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Glon's Guide to Zerg vs. Zerg

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[e][h]ZergGlon's Zerg vs Zerg
Strategy Information
General Strategy, Openings
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Zerg versus Zerg is a very fast paced and micro-intensive match-up. It is probably the most unforgiving of the mirror match-ups, as the smallest misclick or amount of inattention can cost you the game. Oftentimes, the things that cause players to lose games, even at the highest level, are small mistakes and losses early on that pile up and end up snow balling. As a result, it is imperative that Zerg players learn how certain scenarios can play out, so you can minimize losses and out-strategize your opponent.

Early Game[edit]

Before we even start discussing build orders: your first three Overlords must go across the map. Generally, your first Overlord should head towards your opponent's natural, the second one to your opponent's third (or some place near it that gives you as much vision as possible), and the third one to the middle of the map where there is a good chance they can spot incoming early aggression. Future Overlords can be placed at your own discretion, though it may be a good choice to leave them near your base to keep them from being picked off.

There are three basic openers that can be done in the ZvZ matchup: fast Pool (on 6, 7, 8, 10, 11), standard Pool into expand, and Hatchery first. The standard build orders for each opener will be outlined below.

Fast Spawning Pool[edit]

Opening with a 6 or 7 Spawning Pool is strongly discouraged. These builds can work but they have no follow up and are as all-in as you can get. Therefore, should you decide to go for this type of opener, it would be encouraged to open up with a 10 or 11 Pool.

Fast Spawning Pool

At this point there is a choice. You can build an extractor, working toward Speed) and early aggression OR you can take the natural expansion.

Either way you will attack with your Zerglings. If your opponent opened 14 Pool, start focusing down your opponent's building Hatchery. Your goal is to force a cancel on the Hatchery or kill any Drones used in defense. Remember that you're looking to cause economic damage here to either help you when you do a follow-up all-in later (if you took Speed) or to get ahead as your take your own expansion.

Follow-ups: The Trivial[edit]

Pull back to your natural after harassing. You should build a Spine Crawler since your opponent will have more Larva (so potentially more Zerglings). Block your ramp with Queens and when possible morph one or two Banelings for defense.

Follow-ups: Moving into the Mid Game[edit]

As a general guideline, if you killed more than two Drones or cancelled their Hatchery, you are ahead; if you forced a Drone pull but killed only one or two, you are even; if you forced a Drone pull but did not kill any and the Hatchery stands, you are far behind.

  • If you are ahead: We suggest going for two base Mutalisks. When the player that is ahead goes for fast Mutalisks, it allows him to start a snowball effect that will result in a massive supply lead. You will have far more time than normal to get your damage done before your opponent gets out Infestors or Mutalisks of their own (in which case you have a free win).
  • If you are even: Take your pick of strategy. You can go for Mutalisks, Infestor/Zergling, or Roach/Hydralisk/Infestor.
  • If you are behind: You can attempt a Baneling all-in and hope your opponent over produced Drones. However, this is a situation that relies on luck for success. Going for a Roach/Baneling all in generally will not work - even if your opponent goes for Mutalisks, they will have enough of an early lead to build defense and get their Mutalisks out. We suggest going for fast Infestors with burrow. If your opponent takes a fast third you can hope for some lucky burrowed Infestor harass while at the same time have an efficient defense with well placed Fungal Growths.

Standard 14 Pool[edit]

This is the most standard build, and if you are looking to improve, this is the build to learn and master. It can be used in any situation, on any map and can defend any all-in (if scouted in time) while also having the potential to keep up with any macro build from your opponent.

Standard 14 Pool

If your opponent takes a 14 Pool or 15 Hatchery, use your two early Zerglings to scout out your opponent's base. You can either take a Baneling Nest after your first 50 gas and research Metabolic Boost with the next 100 gas mined, though you can flip this order if you wish. The difference is that the former is safer, while the latter sets you up to be more aggressive. Enter a standard mid game!

If your opponent chooses to go for an aggressive Spawning Pool, there are several different deviations that you must memorize and react to depending on what you see. However, it is always standard to stop mining gas and/or cancel your Extractor if possible; you'll need all the minerals you can get to defend and then recover to a favorable position.


If your Opponent pulls Drones with his Zerglings
You must cancel your natural Hatchery. Generally, your goal here is simply to stall until you are able to get a sizable number of Zerglings/Queen/Spine Crawlers. Be sure to also cancel any Spine Crawlers being built before your opponent's Zerglings/Drones get to your base - any delay helps! When your opponent's Zerglings/Drones enter your base, mineral walk your Drones to your natural mineral patch, build a Queen, and build Zerglings. Try to sneak one of your Drones behind your mineral line before hand to build a Spine Crawler. As a general rule, when your Queen pops you can fight your opponent. You will have 8-10 Zerglings, and more Drones. Continue to rally Zerglings and micro as best as possible (pull back injured Zerglings/Drones, etc.). Keep in mind that it is ideal to engage when all of your minerals are spent - you will have as many units as possible at this point.

If your Opponent does not pull Drones with his Zerglings
The goal of your opponent here is to cancel your natural Hatchery. Once you see your opponent's Zerglings crossing the map with your first Overlord, immediately build an Overlord and pump out as many Zerglings as Larva permits. Grab a Queen after building your initial four Zerglings. Generally, you will want to pull four Drones with your initial four Zerglings (two Drones for each extra Zergling your opponent has over you). Continue to build Zerglings as long as your opponent does - your opponent should take a Hatchery. However, if he does not (you will scout this with your first Overlord), block your ramp with two Queens and start a Spine Crawler. Be careful to not lose Drones - if you don't lose any, you will be far ahead and in a winning position. See above for what to do if ahead/behind your opponent.

Hatchery First[edit]

Generally, this play relies on a larger map or the player having excellent micro skills to hold off early aggression. Realize that going for a Hatchery first puts you in a vulnerable position to several all-in plays. However, the early economic boost is always welcome.

Hatchery First

When your Spawning Pool finishes, grab two Queens. Again, you can build a Baneling Nest on 50 gas in order to play very safely, and then start Zergling Speed at your next 100 gas.

If your opponent goes for a 14 Spawning Pool or 15 Hatchery, play standard. You can pick the unit composition you would like to build towards.

If your opponent goes for a 6-10 pool, you're in a tough spot. At the very least, you will have to cancel your natural Hatchery if your opponent does not pull Drones (only Zerglings) and will be behind your opponent (although not so far behind that you cannot recover with a few nice plays). If your opponent does opt to pull Drones, hide two Drones behind your main mineral line (canceling your natural). Mineral walk your Drones to your natural, and clog up the ramp to prevent further reinforcements. If you can stall until your Queen and Zerglings come out, you may be able to hold off and win. However, this is a tricky situation that relies on your opponent making a mistake in order for you to win the game.

Mid Game[edit]

Playing in the mid game in ZvZ is all about reacting to what your opponent does. Therefore, this section will be split up into several sections:

  • Versus a Mutalisk player (if you are not going for Mutalisks), your goal should be to establish a third base and get Infestors onto the field. Typically, as soon as the Infestor player scouts the Spire, they will place two Spores at their third, one at their main and natural, and another between their natural and third. Keep in mind that after getting 5-6 Infestors, the Infestor player must wait until they also get up Hydralisks in order to push out across the maps (since Mutalisks can split up to avoid being Fungaled en mass), so remember not to push out across the map too early. In the mean time, prepare to defend yourself against Zergling/Mutalisk harass.
  • In a Mutalisk versus Mutalisk situation, frame your strategy around harassment and timings. To begin, immediately once your Spire is done start +1 armor. Take Mutalisk engagements right after any upgrade finishes - An upgrade advantage in Mutalisk versus Mutalisk fights makes or breaks the engagement. The upgrade progression for your Spire should be: +1 armor into +1 attack into +2 armor. The reason you get +1 attack before +2 armor is because of the drastically lower cost and lower production time. Remember to harass your opponent's bases with your Mutalisks - typically a player should attack with Zerglings at one base while moving in with Mutalisks at a base on the opposite side of the map in order to tax your opponent's multitasking ability as much as possible.
  • To defend all-ins, scouting is key. If you see your opponent saving up a lot of Larva, you are being all-inned. Also keep in mind the 8:30 timing: when a player can save up a large amount of Roaches to suddenly move out across the map and surprise you. The best way to scout for these timings is to simply be active with units - if you are poking at your opponent's natural with Zerglings, he will be forced to partially reveal his hand in order to defend. Do remember, however, that ZvZ is a volatile match-up and that sometimes, build orders will just counter others and there isn't much you can do about it.
  • Extra Tip: Due to Infested Terrans being nerfed heavily (along with Infestors), we suggest going for five or six Infestors then transitioning to Hydralisks. Having a solid Hydralisk base in your army will allow you to push positions that you otherwise couldn't with mass Infestor/Roach.

Composition Counters and Fights[edit]

Almost all games end up in a Roach/Hydralisk/Infestor based fight. Remember to spread your units - the player with the concave nearly always wins the game! Now that Infested Terrans have been nerfed, try not to use your energy on them. Saving your energy for Fungals is nearly always the best option unless you are desperate - the extra energy saved means that you can take another fight soon after the initial one ended. Again, just remember to split your units into an arc!

Counter attacks in ZvZ make the game dynamic and exciting. Preparing six Roaches to hit an opponent's base not only kills drones, but will also pull your opponent's army out of position. It is common practice to sneak some Roaches or a couple of Infestors around the side of the map to gain positioning over your opponent; small mineral/gas investment, huge gain on map positioning.

Creep Spread[edit]

Creep spreading in ZvZ is tricky. Spread too much and you might help your opponent more than yourself, not enough and your defense will be too slow. It's usually not a good idea to sacrifice a larva inject from your Queen for a Creep Tumor, unless you have an abundance of larva or little money. Usually you plant your first Creep Tumor either with your second Queen (if you have gone for an early gas), or around the time you are teching to Lair and taking your third. We categorize creep spread as follows:

  • In ALL situations spread creep from your natural to your third, then fourth. This helps you quickly reposition your units between bases and your units will move faster than your opponents, assuming you didn't creep too far.
  • If you are going for a Mutalisk opener, do not spread creep beyond connecting your natural to your third until after your initial harassment. Many players that go for a Mutalisk play end up dying to an all-in from their opponent - spreading creep in this situation only helps your opponent get to you sooner.
  • If you are going for a Roach opener of any kind, spread as much creep as possible. The extra speed will help but the extra vision will be essential.


For tips in ZvZ, see the page: General ZvZ Tips

Replays & VODS[edit]

South Korea Zerg HyuN 2013 GSL Season 1 Code S Ro32 Match. Pool first (BBoongBBoong) vs. Hatch first (HyuN).
South Korea Zerg BboongBboong
Date: 2013-01-25
Patch: 1.5.3 BU VOD
South Korea Zerg DongRaeGu Iron Squid 2. Pool first into Hatch (DRG) vs. 1 Base Zergling/Baneling aggression (Leenock).
South Korea Zerg Leenock
Date: 2013-01-02
Patch: 1.5.3 BU VOD
South Korea Zerg Life 2012 GSL Season 4 Code S Ro32 Match. Life opens Fast Spawning Pool.
South Korea Zerg NesTea
Date: 2012-09-12
Patch: 1.5.2 VOD