Note that this is a living document. I will continue to update it with as much information as possible as I acquire the time. Feel free to add your own bullets as well...
So you want to play Supreme Commander 2 competitively?
Supreme Commander 2 is unique when compared to many other real time strategies due primarily to the richness of tactical and strategic options available to the players. There are more ways to kill your enemy then they can possibly defend against and therefore knowing what your enemy is planning and how to successfully counter it is tantamount to succeeding in competitive matches. This guide will teach you the basics of successfully identifying threats, countering them, and then identifying the weaknesses of your opponents so you can exploit them. By the time you are finished, you will understand most of the basic concepts needed to succeed in ranked 1v1 play, and you will find yourself a better player in larger matches as well.
==Starting out == When the game first begins, there are many ways you can set up your base depending on your plans. You will almost always want to start out capturing as many mass points as possible, though there are a few exceptions to this (ACU rush is the main one). I won't go into extreme detail on build orders since they are strategy specific, but there are a few points you should always keep in mind while starting out:
- If you don't have a specific plan, it is almost always best to build at least 1, maybe 2, Research Stations early on to give you a leg up in the mid game and prevent you from falling behind the enemy in your teching. However don't fall into the trap of building them immediately, get some factories and mass points first, and make sure you scout the opponent before you invest in any Research Stations.
- Always, always, always build a radar within the first couple minutes of the game. Failure to do so is a fatal mistake (often made by new players) since without intel you have no way of preparing for ACU rushes or other types of early attacks. People who complain that ACU rushes are overpowered usually have forgotten to build radar or don't pay attention to it after they build it, leaving them little or no time to prepare in the event of a rush.
- Never build more power plants then you absolutely need early on. I can't tell you how many times I have watched players sit there and waste their precious early resources building 8+ power plants early on, when they could have been fine with 3-4 and spent the difference on a factory or another research station instead. I find that for me, I rarely need more than 3 power plants until I either have mass conversion, overcharge on my ACU, or enough factories to warrant a few more power plants.
- Remember, early rushes can in all cases be countered with just your commander and point defense or anti-air towers. Throwing the defenses under factory shields acts as further insurance and will repel even ACU rushes reliably. This means that an early rush against a good player will almost always end poorly for the rusher and give an advantage to the defender. Mobile missile launchers are the greatest threat to your structures early on, but can be countered by simply attacking them with your commander. If they have built a balance of tanks and 1-2 MMLs it becomes trickier to counter, but the commander should still hold his own until the number of tank reaches 10+. At this point you should have had time to get some tanks of your own or get an engineer to your commander to repair him. Also upgrading some Sharp Shooter Mobile Anti-Missile Defense (UEF), Adaptor ADV (Cybran), or Sliptack Mobile Anti-Missile (Illuminate) patrolling your base (near the front) can help protect your base against MML's long range by setting them in groups of 2-3 around a small area (approx. 10-15 sec patrols).
- If you plan to rush, make sure you build at least 1 plane to scout. If you find that your rush will be ineffective in light of the enemy's defenses, call off the rush and try something else, for example splitting your forces and taking out peripheral mass extractors in coordinated but geographically separated attacks. Many players will take too long splitting their own forces, allowing you to kill 1 or 2 mass points early on which can give you a distinct advantage.
- Do not spend your Research Points until you absolutely have to! I see even experienced players make this mistake all the time. In fact I'd guess that more then 80-90% of the community makes this mistake almost every game. If you spend your research points before you need them, not only are you potentially giving away your strategy to your enemy if they see you do it, but you are also eliminating the flexibility of having them as Research Points. If you don't yet know what your enemy is planning to do, keeping the points in reserve allows you to quickly and immediately adapt to whatever they have planned, potentially giving you the leg up in the battle. One exception to this rule would be structure research, since it may affect the cost and build speed of your structures you will want to get the relevant research before you start building anything in order to save as much mass as possible.
- Do not build any defensive structures unless you know an attack is coming, and then only build the ones you need to counter that attack. For instance, if you see a bot rush coming your way, consider building 1 point defense if you think it will be too much for your commander. Being harassed by a few bombers? Build a single aa tower to solve the problem. Building defenses before you are sure you will need them is potentially a waste of mass, and hence the urgent need for radar so you can know ahead of time if you will need defenses at all. Because of how important this is, it is extremely important you get intel on your enemy's early game strategy as soon as humanly possible, because waiting until gunships are on radar to build AA could be the last mistake you will make that game. I like to open with an air factory even when I go land so I can always have scout planes available just for this purpose.
There are many other important details that go into starting your game successfully. The goal should always be to have a balance of capabilities that allow you to quickly adapt to whatever the enemy is doing. Inflexibility is a weakness that can be identified and exploited in order to take you down. ==Early Combat == Unless both players are teching and turtling, expect to see combat within the first 3-5 minutes of the game. As a competitive player, you will want to attack early and keep on the pressure throughout the whole game. This will force the enemy to spend their precious resources countering you rather then attacking you. With enough pressure, you can keep the enemy out of your base the whole game without the need for base defenses.
Early combat will always have a few main focuses:
- Scouting out your enemy: Units that are attacking are also revealing enemy units and structures potentially. Use your attack units to identify important structures as well as weak points for future attacks.
- Harassing your enemy's engineers: Consider dividing your units into smaller groups early on and splitting them up to harass enemy engineers on the outskirts of their base. This works especially well with bots instead of tanks due to their faster speed. When done right, you can often completely stop the enemy's expansion and keep them from claiming mass points outside their immediate base.
- Destroy game critical structures: If you find that your units are mostly unopposed, you will want to move in quickly to their main base and attack critical structures. These include factories and research stations primarily. If the enemy has no factories then he won’t be able to counter future attacks easily and you will be able to control most of the map. Note that it is acceptable to lose all your units in an early attack if the result of the attack is the enemy losing 1 or more of their factories or research stations, though such situations need to be judged on a case by case basis.
- Force a reaction: When you are on the attack the enemy is playing by your rules. Force them to counter you and fight for their lives. This gives you the short term advantage, and often by switching strategies frequently you can keep the enemy always 1 step behind you as you harass them slowly to death.
- Assassinate: If you find yourself with 25+ units in the first 4-5 minutes of the game, consider going straight for the enemy ACU. Before he has Overcharge, he is very vulnerable to massed land units and you can get an easy, early commander kill this way.
In addition, in order to keep your economy growing during this period, you will want to keep the following things in mind:
- You should always be expanding out from your base in all directions with engineers, claiming mass points as you go. If you find that some peripheral mass extractors are being threatened, consider building outlying factories to protect them, which will not only provide you with more units over the long term, but make great defensive forts with their shield bubbles and some pd/aa.
- At this point you should be expanding your power plant numbers slightly, ensuring you always have just a little more energy then you need.
- If you are going for non-experimental land or air units, then you will want to be aiming for 3-5 factories of the appropriate type as soon as possible. Often people will build only 1 or 2 factories thinking it's enough, only to find themselves overwhelmed by superior numbers. The rule of thumb: build as many factories as you can afford to maintain constant production on.
You may find yourself from time to time in a situation you just forgot to prepare for, or you may be subject to an even more aggressive opponent then yourself, who has either rushed you or attacked a little later with a sizable army. Some of the hardest to deal with, as well as their effective counters, are as follows:
- If you find yourself being rushed by an ACU, it can be a challenging problem to handle. Many people freeze up when they realize that their unteched ACU has little chance 1v1 against the rushing ACU and they may not have any defenses or units yet to assist. The important thing to remember is that until the enemy ACU has tactical missiles, he cannot fire at 2 targets at once! You must leverage this to your advantage by placing down a point defense turret immediately. He will then be forced to either fire at you, allowing you to complete the turret, or at the turret, buying you more time to get your engineers/units together to assist your commander. As soon as you finish the first pd build another, and have any engineers around stop what they are doing and also start building point defense. In almost all cases, the enemy ACU will not be able to stick around under point defense fire and will be forced to retreat, buying you time to get forces together for a counter attack on his rear base. This will force the enemy commander back to his base or he will lose it, leaving him a homeless commander which will be easy to deal with and who will not tech any longer. Under all circumstances you must not allow the rushing commander to place a point defense first! If he does, then YOU will be the one forced to decide what to attack and you will fail. If you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation, you must either fall back out of the point defense range and try again, or leverage your engineers by building 2 or more pd simultaneously, so that you can get a larger number of pd and destroy his.
- If you find yourself playing against a Cybran or a UEF ACU rush, you must also be ready to face tactical missiles, which can make your point defense totally useless. As long as you have a research station up and running, building tactical missile defense won't be any trouble whatsoever.
- One of the hardest rushes to counter in the entire game is the early naval rush. It is easy to pull off due to it requiring no research at all, and the superior range of naval units makes it nearly impossible to counter early on unless you are preparing for it specifically. If you know your enemy is going this route or even suspect he might, it's worth considering that your only effective counter is going to be your own naval units or air units (unless you are Illuminate, in which case tanks can at least keep them off your base by forcing the ships to kite your tanks). If you are UEF you can rush light artillery and use that to counter the navy at least for a short while.
- If the enemy is rushing you with bots or planes, harassing your mass and outer structures, you either need to start distributing defenses around your base at random intervals or key points, or you need to assemble your own small groups of bots or planes to intercept the harassers and carry the fight to their base. A single pd or aa can counter small groups of planes or bots for about the same cost as the attackers units.
==Mid-game == I consider mid-game to begin around the 10 minute mark, but really it is marked by the actions of the players rather then some arbitrary time period. The mid-game is marked by the appearance of the first experimental units (you will often see megaliths or fatboys around the 8 minute mark, by 10 minutes they may have a number of them). It's also the point at which the enemy can potentially have amassed a critical number of planes (potentially enough to launch an ACU assassination). This is the point of the game where the real danger begins, because before now there was really nothing a good player can't counter with some care. However by the 10 minute mark, if you haven't been watching your enemy and planning accordingly, you are at serious risk of being taken off guard with no recourse. For example, if you haven't seen the enemy building gunships by now, then he may have 25+ of them and no amount of anti air will be able to be built in time to save your commander if they attack. Again, intel is paramount to your success.
The main points to remember mid-game:
- No matter what your strategy is at this point, you want to be building research stations often. I generally will alternate between building factories and defenses and building more research stations, and typically won't stop building them until I have 10+ of them. The research will help you no matter what and is essential in the late game to surviving the various game enders (such as nukes, artillery, etc).
- Armies must be teched. Even if only a little. A small handful of teched veteran units can eat through twice their number of unteched units in many situations. You don't want to be on the wrong side of that equation, since ultimately your units cost the same mass (theirs might even be cheaper depending on the research they unlocked).
- Unteched armies must be accompanied by experimental units. Unteched unites make great guards since they distract fire from the exps and they deal damage if the exps are being focused on. Mobile missile launchers, mobile shield units, and mobile aa are all excellent choices for this.
- Teched commanders are deadly by now. Expect a person who's been teching their ACU to have Overcharge, lots of health, and potentially even AA and/or jump or teleport. This makes the ACU an outstanding harassment unit. If your enemy has taken this route, you will want to consider either teching your own commander or building aircraft or experimentals. Land units will just get eaten up, and Overcharge will wreck your base despite base defenses so you don't want him to bring the fight into your base.
- Minor experimentals are absolutely devastating at this point in the game. Even one accompanying a small army of units can potentially be a game ender if you get it early enough and press the attack. Countering them at this point in the game can be very challenging even for experienced players, due to their range and high health. Your best bet for dealing with such an attack is to use the appropriate counter (such as gunships vs land exps, fighters vs exp gunships, etc), which means you must know it's coming well in advance. That yet again means intel is important!
- Someone who is turtling and teching will by now be perilously close to some devastating end-game structures like artillery, nukes, noah unit cannons, etc. If you've allowed a turtling player to turtle for this long, it is imperative that you amass a force to overwhelm them asap. If this is impossible, then your best bet if to tech secretly in multiple bases to try and catch up, hoping the enemy won't find them all before you have managed to erect an appropriate defense of your own. Remember, a turtle will only ever work if you let it. By pressing the attack against such players, you can slow down their progress significantly and remove any advantage they may have otherwise gained by teching. Don't ever let them just sit there and lay down research stations en masse.
- If the enemy has been massing fighter/bombers the whole game (especially Illuminate ones), then by now they will have a mass of 40+ and any attempts to build fighters of your own will be wasted as they will kill them before you get enough to matter. Your only option is to get mass ground based aa, preferably towers but mobile works in a pinch, and shields if possible. With enough static defense you can counter almost any amount of aircraft, forcing them to kite your base. Beware of your commander though, as he could potentially still be vulnerable to gunship or mass bomber assassinations since all they have to do is survive long enough to kill the commander. Hunker can help mitigate this risk, as can moving your commander into water (though that may carry its own risks and is ineffective against UEF bombers with the torpedoes upgrade).
- If they enemy has been massing navy, then they will have a formidable one by this point. It will have alot of AA and will be able to freely destroy all undefended coastal structures with impunity for the most part. If you have no navy of your own and no air force by this point, your response will depend on your faction. Illuminate can counter massed navy very effectively using just tanks with the teleport upgrade. Without teleport, Illuminate tanks can be easily kited and destroyed by most ships. UEF can build shields and artillery (short or long) which in large enough numbers can devastate naval units. Cybran have the hardest time dealing with this situation due to their lack of hover units or short range artillery, meaning they basically are forced to use air to counter it. Given the strong AA capabilities of ships, this is usually ineffective unless you can get enough air units to matter. Soul Rippers mixed with normal gunships can eat through ships like paper if you happen to have them researched.
- If the enemy has been turtling, you will need to start preparing against late-game units now. Start spamming shields against potential artillery or bomber attacks on your nuke defense. Get nuke defense. Basically, make sure you have frequent intel on the enemy so you can see what they are turtling towards (arty, nukes, noahs, etc) and make sure you are ready to counter it in your own base while you work on taking the fight to them simultaneously. Remember, if you are to stop an arty or nuke spam, you will need to have started building your defenses against them before they start building their arty/nuke missiles.
- If you are turtling, you will need a late-game strategy of attack. This is usually something that can be operated from the safety of the turtled base, such as artillery, nukes, noahs, space temples, etc. You must decide which you are going for and be well on your way to unlocking and building said units.
==Late-game == Once you have hit the 20-25 minute mark, you have entered the late game. This is around the time you'll start to see major experimental units dominating the battlefield. All players should be fully focused on attacking the enemy by this point in the game if not earlier. It's entirely possible that by now the game is wrapping to an end, with one player dominating the other. If the game is still going though, consider the following points: at this point armies will have huge experimentals, especially the illuminate, watch out when attacking for Colossi as they eliminate units
- A dedicated air player can easily amass enough air now to assassinate undefended commanders anywhere on the map. If you are facing such an opponent, always keep your commander under shields and near adequate AA.
- Land armies will be well rounded and likely strong against land and air. Attacking an army backed up by a Cybranosaurus and a Bomb Bouncer is suicide for most other armies, and countering such an attack is tricky. In that example, the greatest weakness would not be land units or air units but a greater number of minor experimentals (who can survive the Bomb Bouncer), a Loyalty Gun, a nuke, 20-30 point defense, or experimental gunships. This is only one example of many, but all you need to keep in mind is that there will be less obvious direct counters to the enemy's maneuvers in the late game, so you have to always be looking for creative ways to counter the enemy and surprise them.
- One often fatal error of many players in the late game is what I call the plateau effect, where a person builds their base up until the late game, then switches entirely to micro managing combat, assuming that their base is now "adequate". Unfortunately for these people, economics in this game is algebraic not linear, and your effective wealth can grow exponentially in the late game due to the nature of mass conversion. The biggest "secret" to being competitive in the late-game is never ever stop building your base! Keep building more power plants, more defenses and shields, more research, more factories especially, and continuously ramp up your production. The only time you stop is when either you or your enemy is dead. If you do this, you will almost always beat someone who stops doing this, regardless of any other skill related factors. And against someone else who knows this, you will have no choice but to do it as well in order to remain competitive.
- By this point in the game you should make sure you always have at least 5 research stations. No matter what strategy you went with in the early game, research benefits everything, and there is no excuse for not having several research stations by the 20 minute mark.
- If you are turtling, you should already have at least your first offensive unit (artillery, nukes, noahs, space temples, etc) build and be spamming more as fast as you can. You have to hit them fast so they aren't prepared and hard so they can't recover. Remember, you can launch nukes at the edge of a nuke defense's range and it will detonate, damaging many nearby structures. Even a single artillery can be useful, even if the enemy has shields in his base. Target his land troops and kill them off from afar, or consider killing off all his outlying mass points one by one, cutting off resources and slowing down his economy. If you never stop building artillery, only Bomb Bouncers will eventually be able to counter it. As a result, in most situations amassing enough artillery means you win the game. This is not unbalanced though because amassing that much artillery is difficult and can be almost completely negated for a very long time until you get enough of it to overwhelm.
- Commanders are not good for field combat anymore. By this point, a fully upgraded ACU can't even 1v1 a major experimental, and there may be many of them. Commanders should stay home, safe under your shields. Make sure you have hunker by now too, or you're just asking to be sniped by bombers/gunships/nukes/artillery/teleporting units/etc.
- Mobile shield generators/Bodabooms should be present in any land armies you build by this point. They are invaluable in that they provide buffs to your army worth far more than the mass they cost. And enough mobile shield generators can completely negate some nasty weapons like Overcharge.
There are many particularly difficult situations you can find yourself in during the late game. Countering them can require very specific knowledge, and I recommend you practice playing with all 3 factions, trying all their technologies, in order to get a better feel of each unit's strengths and weaknesses. Some situations you may find yourself in:
- If your enemy has mass conversion and is spamming powerplants, then they are likely weak against a concentrated assault (such as 30 gunships, teleporting or jumpjetting units, artillery, etc). Use this to your advantage while you have the chance. If it is too late and they have already outgrown your economy, then countering them can be very difficult indeed. Take for example an Illuminate player spamming power plants and fighter/bombers. Their economy is growing exponentially, as is the number of air factories they possess. Since Illuminate fighter/bombers are effective against every type of unit in the game when fully upgraded, they can deal with all potential threats so long as they maintain the numerical advantage. The only possible ways to keep them at bay are to use Bomb Bouncers, Illuminate experimental AA (such as Pullinsmash or Airnomo) in large numbers, or to somehow trick your opponent into not noticing your atlantis/mega forts while they spam the superior and vastly cheaper UEF fighters. None of these solutions can be easy to come up with on the fly, and there are many more similar possible situations you may face. Only through familiarity with all units can you learn how to efficiently counter their threats.
- READ: if it’s a 3vall [3 player all against each other] then this will not work, this is because even though you will weaken each other the third player will not participate in your games, so he will just wipe you out easily/
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