Starcraft 2 Zerg Build Orders – Updated for HotS 2013

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Zerg build orders are much simpler than they are for the other races. The primary reason for this is that the Zerg’s basic openers do not change much (if at all) on a race to race basis. Zerg players generally open with the same opener or two no matter what map they are playing on or what race they find themselves up against.

Instead, deviations in Zerg openers generally do not occur until after the few minutes of the game have passed. This gives the Zerg player the opportunity to scout and evaluate the other base and make a decision based on the opponent’s actions. If left interrupted and unthreatened, Zerg players tend to not make attacks of their own and instead focus on grabbing as many expansions and Drones as possible, only building offensive units once they have reached their target number of Drones or until they are forced to add on these units by an opponent’s aggression.

With that said, here are 4 common openers with Zerg as well as possible transitions based on the opponent’s race and strategy.

15 Hatch / 14 Pool

  • 9/10: Overlord
  • 15/18: Hatchery
  • 14/18: Spawning Pool

..then continue to pump Queens and Drones from here. If the opponent is aggressive, you might need to add in Zerglings, so it is hard to pre-plan the build out beyond these initial few steps.

The Spawning Pool can be delayed for more Drone production, but this is not necessary. While it might feel more efficient to get out an extra Drone or two before banking up enough resources for the Spawning Pool, every second you delay your Spawning Pool will delay your Queens more, and Queens will not only help provide defense but are needed for Inject Larva and spawning Creep Tumors.

The Hatchery first build is the most economical of the Zerg openers, but also leaves the Zerg vulnerable to some early rushes. It is generally best suited for 4-player maps where the possibility of an early rush is muted by the fact that it will take a long time for the enemy to actually find you.

14 Pool / 16 Hatch

  • 9/10: Overlord
  • 14/18: Spawning Pool
  • 16/18: Hatchery

As soon as the Spawning Pool finishes, build 2 pairs of Zerglings. Other than that, continue to build Drones and Queens until you are forced to get anything else.

These 4 Zerglings serve an important purpose. The first is fending off rushes. Many early rushes start with a Probe trying to build a proxy Pylon for cannons or just to block your expansion or with an SCV trying to build a Bunker outside your natural expansion. Both of these can easily be stopped with just a few Zerglings.

Additionally, the Zerglings are able to get map control and destroy any enemy scouting workers. You can block your opponent’s vision so you can macro up and expand in peace while your opponent will feel the need to play more defensive than normal because they do not know what you are doing.

Three Fast Hatcheries

On big maps, you can take either of the first two builds and go for a very fast third Hatchery. Obviously you need to be wary of an early rush with such a build, but it you pull it off, it will set you up to be in a great position going into the mid-game:

  • 9/10: Overlord
  • 14/18: Spawning Pool
  • 16/18: Hatchery
  • 16/18: Overlord
  • 18/18: Queen
  • 19/26: Zerglings
  • 20/26: Hatchery (at third base)

This starts the third Hatchery constructing around 3:30 on the game clock, which is very early. The third base will actually be finished by the time the enemy player can scout it out if you only use it on large maps.

I would not recommend going for such an economic opener on small maps or against Zerg players. It works best vs Protoss.

Overpool with Gas

One good option to use against all three races is the Overpool with gas. This very aggressive build can be used on 2-player maps to help counter players who go for very economic openings without completely crippling you as a Zerg player.

Here is the build:

    • 10/10 – Overlord
    • 10/10 – Spawning Pool
    • 10/18 – Drone (you lose a supply from building the Spawning Pool)
    • 9/18 – Extractor
    • 10/18 – Drone. Last Drone for awhile. Let your larva count increase so you can build 3 pairs of Zerglings once the Spawning Pool finishes.
    • 10/18 – Research Metabolic Boost. As soon as you get 100 vespene gas, pull your Drones off gas and send them to harvest minerals. You will want these extra minerals to help build more Zerglings.
    • 13/18 – Six Zerglings
    • Keep building more Zerglings and rally them for the attack or alternatively start building Drones and grab your natural expansion, depending on your initial success (or lackthereof).

Your next move depends on how well this attack went. If you catch a Protoss player going for Nexus first or a Terran player building their Command Center on the low ground, you may want to keep producing Zerglings and try to end the game. Against a Zerg player who goes Hatchery first, try to keep your Zerglings alive as long as possible so you can force the Zerg to invest in Zerglings to fight off your attack. This gives you time to catch up economically if you focus on getting up your natural expansion and Drone count up at home while your Zerglings distract the enemy.

If you dealt minimal damage due to your enemy’s defenses, you can fall back and contain the enemy, using your Zerglings to prevent any scouting units from leaving the opponent’s base. Against Terran and Protoss players, you can then take both your natural expansion and your third base while the enemy is in the dark so you can macro yourself back into the game.

Zerg Build Orders: Conclusion

All of these builds can be effective when used properly. The Hatchery-first and three fast Hatcheries builds work best on 4-person maps where it takes longer for the opponent to scout you. The more aggressive builds work best on small maps or when you are trying to catch an opponent off-guard that you think may have gone for too economical of an opening.