Hydralisks (vs. Zerg)

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[e][h]Zerg Hydralisks in ZvZ
Hydralisks and Lurkers versus Mutalisks and Zerglings
Strategy Information
Matchups:
ZvZ
Type:
Mid game style

Introduction[edit]

Hydralisks are an uncommon unit in Zerg versus Zerg because they are very expensive and much less mobile than Mutalisks and Zerglings. There are however ways to make Hydralisks work as a mid game plan versus all but the highest level opponents. Getting Hydralisks to work requires excellent game sense (much more so the case versus solid opponents) as there are a myriad of ways to lose the game due to the difficulty of gathering useful scouting information once mutalisks enter the fray. The strategy will work a lot better if you can surprise your opponent or keep him guessing for as long as possible. Nevertheless, Hydralisks are an alternative, fun way to play ZvZ that generally requires less micro and APM.

Situational effectiveness[edit]

You can try to go for Hydralisks every game but you will experience a lot of difficulty. Ideally you want to surprise your opponent or keep him in the dark for as long as possible. There are certain ways you can achieve this:

  • Only use the strategy on 4 player maps. You can even go a step further and limit yourself to cross-spawn only. This ensures that his overlord will reach your natural and main base as late as possible.
  • Still go for a relatively early Lair to deceive your opponent into thinking you're still going for a Spire.
  • Hide the Hydralisk Den and a possible second Evolution Chamber in the corner of the map, out of sight.
  • In case of playing the same opponent multiple times, get creative and use different styles. One time go for a late push with big upgrades and Lurkers, while the next game you invest everything in a very aggressive early push (minimal amount of upgrades, no lair or lurkers). You could even disguise your build as a Hydralisk build only to sneak in a spire and surprise the opponent with Mutalisks (Only works if the opponent isn't massing Mutalisks).
  • (Play around with burrow)

Opener[edit]

Almost any opener can transition into a Hydralisk mid game but some will be much more effective. 12 Pool (vs. Zerg) is a versatile opening able to defend earlier Pools while not being at a crippling disadvantage versus a 12 Hatch. It also gives you a second Hatchery at your natural, allowing you to build up the economy you will need. 12 Hatch would be the ideal opening but since it is very vulnerable to 9 Pool, it is not recommended.

Opening with a 9/10 Hatch is discommended as it will result in a very delayed 3rd Hatch and a really poor economy. Opening with a 9 Pool will likewise delay your 2nd and 3rd Hatchery too much. If your opponent opened with a 9 Pool, you will have crippled your economy too much versus his early Mutalisks (even more so if it's a Lair first build), while if your opponent opened with a 12 Pool or 12 Hatch, you will find it difficult to hold on to your natural because of your lack of Larvae.

Overpool sits in between both but there's no real reason to go for an Overpool. You can defend a 9 Pool just fine with a 12 Pool and Overpool doesn't always give you the same aggression that could give you a big advantage if your opponent opened with a 12 Hatch. Versus a 12 Pool (and 12 Hatch) you will also find it difficult to hold onto your natural due to your lack of Larvae.

Build Order[edit]

Upgrade Heavy with Lurkers[edit]

The build order below starts with a 12 pool opening.

"2 base Hydralisk with Lurkers"
  • 9 Overlord
  • 12 Spawning Pool
  • 12 Extractor
  • 11 Hatchery @ natural
  • @100% Spawning Pool: Make 6 Zerglings
  • @100 Vespene gas: Research Metabolic Boost (Gas mining)
  • Continue building zerglings (Zergling Production)
  • 15/16 3rd hatchery @ natural or main
  • Optional: @100% natural: Sunken Colony
  • Zergling production or drone production according to the state of the game.
  • 4th Hatchery when your economy allows it. If you build about 12 Zerglings and 1 Sunken, this is ~27 supply.
  • Evolution Chamber slightly before your opponent's spire finishes (Gas mining) (Evolution Chamber Timing)
  • @50% Evolution Chamber: Start adding Creep Colonies for Spores (Number of spores and spore placement)
  • @100% Evolution Chamber: Morph colonies into Spores and research +1 carapace or +1 missile attack. (Importance of Upgrades)
  • Gradually add Spores to a total of 4 per base depending on the number of Mutalisks your opponent has.
  • @50% of carapace upgrade, add Hydralisk Den and 2nd Extractor.
  • @70-75% of carapace or missile attack upgrade, start teching to Lair.
  • Get your Hydralisks upgrades, Muscular Augments and Grooved Spines.
  • Start producing Hydralisks.
  • When your first upgrade finishes, research the second of it and add another Evolution Chamber to research the first of the other non-melee upgrade.
  • When your upgrades are ~60% (Evolution Chamber) start upgrading Lurker Aspect.
  • Once you have roughly 4 control groups of Hydralisks and 2 Lurkers, move out.
  • Grab your third base, and if you can afford it a 4th behind your attack.
  • Optional: Overlord Speed, Spire, Hive, Zerglings, burrow. (Scouting and Adapting)

Early attack with mass Hydralisks[edit]

The build order below starts with a 12 pool opening. This attack hits more than 2 minutes earlier than the "Heavy upgrades with lurkers" variant. This one is less easy to transition from as you don't have a lair, no lurkers and less upgrades on your hydralisks.

"2 base mass hydralisk"
  • 9 Overlord
  • 12 Spawning Pool
  • 12 Extractor
  • 11 Hatchery @ natural
  • @100% Spawning Pool: Make 6 Zerglings
  • @100 Vespene gas: Research Metabolic Boost (Gas mining)
  • Continue building zerglings (Zergling Production)
  • 15/16 3rd hatchery @ natural or main
  • Optional: @100% natural: Sunken Colony
  • Zergling production or drone production according to the state of the game.
  • 4th Hatchery when your economy allows it. If you build about 12 Zerglings and 1 Sunken, this is ~27 supply.
  • Evolution Chamber slightly before your opponent's spire finishes (Gas mining) (Evolution Chamber Timing)
  • @50% Evolution Chamber: Start adding Creep Colonies for Spores (Number of spores and spore placement)
  • @100% Evolution Chamber: Morph colonies into Spores and research +1 missile attack.(Importance of Upgrades)
  • Gradually add spores to a total of 4 per base depending on the number of Mutalisks your opponent has.
  • Moments after researching +1 missile attack, add a hydralisk den.
  • @100% hydralisk den: add 2nd extractor and get your Hydralisk upgrades, Muscular Augments and Grooved Spines.
  • Aim for 30-32 drones, and start producing Hydralisks.
  • Once you have roughly 3 control groups of Hydralisks, move out.
  • Continue producing Hydralisks and rally them towards your opponent.
  • If you can afford it, you can start ground carapace or tech towards a Lair.

Build Order Clarification[edit]

Gas mining[edit]

  1. After your first 100 Vespene Gas, needed for researching Metabolic Boost, take your Drones off gas.
  2. Slightly before you build your Evolution Chamber, put drones back on gas (if you can afford it), such that you will have ~150 gas by the time the Evolution Chamber finishes. This allows you to immediately start upgrading +1 Missile Attack or +1 Carapace.

Zergling Production[edit]

Depending on your opponent's build order (9 pool vs 12 hatch) you will need to build Zerglings to defend yourself. React accordingly. It is absolutely not necessary to go up to 12 Zerglings before you place your third Hatchery, if you can get away with it, build less Zerglings and more drones! Due to the fact that this build order includes speed for your Zerglings, it also allows you to be very aggressive in case your opponent gets greedy!

Evolution Chamber Timing[edit]

It will be important to know the Spire timings of certain build orders as you won't always have an Overlord on time to spot it. This is especially true for a Lair first 9 pool, which will have a Spire completed by ~4:35 minutes into the game. Without losing any units, your supply should be around 24 at this time (~12 Zerglings, ~12 Drones). You can also remember this point in time, as it will coincide with your third Hatchery being almost complete (90-95%) if you placed it at 15/16 supply (= roughly at the same time as your natural Hatchery finishes). A speed first 9 pool will have its Spire completed about 25-30 seconds later. Just for illustrative purposes, the Spire timing of a 12 pool/12 hatch will be around 5:20 (completed). Even if it's cross-spawn (on Fighting Spirit for example), your Overlord should arrive on time to spot this.

Spore Colonies[edit]

Depending on how many Mutalisks your opponent has coming towards your main, and the shape of your economy, you should spore accordingly. By having excellent Spore positioning, you will need less Spores to defend your entire base and they will protect each other making it more difficult for him to snipe a single one. A trick you can use to make it slightly more difficult for him to snipe Drones, is to position your Overlords on top of your Drones such that they obscure vision of them.

Here are Spore configurations that achieve both these purposes reasonably well*:

(* In all cases there are small spots that the Spores can't reach, but it will be insanely difficult to abuse them without getting hit in the process in a real game.)

Main base[edit]

In case of the Main base, to protect both Hatcheries you can not get away with building your first 2 Spores near your mineral line. It is necessary to build:

  1. The Spore closest to the mineral line that's located towards your natural = Spore 1.
  2. The middle one of the 3 Spores that's away from your natural = Spore 2.

The Spores build near the mineral line should overlap a single hex (horizontally) with your hatchery. You can easily remember the horizontal distance between the outer spores, as it should be the exact same as the width of an Evolution Chamber.

Natural[edit]

In case of the naturals it is recommended to first build the two Spores in the mineral line or you risk losing a lot of drones to Mutalisk harass. The 3 Spores that are located near the mineral line and Extractor are always 2 hexes away from each other (= a single Creep Colony fits in between them). The 4th Spore is positioned on a straight horizontal or vertical line that goes through/across the Hatcheries.

Importance of Upgrades[edit]

Hydralisks deal explosive damage. Since Mutalisks and Zerglings are small units, Hydralisks deal only 50% of their full damage against them. Normally it will take 120/5 = 24 and 1 (due to regeneration) instantaneous Hydralisks shots to kill a single Mutalisk. With +1 this changes to 22 shots. Now if the Mutalisks have +1 these numbers change to 27 shots for unupgraded Hydralisks and back to 25 shots for +1 upgraded Hydralisks. As you can see, you or your opponent having even a single upgrade lead can mean the difference between a Mutalisk dying in ~22 versus ~27 shots.

Versus Hydralisk damage Hydralisk damage +1 missile attack
Mutalisk 5 5.5
Mutalisk +1 carapace 4.5 5
Zergling 5 5.5
Zergling +1 carapace 4.5 5

Armor upgrades are also really effective against both Zerglings and Mutalisks. Against Zerglings their effectiveness is due to them dealing relatively low damage. Versus Mutalisks it has a lot of benefit in reducing the damage of their bounces.

Normally it will take 80/15 = 16 and 1 (due to regeneration) attacks from a Zergling to kill a Hydralisk. If Hydralisks have +1 carapace this changes to 21 attacks. On the other hand, if Zerglings have +1 melee attack and the Hydralisk has no armor upgrades yet, it will only take 14 attacks to kill it. As you can see, you or your opponent having even a single upgrade advantage can mean the difference between dying in ~21 versus ~14 attacks!

Versus Zergling damage Zergling damage +1 melee attack
Hydralisk 5 6
Hydralisk +1 carapace 4 5

Scouting and Adapting[edit]

There are countless ways to lose during the mid game, all are based on your inability to gather scouting information once your opponent has Mutalisks. Some examples include:

  • A Zergling all-in while you are Droning and Sporing.
  • 2 or 3 base Guardians (with Sunkens as defense).
  • An early Lurker attack abusing your sim city against you.
  • Defensive Lurkers.
  • A Hydralisk timing attack behind the Mutalisk opening.
  • Pure Zergling, Mutalisk play.
  • 3 base Mutalisk back stab with a huge Sunken line as defense.
  • Sunken push at your natural
  • ...

As you can tell, it is and will be important to keep scouting with Zerglings (single or plural) to keep track of how many bases the opponent is grabbing, how many Zerglings the opponent's building, how many Mutalisks s/he has, and if s/he's making any other buildings (how many Hatcheries, Hydralisk Den, Queen's Nest, Hive, Greater Spire, Evolution Chambers).

  • If the opponent is on a single base and not expanding, or is on 2 bases but not getting any Drones at his natural, you should suspect the opponent producing a ton of Zerglings. A lack of an Extractor at his natural in case of 2 bases is also an indication of this. Prepare for a Zergling all-in or a Sunken push. Your reaction should be to get a few Sunkens (2-3) close to your Spores (you do not want Mutalisks to snipe them). Since you should have 3-4 hatcheries, you have the capacity to make a lot of Zerglings to stop this push. In emergency situations you can always cancel buildings or upgrades you have started if you don't have the minerals to build the Sunkens or Zerglings you need to survive.
  • If the opponent has a lot of Drones at his natural, does or doesn't have a third, is getting quite a few Sunkens to defend your push, suspect Guardians. If you happen to get a Zergling into his main, look for a Queen's Nest/Lair upgrading to a hive. The opponent will have a decent (2 base) to large number (3 base) of Mutalisks but it will be less than if s/he were to stay on Lair tech as he will need to save up gas for his Guardians. Your counter will be to get a Spire yourself for Scourge. Be careful with researching too many upgrades, you might want to skip Lurkers and Overlord speed so you have plenty of gas for Scourge. 2 Scourge kill a Guardian (which is a 75 gas for 200 gas trade). Try your best to clone the Scourge!
  • If the opponent's on 2 base, doesn't have too many Drones nor any extra Hatcheries and the opponent's Mutalisk count is rather low as well (single stack), the opponent might be going for a Lurker timing attack against you. In this case (compared to the Zergling all-in or Sunken push) the opponent should be mining gas from her/his natural as Mutalisks and Lurkers are too gas expensive on 1 base. Spotting a Hydralisk den in this case, should confirm this. You can counter this by getting a few Sunkens at your front since Sunkens are extremely effective against Lurkers due to their high health and high damage output. Be sure to invest in Overlord speed such that you can counter attack when you want to.
  • If the opponent's expanding to 3 bases or more, Droning really hard and the opponent's Mutalisk number isn't too high, you can suspect the opponent's going for Lurkers as well. The key will be to spot them morphing, defending one of her/his expansions, or to see the Hydralisk Den. Your reaction should be to get Overlord speed such that you can safely move out and attack. Be careful though of engaging near chokes or ramps as Lurkers can be really deadly in these situations. If the opponent has too many, it will be better for you to to expand yourself and tech to Hive. There's only a few things that can counter a lot of Lurkers (Ultralisks, Plague, Spawn Broodling, Mutalisks, your own Lurkers). If they're protected by Dark Swarm even Mutalisks are useless and in Lurker vs Lurker battles, whichever are burrowed first will win. So there's no way to engage burrowed Lurkers with unburrowed ones.
  • It will be difficult to tell whether the opponent's going for Hydralisks her/himself behind her/his Mutalisk opening. Some telltale signs include: a low number of Mutalisks (one single stack), multiple Hatcheries on 2 bases with plenty of Drones, if a 3rd no saturation or only some on minerals and a Hydralisk Den. This timing attack is supposed to hit right before your Hydralisks production really starts to kick in. Most likely you will have invested a lot of resources in Spores and upgrades and currently only have Drones and Zerglings. The earlier you know what he's doing, the easier it will be to stop.

You should build Sunkens for defense as they are really effective against Hydralisks once you have 4 or more. The problem you will encounter is the lack of space to build them as your natural is already jam packed with Spores and 2 Hatcheries. You'll also have to build them close enough to the spores or they can get sniped by the Mutalisks. You can try to counter attack with Zerglings to force the opponent's Mutalisks to go back home. Then you can engage the opponent's Hydralisks with another group of Zerglings. The opponent's Hydras will not have any upgrades so they are still very vulnerable to Zerglings. The key will be to separate the opponent's Mutalisks from Hydralisks. You could try to research burrow and burrow a large group of Zerglings right outside your natural. Then when the opponent engages your Sunkens, you surround the opponent's Hydralisks from both sides. Finally, if you can scout it on time, you could also just try to cut drones for earlier hydralisks.

  • Against pure Mutalisk, Zergling play it will be important to be careful with moving out too early. Try to scout his number of Zerglings, you do not want to get surprised by an overwhelming number the moment you attempt to move out. 2 or 3 Lurkers will invalidate ANY number of Zerglings the opponent has, keep them close to your Hydralisks however as you do not want the opponent to snipe them with his Mutalisks. It'll also be important to add spores once you want to move out as 4 or 5 are no match for >20 Mutalisks. If the opponent's stubborn and is really getting huge numbers of Mutalisks, you can tech to Hive for Defilers. Plague (Mutalisks) and Dark Swarm (need Lurkers!) absolutely destroy Mutalisk Zergling play. Units under Dark Swarm are also invulnerable to Sunkens!
  • If the opponent's getting an enormous flock of Mutalisks and a ton of Sunkens to defend her/his natural and third, it is wise to tech to Hive. You can try to expand to a third, but it might be difficult as the opponent will have 3 locations to attack with full force while you have to divide your army and invest in tons of Spore colonies. You will need Defilers with plague which is very effective against Mutalisks, and dark swarm against the Sunken line.

Countered By[edit]

Opponents with excellent Mutalisk micro, multitasking and game knowledge.

Mentality[edit]

Your goal in the game should be to go into the mid game with at least a slight advantage. If you are behind already, the game is most likely over unless you can surprise your opponent. This means that you will have to play smart and think well about your choices: will you be aggressive and make a lot of Zerglings early on, or will you be defensive and focus on your economy?

Having a larvae advantage[edit]

If your opener has a big larva advantage over your opponent, it is generally a good choice to force your opponent to make Zerglings as well. You will cripple his economy more than you do your own. Because you have more Hatcheries, you will also be able to recover faster. A good example is when you play against a 9 pool that went speed first. Ideally you can force him to make 2 Sunkens with your Zergling aggression besides all the Zerglings you're forcing out of the opponent. In the meantime you are abusing the fact that you have double (or even triple) the amount of Larva and squeeze in a (few) Drone(s) now and then. If you play well, and don't just throw away all your Zerglings you will have a large economical advantage and will still pose a threat to the opponent despite the opponent being the one with air superiority. The Zerglings you keep alive can force his Mutalisks to stay at home if the opponent's plan is to expand and if the opponent only has a single sunken left over and not a lot of Zerglings her/himself, you can threaten the opponent's main base as well.

Equal amount of larvae or at a slight disadvantage[edit]

When you don't have a larvae advantage, you will have a difficult time doing damage with Zerglings as 12 pool can not punish any single build in the early game. Your goal will be to get away with as few Zerglings as possible while investing into your economy until you get your larvae advantage through a third Hatchery. You will compensate your greediness by investing in a sunken (or two). If your opponent is investing heavily into Zerglings, this is beneficial to you as long as you can hold his aggression without losing any drones. As soon as your larvae advantage from your 3rd Hatchery starts kicking in, you can be aggressive if your opponent has lost his Zergling advantage during one of his attacks. This is an opportune time, as your 3rd Hatchery should finish 30-45 seconds before the opponent's Spire does (12 pool/12 Hatch). During this time it is important to not let the opponent get away with building too many drones as you want to delay the opponent from saturating her/his second gas if possible.

On the other hand, if your opponent is being really greedy right from the start, you can try to go for a Zergling all-in with your 3 Hatch build.

Notable Maps[edit]

There are certain aspects that make a map more suitable for a Hydralisk style.

  • On a 4-player map it can take a substantial amount of time before Overlords can scout all the locations. In case of a cross-spawn this will allow you to hide your build much longer than on a 2-player map.
  • Maps with large air distances between bases. A map like like Python can be disastrous as it will require you to build Spores much sooner than normal.
  • Maps with closed-off mineral lines (little air space surrounding them). The 12 and 6 o'clock positions on Python have tons of open air space surrounding the main mineral line, which will be hell for you in trying to prevent your opponent from harassing your Drones.
  • Enough space for you to build your Hatcheries and Spores in the desired configuration.


Solid Maps
Fighting Spirit Heartbeat
Fighting Spirit Heartbeat


Fighting Spirit is a 4-player, the main mineral lines are well-protected, it has a 3rd base close-by and the air distance between bases is quite long.

Heartbeat is very similar to Fighting Spirit in these aspects, but the mineral lines of the natural are well-protected as well.


Bad Maps
Colosseum Circuit Breakers Destination
Colosseum Circuit Breakers Destination


Colosseum has a lot of open air space around the naturals. The main base also has a cliff that will allow guardians to lay siege to it.

Circuit breakers's close third is a mineral only. The base next to it does have gas but features easily harassable mineral lines (compare this to Fighting Spirit). There's also bridges in front of the naturals that will be very difficult to cross when you decide to move out and attack.

Destination is a 2-player map, its mineral lines are horrible to defend and there's very narrow bridges in different locations on the map that will allow mutalisks to snipe tons of your units when you decide to cross them.

Extra Resources[edit]

Replays[edit]

CrispyDrone ZvZ Hydra
Description: Showcasing hydralisks in ZvZ games
Featuring: CrispyDrone (HydraRock) playing D-C+ ranks on iCCup.
Date:  2017 Patch:  1.16.1 Size:  2.15MB Download


VODs[edit]

Tutorials and Guides[edit]