Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Strategy Guide

Click Here to Get The Osiris MethodThe Heart of the Swarm expansion has released and our Heart of the Swarm strategy guide is now up to date. This expansion introduced 7 new units to the multiplayer version of Starcraft 2, all of which are covered in-depth by this guide.

The HotS campaign also includes 20 new campaign missions, 7 evolution missions, and a host of additional units that are available only in the campaign.

Whether you want info on the multiplayer or single player versions of HotS, we have got you covered! Here are the sections of our HotS guide:

  • Heart of the Swarm Strategies (coming soon)

Over time, more HotS-related strategies will be added to this guide, so check back regularly for updates.

HotS Overview & Master Change List

All 3 races see major changes in Heart of the Swarm. Below, you will find a list of all the new units and their functions, as well as an overview of the other changes to each race. Click on the unit names to be taken to a full page with strategies for that particular unit. Videos featuring gameplay and strategies of the new units and changes can be found in the subsections mentioned above as well.

While this page provides a full list of changes to each of the races in Starcraft 2, if you click on the race-specific Protoss, Terran, and Zerg changes listed above you will be taken to an article with a list of specific changes made to each race and the best strategies for taking advantage of these changes.

Quick links to the summaries:

New HotS Units
Protoss Heart of the Swarm Changes
Terran Heart of the Swarm Changes
Zerg Heart of the Swarm Changes
Heart of the Swarm Campaign

More detailed descriptions of the HotS changes can be found in the guides linked at the beginning of the article or by clicking on a particular unit name below. This HotS Guide is just meant to provide a fast overview of all the information and changes in Heart of the Swarm.

New Heart of the Swarm Units

Mothership Core - The Mothership Core is a powerful new Protoss flying unit for the early game. You can only create one of these and it has 3 very powerful skills. As a result, at some point in a game players will always add a Mothership Core to their army.


Oracle - The Oracle is a new Protoss flying caster. It has one ability that allows it to become a detector, another ability that grants an enemy unit's vision for 60 seconds, and another ability that gives it a powerful ground attack. However, all of these skills cost energy and the Oracle has no native attacks of its own. Its ability to become a detector however does allow Protoss to go early air without needing to build a Robotics Bay. Its fast movement speed and high damage output against light units makes it great for harassing enemy workers.


Tempest - The Tempest is a massive Protoss flyer that can attack both air and ground units. While its damage is not particularly impressive, it does have two redeeming qualities. First, this unit's true strength is its range of 15 on both air and ground attacks rather than its damage. This is even longer than a Siege Tank; the Tempest can hit units literally across the screen if there is something to provide vision. Additionally, it does almost 3x damage to massive air units, allowing it to kill other Tempests, Colossi, Brood Lords, Carriers, and Battlecruisers with ease.


Swarm Host - The Swarm Host is a new Zerg unit reminiscent of the Lurker from Brood War. It has no attacks of its own when above the ground - it is only effective once burrowed. However, unlike the Lurker, the Swarm Host does not attack directly, instead spawning 2 Locusts every 25 seconds. Locusts are ground units with a high DPS ground attack with a range of 3. With upgrades, the Locusts can live 25 seconds before they die, allowing the Swarm Host to effectively siege enemy expansions 1/4 of the way across the map.

swarm host

Viper - The Viper is a new Zerg flying unit. It requires Hive technology but is not associated with any building. This unit is a pure support caster with no damage-dealing abilities of its own. Instead, it has two support skills. The first is Abduct, which lets it pull an enemy unit to the Viper's current location. This is good for pulling Colossi and other powerful units into the midst of the Zerg forces. The Viper's Blinding Cloud ability allows units to only attack from melee range and is a good support skill for Ultralisks and Zerglings. It can also use the Consume ability to restore its energy quickly.


Hellbat - The Hellbat is both a new unit and a new form for the Hellion. The Hellbat and the Hellion are the same unit. Once you build an Armory, you can research the "Transformation Servos" upgrade at the tech lab on the Factory. With this upgrade, your Hellions can morph into Hellbats (and vice versa) for free. Hellbats have more health and do more damage, but have a shorter attack range and are slower than Hellions. Hellbats are essentially a good resource dump for Terrans in the late-game when using mech, as in the late game Hellions are not beefy enough to soak up damage for Siege Tanks and Thors.


Widow Mine - The Widow Mine is a new Terran unit which is produced from the Factory. It does not require a tech lab despite the gas cost. The Widow Mine is a mobile unit with no native attacks, but it can burrow into the ground over a 3 second period. Once burrowed, it will automatically attack an enemy unit in its range (you cannot select this unit) with a powerful missile attack that deals huge single target damage as well as moderate splash damage. It can only perform this attack every 40 seconds.

The Widow Mine is very similar to the Spider Mine, except that it does not get destroyed when it goes off and instead has a 40 second cooldown. It can also attack air units, move itself, and unburrow itself. Widow Mines also deal +35 bonus damage to Protoss shields.

Widow Mine


Protoss Heart of the Swarm Changes

Full article: Protoss Changes in Heart of the Swarm

Outside of the new units, there are very few changes to the old Wings of Liberty Protoss units in Heart of the Swarm. There are really only four changes:

  • Void Ray - Void Rays now cost 4 supplies and no longer charge their beam on targets. Instead, they have a new ability called Prismatic Alignment. When activated, the Void Ray's attack does +6 bonus damage to armored units. It costs no energy, lasts for 20 seconds, and has a 60 second cooldown. When activated, the new Void Ray does a lot of damage to armored units. Damage is fairly low against non-armored units and when Prismatic Alignment is not active..
  • Phoenix - The Phoenix' range has been increased from 4 to 5. No upgrade required for this range boost. If you have not played in awhile, you should know that in February 2012, a new upgrade was made available at the Fleet Beacon called Anion Pulse-Crystals. This costs 150 minerals and vespene gas and takes 90 seconds to research. This upgrade increases the Phoenix's range by 2. This stacks with the new range increase, giving the Phoenix a potential range of 7. This allows them to thoroughly dominate any short-ranged flyer like the Mutalisk or an enemy's Phoenix without the upgrade. However, it does not seem that this upgrade increases the range of Graviton Beam, which means the Phoenix is still vulnerable when picking up enemy units.
  • Mothership - The Mothership is no longer created at the Nexus but instead is upgraded from the Mothership Core. Its total cost (including Mothership Core cost) is still 400 minerals, 400 vespene gas, and 8 supplies. The Vortex ability has been removed and instead has been replaced by Time Warp. While Time Warp is a great skill, nothing is quite as game changing as Vortex was, making this a slight nerf.
  • Sentry - The Hallucination ability no longer needs to be researched at the Cybernetics Core. Instead, Sentries will start with this ability. This improves the Protoss player's ability to scout early in the game, as a Phoenix Hallucination is an effective (and free) way to scout the map.

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Terran Heart of the Swarm Changes

Full article: Terran Changes in Heart of the Swarm

While only two new Terran units ended up in the final version of Heart of the Swarm, Terran does have a significant number of changes and buffs to their old units:

  • Reaper - Reapers no longer have a special building-only attack and no longer do bonus damage to light units. Reapers now have 60 HP and heal when out of combat. Reapers now also no longer require a Tech Lab. The speed upgrade has been removed and the Reaper's base speed has been increased.
  • Raven - Seeker Missile costs 75 energy and no longer needs to be researched.
  • Siege Tanks - The siege mode upgrade no longer exists. All tanks are able to go into Siege Mode without any research.
  • Hellion - Can morph into Hellbats once an Armory has been built and Transformation Servos has been researched.
  • Medivac - Now possesses the Ignite Afterburners ability. This is an energy-free ability with an 8 second duration and a 20-second cooldown. It increases the Medivac's movement speed by 70% while active.
  • Ship & Vehicle Armor - Now a single upgrade benefits both types.
  • Thor - The cannon ability has been replaced with High Impact Payload, a new anti-air attack. This ability is free to use and takes 4 seconds to activate. Once activated, the Thor's anti-air attack is replaced with a more powerful anti-air attack that does not deal splash damage and does not deal bonus damage to light units. It allows the Thor to be effective versus armored and massive air units. Thors no longer have energy. Thors can freely switch back and forth between Explosive Payload (their original anti-air attack) and High Impact Payload at any time. The transition takes 4 seconds.

Zerg Heart of the Swarm Changes

Full article: Zerg Changes in Heart of the Swarm

In addition to the new units available to the Zerg in Heart of the Swarm, there are some new upgrades and general buffs to the Zerg race in Heart of the Swarm. Here is the list:

  • Burrow - Burrow can now be upgraded at the Hatchery and no longer requires Lair technology.
  • Spore Crawler - No longer requires an Evolution Chamber.
  • Hydralisk - Now have an upgrade at the Hydralisk Den which allows the Hydralisk to move 25% faster when not on creep. Note that this does not boost on-creep movement speed, whereas Zergling speed boosts the Zergling's speed on and off the creep.
  • Mutalisks - Mutalisks now heal quickly. They gain back about 1 HP per second, both in and out of combat. Mutalisks also now move slightly faster, up to a movement speed of 4 from 3.75.
  • Infestor - Fungal Growth has been re-worked. It is no longer instant cast, but is a fast moving projectile. This makes it a bit harder to land, especially if you are using it in several spots at once. Fungal Growth's range is now slightly longer though. Its duration has dropped from 8 seconds to 4 seconds, but it now does 30 damage over 4 seconds, increasing its DPS noticeably. This also cuts the root duration in half, causing players to consider the changes an overall nerf.
  • Ultralisk - Now deals 35 damage per swing to all unit types. In Wings of Liberty, Ultralisks dealt 15 damage per swing to light units and 35 damage per swing to armored units. This is a huge buff for Ultralisk damage versus light units like Marines, Zerglings, Zealots, and Hellbats.
  • Overlord - Pneumatized Carapace (fast Overlord speed) is now available at Hatchery tech.

Heart of the Swarm Campaign Guide

Our Heart of the Swarm Campaign guide is now complete. It includes text and video walkthroughs for all the missions on brutal mode as well as their associated achievements. Guides are also added that cover the Evolution Pit as well as the best Kerrigan builds and abilities.

HotS Campaign Differences vs Wings of Liberty

The Heart of the Swarm campaign shows a surprising amount of evolution (yes, I went there, and I will not apologize) from the Wings of Liberty campaign. The two major differences are Kerrigan and the introduction of boss battles.

You get to control Kerrigan (or one of several other heroes) in practically every mission. Kerrigan is a really powerful hero unit, and with each passing mission, she gets stronger and stronger. Most of the timed achievements as well as brutal mode missions depend a lot less on your unit choices but rather your ability to control Kerrigan.

While you did fight some hero units in the Wings of Liberty campaign, the main advancement in Heart of the Swarm is the introduction of true boss battles. There are a variety of bosses in HotS that have very high HP and a host of unique abilities and mechanics. These fights are much more like an action game than they are real time strategy (RTS) game and can be quite intense.

The HotS campaign is noticeably easier than the Wings of Liberty campaign. The Heart of the Swarm campaign has added an extra easy achievement to each mission, moving the tougher achievements over to a new "Mastery" category. For some reason, mastery achievements are not shown on the mission summary card at the end of a mission, so be sure to check in-game in the achievements tab if you are interested in unlocking those achievements.

HotS Campaign Summary

There are 20 regular missions in the Heart of the Swarm campaign. Unlike the Wings of Liberty campaign, there are no instances where you have to choose between one mission or another (i.e. Haven's Fall versus Safe Haven in WoL).

Additionally, there are also 7 evolution missions. These are short missions where you permanently choose a new unit or evolution for an old unit. Once you complete the entire campaign, you can try out the other evolutions via the Master Archives. In the Evolution Pit, players can choose between small modifications and buffs to alter many of the core Zerg units. These mutations can be changed at any time.

Finally, there is a separate section for Kerrigan. As you complete missions and collect bonus levels, Kerrigan's level will increase. Collecting every bonus level and completing all relevant missions will yield a max Kerrigan level of 70. Based on her level, Kerrigan will unlock new abilities. You can change these any time between missions and it is often advisable to do so in order to match Kerrigan's skill set to the current mission.

Check Back For More Updates

While our Heart of the Swarm guide is now complete and fully covers all the new units as well as the campaign, I plan to continue to add HotS specific strategies to this guide over time. Check back regularly to get the latest info and most effective tactics!

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