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Island maps don't have direct land access between towns -- depending on the map's
tileset, start spots and expansions are surrounded by water, magma or space. Good
examples of this kind of map are Island Hop, Dire Straits and Solar Station. Another
kind of "island" is a plateau, such as the one found on Green Valleys.
Some maps that have land access between start spots also have one or more island
expansions (such as A Bridge Too Near, Killing Fields, Lost Temple, Challenger, and many
others). The following tips apply to games on island maps. Some of the tips
may also help on land maps with island expansions.
- Air power rules island maps -- control the skies and you have a great advantage, because
the enemy cannot easily expand to a new island or invade one of yours. If you keep
him stuck on one island he will eventually run out of resources. Meanwhile you can
freely expand all over the map.
- The Zerg early game generally goes one of two directions (mutalisks or a quick invasion
drop), but both directions require an early lair upgrade. Use a build
order that yields an early lair. Once you have the lair you can get a spire and
the ventral sacs upgrade.
- Mutalisks are the Zerg's main tool for most island games. They require a lot of
gas, they are not very tough and they do little damage -- so do not use them for a direct
assault on a defended position. However they are fairly speedy and they excel in
many roles: blockading enemy coastlines, chasing down transports, recon of unoccupied
islands, squashing expansion attempts, protecting guardians, defending new expansions, and
covering overlords as they unload troops. Mutalisks are indispensable in island
games -- devote most of your gas to their production. Keep them in one or two large
groups near the enemy islands (but out of range of turrets, templars and defilers), with a
few overlords and queens. Use individual mutalisks to patrol the remainder of the
map. When the patrollers locate a transport or an air force, send the big group in
for the kill.
- An early drop can be effective on maps with large starting islands (such as Dire
Straits) that have a good 'landing zone' out of view of the main town. Zerglings are
a good bet for the invasion because they cost no gas and they can be made quickly.
Make sure you scout the landing zone first, as you may arrive to find it loaded with
missile turrets, photon cannons or hydralisks.
- An early expansion is a great boon, so do it as soon as you have ventral sacs.
Expansions don't cost any gas, so they won't hurt your mutalisk output; on the contrary,
the new gas mines you open up will help your air power immensely. If you already
have a decent air force, you can probably get one or two expansions going early on without
much trouble. If you are blockading the enemy, he is desperately trying to get his
own transports through your mutalisk net and he isn't trying to find your
expansions. Put up a few spore colonies on your expansions for detection and air
defense. The colonies plus your air forces will make it tough for the enemy to hurt
your expansions too much.
- Use overlords and mutalisks for recon. At all times, you want to know who or what
is on every island. In the early stages, set mutalisks patrolling over expansion
sites. In the midgame, get an overlord sitting at each expansion site to expose any
cloakers. Use your airforce to keep observers and burrowers away from the expansions
once they are exposed.
- Use nydus canals to connect your bases. Use them to ferry drones and defenders
from mined-out towns to new expansions. Against another zerg, try the offensive
nydus attack by putting a nydus exit in a parasited town. For best results, use a
diversionary attack to keep attention away from the base you are nydusing.
- Queens are incredibly useful in island games. Make several (five to ten) and keep
them near your mutalisks or at the edges and corners of the map. Parasite a few
workers in each enemy town. Make sure you also parasite important enemy units:
battlecruisers, templars, arbiters, scouts, wraiths, mutalisks, guardians and especially
dropships and shuttles. If you have enough queens building up mana, you can keep up
a steady stream of parasites and still have plenty of mana for ensnaring enemy air forces
and broodlinging tanks and templars.
- Likewise, defilers can really make a difference on islands. They make great base
defenders -- plague can really hammer an attacking air force, and dark swarm makes
defending hydras impervious to air attacks. Defilers are also good with an invasion
force. Keep them burrowed while the build up mana, pop them up to plague or swarm,
then reburrow them immediately.
- Hydras don't dominate island maps like they do land. However, they make great base
defenders. Deny the enemy a landing zone by putting groups of hydras at the edges of
your islands where spore colonies can't reach. They also work well in transports
with zerglings -- they don't compete for attacking space with the lings, and they provide
some anti-air power as well. The hydralisk range upgrade is more useful on islands
than the speed upgrade is.
- Guardians have the usual role of game-ender. However, since island games are so
air-focused, it is often difficult to adequately protect guardians from enemy scouts,
wraiths, battlecruisers, etc. It's very important to parasite the enemy's air force
before attacking with guardians. Use a diversionary attack (perhaps a few mutalisks
or a couple of sacrificial guardians) to get the enemy air forces as far from your
guardians as possible. Try to ensnare the enemy if possible (send a queen in with
the diversion). Hit gas-mining buildings or coast defenses with the main guardian
force, and run away when the enemy arrives, sending in your mutalisks and scourge to
battle the enemy air force (but not in range of enemy ground forces). Also, watch
out for enemy templar -- broodling them before the attack.
- The upgrade picture is different on island maps. The spire's air-power upgrades
are very valuable, as are the queen and defiler spells (especially plague, broodling,
ensnare, and extra mana). Burrowing is essential for hiding defilers as well as the
usual saving of drones under attack. Hydralisk range, plus overlord transporting,
speed and sight are all very useful. Zergling and hydra speed, and ground-unit
attack and carapace upgrades are not so valuable on islands.
- When playing against Terrans, watch out for an early flying command center. Patrol
vigorously with mutalisks to prevent this cheap early expansion. Terrans can build
turrets very quickly so it is important to pounce on new expansions immediately.
Science vessels (irradiate) and battlecruisers (general toughness) can be a problem;
parasite these units immediately. Use scourge on the vessels and devourers on the
- Versus the Protoss, extra attention should be paid to templar. Psi storm is the
bane of all mutalisk clumps, so keep yours out of range. Parasite and broodling all
templar mercilessly. Plague is not as effective on scouts because it does not affect
shields, but since the protoss cannot heal or repair it is definitely worth doing.
Also remember that a single probe can get a well-defended expansion going in no time, so
jump on new expansions as quickly as possible.
- Against the zerg, the biggest factor is usually the race for mutalisks. But watch
out for a nydus attack. Broodling any defilers you see -- parasite some overlords to
spot the burrowed ones. Plague devastates the zerg, so use defilers to defend your
bases against mutalisks. If your units get parasited, move them to the side or out
of the way. If many of your units are parasited, separate the parasited from the
non-parasited troops. The parasited army is ideal for diversionary attacks.
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