The Theory of Gaming

May 11, 2008

Scouting and Map Control in Warcraft 3

Filed under: Game Analysis — Tags: — spotpuff @ 22:42

This is another article I wrote a while back. Its title is fairly self explanatory.

Scouting and Map Control

By Spotpuff


Scouting is perhaps the most undervalued tool available to Warcraft players. It provides you with information on where your opponent’s army is and is not, what buildings and units they possess, and whether or not they have expanded. This information is vital to the outcome of the game, and superior scouting is often the reason for victory.

This article is aimed at the beginner to medium skilled player, but I hope that players of all skill levels find it helpful. This article seeks to formalize the advantages of scouting and discuss the possible advantages that may arise from it. I’ll try to be as general as possible, but I’ll use examples where I think they’ll be helpful and where the scope is specific enough to warrant them.

Scouting is important because it gives you an information and map control advantage. You can turn those advantages into further advantages in expansion, unit counters and map control. In my previous article I discussed different advantages players seek to create while playing a game; you can refer to that article at It would be a good preparatory article for this one, as this article and the previous one will use some common terminology.

Map control is impossible without scouting. Simply put, if you do not know where your opponent’s army or base is, you cannot win the game. If your opponent has superior scouting skills, they will have a huge advantage over you.

Scouting can be divided into 2 categories:

Dynamic: Dynamic scouting refers to scouting with a unit or building that can move. For example, a gyrocopter (er, “flying machine” *rolls eyes*) provides a large sight radius and can move around the map. Dynamic scouting is useful for scouting bases and expansions.

Static: Static scouting refers to scouting performed by a unit or building which does not move. For example, a farm built by a peasant provides a limited scouting radius but cannot move. Static scouting is useful for scouting expansions and key paths on the map.

During the course of a game, you will most likely have to use some form of dynamic scouting to win, but static may not be used as extensively. Different races have different scouting methods, with some being stronger at one form of scouting than the other, but generally making up for that with unique advantages over other races. Some races are weaker than others at scouting entirely, but again this is compensated for in other racial strengths, although that discussion is beyond the scope of this article.

Now let’s discuss each of the above in detail and explain how to transform them into map control.

Dynamic Scouting

Dynamic scouting is most useful as a tool for information when you are planning on assaulting your opponent’s buildings, rather than their army. The reason is simple: the chances of your scout running into your opponent’s army are rather limited compared to running into your opponent’s base or expansions. Armies move, buildings don’t. Maps have a limited number of starting locations and expansion points, and it often makes more tactical sense to locate an expansion closer to their base rather than farther away from it. The number of locations you need to scout are limited, compared to where your enemy’s army is, which changes from moment to moment. With the exception of shades, which are permanently invisible, you will be unable to scout the location of your enemy’s army continuously without being detected and most likely having your scout nullified.

Dynamic scouting is the most common type of scouting as it is the most flexible as well as the most valuable form of scouting. Typically, you send a unit that is expendable or fast to check out an opponent’s base or expansion points to gain information about what buildings they are producing or where they are expanding.

Dynamic scouting gives you an informational advantage over your opponent at the cost of resources and time. The exact resource and time costs are dependent on what unit you send (peon or knight?); peons do just fine as they cost little gold, no lumber, 1 food and are worth little experience to your opponent.

Unfortunately, peons are slow. Really slow. It takes them a long time to get anywhere. Still, in situations where you want to just scout the map and time isn’t of the essence, peons are often the best choice. Just shift click a peon to the various points you want them to scout, and make sure to avoid creeps (or scout at night while they’re sleeping, except for golems) and return it to your base (or wherever you want them to be) at the end of the click order.

For early cheap scouting each race has numerous options available. Skeletons, wisps, and spirit wolves are all good options, however you may have noticed that humans in particular lack an effective renewable scouting option that doesn’t require a significant resource cost. Skeletons from a rod of necromancy and spirit wolves have a limited life span anyways, and wisps can acquire lumber from anywhere on the map. Peasants on the other hand walk slow and typically die once they are discovered, making them one-shot scouts. So humans are left with basically dedicating a peon to scouting, or at least not using one for a short period while he runs to a location and back. Blizzard did take this into account however, as we shall see in the static scouting section.

Late game dynamic scouting options remain the same for most races, although some interesting new options do open up with the use of magic immune units. Because of their magic immunity, dryads, destroyers and faerie dragons can be used effectively in scouting/harassment and cannot be immobilized except by web and ensnare. All of these units have a fast movement speed and can therefore scout enemy bases and expansion without fear of being lost except through carelessness (spellbreakers are not included because they are slow and can easily be killed by faster moving units). Faerie dragons and destroyers also have the added advantage of being flying units, which means they can easily evade defensive forces by flying over tree lines.

These units demonstrate the need for anti-harassment measures at expansions such as towers and/or stationary unit defenses such as crypt fiends and riflemen. If your opponent was foolish enough not to place anti-harassment defenses at their expansion, make them pay by killing his peons with harassment forces, running away and waiting for him to make some more, and then killing them again. In this way, your opponent’s expansion actually becomes a resource drain rather than a resource gain. The exception of course is night elf expansions, whose wisps are nice and cozy in an entangled gold mine.

A special form of dynamic scouting is Faerie Fire, which gives you the sight of whatever unit you cast it on. This can be extremely annoying as, besides the huge -5 armor penalty, units with Faerie Fire on them must be microed away from buildings or your regular army lest they give away your army’s position. While Faerie Fire is extremely annoying, good players can completely nullify its scouting potential using various anti-magic spells or with good micro.

So, you’ve located your opponent’s base and/or expansion. Now what? Attack it! Your scout gives you information on whether or not your opponent’s army is located at their base, and what fortifications are present if any. Use this information to your advantage.

This “lead scout” is often a good idea when assaulting a base. If your army is already near your opponent’s base and your lead scout walks into your opponent’s army, then you know that it’s not the best time to attack. This is a simple idea many players overlook, as confronting both your opponent’s army and their base defenses at the same time is a bad idea.

Your objective in attacking your opponent’s base or expansion will shift depending on the state the game is in; that is, what your plan is and what your opponent’s plan is. Destroying your opponent’s barracks will prevent him from making reinforcements, tech buildings will counter his teching, peons their economy, and destroying their expansion late in the game will prevent them from making anything. So which buildings you target will change depending on what your game plan is.

Dynamic scouting in the later stages of a game is important because if you don’t know where your opponent has expanded, you can’t attack that expansion. If your opponent knows where your expansion is, you can bet they will harass or attack it to prevent you from obtaining more resources and building more units. It’s important that you do this to him before he does it to you.

Static Scouting

In contrast to dynamic scouting, static scouting’s primary function is to determine the location of your opponent’s army at a specific time. A unit or building is placed at a bottleneck on the map such that when enemy units pass by that point, your can determine with relative certainty where they will be shortly thereafter.

Again, peons make a good choice for static scouting as they are cheap and only cost one food. However in the early game wide scale static scouting is not possible, simply because you need peons to gather resources, and wasting money to build a bunch to statically scout will put you needlessly behind your opponent. Night Elves are the undisputed leaders of scouting with workers. Not only are their worker units medium speed, so they can outrun some heroes and most units, but they can harvest lumber at any location on the map without having to return to their town hall to return the resources. This gives Night Elf players a large scouting advantage when playing as they can put wisps at every expansion point and bottleneck on the map with little or not effect on their economy. The only drawback is losing wisps to your opponent’s army, but then you know where they were, and if you detonated your wisp before it died your opponent didn’t gain any experience, and you gain the opportunity to destroy summons or drain mana.

In contrast to dynamic scouting, static scouting is the one area Humans excel at. While Night Elves may rule static unit scouting, Humans rule static building scouting. This is due to the fact that Humans have two of the cheapest buildings around: scout towers and farms. Thankfully scout towers’ cost were reduced to the point where you can actually use them for scouting (prior to a recent patch, scout towers cost the same as a farm). Farms are even better than scout towers as they are quick to build, fairly cheap (80/20), possess fortified armor AND provide you with 6 supply. The drawback of course is that if you use farms for scouting and your opponent destroys them, you have to build another farm to replace it. The Orcs, Undead, and Night Elf all lack cheap buildings that can be used rather recklessly for static scouting purposes, as they all carry significant resource costs or provide your opponent with experience. The Undead can’t even build on regular terrain without blight, which is probably why they get superior dynamic scouting in Shades in order to balance out their lack of static scouting.

Static scouting is a powerful tool for scouting the location of your opponent’s army as well as its composition. It is also useful to some extent for scouting an enemy’s possible expansion points; in most cases where you want to scout an enemy expansion statically you can place a peon at a probable expansion point, most likely their natural expansion, and if they build an expansion you’ll know about it.

In addition to peons, certain units designed for scouting or otherwise also make good static scouts, particularly gyrocopters as they are cheap, have a large sight radius and can detect invisible units; plus flying units can be positioned behind tree lines such that they are invisible to ground units. On some maps like Scorched Basin if your opponent is located on the top portion of the map and the terrain slopes upwards towards the edge of the map, a gyrocopter can be placed right on the edge of the map on higher terrain such that it is invisible on the minimap, but you will be given a nice view of a large portion of your opponent’s base. Other good cheap units for this type of scouting are Shades, Gargoyles, a Beast Master’s hawks, Batriders, Hippogryphs and Faerie Dragons, although none quite match the resource economy of the humble gyrocopter (They came from… behind!).

Special forms of static scouting include sight wards and reveal from the Goblin Lab. Both of these are temporary, and have their unique advantages.

Sight wards are great because they last a long time and are invisible. Other than their telltale sound when activated, sight wards are hard to detect. They have a large sight radius and can detect invisible units. An orc player who uses sight wards properly will have important bottlenecks scouted at all times, giving him a huge advantage. Some low level creeps drop sight wards, which can be placed in an enemy base early on to give you information on what types of units they are building and what their game plan might be, as well as at bottlenecks or possible expansion points to scout army movements or expansion.

Reveal is a versatile tool in the right hands. A wisp or farm placed at a goblin lab gives constant access to the Lab at negligible cost, and allows a player to scan an area at will say in the middle of a fight to detect invisible units, or to check an enemy’s expansion. At 50 gold a pop, it’s not cheap, but then again it has no cooldown so multiple locations can be scanned quickly and it does not require you to be proximally close to the area you are scanning. Humans can gain this incredible ability for “free” by upgrading their arcane towers with Magic Sentry or Mortar Teams with Flare. While also only lasting a few seconds, these abilities are both renewable after a short cooldown and most importantly free, providing a large scouting advantage to you.

So how does static scouting help?

Well, first of all, while your opponent may destroy a scout farm or peon, keep in mind that those buildings or units are fairly cheap. Trading a peon which cost 60 or 75 gold or a farm that cost 80/20 to know the exact location and composition of your opponent’s army and the level and inventory of their hero (if your micro is good enough to click on him quickly) is a fair price. Contrast this to a reveal from a Goblin Laboratory, where you pay 50 gold to scan an area on the map, where your opponent may or may not be.

Secondly, it puts pressure on your opponent to actively finish whatever they are doing quickly. If your opponent feels that you know the location of their army, they may feel like they need to change what they are doing or where they are going so that you don’t interrupt them. For example on Lost Temple if you’ve fast expanded and then placed a scout farm at the bottleneck leading to your natural expansion and your opponent decides to go destroy your expansion, he’ll have to run past the farm or through your main base. Either way, you now know where your opponent’s army is, and where they are most likely headed (your expansion). Now you can race your army back to protect your expansion and Call to Arms at your main, saving yourself a Town Portal and flanking your opponent’s army, most likely killing units in the process.

Also static scouting gives you the opportunity to creepjack your opponent, and no one likes being creepjacked. Knowing this, you should creepjack your opponent as much as you possibly can over the course of a game if you have employed a lot of static scouting.

As you can imagine, knowing when your opponent’s army crosses through key bottlenecks around the map, especially near your base, is a huge advantage and can win you games.


I hope this article has been informative and has given you a new look at scouting. Most of the information in this article you may have known, some of it you may not have. Hopefully this has provided you with a brief glimpse into the importance of scouting and how you can use it to help you win.

If you have questions or comments, you can direct them to Thanks for reading!



  1. Hi, just wanted to add a little something:

    The new Frozen Throne hero, the Crypt Lord, when he gets to level 3, or level 2 beetles, they can BURROW. This is an insanely underestimated ability, as you can have 5 constant mobile static/dynamic wards anywhere you want on the map.

    What I Iike to do as UD, is place a bunch of crypt fiends close to where the opponent is going to expand into. The monsters won’t attack, and you will scare your opponent into thinking that you’re always burrowed in places they go to creep. When they attack the monsters, dig up behind them and double-pound them. Just place yourself in such a manner that the monsters don’t turn on you, and you’ll stop their expansion plans temporarily. If they come back with stealth reveal, you’re already gone. Leave a beetle behind to keep vision, because you can get it back for free at the boneyard :)¨

    Hope this helped!

    Comment by Kurt — January 28, 2013 @ 10:39

  2. Yes! Finally something about tiny tits.

    Comment by nerd porn — May 24, 2017 @ 17:36

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