The 9 pool opening in ZvP followed by
New style of late game ZvP: Zergling/baneling/infestor/ultralisk
Hello all! First let me introduce me quickly as a starcraft 2 player:
My ID is aXa and i'm a 3200+ zerg master from season 1.
I'm french so sorry if my english present some flaws and be sure i will appreciate if you take the time to correct my mistakes.
If you are interested in a ZvZ build, please look at http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=212628
I'm sure all of you, little lovely zerg, have noticed how hard it was to beat protoss with the standard style: Roach/hydra/corruptor.
In the early game, it can be hard to hold 4 warp gate with roach and zergling (Remember ST_july vs oGsMC and the beautiful cancel expand hidden 4th gate on megalopolis and those mean forcefields ? ^^)
In the late game, deathball of anykind (standard colossi gateway unit, but also voidray colossi) can rip your max army apart. Again, Idra vs Cruncher on Shakuras Plateau: I know you all Idra fan out there still sad about that game At least i am !
Furthermore, I took the time to check statistic tabs at the end of ladder games of this kind i made. And i was really surprised to see that a max zerg roach/hydra/corruptor is higher in army value (i.e. minerals/vespene gas spent) than a max deathball protoss of any kind. But as you know, zerg max still falls apart very quickly and you are able to win only if you have a superior economy and able to replenish that max army quickly. It also means that zerg with this army composition are not cost-efficient. Basically it means that you need to be economically ahead (the infamous 1 base ahead as zerg) to stay in the game.
So i was thinking a lot about this match up and i really want to figure out a new style of play to sort this situation out. My main goal was to be effective against 4 warp gate, to deal with deathballs like it was any other army (and it actually is)
A part of the answer came with patch 1.3 and the fungal growth buff. But before getting into the deep of the subject, i have some general consideration to make.
Zerg is seen as a "reactive" race. It means that if you don't scout any sort of aggression, you'd better making drone and teching like a crazy person until the push comes, then defend in a last-second fashion and finally crush your opponent with an overwhelming macro.
Idra is definitely the best in this style and i cant stop admiring it. But it is quite hard to perform, because sometimes a 1 second delay on your macro can be end-gaming.
But seriously, you dear zerg fellow, didn't ever dream of a game where you dictate the rhythm, where your opponent has to react to what YOU are doing? I think it is a real important aspect of Starcraft 2 indeed: There is an indenyable psychologic advantage to be the "leader" in a game: To harass and do aggression does in fact make your opponent uncomfortable and more open to mistakes and freak-out playing.
To use Day9 terms, this is "Crisis management", and it can be like a full crisis management game as zerg sometimes: A push coming? Argghh, where are my larvaa??
This lead me to my first part of this guide. Please do note that the general strategy is doable with any kind of openers. It can be with any standard BO but this one is in my opinion the very best, i'll explain why.
9 pool in ZvP
Do you ever saw Day9 daily about 9 pool in ZvZ? I practice this build a lot, i will make another guide about it because i did refine this build so much that i have now 90% win in ZvZ mu. But it's not the matter here, although the general idea came from this build. Before the explicit BO, let's talk about general stuff.
Overall aspect of 9 pool
Literally, you build a pool at 9 supply, and make some zergling when it does finish.
Whereas 6 pool is a cheese, because you don't have any follow up plan but to win in the 2 following minute, 9 pool is not.
It's a pressure build. It's not designed to be a build where you pray for your opponent to not scouting it, on the contrary!
In fact you can do nothing but chilling at your base with your early zergling and still be well in the game. So we have a follow-up plan i will explain later, let's focus about technical things.
9 pool it's a pressure build and depends a lot of rush distance and spawning position of maps. It's a viable build but not as much economic as a hatch first. So you should consider the map you're playing on.
Maps you should avoid doing it on
All of them for obvious rush distance or unknown spawning position.
This list does maybe look a little bit long, but it's not a big deal in ladder actually.
Typhon, Nulpar Ravin and Taldarim altar are the 3 only map on the ladder yet, and i personally vetoed Typhoon and Nulpar Ravin, which i find quite horrible for zerg.
Map you should consider 9 pool
-Xel Naga Cavern, Fairly quick rush distance. You know where your opponent is
-Shakuras Plateau: it may come as a surprise to you, but the rush distance is actually not that long AND you can know where your opponent is in time: Just send your overlord at the horizontal spawn position. If it is not there, well, just go to the diagonal one with your zergling !
-Metalopolis: Check close air position, look at the timing of the scouting probe. If it is early, they are in close ground position. If late, diagonal position !
-Shattered temple: Same here as metalopolis.
-Quadrant Delta: If you are a crazy person who didn't veto this map like me, just send an overlord to a diagonal position, and send a scouting worker (before your zergling finishes) to a second spot if you don't find it with your overlord. By elimination you'll now where your opponent is.
- Slag Pit: Same as quadrant delta.
To be sure where your opponent is on 4 player map, you have to pull out a drone a 10/10 supply after building your overlord, and send it where your overlord is not going to.
The early phase of 9 pool
There is different scenario about this build, depending how your opponent is reacting to your 9 pool. You can adapt your 9 pool depending when your opponent scouts you. Usually, he scouts just after building his pylon and get into your base when your pool is half-way done (on 2 player map or close ground position).
They are two way of doing the 9 pool at that point:
--> 6 zergling
---> 4 zergling
I recommand in a bo3 for example, to do 9 pool 6 zergling the first time, and then 4 zergling the second time. In fact 4 zergling is enough because it's the max number which can hit a single building with standard wall-off
Against a wall-off
Usually, he does it by adding a forge followed by a canon.
-If he reacts immediately, the forge will be early enough that when you come to his front, he will already have a canon finishing. Then just pull back and congrats yourself: You took the entire map control for a while, forcing forge and canon !
-He reacted a little bit late, he has a gateway, a forge, and the canon is too late: With your zergling, FOCUS THE GATEWAY. 9 time out 10, you'll destroy it, and let me tell you how bad is it for your opponent ! The canon will finish just after that so just pull back, take the watchtower and make sure the scouting drone is not building canon near your main or expand. Complete map control again and delayed tech for the poor protoss.
Against a standard protoss build
The guy didn't realize that zergling was coming, and didn't change a thing in his BO.
Surprisingly it is not alway the best thing which can happen to you. But still, there is different way you can exploit that.
I personally aim the pylon if there is only one powering the gateway. If he does not react in time, the pylon will fall before the first zealot finishes. Then, just go for the probes and be cautious to not be surrounded !
But often time, toss take some probe to chase your zergling away his pylon: It is good for you: just go for the probe.
Why good? because
1: He usually does not take ALL the probes, so you can snipe more of them (less dps on zergling)
2: The probes are not near mineral line: harder to surround your zergling, more mining time is lost.
Economical damage are great and will make his build less powerful.
About the zealot: If this ferocious warrior is out when your zergling are still alive, just ignore him IF zealot and probes are together. If the zealot is isolated and if you can get a surround, just go for the kill ! And aim the probe later
Against a forge expand
The canon will often be up before you can slip through with your zergling. So no damage at all and he will probably fast expand. It's still okay for you: Don't put any drone in gas, take a second and a third expand immediately. Then do the usual following i will describe next. You can maybe force more than 1 canon with your initial pressure zergling, it can be useful. You know that protoss is not gonna move anytime soon so take map control and drone hard.
The good following
A pressure build is useless if you don't have any good following. Some people may think you are too far behind if you don't make any damage. It is not true at all. Here is the most decent following I found:
10/10: Overlord --> Depends of the map: Scouting to eliminate a spawning position, or send him near your opponent base to do some late scout
10/18: 6 zergling
15 and 16/18: Drone
17/18: Overlord ---> Send him over your natural to check any later proxy
19/18: Queen followed by extractor
19/18 Is a very delicate moment. You have to do it precisely in this order: Your first queen pop out, launch a second queen, larva inject immediately, put an extractor you don't cancel.
You will have EXACTLY the money to do so ! You cannot build the extractor first because your queen will be delayed. The difficult part of this timing is because your zergling are reaching protoss front at this exact moment, so you have to be really quick an efficient if you don't wanna screw this up
Drone up to 24/26
Put 3 drone in gas
Keep larva inject with Queen 1
Put down a total of 3 creep tumor with queen 2, relentless creep spread!
Drone up to 26/26
Lay down your first expand
Launch zergling speed with 100 first gas
After this, it is designed for my later strategy game, which is zergling/baneling/infestor. So if you don't wanna to do this, feel free to do otherwise. It matches with other compo as well.
After zergling speed
Launch a evolution chamber when you hav 50 gas stockpiled or so. It will finishes around 100 gas, so make your +1 melee attack. With the 100 next gas, go T2. I will explain what happens after T2 but it will belong to the mid game strategy part.
Why not +1 armor?
Well, you're maybe thinking: I'm gonna have a lot of zergling, he has a forge, he will make zealot +1 attack two-shoting my zergling so i really need this +1 armor. It's a good way to see things, but there is a better response to this.
Armor cost 150 gas to 100 melee. You'd better save this 50 gas to build your baneling nest just after this. Baneling are far better at dealing with zealot than +1 armor zergling, believe me :D
You should be around 6 min into the game, and around 30 pop, mainly drone and queen and maybe few zergling left. Do you noticed anything? Oh yes, first, you are pretty much at the same point as any zerg doing basic stuff drone-wise and expand-wise.You have your 2 queen, but notice 3 creep tumor with continue larva inject thanks to this early second queen. Creep spread is important in every game!
But more so, now it is time to check is your opponent is not MAKING A 4 GATE.
Dealing with 4 gate
It may be counter-intuitive, but protoss usually thinks that you are behind because of this "rush" (maybe they think it was a 6 pool? So they tend to think that a 4 warp gate will end you. Anyway, protoss still making a lot of random 4 gate in ladder so better to be ready!
Step 1: Remember that overlord near your enemy base? time to sacrificial overlord for scouting purpose !
Step 2: Did you noticed any sign of 4 gate? Yes? Then begin to make a TON of zergling (double queen for a while, it will be easy)
Step 3: Focus the probe or the pylon. No probe, no pylon, no 4 gate.
Step 4: Don't let the mean protoss get stuck in a narrow path. Build a evolution chamber to block your back mineral line path.
Step 5: Too many zealots ? make banelings, and engage only on creep with them!
Usually, the 4 gate ends here, because 20 to 25 zergling, soon +1, are more than enough to clean that up. It means that the game is pretty much over to your favor.
Dealing with expand
What is really great about this build, is that at this 7 minute magic mark, your opponent is doing or a 4 warp gate or an expand. They already got the forge, so why not use that do plant an expo?
They are right, but you are in an incredible spot right now. Whatever he does, the correct response on your behalf is the same: Do a ton of zergling, something like 30 overall.
We already saw that it is the way to clean up 4 gate, but it is also the way to delay the expand for a while!
Run to your enemy expansion, he will have 3 to 4 unit maybe outside his base. Catch them if you can (sentries first), cancel the expand, and stay outside. He will have to make more unit, more canon to be able to expand properly. Don't use any baneling to do that. They are yet to slow off creep. Meanwhile, you are droning like a crazy person
Mid game strategy: Following the 9 pool with speedling/baneling/infestor
How to use your gas all game long:
Remember, you are now halfway T2, you have been on 1 gas all the time, using it for speed, +1 attack, baneling nest, maybe some baneling to stay alive, then lair.
Before it finishes, take all your 4 gas geyser available. What to do now?
Before even considering getting infestor, you have to plan your late game. It means upgrade, so use your gas in the following order, as soon as you get the required amount:
-During T2, you should be able to start +1 armor. Make another evolution chamber when it is close to finish
-Start baneling speed
-Then +2 attack and +2 armor
-Then infestation pit,
-Then energy upgrade
-3 infestor will be enough.
-Neural parasite, will describe the use later
-Let's get the hive
-Adrenale gland, remember that upgrade? Rush for it!
-Then +3 attack and +3 armor upgrade
-Ultralisk den baby !
I will come back about upgrade, infestor and ultralisk topic.
How to use your zergling all game long
Zergling are the nastiest and fatest unit of the game. They are very strong with upgrade and give you an insane map control. After 9 pool damage, go take both watchtower, let 1 zergling in front of protoss base to check move and expand, and 1 zergling to your own expand to deny any probe block.
After canceling 4 gate way or delaying expand, the protoss should be on the defensive now, so go take out the rocks of your gold. You should lay down your first macro hatch followed by your third at the gold. During all game, you should have a group of zergling ready to run by into the protoss main whenever he seems to move out. Having the watch tower and isolated zergling spotting is crucial.
Some general consideration about zergling and baneling composition
I think most of zerg thought that zergling is not even a viable option in ZvP, because of zealots. Maybe that's why we are attending a lot of roach usage, because they are overall not bad against gateway units.
But zergling are actually far more effective than roach against gateway, as long as they are upgraded. Baneling does a good job against them too. The combination is really strong and more important: cheap.
They are cheap in mineral, but don't forget they are not cheap when it comes to larva ! Make sure to have 1 macro hatch per 2 base, including your main. You need a maximum of 4 queen, 3 are usually enough if your mechanics are good. Usually, 4 base including 1 gold + 2 macro hatch for a 6 hatch total and 3 queens are enough to produce infinity zergling.
The mid game threat: force field
In a standard game, a 2 base push will come on protoss behalf. He will have a lot of gateway units, maybe 1 or 2 colossi, and a lot of sentries of course.
They are few rule to consider to hold this push with ease:
-First, you don't have any way to break force field now, so don't overcommit with your zergling and baneling. If you see him make a donut around him, just draw back, and wait for the FF to finish. Then go again, until he doesn't have enough energy.
-Engage in open space, don't let him block himself against a wall or behind your mineral line ! Remember this 3 creep tumor? I hope you spread it out all over the map. You should have creep in front of your third when the timing push comes.
-Don't forget you're producing zergling, the fatest unit to hatch ! If you don't feel confident, just draw back a little, make a ton of zergling and come for the final blow. I often sacrifice a base (usually the 3rd) in order to take no risk about this push.
Infestor: how to use it
-Fungal growth is a very nice spell to say the least, with 2 main usage.
First, it does some nice additional damage, helping your overall dps.
Second, to lock down the protoss ball.
I use it in two different way: If i see a threatening stack of zealot, feel free to lock them while your zergling are aiming for stalker.
Of course, locking down stalker is the goal you want to achieve every time: Huge damage on them and no more micro: let the zergling and baneling finish the job.
You want to use fungal on colossi as well. Remember hit and run micro on colossi can be devastating for your zergling. Better to be sure they don't do that !
-Neural parasite is a huge help when you get it. First, it allow you to mindcontrol colossi, diminishing the real threat to your zergling army.
But the most useful thing you can do whith it, is to STEP with the Colossi on Force field ! Yeah baby ! This a trick i use when i don't have ultra yet
Infestor have weaknesses
-Of course high templar with feedback (unless you are able to mincontrol one of them, and then feedback the others! Never managed to do it though)
-Phoenix. I will talk later about stargate build in a overall fashion. But in any case, if you're opponent is going phenix, he's gonna able to snipe your infestor whenever he wants all over the map. Don't freak out. The correct response is to get burrow, and to unburrow until the real battle occur.
Late game strategy and resource usage
You now are T3 with full zergling/baneling/infestor upgrade. Get the crucial unit who fits so well in this compo: Ultralisk. When you already have enough infestor (5-6), you don't have much gas to spend on units. So ultra are not gonna be economically hard to pull out. They are overall a good unit (3-3 upgrade remember? ) but the main usage are to step on force field, making your army unstoppable by any deathball !
But don't EVER overcommit with those ultra! It's not because you can produce 10 ultra you should do so. I already lost a game by doing this. The key is to remain cost efficient, ultra in big number are not. Zergling are !
If your opponent realize how crucial it is to get high templar against this composition, it is very easy for you to tech switch. The best choice is to get roach: Get a double warren and upgrade speed and burrow movement as well as burrow, and start +1 range attack.
Don't forget 1 good storm can annihilate any zergling/ baneling stack easily. Roaches with burrow doesn't really care about that. When templar are dead, switch back to zergling. Don't forget templar without KA are less threatening and efficient to warp. So you can easily take your opponent out that way.
Dealing with air
I'm quite sure you're asking the following question to yourself: What about air? Well guy's, you simply doesn't care about air at any stage of the game.
-Early stargate opening, phenix harass: Guess what, you have an evolution chamber for sporecrawler and already 2 queens. Just produce more to be sure he cannot snipe them. He literally gives up about ground control, so you should be able to deny any expand with your zergling. (Graviton beam zergling is quite a waste Keep expand and drone hard. He can't deny a hatchery, and a pushes is not about to come anytime soon. Big hard outmacro! Just remember what i said about infestor: burrow !
-Void-ray/Colossi: Void ray are effective against ultra, that's all. Your ground army is gonna rip colossi and gateway unit so hard, you can just run into your opponent base and kill him. Void ray don't do well against zergling, who are the real damage dealer. When ground protoss army is dead, switch to hydralisk to finish void ray if the numerous fungal growth haven't done the job yet.
If he goes into your base with the void ray, you will be able to clean his entire base far more quickly than him, and at this stage of the game, you'll have enough base to build hydralisk elsewhere.
Using drops and nydus
A good protoss player will soon understand how important it is for him to constrict space with building. The correct answer for you is to go for baneling drop on top of his mineral line (In an epic fashion) and nydus him with zergling runby. Don't be scared of suiciding 20 banes over a nexus or a canon line, it basically cost nothing for you. Moreover, when you already got all the upgrade you need, some infestor and ultra, you don't really have gas to spend. So drop and nydus who are gas expansive does well fit with this timing, around 20 minutes into the game.
This chart is related to the replay ZvPStandard2, see bellow. ZvPStandard2
Do you see that chart? It shows that my army value, i.e. resource spent in army. It is never really up above his. Still, i'd win this game with no contest. It means that zerg can be cost efficient and can deal with max protoss army. But ONLY if you don't make mistake like mass ultra, mass muta, mass infestor. The main unit has to remain zergling, with enough baneling to clean the zealots.
Of course, a quick draw is better than a long talk, so here are replays. I 9 pool in every game.
About macro, mechanics and APM
It's important to note that this mass zergling play require a lot of larva inject, so overall good mechanics and APM. I was sharing this style of play with a diamand player and he really wasnt able to produce enough out of his hatch, due to insufficient APM. I'm far to be a beast, but it looks like 100 or 120 APM is the minimal to perform well with it.
General advise to watch this replay: In the early game, put production tab and everyone tab. When 9 pool is done and when i get to macro mode, switch to unit tab and to my cam to check mechanics.
Doing damage at protoss front
This replay is literally my first game ever using 9 pool and zergling baneling infestor. On shattered temple on close position. I do a lot of damage at his front, the game shows that even good force field is not that strong against this compo. Not the best game anyway.
Dealing with 4 warp gate and doing bane drop
In this replay on Shakuras Plateau, we spawn on cross position. He scouts me early so i choose to do only the 4 ling pool. He does not wall of, certainly thinking that the zealot will pop up in time. I do very few damage to his probe, ignoring the zealot. He follow it by a 4 warp gate push i held with some trouble because i wasn't able to scout it in time. After helding it, i could cancel his expand for a little while. Still doing well, i end the game by a beautiful bane drop at his expand and his main. It forces him to move out for a last chance attack, very interesting to see when it comes to minimize the force field strenght. Overall not a very good replay either, but shows how it is crucial to hatch quickly units, which only zergling can do.
In this game, we spawn close air position on Metalopolis. He scouts me early and my 9 pool does no damage whatsoever. Followed by a 4 gate i held quite easily this time. Unable to delay his expand, i go into macro-mode until he does a 2 base push with a nice deathball. Even with poor army management, the battle is pretty uncontested. The game ends with the laughable baneling drop & rage quit ever
Dealing with air or forge expand
In this game, we spawn cross position on shattered temple. He opened up with a forge expand, denying any 9 pool damage. I decide whatsoever to work on the gold expand rocks asap. He follows up with a double stargate phoenix harass. Picking up queens and drone, sometimes infestor. I just ignore him and do my stuff. It ends up 3 base against 5 for me. A big battle occur in the center of the map while i'm doing 2 successful baneling drop out of 3. I Rip his ground army and 11 void ray stayed alive. I choose to ignore them and go for counter attack. While they are dealing with my expands, i rip his base appart and switching slowly to hydralisk. The game ends before i could engage void ray because he had no building left
Horizontal spawn on Shaluras Plateau, this one shows how easy it is to ignore void ray and transitioning into hydra to finish them. He pretty much raged at the start of the game, so sorry if i taunt him at the end
Dealing with deathball, standard games
On Xel naga cavern, this one show a no-wall of but no damage done whatsoever. The game goes on standard. I let him took my 3rd because i wasnt sure i could take him off. We are at the same eco and unit level (before some baneling drops hehe) when his deathball comes, but the battle is pretty one-sided. After that i mass up and go for the kill.
On Xel naga cavern again, this one shows a fake 4 gate into expand. It shows how fragile a 3 gate expand his against this build: If i had let a spotting zergling in order to see the expand, i could attack with a lot of zergling against 4 unit. Middle game battle is pretty laughable, as my zergling and baneling comes in a congo line due to some good force field. Still one sided.I mass up and go for the kill.
Dealing with stargate opening
In this replay, my friend and I spawn close position on Metalopolis. I open 14/14 and he goes stargate first and remain unscouted until the 4 phenix pop out. I counter attack with zergling baneling and the game goes on.
Dealing with fast expand and high templar
In this replay, we spawn on close position on Shakuras Plateau. As i go 14/14, he does a fast expand. The game goes on with some DT and high templar action. Check the unit lost tab all game long !
Macro hatch against agressive protoss
In this replay, my opponent goes for a 3 rax +1 attack into expand and start with heavy agression. I rely on a fast macro hatch to hold off, which gives me a lead I secure by taking 2 more expand and finishing the game a few minute later.
2 gate opening and macro game
Map is Xel Naga cavern. My clan mate open 2 gate as i go standard 14/14. I hold it with 2 queen 2 spine and few zergling. He follows his build with a fast expand, so i take a third at the 10 min mark and macro as hard as i can. He takes his third as well and start a compo of gateway unit along with archon (mine is zergling baneling infestor of course). As the macro race goes on, i pull off some baneling drop on his mineral line, right before the first big battle at 18 min mark. A successful hydra switch, some good neural parasite on archons along with bane drop on top of his army allow me to clear his entire army. My army is now mainly hydralisk, so i decide to do a nydus worm in his main as he tried to cancel a naked expand. I managed to destroy a significant part of his twilight council tech building. I reinforce my unit compo with roaches, as he starts to produce colossi. But the out macro job is done, and when the final battle occure, my corruptor are out to give me victory.
Map is Xel Naga cavern. I know my opponent will open 2 gate again, so i decide to do a fake 9 pool (i produce drone instead of ling) into one base roaches. I counter his zealot easily and try to do damage at his front, but it fails miserably. The first push comes quite early this time, at the 10 min mark, right when my third is half done. I hold with roaches and zergling, giving me an edge in army and a good timing window to macro as my third is now up and running. A second push is taken as my army is now a mix of roaches and baneling. I'm now on 4 base and i manage to delay his third until the 19 min mark. I put the nail in the coffin with baneling drop. His colossi are not enough to hold my army composed of roaches, baneling-drop, infestor along with some 3-3-3 upgrade. Victory is mine.