Rush Grinding

StarCraft 2 has lots of achievements. Some of them create a rather bizarre gaming culture. There are achievements rewarding you if you play a staggering number of games against the computer. Even if you cut it short, you will need to win 300 games against the medium AI in single-player and 750 in co-op multi-player. You will also need to use all 3 races. I have been doing some of those challenges for a while. Especially online, I found a fascinating community trying to come up with the most efficient ways to beat the medium AI. Here are my findings. First, the technique:

Bunker Rush

I’m in ur base killing ur doods. The medium AI won’t do anything if you build a bunker right at their doorstep. Bunker rushing becomes trivial.


So far it seems there is only one really effective way to rush the AI as a Terran. You build a barracks and a bunker in their base and continue producing marines until you killed everything. It is perhaps the most tedious way to rush the AI. Here is the recipe:

  1. Send 1 SCV to the enemy’s base. Send the rest to mine
  2. Build 1 additional SCV
  3. As soon as you have the money, build one supply depot at your base
  4. By the time your first SCV arrives at your enemy’s base, you should have enough money for a barracks. Build one close to their main building.
  5. Train 3 more SCVs while the barracks is being built.
  6. When the barracks finishes, immediately build a bunker. Try to place it in such a way that it will be able to fire at enemy workers. This may be impossible against the Zerg.
  7. Train 2 marines. One should come out before the bunker finishes. Send it away. You don’t want to engage the enemy before the bunker is done.
  8. When the bunker finishes, send the marine inside. Set the rally point of your barracks to your bunker. Continue building more barracks, supply depots and marines. Against the Zerg, you may need to get out of the bunker at some point to attack directly. Do so only after you have at least 6 marines or so. Always retreat to the bunker if you encounter resistance.
Spine Crawler Rush

Due to wonky path-finding, drones will get stuck at minerals and won’t be able to properly surround spine crawlers. Perhaps the easiest way to win a StarCaft 2 game.


Zerg have basically two ways of rushing the AI. The problem is that none of them is 100% reliable. One of them is the Zergling rush which I already wrote about. It’s an effective strategy but very easy to mess up with bad micro. It’s a good way to learn combat mechanics though. The other way is to plant two spine crawlers in the enemy’s base. If you plant them behind the minerals, the AI drones will have great difficulties to reach them and won’t be able to deal any significant damage. The problem is that you can plant spine crawlers only on creep. So the strategy is only really viable against a Zerg player. So you will need to scout before you do it. Luckily, there is a way to do a build that allows BOTH strategies. It is a bit tricky, though.

  1. Send 1 drone to the enemy’s base. Send the rest to mine.
  2. Build a Spawning Pool as soon as you have the money.
  3. Once your drone reaches the enemy’s base you have to chose:
    1. Against Zerg: send a second drone. Build two spine crawlers behind the minerals as soon as it arrives. Unborrow the crawlers and move them inward to pick off more buildings as soon as the Hatchery falls.
    2. Against other races: Build an Overlord. Send your drone back. Spam Zerglings.
Photon Cannon Rush

Photon Cannon rush is the most popular noob strategy. Just two cannons are enough to wipe out a medium AI player.


Protoss are perhaps the easiest race to rush the AI with. They have two strategies. They are both easy. They are both very effective. One is to build Photon Cannons in the enemy’s base. Just two cannons is too much for the AI to deal with early in the game.

  1. Send 1 probe to the enemy’s base. Send the rest to mine.
  2. Continue building probes until you reach your initial maximum of 10 supply.
  3. As soon as your probe arrives at the enemy’s base, build a pylon.
  4. Build a Forge as soon as the pylon finishes.
  5. Build two cannons as soon as the pylon finishes. Place them close to the main building so that they can reach the workers and the buildings. Continue building pylons and cannons if some buildings are out of reach.

The problem with this strategy is that it’s boring and also not very flexible. When fighting two AI players, you won’t be in a good position to defeat the other player. It’s also not very effective against the Zerg since you can’t build on creep. So usually, I will opt for two Gateways to build a lot of Zealots. This is actually slightly faster and much more flexible. You can easily defeat two or even more AI players of any race.

Proxy Gateway

Sustainable rushing. Using Gateways instead of Photon Cannons enables you to have a follow-up against multiple AI opponents.

  1. Start out just like with cannon rush. Only instead of a Forge, build two Gateways. You don’t need to build them right next to their main building. Actually, building them a little further away is advisable.
  2. While the Gateways are warping in, build an additional pylon (for supply).
  3. As soon as the Gateways finish, build Zealots. Chronoboost them. Send the Zealots away from the enemy. Don’t engage the enemy until you have 3 Zealots
  4. Once you reach 3 Zealots, attack. Set the rally points of the Gateways to the enemy base. Continue building and chronoboosting Zealots. Don’t forget pylons.


Rushing the AI seems like pointless achievement grinding at first. Certainly achievement grinding is a big part of it. But having done it for quite some time now, there are some additional advantages:

  • Learning to defend rush By learning to rush effectively, you also learn the weaknesses of rush strategies. Many of the mentioned strategies are also used in games against humans. By learning how to rush you will have a much better idea on how to defend when you are being rushed. However, this is only true to some extent. The AI is much less effective at defending a rush than a real player is. You can get away with a lot of very risky stuff. Human rush strategies are usually much more careful.

  • Learning to micro Some of the strategies depend on good unit control. Especially the Zergling rush can fail horribly if the player isn’t careful. Executing those strategies again and again is a good way to get a better feel for the basic units like Marines, Zerglings and Zealots.

  • Learning other races When you start playing StarCraft2, you are most likely to focus on one race. Once you get good with it, it can feel daunting to switch to the other ones. However, doing so can be incredibly insightful as you get a much better sense of the weaknesses of the other races. Rushing the AI is a good “gateway-drug” to get into other races. It reduces the complexity of the race to a very manageable number of variables. Once you mastered the basics, it’s easier to get into more in-depth games. It certainly worked for me.

  • It’s relaxing StarCraft2 is usually a very complicated, exhausting game. When playing against human players, you constantly need perfect concentration and give 100%. Rushing the AI is way less demanding. It can be a good way to play the game without the pressure to excel. I often find myself listening to podcasts while playing a couple of rounds.

But there is a dark side to it as well. Because there are a lot achievements associated with defeating the AI, you will meet a lot players on-line doing nothing but constantly rushing the AI. The co-op quick match option is basically swarming with them. I often met beginning players, who were very upset when I won the game for them without them contributing. I found that confusing at first. After all, why aren’t those players simply playing alone vs. the AI? I realized that those players were seeking for something quite specific. Something that the achievement system broke for them. They weren’t looking just for practice. They were looking for a way to play TOGETHER with another human being without the pressure of competition. This is something a single-player skirmish against the AI can’t deliver. They wouldn’t be able to meet new friends or learn from better players there. On the other hand, playing 2 vs 2 games isn’t an option either. Those games are extremely competitive. Beginning players may feel like they are a burden to others.

Recently, Blizzard released a couple of custom maps with custom rules that can be player cooperatively against the AI. For example, the Left 2 Die map lets two players defend their common base against incoming waves of zombies. These may bring some relief to new players. But the custom rules make it harder to transfer knowledge to the “real” game. More importantly, the interface for accessing the custom maps is very unintuitive, especially for new players. I think it could be a good idea to feature popular custom maps in an iTunes App Store – like interface. It would help communicate to new players that this is indeed a valid alternative to play the game together with other people.

In any case, while rushing the AI does have some use, I still think that it is another example of achievements spoiling what could have been a welcome refuge for newcomers.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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