Vultures are weak units in terms of brute force due to the concussive damage type of their attack. They are however extremely cost effective and with the Spider Mine and Speed upgrades can become deadly in the hands of competent players.
In early game Mech TvP, Terrans often find themselves facing pressure from Protoss' more powerful units, left only to defend Zealots with Vultures and Marines. In Mech TvZ, Terrans often attempt to harass their opponent with Vultures and usually have to face a number of Zerglings that try to defend.
It's in both these cases that Vulture Micro comes into play; where Vultures lack in health they make up in speed and by making use of this advantage a skilled player can quickly dispatch Zealots and Zerglings. While this article deals primarily with fighting these two units, this technique can be extended to attack any sort of unit in this hit and run fashion, though units with the "large" type, like Dragoons, take less damage from concussion based weapons.
The Vulture Patrol Strategy involves using the Patrol command's lack of cooldown to have the Vulture move, fire, and retreat without slowing down. Noting the picture above this is done by:
- Right clicking past the unit that is being attacked (1),
- Pressing Patrol within the Vulture's range of the unit at the angle shown(2). Why this spot? By clicking patrol here, vultures will shoot while slightly turning 15 degrees or so, sometimes they don't even seem to turn. If you patrol behind your vultures they will sometimes turn around, and you don't want that happening. If you click less than that spot (closer to points 1 or 3) vultures will sometimes not shoot.
- Retreating (3).
It is important that the Vulture does not slow down as this will let the enemy unit catch up and get a hit off. Therefore Terran must right click move the Vulture as soon as it fires. Once this tactic is mastered however Terran will be able to effectively harass Zealots and other "small" type units.
Performing this without the Ion upgrade is thought to be a lot easier, as you have enough time to run your vulture after doing the patrol movement. With the Ion upgrade, as vultures are faster, after you issue them to patrol, they will turn around shoot and move away, usually making bigger turns (unlike without speed). It still can be done with speed, but you have to be way more careful. Speed also lets you kill speedy zealots easier.
Besides laying mines to protect Tank lines and gain control and vision over the map, Vulture mines are often used in a more aggressive manner. In this case, Terran players surround Dragoon groups with Vultures and lay mines in such a way that the Dragoons can not fall back or target fire all the mines.
Basically the success of this move relies on fast hand speed; the player must surround the Dragoons so they can't easily retreat without being blocked by the Vultures, lay mines in all sides of the Dragoon group if possible and retreat the Vultures when a mine is about to explode so that they don't get destroyed by the splash damage.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEUD-u5vxeI This video clip shows you how to use Patrol instead of Attack Move to micro Vultures.
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJouj2BHjyA&feature=channel_pages Instructional video on how to use patrol to micro vultures against melee units
- Vulture Control.scx Useful training map for practicing Patrol Micro
- Skyhigh_Vulture_Micro.scm Mine laying micro map made by ankurra. [TL thread]
WCG Korea 2009 - Bisu vs Flash on Heartbreak Ridge Flash showcases some amazing Vulture mine micro.