4M (vs. Zerg)

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Marine, Marauder, Medivac, Mine, also known as 4M, is the standard in the Terran vs Zerg match-up. It was first seen near the launch of HotS and is now the go-to macro style of professional players. This guide covers the two most common openings that lead to 4M and two possible ways to enter the midgame with 4M. The guide goes into detail on how to handle Zerg play styles at all stages of the game.


This strategy mainly uses two Build Orders:

Many VODs will provide additional informations.

Reaper Fast Expand[edit]

Reaper Fast Expand
  1. Small SCV cut
  2. End SCV cut ASAP after this starts
  3. Barracks will not be making units for a small time after this
  4. Make six total Hellions and then two Widow Mines

The Reaper FE is one of the most popular openings in any match-up as Terran. It allows for both early aggression with a highly micro-able unit, thorough scouting of an enemy's base (and of the map in the case of TvT and TvP), and an elegant balance of early gas spending and mineral saving which allows for a relatively fast Command Center.

Because of the Reaper FE, many Zerg players will elect to take a very early gas and mine just 100 gas in order to get Zergling speed. This allows for them to shut down the Reaper if it is still on their side of the map when it is finished. The standard Reaper FE that leads into 4M play moves straight into Hellions and then into 4M. This allows for the Terran player to deal easily with the speed Zerglings that he forced while he is powering up to his mid game of choice.

Reaper FE is a very map dependent opening. Map features to look for that enhance the build are cliffs that you can jump up into the main without having to be in the natural (Neo Planet S or Star Station), naturals with both a cliff and a wide normal entrance (Bel'Shir Vestige), or other features that allow multiple paths of attack for the Reapers. Maps that are not very good for Reaper FE include those with no jump-able entrance to the main from outside the natural and a single path into the natural (Whirlwind).

Some Zerg players will send two Zerglings to your natural while you are harassing them with your Reaper(s). The goal the Zerg has with this move is to kill the SCV building the command center. If this happens and you do not have anything at home to repel it, you will be at a disadvantage. To prevent this from happening, either leave one Reaper at home near the building command center or build the command center inside your main base.

Your first Reaper should harass any Drones in the Zerg natural and then find a way into the main to check the Zerg's extractor timing. It is important to note that Zergling speed can be finished as soon as three minutes and 15 seconds after the Extractor is done. You want your Reapers to be gone before this time is up. The primary goal is not to kill Drones or cause damage, but to force the Zerg into getting very fast Zergling Speed or to punish him for not doing so. Make sure to check for the amount of gas he has mined before ending the harass. Common timings for Zergling speed to be completed are 5:50-5:55 with hatch gas pool play or 6:05-6:25 with hatch pool gas.

At least 10-20 seconds before Zergling speed can possibly be done, your Reapers must vacate the enemy base. If all went well, you forced out an early Extractor, several Zerglings, and maybe even netted a few Drone or Zergling kills. Maybe he even wasted money on an early Spine Crawler. Things can only go horribly wrong if you lose one or even both of the Reapers. The retreated Reapers can safely clear out watch towers and check for isolated units around the map if you desire. Their current goal is to join up with the Hellions that are going to be coming out of your factory. It is very advisable to join the Reapers up with your first Hellions in a defensive formation at your ramp to defend possible Speedling aggression (in the form of 15+ Speedlings). This is necessary as you presumably will not have a wall at this point.

The placement of your first Bunker should be a map-dependent choice. Maps that have a larger opening (11 squares wide) to the natural expansion favor a bunker that is placed near or adjacent to the ramp leading from your natural to your main. Depending on the map layout, you will be very uncomfortable if the Zerg decides to hide a pack of Speedlings on the map and uses them to back stab you as you move out with Reaper/Hellion. On maps with a smaller opening to the natural (9 squares), you can wall off in time (reactively if needed even) without too much worries.

When the first four Hellions come out of the Factory, join them up with the two Reapers to check around the map for a third Zerg base. If you find a third base, you do not need to prepare for a two base tech play and can exercise map control. Kill anything at the watchtowers and stop any tumors on the edge of creep while you wait for your fifth and sixth Hellion to join up with the other Hellions and two Reapers. Once you have all six Hellions and the two Reapers, you can hit a timing where you can be more aggressive onto Creep than would normally feel safe (this timing ends once the Zerg has some kind of tech besides Zergling speed, usually Banelings, Mutas, or Roaches). This aggression must be done cautiously as Speedlings can surround your force very quickly when you are on Creep. If you feel like taking a risk, you can poke onto Creep to attack Queens or kill Drones if he has any at his third base. Focus on not allowing a Zergling surround to occur and do not try to trade units at this time. Realize that you should be aggressive and that if he does not have a scary amount of lings, you will need to punish his greed in order to not fall behind. A great way to judge how aggressive to be is to check the Drone count at his third base. If he seems to have too many Drones, you can count on him being low on Zerglings; this is an opening to punish his greed. As his tech comes into effect, pull the units back to help defend your third. This is the final and most important purpose of the six Hellions. These hellions are the only thing you have to stand on when trying to secure your third base. If you lose the hellions before this time, you will run into a lot of trouble (and probably lose the game) trying to establish your third vs Speedling or Baneling play by the Zerg. Ideally, this force of six Hellions (and the two Reapers, though they are not as important after this timing) can join up with your Marines and Medivacs as +1/+1 and Stim come into play to execute a 11:30 Creep clearing poke as you transition into the mid game.

If at any point in the opening you spot Roaches, cut Hellion/Marine production and focus on Mines/Marauders. Add one to two additional Bunkers over the standard single Bunker. If the Zerg goes for aggression of the Speedling or Baneling variety, do not stop making Hellions. Mines are simply not the answer to such play and you will need the splash damage of the Hellions in order to deal with the swarmy nature of such plays. Keep in mind that scouting such attacks before they hit is the most important part of defending them. Any aggression that does not include Banelings should prompt you to pull SCVs before he arrives in order to land a strong repair on your defensive structures. Consider emergency placement of wall-off buildings and bunkers (most Terrans seem to favor a total of three bunkers when facing early one or two base aggression). The most key part of defending aggression is positioning of all the critical units. You do not want to lose Bunkers or Hellions because SCVs were not pre-pulled or Hellions were out on the map and have to fight their way home.

Reaper FE Variations[edit]

Here are a few timing notes on some small variations you will see from the standard 12 Barracks 12 gas Reaper build:

  • 11 Barracks into 11 gas has the Reaper starting at ~2:41
  • 12 Barracks into 12 gas has the Reaper starting at= ~2:48
  • 12 Barracks into 13 gas has the Reaper starting at = ~2:56

12 Barracks into 12 gas is only five minerals behind a 12 Barracks into 13 gas; it will gain you a Reaper almost ten seconds faster.

With 11 Barracks into 11 gas you will sacrifice SCV and you will expand five seconds later; yet, it will gain you a Reaper seven seconds faster.

CC Rax Gas[edit]

CC Rax Gas
  1. can be on 16 as well
  2. 2x before Reactor
  3. right at 100 gas
  4. right at 50 gas (swap to Factory and then make a Tech Lab on Barracks)
  5. Make six total Hellions and then two Widow Mines

CC Rax Gas is one of the greediest common build used at the professional level in order to set up a 4M mid game. In fact, the only greedier build would be a CC Rax CC build. CC Rax Gas relies on getting a very strong mineral economy set up as fast as possible in order to support Hellion harass/defense while powering up your infrastructure for the mid game. While a Reaper FE demands the correct reaction in terms of decision making and micro from the Zerg; the CC Rax Gas opening will demand solid macro and a robust mid game from your Zerg opponent. If you feel that your strengths are in the mid game and not the early game, this is the opening for you. It is surprisingly easy to hold this opening against aggressive Zerg play as long as a few critical things are kept in mind.

Your first decision when executing this opening is where to put the Command Center, either in your natural or as part of your wall-off in your main: Both have advantages and disadvantages. Some players use a scout timing to decide (outlined in next paragraph) and others make it as a meta (out-of-game) decision. As your first buildings are constructing, you will have to take extra care to protect your initial SCVs from Drone harass. Right click an SCV onto any Drone that is either inside your main or in your natural if opting for a low ground Command Center. If a Drone finds your Command Center as it is building, you need to send two SCVs from your main into your natural. Tell one SCV to attack the Drone and have the other SCV take over building of the Command Center while sending the damaged SCV back to your main to mine. While somewhat intricate, you will become extremely apt at this maneuver if you do this opening often.

There are several accepted scout timings to choose from when opening CC first. On two player maps, some players opt to scout after their Supply Depot is done to see if they can build a low ground CC (spot a Hatch first, build low ground CC), or high ground (against 10 pool). The more normal timing is to scout at 16 or 17 with the goal of checking on the Zerg's gas. If the Zerg player does go for gas, check for a third base at the six minute mark. If you do not see a third base you should leave the SCV outside of his natural to spot incoming Speedling or Roach attacks. Some players choose to scout after Orbitals have been started just to determine the starting location of the Zerg on a four player map. These same players would not scout at all on a two player map.

Once you have completed the Barracks, you will be making two Marines before starting a Reactor. These Marines should be enough to stop any slow Zergling aggression. If the Zerg player decides to send six slow Zerglings to your natural before Hellions are out, you will need to either use a few SCVs in conjunction with the Marines or - if the Marines are damaged or killed before SCVs can join - pull back into your main. If the Zerg decides to poke with eight or more Zerglings and you opted for a late Bunker, you are in trouble. Be careful when cutting corners with Bunker timings.

If all is normal, your two Marines will be enough to deter his handful of (usually two to four) early Zerglings and your Hellions will be quickly out on the map. Your first two Hellions should be used to clear out any Zerglings near your base and to check for a third base on the Zerg's end. Spotting of the third base is a key scouting consideration and should be something that you never skip. If you see a third base, you can do some mild harass of his Creep spread, or if he has too many Drones at his third, roast some Drones. Do not let these Hellions die. Much as in the Reaper FE opening, these Hellions are the backbone of what allow you to expand to a third base and progress into the mid game (or in the case of a two base push style, they are critical splash damage needed in your push). When you have four Hellions, it is acceptable to do a small raid. This aggression is at your own risk. As long as he has made enough Zerglings so that he could kill this group of Hellions, they have no need to really go onto Creep at all; in fact, going onto Creep if there any chance at all to lose your Hellions is an error and you will lose many games if you do this. The only semi-reliable prompts for doing a raid with six Hellions include seeing either way too many Drones at his third base or a six Queen opening (as this means the Zerg will have a late Zergling speed upgrade). Once you have six Hellions, you will either be sending your third Command Center to take a third base or getting ready to hit some kind of Stim timing attack off of two bases. Either way, work your way home and keep the Hellions alive. Some players will opt to go for eight to ten Hellions instead of the normal six. This type of play is especially strong against a Zerg going for an aggressive Zergling or Zergling/Baneling play and, conversely, weak against any type of Roach play.

If at any point in the opening you spot Roaches, cut Hellion/Marine production to focus on Mines/Marauders. One choice you can make is to add one Marauder before Stim against a Zerg that went for gas. This gives you a lot more firepower against Roaches that show up uninvited. Adding one to two extra Bunkers over the normal one that you will be adding as you move into the mid game is crucial when facing Roaching players. If the Zerg goes for aggression of the Speedling or Baneling variety, do not stop making Hellions. Mines are simply not the answer to such play and you will need the splash damage of the Hellions in order to deal with the swarmy nature of such plays. If a Zerg player has opened with Hatch-gas-pool, you will want the wall at your natural to be complete before six minutes (5:55 to be exact). Keep in mind that scouting such plays before they hit is the most important part of defending them. Any aggression that does not include Banelings should prompt you to pull SCVs before he arrives in order to land a strong repair on your defensive structures. Consider emergency placement of wall off buildings and Bunkers (most Terrans seem to favor a total of three Bunkers when facing early one or two-base aggression). The most key part of defending aggression is positioning of all the critical units. You do not want to lose Bunkers or Hellions because SCVs were not pre-pulled or Hellions were out on the map and have to fight their way home.

Flash Style Engineering Bay Block vs Pool First[edit]

Flash's Engineering Block
  • 10 Supply Depot [1]
  • 14 Engineering Bay [2]
  • 14 Barracks [3]
  • Stop building Eng Bay near 99% complete
  • 17 Supply Depot
  • 20 Command Center
  • 22 2x Refinery
  • Bunker at top of Ramp
  • 27 Factory
  • Reactor [4]
  • Command Center
  • Swap Reactor to Factory and begin Hellions
  • Tech Lab on Barracks
  • Stim
  • 2x Engi Bay [5]
  • 3x Barracks
  • 2x Refinery
  • Starport
  1. Scout with this SCV
  2. Engi at Zerg natural
  3. at your ramp
  4. Pull 3 SCVs out of Gas for now
  5. place 3 back into Gas

In some games, as seen in MLG especially, Flash would open with a 10 supply and then scout. If he scouted a late Hatch or a Pool first, he would block the Zerg's natural with an Engineering Bay and go into a 1 Rax FE. If he scouted the Hatchery started already, he would go into a CC first.

This type of build is very safe vs 10 Pools. If you try a style like this, make sure that you do not finish the Rngineering Bay and then that you cancel it seconds before it is destroyed. This type of play really forces the Zerg to avoid doing mild aggression into greed as he has to use his early Zerglings to either clear out his natural or attack. If he chooses to attack, you will have a wall off. Note that this only works on 2 player maps.

Transitions to the Mid Game[edit]

Reactor Hellions and Third Command Center[edit]

Reactor Hellions and Third Command Center
  • Command Center [1]
  • Start Reactor Hellions now
  • Tech Lab on Barracks
  • Stim
  • 2nd Refinery
  • 2x Engineering Bay
  • 2x Barracks [2]
  • 2x Refinery
  • +1/+1
  • Starport [3]
  • 2x Barracks [4]
  • Combat Shields
  • Should be establishing 3rd and adding a bunker at 3rd around now [5]
  • @50% +1/+1 get your Armory
  • +2/+2
  • Benchmark: At 11:30 you should have ~130-140 food if you opened CC First and ~120-130 food if you opened Reaper FE
  • Your next moves will depend on the Zerg's playstyle but universally, you will need to add the following items:
  • Command Center
  1. you should have 3 CC, 1 Barracks, 1 Factory, 1 Reactor, 1 Gas, 1 Bunker
  2. Reactors asap
  3. Reactor ASAP
  4. Reactors ASAP
  5. ~10:00
  6. Tech Labs
  7. Tech Lab for Drilling Claws
INnoVation wisely kept his six Hellions alive and is now using them to their true purpose: pushing back Zerglings that try to deny him from taking his third base.

This is the most standard way to play. Right before the Hellions in the opening build are being made, you will add your third Command Center. After the Hellions have started, you should add a Tech Lab to the Barracks and start Stim. As you start Stim, add your second Refinery. The next step is to add two Engineering Bays, followed by two Barracks, then two more Refineries, then a Starport and another two Barracks. There are several ways to accomplish these steps that are not detailed below. They mainly differ in how the Factory and Reactor from the opening are utilized. Some players like to use the Reactor that the Factory was on to allow a faster first two Medivacs. Others prefer to build a Barracks on the Reactor that was used by the Factory, while having the Factory add on more Reactors for future Barracks. Still yet, others leave the Factory in place and have the other buildings make their own add-ons.

Tanks Before Hellions[edit]

Tanks Before Hellions
  1. small SCV cut
  2. end SCV cut ASAP after this starts
  3. Barracks will not be making units for a small time after this

One interesting trick that FanTaSy used vs TRUE is to scout the Zerg's main again to check the gas just after he starts his Factory, but before he has started the Reactor. Seeing that TRUE was indeed mining gas and had not just gone for fast speed, he started a Tech Lab instead of a Reactor to add a Siege Tank before going back into Reactor Hellions. This proves to be crucial in holding the two base speed Zergling plus Baneling attack that TRUE does shortly afterward. While the Siege Tank makes on the Tech Lab that the Barracks donated, the Barracks produces the Reactor. It makes for a very seamless transition right back into the Hellion into 4M play that FanTaSy wanted to do from the start of the game.

FanTaSy pulls his Reapers back then until around seven minutes and then he suicides them to scout the tech choice of TRUE. From there, he follows a very standard mid-game build, getting a very fast third Command Center and fast two Engineering Bays. He positions his units to deal with the attack before it arrives. He uses the four Hellions that he has - numbers five and six still in production - to scout out the area outside his natural looking for Zerglings and Banelings (he sadly loses them to a surround but that should not have happened). Important to note, he has his Siege Tank on the high ground and every Marine in his main behind raised Supply Depots (he does leave four marines in the bunker at his natural). After crushing the attack, he executes a double pronged attack with eight Marines in a Medivac and six Hellions. He takes his third behind this and plays out much like any other 4M game.

TaeJa goes for a similar concept against KangHo. He does not get a scout off on the Zerg's gas, but I believe he was metagaming KangHo's style and planned to make the Tank regardless. He actually just makes a Reactor on the Barracks and builds Marines out of it and the Factory makes its own Tech Lab. He switches them after having a Tank finish.

To execute this transition, simply get a Tech Lab onto your Factory to make a Tank and have a reactor on the Barracks before that Tank is done. You can opt for the faster reactor and slower Tech Lab as TaeJa did or for the faster Tank and the slower Reactor as FanTaSy did. Start a third Command Center as the tank is building. Once you have the Tank complete, swap the Barracks and Factory add-ons, begin Reactor Hellions, and start Stim when gas allows. Take a second gas after you start Stim and then add two Engineering Bays. Once you start +1/+1, you will want to add two more Barracks, two more Refineries, then a Starport, then two more Barracks. This brings you to the very standard mid game check point in the 4M style. Keep in mind that you invested more in your defense early on so your play will be slightly weaker vs a standard Zerg while slightly stronger vs aggressive ground styles.

In WCS Korea Season 1 Code S Ro4 INnoVation vs Symbol Game 6 face off in cross spawns on Whirlwind. INnoVation had just lost to a few all-ins and modifies his play with an interesting combination of standard Hellion play and a Siege Tank. His build looks very normal with the Factory taking the Reactor and pumping out four Hellions and the Barracks making a Tech Lab. Once the first four Hellions are done and the Tech Lab completes he swaps the buildings and makes a Tank. I love this adaption to the map and starting positions and it easily helps INnoVation to hold the very late Roach/Bane bust that hits his third base at ~12:30.

Starting the Mid-Game[edit]

Your opening will provide you with many crucial pieces of information, but in the case that you have not completely pinned the Zerg on his mid game style of choice, proceed with caution but determination. Focus on a 11:30 timing that is opened by you getting 1/1 and Stim. These upgrades line up with your production kicking in and is a crucial timing with the 4M playstyle. Be wary of any Zerg that has shown you Roaches before this timing, or that was harvesting an usual amount of gas in the earlier part of the game. Special attention needs to this style of Zerg. Use your Hellions, without losing them, to scout out his third base and to see a Drone count there. If there are no Drones, or very few Drones, at his third by 8:00, you should be very concerned about an aggressive play coming from the Zerg. If there is still few or no Drones at 9:00, it is certain that aggression is coming. If you feel that an aggressive play is coming, you will need to deviate from the goal of the 11:30 timing and focus on reacting to the Zerg's specific flavor of aggression. Do note that if the Zerg is committing to some kind of aggressive three base all-in this can be a game ending move. Pay attention to what your Hellions are able to see. In extreme cases, you can attempt to scan for a tech building or to to measure his economy. This is unreliable and should only be done when you are completely blind and do not want to make a blind decision.

Assuming that you have not seen signs of an aggressive style coming from the Zerg, you will push out at the 11:30 timing mentioned above. The goal of the 1/1 Stim timing is to contest map control. Behind every action you do during this push, keep the true purpose of map control in mind. Do not sacrifice or trade units. Doing so will leave you without any map control, and therefore, is counter productive to your goal. Your main targets will be Creep Tumors, stray Overlords, and Queens that have overextended. This push will force the Zergs hand and he will have to show you his unit composition at this point. At this point you can modify your play and mindset to better match his playstyle.

Reacting to the Zerg[edit]


Once 2/2 is done INnoVation aggressively corners an army that overextends then pushes towards the Zerg's fourth base through the middle.

When you push out at 11:30 with 1/1 and Stim. Your goal is to contest map control from the Zerg. If you are out on the map, he cannot be harassing with Mutalisks. If you are out on the map, you can deny Creep and prevent future Creep from spreading. Do not make the mistake of overextending onto Creep during this timing; if you are on Creep, the Zerg will easily be able to win a battle. Do not hesitate to lift up all units into Medivacs and speed boost back to safety if the Zerg starts to gain a favorable position in battle. The goal of this 11:30 timing is do as much 'free' damage as possible to the Zerg. The objective is to kill Creep Tumors. Use Medivacs and Mines to ensure that you do not lose any units. The main target is Creep and you should be using Medivacs and Mines to ensure that you do not lose any units. The real attack is still yet to come and this aggressive poke helps to make that attack stronger.

Once you have 2/2 upgrades, your aggression should kick into high gear. This particular phase of the game will favor the player with better mechanics. Both players have options to harass and counterattack, and both players have scary armies to throw at each other. Many Terrans favor rallying across the map and doing large pushes that seem to never stop at this stage. Establish your fourth base and add three more Barracks with Tech Labs and a Factory with Tech Lab (for Widow Mine burrow upgrade).

Other mid game production composition are possible besides the standard 8/2/1 Barracks/Factory/Starport setup described in the above paragraph. Flash uses a 7/2/1 (five Reactor'd Rax and two Tech Lab'd) that really favors and focuses in on the constant rally style of aggression. Polt has shown a 8/3/1 style where he gets his second Factory rather quickly (with the Tech Lab for the Burrow upgrade) and then a third Factory with a Reactor so that he can make five Widow Mines at a time.

After the Zerg moves to Hive tech, you need to establish if he is going for Brood Lords or for Ultras. Ultras are by far the most common but you cannot assume them. Against both Ultras and Brood Lords, you need to begin sending drops as much as possible. You require a heavy Marauder count vs Ultras and (at least) a second Starport vs Brood Lords. Try to maximize the cost effectiveness of every engagement and keep up on your production. It is rare to need to go to a fifth base but do not let yourself be caught mining out your natural and third with no fifth established. On either four or five bases, you have the option to begin a transition to Ravens/BCs/Vikings (not necessarily all three, usually either BC/Viking or Raven/Viking at first). Be careful in doing so as it does leave you a bit weaker until you have reached a certain critical mass. If you feel that you have a slight lead but his defense is too strong for you to kill him, you might be in an ideal situation to transition like this.

Infestor Based Play[edit]

You will be focusing much less on pushing and much more on dropping (and scouting) when the Zerg goes for an Infestor style. Use small groups of Marines to push out and kill Tumors at the 11:30, 1/1 Stim timing, but be ready to flee at a moments notice. Eight Marines and one Medivac is a great group to do this with. Keep your army active on the map but not on Creep. On Creep you are very vulnerable to Infestors that just out of vision. Be wary of moving up mid-map ramps as they are another location that Infestors can abuse a clumped up army due to vision created by the high ground mechanic. Each time you see his army, back off and send a Medivac drop into one of his bases. Keep your harass units alive while active (run when he comes and go back in when he leaves). Once 2/2 kicks in, you can begin to do double Medivac drops and/or drops in multiple locations. Expand behind your harass and be prepared to deal with Hive tech level aggression.

Keep in mind that the strengths of Infestor based play include the ability to defend pushes that run onto creep and a faster-than-normal hive. The answer to both of these items is drop play. With drop play as your focus, make the rest of your play support that idea. Adding a single Viking in the early mid-game can be extremely effective in reducing spotting Overlords that will help him defend drops. Use small portions of your army to kill creep and force his main army to show itself; this will allow you to drop the best positions when he is vulnerable.

Some Zerg players will mix in a massive amount of static defense in order to counter the intuitive response of drop play from the Terran. Against such players, you should hold off on the drop harass and instead focus all of your energy into a pre-Hive-tech timing attack. Once the Zerg has finished his Hive, it will be about two minutes before hive units are in play. This is the time to attack. Ling/Bling/Infestor is much less robust at holding a large push at this timing than Muta/Ling/Bling, so as long as you push carefully you should win or trade in such a cost effective way as to hurt his Hive tech timing.

Korean Terrans seem to favor a fast second Factory once their third base is up vs this style of play. Many Terrans will normally make Barracks six through eight before the second Factory, but when facing Infestor play, this is not the case. Also note, Marauders are much more useful here than against a Muta/Ling/Bling player, as they can be used to snipe Infestors before a battle.


The normal 11:30 push out with 1/1 and stim will not work vs this style of play. You want to play the role of the defender more so than usual. In an ideal world, you should know that the Zerg has chosen to go Roach/Hydra well before you have made too many Widow Mines. In that case, begin making Tanks out of two (or even three) Factories. Realistically, you will often have to switch your mindset very quickly in a game when you find out he went for this composition. In such a case, do not hesitate! Switch your Factory to a Tech Lab and get a second Factory started. It is a good decision to go more Marauder heavy in a situation like this (up to four Tech Lab Marauders instead of the normal single Tech Lab Barracks).

If you have the multitasking and feel good about your defense, you can opt to do some drops. This is, however, risky as, unless the Zerg overextends, the opponent will be able to take advantage of some mid-game timings where his army is able to either break your third base or force way too much to be lost in holding it.

Your overall goal is to build an extremely cost effective army and hit a timing while he is transitioning to Hive. Once you have acquired around 170-180 food and six or more Tanks, you can begin to push out. If he has not started a Hive yet, do not push even at this timing. Keep the goal of hitting him before Hive tech in mind at all times. An army based around six to ten Tanks is simply impossible for a Roach/Hydra army to fight on even terms. Do not get out of position and make sure to hit before he is able to change his composition, but not a minute sooner.

If, for some reason, you enter into the mid game with a sizable advantage and the Zerg goes for a Roach/Hydra play, you can transition into pure bio. Pure bio is very strong vs this kind of play as long as you fear no timings that the Zerg might use against you.

Hive Rush[edit]

To better understand this strategy we will take a close look at a game of YoDa's. YoDa vs RorO from WCS Korea Season 1 Code S Ro16 2013 to be exact. RorO skipped Infestors and went straight to hive tech and Ultras. His Hive started at 11:45. He used mass Speedling and a few Banes to hold the 11:30 timing from YoDa, and more importantly, counterattacked constantly as his Hive built to keep Yoda on the back foot. YoDa denies the fourth of RorO over and over but never hurts the three base economy before Ultras are already on the way. As soon as he spots the Ultralisk Cavern, he attempts to do mass drops, but by then it is too late and RorO begins to get a return on his risky investment into extremely fast Ultras.

YoDa needed to identify the strategy of RorO by around 12 minutes at the latest and do doom drops and/or multi-pronged drops. Denying the fourth over and over is not enough to hold back the surge of army power that the Zerg will get by around the 18-19 minute mark. The conclusion here would be if you see a Zerg on mass upgraded Speedlings with an extreme absence of gas units to Scan for a hive or use a Medivac to scout for his Hive. Just after 12 minutes YoDa spots a huge army of Zerglings and has seen RorO attempt to take a fourth over and over. His conclusion should be that RorO is saving gas and not trying to win on three bases. The only time that mass dropping will not work very well is if they have added a lot of static defense. In the case of that, simply deny his fourth base as much as possible, and add on your extra Barracks with Tech Labs as soon as possible (you want four total tech lab'd Barracks).

In general vs this style, it is ok to fight small battles but avoid big fights in the mid game. Once you have 3/3 and a good mixture of Marauders in your army, you can be more aggressive and push in a more direct way.

Aggressive Play[edit]

Hatch Tech[edit]

CatZ Proxy Hatch[edit]

ROOT_CatZ popularized this proxy Hatch build as a unique reaction to a high ground CC first. If a Zerg wants to do this build, he will scout you early, ID the high ground CC, and then plant a proxy Hatchery right in your natural. He will then try to contain you with Spines, Creep Tumors and Zerglings. Often times, this proxy Hatchery is his third Hatchery, started before a Pool. Some Zergs will attempt to force an over reaction by planting a Hatchery and then not committing with Spines or units. Do not overreact and abandon your normal build before confirming that they are going to commit.

A precise reaction that has been seen at the professional level is to cancel the gas and throw down a second barracks. Make sure to do a slight SCV cut so that you can get out one Marine at 18 of 19 food. Pull two SCVs into your natural, one will start a Bunker in a safe spot in range of the hatch and the other will attack the Hatchery. Add a third Barracks and at 25 of 30 food take your first gas. Begin walling your natural off as soon as your Bunker is done. You should have no trouble holding the Zergling push that usually follows this kind of play.

14+ Speedling Raid[edit]

This can hit anytime after Zergling Speed is done (usually between 5:55 and 6:20). When going CC Rax Gas, walling the natural is enough (as already mentioned). Do not overestimate the lead you have against this. The Zerg can take his third at a normal timing and Drone extremely hard behind a Speedling contain. He will be behind in some fashion (later upgrades, later tech, or usually less Creep), but it will not be a significant disadvantage. The Terran player needs to wait for four to six Hellions before moving out. Going all the way to eight Hellions can be a sound decision to reclaim map control.

Holding this with Reaper FE is fairly straight forward. Simply stay near the ramp with your Hellions and reapers and place a Bunker near the ramp with a good sim city of Depots around it.

Please note that the VODs below are examples of handling the attack with an incomplete wall. The ideal solution is to have your wall up in time, but this does not always happen and these are great examples of how play if you find yourself in that situation.

Two Base Baneling Bust[edit]

The key factor in holding this will be how well you use your Hellions. You need to keep them alive and get good hits off on the Zerglings. Do not be afraid to stay on the high ground and even wall the top of your ramp with a thicker-than-normal wall vs variants of this that hit especially fast.

Roach Warren on 18[edit]

This type of Roach attack hits very early and is fairly all-in. If you went for a CC Rax Gas opening, you need to wall as soon as possible and have SCVs ready to repair before the first Roach volleys hit. Focus on producing Marauders and micro your SCVs both to keep them alive when under fire and to keep your Bunker alive when it is under fire.

Roach Warren on 26-28[edit]

The idea and mindset for this defense is the same as the above. Keep in mind that this will hit a bit later but with more Roaches and it is much less all-in for the Zerg. Some Zergs will add in Burrow to this attack (both making it more all-in and a bit stronger).

Roach/Bane Bust[edit]

You need a lot of Bunkers to hold this, four to five. Your second and third Barracks should be close to completed when this hits. Leave those two Barracks naked and produce Marines out of them. Your first Barracks should have swapped to make a Tech Lab and should now be making Marauders. Your Factory needs to make constant Mines.

Make sure that the Bunkers you made are spread more than enough so that the Baneling damage AoE can only hit one at a time. Keep your Hellions and Mines behind your wall. This ensures that single Zerglings cannot trigger the Mines and that the Hellions remain alive. Some players like to poke a bit out of their base with Hellions to try to snipe Banelings as they approach, but I encourage you to only do safe actions with your Hellions. If your control is to the point that you can attempt to snipe Banes without losing a single Hellion, then do it. Just know that the Hellions are the only solution available to you if a hole is made in your wall and Zerglings swarm in.

Lair Tech[edit]

1/1 Speed Roaches Timing With a Fake or Late Third[edit]

Bunkers. You want three if going for Mine production (keep the Mine production constant) or two of them if going for any type of early Tank.

Two Base Roach/Nydus (With or Without Queen)[edit]

This style can be played with a fake third base, so do not rule it out unless you see some kind of saturation at his third. You will want to have three Bunkers at the front of your natural and some Marines patrolling the edges of your bases. You must watch your minimap a lot. Focus your production on Marauders and do not hesitate to pull SCVs to kill Nydus Worms or to help defend. This can be especially important if a Nydus does go up and you need to fight in your main away from Bunkers.

Two Base Roach Drops[edit]

Leave all your extra buildings naked (you can sneak in a second Tech Lab on a Barracks. Keep your production constant and focus on Marauders. Pull all your SCVs in your main to help Tank where he drops. If you see this coming far in advance, you can place a few Bunkers in your main to help; however, this is an unlikely situation.

Three Base Baneling Bust[edit]

Wall your natural and have a few extra Bunkers in place. Do not cut Mines at all. Pre-spread your bio with Marauders more towards the front. Focus on keeping your Hellions alive so you can search for massive groups of Zerglings outside your base. If the Zerg does not spread his Banelings, focus fire Mine hits onto them for maximum damage. To spot this coming, you will see no gas at the Zerg's third and a lower than normal Drone count.

Three Base Speedroach/Speedbane Bust[edit]

Without Siege Tanks, this play is almost impossible to hold if they do it correctly. Even with Tanks, you will want a decent sim city and no errors in macro. Additional Bunkers are important just as in almost every ground based defense, but without Tanks you stand very little chance.

A Tank-less defense of this play would rely on Bunkers, well spread Mines, and Marauders. A minimum of six Bunkers in key locations would be needed. See the TaeJa vs Snute VOD below for an example of a Tank-less defense. Do note that Snute hit late and that if he had hit at a better timing he would have destroyed TaeJa.

Be aware that Zergs can try to disguise this play with a fourth Hatchery. A key point in your scouting will be to note that he is on four gas (or less) even though he has four Hatcheries.