Starcraft 2 Zerg vs Terran Strategy

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Click Here to Get The Osiris MethodThe guide below covers all aspects of Zerg vs Terran in Starcraft 2. We start with openers and how to deflect early Terran attacks. From there, mid game attacks and harassment techniques are discussed. Finally, late game army compositions and strategies are revealed at the end of the guide.

Zerg vs Terran is a classic match in Starcraft 2. Pitting vicious bug-like aliens against humans has been a staple of science fiction for decades.

Things are a bit different in Starcraft 2 than they are in traditional sci-fi. Rather than the humans getting slaughtered and only fighting off the aliens with a come-from-behind victory, Terran forces are actually very efficient at destroying the Swarm.

If you are fighting for the Zerg, the superior physical traits of the Zerg units alone will not be enough to overpower your Terran foes. If you want to beat Terran players as Zerg with some regularity, you need to apply the strategies found in the guide below.

Zerg vs Terran Strategy: Early Game

In the early game, the Zerg player is not able to do much other than focus on expanding and adding on Drones. No race has an easier time stopping Zergling rushes than Terran since Terran players always wall in versus Zerg players. A Terran player who goes Command Center first is vulnerable to the Zergling rush, but you would not want to bet on that unless you had a previous match history with that particular player and know that they like to open for a CC.

Opening as Zerg in ZvT

Zerg players often go for Hatchery-first builds against Terran players. This is done even on small maps. Hatchery first builds are temporarily vulnerable to early Reaper or Marine attacks. Zergs that opts for the Hatchery first are particularly vulnerable to proxy Barracks attacks, but these are rare. Additionally, a highly skilled Zerg can hold off these attacks by using Drones for Defense. Injured Drones can be converted into buildings and then cancelled when it is safe.

Zerg players who are less skilled at defending these rushes may choose to go for a Spawning Pool and early Vespene gas when going against Terran players. This allows the Zerg to get out Metabolic Boost early in the game. Reapers are no match for these fast Zerglings. After getting the 100 gas needed for Metabolic Boost, you may want to pull the Drones off gas and send them back to harvesting minerals so you can save up for more Drones, Queens, and expansions.

Dealing with Early Reapers or Marines

Against early Reapers, Zerg players generally try to ignore them the best they can while they get out Queens and Zerglings. Injured Drones are saved by being converted into Spore Crawlers, Extractors, or Evolution Chambers. These buildings are cancelled before completion to get the Drone back. By the time the building is cancelled, you should have your first round of Queens. You will need one Queen for every 2 enemy Reapers. Try not to let your Queens get pulled off the Creep, as once off the Creep, Reapers can just go around the Queens and start blasting away at vulnerable Drones.

Against Marines or when the Terran player tries to build a Bunker at your natural expansion, you may need to pull Drones. Drones can be used to destroy the Bunker before it is finished. If a Bunker is built within range of your natural expansion, you are going to have to remove all your units from the area and protect your main. Spend 2 rounds of Spawn Larva timings on Zerglings. Once you have 20+ Zerglings, you can push out with a Queen or two and overwhelm the Terran forces. The Zerglings should be able to arrive before the couple of Reapers or Marines in the Bunker can actually take out the Hatchery.

Preventing Hellion Harass

Terran players love going into early Hellions against Zerg. This can be done by Terrans that open up with Marine aggression, Reaper aggression, or even no aggression. The ideal solution here is to get out Metabolic Boost and spread the creep to your third base relatively early. With creep spread and Metabolic Boost, Zerglings will be fast enough to surround and easily shut down enemy Hellions.

When Hellion numbers start getting large or while waiting for Metabolic Boost to finish, you can make a Zerg "wall in" at the natural expansion to prevent Hellions from getting into the base. Find the narrowest choke point to the base and build two Evolution chambers side by side with a gap in the middle. You can then take 2 Queens and stick them in that gap on Hold Position, creating a wall-in. Hellions will be unable to enter. You will however eventually need Zerglings in order to protect your third. If the Hellion count goes beyond 6, you will want to likely add on a Roach Warren or Spire as well as even Speedlings do not handle 8+ Hellions.

Zerg vs Terran Strategy: Mid Game

In the mid game, most Zerg players actually prefer to continue to expand and work on their economy rather than go on the offensive. However, Terran players love to attack Zerg players in the mid game, so you can expect to have to defend against a variety of attacks.

Taking A Fourth Base

If you are not going to make a major attack, you need to start looking to secure your fourth base in ZvT early in the mid game. A good Terran will be looking to move out with their macro CC at this time to claim their third, and Zergs need to maintain their base lead. A good time to start the fourth is after the creep has been spread out to its potential location. Zergs should also have already started upgrading to Lair before taking a third.

Adding on the fourth base itself really stretches out the Zerg's ability to defend all its locations at once from drops. Make sure you place Overlords in a perimeter position, spread the creep to the fourth, and add on a Spore and Spine crawler at each base to help defend against these drops.

Harassing with Mutalisks

One of the best ways to secure your fourth base is to harass the Terran opponent with Mutalisks. Low-end Zerg players often miss the point of Mutalisks. The goal of harassing with Mutalisks is to keep the Terran pinned back in their base. The Zerg is most vulnerable while they are still spreading creep, working on getting their fourth base, and getting out Baneling speed.

If you can come in with Mutalisks and destroy the enemy's workers, great, but if this area is heavily defended, do not waste your Mutalisks. Instead, look for weak spots where anything is up for attack. Focus down Supply Depots, lone Missile turrets, Barracks, tech add ons - really anything you can attack that the enemy will want to protect. Once the enemy moves in to defend whatever structure you are attacking, you can just run away and work on another weak part of the base.

If the enemy's units are at home trying to chase away your Mutalisks, these Terran units are not able to make an attack on your bases. The longer you can keep a Terran pinned down, the better. If you can maintain map control long enough, your Mutalisk flock can grow to large numbers. Once you get 15+ Mutalisks, you can start focus-firing down Missile Turrets that do not overlap with one another. This really opens up your ability to harass the Terran player.

Shutting Down Drops

During this stage of the game, you are likely going to encounter many drops from Terran players that you will need to defend while you work on getting your fourth base up and running. The easiest way to do this is to add on a Spore Crawler and a Spine Crawler at each base. The Spore Crawler is key as the Medivac itself is what makes drops effective. A Queen and a Spore Crawler both targeting the Medivac will take it down in a couple of seconds, ending the drop.

The disaster for the Zerg is when the Terran drops, kills 10 Drones and the Queen, then scoops up their units and flees to another part of your base, only to drop there and repeat the process. Kill the Medivac and the drop ceases to exist. Mutalisks are good at chasing down fleeing Medivacs as well, especially weak ones.

The Roach/Baneling Bust

Sometimes it may be wise to make an attack as a Zerg player in the mid game. In particular, Terran players that go for a third Command Center before getting a Factory or even establishing their natural expansion are particularly vulnerable to attack. Terran players like to build this macro CC in their main base and use it for MULE and SCV production. However, if the Terran player builds this extra CC very early, they are relying solely on Marines and Bunkers for defense.

Marines, Bunkers, and SCVs are no match for Roaches, Banelings, and Zerglings. If you scout this fast third Command Center, it may be wise to start producing units and make an attack. Even if you already have a third of your own, this is no problem. Rather, it is an advantage, as the extra Hatchery means more larva for Production. Use Banelings to focus down Bunkers, the Supply Depot wall-in, and clumps of workers gathered to repair or even pulled to attack your Roaches. Use Roaches and Zerglings to take out the enemy units. Alternatively, you can pull off a similar attack in the early game using just Zerglings and Banelings. We cover this build in our Baneling Bust build order guide.

Zerg vs Terran Strategy: The Late Game

While Zerg players often do not win against Terran early in the game outside of going for a Roach bust, simply surviving to the late game is not enough for the Zerg player to win the game.

This is the part of the game where your previous actions really start to matter. If you were very successful in securing additional bases while simultaneously harassing the Terran player, you have already done all the hard work and closing out the game with a win will happen more often than not. If you allowed the Terran to expand unchecked, then you will still struggle in ZvT even in the late game.

Denying the Terran Fourth

One of the worst things that can happen to a Zerg player is to allow the Terran to get a fourth base established. Terran players on 4 bases are very difficult to stop, particularly in the late game. The reason is Terran players already have 3 Orbital Commands by default at their first 3 bases. They can then drop MULEs from all these bases at their new fourth expansion resulting in a massive influx of minerals for the Terran player in a short time. This mechanic is the reason why wave after wave of sacrificial Marine or Hellbat is able to be produced effortlessly by the Terran.

Additionally, the gas provided by a fourth base really opens the Terran to any tech route. The Terran is able to get most key infrastructure, units, and technology off of three bases, so any extra gas harvested can be directed towards high gas units like the Raven or even the Battlecruiser, both of which are deadly against the Zerg.

As a result, you want to do your best to destroy the Terran fourth base. Terran players typically fortify their third very well, but the fourth is more vulnerable. Mass Mutalisks as well as Ultralisks and Banelings both make good expansion snipers. Mass repair will destroy your attempt to take down the base. Mutalisks will kill these workers by default with their splash damage, whereas Banelings can blow up the clumped up workers while Ultralisks focus on the actual building. Make sure you use your Banelings on the workers, not the building, as destroying the Planetary with Banelings is not an efficient use of gas.

Dealing with Bio Units

Bio armies are a staple in ZvT. Most Zerg players prefer to use a Mutalisk, Baneling, and Zergling army. Banelings must have Baneling speed in order to take out Marines, whereas Zerglings are needed to kill Marauders as well as lone Marines that it may not be worth using Banelings against. Roaches and Hydralisks can work too, especially against Widow Mines.

Widow Mines are often added to bio armies. Make sure you do not pursue fleeing Marines if you cannot get too close. What I mean by this is if the Terran player pushes in to take Creep Tumors out and then runs away when your Zerglings are across the screen, do not move in blindly. Instead, only engage the Terran when they have made a committed attack and your Zerglings are up close and personal with enemy Marines. This way, the Marines take the Widow Mine splash damage too. Hydralisks can out-range Widow Mines, so Roach/Hydra works well here too.

Ultralisks function in the same way as Zerglings in that if they proc Widow Mines on top of enemy Marines, the enemy units may take some splash damage. Ultralisks also can tank many Widow Mine hits. While 10 Widow Mines will kill 1 Ultralisk, the Ultralisk can generally be considered a Widow Mine counter. Ultralisks are particularly appealing to use late in the game since they require so little micro - just "attack move" is fine in most situations. This frees up your attention to focus on other aspects of the game.

Stopping Mech Armies

Mech builds consisting of Hellbats, Siege Tanks, and Thors are a popular choice against Zerg players as well. If the Viking count from the enemy is light, a secret transition into Brood Lords and Corruptors works extremely well. Mech armies are also very vulnerable to Mutalisk harass, though engaging the army directly with Mutalisks is a not a good idea if there are 3 or more Thors.

The Mutalisk and Zergling combination still works well, but Swarm Hosts should be added to the mix. The Locusts can help take out enemy Hellbats and help convince the Terran to add on more Siege Tanks. If you can kill off all (or at least most) of the Hellbats with a wave of Locusts, you can then run in with a mass of Zerglings and take out the vulnerable tanks and Thors. Mutalisks can fly behind the enemy army and pick off any reinforcing Hellbats that try to come to the aid of these units. In the late, late game, Ultralisks work well against all sorts of mech units as well.

Terran Air

Terran players massing air units is a disaster for the Zerg. Battlecruisers, Vikings, and Ravens are hard to stop. Do not try to engage a Terran air army directly without superior numbers. The Viper and patience are the key. Use the Viper to pull Battlecruisers out one at a time from the sky fleet. Faster Hydralisks or Corruptors can then burst down the Battlecruiser before it can escape back into the main fleet. Never engage the enemy when Point Defense Drones are active. It is better to run away and out-range them when possible.

You may need to use 2 Abducts in a row to pull an enemy Battlecruiser out of the safety of its fleet. This may seem like a waste, but remember a Battlecruiser runs 400 minerals and 300 vespene gas. Just killing a single one is a huge blow to the Terran player. Do this a couple times and you just destroyed thousands of resources. It also helps if you can build Spore Crawlers for your units to retreat to when necessary. You can use Abduct to pull Battlecruisers over top of this Spore Crawler stronghold.

On the Offensive

Most of this page has been dedicated with how to defend against the Terran rather than making attacks. The reason for this is that it is hard for the Zerg player to attack an entrenched Terran player. It is never recommended without a unit or resource advantage. Instead, you want to engage the Terran army in the open field. You want the Terran to make an attack, you surround the Terran's forces, and then you re-macro (often with a different unit type) and finish the Terran off before they can get out the units they need.

If the Terran holes up in their base, just expand the entire map. If you build a huge economic lead, you can always just tack on 10 Ultralisks and a swarm of Zerglings and brute force your way through the Terran's base. If you can destroy an expansion or two and most of their production and Supply Depots, it may be difficult for the Terran to recover even if they are way ahead in the "Units Lost" tab after stopping your attack.


This information should help you immensely when playing against Terran players as Zerg. If you find yourself still not winning enough games, I would strongly recommend that you check out my product, The Osiris Method, which you can get by clicking here.

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