|Special Units||Dark Templar (only available when the Templar Archives and at least one of the Gateways are intact)|
|New Enemy Units||None|
|Special Structures||Zerg Overmind (destructible w/ 2,500 HP)|
This is the most difficult mission in Starcraft: Brood War. Nothing (not even the extremely difficult Mission Ten that you must face later) is quite as challenging as this mission is in terms of testing every aspect of your playing skills, from resource management, defense to battle tactics. One of your most difficult tasks is to protect your Protoss structures as you need to be able to create Dark Templar at all times.
You start out from a weak position with four very powerful enemies (2 Zerg bases, White and Orange, and 2 Terran bases, White and Orange). They WILL co-ordinate their attacks; expect literally any combination of Zerg and Terran units, from combined Marines/Zerglings, Wraiths/Mutalisks, to Tanks/Ultralisks, to the UTTERLY devastating anti-air and ground in the form of Valkyries/Devourers along with multiple Battlecruisers and Guardians which build up and all attack en masse together. Most of these attacks will be supported by an Overlord, which will spot out any Dark Templar or borrowed units. You will also see UED Medics healing damaged Zerg units (including the Ultralisk).
You start with a rather small base, with one Lair and one Hatchery, with a small mineral patch and geyser (fortunately, they were kind enough to give you a Hydralisk Den). Your immediate priority is to get your economy going - get those drones mining! You'll want at least two drones for every mineral patch - you need constant mineral flow at your base.
At the same time, consider using some of your starting minerals to turn one of the top creep colonies into a sunken colony, and split up the Dark Templar. Move the Dark Templar into a corner of one of the top entrances to your base; they tend to be the most effective when you can run them up to an attacking force with impunity. Don't plan to rely on them too much, though; the instant the comp gets attacked by one of your DT's, THEY WILL SCAN THEM. Use them mainly for dispatching tanks that creep up on your base.
The next part of this mission, the build-up and expansion, is the most difficult part of this mission. You need to do four things almost simultaneously (but don't let it get to you - it CAN be done. Just remember to save a lot, and on separate tracks in case you need to backtrack to start again).
First, you need to complete your base defenses. You need at least 6-8 sunken colonies at both the top and bottom of your Main Base, along with about 5-6 spore colonies near your hatcheries and mineral lines. Make sure that the sunkens are tightly packed, or the enemy will pick them off one by one. A group of 3 at each entrance works well, though Infested Terrans can punch through. This won't be enough, however, for complete defense, so consider burrowing a force or two of hydralisks by either the northwest/northeast entrances and by the southeastern entrance. Burrowing forces actually works surprisingly well; you can pop them up once an attacking group is near, and use them to quickly kill the Tanks/Ultralisks in an attack force. In addition, once you have them, consider burrowing a defiler or two at your main for support - casting dark swarm on your Hydralisks means that they CAN NOT be hit by air-to-ground attacks (it is useful when you get attacked by a 5-Battlecruiser force backed up by 6 Guardians). Because Guardians can take out your Spore Colonies at range, keep a pack of Scourge around. 2 Scourge will kill any air unit they use besides Battlecruisers. Only Valkyries are good at defending against them.
Second, YOU MUST UPGRADE. Begin by upgrading the Hydralisk and Lurker upgrades at the Hydra Den, and start working on the general attack and carapace upgrades at Evolution Dens, along with the Burrow ability. Turn your Lair into a Hive, and get the Ultralisk Cavern and Defiler Mound; Defilers are invaluable for defense against air, and Ultralisks will be part of your future attacks. Try to be upgrading something at any one time.
Third, you must start building Hydralisks. Hydralisks are the backbone of your military might in this mission; you will use them in both base defense and in your attacks. It helps to build up to two or more additional factories outside your main, but try to have at least four Hatcheries/Lairs/Hives in your main, so you can turn out 12 Hydras at one time. Keep at least 12 in your base at all times.
Fourth, you must expand. The first expansion is the tiny 3-mineral field patch on the platform west of your Main Base with the geyser. Take it as soon as possible, minuscule though it may be. Then turn your attention to either the Orange Zerg expansion to the east, or the White Terran expansion to the north (in the northwest corner of the map). Alternatively you can send a single drone to build a hive near the south central path of crystal. This is risky because you won't be able to defend it. Still, in about one game in three the computer will ignore the undefended base giving you an early boost in crystal production at little cost.
It is your choice as to which to attack first: both have their advantages and disadvantages. The eastern expansion is not as well defended, and is closer to your main base - meaning reinforcements can be directly sent in much quicker time. However, it is surrounded by an enormous amount of open land leading to the dangerous cliffs facing the other, occupied continent that covers the other half of the map. Take it with at least 24 Hydralisks plus 8-10 Lurkers and Overlord support for detection.
You will probably need at least three groups of Hydralisks patrolling the eastern cliffs, with Defiler support to kill any Guardians that come along (that many Hydras patrolling has another advantage; they tend to kill the constant stream of Overlords/Dropships dropping units on your continent, although you will still suffer ground attacks). You will notice a little peninsula that almost connects to the White Zerg island - consider placing 10-12 Lurkers there. Although they will be harassed, they will also ambush the numerous ground forces dropped there. This is, of course, on top of at least 4-5 Sunken Colonies and 3-4 Spore Colonies built around the Hatchery in the expo itself. This is the key weakness of this expansion; the large amount of open land surrounding it makes the expansion highly vulnerable to the nearly continuous drops of enemies you face.
The White Terrans to the north are better defended, in part because the area itself is smaller with more defensible entrances via air to the east and the ground from the south. Use a similar force as you would use to take the Eastern Expansion, but I strongly suggest including more Hydralisks - this base is tougher to take. Surround it with similar defensive structures as the Eastern Expo, and with a similar Hydralisk contingent to patrol the Eastern cliffs (although, if you use Defilers, you can get away with a smaller Hydralisk contingent - only 24 instead of 36 - by using dark swarm). Try to strategically place Lurkers in the base to kill dropped ground troops (in areas to the south and east of your northern expo).
Use Queens and their parasite ability to do the preliminary scouting (also, get some parasites on the countless orange and white Overlords dropping guys at your bases for attacks - they cover a lot of ground). Once you have the expos, link them up with Nydus Canals, so you can quickly move re-inforcements to the expansions to defend them. Above all else, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE ON TAKING THE EXPANSIONS. Don't rush an attack, leaving your Main Base weak or your attacks under-manned (weak attacks are a BAD idea during this mission, since they not only cost you resources, but stir up aggressive counter-attacks against you), but you must take these expos before the comps (who are mining them) mine out a significant percentage of their resources.
If you absolutely need more resources, there is a rich, unoccupied expansion to the southeast corner on your continent. There are only minerals found in this area, though. Keep in mind, though, that enemy Ghosts might try to nuke across the lava divide separating your continent from theirs, and you will have to spend additional troops and resources defending this base.
Do you have control of your continent, at least for now? Good, because that means the preliminary phase is over. Hopefully, between your expos and main base, you have at least 8 production buildings, so you can build 2 force of units at one time. Start building groups of Hydralisks as soon as possible(if you haven't been producing them continuously anyways, which is strongly advised). Build a single force of 12 upgraded Ultralisks, too, if you have the supply (if you don't, try to build at least 9-10); they will lead the charge into the combined Orange Zerg/Terran base on their continent.
At the same time, send one or two of your Overlords with 8 Hydralisks across the lava divide in the bottom right corner. You'll see a very large, unoccupied mineral and gas expansion sheltered against the occupied platform in the top right, defended by no more than maybe 2-3 Lurkers and 2-3 Hydralisks. Kill them, then quickly bring a Drone across and get a Hatchery building - you need a Nydus Canal from your main base to this expo in order to funnel in your attack force. If necessary, drop more guys to help defend it, including a few Lurkers. Once the canal is built, start funnelling in your attack force (burrow guys if you need more space).
You will need at least 9-10 Ultralisks and 6 dozens of Hydralisks each to take the Orange Zerg/Terran base that is just around the corner from your new expo on their continent. If you don't quite have the supply, then you can draw Hydralisks from your defense forces - but try to leave at least 12 at each of your expos and in your main, and make the best use of the Nydus Canals for defense.
Once your attack force is ready, send your Queens ahead to place a few parasites for scouting purposes, and to Spawn Broodling any annoying ridge-placed tanks. Then, send your attack forces in, Ultralisks first, using the general Attack command so that your forces will kill anything leading up to the top of the combined Orange Zerg/Terran base near the middle-top of the map (although you should manage your Hydras if necessary to kill particularly annoying units, or to keep them from trying to go up the ridge into the White Terran base). Bring along a few Overlords for detection purposes, and enjoy the massacre - usually this force is more than enough to annihilate the Combined Orange Base, but keep building Hydras at your main base - you'll need them to replace the force if necessary, and for the next attack. Don't be surprised if you lose nearly all or all of the Ultralisks; they are mainly there to take enemy fire away from your Hydralisk Hammer, which is the real force behind the attack.
Once you've completely cleansed the area of the Combined Orange Base, take a deep breath, and congratulate yourself - you've just finished the most difficult segment of this mission! You'll notice that attacks almost completely die off, although you still need to be on your guard; I had a nasty White Zerg attack on one of my expansions after I wiped out Orange. Still, you now have breathing room to finish up the mission. Take the time to use the minerals at the "launching pad" expansion that you attacked Orange's main from.
However, it's not over yet. You still need to get up the plateau to wipe out the white base, and then you need to get Dark Templar up to the Overmind to kill it (hopefully you've protected your Protoss structures!). This is more difficult than it looks; white has very solid defenses that will chew up units trying to get up the ramp, particularly if they clog the ramp. Build another force of 12 Ultralisks, with at least 5 dozen Hydralisks. Get them all in position after you use Spawn Brooding on as many of white's tanks as possible, then run your Ultralisks on to the plateau. DO NOT use the attack command; you need to get them all on the platform first, then use the attack command so they can all attack. While they are attacking, run all your Hydralisk groups up onto the ramp, then start having THEM attack the white base. Although you might have to re-inforce with fresh Hydra groups, once you break White's defensive line on the ramps, he essentially crumbles. Wipe out his entire base, and bring Overlords up to detect and kill the lurkers ringing the Overmind.
Bring your Dark Templar up to deliver the killing blow. Once it is done, sit back and enjoy the conversation between Kerrigan and Zeratul; you've earned it. Congratulations - you just beat the hardest mission in the game!
Comment on Alternative Tactics
This particular mission guide focuses heavily on the use of ground units, particularly the "Hydralisk Hammer" mixed with Ultralisks. Readers may be curious as to why the significance of Air Power is not mentioned as a plausible strategy.
Although this guide will not rule out Air Power as a means of beating this mission (namely, in the form of a massive Guardian/Devourer/Mutalisk force), Air Power has two primary steep obstacles for it. First, it is extremely expensive; Guardians run a cost of 150 minerals and 200 gas each, and Devourers are 250 minerals and 150 gas each. For a large force of both, say, 12-18 of each, you will suffer major expenses. It is not a force that can be expended lightly, since losing the force will very likely result in the player losing the mission (since resources are almost always tight on this map).
More importantly, the enemy in this mission has quite possibly the most lethal anti-air defense in the single-player campaigns, represented in mixed Valkyrie/Devourer forces. They're practically made for each other; the Devourers soak your units in armor-reducing slime, the Valkyries slam them with repeated attacks, and both have enough health that they can lay waste to large parts of your force (particularly the low-health Guardians) before your anti-air units in the force can even respond.
However, it is by all means still possible to use Air Power to approach this level, if you are willing to overcome the obstacles mentioned above. To do this, though, you would need to conquer both expansions on your island quickly. A force of 48 Hydralisks should do the job. Attack one base after another, and mine out minerals and gas vigorously. Make sure your Hydralisks are actively defending all bases. In the meantime, you can pump out mass air forces thanks to your surplus of resources. Prepare about 24 Guardians and 18 Devourers to attack the Orange base. You must upgrade to level 3 in order for your attack to work. If you micomanage carefully, you can actually get away with minimal losses, which may rather save you money than if you had chosen to build the Hydralisk Hammer with Ultralisks. Once the Orange base is gone, turn your attention to White's starports and his existing fleet of Battlecruisers. You may want a few more Devourers for this, so let your air force heal at your base and prepare the assault. The White base will actually go down fairly quickly, and you might still have a large surplus in resources.
The Terran/Zerg combined attacks in this level are significant and rather powerful. In case you're wondering how you should structure your defense system, or how massive each wave is, here is a list of attacks I've encountered in this level, in order of appearance. Expect an attack every 2 minutes or less, depending on the size. This is for the first thirty-five game minutes.
- 1 Marine
- 1 Marine
- 2 Marines/6 Zerglings
- 3 Hydralisks/3 Firebats
- 6 Hydralisks/2 Medics
- 6 Marines/2 Infested Terrans/1 Vulture
- 2 Firebats/1 Zergling/1 Goliath
- 5 Zerglings/2 Hydraliks/1 Goliath
- 2 Firebats/2 Medics/1 Ultralisk
- 5 Hydralisks/4 Zerglings/1 Siege Tank
- 3 Mutalisks/3 Wraiths
- 1 Siege Tank/1 Goliath
- 4 Hydralisks/1 Defiler (Dark Swarm)
- 2 Goliaths/4 Hydralisks/1 Infested Terran
- 5 Marines/2 Siege Tanks/1 Ultralisk/1 Mutalisk/2 Guardians
- 4 Guardians/2 Queens (Ensnare)
- 3 Valkyries/3 Devourers/3 Guardians (You will need Hydralisks near the edge of the lava, but not too close that they cannot shoot at the Guardians. Hide your Overlords.)
- 2 Mutalisks/3 Guardians
- 4 Valkyries/4 Guardians
- 2 Siege Tanks
- 1 Siege Tank/1 Ultralisk
- 4 Mutalisks
- 4 Mutalisks/4 Wraiths
- 2 Siege Tanks/1 Infested Terran
- 14 Zerglings/5 Marines
And more to come. If you are quick enough to eliminate a main base, you will not have to worry about further attacks.
Quick Ultralisk Rush
This strategy has been used by speedrunners, but is very useful since it lets you win with a smaller attack force and a little micromanaging, and you don't need to conquer the expansions to fund it. The version here is slower than a speedrun but easier to do.
Build up some defenses as above, though you may want to save some money for your attack force. A small force of Hydralisks with the movement upgrade can cover a lot of ground, and a 6-pack of Scourge will greatly supplement your air defenses. Also claim the free expansion to the east quickly. Tech as quickly as you can to Ultralisks and Defilers, and build 12 Ultralisks, 2 Defilers, and 8 Dark Templar, plus the Overlords to carry them. Also research the Ultralisk Cavern upgrades, and carapace and melee damage upgrades; they will help immensely. Fly them to the eastern continent, moving along the south edge of the map to dodge the enemy bases. There's an unguarded peninsula on the Overlord's plateau that will be your landing zone.
Now for the tricky part. Land the Defilers on the plateau first, and cast Dark Swarm over the landing area. This will cover your Ultralisks as they land. Now run straight for the Overmind and attack it. Your Dark Templar will have a better chance of survival if they sneak up the east edge of the map and come around to the top of the Overmind rather than charging through the Lurkers. Lastly, cast a Dark Swarm on the Overmind to protect against any ranged units around it. Your Ultralisks are tough enough to kill the Overmind before they die, and since your Dark Templar are also attacking, the game considers you to have destroyed it with Dark Templar.