Zerg versus Terran : Why not Sporecrawler?
Terran players have made comebacks with marine drops since the dawn of Starcraft 2, even if the Zerg player was far ahead. These comebacks have become more and more common with Mutalisks phasing out and Infestors becoming the go-to midgame unit. It is time to step up and start planning your placement of buildings and defenses so you can keep that advantage.
Minerals, your biggest friend and greatest foe
As a Zerg player, you have got to love a nice high drone count. The income they generate when they are evenly spread across three or more bases is amazing. The only caveat though, is that the mineral line might be one of the most hostile enviroments for them to be. Littered with chokes, giving dropped units a nice barrier to shoot from to destroy your economy you have worked so hard for.
Even with a decent Zergling force, a single Marine that is parked between two mineral patches with a Medivac healing him will tank so much damage that his friends will be far more cost efficient than they ought to be. Add in an unfortunately placed Spawning Pool and Spire and a large push and you're in for a frustrating comeback where the Terran levels out your economy and will overwhelm you with a later push.
While this problem is fairly obvious, most haven't really gone in depth with their base design. Of course a design is variable based on the map and the expansion, but there is no excuse to just randomly plant buildings around and later on find yourself in a terrible position.
Planning tech buildings
In the early stages of the game, it hardly matters where you place your Spawning pool. The placement gets a lot more important after Medivacs come into play. It has been getting quite popular in the lategame for the Terran to drop in the Zergs main and hunt for that Spawning pool. Thus, you should build your Spawning pool away from the easiest or closest place to drop. While this doesn't ensure that the pool will never go down, it gives you a lot more time to respond.
You should never want to make chokes or hard to reach places in your base since pretty much all of the Terran units that are used in drops ( Marines and Marauders with Medivac support, Hellions ) get extremely cost efficient the more you funnel your Zerglings and drones. So don't place your Evolution chambers, or frankly any 3x3 building behind your mineral line since it limits the movement of your Zerglings and drones.
The biggest nono is putting your 3x3 buildings between your Extractor and hatchery. This limits your drones fleeing options and makes it easier to snipe them. It is generally not advised to place any buildings ( aside from maybe spines and spores ) on the bottom side of the hatchery. This forces larvae away and you might create pockets between buildings where larvae collect. Building units from them will tie up your supply while the eggs might never spawn. Or in the worst case, spawn an Ultralisk that can only twist around like the saddest ballerina-zoo animal ever built.
Knowing is half the battle
Of course the easiest way of fending off drops is having your army in the base that is being dropped. The only way to respond quickly to a drop is having overlords spread around the perimeters of your bases and keep bases and xel naga towers scouted with Zerglings.
There is no reason to have your overlords lazily bunched together in some remote corner behind your base. They don't serve any other role there. Fanning them around the edges of your bases will give you minimap vision of drops flying around and even warn you if they unload Marines away from your mineral line in your base rather than being surprised when the Marines are already murdering your drones.
Doing this gives you more than enough time to relocate your army in a calmer game. Not having defenses in place in a really hectic game will result in your army being pulled around like a pingpong ball though, which will keep you in your bases and will make you miss timings. This is the number one reasons drops are so good, because against an unprepared Zerg it will not only do damage economically, but keep the Terran save by having the Zerg army in a non-threatening position long enough to relocate tank lines or retake Xel naga towers. If we want to maintain the ability to attack the Terran, we need defenses in our bases beforehead.
Why not Sporecrawler?
So there has been a depressingly low amount of Sporecrawlers against Terran, which seems rather weird to me. Sporecrawlers hold a couple of advantages over Spinecrawlers, namely:
- They have more HP than Spinecrawlers
- They zone out and kill unmicroed Medivacs, trapping the Marines for your units to kill
- They are cheaper
- They relocate faster, so you can have a fluid drop defense that constantly changes
- They detect cloaked units
The first listed advantage is a clear advantage against unmicroed drops, because the Marines will take a longer time killing off the Sporecrawler compared to a single Spinecrawler. Buying you more time to move your army, or part of it, over to deal with the drop.
The second advantage is the most important one in the list. Because of their great range, Sporecrawlers can make sure Marines aren't dropped right between the minerals or behind your mineral line. Not only does this prevent the Terran from getting the sweetspot between the minerals to have maximum costefficiency, but it will keep the Medivac away from the Marines if they decide to attack the mineral line anyway. This makes the Marines a lot easier to kill.
The best part is unmicroed drops, which consist of a large percentage of the drops Terran does during a large push. It takes a single Sporecrawler about 10 shots to kill a Medivac, roughly 8 ingame seconds. With a Queen helping out, this gets reduced to about 5 ingame seconds. If the Terran shift-drops the Marines in range of a Sporecrawler, he will have very little time to respond, often resulting in a Medivac kill and some stranded Marines. Medivacs are the real prize here, Marines aren't worth jack to the Terran. Reducing the Medivac count will force the Terran later in the game to choose between refilling the count or make vikings to fight Broodlords, either choice could change the outcome of the game drastically.
The next two advantages are neglible, since saving a couple of minerals isn't all that important later in the game ( 100 minerals saved if you make 4 spores instead of 4 spines ). Changing defense layout is much faster and easier with Sporecrawlers considering they burrow much faster. This can be used effectively against Terrans that change up their drop paths. Since most of the ones that have a gameplan change it around if a Medivac got sniped at a certain position. They might still do unmicroed drops, but while dropping in a different, crawlerless location. Naturally if you change the Sporecrawler placements around between drops, you can punish a Terran that doesn't pay much attention during the drops.
And lastly, the detection range of a Sporecrawler is another obvious benefit, and makes it much easier to deal with Banshee tech switches or cloaked Ghosts nuking your bases. While this might not occur often, knowing for sure that you can take out a Ghost before a nuke lands because you already have detection on the spot is a huge stress relief.
Spinecrawlers and units
Now after that overglorification of the Sporecrawler ( Let's face it, it has nothing on Turrets or cannons, but atleast it can uproot and run to a corner to sob contemplating where did he go wrong in life. ), we can talk about Spinecrawlers and a good standing army to keep in your bases.
Spinecrawlers aren't as great versus drops as you may think. A single Spinecrawler can hardly take down a Marine when it is being healed by a Medivac, let alone tank long enough for to kill a Marine when the whole squad is attacking it at the same time. If a Marauder is dropped first, it might not even kill anything. Spinecrawlers are most effective if two of them can attack the same unit at the same time, but that drastically reduces the area in which the Spinecrawlers are costefficient compared to a Sporecrawler.
However, having Spinecrawlers in certain locations can be more effective than placing Sporecrawlers there, especially in the case of frontal defense. Keeping a couple of Spinecrawlers in the front will delay Siegetank pushes and will prevent a small squad of Marines to sprint forward and try to snipe a few Infestors. Sporecrawlers won't have the same delaying effect against a frontal attack since they would only effect air units.
The unit composition that we are looking for in a drop defense is either something that can move between bases quickly, something that is costeffective and doesn't hold up a lot of supply. Zerglings have the least supply of the entire Zerg race and are the fastest to respond to a drop. Banelings don't have a lot of supply held up either, and can deal a lot of damage to the overall Marine group, but they can't respond quickly if they aren't in the base already. Infestors can hit both air and ground but aren't very mobile. Ultralisks don't have a lot of supply ( at only 6 ) and are relatively fast, but they aren't that great against the regular old Marine drop. Instead, these are one of the only units that are good against Auto-Turret spam because of their high armour, while Zerglings would fall quickly.
Zerglings are pretty much the go-to unit for defending Marine drops. Keeping aroung 10 back in your base will scare off drops and given a good surround will kill off a few Marines, enough to get the punch out of a drop. Zerglings require decent upgrades to be effective against drops however, so keeping up on upgrades with the Terran is a given. Adrenal glands is the ultimate drop-killer for Zerglings, because the upgrade allows Zerglings to out-damage the healing of a Medivac easily. Get this upgrade in the lategame, there really is no reason to not get it in this match up once it goes past Hive tech.
Zerglings are obviously lackluster when funneled through a small crack, so plugging some of the cracks between the minerals with Zerglings will prevent the Marines from easily walking into those sweetspots. Following the Medivac around with them is also great if you want an instant surround or otherwise scare off the drop from even touching the ground, make sure to do an attack move if the Terran does decide to drop though.
In the event of an unmicroed drop, Banelings are your biggest friend. With their instant splash damage they can dismantle a whole Marine squad easily. Banelings, other than Zerglings, are best kept away from a drop until it has fully unloaded. Keeping them away from your mineral line or the easiest drop path is a must if you don't want them all tanked by single Marines dropping on top of them. When the Marines stim in, charging over the creep or into your mineral line, you can send in your Banelings.
This forces the Terran to either micro his drop, leaving less time for him to micro a frontal attack, macro or other drops, or to easily all the Marines. The most effective amount of Banelings against single Marine drops are about 4, since even unmicroed drops will take out one before they have closed in. The Banelings won't hit all of the Marines in most circumstances either. It doesn't hurt to keep a few more if the Terran ever feels bold enough to do a double drop, but I'd say 4 is the minimum.
Aside from the easiest drop defense, Mutalisks, Infestors can be considered the best way of dealing with drops effectively. While they lack the mobility of Zerglings and Mutalisks, they make up for it with freezing splash damage for only an energy cost. They do need back up however, although a few Zerglings will often suffice for that.
Fungal growth has two distinct uses here. One of them is the obvious fungal on top of the fully unloaded Marines to deal damage across the squad. Two fungals will always kill all but one of the Marines if the fungals hit home. A Medivac healing make sure one of the Marines live, but a few Zerglings or even a Queen would deal with that effectively.
The other use is to pin a Medivac, preventing its escape. Full energy Infestors can dish out two fungals and two Infested Terrans each, so you must plan these abilities out if you want to dish out the maximum amount of damage. If there is no other anti-air around, you should lob the Infested Terrans in front of the Medivac before fungalling. This gives the Infested Terrans time to spawn and dish out damage.
If there is anti air around, like the Medivac has flown into Sporecrawler range, you can just fungal. The rapid rate of fire of a Sporecrawler is more than enough to kill a Medivac that is fungalled twice. If you time it well, and the Medivac has flown through one or two Sporecrawler volleys before you fungal it, you only need a single fungal to take it down.
Granted, these are a bit of a niche, but a single fully upgraded Ultralisk is the best line of defense against auto-turret spam by Raven flocks in the late-late game. The high armour will reduce the damage output of the Turrets to two damage per shot. With a transfuse or two this will clear out an Auto-Turret field without the loss of a hatchery if no target firing is in place.
Ultralisks are also atleast decent against other types of drops. But you would obviously prefer them in your army over keeping them in your bases. You're better off keeping other units in your base unless you meet heavy Raven play.
These are actually much more valuable in the lategame considering they allow expensive units to be healed for only 50 energy. Since they are also needed for larvae production, these should generally only be used as support. Unless you find the Medivac just skirting out in the open air where your Queen can take potshots at it, you're better off just transfusing targetted hatcheries or tech structures to buy time for the rest of the army to arrive. Never engage a drop that is fully unloaded with a Queen, you'll only lose production and hardly damage the Medivac.
Hellion harass defense
Mech is one of the toughest styles to play against because of the Hellions. A Meching player often relies on a strong 2 or 3 base timing attack to hit before Hive tech and Broodlords are out. The killing of drones by Hellion runby's is the hinge that makes Mech work.
The biggest problem with Hellion runby's is that even if you barricade your bases up with Spinecrawlers, a large enough pack can still drive in and focus on your drones. Your primary objective is to keep your drones alive so you don't have to replendish it with precious larvae. The best way of going about doing this is planting Spinecrawlers behind your mineral line and infront of your hatchery. This won't deflect the hellions, but will atleast keep them relatively at bay so they won't drive in freely.
Burrow only serves to delay a Terran by making them waste a scan. By far the best way of saving drones in this case is researching Overlord Drops. Since you already should want to abuse the immobility of the Mech army, this might have been on your to-do list. Loading up drones so the Hellions can't even attack them is another major benefit. This works so well against Mech because of the lack of Marines to kill off the Overlords.
Overlords keep your drones safe regardless of Hellion driveby's or drops, and can even allow you to safely transfer your drones to and from bases without risking losing them to stray Hellions. Every drone that you save in this way is larvae and minerals saved that will make the Mech push much easier to deal with. So even if you plan on not dropping the Terran, please research the drop upgrade if only to save your drones from barbeque hell.
While this guide might not be as thorough or vast as the others I have made, I hope Zergs will atleast think about where to place their buildings and decide to actively improve their play versus dropping Terrans. Go out there and try out your own baselayouts and share them with others so that we might eventually get optimal base layouts that proves to be much more effective than others. As always, thanks for reading and good luck.
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