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Blade's Overview of HotS ZvP

[e][h] Blade's Overview of HotS Zerg
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HotS Strategy, Advanced
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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 page will go over the Zerg versus Protoss in all its forms. We'll go over Swarm Host play, Roach/Hydra, fast Viper, and Muta/Corruptor. Then we'll learn to react to and deal with certain all-ins and Gateway expands. As a bonus, I've included an extra Roach all-in that can be done against Gateway expands.

Facing Gateway Expands[edit]

When facing a Gateway expand, there is always the possibility of a 4-Gate timing designed to kill your third base. This attack can be held relatively easily as long as the Zerg player sees it coming. The easiest way to deal with this attack is to prevent the Pylon from going up, which is possible as long as the Zerg player has Speedlings looking around.

A good way to prevent it is to have six Zerglings scouting around for common Pylon locations and making sure to keep tabs on the Protoss army when it moves out. If you don't manage to deny the Pylon, you'll be forced to make a ton of Speedlings and overwhelm the push before he gets many warp-ins done.

Throwing down a Roach Warren is never a bad idea at around 6:15-6:30 if you think the Protoss is going to be very aggressive. Otherwise you can just wait start Lair then get a Roach Warren and Evolution Chamber.

This will play out like a normal ZvP if the Protoss doesn’t do a 4-gate timing. That is the only other common builds that the Zerg player needs to worry about when facing a gate expand are Stargate play or Dark Templar. Thus, if the sacrificial Overlord sees nothing I highly recommend one Spore Crawler per base. A way to know if the Protoss is doing some weird early DT or stargate build is his expansion timing; if he’s doing a tech build with a tech building before expansion, his expansion will start a lot later then normal (the normal gate expand player takes his natural at 3:45-4 minutes).

Macro Builds[edit]

Swarmhost/Roach/Hydra Build[edit]

Versus Forge Expand
Versus Gate Expand
  • 9 – Overlord
  • 15 – Hatchery [1]
  • 16 – gas
  • 16 – Spawning Pool
  • Pool finishes – 4 Zerglings and 2 Queens [2]
  • 100 gas – pull workers from gas and start Metabolic Boost
  • 5:45 – 6:00 – Take third
  • 6:30 – get 2nd gas and resume mining from 1st gas
  • 7:00 – 7:20 – start Lair + Roach Warren + Evo [3]
  • 100 gas – Ranged attack
  • Lair finishes – Hydra + Infestation Pit + 2nd Evo
  • Make some Hydras if Stargate then 12-14, no Stargate make 12-14 Swarm Hosts
  • Range attacked finished – start +2 and +1 carapace from other Evo
  • 12:30 – Hive
  • Hive finishes – Vipers + Ultra Cavern (or Spire)
  1. can be Spawning Pool if you want
  2. Lings must be scouting for potential Gateway pressure
  3. Roach Warren can be made sooner if you think a timing is coming

If your opponents opens with a Forge expand, get two sets of Zerglings so that the first set can take watch towers while the second set can look for hidden Probes. The first two Lings should also look behind your Hatcheries so that if the Protoss player tries a Cannon rush, it won’t catch you by surprise.

The Hydralisk Den and Infestation Pit are built at the same time so that Zergs can get Hydralisks out for Stargate units and then follow up with Swarm Hosts. Skipping Hydras for Swarm Hosts versus Stargate play is not recommended because you won't be able to move out if the Protoss has Stargate units roaming around. The Zerg player should make ten or so Hydralisks if there are Phoenix or Void Rays out on the field. The amount of Hydras really depends on how heavy air the Protoss is going; If he's continuously making air, more Hydralisks are needed. If it’s only some Phoenix and nothing else, don’t go too Hydra heavy, instead going for more Roach heavy with Swarm Host support.

The 12:30 Hive timing is a timing I found to be absolutely perfect for Vipers. If the Protoss player tries to do a pre-Viper timing, the Zerg player should NEVER die to it. I discovered that this is the sweet spot when going for Swarm Host play. Swarm Host/Roach/Hydra will crush any pre-Viper timing if the Zerg starts the Hive at 12:30. If the Zerg starts it at 13:00 or later, he might potentially die to such a timing.

The Ultralisk Cavern is because Ultralisks are really good in ZvP. With Viper support, they are even better: just watch out for Feedback. Ultralisks are also great as a remaxing option after losing the Roach/Hydra force (with some Hydralisks if the Protoss is going Void Ray heavy).

Keeping Swarm Hosts alive is very important. Losing them because you're out of position is bad and will lose you the game if it happens early enough. Zerg players should always unburrow and retreat or be ready to retreat if they need to. There is no reason to let Swarm Hosts die.

A Zerg player can also do a Mutalisk or Brood Lord switch depending on the Protoss unit composition. For example, If the Zerg sees a heavy Zealot/Archon/Immortal/Colossus army, Brood Lords are a good answer to that. On the other hand, if a Zerg sees Stalker/Colossus/Void Ray, Ultra/Swarm Host/Hydra/Viper is a better response. The addition of Infestors never hurts either.

Muta/Corrupter PvZ Build, Soulkey's Version[edit]

Basic Build
  • Follow the gasless 3 hatch build until 8 minutes. By 8 minutes you need to identify the following:
    • Protoss third timing
    • Protoss tech choice (more Stargates? More ground focus?)
  • If Protoss takes fast third (~8 minutes)
    • Drone up!
    • defend against his expo tech (DTs/drops/Phoenixes are commonly used to secure a third base for Protoss). Luckily almost everything can be defended with Spores.
  • Protoss is going for Airtoss (3+ Stargates)
    • double expand by 9:30
    • double spire and 1 evo@ 9:30

Important scout timings:

~4 minutes - if the nexus isn't down by 4:30 your opponent is pressuring or bad
~6 minutes - scout opponent's tech opener and identify what adaption you want to use
~8 minutes - scout third to verify if fast third is taken or not
~9:30 - scout game focus of opponent (ground vs air styles, double upgrades? What is being chrono'd?)

Roach/Hydra Fast Viper Build[edit]

Basic Build

Same early game as above for Forge/Gate expand

  • 7:00 – 7:20 – Lair + Roach Warren + Evo
  • 100 gas – ranged attack
  • Lair finishes – Hydra + Infestation Pit
  • Ranged attack finishes – second Evo and start +2 range +1 carapace
  • 10:30-11:00 – start Hive [1]
  • Hive finishes – Vipers + Ultralisk Cavern
  • Add Evos to get energy for Vipers + third Evo for melee upgrades
  • Vipers finished with energy - attack
  1. HyuN's version is 9:30-10 minute start Hive if you want to do it exactly like him)

The opening for this build is the same for Gate expand and Forge expand as I put in the Swarm Host build. So if you want to see the early game, look at those for reference.

The Roach/Hydra/Viper build is a build that was popularized by HyuN and is a very strong build. If the Protoss player does not have Templar out, this attack can straight up kill him unless the Zerg makes a blunder. If the Protoss player does have Templar out, it can be a bit hard to engage as the Zerg wants to avoid letting Vipers get Feedbacked. The Ultralisk Cavern is just a way to remax off of Ultra/Ling or Hydra/Ling once the Zerg player loses the Roach/Hydra force (hopefully keeping Vipers alive still, not a must though).

Ultras in general are a strong unit in ZvP and again Zerg can go into Brood Lords instead of they choose. They can also stay Roach/Hydra/Viper, but once the Protoss gets Templar out, this composition gets worse and worse the longer the game goes and I highly recommend switching out of it.

The Roach/Hydra/Viper composition also allows the Zerg player to do triple Evo upgrades and the Zerg player should be doing this. On the contrary, it is a lot harder to do triple Evo upgrades with Mutalisk or Swarm Host due to the gas intensity of them.

Bonus All-In[edit]

2 Base Speed Roach All-in (Only versus Gate Expand)[edit]

Basic Build
  • 9 – Overlord
  • 15 – Hatchery
  • 16 – Extractor
  • 16 – Spawning Pool
  • 17 – Overlord
  • 100 gas – Metabolic Boost (take 2 guys off of gas)
  • 6:00 – Lair + 2 gases + Roach Warren
  • Lair finishes – Roach speed
  • Roach speed finishes - attack

This is an old all-in that was used in Wings of Liberty, one that can be very hard to deal with for Protoss when they Gateway expand. A Gate expand player won’t think of anything suspicious not seeing a fast third (and shouldn’t even scout the third until he uses hallucinated Phoenix). So this all in won’t be a thing that comes to mind when a Gateway expand doesn’t see the fast third. Most Protoss players also open Stargate or DT tech, which makes this timing even stronger. If the Protoss opens Robo, this all-in shouldn’t work unless the Protoss isn’t making Immortals or delays the Immortals for a while. Try to keep the Roaches hidden until speed is about done and then start engaging at the natural.

Do not attempt this build on maps where it's easy to take a third base, such as Akilon Wastes. This map features few ramps and chokes so it's hard to engage up a ramp thanks to Force Field. Thus, the Protoss wall will usually easily hold unless he's being extremely greedy. It's also difficult to engage the third because of the collapsible rocks and again you won't ever get in because one Force Field pretty much blocks that choke off.

Late Game Engagements[edit]

Late game ZvP is a very reactionary stage and the player who engages the best will win the engagement when it happens (unless Zerg is still at roach/hydra). This is the stage where the Zerg player can be doing tech switches from ultra to brood lords or surprise mutalisks.

Some Key Late Game Unit Compositions Versus Protoss[edit]

When Protoss is going Void Ray/Colossi/Templar, Ultra/Hydra/Swarm Host/Infestor/Viper will be a strong composition (you can exclude Infestors or Vipers if you choose, but having both can be really nice). The Ultra/Swarm Hosts are to deal with the splash while Hydra/Infestor deal with the Void Rays. Vipers are used to abduct Void Rays or Colossi.

Sometimes in a late game scenario, the Protoss will attack with this heavy Colossi/Void Ray/Templar army. If you kill most of it and the Protoss still has a ton of Void Rays left over, Zerg can attempt a huge Mutalisk switch, which will normally spell out gg for Protoss. Beware that you should only attempt this if you have a big bank. Mutalisk switches are also good versus Protoss who aren’t making Archons or Templar or if he loses those units in a trade.

If Protoss is going more ground heavy, for example Colossi/Templar/Archon/Immortal/Zealot, you can transition into Ultra/Brood Lord/Viper/Ling. The Viper's Blinding Cloud is very strong, especially if Protoss tries to Blink in to snipe Brood Lords; then Ultra/Ling/Brood Lord will clean up the rest. Beware though that Protoss may try to base trade if you go heavy Brood Lords. Ultra/Ling/Bane/Viper/Infestor can also be pretty good versus this composition and Fungal with Blinding Cloud can really clean up the Protoss army.

Finally, Nydus play can be very good on maps like Whirlwind. You can put in Swarm Hosts/Ultras in them, kill a base and then retreat back quickly into the Nydus. This can be a good way to deal with Protoss taking expansions, keeping them on a lower base count throughout the game. It's yet another good tactic to incorporate in the late game.

Defending All-Ins[edit]

Dealing with Gateway Timings[edit]

After scouting or seeing a Gateway timing incoming (7 Gate, Phoenix + Gateway timing, Void Ray + Gateway timing), the main force for the Zerg is going to be Roach/Ling. If the Zerg sees Stargate or Void Rays, adding in some Queens and holding with Queen/Roach/Ling with a Spore at each base is the go-to build.

The sooner the Zerg player can scout the attack coming, the easier it is to hold as Roach/Ling deals with Gateway timings really well. Sacrificing an Overlord at 6 minutes and seeing the Gateways being warped in are ways to scout this all-in incoming.

Holding the Immortal All-In[edit]

This all-in has only become stronger then in was in WoL due to the Mothership Core and its Time Warp ability. The best way to hold this all-in is getting some static defense and Roach/Ling with flanking maneuvers.

Some ways to recognize that this all-in is coming is when scouting with an Overseer, the Zerg player will see 6-7 Gateways and Immortals coming out of the Robo. A Protoss player taking a third will not have 6-7 Gateways and Immortals, so this is almost a surefire sign that Protoss is doing this all-in.

The sooner the Zerg player can make Protoss use Force Fields before getting to the Zerg's base, the easier it is to hold this. If there is time, adding in Swarm Hosts is a good option, but normally there isn’t enough time for this. If you see this coming or know it’s going to happen, going straight for Hydra/Ling can hold this as well. Try to engage the Protoss army in as wide an area as possible. Engaging this army in a choke only favors the Protoss player, so avoiding a choke is necessary to hold this.

Another thing I like to do versus this all-in is get an Infestation Pit and if the Protoss takes too long, I will be adding in Swarm Hosts as time goes on while holding with Roach/Ling. If the Protoss is being held back and then the Zerg gets Swarm Hosts out, this will become much easier to deal with. Do note that you can only start Swarm Host production when he is pulling back to wait for a warp-in and you think that sneaking in some Swarm Hosts won't hurt holding the all-in.

Holding the 2 Colossi, 2 Immortal All-In[edit]

This timing is a lot easier to deal with than an Immortal all-in. What the Zerg player should do when they see this attack incoming is get Swarm Hosts and just go Roach/Swarm Host. Roach/Swarm Host absolutely destroys this all-in and the Zerg will have more then enough time to add in Swarm Hosts if they scout the Protoss player doing this build. Have the Swarm Hosts burrow as soon as you can in the direction of the Protoss army and try not to get Force Fielded in a bad position.

Some key parts to look for when using an Overseer, fast Robotics Facility, lots of Gateways (when a Protoss does a standard third, it’s normally 3-4 Gateways, with an all in this goes to 6-7).