Blade's Overview of HotS ZvZ
We are here with a complete overview of Zerg in all the match-ups: ZvT, ZvP and ZvZ. Blade's first Zerg guide came out when HotS was released, but now a lot of things have changed. Each match-up plays differently now and this guide will go over as many styles as possible. Though we'll feature a few all-ins, we'll mostly be focusing on macro play. We will go over standard ZvZ/ZvP/ZvT as well as what Blade personally does in ZvZ/ZvP/ZvT. This section is going to go over ZvZ in its various forms. The strategies covered here include: upgraded Ling style, Roach/Hydra, and Muta/Ling/Bane/Swarm Host. This will have the build orders for each and how to best utilize the compositions. I will also be going over defending various all-ins such as the 14/14, 10 pool Bane, or a Ling/Bane all-in.
Zergling/Baneling/Mutalisk/Swarm Host Build
This is the general build order that Zerg wants to use when executing this style. Some things can be changed, e.g., Zerg can go gas before pool if they choose.
When the Zerg player starts Swarm Host production, they want to have eleven to twelve Swarm Hosts and twelve to fifteen Mutalisks. Use the Swarm Hosts defensively and unless you really feel like you can be aggressive, don’t push with these. After 1/1 finishes, you should get +2 carapace but not +2 melee. This is when the Zerg player should tech to Hive, right after he starts +2 carapace. You won’t get another melee upgrade until you are at Hive and researching +3 carapace and Ultra armor. Armor is more important for Ultralisks then melee because Ultralisks already dish out a ton of damage even without melee upgrades. You need that gas elsewhere as it’s very precious.
With the Muta/Ling/Bane, you should be moving around the map, making sure to stay away from Infestors while having Ling/Bane in flanking positions: this makes engaging a max 2/2 Roach/Hydra/Infestor push super easy to hold off. This composition will beat a max 200/200 Roach/Hydra/Infestor 2/2 timing attack if you flank well and not have everything bunched in a ball. This point is very important; if you bunch everything in a ball and get caught in Fungal, the results can be devastating.
The transition is Ultralisks and eventually Infestors. The reason that I use Muta/Ling/Bane/Swarm Host instead of pure Mutalisk into Roach/Swarm Host is for the mobility. A common response from the opposing Zerg is that he will attempt to counterattack with some Roaches or try to deny the fourth. This composition allows you to be a lot more mobile and deal with these very easily. Another reason that I use Muta/Ling/Bane over Roach is for the upgrades; the Zerg should be prepared to tech to Ultralisks and Roaches rely on the Swarm Hosts being with the army to kill a Roach/Hydra/Infestor army.
Common Reactions to Swarm Hosts
- That Zerg player will attempt a 200/200 Roach/Hydra/Infestor 2/2 timing attack.
- That Zerg player will go Swarm Hosts himself.
- That Zerg player will make a Spire and go Mutalisks.
Now lets go over how to deal with these three common reactions. If your opponent attempts a max Roach/Hydra/Infestor timing, the Swarm Host player should have Ling/Bane spread around and Swarm Hosts in a good defensive position. This way, the attacking Zerg player will be hit from all sides, Ling/Bane from a few, the Locusts from another, and Mutalisks from yet another. If executed properly the defending Zerg player should hold this every time. A fun fact, I have held this push with 150 army supply when my opponent was maxed with 2/2.
If the Zerg player attempts to go Swarm Hosts himself, you already have a huge advantage. The Zerg player who opened up with Roaches now has to deal with both your Swarm Hosts and your Mutalisks. Therefore his Swarm Host count won’t be as high and the Mutalisk player can start mass expanding. Muta/Ling/Bane just gives the Muta player so much mobility that your opponent can’t take additional expansions; your opponent can’t take another base, defend it from Mutalisks, and defend from the Muta player's Swarm Hosts all at the same time. As the Mutalisk player, you should keep your Swarm Hosts in an aggressive position (this is only when your opponent goes Swarm Hosts as well) on the player without Mutalisks and take expansions. Then, tech to Hive, get Ultra/Ling/Bane and add more Mutalisks to the composition.
Eventually the Muta/Swarm Host player will have such a better economy due to complete map control that the defending Swarm Host player will eventually die to Ultra/Ling/Bane/Muta/Swarm Host. If the Muta/Swarm Host player wants, he can add in Brood Lords to deal with the ground Swarm Hosts, but it shouldn't have to come to that.
The last common reaction to the Muta/Swarm Host players composition is for the other Zerg to tech to Mutalisks himself. Their goal is to kill the Swarm Hosts and regain map control. This shouldn’t ever really work because the Muta/Swarm Host player will have +1 attack and he can add more Mutalisks to supplement his count. This strategy is more of a desperate gamble from an opponent and shouldn’t work, even if un-scouted.
Three Queen Roach Build
|Three Queen Roach|
Build will differ from here on out depending on what your opponent does, but assuming its Spire-centric play from your opponent:
Pressure opponents third with roaches and:
- +2 missile attacks ASAP
- Hydralisk Den during the attack.
- one Spore per base as the attack ends
- ~10 Hydras to be a mobile Mutalisk defense
Muta into Roach + (Hydra or Infestor)
Once Mutas are out you need to do several things in the following order of importance:
- Don't die (if he's rallying Roaches at you, keep your Mutalisks attacking his Roaches and not his Drone line until you're sure you can hold)
- Deny his third
- Do economic damage
- Deny Overlords (this sometimes falls under three, but basically if you're in his base and his mineral lines are unprotected, don't kill his Overlords, kill his Drones first
- Don't let him have spotting Lings anywhere on the map
Defending a 14/14 Ling/Bane All-in
This section is going to overview defending the 14/14 all in with Hatch first or Pool first. It’s the same regardless of how you open and there are multiple ways to do it. This all-in is commonly used on four-player maps because of how hard it is to scout. The build order above is what this will look like once you see that the other Zerg is doing a 14/14 all-in.
On a four-player map you should always make a set of Lings as soon as your Pool finishes to scout your opponent. This can give the defending Zerg player a lot more time to prepare for the all-in.
When a Zerg finds out that his opponent is going for a 14/14 all-in, he needs to immediately place down a Spine, then continue with constant Ling production and keep adding queens; alternatively that Zerg can place a Baneling Nest first. The only downside to this is it’s a lot easier to make a mistake, such as losing the Banelings to a Ling or two and then it becomes a lot harder to hold. The easiest method is to keep Queen production, a Spine Crawler and consistent Lings. Make sure to spread the Lings out as much as possible so that one Baneling doesn’t kill them all. If the defending Zerg defeats that first push, it only becomes easier the longer the game goes on.
Holding 10 Pool Baneling with Hatch First
The best way to hold a 10 Pool Bane with Hatch first is to go 15 Hatch, then 15 or 16 Pool and delaying gas until 17. Once you scout that there are Zerglings on the way, cancel the gas. The next important step is to identify whether your opponent is going for a regular 10 Pool just to kill your natural Hatchery or for the Baneling all-in version. If the other Zerg keeps sending Lings and doesn’t take an expansion, then he’s going to be doing some sort of all-in, one that most likely includes Banelings. If this is the case, do not cancel the other Hatchery.
Once the Lings get to the defending player's base, he needs to spread Drones and make a Queens and Lings from both Hatcheries, then a Spine Crawler. If the defending Zerg player went for 15 Hatch 16 Pool, he will have just enough minerals for this. If the defending Zerg player goes 15 Hatch 16 Gas 16 Pool, then the best way would be to make Queens, as many Lings as they can afford and spread Drones. Send three to four Drones to the natural to buy time and get some mining going as well. If the defending Zerg player spreads correctly, once the two Queens pop, and with some Lings, the defending Zerg player should defend this and be ahead. The 10 Pool Bane player has to severely cripple the defending player's economy; killing just ten Drones isn’t enough damage because the defending Zerg player will have two Hatcheries and will be able to Drone back up very fast. As long as the defending Zerg player doesn’t drop to two to three Drones with no minerals, the defending player will be ahead.
Defending a Two-Base Ling/Bane All-in
A common all-in in ZvZ is the two-base Ling/Bane all-in. This all-in can be done opening with either Hatch first or 15 Pool. Normally, when a Zerg player does this attack, it will leave that player's base as soon as his Ling speed is about to finish.
To scout for this all-in, constantly check the other player's Drone count. A Zerg player should always have an Overlord near the opponents' natural where he can peak in to see the Drone count. This can give a ton of information and you should always compare it to your own Drone count. If there are few or no Drones, there is an attack incoming; if it’s similar then that player is Droning and not planning an attack.
Still, you will sometimes be caught by complete surprise by this all-in. However, on some maps it still can be countered by putting up three Evolution Chambers at the natural. Maps like Star Station and Bel'Shir Vestige are two maps where a Zerg can do Evo block and even if caught by complete surprise, once those three Evolution Chambers are down, his timing will be delayed by a lot as he has to kill the Evolution Chambers, which takes quiet a bit of time.
On a map like Akilon Wastes that has a larger choke, it’s a bit harder to defend if caught by surprise. A Zerg player should always have at least one set of Zerglings at his base that he can morph into Banelings as soon as possible if the other Zerg player does a Ling or Ling/Bane timing. Trying to connect to the other player's Banelings with one to two Lings is something to try, but have Banelings spread out so that you can take out his. This is a very control oriented engagement; spread out Banelings and don't let a group of Zerglings die to one Baneling. If the other Zerg player is continuously adding in reinforcements, throwing down another Spine or two is something to do as well.
You can tell your opponent has given up the attack once by spotting a lack of units moving out from the your opponent's base. At this point, the defending player can choose to continue Droning or perform a counterattack.