The flow of ZvT is similar to the flow of ZvP. - Hatch First - Zerg rules out 1 base all-in - Zerg takes third as soon as he can (against a T who expanded), but may have to go 2 base lair macro hatch (eg hellions, banshees) - Zerg defends third, then drones up - Terran takes third while Zerg has map control & takes 4th - Terran pushes while Zerg tries to gain an army advantage before he’s at Zerg’s front door (cutting off reinforcements, delaying for higher tech, etc). - Terran turtles against Hive Tech and tries to win by cost efficiency.
Hatch First 2 x Queens, necessary defense ~30 Scout for Expo and Terran's gameplan ~40 3rd Hatch/Macro Hatch ~40+ (Roach Warren if trying to take third vs reactor/mass hellion or do roach/bane aggression) ~45 4 x Gas Total (if took quick third, take just 2, then 2 more ~55+) Evo, Baneling Nest/2nd Evo 50+ Lair (Delay if took Third), some units ~60+ 4th Hatch +1 Carapace, Tech Drone up Third based on T's aggressiveness (none for marine/marauder, completely for mech)
There are basically 2 ways to go with a basic opener, and largely they reflect quicker lair, later third & hive, or later lair, quicker third & hive. I've italicized the choices that generally follow later lair styles. These days we see Zergs go for a quicker third and delay Lair even more (with both muta and infestor styles).
ZvT is a pretty straight-forward match-up - just follow this general build, get your third going, be careful with your tier 2 units, and get Hive in time and you should be good. This match-up is a lot about positioning, harassment, and trying to out-macro the opponent. With solid play, you should come out ahead.
Hatch First. You should be able to hold any Terran all-in with Hatch first, which is actually safer in terms of defense.
Standard Hatch First timing is 15 Hatch (it's better economically than 14 or 16). You really want to delay pool as long as possible. I find that you can be completely comfortable to go as late as 16 pool. It’s up to you whether you want to push the boundaries against a possible 2 rax with a 17 pool, or just be a bit more comfortable with 15 pool.
If Terran does a block at your natural, just throw down your pool and get your hatch when you can. Don’t attack it with drones unless it’s in the red (maybe pulling 2-3 drones to take a hatch against an SCV obviously about to block because it arrives so early that it's there before you throw down your hatch is okay), but that’s something that will be up to you to do. He will be delayed just as much as you, just don’t overreact.
Hatch First is actually safer - if you go, say, 14/14 vs 2 rax with a few SCVs, Terran can camp your natural with bunkers due to no creep, and an SCV all-in or follow up may be harder to deal with when you can't get up 2 spines by a choke. That, and you will have more larva (queen inject doesn't come in time for 2 rax). No Terran all-in can punish a Hatch First, but they can punish Pool First.
When you get gas, is up to you, but ‘standard’ gas timing is around 23. Remember, speed or banelings won't be out in time to deal with 2 rax or rax all-ins, and it will be more comfortable to hold if you have those minerals quicker, earlier, so take that into consideration when getting your gas. It’s up to you whether you want to get a fast gas around 15 that may make it harder to deal with 2 rax but easier to deal with hellions and mid-game scouting, or get it as late as in the 40’s so you can power drones and have those minerals early on for defense against rax/scv all-ins (not getting gas early on really can get you a good 300+ minerals by 50 supply though).
I would recommend inject/inject with your first queens. It makes a difference of about 2-3 supply vs inject/creep.
We have seen a lot of Zergs use The 6 Queen Build and similarly mass queen openings (DRG has stated he prefers 6 queen vs 5, 4, 7, etc), as a response to 1 rax FE, as well as against older expansion openings like reactor hellion and CC First. In this section, I'll talk about Mass Queen Openings.
So this build is mostly a response to 1 rax FE, although it is fine against other openings, like reactor hellion (you will need to add some lings or a spine though) and similar fast expand builds. You can also hold any sort mass rax all-in (provided that it's gasless) like 3 rax or 7 rax.
The Basic Build Order is as follows: Hatch First 2xQueens 2xQueens ~35-45 Third, 2xGas (not a big deal when you take, it's a few drones vs hatch made earlier) 2xQueens ~55 Speed, Spine at Nat and Third, Sim City 2x Evo's at Natural to block 70+ 2xGas, Necessary Spores, Roach Warren or Baneling Nest
Macro Hatch after Third is done, Lair
You should be able to hold any sort of FE into the heaviest of all-ins with 6 queens, sim city, and reactive lings (speed will always finish before stim or medivacs or siege tanks from a FE or CC First). It's EXTREMELY important that you sim city your 2x Evos with a spine, at your natural. By doing this, you can use a single queen (like the one injecting) to block the natural off completely, so hellions have no way to get into the main or natural. It's absolutely important you Sim City your natural! It is completely mandatory, otherwise you simply will have no way to deal with hellion runbys.
By Sim City'ing, your natural with a wall-off of Evos, Spine, and 1-2 queens on hold position, you can force Terran to be only able to go to the third to do any sort of pressure... which is where you'll have a spine up, as well as 4 queens waiting.
What most pros do in regards to inject vs tumor, is they will injectx2 with queens when they pop, then send them to nat ramp to spread creep/defend. The next 2 cycles of injects will be staggered, as they won't be injected again until the next 2 queens pop, and then the next 2 queens pop. You should have a good larva to spending ratio if you do this - you dont need to inject right away, and you want creep to start going toward your third asap. Your injects really won't be delayed much at all with this style, but there is nothing wrong with injecting on time either, of course.
You should be able to hold any pressure without having to make any units at all if you do this. You can also do this sort of opening, but with a Fast Third before Pool as a reaction to CC First. Again, it's of utmost importance you sim city your natural with 2xEvo, Spine, and Queen on hold position.
I would recommend drone scouting, but not everyone does it and if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine. A drone scout is just good to see if Terran is doing anything odd. Since Terran can deny a drone scout, it's not something you are relying on, it's just something that helps.
CC first/1 rax FE, 2 rax, or Mass Rax all-in (Count SCVs - Almost 2 per patch, or 14-15, is usually CC First or 1 rax FE, but could be a 4-7 rax, while less than 11 SCVs, or a very obvious not near 2 per patch, is a definite 2 rax. Also, with 1 rax FE, a CC will be started, usually in the natural, right after the marine, so check for that to confirm)
Reaper Expand, Reactor Hellion, Tech Attack
Gas First (100 gas mined, or 2400 or lower in geyser, by time Rax is done or when your drone arrives)
Hellion aggression or Starport (most likely banshee, but weird things like bfh drop, or 'suboptimal' things like thor rush, are possible too - don't sweat these, the same response should cover all)
Even though Terran can wall off his ramp, it's what he does when he can't wall it off, that's important to note (CC first, 1 rax FE, double gas, 2 rax). Standard play can afford to put a depot block, but play that would cause you to do something different (not make any lings, make a ton of lings...) will not. Watch replays of your ZvT games, and see how far along the terran's rax is when your drone arrives. Personally, I rally my 13 drone to T's base - I know when it arrives, an 11 rax will be just finisihing, but a standard 13 rax will have a little bit to go.
Initial Overlord should go towards his natural (if you can watch the choke to his natural to see when he sends out units, perfect).
The 1st overlord you make should go over your natural, to spot for bunkers and scouting SCVs. This is absolutely important! If you decide to move your overlord, make sure to put a drone on patrol down there to spot for bunker shenanigans. If you can, your 1st overlord should go somewhere near his main to sac (personally, I put a drone on patrol at the bottom and then send the overlord if there are no air routes for it, because I find it so important).
When your pool pops, unless T opened something other than rax/gas and you know already what he did (cc first, 1 rax fe, 2 rax), send your initial 2 lings to T's base (only make 2 unless T went 2 rax or reaper).
What does his wall-in mean? Reactor Factory = Reactor Hellion Tech Lab Rax = Reaper (Expand most likely) Reactor Rax = Tech, most likely banshee (I don't think we see this anymore) Naked Rax = If you see a naked rax, you should be very concerned that a possible rax all-in may come. This is the only kind of all-in that hits before 40 supply.
Always make sure to have a ling in front of his base, unless hellions deny it.
Many people don't drone scout in ZvT, and that's fine. Your initial 2 lings can usually identify what T is doing (factory opener, expand, naked rax forcing you to be extra attentive), as well as your initial overlord (spotting a CC First/FE, sometimes even the wall-in). A good 2 rax will be obvious when Terran sends a strange scouting SCV (most Terrans don't SCV scout, and if they do, it's usually obvious what they are doing if it's hanging out the natural), and will hit before pool pops, so you won't be put in a position where you make the 'wrong' choices, because before you hit the fork in the road of "Do I make lots of lings and a spine?", the 2 rax will hit.
The drone scout allows you to make zero lings by seeing an obvious FE build (14+ SCVs/~2 SCVs per mineral patch with a gasless opener), but it's not horrible to make a pair of lings against a FE. It also allows you to catch Gas First openers, but those are uncommon these days, and you can usually pick out such builds with an overlord sac confirming too many marines for an expand build, as well as no natural put down.
You cannot let the bunker go up. The overlord over the natural should be spotting for bunkers, and the scouting SCV will obviously be suspicious, which should clue you off to the 2 rax. The rush will hit at ~17 supply, so at 16 supply you need to pull a drone to patrol the ramp or choke (if you didn't drone scout, you'll have to assume until the overlord arrives or there's clearly no marines at your base when your pool pops).
Queue ~3 drones to attack each bunker building SCV by shift+right click spamming on them so they follow the SCV as it builds. Have about 4-5 drones per marine, and make sure the drones never engage SCVs (they have more life). It's better to pull more drones rather than less, and all you are doing is just buying about 20 seconds by attacking bunker building SCVs and the initial 1-3 marines until your lings arrive.
You will make 6+2 lings, and a queen/spine. A single spine will completely end the rush as well as any SCV all-in follow-up (sometimes 2 on certain maps). You cannot make 2 queens like you normally do, you need 8 lings (don't make more than 12), and got to get that spine asap. When your lings pop, you will still need to use your drones - move command past his marine/SCV force - when done right, the drones will wrap behind the marines and attack them while the lings attack the SCVs. Once the spine pops, you can put the drones back to mining, and the rush is completely over.
A large part of holding this is making sure a bunker doesn't go up, and making sure to take the rush seriously and pull enough drones. You will be more ahead if you just pull more drones and hold it convincingly, then have to make more lings or lose drones because you don't pull enough drones when the rush first hits.
Your queens should deal with these. If Terran goes for a quick 11rax/12gas reaper, he has to kill at least 3 workers to make up for the build, so don’t worry if his reaper arrives super early and does damage. Just pull drones that he’s going for (pulling a drone he’s already shooting isn’t going to save it). If the reaper pressure is strong or it’s a fast reaper, I would recommend keeping all drones at the same mineral field until your queens pop.
Make sure to scout he expanded after such an opening. 5 rax reaper will beat you if you don’t have roaches or lots of static defense already set up (into roaches). Definitely sac an overlord if you don't see the expo in the natural - if he's going 5 rax reaper, he won't have enough marines to kill the overlord in time.
You need to spend about 300-450 minerals in defense against reactor hellion. 1 extra queen 2 spines, 2 extra queens, a queen and lings, whatever. Starting a queen after your first 2, or a spine, will finish in time to meet the first 2 hellions. With the queen buff, Zergs are able to get away with spending just around 300 now in 2 queens though.
The hellions are there to make sure you can’t run a drone out to take your third, so you will be forced to make a macro hatch instead of a third, and go 2 base macro hatch Lair or make early roaches. You should not be able to kill the hellions with just speedlings without seriously hurting your drone count, so you will be forced to just drone up on 2 bases before making units.
You can also make ~3 roaches to secure your third. This tends to be the reaction of people who go late lair, quick hive - by making roaches and a fast third, mutas will come out late, so roaches are relied upon to deal with drops (like marine/hellion drop) and early pressure instead of mutas and baneling speed. It’s up to you, and you can still go muta if you just make 3 roaches, but roaches do cost gas, and generally, the faster the third, the later the lair.
If Terran runs in his 4-6 hellions, it can be a great opportunity for you. Terran has to kill at least 8 drones to make losing 100% of his army and map control. Quickly pull drones (leave some by to attack and trap the hellions), and get your queens there. Only make some lings, if you make a full 20 lings, that's just a huge overreaction. Just continue droning, react quickly with pulling drones. If you can minimize the damage while trapping and killing all of his hellions, you can come out WAY ahead as he just lost his entire army and you can take your third for free.
Make sure Terran expanded afterwards, and if he does, you will still need to sac an overlord eventually to confirm his follow-up.
You should sac your overlord around 25 instead of 30 if you see a naked rax with your initial overlord/initial lings and he still has nothing in his natural. Otherwise, a 30 overlord sac will do (ie he took gas or FE'd). The more you know early on, the more you can delay your overlord sac.
If Terran Fast Expanded (CC First, 1 Rax CC), you should delay the overlord scout until 40.
If you do not know for certain Terran expanded, send that overlord poke/sacrifice into his main around 30 supply (you make your decisions at around 40-45 supply, such as preparing for an all-in, or taking a third). Hellions can deny lings, and many times Terran just won’t float his natural. Just seeing no expo at 6:30 is often too late to prepare for an all-in, so you will need to confirm an expo around 30 supply, one way or another. If you know or find out Terran expanded, you still need to send in that overlord to see what Terran's follow up is.
Marines, expansions, and hellions cost minerals. Lots of minerals (in early game). So there is no way for Terran to have all of these. He will either have one, or the other.
4+ Marines = likely banshees if he took gas at the start (which you may or may not have saw with your drone scout). If you know he didn’t take gas, it’s likely a 3-7 rax all-in, as an expansion will cause a cut in marine production. 3 or less Marines = Hellions likely, could be expo.
If Terran has lots of marines, you can tell he’s doing a tech heavy build or 1 base all-in. If Terran does not have lots of marines, your overlord gets in. Simple!
Understand that marines take 25 seconds to make as well. You can't make 8 marines from a single rax by the 35 supply mark. If you can't be sure that Terran expanded or not, just make some extra queens and spines. A Terran who didn't expand, not mining his natural, will be further behind than you are, and you can always cancel the defenses you started. 2 spines, or 2 extra queens, should be enough to hold any SCV all-in, and adding an evo and baneling nest around 40 just in case, when you still see no expo floated down, are good things to do.
If Terran FE'd If Terran FE'd (1 rax FE, CC First), you'll want to sac that overlord at ~40+, and you'll want to see his gas at his main.
Most of the time, Terran takes 2xGas in his main as a follow-up, and this means he wants his factory asap. The only reason Terran would want a factory asap, is for a starport asap, or double fact. So if you see 1xGas from terran very quickly, it's very likely he took his 2nd gas too. Taking just 1 gas after a 1raxFE/CC First is somewhat rare. Bear in mind that a Terran who took 2 gas quickly, will be having over 600 gas by ~40+.
Most of the time, 2xGas is hellion/banshee, as well as double ebays (sometimes it could be double fact though!). Be prepared - when Terran takes 2xGas, he won't really have the money to throw down a ton of rax, so you should see their buildings easily as they'll make it where their rax is, because of add-on swapping. If you see his rax, say, on the low ground, naked, after Terran took 2 gas, you should be very worried (it's usually an indicator of 4xStarport Banshee all-in), which can be confirmed by seeing the gas at his natural.
If Terran does not grab gas, be weary of a mass marine follow-up. Terran may also just delay his gas so he can take his third super quickly. You really need to figure out what Terran is going to do after expanding though - hellion/marauder (mass rax after factory), hellion/banshee (generally a starport right next to fact), mass rax (no gas, lots of rax), double fact (less marines, obvious 2 facts) are all options Terran has. Drops are also possible (Starport with no tech lab, additional rax, no reactor on fact).
Generally, all you need to know is if Terran hasn’t expanded by 40 supply, you get a baneling nest, maybe some spines, and pump lings. If your overlord is denied by 5+ marines, you won’t need roaches, but if he doesn’t have many marines, and you see what’s up, well, you’ll know when you need roaches or not.
That should really be all you need to do to stop all Terran 1 base all-ins. Queens can be great too. Only banshees require a different response, but banshees are pretty obvious most of the time, or you can at least glean enough to know to make queens and precautionary spores, and queens are good for stopping any all-in in general. Most Zergs these days like to get at least a 3rd queen anyways.
Cued off by not seeing an expo for sure by ~30 supply, and more than 4 marines (maybe even a reactor rax), gas first, or double gas, you should be making a spore in your nat and main. It’s okay - even if Terran did expand, you will be ahead economically because for whatever reason, he didn’t float that expansion to his natural (also note, Terran can go banshee from 1 gas).
You will want to make up to 4 queens, if you haven’t already. It should be pretty obvious with no expo taken. You can continue droning up, and you should really start spreading creep quickly towards your third so you can take your third in reasonable time once you hold the banshees.
Even if Terran is doing something else with is 5+ marines, gas taking, somewhat empty base, build, you should be able to hold it with your 4+ queens and reactionary speedlings, banelings, and spines (thor, nuke rush, etc).
Made obvious by a total lack of marines and your overlord getting to see everything, this is at least 2 factories pumping out hellions (2xReactor or React/Tech).
If you find out really late, 3+ spines can buy enough time for you to throw down a roach warren and get roaches in time. Banelings, Queens, and walling off with a Macro Hatch and Evo Chambers can also help buy time.
This is the only all-in that really hits before 40 supply. Alarm bells should be going off when you see a naked rax and still no expo with your initial overlord by the natural and ling poke, and your 30 overlord sac should tell you all you need to know. If you aren't sure what Terran is doing off a naked rax with no expo floated down immediately, make 2 spines at your natural. 2 spines, your queens, and reactionary lings, are all it takes to hold this. You don't need banelings to hold this, and I'd recommend you get speed before baneling nest (but banelings still do own this).
Made obvious by too many marines from a single Rax (especially from a T who expanded), 4+ marines shooting your 30 overlord poke or ling poke, and a ton of rax that he can’t hide from an overlord even if he has 5 marines to shoot it down (10 marines shooting it down at 30 supply? obvious mass rax all-in).
Also, if Terran walls in at the low ground with a depot/rax, that’s a strong indication of a 3+ rax all-in.
Uh-oh - so he went reactor hellion at the start, but you see no expo around 30-35 at the natural, and so your overlord sac saw 2 more rax with tech labs instead of an expansion!
40+ supply, just make 3-5 spines (5 if you figured it out really late), and lots of reactionary speedlings. If you can get that baneling nest up, that would be great - wrap your lings behind his hellions, and let the banes tear them apart. He will have hellions, but not so many to kill the banelings before they kill off his trapped hellions. This is only difficult if you don’t see it coming.
If T expanded, you are safe to take your third. You still need to sac an overlord at ~30 to see what his follow up is though. Note that if your third is too far to get creep too, or you can't sac an overlord or can't rule out banshees, you might need to make it a macro hatch instead.
Reactor Hellion You will have to make a macro hatch, unless T loses his hellions, you can get good enough creep spread, or roaches, and go 2 base macro hatch lair.
Hellions Hellions = Hellions other than reactor hellion - you can make reactionary speedlings against 1 factory, but double factory will need roaches. They should hit late enough that taking your third, seeing the double fact, then making the roach warren, is safe, but using queens and creep spread, and a couple spines, is not a bad idea if you made the warren late. Double fact usually indicates mech play.
4 Rax Get a baneling nest with the third, be prepared for aggression at 50+ supply
Single Fact w/Tech Lab, 3 Rax 'Standard' play, you can drone up your third a bit, but how much depends on if T plans to take a third soon and the map size
Marine/Marauder Made obvious by marauders being made, no siege tank production (or factory) - you really can't drone your third. Defend the timing, and you should be ahead after you drone up your third and get a huge tech advantage
Drop Play You should have a baneling nest up at 50 supply, so in case Terran drops, you can pull your stuff away and deal with it without losing much. Dealing with multiple drops can be handled by patrolling a few banes at a base where your army isn't, splitting up your army, or re-rooting static defense to cover one of the bases.
Banshee You need to spread creep like a madman to your third, otherwise you will be forced to go macro hatch instead of third. You can still be ahead though if you don't take too much damage.
If you can't tell exactly what Terran is doing, getting a baneling nest and evo at 45 is important to make sure you can handle what Terran can possibly do. You can also make the third a macro hatch instead, if you feel vulnerable, or worry about banshees or the design of the map (Dual Sight, Steppes of War, TDA). Terran will often go for a hellion/marine drop if they see you being greedy or taking a fast third, and if you don't have banelings early on, you can really get screwed by this. By scouting, you can possibly be more greedy, but if you can't tell what's going on, get a baneling nest/roach warren, evo and creep toward your third.
Note, if you drone scout and see a CC first, you can actually go reactive Third Hatch before Pool. You are safe to do this, but it will require good scouting on your part to make sure you prepare for the follow-up, and that you watch your third to make sure no bunker goes down at it (ie the overlord you normally keep over your nat, put by the third).
The biggest mistake I see in low level players is making their lair way too early. 5 mutas isn’t going to do anything when Terran has been making marines out of a single rax, at least, nor will infestors with zero support. The quickest lair you’ll see is ~50+ supply, but as the metagame now is more and more shifting towards a fast third, we are seeing later and later lairs (2 gas at 45, then 2 more at 55, then lair at maybe 65). If you were able to secure Third before Macro Hatch, you may want to delay your gases and lair in favor of droning up your third a bit. Generally lair will be started around 50-55 supply, but making it later than 60 is not uncommon even for 2 base macro hatch lair play.
If you were as late as making a spire before realizing it’s mech, that’s okay. Get that roach warren down (and personally, I prefer keeping the spire instead of cancelling it because you’ll need it eventually). Very simply, to play against mech, you take a fast third and fourth, get a roach warren, don't lose drones to hellions, and tech quickly to broodlords.
There are 3 ways to 'open' against mech:
Mutas: Mutas can go a long way to establish map control and critically delay Terran's third for so long that they've basically lost the game. Terran can go for a hellion/tank opening and then push out with 2 thors and lots of repairing SCVs that mutas simply don't do enough splash for, so be careful of that, but if you want to really dedicate to mutas, you will need speedbanes, and tons of spines, against this 2 base all-in (mass speedbanes can also rape mech if they don't have any siege tanks, like if they go only hellion/pure thor). The idea is to delay T's third by a long time, then massing lots of spines to delay any push while teching very fast and using the mutas to force T to stay in his base for so long that you have BL when he finally pushes. This isn't really seen anymore - both mutas vs mech, and hellion/tank (6 magic box mutas beat 1 thor, 24 mutas own 6 thors, but with repairing SCVs or more than 6 thors, it just doesn't matter how many mutas you have anymore, and hellion/tank can just insta-lose to 5 mutas, not to mention be handled by just roaches).
Mass Roaches: Since Most mech now goes hellion/thor at first, roaches are amazing at handling both of these units, and the fact that they can handle mech pushes for a long time, especially with infestor support. This can be combined with things like speedbanes, infestors, drops, etcetera. You can really do a lot of damage with roaches, and if you don't end the game, you can hopefully tech into Hive safely since you did enough damage to his army.
Fast Hive: You rely on spines/queen/lings/infestors to deal with hellion harass, get that quick fourth all the same, and just rush for Hive tech (broodlords or Ultras). This is the 'safest' way to play against mech, in that it's less 'all-in', but you need to make sure Terran is taking a third and isn't doing a 2 base mech all-in before doing this. I personally always get a baneling nest against Terran, and if I see mech play, I'll make a roach warren (won't necessarily make any roaches or even get roach speed) - if Terran does a 2 base mech all-in, I'll get roach speed, bane speed, and crush it.
While teching up to Hive, Infestors can go a long way in defending against both hellion harass and pushes with IT spam.
Ultras with NP support can also be extremely effective against mech. Ultras fare better against Thor Heavy or raven heavy mech armies, while Broodlords shine against tank heavy armies. Personally, I like to go broodlords first and then transition into Ultras if Terran makes lots of vikings or ravens, but both are perfectly viable.
Roach upgrades are generally useless against mech, due to how upgrades scale. +1 carapace is important, for both lings and roaches, against tanks and thors, but that’s it - +1 weapons Tanks will still 3 shot +3 armor roaches. Attack upgrades are always okay, but make sure not to delay your tech too much.
You should really drone up your third hard, if not double expand, and make sure to defend against hellion harass with either spines or roaches. Mech heavily relies on doing heavy drone damage with hellions, so don't let that happen. Don't be afraid to put down some spines - if you are rushing hive, they won't delay your hive tech anyways.
Once you are on 3 bases, you have a choice: Either mass roaches and do lots of aggression (good if Terran techs hard, or doesn't have many tanks, or makes too many hellions or thors), or tech as fast as possible to Hive with minimal roaches made; you can also go a middle ground between the two. Be careful though - if you don't do enough damage with mass roach, you will be in a hard spot with your late tech (especially if you aren't adding on infestors with the aggression, in favor of and harder attack).
Make sure, at all points in the game, to have a ling in front of his base to see if he moves out, and have overlords spread to spot for drops. Creep also goes a long way for Zerg in this match-up, arguably much more so than in the other match-ups, and your success in this match-up can depend a lot on how good you are at these 3, simple things.
At 50+ supply, you will need +1 carapace, and either a 2nd evo or baneling nest (depending on if you go for a quicker hive or later hive respectively).
+1 carapace is important so your roaches and lings survive 1 more shot from sieged tanks.
There are two ways this goes - Muta, and infestor. The idea here is to get to Hive safely one way or the other - either turtling, or with mutas. Muta + Show Spoiler +
There are 2 ways to play mutas:
1. 20+ Mutas and using lots of harass to keep T in his base, and micro to handle the 3 base push (less focus on upgrades, later hive). Stronger in mid-game, more vulnerable late-game. 2. 8-12 Mutas, and going for a fast 3 base hive, then Ultras to deal with the 3 base push (heavier focus on upgrades, quicker hive). Weaker in mid-game, stronger going into late-game.
You really just need to keep your mutas alive. You don’t need to go past about 24, and you can make as few as 8. The point of the mutas is to keep Terran in his base, and it’s not necessary to even harass Terran until high masters, really (I’d say the majority of my games, I rarely actually get in Terran’s base with the Mutas and do significant damage, it's what they force in the game flow that helps). Don’t be over-aggressive with your mutas.
The point of the mutas is 3 fold- 1. You force lots of turrets, and defensive posturing, which means Terran will expand later, add on rax later, and in general end up pushing out later 2. Do a ton of damage to pre-3/3/marine/medivac/tank 170+ armies. 3. Deal with drops
As long as you keep your mutas alive, you should generally crush any Terran push before he has some 3/3, mass medivac, marine, tank insane army. The reason is with good attack posturing, you will just crush any push (queue up focus fire on the tanks with mutas, make sure banes don’t hit anything but marines by boxing over them as they roll and re-directing them or having them on hotkey, spreading/flanking with ling/bane in some way). I find that my losses with mutas stem from losing too many mutas by being overly aggressive or mis-micro, while stronger wins come from being more careful with my mutas.
If you lose too many mutas, such as by flying over marines or being way too aggressive against his turrets and marines, you will queue Terran to push out, and you won’t have enough DPS to deal with it, as he kites your banelings and his tanks deal massive damage. By having a strong muta flock, you will punish kiting/splitting with your mutas, wreck those medivacs (which just makes marines insanely strong), and just deal a ton of extra DPS.
Your Ling/Bane army should also always be near his base, ready to counter-attack or runby if he ever moves out. Having them near your base, such as being forced to pull your entire ling/bane army back home to deal with a drop, is terrible (never let that happen!).
If Terran ever moves out, you should try to force him back home with ling/bane counter-attacking and your mutas (don’t force the issue by attacking a PF or strongly entrenched Terran with a few defensive tanks left behind though). If he continues on, and you can’t do more damage than he can in the short time he has to rush to your base, cut off his reinforcements and force him to siege up every step of the way. By the time he reaches your base, you will just have a much larger ling/bane/muta army than he has marine/tank, and crush it, if not have Hive tech out.
Magic box his thors first in a battle if he has any (use hold+focus fire to kill it quickly), then queue up all his tanks. Personally, I will move command my ling/bane army slightly behind his marines (See Destiny’s Baneling Rape Analogy) and then a-move for a ‘stick’, and then quickly box over my banelings to make sure they hit his marines instead of tanks. You CANNOT let your banelings hit anything but marines! Having a separate hotkey for banes, or 1 for ling/bane and 2 for just those banes so you can redirect them, are good ideas too. Spreading your ling/bane before engaging is also extremely useful - a quick way to do that is to patrol your ling/bane in a long route up/down to his left/right push (make sense?). A long patrol command will split your ling/bane really well, but setting up groups of ling/bane to attack from multiple paths, or a flank, is even better if you take the time for it. Try as much as possible to engage on creep, or when he’s most unsieged.
Eventually, you will need Hive, and deny his bases aggressively. You want to start trading so that you aren’t at 200/200 with BL tech out, lest Terran capitalize on you losing a ton of supply in a battle with his superior army and push in before your Hive Tech is ready, but you also can’t attack so cost inefficiently into sieged tanks, so just do as much as you can to deny bases and bleed supply that way as you replace with infestors, corruptors, and eventually morph those into broodlords. Never just lose all of your mutas or banelings at once (such as sacrificing a ton of banes into a PF while the game is still even) - this will force Terran to just push out.
When Terran's army gets around 160+ supply, and 3/3, lots of tanks, 2 thors, medivacs, all the necessary upgrades, he'll reach a point where it'll be very hard to win with just ling/bane/muta, so you will need to either micro much better than he does or position better, or you will need higher tech.
There will be a trade off of either making less mutas, and teching quicker, or making more mutas, and teching later. It's up to you and the map design (ie a map that is bad for muta harass, might make making more than 10 mutas a poor choice, but against an extremely aggressive Terran, you may not want to tech too quickly). Generally, it's seen as a trade-off between double evo upgrades, and lots of mutas, but you can do both if you don't plan to go Hive soon (eg a map like TDA where mobility and counterattacking is king).
Note, if Terran stays low tier on marine/tank or marine/marauder, or is hyper-aggressive, instead of teching more towards ghosts, medivacs, thors, vikings, tanks, hold off on the Greater Spire, and instead go for 3/3 Adrenal and ling/bane/muta, so he can’t own you with superior mobility on maps that have multiple attack routes and your 4-5-6+ bases start to be really spread out (TDA, Cloud Kingdom, as opposed to Shakuras, Daybreak).
Generally, you want to go later lair with this style, because you really want to race towards Hive tech and make the mid-game as short as possible, and to do that, you are going for a much stronger econ early on by having a faster third and later lair - you don't need t2 units like mutas or infestors if you have strong upgrades early on, as well, so you aren't as reliant on lair tech. You also aren't spending as much gas on mutas or banelings, but instead on infestors (a unit with purpose in late-game) and teching.
This sort of play revolves around you turtling, going toward fast hive. This is stronger on maps where Mutas are worse on - lack of airspace so you can deal with drops easier with a ground army, a close by, easy third that makes ling/bane/muta aggression easier to deal with but also makes defending your own third against drops and aggression easier with a ground army, further expos going towards the opponent.
Going Infestor is best done by taking a very fast third, sometimes even taking a third with a couple roaches vs hellions, with a late lair but fast 3 base hive. You deal with Terran aggression and drops using roach/ling/bane/upgrades on hatch tech instead of lair tech, then infestors and static defense, and then go fast hive to take your fourth and put the pressure on Terran before he gets a strong 3 base army.
Going as high as 85 drones, possibly 100 if you can take a fourth, and then constantly make static defense at your bases to deal with drops, is one way to play it. You will need baneling speed, and try not to make too many roaches (or rather, try not to lose the roaches you make), so you can get infestors, and faster hive tech. You deal with drops using spines/spores, patrolling banelings, and an infestor or two, as well as a defensive ground army, instead of mutas, while going fast hive on 3 base.
Eventually, you have broodlords on 3-4 bases. If you didn’t take too much damage, you can get those broodlords out quick enough and gain an advantage in the game by having broodlords out earlier than Terran can be prepared for them. Drops are one of the biggest ‘counters’ to this sort of play, so defending drops is critical to how you enter the late-game (overlord spread, spines+spores, infestors left at some bases, and patrolling banelings).
If Terran goes for a fast third, you can deal with this by teching to Hive quicker, or putting on lots of aggression (eg you can make 24 mutas, max out, and attack, or you can make 10 mutas and go straight to hive). It's up to you how you cut corners against it. Unless you want to do some aggression (like a baneling bust or roach/bane bust), you will want to completely drone up your third before making many units.
If you are playing a quick Hive style by going infestors, or making less than 14 mutas, you will want it on 3 base, as soon as you know Terran is going for 3 bases instead of some sort of 2 base all-in.
If you are playing a more aggressive style, where you make lots of mutas, roaches, ling/bane, or infestors (eg roach/infestor aggression vs mech, although generally infestors mean late hive), you will want to delay your Hive, since you will need to focus all of your 3 base resources into building a strong mid-game army to handle the push, or lots of aggression and trading so that the Terran 150+ 3 base push comes much, much later. If playing this style, you generally only want to go for Hive once you have a maxed out army.
Dealing with Terran's 3 base push can be uncomfortable if you stay on lair tech, but going hive tech can leave you vulnerable. If you don't make many mutas/infestors/roaches, you can go for Hive in time, but if you do make many infestors/roaches/mutas, you will need a maxed out army to handle the 3 base push before you go Hive. You can handle such a push with ling/bane/muta, roaches, or infestors, but eventually you WILL need Hive tech unless you are doing constant aggression and slowly killing Terran. This is a trade-off between fast hive and late hive, and late hive is generally safer against early game aggression, but both styles can be played on most maps.
You should be taking a fourth when Terran takes his third, and aggressively expanding.
It’s extremely important you kept up your creep spread all game - a strong, 4 base Terran can get lots of vikings, thors, and ghosts out that really deny infestors from countering their vikings. By this point, you can grab all the queens you made (you should have enough hatches to produce enough larva for you naturally), and bring them up to start spreading creep rapidly, and then planting down mass spores to prevent vikings from sniping out your Broodlords, and spines to support your army. Push up with your mass spine/spore/queen support for your BL/Infestor or Ultra/Infestor, and you should close out the game.
At this point of the game, you are really trying to be more cost efficient than Terran and avoiding a loss to split map, so try to aggressively take bases on his side of the map, and being cost efficient with BL/Infestor, aggressive static defense, upgrades, and transfusing to keep the longevity of your units.
Recently we are seeing a resurgence of Ultralisk play in ZvT, in conjunction with quick Hive play. Going quick Hive (or even 'standard' hive) into broodlords leaves you extremely vulnerable, no matter how quick you go for Hive or how easily you got your third. Ultras, however, come out quicker than Broodlords.
A way to think of them, is as Tier 2.5, and then broodlords as Tier 3. Going Ultras can be a great choice if you want to make mid-game extremely short, and move into late-game safely. Going just fast hive into broodlords is extremely risky.
Of course, you will eventually want to move on to a pure Broodlord army. The point of Ultras though, is to get you there. If you stayed on Lair tech longer, you may want to just skip Ultras.
Broodlords are much greedier than Ultras, and can leave a large timing when Terran can kill you. They are extremely slow, and drops can lose you the game as a base that just barely doesn't have enough spine/ling/bane defense will be lost. They are much better on maps that tend to be split map though, to prevent counter-attacking, and are extremely cost efficient, unlike Ultras.
However, they are extremely cost efficient, and ANY Terran army can be handled by just making more broodlords, corruptors, infestors, queens, or static defense.
Broodlords need a ton of support, as they are frail and can be sniped by thors and vikings. You really need mass creep spread for broodlords, so you can use queens in conjunction with their siege range, and tons of spores and spines to protect them, as well as Infestors. This is impossible to afford on anything less than 5+ bases.
If Terran has lots of Thors, make more broodlords. If Terran has lots of bio, infestors. Vikings, infestors and spores and corruptors. The problem, is the cost and mobility - it's getting to that pure BL/Corruptor/Queen/Mass Spore/Spine/Infestor army that is the challenge.
Melee and Carapace upgrades benefit both Ultras and Broodlords (Broodlings), as well as Infestor support.
As you go later into the game, and you move towards more immobile units like Infestors, Ultras, and then Broodlords, drops can ruin you, and if you don't have the perfect amount of defense, it's a lost base (and possibly a lost game) as you have no chance of getting all the way back with a pure Broodlord/Queen army. Not only that, but even in the mid-game, a 24k/24k resource flock of Mutas becomes worthless if they have to go all the way from harassing the Terran, to protect a base. You can no longer threaten a counter-attack if Terran forces you to pull your entire army to deal with a drop, and Terran is free to run all the way across the map unsieged if he sees your army pulled back, rather than ready to backstab or catch him unsieged.
First off, catching drops requires you spread overlords. On most maps, there is no reason that you have a pool of overlords building up in your natural. Every overlord should be rallied along a route where it can spot for drops, army movements, and expansions later on, and can save you from getting overlord speed. If your first 10 overlords are all rallied from the egg, all around the edge of the map, you will notice they cover all over the map by mid-game. And by end-game, there is no reason why you should not have vision of the entire map.
Getting Overlord Speed is a crucial upgrade in order to spread overlords everywhere, but if you are good, you won't have to.
Eventually, you will need to patrol banelings and put up spines at vulnerable, outer expansions and your main, or places he is most likely to drop. Patrolling banelings is one of the most useful things I've ever learned to do - just patrol 2 banes when taking your third if you suspect drop play, and over the course of the game, slowly increase that number to 5 to deal with any sort of double 3/3 drop, and add a few spines. 5 spines + 5 banes will just crush any sort of triple drop easily, and even if it doesn't, Terran will have to micro his heart buy, and it will buy more than enough time for your Broodlords to get back. If Terran micro's, simply pull back the banes into the cover of the spines, and he'll have to pick up. Simply patrol the banes, and when you spot a drop, you can pull back necessary forces and select the banes, and run them into his drop when he's completely unloaded.
You can eventually have a small group of 5 banes patrolling between 2 bases (like 4th and 5th on Metalopolis). I find patrolling banes and putting up some spines a necessity in ZvT mid to late game, so you can be the most active with your units.
Some people use spores as well, especially if they don't go for Mutas in the mid-game. If you do use spores, it's about planting them in smart locations where you think the drop will approach from. This is also more important if you go for Ultras rather than Broodlords, or if you plan to go Ultras before Broodlords, because of how threatening medivacs are to Ultralisk armies.
Don’t let the wall-off complete, don’t let him finish a bunker in his mineral line. If he does wall-off, do everything you can to break it before a marine and repairing SCVs end your cheese. A drone scout to block the 2nd depot is critical, but this build isn’t really great against Terran.
Great if Terran does not get factory tech, like 1 rax FE into 4 rax. Instead of going for a third and 4xGas, Lair at 40+ supply, you decide at 40 supply to go for 2 x gas, baneling nest, and mass lings. Quite the coinflip, since if Terran knows what you are doing, he can hold with lots of bunkers, but extremely strong if Terran skimps out on factory tech.
28 Roach Warren, make 3 overlords and pool larva, morph 8+ roaches and send towards Terran. You can reinforce with speedlings, or choose to drone up instead. Note that you can only reinforce with speedlings if you took gas before 20.
Terran’s initial 2 hellions will arrive before your roaches pop, so you will need to defend the first 2-4 hellions as you normally do. If Terran doesn’t make marauders, a siege tank, or bunkers, as well as lift-off from his nat, he will take a ton of damage, but if he scouts that this is coming, he should be prepared.
Popular recently in the metagame to punish Terran’s going Fast Third, this is close to a build order win against Fast Third terrans (they have a small chance of holding if they see what you are up to in time and go for marauder/tank/bunkers and lift off at the nat immediately), and punishes any Terran who doesn't make siege tanks in reasonable time (medivacs+marauders can go a long way to defending, but a terran going bio+hellions can be in trouble).
~45 3 x Gas (or 2xGas ~33) ~45 Roach Warren, Speed, stockpile overlords and larva @100% Roach Warren, 8+ Roaches, baneling nest, rally forward speedlings to morph into mass banes
Target wall-offs, bunker, attacking SCVs (40 SCVs can cause a huge shield against non-splash roaches and lings, so they are a big target if you want your attack to be effective on a practical level). Push back hellions with just 2-3 forward roaches, so he thinks you are going for a third against hellions instead of an all-in, and try to hide your tech so a lucky scan doesn’t reveal what you are doing. Hiding your army and morphing banes until the last moment, to the side, is a good idea too.
Curious vs Bomber GSL S3 Up&Down Group B How to hold 2 Rax Curious denies the bunker as much as possible, but he responds perfectly - he got the spine asap in range, out of range of the bunker, when the bunker nears completion, he surrounds the bunker to block marines from getting in. 8 Lings
Myself vs Ladder How to hold 3 rax All-in with 6 queen, Fast Third Despite having taken my third vs a 1 base all-in, I knew you can hold any sort of opening from a gasless Terran with 6 queen. His marines arrive right when 4 queens are out, I pull drones momentarily, but am able to hold him off until I can have enough lings to push him back. From there I just cannot lose the game.
Myself vs Ladder How to hold Double Starport All-in Despite not seeing any starports or banshees, I knew it was banshees because of double gas, more than 3 marines, and no expo mining. Other factors like only a single hellion, a completely empty base with just 1 fact and 1 rax with no add-ons, and 2 geysers, clued me in that that 700+ gas was going to starport tech
Myself vs Ladder Example of unsure scouting In this game I just see a naked rax, and no expansion. Although he went 1 Rax FE, I could rule out 2 Rax by the Rax timing. I made spines and lings when I see a couple marines, but when he floated down his expo, I cancelled the spines, took my third, and with an eventual overlord sacrifice I could see his follow-up
Myself vs Ladder Reactive Third Hatch before Pool vs drone scouted CC First, Infestor Fast Hive into Ultra into BL
Myself vs Ladder How to deal with Mass Ravens Once Terran has over 40 supply in viking/raven, a pure ultra army just rocks anything he has on the ground. Ravens are not very good against Ultras
Myself vs Ladder Going Infestors, Fast Hive, No roaches, vs Mech Despite T doing a 3 base Thor all-in before Hive tech is near done, mass IT spam, queens, and lings are enough to deal with his quick mech push, even with lots of hellions.
Last edit: 2012-10-23 09:37:34
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I have been waiting for this for quite some time. I'm going to gobble it all up and write my thoughts down later
Edit: The overall guide was top notch, especially the third timings for the Terran and Zerg. However I have to inject with the Ultralisk part. Ultralisks are great IF you know how to use them and if you let your Terran opponent not build up a huge Medivac count.
When I play an infestor style, I almost always plan on going for a faster hive and Ultralisk den. During the midgame I have a heavy focus on sniping Medivacs with Sporecrawlers and Infestors. If you can keep him from getting a large Medivac cloud you will have a much easier time playing an Ultralisk-style.
Combining Ultralisks with speedbanes is a MUST. You need the instant-AoE the baneling explosions provide to deal with Marauders being split up into individual pockets with Medivac support because the Ultras just won't get enough damage off fast enough to deal with a well microed MMM ball. Infestor/Ultra won't cut it because the fungals just don't do damage fast enough and a good Terran will have spread his forces out before being engaged. The fungals only serve to pin the MM down for the Banelings to close in. Then, when most of the force is evaporated and your Ultralisks still stand and you can counter attack a base, you will have executed a good Ultralisk strategy.
Last edit: 2012-05-25 19:23:18
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Yes! I've been waiting for your ZvT for a long time, after the awsomeness of your ZvP guide! I didn't read all of it yet but I already want to thank you for the time and the dedication that you put in all of your guides and posts in general. Keep up the good work, Belial, you're helping a ton of zerg players ;-)
Very nice guides i saw your name in my ladder division and i was going to ask if it really was you and i checked your sc2ranks profile you have and it WAS you! im ErrorBMC. I just wanted to thank you for the guides.
Hulavuta United States. May 26 2012 04:58. Posts 1252
Speaking of ultras in ZvT, on TL's This Week in Replays they feature Haypro. One of his ZvT's versus Rsjustice shows a three base infestor/ling/ultra into broodlord switch on Cloud Kingdom. It might be a handy replay for your replay section
I'm in the personal belief that the "quicker lair" style, ie. the 2base muta style, normally shouldn't take a quick third without a macrohatch regardless of whether terran reactor hellion expanded or 1rax expanded.
The typical hatch pool 15-17gas into fast lair 4gas 1evo 8muta style, shouldn't be able to hold a third on most current map pools at the proposed ~40 supply timing without a macro hatch. It needs 4hatch production to hold off any midgame aggression, and there isn't many reasons I can think of - other than terran triple OC'ing - to take a natthird before a macrohatch in a standard nonmetagamed game. Considering that you are forced to float 500 minerals at this timing, its tempting to grab a third, but I have rarely seen that third being held on maps like metropolis, entombed and ohana, and still risky as hell on maps like daybreak and korhal.
My god... This guide is so good. I wish Terran players had as good a guide.
Also curious about this:
On May 26 2012 05:49 NexUmbra wrote: Just curious, are you the same Belial that exiled the three Prime Evils to Sanctuary, after which a civil war broke out between the two Lesser Evils over the control of the Burning Hells?