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StarCraft II - Zerg Combat Units In-Depth Stats and Strategy

Updated Fri, Jul 09, 2010 by Stow

The Zerg are the one race that truly hasn’t changed much since the original StarCraft.  Their mainline combat units are strong in swarms and in surround-based tactics, and die alone horribly.  Even the mighty Ultralisk is subject to this, and can no longer devastate a column of Terran infantry with ease.  Only a few things have changed about the rank and file forces of the Zerg, but they’re critical changes that you need to be aware of in order to win!

Fleet of foot, and swift claws of death.  Just keep them away from splash damage.

Zerglings


Cost - 50 Minerals for 2, and 2 consume 1 control.
Build Time - 28 seconds
Combat Stats - 35 HP, 0 armor, light armor type.  Deals 5 damage per attack, gains 1 damage per upgrade.  Fast movement, fast attack speed, can be upgraded to very fast in both.  Blindingly fast on Creep.  Cannot attack air.

Early Game - The Zergling has been in a strange place for much of the beta.  Many early game builds use two to six to destroy early scouting, and then transition straight into Roaches.  Much like the original, when you get your spawning pool tends to determine your Zergling use.  Builds such as a 10 pool, or Overpool (Spawning Pool is placed after Overlord is started)  will get out a pack of Zerglings relatively early for map control, whereas later builds will go heavier on drones and transition into a powerhouse economy to make hordes of Zerglings in under a minute!

Zergling rushing is harder than before.  AI has been improved since StarCraft (thank god), and while the Zergling surround AI is wonderful, it also falls to workers with some clever micromanagement.  The AI will always prioritize combat units to non combat units, and a SCV that issues an attack move command instantly becomes hostile and the priority target.  It doesn’t matter if there are 20 idle workers nearby, your Zerglings will consider this one rogue guy the threat.  You must control your rush absolutely perfectly in order to succeed now.

Mid Game and beyond - Positioning is all that matters when it comes to using these.  You must have a clear area to surround and brutalize your opponent with these little terrors--no unit in the game comes close to the amount of damage Zerglings can put out over time, given they can attack.  Open ground is prime Zergling real estate.  You can surround, you can prevent your enemy from fleeing, and everyone will get a piece of the enemy.  At the same time, attacking a choke point with Zerglings is an exercise in futility.  Don’t do it.  You’ll need ranged units to breach that, and then release the hounds!

Zergling Speed is essential to using these, but don’t forget to expand the creep as well.  Since the surround AI is vastly improved, Zerglings leaping across the screen will be on top of your opponent, or behind them, in a second if you’re on creep. 

Be really careful when moving a pack of these around.  They tend to get divided.  Move short distances, regroup, and continue if you’re unsure of your opponent’s army positioning.    You do NOT want to funnel into a line of Hellions almost single file!

Since these deal such little damage, but attack so quickly, upgrading your attack damage is critical to getting mileage out of a Zergling swarm.  In addition, watch your opponent’s upgrades and unit composition.  If you’re seeing a lot of protoss weapon upgrades, make sure your armor is up to snuff as well.  One extra weapon upgrade will allow a zealot to 2 shot your zerglings rather than 3.  That makes a huge difference when facing a line of them!

 

A pest that moves underground, regenerates while underground, and takes a beating.  Fortunately, it can't really dish it out.

Roaches


Cost - 75 Minerals, 25 Vespene gas, 2 control
Build Time - 27 seconds
Combat Stats - 145 HP, 1 armor, Armored armor type.  Deals 16 damage per attack with a short range of 3.  Attacks rather slowly, moves rather slowly, can be upgraded to move moderately quick or move while burrowed.  Regenerates very quickly while burrowed.  Cannot shoot air. Gains 2 attack per upgrade.

Early Game - Roaches fit the role of the early game tank-unit, and excel at it like no other.  Roaches are friggin tough, and cheap for their toughness.  However, a Roach barely does more damage than a single Zergling over time.  You aren’t building these for their damage generally, you’re building them to block access to your vulnerable rear units.

I may say these are ‘tanks’, but remember that this is an RTS.  You have tough units, but these tough units can still kick ass.  Look at the Zealot, for instance.  Roaches are your dominant go-to for countering Zealots.  Without Charge, there’s no reason a Zealot should ever touch your roaches.  You move faster, you have range, and you can move in between shots.  You can even focus fire to bring individual Zealots down in one or two volleys.

Roaches are NOT hard counters to Marines or Zerglings though.  Roaches are tough, but they need something behind them in order to fight Zerglings--some kind of terrain to prevent the surround.  Whether you fight a choke point or form a perfect line to not let any of them by, that is how you engage Zerglings with Roaches.  Once you’ve taken out a sufficient number of them, you can just roll over them with an attack move easily enough.

Marines have the same kiting property against Roaches as Roaches do against Zealots.  Until you get the speed upgrade later on, Marines and Marauders will laugh at you and kite you around with Stimpacks.  A couple Roaches in your army are good for absorbing some fire to let your fragile units do the work, but they’re not a workhorse in this matchup.

Mid Game and Beyond - Roaches tend to fall off pretty hard beyond the mid game.  It’s a potent unit, but it has a short range, consumes a lot of population, and doesn’t do a lot of damage.  What’s more, the number of Armored counters is huge and running into one will generally mean the end of your Roaches in short order.  You have to be very careful going for these in any decent number, because you can bet your ass you’ll see an Immortal or Marauder pack building shortly after it’s scouted.

Still one of the most disgusting flyers, both in looks and in strength!

Mutalisks


Cost - 100 Minerals, 100 Gas, 2 Control
Build Time - 33 Seconds
Combat Stats - 120 HP, 0 Armor.  Flying and Light armor types.  Deals 9 damage on each attack, bouncing to 2 additional targets for 3 damage and then 1.  Upgrades increase the initial hit by 1 damage.  Moves very quickly.  Can attack ground or air, 3 range

The Mutalisk returns, and with it, the dreaded hit and run tactics.  Just take a look at it in action, and you can tell some very obvious aspects to abuse.

    - The second fastest unit in the skies, behind the Phoenix.
    - Doesn’t have to commit to a long attack animation. 
    - Cheap for a combat air unit.

Put two and two together, and a fast pack of Mutalisks is not only viable and dangerous, but difficult to counter.  Speed kills.  Use it!  Keep these moving at high speeds and only attack with one shot at targets before moving on.  If you stop to fire, it takes time to accelerate back to maximum speed.

Mutalisks are incredibly difficult to deal with when well used.  You can hit anything, anywhere, in a blink of an eye.  They require much attention from you though, and leaving them standing in a brawl will leave you with a rain of blood where your Mutalisks once were.  At the same time, paying too much attention to these and leaving your base and economy untouched will cripple you in the long run.  Lost larvae are a resource you can’t afford to have, and while you have your opponent’s attention, you need to expand as well.

With upgrades, these can terrorize even most anti-air, but you have to be careful of Light armor hard counters.  Thors love Mutalisks.  Thors will shred your pack while spouting bad one liners.  Phoenixes are less of a threat but will still kill your Mutalisks in direct combat, and if the player is controlling them well, will attempt to avoid your every move while firing from afar.  Since they can fire on the move and are faster than you, if you come up against well-controlled Phoenixes. ... just stop using Mutalisks to fight them!

Run like hell from area of effect spells!  Ravens, Infestors, and High Templar will annihilate if you sit around!

 

Still the final word in ranged units, the Hydralisk no longer has a damage penalty versus infantry!  Terrans, beware!

Hydralisks


Cost - 100 Minerals, 50 Gas, 2 Control
Build Time - 33 seconds
Combat Stats - 80 HP, 0 armor.  Light armor type.  Deals 12 damage per attack, gaining 1 per upgrade.  5 range, 6 with upgrade.  Upgrades increase the damage by 1 per upgrade Can attack ground or air units.  Moderately slow movement speed, fast attack speed.

Probably the heaviest offensive unit in the game in terms of sheer firepower in numbers, the Hydralisk returns with a vengeance.  The main thing you’ll notice though is that these are much slower than their previous incarnation.  You must expand the creep vigorously in order to use these effectively.  Getting caught off creep and in a losing battle will result in every Hydralisk likely going down from the chase afterwards.

Just like the first game also, these are extremely vulnerable to area of effect attacks.  This is related to the previous speed problem, but with the creep speed boost you can at least evade some of a Psi Storm.  When you see Colossi or spellcasters, you need to think fast.  Can you kill them before they can devastate you?  Can you retreat to a better firing arc?  Could other units assassinate the casters before you send in your Hydralisks?

These are one of the few units that can hit critical mass.  Once a horde of Hydralisks gets going, it takes a lot of splash damage and some serious stuff up front to stop it.  If your opponent is leaning towards units that fare poorly against Hydralisks, or at least evenly, go for Hydras and get the range upgrade.  Even if they switch to a splash damage attacker, you can use the Hydras at somepoint later in your strategy or to clean up once they’ve been neutralized.

They are rather costly, and for that cost, frail.  You must keep something in front of them, because if anything gets in range of a Hydralisk, generally the Hydralisk will die in short order.  Keep Roaches around and in front of your units, or if they’re rocking some heavy anti-armor, Zerglings will do the trick as well.

Pick your fights carefully, much like you would with Zerglings.  Cluster into tiny circles, and Colossi and area of effect weapons will devastate you in no time.  Fight in open ground where your Hydralisks can form a solid firing line or concave.

Letting loose one of these behemoths is pretty much the equivalent of a bull in a china shop.

Ultralisks

Cost - 300 Minerals, 200 Gas, 6 Control
Build Time - 75 Seconds
Combat Stats - 500 HP, 1 Armor (3 with Chitinous Plating), Massive and Armored armor types.  Deals 15 (+3 per upgrade) damage per attack, with a bonus of 25 versus armored, and splash damage to units close by its melee target.  Has a building only attack--a headbutt that deals 75 damage, +5 per upgrade.  Also, it can burrow now!  Moderate move speed, fast attack speed.

Late Game - The Ultralisk is still in a bit of a rough spot, but now serves a purpose.  The Ultralisk is your only anti-armored attack unit in your arsenal.  If your opponent is bringing heavy weapons to bear, the Ultralisk will bring them down quickly.

That is, unfortunately, not how it usually plays out.  Most armored units get a bonus against armored units, and don’t require the melee range the Ultralisks requires.  The Ultralisk is very effective against packs of Marauders, but one stimpack and a few rounds of focused fire and an Ultralisk is a bloodstain. 

One of the major upsides to the Zerg super unit is its new complete immunity to stuns and mind control.   No longer can an Infestor or Thor ruin your day effortlessly. 

The uses of the Ultralisk remain similar to the first one--with hordes of Zerglings and support Infestors to hold down targets.  People will target the Ultralisk first.  You just have to make sure your support, or rather, your main army is enough to overpower your opponent with the help of an Ultralisk to clear a path.  Ultralisks are not effective en masse--they stumble over each other, they bump into things, and generally fail at getting in position in short order.

Jokes and problems aside, the Ultralisk is a very effective unit at cutting up hordes of melee units and ranged units that clump up.

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