“I've seen pros do a lot of different things like sticking with ultra/ling, going hydra/lurk/defiler, going lurk/ling/defiler, going queens, going mutas, etc. What are the cost/benefits of each, and what is the correct response to mech transition? Also, when should we get additional evo chambers for upgrades. At the very least, a general idea of how to think about ZvT against mech transition would help immensely because at the moment, I don't think I understand this part of the match up at all.”
Don’t get ultra ling.
Don't get mutas after the usual mid game amount.
Don't get guardians (as a late game switch)
Don't get ultra drops.
Do get ling lurk defiler scourge. Go to 4 bases. Stay on 4 bases. Start mixing in hydras. Drop 2 lurkers at each of terrans new mining bases. Do not doom drop. Start mixing in queens. Your final unit composition is mainly hydras, with ling lurk defiler scourge and overlord support and a squad of queens too.
So lets assume you defended the 1 vessel 3 tank mnm attack using lurk ling defiler scourge and are planning/using this build:
3 hat spire
4th hat (at 3rd base)
5th hat (at main)
6th hat (4th base)
7th hat (at 3rd base)
8th hat (at 3rd base)
You get your 4th online using only ling lurker defiler scourge.
After your 4th is online you go up to 8 hatcheries. You are still on ling lurk defiler scourge. Hydra upgrades are started in the evos but you are not mixing them in yet. You are mainly concerned with mnm tank vessel busts (which are controlled using the lurkers under darkswarm) and mnm drops (which are controlled using the scourge mainly, but ofcourse ling lurk swarm can clean up if they get through).
Terran is meanwhile moving up to 5 bases, 2 armouries, and 8 factories over time. You don’t need to see his main to know this. The simplest clues are his vessel count is low, and his marines are on 1-1. Just from his actions you can tell if he is being passive or not though.
He has an MnM army outside one of your bases and is threatening busting at any moment using irradiate on your defiler and then stim attacking with tank support. He can bounce from one natural to the other quite quickly, but you have nydus canals so you can react. He probably wont actually commit to an attack though. If he loses that MnM army too early, he is weak so he will remain passive at your entrance. You can make him pull back half a screen using ling lurk defiler pokes. But don’t try to get map control more than that yet. From these pokes you confirm he has mech switched or not.
Next, you want to start hydra speed and range and also drop tech. You start mixing in hydras now. You are clearing minefields either with lings or with hydra and overlords outside your naturals. Do not try to take a 5th base. You stay on 4 bases for a long time. Start pushing terran back to the halfway line. You are massing lings, lurkers, hydras, defiler now. If you want to move decisively into the middle of the map, use lings out in front to clear minefields. Its best to be patient and not lose lurkers or hydras to mines. Remember, lurkers under swarm are invincible and irradiate takes ages to kill them.
You have control of half the map. Your frontline is lurkers under swarm with overlords and hydras behind. Lings and scourge are supporting too.
Drop tech is ready, and you are also now in a position to drop 2 lurkers at each terran mining base. Do not get tempted to do a ‘doom drop’.
From this position, you launch several waves of attacks, all from 4 bases. This is an important attack phase for you. You goal is forcing ccs to lift, and maintaining control of half the map. If you can push your frontline forward so that terrans resupply lines have to go through your army then you have an advantage.
During this offensive phase, you are getting your queen upgrades and looking to start your 5th and 6th base. Its important to put overlords at the 5th and 6th base so that if vult raids come in, you can pick up your drones. Note that sunkens don’t have the dps to protect drones at the 5th and 6th base, you will need hydras there aswell, don’t try to skimp on this. Also note that you are only mining from 4 bases at any one time. This is very important.
Your end game unit composition is required now. You have a squad of queens with energy, and you have hydra bulk with ling lurker defiler scourge and overlord support. The lurkers and defilers hold the line. Be patient when moving the lurkers and defilers, don’t suicide them into minefields or tanklines, let the terran come to them. To break lines, use queens to snipe tanks first. Lings go out in the front. Then move the hydras and cast swarm over them. Finally, move the lurkers up and burrow them under the swarm. Now retreat the hydras to behind the lurker line. From this forward position look for opportunities to get more mini 2 lurker drops in.
Lets get super theoretical now. Let me state now that 99 percent of all starcraft games wont get to this stage:
Lets now imagine you have not been able to gain a significant advantage. It is 6 bases vs Terran’s 5. There is one empty base left. You can try 2 things.
One is to play the defense game and try to trade as cost efficiently as possible. This style generally favours the terran though. My advice is to instead save up a little, then use 3 waves of dedicated army sniping. The idea is to snipe many tanks in a short period of time, significantly reduce the enemies core army size and then use your bank of resources to receive a huge resupply army. Your second wave attacks the enemy army again (not his bases) to hold his army count down. Then your 3rd wave comes in finishes off his army for good. The key is crippling the enemy backbone of siege tanks. Your gameplan revolves around getting that count down and holding it down long enough to win.
In the perfect game of starcraft, neither player ever fully commits an attack. Instead, their entire gameplan is to get to a split map scenario. In the non mirror matchups, that doesn’t mean 6 bases each. In ZvT a split map is Zerg on 7 bases and Terran on 5. This can technically be even but depending on how the game went so far, either player could have an advantage at this late late stage of the game. Due to the nature of the game, Terran is stronger defensively so generally the onus is on Zerg to attack. The perfect strategy is to delay committing to this attack until the last possible moment. The last possible moment is as I described above; after Zerg is on 6 bases, has all upgrades and has a small reserve of money in the bank to be able to rapidly resupply. If Zerg waits any longer then he will run out of fresh expansions to take. It is the rules of the game that dictate he must attack. If maps were bigger than 128x128 and had more expansions then the perfect strategy would have an even later timing attack. It is these restrictions and rules that define what starcraft is. And over starcrafts lifetime, we the players have collectively decided that 128x128 maps lead to games that are of a certain average length of time that is desirable and also forces a certain amount of interaction that is the right mix of ‘exciting action’ compared to ‘defensive reaction time’.
Hoejja vs Sea La Mancha (note he tries to do 2 semi large drops which I don’t support, but apart from that it’s a pretty good example)
Action vs Sea Ground Zero (note he gets guardians to defend the 3 tank 1 vessel attack, which generally I don’t support. However, it was vs a 5 rax and close air spawns so its allowed. After that, it’s another pretty good example. At the very end, Action gets ultras which I also don’t support, but he is only using them to seal the deal so its ok)
+ Show Spoiler +
Also note that the above two games are both excellent examples of how Zerg beats terran 5 rax (which a few people have been asking about recently). The key is getting the extra zerglings and using them to completely wipe out the first mnm squad with muta ling. Also note these two KT zergs both generally favour getting the 3rd base before the hydra den too. Can make a separate thread for that though if you want.
Also, I know this post is only about the hydra queen style. If you want I can talk more about the ultra drop style which I believe is not as effective. But Ive spent long enough writing for now so that will be later.