Starcraft 2 Searing Crater Map Strategy

Starcraft 2 Strategy Guide --> Starcraft 2 Map Strategies --> Searing Crater (you are here)

In this article, I will be covering Searing Crater, one of the new season 3 ladder maps. This particular map definitely calls for its own playstyle, and below we are going to go over the particular builds and strategies you can use on this map in order to use the Terrain to your advantage.

Searing Crater Map Overview

searing crater map

Spawn Locations and Expansions

This map features 4 spawn locations and plenty of expansions for a 1v1 map, but looks can be deceiving. This map is what the developers are dubbing as a "rush" map, and the reason for this is because none of the expansions (not even your natural expansion) are particularly easy to hold.

As a result of this, you can expect to play a lot of short games and even some 1 base games. The bases are also fairly close, and can get much closer as the game progresses. It takes just over 30 seconds for a Probe to go from one adjacent base to the next, and around 40 seconds to move to opposite spawn locations. However, once the rocks go down between adjacent locations, it only takes about 20 seconds to move to an adjacent base (east-west).

There are no rocks between adjacent bases on the same side of the map, and you can move from one natural to the other in just 20 seconds, which is incredibly close and has huge implications on how each race can play.

Other Notable Features

Aside from wide open expansions at every turn and close spawn locations, there are three other things you should know about this map.

The first is that there is a single Xel'Naga Watch Tower in the center of the map. Taking this tower means that you can spot any movement by ground from one spawn location to the other.

Secondly, note that there are very large spaces in each main base where you can drop units. There mains are overly large and feature a peninsula which isn't really near the map. You will want to park an Overlord, Pylon, or Supply Depot here to scout for drops ahead of time. You can also hide tech buildings in this region.

Finally, note that the middle expansions (the non-high yield third bases) are separated by a platform. Ranged units can be placed here and cause serious problems. Even a Void Ray or Stalker can hit the closest Assimilator. Siege Tanks dropped on this high ground will be able to shell the third base from this high position.

Protoss Strategy

This is an okay map for Protoss players. While bases are wide open and you have a lot of entrances to defend, the relatively close locations of each expansion helps Protoss players deal with drops fairly easily, which is often a weakness for this race. A set of Blink Stalkers or Colossi can easily walk between the first three bases very quickly.

The close spawn locations make the ever-popular 4-Gate very effective. Three-gate expansion builds will be very popular on this map as well since any sort of Forge or Nexus-first builds are completely out. There are too many entrances to your base to defend with cannons - you need Sentries to create walls here.

Protoss vs Protoss

Naturally, the 4-Gate is the top build in PvP and this map does not help things much. You will nearly always have to 4-Gate on this map just because if you do not, your opponent will. Get used to it.

There are two great places to drop your proxy: either the natural expansion or the third base. You can place the Pylon at the player's third base (where they are not likely to notice) up against the wall to the player's main. You can then warp units into their main base, behind where their army will be holding down the entrance. It can work out really well for you if you poke a Stalker or Zealot up the ramp then warp 4 Zealots into your opponent's base.

Additionally, this same strategy can be used in a Cannon Rush. You can place a Pylon and even a forge at the third base and then warp cannons up in on the high ground. While I do not advise this, you should be aware of it because you can expect to go against it, especially if you are in Platinum league or below.

Due to the fairly recent increases in Warp Gate research, players are a bit more vulnerable to cannon rushes on small maps with lots of ledges like these. It's just a small jump from the third base to your main nexus, so don't think that you can open with a standard 4-Gate without scouting for this kind of cheese.

Protoss vs Terran

Protoss vs Terran on this map can be really annoying if it gets to the late game, so don't be afraid to push off of two bases - particularly if you spawn on the same side of the map (left or right). This will make it hard to take the gold expansion, and if you take the other third base you are susceptible to the opponent dropping Siege Tanks on that high ground area in the middle of the map.

You want to try to avoid the expansions along the maps meridian for that very reason. Of course, you can scratch that advice if you have Blink Stalkers + Observers or Colossus, as that way you will be able to get up that ledge to defend yourself. If you have a Warp Prism, you can even drop a Proxy Pylon up there in order to protect yourself from that sort of play. When you see the Medivacs come, just warp in a bunch of Stalkers.

Early in the game, if your opponent makes the mistake of going for a quick expansion, a 4-Gate can be very deadly. A single Force Field seals off the ramp to the main, letting you block any reinforcements or fleeing SCVs from escaping an assault on the natural. This works well if your opponent tries to expand off a single Barracks.

Note that you can often hide a Probe in your opponent's base in that large dark area. This is great for scouting at around the 5:00 mark to see your opponent's tech.

Also, note that the natural expansion is very vulnerable to Hellion harass due to all the openings. You will want to get some units out (aside from Sentries) before taking your expansion (as Sentries melt against Hellions).

For the most part though, if your opponent opts for 2-Barracks fast expand build, odds are you will want to go for a 3-Gate Fast Expand. If you cannot tell what they are up to, you should go 2-3 Gate/Robotics Facility in order to Chrono Boost an Observer out to scout with.

Since this map is built for 1-base openers, you cannot really safely take your expansion if you cannot tell what your opponent is doing. The last thing you want to do is take your expansion off of just 3 Gateways in the dark and end up going against a 3-Rax all-in or a cloaked Banshee rush.

What happens in the late game of course depends on how the Terran plays and you will have to get whatever works well versus their tech pathway.

Protoss vs Zerg

This map is great for Protoss players going against Zerg players if you are playing in Platinum or below, but great Zerg players can make things tough.

First off, note that with the very close spawn locations and single ramp, if your opponent makes the mistake of going Hatchery-first, you can 4-Gate and win every time. If you halfway decent at 4-Gating, the map is just too small in order to stop it. If you want to be really cheesy, even a proxy 2-Gate or cannon rush can stomp on a hatchery-first build.

The problem on this map is securing your natural expansion. You will need good building placement in order to seal it off the best you can:

searing crater natural

Note: Minerals mined out in the picture above.

The Pylon and single Warpgate form a right wall-off with the Nexus. The Pylons behind the Assimilators prevent any units from entering this area from behind the geysers. You can put a few Sentries in the mineral line which can Force Field the opening if any Zerglings try to run by.  

You might think that it would be better to wall off by the Assimilator, but this does slow down gas production and also simply isn't natural for someone trying to take a quick expansion. If you build your third Warp Gate up by the Assimilator, it would be vulnerable to Zergling snipes. By placing the Warp Gate on the ground like shown in the picture above, you can defend it easily along with your ramp early in the game when you do not have many units.

Think of this map like defending your natural expansion on Xel'Naga Caverns. You need to be vigilant with Force Fields and let buildings help you the best you can if you want to take an expansion. As you build up your base, you can add things like a Forge and more Warp Gates on the low ground to help shore up your wall and even start walling off towards your third base.

However, once you do have a second base up and running, taking your third base is pretty easy. Make sure you drop a Pylon by the rocks and your army can defend your natural expansion and your third base simultaneously. With three relatively easy to defend bases, you can macro up and have plenty of time to build up your Protoss death ball.

Terran Strategy

I think that this is a great map for Terran players and particularly the Siege Tank. The high ground and narrow choke points leading up to the main make defending bases very easy. The Planetary Fortress also makes a good fit for the High Yield expansion.

If you happen to spawn on the same side of the map and are not playing a mirror match, this is very advantageous for a Terran player in the late-game. You can grab the gold expansion with a Planetary Fortress and a few Siege Tanks and easily grab the two other expansions near your main without much contest. Siege Tanks can even defend your natural expansion to an extent from the main base's high ground.

Terran vs Protoss Strategy

In TvP on this map, I think it behooves the Terran to opt for a macro game. Due to the close spawn locations, anything other than a 2-Barracks opening is risky. If your opponent does not have an expansion down yet, you will want to drop 2 Bunkers on the low ground just in case. A single Siege Tank on the high ground overlooking the natural expansion can also help lock things down.

As a Terran player, you can make it very hard for a Protoss player to get more than two bases. If they are take their natural third base, you can drop Siege Tanks on the high ground and then hit that Nexus from the high ground. This is very hard to stop considering it requires either an Observer, Colossi, or Air Units to reach the high ground.

You can bring along a few SCVs to build Turrets (which will pick off Observers and air units) as well as to repair the Tanks to make this a sure-fire kill on the Nexus. If there are just too many Stalkers on the low ground, you can pull your tank back and still hit the Assimilator closest to the center without being in range of more than a single Stalker or two from the low-ground.

What I recommend is building up a large bio-mech army of Tanks, Marines, Marauders, and Medivacs (adding Ghosts for Templars and Vikings for Colossus as usual) and then pushing the Protoss player's base by way of the high-yield expansion.

If they have the high-yield expansion already, set up tanks on the high ground and shell the expansion. If they do not, what you can do that works well is set up your Siege Tanks in the area of the rich expansion and spread them out a bit. Move up 2-3 Siege Tanks up to the edge of the natural. When you go into Siege Mode from this low-ground spot you can hit the Assimilators and some Probes.

If you have kept the Protoss player to just two bases, losing the gas at the natural expansion is completely crippling. What you want to do though is only put a few Tanks forward and use Vikings to give them sight or defend against air units. Then a bit back, you put all your tanks up in Siege Mode. This will allow you to take out any Stalkers which try to push forward to your Tanks from the high ground.

Even better, it forces the Protoss player to have to make a move or risk losing half of his gas supply - either way it works out very well for you should you have played this out properly.

If you have managed to fall behind in the game for whatever reason, the push through the Gold expansion does not work as well. Instead, opt for what Terrans do best when they have less units then their opponent - drops. You can drop in the large area in the main base and hit the third at the same time. Drop as much as you can and keep the Protoss player defensive. Use this time to expand and get back into the game.

Alternative Build for PvT: Hellions are strong on this map, simply because the natural is so exposed. This is a great place to harass if the Protoss player tries to take it too early without having an appropriate number of Stalkers for defense.

Terran vs Terran Strategy

Since Siege Tanks are good on this map, it is actually quite annoying to play TvT here. Hellions are very strong here and mech play typifies this map.

Like all TvTs, air superiority is really important. You cannot let your opponent take control of the skies or they will push with tanks, shell your natural or third, and otherwise make your life uncomfortable.

Terran vs Zerg Strategy

Given the small map size, you can open up against Zerg players with two-Barracks aggression every time (assuming they do not go for something like a 8 Pool or some other sort of cheese. Due to the way the ramp and natural are positioned, you can easily drop down two Bunkers which can hit the natural expansion and hit units coming down the ramp at the same time.

I think that this is a strong opener here and when you are good at it you can often win games outright if your opponent is unprepared. The best part about this build is that it is anything but all-in; you can easily drop down a Command Center after doing as much damage as you can and work on a 2-Barracks expand build while you tech into Siege Tanks.

Spawn position is important to how you approach the late game on this map. The only open area here is in the center of the map, and that will be your most dangerous location as a Terran player here.

Unless you have a strong advantage, I recommend using drops and tank play and try to starve out the Zerg player if the game goes late. Use Siege Tanks to shell the third expansion or High Yield expansion. Meanwhile, take a third expansion yourself and defend it with a Planetary Fortress and a few Missile Turrets. A few Siege Tanks and automated defense is all a Terran player needs on this map.

This leaves you open to do a lot of drops - Marines into the main and Siege Tanks onto the ledges. With good building placement, tanks, and Planetary Fortresses, you can get away with dropping a lot of units at once. With good double and triple-pronged drops, you can win games without ever having the bulk of your forces leave the main.

Should you want to play a shorter game, Hellions into Cloaked Banshees also are a great move. It is quite difficult for a Zerg player to hold off Hellions at the natural expansion on this map without investing heavily in Roaches, given all the openings to attack from. This gives slows down Zerg tech and leaves them open for a double Starport around the 7:30 mark.

Zerg Strategy

I am not a fan of this map for Zerg; I simply hate playing Zerg on any map where it is hard to take your own natural expansion and hate maps where Terran players can use Tanks on the high ground to hit an expansion.

No matter what race you play against on this map, you will need to open up Spawning Pool first. Hatchery first builds are just asking to get hit with early pressure and just are not worth the risk on this small map.

On the flip side, Speedlings are great for harassing your opponent's natural. You have to entrances to hit it from and it will take a long time for your opponent to make a good wall-off with buildings.

Overlord Positions

Given how easy it is to hit Zerg players with rushes, you need to position your Overlords in positions where they can scout out your opponent's tech. For Protoss players, this will be around the 5:40 mark (to check for 4-Gates); for Terran players, this will be around the 7:00 mark (to check for Cloaked Banshees, Tanks, etc).

searing crater overlord positions

Red: First Overlord; great for sacrificing for tech reveal. Later in the game scouts the third base.

Light Blue: Second Overlord; great for spotting natural expansion. Note that this Overlord can be chased away, but you can always move it back when you want to check for the natural. Can also scout for Nydus Worm placement in main.

Green: Third Overlord; you can move the first Overlord to this location safely and replace the first Overlord. There is a lot of open space back here, and you can use it to check for tech structures hidden by the mineral line. Also a good place to sit an Overseer to fly in for Corruption.

White: Fourth Overlord; scouts for gold expansion. Your Overlord at the blue position may get chased to this space eventually by Marines, Stalkers, or Queens.

From here you would place Overlords in locations that let you scout out other expansions as well as the high ground in the central parts of the north and south part of the map.

Zerg vs Protoss

You will need to be careful on this map when playing against Protoss players here. Use the Overlord positions above to check for any sort of 4-Gate at the 5:40 mark. Also, scout early on this map, especially if you are in the lower leagues. Send out a Drone by 9 to see where the other opponent is and what their structures are.

Naturally, if you see no buildings in their main, you need to scout your own main for proxy Gateways or Barracks. Players will often hide proxies in the third, so check down there as well should the Protoss player look "behind".

The center of the map actually also makes a good place for Proxies, since it is very close to all the bases yet is rarely scouted by Workers - just something to keep in mind.

Always go Spawning Pool first here, and try to get out Speedlings early. I think a 13 Spawning Pool into fast gas for Speedlings into expansion works best. This way you have Speedlings out early and have gas capabilities if you need to tech into Roach.

For the late game, I think that the choke points make typical Roach/Hydra balls kind of weak; the units line up and fit right into the Protoss death ball. For late game play, you have two options, mostly depending on spawn location.

If you are cross map spawn locations, more typical builds with Roach, Hydralisk, Infestor, Zergling and Corruptor can work well. The wide open area gives you plenty of space to make an arc with your Roaches and Hydras to maximize damage out put.

If you have adjacent positions, I think a different army combination would be better. On these locations, the choke points make it much more difficult to get a good arc with Hydralisks or Roaches. Instead, Roaches up front backed up by Infestors works much better. Fungal Growth is very strong when engaging at choke points.

You will need 3 Corruptors for every Colossus on the map. No more and no less; sacrifice an Overlord or an Overseer to find out exactly what is going on.

"Baneling bombs" work extremely well here. This is where you load up Banelings into Overlords and drop them over the Protoss ball. I would consider this a go-to strategy if you are adjacent to the Protoss player since you will be engaging at choke points where the Protoss units will be tightly clumped. Be sure to use Fungal Growths in order to keep the Protoss army stationary; do not let Stalkers keep blinking away from your Overlords.

Finally, Mutalisks are great at harassing on this map. You can bounce between the third and the main or the gold and the natural very easily. At the very least, you can force the Protoss player to waste money on Photon Cannons, get them out of their rhythm, and put them on the defensive.

Zerg vs Terran

While this map is not as quite as bad as the old Lost Temple, I do not think it is a stretch of the imagination to say that this map favors Terran players. Just like in PvZ, you have to sacrifice an Overlord here to scout if you want a chance to win.

There are just way too many viable openers from Terran. Hellion --> Cloaked Banshee build is just to easy. I'm sure Terran players could do that build every time and beat Zergs nearly every time on this map all the way up to the low-Diamond league even with low APM. Better players can take 2-Rax aggression --> Expansion even higher, no doubt.

I recommend opening here with early Speedlings into an Expansion (~13 Pool/gas) and from there your build is up to the Terran player. You may need to get out a lot of Speedlings and maybe an extra Queen or two (even Spine Crawler(s)) depending on what your opponent does.

I think to play it safe, you will want to go into pretty quick Mutalisks and Banelings before grabbing a third base. You will need Mutalisks in order to defend the ledge by your third from Siege Tank drops. To do otherwise is a bit suicidal on this map.

One thing you want to do is place two Overlords on this high ground as soon as they are done. As soon as you have Lair tech, turn on creep generation. This way if a Terran player drops on the high ground, he will not be able to build things like Missile Turrets or Bunkers.

This will make it easy to come in and clean up any Siege Tanks with Mutalisks. If you let the Terran player build a whole fort up on that ledge, it's practically GG. The Creep spread will prevent Terran players from building and gives you plenty of time for your Mutalisks to go to work.

I also think using Mutalisks on the offensive is essential on this map. It is small enough where you can pull your Mutalisks back and defend your main when necessary, but yet there are plenty of ledges that you can use. Bouncing between the main and the third is effective, as well as hitting any buildings along the outskirts of the map.

Choosing a Third in ZvT

This is very important, so it deserves its own headline. On this map in particular, you always want to try to expand away from the Terran. If you spawned cross positions, take your natural third before you grab the gold expansion.

The reason for this is that Zerg armies just fare better in the open field in TvZ. You want to force the Terran to come across the center of the map. If you expand towards the Terran player, they can come for your third base by moving along the edge of the map and not even enter the center.

Even more so, if you spawn cross-spawns from the Terran and you go for the gold as your first third base, they can attack the third from the second entrance leading to it, rather than coming through the center of the map. I'd much rather take my close three bases and have the Terran waltz across the center of the map and use Mutalisks to defend the high ground than trying to defend my high-yield expansion through the choke point by the high yield expansion.

By the time you are ready for to take your fourth, you can always opt for the high-yield expansion then. By this point in the game your creep should be spread far enough that the Terran will not be able to take your gold expansion by surprise.

Zerg vs Zerg

Zerg vs Zerg at a small map, what can you really expect? A 6-Pool can be at your base in just 2:45 (adjacent) or 2:55 (far spawns). By contrast, a 13 Pool build typically involves your Spawning Pool finishing around 2:55. This means that even if you go for a "safe" build, your opponent might have Zerglings in your base 10 seconds before your Spawning Pool even finishes.

This is just a cheesy map for ZvZ; scout with the 8th Drone to be sure that a Pool isn't down too early. Games will rarely leave 1 base in this match-up on this small map. Just like any ZvZ, there will be lots of Speedlings, Banelings, and micro.

If you can squeeze out some Roaches on this map, they actually are decent, especially if your opponent goes Baneling/Speedlng. The map is small enough that Roaches do not take forever to cross it and the ramp to your main is so tiny that it can be blocked by 2 Queens or a Queen and a single Roach can block it off.

These two units can hold off a lot of Zerglings, giving you time to Drone up and push out with a lot of Roaches. You can leave a Queen and a few Roaches behind for defense and its really hard for the opponent to up your ramp for any sort of counter attack or base race with just Zerglings and Banelings.

Starcraft 2 Searing Crater Map Strategy Conclusion

While the "rush" map Searing Crater is not my ideal map, it is in the ladder pool and it is a map that you will need to prepare for. Overall, this map lends itself well to Terran play whereas Protoss and especially Zerg players may struggle against Terran on this map.

If you are a Zerg or Protoss, be sure to spend extra time practicing on this map to iron out your build orders and strategies.