Starcraft 2 TvZ Strategy - Now Updated for HotS

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Click Here to Get The Osiris MethodTerran vs Zerg is arguably the most iconic Starcraft 2 match-up. The humans versus vicious aliens with extreme physical prowess has been a central plot in a whole host of sci-fi movies.

A lot of Terran players really struggle with this match-up, but it does not need to be a difficult one. Combining a properly build and strategy with a good army composition and excellent micro can allow Terran players to stand up to the best Zerg players in SC2. In this guide to TvZ strategy, you are going to learn how to do exactly that!

Table of Contents

TvZ in the Early Game

Early Zergling Attacks
Taking Your Expansion
Controlling the Creep
Aggression vs Macro
Stopping the Baneling Bust
Dealing with Mutalisks

TvZ in the Mid Game:

Bio vs Zerg in the Mid Game
BioMech vs Zerg in the Mid Game
Full Mech vs Zerg in the Mid Game

Baneling Counter Video Guide

SkyTerran vs Zerg in the Late Game

Terran vs Zerg in the Early Game

TvZ in the early game is a pretty safe match for Terran players. It is practically impossible for the Zerg player to inflict any significant damage on a Terran player within the first few minutes of the game, as long as the Terran goes for a standard build.

Dealing with Early Zerglings

The only way Zerg players have of attacking Terran players in the early game is via Zerglings. To protect against Zerglings, players simply have to wall off their ramp with buildings. Adding a Barracks and 2 Supply Depots to wall off the ramp is a basic Terran vs Zerg strategy.

With a Supply Depot wall up, a Marine or Reaper can sit safely behind the wall and kill off any early Zerglings that may attack. If the Zerg player opens with a 6-pool and gets out very early Zerglings, the second Supply Depot may need to be constructed earlier than normal to get the wall up sooner. It may be necessary to pull SCVs to help repair these depots so the Zerglings to do not destroy them and bust into the main base.

Taking Your Expansion

In TvZ, you generally want to get your second base up as soon as possible. The problem with grabbing an early expansion is that this expansion will be outside the safety of your wall-off, making it vulnerable to Zerglings. Building this second wall off takes too long and requires too much resources for players to wait for it to finish before taking their second expansion.

Instead, players typically opt to get out an early 1-3 Reapers or 2-6 Hellions (or sometimes both). These units are faster than enemy Zerglings and are ranged units. When well-microed (hit "H", let the units fire an attack, run away from the Zerglings while the attack timer resets, and repeat until all Zerglings are dead, never letting the Zerglings get in melee range), the Zerglings are unable to do anything about the Reapers or Hellions. This allows the Terran player to hold off much larger forces of Zerglings so that they can take their second expansion quickly.

Once the second expansion is up and running, you still want to fortify it with buildings. A second supply depot wall and even a Bunker are common add-ons at the entrance to your natural expansion. This will help protect you from the possibility of early Banelings or Roaches.

Controlling the Creep

Early Reapers and Hellions have the added bonus of being able to take down Creep Tumors as well as Queens (at least when the Reapers and Hellions significantly outnumber the number of Queens).

As long as you have map control as a Terran player, you need to be destroying Creep Tumors. Creep is necessary for the Zerg player to make effective use of banelings as well as to secure their later expansions. Deny the creep as much as possible with your Hellions and Reapers in order to maintain map control for as long as possible.

Aggression vs Macro

Once you have established your expansion, you can opt for either aggression or macro. Aggression can involve everything from making large numbers of Hellions and trying to destroy early Queens and Drones to Hellbat drops to early bio attacks to cloaked Banshees or any combination of these attacks.

If you prefer to macro, you can build a third Orbital Command inside your main base where it is safely tucked behind your wall-in. This Orbital Command just produces SCVs and MULEs initially, only being moved out to the third base once the Terran has a large enough army to defend this forward position.

The Macro CC works to sell because a standard Terran build will not finish the second Orbital Command until around the 7:00 mark and the Terran will not saturate both their main and natural bases until the 10:00-11:00 mark. This gives the macro CC plenty of time to contribute towards SCV and MULE production before it is moved out to the third base.

Both are effective strategies no matter what your opponent is doing. If your opponent takes a fast third and you opt for aggression, you ideally want to kill an enemy Hatchery. If you build a macro Command Center and the opponent does not take a fast third, be prepared to defend yourself from aggressive attacks.

Stopping the Baneling Bust

Terran players who opt for a macro CC are particularly vulnerable to the Baneling bust. This occurs when the Zerg player suddenly makes a wave of Roaches and converts some of their initial Zerglings into Banelings. The Zerg can go from having a standard pack of 14 or so Zerglings that are used for map control and harass into 7-9 Roaches plus 6 Banelings in just 1 production cycle. It is the sudden appearance of a lot of offensive units that make Zerg strategy so effective in TvZ.

The easiest way to stop a Baneling Bust is to get up a Siege Tank on the high ground. A Siege Tank on the high ground can protect the natural expansion from Banelings and Roaches, but will be too far out of range for the Zerg's units to do anything about it.

The key to stopping the Baneling bust is just buying enough time to get that Siege Tank out. The Baneling bust is even easier to stop now that Siege Mode technology does not need to be researched. When you see Roaches, Zerglings, and Banelings in early TvZ, you need to pull your SCVs and do it quickly. Throw down buildings to reinforce your wall-in. Use the SCVs to repair structures that make up the wall. Build extra Bunkers. Do not lose the game because you were afraid to lose a couple workers.

One important aspect of delaying (or even stopping) the Baneling Bust is to force the Zerg player to use Banelings to destroy your structures. Do not allow Roaches and Zerglings to tear down your wall only to have the Banelings roll in uncontested. Combination armies of just SCVs and Marines can do okay versus Zerglings and Roaches, but one good Baneling hit can nearly wipe out that Terran composition entirely.

Widow Mines can also be a cheap, quick way to help shore up your defenses in an emergency, but they are not an ideal unit against very early Baneling busts. The problem is not effectiveness but production capability. The reason is that the Zerg player can easily produce a wave of 9 Roaches as part of their bust and each Roach can take 2 Widow Mine hits. Widow Mines on the other hand only produce 1 at a time out of the Factory (2 at a time with a Reactor) and the Terran is not likely to have more than 1 Factory up by the time a Baneling bust hits. If you produce 2-4 Widow Mines, the Widow Mines will proc, taking out a couple Roaches, but then you will still have 6 more Roaches left to deal with! A Siege Tank on the other hand will take out an unlimited number of Roaches as long as SCVs repair your wall-in.

This does not mean that Widow Mines are bad, in fact they are a great unit to have on defense. You just need some time to produce them and get them activated in the right position. You might not have this time in the event of a Baneling bust and may want to consider going straight to Siege Tanks.

Remember that it is okay to lose some SCVs to a Baneling Bust, especially if you invested in a macro CC. The Zerg had to cut a lot of Drone production to perform the Baneling Bust, so you are already ahead from the beginning of the fight. You can still come out ahead even if you lose some SCVs.

Stopping the Mutalisk Harass

When the Zerg gets out Mutalisks, you need to add a couple Missile Turrets. Missile Turrets are ridiculously effective against Mutalisks, with 1 Missile Turret able to kill a Mutalisk in about 5 seconds. When you consider that it takes 1 Mutalisk about 40 seconds to kill a Missile Turret, you can see that this is not a fair fight.

When being repaired by SCVs, a single Missile Turret can actually defend against a sizable flock of Mutalisks. Since Missile Turrets do not cost gas and Mutalisks are quite expensive, it quickly becomes uneconomical for the Zerg to attack a base that has even a single Missile Turret up. Every Mutalisk you kill as a Terran in TvZ is a big win for you. Every Missile Turret the Zerg destroys is of no consequence for the Zerg.

Bio vs Zerg in the Mid to Late Game

Full bio builds have always been and still remain quite popular against Zerg players. Typically, this build consists of just pure Marines and Medivacs, with a handful of other support units added in as needed.

The advantage of this build is that it is very easy to get out large numbers of units very early in the game. With most of your minerals being dumped into Marines and the only gas you need for Medivacs and research, it is possible to get out a huge army and push out around 130-150 supplies, possibly before the Zerg is able to get key tech like Centrifugal Hooks (Baneling Speed), Infestors, Ultralisks, or Brood Lords.

Dodging Banelings

The key to using Marines and Medivacs against the Zerg is to be able to avoid the Baneling. If your Marines are clustered up and get hit by Banelings, you can lose the game very quickly. While Banelings are expensive to use, they only take up a half of a supply each, allowing the Zerg to use many Banelings without impacting the size of their Zergling and Mutalisk army.

Terran players need to take care to always kite Banelings with their Marines. Note that Marines have 3.375 movement speed with Stimpack. A Baneling naturally moves at 2.5 movement speed. This is increased to 3.25 on creep. With the Centrifugal Hooks upgrade, Banelings move at 2.941 movement speed. This is increased to 3.83 on creep. The point of this is that in order for a Baneling to chase down a stimmed Marine, the Baneling must have Centrifugal Hooks plus be currently on the creep. If there is no upgrade or no creep, the Marines can simply stim and run away.

Terran players can get around fast Banelings by either engaging the Zerg before Centrifugal Hooks is researched (a staple of a full bio army) or by destroying the creep before engaging (a valid strategy once the Zerg has Centrifugal Hooks).

Two other strategies help the Terran avoid Banelings: splitting Marines and adding in support units. Splitting Marines is a good practice to use once you have run out of room to kite or have decided to stand your ground and are willing to take your losses. In this strategy, you try to spread your Marines out so that each Baneling explosion hits as few Marines as possible. One Baneling exploding on one Marine is great, one Baneling hitting 10+ Marines is disastrous.

The easiest way to split Marines is to use the "Patrol" function. Select your Marines, hit the "Patrol" hotkey, then click away from the Banelings. The Marines will only turn to attack when the Banelings get in range, causing them to spread out much better than you ever could manually. This works even better if you split your Marines up into several small groups and using the Patrol function to send smaller groups in different directions.

Splitting Marines helps, but it should not be the only strategy you employ, particularly if the enemy Zerg is making Banelings in mass or using Fungal Growth to root Marines. Widow Mines and Siege Tanks can be added on as support units. The Widow Mine will be discussed below, while the Siege Tank is covered in the BioMech section.

Widow Mine Support

A lot of full Bio players will add on the Widow Mine for support if the enemy Zerg player starts getting out too many Banelings. Ideally, you burrow the Widow Mines on the edge of the creep slightly spread out, then push forward with your Marines, killing off Creep Tumors. When the enemy goes to attack you with Banelings, stim your Marines and run backwards, running right through your Widow Mine field. Do not stop until you are completely on the other side of it. This baits a lot of Zerglings and Banelings into the Widow Mines, which tend to do very well against these units.

Widow Mines are more difficult to use than tanks but fit well with full Bio builds due to their speed. Widow Mines move fast - noticeably faster than tanks. With Drilling Claws, activating them and deactivating them is much faster than a Siege Tank going into and out of Siege Mode. You lose a lot of the mobility of the bio army if you are trying to protect slow Siege Tanks.

Additionally, Widow Mines do not need upgrades to be effective. A Terran can focus entirely on upgrading Infantry weapons and armor by using Widow Mines.

Building Sniping

Full bio armies have a hard time engaging Zerg forces directly, at least on offense. Instead, a common strategy in the late game when Zerg players get up to hive tech is for Terran players to no longer engage the Zerg directly and instead try to ping-pong between the Zerg's most distant expansions.

A group of Marines and Marauders can stim in, pick off a Hatchery, and run away before the Zerg's army gets there. Another small strike team can then hit the furthest expansion from the one that was just attacked, ping-ponging the Zerg player back and forth.

The Zerg may attempt to counter by attacking the Terran, so Terran's who want to pick apart a Zerg should make use of defensive wall-ins, Planetary Fortresses, and Missile Turrets, and well-placed Widow Mines at their most distant bases.


Ultralisks are strong against Marines, no matter how well they are microed. Bio players respond to the Ultralisk by adding Marauders to the mix. However, even the Marauder cannot simply stand there and go toe-to-toe with an Ultralisk. With good stutter-step micro, Marauders do well versus Ultralisks.

Remember that Ultralisks are very expensive, whereas Marines and Marauders are cheap. Even killing just 1 Ultralisk is a big win for the Terran. The Zerg cannot throw out an endless supply of Ultralisks like they can with Zerglings.

Brood Lord

Dealing with Brood Lords is simple: get Vikings. A Marine ball can handle Mutalisks and Corruptors, and Vikings are strong versus Brood Lords. Failure to get out Vikings in response to enemy Brood Lords will result in the quick death of a bio army.

If you get surprised by Brood Lords, do not throw away your bio army trying to attack them. Brood Lords are very slow, so exploit this fact. Load up all your bio units and drop them in "doom drop" fashion in your enemy's base. Brood Lords are not very fast in base-race scenario and are very slow in getting back on defense. This will buy time for you to get out some Vikings.


Infestors are dangerous to bio armies. I would recommend adding Marauders in response. Marauders can kill Infestors much easier than Marines and are much less vulnerable to Fungal Growth. Infestors are armored so they take bonus damage from Marauders. Marauders also have 1 more range than Marines, so they can reach the Infestors easier. Finally, Marauders do not take bonus damage from Banelings and have enough health that they are not so vulnerable to Fungal Growth into Banelings attacks.

Even if you lose Marauders in the battle, remember that Infestors cost a lot of gas whereas Marauders do not. Every time you can trade 1 Marauder for 1 Infestor, you did great.


Ultralisk and Infestor combination is a nightmare for bio builds. Marauders work well but the problem is if you mass produce Marauders you are vulnerable to a Zergling counter-attack. 

The trick to beating Ultralisk and Infestor combinations (aside from transitioning out of bio into air) is to win the economic war. Namely, Ultralisks cost 200 gas and Infestors cost 150 gas. A Zerg player is not going to be able to afford multiple armies of Ultralisk/Infestor in the same game. As a result, you want to try to slowly whittle down the Ultralisk and Infestor army, taking small victories with an Ultralisk kill here and there.

Never fully engage an Ultralisk/Infestor army in the open field. Instead, try to pick off 1-2 Ultralisks here and there, spending most of your time running away. Let your Marauders get a few rounds off to kill 1 Ultralisk and then bolt before the Infestors can come and root your kiting units.

You do not need to kill this enemy army in one big attack - slowly pick at it instead. As long as you never lose your whole army to the Ultralisk/Infestor combo, you will be just fine.  

BioMech vs Zerg

BioMech is a very popular strategy to use against Zerg players. This strategy involves sticking primarily to the Marine/Medivac backbone and adding in Siege Tanks as a primary support unit. Hellbats and Hellions are often used for map control and drops as well.

The strategy underlying the BioMech army composition is very similar to full bio builds. The main difference is that Siege Tanks are used to counter the Baneling, defend expansions, and gain map control. Siege Tanks are better at destroying Zerg ground units, but are much slower than full Bio builds. Siege Tanks also are great against Roach/Hydralisk armies, which have begun to resurface as viable Zerg builds against full Bio/Widow Mine Terrans.

Dealing with Banelings

Just like with full bio builds, the most difficult part of using a BioMech army is not losing your Marines to Banelings. The same strategies of avoiding creep, running to the safety of tanks, and splitting Marines via Patrol still applies.

The primary difference here is that you are using Siege Tanks instead of Widow Mines. When using Siege Tanks, you do not need to worry about microing your Marines as much (just run your Marines directly behind your Siege Tanks) but instead you should use your Siege Tanks to focus-fire down enemy Banelings. It helps to have all your Siege Tanks in their own control group, so you can select the tanks, hold shift, then right click on as many enemy Banelings as possible. This will cause your tanks to take down most of the enemy Banelings from a safe range.

Do not set up Siege Tanks on the creep unless you are at a big advantage. It makes it easier for Zerglings to surround the tanks.

Brood Lords

Just like with bio builds, you must get Vikings out in response to Brood Lords. Failure to do so is disastrous. BioMech builds are even more vulnerable to Brood Lords as Siege Tanks will attack the Broodlings, causing friendly fire splash damage to hit the Terran's units.


Just like with full Bio builds, adding in Marauders helps a lot versus Ultralisks. Siege Tanks by themselves do not do well versus Ultralisks, but they can soften Ultralisks up enough to allow Marauders to focus-fire them down quickly.


The good thing about using Siege Tanks instead of Widow Mines is that Siege Tanks can chase away any Infestors. It only takes two Siege Tank shots to kill an Infestor, so with a bit of target firing it is very difficult for the Zerg player to actually get Infestors in range.

Protecting your Siege Tanks

Unlike full Bio builds which are very mobile, BioMech requires deliberate movement. The Zerg player is always looking for an opportunity to roll in with Banelings when your tanks are unsieged or to flank unprotected tanks with Mutalisks and Zerglings.

If you do not have full vision and know it is safe, you should never unsiege all your tanks at the same time when in a forward position. Unsiege the ones in the back and leap frog forward in a controlled manner. Additionally, do not leave your tanks behind in order to push forward with your Marines and clear out the creep. Instead, leave most of your Marines near the tanks and push out to clear the creep with a small party of just a handful of Marines. 

Mech vs Zerg

In early Wings of Liberty, full Mech builds were a very popular strategy in TvZ. While these builds mostly fell out of favor towards the end of Wings of Liberty, Mech has come back with a vengeance thanks to the Hellbat.

Playing mech is much different from playing bio. Bio players tend to get a large attack force out quite early in the game. It is a very aggressive playstyle. Bio players also generally try avoid direct confrontations with the Zerg army. Mech builds on the other hand can directly engage the Zerg army. It is typically a defensive build, with the Terran player slowly claiming their third base before they actually move out for an attack.

Mech is generally slow to get moving as it requires a lot of vespene gas to pull off. Mech also becomes stronger with upgrades since mech weaponry typically gains more than +1 damage from an upgrade point (a 3/3 Thor will 2-shot a 3/3 Roach, while it takes a 0/0 Thor 3 shots to kill a 0/0 Roach).

Rather than try to kill the Zerg player, Mech players tend to use the Hellion and Hellbat either in run-bys or drops to try to delay the Zerg economy and tech as much as possible. Given how slow mech builds are and how long it takes to get out enough Thors and Siege Tanks to safely move out, the Zerg player typically will not feel threatened early in the game by mech players.

Strengths of Mech in TvZ

When comparing Mech vs Bio, the biggest difference is how each build approaches the Baneling. Namely, full Mech builds actually face no threat against the Baneling. Banelings do bonus damage to Hellbats, but Hellbats have a lot more HP than Marines. Hellbats are also much bigger than Marines, making it harder for a single Baneling to hit multiple Hellbats. Siege Tanks and Thors are both counters to the Baneling, so good Zergs will not even bother with Banelings against full Mech.

Aside from Banelings, Mech is strong versus everything Zerg has on the ground. Hellbats are very strong against Zerglings, Thors are strong against Roaches and Ultralisks, Siege Tanks are strong against Hydralisks, Infestors, and Banelings. The Swarm Host is sometimes used against Mech, but even that unit can at least be mitigated if there is 1 Siege Tank for every 1 Swarm Host (both are similar cost 3 supply units so this is possible). Mech players who do not use enough Siege Tanks can run into trouble against Swarm Hosts though.

Weaknesses of Mech in TvZ

The biggest weakness of mech is air. You need at least 4 Thors to stop any number of Mutalisks. Any less than 4 Thors and you will struggle against a Zerg player who is good at microing their Mutalisks. Additionally, focus on upgrades as mech. If your weapon upgrades outpace Mutalisk armor upgrades, your Thors will shred Mutalisks. If your weapon upgrades are behind the Mutalisk's armor upgrades, you may be in trouble.

Never switch Thors into High Impact Payload if there are Mutalisks on the field. Vikings need to be added to stop Brood Lords, not Thors. Vikings are weak against Mutalisks, so you need the Thor to help clear out Mutalisks.

There is no way for mech builds to stop Brood Lords. You must add Vikings (or even a few Ravens) to help counter any Zerg transitions into air.

Baneling Counter Video Guide

The video below details the best way to counter Banelings as a Terran player with all three playstyles. Splitting Marines, kiting, retreating to Widow Mines and Siege Tanks, and using full mech builds are all discussed.

SkyTerran vs Zerg

In the late game if you start banking up enough gas, a build of a healthy mix of fully upgraded Ravens, Battlecruisers, and Vikings is virtually unstoppable in the hands of a skilled Terran. Ravens are used for Point Defense Drone (PDD). PDD is extremely strong versus the Corruptor and can negate all its damage. Mass Seeker Missile is also great versus large numbers of Corruptors. Since no Zerg unit can easily take down Battlecruisers aside from the Corruptor, using PDD to neutralize the Corruptor makes it very difficult for the Zerg to stop your assault.

In order to pull off SkyTerran, you need to save up gas. It is easier to switch into SkyTerran as a Mech player since ships and vehicles share armor upgrades. You can spend minerals on Hellbats and save up your gas throughout the course of the game. Throw away your Hellbats in exchange for units from the Zerg army, but make sure to keep all your tanks and Thors alive so you do not have to spend gas replacing them. Once you have a healthy bank of gas, you can make the transition into SkyTerran.


Terran vs Zerg is a very dynamic match-up with a lot of possible strategies. Whether you play Bio, BioMech, Mech, or SkyTerran, you have a variety of tactics available to you that you can use to win games.

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