Blade's Guide to Zerg vs. Protoss

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[e][h]Zerg Blade's HotS Zerg vs Protoss
Strategy Information
HotS Strategy, Openings


This is the Zerg vs Protoss section of the Heart of the Swarm Zerg guide. This guide will be most beneficial if you already know basic ZvP openings. If you do not know the standard fast 3 base vs Forge FE watch the replays which will showcase these openings for you to learn. Some of the things discussed in this section will be Swarm Host, Mutalisk, and Roach/Hydralisk usage and the best ways to use those compositions as well as transitioning into them.

The Build

Zerg vs Forge FE
How To: Read Build Orders
  1. It is up to you when to get this
  2. Explained below
  3. Explained below

Detailed Explanation of the Build

It is normal to start your fast Lair around 7:20 - 7:30, unless a Stargate opening is scouted. If a Stargate is scouted, it is fine to delay the Lair to 7:30 or later. If a Robotics Facility is spotted, you should not start the Lair any later than 7:20. This is for the simple reason that there is a possibility the Protoss can go for an Immortal all-in. Swarm Hosts can be out in time for the Immortal all-in, and they make beating the Immortal all-in a lot easier than with any other unit. There are replays show casing this vs the Immortal all-in, and going down this path is much easier than going for pure Roach/Zergling.

If you get the Lair much later then 7:20-7:30 you will probably not get Swarm Hosts in time. That is the reason a 7:20 Lair time is the most optimal for most openings, unless of course a Stargate opening is scouted.

The reasoning behind going for an Infestation Pit and Hydralisk Den at the same time is that Hydralisks in composition with Swarm Hosts are very strong. The reason for this is that if the Protoss player goes for Stargate play, and the Zerg goes for quick Swarm Hosts and then becomes aggressive with them, the Protoss can actually shut them down quite hard once detection hits the field. This will make the Swarm Hosts useless until the Zerg's own anti-air hits the field. Hydralisks aren't too expensive, and build very quickly. After you get those out you can start making Swarm Hosts, and start becoming aggressive while waiting for your Spire to finish.

  • Note: When your +1 Carapace is almost done get a 2nd Evolution Chamber, and get ranged. You will get +2 Carapace and +1 Ranged going at the same time. You can add a 3rd Evolution Chamber if you want to upgrade melee as well. This is up to you.

Utilizing the Swarm Host

The Swarm Host is a new unit in Heart of the Swarm and unfamiliar to many players. This unit is very powerful if used correctly in the Zerg versus Protoss match up. This section of the guide will explain how to use Swarm Hosts in the most efficient way, and how to beat the dreaded Immortal all-in.

Getting Swarm Hosts is by far the easiest way to beat a player going for the Immortal all-in, so if you are struggling against that in WoL and don't know how to defeat it in HotS, this section will be of great use to you.

The Swarm Host as a unit is designed to control space and be able to contain your opponent. This unit works very well in its role, and can defend very well. They do require a fair amount of baby sitting though, as you do not want to leave them alone to siege and have the opponent's army get on top of them with an Observer.

If your opponent's army is starting to move up to the Swarm Hosts, unburrow and retreat backwards. You do not want to let your army fight on top of them because if he has four Colossi, a ton of Stalkers and Sentries those Swarm Hosts will die. When retreating, once you can let loose another wave of Locusts, burrow, unburrow and repeat the process as you run away. Eventually, you can go back to where you were as your opponent retreats back to his base.

The best composition when going for Swarm Hosts is to add Corruptors/Overseers to the composition. This makes the Zerg player's army extremely deadly. It also allows you to snipe Observers, attack Colossi, and if he starts adding in Void Rays, you will have Hydralisks to deal with that too.

Using the Swarm Host to Defend Against an Immortal All-In

So if you follow this build properly you should be getting Swarm Hosts out just as the Protoss player starts moving out. Now when you see the Protoss moving out, you should have Zerglings for support, using them to bait Force Fields, or at least slow the push down. Remember, any time you buy delaying the push could be an additional Swarm Host out on the field. There is no reason not to do this, obviously trying not to lose as many of the Zerglings as possible.

Once Swarm Hosts are out, you should be making sure that they're positioned correctly. For example, you don’t want them at your third in which case the Protoss player could just walk straight into your natural, force fielding you off from your natural, and killing it, and potentially pushing into the main afterwards.

You should also use the Swarm Host's Locusts to make sure you can keep an eye on where he is going. Some Protoss players, after seeing the Locusts, will try to go and attack another way. As a result, every time you let loose a Locust wave, make sure to uproot and be ready to move up to your natural area. Remember to use your Zerglings when the Protoss player decides to commit to the attack. Otherwise, keep them in the back near the Swarm Hosts.

Utilizing the Swarm Host in a Standard Macro Game

This section will talk about utilizing the Swarm Host in a normal game where the Protoss player takes a third base and the game is in the macro stage. This is when a Zerg player gets to be aggressive versus Protoss.

You can go Mutalisks into Swarm Hosts (14-16 Mutas then transition into Swarm Hosts, this is very powerful). Alternatively, you can just go straight for Swarm Hosts. This is really up to you on which route you want to take to get to the Swarm Host tech.

Make about 8-10 Swarm Hosts and then move out (with Zergling support). You should have the Increased Locust Lifetime upgrade and you will want to assault the third base.

Once you get about 10-13 Swarm Hosts then you want to start adding in Corruptors with Overseers. The Swarm Hosts will now be able to send Locusts to assault the front lines for a while, and the Protoss player has to wait to get a critical mass of Colossi to fight this composition head on. During this time you should be mass expanding, don’t stop at a 4th base, take a 5th, take a 6th! Keep taking bases and make sure you are mining from them. Make sure they are defended as Protoss players can try some sort of counterattacks with Blink Stalkers and Warp Prisms.

At this point you should be using the combination of Corruptors and Overseers to snipe Observers, focus Colossi and keep an eye on the Protoss army. Fly in and monitor the army and if there is an opportunity, taking shots at undefended Colossi. If the Protoss player starts Void Ray production you can start firing at them as well. Use this contain as an opportunity to get ahead; don’t leave the Corruptors idle and waiting for the Protoss to push out.

When the Protoss starts pushing out do not be afraid to retreat with your army, letting loose another wave of Locusts, and repeating this process. Ideally, you should be trying to engage the Protoss army while Locusts are attacking as well. Use the Locusts to buy time as you keep remaking lost units and retreating. If the Protoss player moves too far out of position you can just crush his army.

Facing Stargate Play

When going for Swarm Host tech and you see Stargate play do not start making Swarm Hosts immediately. It's not viable to be aggressive with just Swarm Hosts versus Stargate play because the Protoss player will have a Robotics Facility out soon and will have Void Ray/Phoenix that will start lifting and killing the Swarm Hosts. You will need anti-air before you can be aggressive.

The solution is actually really simple as well as very powerful. Simply morph a Hydralisk Den and make Hydralisks. If the Protoss is going 5-6 Phoenix make sure to get around 15 Hydralisks, if you see Oracles/Void Rays get 10 or so Hydralisks. After you get the Hydralisks out it’s time to make Swarm Hosts. Once you get about 6-7, push out while continuing production of Swarm Hosts until there are 12-15. Then stop producing them and start adding in Corruptors.

Now even when going Hydralisk before Swarm Host do not forget to make an Overseer. While Hydralisks aren’t as good at sniping Observers as Corruptors, it is still very doable, especially with the new speed upgrade, and Protoss players may not expect you to have an Overseer, causing them to lose their first Observer to Hydralisks.

Overall, your army composition is going to be Hydralisk/Corruptor/Swarm Host until the late game, in which case you can either transition into Ultralisks or remain on Hydralisk/Corruptor/Swarm Host with a couple Infestors. It's really up to you on how you want to play this part out.

Transitioning Out of Swarm Hosts

The one thing you don’t want to do is stay on Swarm Host/Corruptor all game. Eventually the Protoss can and will be able to bust out of the contain. You will want to have transitioned out by the time this happens. Ideally, you should have Infestors, Hive tech and an Ultralisk Cavern finished and to be able to transition.

You should be able to start Ultralisk production by the time Protoss breaks out of the contain. Do not throw your Swarm Hosts away either, keep them alive as long as possible. They are useful all game long, not as much late game but still extremely useful.

The late game should consist of your composition being Ultralisk/Hydralisk/Swarm Host. Add Corruptors if Protoss tries to go sky-toss. If Protoss gets many Void Rays you will need to add Hydralisks. Make sure you have some Ultralisks or Swarm Hosts alive as they are a great addition to help fight versus this.

There really isn’t too much to add here but just remember you should be constantly expanding and be ready to tech switch. If you lose all your Swarm Hosts you should have access to Hive tech with Ultralisks or Brood Lords ready to come out, depending on what you want to make.

Using Mutalisks

This section will go over the Mutalisk and how to best use it effectively. There are many things you can do, you can go Mutalisks pretty much the whole game and base trade once the Protoss moves out with his composition, or you can harass with them, gain an economic advantage, and then transition to higher tech.

When you start getting the Mutalisks you should immediately go and harass. You should hit the natural, go to the third base, hit the natural again, fly into the main, etc. You should be everywhere and force the Protoss to have to separate his army. You can try to get Zerglings in while they are distracted and take down workers and/or a base, or if you are lucky surround the Protoss' Stalkers and kill the Stalkers with Mutalisk/Zergling. You need to remain active with your Mutalisks. Do not just make them, attack once and then never attack again.

Now, if you want to go for upwards of 30+ Mutalisks, then you are playing the game of base trade. When going for that many Mutalisks you won't be able to kill the Protoss army head on. On the other hand, you will have invested too much gas into the Mutas to transition into other tech. Your only option is to base trade, so prepare for this scenario. Send Drones out once the base trade starts, make Hatcheries, keep making Mutalisks but rally them somewhere so they don’t die flying over the Protoss army when they spawn. Have Zerglings with your Mutas so you can kill the Protoss base faster. Try to kill all the Probes if possible so that Protoss can’t make buildings all around the map.

Now if you are going for Mutalisk/Zergling/Baneling into Ultralisks/Infestor/Zergling/Baneling then you should get your Hive rather quickly, at about 13-15 minutes. You will want Spine Crawlers so that if the Protoss moves out before your Ultralisks spawn you can buy time with the Spine Crawlers and Mutalisks. You should get about 16-20 Mutalisks and then start transitioning out.

You should be mass expanding when going Mutalisks in general, no matter whether you go base trade style or transition out of them.

You should have at least 5 bases by the time the toss moves out to try and kill you. You should still maintain harass with Mutalisks once you have transitioned in tech. Eventually you want to let them die to open up supply. You don’t want 40 supply worth of Mutalisks which could instead be used for six Ultralisks. Now don’t suicide them thoughtlessly, use them to kill a bunch of Probes, be super aggressive with them, focusing Probes and making sure you are at least damaging his economy before your Mutalisks die. Do note that you should be transitioned out of Muta tech by the time you do this, you do not want to do this before you have Ultralisks out as you could straight up die to a counterattack.

Now if you see your opponent opening up Stargate and see them starting out by producing Void Rays, going Mutalisks is still fine. This way Zerg can keep the Protoss Void Ray count down as well as force the Protoss to make non-Void Ray units. Protoss will most likely switch into Phoenix so be prepared for this. You can do a few things once you see this Phoenix transition: you can keep going Mutalisks in which case I would recommend adding Corruptors as well, or you can transition out and go for Swarm Hosts, Roach/Hydralisk, or Infestors. It all depends on what you're more comfortable with.

Roach/Hydralisk Composition

When going for a Roach/Hydralisk composition you will eventually need Vipers and Corruptors. Afterwards, you tech to Brood Lords for the late game. The goal of the Roach/Hydralisk composition is to be aggressive and try to keep the Protoss deathball (mass Void Rays/Colossi/etc) from reaching a critical mass. You want to trade cost effectively as well and expand as much as possible.

It's important to note to not sit back with this composition. The longer the game goes on the weaker this composition gets. Make sure to go Hive decently fast so you can add Vipers to the composition. Roach/Hydralisk/Viper is good as long as there are no High Templar on the field. Once High Templar hit the field the Viper's effectiveness drops really hard as Feedback counters them completely. If the Protoss has no High Templar, use Blinding Cloud on the Stalker/Immortals to swing the battle in your favor. Also, be sure to Abduct the Colossi.

If you can end up being cost effective you should be able to get Brood Lords and end the game. It's imperative to keep the Void Ray count down as low as possible. If your opponent gets up to 10 Void Rays it is going to be extremely difficult to fight this army head on, especially if the Protoss has Colossi and High Templar. It is very, very hard to fight straight up no matter what composition you are going, but with Roach/Hydralisk it is impossible.

The Late Game

This section is going to be a general overview of the late game.

Now if you start the game using Mutalisks eventually you will need to transition into higher tech. The normal composition a Zerg who goes Mutalisk ends up with is Zergling/Baneling/Ultralisk/Infestor. This is the common late game transition when starting out Mutalisk/Zergling/Baneling. You should get a Greater Spire for the opportunity to transition into Brood Lords. Since you should have air dominance the Protoss player should not have Tempests or Void Rays. This will allow you to make some Brood Lords if he is already well prepared for Ultralisks.

An example of this would be the Protoss player has mass Archon/Colossus/Immortal/Zealot with some High Templar for Storm. In this case you want to get Brood Lords versus this composition instead of going Ultralisk/Zergling/Baneling/Infestor. On the other hand, if your opponent is going Stalker/Colossus/High Templar then you want to go Ultralisks.

The trick here is understanding whether you should be going Brood Lords or Ultralisks. If you start out on Ultralisks this does not mean that you shouldn’t add in Brood Lords at some point, especially if the Protoss decides not to go for a Sky Toss composition and is instead making a pure anti-Ultralisks army.

If you initially went for Swarm Host/Hydralisk/Corruptor, you may want to get Brood Lords first. This scenario is situational, but if your Corruptors are still alive and the Protoss has no air, then you should get a Greater Spire and morph the Corruptors into Brood Lords. At this point, you should win if your opponent doesn’t break out of the contain by the time Brood Lords finish morphing.

If Protoss does have air then you should get Ultralisks out, though not too many; you want just a few in order to either soak damage so that splash doesn’t kill your Hydralisks or to provide a buffer for your Swarm Hosts if you can’t retreat for whatever reason. Most of the time, you should transition into Ultralisks, though Brood Lords are a good option as well.

Fighting Sky Toss

The dreaded Sky Toss, the Tempest/Void Ray/High Templar/Colossus (normally Tempest/Void Ray with High Templar or Colossi, sometimes all four) composition. This is a composition that as a Zerg you want to try as hard as you possibly can to prevent them from getting.

Your best bet at fighting this is Corruptor/Hydralisk/Ultralisk/Viper or Corruptor/Hydralisk/Swarm Host/Viper. This composition is the best chance you have to kill this army. If the Protoss player properly executes his attack it still may not be enough, but you have a better chance with this then any other composition.

The reason you make Swarm Hosts or Ultralisks is that you need a way to prevent his AoE damage from killing your Hydralisks/Corruptors before they can deal their damage. Swarm Hosts and Ultralisks are very effective at serving as damage mitigators. They will be able to weaken and/or kill the Colossi/High Templar or force the AoE splash to hit them instead of the Hydralisk/Corruptor. The Locusts can both tank some damage and deal it out, making it a little easier to engage.

You have to split your Hydralisks/Corruptors so that any Storms that do go off don’t do damage to all of them. Once again, versus Sky Toss this is the best response and your only chance at beating the composition.

Replays and VODs

Akilon Flats USA Zerg Blade Fighting Colossi/Void Ray with Swarm Hosts.
USA Protoss Kyo
Date: 2013-02-09
Patch: HotS Beta VOD
Cloud Kingdom USA Zerg Blade Beating the Immortal all-in with Swarm Hosts.
USA Protoss CroSio
Date: 2013-02-05
Patch: HotS Beta VOD

See Also