The Evolution of StarCraft Armies - Early Game Zerg

In recent history, Blizzard RTS games have been marked by three distinct stages: the early game, mid game, and the late game. The StarCraft series is no exception.

In recent history, Blizzard RTS
games have been marked by three
distinct stages: the early game, mid game, and the late game. The
StarCraft series is no exception. Brood
was defined by the myriad
of early game strategies that could be employed. Most of these
strategies were centered around the interactions between tier one
units; zealots, zerglings, terran marines & medics, and
dragoons, and the creative use of defensive structures.

Defensive structures in
StarCraft II are far less effective than in the
original StarCraft; players must now rely heavily on their skills with
managing units. This change defines all stages of the game, but is
particularly crucial early on where players use weaker tier one units
that have traditionally been weak versus defensive structures.

StarCraft II has added several
new units into the mix that have
completely redefined the early game. We'll take a closer look at these
new units and how they're used in the first of a three part series on
the evolution of StarCraft armies, starting with what's new for Zerg in
the early

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Zerg Units

  • Queen:
    The zerg queen has been redesigned to be a mobile structure sort
    of unit. The queen is incredibly fast on creep, attacks both
    air and
    ground units, and has a variety of abilities like the ability to spawn
    additional larvae from hatcheries that make it indispensable in the
    zerg base.

  • Baneling:
    The infested terran of original StarCraft never got quite
    enough use. Banelings serve the role that zerg players always wished
    the infesteds could. This unit is a suicide bomber that is 'evolved'
    from a zergling (similar to how lurkers in StarCraft were evolved from
    hydralisks). It is weak and not particularly fast (there is a speed
    upgrade available), however it can burrow and can be used to set up
    effective ambushes.

    It also serves the function of a choke-breaker type unit. This is
    something that zerg lacked in StarCraft; the ability to effectively
    assault narrow choke points. Banelings allow the zerg player to blow a
    hole in their opponents’ defenses, allowing their other
    ground forces to pour into the enemy base.

  • Roach:
    An agile, ranged attacker -- incredibly deadly and effective
    against nearly all tier one units; particularly zealots. StarCraft II
    Game Director Dustin Browder says "the Roach was created to be an early
    game assault unit. We also wanted a unit that could maintain constant
    contact with the enemy. Not just through speed but through sheer

    Roaches turn the early game versus both terran and protoss upside down.
    Whereas in StarCraft zerg's only defense against protoss and terran was
    overwhelming numbers of zerglings, now zerg can go on the offensive
    early micromanaging roaches to deadly effect against the less mobile
    zealots or stand toe to toe against terran's ranged forces. Roaches
    also regenerate health at an incredible rate while burrowed adding to
    their effectiveness. Roaches attack ground units only.

Early Game Tactics

I admit that I primarily play
zerg, because it's my favorite and has
been since the original StarCraft. I like their versatility and
reliance on units instead of structures. Playing zerg in StarCraft was
a constant struggle against the UI, but boy did that ever change. With
control groups that allow you to handle massive numbers of units at
once, smart structures that allow you to set separate rally points for
drones and attack units, and the versatility added by the queen that
gives zerg massive production on demand via additional larvae, it's
like comparing a go-kart to a Ferrari.

strategy also feels completely different. Roaches are a killer
unit; they are fast, inexpensive, and incredibly powerful. They also
scale very well as the game goes on.

  • Zerg
    vs. Protoss
    - In StarCraft, zerg
    versus protoss was a constant struggle
    where it
    always seemed like the protoss had a hard counter for whatever you
    could produce. Things have changed, although this matchup plays similar
    in a few ways; early expansions versus protoss are still the norm,
    particularly on maps where the protoss player has large travel distance
    to your base (you need as much time as possible to defend your
    expansion). Zerglings vs zealots still feels like superman vs a
    preschooler. The similarities end there, however.

    Spine crawlers, like other defensive structures, are pale shadows of
    their StarCraft counterparts. These are enough to defend your minerals
    against light harassment from units like reapers, but are not going to
    hold off an army. This is where roaches come into play. With no
    upgrades on either side, it is entirely possible for roaches to take on
    an equal number of zealots and kill them all without losing a single
    roach if they are micro'd skillfully. Roaches are also extremely strong
    against stalkers. A single roach can practically stand toe to toe
    against a stalker, and they cost nearly half as much. It is extremely
    hard to go wrong with roaches against protoss. Their only weakness is
    that they cannot attack air, but zerg will usually transition into
    mutalisks at tier two, which coincidentally synergize extremely well
    with roaches!

  • Zerg
    vs. Zerg
    - Zerg mirror matches
    are tricky. You have a lot of options, and
    practically anything can work. Banelings, zerglings, roaches, early
    expansions, and fast teching are all viable strategies. In the
    strategic sense, the matchup is very similar to StarCraft - you must
    constantly scout your opponent and build units that counter theirs.
    Roaches counter zerglings, but zerglings and banelings can easily
    decimate a roach army. Fast tech to mutalisks can beat all three of
    these if your opponent is not prepared with anti-air. There is no
    cookie cutter strategy that will win you this matchup, you must outplay
    your opponent strategically or get lucky and guess correctly.

  • Zerg
    vs. Terran
    - Terran is currently
    being looked at as possibly being in need of buffs,
    they really don't have a lot of answers for zerg. Without medics, their
    early army of marines and marauders is easily dealt with by roaches or
    banelings. Their choke also does not offer the protection that it once
    did; it is entirely possible to
    blow up a terran's blocked choke point
    using banelings and invade with zerglings before they even have the
    opportunity to produce siege tanks. A favorite strategy of mine is to
    expand early, then pressure with roaches and eventually upgrade them to
    mobile burrow. Terrans will often leave a supply depot buried to allow
    their units to exit the base. This is an opportunity to sneak a large
    force of burrowed roaches into their base where you can harass their
    scvs, destroy their detection capability, or simply micro your units
    using burrow to exploit their vast hit point regeneration.

    All of these options leave you open to produce massive amounts of
    mutalisks at tier two, which are very difficult for terrans to counter.

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