A Brotip for my Zerg Buddies… Interpret Protoss Openers, Build Spores!

Keep Calm and Build SporesI have seen this time and again, in both lower league and higher league games, both as a Zerg player and against them, as well as on YouTube replays and during tournaments. Zerg players, far too few of you build Spore Crawlers against Protoss. At least, you don’t build them until the damage has already been done. Hence, this post. My Brotip… Nay! My Public Service Announcement to low-level Zergies out there: Keep Calm and Build Spore Crawlers.

Remember: this is a Brotip. This is for the lowbies, not Diamond and Masters players. This is a common oversight I’ve seen many, many times. I’ve been on both sides of the equation, too: my best move against the Zerg right now is to open 2 Stargate Void Rays. It’s supposed to be a harass, but I win with it fairly frequently, and I’m really bad at Protoss. So, if you already know this and do this, awesome. Maybe someone you know doesn’t, and maybe they wake up late at night with cold sweats, having flashbacks of all of those times a couple Void Rays or Phoenix zapped their mineral line into a fine mist. I mean, how the heck do Protoss manage? This post is for that person. Maybe link them here?

We’re Pressured to Pressure You

As a Zerg player, you are constantly under threat of stealth or air-based assaults. The other races are under a lot of pressure to keep your batch-production economy in check, and the Zerg weakness against these two forms of attack (i.e. stealth and air) is well known. Even other Zerg players know it: Mutalisk transitions are becoming more common mid-game amongst pro Zerg players in mirror matches. And the Infestor should give you some pause for thought, as well: I have managed to win several games by sneaking an Infestor or two into my opponent’s mineral line. Two Fungal Growths later, they have no drones. Likewise, as Protoss, I’ve managed to utterly kill off both drone lines of an unwary opponent with 2 Dark Templar. 2 units, and your economy is in the toilet.

Obviously, the Spore Crawler is not the only method of detection available to the Zerg. The Overseer is also a great choice. However, I’m trying to make a specific point here. Early game, Protoss and Terran (though especially Protoss) have a small but significantly dangerous number of tactics available to them where they can leverage either your lack of anti-air or lack of detection early game. These were developed by pro players primarily as a means to harrass a Zerg player, but an unprepared Zerg can be totally undone by 2 or 3 Void Rays (or a single Banshee) if they aren’t prepared for them.

Also obvious, we aren’t limited to air attacks. The more common approach is to put a big army outside your door, and dance it around like we enjoy watching Colossi do the meringue. This is to force you to build an army before you’re ready (i.e. before your economy is ramped up to the point where you can spam whatever you want ad infinitum). However, this should be fairly obvious if you’re scouting properly. At the very least, you’ll be sure to see that aforementioned big army having a moshpit somewhere near the Xel’Naga towers. So, that threat is in your face, and much brighter people than I have written articles or done videos about how to deal with 4gates or Colossus deathballs. I’m here to talk about stealth, air units, and why you Zerg hate building Spore Crawlers until you have a fleet of Void Rays sitting above your Hatchery, and your first Queen is a puddle of goo.

Remember, to get an Overseer, you need Lair tech. This is a significant investment in time and resources, and most Zerg will wait quite a while to tech up. The Spore is available early game, for a low cost. Trust me if you haven’t seen it, I’ve been on both ends of this: it is possible to get out stealth or air units before the Zerg player has Lair tech.

And that’s my point: a single Spore Crawler can be the difference between your opponent wasting precious early-game minerals and gas on a useless attack, and you losing the game. To make things worse, any decent player, and many terrible ones, will block off their ramp to keep you from scouting them, the jerks. So what’s a Zerg to do?

Build a Spore Crawler. Just one, preventative Spore Crawler. Maybe two, if you are feeling cocky.

Good and Bad Times To Build Crawlers

There are some indications of when building a Spore Crawler early or predicatively will be a good idea. The easiest indication of early air pressure is when you scout double Assimilators early game, especially if your opponent isn’t fast expanding. You’ll have to keep close watch on your opponent from this point on, but getting that preventative Spore Crawler out early might be a good idea. Vs Protoss and Terran, you should also pay careful attention to the number of production buildings they have. Protoss going 1 Gate Stargate will only have 1 Gateway (wait, seriously?), and Terran going Banshees will have 1-2 Barracks, and 1 Factory (from which they’ll usually produce 1 or 3 Hellions to harass while they get Cloak).

Read Up! Builds Where Preventative Spores are Useful

  • If you see double gas, predictive Spores are a good idea!
  • DT harass is unlikely on large maps, because it’ll be easier for you to get detection up in time to prevent severe damage.
  • 1 gate Stargate. You can predict a 1 gate Stargate by looking for an early second Assimilator. Also, they will (obviously) only have 1 gateway. Another big tell here is by keeping tabs on the Cybernetics Core. They won’t be Chronoboosting it if they’re trying to get Void Rays or Phoenix out quickly.
  • Dark Templar Expand. The stated goal of this build is to “Get DT’s out before Lair” making Overseer use moot. This is supposed to look a lot like a Sentry Expand, so you’ll expect early double gas, and 3 gates, plus a couple sentries. What you’re looking for here is the Observer, or Blink. If they are going DT’s they will skip the Robotics Facility and go Twilight Council. Ergo, they won’t have Observers out. You’ll know this, because you will have built some Spore Crawlers. Right?

When Building a Spore Probably Won’t Hurt You

  • Any Fast Expand (such as the Forge Fast Expand). Building a single Spore can help to deny Observer scouting and potential air transitions. But keep your scouting up, since they could also go 6/7 Warpgate just as easily as air pressure.
  • Blink Stalker Push. Blink Stalkers will rely on Observers to get into your base from odd angles. Keeping Observers at bay will limit the effectiveness of this build. With this build, you’ll see a couple early Stalkers trying to apply pressure, as well as an early second Assimilator.

When You Should Not Build a Preventative Spore!

  • 4gate and its variants. I’m not sure what specifically to look for here, but I’m going to hazard a guess: if you see 2 or more Gateways and a significant ground army, with no attempts to expand, expect something bad. The other player has invested a lot into this army, and they’ll be inclined to use it to do unfortunate things to you. Prepare accordingly, probably not getting Spore Crawlers unless you have some spare income and want to fend off Observers.

Lategame Spore Crawlers

I don’t know exactly where this rule came from, but it holds true: in every base after your second, build at least one Spore Crawler and one Spine Crawler. This won’t do a thing about a deathball pushing into your expo, but it’s not supposed to. That’s what your army is for. Late game, you have to worry about desperation Dark Templar. Simply put, a single Spore and Spine Crawler, plus a Queen, should stop any small scale DT attack cold, and will give you time to respond to a larger one.
Also, if and when you are able to fend off early pressure, it’s a good idea to keep 1 or 2 Overseers or Spore Crawlers near your army and/or in your base, to deter the Protoss player from freely scouting you with Observers.

Some Food For Thought:

  • Gas Stealing a Protoss will slow down many harass tactics such as 1Gate Stargate or mass Blink Stalkers.
  • Building a relatively early Evolution Chamber allows you to start getting upgrades earlier. See here (GameReplays.org link) for the effects of armor upgrades on your units.
  • Phoenix can pick up Queens, but not Spores.
  • One Spore Crawler and one Queen can take out a Void Ray (rule for this here)
  • Anti-air has a deterrent effect: players will either overcommit production to air to take out your defenses, or totally avoid even nominal air coverage. You do this with your Mutas, too, right?
  • Spore Crawlers not only help with Void Rays and Phoenix, but cut off scouting by Observers and can attack Colossi
  • Spanishiwa’s Ice Fisher build is a little outdated now, but this is one reason I like it: Getting 4-6 Queens and a single Spore Crawler makes DT openings, Banshees, and Void Ray/Phoenix really cost-inefficient. And if your opponent is committing resources to teching to air, their ground army will be tiny (until you give them time to catch up)

Final Notes

I am not advocating the Spore Crawler as a strategy against Protoss. It is not a magical unit that can solve all of your problems, and there are situations (such as a 4gate) where building one can be a bad idea. However, there are situations where not being properly prepared for air-based attacks or Dark Templar can lose you the game outright. Learn to use the Spore Crawler and make that Brotoss waste time and resources. Just because you don’t have really great static defense, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use what you have.

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