Many players, myself once included, are trapped in the myth that ZvP has been standardized, that the "best" opening is always 5 hatch macro, and that all-in builds are noobish play that do not work at higher level... NOT true.
What many zerg players today lack in their game play is Variety. All-in builds have become somewhat of a taboo in the strategy forums. You always get a billion advices telling you that "if you want to improve, you can't cheese". That is a correct but incomplete statement. What it should say is that "if you want to improve, you can't rely entirely on cheese".
The difference is easy to understand. All-in builds are basically timing attacks that are designed to strike and end the game with a single blow, or at least do enough damage to take a lead. The key word here is Strategy, not mechanics, but strategy. If you focus entirely on strategy, but fail to develop your mechanics, your execution of the strategies will be poor and it will fail you in the long run. However, does that mean one should go the other way and focus entirely on mechanics while ingoring strategy? Hardly.
Believe it or not, the power of unpredictable ZvP strategies are better understood by the protoss players, because they are ones who experience first hand the difficulty of playing "blind". Many macro-only zergs have no idea how insanely powerful the concept of variety really is.
That said, let's look at some examples of unpredictable play.
The 9 Pool Speed Opening, Guess What is Coming to Kill You
Cheese or not?
There is a long standing debate of whether 9 pool speed counts as cheese, and usually you get a whole bunch of name calling back and forth arguing whether it is or not. The answer is actually a clear no.
By definition, an all-in build is a timing attack that has to work or you fall behind trememdously. Now, what is the attack timing of 9 pool speed...? If you say "well, it depends on what you do with it", then you have just answered this long standing debate: The 9 pool speed opening, by itself, is not cheese, as it does not depend on a timing attack
A simple comparison can be drawn with the 5 pool, which is 100% cheese, because the build focuses entirely on the timing attack of your first 6 zerglings, the outcome of the game depends on how much damage this timing attack does. In comparison, the success of 9 pool speed does not depend on the damage output of your initial 6 zerglings, but rather, on your ability to keep your opponent in the dark.
That said, the 9 pool speed is the perfect opening to transition into all-in builds, because if you can deny scouting, P won't know what's coming and it makes it hard for him to defend vs. everything.
How to Make the Best Use of the Speed Upgrade?
Two words: Deny Scout
While it is true that in every game you should try to deny scout, it is particularly crucial to do so when the success of your opening depends on it. The simple truth is: if you allow your opponent to scout you after opening 9 pool speed, you will fall tremedously behind and likely lose the game.
Here is how to deny probe scouts:
1. When your 6 lings come out, put 1 on the probe, and send 5 to the P base, this will ensure that P makes at least two cannons before nexus. However, don't actually go all the way, as soon as your 5 lings leave the scouting probe's vision, P will add cannons, then you just bring the lings back to kill the probe.
2. Killing the probe may not be easy if your opponent is good at microing it, but it won't matter for long, once your speed finishes, you'll kill it easy. The rule is: if you kill th probe with your first 6 lings before the next two come out, you may stay on 8 lings or go up to 12; if you fail to kill the probe with your first 6 lings before the next two come out, make 12 lings in total, run with the probe, but don't kill it until after it sees your additional zerglings. This will scare P to make 3 cannons, and if not, it allows you to punish him for it.
3.Hunt down the hidden probe. This is very important. Every decent P knows to send out a second probe to hide somewhere as soon as he confirms the 9 pool speed build. Even on two player maps, this will happen before your overlord can moniter his choke. Play it safe, after killing the first probe, ALWAYS assume that there is a hidden probe somewhere on the map. Leave two lings to block your ramp, and send the rest to hunt down the hidden probe.
On small, two player maps, this probe hunt shouldn't be too hard with the speed upgrade, but on larger, 3-4 player maps, probe hunt will not be easy. ALWAYS leave two lings to block your ramp just in case you fail to find it.
4. If it's a two player map and your overlord arrives at P's natural, you can keep an eye on the choke to see if additional probes come out, if your lings are busy searching for the hidden probe, just select one zergling to lock on the new probe while it is still in your overlord's vision, the zergling will chase it down. If on larger maps and your overlord went the wrong direction, always send 1 ling to monitor P's choke while having 2 lings to block your ramp and the rest go hunt for the hidden probe.
5. Once the hidden probe is taken care of, you can position your lings at P's choke, after that, denying probe scout is very easy.
Now, Shuffle the Strategies!
The 9 pool speed has 4 main continuations, 3 all-ins and 1 macro play. For each of the all-ins, the most important part is the preciseness of your drone count. The very nature of all-in is do or die, do NOT make a single extra drone than it is necessary, maximize your attack force will give you better chances.
1. Speedling all-in (not recommended)
Certainly this can work, but only works if P has poor building placement. It is a very powerful game finisher if P fails to put his buildings correctly.
2. Two hatch hydra all-in
As soon as you finish off the first probe, put 2 drones on gas while you make more drones, make a den with the first 50 gas, then put a 3rd drones on gas. Make a total of 12 drones, but NO MORE. The perfect economy you need for two hatch hydra production is 10 drones on minerals and 2 on gas. In the beginning you leave 3 drones on gas for the upgrades, as soon as you start your second hydra upgrade, remove 1 drone from gas to reach the perfect econ set up.
At first you will not have money for hydras, that's fine, prioritize upgrades, they MUST NOT be delayed. after 12 drones you make 2 overlords, this will be your max supply to finish the game. After the overlords just 2 hatch hydra. Rally them close to P's choke, but with a little distance, in case if your lings need room to kill a scouting unit, you don't want him to see hydras.
Personally I like to attack when both hydra upgrades finish, this is the timing where P's first corsair comes out. If he has not suspected 2 hatch hydra, your attack will come before he can put down additional cannons. When the corsair sees hydras it is already too late for P.
There are two ways for P to stop 2 hatch hydra, first if he scouts it. I cannot emphasize enough that for all-in builds, if you get scouted you lose. Deny scout at all cost. Secondly, if P gets paranoid and suspects a frontal attack, and makes paranoid cannons early on, your hydra attack will fail. Later I will explain why the paranoid cannon approach is a double edged sword.
3. Two hatch muta all-in (less all-in compared to the previous two)
As soon as you finish off the first probe put 3 drones on gas, make drones but prioritize lair timing, if you have to delay a drone to get lair right away, delay the drone, timing comes first.
Keep making drones until you get close to the 26/26 supply, you may have to stop at 24-25 based on how the game went. Basically when spire starts get your second gas, and when spire is half way, stop drone production, make 2 overlords and save up larva.
Rally your hatches to P's main, 6 mutas followed by 4 scourge, then 1 hatch muta, 1 hatch scourge non-stop to P's base. you should have excess money for a third hatch very soon due to heavy gas consumption.
The first corsair should come out when your mutas are half way to P's base, and the second corsair will come out when your scourge arrive. Usually there is only 1 cannon, possibly with a second cannon morphing when you get there. Mutas go for the cannons, scourge take care of the corsairs. Unless P scouts your build, or he makes paranoid cannons by suspecting mutas, P should not have more than 1 cannon finished in his main by the time your mutas arrive.
Even if P has paranoid cannons, the game is not over. Keep building up your mutas/scourge count, once you have 10-11 mutas, go for a big attack, as long as you clone the scourge accurately on his corsairs you have a decent chance of killing him.
If you successfully destroyed his cannons and corsairs, you can destroy his main base. Shut down scourge production when P stops corsairs or gives up his main, keep making mutas until you have 11 in total. Make a hydra den and drone up while you get hydra upgrades and overlord speed. P will usually make 2 stargates at his nat to retake air control, but you will have enough hydras by that point to break his front, or at least to protect your mutas and overlords. After hydras, upgrade lurker and drop upgrade, finish off P with a hydra/lurker drop before he gets observors is my favorate transition plan if I cannot break P with hydras.
A very important thing to remember when doing this is that as soon as you take control of P's main, send out your zerglings to monitor all expansions. A common plan for P is to make a secret expansion while your mutas are busy killing his main, don't let it happen.
If your muta/scourge attack fail without killing P's main base, you will lose this game. However, unlike two hatch hydra, you don't have to go through with this plan. If after putting down the spire you decided to bail, you can still go for the normal 5 hatch hydra build with an earlier lair and weaker economy. It sets you behind but the game is still playable.
4. 5 hatch macro
This is the simplest to follow, and works very well at higher level, but not so much at lower level. Let me explain why:
Because P plays in the dark, he has no way to tell which of these 4 strategies Zerg will use. Discounting the speedling all-in, which depends on P making poor buildings placements. The other 3 can be played interchangeably anytime. P has to either prepare for everything, or Guess which one is more likely and gamble on it.
For example, remember I talked about paranoid cannons? If P gets scared of a two hatch hdyra, and he makes several cannons at his natural out of fear, it completely shuts down a two hatch hydra build. However, spending all his money at his natural, P leaves his main undefended, and a muta build takes easy win.
Alternatively, if P gets paranoid about a muta attack, and makes more cannons in main, he will have less cannons at his natural, leaving him safe against mutas but death vs hydras.
Lastly, if P gets paranoid about both mutas and hydras, and he makes extra cannons both at his natural and main, then it makes P economically behind vs a 5 hatch macro player, who invested in neither hydras nor mutas, but made a ton of drones instead.
High level P players hate this guessing game, what they will do is to defend both natural and main, but only makes minimal defense and will rely on his micro to save the day. This play style is highly recommendable but very difficult to pull off. However, if executed correctly, it will give P winning advantages should he successfully defend against either all-in attacks, and it will give him a slight econ lead vs a 5 hatch player. Most high level games are played this way.
Now, if this guessing games sounds new to you, you are not alone. Most lower level P players have no idea how to guessing intelligently by reading the zerg player's game plan, nor do they have the skills to play like high level players with minimal defense. What they do instead is just to leave their bases wide open, which is vulnerable to both mutas and hydras, but gains a HUGE econ lead against a 5 hatch player, for skipping on all those cannons.
Therefore, use the 5 hatch continuation only if you are facing someone who knows how to defend correctly, or someone who is scared of your cheese, basically one that you know will not skip on cannons. Against an idot who doesn't know how to defend properly, leaving his bases wide open, only to gain a hugh econ lead over you will just piss you off.
Nice Cheese Combo
A favorate combo of mine that I use for ZvP series, is to open the first game with a two hatch hydra, then follow the second game with a 2 hatch muta while my opponent suspects hydra, and then follow up the third game with a 5 hatch econ continuation, when my opponent is worried about both mutas and hydras.
You can shuffle these 3 strategies any way you desire, as long as you open 9 pool speed and you deny scout correctly. Mixing these with your regular macro builds will make you very unpredictable.
Openings Not Based on Ling Speed, Trickery, Trickery, Trickery
Where 9 pool speed depends on denying scout and playing the guessing game, all-in strategy transitioned from other openings are based on trickery. Typically this requires you to have excellent ling micro without speed to kill the scouting probe, and subsequently deny scouts without speed, which is certainly not easy, but precisely because you did not open with an agressive 9 pool speed, your opponent may let his guard down and be in a world of suprise when your timing attack comes.
1. Fake two hatch muta
Open with 12 hatch and go for a two hatch build, purposely let the probe see your fast lair before killing it. Next 100 gas go ling speed, deny scout at ALL cost before ling speed finishes.
As soon as you accumulate 150 gas after ling speed, pull drones off of gas, meanwhile mass only speedlings, and get a third hatch when minerals add up. Hide your speedlings in your base while you deny scout with a small amount of speedlings. Attack P's natural when you have 3 groups of speedlings.
After seeing a two hatch lair build, P expects either fast muta or fast lurker, he will not have many cannons at his natural, a massive speedling attack can usually catch him completely off guard and kill off the natural if not his main as well.
After lair complete put down a spire with the 150 gas you saved up, then put drones back on gas as well as get a second gas. If your opponent managed to survive the ling attack, he now "knows" that your muta build is fake, or is it? Finish him off with a muta attack if your lings didn't do the job.
2. Builds with fast drop upgrades
From two hatch slow lurker drop to fake 5 hatch hydra followed by a lurker/ling doom drop, the possibilities are limitless on how you play this style.
9 Pool Speed Mixed With Trickery? Yep, I Went There
If you were wondering whether the 9 pool speed has any side variations other than the most common ones. You are now really getting into the realm of trickery play, mixing trickery with hardcore scout denying, and only limitation left is your own imagination.
A 9 pool speed -> faster lair -> slow lurker drop, anyone?
The downside of playing trick builds after 9 pool speed is that your opponent is already on high alert after seeing an aggressive opening. Where normally trick builds depend on your opponent letting his guard him, after 9 pool speed P players are usually very careful. However, the fact that protoss is extra careful may work in our advantage as well, since they are highly focused on defending hydras or mutas, they simply don't have the concentration to suspect anything else. Oh, dear psychology.
Be creative, either abuse speedlings to deny scout, and force P to play the guessing game, or use trickery to deliver an attack when it is least expected, broadening your build pool will make you very unpredictable.
Sure, some noobs will call you names because you use cheese, but if you are truely a versatile zerg, mixing cheese with regular play, and not just a one build cheeser, you will earn your share of respect overtime. As an aggressive and flexible zerg who shuffles all sorts of strategies, including all-ins, regularly, the unpredictability will become a big advantage for you. Even when you play your normal macro game, your opponent will constantly be scared of possible timing attacks due to your reputation, or his memories of getting slaughtered by all-ins.
Suggest All-Ins BuildsTo Me:
If you know a good ZvP all-in build either based on the guessing game, or on tricking your opponent, suggest it in the comment section. If it's good I'll add it into the guide. It is simply too much for me to personally write on all possible all-ins.
Keep in mind that no single guide can cover all strategies. If your suggested strategy is less common, or has theoretical flaws, it will probably not be included, please do not feel offended if that is the case. Even if not put into the actual guide, all suggestions can be read in the comment section, and will no doubt help those who read them. Thank you.