Starcraft 2 HotS Guide – Strategies and Overview

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Heart of the Swarm has arrived and this website is your guide to getting caught up on the newest HoTS units and the latest Heart of the Swarm strategies.

To make the website easier to navigate, I have broken down the website into the following sections: new units, balance changes, and strategies that are viable in Heart of the Swarm.

New Units in Heart of the Swarm

Main article: New HotS Units

There are 7 new units available for players in Heart of the Swarm. The Protoss get the Oracle, Tempest, and Mothership Core, the Zerg get the Swarm Host and Viper, while the Terran get the Widow Mine and Hellbat. Below, we will cover each of these units individually. You can read more about that particular unit by visiting that particular unit’s page.

mothership-coreMothership Core

Main article: Mothership Core

The Mothership Core is a new Protoss unit that is designed to be a miniature Mothership. It can be trained at the Nexus once you have a Cybernetics Core. Unlike any other unit in-game (aside from the original Mothership itself), you can only have 1 Mothership Core at a time. This flying unit has 3 abilities which make it particularly appealing to players.

The first is Time Warp, which places a large bubble on the ground that slows enemy units that entire its area of effect by 50%. This is great for trapping units and then using Psionic Storm.

The Mothership Core can also use Photon Overcharge, which grants the targeted Nexus a long-ranged powerful attack for 60 seconds. This really helps the Protoss defend their natural expansion from any very early timing attacks, particularly in Protoss vs Protoss match-ups.

The final ability is Mass Recall, which warps the Mothership Core and all your nearby units to the targeted Nexus. It takes a few seconds to go off though, and if the Mothership Core is destroyed before it can be used. This ability is really good late in the game, when the Protoss player may have to defend against multiple-pronged attacks.


Main article: Oracle

The Oracle is a new Protoss flying unit which acts as a flying caster unit rather than a regular attacking unit. It is produced at the Stargate and requires no other technology to be produced.

This unit has no default attack of its own and instead has three energy-based abilities. The first is Revelation, which allows the Oracle to see a very limited area around the targeted enemy units for its duration. In other words, enemy units or buildings hit with Revelation will display their current location to the Protoss player. The amount of vision granted to the Protoss player is very limited – only 1-2 “units” of vision is provided.

Another ability is Envision, which temporarily grants the Oracle the ability to detect cloaked and burrowed units. This allows the Protoss player to rush for air tech without getting an automatic “build order loss” if the enemy player goes for a cloak-based play.

Finally, the Oracle gets access to a skill called Pulsar Beam. This grants the Oracle an attack that does massive amounts of damage to light ground units. It drains energy while active. According to the Protoss strategies section of, this is very popular for use in harassing enemy worker lines, particularly against Terran players.


Main article: Tempest

The Tempest is the final new Protoss unit available in Heart of the Swarm. Like the other new Protoss units, it is a flying unit. The Tempest requires a Fleet Beacon in order to be constructed.

The Tempest is a massive unit with a massive range (15), giving it the longest true range in the game (could argue that the Swarm Host is longer). Tempests are a great unit, but have a slow attack speed and move speed. They work best when they are used in large numbers or have other units to act as support.


Main article: Hellbat

The Hellbat is a new Terran unit available in Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm. This unit comes out of the Factory and requires an Armory. It does not need a Tech Lab to be produced, so it can be produced two at a time with a Reactor.

The Hellbat can only hit ground units and has a very short range. It deals splash damage as well as bonus damage to light units. It is extremely strong versus Zerglings, Zealots, and workers for that reason. With the Transformation Servos upgrade, the Hellbat can transform into the Hellion.

The real reason for the Hellbats popularity though is that it only costs minerals. Terran players can use MULEs to make large numbers of Hellbats to act as tanking units for their more vulnerable Siege Tanks.

widow-mineWidow Mine

Main article: Widow Mine

The Widow Mine is the other new Terran unit available in HotS. This unit is a proximity mine that fires off a missile when enemy units get too close. It deals a huge amount of damage, is ranged, and can hit air units. It also deals 40 splash damage to units near the initial explosion.

In order to be active, the Widow Mine has to be burrowed. It is cloaked when burrowed. After firing off its attack, it cannot fire off another attack for 40 seconds. Missile recharges are free. The Widow Mine can unburrow at any time and can be freely moved by the player. They are fairly quick, allowing you to move them on the offensive.

swarm-hostSwarm Host

Main article: Swarm Host

The Swarm Host is a new Heart of the Swarm unit available to Zerg players. It has no direct attacks of its own, but rather produces 2 Locusts every 25 seconds when burrowed Locusts are short-lived units with an anti-ground attack. They live for 15 seconds (can be upgraded to 25 seconds) before dying.

Despite having a short range and only being able to hit ground, Locusts do deal an enormous amount of DPS if left unchecked. Additionally, with upgrades and creep, Locusts can have a range of 30+ units, more than double the closest unit. Since Swarm Hosts cannot defend themselves against air or in between waves, a common strategy is to burrow them in the midst of Spore and Spine Crawlers.


Main article: Viper

The Viper is one of the new Zerg units in Heart of the Swarm for the Zerg. It has no offensive abilities of its own but rather is a casting unit that relies on specific strategies for best results. It has 3 abilities: Abduct, Blinding Cloud, and Consume.

Abduct is a new skill that pulls the enemy unit to the Viper. Since the Viper is a flying unit, this is great at pulling valuable enemy units into your awaiting short-ranged ground forces or automated defense. This skill works even on massive units like the Colossus.

Another skill is Blinding Cloud, which reduces the range of enemy ground units within it down to melee range. This works best on Siege Tanks, as they have to come out of Siege Mode to be able to attack at all!

Finally, the Viper gets the Consume ability. This allows you to drain your own buildings’ health in exchange for energy. This is necessary since the Viper’s abilities are expensive and the Viper itself costs a lot of supplies.

Balance Changes in Heart of the Swarm

In Heart of the Swarm, some of the races experienced a few balance changes to their old units and upgrades in the name of balance. Some new upgrades were also added to the game for old units.

Below, you will find a list of all the changes. The full article linked above discusses the actual implication of these changes.

Protoss Changes in Heart of the Swarm

With the introduction of Heart of the Swarm, the Protoss army remains remarkably unchanged, even if the best strategies are now much different.

The first change is that the Phoenix’ range has been upgraded from 4 to 5. This is a flat buff and has resulted in the Phoenix becoming a staple in Protoss air fleets.

The second change is that Vortex has been removed from the Mothership and replaced with Time Warp. This is an outright nerf for the Mothership, but was needed. Vortex was a game-breaking ability.

The third change is that Hallucination, the Sentry ability, no longer needs to be researched. This is actually a huge buff to early Protoss scouting, as you can Hallucinate a Phoenix as soon as you have a Sentry out and use this hallucinated Phoenix to scout the map quickly without risking the loss of any units.

Finally, the Void Ray has been re-worked. It can now enter a fully charged state simply by pressing an energy-free ability. This skill is active for 20 seconds and has a 60 second cooldown. The charged state no longer deals bonus damage to light units, but it makes the Void Ray more useful than ever against armored units and buildings.

For the sake of balance, the Void Ray now costs 4 supplies instead of 3 supplies. The strength increase makes it particularly potent when used as part of an early-game army before hitting the supply cap.

Terran Changes in Starcraft 2 HotS

Terran received a lot of changes in Heart of the Swarm to their old units. The most notable example is the Reaper, which has been completely re-worked. It no longer deals bonus damage to light units. Instead, it now has more 10 more HP and regenerates health when out of combat.

Additionally, the Reaper now no longer requires a Tech Lab and the speed upgrade has been removed. By default, the Reaper’s default speed is now faster than its old default speed, but slower than with the Nitro Packs upgrade. This makes an early Reaper a very popular move for Terran players.

Siege Mode no longer requires Siege Tech. Siege Tanks start with the ability to enter Siege Mode. Interestingly enough, rather than seeing more early Siege Tank pushes, it seems this change has made Terran players to play greedier since they know they can get defensive Siege Tanks out later and still have Siege Mode!

The Thor now has a new “high impact payload” attack instead of 250mm Strike Cannons. High Impact Payload replaces the Thor’s Javelin Missile anti-air attack with a single-target high-damage attack. This is good for use against large air units like Carriers, but not very good versus light units like Mutalisks.

Vehicle and Ship armor is now combined at the Terran armory. Upgrades effect both units out of the Starport and Factory. This is a big buff for Terran mech. Weapons are still separate, however.

The Raven now starts with Seeker Missile, and it only costs 75 energy. The Raven has now become a very popular Terran unit and Seeker Missile bombs are a common strategy. It is much harder to outrun Seeker Missiles now as well.

The Medivac perhaps got the biggest buff of all with the Ignite Afterburners skill. This is an energy-free ability that increases the Medivac’s movement speed by 70% for 8 seconds. It only has a 20 second cooldown. It allows the Medivac to escape from practically any battle as well as makes drop attacks much easier and more powerful. According to the creator of, he ended up leaving SC2 for The Elder Scrolls Online due to this ability.

Zerg Changes in Heart of the Swarm

Old Zerg units and buildings have received a variety of small buffs with the release of Heart of the Swarm. A few units have been buffed or have new upgrades, while other upgrades and buildings no longer require Lair technology or specific buildings to be constructed.

  • The Mutalisk received the strongest buff in Heart of the Swarm. It now moves faster and regenerates health very quickly (at about 1 HP per second). This makes hit and run Mutalisk attacks more popular than ever.
  • The Spore Crawler no longer requires an Evolution Chamber and deals bonus damage to light units.
  • Hydralisk – A new upgrade called Muscular Augments is available at the Hydralisk Den. This upgrade increases the movement speed of Hydralisks off creep by 25%.
  • Infestor – Fungal Growth now is a fast-moving projectile that can be dodged. It deals 30 damage over 4 seconds instead of 36 damage over 8 seconds. Its range has been increased to 10 from 8.
  • Ultralisk – The Ultralisk now deals 35 damage per swing to all units, including light units.
  • Burrow is now available at Hatchery. It no longer requires Lair.
  • Pneumatized Carapace is now available at Hatchery. It no longer requires Lair.

New Strategies in Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm

The introduction of new units and buffing of old units has greatly affected the most popular units and strategies in Starcraft 2. Below, you will find a brief overview to the changing meta game in Starcraft 2 as well as links to full articles on the new, popular strategies and unit combinations for each race!

Protoss Strategies in Heart of the Swarm

Main article: Heart of the Swarm Protoss Strategy

Heart of the Swarm can be seen as the rise of Protoss air. In Wings of Liberty, air units were practically a novelty for Protoss players, with Gateway units backed up by either Immortal/Colossus or High Templar/Archon (or both) as the most common late-game builds. However, in Heart of the Swarm, it is rare to see a Protoss game where air units are not incorporated into the match, whether it be as an opening harass or a late-game transition.

Both all-air builds (commonly known as “Skytoss”) as well as mixing in air units into a primarily ground army are very common. The strength of a highly diverse Protoss army is staggering. It is not uncommon to see a late-game Protoss army using practically every unit in the game and using it well.

High Templar are also more popular than ever as many new Heart of the Swarm units use energy and as a result are vulnerable to Feedback. Psionic Storm is better than ever as well thanks to the Time Warp ability.

Terran Strategies in Heart of the Swarm

Main article: Heart of the Swarm Terran Strategy

If it was actually possible, Terran players seem to be more defensive than ever in Heart of the Swarm. Terran players frequently throw down an early third Command Center as it is very hard to rush a Terran player thanks to the Widow Mine and faster Siege Tanks with Siege Mode (since Siege Tech no longer has to be researched).

Mech has become extremely popular amongst Terran players. Helpful in this change is the addition of the Hellbat and Widow Mine. Not only are these units good, but the Hellbat does not cost any Vespene Gas while the Widow Mine only costs 25. This gives Terran players a mineral dump when going mech.

Another interesting shift is that the Reaper is practically always used in the opener in Terran versus Terran match-ups. It is so strong against Marines with no Medivac support that practically every Terran match-up opens with at least 1 Reaper from each player.

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Zerg Strategies in Heart of the Swarm

Main article: Heart of the Swarm Zerg Strategy

Zerg players initially have struggled to adapt to Heart of the Swarm due to the nerf of Fungal Growth. Fungal Growth had become a cornerstone in practically every Zerg match-up. Now, while still effective, Fungal Growth is not as good as it used to be.

Thanks to the Mutalisk buff, the old staple of Zergling, Baneling, and Mutalisk is very popular once again against all sorts of ground forces. Another popular change is to avoid air tech against ground-based armies, instead opting to use the Viper’s abduct ability to pull high-value units like the Colossus within range of Hydralisks.

Zerg players however are particular weak against air units in the late game. The problem seems to stem from Zerg players either underproducing Corruptors and getting wiped, or producing too many and not having enough units to kill the enemy player’s ground forces. The key for defeating this seems to be spreading creep and placing large amounts of Spore and Spine Crawlers with Queen support near the edge of the creep spread. Vipers can be used to stymy any siege attempts.