+1 Zergling-Ravager Opening in ZvP
An early game melee upgrade has become very common in the Zerg vs Protoss match-up in Legacy of the Void. It carries well into the mid-game with Mutalisk based compositions and also into the late game when heading towards Ultralisks. This opening looks at setting up a Zergling-Ravager composition to defend from early aggression and all-ins while putting you into a position where you can transition into a mid & late game style of your choosing.
We focus on a Mutalisk transition but the flexibility and adaptability of this opening is what makes it so fun to play! During DreamHack Winter we saw this opening being used to head into Lurker-Hydralisk-Viper compositions, fast Hive tech for Ultralisks and much more.
The build order here will be fairly scarce, as so much of what you will do will depend on scouting, which we will discuss in a later section. As always the build order is to be used as a guide-line and not as a definitive fact. I have used game-time here (mostly) instead of supply markers as I feel it is more applicable.
17 - Hatchery
18 - Spawning Pool
19 - Hatchery
20 - Extractor - don't pull out at 100 gas.
19 - 2 x Queens, 1 Set of Zerglings - seeing early aggression or a Pylon blocking a Hatchery should prompt you to make a few extra Zerglings. Use these Zerglings to pick up any scouting information you can.
32 - Metabolic Boost
3:15 - Evolution Chamber
3:15 - 8 Zerglings - these will be placed in the Overlord which you evolve to gain Ventral Sacs to harass and scout the Main Base. Otherwise you can use the Zerglings to scout towards the third and whatever else you can gather.
3:30 - Third Queen
3:45 - Scout with Overlord opponents natural to check for gas timing
3:45 - Evolve Overlord near Main Base to gain Ventral Sacs
3:45 to 4:00 - Start Roach Warren and +1 Melee Upgrade
4:00 - Second & Third Extractor. Fourth if you scout macro play from opponent.
At this point you will also drop your Zerglings into opponents main base for scouting information.
4:15 - Lair
From here it really depends what you scout. Any aggressive plays will mean you will want to sit back on a lower gas count and make units off of 45-50 drones, as discussed later. Any macro-based play will mean you want to take your extra gases and drone up to three base saturation. Start your fourth base when you see the third of your opponent is on the way up.
When your Lair completes make sure to upgrade Roach Speed and to throw down whichever building you will need for your mid-game plan (Spire, Hydralisk Den, etc.) Once on three base saturation you can pump out some Ling-Ravager until your tech has completed so that you can go into your mid-game composition.
Pros & Cons
There are no specific positives or negatives to this opening. It's very standard and allows for great scouting, which you need to be able to react properly to what your opponent is doing. The melee upgrade early on gives your Zerglings new power, which will help a lot against Protoss all-ins which have no upgrades. With the Zerglings to tank and DPS with Ravagers behind them to pop force-fields and to add to the damage you should be able to hold off any aggression, providing you have the information you need.
Scouting & Reacting
The difficult part of ZvP generally doesn't come in executing the build order, but rather how you respond to what your opponent is doing. Unless you open aggressively with a 14 Gas 14 Pool or some kind of Roach aggression you will find yourself as the Zerg player being the reactive player in the match-up. This means it is up to you to scout what your opponent is going for and to identify how you need to adjust your opening to survive any attacks or to rival his economy.
Scouting takes part during all phases of the game. Early in the game your first two Zerglings can gain a lot of information just by moving across the map (if your Overlord doesn't reach a scouting position in a reasonable time.) Seeing chrono-boosted Gateways at the front or units moving aggressively forward will immediately alert you to very early aggression, which will look to do damage and interrupt your entire momentum for the rest of the game. These sort of plays will delay the Protoss tech and probe production, so just remember to not be afraid to build those extra Zerglings if you see something like this.
The next main scout timing is going to be around the 3:45 mark where you want to see if your opponent is taking his gases on the Natural (based on a standard expansion with no pressure applied early). This is best done with an Overlord which has been positioned earlier in the game. You should be able to see at least one of the gases on most maps. A lack of gas on the natural is generally suggestive of very little tech coming out of the Protoss player. Expect a lot of gateways and maybe one or two Immortals / Void Rays / a lot of sentries for the gas income which he does have. Scouting something like this means you will want to cut at about 45-50 drones and start producing units to deflect an attack at around the five minute mark. If it's a pure Gateway all-in, it will hit slightly earlier.
With the Zergling harassment through a single Ventral Sacs Overlord you can also gain a lot of information. This harassment is a really great way to assess the situation at around the 4 minute mark of a game, letting you know if there are more Gateways than you would expect or what tech tree your opponent is going down. This will again allow you to cut drones at a good time to start producing Roaches or to continue droning and teching. A couple of Zerglings towards the third base at the same time as this is a great way to quickly check for a third base being taken.
Once your Lair has finished scouting with Overseers will be your way of seeing if the fifth and sixth gas is taken on the third base and the saturation. By gauging your opponents economy you can then set up your economy to rival it. Alternatively seeing a lack of gases and saturation will tell you that a three-base timing is perhaps going to be coming your way.
It's not easy to read everything going on in the game and it takes a lot of experience to truly understand how to react to what you are seeing. This is something which will always come with practice. A great way to improve this is when you are watching your replays, watch from your own point of view. Look for ways in which you could have had better scouting OR look for what your opponent had and what you could have identified to tell you that an attack was coming you way.
This opening is a great way to open in ZvP to get into a strong mid game and with a great set-up ready for the late game. Scouting is going to be an integral part of this opening - as it will in any opening in the match-up - to give you the information you need to reactor correctly and quickly in order to defend attacks, punish greed or set-up for a later stage of the game.
From the opening you can go into many different transitions. The Spire tech for Mutalisks is a common mid-game plan, as the early Melee upgrade will carry through to what will be a mostly Zergling force on the ground. Alternatively Hydra-Lurker-Viper compostions can also work. In general you should be setting up to move into a late game with heavily upgraded Ultralisks, thanks to the Melee upgrades you started early in the game.
This was a bit of a different guide to usual because it wasn't so much a specific build as it is just a very general way to open. Let me know what you thought of it and if you try this opening on the ladder. Remember to leave a like on the YouTube video and also a comment of what you would like to see covered in one of the next guides!