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Starcraft 2 Latest Trends in Zerg vs Terran (ZvT)

Updated on January 23, 2012

Zerg vs Terran Trends

In the ZvT matchup, the typical pattern has been Zergling/Baneling/Mutalisk vs. Marine/Tank/Thor. Each unit counters one or more units of the opponent's army.

Early game is typically characterized by Marines vs. Zerglings, with Banelings added as Marine numbers and upgrades increase. Mutalisks are added to pick off tanks, to force the Terran to keep some Marines at home, and to pick off dropships.

However, certain late-game trends are arising: Zerg gets Broodlords and Ultras, and tech-switches between them. This Zerg Strategy used to force the Terran to build the minimum amount of Vikings to deal with Broodlords while keeping Marines and Tanks to deal with the rest. The NEW shift is that Terran is starting to build Ghosts to Snipe the Ultras or Broodlords, since that one unit can deal with both of Zerg's Tier 3 units. Ghosts can also counter Infestors using EMP, and can harass using Nukes. This match-up can favour the Terran in the lategame unless Zerg has the economic upper hand and can throw units at the Terran faster than he can rebuild.

Zerg vs. Terran Situations

Mutalisk Numbers

It's worth noting that a handful of Mutas for Zerg is useful to continue to harass and deter drop ships. If the Terran player manages to eliminate the mutas, he should resume aggressive dropping of expansions to grind down the Zerg's economy.

Siege Tank Numbers

If the Zerg player successfully keeps sniping Siege tanks such that the Terran player has four or less, it becomes VERY difficult for the Terran to push out, because only four Siege tank blasts are insufficient to decimate enough Zergling/Banelings to prevent them from cleaning up a similar-sized army in an open area. The Terran player must leapfrog tanks to prevent being caught unsieged, and four Siege Tanks isn't nearly enough to make it safe to move out on the map. The situation where Siege Tank numbers are low usually indicates that Zerg is going to be able to expand massively and merely defend against drops, while the Terran player's main army is stuck in his base. To match the Zerg economy, the Terran player must also expand, preferably to a Planetary Fortress close to his other bases, where his tanks can defend and stay sieged.

Terran Marine Drops

To enable him to expand, the Terran player must drop aggressively and trade units efficiently, both occupying any Mutas and targeting them down whenever possible. Double-pronged drops are the best way to do this, as 99% of Zerg players will keep their Mutas on one hotkey, and be unable to defend more than one location. Thus, even if Zerglings are used to defend, one of the Medivacs can drop marines, do damage with them, and pick up and leave when Zerglings arrive. "Spending" marines in this way to keep the Mutalisks from doing damage of their own, while getting your Siege Tank count back up, is a good way to get a dangerous army and a third (or fourth) expansion built.

Terran Strategies for TvZ

Terran builds that can really surprise a Zerg player, or at least force the Zerg to react by building something other than drones include the following builds:

Cloaked Banshee = Build Queens and a Spore Colony per base (2 in the main to protect buildings).

2-Barracks Harass: Build 2 barracks early (on 11 and 13 supply) and do an early 5-marine push at the Zerg's expansion. Retreat once more than 6 Zerglings appear. The whole point of this harass is to force the Zerg to build units to defend, rather than more workers.

Double-Engineering Bay: Heavy marine pressure with drops and very fast upgrades. Head for 3/3 upgrades on marines as soon as possible, and learn to carpet bomb marines (thus splitting them up) on top of the Zerg buildings.

Overlord Drop!
Overlord Drop! | Source

Zerg Strategies for ZvT

Burrowed Banelings.These either force the Terran opponent to escort every Marine squad with a Raven, or wastes scans, which cost the Terran 300 minerals (the amount a MULE would have gathered).Two banelings are enough to destroy a large clump of marines, cost less than a scan, and slow the Terran advance even more than their slow tank advance.

Overlord Drops: Despite the frequency that Terran players do drops on Zerg to limit their economy and deny expansions, Zerg players rarely do the same. The beauty of drop technology is that Zerg players have nearly unlimited numbers of drop ships as soon as they research the technology, and their drop ships only cost minerals, not gas. Better yet, Overlords can dump creep in the opponent's base to prevent turrets from being immediately rebuilt.

Best units to drop include:

  • Banelings (on mineral lines)
  • Roaches (tough units)
  • Hydralisks (high damage units)
  • Infestors (with burrow, can be extremely annoying)

Latest Zerg Trends Against Terran (ZvT)

Zerg players have been getting much smarter about four things:

  • Upgrades
  • Tech Switches
  • Fixed Defenses
  • SimCity

Upgrades are something that Zerg players have started to invest in more heavily, especially Carapace upgrades. Because most Zerg units need to close on Terran units to do damage, Carapace has a surprisingly greater effect than the math might suggest - the more Zerg units that engage, the worse the result for Terran. Terrans used to be the ones to upgrade early, with such excellent upgrades as Stim, Combat shield and +1 Attack, but now Zerg is matching or even exceeding basic upgrades with +1/+1. What Terran players need to understand is that +1 damage on Zerglings is a massive upgrade: +20% damage output! Similarly, +1 Carapace allows Zerglings to take a Siege Tank blast and still close to melee range.

Tech Switches are almost always in Tier 3, and the switch is nearly always Broods to Ultras. Broods take care of the tank wall, and cutting down the numbers of Siege tanks helps the Ultras later. However, an early tech switch from Mutas to Infestors often trips up lower-league players because marines suddenly lose the range advantage on the Zerg army, and can no longer poke and prod, sniping banelings and expansions. The mere presence of infestors forces the Terran into a slow Siege Tank step across the map, and if caught unsieged, the rest of the Ling/Bane army can clean up the Terran army easily, because sieged tanks are the only counter to both Infestors and Banelings.

It's still a mystery to me why Zerg players, who often have massive excesses of minerals, don't shut down drops using Spore and Spine Crawlers at their bases, in a similar way that Terran players shut down Mutalisks with Turrets. Many Zergs will throw down a Spine Crawler or two, but the real trick is the Spore Crawler - you need to destroy the medivac to gain both efficiency in the Zergling vs. Marine matchup, and also prevent the Medivac from picking up the marines and dropping again. Even drones have a chance to clean up a marine attack if the medivac is dead - otherwise Marines can kill an unlimited number of drones, and trade VERY efficiently against Zerglings (especially from tight spaces such as behind mineral lines).

SimCity is a concept of building placement intended to shut down harassment while still allowing defending units to reach the attackers. When the Reactor-Hellion opening from Terran first appeared, Zerg players were relying mostly on Queens and a well-placed spinecrawler to deter harassment. However - this still allowed a Terran player to rush in and do some damage if they were willing to sacrifice Hellions for drones. Zerg still had no way to prevent this trade. Now - Zerg players are using their early buildings, such as Evolution Chambers, Roach Warren and Baneling Nest, to block attack paths. It's even possible for Zerg to make a complete wall-off against Hellions, with Queens as the doorkeepers.


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