I saw and read a lot of recommendations to harass Zerg if you play Terran (1x1). From one perspective it should pretty easy: put bunker and 4-8 marines there... actually anywhere you want to have a pressure point. It can be expansion, choke point, whatever.

BUT. There is "but" my concern here is that such "pressure" point is very vulnerable to bannelings/roaches. When Zerg detects this pressure he will get bigger army and wipe-out bunker with marines. If I had marines only - he could kill them with bannelings easily. If I have bunker - he will destroy it with bigger amount of roaches. So I will need to have constantly increasing forces close to the bunker... that means my base will be undefended...

I could add 1-2 siege tanks, but it is already mid game

So the question is: how to harass Zerg with Terran (in the early game) properly?

5 Answers 5


Before we talk about "how to harass" you first need to know why...

Why do you want to harass Zerg early?

The Zerg race is like a virus, it will spread out and overwelm you.

So, if you don't want to be overwelmed, you will have to deny your opponent from spreading out.

This is where a harass comes into play: You essentially prevent your opponent from performing a part of his plan. By placing your Bunker at the bottom of his ramp, you delay him from performing an Fast Expand and sending Zerglings towards your base / expansion / ...

As a bonus, you force him to create counter units against your bunker. This allows you to anticipate...

Why can't I keep the pressure up?

The Bunker is like a firewall, it will work until the virus takes it down.

BUT! As you see: Unless you have planning on performing a cheese inside his base, you will be unable to keep up the pressure. This is why you only send what you need for the harassment to work and no more. So that you can keep your defense up, take the Xal Naga towers, and so on...

How can I keep the pressure up?

The law of diminishing returns: Putting too much effort into something specific isn't worth it.

So, once your harassment is in place forget about it. Instead, work towards your next harassment.

Your opponent will manage to start spreading out so we need to figure out three things:

  1. Where does your opponent spread to? --> Scouting
  2. How can I efficiently prevent or deny him from spreading out? --> Harassment
  3. What unit composition will he use to overwelm me? --> Scouting

As your opponent has Zerglings and Banelings or Roaches, your Marines will not help you in preventing him from the spread. They aren't fast for scouting purposes either. But, there is an unit in the Terran repository which answers these three questions quite well! The Hellion:

When playing Zerg, Hellions can also be used to ravage Drone lines. They are also effective against Zerglings but will fall to larger numbers of units quite quickly. With good micro, Hellions can take out large numbers of Zerglings (even Roaches prior to their range buff in patch 1.12 1).

This fast driving unit allows you to gain excellent map control to figure out where your opponent is, with a bunch of them you can easily take out Drones and Zerglings. As Roaches and Banelings are slower they are less likely to be at his non-natural expansions. And if they are they probably aren't in his natural base, allowing you to let the harassment take place if he didn't build up defense against it.

So, together with scanning his creep for buildings this perfectly answers the questions!

But what about Banelings and Roaches?

If the virus gets stronger, so should you.

Let's see how useful your Rax still is and what else you can use the Fact for:

Counter against Roaches:

  • Marauders, instead of wasting minerals into self-suicidal Marines you can now reuse your Rax.

  • Tanks, in an unsieged mode do nice DPS and can be turned into sieged mode against swarms.

Counter against Banelings:

  • Marines, if you have any left, can be spread out to waste the Banelings.

  • Marauders, again, have Consecutive Shells and can tank Baneling damage.

  • Hellions, can kite Banelings if you micro properly.

A word of caution: Don't take Marauders out alone on the battlefield, they are easily overwelmed.

Supported by Hellions in the front and/or Tanks in the back they are a deadly anti-ground force.

Don't forget to expand when you move out!

But what about Mutalisks and burrowed Roaches?

If you don't take the necessary precautions, a virus will infect you.

You can do four things, perhaps combine them:

  1. AA turrets, a static defense. A must for your mineral line, also helps you see cloaked Roaches.

  2. An armory, which is essentially needed for a Mechanical play-style. Besides allowing you to do upgrades for both Vehicles and Air, they give you access to the powerfull Thor. Word of caution is that this is a slower unit and is more a kind of static defense, they should only be taken on the field if you have enough map control or AA turrets in your base to anticipate your opponent...

  3. A starport, which gives you access to vikings, hellion drops, raven, banshees, and BC!

  4. Stimmed Marines, just swap addons with a Factory and you can quickly transition into them.

Vikings are also useful to take out overlords/seers and become essential against later brood lords.

You are talking about some kind of Mechanical play? Interesting!

Sometimes, you have to use 'the stuff that you barely use' a lot!

This is a popular way to deal with Zerg, see the Mech tree in the left side at LP II - Terran Match-ups.

If this doesn't work out, it also lists a 3 Rax +1 Timing Push and the fresh 4OC economy-wise play.

Why does an attack I planned fail?

Turn your opponent crazy! But secure your expansions against a counter attack...

Don't focus on getting a single thing out, if the Zerg figures out that you are going to attack something specific (he can figure that out by creep, which gives vision; overlords and burrowed units) he will have his army ready to counter you. Instead, you might want to attack at two places at the same time: Attack the closest expansion with your army while dropping hellions at one of his other expansions or his base; similar you could kite units away, or force them to run away by using the Raven's abilities...

Bonus: Demonstration VOD

Because a video tells you more than a thousand words.

In a 1:1:1 setting, I found a replay for you that has a mix of game-play summed up in this answer.

Although I couldn't find better quality because it's RO32: GSL Season 3 - TheBestfOu VS Liquid`Ret

Unless you don't care about a non-english version that starts with an advertisement.

  • Your essay on TvZ strategy and whys and wherefors is nice to read, but does not answer the question, and, Hellions are no early option. You will need a factory first, which should come after other things in the pipeline priority.
    – DrFish
    Dec 28, 2010 at 23:16
  • 1
    The first two titles explain "why to harass Zerg", as the asker shows that he doesn't understand the reasoning behind harassing. From the third title on the question does answer the question by explaining "how to harass Zerg"... Hellions are an early option, if you do a 2 Rax Bunker Harass transitioning into a 1 Fact then you can pump Hellions around 6:00-7:00 by which time your opponent has managed to take down your bunker will be trying to get his expansion. Furthermore, you can use a Rax to build a Reactor or Tech Lab for a Fact and do a switch after... Dec 29, 2010 at 1:16
  • I think you are confused on the different phases of a game: Marauders and Hellions are build as a counter to the first thing you scout and are thus an early-game counter. Expanding, scouting what he does and responding to that is the mid-game, it's where you are building a counter against Mutalisks for example. The end-game, if the game hasn't ended yet; is where the Tier 3 units or strong armies come into play, Ultralisks and Battlecruisers for example. Dec 29, 2010 at 1:26

Remember, the early harass is only there to stall the first quick expansion. By the time they can field significant numbers of roaches, you need to move on to another tactic. Zerg send drones all over the place with minimal support. A marine or two can force them to entirely retool so that they can expand with force.

So the bunker with 1-6 marines is perfectly valid. You'll have shut down their quick expansion, possibly forced them to build a roach warren, and generally set them back significantly. That's pretty much all you can hope for with that tactic. Hopefully it'll let you come to a resource parity, and pump out your more effective units.

The worst thing that can happen when you're fighting the zerg is that you let them get a couple of easy expansions while you're still gearing up. They will absolutely bury you. But if you can hold them to a single expansion, or (ideally) their starting base, at least until you've gotten your own expansion running, then you'll have a serious advantage.

  • "Zerg send drones all over the place with minimal support". Almost everybody send thier SCV/probe/drone w/o support for expansion. If it is been killed - they send army. Agree, it is always good to keep eyes on all expansion points. But from my perspective would be more effective to have SCV somewhere close to expansion that will see if building is build there only. Once it start building - prepare you army to wipe it out. If you kill those drone with 1-2 marines, then they will be killed with 6-8 zerlings. Better to destroy Hatchery instead of dron
    – Budda
    Dec 28, 2010 at 20:39
  • But idea to get bunker just to push Zerg build roaches - pretty fine... Especially if he didn't plan to do that...
    – Budda
    Dec 28, 2010 at 20:40
  • 1
    @budda: Sure, but with the zerg, that drone can be leaving before they have an army. Zerg often expand before they build real units, which is why this tactic is effective with them. Dec 28, 2010 at 20:55

One things I've seen is building a Engineering Bay on their first expansion. Zerg (in gold-low plat) seem to always early expand. The Bay builds quickly, and has a lot of HP.

Other things to try include:

  • 1 Port Banshee
  • Hellion Drop
  • May I ask why the -1? I think they are valid harass tactics? Dec 28, 2010 at 21:09
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    The point of the bay is to delay their expand in builds that rush to expand without a spawning pool. It is easy to get banshees before overseers since many zerg delay hive tech. Like all things, they have counters, but are valid harass techs. Dec 28, 2010 at 22:16
  • 4
    I negated down vote as this actually is harassment. Harassment doesn't specifically mean attack. Any means to distract your opponents from what they're doing and make them worry / overreact to the harassment (even hallucinations). In the engineering bay example 1) You can stop building it (press 'T') when it has around 790 HP, and 2) right before they destroy it you can cancell it and get 97 minerals back. It will most also probably cause mutating some zerglings, which brings down the drone count. Perfectly valid harass IMHO.
    – Carlo
    Dec 29, 2010 at 0:43
  • You are cutting a worker and 100 minerals (50 for the worker, 50 for the bay), this forces him to get down a normal Pool and create Zerglings which you can't build extra counter units for. This doesn't distract the opponent or make him overreact... Isn't that better spent on an OC, 2 Refineries or an extra Rax? Dec 29, 2010 at 1:38
  • Good point on the Banshees, it didn't work for me before due to distraction/scout/timing. But I just realize I could pre-build a Tech Lab on my Rax/Fact and then swap later to get the Banshee out faster... :-) Dec 29, 2010 at 1:48

Almost a year passed since I've asked the question. From my current experience I could answer myself.

you early pressure goal (on high level, at least platinum) is not to decline the expansion (or something like this). It is just to distract your opponent and force him to do unplanned things (pull workers from mineral lines to destroy the bunker, force to build early zerlings, spawning crawlers, etc).

Another way of good early harassment are reactored hellions:

On the ground they have pretty similar speed to lings/bannelings, on the creep - they still can do a solid damage if microed properly.

  • Correct. As with every form of pressure you can't expect to just win, it however does put your opponent behind in supply/eco if performed right. Please note that TvZ has seen a lot of Mech play lately, defensive bunker(s) are build at the wall to prevent an early push while you go aggressive with your hellions which allows you to go Marine/Medivacs drops against expanding Zerg, Marine/Tank/Thor to push the front, Marauder/Hellion/Raven to do some nasty play (placing turrets against the mineral patches) or whatever makes you counter your opponent's plan that you scouted with your hellions... Oct 24, 2011 at 3:32
  • Whatever you decide to do, keeping the pressure up is vital. Have your Zerg opponent on the tip of his toes... Oct 24, 2011 at 3:34

I can offer a little bit of extra advice. Depending on your level of gameplay, you could try a Gas Steal.

To do this, place a Refinery on the Zerg opponent's geyser. Don't build it up all the way, because you will want to cancel it later. (To get your money back.) Give it as much HP as possible to delay as long as possible.

You can also use this same concept with the natural expansion. Build something up in the way, and cancel it at the last second for maximum delay. It could give you enough time to tech up or mass up and win the game. (Scouting must be done super early for this to work though. You have to know where the opponent is ASAP!

  • This is tmo a bad advice, the zerg only need one vespene until tier 2 so blocking one gas is useless
    – Eric
    Jan 25, 2011 at 1:25
  • I at least think that the blocking of the natural expansion is useful. I use it often.
    – Ian Cordle
    Jan 25, 2011 at 11:34
  • This is useless: Your opponent will be able to take it down before he even needs it, he will also be able to just take another refinery. Gas steals are designed to be used against a gas intensive race or build, to steer your opponent temporarily in a less gas intensive path. This has no effect against Zerg, while it does have some effect against a teching Terran/Protoss. This does work for an expansion though, but it might make your wall finish later and you have less minerals as you sacrifice both a worker and building if he scouts it. Oct 24, 2011 at 3:48
  • You're flat out wrong. Zerg is as gas heavy as any other race. Mutalisks are impossible to get without all gas, and gas steals are not just about taking gas, it's about getting vision, and delaying gas. The pros do it for a reason.
    – Ian Cordle
    Nov 16, 2011 at 20:39

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