Macro, Micro, and APM: Starcraft Terminology 101

By Andrew Hendricks

So you’ve got $100 riding on the latest Starcraft match and you turn to your friend complaining “his macro makes no sense! He thinks he’s winning but they’ll have a way stronger economy in just 30 seconds!” most likely your friend will just look at you quizzically.

If your friend isn’t in the competitive esports scene but is a gamer, he’ll probably think you’re just using the term macro weirdly. In MMORPGs and similar games, “macros” refer to binded keysets that allow you to execute a combination of commands all at once with a single keystroke. In real-time strategy games with an “economy” like Starcraft, “macro” means something completely different. If you or a loved one needs a primer on the basic Starcraft terminology, then look no further.


This is the skill that separates the men and women from wannabees. APM stands for Actions Per Minute. This refers to how fast a player can perform the actions they must execute during the match, and can really hurt your gameplay if your opponent is performing actions much faster than you. Some hardened pros will even exploit their opponent’s weak APM by changing their play style to cause the opponent to have to execute more actions, thus making their low APM their biggest weakness.


Micro, as the term implies, refers to a player looking at the game at a small, microscopic level. The smallest level you can get to is a single resource gatherer who can build things or a single army unit who can attack things or scout. Amazing professional players with their hummingbird-like APM can win even the most one-sided of battles against less-seasoned players by exploiting the weak micro of players controlling and otherwise-unstoppable army. Knowing which units to send against which is essential to maximizing your micro skills. Marines are an unstoppable force until they hit a patch of banelings or a horde or roaches. An armada of void rays will quickly be made into swiss cheese with just a small clump of hydras. Splitting your army to make sure the proper units are attacking their squishy enemy and not just the nearest possible enemy is what make makes micro matter.


Very different from “macros” as previously explained, macro refers to your economy (the entirety of your units, resources, and buildings)—the opposite of your micro. Whereas micro refers to your unit-specific control of army units engaging in positioning and battle, Macro refers to your economy as a whole. Think microscopic compared to macroscopic. The bird’s-eye view of how you’re doing, whether you’re supply blocked, whether you’re expanding, whether you’re upgrading—all of these things contribute to your macro. Your APM heavily affects your macro as well as your micro. A good professional player will be able to seamlessly transition between micro-ing their army and boosting their macro. Because you still have to switch between your buildings and bases, every millisecond spent considering the grander-scale economy is a millisecond you aren’t attacking with your units most effectively, and that makes you vulnerable to attack. But without a solid macro and thriving economy, you’ll have no resources or strengthened units to win the fight!

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Andrew Hendricks

Editor-in-Chief and founder of, a website that serves as a hub for freelancers to get new material workshopped and published, as well as an on-demand content platform for websites and new businesses.