5 Hatch Hydra -> Muta Guide
ZvP History Leading to This Build:
ZvP as we know it today is overwhelmingly FE centered from the P side. P is weak at tier one of its tech tree, but very strong at tier two, with templars, DTs, corsairs, and reavers. The idea behind FE is that P wants to skip tier one, turtle with a few cannons and jump directly to tier two, right when his economy kicks in.
Naturally, the direct response from Z is to out macro P early on, double expand right away and then 4 hatches before gas and as many drones as possible before worrying about his defense.
While there is nothing wrong with this response, Z is forced to play catch up. His tech is slower, his upgrades are slower, and P can lead the game. P can go for any tech route as he pleases, and alternatively, he can also mass up a sizable +1 speedlot army for a timing attack right before lair units come out. And while P attacks, he can take his third base while Z is too busy defending. For quite some time this is how ZvP was played.
Then came Savior, who popularized the three hatch lair timing, going directly to either fast lurker or fast muta. The idea is that by countering fast tech with fast tech, Z is no longer vulnerable to the +1 speedlot push, and at the same time, Z can now play actively, either with muta counter or lurker contain. Not only that the traditional +1 speedlot push can be defended with ease, now P has to make 3 cannons per mineral line just to be safe from a potential muta counter, then he finds himself contained by lurkers before he has even started a robo, but the time P comes out Z has taken over the map.
This is where the startgate opening replaced the speedlot build as mainstream, that fast corsair to scout what Z is doing is absolutely critical for P to adapt accordingly. Not only is this safer for P to defend, he can also cut unnecessary defense when appropriate. But even so, Savior at this time rarely lost to any P at all, the muta/lurker play style was considered imba.
Then came Bisu, who popularized the mass corsair harass/macro style. P can open with either sair/reaver or sair/DT. In either case P keeps constant corsair production until he has total air control. Not only does this completely nullify any muta threat, now Z has a big problem protecting his overlords. Gone are the days when Z can just cover the map with overlords in a map hacking manner, now it is the zerg who plays in the dark. P just keep harassing Z while he safely expands and macro up a big army.
The Savior builds that were once considered imba became useless. Going directly to mutas no longer put any real threat on P, as it no longer guaranteed air control, for as soon as the corsairs accumulated in numbers, possibly with +1 air attack, mutas were useless. The traditional muta -> lurker play style where Z gets mass drones and hatches while abusing his lair units was no good anymore, since once the mutas get distroyed, Z cannot protect his bases or his overlords. The fast lurker route produced equally sad outcomes, the slow overlords and delayed spire surrendered all air control to the corsairs, DT run bys and reaver/storm drops cannot be defended with lurkers, and since Z is forced to make hydras for defense, he cannot even make a lurker/ling counter attack. With the fall of Savior, for some time ZvP was imba in P’s favor.
Alas, then came Jaedong, who created the modern ZvP as we know it today. Many zergs were quick to abandon the 3 hath lair timing, trying all sorts of unconventional play only to find the Bisu style overpowers all. Only JD firmly knew that Savior’s idea to counter fast tech with fast tech was flawless, what needed to be changed was HOW the lair tech must be used. With the Bisu style of mass corsairs + DT/reaver harasses, P has virtually no ground army to pressure zerg at that particular timing. So what did JD do? He made scourge to counter the early corsairs, and he made DRONES and HATCHERIES!
Fast mutas/lurkers were out, scourge + drones + hatcheries into mass hydra/lurker were in. After JD defeated Stork to claim his first OSL title, his new evolutionary play style was accepted as mainstream. For a brief moment, P players were very confused, their magical Bisu style that relies on direct harasses to Z’s drone supply, while still effective, has lost all the magic in it. When corsair and shuttle harasses don’t pay off, all of a sudden P realizes that he is not putting any real pressure on the zerg at all. Every Z started to make scourge and drones and hatcheries, then switch to mass hydra/lurker off of 6 hatches on 4 bases. P has no ground army in the traditional manner, and they were doing less and less damages with harasses as zergs got more comfortable defending with scourge/hydra plus borrow upgrade.
Still, it was the era of the six dragons in the year of the protoss. One of these dragons, not Bisu but I forgot who, designed the 4 gate zeal/archon attack. It was a timing designed to strike right before the hydra switch. Z saw the stargate, gained air control with scourge, made a whole bunch of drones, took his 4th expansion, 3 evolution chambers, 6 hatcheries, and everything looked so well… but right before the hydras can be produced, P showed up with 2 archons and a bunch of speedlots, and many games at the pro level ended right there. Z had everything he could have wished for, but no army to defend, gg.
This is where the current, neo sauron, 5 hatch hydra build comes in. At the time, with exception to Bisu himself, who still opened most games with sair/reaver, most P players jumped off the Bisu boat as quickly as they first got on it. Corsairs and harasses were out, zeal/archon bust were in. Z can no longer go with his fantasy set up getting mass drones, 6 hatcheries, 4 bases, and triple chamber upgrades all at the same time and expect to get away with it. And so the greedy zergs re-evaluated just how greedy they can be, and settled for staying on 3 bases with 5 hatcheries and just one evolution chamber. What Z has given up in econ is more than made up for by the sheer number of hydras that now contested for map control.
When to use this build?
The above history section should provide the reasoning so I will not double explain here. Basically, the build is:
One stargate opening where P makes no more than 3 corsairs, going for a fast zeal/archon switch.
Not Good vs:
True Bisu style with mass corsairs and harass/macro play. If you confirm stargate/robo, or stargate/citadel where P makes constant corsairs, but is slow to add more gateways. Z has no need to make hydras so soon, he should go back to JD’s initial macro frenzy build, abuse the small window before reaver comes out to get more drones and a six hatch, with 3 chamber upgrades, while controlling the corsairs with scourge, then switch to mass hydra/lurker.
Goon/ht. This is a tricky case. If P plays the goon/ht timing push, with 2 hts + 1 group of goons + a few zealots, hydra/muta is a direct counter. Snipe the hts and all there is left is hydra/muta vs goons, hell yea. However, if P is playing defensively, as the goon number builds up, ht sniping becomes increasingly difficult. Once there are 2 groups of goons protecting the templars, ht snipe is dangerously difficult. Losing mutas carelessly will cost you the game.
***Not Applicable vs***:
This seems unnecessary, but you’ll be surprised to know how many ppl asked me “what if P is playing 1 base……?”
The 5 hatch hydra build does not apply to 1 base P builds.
“What if P doesn’t have a stargate……?”
You are reading the wrong guide. If P is playing old school, no stargate +1 speedlot. Z should revert back to fast muta or fast lurker in the old Savior style. Most common is muta -> lurker play while getting a ton of drones and hatches. Alternatively a lurker first fast contain without mutas can work just as well.
The later muta transition works best with a third gas. So this build is best used on maps where your third expansion has gas, destination, Othello, tau cross, etc…
On maps where the third base has no gas, bluestorm, longinus, etc… You can still play this build, but it is harder due to the lack of gas. I recommend getting lurker aspect before hydra range, and transition into lurker/hydra/ling instead of muta since you don’t need as many lurkers as you need mutas initially to defend, and with lurkers you can take a 4th expansion much quicker, which should give you the much needed gas.
Early game set up:
There isn’t really a hard build order since this play style can be done via any initial openings. The goal of the early game is to get 5 hatches, with exactly 28 drones on minerals and 6 on gas before switching to hydra production. I'll give more details as we go.
Whatever opening is fine, be it 12 hatch, 12 pool, over pool, 9 pool, or 9 pool speed are all viable. In my testing, there really isn't much of an econ difference between over pool and 9 pool. My suggestion is that on larger maps or maps with nat layout that is easy to defend, use 9 pool, cuz you'll need those earlier lings to force 2 cannons before nexus; on smaller maps or maps with a nat layout that is difficult to defend, use overpool, due to shorter distances and difficulty to wall the cannons, overpool is enough to force 2 cannons before nexus and you get a slightly better econ.
All the openings converge after third hatch, you get gas right away. First 100 gas go lair, second 100 gas go ling speed. In the earlier version of this guide I've stated that you should make units up to supply limit in early game, like 18/18 overlord, 27/27 overlord. But after extensive testing, I've found no real econ difference between this approach and the more common way of making overlords before supply limit. Currently I make overlord before supply limit just because I'm more used to it. I make 15/18 overlord and 23/27, 32/35 overlord (because we will put 2 additional hatch down before going over 35 supply, there is no need for earlier overlord for this particular supply limit), after 35 supply limit, you have to pre-make overlord to not get stuck on supply.
For early defense I base my ling timing on P's gate timing. If I did 12 hatch and he did forge first, I'll only make 2 lings to chase the probe, all drones until his 1st zealot comes out, then 6 more lings to deal with his 2 zeal push. Speed will finish soon so a 3 zeal push is no big deal, you can make 4 more lings After he comes out, plenty of time. Generally, there is no need for a sunken in early game, speedllings should kill anything that comes at you.
Spire when lair finishes. I generally have excess minerals to make 4th hatch around 32 supply, and 5th hatch on 35 supply. Once 5th hatch is put down, get den and second gas. When den finish, make the evolution chamber, and start upgrading both hydra and ovie speed, get +1 missile attack when chamber finishes. Always make 4 scourge, so you can scout immediately with 1 pair and have the other pair deal with the corsair. Also this is a good time to get 1 sunken at your nat and 1 at your third. DT is coming, but we have sunken and hydras coming out to deal with them.
As I stated earlier, you want 28 drones on minerals and 6 on gas before hydra production, so the exact trigger supply depends on how many lings and scourge you've made. I have the habit of making 12 lings and 4 scourge, plus my 34 drones, that equals 42 supply exactly, which is when I start hydra production. If you made less lings, you can start hydra production even earlier, as soon as your drone count reaches the desired 28-6.
This completes the early set up.
Demos vs computer with cheat codes on, only intended to show the bo.
12 pool and over pool are very similar to 12 hatch and 9 pool respectively. 9 pool speed is something I almost never use, but everything flows the same way after the initial opening, so you can figure it out.
The Idea Behind a Muta Transition:
This is the second part of the hydra -> muta strategy. I’ll briefly discuss the reasoning behind a muta transition:
The strongest unit in P’s mid game army is the templar. In vast majority of ZvP fights, storms do more damage for P than his units’ physical attacks. A strong P player typically avoids committing himself to attacks unless he has already weakened/reduced the zerg army with storms. It is frustrating to play against P players who run away after storming 1/3 of your army, their energies recharge, but your dead units are gone.
Typically Z deals with storms in three ways: hydra/ling micro, lurker field, and muta snipe. To dodge storms and snipe templars with hydra/ling micro is the most difficult, especially when it is a large army fight, the more storms cast simultaneously on your units, the harder it is to pull all of them out fast enough.
The second and most common option is to use a lurker field defense. The idea is that it takes 2 storms to kill a lurker, so even if P has 3-5 templars, their energies get depleted very fast trying to break into a lurker field. Z will keep most of his units in the back and position his flank while P is dealing with the lurkers, meanwhile Z will micro 1-2 groups of hydra/ling on the lurker field to discourage goon sniping and bait out even more storms for him to dodge, then, when most of the templars have no energy, and the lurker field is almost broken, that’s when Z attacks with everything he saved up to surround and kill P’s physical army.
The third option, quite popular these days, is to use mutas to snipe off the templars directly. While a very sound plan, and much simpler to execute than controlling large armies and managing lurker fields, the muta option is a lot more risky. With just a slight mis-micro, like flying too close to some archons, or pulling out too slow from a storm, can cost you all of your mutas in an instant. With lurkers, as long as you spread them out, there is no risk of suffering this kind of damage in an instant. But with mutas, the game can be lost in a just a few seconds, even if you have done everything perfectly up to that point. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, but to explain a strategy, I feel obligated to point out the dangers involved.
Many people falsely believe that just because a strategy is commonly used by the pros, it is the only viable option. That is not true, while the hydra -> muta is very popular, going hydra -> lurker can be just as strong. This is ONE good strategy, not THE strategy. If you are not comfortable with muta control, or you just don’t want to take that risk, this is not the strategy for you.
Hydra -> Muta Transition Timing
1. Before Hydras! (fake hydra trick build):
Lately, I’ve seen several games where Z would do all the early set up as usual, but make the second gas before 5th hatch, and delay the hydra den along with all the normal upgrades such as ovie speed or +1 range attack. This will give Z enough gas to make 6 mutas and 1 pair of scourge. Probe/zealot scouts cannot tell the difference, since you have 5 hatches in a build that is virtually identical to the normal 5 hatch hydra play. Even corsair scout may not tell the difference because your scourge will come out first to chase the corsair away before mutas are revealed. Even if P noticed that you did not make a hydra den, since you have three bases, P is likely to assume that he simply missed where the den was.
If P skipped cannons in a gamble assuming Z will go hydras, and he cut off corsair production after the first scouting one, this trick muta opening disguising itself as the 5 hatch hydra will catch P completely off guard and severely punish him for his greediness. You can even win the game right there if P has no cannons in his main. If P does have 1 cannon in main, 6 mutas can still destroy the cannon quickly while the scourge deals with the corsair. You can still do heavy damage.
The potential downfall is that if P is playing the true Bisu style and does not stop corsair production, and he cannons properly. Your initial mutas will not do any damage. And compared to a true muta opening, you have way less mutas and you will lose air control much quicker, which means you will be very vulnerable to a zeal/archon/corsair push.
The very risky nature of this muta timing makes it a gamble. If you know your P opponent before the match and you know he likes to skip cannons for faster gateways, you can try to punish him for it. On the other hand, if you are playing someone whom you know will likely play the true Bisu style, don’t do this muta timing.
In making this revision, I was very hesitant to add this section in, because if you go muta first, then it really isn’t hydra -> muta anymore… However, considering its build order is virtually identical to the normal 5 hatch hydra, and this play is more of trick than a standard, I feel that it belongs here more so than it does in a muta opening guide.
2. After 3 Groups of Hydras:
In the earlier version of this guide I advised people to make 4 groups of hydras, based on the game F91 vs JF on destination, but I’ve had some trouble playing against P players who don’t morph archons right away. Instead of making a zeal/archon push to see if they can damage zerg, P simply keep their templars and try to take a fast third expansion.
I have tried to out micro the zeal/templar army with my first three groups of hydras while producing a 4th group, but typically I take more damage than I deal. Then I saw the game F91 vs Nony on Tau Cross, where F91 revised his play to make mutas after 3 groups of hydras. F91 ended up losing the game due to mis-micro, but this muta timing looked better.
3. After 4 or More Groups of Hydras:
This is the best play against a pure zeal/archon push. Without storms, mass hydras rule. You don’t need mutas too early against this, and mutas aren’t great against archons anyway.
Note from earlier version: “with this mutas timing, the 9 minute mark is a good point to do a supply check. For example, if you opened with overpool and did everything correctly with a no rush 9 agreement, at the 9 minute mark you should have 85 supply with 4 groups of hydra/ling, your opponent should have 95 supply with an army of 2-3 archons and 15 ish zealots. Now typically in a real game with early harass and less than perfect macro, you can be happy with 80 supply at 9 minutes, and P can be happy with 90 supply. However, if you have even lower, then there is something wrong with your early execution and you must find it and correct it. No build can be effective if you don't produce enough units. The supply count at the 9 minute mark varies in other openings, check my opening reps vs computer posted above for more detail.”
I did not test the supply check with other mutas timings, you can try it yourself if that’s the kind of thing you like to do.
The muta switch is a technique. While this build is designed to incorporate the muta switch technique, it does not have to. Earlier I said that goon/ht is a tricky case, where as the goon count builds up, ht sniping becomes very difficult. Well, you don’t have to force yourself to go muta sniping just because you opened 5 hatch hydra. If I saw early goons coming out, and I have not yet committed myself to mutas, I like to switch directly into lurker/hydra/ling instead. Just add 2 more chambers and set up your lurker defenses, this play style is more defensive, but you can afford to make more drones and take an expansion faster because of your strong lurker fields. Play flexibly.
Hydra/lurker/ling follow up
Regardless of what you do, eventually you are going to make lurkers and just mass hydra/ling on the side. After lurker upgrade start, 2 more chambers to catch up normal upgrades while you get +2 missile attack. At this point the build is over, you just play normal ZvP. Get drones when you are not in danger and just macro up.
Assume that all went well and you gained some map control, either denied or at least delayed P's third expo, when lurkers come out you can play hydra/lurker for a contain, or just defensively while going hive. You want to have 7 hatcheries pumping lurker/hydra/ling. You should aim for 45-50 drones for a very powerful econ. Then just slowly add a couple here and there from time to time to keep growing and concentrate on units. 7 hatch full units production is equivalent to 9 gateway production. P needs to have 3 base running to keep up with your 4.
If things didn't go so well and you have lost map control, due to mis micro of mutas and then lost hydras to storms, you will be in great danger...I would stop hydra production, make pure lurker/ling and turtle to cracks, defilers and drop, get islands, and eventually retake map with upgraded ultra/ling, but it's hard to fight an uphill battle so don't pay too much attention if your turtle fails, concentrate on perfecting your muta/hydra play so you Don't get into a situation where you can only turtle to survive.
And that’s it!
This build has become very popular, you can find plenty of pro gamer examples on youtube.
My illustration games:
Vs gns.i-cruzado, A- P.