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Threat is a concept in which a player exploits the potential damage they can inflict to attempt to manipulate the actions and mindset of his opponent. The units causing the threat are often incapable of defeating the opponent's army head on and instead rely on mobility, such as Mutalisks (see Mutalisk Harass) and Speed Shuttles with Reavers (see Reaver Drop). Usually the threatening units will not be allowed to inflict any direct damage but by preventing this they will give an indirect advantage to the aggressor through control of the game flow. Often a player will reveal a unit purely for the purpose of creating threat since, as a meta-game tactic, it relies on manipulation of the opponent to be effectively utilized. An example of this is a Protoss player showing a Terran that he opened with a Shuttle build, forcing the Terran to defend against the threat of Reaver harass and thus sacrifice map control to the expanding Protoss.


The Speed Shuttle with Reavers in PvT is a classic example of threat, equipped with excellent mobility and the ability to do a lot of damage very quickly. Its use is to force the Terran to waste money on turrets and keep tanks in his main base, waiting to be fully secure before pushing towards the Protoss base. The knowledge that a Reaver is present forces the Terran player to leapfrog his main tank force forwards to avoid the Reaver taking free shots against it on the move. Even though the Reaver may never actually get to fire, it has still cost the Terran push several tanks used elsewhere, many minerals in defenses, and time.

Mutalisk openings in the ZvT match-up rely on threat. While Mutalisks often cannot directly engage the Marine and Medic force of an opponent, their mobility forces the Terran to keep his army united and waste time defending. The threat of Mutalisks is enough to grant map control to the Zerg and usually grants him time to power his economy, expand and tech to lurkers.

Dark Templar openings in PvP are used to grant temporary map control and time to the DT user, in order to expand and tech to Psionic Storm. While Dark Templar are rarely able to take an instant win, their presence forces the Protoss to wait until he has Observers and then keep some of his army back with a second Observer to avoid a Dark Templar bypassing his main army and sneaking into his mineral line.

Zerglings and Lurkers can be substantial threats in the early to mid game ZvT and ZvP match-ups. Depending in the stage of the game, these units can prevent all scouting by the opponent, until they have higher tech. Commonly, a Zerg player will only build several Zerglings, but the opponent will have no way of knowing if he continues to build them. This can force the Terran or Protoss into being overly cautious if they suspect mass Zerglings. Similarly, the Zerg player can burrow as few as two Lurkers outside a Protoss base to create the threat of a Lurker Contain. Although the Zerg may be expanding and building many drones, the Lurkers will put pressure on the Protoss to remain in his base until he has Observers and Dragoons. Because these threats are only partially fake, they are harder to predict and react to.

Fake threat[edit]

An interesting meta-game technique is to deliberately reveal a certain unit, tech building or option in order to create the threat. However, you invest the absolute minimum into the threat and have no real ability to inflict damage should your opponent fail to counter it. Deliberately revealing a Templar Archives opening in PvP and then going straight for High Templar, using an empty Shuttle aggressively in PvT while expanding, and putting down a Spire in PvZ but going for two more Hatcheries instead are examples of this. The damage done is by their safe reaction to the threat rather than inflicting damage.

An advantage to this technique is that it allows you to have your cake and eat it too, a player can invest in his tech or an expansion while getting all the benefits he would if he had made the units his opponent believes him to have. Against an opponent with competent defensive micro and knowledge, a fake threat unit will do as much damage as an actual one.

A disadvantage is that it relies on you correctly judging your opponents meta-game level. If they are too weak to understand that they "cannot" do certain things while a threat is present then you are unable to punish them for their mistake and your bluff is called. Strong players too understand about fake threat and thus you have to guess what they'll guess when you show them a threatening unit. At high levels of play strong players may have ways of reading your fake and calling your bluff- e.g. your opponent sees you throw down a spire, but because you are not saving up larvae for mutalisks, he reads that a large mutalisk force isn't actually coming, at least not for a while.