Hey! Thanks for reading! Just a reminder that I wrote this some years ago, and may have much more complicated feelings about this topic than I did when I wrote it. Happy to elaborate, feel free to reach out to me! 😄
My buddy Warren and I had a Twitter conversation about learning Zerg in the lower levels of Starcraft 2, and asked what a good beginner build would be for a low-level player trying to get the basics.
Luckily, such a build exists! The "14/14" is a single build you can use in any matchup that leaves you (relatively) safe from cheese and (relatively) set for a decent economy. It's a very old build that's been around since the release, and I got to Diamond using only this for my ZvZ's.
- 9 Overlord
- 14 extractor
- 14 spawning pool
- 15 overlord - stop droning.
- @ extractor complete, put 3 drones in.
- @ spawning pool complete:
- Metabolic Boost
- 1 pair zerglings, resume droning.
- Remove 2 of the drones out of gas, back on minerals.
- 20 Hatchery @ natural expansion.
Some further notes on this build, and the silly shit you can expect from lower-league players (since they loooooooove their gambits and cheeses):
ZvZ: This build is best for ZvZ, since the spawning pool comes barely in time to stop a 7 or 9 pool. You will have to micro your drones, and it's not a guarantee. If hit by a rush like this, drop a spine as soon as possible, make lings of your own if you have the larva, and maybe get a queen if you can afford it and feel like you might have 25-30 seconds of security.
If your opponent is hatch-first, you will have speed before him/her, so try to attack early with lots of speedlings. Put 2 drones back on gas, get a baneling nest when you hit 50 gas, make banes as soon as it finishes, and get called a noob for "all-inning".
ZvT: While 15 hatching is preferable, you'll often get proxy raxed. This is much easier to defend with the 14/14 build, which gives you lings + queen. When your 15 overlord pops, place it where the natural expansion goes to spot, for bunkers, since they'll occasionally try to build bunkers there (in that case, send 2-3 drones and kill the worker). A building hatchery has almost zero vision.
Annoying things you'll see in lower leagues: banshee rushes, stim pushes, and mech turtles. For Terran, you'll want to put down an evolution chamber and baneling nest soon after your second hatch, and start collecting gas. The evolution chamber lets you upgrade your lings and banes, and lets you build spore crawlers for banshees. When in doubt, just build a shitton of lings and banes.
For mech turtles (where they sit on two base and don't leave until they have a million thors and tanks)... these are the most annoying at the lower levels, but where you'll get your best macro game practice. Take the map, tech up to Hive, get upgrades. You'll need to abuse mobility and keep them from expanding and later engage with a Zerg deathball of Broodlords, Corruptors, and Infestors.
ZvP: Protoss are a pain in the ass. Make sure you take a drone and make an early ring around your base to look for the cannon rush, around 10 or 12 supply. If you see one, don't panic, build a spine crawler or two as soon as you can, and that prevents them from building any closer to you. Use a queen to pick of the probe if you can. If you get trapped in your base, tech to Lair, build roaches float an overlord to their base, and drop a Nydus Worm. Most cannon rushers who don't know what to do have nothing at home, and poor macro.
You'll also get DT rushed a lot, especially from players who fail their cannon rushes. When in doubt, build an evolution chamber, and make a spore crawler in your base. Also good against mass void rays, which is less popular these days but still around (infestors do well against them, as do hydras). Float an overlord past their base and look for Stargates.
This is a lot of information to take in, and there's a ton more I can say, but above all: don't panic, try to relax, and understand that the only way to really learn to play is to play, and stumble a fuckton. Nowadays I can look at a Protoss composition and see how many roaches I have, I can make a reasonable guess as to whether or not I can take them. But that certainly wasn't always the case: I had to lose many, many armies before I could eyeball it decently. I've also been supply blocked tens of thousands of times.
Focus on one thing (supply blocking, larva injects, larva utilization...) and focus on improving that one element, one game at a time. Regardless of what the score screen says, if you were mindful of that element, consider it a win and have a beer.
My favorite motivational quote (God... I can't believe I can say this) came from a local swim coach in Washington DC named Jim Williams, who said
"If you want to swim fast, you have to swim fast."
Which I use for anything I want to get good at. If I want to be someone who writes good programs, I have to be someone who writes good programs; I'd better start programming, and stop reading blog posts, or mailing lists, or watching streams. It's like all the people who want to be great writers, but haven't, you know... actually written anything yet.
Similarly, if you want to get good at Starcraft, the biggest (and most difficult!) obstacle is just getting the nerve to play, especially when you think you're terrible and hopeless (which in my case, is more often than I'd like).
Thanks for the read! Disagreed? Violent agreement!? Feel free to drop me a line at , or leave a comment below! I'd love to hear from you 😄