Nukes in Starcraft 2 are definitely one of the coolest and underused Terran abilities in the game. This could be because of their high cost due to the tech it takes to get access to them. But if you're looking to have some fun with your opponents, using these nuke strategies can be a great way to overwhelm them. Hearing "Nuclear Launch Detected" is a dreadful thing in the midst of a heated battle.
First a little background. Nukes are much easier to get in Starcraft 2 than in the original, as you had to get a Command Center with a certain add on and higher tech. In SC 2 all you need to get nukes is a Ghost Academy.
A nuke will do 300 damage (500 to structures) where it lands, then the damage will lessen as it goes out to it's huge splash radius of range 8. This means it will take out most units that get caught in the blast and heavily damage buildings. It takes 20 seconds for your Ghost to call down the nuke so make sure he's cloaked or protected.
Also note that you will see a giant red target where your nuke is going to land, but your opponent will only see a small red dot.
If you are going to launch more than one nuke during the game, it's essential to get Cloak for your ghosts so they can sneak into weak locations.
Medivac + Ghost Distraction Strategy
This is a great way to get a nuke off on your opponents base when he's not paying attention. Load up a Ghost into a Medivac, and take the long route to the back of your opponent's base. Try to land the Ghost somewhere that is out of sight and get ready to launch your Nuke.
Now create a diversion with a head on attack on your opponent's base. Don't just run in and get slaughtered though, if he has more units than you just keep him busy by attacking and backing off, so he constantly has to micro his units. Siege Tanks are a great asset here, as you can siege them up and then poke in with Hellions and Marines, then drag back opposing forces into your Siege Tanks range.
Remember, the whole point here is to keep him focused on his army and fighting you off.
While you're doing all this, Cloak your Ghost and head in to the back of his base. Launch a Nuke at the most vulnerable location you can find. A single nuke will take out Supply Depots and Pylons (and Overlords, but they can move), if your opponent massed these buildings in one spot it's a prime location for a nuke.
Alternatively, if the base is actively mining, target the Nexus directly. If the nuke lands and he doesn't move his workers out of the way, then you'll kill all of them (except those in Refineries) and greatly damage his economy.
Many players will get greatly intimidated when they hear "Nuclear Launch Detected" and start frantically looking around for the little red dot. Most will assume that your Ghost is with your army (as long as he didn't spot your Medivac) and will therefore move their army back into their base to be sure it doesn't get taken out. You can use this opportunity to move your tanks up into a better position.
The "Endless Nukes" Strategy
This strategy will have you casting more than one nuke (a lot more) and causing your opponent to get confused and overwhelmed. What you'll need to accomplish this is Medivacs, Ghosts, and more than one Ghost Academy. This is more of a late game strategy, as it will take quite a few resources, and the bigger your opponent's base the better.
Make sure you have a couple Barracks with Tech Labs available to train Ghosts from, and build yourself 2-3 Ghost Academies. Build a nuke in each one and make sure that Cloak and the Moebius Reactor upgrade are both researched. Now load up some of your Ghosts into separate Medivacs and take them around the map to find vulnerable locations in your opponent's base.
Look for areas without detection where you could sneak a cloaked Ghost in behind enemy lines to call down a nuke. Be on the lookout for expansions that aren't very well protected or are near a cliff like on Kulas Ravine and Lost Temple. Perching a Ghost on a cliff to nuke a base is a great location.
Once you have 2-3 nukes ready you have 2 options, you can either cast them all at the same time or one at a time. Here's the advantages of each:
- Calling down 3 nukes at one time will freak your opponent out, and even if he is somehow able to spot them all, he won't be able to detect and kill your Ghosts in time to stop them. And chances are that he won't be able to find them all in time, which means the one that lands will do terrible, terrible damage.
- Your second option is to call nukes down one after another. It takes 20 seconds to cast a nuke, and 60 seconds to make a new one, which means you can call down a nuke every 20 seconds for the rest of the game if you have 3 Ghost Academies and enough resources. Keep sending Ghosts out to different locations and keep Nuking to overwhelm your opponent. All the pressure will likely make him to make hasty decisions and mis-managing his army.
Nukes can be a very powerful ability if deployed right by a skilled Terran player. Try out some of these strategies and let me know how it goes!
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