|Zerg Mission 7: Drawing of the Web|
|Special Units||Infested Duran (enhanced Ghost)|
|New Enemy Units||
This mission is a noticeable step up in difficulty from all of the previous Zerg missions in this campaign. Part of this, of course, is due to this mission's special handicap: you are not permitted to build a Spire (meaning no offensive air units), and you can not research the Overlord's Ventral Sacs transportation upgrades (meaning no drops). You are apt to notice this handicap when, during the mission, you face the daunting prospect of trying to take a ridge guarded by 4-6 Reavers, or when trying to get across the bridge to the far bottom left corner against a seemingly endless tide of Zealots, Dragoons, Dark Templar, and Dark Archons clogging the way.
More fundamentally, though, this is the first mission in the Zerg campaign where you have to fight against the full fury of the Brood War Protoss - and you essentially spend much of the mission on the defensive through no choice of your own. The Computer's main base is on a giant island in the middle of the map that you can't touch, and they take full advantage of that. Expect Dark Templar attacks from early on in the mission, building and building until they come at you in groups of 10-12 with Dragoons, Zealots, and Reavers for backup to tear apart your carefully placed Sunken Colonies. Expect Dark Archons to mind-control your Overlords and Queens if you even give them half a chance. Perhaps most annoyingly of all, expect small groups of both Carriers and Reavers - and watch as they get recalled back to the main base on the verge of their destruction.
Fortunately, in spite of the handicap, you start off in a strong position with a base that is naturally defensible. It is surrounded on three sides (the fourth is protected by the edge of the map). There are build-able ridges accessible from the ground that have plentiful resources.
What you first need to do is start setting up defenses quickly. Place a few Sunken and Spore Colonies near the two entrances to your Main Base, but don't go overboard - your primary defensive network will be built on the ridges. Get your resources flowing as quickly as possible, too, with two Drones each to a mineral patch. Expect small attacks as this point, building into larger ones, so start building some Hydralisks to supplement your defenses, and get their upgrades going. Make sure, through the next steps, to keep up with the upgrades - even small edges make a difference in this mission.
Once the resource situation has been set up, get a small force of your guys with an Overlord or two (hopefully upgraded for speed), and expand to either the top or right ridge first, building your Hatchery. Keep the Hydralisks up there for security until the Hatchery is finished, workers are mining the resources (if you went for the right ridge), and you have at least 6-7 Spore Colonies on the right ridge around your Hatchery, with 3-4 Sunken Colonies near the ramp. The right ridge will take the brunt of the enemy's major air assaults for most of the game, so it needs to be as defensible against them as possible (remember the golden rule of Zerg defensive structures: they are more effective when clumped together, particularly if your opponent isn't Terran). Remember to make sure, though, that you keep your Spore Colonies close enough to your Sunken Colonies to provide detection against the numerous Dark Templar attacks.
Follow this by expanding to the top ridge (or middle ridge with no resources) next. Try to get the Sunken Colonies as close to the edge as possible; one of the key purposes of this cliff based defense is so your Sunken Colonies can attack the Reavers that frequently wander by on their way to one of the two major entrances to your base without getting attacked back. Five or six is the best, with as many Spore Colonies as you can fit behind them. Make sure you don't clump so tightly that replacement Drones can't get in; you will probably be replacing both the Sunken and Spore colonies on the Middle Ridge a lot over this mission.
Finally, take the bottom (or left) ridge. It is the least secure, since its entrance faces outward from your base, so make sure to fortify it with plenty of Sunken Colonies near the ramp, interlocked with Spore Colonies. DO NOT FORGET to make sure that the Spore Colonies are close enough to the Sunken Colonies to provide detection; when I first tried this mission, I made this mistake, with the result that I lost a huge chunk of the defensive structures on the left ridge after the combined Dark Templar/Dragoon/Zealot attack killed the Sunken Colonies and then proceeded to work on the Spore Colonies.
Once you have this massive defensive network in place, the Sunken Colonies on the ridge should interlock with the earliest ones on the ground to either stop or greatly slow ground attacks into your main base while minimizing casualties.
Feeling nice and snug after completing the above? Good, because now begins the hardest part of this mission: actually assaulting the bloody platforms. I strongly suggest, through the next part of this mission, that you save, so that if something goes wrong you can try a different approach. On the bright side, you now have enough resources to last you a long way, although it may not be enough to finish the mission with unless you are very skilled at micro-management - the attrition, in terms of units and defensive structures, of this mission is very severe.
You should have at least five Hatcheries at this point, with one of them being your central Hive. Build a sixth one, so that you can build at least 18 units at once. Once this is in place, continue with the upgrades, and build some Queens; they are crucial to your scouting on this mission. I strongly recommend that you win this mission with a combination of Zerglings, Hydralisks, and Lurkers. You can try Ultralisks, but be extremely cautious; like Overlords and Queens, Ultralisks are high-value targets that will be the first to be Mind-Controlled by the ubiquitous Dark Archons around this map.
- It may or may not be helpful, but parasite every Kakuru you see. Depending on where they fly, they can give you information on incoming attacks.
- Parasite your own Overlords. If they get mind-controlled (which is likely), the enemy will use them to patrol his bases, meaning you now have an observer in its base to see Dark Templar.
- If you want to, get a defiler or two, research the upgrades at defiler mound, and use plague against incoming groups of enemies.
An good approach is to start with wiping the Brown Protoss base in low-left corner of the map before you start picking the beacon platforms. This will reduce their supplies and dramatically decrease power of Brown Protoss attacks on your base.
This tan protoss base is not really hard to attack - there are just a couple of Photon Cannons guarding the bridge. The nastiest guys are Dark Archons - there are one or two of them, and they will certainly met your forces on the bridge, stealing your Overlords or maelstorming your troops. I suggest sacrificing an Overlord to lure Dark Archon on the bridge, and then surround it with Zerglings and kill. Then burrow Lurkers on the bridge to slay Dark Templars lured by your zerglings attacking the cannons, and move on to the base. Hydralisks should provide protection from Observers, to secure your Lurkers. 12 Zerglings, 12 Hydralisks, 6 Lurkers and 3-4 overlords might be enough to wipe this base, and you probably won't get any disturbing assaults from Brown Protoss after that.
If you don't deal with this base early, the western side of the map will require more Lurkers, as there are far more Dark Templar and other gateway units located here. Make sure you have at least 12 Lurkers with you on this attack. Advance slowly and make sure everyone settles together, as you may face surprise Shuttle-drop attacks on the way. You will need at least four Overlords with you, as Dark Archons will take them away as soon as they are seen. When you get to the bridge, burrow all your Lurkers at the east end of it. Position two Overlords right next to the bridge, and have all your Hydralisks behind your Lurkers. Hide Duran behind your Hydralisks. Enemies may send as many as 6-8 Dark Templar across the bridge, but your Lurkers can take care of them fairly easily if you spot them out. Once you clear any resistance on the bridge, you may march your guys in to the brown base. You should take your time to destroy this base, as you will find more enemies coming at you later.
I would recommend sending at least 24 Hydralisks (36 is better, but more unwieldy) along with 8-10 Lurkers for the first platform northwest of your middle ridge. Lurkers are extremely valuable as long as you keep them out of the sight of detection; they are devastating to ground units, and can provide "cover fire" for your Hydralisks and Duran as you retreat them from the platform after getting Duran to the Beacon. Once your parasites are in place (and any High Templar are Spawn Brooded), move your Hydralisks up the platform at once. Don't stop until they are all up there, even though you may take casualties - you will take more if they simply clog the ramp to shoot at targets. Bring the Lurkers up with them, even if you haven't killed the Photon Cannons; expect the Computer to drop guys to retake the platform. Run Duran cloaked up to the beacon once the Photon Cannons are destroyed. As soon as he is finished, get him off the platform, along with the rest of your forces, and bee-line straight back to your base. As mentioned earlier, the attrition rate for your forces in this mission is severe, so you need to conserve them as much as possible.
Let Duran regenerate his cloak and/or health, but at the same time, start moving your forces up to the open area just east of the second platform (which is directly north of the right ridge in your main base). While Duran is healing, send in your Queens to Parasite and Spawn Brood High Templar, then start some hit and run. Set up your Lurkers at the bottom of the ramp, then bring up 12 Hydralisks to kill any Photon Cannons near the top of the ramp. When the Protoss retaliate, run back down the ramp, and let your Lurkers chew up the counter-attack. If you want to take this one step further, then once the Cannons near the ramp are destroyed, move your Lurkers up to the top of the ramp, and position them there; they'll give you cover for your 36-Hydralisk force to get up and start attacking.
The third platform, which is near the top-right corner of the map, is guarded by 4-6 Reavers. You do not want to use Lurkers here as 2 Scarabs can destroy all Lurkers around it. Instead, just have all your Hydralisks go up the ramp without stopping. Don't worry if you lost a full group of Hydralisks, as the important part is to take out the Reavers. This, of course, means you need lots of surviving Hydralisks. Duran can help by locking down a couple of Reavers before Hydralisks attack. Do not try to cloak and run Duran up to the beacon while your Hydralisks battle Reavers; there are likely to be Observers that spot him out. Wait until all Reavers are gone. Once you take down that ridge, reassemble all your forces to your main base for healing.
Alternate Strategy: Have your hydralisks mass up at the bottom of the ramp. Then, send one followed by two followed by one again in a quick succession to attack the reavers. Normally, the result should be forcing the scarabs to launch at the first hydralisks, leaving them time for 2 and 3 to attack before dying. Normally it should take 4-5 hydralisks per reaver.
Once the south-west base is cleared up, just take your Hydralisks and Overlords up the next ramp. This cluster can go down fairly easily if you take down the Photon Cannons and Dark Templar first. At this point, you can just have all your guys fight until they die, and in the meantime, cloak Duran and just run him alone to the last beacon (provided he has over 180 HP), which is to the north. Once you get all five beacons, you can enjoy the moment as Duran ignites the power grids to destroy Talematros. Once that is done, victory is yours.