Image displaying the choice between the Raptor and Swarmling strains of Zergling One of the first choices in the HOTS campaign is between Raptor and Swarmling Zerglings.

Raptors just look cool and attack faster, but Swarmlings could save a base as they mutate faster and in groups of 3 instead of 2.

What are the advantages of each? What is the best mutation depending on what type of Zergling I chose? What about other abilities that help each? (e.g. Kerrigan levels)


Adrenal Overload: +50% attack speed

Hardened Carapace: Gain an additional 10 hp

Metabolic Boost: +60% movement speed.

5 Answers 5


You already summed it up rather nice I guess. ;)

I haven't had time to dab too much into the campaign yet to be honest, but it's essentially your decision how you'd like to get the additional damage:

  • With the Raptors you'll get more damage and mobility on your existing two Zerglings per egg.

  • With the Swarmlings you get more damage in the form of a third Zergling per egg (and essentially faster replacements).

Overall, both should provide you with a comparable damage boost.

If you like micro managment and don't have any issues moving even single units to avoid damage as much as possible, I'd pick the Raptors (especially if you like hit & run attacks). On the other hand, if you prefer the brute force approach, without having to worry about losing a few of your units, then the Swarmling might be the best option for you (because you can replace them faster and you lose less per unit lost).

  • Raptors have a Zealot-like "Charge" ability, if I am remembering correctly. Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 12:14
  • 3
    Raptors can jump cliffs like Reapers, as per the starcraft wiki links included in the question. it's also worth noting that swarmlings will count as 1.5 control whereas raptors should count as 1
    – turbo
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 14:43
  • Oh nice, I was quite disappointed they cut that from initial release. Updating the answer. :)
    – Mario
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 14:56
  • Hard choice! Raptors remind me of reapers from Terran so i just had to go with them!
    – Seravy
    Commented Mar 12, 2013 at 16:33
  • Raptors also have a +2 damage bonus Commented Mar 13, 2013 at 12:15

While Mario's answer does a good job explaining the raw differences between the two types of 'ling, I think it bears consideration the possible synergy of both types as well.

Zergling Reconstitution

For instance, my favorite Kerrigan passive ability is "Zergling Reconstitution". As your zerglings die, you will get them back, at a rate of 10 per 30 seconds.

What this means, in practice, is that you only need to make zerglings once - afterwards, you simply wait for your zerglings to respawn on their own. The combined effect of this is that you will morph very few zerglings in campaign maps.

What this means in practice, is that the Swarmling evolution is of limited use - you can make zerglings fast, and in great numbers... but if your zerglings are continually being reconstituted, there's no real need for either. Reconstituted zerglings are free of resource cost, and do not take up larvae that swarmlings would require. The swarmling's greater numbers are still an advantage (1 more 'ling per moprh), but it's doubtful the 20 or so extra 'lings you'd get over the course of the map would swing the battle much one way or the other. Compared to the bonus damage and leap attack of the Raptor, Reconstitution-heavy strategies have an easy choice.


But even beyond considering reconstitution, there's another idea worth exploring - banelings! Swarmlings let you produce banelings much faster (and at a reduced total mineral cost) than Raptors. If you're a player who's fond of the little, rolling acid-balls, picking swarmlings means more banelings, faster, for less minerals. And while 18 swarmlings on their own might not work as an "Oh @#$*, they're killing my base" button, 18 banelings very well might (and they'll be out more than twice as fast as a Raptor's 12 'ling hail mary). If you're making Zerglings for their explosive relatives, you may find the Swarmlings a better choice, overall.

  • 3
    +1 for Banelings, I didn't even think of that when I made my choice. Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 16:52
  • Some related notes from going after all the achievements while playing on Brutal difficulty. Reconstitution is very slow relative to what you could achieve manually, but it's still very nice. On the Phantoms of the Void mission, going for the "kill all protoss buildings before taking fourth temple" achievement, I had 200+ lings queued up waiting to be reconstituted by the end, because I kept needing more sooner - the extra passive trickle was still beneficial, especially at the beginning, when minerals were tight but I had to move quick.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 7:38
  • (cont) banelings is indeed the biggest use-case for swarmlings in my experience. For example, for beating Infested before the third gas attack on Brutal, I massed (jumping) banes until a little after the second gassing, then rolled a train of them all the way to the objective (taking heavy losses along the way, but I found a path that minimized losses enough) - in that case, I probably would've struggled to get enough banelings morphed in time, or at least would've needed to go back and optimize how I played the earlier parts of that mission more.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 7:44

I will keep it short and somewhat personal.

Tl;dr - Raptor Strain + Metabolic Boost = Winning.

This combination gives you fastest, most mobile and cheapest land unit in early, mid and sometimes in endgame. This combination make winning so easy that it was crazy. Combined with mutalisk for air dominance makes very fast, aggresive and mobile army that I prefer in SC2: HotS.

And you feel something warm inside when you make such unstoppable Zerg swarm.

  • 1
    That's my favourite combo as well :)
    – JonathanJ
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 22:59
  • Fellow zerg brother ;) !
    – iber
    Commented Mar 14, 2013 at 23:00
  • 1
    This answer influenced my decision >:)
    – MuToiD_MaN
    Commented Mar 21, 2013 at 20:11

Swarmlings make getting a very strong army, very easy. The rapid gestation to deployment rate, means that in most missions, you can field a very quick response to any threat. So if you're ever put on the defensive, they're gonna be outright the best unit available.

Technically speaking, I've played the entire game primarily focusing on zerglings. Raptors are certainly fun, and more offense minded, but swarmlings tend to play more towards the Zerg's overall strengths with low-unit costs and high volume. Even against entrenched enemies or outright counters, swarmlings typically deliver enough volume of force that even if quite a few die, there are still enough remaining to kill the enemy units. This is a full 1.5 units to cost ratio after all.

Furthermore, it should be mentioned that banelings also feature a "cliff-scaling" upgrade. Therefore, if you plan to take Raptors solely for their ability to take out cliff defenses, you're better off going with swarmlings and teching into that version of banelings. They're more effective at dealing heavy bursts of damage, which is great for dislodging high-ground tanks, bunkers, what have you where raptors would suffer due to the low damage-per-hit.

The breakdown comes up to whether you prefer to engage quickly, or engage safely. Raptors teched into Metabolic Boost are perhaps the single fastest engaging units in the game. They're quick on land, charge into close range, and deal slightly more damage per hit.

However with Swarmlings, you can tech into things like the adrenal boost and capitalize on the fact that even at worst, some of your troops will still always manage to engage, and with Zerglings, you always tend to have a 2:1 ratio of targets to units.

Personally, I like Swarmlings. They just feel more "Zergy" to me. If I wanted tough units that I could micromanage to win fights a little above their weight class, I'd be playing Wings of Liberty. Raptors are fantastic choices, but I prefer the baneling upgrades to fulfill the role they take. They're slightly more expensive, but in situations where you really need the quick engagement, the few banelings you lose are well worth the explosive damage you deliver.

  • One thing I noticed is that the jumping banelings really struggle with units running away. The AI (on Brutal at least, I don't know what it does on lower difficulties) will have enemy units notice when a baneling is targeting them and run away, and the jump bane will jump to close distance, but it always jumps to the target's current location at the moment the jump started, so it rarely reaches fleeing units running at marine speeds - meanwhile normal banelings or splitter banelings don't have this problem because they just roll and catch up.
    – mtraceur
    Commented Aug 10, 2022 at 7:51

Consider that it is not just about cost or supply, but also about how much space a unit needs. Swarmlings take more space for the damage. Like normal Zerglings, they stand in the way and block other units, they might be stuck behind the shooters if your army is not organized.

In a typical "deathball" army with Raptor Lings, all units can spend more time attacking and less time standing in each other's way. The raptors can jump across bunkers or across your own units.

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