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I'm familiar with the general mechanics of the game, but what's the best build order for the beginning of the game?

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Questions for the other two races: Protoss Build Orders, Terran Build Orders –  McKay Aug 2 '10 at 17:43
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up vote 141 down vote accepted

An opening dictates how you are going to start the match.

The basic Zerg openings:

  • 6–10 Pool (Rush)
  • 13–14 Pool (Standard)
  • 14–15 Pool, 16 Hatch (Macro)
  • 14–15 Hatch, 15–16 Pool (Macro+)
  • 14 Gas, 14 Pool (Speedling)
  • 12 Pool (Sen Style)

How to read these: The number indicates the number of drones you should have before your first structure. Since you can only build 10 before an overlord any number over 10 indicates building an overlord on 9 or 10 (9 or Extractor trick is the superior choice). Pool indicates building a Spawning Pool. Hatch indicates building a Hatchery. Gas, indicates building a Vespene Extractor on your nearby Vespene Geyser.

Which opening you choose usually relies on two things:

  1. Your Opponent
  2. Your Build

The Rush: A Rush opening is necessarily an all in, so that is a decision you are making prior to starting the match.

Standard: 13–14 pool is considered standard play, it can easily lead to fast expo or 1 base or speedlings or any of another things. It's considered standard play because of the options it offers you. I believe Slush of Root Gaming still runs this build.

Speedling: This is a strat that cropped up near the end of Beta mostly on Korean servers. If you build your gas before your spawning pool and immediately throw 3 drones in it on completion, then you will have exactly 100 gas when your spawning pool finishes. This leads to early speedlings for heavy pressure. Artosis is a large proponent of this build.

Macro and Macro+: Both of these are fast expansion builds designed to get up a very good early economy. They are very vulnerable to rushes, and require good scouting to support. The advantage of these is that if you can scout when your opponent leaves his base you can quickly put together a large force that will be ready just as he arrives allowing you to hold off the assault and be in better economic position. Idra and Machine tend to run this build.

Sen runs a 12 pool to give him a larger advantage against more aggressive zerg opponents, which are common on the asian server. Outside of him, it is not a very popular build.


9 Overlord vs 10 Overlord

There has been a lot of debate as to getting your overlord after your 9th drone or after your 10th drones. To add confusion it is possible to get your overlord after your 11th drones by building a vespene extractor, building the 11th drone and then canceling the extractor to get your drone back. It is usually agreed that getting your Overlord on your 9th drone, or building it after your 10th and then using the extractor trick to get an 11th while your overlord is building are the better choices.

There is some evidence to indicate 9 overlord is slightly better.


I first wrote this post shortly after beta and while most of what I wrote here still rings true there has been a shift in the Meta game in that time. While 13–14 Pool is still an effective strategy, many more Zerg have shifted towards more Macro oriented builds. 14–15 Hatch in particular has really caught on in ZvT. Everything in the post remains valid but I think it's still worthwhile to update on some of the newer developments.

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+1 Great writeup, I never knew what the numbers indicated –  Ivo Flipse Jul 7 '10 at 21:09
    
Yeah, well done. I was mostly asking the question because people wanted to hear, but I learned a lot more than I thought I would. Thanks for the great post! –  McKay Jul 7 '10 at 21:12
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You can also get Overlord at 12 by doing a double vespian cancel. This is a strategy used frequently by Korean zerg players. It leads well for the 12 pool strat. –  jarofclay Jul 14 '10 at 19:45
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@jarofclay there is some evidence to suggest that double extractor trick is actually less efficient than single extractor trick. Again this is very preliminary, but what makes up for the lost time with single extractor trick is spending less time larval capped. With double extractor trick you're still spending the same time larval capped, but you're losing the minerals that extra drone could be harvesting. Its also worth noting that sen does a single extractor trick in his 12 pool. –  tzenes Jul 15 '10 at 8:12
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Hey @tzenes! Your thoroughness strikes again, haha. Someone's asked about 9 overlord versus 10 overlord over here. I figure you could contribute your little excerpt over there. –  Grace Note Feb 4 '11 at 14:12
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Just to add, you can build the pool after 6 drones if you want to do a very fast rush. I dislike this approach, but have seen players use it.

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@Chen I have never seen 6 pool in a professional SC2 match. What's more evidence suggests that 7 pool is actually faster. –  tzenes Aug 12 '10 at 6:19
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6 pool is just a very weak opening. If the defender has any ability to hold this off, it's almost certain to fail in the long run. –  TokenMacGuy Aug 16 '10 at 1:00
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double 6pool in 2v2 is very hard to stop... very cheesy, no real stopping it. I've had that happen to me. Plus, tzenes, if McKay is asking this kind of question, it's likely he's not playing professional grade games yet. –  r00fus Sep 10 '10 at 4:13
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Indeed, 7-rush is stronger in terms of reinforcements, but there is no way to beat 6-pool in the timing of the first 6 zerglings. –  Rotsor May 26 '11 at 23:20
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idra 6 pooled to win a game in the early GSL –  jzn May 9 '12 at 20:53
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i don't know where 13 pool came from but 14 pool is standard, not 13.

i find the best opening is 14 pool 15 gas 15 overlord 16 roach warren/queen. you can build up to 6 zerglings if your scouting finds something dangerous or spinecrawlers if you find some sort of allin attack coming, and a quick 5-7 roaches will let you get early map control and choose whether to expand or tech. usually expanding then teching to hydras is the right answer, depending on what your opponent does.

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Lately I've been using the Overpool build not described here:

  • 10 Extractor trick to get 11/10.
  • 11 Overlord
  • 11 pool as overlord is spawning.

Using the drone from the extractor trick to scout and harass, I can respond accordingly quickly when the pool finish. Make spine crawler to defend if there's early pressure. build zerglings at 11 to harrass Fast expansion, or drone up as if it were a 13 pool build.

The Overpool is also the route to doing the quickest 7 Roach Rush.

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why not 2 extractors? I like a quick harass/expand with a 12 pool extractor trick followed by a hatch with the extra money. Not actually a long term economy boost, but a surprising harass/expand –  jzn May 9 '12 at 20:52
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