I'm in Gold.

In Zerg vs. Zerg, normally I'm fine against a 6-Pool rush when just Zerglings are sent - I defend with some Drones, get out a Spine Crawler, and soon after roll over my opponent who has crippled his economy.

However, I just lost twice in a row to some players who quickly brought a Drone in and started building a Spine Crawler on my creep, then moved in with Zerglings soon after. When I would attempt to attack the Zerglings with my Drones, they would pull back and the Spine Crawler would hit the Drones. The second time, I did successfully get down 3 Spine Crawlers of my own which defended well, but the cost was high and my opponent actually was in an advantageous position and was eventually able to win.

I guess I could just build my Spawning Pool earlier than normal (I usually build it around 13-14) but that'd be something of a waste if my opponent isn't actually rushing.

The Spine Crawler comes in pretty dang early, like before I would normally send a scout. Should I be scouting much faster, like my first Drone or something?

Would attacking the Spine Crawler while it is building help? If so, how many Drones would it take to ensure its demise without destroying my income?

What's the best way to beat this rush and still come out on top?

  • 1
    Attacking it while it is building is key. 3 drones can kill it before it finishes provided you notice it in time. Nov 6, 2010 at 16:54

4 Answers 4


Forgive me for the quality of this answer I'm on the road.

Unlike a lot of people I really feel that using drones for defense as Zerg is a completely legitimate strategy. Zerg is very much a momentum race, so many top players strategy revolves around: Power drones and build units at the last possible second. Unlike Terran or Protoss, Zerg can produce a very large army very quickly so I feel using your Drones to delay is a fairly legitimate strategy.

However, I dislike opinions, even my own, so let's see this strategy in practice:

This first video is from a pair of Plat level players. You'll notice that by pulling drones off the mineral line he's able to get a very easy surround (which whoever this caster is doesn't seem to understand) and really take them apart with few losses (believe he loses 3 Drones). This delays the 10 pool long enough for his Spine Crawler to get up and really defend him well. The key point I want you to take away here is: Drones can do Damage

This next video shows a Zerg defending against a 2 Gate back in beta (when Zealots were 5 seconds faster). The Zerg player here completely misses on his scouting. Notice how the Zealots are forced back every time he pulls all his Dones, but when he only sends in a few (or the Queen alone) he gets eaten apart. Drones are only really strong in numbers and when they can get a surround (much like Zerglings). The thing he does do well is sending his drones back to mine every time the Zealots back off. This is the second key point: If you're not fighting, you need to be mining. Pulling drones is fine, but don't leave them lying around

This third video is a little more high level. I actually saw this match live and Blizzcon and the experience was exhilarating. Cool here is defending an early Bunker rush by Boxer. He immediately pulls 3 Drones (1 from scouting) to take out the Bunker. Boxer shows some impressive micro and manages to get the Bunker up and a Reaper inside... just in time to get destroyed by Zerglings. This is the third main point: Drones are delaying tactic, you are using them to stall until real units can get out.

This last video is your money video because its exactly what you're dealing with: 7 Pool into Spine Crawler Rush. We see here that the defending player really shows knowledge of all the principles we talked about. When he sees the Spine Crawlers he pulls a large amount of Drones off the mineral line, forcing repeated cancels (every cancel costs 25 minerals). Next when Zerglings come he uses the mineral trick and then backs out into the open to get a good surround on them and really take them down quickly. Finally, all of his actions are a delaying tactic so he can get his Zerglings out.

So what have we learned:

  1. Drones can do Damage. Try to get a good surround, preferably out in the open where he can't use buildings to block you
  2. When you're not fighting, you need to be mining. When your Zerglings finally pop and you start winning you need to back off and secure your economy
  3. Drones are a Delaying action. Zerg is a momentum race and you're just using your Drones to delay until you have enough momentum to win.


But Tzenes, what if he just backs off and powers Drones and has a larger economy than me?

Omnes non possunt omnis. To pull off this rush he is making a large sacrifice, this means you have a lot of room to breath. Worry less about him backing off and more about repelling the rush. By the same token, as soon as the rush is countered, stop producing Zerglings. Chances are he can't afford a second rush, so building a lot of units here is just letting him catch up.

  • You mention the "mineral trick" - I think I know what you are talking about, but care to go into more detail for completeness?
    – Mag Roader
    Nov 7, 2010 at 4:36
  • @mag ive discussed this in a number of questions, but when workers are harvesting they gain unit walking and can pass through other units.
    – tzenes
    Nov 7, 2010 at 23:04
  • You give better answers on the road than most people do at home :P
    – RCIX
    Nov 9, 2010 at 6:47
  • very nice answer. the youtube links were useful. tzenes, I'm curious what level and rank are you?
    – Alan Le
    Nov 9, 2010 at 18:23
  • @alan so I get this question a lot and I realize that it isn't really relavent but for what its worth: on US (which I have to borrow accounts after mine got hacked) I play diamond 1200-1500 as zerg, ~1000 as terran, and recently ~1200 protoss. On KR, where I play most of my games, I'm currently ranked high plat, but most of my recent games have been low level diamond. I can say there is a different skill level between the servers
    – tzenes
    Nov 9, 2010 at 20:02

You can still defend 6 pool with a 14 pool. You don't even need to scout for it. You just need to know when your opponent is in your base. Scouting with a drone just slows down the build timing of your pool, which you really don't want to do.

When your opponent comes into your base, you need to run around with your drones until your zerglings come out. Don't engage his zerglings at all and try not to lose any drones. Then, just attack when your zerglings pop.

If he starts building a spine crawler in your base, just send like 4 drones to attack it and use the rest of your drones to ward off his zerglings.

You don't really want to attack his zerglings head on unless you get a really good surround. If the engagement is less than ideal, I would just pull everything away, even the drones attacking the spine, and just wait for your zerglings. At this point you are just delaying until you can get them out.

When you do attack, you want to attack everything at the same time. This means, send some stuff to attack the spine and the rest of your units should be attacking your opponents zerglings.

You don't want to be attacking his zerglings only, while the spine crawling is hitting your units. And, you won't want to be attacking the spine only while zerglings are killing your units as well. Attack everything at once, and you should be okay.

One last thing, it is okay to not be mining all this time. Your opponent has about 6 drones or less if he made a spine. While at the end of this engagement you should have 10+ if you did things right. Worst case, if your opponent was droning up in the middle of all this, he should be even with the same amount of drones as you. So, just play normally from here on out and you should be good.


some players who quickly brought a Drone in and started building a Spine Crawler on my creep

Do proper scouting so you might see the Drone coming way ahead, what I usually also do is place my Overlord in the front of my ramp so that I can see anything going into my base and have time to mentally prepare for it. With a good chance he might get afraid and decide not to rush you anymore because he knows that you know...

Make sure that the Drone you scouted is unable to reach your creep, three drones could do the job.

I did successfully get down 3 Spine Crawlers of my own which defended well, but the cost was high and my opponent actually was in an advantageous position and was eventually able to win.

I would suggest going for the best of both worlds, 1 or 2 Spine Crawlers, you can create more later...

but that'd be something of a waste if my opponent isn't actually rushing.

That's why you scout, you're in Gold so seeing an early pool really means a rush is going on.

I wouldn't call it a waste as if you suspect a rush then it's better to have defense...

The Spine Crawler comes in pretty dang early, like before I would normally send a scout. Should I be scouting much faster, like my first Drone or something?

You should scout with the worker that could reach your opponents base the moment the Pool is down.


If it's on a rush friendly map (short rush distance, e.g. Steppes of War) and the opponent is zerg I'll tend to scout on 8. Against zerg on any map I'd scout no later than 10 to get a sense of what time their spawning pool went down.

If you 8 scout sees a pool building already, stop droning and get down that pool of your own. Keep your drone in their base but alive. If they're rushing you should see lings pop before queen.

On 6 pool it's obvious already, but having your drone there will let you see what time exactly they start moving out. (After knowing for sure that lings are popping out you can move your drone to the ramp)

When you see the lings morphing in, I would make 1 pair of lings (to take care of the drone that's going to build the spine crawler, and 1 spine crawler of your to take care of their lings. Even if your lings can't prevent the spine crawler from starting, it should have a good deal less health remaining and your own spine crawler should be able to take it out from there.

  • So basically your answer is: I do need to scout earlier, and here's what to look for.
    – Mag Roader
    Nov 6, 2010 at 15:12
  • @Mag Yeah, it partially depends on the map as well, like on Xel'Naga Caverns, the rush distance is pretty long so you can get away with a later scout.
    – Davy8
    Nov 6, 2010 at 15:28
  • Oops, forgot enter adds the comment. What's equally important is having your pool timing be flexible. I normally like 13-14 pool as well, but if you see a rush coming, you need to "rearrange" your build order as Day9 would say. Don't necessarily go for something completely different from your original plan, but do change the order of things to get some defenses out sooner and delay your original strat. (When I say see a rush coming, I mean you see their pool going down way before yours, not after lings are already on the way, which would be too late)
    – Davy8
    Nov 6, 2010 at 15:32
  • @Davy8 I don't know about this answer. Saying "scout earlier" feels a lot like saying "play better." Any rush that needs a scout before your overlord shouldn't have the momentum to beat you.
    – tzenes
    Nov 7, 2010 at 3:05
  • @Tzenes I guess for me if my pool is more than about 4 food slower I'm not going to be able to get lings or a spine crawler up fast enough so if they're 6-pooling and I 14 pool it is a guaranteed GG. If I see it early and drop my pool at around 10 instead I can delay with my drones as you mention long enough to get a spine crawler out. The difference being that by the time they get in my base my pool will be done or close to done, as opposed to just started. Everything you said is good and valid but I don't think it would be sufficient if you pool isn't even half way done.
    – Davy8
    Nov 7, 2010 at 15:43

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