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Glon's Guide to Zerg vs. Terran

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[e][h]ZergGlon's Zerg vs Terran
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Zerg versus Terran is a very interesting and fun match-up that requires both good mechanical skills and good decision making. It is a very positionally dependent match-up, with bad positioning from either player causing one previously equal-in-strength army to completely crush the other. For a Terran player, it is imperative to have good Marine placement and Siege Tank cover so that the two units can protect each other. When a Terran player is completely sieged up, it can be difficult to break through, but with good Zergling map presence intercepting reinforcements and setting up for flanks later, and by chipping off parts of the Terran army by picking off unsieged/badly placed tanks, a Zerg can set up a favorable position to win down the road.

The Basics[edit]

At the beginning of games, Overlord placement can be tricky, map depending. However, most maps allow players to move their first two Overlords out across the map to helpful positions. In general, you want to send at least one Overlord near the Terran player's natural, to check for expansion timings. For more information, I would suggest watching some player's stream for Overlord placement hints.

Almost all builds in Zerg versus Terran start off with a 15 Hatchery. To deal with 2 Barracks play, I would heavily suggest scouting at 15 supply with a Drone. Send both the scouting and Hatchery-building Drones from your main mineral line at the same time, one building the Hatchery at your natural and the other moving across the map to scout your opponent. Alternatively, some players opt to go for an earlier scout, sent as early as 12 supply, if they feel insecure holding off 2 Barracks play. Each player should make their own choices on each map, depending on how confident they are on holding off this early cheese.

The Basic Build


If you would like to tech
If you would like to take a fast third
  • 2 Queens (total now four) [1]
  • Take third expansion as soon as minerals are available [2]
  • 2 more Extractors at this time.
  • Generally, a player's gas progression is:
  1. Move first two Queens after inject to front of natural to begin creep spread
    (Queens 3/4 will take over injecting)
  2. Should be when Queen 3/4 are at 50-75% complete

The Early Game[edit]

I did not bother to put in exact supply counts since your build order will depend on what your opponent does. If you have to build more Zerglings, delay these timings in order to get out more Drones and not be mineral starved.

Defending the 2 Barracks Play[edit]

The very first thing you must do is identify the 2 Barracks play. With your 15 scout, move into your opponent's main base:

  • If you see one Barracks building at the top of your opponent's ramp, it's usually not a 2 Barracks play (but still could be). Generally, your Terran opponent will take his natural expansion at the 3:08 mark - if you don't see this, start getting suspicious. Send a Drone to the watchtower, just to check. Another clear giveaway is if your opponent sends more than one SCV to "scout". If so, you're probably being 2 Barracks rushed.
  • If you see two Barracks building, you've identified the build.
  • If you see no Barracks building (and no gas), keep in mind that your opponent can be doing 1 of 3 things: proxy 2 Barracks, proxy 1 Barracks to pressure, and finally Command Center first. The proper thing to do here is to search with both your scouting Drone and send one Drone from your main to check the nooks and crannies around your half of the map for Barracks play - if you can't find them quickly in the likely spots, move one of your Drones to a watchtower or a position in front of your base where you can see the pressure coming.

So now you've identified the 2 Barracks play. If you defend properly you should be fine. Keep one Drone in front of your natural, checking to make sure that SCVs don't build any Bunkers. Keep in mind that you don't want to over-pull Drones: you want to mine as much money as possible before sending all of your Drones to defend. When you see the first Bunker building, pull around five Drones. 2 Bunker rushes generally happen in stages:

Stage 1[edit]

Two to three SCVs + one Marine versus ~ 6/7 Drones. This is the initial poke by your Terran opponent, aimed at getting up an initial Bunker (if this Bunker goes up, chances are that you've lost the game). Here, your goal is to stick two Drones to his Marine, forcing your opponent to micro it back, letting the remainder of your Drones to safely kill the SCVs building the bunkers. Ideally, your goal should also be to kill the building Bunker. However, if you can't, stay calm and proceed to stage 2.

Stage 2[edit]

Multiple SCVs (depends how many Terran pulls) + 4/6 Marines versus everything you have. For this push, pull all but two Drones from your main to your natural. Immediately when your Hatchery finishes, build a Spine Crawler at the back of the base, so the Terran player cannot snipe it before it becomes useful. IF you have the money, build a Queen at your natural (this usually depends on whether you panicked in stage 1 and over pulled Drones or if you lost too many Drones by messing up your Drone micro and not pulling hurt Drones back). Otherwise, pump out Zerglings and wait for your Terran opponent to overextend. Generally, there is a timing when you have 8-10 Zerglings (+ all of your Drones) where the Bunker is not done for the Terran player yet that you can use and try and break through the Terran player's contain. It is up to you to judge whether your micro is good enough to see if you can exploit this timing. If you manage to clean up the Bunker/SCVs, forcing the Marines back, you are in a winning position for the game, and move down to stage 4. Otherwise, your goal is to defend your Spine Crawler and get it into position, continually making Zerglings.

Stage 3[edit]

This is the runby stage. Generally, players try to run eight Zerglings past their opponent's Bunker in order to pick off or stop your Terran opponent's reinforcements. Try to pick a path around the Bunker that minimizes the amount of hits you take from your opponent's Marines. This tactic can be followed up by into a 'crunch' maneuver, where you now have ~six Zerglings on the other side of your opponent's Bunker, allowing you to attack from both sides, maximizing DPS and killing the Bunker in the most effective way possible. Try to engage when your Hatchery is at ~400 health—you don't want to engage too soon, because that would mean losing to a potentially larger force. However, keep in mind that if you wait too long your opponent may choose to just focus your Hatchery when you engage him. So make sure you have some breathing room to clear out your opponent's forces.

Stage 4[edit]

Assuming that you aren't dead, you've now held off the Bunker rush. Even if you have lost 5-6 Drones, remember that you have also killed an equivalent amount of your opponent's SCVs, and you have more bases and have mined for longer. The most important thing to do here is to scout whether your opponent is expanding, taking gas for a cheeky follow up all-in, or throwing down two more Barracks for a follow up all-in play. Generally, just scouting for whether or not your opponent has gotten another Command Center is most important - if he has, play normally (keeping in mind that your opponent will be probably try to poke with ~12 Marines in a couple of minutes) with a huge advantage. If he hasn't planted his expansion, throw down Spine Crawlers (while droning), and maybe getting an extra Queen or two. If you defend the follow-up all-in (this should be relatively easy once you spot the lack of Command Center), you've won the game.

Defending Hellion/Banshee Aggression[edit]

Perhaps one of the most common strategies used for aggression when transitioning into the mid game is the combination of Hellions and Banshees to harass the Zerg while the Zerg is still trying to tech up to Lair and establish an strong economy. If you, the Zerg player, choose to go for a 2 base tech build, defending Hellion Banshee play shouldn't be a problem - you will have Speedlings out and nearly completed Lair tech to defend the Hellions. However, in general, whenever you see a Hellion/Banshee composition come out you need to:

  • Build one Spore Crawler per base
  • Build a Spore Crawler between your natural and your third (helps when jumping between bases)
  • Make ~16 Zerglings and 1-2 extra Queens
    • I prefer to get one Spine Crawler at my third (helps in case you accidentally under-make Zerglings)

Position the Zerglings to stop the Hellions from entering your natural or third. Remember, they're only there to prevent run-bys, not to chase Hellions. Basically, your goal is to defend without losing Drones until either your Terran opponent loses his units or until you get your Lair tech out. When the Terran player comes in with his Hellions, split the Zerglings, pull the Drones back, and move the Queens/Zerglings in. Queens should be used to focus down Banshees - they are the most dangerous units - while the Zerglings take care of Hellions. I prefer to not get Roaches unless I'm facing multiple Factories, a strategy by the Terran player that intends to catch you out of position. In this case, do not pursue Hellions off of creep.

The Standard Macro Game[edit]

Now that the transition into the mid-game is complete, let's look at the standard macro game. Options for the Zerg stem from what was discussed above; however, we're going to go into more depth behind the strategy of such compositions. We will not be discussing Roach/Hydraliskplay: it very rarely works if both players are of equal skill level and at relatively equal economic/army situations. So for now, let's focus on what common compositions Zerg can have in the mid game: Infestor/Zergling or Mutalisk/Baneling/Zergling. We will leave out Roaches for now - however note that many players get at least a few Roaches to help deal with early game Hellions and to supplement their mid-game army.

The Mutalisk Mid Game[edit]

Generally, this style is filled with harassment, multitasking, and counterattacks. As the Mutalisk player, you will want to sever an army in the middle of the map by cutting off reinforcements, wait to macro up a lot more units, then crush it. Drops shouldn't be too much of a problem, and can be countered easily with your Mutalisks. In engagements, target groups of Banelings at Marines and use your Mutalisks to focus down tanks (or, if it's a mech composition, stick to a counterattack strategy until you have teched to Brood Lords). In general, your goal should be to overwhelm, and this sort of play really capitalizes on any Terran mistakes or openings in your opponent's defense that allows you to swoop in and kill a base/workers or get an excellent engagement.

The Infestor Mid Game[edit]

This style requires the Zerg player to be very conscious of positioning. Being caught out of position just once can cost you the game - potentially resulting in the loss of one/two bases or several Infestors. Remember that yes, while Infestors are strong, they rely on being pocketed in a safe place out of enemy fire. Remember that when using an Infestor based composition, your goal should be cost efficiency. This means not necessarily overwhelming your opponent with units but rather having good trades with your opponent that allow you to pull farther and farther ahead after each engagement. Also keep in mind that it is usually not good to fall into the "Infested Terran trap" i.e. be careful not to blow all of your Infestor energy on Infested Terrans. Generally, this will be for a kill move at an opponent's base where he can no longer simply retreat and wait for the Infested Terrans to time out. Also, keep in mind that Fungal Growths can be very powerful, even against mech compositions. If you can take engagements slowly, doing as much damage with Fungal as possible before the fight even happens, you will be much more successful.

Creep Spread[edit]

In ZvT, creep spread defines how well the match-up is going to go for the Zerg player. If creep is covering the map like a carpet, the Zerg player is 99% of the time dominating the game and is in a good position to take it. If creep spread is constricted to just the pocket of the Zerg territory connecting the natural/third, then the Zerg player is likely in a bad spot and will have a very difficult time continuing the game into the later stages and taking engagements cost efficiently. Therefore, creep spread is a much higher priority here than in either of the other match-ups. Make sure to pay attention to Creep Tumors and spread them as much as possible - the benefits of great creep spread greatly enhances the chances of a Zerg player winning the game.

The Late Game[edit]

Currently, I would like to dissuade you from going for a purely Ultralisk composition. While it can be very effective to go for Ultralisks, then switch to Brood Lords, it is usually not effective to stick to Ultralisks as the game goes on and on (unless you have a big lead, then it really doesn't matter what you do). In general, the most optimal late game composition in this match-up looks like:

Keep in mind that you don't need as many Brood Lords in ZvT as you do in ZvP. The main threat to your Brood Lords are Vikings. Tank splash from the Tanks attacking Broodlings combined with Fungal Growth takes care of the threat of Marines easily (the Marines will be held back by the Fungals, not able to get to the Brood Lords as quickly as Stalkers can). When your Brood Lords get low on health, remember to use the Queen's Transfuse ability to heal them back up. Be sure not to let your Brood Lords or Infestors be caught out in the open, as this is how most players will lose their games. The other major threat is drop play - make sure you have 10-15 Zerglings and 2-4 Banelings supplemented by Spine and Spore Crawlers at each of your outlying bases. Remember to carefully watch for dropships that run past these defenses to an inner base that may not be as well protected (Spore Crawlers and leaving one Infestor should be sufficient to handle this threat). Other than that - focus your Fungals on clumps of units, being careful not to waste all of your energy on Infested Terrans, and don't rush into anything you're unsure about - take the late game slowly.


For a full list of tips and tricks, see: ZvT Strategical Tips.

Replays & VODS[edit]

South Korea Terran MarineKing 2013 GSL Season 1 Code S Ro32 Match. Bunker-rush from MarineKing with a great hold from RorO, into a beautiful Roach/Bane all-in.
South Korea Zerg RorO
Date: 2013-01-30
Patch: 1.5.3 BU VOD
South Korea Terran Ryung 2013 GSL Season 1 Code S Ro32 Match. Standard Macro game, with Ultralisks, Ling/Bane, and Infestor. Highlights good anti-drop management.
South Korea Zerg LosirA
Date: 2013-01-29
Patch: 1.5.3 BU VOD
South Korea Zerg Leenock Iron Squid II. Standard Macro game with Ultralisks and Ling/Bane. The Terran played Bio-Medivac, really Marine heavy.
South Korea Terran GanZi
Date: 2012-12-21
Patch: 1.5.3 BU VOD