Hello! This guide will be for all Terran players that want to learn how to utilize the raven to play late game macro games in TvZ. As well as for Terrans that want to learn how to fight against the broodlord/corruptor/infestor deathball.
Let me give a little bit of background on why ravens are the next logical step in dealing with TvZ lategame...
One year ago or so I was massing many ravens/vikings with mech, but for one reason or another I stopped as I explored other strategies, as patches hit, etc. Well, in the past 2-4 weeks I have consciously focused on re-exploring and innovating raven usage in the late game against Zerg, not just out of luxury, but out of necessity.
Terrans were having a lot of difficulty dealing with broodlord/infestors for a while, until we developed ghost usage in lategame (our innovation just recently nerfed).
Zerg’s answer in the current metagame has been to simply mass more broodlords, more corruptors, and more infestors meaning even pre-patch, mass ghosts no longer were becoming cost efficient in killing lategame Zerg deathballs.
There is a common misconception that mass ghosts obliterated everything Zerg has...when it simply was not the case as Zergs “figured it out.” Money fungals on ghost clumps or simply morphing more broodlords among other things has made it so massing ghosts, even pre-patch 1.4.3...massing only ghost was becoming more and more of a bad investment.
Zerg have now established a foothold in lategame TvZ with broodlord/corruptor/infestor play, and with snipe being taken out of the equation as a possible counter, Zergs are currently very happy collecting their freewins when the game gets to this lategame stage...
But now it is again Terran’s turn to take over the lategame, to use our creativity, innovations, and intelligence to fight against the Zerg lategame past the 15 minute mark...and there is just one obvious unit to turn to - the raven.
The raven, in conjunction with ghost EMP on infestors, and a pure ground army will allow you to fight on even footing versus broodlord/corruptor/infestor deathballs very late into the game.
The beauty and strength of the raven is that the raven is an energy and time reliant unit, meaning the longer the game goes on, and the more ravens you accumulate, the more powerful your lategame army strength becomes. The reason energy units like the raven and infestor are so powerful is because you can expend their energy and as long as you take care of these units and allow them time to regain more energy, they become useful in killing things once again without costing you extra resources other than the time necessary to rebuild energy.
The other reason that accumulating ravens in the lategame is good is because of the AOE hunter seeker missile and point defense drone. Zergs that power the brood/infestor/corruptor ball rely on fungals to lockdown vikings (and previously ghosts) so that you will 100% lose those vikings/ghosts, and then they simply overmake corruptors meaning you have lost air control, and then soon after you will die to uncontested broodlords + any other unit.
The hunter seeker missile, in conjunction with EMP on infestors...means suddenly you do not need to over make vikings or even 40 ghosts to be able to make a dent into the Zerg air deathball. EMPs make it so you cannot get chain fungaled, and the hunter seeker missile allows massive splash onto clumped broods/corruptors, meaning that you now no longer need to guestimate/overmake vikings in order to survive the initial Zerg max on this composition.
Finally, the reason the raven is so powerful in lategame TvZ is because it allows you to create a pure ground to ground army. What I mean by this is since you have the AOE from HSM and cost efficiency from point defense drone, you do not need as many vikings as you normally would need!
This solves the problem of lategame situations where you would be thinking, “well, ok, now i land all my vikings and they die cause they suck on the ground?”
The raven makes it so resources that would have previously and traditionally been spent into vikings now go towards more siege tanks/thors, more marauders/marines, or more ravens. Suddenly your ground army is much stronger against an ultra tech switch, and you always have air superiority with good PDD/HSM usage + vikings.
The last point is probably the most important point of why ravens are so powerful. Unlike simply “making more vikings” you now have a unit that can add to your army strength before and after Zerg tech switches, and allow you to create a more powerful ground army since you have less supply in vikings and more in units that are...good against ground units.
Dealing with Tech Switches
Ravens are ideal for dealing with tech switches. As long as you are keeping ravens alive, and regaining energy, it means that whenever you are playing late game and have killed 1 max army of the Zerg, you still have the potential to kill their tech switch. One of the main problems Terran players have to deal with is that our unit production does not work like Protoss/Zerg. If we lose our 1 big army in late game, we often times are in a position to lose the game from P/Z remaxes.
What ravens allow you to do that building only vikings doesn’t is have a cost efficient unit that can allow you to kill a Zerg’s first max, and still be useful during their second max, and then their eventual tech switch back into broodlords/corruptors.
Let’s say your opponent opens with brood/corruptor/infestor as their first max army. Killing their first max...if they stay on the same brood/infestor/corruptor composition, you will outnumber them in the air at that point with seeker+pdd+vikings, and you are in an advantageous position.
If they tech switch into mass ultra/ling/infestor, you still will have ravens re-accumulating energy, so that after you have pumped pure tank/hellion, or marine/marauder/tank, (depending on if u went bio or mech), the Zerg is either forced to stay on pure ground units which the ravens can still help contribute to your army by using autoturrets to tank damage or more HSMs, or the Zerg is forced to attempt going back into broodlord/corruptor, in which case once again, you have the ravens and hunter seeker+pdd meaning you do not suddenly have to have 20 vikings in order to stay in the game because each raven is worth almost 2-5 vikings.
Patch 1.4.3 - do I build ghosts now?
I mentioned this earlier, but even pre-patch Zergs had begun to figure out that simply adding more and more corruptors/broods/infestor to their deathball, along with queens for transfuse was beginning to deal with ghosts quite well.
It was extremely difficult to expend 100% of ghosts snipe energy 100% of the time, whereas from the Zerg’s point of view they really just need to spread infestors and hit key fungals because they knew if you were only using snipe your ghost would have to be in the same area to get off snipes quickly.
Patch 1.4.3 ghosts were nerfed regardless of how the game developed...but that does not mean they are useless now or that you should not build them.
They are very necessary to EMP infestors as much as possible, as well as nuke harrass. The only difference is that you will not need 30 ghosts in your army, nor should you even want that many ghosts. 5-10 ghosts is an ideal number to keep around to EMP infestors, and post patch you will mostly be using ghosts to EMP infestors, rather than use snipe on anything.
EMP is what will allow you to give your ravens/vikings more survivability aka not get chain fungalled.
Production set up for ravens/vikings
When you are in good shape economically and the game is going long or to defensive situations, you will want to end up with 2 tech-labbed starports, and 1 reactored starport for viking/medivac production.
Double tech-labbed starports allows you to build 2 ravens at a time, which is the most you can usually support off of 3-4 bases along with everything else.
Whether you went mech or marine/tank/med doesn’t matter. 2 tech lab ports, 1 reactor port is what I have found is ideal for beginning the transition to ravens.
At what point do I want to begin getting ravens?
This one is a tricky question because it requires you to read the specific game and situation. But there are general rules and ideas behind when you should begin raven production.
1. If your opponent is fast teching to a hive with a spire building, you will want to throw up the two extra starports with tech labs, or if you have a reactored starport switch it to a tech lab and begin raven production and build a new one on the reactor. Scanning hive tech and putting the starports up to begin raven production early can mean the difference between having the HSMs to deal with broods, or simply dying from not having enough ravens/energy for HSMS.
2. Get ravens off of 3-4 base economies. This is just a general rule, as ravens are 200 gas each, and you do not want to build ravens at the cost of fighting units. Ravens are supplemental to your main production of mech or marine/tank.
3. The earlier, the better. The difficulty with balancing raven production is learning when to not make them too soon, or not make them too late. In general, the earlier you have ravens, the more energy they will have accumulated for spells, and the more of them you will have. This goes in line with the idea of the longer the game goes, if you are making ravens then you are getting much more value added into your army strength.
What ravens allow you to build
Getting enough ravens/vikings means you will end up with air control and what this allows you as a Terran to do is make pure ground to ground units, such as the marauder and tank in late game.
This is one of the key concepts of raven usage in the late game. Even though your opponent has a scary broodlord army that would normally negate your 20 siege tanks, as long as you have accumulated enough ravens, you are rewarded with the ability to make a very strong ground to ground army that will be able to handle the Zerg player’s mass ground tech switch.
Normally you would be worried that “oh, i need to build 5 bajillion vikings and then those suck against the ultra switch...” but now you can end up defeating the broodlord/corruptor/infestor first max and have pure tank/hellion or marine/marauder/medivac to deal with their ultra tech switch.
The ravens function using auto turret to help tank damage, and of course staying alive to deal with a tech switch from the Zerg back into mass broodlord/corruptor.
Another nice thing if you are going mech, having ravens means you do not need thors because raven/viking can deal with muta quite easily on it’s own. Tank/hellion is much more supply efficient on the ground than thors are.
How to Micro/Target with ravens
Since most players will be new to using ravens, it’s important to learn and have the knowledge of what is best to target, and how to micro ravens/vikings.
Usually, against broodlord/corruptor/infestor you will control group ravens/vikings together to allow much easier control, but that one thing to avoid is simply 1Aing to the Zerg because your vikings will attack things, but your ravens will simply fly to their deaths.
How you hunter seeker missile your opponent’s army is always dependent upon the ratio of corruptor/infestor/broodlord that they have created, as well as how spread apart their units are at the time.
If your opponent has a higher broodlord count than they do corruptors, it is more beneficial to use the hunter seeker missile from each raven on different sections of broodlords to get the most possible splash damage, allowing vikings to clean up.
If your opponent has a higher corruptor count than broods, you will want to eliminate the corruptors first, which means using the hunter seeker missile on corruptor clumps OR using mass point defense drones and only a few seeker missiles. If they are flying into your ravens you will want to go with more PDDs and only a few hunter seekers to deal with the corruptors, if they are sitting still while engaging then you have more opportunity to use more HSMs and less PDD. It’s important to know the difference so that they don’t run straight to your flock of ravens and you die from your own HSMs.
If the opponent has a higher infestor count/queen count underneath their brood/corruptor, you will not want to even attempt HSMs/viking attacks until you have EMP’d as much energy away from the infestors as possible. This leads into...
Microing ground army + ravens + ghosts
The most dangerous thing to your ravens/vikings is being chain fungaled. Chain fungal is when one infestor fungals your units and then there are follow-up fungals that guarantee your units deaths. This is usually what ends up killing players that only make pure vikings in the first place, as they end up losing all of their anti-air and the game shortly after. It obviously applies to ravens as well, and you should never commit ravens to HSMing until you see that broods/corruptors are coming in close enough that you can run away after you launch the missiles.
To ensure safety of your ravens, you micro by by simultaenously advancing forward with ravens/vikings and cloaked ghosts (or even non cloaked ghosts). What will end up occuring is a dance much like the ghost / templar dance in TvP.
You will move your ravens forward to HSM broods/corruptors and your opponent will be forced to respond by moving their infestors in range to fungal your ravens. This is when you also are moving your ghosts forward to carpet EMP bomb all of the infestors, meaning even if a fungal does somehow get off on your ravens, there is no more energy to chain fungal, meaning you keep your units alive, while he loses most of his.
This is the main way to advance through the Zerg deathball and if you are going to learn this style, it’s important you learn how to control ghosts, and ravens, and vikings all at the same time. If he moves the broods back, you move the ravens back, while he moves the infestors forward you mvoe the ghosts forward, then he moves the infestors back and moves the broods forward and you move the ravens forward again while he brings back the infestors while you bring the ghosts to EMP...that is how the dance will end up happening until you destroy all of their stuff
EMP is the key to allowing your ravens survivability, just remember that. If you run out of EMPs, your ground army of marine/marauder/tank or pure mech also functions in the same manner, as you will actually move your army into broodlord range like I just described with the ghosts, and then move the ravens forward in the same way. It’s just that you risk much more when you move your army under broods, than you do when you move forward with a few cloaked ghosts instead.
How to prioritize HSM/Autoturrets/PDD and Order of Upgrades
Using a lot of ravens means you have to manage their energy. This means you don’t want to use up energy on autoturrets and then find out you have not enough energy for HSM and PDD, but you also do not want to just sit at your base with 200 energy ravens because you could be actively spending that energy.
HSM - Saving energy for HSM is usually your number 1 priority, especially against broodlords. You should really not be using other spells until you are sure you have seeker missiles saved up.
PDD - Energy for PDD’s is your second priority. You should try not to overdo it with PDDs, because a few clutch HSMs can kill corruptors/muta instead...but saving energy for PDD is oftentimes more useful than spamming auto turrets.
Auto turrets - These are your last priority. Auto turrets have a few different uses. You can use them after you have cleared armies to harrass actual bases without committing your ground army. You also can use them to throw in front of mech units or bio to help tank damage from ultras/banelings/roaches. You also can throw down defensive “auto turret rings,” much like missile turret rings if your ravens are beginning to sit idle with 200 energy so that way you are at least using the energy on something.
Also, in terms of upgrade research, you want to get the corvid reactor (raven energy upgrade) first, and HSM second, and durable materials you can delay as long as you need if you are tight on gas. It's not a necessary upgrade, but is very helpful.
You will have two tech lab starports when you transition to ravens, so researching corvid reactor and HSM at the same time is very common.
How to use your ravens during the ultra tech switch
If you do control ravens/ghosts/mech or bio very well, you should be able to deal with the broodlord/corruptor/infestor deathball and what follows will be Zerg remaxing, often times on ultras.
In the case that your opponent is remaxing on ultras/lings, ravens can help throw out auto turrets to tank damage while your bio or mech kills ultra/lings, or as long as you are careful with your unit movement, you can also HSM ultras to dish out 100 or so damage quickly.
How to use your ravens during a mass roach tech switch
This tech switch is more common from Zerg if you opened and stayed with mech. Whenever a Zerg does go from air to mass 200/200 roach, you will want to use ravens to HSM roache clumps as much as possible, and in situations where roaches are advancing on tanks/thors/hellions you can also throw out auto turrets to mess with the roach AI allowing your army 1-2 extra volleys which can mean the difference between losing 2 tanks or losing 10.
How to use your ravens during a mass muta tech switch
A mass muta tech switch is probably the rarest one you’ll see nowadays, but in case it does happen, you honestly will not have trouble at all if you have enough vikings with your ravens.
The ravens here you will mostly use for point defense drone making your vikings invincible, and if there is a fight where Zerg commits to standing still, you HSM once and that’s it - the rest of the energy is PDD and auto turrets while vikings clean up.
How many vikings do I make?
As mentioned earlier in this guide, the beautiful thing about accumulating ravens is you don’t need as many vikings, which means in late game your supply is actually becoming more cost efficient to deal with the ultralisk/pure ground tech switches from Zerg.
Normally, vikings would be utterly useless on the ground during a tech switch, but since you have the ravens, you are protected from the air tech switches, while taking supply that would have been in more vikings and putting that into units that can deal with ultralisks, like tanks, marauders, marines, basically anything on the ground.
You will need usually around 10-15 vikings or so, but that is usually it! When you first start to learn the raven transition you’ll be surprised at how much stronger and how much better you can survive through Zerg tech switches when they are at max.
So, the magic number is usually in the range of 10-15 vikings, with all of the rest of your resources either going into more ravens, or a pure ground to ground army.
Why have Terrans not been utilizing ravens like this before?
There are many reasons why Terran players have not been using ravens in lategame TvZ.
1. Ghosts were a better and “easier” option that overshadowed ravens. With pre-patch snipe, ghost accumulation was one of the first ways Terrans innovated and found to deal with broodlords/infestors. It’s more logical to simply make ghosts from mass barracks production then it is for a lot of players to say to themselves “throw down two tech lab starports.” It is actually quite taxing on multi-task/apm/unit production to dedicate a starport to a tech lab rather than a reactor that allows medivac or double viking production.
2. HSM cost 125 energy, and it takes a long time to make ravens pay off. The thing about ravens as I have mentioned in this guide are that the longer the game goes with ravens in them, the stronger your army can potentially get. But if you are in situations where there is constant pressure or no time available to get the infrastructure for tech-labbed starports + the raven upgrades + the raven energy...then it can be considered a huge risk to start raven production.
The main thing that will and has scared Terrans away from using ravens is how much gas the raven upgrades cost + getting the necessary starports and the time it takes to even get one seeker missile, which is not guaranteed to pay off against most Zerg compositions.
Because of the “gamble” aspect of HSM, it was “not worth it” to build ravens. Lings, ultra, etc can outrun the seeker. But now...
3. Zergs improved and innovated the Zerg deathball
This goes with the above reasoning. HSM used to be a gamble against lings/ultras/roaches/any ground Zerg unit. There was no use for it. But Zergs have figured out the mass broodlord/corruptor/infestor style of play now which was not used before. This Zerg deathball style is a new style of play that has only cropped up really in the past 6-7 months, and is now very, very common and almost the standard way to play Zerg.
Since it was not as common before, there was no need or point to HSM.
4. It is apm intensive. Managing ravens + an army + ghost emps on infestors + macro...to be honest, it’s very apm intensive, requires a lot of multi-task, and one mistake can mean losing all of your ravens which are almost impossible to replace. I’m writing this guide so Terrans start using and learning about ravens in late game TvZ...but the honest truth is it will be very difficult for Terrans below masters to handle using HSM + EMP + macro + everything else in the game at once without getting fungaled, or losing all their units to broods, etc. It takes a lot of fine micro and unit control to get down.
Those were just some reasons why people weren’t using them imo. This guide (and replays) will hopefully have convinced you otherwise, and show just how powerful ravens are.
Why you should be using ravens lategame TvZ
1. They are very pleasurable to use. Launching an HSM and watching things blow up cost effectively...mmm so good
2. Cost efficiency into late game. The more ravens you get, the more HSM/pdd/autoturrets you get, which means instead of throwing away bio or hellions or whatever to do damage, you are using energy which can be regained over time! When resources get low on the map, or it’s a very close game, not needing actual minerals/gas to be cost effective can make a huge difference.
3. They are a necessity nowadays. Yes, a necessity. Or they’ll eventually become one. Making vikings alone against brood/corruptor/infestor is not cost effective. Making vikings + ghosts only after 1.4.3 will also not be cost effective because of the snipe nerf.
That leaves you with - you die to Zerg late game, or you learn that ravens are good. I would rather live when TvZ goes past the 15 minute mark, and ravens are just the way to do that!
+ Show Spoiler +
Why should you not use ravens lategame TvZ?
Because David Kim will nerf them. Everytime we Terrans develop something it is nerfed...-_- so I say this half joking, and half serious.
Because David Kim will nerf them. Everytime we Terrans develop something it is nerfed...-_- so I say this half joking, and half serious.
End of Avilo’s TvZ Lategame Raven Transition Guide
So, that is it! Ravens are godly if used and micro’d very well! I was originally going to put together screenshots of ravens shooting HSMS, PDD’s, etc...but then I realized it was mostly screenshots of Zerg units blowing up. -/_-
As a lot of the guide above is theory/mindset/mechanics, so here is a replay pack of me doing my raven late game transitions. Most games I go mech, but there are bio games in there as well with the exact same transition! A few games are also pre-patch, but are still 100% relevant because any time i use ghosts with this strategy it is solely for EMP!
Enjoy! Just as a teaser...ravens are also one of the optimal units to transition to in lategame TvT...another guide on that to come in the future !