Using Mutalisks Effectively in ZvZ

Mutalisks in ZvZ

Mutalisks are an excellent unit choice in Zerg vs Zerg match-ups. Even after the buffs to Spore Crawlers, Mutalisks are still very commonly used in this mirror match.

The strategy and skill of the person using the Mutalisk significantly impacts the effectiveness of using this unit in ZvZ. With poor micro and macro, Mutalisks may feel very weak against a ground army of Roaches and Hydralisks. After all, an entire pack of Mutalisks gets shredded by just 2 Spore Crawlers!

In this guide, you are going to learn how to control Mutalisks and use them successfully in ZvZ even after the Spore Crawler buff. Additionally, alternative army compositions to the Mutalisk (i.e. how to counter Mutalisks without going for Mutalisks yourself) and late-game transitions will be discussed.

Opening Tactics for a Mutalisk Build

The first step to using Mutalisks is to bank up enough gas and survive long enough to get down a Spire. The gas cost for Mutalisks is high – not only do Mutalisks cost 100 vespene each, but you will need to put 100 in to upgrade into Lair and 200 in to get down a Spire. Players typically will need to harvest around 1500 gas to get started with Mutalisks (800-900 for 8-9 Mutalisks, 200 for the Spire, 100 for the Lair, 100 spent earlier on Metabolic Boost, and 100-200 spent on a Baneling Nest and a few defensive Banelings).

An early expansion is necessary to get this much vespene gas in a timely fashion. Additionally, if you are going for Mutalisks, you will want to saturate all 4 vespene geysers earlier than you might if you were going for Roaches or tier 2 ground units. This can be used to help determine the intentions of the enemy – if you see an early 3rd and 4th Extractor both being fully mined, you are probably not going to be hit with an early Roach timing.

While you are banking vespene gas and waiting for the Spire to finish (it takes 80 seconds to upgrade into a Lair and 100 seconds to build a Spire), you will need to defend yourself against enemy attacks. You need to be able to do this with units that do not cost much vespene gas; building a lot of Banelings will take away from your Mutalisk count.

Spine Crawlers, Queens, and Zerglings can defend against any early Zerg combination without costing any vespene. Queens and Spine Crawlers can soak up enemy Baneling hits, while your Zerglings can take down enemy Zerglings. If the enemy Zerg player starts making an overwhelming amount of Zerglings, a few defensive Banelings might be necessary.

Sitting back on two bases while going up to Mutalisks may not always be the most effective strategy. If your opponent goes for a very early third expansion, you might have to push out with Zerglings to deny this and slow down the opponent’s economy. Overlords can provide a lot of information early in the game since there is not an easy way for the Zerg to clear these (Queens do not move well off of creep), allowing you to get a good idea of your opponent’s current army and economy size.

How to Control Mutalisks in ZvZ

The strength of Mutalisks lies in their controller. You cannot simply attack-move with Mutalisks and expect them to be effective. Even in superior numbers, they will quickly fall to a few Spore Crawlers and Queens if you are not careful. Instead, Mutalisks need to be microed very effectively. Here are some tips for controlling Mutalisks in ZvZ:

  • Cause Small Amounts of Damage Consistently – Mutalisks do not deal enough DPS to get any “home run” attacks. Instead, you should plan to use them to get many small victories which add up over the course of the game. Sniping a few Drones, a Queen, an Overlord, or an exposed enemy unit is all you need to do. If you do it enough times, you will start to build a big advantage. If all the enemy’s units are protected, even getting a few shots off on a building is annoying.
  • Destroy All Overlords – One thing you can do right away if you have superior Mutalisk numbers is to destroy all enemy Overlords that are spread around the map. Zerg players love to spread Overlords around the map in ZvZ to gain vision, so there are often 4+ Overlords that you can snipe right away. You can be even more annoying if you start killing exposed Overlords being held near the enemy’s base. You can supply block an opponent pretty quickly in this manner, which can snowball into a win for the Mutalisk user.
  • Avoid Spore Crawlers – Spore Crawlers now deal an impressive 45 damage per shot to Mutalisks. They can now 3-shot a Mutalisk. However, they only have a range of 7, and the Mutalisk has a range of 3. It takes a lot of enemy Spore Crawlers to stop well-microed Mutalisks. The Mutalisk can get fairly close to the Spore Crawler and still hit enemy buildings, which is annoying. An example of this is when an enemy Zerg player puts 1-2 Spore Crawlers in their mineral line. In these situations, your Mutalisks can almost always find a safe position to attack the enemy’s Extractors without being hit by the Spore Crawlers. The bounce from Glave Wurm can kill enemy Drones as a bonus. Find the safe spots in the enemy base and keep your Mutalisks in those zones.
  • Do Not Stay In One Place Long - To emphasize the first point of focusing on causing small amounts of damage, do not stay too long in an enemy’s base with your Mutalisks, particularly if the enemy has units like Infestors or Hydralisks that might be able to take down your Mutalisks if the Mutas get caught. Fly in, get a couple shots off, and fly off to safety before your Mutalisks have a chance to take any real damage.
  • Use Distractions to Snipe Queens, Expansions and Spore Crawlers - While Mutalisks do not have much DPS, Zerglings have very high DPS. Zerglings are also very expendable in this situation as you should have a lot of extra minerals (vespene gas is what limits you from making more Mutas). One good strategy is to attack the main base with your Mutalisk flock, and when the enemy begins to pull back their ground-based army to defend, run in with a pack of Zerglings and attack the third base. Pick off the Queen and as many Drones as possible. With a large enough Zergling pack, you can even rush down the expansion. Since you should have a lot of extra minerals, throwing away 24 Zerglings to rush down an enemy Hatchery is well worth it.
  • Avoid Hydralisks – Hydralisks are good against Mutalisks, but are too slow to actually do anything about them. Avoid these with your Mutalisks unless you have vastly superior numbers. Not only will 12 Hydralisks typically defeat 12 Mutalisks, but Hydralisks are cheaper. You cannot afford to engage Hydralisks directly with Mutas. Instead, avoid the Hydralisks, be as annoying as possible, and use the map control and constant small wins to gain an economic edge. With a big lead you can transition into units that are effective against Hydralisks.
  • Split Mutalisks Against Infestors - If the enemy has Infestors, you need to be extremely careful with your Mutalisks. A single Fungal Growth that locks down a pack of Mutalisks, giving the opponent time to either use more Fungal Growths or to get their anti-air units in position. One great strategy to stop Infestors from being effective against Mutalisks is to spread your Mutalisks. Just like a Terran player spreads Marines to avoid Baneling blasts, a Zerg can split their Mutalisks. Consider that it takes 5 Fungal Growths to actually kill a Mutalisk, so any Mutalisks not hit by the initial Fungal Growth are likely to survive. Fungal Growth has a relatively small area of effect, so even just spreading out your Mutalisks a little bit works just fine. An enemy needs to hit 4+ Mutalisks with one Fungal Growth to make it worthwhile, so the spreading does not even have to be perfect.

When to Use Mutalisks

The strength of Mutalisks really comes down to micro. Good Zerg players will be able to make Mutalisks work on any map. Large maps allow the Mutalisks to contain the enemy Zerg while on small maps a good Zerg will use their Mutalisks to quickly transition back and forth between harassing and defending.

If I had to recommend one map type, I think Mutalisk play is favored on large maps in ZvZ. On large maps, a good Zerg will use Mutalisks to contain the enemy player on 2 bases, constantly alternating between destroying the third with Mutalisks and Zerglings with using the Mutas to chip away at the main base. The extra number of bases means that the Mutalisk-using Zerg can afford to be less efficient than their opponent if they use this map control to gain an extra expansion over their opponent.

Another advantage of using Mutalisks on large maps is that an early Roach counter-attack is not nearly as effective on large maps as it is on small maps, as the Mutalisks will be able to thin out the Roaches by the time the Roaches can make the long trek across the map on offense.

Swarm Host Transition

Mutalisks are not always able to win you the game outright due to their low DPS and fragility against Spore Crawlers. However, Mutalisks are excellent at creating an economic advantage that can be leveraged to crush your opponent.

If your enemy is using ground-based forces and has a lot of Spore Crawlers up, a good transition for the Mutalisk is the Swarm Host. This Heart of the Swarm unit is strong against pretty much everything the Zerg has on the ground. It also is not too expensive gas-wise, only running 100 vespene gas despite its 200 mineral cost.

Swarm Hosts are particularly good against Zerg players because Locusts move a lot faster on creep. Faster movement speed means the Locusts can reach much further before they die – after all their lifespan is based on time, not by the amount of distance traveled. In ZvZ, your enemy’s creep counts, so your Locusts can move really fast and get very far on offense!

If you can use the economic advantage created by good early Mutalisk play, massing Swarm Hosts is very difficult for the opponent to stop no matter what unit composition they use.

Mutalisk Alternatives

In ZvZ, if the enemy is going for Mutalisks and you would prefer a different army composition, there are alternatives available that work even at the top levels. If you are behind economically from unfavorable engagements in the early game, going for Mutalisks may not be an option. Perhaps the opponent has built 10+ Spore Crawlers and Mutalisk harass is no longer effective. Regardless of the reasoning, there are viable builds that can be used against Mutalisk play in ZvZ.

Roach/Hydralisk: The standard Roach/Hydralisk build is very effective in ZvZ against Mutalisks. Hydralisks stand up well enough versus Mutalisks in equal ratios. Since Hydralisks cost 50 vespene gas less than Mutalisks and vespene is typically the limiting factor in Mutalisk armies, players going for Hydralisks can afford extra Roaches and Hydralisks, allowing the ground-based Zerg to build up a larger army. Additionally, upgrades tend to favor the Roach/Hydra army, as two Evolution Chambers is commonplace, while 2 Spires for upgrades is not really viable due to cost.

The key to using Roach/Hydralisk is to actually be able to use it on offense without getting picked apart by Mutalisks. When you move out with your Roach/Hydralisk ball, a good Zerg is going to fly around the ball with their Mutalisks and attack your bases. They might up the ante with a Zergling run-by, using the Zerglings to kill off Spore Crawlers and Queens so that the Mutalisks can attack uninterrupted.

One way to stop this from occurring is to heavily fortify each base with Spore Crawlers. Do not be shy about building Spore Crawlers – after all you should have a larger army and spare resources given that Mutalisks are more expensive than Roach/Hydra. Additionally, consider keeping a couple Roaches behind at the third to protect it from Zerglings. Typically the worst thing you can do is move out with your army, get harassed by Mutalisks, then pull back to defend. You cause no damage in this scenario and often lose a lot of Drones, Queens, and even an expansion.

Remember that Roach/Hydra is generally superior to Mutalisks. You can force the enemy Zerg to engage by attacking their base. If you are destroying their buildings, the enemy Zerg will have to pull back to defend (or continue attacking and forfeit that expansion or those buildings). Remember that Roach/Hydra has a lot more DPS than Mutalisks, so you will destroy the enemy’s base much faster than they will destroy yours. A base race scenario is generally favorable for the Roach/Hydra army. Call the enemy’s bluff and force them to pull back their forces and defend – if they even can.

Infestors: Zerg players can reinforce this Roach/Hydra army with Infestors. Infestors can use Fungal Growth as a way to trap Mutalisks. Once trapped by Fungal Growth, it can be used every 4 seconds to keep the Mutalisks locked down. It takes 5 well-timed Fungal Growths in a row to destroy Mutalisks. Hydralisks make it easier – 1-2 Fungal Growths to lock down a cloud of Mutalisks is all you need for the Hydralisks to finish off the Mutalisks. Since Hydralisks outrange Mutalisks, once the Mutalisks are hit with Fungal Growth, the Hydralisks can take them out safely from range.

Conclusion

Mutalisks are an excellent unit to use in ZvZ, but their strength is dependent upon the micro of the controlling Zerg player. Mutalisks are expensive and have low DPS, so you need to take care to keep them all alive. They are not going to cause massive damage in a single attack but rather can be used to chain together many small victories which add up to a big advantage over the course of the game.

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