Welcome to Direct Strike’s beginner’s guide. If you are new to the game or if you want to read some tips on how to play better this is a perfect resource for you.

Direct Strike Overview

We’re going to talk about the standard 3v3 (or 2v2 or 1v1) format. The goal of this game is to build your units at the staging area and let them fight against your opponent’s units. You cannot control your units like you are used to in the basic StarCraft gameplay. You cannot order them to attack some units or to move somewhere. That is all done by the AI. But there are other things you can do:

  • You can choose what units to build and what upgrades to develop.
  • You can choose where to put the units. Positioning is the key – it is better to put the hydras behind the roaches for example.
  • You can control the abilities.
  • You can build additional gases to gain more resources.

The game deploys your units every 60 seconds (in 3v3). If your units haven’t been deployed yet you can sell them for 100 % of the price. If the unit has been in combat you can sell it for less amount of minerals.

And if you want to play it just log in to StarCraft II and choose Custom and search for “direct”. You should see plenty of games.


There are no workers like in the standard StarCraft game. You get a fixed amount of minerals per second and you can increase the income in two ways:

  • Build additional extractor/assimilator/refinery. Yes, you build additional gas miner to gain more minerals. It’s weird but get used to it. We usually use the term “gas”. If someone tells you to “build a gas” they mean to build an extractor/assimilator/refinery located behind your staging area. You can build at most four gases.
  • By controlling the middle. The team that controls the middle gets additional resources. You control the middle by having your units on the enemy side of the map. You can tell by the color if you control the middle or not. Whoever has more units on the opponent’s side controls the middle. Be aware of the difference: if you build additional gas you increase just your income, not the income of the whole team. But if you control the middle the whole team gets the income bonus! Thus controlling the middle is one of the most important things in the game!

How To Tell Your Opponent’s Race

You can see it on the loading screen. But what if someone is playing as a random? There is a way to see the opponent’s race during the game. Just look at the opponent’s mineral patches. Every race has a different sign on one of the patches.


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How to Build Units

Select your main worker/builder (or hit 1, your builder is in the first control group by default) and then select units to build or upgrades to develop in the panel on the right. Be aware that you don’t see all the units you can build. Sometimes you need to switch the unit by right-clicking on the icon. For example, if you right-click on the Roach you switch it to Ravager. There are more “secret” units:

  • Hydralisk / Lurker
  • Roach / Ravager
  • Cyclone / Widow Mine
  • Observer / Oracle
  • High Templar / Archon

You can also enable auto-casting of upgrades. If you right-click on the upgrade the game will automatically develop the upgrade when you have enough minerals. If you right-click on the gas it will be automatically built once you have enough money.

In the beginning, you can build just a few units, the so-called tier 1 units. There are 3 tiers. You start at tier 1 and you can upgrade the tier 2 and tier 3. It costs money but then you have more units available. Tier 2 is essential because you get access to invisible units (Dark Templar / Ghost / Banshee / Lurker) and to units that can detect invisible units (Observer / Raven / Overseer). Moreover, you get access to a scan (all races get a scan, not just Terran). You can scan any place on the map including your opponent’s staging area. Be aware that it costs money to scan.

There is also a special tier 4 emerging after 25 minutes of gameplay. It does not allow you to build more units. It just upgrades all of your existing units. It’s usually favorable to develop it as soon as possible. After another five minutes, you can develop tier 5, etc.

When to Upgrade Units

Sometimes I see players upgrading units too early and sometimes I see players not upgrading the units at all. When is the right time to upgrade them?

In the game, there are many different upgrades. There are unit-specific upgrades such as Metabolic Boost for the Zerglings and there are general upgrades such as attack and armor upgrade. You need to have a specific amount of units to benefit from the upgrade. It makes no sense to have five +2/+2 Roaches. It’s better to spend the minerals on building additional units. Always upgrade your units if you have enough of them. You can do the math or just estimate it. But be reasonable.

So please, don’t build 10 Colossi with zero upgrades (yes I saw that) and don’t upgrade your five Roaches.

While you cannot build any more units once your wave is walking on the field you can upgrade the units and the effect is immediate. You can build a High Templar and you can upgrade the Psionic Storm on the way.

How To Open The Game

OK, you are in the game. What is supposed to be your first step? Do not build a gas! The most important thing is to hold the middle. You cannot win a fight if you spent some money on the gas and some money on units while your opponent spent all money on units. You will have fewer units and you will lose unless your opponent is stupid and doesn’t know the proper counters. You have more or less four options what to do:

  1. Build some generally good unit composition. Every unit has a counter so be prepared your composition could be crushed. You need to adjust to the upcoming wave.
  2. Do nothing and wait for the opponent. It is ok to skip the first wave because the bunker will destroy it anyway. Then you can build units that counter the enemy’s units. You can see the proper counters below.
  3. Do not build anything, upgrade tier 2, and skip the first wave. If your enemy builds some units, counter it. If your enemy doesn’t build anything just like you, scan them a few seconds before your turn and quickly build proper counters. But be prepared they will do the same to you.
  4. Open with some crazy shenanigans and hope the enemy doesn’t know how to counter it. Build mass Oracles, mass Mutalisks, mass Ravens, or mass Queens.

What are some in general good Direct strike builds? Roach/Hydra! It can deal with almost anything. I’d say it is one of the most powerful build in DS.

When To Build a Gas

That is a serious question in this game. Often you see people rushing gases. The first thing they do is building a gas. This simply doesn’t work unless you get lucky and your opponent does something even more stupid. Remember: if you hold the middle, each member of the team gets a bonus income. If you build a gas only you get the bonus. Hence defending the middle is crucial. You should spend every penny to defend the middle in the beginning because that is what gives you the most money.

Usually, people that gas too much and too early are the ones with the lowest damage output. Because for most of the game they have fewer units. So, as a rule of thumb:

  • Build your first gas when you destroy the enemy bunker. You get a few minerals as a reward for destroying the bunker. Use it to build the gas.
  • Build your first gas if you’ve been controlling the middle for about five minutes and the bunker is still up. It is usually safe to build a gas.
  • After ten minutes if none of the previous events has happened.
  • Do not build a gas if it is close. If you have the middle for a few seconds and then the enemy team, don’t spend your money on gas, spend it on units.

Be aware that the second gas is more expansive than the first one etc. while the bonus is still the same. It takes more and more time until the gas is actually paid-off.

General Tips

  • In the beginning, don’t put your units in front of the staging area. If there are any units from the previous wave, let it get crushed by the bunker. But move it to the front eventually.
  • This one is obvious but important: always focus on destroying your opponent’s wave. Don’t leak any units! Any unit that survives your wave will mess with your ally’s wave. Imagine you don’t kill two opponent’s Archons and your ally in the next wave is zerg with Banelings. You don’t want to see banelings crushing into Archons! You want to see them destroying a flock of Marines!
  • Don’t use your abilities to kill the leaks. If there are five opponents' marines kill it with your army. Don’t use a storm to kill it! Save the storm for the full wave. It is really sad to see AI shooting Disruptor’s nova to kill three Marines from the previous wave. You can temporarily disable auto casting in the panel (hit F3).
  • Control as many abilities as you can. It’s ok to just build units and do nothing – the AI takes care of the rest. But better players control at least some of the abilities by themself. At least use the F3 to enable/disable spells.
  • Disruptors are great. Their Purification nova is outstanding at killing stuff. There is nothing that kills units faster. But there is a way how to mess with the AI: Purification nova priorities some units. It always seeks widow mines, swarm hosts, or other Disruptors. You can use this knowledge to defend against the Nova. Put some mines somewhere further away from your main army and the Nova will seek out the mines and it will not kill your main army.
  • If you play PvP you can use Disruptors to kill the enemy’s disruptors. Purification nova seeks out other Disruptors. And if you kill the disruptor before the nova detonates the Purification Nova disappears without exploding. In general, in the case of Disruptor vs Disruptor, it is all about who shoots first. You can help it: if you don’t see the enemy but if you know that the enemy is close, fire the Purification Nova manually. They will go into the fog but when the enemy army appears they will seek out disruptors and they will kill faster.
  • Be aware of mana regeneration. Your spellcasters do not have full mana when they are born. The more time they are on the field the more mana they have. Your Viper is useless when born on the staging area because it has no mana to cast Blinding cloud or Parasitic bomb. But the enemy Viper knocking on your Nexus has plenty of mana – it just has crossed through the whole field to generate mana. Building spell casters when defending the Nexus is usually not a good strategy as the spell casters tend to die before they have enough mana to cast anything useful.

Further reading