Hatchery First (Heart of the Swarm)
The standard Zerg economic opening that gives two Queens and two Hatcheries in the closest timing, the other side is an economic 15 Pool, 16 Hatchery for a few Zerglings to scout. This build is a carry over from Brood War, an opening that produces a Hatchery as soon as the minerals spike and produce a Spawning Pool straight after.
To build up a two base economy quickly, forgoing any extremely early attack options.
Basic Build Order
- One of the first two Queens can be skipped briefly for a Roach Warren rush timing.
- With no Extractor taken at all this build is a fast Hatchery (3) expand, and is not considered safe against a one basing enemy.
- Save one Larva at 17 Supply to morph two Zergling eggs as soon as the Spawning Pool completes.
- In ZvP and ZvZ, drop a Spawning Pool as soon as you are scouted on a four or more player map and do not even bother on a two-player map as that is asking for trouble.
If you do not see a Fast Pool, you can proceed with your Hatchery First opening.
Once you have started your Hatchery and Spawning Pool, you need to scout your opponent again to see what his initial Tech will be. There are a few possibilities for your opponents opening:
- 14gas/14pool - this will lead to one of 2 openings:
- Speedling Expand - if you see this, you should make a few extra Drones (3-5), and get Zergling Speed with your first 100 gas, followed immediately by a Baneling Nest when you get 50 gas. Once you have Speedlings and Banelings you should poke or attack your opponent's base, and see what he has. if your opponent has only Speedlings, you should attack. if your opponent has Speedlings and Banelings, try to do as much damage as you can. if your opponent has Roaches, stop making Banelings, cancel your Baneling Nest if you are able, and make more Drones while getting a Roach Warren and keeping an eye on how many Roaches your opponent has.
- Early Bust - if you see that Zerg does not take your opponent's drones off of his gas after his Spawning Pool completes, then he is preparing to attack you with Zerglings and Banelings. There are a few ways to respond:
- Roaches - Make a Roach Warren immediately when your Spawning Pool finishes. Make 4-6 Zerglings, and then save your resources for when the Roach Warren completes, and make 4-5 Roaches immediately when it finishes. If you placed your Roach Warren immediately, then your Roaches should hatch in time to defend against the Banelings.
- Make Spine Crawlers - Delay your gas and make 1-2 Spine Crawlers and 2 Queens immediately when your Spawning Pool finishes, and keep making Zerglings. Block your ramp with your Queens to prevent a runby, and make sure your Spine Crawlers can cover both your ramp and your Hatchery.
- Banelings - if you want to defend with Banelings, you'll have to skip Zergling Speed since you cannot get both by the time the attack is ready. Make a Baneling Nest as soon as you get 50 gas, and defend with unupgraded Zerglings and a few Banelings.
- Hatchery First - if your opponent does the same opening as you, you need to get gas immediately, only make 2 or 4 Zerglings, and immediately get 2 Queens. After this, you can transition to mass Zerglings, Zerglings + Banelings, or Roaches-based on what you scout afterwards.
Scouting is critical vs. Terran, since you need to know if Terran is opening with 2 Rax or with Barracks-Refinery. These need to be dealt with in different ways.
You should be scouting around 13 if you know where your opponent is, and on 10 or 11 if you do not (e.g. 4-player maps).
What you see in Terran's base will determine the rest of your opening:
2 Rax can come in many forms, and you need to be prepared for all of them.
If you scout 2 Rax, then delay your gas, save your Larvae so that you can make 8 Zerglings immediately when the Spawning Pool finishes, transfer 5-6 Drones to your expansion around the time it finishes, and make a Queen for your expansion Hatchery, and then a second Queen in your main base Hatchery when resources allow. It's also a good idea to leave your scouting Drone near the Terran base or at a Xel'Naga Tower so that you can see ahead of time if Terran is pulling any SCVs for his attack.
You need to be ready to pull your 5-7 Drones at any time to immediately start attacking a Bunker if Terran starts building one. If you see a Marine, do not be afraid to chase it with your Drones; Drones move faster than Marines, so you will be able to get some hits on it and possibly kill it.
- 1-2 SCVs, 1 Bunker - for this, you simply need to keep the Marines at bay until your Spawning Pool finishes. While you are chasing the Marine, put 1 Drone on the SCV building the Bunker, so you can kill it before the Bunker completes. Make sure to kill the second SCV as well, so that the Bunker cannot complete.
- 2-4 SCVs, 2 or more Bunkers - this is a bit harder. You need to delay your second Queen for a second Spine Crawler if you see 2 or more Bunkers begin. You'll need all 5-6 of your Drones in addition to your initial 8 Zerglings in order to fend off this attack
- 5+ SCVs, 2 or more Bunkers - this is more or less all-in. Same as before, but you'll need to pull ALL of your Drones except 2 or 3 to fend off the attack.
If you see this, you do not have to prepare for an early attack, however you will need to have Zergling Speed finished in time for Hellions. Take your gas at 15/16/17 supply, make 2-4 Zerglings and 2 Queens immediately when Spawning Pool finishes, and then transition-based on what Tech you see Terran getting.
Versus a Protoss using a Fast Expand Build, you will have three ways to scout what your opponent is doing:
- The way Chronoboost is used.
- The number of Assimilators at the Natural.
- A double Overlord sacrifice at 7:00, one going into the Main, the other in the Natural.
- Constant Chronoboost on the Forge and the Cybernetics Core hints toward a +1 4Gate or a +1 4Gate Stargate.
- The first warp-in of Zealots can happen as early as 7:30 (7:10 if the Protoss is doing a YufFE). In that case, you will need to put down a Roach Warren earlier (6:30) as a precautionary measure. Be wary of any proxy Pylon near your third Hatchery, as this attack will usually try to deny it. Produce your first roaches at your third base, and protect your Queen and your Drones.
- In the event of a +1 4Gate Stargate (the Protoss will kill your Overlord with his or her first Void Ray, make sure to have two Queens in position. Spore Crawlers are not necessary versus a single Stargate.
- Constant Chronoboost on the Cybernetics Core but not on the Forge hints toward a 6/7/8Gate all-in with Zealots, Stalkers or both.
- This attack can be devastating if unscouted. This is an extremely all-in build and should be treated seriously: precautionary Roach Warren at 6:30 and spines at your natural and third are recommended if you are not very confident in your micro and decision-making.
- Constant Chronoboost on the Forge, but not on the Cybernetics Core could be a +2 Blink Stalkers all-in or a +1/+1 7Gate Immortal all-in. The exact build will be confirmed by an Overlord sacrifice at 7:00.
- In the case of a Blink Stalkers all-in the recommended option would be a mix of Roaches and Zerglings, while Teching to Infestors. The main concern here is to get Infestors on the field before your opponent reaches a critical mass of Blink Stalkers.
- In the case of a +1/+1 Immortal Stalkers all-in, you should not get Roaches at all but plant spines and get a very large number of Zerglings.
- Few Chronoboosts spent on the Forge or the Cybernetics Core points toward an economic opening into a Fast Third. The exact opening will be confirmed by an Overlord sacrifice at 7:00 (look for a low Gateway count and a Robotics Facility.
- You have the option to take a fourth yourself and go for the end-game or try to end the game. Should you opt for the second option, a 12:00 max-out on Roaches and Zerglings with or without Ventral Sacs is your best bet. Last but not least, going for a Spire Tech could be a good way to deal massive amounts of damage to a greedy opponent.
Assimilators at the Natural Expansion
One of your Overlords should be positioned at a position that allows you to see the geysers at your opponent's natural in order to see how many gases he or she is taking.
- Zero gas taken: This is a 4Gate +1 or a 6/7/8Gate all-in.
- See above for the recommended reaction.
- Zero gas into one gas (at 6:00): This is a 1Stargate build.
- Usually, this build gets one or two Void Rays to clear Overlords then transition into a +1 4Gate Stargate push(see above) which usually aims at taking a Fast Third. One Zergling should be in position to confirm the Fast Third from your opponent.
- One gas taken after Nexus completion: This can be a large number of possible openings.
- You are generally safe to get Lair, plant a macro Hatchery, or get upgrades. You should in any case start to produce units at 8:00, the exact opening will be confirmed with the Overlord sacrifice.
- By 7:00, your opponent will have banked 400 gas. If your Overlord do not see many Sentries or Stalkers, your opponent may be opening with Dark Templars or Stargate.
- Two gases taken immediately after Nexus completion: This is a Double Stargate build or a Sentry/Immortal push
- If your Overlords scout an empty base, this is without any doubt the Double Stargate build, and all your opponent's gas will go into Void Rays and Phoenixes production. You should get Spores at your bases and get more Queens while Teching to Lair.
- If you scout Gateways, this is a Sentry/Immortal push. This can be a scary push, and most of the time Mutalisks will not on the field early enough to deflect this push. The most successful answer is usually to make your opponent burn Force Fields by attacking them with Zerglings as soon as your opponent moves out while Teching to Infestors.
This will be your way to confirm the intuition you got from the two other scouting methods. You should not only look for the buildings (as those may be well hidden in a corner), but also count the amount of gas you see in your opponent's units and if possible look at the probe saturation (a low saturation suggesting an all-in).
Opening with Hatchery First is extremely difficult against Protoss. This is due to Protoss being able to easily deny a Hatchery from being completed (or safely killing it after it completes) by placing Pylons and Cannons near your Hatchery. If your opponent makes a Gateway first, he can still make a Forge immediately after, and still make Cannons near your Hatchery while Chrono-boosting Zealots to help with the attack.
However if you decide to try for a Hatchery First build against Protoss, then it's absolutely critical that you see any Probes near your base, and respond to any Photon Cannons being made by immediately pulling Drones to deal with them.
Make sure you put a Drone in any spot where the potential for a Pylon wall exists. If Protoss is able to wall off his Cannons from your units, you will have no way of damaging the Cannons, and they will complete, thus destroying your Hatchery and any units that you can make to defend it.
It is possible to stay even or be slightly ahead. If Protoss spends a lot of resources in Pylons and Cannons, and they complete before your Hatchery completes, you can cancel your Hatchery and build another one elsewhere. The problem is that your expansion will be far away, and thus you will be extremely vulnerable to Dark Templar and Stargate play, since you will have to make separate defenses for each base, putting you behind economically.
Because this build delays army for so long, maps that provide more security to the natural, either via long rush distances or narrow chokes well covered by one Spine Crawler, are better for it.
There are some features that make this build extremely disadvantageous. Maps with extremely short rush distances will allow early pressure to hit before your Zerglings are ready. In addition, if the map has a Natural that's extremely far away, it will make it difficult to defend it with Drones before your Spawning Pool completes. Lastly, if the map has a Natural that is wide-open, it makes it hard to defend against 2 Rax.
As of Season 6 all of the maps that are bad for this build have been rotated out, or are no longer used in tournaments.
Specifically against Zerg, maps where the ramp is far away from the Natural (or maps with no ramp) make it hard to defend your Hatchery from an early Ling/Bane attack. This includes:
Specifically against Protoss, any map where the area behind the Natural's mineral line is constricted is bad, since it allows Protoss to easily wall off the area behind the minerals with Pylons. This includes: