have 1-2 collosus with range before taking my third.

Vs T:
I wait to get an observer out to see what he's doing. If he's dropping generally I'll focus on defending while taking an expo and if he's going for an attack, I'll defend.

Vs Z:
I always tech to 2+ stargate vs Zerg after a FFE so I am even in economy. Then I use the map control to safely expand free of counter attacks or muta harass.
terran: build a CC, upgrade to planetary, build a few turrets nearby, be prepared to mass repair when necessary
As terran, I usually fast expand to a 4th base under 10 minutes... I make the enemy trace 3 of those bases, and with the 4th base (which is right next to his), I build 6 rax and I push a storm of marines into his base.
I usually get a third as soon as my natural is saturated in PvZ/T. Note that in PvP i rarely get a third so that is irrelevant.

Getting a third really depends on the map. On some it is really easy to defend (Antiga, Shattered, Taldarim) and in those cases i err on the side of greediness. It is easy to scout incoming troops, and the rush distance + defenders advantage will offset the fact that you just put down a nexus. On maps like metal or xelnaga (which I have vetoed) it is harder because the third is much less defensible and thus might need more caution before taking.
I can only *wish* I could enforce White-Ra's advice.

"We make expand, then defense it."

Sigh
These Art of Wars are starting to get more advanced. I love it.

Taking your third is a crucial decision in every match up and deciding the appropriate time to do so requires thought on many different factors.

1. Your match up first off. Every match up is different and requires different sets of timings on when to take your third base. In my own experience I've found in virtually every match up, mirrors take their third bases much slower than the other match ups with each race with Protoss vs Protoss hardly taking a third EVER.

2. The openings. Obviously you aren't going to want to take a fast third against an aggressive opening, but you might want to take one faster than normal against a defensive macro opponent. In general, if your opponent is fast expanding, you have a choice of either taking a quick third or applying aggressive pressure. This decision is obviously reliant on what race you are playing which goes back into point 1.

3. The map. Tal'Darim Altar, Metalopolis and Antiga Shipyards are prime maps for taking a quick third. Maps like Shakuras Plateau, Shattered Temple and Xel'Naga Caverns are a much different story.

You must weigh these factors carefully before deciding when to take your third. If you are just operating on a strict timeline for taking your third you are ignoring a lot of the variables that make each match up dynamic.
Sorry blizzard, but on most of your maps, securing a third is very, very, VERY hard vs a competent opponent. With the current state of builds and metagame however, 90% of the time the game ends before taking a third is even thought of, so it doesn't matter too much.
When the map allows it, as fast as I can if I feel like I can defend it.
-ZvT: Generally either after I crush an attempted push/pressure or if it doesn't look like anything will be coming soon.
-ZvP: ~30-40 food vs. FFE. Still trying to work out a good timing versus other strategies.
-ZvZ: I either take a far base for my third if my opponent is going Roach, around when Mutalisks come into play, or if I scout my opponent taking a third.

The sad thing is that many Blizzard maps discourage taking a third. And those that don't are usually terrible in many other ways.
MMA style, 3 bases @ 8 minutes
Just my Protoss vs Zerg:
Step 1: FFE, scout his 3rd
Step 2: get 4zeals and +1, go attack 3rd, send probe along for proxy pylon
Step 3: 1st 100 gas is attack, next 50 is warp gate, next 100~ is twilight council, then depending on geyser count, next 250 is Dark Shrine.
Step 4: Zealot attack is over, Dark Templar coming soon, make Stargate
Step 5: When Dark Templar are warped in they go for his 3rd hatch and focus it down, use next 400 minerals for nexus after clearing my 3rd of zerglings and make phoenix
Step 6: Roach counter could/should be coming, place phoenix in path and intercept any overseers. They cannot attack my third because Dark Templar defending the middle and my side of map and phoenixes are shooting down Overseers, they need hydra and overseers to push, muta don't cut it vs phoenix count! Happy hunting!

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