The Tactical Nuke is a devastating attack that can be carried out by the Ghost. The Nuke will be delivered to the strike area 20 seconds after the Ghost first designates the target. It has a radius of effect of 8 units, and will deal 300 damage to units and 500 damage to buildings at the center of the blast. Nukes are built at Ghost Academies; however, each academy can only hold one built warhead at a time.
If the Ghost is killed before the targeting animation finishes, the strike will be aborted and the Nuke will be lost. For the player casting the Nuke and his allies, the area for the nuke shot is marked with a large red pattern. For the opposing player(s) the area is marked with a small red dot.
Nukes are rarely incorporated into high-level play because of the high cost associated with getting a Ghost and Nuke. The deviations required to get the necessary tech can range from moderate to severe. Naturally, if your build incorporates any of these elements already, then the investment is reduced.
There are two other tech optional tech choices that increase the viability of nuke tactics. First is the Medivac drop method which requires a Starport (150 minerals, 100 gas) and a Medivac (100 minerals, 100 gas). Second is cloaking. This requires Personal Cloaking (150 minerals, 150gas) and usually the Moebius Reactor (100 minerals, 100 gas). These upgrades allow a Ghost to more easily infiltrate an enemy base and launch the Nuke.
Versus Mineral Lines and Buildings
Nuke drops in conjunction with a Medivac are extremely effective on maps where expansions are overlooked by cliffs, such as Kulas Ravine, Lost Temple, and Desert Oasis. Placement is identical to a Thor Drop, wherein the Terran player will abuse his opponent's lack of high-ground sight to land a Ghost and hopefully launch the nuke before his opponent can get detectors into place. The Medivac will provide crucial healing to keep the Ghost alive as long as possible, while allowing for rapid relocation.
When faced with an enemy Siege Tank line a nuke can be used to force the tanks to unsiege and move out of the Nuke's way, allowing you to run in with your Marauders and Siege Tanks to get an edge in battle while the enemy Siege Tanks are still unsieged or just advance your own siege line. If you decide to move in don't forget to cancel the Nuke calldown!
- Nukes affect friend and foe equally.
- Nuke damage ignores armor.
- One second before the nuke hits the Ghost finishes channeling and is free to move again. If it is killed in this second the Nuke is not aborted.
- If the Ghost is pushed away 13 length units from the target point during the channel (that's 1 unit further than the cast range), the Nuke is aborted. This can be achieved with spells like Force Field or Vortex.
- If the Ghost is lifted by Graviton Beam, the Nuke is aborted.
- Nukes can be used to kill Larvae (anywhere in the blast area) and eggs (in the center of the blast area).
- The following buildings die to one nuke when in the center of the blast: Pylon, Supply Depot, Extractor, Refinery, Tech Lab, Reactor, Photon Cannon, Bunker, Missile Turret, Sensor Tower, Spine Crawler, Spore Crawler, Creep Tumor. A lot of these in a small area make very viable Nuke targets.
- Nuke is not affected by Hardened Shield; Immortals die in one hit to a Nuke.
- The Nuke's red dot is visible to the opponent regardless of vision, even through the fog of war
In Combination with Other Spells
Personal Cloaking is frequently used in conjunction with nukes to allow an invisible Ghost into the enemy base, where he can drop a Nuke and leave without being detected. The Moebius Reactor greatly aids in this, giving the Ghost an additional 25 energy (roughly 25 seconds of cloak) right as he spawns.
In Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm
Due to the change of timing in Legacy of the Void, the timings are different in the last expansion than in Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm. In the previous expansions, the nuke took 60 seconds to build, and 20 seconds to land after the calldown.
- TLO vs. HyperDub from the 1st GomTV Open - TLO extensively uses Nukes to gain position, zone out his opponent and harass expansions. He also makes clever use of cancelling the nuke and pushing over his opponent who was forced to unsiege his tanks.
- David Kim vs. Yeon-Ho Lee on Lost Temple, Starcraft 2 Battle Report #4 - David Kim abuses cliffs and Medivac transport to detonate several nukes in Yeon-Ho Lee's expansions. He even uses a Nuke defensively to keep his opponent's army from advancing through a chokepoint.