The following article is dedicated to Terran vs. Zerg strategies.
It is important to remember one key philosophy in Terran vs Zerg (TvZ): Don't let the infestation spread. Terrans have the advantage in the early and especially in the mid game and they have to use it. Advanced hive tech allows the zerg to easily match terran late-game strength. If zerg are allowed to survive with a functioning economy into the late game, a terran base will be overwhelmed with hordes of upgraded units, and any defensive line, no matter how massive, will eventually be broken.
Early Game is classically a split between the popular fast expansion ("fe") and a direct strike on the zerg main base. The decision is typically settled by the opening scout (most professionals will send an SCV to scout their opponent between 8/10 and 10/10 population). The scout will reveal if there is any opportunity to perform a marine rush on the zerg base. The rush requires immediate construction and research of academy technology, specifically medics and stimpacks. Grouped correctly and with sufficient numbers, a small early-game force of marines and medics can often beat the first few defensive zerglings with minimal casualties.
- Medics should be prevalent enough to allow for regular stim use without any concern for the medic's energy level, as this gives a terran player double the firepower from his marines.
Mid Game The balance can quickly shift against an unwary terran player when the zerg acquire lair tech. The best way to spot this is through frequent comsat checks, though most competent players can be expected to pursue this line very quickly, as a force of zerglings and hydralisks can overwhelm defensive marines and medics for relatively low cost. Fortunately, sufficient zerg forces to defeat marines and medics require sizable quantities of gas, so if a terran can keep casualties to a minimum, the zerg player's economy will be re-purposed to create more units (an opposition a reasonably competent terran player could defeat) as opposed to advancing up the tech tree (a much harder foe to conquer).
- If you spot a zerg player constructing a lair, you should construct an engineering bay at once if you have not already. Most zerg lair tech is best handled in part with missile turrets.
- Mutalisks are very threatening because of their speed, the second fastest in the game. Zerg players typically attempt to bottle up terran opponents by threatening their main with fierce hit-and-run micro.
- Terrans who see the spire go up should immediately turret their resource line, barracks, and base, as spread out static defenses minimize ricochet damage and ensure total coverage of the base. You will have to support your turrets with M&M's or the turrets will get overwhelmed, but turrets will drastically slow down mutalisk strikes and soak a lot of damage for their cost compared with 40 hp marines. While turrets will hold back mutalisks science vessels are the best way to end them. Irradiate (range 9) has a nasty habit of inflicting excessive damage on tightly grouped mutalisks, and loosely grouped mutalisks are usually not the best solution.
- The potential, though unlikely, progression from mutalisks is guardians, and science vessels will be a complete deterrent from this as a single irradiate practically now pays for each science vessel you build.
It should be noted that mutalisks tend to be ignored if a base harass is thwarted, as mutalisks have little value on the defensive. Because of this average players may pursue lurkers to keep up the contain if their mutalisks are stopped not having the Hive tech for more aggressive answers to Infantry. Please note that a potent zerg player will not have this problem, as Hive tech comes quickly when they know how badly it's needed.
- Lurkers are one of the few zerg units endowed with splash, and thus the only other effective counter to mass infantry at lair tech. One of the bonuses of getting the engineering bay up is Infantry Armor Level 1 which makes marines 3 hit kills to lurkers(and 5 hit kills to mutalisks, plus reductions on ricochet). The other bonus is being able to get cheap permanent detection on the map, which later helps ward off lurker drops.
- If you believe that your opponent is going lurkers your top priority should be producing science vessels, as the irradiates will quickly pay for construction, as will the map control from being able to save ComSat scans. Be sure to hotkey your comsat station to 0 by selecting it and pressing Ctrl-0. Then you can access it in seconds with 0 and then S. This is extremely important as the lurkers can chew up marines in the time it takes for you to scroll across the map.
- Siege tanks are an important sub set, as they will give you the range to attack the now exposed lurkers with ease, but they should not be overemphasized, as tanks are easy targets for zerglings, which are a gas free counter. Science vessels, on the other hand, will continue with irradiation effects while requiring gas intensive counters to be handled. In other words, there are better things to put gas into than tanks, specifically science vessels and dropships.
- The goal of tanks is to attrition lurkers, not necessarily to obliterate them. If you can force them to move you can win the battle because of the myriad options a mid game terran player has against lurkers.
- M&M's can micro very effectively against lurkers, and will frequently drain a great deal of gas from a zerg player who doesn't support his lurkers with zerglings. You need to stim whenever you expect the lurkers to unburrow, particularly when you begin to siege your tanks in front of them. This way, if they try to get up and run, your marines will be faster.
- Dropships are just as vital as marines, and a well placed drop can encircle the lurkers, either cutting them off from reinforcements or more likely retreat. This is risky without knowledge of much of the map, however, as marines placed directly behind front lines can be just as easily encircled if your opponent sees what you're doing and keeps his lurkers in the ground. A better option is for you to find your opponent's tertiary or quaternary expansion for a drop. A good player will send a lurker or two to defend completed hatcheries, but if he's pushing your front he might forget, or simply prefer to use all of his available lurkers to occupy your marines in the hopes that you might forget how critical a successful drop can be at this phase in the game. No matter what, being able to drop will pull lurkers off his front and likely distract him long enough to force a speedy withdraw from battle, rather than the micro intensive slow one that will allow him to freely pursue hive tech.
Hopefully you will have noticed that every zerg tactic mentioned above is essentially a stall tactic, that is both because of the dominant position terrans have at this point in the game, and because of the untold horror which the zerg can unleash against the terran:
Hive Tech: Marines are crucial to fight the zerg, as they cost no gas but there is little a zerg player can do to fight them that doesn't cost a great deal of gas. As great as it may seem, the zerg have some tricks left that will even the odds in every late game scenario where the terran player does not have a dominant position on the map.
We'll start with the least micro intensive tactic that everyone can use with maniacal joy:
Ultralisk: This unit is the antithesis of a zerg unit; everything that a zerg unit is the ultralisk is not. It is not small, it does not have low hit points, it does not need to be massed, it does not burrow, it has a low attack strength, though it does have a bit of speed for a 400 hit point mastodon of bloody fury. The upgrades Brood War expansion has bestowed on ultralisks render these monsters a total affront to any god a terran has bowed before. I complain, but the terrans have the medic and Charon Boosters, and that's not too bad. So, your opponent is building ultralisks, what now?
- Keep building marines. It sounds hopeless when your marines are only doing 3 damage a shot to 400 hit points, but they didn't cost you any gas, which makes them great filler. They also are important for killing whatever else the zerg player builds to support the ultralisks. Typically this support is composed of zerglings, as they cost no gas, which are best handled by your marines. There's also the fact that ultralisks have a fairly low damage rate, so most of the losses players see when ultralisks are deployed don't come from the Ultras at all, which means they will never be the only thing you have to deal with.
- Cast Defense Matrix (DM) on your front line marines. If you've got the fingers for it this works great, suddenly a 200 mineral 200 gas 400 hit point giant doesn't seem so menacing when you can make 290 hp foot soldiers for 50 minerals and 100 energy. This is a really good reason to have science vessels in your late game.
- Irradiate the ultralisks before they start attacking your marines. Often you can encourage an ultralisk attack to happen prematurely by irradiating the intended ultralisks. They won't die, but losing 3/4 their hp is pretty close. If your opponent does attack this will likely mean that his ultralisks will also deal irradiation damage to the zerglings in the control group, and those zerglings are after all your real targets.
- Use tanks. The obvious approach is to use the massive explosive damage of tanks to quickly bring down ultralisks, but this is contingent on your tanks actually targeting the ultras and not the supporting lings and also to your tanks not dealing splash damage to your own troops. The worst part of this strategy is that should you be overcome you will have little hope of your tanks surviving point blank Ultra-ling. Some of these problems can be fixed by using unsieged tanks which don't deal splash damage to your units, but this play is only worth while if you have excess resources given the heavy reduction of ultra armor, and the low armor of tanks(less per mineral than a marine!). Always Defensive Matrix your tanks before your marines.
- Spider mines. The only time vultures should enter into a TvZ match up. 125 splash is a good way to cut through 400 hit points, shame that ultralisks set to Attack-Move can attack and kill a spider mine in one hit before it has a chance to detonate. Basically this means that spider mines are only useful if the ultralisks are already chasing something else, which takes out a lot of their punch. This strategy is usually seen as an act of desperation, and it is.
- Bunkers with firebats. Firebats are effective against ultralisks when defended by the walls of a bunker. When you see ultralisks coming, try to load your vulnerable firebats into bunkers. A firebat out in the open is a free meal to ultralisks.
Defiler: A competent zerg opponent will use both defilers and ultras for excessive amounts of annoyance and advantage. The ultralisk's role is obvious. What's important here is the defiler's role.
At 150 gas the defiler is by far the most important target to irradiate. Sadly Irradiate does not stop a defiler, it only determines a life span. Still, if you can keep your science vessels aggressive and your opponent's gas low defilers can remain a contained threat. However, to maintain this situation practically requires you to destroy your opponent outright, which is highly recommended. Your best bet is to destroy your opponent's expansions, cutting his ability to field an army which could benefit from such awesome tech:
- Dark Swarm (100 energy, or 2 zerglings) ("DS") Completely blocks all direct fire from ranged units. This leaves a terran with Tank Splash and Irradiate, which is why you should run from or past dark swarm. Note that Splash damage does not effect burrowed units, which means that a few lurkers burrowed under a perpetual dark swarm can form a pretty effective seal on a base until you have the energy to irradiate all of them.
- Consume (+50e, costs one unit) This is what really makes a defiler incredible. The fact that you can buy energy for a single defiler with crystal and never have to worry about recharge rates breaks the natural rules of casters. With this even an Irradiated defiler can cast 2 to 3 spells and mostly be limited by how fast it can scuttle within range of targets. For this reason above all else the defiler should be not be allowed to enter the field of battle if it can be at all helped.
- You may also see Plague, particularly because it's a good way to spend 3 lings when a defiler has already been irradiated, so watch out for the lone mutalisk which will come around to do one hit kills on any sci vessels affected by plague.
- The best way to handle defilers is to keep moving, either falling back of pushing forward. Always be ready to flank, and never hole up. To this end dropships and science vessels are the only real salvation you can hope for.
To make final what has been said
- Pump infantry.
- Push your mid game offense.
- Destroy your opponent's expansions at every chance you get.
Orders of BattleEdit
The main decision in TvZ is whether to go marines and medics or go mech - goliaths backed up with a few tanks and vultures. While MnM has been one of the strongest builds in the game, it is also very micro-intensive. Mech builds used to be too vulnerable to a zergling rush, but with the 2008 innovation of the Fantasy build, have proven to be reliable and surprisingly effective.
Remember that bunkers work well against early Zerg attacks, if you need to be safe and can position it to prevent runbys. A single bunker can easily eliminate mass zerglings if it's repaired. Hydralisks, lurkers, and mutalisks, while more formidable, can be stopped by bunkers though the chances of surviving are much higher with two bunkers as opposed to one. Placement is key - if the zerg can just run around your bunker it is not much use.
Ramp blocks are also effective at stopping rushes, and substantially cheaper, but can keep you from getting out as well as them getting in.
An example of a successful Bunker Rush.
When you spot that your zerg opponent is fast expanding, build "Proxy" barracks close to opponent's base. 1-2 scvs to build a bunker, finishing just before first marine arrives. Then more marines to fill out bunker. Usually counter to fast expand. Very difficult to defend against. Bunker positioning is key - ideally you can get the bunker mostly done before the zerg notices.
Counters 9-pool or overpool. Use drones, 4+, to stop bunker building and kill marines trying to reach bunker. Then get 6 zerglings. You must stop 2 marines from getting in the bunker. 6 zerglings can kill a bunker with 1 marine, but not 2, and 1 marine can't take down a hatchery very quickly.
An early marine-medic push is attacking with marines and medics as soon as you produce 1-2 medics and have stimpack. Usually the whole early build is centered around this attack; timing is critical and an extra 10 seconds can mean a win. Ideally, you can also get range before you strike.
Visually being able to tell if you have enough marines and medics to defeat any sunken colonies is key. If there are too many sunkens, you can at least do a contain on the zerg. You can also wait for reinforcements to do a Sunken Break or wait for a tank to do a Sunken Break + Tank. However, do not sit on the contain for too long, or you risk a strong zerg player going mutalisks and counterattacking into your undefended worker lines or picking off your marines one by one..
Counters 2-3 sunkens are key to stop the marines from just destroying your zerglings. They have to be finished building before the terran arrives. Using a zergling scout outside of the terran's base on most maps usually gives you almost enough time to finish the sunkens if you start them as soon as the marines are spotted. Still, at least 1 sunken is generally recommended just in case.
Zergling counterattack can also punish the terran for their boldness.
A Sunken Break is an attack using stim packed and range upgrade marines with medics to break through a zerg's defensive sunken colony wall. It's recommended to use at least one medic per sunken. It's usually a second-stage attack after the basic early marine-medic push.
Counters More sunkens! But more sunken colonies will only work for so long, ultimately you'll need hard counters, like mutalisks or lurkers. Mutalisk micro can pick off the marines around the edges, and a couple lurkers can force them back or use up their comsat scans.
Sunken Break + TankEdit
A Sunken Break as above with 1-2 tanks to destroy the sunken colonies without losses. Missile turrets are sometimes combined to provide air defense and detection to help make it a true hard contain. Can be very good against a slow teching zerg.
Counters More sunkens to buy time. Mutalisks. Counterattacks (into the main or from behind using other expansions or drops. Queens with Broodling.
Rare Strategies For the vulture run by, make sure to have scan or send in a marine to see where the sunkens are placed. Scouting is key because it is crucial that you don't get blocked while trying to go up into his base. But once you have successful seen that his choke is clear and then immediately group/select them and mass click your vultures up into the main. Once in, depending on what upgrades you got, put mines at the top of the choke but make sure to spread them out. Now once in his main place some more mines within the mineral lines and begin a rape-fest on the drones.
Now make sure to always stay on top of your macro at you base and make sure you expand as well. Also, be sure that he isn't going lurkers or hydras because they will render your vultures useless.
Marine and Medic DropEdit
This strategy is very effective because you can use your marine and medics to destroy tech building.
The most important building to destroy is the zerg's lair which they probably only have one of.
This will slow the hive tech units and the ultimate counter for a marine medic and a good counter for virtually any build ,
Counter: If you weren't contained early on in the game and made a second expansion far off, start building all your tech there. Most likely your opponent will focus on attacking your main base, thinking that's where all your tech is. If you don't have this option, then lurkers are probably your best bet. You can build extra tech buildings in your base, but most likely if your enemies were able to destroy one building, they will kill another very soon.
- This is quite an effective trick especially when they're dropped on the units that gathers the minerals such as drones, probes, or even scvs. It will hurt the enemy's mineral production especially if it's done early in the game. But make sure before you drop them, scan first! there might be hidden lurkers that can wipe out your vultures in just a matter of seconds. At the same time, make sure that you drop as soon as possible after scanning. Having a huge time gap between those can have a lot of change! Anyways, 2 vultures are usually enough to one hit a drone and probe but 3 is required for scvs! So make sure you know what you're dealing against.
Marines and medics with a few science vessels for spotting lurkers and irradiating defilers. One of the most mobile armies in the game, very good at taking out expansions. Very strong against most zerg forces, but easily countered by lurkers or dark swarm. Success requires impeccable marine micro to fall back from lurker spines, scourge hunting science vessels, and dark swarms, failure means losing most or all of your forces, which makes this one of the hardest strategies in the game.
Widely used by the SK Telecom team in the mid 2000s.
MnM Tank PushEdit