Blade's Guide to Zerg vs. Terran
This Zerg vs Terran article will be going over almost every area of the match-up, including areas such as the early game Reaper harass, as well as mid game unit compositions, and effectively using the units in the late game. The unit compositions this section will cover are Roach/Zergling/Baneling/Swarm Host, and Mutalisk/Zergling/Baneling into Ultralisk. The guide will also cover dealing with drops, Mech, late game unit compositions and match-up specific timings.
|Versus a Gas Opening from Terran|
|Versus a No-Gas Opening from Terran|
Detailed Explanation of the Builds
The reason you need to open gas against a Terran who opened gas is because most Terrans will go for Reapers. If you don't get a fast Metabolic Boost upgrade, and the Terran makes 3-4 Reapers, you can take a lot more economic damage than necessary, possibly losing Queens as well. If you go Roaches as a response instead it can hurt your economy too much since you would need to get them super fast, while also giving map control to the Terran player for a very long time. With no map control, the Terran could potentially catch you by complete surprise with an all-in. Speedlings allow you to get map control and be more aware of any cheesy timings. You need to take workers off gas because you want more minerals, and there is no reason to mine gas when your goal should be droning. The Reaper opening does a great job at delaying Creep spread and your droning, all the while the Terran keeping his SCV production up while expanding and teching. As a Zerg you need to be droning non-stop once you gain back map control.
- Note: If Terran goes gas we advise you only get 3 Queens, and only 1 of those for Creep spread. If Terran gets no gas you should do the standard 4 Queens build, with 2 for Creep spread.
In a game facing Reapers your Lair will be later than normal, and this is fine since you have to remember that the Terran can’t possibly be doing a 8 minute Marine/Marauder/Hellbat timing if he is going Reaper to open his build. You also have to remember that the Terran's first expansion is going to be a bit later then normal as well.
The +1 Melee and Carapace is just a preference on upgrades. If you know your opponent is going Mech 100%, then get the Ranged upgrade. If you can't really tell if the Terran is going Mech or Bio, getting Melee/Carapace is safest bet. If you scout Mech get Ranged upgrades immediately, and then go for the Melee upgrades later on.
The Baneling Nest is just in case the Terran tries a Bio + Hellbat timing or any sort of timing that may catch you by surprise. Banelings are a very great unit to defend against timings you aren’t expecting.
The Infestation Pit or Spire is just simply what tech you prefer as a Zerg player. If you are going to go Infestors get an Infestation Pit, if you are going Mutalisks get a Spire. This is pretty straight forward.
Dealing with the Early Game
The best way to defend against early Reapers is to get Speedlings out as fast as possible. Defending until that point can be a bit hard if the Terran is using Reapers aggressively, and letting them heal then poking in again immediately. What you should do is once the Reaper enters your base and starts shooting at Drones, pull a few to chase it, and remember to pull any Drone that is shot twice away. Do this until Zerglings come out, and then have your Zerglings chase until the Queens pop out. Once the Queens come out you should be relatively safe for the most part. If your Terran opponent makes 3-4 Reapers the harassment will be more focused and you need to make more Zerglings so that he doesn’t kill your Zerglings, then kill Queens and then the Drones.
Once your Speedlings are out you should be able to kill them or at the very least push the Terran back to his base since Speedlings are faster then Reapers. Use this time to maintain map control and keep an eye on any transition if possible. A lot of Terran players transition into Widow Mines, so make sure to poke at the natural, but with only one Zergling at a time so that if the Terran does end up having Widow Mines you won’t lose more than a Zergling.
Normally, Zerg can do a little harassment and get a couple SCV kills with a Speedling counter if the Terran opens up with 3-4 Reapers. However, if he opens up with only one Reaper, the odds are that they are going to have Hellions out fairly quickly so be wary of that as well.
Once Speedlings are out and you have map control, it should be possible to take the third expansion with no problem, and transition into a normal mid-game.
1/1/1 Widow Mine Drops
The best response to Widow Mine drops is to make sure to have a Spore Crawler out as soon as possible. Make sure to pull your workers off the mineral line and let a Zergling detonate it to continue mining again as soon as possible.
If you do not have Spores when the drop comes, make a Spore Crawler and detonate the Mines as quickly as possible, and get back to mining right away. Make sure to pull workers before the Mine reloads. Try to keep an eye on the timer and pull the workers after 40 in-game seconds, or wait until the Spore Crawler is about done to pull. It's not efficient to waste too much mining time, but it's also not efficient to lose Drones to a Widow Mine as well. Make a judgement call on whether Drones should be pulled or not.
Once the Spore Crawler(s) finishes, you should be able to kill the Mines, and not have to worry about the drops anymore. If the drop does no damage, you will be insanely far ahead as the Terran can no longer hit any fast timing after this.
Hellbat drops can't happen anymore with the 1/1/1 due to the fact that Terrans can’t start Hellbats until an Armory is finished, or they have to wait until the upgrade finishes to transform already made Hellions into Hellbats. The Hellbat drop has not been viable for a while, and should not be the primary area of concern for a Zerg player.
Bio + Hellbat Pushes
You should be able to see this coming if you are actively scouting with Overlords, sacrificing Zerglings, just scouting in general. This Bio + Hellbat push is powerful if you don't have the proper units. If you only have Zergling/Baneling, it can be hard to deal with this push. However, Roach/Zergling/Baneling can crush this push as long as the Zerg is prepared in time.
If you see this push coming, you need to stop Drone production immediately. Make a decent amount of Roaches, Zerglings, and Banelings to hold this push. Terran will push with Stim and 4-8 Hellbats (the precise amount varies depending on the Terran player). It is fine to sack your third if it comes down to it, as this is a push where Zerg wants to make sure they can hold, and losing the third base won't be game ending.
Once you hold this push, you can either Drone and take a 4th base, or try to counter with a Roach/Zergling/Baneling attack, as normally the Terran player shouldn't have any Tanks. Their attack needs to do damage; it is a strong 2-base push, but if it fails and gets crushed, the Zerg will be very far ahead.
Mid Game Strategies
Dealing with Drop Play
Drop play is a lot stronger in HotS due to the Medivac's speed boost. These drops make going non-Mutalisk play a lot harder just because of how fast the Medivacs can speed into the player's base. Dealing with these drops requires good multi-tasking and static defense.
If you plan on moving out to be aggressive, you need some way to defend against drops, and the best way to accomplish this is static defense. You should be placing a few Spine Crawlers as well as at least one Spore Crawler at each base, so that drops don't devastate you. Also, keeping a small Zergling/Baneling group near each Hatchery is a good idea in deflecting drops as well, so that you don't have to pull your army to deal with it. This is the best way to deal with drops once you are ready to be aggressive or if the Terran player decides to push while doing 2-3 drops at once. This way you can defend the push and deflect drop play without taking too much damage.
Overlord placement is very important as well. You should have Overlord speed researched at some point and once that finishes, make sure to spread the Overlords out over the map. The sooner you see a drop ship coming, the longer you have to react to it. That way you can prepare the defense you need, and can still either move out or deal with a push.
Spreading out Overlords too early is the reason Terran players make Vikings early nowadays. Vikings can supply cap you hard if you send out too many of your Overlords across the map, so it is better to wait for Pneumatized Carapace to finish before sending out too many. This way you won't lose a lot of your Overlords and can spread them out quickly after having dealt with the Viking.
Mutalisk/Zergling/Baneling into Ultralisk
The Mutalisk has changed a lot in Heart of the Swarm. A couple things have changed for this unit, first the speed has increased, and they regenerate health a lot faster now. So if Mutalisks take a ton of damage, and they all go to 1 health then they will all be fully healed in roughly 120 seconds. Before, it took a lot longer to regenerate health.
If you decide to go heavy with Mutalisks, an Overseer is a must when doing harassment. If you don't bring an Overseer, Widow Mines pose a serious threat to your Mutas. Two to three Widow Mines will kill most if not all of them, especially if they are clumped and focusing down something. This can be a game ending scenario if it happens, and either way the Terran would end up way ahead.
You wants to get about 16-20 Mutalisks out before starting Hive tech. Make sure to have Overlords spread out as there is no way the Terran can kill Overlords that are spotting for drops when you should have complete map control with your Mutalisks.
Try not to attack from just one angle when playing this composition. Setting up flanks is very powerful and makes it so that you can hit the Terran army from multiple angles, maximizing surface area, or even sandwiching it so that he can’t run away, resulting in his army being completely ravaged.
It is a lot stronger to perform flanks than it is to just attack in one direction, especially if there are Siege Tanks out on the field. If you hold the Terran's push or if he hasn’t pushed yet, at this point Ultralisks should be out fairly soon, and you should be transitioning into Ultralisks/Zergling/Baneling/Infestor. Do not throw away Mutalisks; keeping them alive makes dealing with drop play much easier.
Another thing to note is you should not go for this style if you scout Mech. It will get crushed by Mech so if you start off with Mutalisks against Mech, DO NOT invest heavily into Mutas.
Fighting Mech can be quite hard as it is difficult to engage it on their own turf. Normally, Zerg will want to try and contain the Meching player to as little bases for as long as possible while taking expansions and starving the Terran of resources.
Now the best way Zergs have found to fight Mech is to get Swarm Hosts out, about 12-15 and have them assaulting the Terran bases. Behind this Zerg should have Roach/Hydra, and once Hive finishes you start adding in Vipers.
Swarm Hosts are very powerful against Mech. It delays the push quite a bit since the Terran player doesn't want to lose units to the free Locusts. It also makes engaging the Terran Mech ball a little bit easier since the Locusts can tank damage pretty well while dealing damage as well.
You should be able to keep a contain until Vipers get out. If Terran starts pushing, do not keep your Swarm Hosts in the same spot. Move them back a bit and let out a wave of Locusts while waiting for Viper energy so that you can use Blinding Cloud or Abduct the units. Do not rush any engagement; delay it as long as possible. If you find yourself having no choice but to engage, flank and try to time your attack with the Locusts coming out. If you can hit from 3 different angles with Locusts at the same time you should be able to beat back the Terran push without much problems.
Don't forget to make Spine Crawlers and a Spore Crawler at each base to deal with Hellion/Hellbat/Widow Mine drops. The Spore Crawler allows you to have detection, and the Spines are there to actually do the defending.
The end game army you want is Ultralisks/Hydralisk/Zergling/Swarm Host/Viper. Make sure to have Vipers behind Hydralisks unless you are going to cast Blinding Cloud. Now you will probably lose your Vipers when doing this, which is okay, and is going to happen no matter what. The Terran should be making Vikings to counter Vipers and so long as you can get Blinding Clouds down on the Terran army and engage, the loss of Vipers is worth it. You can just remake them later.
Again, if you use flanking maneuvers, keep Swarm Hosts alive, and use Blinding Cloud + Hydralisk/Ultralisk/Swarm Host, you should be able to take on any Terran ground army head on. You may not kill it all, but you should have a good enough economy to re-max quickly, while the Terran will have to wait through many long production cycles before they can push once again. At worst, if you engage properly you should kill most of the army, and at best kill the whole army.
A Zerg player's goal against Mech is to starve the Terran, and make sure he doesn’t take a lot of expansions. Eventually, the Terran player run out of resources and you will win with a much better economy. You should be taking over the whole map, forcing a scenario onto the Terran where they have to win with their push or otherwise lose due to the economic difference. This can lead to some long games, but patience is very key in playing, and winning, against Mech.
Late Game Transitions: Roach/Zergling/Baneling/Swarm Host into Ultralisk/Brood Lord
When going for this composition make sure you are making Roach/Zergling/Baneling, do not rush to Swarm Hosts as soon as Lair finishes. If you do not have many Zerglings, Banelings, or Roaches, and rush straight to Swarm Hosts, drop play can absolutely decimate you. A Zerg going down this route can’t deal with drops, and if a Terran sees quick Swarm Hosts, they will drop you at 3 places at once, and you will not be able to deal with all of them without taking immense damage, making it game over at that point. By making Roach/Zergling/Baneling first, you can deal with drops easily and have a very strong unit composition for the mid-game.
What makes this composition surprisingly powerful is that whether the Terran goes pure Bio, Bio/Tanks, Bio/Widow Mines, etc., it deals with each of those compositions very well. The strength of this composition is that it is very great for defensive play. It makes holding pre-Hive timings a lot easier since Locusts do pretty well against Bio, and they tank damage from Siege Tanks nicely. This makes it a bit easier to engage the Terran army, and to slow down his push as well. Since Locusts are free there is no reason not to have them constantly going somewhere, so if you see the Terran pushing, just throw down some Locusts, then pull the Swarm Hosts back so that the Terran doesn’t just Stim and kill them. Once you decide to engage his army make sure to flank and attack when the Locusts are attacking. Siege Tanks will fire at the Locusts by default and will allow your Roach/Zergling/Baneling to fight the Terran army without taking much tank fire.
After you've held the push, you can get Ultralisks out or go with Brood Lords. Going Brood Lords first can be nice as it will force the Terran to start making Vikings and then you can transition into Ultralisk/Zergling/Baneling/Infestor. Also, try to keep Swarm Hosts alive as long as possible. They will be useful even in the late game as Zerg can have them assault a peripheral base of your opponent's while you use your main army to attack somewhere else.
Overall, this is more of a defensive unit composition than an aggressive one. This is because Swarm Hosts are slow and a Stimmed Bio force will catch them as they retreat. So if you decide to be aggressive, be absolutely sure that your army can take out most of his army if you fight, therefore allowing your Swarm Hosts to get away. Getting caught out of position or losing the Swarm Hosts can be game ending, so keep that in mind.
There are replays that show case this unit composition below.
Replays and VODs
|Blade||Roach/Zergling/Baneling/Swarm Host into Ultralisk.|
|Patch: HotS Beta||VOD|