I spent some time reviewing replays and vods from IEM of the standard ZvT games while making notes to get a better understanding of the way the best pro players are playing the ZvT match up right now including build orders, scouting tendencies and unit positioning as well as general game flow. This review was done while streaming on my twitch channel and the vod can be found here.
This early game is designed to set the zerg economy up well (3 bases + ~40 drones) while getting enough defense (3 queens and 12 zerglings) to defend against the standard Terran reaper and hellion reaper attacks.
13 – Overlord
17 – Hatchery
18 – Extractor (1:10)
17 – Spawning Pool
19 – Overlord
20 – 2x Queen
24 – 4x Zergling
@100 Gas take 2 drones off of gas
26 – Metabolic Boost (Zergling Speed)
30 – Hatchery
29 – Queen
33 – Overlord
36 – Overlord
42 – Queen
48 – Overlord
48 – 8x Zergling (These zerglings may not be necessary, but are for any 4-6+ hellion based terran opening which are very common)
@3:30-4:00 Sac an overlord to scout their production
The mid game is designed to get the zerg to 3 base economy (48 drones on minerals and 15 drones on gas) and also have a fourth and macro hatchery on the way while deflecting Terran attacks.
@4:00 Queen at third base, 2x Extractors (Put 2 drones back on gas at this time), Baneling nest
@4:00-4:30 Lair (an early lair – 4:00 is good when scouting banshee or potential banshee builds, but it is not necessary until 4:30 for baneling speed against other builds)
@4:25 1x Queen
@100% Baneling Nest & Lair – Centrifugal Hooks
@5:15 2x Evolution Chambers
@100% Evolution Chambers – +1 Melee and +1 Carapace
@6:00 4th base, Macro hatch, 2x Extractors
@6:10 Hydralisk Den
Throughout these timings, you want to be droning hard, spreading creep not getting supply blocked and scouting your opponent to know if you need to make units instead of drones. If your opponent is passive and only putting on pressure that 4 queens (3 defensive/creep queens + the injecting queen at whichever base they are attacking), 12 speedlings (maybe a few banes) and an overseer can handle then the goal is to hit all of the above timings and have a high drone count (dark has 66 by 6 minutes).
At this point in time, you should have 5 gases and 3 bases fully saturated, 3 injecting queens, 3 creep/defense queens, a fourth base, macro hatch and hydra den in production as well as a lair, a baneling nest, baneling speed and +1/+1 on the way. If you are missing any of these things, get whatever you need before proceeding to the next step.
Defending Terran Push
Around this time, it is common for Terran to put more pressure on the map as denying your fourth base as well as your creep is important for their victory.
Note: Keep in mind sometimes, especially on ladder, some Terran’s will turtle heavily and only focus on their own economy, without applying pressure. They will building up an army, usually with a lot of tanks and max out and then try to kill you. In this case, spread creep, take bases, make more drones and get to hive (broodlords and vipers) quickly. It is also possible for them to attack with a 2 or 3 base all in that hits harder or earlier but would put them behind economically if held well (this is what scouting is for!) in this case, make units to defend.
Since you should have a fairly strong economy at this time (3 base 5 gas saturation) and making more drones is not a high priority (due to your fourth base not being finished yet so additional drones would have reduced mining efficiency anyways) now is the time to make units. Use primarily Zerglings and Banelings (banelings with baneling speed are incredibly powerful), but remember to use your defensive queens in the fight as well.
Goal: Your goal here is to not lose your fourth base and not lose too much creep (when you do lose it re-spread it as quickly as possible).
In terms of build order, the only important thing to remember at this time is:
@100 Hydralisk Den – Grooved Spines (Hydralisk Range)
Note: If the Terran is still applying a ton of pressure, continue to make units. You need to survive here and if the Terran is still able to apply pressure then you need to be able to stop it, thus keep making units until you are able to push back the Terran. A few things could have happened that caused this to be the case, notably:
- The Terran’s Macro is better and thus were able to create more units
- The Terran has sacrificed economy to be able to apply this much pressure and if successfully defended will be behind
- The Terran traded more efficiently than expected causing you to need more units
Around 7:10 your 4th base will finish and you should have been able to stop the Terran’s push. Continue droning until you reach ~80 drones (enough to support 4+ bases giving you a very strong late game economy).
Important things to remember, as well as good timings for each for the rest of the game include:
@7:30 Extractor + 5th base (when it is safe to take)
@100% +1 Melee / +1 Carapace – +2 Melee and +2 Carapace
@100% Grooved Spines – Muscular Augments (Hydralisk Speed)
@8:45 – Infestation Pit
@100% Infestation Pit – Hive
@100% Hive (In order of when you can afford it)
- 2-3 Vipers to hold a Terran Push (less of a priority if they are on bio mine and have no tanks or liberators)
- +3 Melee (or +1 range) / +3 Carapace
- Ultralisk Cavern (@100% Ultralisk Cavern – Chitenous Plating)
- Adrenal Glands (Zergling Attack Speed)
- Spire (@100% Spire – Greater Spire then upgrades)
- +3 Melee/+1 range (whichever you didn’t get earlier)
As the game progresses, you also want to keep expanding whenever possible and can make additional extractors as needed. Also remember to make spore/spine crawlers whenever needed in all stages of the game and you can also make more queens for injecting new bases/spreading creep or for transfuse in the late-game. Additionally, pneumatized carapace (overlord speed) as well as burrow are good tech upgrades that you should get eventually once you have a strong income and can easily afford them.
This build sets zerg up for a primarily zergling baneling based army composition. In the early-mid game you want to defend with zerglings, banelings and queens. Then in the mid-late game you want to add on some hydralisks as needed (usually 15-20). Once hive tech is reached, stop hydralisk production and focus on making zerglings, banelings, ultralisks, corruptors (as needed), vipers (as needed) and queens (as needed). The corruptors are meant to take out medivacs (especially drops) as well as terran liberators, and you will likely not need more than 15-20 similar to the hydralisks. The vipers are powerful caster units and are good during engagements with blinding cloud and at picking a part the terran army with abduct as well as dealing AOE damage to air units with parasitic bomb. Generally speaking, 3-4 vipers is a good number however it is highly dependent on your opponents unit composition, your ability to control vipers and the current state of your economy. If the game goes for a long time, or if your Terran opponent has an army composed of many siege tanks you can also consider an attempt to transition to a broodlord based army.
Note: This army composition is primarily designed to defeat bio based armies and the build is designed to also stop hellion/hellbat + Banshee/liberator/raven attacks. However you will likely need a different composition if your opponent is playing something like mech or sky terran. (In those cases, focus more heavily on the hydralisk production, rather than focusing on ling bane. Vipers and broodlords/corruptors are also more important)
Key Unit Positioning
First 2 overlords: Your first 2 overlords should be aiming to scout the opposing Terran’s early game production, as well as proxies and then at least one should be in position to scout their base again around the 3:30-4:00 mark for production – you will likely have to sacrifice this overlord (to a viking or marines) just remember to make an extra one to not get supply blocked.
20th Drone: The 20th drone you create should be placed behind a vespene geyser at the third base you plan to take. This is to hide to safely take your third base. If it is found by the enemy reaper make an extractor on the vespene geyser so that it can not be killed by the reaper and send a queen and your zerglings to get rid of the reaper so you can safely take your third.
First 2 Queens: Your first two queens should inject their respective hatcheries and then proceed to your natural base. The second set of energy should be used on an inject at your natural as well as a creep tumour at your natural and your third queen should be made in your main base to begin injecting.
First 12 zerglings: These are important for defending early game hellion attacks (usually 4-6 hellions and reaper). Place them behind your defensive queens, spread out and ready to surround hellions if they attempt to dive on a high value target (such as your natural mineral line).
Overlord’s after the first 2: While it is good to have a good overlord spread to have vision of the map, the most important areas to have vision of with overlords are areas where drops could be incoming. Try to gain vision outside of the most drop-able locations (think outside the third and main on backwater or horizontal to your main near the gold base on eastwatch) as well as areas where they could see medivac’s leaving your enemies base.
This Build in the Current Meta-game
This build is strong in ZvT right now because:
- It is common for Terran players to apply pressure with a reaper and then 4-6 hellions/hellbats along with a banshee, raven or liberator.
- After this initial push, Terran often transition’s to a bio tank composition
- This build is designed to deal with these standard attacks efficiently
For defending other Terran attacks, such as the 2/1/1 or double reactor factory hellbat cyclone (two of few builds which will require a lot of deviation) you can check out the Standard Timings – All Match-Ups article.
The two games I found most useful and most standard (LBH) while reviewing matches were Dark vs INnoVation on Black Pink and Solar vs INnoVation on Catalyst.
Dark vs INnoVation
INnoVation vs Solar
Thanks to IEM being awesome, all of the replays from Katowice were released. I uploaded them to drop.sc for you to download here:
- Thanks to Team RevolutioN RiSky for reviewing this build. RiSky is a high EU GM zerg player who offers coaching. If you are interested in receiving coaching, you can find his page by clicking on the image below, or clicking here.