A build order (or "build" for short) is an early game strategy that is designed to optimize economy and timing. A build indicates an order in which buildings and units should be produced to maximize efficiency. A build also progresses to a desirable unit combination or prepares for a specific offensive or defensive timing.
- One common Zerg opening that produces a strong early-game economy is the 3 Hatchery opening. (Numbers indicate the count of underlings a player will have when the resources to morph a building become available.) Note that this build leaves the Zerg base vulnerable to some forms of early-game aggression.
12 Hatchery (At natural expansion) 11 Spawning Pool 13 Hatchery 16 Extractor
Some builds are tailored to play well on particular maps. For example, the Protoss FFE opening assumes a narrow entrance into the Natural Expansion. Photon Cannons are used to defend the narrow entrance against early Zergling and Hydralisk attack.
A good build exploits weaknesses of the matchup and the opponent's build choice. A build that plans a timing attack may include an attack upgrade that will finish researching as soon as the army is ready to attack.
Other timings may seek to prepare an army that will engage the opponent when they are not likely to have a strong defense. This is often related to when the defender chooses to invest resources in an expansion or technology.
The ideal counter build will provide a superior unit composition, and choose a time to attack when the defender is at the greatest disadvantage.
Theory & Practice
Most builds offer a balance of aggression and economic investment. Experienced players use early-game reconnaissance to read an opponent's build and choose an appropriate counter strategy for themselves. In high-level games, knowledge of builds gives rise to players attempting to mislead their opponents by producing buildings and units that do not represent their mid-game intent.
Unfortunately, few builds are completed to exact precision on account of early game harassment or unforeseen circumstances. One of the most common mistakes made by a distracted player is forgetting to prepare Overlords/Supply Depots/Pylons in advance. Some builds, such as the Flash Build, are particularly complex and contain building and technology instructions well into the mid-game.
Freestyling is the imminent consequence of dynamic gameplay. Where a build order ends its instructions, the player must improvise their own destiny. A major focus of psychological tactics is to mess up your opponent's build and take them out of a routine, build-based playing style.