Zerg versus Zerg: Glaive Guillotine

Foreword

So you've finally settled on a Roach based style that allows you to defend Zergling Baneling shenanigans well? Your content on out macroing your opponent and eventually overwhelming him with a large enough Roach ball? Good for you, you won't find things that'll help you improve that here! Try this: http://raa-media.nl/blog/starcraft2/zvz-alpha-omega

This guide is for the adrenaline junkies that can't get enough of the knifes edge of micro. The ones that prefer to accelerate in their abilities until they leave the opponents in a pile of dust. The ones that love to see their opponent whither away in a slow agonizing death by counter attacks, harassment and generally annoying tactics. If you want to learn about the art of ZvZ at a million miles an hour, read on. You're going to read about a 2 base Mutalisk opening and all the little perks that come along with it, what keeps you ahead and what you shouldn't do.

As always I keep this site ad-free, so if you feel the need to paypal donate to my cause you can do so with the following email: kevinteraa@gmail.com

Introduction

With the swarm evolving at an ever increasing rate it was only a matter of time before we hit a new frontier. After the first units flew up from the IM cluster, it took the rest of the swarm not all that long to adapt to the changing landscape. Learning from the desperate attempts of the Protoss to contain the skyward infestation, the swarm is now using Mutalisks not just against the invasive races but to choke out rivalling broods as well. The ZvZ match up has developped a lot since I last made a guide, and it is time to share with you the findings I have going for Mutalisk dependant styles.

Table of Contents

Concept

Every match up in Starcraft 2 has a style for general harassment and counter attacks. For TvT that is Bio, while PvP has Blink stalker openings. What makes these styles so fun is that fast players can still macro under heavy pressure while weaker players tend to choke up in it. A weak player also makes more decisions on the fly while the fast players continiue to make calculated ones. In ZvZ, decision making and macro basically decide who lives and who dies, which is why it is so great to have a style that can wear an opponent out mentally.

On top of that, these styles give you the oppertunity to make a comeback. When you go Roach vs Roach, the ones with the most upgrades or most units wins, always. But Mutalisks and Zergling counters can flip a game upside down with the economic and infrastructural damage they can achieve. You always have a chance to win the game. Which is what Roach styles, that once the opponent gets the upperhand in upgrades or macro, lack.

Deciding to go for this style

Why would I give up my Roach based style if it is far easier and I can take my decision making at a reasonable pace? Well there are plenty of pros for going a highly aggressive 2 base Mutalisk style.

  • It gives you control of what the opponent sees, while giving you complete map vision. If the opponent reacts slow enough, you might even pick off a ton of overlords for free while keeping him in the dark.
  • You kill drones even if you are not harassing, because the opponent is forced to build Spore crawlers at each base. If he doesn't, you can kill a ton of drones because he doesn't have defenses.
  • It might force the opponent into going all in with his current units just to give his third a slight chance of going up. Defending that kind of push often means the end of the game for him though as you can easily outmacro him and destroy him in that regard.
  • Basically it hardcounters fast Roach Infestor styles because a spreaded Mutalisk is always a bad target for a Fungal growth.
  • If done right, you actually pidgeonhole the opponent into going for a Roach-Hydra desperation push, which you can take advantage of with Speedbanelings and whatnot.
  • You can deny his third while keeping yours up.
  • There is almost no hard counter to this style bar from going for fast Lair-Third Hydra play, which is overall a terrible build against anything but this style anyway.
  • You have an economy advantage over someone that slowly trickles in Roaches.
  • Lastly, unprepared opponents just die in the most laughable fashion.

But there are definitely cons to it as well.

  • While you can make the opponent choke up on his injections and macro, if you can't handle the speed, you will as well. If you aren't confident in dealing with high pressure you will have to take it slow and might get less results because of it.
  • If the opponent gets up his third with sporecrawlers already there, you will have a very tough time to hold off his push. He probably invested in upgrades, while you have to do damage to get the cost out of the Mutalisks. He can just drone up like a madman together with you, but with better fighting units.
  • If the opponent manages to get past your Spinecrawler wall via a nydus or something, you lose straight up.

With these benchmarks laid out, when would you ever go for this style? It obviously has some drawbacks to it while being tough to execute and hard to prepare for. The most important thing here is to look at the map lay out. This style excells when both the Zergs have to be on two bases for a long time because the third is so delayed. Or when a third has to be taken somewhere else because the spawn positions on a map would favour your offense much more.

Antiga Explain

Another optimal feature is the map size. Too short and Roach timing attacks will kill you off because you can't react to a sudden push, too big and the opponent can get a third up with spores before the Mutalisks arrive to their target. You have to be in this sweet spot, which is still fairly large mind you, for this style to be most effective.

Last, but not the least important, is the way the game opens up. There is no reason to go for a 2 base mutalisk style if the game opened up with a 7 pool versus a 14 pool, because you will outright kill him with a +1 roach timing attack.

The most optimal opening for this style to work is a fast natural versus a fast natural play. Be it a hatch first versus a hatch first situation, a hatch first versus a speedling expand, or a speedling baneling expand against speedling expand. You name it, as long as both players have that second base up relatively fast, with a zergling baneling centered opening this style can be safe to economic play.
Going for this style has to be considered by these three factors, and if just 2 criteria are met it can be good enough for this style to be effective.

The Early Game

Holding onto the beating heart of your natural

Because this style is so reliant on getting the natural expansion up fast, I will lay out some tips to stay alive in the volitile early game. Starting off will be the general tips for holding off Baneling aggression in various openings.

Hatchery First:

Build order

9 overlord
14 hatchery
15 pool
17 gas
17 overlord

Versus a 14/14 ling-bling aggression opening

This is a fairly standard situation where you saw your opponent going for an extractor first, and you decided that the natural expansion was closed off enough to go for a hatchery first. Make no mistake, just because you got that hatchery up does not give you an economic advantage over someone that is on one base just yet. If you droned conservatively ( you have around 17 drones before you start your Queen etc. ) you might be ahead by a drone or two. And that is not enough to claim that you are considerably ahead already.

What you need to do is send a drone down to your natural hatchery when it is almost finished and put a Spinecrawler down near the mineral side of the hatchery. Make sure that if he sends out Zerglings that you build 2 pairs of Zerglings so that he can't run in and snipe the morphing spine. Build a Queen at your natural and when you get 50 gas mined, build a Baneling nest so that it can block off the space between your ramp and your hatchery. This will force any offensive Banelings around the long way.

Baneling Simcity

The more corners you have in the path towards your main, the more spreaded out Banelings will clump up. Forcing the Banelings around the hatchery while being under fire from a Spinecrawler means that he can't easily engage you, even dotted Baneling lines will have a tough time. Because you got your Baneling nest up before Zergling speed, you can prepare for someone who went speed->bling nest much better with Banelings of your own.

Versus a Speedling Expand

You open up in the same way as you would against a 14/14 attack, with the Spinecrawler and the Baneling nest down on the lowground. The only difference is that you can Drone up a lot more and put down a second Spinecrawler much faster because you can rely on your Banelings a lot more to hold off possible mass Zergling attacks. You can get the Zergling speed up relatively quickly after you get the Baneling nest because any attacks would be suicide for the opponent.

You can drone up a lot more, but because your scouting will be delayed by some you have to be careful not to tech to Lair too fast. Having some Zerglings for emergency Baneling morphing can be a godsend.

Versus Hatch first

Bling Trades

This is the type of game that typically has the least amount of scouting information there for both the opposing Zerg and yourself. This makes you more vulnerable to all ins but at the same time gives a Mutalisk playstyle the upper edge because the opponent can be caught off guard by them.

The things you get here is a pair of Zerglings, a Spinecrawler at your natural and a Queen at your main. Of course reacting to any lings made from your opponent. Get your Zergling speed up first and put the Baneling nest in a place where you can block off Banelings hitting your Spinecrawler. You have to do a Zergling Baneling trade here to know what the opponent is up to. Don't commit too much on Banelings because you need the gas for a reasonably paced Lair.

General defensive Baneling play

When you are defensive with your Banelings, you want to keep them in pairs. 2 Banelings kill one Baneling, and with pairs you can force spreading out of Banelings and punish unspreaded out ones. This makes pairs excellent because you don't need to devote as much APM to spreading while not being less effective against a dotted Baneling line. The longer you can stay alive against this barrage, the more the game slips in your favour. And if you can get up a second Spinecrawler you can stop any non-all in Baneling aggression by simply luring it into range of the spines, oneshotting them.

Gas-Pool opening:

Build order

9 overlord
14 gas
14 pool
16 overlord
Pull one drone off of gas when near 100 gas
Zergling speed + 2 pairs of lings + 1 drone + Queen in any order at that point.

Versus 1 base Zergling-Baneling

Just simcity out your base so that Baneling movement is impaired and get up a Spinecrawler or two during the aggression. This gives you a defensive advantage against Banelings and you can relocate them when you can take your natural during your counter-aggression or when the opponent is getting his natural up.

This guide isn't about surviving one base Baneling aggression, it just assumes that you do relatively unscathed. If the opponent committed too much on it and is taking the expansion way too late it's probably better to just go for a fast evolution chamber and a quick +1 Roach timing push to punish him rather than go for Mutalisks.

Versus Speedling Expand

This kind of opening does leave the speedling expander with a large timing where Banelings will be immensely difficult to deal with, but it is better to admit your slight economic disadvantage and get the expansion up slightly later after your Baneling nest. You can delay the first Spinecrawler for some time and you can morph them on your natural's creep instead of transferring it from your main base and still be safe to transition into Mutalisks.

Versus Hatch first

If you want the game to last long enough for your Mutalisks to get out and not go all in, you HAVE to go for a Speedling expand. Which means you build a Queen and three pairs of Zerglings and Zergling speed before you take an expansion. You pull the drones off of gas immediately when you get 100 gas because you won't need a Baneling nest as fast. With the Zerglings you can gauge how many defenses the opponent gets up and how much he drones so you can drone or unit up depending on what you see. You can also deny scouting from your opponent with your Zerglings.

If you do anything else you are pretty much all in, and you won't be able to transition into Mutalisks unless you do a ton of damage while expanding.

Diverting your plan

There are some builds that do really well against a Mutalisk build, some have the possibility to kill you outright if you don't respond quickly enough. Because the scouting information is limitted though, you have to force your opponent to show his hand. This means that in some cases, responding with heavy Roach-Baneling pressure while getting a third is better than just going for Mutalisks because you will kill Roach-Spine-Mutalisk or Speedling-Spine-Mutalisk players outright.

Banelings are the best units to fight Spinecrawlers because of their high damage to buildings. Not only that, their damage is instant and high. While it could be much more cost effective to attack the Spinecrawler with Roaches, it's a long time where the Spinecrawler can simply damage the Roaches for a lot. While four Banelings can simply go in and blow up on a Spinecrawler, making them do negligable damage to any Roaches following up.

Baneling attacking Spinecrawler

You do not need a lair or an evolution chamber up before the push, simply having 2 full extractors while making Roaches beforehand and reinforcing with a lot of Zerglings and morphing them near the opponent's base will give you the best set up. The most optimal Roach number is around 16, while you can make as many Banelings as your heart desires as long as your Lair gets started during the push.

Your primary target here is to break down the Spinecrawlers with the Banelings fast, while streaming into his base with your Roach numbers and killing a ton of drones in the process. If the Spire is still building, it's great to target the larvae on both hatcheries as well with some Banelings. If the larvae are killed and the Spire hasn't finished yet, the opposing Zerg almost has no hopes of ever coming back because he won't be able to make a large flood of Zerglings, Mutalisks or Roaches from his larvae.

If he does hold, albeit with a lot of damage dealt to him, the best thing to transition into is Queen/Infestor with Hydralisks or Roaches if you so desire. For this you need to have a macro hatchery to quickly buid a Queen force and obviously an Infestation pit to dump out as many Infestors as you can with your gas. Adding a Nydus can be really helpful, because of the slow movement of Queens off of creep, but this doesn't always work as you have to place it pretty close to the opponent's base to be worth it.

Queens with their high range and high health can easily take on Mutalisks and transfuse one another while the Infestors can do serious AoE damage to any Mutaflock coming in. Even keeping them out of their attack range is great because Queens can freely shoot at them that way. The one unit you have to be careful of is the Roach though, so having a few Roaches for tanking really helps this push a lot. Note that this is meant to kill or cause serious damage to the opponent, not for retreating. Zergs that still went for the Muta deathflock will die to the strong GtA while those transitioning into Roaches will have a hard time holding off a push with a ton of transfuses and Infestors.

I have not experimented with this follow up much, seeing as I tend to just outright kill my opponent with the first Roach-Baneling attack. But I've seen it happen on streams such as Dimaga's to great effect. It is definitely much, MUCH more powerful than a Hydra follow up could be.

Defending against Roach pushes

Roach bust

This is one of the hardships you will face when you are using this style, large Roach Pushes. It's like trying to stop a train from derailing through your house, you desperately have to slow it's advance or it will slam into your kitchen, livingroom and through your office uncontested. Your largest ally in this fight is the Spinecrawler. Spinecrawlers deal 29 damage against Roaches and take a lot of shots to kill, but they are pretty much stationary. If you indiscriminately put down a ton of Spinecrawlers down you will be able to hold a Roach push quite nicely, if they don't just run past to slaughter your soft underbelly.

There are two kind of units that will help you in this, the Baneling and the Roach. The Banelings will be great against any mass Zergling follow up and weakening a large Roach ball quickly. While the Roaches can be used as a living barricade for the Spinecrawlers to hit over. The larger his Roach force is, the more Roaches you need to keep him into place long enough. If he gets past your Spinecrawler wall with a pack of Roaches, as long as you weakened it heavily, you can still micro drones away while waiting for your Mutalisks to hatch and tear them down. You will have spent a lot of time at your base rather than attacking his third however, which gives him more than enough time to spore it up and make it safe.

Another way to slow him down is to build Evolution chambers behind the Spinecrawlers. This will make sure he can't simply run by because the buildings have such a high health. This defence can't be executed on open naturals however, and I prefer to use it on Shakuras plateau and Antiga Shipyard for example. You could always tear it down later if you want to, but preventing the run by is much more valuable than a drone or four ever could be. This all comes down to practice and having the drones on their building sites on 'defence mode' like SCV's in front of bunkers in TvP will greatly aid in these kind of defences.

The one thing you have to be very, very careful of however is Burrow. Roach pushes with Burrow movement can be a thorn if you don't pay attention to the spikes on their back changing because they got the movement upgrade. If you forget your overseer and they burrow underneath your spines and just go straight into your main, you're just dead. Game over. So make sure that you pay close attention to the looks of his Roaches and respond correctly.

Midgame

General play and Objectives

The general idea of Mutalisks is easy, harass a lot and shoot at units that can't shoot up. There are however a few tidbits of knowledge that anyone going Mutalisks should know, because if you don't handle this style well enough you will still lose randomly.

You want to spend as little gas as possible and not be supply blocked when your Spire finishes. This means you might have to produce very little units to get as many Mutalisks out in one go. However if you don't do either of these things, you will have very little map presense when your Mutalisks pop out in a group of 3 or so. Gas takes a long time to collect, so save up as much as possible so you can instantly establish air control when your Spire finishes.

As your Spire finishes, you also take your third. This third hatchery will be safe because of Mutalisks and give you an economic lead the second aggression of your opponent ends. Not getting this third up is a deadly sin as you can't hold a large Roach/Hydra push without it and you aren't exploiting your ability to freely drone with it as well. It's just 300 minerals that you spend for a guaranteed expansion that is hard to attack.

Third

The primary objective you MUST adhere to is keeping your opponents third down at all costs. If you let it get up you might aswell just go Roach/Hydra because you will have the same kind of control over the game. The third is where you get ahead economically and where you pidgeonhole your opponent into a certain response. Everything else, Overlords, Drones and other free targets become second to this objective.

Another tip is what to upgrade, and this is where scouting comes in. You should always start with an Air carapace upgrade before or right after you made your first batch of Mutalisks. This upgrade will give you an advantage if the opponent went for Mutalisks himself. It is rather costly though, so whenever you scout your opponent not going for a Mutalisk style, you simply cancel it in favour of another Mutalisk or a different upgrade.

For ground upgrades it is best to go for double evolution chamber. This will give you the ability to catch up to opponents that start a +1 quickly by the time that 2/2 rolls in. You should only commit into ground upgrades if you are sure your opponent will stay on a ground based style for a long time, because only then you can gain a considerable defenders advantage from them. For example, going up against a quick Infestor player will give you the ability to harass with spreaded Mutalisks while getting up double evo upgrades so you can overwhelm him with an obsurd amount of Roaches later on.

It is best to delay showing your Mutalisk tech and pack to your enemy, this gives you the oppertunity to startle him. If you just fly in with a single Mutalisk to harass an overlord right away, he will respond by building Sporecrawlers and be instantly safe from your harassment. While suddenly showing up with 8 Mutalisks out of nowhere into his main base will almost always catch him off guard completely. Skirting around the Overlords as much as possible to give him the biggest surprise will yield the largest results. If the opponent has already spotted your Mutalisks though, there is really no need to go for some sneaky attacks anymore until all his Overlords are sniped out of the air.

These are all the basic and general things you have to do with a Mutalisk based style, there are however a few additional things you need to know, but these are based on scouting information after you get your Mutalisks out. In general there are two styles you play against, ground and a spire style that require you to alter your playstyle around.

Mutalisks versus Roach based opponents

This situation is the most optimal, because it forces the strongest reaction from the opponent right away. If he did not go for a Roach timing attack yet, he might have a lot of Roaches that won't be able to move out freely that could have been drones. At the same time he needs to use his already lower drone count to build Sporecrawlers at his bases while saving for a more mobile anti-air option like Hydralisks or Infestors.

If he went for Roaches and droned up as much as you did, he won't be able to do a counter attack on your third while still being forced into building Sporecrawlers to defend. This gets you ahead on drones again even if he outdroned you for the start. Even then, his attack would be so delayed that your third would be saturated and tech can be easily transitioned out of and defend his last desperate attack.

Muta vs Roachling

Send your Mutalisks directly toward your opponents third if it is building and deny it. If it isn't coming up just harass the overlords or his main while he is still getting up the Sporecrawlers. For this reason it is in your best interrest to keep your Mutalisks hidden until you reach a number of 8 or so. This delays the reaction a lot and you might actually kill a Queen and some drones because of it. As long as you deny the third while destroying any pitiful Roach counter attack on your third with Mutalisks, you should be in great shape.

In this case it is best to halt Mutalisk production around the 12 to 14 number. You won't get much additional benefits from continueing production after this number compared to the things you can invest in using the gas that you save from not building Mutalisks. If you go over this number you might die to a straight up Hydralisk push because you didn't have enough gas for a large ground army and so forth.

Hydralisk transition

Hydra Roach

The most common follow up to this sudden need of anti-air is the Hydralisk. Here I will explain how to deal with that option.

Now this is one of the money decisions you can force your opponent to make. Everybody loves to make fun of the Hydralisk and this guide won't skimp on that. It would be better to train a dolphin to swim in creep and suddenly pounce up in the air to slap the Mutalisks and die when it hits the ground than to make Hydralisks.

The largest strength of our army is mobility. Hydralisks are really immobile compared to the rest of the Zerg army. This stark contrast with the blazingly fast Mutalisk ups our chances to harass and keep his push back. The longer you delay his push and delay his third, the more you will get ahead simply by having an economic advantage. Unlike you, he HAS to attack to even out the score. You can actually just stall for a long time because his push will eventually become weaker and more all inish by every passing second.

The Hydralisk has a couple of unfavourable traits to it that I would like to dub the “Hydra-effect”. What this simply entails is this:

  • Hydralisks need to be in a large group to be effective, a single Hydra won't throw the battle around in your favour.
  • Hydralisks cost a lot of gas, so you can't tech and get a large group of Hydralisks at the same time.

The Stalker suffers from the same kind of traits but it has other advantages in return. Because Hydralisks delay tech, you are basically safe knowing that he won't have Mutalisks or Infestors out of his own.

Knowing that Infestors can't be out fast, you can be sure that our Banelings will not get stopped from rolling. Double awesome is that Hydralisks aren't really on good terms with Banelings. It takes only 3 Banelings to one-shot a Hydralisk pack even if they are upgraded to 3/3. So you can effectively trade your opponent's gas with yours almost instantly. Unupgraded Roaches take 8 Baneling hits to die, so it isn't all that cost effective unless you hit a large pack with Hydralisks mixed in. Regardless, the extremely fast weakening of the opponents force will balance out the upgrade advantages he has.

Stopping at the golden 12 to 14 Mutalisk number will give you enough money to tech towards Baneling Speed, which allows us to close in towards the squishy underbelly of the opponents force much faster. It doesn't matter if you overproduce on Banelings because all you have to do is kill off his attack once to get an insurmountable advantage.

Transitioning into your own Roach warren and just pumping out Roaches before the opponent moves out will give you a nice buffer that the opponents Roaches can't cut through quickly. The longer the fight goes on, the more it goes in your favour due to the Mutalisks. You just produce more Banelings after he pushes out of his base, they will be done in time for his push to hit.

Even if he still has a large force of Roaches left after all the Hydralisks have evaporated, they can't shoot up. Keeping them still with your Roaches while bombarding them with Mutalisk glaives will whither his push considerably disallowing him from inflicting major economic and structural damage.

The Push

Defend Hydra Push

"All those things seem nice, but eventually he will knock on my door. How do I engage in the right way?" Well this actually isn't all that hard to perform really. Your main objective here is to move your Banelings into the Hydralisks and let them have a hay-day with 'em. Because the Roaches can't surround the Hydralisks fully, you can set up some Baneling flanks and obliterate him by attacking from the back. Hydralisks tend to stay at the back of the army due to the unitspeeds anyway, but good players actually put the Roaches in front of the Hydralisks to tank damage.

Putting up a flank with Banelings will help a lot, but choosing where to engage is also a really important decision. Do you engage near the Spinecrawlers with Roaches or do you just move out? You really need to save your third in this play, so whenever he attacks your third you immediately need to spring into action to prevent him from taking it out. Don't let him get a favourable position though, with your faster units you can't let him get the better concave or a high ground position while you engage.

The next question is his exact army composition. If it is pure Hydralisk or a high Hydra to Roach ratio you can easily roll through his force with Banelings. When he goes for more Roach focus with some Hydralisks mixed in, you just roll in and attack with all your forces including your Mutalisks to take him down. When his push is down to the size that it won't ever kill off your Spines and you are losing your Roaches, simply retreat with them and destroy him with the next wave of units.

If he goes for some Banelings mixed in though, you need to be more careful with your engagement. Two stray Banelings can kill off a LOT of yours if you mismicroed them. So keep your Banelings back and see if they move forward into your Roach army. Just take out as many as you can ( within reason ofcourse, no need to use all your Roaches to snipe off retreating Banelings ) before you use your Banelings.

If his push is delayed enough you can simply drone up and get more and more Roaches. He will probably go for a Roach/Hydra/Infestor composition but you can harass him a lot and get a much higher economy and unit count than him with your third, so you shouldn't really lose to this kind of all in desperation push. If it takes long enough just get out Infestors and a large Spinecrawler wall and win by starving your opponent out.

If you follow these steps and don't overcommit in your counter attacks, you should win here as long as your transitions are crisp and well executed.

Mutalisks versus Mutalisks

Now you'll learn why Terrans and Protoss hate us so much

After a little stalemate situation where you and your opponent didn't want to spend gas on units so they can maximize gas for their Mutalisks, you will enter a phase of ZvZ that has the possibility of so many counter attacks and harassment on both sides that will turn anyone insane. With Mutalisks fighting Mutalisks, Zerglings running by and attacking third and mineral lines, you will surely not be passively macroing in this stage. Frantically defending all your fronts while keeping a presence on the map is essential to keep even.

The person with Mutalisks out the fastest has the upper hand in the upcoming air battles. As he most likely has saved up roughly the same amount of gas as you have while getting map control with his Mutalisks while yours are still building. The one who gets Mutalisks out later is forced to build Sporecrawlers sooner than the one that get them out faster, giving the faster Mutalisker an economic advantage.

Flyer Carapace

The Flyer Carapace upgrade you get the second your Spire finishes will help the most against Mutalisks of your opponent. The air attack upgrade only increases the main attack much, but the flyer carapace upgrade will decrease both the main attack and the glaive bounces by 1. This means that even a +2 flyer attack will not have a really critical advantage over a regular 0/0 vs 0/0 fight if you got a +1 flyer carapace. It serves little purpose to upgrade your Mutalisk flock after that, as the +2 carapace will not affect the last bounce anymore. If you do upgrade after that, getting the attack upgrades will serve your Corruptors and Brood lords infinitely more than a +2 carapace upgrade would.

Like in the case of Banelings, the person that gets the Mutalisks up faster also gets to be the aggressive one. And because the biggest target is the opponents third, this is where all the good Mutaliskers will and should go to first. I will lay out all the defender tips out here, since that is the most critical to know to stay alive while the aggressor kind of gets to do whatever he wants within reason.

Defending your third

Counter Third

The first thing you do while your Lair is building is move one of your Overlords towards your future third. This allows you to get creep there while your Hatchery is morphing, which is required to put down defensive Sporecrawlers. Getting the creep and the vision there is a great advantage to have as your opponent will probably heavily contest that spot in hopes of getting an unstoppable economic lead with his 3 bases. If you allow him to snipe the Hatchery he will get way ahead in income and can claim map control and slowly overwhelm you with a large Mutalisk ball.

After you have planted the third, move a couple of Zerglings and Banelings towards it. It is very common to have a mass Zergling attack on your third to deny it and this won't be all that well microed as in the early game. As long as you have a couple of Banelings at your third you should be able to prevent it from getting sniped from the Zerglings.

The second major infrastructure in your macro hatchery. Plant it where-ever you want as long as you can see it during your regular main/natural injections so you get a visual reminder of it being inactive. When the third gets saturated you will be able to have enough larvae to spend on with this macro hatchery, otherwise you would be floating a lot of minerals that won't be able to do much of anything at all aside from maybe building Spinecrawlers.

Macro Hatchery

With Sporecrawlers planted at your third and Mutalisks hatching, you should be able to deter any invading Mutalisk army. If they do engage you will be able to trade number for number if you had enough gas. You shouldn't be badly outnumbered and in that case it really isn't smart to engage for the opponent. Once your macro hatchery finishes in your main you can simply instantly saturate your third while making Mutalisks at the same time.

Madman Phase

You might be wondering why I call this part after the thirds are up the madman phase? Well unless you regularly engage in multiple counter attacks, defending them and keeping your injects up, you can't stay sane in this part of the game. If executed correctly, you will have almost as much of a hard time keeping up with everything as during a Zergling-Baneling fight.

Mutalisk versus Mutalisk can only really be combatted with more Mutalisks until Infestor tech gets out. Corruptors simply don't cut it because they are slow and need to be in front of the Mutalisks to perform their role best, which is tanking using their natural +2 carapace. Because they are so slow, they really can't be used offensively and because your Mutalisk count is lower he will have mapcontrol. This means that he can simply harass you and take bases all over while getting Corruptors of his own to overwhelm yours. The only way for Corruptors to even work is to go pure Corruptor and camp over his spawning Mutalisks while harassing Overlords, otherwise they will just weigh you down. But you have to be pretty damn sure he is going Mutalisk to even attempt this kind of play.

Corruptor Engagement

As the only gas you will be able to spend for quite some time will be spent on Mutalisks, you will float a lot of resources. It is in your best interrest to keep up with injections and double expand whenever you get the chance. Losing hatcheries isn't a problem since you will have so many minerals you can almost paint the map with hatches. Once one is up you build a lot of defenses there, don't skimp on them. While it isn't bad to lose a morphing hatchery, it is bad to lose an operational base due to your potential income becoming much lower than your opponents.

When you reach the 20 or so Mutalisk count, you can simply invest in an Infestation pit. It only costs as much gas as a single Mutalisk and getting it now will give you the best timing for the techswitch. Once you reach the critical mass of around 30 Mutalisks, it is time to transition into mass Infestor. Why would you stop at 30 Mutalisks? Well it is more of a question that Infestors will be so good that you would rather have more Infestors than a couple of Mutalisks that can be fungalled and kept out of any direct engagements. Mutalisks are great, but because they clump up so much during engagements with other Mutalisks, it becomes really hairy to keep on making Mutalisks in the hope he won't transition into Infestors himself.

With minerals floating up and up, another great unit that will help you in your endeavours is the Queen. Getting Queens doesn't cost you any larvae and they will aid both your defense and your Mutalisks tremendously. When you transfuse a Mutalisk, you actually save 100 gas because you don't have to remake that Mutalisk. This is the most resources you can save from transfuses. With Broodlords coming at a close second.

At the same time of getting up an Infestor pack, you should double or triple evo and go mass upgrades on them. Infestors are great but the best way of reinforcing is with mass Roaches or Zerglings because they can snipe bases out pretty quickly. Having better upgrades will obviously help you whenever there will be Roach vs Roach fights.

Mass counter attacks: the offense and the defense

Well, you have Mutalisks, of course you are going to counter attack! This extremely mobile force will enable you to move in, destroy bits of his base and retreat while he is flying in to defend. Until Infestors are out, you have absolutely free reign over what happens, but so does your opponent. Defending against Mutalisks is really a facade, building a lot of Sporecrawlers can save you time and putting 3 or more behind your opponents most likely attack angle will definitely deter or delay your opponent from starting on your drones, but it won't take long. Burrow could save you but if they bring an Overseer that plan is foiled. This is why we have so many larvae, to resaturate the droneline without breaking much of a sweat at all.

When you are placing your tech you have to be careful as well, your Spire and Infestation pit are literal lifelines to you. They have to be in the middle of your base, far away from the fringes to avoid them getting sniped. If at all possible, getting a lot of Sporecrawlers to zone them out of that area will help as well. Although they will only be used as a scarecrow rather than the actual defense, your own Mutalisks have that role.

The mineral lines and tech aren't the most important targets however, it's the extractors. Gas is a very important resource in a game that revolves around Mutalisks and Infestors, and as such targetting down some fringe extractors might tip the Mutalisk number in your favour later on. Even harassing it to kill some drones is amazing, as Sporecrawlers are often only near the mineral to prevent all the drones from going down. Well placed tech tends to be on the inside of a base surrounded by anti air, so it is less likely you get to kill that compared to extractors.

Sniping Gas

With all your gas going to Mutalisks and Infestor tech, you will float a lot of minerals regardless. There are two ways of dealing with this influx of income, getting up more defense or getting up a lot of Zerglings for multi pronged attacks. Mutalisks are really good at killing Zerglings, but they have to stick together and they can't be everywhere. This makes Zerglings amazing in this stage of the game.

Just box a pack of Zerglings and send them to one base, and send another pack somewhere else. Just keep on sending them everywhere, it doesn't really matter if you lose them because your minerals are expendable. You do have to build extra macro hatcheries or inject really well to keep up though. These hit squads should be able to keep the opponent from mass expanding himself with his own influx of minerals.

Zergling Counter

The best thing to defend against these forces of course is a pair of Banelings coupled with a lot of Spinecrawlers. This will nullify any harass attempts from Zerglings but they will distract you from your injecting and harassment duties nonetheless. Burrow is an amazing investment as well, as you can save your drones and queens from runby's without Overseers.

With Infestors and Burrow on your side, you can easily sneak 4 of them towards your opponents bases and spam Infested Terrans for harassment. Infested Terrans have one of the highest DPS in the Zerg army, and seeing as they are practically free they are amazing in any match up for sniping bases and tech. The biggest mismicro you see Zerg players do with Infestors is they rightclick towards a base and then spam Shift+T+Click around it. This will delay the casting of Infested Terrans until the Infestor is at that point. If you hold position before you spam Infested Terrans over a base, you will throw them as soon as the Infestors get into range, allowing them to retreat much sooner.

Infested Terrans

You can see that with this much harassment potential, there should never be a time where you are just biding your time and relaxing on your bases. If there isn't any action going on, make it happen and force the game into a higher gear. These styles truly allow you to show who is the better player, because the weaker player simply won't be able to keep up with everything and die later because he messed up somewhere. However, there comes a time where an engagement must take place, either between Muta vs Muta or Muta Infestor vs Muta Infestor. Here are some general guidelines to dealing with these engagements.

Engagements

Muta vs Muta

In general engagements or trades are gamechanging in this style. But unlike Roach versus Roach the aftermath is vastly more influential, considering that if you lose a lot of Mutalisks and he has a lot of Mutalisks himself, you won't be able to contest him head on. Getting in this position is punishing enough as it is, but coming back from it is even harder. That's why retreating at the right moments is so critical here, you simply cannot afford getting in a disadvantagious position with less Mutalisks.

The only time you want to engage in Mutalisk versus Mutalisk fights is when you have an overwhelming advantage, for example twice the number of Mutalisks compared to the opponent. When the numbers are about even it is better for both parties to just fly away because both sides will lose a ton. Picking off stray Mutalisks is great, but you shouldn't go straight for the kill if you have a 3 Mutalisk advantage because you don't know how much he is going to reinforce with.

The most critical area's to stray away from with Mutalisks are the edges and corners of the map. If an opponent gives chase to you it is better to simply move towards the middle of the map, even if you lose a few Mutalisks in the process, just to avoid not getting in the corner and being forced into an engagement that could go badly for you. At the same token, when you are chasing Mutalisks yourself you should try and guide them towards the corners and force and engagement there. You can always retreat in that case, he cannot without major casualties.

If you are up against Muta-Infestor with your just Mutalisks, you cannot engage and have to wait for your own Infestors. Not per se because Fungals do so much DPS, but because they force engagements that will be unfavourable to you. Mutalisks have a really short range, and if the opponent locks you into place while engaging with his Mutalisks from the side, he will engage with his full force while you will only engage with half or less of your Mutalisks. This will spiral out of control so much that you will instantly lose the game if executed well.

If your Mutalisks do get caught in a Fungal, you should spread them out like a star, or like an explosion. If the opponent does mistime his next fungal, you might save a lot of Mutalisks that way because one fungal won't lock all of them in place again. Of course this relies on your opponent messing up, but atleast its a glimmer of hope.

Muta spread

Mutalisk-Infestor versus Mutalisk-Infestor can be favourable to either side. But in general good engagements will trade all of the Mutalisks because of the nature of Mutalisk clumping. Of course this takes into consideration that Infestors are out en masse before this engagement takes place. You can however tip the battle in your favour by using the Mutalisks A.I. Against them. By having a single bait Mutalisk somewhere for all his Mutalisks to target at once you can condense his Mutalisks into a small ball for your fungals to hit. This can obviously work in sneak tactics with burrow or used when you have Muta-Infestor versus his only mass Mutalisk pack.

Muta Infestor

Spamming Infested Terrans onto the battlefield, either as a way to have anti-air when he still has Mutalisks or to do major damage to all the forces there is great, but expends your energy really fast. If both parties just blurt out as many fungals and Infested Terrans as possible, the only outcome can be mutual destruction or overwhelming wins. This engagement can win the game outright, but is more often than not just a massive trade on both sides.

Whats next?

The only tech unit that is both great against the Infestor and the Mutalisk is the Ultralisk. Carapace-upgraded Ultralisks take an almost insane amount of shots from Mutalisks and Infested Terrans and Fungal sure as hell doesn't stop them. But they are expensive and cost a lot of supply. Nevertheless they are great if you need to slam through the opponents defenses later on if you want to be larvae efficient. If at all possible though, you should just save yourself the trouble of this attack and keep his expansion count down. However, eventually you will have to do your large trade, and just attacking into an opponent with an enormous bank will not do significant damage to him.

Minerals are coming in at a huge rate and so does gas, and both Zergs are just posturing a bit with defences and larvae. If the game eventually becomes stable, the only logical approach is to go for mass attacks while harassing the larvae to make reinforcements for the opponent much smaller than yours. This is quite a covert operation that needs to be hidden though. There are two units that can effectively whipe out larvae from hatcheries, Banelings and Infestors, that both do AoE and one-shot them.

Obviously you could go for Baneling drops, which are great for drone harassment as well, but seeing as you already have Infestors, it doesn't cost much to upgrade drop and overlord speed. When you are dropping you have to be very careful to hide the Infestors and burrow them for later.

The thing with this kind of attack is that it needs to be highly coordinated. Larvae will really only be spent when the opponent isn't maxed out, so you need to take them out before you make your large trade. Right before you make a large frontal attack, unburrow your Infestors and fungal all or most of the larvae at the macro hatcheries. The opponent will get the shock of his life once he tries to reinforce to remax, but suddenly has next to no larvae left at his main larva production. This is the only truly strong attack in a maxed out banking situation in ZvZ, because it takes out the biggest strength of a lategame Zerg, mass reinforcements. If you can reinforce endlessly with your larva but he can only reinforce once, you will obviously get the upperhand.

By this point it's really just rallying units and smashing into the opponent at full force with all kind of units. There is no real deathball in this scenario, just large armies clashing over and over until the one with the best macro, highest bank or best injects wins.

Conclusion

This is all that I have gathered about my Mutalisk games so far. It isn't as much as my usual guides but I'm sure it helps a few of you out there that need some knowledge in this style. I have a lot of fun playing this style because you get to micro and I hope we see it more on the ladder once more people start to go for the most macro-possible ZvZ's rather than the timing pushes with Roaches. I think it would improve the watchability of ZvZ and both turn it into a more tense match up.

In any case, good luck in practicing this style if you are the kind of person that likes micro in their Zerg games. Thanks for reading and keep improving!

Oh and P.S, Merry Christmas and a happy 2012 to everyone :) . Love and Tolerate.

Comments

deadbolt

27 december 2011

Baneling drops might be better for taking out larva end game. Since the current meta is muta, I expect every Zerg will have at least 1 spore in their main so it might be hard to hide the infestors. Nice guide though, well done!

NaDa

25 december 2011

awesome guide.

BoonSolo

25 december 2011

A good tip to bear in mind for muta vs muta engagements is that if you have zerglings standing under the fight and he doesn't. The bounces from his muta attacks will mostly hit your lings thus giving you a very critical edge even in very close muta number battles.

Kevin te Raa is quoting BoonSolo

25 december 2011

Ooooh that's a really cool tip! I'll try that in my next Muta v Muta engagements :D

Reverse_Cure

25 december 2011

really well done guide , i'v always wanted to use mutas but never knew how , this will help alot

SeinGalton

25 december 2011

Wonderful guide, sir: lucky for me, you play zerg too.

I have myself started using mutalisks and have had stupid amounts of success without really knowing what I'm doing. Hence this guide will be invaluable as I'm going forward and working out the specifics of a Muta build for ZvZ.

Thank you for consistently putting out these guides. Even when I'm playing way different styles, the insights you give are priceless. And nice work on polishing everything so well - such a neat presentation.
Don't.
Ever.
Stop.

Kevin te Raa

25 december 2011

To anyone that really liked this guide, I would greatly appreciate some of you to nominate me for the Strategy forum highlights :)

http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=193853

That thread needs more attention and while you are at it, nominate other great posters such as Belial or decaf ^^!

SeinGalton is quoting Kevin te Raa

25 december 2011

Gladly >

chaos

26 december 2011

Hey, I'm trying to get this too work,
"If you hold position before you spam Infested Terrans over a base, you will throw them as soon as the Infestors get into range"
So you shift click next to a base, shift hold, then shift spam IT from what I understand. It doesn't seem to make a difference, maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Kevin te Raa is quoting chaos

27 december 2011

Nono, Just press hold position, not shift hold. Shift-hold will put the hold command after the move command, which is what you don't want.

Just hold, then start shift spamming t. Then you will get the best results :)

chaos

27 december 2011

Kk thx:)

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