Zerg versus Protoss: Aiurs Armageddon
Part 2 of the guide about the midgame:
This is the last of the Zerg versus X series. You might have read the versus Zerg and versus Terran guides before this one. If you haven't, these guides are basically match up wide guides describing what timings I know, what plan I have when I go into the game and what things to focus on.
These guides take a long long time to make. To put in perspective, ZvZ took roughly 3 weeks with all the coding and writing. ZvT took less time at two weeks. This is a lot of time invested in bringing you these guides basically for free as I don't see the need to place ads on the site that won't interrest you. So if one of you kind souls wants to make it all worth it and donate a tiny itsy bit of money to my paypal ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) I would be the happiest person on the planet. With that out of the way, enjoy reading my third huge guide.
Zerg and Protoss, both tangled in a vile dance of hatred and whining. The Zerg have been crying imbalance about the Protoss since the dawn of time, while the Protoss have lately picked up that trait after the Infestor got his rightful buff. Perhaps the most discussed match up in the game, and the most frustrating on both sides ( oh wait PvP ololol, suck it Protoss ).
You might have to outplay your opponent, but don't complain about it and rather just go and outplay him. I don't care if he is MC or Naniwa or that high masters Protoss, just make crushing him your goal and one day you will become the one who is impossible to outplay.
Although it might be the most frustrating and weird match up as Zerg, you should always keep a cool head. Rage is your biggest enemy as it messes up your concentration by a lot. Just remember, with every loss you face, another Zerg will step up to mess him up. GG with pride and point your rage into a hot spike of concentration in the next game. If life really gets you down, just remember that he will have to play PvP. That often cheers me up.
Table of content
- Dissecting Protoss lategame
- Early game
- The first encounter
- Probe blocking
- Drone Juggle
- Hatch first vs a Cannon rush
- Double proxy gateway rush
- Four gate
- Stargate Three gateway rush
- Twilight rush - Blink and Dark templar
- Hatch first specific pressures
- Gateway first macro builds
- Early upgrades
- Forge Fast expands
- Gateway expands
- Forcefields and rules of engagement
- Doom drops
- Zergling run by
- Baneling drops
- Forge fe stargate play
- Two base collosus voidray
- Midgame styles
- Late game
Dissecting Protoss lategame
This mechanic gives the Protoss the ability to warp in units into pylon power. This means if he has 12 warp gates, he can build 12 units in a wave near any pylon. That pylon could be on the battlefield, in the protoss' base, in your base, and actually into Mordor. Because warp gates don't care where the hay they need to warp.
But the biggest strength of the Warp gate mechanic in the lategame is its ability to save up build time. You know when you are supply blocked and you can't make any units, and your units have to go through the entire production to be built after your supply block is lifted? Well the Warp gate mechanic actually saves up the build time even during a supply block, which gives the Protoss the ability to warp units on the map in 5 seconds whenever the block is lifted.
However, let's look at the big supply block at the end of the game. When you reach 200/200. You cannot build any units here, but the warp gates will continiue on saving the build time up. Which essentially means that if the Protoss is maxed and just saves up minerals and gas and builds a ton of warp gates, he will be able to instantly reinforce his push. Giving him an even better reinforcement mechanic for raw numbers in the lategame than the Zerg.
Protoss' area of effect damage, there is a lot of it. The High Templar storm does 80 damage in a 1.5 radius area over the timespan of 4 seconds. And though this can be dodged, it still forces us to retreat which gives him free pot shots and the first hit when we decide to turn around again.
The Archon, which can be morphed from two High Templars, two Dark Templars or one High and one Dark templar, does a very small radius AoE attack. But it still does 35 damage to all of our units . Meaning it can one-shot a Zergling if there are no upgrades on either side. It also doesn't die ever, because the Blizzard staff decided that giving it 350 shields that regenerate quickly if they are out of combat would make it pretty balanced ( no bitterness here T_T ).
Lastly, the Collosus. This guy does 30 damage with each swipe of his lasers and gets the ability to deepfry a Zergling in one volley when it gets to +2 ground weapons. Although only limited to ground, the Collosus is fine with incinerating everything that lives there, he doesn't really mind the Overlords and the woodpeckers much.
In other words, Protoss AoE is pretty good. And in the lategame this becomes nigh unstoppable when combined with one another.
Now you Protoss players will be all 'Oh come on! You can't just call all of our stuff imbalanced!' when you read this. But frankly, this needs to be said.
The Voidray does not have a natural enemy in the Zerg army. Of course it will die when it is outnumbered by Hydralisks and flies right into them. But seriously, you can make Zerglings counter Ultralisks by the same logic. Mutalisks don't kill a large flock of Voidrays cost-effectively, nor do Corruptors. Hydralisks will die because of the AoE dealers, and fungal will only work if they are clumped up. A large armada of Voidrays will be nigh impossible to deal with once the Protoss has enough bases and Gateway armies with AoE to protect them. And since they deal with Ultralisks and Broodlords so well, you won't be able to win because you are forced on lair tech units.
If we read through all of this, we can essentially note that the Protoss as a whole is better in EVERY ASPECT in the lategame. Their 300 food push is better, their units are more cost-effective and they have more strong Area of Effect dealers than Zerg has. Basically, lategame Protoss is bullshit. Accept the reality and deal with it.
Now that we know that our endless tears of grief have all been justified, we need to look at this match up a little differently than we would normally play. Zerg can't lean on their sheer numbers and strong reinforcements in the lategame like they would in ZvZ or ZvT, Protoss defence is simply too good. But what if we design our gameplan around the early and midgame?
Well Protoss certainly can't reinforce with 20 Gateways in the midgame, or have Collosus with High templars and voidrays backing them up. Meanwhile we can still rely on our strong hatch tech units to deal the damage. This may seem alien to a macro player, but in Zerg versus Protoss, you have to rely on an extremely robust midgame to carry you a win. So let's start with something that will hurt your brain.
Economy comes second to aggression
'Woah there son, I can't play without my 15 drone lead!' you might protest, but the sooner you start learning that your aggression needs to be top notch the better. Your macro will follow suit and you will still get economic leads, just not in the mass droning way like in ZvT or ZvZ.'Where is that bloody attack? I'm not seeing any pressure. Stop picking your nose! You aren't paid to drone!'
The safer your aggression is, the better your scouting options are and the better your lead will be. I would rather have killed off a mid game army, be on 2 bases vs 2 bases and have 5 more drones than have three bases with 15 more drones when the Protoss is on three bases too. And that is what passivity allows the Protoss to do, get a quick third and leverage the game into the red zone lategame. This is what you are trying to prevent at all costs, so get your macro advantage in a different way.
Delay everything Protoss
Here's another one to remember. Because we want to have no lategame, we have to extend the midgame. The best way of suspending the Protoss in a early or midgame style is to delay everything he has and play according to the delays.
Simple things such as delaying the Cybernetics core with a scouting drone will help tremendously in dealing with Protoss. Delaying pushes, or delaying expansions gives you the time required to get out a large force or drone up a little. We can compare it to the game Majora's Mask, where the world will get destroyed in three days. But Link acquires the tools to travel back a short period of time, which is basically what a good delay does, give you more time to prepare for the assault.
The map is your anvil, you are the hammer
Protoss is very strong behind a protective wall. Cannons will aid in holding off attacks and detect while the buildings will prevent flanking and surrounding. The forcefields won't allow the Zerglings to attack the Protoss units or buildings either, and the whole enviroment is basically anti-zerg.
A Protoss player out on the map in the midgame is a huge weakness for him. He cannot forcefield as effectively in the open, his Zealots aren't as cost effective and the whole army is surroundable.
Don't try to just hold against a Protoss, you need to CRUSH midgame attacks. Zerg is so strong out in the open when flanking correctly, that you cannot focus on just defending, but rather how strong your attack will be after you hold the pressure off.
There are a couple of ways to lure the Protoss out of his protective shell. One of them is appear weak, this can be done by not showing your forces or burrowing them if you notice phoenixes or hallucinations scouting you. Another way is to put pressure on the Protoss by expanding quickly, this will put a lot of psychological pressure on him and make him think that he needs to move out or face extinction by the hands of a million Zerg units. A last one that I really like is again to delay expansions, which basically gets the Protoss into a desperation mode. If he can't feel comfortable with his economy or tech, he will feel further and further behind and force him to move out and attack you.
Attack from multiple angles
BIG pointer that will help you in every engagement. If you want to improve your cost-effectiveness against the Protoss, you have to attack from multiple sides. Don't just put everything on one hotkey or move it all into a wall. Your units are much faster than the Protoss so you can do this stuff, so do it!
Personally I have my Zerglings and Roaches on different hotkeys, I keep my Zerglings around the Protoss army and sometimes split them up in different little groups. I engage with my Roaches and as soon as he starts laying down forcefiels I move the Zerglings in from all the different flanks that I have laid out. In the best case, the Protoss will panic and just put down a lot of forcefields. If the Protoss is safe from getting crushed, simply move back knowing that you have atleast traded forcefield energy ( which is worth a ton in my book ) which makes his follow up push a lot less threatening.
This also goes for attacking into the Protoss' natural. Use most of your forces to attack the forces but always grab a few of them and move up into the main or snipe a pylon or Gateway with them. This will give you guaranteed damage when trading an army might not be as good straight up.
Your gameplan overall should be revolving around denying his third base. If you keep that as a benchmark, you can develop builds that can be very devastating against Protoss when they are still in their midgame army.
The early game of Zerg versus Protoss is probably the hardest thing for a lower level Zerg. Builds such as the 4 gate, 3 gate sentry pressure, 3gate stargate and DT rushes are hard to deal with if you haven't gotten a feel for scouting and Zergling control yet. But as time goes by and your skill develops, the early game of ZvP will be the least of your worries. Infact, you will actually smile when a Protoss decides to 4gate you.
The first thing you have to do is decide how you open. There are two safe openings for Zerg, both of which are completely different styles and different outcomes of the game. The first is the very safe, much beloved speedling expand.
9 - Overlord
14 - Extractor
14 - Spawning pool
16 - Overlord
16 - Zergling Speed
16 - Queen
18 - a pair of Zerglings, two pair if the Protoss put down a pylon.
19 or 20 supply - Drone, send it at the natural expansion. With that drone you build a hatchery, with Zerglings backing it up.
This is the safest opening you can execute. This build gets the tech for Zerglings and Spine crawlers out soon enough that you can defend proxy gates, cannon rushes and pylon blocks with ease. It also gets the Zergling speed and other gas tech much faster than the second build does. However the biggest let down of this style is that you cannot delay a Nexus without going all in. The second big downside is that although you get your Zerglings out fast, you still cannot pressure a forge fast expand with them and you won't be able to penetrate a Zealot with buildings wall off cost-effectively.
It is the faster gas tech that you need to build on to get your advantage. This means that your Lair could be faster, or you could get a faster +1 attack upgrade. What upgrades to get will be explained slightly later in this guide, for the sake of clarity between the two openings.
Now that we have a safe opening, we need another one that is slightly trickier to perform and requires some cojones to pull off. I am talking about the Hatch first build.
9 - Overlord
13 - Build drone and rally it to the natural
Just before the drone spawns, select three drones and send them to the natural too.
14 - Hatchery
15 - Spawning pool
16 - Extractor.
17 - Overlord
There will be some sceptisism here, mostly in the form of our beloved cannon rush. Stop whining about that stuff and learn to really deal with it meticulously. I lost about 8 games to cannon rushes straight when I was first doing this style, but I kept going and eventually nailed the defence multiple times. If you don't want to hatch first anyhow, I want you to stand in front of the mirror, look yourself straight in the eyes and say this „ I am a Zerg and I am afraid to death of cannon rushes” . Nobody has ever gotten any more skilled by fearing cannon rushes, and the stronger your early and midgame mechanics are, the better your chances are to come out ahead in this match up. So quit complaining and get to work.
This build however can get you ahead in multiple ways if you face a Gateway opening. The Protoss will feel pressured to expand or put on pressure, but they will feel some itching feeling to do either and try to not get behind in economy. If they decide for some kind of pressure in the form of early zealots or stalkers, this can delay his expand or send him through a particular predictable path. Whereas a Protoss that wants to expand might do that too quickly and leave huge holes in their defences for your Zerglings to exploit.
If they decide to go for a safe Three gate expand, they face the possibility to get behind on economy if you power drones behind some Spine crawlers. So whatever option the Protoss chooses, there will always be some calculated risk to it. This might make the Protoss uneasy with his play or the rest of the game.
Scouting against Protoss is a very complicated and thought intensive process. You have to account for hidden tech, timings, chronoboosts, pylon count... the whole lot. As a Protoss you might feel safe with your private information, but even your forcefields and privaty settings won't stop us from seeing your plans atleast vaguely.
The first building block of succesfully scouting Protoss is sending out a scouting drone. Personally I have adapted to sending out one at 10 supply across all match ups so I can check all the timings. This drone won't always get the base scouted right away, but combined with your Overlord you will have a 66% chance of success of scouting him with the drone or the Overlord. Which seem like pretty good odds to me.
The first thing you will see is the placement of the very first pylon. This is the first indication of a build divergiance in Protoss play. If the pylon is placed on top of the ramp or near the first choke, then the Protoss will most likely open with a Gateway opening. Is it in or near the natural, then the highest probability is a Forge Expand. Both of these options completely revamp your game plan around so this is the first clue in how you should play.
Of course, if we don't scout a pylon in his base, you should start looking around your position carefully. The absence of a pylon will often indicate a proxy Gateway opening, which requires immediate responses.Forge expand
There are a couple of different Forge expands, which delay things dynamically. This is especially important for when you are going Hatch first. For example, a Nexus first will delay the forge, which delays the possibility to build cannons for some time. Whereas a forge planted before the Nexus will have the oppertunity to build cannons much faster.
A forge before nexus opens the road for cannon rushes. So it is very important to have a drone scouting when buildings get thrown down in their natural. If the probe is not around the spot where the nexus will be planted or there are no cannons being built, it is of utmost importance to know where his scouting probe is. You don't want to get cannon rushed without you knowing about it. If you see a Nexus going down after the forge or even after a forge-cannon, you can be quite sure that if there is a cannon rush coming, that it is delayed for some time.
Still, if you go for a Hatch first opening, you need to have your eyes on the scouting probe at all times. And if you don't know his build yet ( Gateway or Forge ) you should always follow it with a drone to make sure any sneakiness is scouted immediately. I will show you how to deal with cannon rushes as Hatch first later.
The biggest delay in this case is the delay of tech. Because so many buildings precede the first Gateway and thus the cybernetics core, every other tech choice is delayed by a ton. Going Mutalisks opens up a huge timing for 6 gate pushes, but those 6 gate push timings are quite delayed when the Protoss player opens up with a Forge expand. This can make a tech choice like Mutalisks much easier to perform. assimilators are delayed also, as the need for gas isn't there in the early game for a Forge expand. Which can also hamper a tech choice such as Dark Templar, which come quite late if the Protoss delays his gas.
This opening is the most versatile in terms of pressure that the Protoss can put back onto you. But this is great for you, because a quick push is exactly what you are looking for. This is where you can get ahead, take all the mapcontrol and open up a ton of oppertunities for yourself for pressure.
If you are going for Hatch first though, the Protoss won't always follow up with a Cybernetics core. Infact, the hatchery might instill him to put on some early pressure in the form of a two gate opening. The second Gateway will be put down during or right after the first Gateway finishes, and both of them will recieve multiple chronoboosts. So the things you should scout for is if the second Gateway goes down, if a gas is even started and how much chronoboost is saved up on the nexus.
Checking on how much Chronoboost the Protoss has saved up in the early game can be a big tell on what build they are going for. For example, if the Protoss has decided to save up around 75 energy on his nexus before the Cybernetics core is finished, you can be really sure that he will be chronoboosting the warp gate research by a ton. This is a huge tell on a Four gate opening.
Saving chronoboost up after the Cybernetics core is finished can indicate a stargate opening or another opening that relies on a single building. Saving up no chronoboost at all is a big tell that the Protoss is going for something that cannot be sped up such as buildings. A huge tell for Dark Templars which require buildings rather than tech to be made. At the same time the Warp gate research doesn't have to be chronoboosted because the tech takes so long to build, so it has no need to be online so quick.
With the current build time for Warp gate at 160, every time the Protoss spends a Chronoboost on the Cybernetics core it will reduce the upgrade time by 10 seconds. At a maximum amount of 5 Chronoboosts where the research will be finished 50 seconds sooner than normal. With this Chronoboost counting we can see how fast the Protoss wants the Warp gate finished, which can be a big tell on how eager they are to put on aggression.
Energy regenerates at 0.5625 per ingame second. The easiest way to calculate this is having increments of 80 seconds. Every 80 ingame seconds the Nexus will have recieved 45 energy. By this metric, the Protoss can have the following amounts of Chronoboosts with each 80 seconds.
Using this table we can count how much Chronoboosts can be spent at each moment in the early game. So with each Chronoboost we notice on a Gateway or a Cybernetics core, we can calculate how much Chronoboosts are left for probes or for other tech like Stargates.
Every Protoss loves them, and everyone including the Protoss hate them. Hidden pylons are a thorn in any players eye, and everyone of these should be dealt with like a cancer. Who knows what these pylons will build? They could power a Stargate, a Twilight council with a Dark shrine or warp in a million Protoss units. Pylon hunting is an amazing skill to have in the early and the midgame. And when succesful, the Protoss can be dismantled like a small infant if you kill off an important proxy pylon.
The second pylon is placed right before the Cybernetics core gets put down. If this pylon isn't in your vision when the Cybernetics core is building, you should look around carefully inside his base or natural. If you don't find this pylon, this can be the first proxy pylon of the game.
Your base and natural should be the easiest to keep clean of any pylon dirt. You can use your Overlords to put at the edge of the high ground in your main and natural. This also gives you sight of the edges of your base which could give you information about a sneaky manoeuvre. If you are looking for a proxy pylon in the early game, just send a drone around the edges.
The rest of the map is where other proxy pylons can be placed. Really, that's your situation. The best way to scan the map is to just send a Zergling or two around the edges of the map. Check inside all the smoke areas, that's where most of the proxy stuff is placed. The middle of the map is the easiest to scout, since there will most often be a Xel'Naga Tower which reveals a huge area around it. Far away or uncommon to take bases are also a favourite to put proxy buildings. In general, the place where you least expect it is where the pylons will be placed.
Reinforcement pylons however are generally placed in the line or attack between his bases and his push. These are harder to pick off as they have a lot of units protecting them, but taking these out can make a push a lot less scary as you stop the Protoss from reinforcing right there.
The reason I call this section gasematics is that you will have to do a little math to check how much gas is spent during any moment in time, or how much is saved up. This is quite simple in the early game, but gets exponentially harder the longer the game goes on.
The simplest way of gasematics is to check how many assimilators go down. Or when these assimilators go down. You can calculate how much gas they will have at any moment in time given that they use three probes to mine from it if you know when the assimilator finishes.
The hard part about gasematics is counting the amount of gas coming in. This practice isn't accurate 100 percent of the time but it can alert you if something fishy is going on. One gas geyser brings in roughly 120 gas each minute if it is fully saturated. Let's say a Protoss starts an assimilator at 2:45, the assimilator will finish at 3:15 and at 4:15 the Protoss will have 120 gas. This requires a lot of mental checknotes on timings. But like in Quake Live, learning the timings will give you a lot more control over the game.
The most common assimilator timing is around 15 supply. This comes down to roughly 2:10 ingame time. As the assimilator finishes around 2:40, it will give a continious stream of around 120 gas with each passing minute. So at 8:40, the assimilator will have been mined for give or take 720 gas. You really just need to learn the multiples of 120, this is a table going up to 10.
Of course, a Protoss that isn't going for a Four gate rush will get up two assimilators to have a good enough gas income for a reasonable amount tech or sentries. These assimilators won't always be synched up when they are built, but they are normally taken in quick succession. To make matters easier you can just start calculating from when the second assimilator finishes. Sure it won't make the calculations perfect, but we only need to get a rough idea. Being 30 gas off won't really make that much of a difference.
The multiples of 120 gas times two assimilators is 240, the calculation table is below and again goes up to 10 minutes.
If the Protoss takes a fairly early Gateway, that is a 12 gate, that if timed correctly with a probe stationed at the site where it has to be put down, it will go down at 1:46. And with the build time of 65 this will make the Gateway finish at 2 minutes and 51 seconds. The Cybernetics core can be started right now if the probe is placed at the site already, making it finish at 3:41. These timings are crucial if you want to know when things can come at your way, and in combination with gasematics will give you an enormous insight to the Protoss.
We'll take 3:41 as the overall benchmark for having the Cybernetics core finished by then. In this part we will also have two assimilators finished at 2:40 as our gas benchmark. This will obviously mean that we will prepare for some timings slightly earlier, but that won't really matter all that much because if we are prepared for a one base push 10 seconds earlier, we'll still be safe.
With our benchmark of 3:41, we can simply add the build times of the other buildings up to it to get all the timings for tech. For example, the Twilight council takes 50 seconds to build and the Dark shrine takes 100 seconds to build. With our benchmark, we can tell that when the Cybernetics core finishes that the Protoss will have 240 gas to spend. 100 of which will go to the Twilight council and 50 of which will go to warp gate, leaving them with 90 gas left. When the council finishes at 4:31 the Protoss will have mined around 200 gas more.
The Dark shrine will soak up 250 of that gas, which leaves the Protoss with 40 gas left. This means that the Protoss cannot build a sentry during the time where he is waiting for the council to finish because it will make the DT's come out later. The biggest amount the Protoss can spare is a Stalker which costs 50 gas, or a second Zealot which costs no gas at all but makes everything very suspicious. Adding the build time of the Dark shrine to 4:31, the time when the council finishes, will give us the time when the first Dark Templar are buildable; 6:11. An additional 400 gas will be mined by then, which is enough for 3 DT's if the Protoss hasn't built ANY sentries whatsoever.
This is pretty much the QUICKEST Dark Templar rush possible and is very scoutable with a Zergling going up the ramp to check the units. Normally the DT games I face they show up at roughly 6:45. So now we have our first timing, if we smell something fishy is up gas wise and we don't know what is coming we can start a Spore crawler slightly past the 6 minute mark and have detection in a large radius in your natural past the 6:30 mark. If detection goes down, the DT's will do no damage whatsoever, completely dismantling his build and leaving him with no prospect of pressure OR mapcontrol in the coming minutes.
Let's take another example, the Robotics facility. 4:46 is the quickest timing it can finish. A quick robo build will also have 90 gas left when it gets put down. And the Protoss will have mined 240 more gas during that time ( 330 gas in total ). The Protoss can decide on the following options, Two Sentries and an Immortal, two Sentries and an Observer, or one Robotics bay with one Sentry. Nowadays these builds are very rare as they are fairly gimmicky, but you can see how limited the Protoss is on gas with their tech builds. By the way, with these timings a Collosus can be started at 5:51 and it will soak up pretty much all the gas at 200 gas a piece. Which leaves the Protoss only able to make a few Stalkers or Zealots. He simply cannot afford to make a lot of sentries because it will limit his Collosus production.
As a final building example, we can take the Stargate. The stargate can finish at 4:41 given our benchmarks, but the most interresting is that it costs 150 gas. At the moment of starting the stargate, the Protoss will only have 40 gas left unless he doesn't research warp gate. Which means he only has enough gas to start a Stalker. The voidray also costs a whopping 150 gas, and if the Protoss wants to start it as soon as possible that will only leave him at 80 gas. Which can't pay for a Sentry just yet, a second Stalker however is no big issue. If the Protoss wants it to be less suspicious he will delay the Voidray a tad by building a sentry. But again, this delays the Voidray which is a key unit in a Stargate rush.
If the Protoss only has one gas though, what can he do once the Cybernetics core finishes? Well he will have only 120 gas, enough for warp gate and a Stalker. Any other tech simply is too expensive to afford, not even a lot of Sentries is possible. This leaves the Protoss at the fun fun build, the Four gate rush.
As we can see, gasematics is a powerful tool to use if you want to fiddle around with the limited amount of scouting information you are provided. We can even reverse engineer this concept and see how much assimilators the Protoss has taken just by looking at their units. But this practice is often unneccesary, as you need to scout the front and their natural assimilators anyway.
That concludes the early game scouting. Onto the next part, the first encounter.
The first encounterYour biggest nemesis is appearing on the horizon
The scouting probe is probably the first sight of the Protoss on the map that you will see. And this also has to be overanalyzed, because this guide doesn't strive to be anything simple.
Your second Overlord should always be in your natural, hovering just in sight of the ramp. The scouting probe will most often move up the ramp, and it will use the shortest road there. This means the probe will always make a corner around the edges of the outerwall of the ramp. Having an Overlord in sight of that little edge of the ramp will give you the most view of the natural while still being in range of a scouting probe moving into your base.
Now, for the safe Pool first opening, this probe usually isn't an issue. Only if the probe seems very very early ( the probe usually gets sent out after the 9 pylon, so anything right after 9 supply is fishy ) will it indicate that the Protoss might be proxying some Gateways.
However, if you see it arriving at a relatively standard or late time, the probe can only be slightly annoying to you. The worst it can pull off is putting a pylon in your natural which you can easily take out with your 4 spawned Zerglings and the drone that you are sending to expand. Probes really can't do much against a Pool first opening aside from some minor drone harassment otherwise.
The docile image of the probe COMPLETELY turns around when you are doing a Hatch first manoeuvre however. This little floating Rolex will make your life hell on earth. This thing has to be destroyed, beaten and killed as soon as possible. So here is my explanation of dealing with this little fellow.
Let's start at our enemy, the scouting probe. The probe has 20 health and 20 shields, which means that it can die in 8 slaps from a drone. But it also means that if left alone, the shield regeneration will give the probe an additional 4 hits to be able to tank. The scouting probe will move around your main first to check if you are doing a quick pool build. It has to check all the creep to be sure of that.
The probe has three routes to pick from: behind the mineral line, through the mineral line and around the back of the hatchery. This also gives us three different responses to make sure our expanding drone gets the time to do its bussiness.
Behind the mineral line.
For this one you have to wait a little while until the probe is past the first couple of mineral patches. When he is, grab a couple of drones to block the way back behind the mineral lines. By now you should send a drone out the natural to expand. Your goal is to delay the probe from going towards your natural and blocking you from building your hatchery.
You use your blocking drones as a sort of goalie, blocking the probe from moving back and forcing him to move through the mineral line where you can catch it, or move all the way through around the hatchery. Sometimes he will slide through the blocking drones too, but this should atleast mean it took 3 hits. You can also move the drones back towards your ramp to block there too if you think he will be sliding through your drones anyway.
Through the mineral line.
This one is a bit trickier to do, and it again requires some timing to pull off. 4 drones kill a probe in two volleys from all of them, and 4 is also the amount of drones you need to surround a probe. A surrounded probe will be twitching around trying to move, but his only chance is to slide out of the grip. If he has his attention away from the probe, he will often be too late to do this and lose the scouting probe in the process.
Most people will simply box a couple of drones and wait until the probe moves through the group before they attack and try to surround the probe. But this gives the probe the highest chance of slipping out of your grasp.
Instead, the best way to surround a probe is to wait until the probe moves past the first few mineral patches while having the outer two drones selected. When he moves past those drones, attack move and let the drones chase the probe. Quickly after that, grab some drones in front of the probe and press attack move. If you timed it correctly, you should be able to snipe the probe out or atleast inflict major damage.
If he slips away, just keep holding the probe back with a couple of drones and keep it away from the natural while your expanding drone does what he needs to do.
Around the back of the Hatchery.
This time, the Protoss can be oblivious of your plans for some time. Because he will take a long time to move his probe to the back of the creep around the hatchery, you can sneak out 4 drones to the natural without him knowing. If he isn't paying attention, your drones will slip right out of his vision. This not only gives you the element of surprise, but also time to set up your net.
Move one drone out to the natural while keeping three parked on the ramp. Try to make a wall, it won't be a full wall off, but you can atleast catch the probe and deal some damage to it. If his probe is delayed enough, your hatchery will be easily planted down.
However, the probe won't always be there as fast. It might be sent out later or just scouted your base later because his first scouting direction was wrong. In this situation you have to grab 3 drones while your expanding drone spawns and move them all to the natural. Keep one drone in the middle of the place where the hatchery has to go down. The other three drones again will serve as a way to keep the probe at bay.
You can't always be sure that you will hold back the probe though. You need to be able to juggle your drones and prevent the probe from dropping his pylon too. The pylon only needs one little hex to block the hatchery though. Whereas the hatchery needs 25 ( 5 x 5 ) in the right place to be planted down. That's why you should always try to keep a drone ahead of the probe to try and deny a pylon from going down. This whole dance is the most micro intensive thing you can do in the early game, and in the right hands it can look amazing.
The rules of this micro battle ( well, actually it's more like a beating, 4 against one you know ) are simple.
Don't just attack move. You don't want all your drones to follow the probe around because the drones will never catch up and they will never be in front of the probe to block buildings. Plus you can't really shoo him away like this.
When attacking, keep two drones selected and move them to the direction where the probe is most likely to turn. Attack move with those and grab the previous 2 drones and repeat the process. This should get you the most amount of hits in to eventually wear him down or make him leave.
The probe isn't the highest priority. If he moves behind the mineral line of the natural or away for too long, you should just put your hatch down. That's why you are microing this in the first place. So if the probe strays away for too far, simply move all your drones away in the quickest route out of the building site and put down the hatchery.
He put a pylon down! My build is ruined.. RUINED
Relax, a pylon block isn't free for the Protoss to do. The least he will lose is 25 minerals if he cancels the pylon right before it finishes. Which means it will be delayed by 25 ingame seconds at most and gives you another shot at putting the hatchery down. Otherwise he will lose a guaranteed 100 minerals in the early game which is nothing to scoff at. In addition the second he places his pylon, the probe will be stationary and make a small turn, which is the perfect timing to surround it with your drones and pin it against the wall he made himself. A small trade off to kill the scouting probe, even though it delayed your hatchery.
The first thing you should do is turn all your larva into drones. The next decision you have to make is if you just want to go for a spawning pool and kill his pylon off later, or you think he will cancel which gives you another shot at building the hatchery before your spawning pool. In both of these cases you should always put down an extractor, because you will need ling speed as soon as the pool finishes regardless.
If you decide to go for a later pool now though, just keep a drone following the probe in case it wants to do something fishy like place a cannon and move the rest of the drones back to mining. The extractor should get 2 drones mining, and when your spawning pool is coming along nicely just decide if you need a third drone on gas if you don't think the timing of 100 gas will synch up.
If you are rolling the dice and feel lucky however, you can decide to just get a gas up and put one drone inside it. This makes the drone to gas investment as little as possible while still getting it up before the spawning pool will finish. Keep attacking the pylon with the four drones while keeping an eye out if the probe is around. You won't be able to kill it off before it finishes but it will go damaged. If the pylon is canceled, the dance with the drones begins again. Do note that you want to place your hatchery down ASAP now, another probe or pylon block WILL force you to put down your spawning pool regardless. That's why this option is a little bit risky, because if you do get blocked a lot you will have a delayed spawning pool which messes up your ability to put on early pressure without going all in.
If you have to put down a spawning pool before the hatchery, simply continiue your opening as a delayed regular Pool first build with slightly more drones in the early stages. Just try to have 100 gas when the spawning pool finishes and you should have the abillity to put pressure back quite quickly.
The hatch is down!
Alright! That's our first succes, and it won't be our last. Our next objective, not getting cannon rushed. If you have scouted your opponents base, you should know what kind of build they are opting to go for. If you are not sure, assume it is a forge expand.
Defending a cannon rush with Hatch first
Cannon rushes, the reason people have started deciding that pool first is the only viable opening in Zerg versus Protoss. It is also the reason that hatch first is such a s trong build. Controversy? Perhaps, but hear me out.
Every cannon costs 150 minerals while every pylon placed at your base costs 100 minerals. The lightest cannon rush ( and the one that won't kill your hatch off ) in this form already costs 250 minerals in the early game right after getting the forge. This means that the nexus and the Gateway are delayed by 250 minerals. In this period the Protoss won't be making a lot of probes either, since he needs to be able to put down additional pylons or cannons at our base as soon as another opening arrises. Basically, what the Protoss is saying to you is „ I will invest a ton of resources into killing you, if the hatchery doesn't die or I don't do crippling damage, I can't attack for a long time” .
The trade off for a Protoss to cannon rush you is huge in terms of timing attacks. Infact, you can drone so much after a failed cannon rush that even a seasoned droner like Ret would need a second D key to keep up. So as you can see, you wouldn't really mind to be good at defending cannon rushes, because any time a Protoss fails you have total control over the game.
With that said though, we still have to go through the ordeal of dealing with a cannon rush. The quickest rush you can face is a Forge first cannon rush, the Nexus first cannon rush comes quite a bit later and is easier to deal with, but should not be underestimated regardless.
In the case you are going for a Hatch first opening, you should have 2 drones guarding the space in front of the hatchery if you suspect a cannon rush coming or you aren't quite sure what the opponent is doing. This is the area where the probe is first visible to you. When you spot the probe, DO NOT lose track of it, follow it with a drone or two. Your biggest priority is to scout any shenanigans going on like a pylon planted down, after that killing the probe comes at a close second.
The two major spots where a cannon rush is the most effective is behind your natural mineral line and behind your ramp blocked off by pylons. Both of these are very hard to deal with, and should be prevented from going down. If you have just one drone following the probe, you can use the other to block eventual spots where he wants to place the first pylon. You can easily see where the probe is heading, so you can make estimated guesses where the pylon wants to go down.
In the case a pylon goes down, don't fret. Grab around 4 more drones ( or more if you aren't that confident in your drone micro yet ) and move them to the natural. You have 25 ingame seconds to give chase to the probe and keep it outside of the radius of the pylon. You follow the probe with three drones and try to surround it against artificial walls like the ones he makes with the pylon or the mineral patches. The three remaining drones can start slamming their mandibles at the pylon. Killing the probe will take the stinger out of the rush, but won't disarm it just yet. A second probe could always be following up.
A cannon that can be surrounded by 4 drones will die before it finishes warping in. That's why you should not allow a cannon to go up behind the mineral lines where it can't be fully surrounded. The absolute worst case scenario possible is that the Protoss manages to make a full pylon wall around the cannon behind the mineral line. In this case you should always cancel the hatchery and take another base somewhere else on the map. Surroundable cannons however are easy pickings for a pack of drones. And with each cannon killed or delayed the rush becomes a little more managable.
The second your spawning pool finishes you should start a Spine crawler on the creep of your natural hatchery. You won't need to build a lot of lings to defend follow up attacks as they will be delayed by a lot and a Spine crawler will keep potential incoming quick Zealots at bay and in the worst case forces you to make a little more lings. But it gives you a big defensive footing to mass drone from.
If a cannon is already up or it is about to finish building with a lot of health left, retreat the drones to safety. You will only lose the drones to the cannon for free and you don't want to give the Protoss any free advantage in any part of the match up. When a second cannon is going up and your hatchery still has some time to finish, cancel it at the last possible moment. This will give the Protoss to shortest reaction time to cancel his second cannon. You can expand somewhere else and force the Protoss to make more pylons and cannons there, but it will be a lot harder to do as the Protoss won't have a wall on your ramp and Zerglings can easily slip by the natural cannons and defend the second base from a secondary cannon rush.
Cannons have the same range as Spine crawlers, and because the cannon finishes 10 ingame seconds earlier if they were both started at the same time, cannons often kill Spine crawlers straight up. If you need to reposition Spine crawlers, the cannons will get a lot of free shots off before the Spine crawler finishes rooting and starts to poke the shields of the cannon. This makes Spine crawlers pretty terrible at attacking cannons straight up, but they are great at preventing cannons from going up in a specific range. After all, you can not start a cannon in the range of a Spine crawler since it will be poked to death.
Cannons on the low ground can quickly turn into a threat on the high ground. They can also be used to slowly crawl cannons up onto the high ground, turning everything into an enormous cannon continuum where everything zerg gets sucked into a large cheesy singularity.
But these low ground cannons have one weakness, they require vision of the high ground to be assault everything there. This means that the probe has to, at some moment, go up to the high ground and provide that vision via either being there or planting a pylon. During this transition however the probe is very vulnerable to being sniped. A Spine crawler will kill a probe in two hits with overkill. So if your Spine crawler is placed close to the ramp it will just straight up stop the probe from moving up. Otherwise you can use some drones to block the probe from moving up. The biggest priority is to keep the cannons from getting vision so that Spine crawlers and Queens can attack them freely from the high ground.
When you want to engage a cannon entrenchment with Zerglings and Queens, you have to look at how the rush is positioned. A pylon has 400 health in total ( 200 shiels and 200 health ) while a cannon has 300.
Ramp pylon wall off
The hardest thing to hold off cannon rush wise is a full pylon block. This means three pylons placed at the bottom of the ramp to make a full wall off. Behind these pylons is a single or a pair of cannons that cannot be attacked by melee units because of the wall off. The pylons on their own cannot be surrounded either, so this should be prevented at all costs. When the block is complete, the game is normally over because you cannot break out and push the Protoss. But there is one trick which allows you to break out of the full pylon blockade.
This trick is named after a Korean player named Milkyway. Here is an excerpt out of the teamliquid thread.
„ The tip is very simple. When your ramp is blocked by your opponent, you first gather your workers near by the ramp. Then you should click on a close mineral patch in your natural. The workers will stack right in front of the wall. You should A-click the wall, which will instantly cause your slack to go loose. You should quickly re-click the mineral patch, and keep doing this until the wall is broken.
According to Milkyway, this method will deal a damage of 50~60(depending on your neat execution and worker counts) per attack and you will most likely break through the wall when the first cannon is about 50% done. You should force cancel the cannon/ other bunkers under construction using your workers.
Milkyway added in comments that Protoss will virtually have 0% winrate if their cannon rush fails this way, since Zerg would suffer almost 0 damage(little mining time), while Protoss would lose 3 pylons and a few cannons. He even recommends Zerg players to induce Protoss to do cannon rush if the zerg player is confident with his execution of this Wall Breaker method. He asserts that this will 100% prevent/stop cannon and bunker walling in rush, if executed properly by the defender. He also said that Zergs should always take expansions first to maximize the advantage. ”
If you want to learn more, this is the link to the thread on Teamliquid: http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=261179
Follow up possibilities
With these tips you should be able to tame cannon rushes reasonably well. But you still do need to think of what follow up you have to do to ride out this tech advantage. This is different in every game and the severity of the damage done to you combined with the damage done to the Protoss' delayed tech should give you a sufficient clear picture of what the best way of response is.
In general, the delayed warp gate can make the following viable: A Mutalisk based style, a mass Zergling based style and a big two or three based Hydralisk/Roach timing attack. You can also take a much faster third and drone up harder if you want to go for a larger timing attack.
Double Proxy Gateway rushA broodwar classic
Another infamous rush that isn't as common anymore in the current metagame and maps. This cheese is bound to make a return the second more Zergs transfer over to a Hatch first opening. The two gate rush is a build that puts the pylon as close to the Zerg as possible while still being conceiled out of regular scouting paths. Then the probe will start two Gateways near that pylon. The short rush distance that the proxy Gateways give makes this a very tough rush to deal with if you are going for an economic opening. Chronoboost makes the Zealots come out a lot faster too. however the build is the biggest all in the Protoss can muster, much like the 7 pool for Zerg.
The first thing you should do if you scout a proxy pylon or Gateway coming is cancel cancel your hatchery if you went hatch first. You should also do this response if you scout no pylon in the main or natural of the Protoss. You cannot hold the hatchery and it is 300 minerals not invested into defence. The pool should go down as soon as possible, if you don't have enough minerals to build one right away just cancel some drones that are building. If you have an extractor building, cancel it. You need the extra drone in the defence and you don't need gas for a long logn time. The second your spawning pool finishes you make two Spine crawlers right away and build a ton of Zerglings. Your job is to delay the Zealots from attacking your drones and sniping your morphing Spine crawlers.
You can do this by banding all your Zerglings and drones together and feign engagements out in the open. The Zealots won't just attack because they will be surrounded and killed off, the proxy gater wants to get an overwhelming amount of Zealots to kill you straight up. He does not want to lose a Zealot before he gets an unstoppable force up which usually means 4 or 5 Zealots. But you certainly don't want to lose much either, because you need the drones and the Zerglings to hold of the critical mass of Zealots that will come out at some point. That's why you should threaten, but not do a full on frontal engagement just yet.
A Spine crawler takes 50 seconds to build and has 7 range, which is quite a lot considering the Zealots have a melee attack and can't just kill the hatchery in an undefended area. The best spot to place the Spine crawlers is actually inside your mineral line. This place is the closest to your drones when they are mining and it is also a little bit open. You don't want to create chokes around the Spine crawler, because a Zealot placed in a choke can kill off a ton of drones and Zerglings cost-effectively and you want to surround the Zealot in case he decides to focusfire the morphing Spine crawler to scare him off. Be wary of any little chokepoint you create with your buildings like your spawning pool. These seemingly small terrain changes can give the Zealots a huge advantage when they engage.
Let's put the build time of the Zealot under the microscope. Normally it builds in 38 ingame seconds, but with one Chronoboost that gets shortened to 28 ingame seconds. This means that two Gateways with constant Chronoboost will churn out 4 Zealots per ingame minute. That means that if you put down the Spine crawler as the first Zealot finishes, 4 additional Zealots will be in play after the crawler completes. 6 Zealots are nigh impossible to deal with using just Zerglings and drones especially in the amount you have in the early game. So if you start the Spine crawlers as you see the first Zealots in your base, the Protoss will have an overwhelming force right before the spines finish. He will most likely do a big engagement with these Zealots right before the crawlers finish, and it is your job to protect the crawlers and let them finish at all costs.
One trick you can employ is to select all your drones and click the morphing Spine crawler. This will make them surround the Spine crawler. As it is fully surrounded, press hold position on your drones. The Zealots cannot focus fire the Spine crawler down that way because the drones are in the way. And if they just attack move, you use the attacking priority of the Zerglings to your advantage.
You see, the A.I in Starcraft 2 has a priority of attack list. Hostile units like Zerglings that are on an attack command will be targeted over passive drones. So if you have all your drones being passive around the Spine crawler and your Zerglings attack moving from a distance, you will lure the Zealots away from the Spine crawler. The Protoss will have to individually attack the drones that are surrounding the Spine crawler, but with constant Zergling surrounds and back stabs you should be able to delay the focusfiring of the Spine crawler by a few seconds.
When the Protoss starts attacking a finished Spine crawler with his Zealots, just attack them with your Zerglings. The Zealots won't automatically switch targets while they are attacking the Spine crawler and because the Spine crawler can take 21 hits from a Zealot it will take a fairly long time before the Zealots finally kill the Spine and turn to attack the Zerglings. In addition, the Zerglings deal more damage over time than the Spine does, and they keep the Zealots in place so they cannot retreat. The only way the Zealots will switch targets is if the Protoss manually let's it attack a Zergling or does another random attack command, hoping that it will target the Zerglings and not the Spine crawler.
If you have held off this volatile part of the rush, you should remember the biggest weakness the Protoss has artificially created. His main is defenceless and the Zealots are way out of position to just move back in time before Zerglings or speedlings reach the Protoss main. So after you drone back up a little, muster up a huge Zergling force and attempt a run by. You only need a couple of Zerglings ( 8 is a great amount ) to wreck the Protoss' mineral line. If he does an all in desperation push with the Zealots into your main, simply use the rest of the Zerglings to surround the Zealots when they are in Spine crawler range.
Another great vulnerability of the proxy gate rush is the single pylon powering the Gateways. Just a few Zerglings can do serious damage to the pylon and if the Gateways are unpowered, he cannot reinforce his rush. You can make the Protoss turn around to defend the pylon with this annoying manoeuvre, giving you more time to build up Zerglings or Roaches.
If you need to engage the Zealots straight up, take this rule of thumb. To kill a Zealot, you need a higher Zergling ratio than 4:1. That means, for every Zealot you need slightly more than 4 Zerglings to make the trade in your favour.
Once you are past these phases of the rush, the game is yours. His tech is delayed by a ton and his main should be wrecked. If he does manage to stabilize, you can simply take your expansion and go for a big Hydra-Roach timing. He won't be able to get out Collosi fast enough to defend a large force like this, and if he does get them out this fast, he completely gives up map control allowing you to expand and get an even biggest unstoppable army.
One base stagesThe dairy stench gets slightly thinner
If the Protoss isn't cannon rushing or proxy gating you, you are facing a regular game. This part is much less about crisis management and much more about preparing to defend a major timing push. We'll start off with a couple of slightly less but equally infuriating one base builds, beginning with a build that outlived the dinosaurs itself.
Four Warp GateNow with additional ingame rage
The four gate is like a Fast food menu. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It almost always has some slight hints of cheese in it. It is unhealthy to eat fast food, and you will certainly get sick of it if you get it too much.
This rush is about as diverse as it gets, and it is also the easiest to put your gasematics to the test. You can have a quick warp gate where a lot of Chronoboosts have been spent on the research. You can have zealot heavy four gates, stalker heavy fourgates, mixed fourgates, zealot sentry fourgates. All of these are labeled as a Four gate rush, but they all need a different response.
The first and most all in four gate rush there is is the Zealot stalker one. This build can be recognized by the single gas taken and the large amount of Chronoboost saved up on the nexus. All of this Chronoboost will be spent on the Cybernetics core, resulting in a warp gate that comes 50 seconds earlier. The second unit that will spawn is a Stalker, as a Sentry would cost too much. The Sentry's gas cost is enough to make two Stalkers and those do a lot more damage than a single Sentry.
If you spot these signs, you should put down a Roach warren. You don't need to put down an evolution chamber just yet. The Roach warren takes 55 ingame seconds to build and after that the Roaches will spawn 27 seconds later. You can make a single wave of drones to your expansion, but no more or you will be caught with too few units. Once you have around 20 drones, start building a ton of Zerglings. Just before your Roach warren finishes, build two overlords.
As a Roach takes 2 supply and you want to get out a lot of Roaches, you really don't want to get supply blocked. The extra two overlords give you the ability to make 8 Roaches, which is quite a formidable force in combination with a lot of Zerglings.
When you see the large Zealot Stalker force and you think you have enough to seriously put a dent in their army, lead with your Roaches and attack. The Zealots should attack the Roaches at which point you should stream your Zerglings in to surround the Stalkers and the Zealots from behind. If you just want to stall out a little longer you can kite the Zealots a little with your Roaches while keeping your Zerglings out of their range. If all goes well, you should eventually get an overwhelming Roach force ( one saturated gas allows you to make roughly 5 Roaches every minute ) and crush through the Protoss force and the proxy pylon. At which point you will get complete map control and can keep him on one base indefinitely.
Regular Four gate
This is the most common kind of Four gate rush there is. It is not as all in as the previous and with a reasonable damage done and a well timed expansion, the Protoss can transition out of it relatively well. Never the less, it does hurt his standard play because midgame tech like the blink, robotics facility or stargate are all delayed.
This variation of the build has more than one gas geyser, and it has a few more probes. It doesn't save up as much Chronoboost as the Zealot Stalker 4 gate. The biggest call whether or not he will one base you is the expansion timing. If he isn't going for an expansion around the 6:30 to 6:45 mark, he will most likely go for a one base all in.
Now this is the best place to train your gasematics. As I said earlier, one gas gives you 120 per ingame minute. Four gateways allow the Protoss to build waves of four units at a time, with different build times and gas costs. In our 12 gate-15 assimilator example where the Cybernetics core finishes around 3:41, we can make a little table of how much gas the Protoss has when the warp gate research finishes in terms of Chronoboost usage.
If one Chronoboost is used, the Protoss will have mined for 2 and a half minutes which gives him 340 gas when the warp gate is finished. If he has made a Sentry during that time he will have 240 gas to his disposal and with a Stalker they will have 290. That means with their first wave of warp ins they can make all Stalkers.
If two Chronoboosts are used, the Protoss will have roughly 320 gas to spend, so that gives the Protoss the same abilities warp in wise. They can warp in a Sentry earlier and still have enough for one huge wave of Stalkers at the start. At four Chronoboosts though, 280 gas is mined. Which means that at the first warp in can only be three Stalkers and a Zealot if he has gotten a Sentry beforehand. An extra Stalker will give the Protoss a regular full Stalker warp in. With a full round of Zealots warped in first, the Protoss saves the 300 gas for future warp ins, which means the Protoss can warp in two round of Stalkers behind eachother.
Looking at the build times, the regular unchronoboosted Zealot builds in 28 ingame seconds. The Sentries and Stalkers have the same build time at 32. That way we can take every half minute as a benchmark for warp ins. If we notice a faster warp in we know he is chronoboosting, if we notice a slower warp in, we know he SUCKS at warp ins :) . The other big weakness to a Four gate rush is that the Protoss cannot sustain constant production from it if he does good warp ins, so the warp ins will continiue to be further apart and the reinforcements will weaken in numbers.
Every 30 seconds, a one gas Protoss will mine 60 gas. So with every warp in they can only build Zealots and perhaps one Stalker. If he has two gasses up, he mines 120 gas with every 30 second. This means that if you notice two warp ins, both with two Stalkers or one Sentry warped in, you can safely say that he is on two gas.
Stopping a Protoss Four gate attack is hard for a new Zerg, but it will get gradually easier when your injections get more well timed. You have some leaway of tech in this four gate because it doesn't come so quick nor is it so all in that the Protoss feels urged to attack right away. This way you can get out an evolution chamber and get the +1 Melee upgrade. It will not finish the second the attack starts, but over time you can delay the Protoss advancement and get your 20% stronger Zerglings up to crush the attack. You can also drone up to around 25 or 26.
Now that we can calculate the amount of units and what kind of units he can warp in, we know what to expect from the Protoss. You know that the Protoss cannot warp in a full round of Stalkers unless he sucks at constant warping in. You know he cannot possibly warp in two Sentries in a later warp in on one base. So now we'll look at our defensive arsenal; Queens, Spine crawlers and Zerglings.
As I said before, Spine crawlers take a lot of hits from a Zealot at 21. It takes 25 shots from a Stalker and Sentries really don't do any damage at 4 damage every ingame second. These guys can take a lot of shots, and not only that, they deal a lot of damage too. It kills a Sentry in 4 whacks and Stalkers and Zealots in 6. Queens also take a lot of beating so these two options give you a great defensive entrenchment. Zerglings are great for defense as they are fairly cheap and gateway units can't attack multiple targets at once. Double spawn larva on two hatcheries gives you an extra 16 larvae per one and a half minute. That means with ever 3 minutes you can make 64 Zerglings with just the Spawn larva abilities. The regular larva spawned from hatcheries give you 8 larva every minute with two hatcheries every ingame minute. That's another 16 lings.
This huge surge of units makes Zerglings, Spine crawlers and Queens the best way to respond to a Four gate rush. If you make the Zerglings just before the first warp in of the Protoss, you can have an overwhelming force that can surround the warp ins. With these early Zerglings you should take the Xel'Naga towers and scout for hidden back doors with Zerglings for proxy pylons and probes. Taking out the probe or the pylon will delay the whole rush by a lot and give you a lot of time to get the Spine crawlers up. You should always have the Zerglings out on the map scouting for the reinforcement pylon to put pressure back onto the Protoss in a small way.
Three Spine crawlers will stop the Protoss from advancing into your natural for a long long time, especially when a large body of Zerglings is on the map. This delay will give you the time needed to get the upgrade or roaches out. With good injections and macro, you will overwhelm him easily and delay his expansion with this large mass of Zerglings and thus win the game.
Stargate - Three GatewayWrong match up Protoss, go back to playing versus Terran!
This build catches people off guard every now and then, but when you prepare for it well enough you shouldn't lose to it. The Voidray itself costs 150 gas and take 40 ingame seconds to make if you Chronoboost them twice. So the voidray alone will suck up most of the gas intake of a 2 gas Protoss. Which means he cannot make a lot of Stalkers and is limited to Zealots.
This opening looks remarkably like a DT opening since the warp gate doesn't get as much Chronoboost as a Four gate and it has two gases taken. So you will most likely put down a Spore crawler at your natural. You should also make extra Queens when you suspect this coming and save up the energy on one of them for a transfuse. The larva will get you so many Zerglings that you can overwhelm the ground army while the Voidray cannot touch the natural because of the Spore crawler and the Queens attacking from a range.
If the Protoss attacks into you anyway, make sure your Queens stay alive. Micro them back if Zealots start attacking them and move them around the hatchery while the Zerglings do their work. If the push is delayed by a ton, simply make some Spine crawlers, this will completely stop the rush cold and with so much invested into the Stargate and the Voidrays, you will win the game after the rush is held.
Twilight rush - Blink and Dark Templars
This is the single strongest all in the Protoss can perform off of one base. If the Zerg is not prepared, he will lose so depressingly easily. You need to have Roaches out to deal with this kind of thing and then the Stalkers can simply blink micro back. This is the hardest thing to face in the early game.
Now that the stupid Protoss players have finished reading that paragraph and just blindly went onto the ladder to try it out, we can actually start talking about the single most shitty one base Protoss build there is. This build is so bad that I win 100% of my games against this style. The actual push is delayed by a ton and it only consists of Stalkers. If you start building Zerglings ahead of the push and have a +1 melee upgrade on the way, you will easily surround their Stalker force. Stalkers with blink really don't do well against Zerglings and because he invested so heavily in the tech, you will just straight up win when you see this coming.
The DT variant is a little bit different, but if you notice the quick double gas, a twilight council or a second unit as a Zealot you should just put down a Spore crawler at the base of your ramp as soon as your evolution chamber finishes. If the DT's are out on the map and you still have to wait a little for the Spore to finish, you have to just grab all your Zerglings and put them on the ramp and press hold position. This will stop the DT's from entering your main base and thus you will stop his rush easily and win the game from sheer map control and amount of units.
Dealing with Hatch first Gateway pressure
When you open Hatch first, you have a couple of extra things to worry about. The Protoss will feed the pressure of the economic opening and will either try to expand faster or go for some pressure. They don't want to overcommit to it however, they just want to put on some pressure and force you to make units. However, that is exactly what you want to do when you Hatch first and get pressured by few units.
Two Gateway Zealots
This pressure opening makes a second Gateway before the Cybernetics core, and then chronoes out the Zealots. These Zealots however have to travel all the way over the map until they get into your natural. This means that you have quite some time to plant down a Spine crawler on the creep of your natural hatchery.
Otherwise the defense is similar to a proxy gateway rush with the same kind of tricks. But you don't have to cancel the hatchery and just have to produce a little more lings before you drone. When the Spine crawler finishes, the Protoss really has to move back. And the second Zergling speed finishes and those Zealots are out on the map, they will get surrounded and turned into free kills for the Zerg.
The big key here is that it delays the Cybernetics core for a while, and thus all the tech and a possible expansion. Because a Protoss cannot expand from just Zealots.
Two Gateway Stalker pressure
This one is slightly more annoying to deal with than the Zealot pressure. Stalkers are quite fast units and without Zergling speed, they can simply kite back and get free pot shots onto your forces. This pressure however cannot kill your hatchery off and is used to snipe out a Queen or some mining drones at your natural. When you notice the Stalkers coming from a distance, clear the front of your hatchery from overlords just to make sure those won't get sniped.
You should try to surround the Stalkers with the Zerglings while they are attacking the Queen, as that is a major target. You should always move on the creep with your slow Zergling until the speed finishes because otherwise you won't catch up to the Stalkers ever. Making a little too many Zerglings here doesn't really effect you all that much as you will use those units to delay and put pressure on his expansion if it is rushed behind the Stalker pressure. You can drone up behind this major pressure because you have your hatchery up sooner than a regular Pool first opening.
Gateway first macro buildsSome slack for you
The Protoss here is going to be very Sentry heavy. They will use the forcefields to block out the units from attacking them. And that way they can expand more easily.
The expansion nexus will go up between the 6 and 6:45 mark. If there are Sentries out as the second and perhaps the third unit coming out of the Gateway or there is a low ground pylon warping in around this time, you can be fairly sure that he is going for an expansion.
An expand off of a Gateway opening however is also a very vulnerable thing. Sure, forcefields will stop the Zerglings from running by. But a single missed forcefield will cost him the expansion, his momentum and the game. That's why you should always put some kind of pressure onto them. There are three kinds of pressure to abuse this time in the Protoss build.
The Roach Zergling all in
This opening is fairly situational and you should not rely on this for every map. You require a relatively short distance to the Protoss natural because you will use the Roach's big health and defensive capabilities coupled with its range to your advantage. The Roach however is a fairly slow unit, so the shorter the distance the sooner the Roach will be able to abuse this advantage.
You will build a Roach warren instead of an Evolution chamber and you won't drone up past around 20 drones. You will use the rest of the larvae to build up some Zerglings. Then you will make around 5 or 6 Roaches and move forward with them ( after clearing out any scouting probes with a Zergling or two ). You need to keep the Roach warren and the large mass of units hidden for the Protoss to give us the element of surprise.
Once the Roaches are on their way, build a ton of Zerglings and send your previously made Zerglings out towards the Protoss. With the nexus down and the Protoss still relying mainly on Sentries and Zealots, the Roaches will force the forcefields out of the Sentries or snipe them out. Meanwhile the Zerglings can go after out of position buildings and the nexus.
If you kill the nexus and force the Protoss to move back up the ramp, you will have map control and you can just drone up a ton or forcefeed him a large mass of Roaches until he buckles under the pressure. However if he does defend without losing the nexus, your low drone count will give you a slow and withering death in the midgame.
This is the lowest risk but lowest reward option of all of them. You use a little hit squad of around 10 Zerglings to be annoying around the Nexus. Meanwhile you can still drone up a lot in the early game.
You use the Zerglings to kill off the probe who is going to build the nexus or to focusfire the nexus while it is building and chip away on it a little. Forcing the Protoss to move his forces around and you could try and run by into the main with a couple of Zerglings to force out a couple of forcefields. You usually can't kill the nexus or a pylon off with this kind of pressure, but the benefit of full scouting and forcing forcefields to be spent is definitely worth it over not having a Zergling squad and 4 more drones.
Mass Zergling Forceful cancel
The largest strength of the Hatch first build is the ability to pressure the Protoss Gateway expands with a ton of units without endangering their drone count. You should drone up a little until around 22 or so. After that you just make a ton of Zerglings off of two hatcheries and one Queen ( the second Queen would only be able to spread creep because you cannot afford the full double injections with this drone saturation just yet.
You should head out while your Zerglings are still slow and waiting for the upgrade. And when you near the natural, keep most of the Zerglings out of sight. You can use around 6 Zerglings to make the Protoss come out from the ramp or his pylon-narrowed path. You can attack the other end of the nexus to force them to do this.
Once they are out of position, move in with all of your Zerglings. Just slip around all the Sentries before you attack move. This will force them to put down a ton of forcefields around the Sentries and most likely kill them off as one or two Zerglings are inside their forcefield cage. Once these units are dead, focus fire the nexus and kill the low ground pylon. You will use these Zerglings to delay the natural from going down. It doesn't really matter if you lose 6 Zerglings to kill off one probe, because the longer it takes for him to expand, the longer it takes for him to get into his midgame and the more desperate his situation becomes.
One Gateway expands are the easiest to kill of course, while Three Gateway expands will have slightly more Sentries to deal with this heavy pressure and you need to surround the Sentries if you want to be sure to kill off the nexus.
In addition, if the Protoss wants to go for a 4 gate with Sentries and Zealots, you will have a ton of Zerglings to surround and kill off his attack. He could go for a Nexus cancel, but it won't matter since you are prepared for an all in as well as have a great way to put pressure on the Protoss. That is why I always do this Zergling massing when I scout a Protoss Gateway opening. It just serves so much utility that simply droning up doesn't quite do.
In the worst case scenario, you will force a lot of forcefields to be used in the defence. Which means that he won't be able to push with his gateway force until his energy regenerates. This gives you a large time to freely drone up and prepare for the potential 2 base all in.
Early Upgradesor choose what your plan is in the midgame.
The upgrade choice is the first diverging choice that you make. There are three upgrade choices to be made: Melee, Range and Carapace. All of them have to be thought through, because the sooner you get a +1 upgrade, the sooner the +2 upgrade will be available too. And as you may notice, this will either strengthen or weaken your midgame depending on the choice you make. Luckily, I have some benchmarks on what decision to make.
The Melee upgrade, probably my favorite upgrade in the game, makes the Zergling attack 20% better ( and thus roughly 20% cooler ) by increasing the attack damage from 5 to 6. This has a huge impact on any Zergling reliant defence and most notably, on Zergling reliant midgame armies.
The Melee upgrades will do the following to your cost-effectiveness, the numbers in the table show the amount of hits it takes to kill that unit.
|0 upgrades||+1 upgrade||+2 upgrade|
As you can see, this upgrade will make the Zerglings a lot more vicious in up front confrontations. However, there are a couple of downsides to Zerglings in large quantities. Mainly that forcefield can turn any Zergling attack cost inefficient if the Zerglings get caught at a bad angle. This is because the forcefields can be arranged that the Zealots are positioned in a choke point, which makes them infinitely more effective against melee based units such as the Zergling. Not only that, but forcefields give you less surface area to surround.
There are a couple of techniques you can do to bait out forcefields or make the Protoss panic into making a lot of them unneccesarily which will be discussed later. But there is another unit that heavily benefits from the Melee upgrades, mainly the Baneling.
You see, the Baneling kills probes in one explosion when they reach +2 melee. Which was so amazing when I first found out that I didn't make just one but TWO guides about Baneling dropping. The whole idea was revolutionary at the time and it hadn't caught on to the main ladder that much. Mostly because the Baneling drops weren't executed well, the upgrades weren't researched quick enough and the effectiveness was questioned by a lot of people.
Let's put up the same table for Banelings.
|0 upgrades||+1 upgrade||+2 upgrade|
Doesn't that just put a smile on your face? Banelings ferried in Overlords can not only be used as a defensive measure, but they can be used as a harass option, a sentry sniper or an overall Protoss ball disruptor. There is so much utility to this combination that I atleast try to have them somewhere in my plan, however late they get out on the field.
Getting the +1 melee upgrade the first is the quickest road to the +2 melee upgrade and thus the quickest road to Baneling drops. If you want to incorporate these into your early to mid-midgame, definitely go for the melee first. The benefits reach out from the early game all the way to the lategame, so this is often my go-to upgrade in pretty much every ZvP I play.
The range upgrade is a big boost to Roach and Infestor styles. The single range upgrade doesn't do all that much, but the +2 upgrade really improves cost-effectiveness of your Infested terrans and Roaches.
The big annoyance with this style is that forcefields tend to mess things up, and as your only defence against sentries here is the fungal growth with its long range, you might have a bit of trouble engaging Protoss. But if you can cut a Protoss off during his movement from expansion to expansion or out in the center of the map, the ranged upgrade will rapidly turn the tide into your favour once the forcefields have been drained or dealt with.
A quick table to show the benefits of the range upgrades on your Roaches and Infested terrans.
|0 upgrades||+1 upgrade||+2 upgrade|
|0 upgrades||+1 upgrade||+2 upgrade|
There are however other units that benefit from the range upgrade, like the Queen and our friendly neighborhood forgotten-glory slug the Hydralisk. Because the Hydralisk is usually a unit that spells a final devastating attack for me, I do not use it all that much. But the upgrades make this DPS machine gun slightly more viable in this match up. I would never use an unupgraded Hydralisk in ZvP even if my life depended on it. But here is the information anyway.
|0 upgrades||+1 upgrade||+2 upgrade|
This is a very situational upgrade path, as it is reliant on your Protoss opponents style. +1 carapace doesn't actually improve your army by that much, but it has a major impact on your Zerglings survivability against Zealots.
The ground weapon upgrade for Protoss gives pretty much all their forces a boost and makes them more cost-effective against the swarm, but the Zealot in particular is dangerous when it reaches the +1 ground attack. Zealots usually kill Zerglings in three hits, which gives Zerglings the chance to attack them three times when they both engage at the exact same time. But once Zealots have a higher attack upgrade than the Zergs carapace upgrade ( for example +1 ground attack versus 0 carapace ) the Zealots start killing the Zerglings in two hits. Which means if the Zergling attacks at the same time as the Zealot, it will only get one attack off. But do note that attacking at the same time is almost never the case, there is always one attacking ahead of the other. And when the Zealot is switching targets, there will always be some delay. But the general idea is that upgraded Zealots versus uncarapaced Zerglings equal a lot of messy psi blades.
Because of this gamechanging relationship change, getting a carapace upgrade when the Protoss is getting a ground weapons upgrade can help in defending. But you should only go for this as your first pick if you notice a forge expand with a forge researching something ( almost always this will be ground weapons ) because this often indicates a large Gateway midgame push. However, because this upgrade path is reactive, your carapace upgrade will finish later than his attack upgrade. And if there is Chronoboost in play, his upgrade could be as much as 50 ingame seconds earlier than it would be if there was no Chronoboost. So if you are going for a carapace upgrade, you will have to delay or keep him at by for a while until your carapace upgrade finishes. Otherwise you will lose a lot of Zerglings needlessly.
But a carapace upgrade does not effect you in your offensive capabillities, only in your defensive ones. That's why I prefer the attack upgrades, because even though they only strengthen one part of my army, they will make my units stronger against units and buildings alike. Carapace won't make me kill his units faster, only survive their shots so I can hit them more often.
I like to get the carapace upgrades later in the game, because it won't be a game changer in most circumstances in the early game. But it can be very effective later on when you eventually want to transition into Ultralisks.
The midgame is the large zone where both the Protoss and the Zerg are on two bases. This is the most critical stage in a ZvP match. Because in this stage the Protoss will be trying to get a third either through getting it from the map architecture or through a timing push. Both of these options have a lot of weaknesses that you have to exploit before the Protoss becomes too strong. We'll start out with the Forge openings once more, as the Protoss is getting a quicker expand up and you'll have to follow suit and decide on your midgame attack.
Forge Fast Expands
This style used to be a revolution in the days of Broodwar. Now it has come over to Starcraft 2 and the Protoss players have been using it plenty in their games. The Forge FE uses a pylon on the low ground to build a forge. With this forge he will build a good wall off with a gateway and a cannon, allowing him to place a nexus pretty fast. In the case of a Pool first build even sooner than your hatchery!
The wall off however is amazingly strong, almost impenetrable unless you heavily commit to it. And even then, if the Protoss knows about your plans he will build more cannons and fortifications and still be safe. But the Forge FE puts all its strength in its wall, and while that is indestructable in the early game, the rest of the base is very vulnerable. If we want to exploit this, we have a couple of all-in options laid out for us.
Inbase proxy hatchery
This in my opinion is the funnest Zerg cheese out there. This however relies heavily on not getting scouted because of the long start up time before it becomes dangerous. You are delaying your natural in favour of the hatchery placed in the Protoss' base. Because it needs to go undetected for such a long time, you have to have a drone sneaked inside your opponents base before or right after the forge gets placed. If a probe is following your drone, you can't do this rush.
The hatchery takes 100 seconds to build, that is a long time to go undetected. But considering that the Protoss will have to focus his building placement to reinforce his frontal wall for a bit, this can go undetected from buildings like pylons for a long time. If the hatchery does get spotted while it is constructing, don't cancel right away. The Protoss will have to device a way to deflect this threat and if the Protoss hasn't dealt with this kind of pressure as often, they will quite quickly make a decision that turns out worse for them.
As such, you should let it ferment a little bit. He has to build defence around it regardless, and if he puts down a pylon there and builds more than 2 cannons and they finish, you will have traded well if you cancel. A hatch cancel only costs 75 minerals and possibly the drone which is forfeit regardless because it is locked inside the Protoss base. If he has to Chrono out a Zealot to attack the hatchery, he actually won't kill it in time before some larva finish after the hatchery finishes. If he sends out a ton of probes, you are basically ruining his economic advantage while you can drone up and expand behind it.
If you go unseen or you know that the hatchery won't be killed for a long long time, you can follow up with the next stage of the cheese, pumping units into his base. The unit that you want inside the Protoss main is not neccesarily the Zergling, but rather the Roach. The Roach only takes 4 damage from a probe and can take some cannon fire, it can also kite a Zealot with good control. The Roach warren takes 55 seconds to finish, so if you can make one around the halfway mark of the hatchery, you can make Roaches the instant the hatchery finishes. Roaches actually get a critical mass fairly quickly if the Protoss has no Stalkers or higher end tech. As Zealots get kited easily, and so do the probes. With the Roaches you can bide time for Spine crawlers to finish on the creep inside the Protoss' main, and with that creep up to the nexus and siege it with Spine crawlers and Roaches, killing it off without much danger at all. You aren't really in any danger if you can do some damage with this proxy, as you will force the Protoss to have all his attention inside his base allowing you to drone and expand behind it at home.
No Speed Nydus rush
This is the cheesiest opening against a Forge FE. And you can't transition out of this without doing crippling damage. Nevertheless, you should always have some build under your belt that would make Bitbybit proud. Plus, making a Protoss rage is the best thing there is.
You have to understand the do's and don't of this cheese to make it effective though. First, you are relying on having an overlord giving vision in the main of the Protoss, so you can't do this style on for example cross position Tal darim altar.
Second, you should keep both your base and your overlord hidden from the Protoss. The overlord that will be used to build the nydus must be away from the outer perimeter of the Protoss base. This will give you the maximum chance that that spot will go unscouted.
Now, onto the execution. You want the quickest nydus possible, so if you start the Zergling speed during the time that the probe is in your base and scouting everything, you should cancel it once it leaves or once you kill it off and start the lair immediately. You don't need to have a Queen out just yet, you will build it at the natural once it finishes.
When the lair starts, you will have 80 ingame seconds to get 200 gas up for the Nydus network. That means that you have to have at least 4 drones in gas when you start the lair to have the quickest Nydus network out possible without overdroning on the gas.
The Nydus network takes 50 ingame seconds to complete, so you don't actually need that many drones on gas after you put down the network. But it can allow you to get the Zergling speed out faster when you do have to transition out of it. During the time you build a Lair and the network after, just produce nothing but Zerglings. Spend all of your larvae on it and you should have a ton out by the time the Nydus finishes. You can also start a Queen at your main hatchery right after you put down the Nydus network. It will finish right after the network and right before the Nydus worm finishes in the Protoss' main, and it will give you the ability to put down a creep tumor in the Protoss' base when the Nydus worm finishes.
If the Nydus worm finishes and it goes unnoticed during the building, you will win from the sheer amount of Zerglings that you can stream into the opponent's base. The Nydus worm finishes a long long time before any defensive tech actually gets up like a 5 gate or stargate. You can just flood the main and take out everything there and drone up and expand at home. Once the Protoss' main is dead, you will have a vice grip on the Protoss economy, allowing you to slowly squeeze the life out of him and overwhelm him with your forces.
Hydra Nydus push
This all in is sometimes used by Greg 'idrA' Fields in tournament play. And although the exact build isn't known, I have still devised a rough estimate of what is effective in this style.
The attack goes as followed: You start out with a nydus worm in front of their natural, from that nydus you ferry the Hydralisks through and you try to break down the front and get to the inside of the natural.
If you want to go for this style, you have to saturate your bases fairly well. After you get the Queen at the main hatchery, you start your lair and take two gasses. When the Lair finishes you start your third extractor and build a Hydralisk den. You take your fourth gas after that and start your Nydus network after you finish the Hydra-den. Then you pump Hydralisks non-stop from both hatcheries. Meanwhile, you have your scouting overlord hanging in front of the natural out of their sight and as the Nydus network finishes, you place your nydus worm there. Put all your Hydralisks inside and flood them out the other exit to attack the front.
You pick off the buildings that are out of range of cannons hitting you, but if you have the freedom to choose what building you take down, take down the Cybernetics core. You want to delay further Sentry production, cannons take a long time to produce but can be taken out by the relatively high range Hydralisks. Plus the cannons don't stop the Zerglings from attacking them which forcefields do. When you break the wall, flood the Zerglings in and go for the main. Kill off probes and important pylons and you should win the game there.
This build does very well against Forge FE Stargate builds, but it does have some trouble with builds like Forge FE's into mass Gateways. Still, it is a great build to employ every now and then albeit being an all in.
Gateway Expand builds
Gateway expands have the benefit that they have tech out faster than a Forge FE, and they can have a lot more Sentries out compared to the Forge FE's. But they don't have as much build variety as a Forge fast expand due to the fact that getting additional tech like Voidrays will make so that the Protoss' third gets delayed and map control suffers. The combination of all of this makes this expand prone to gateway pushes to gain map control or to take an easier third.
The big advantage of this expand however is that past the poking phase, it can't be punished. The wall it creates is pretty strong and you have to go fairly far into the midgame until you can bust through the wall. Don't try to bust through this with Roaches and Zerglings, just wait until the Protoss has to move out for a push.
Now that we know what kind of all ins we can perform against a Forge expand and that we can't just bust through a gateway expand wall off because of the tech advantage, we will have to pick our next step. The major assault. Zerg has to rely on a multitude of different aggression builds, because if they just learn one they are easy to hard counter by the Protoss. So you will have to have a number of them under your belt to be effective against Protoss. But first you will have to learn a couple of engagement tricks and other tactics.
Forcefields and rules of engagement
Forcefields are the bane of our existance. These 50 energy spells block out any unit in a small area for 15 ingame seconds. They can be used to block out attacks, cut armies in half and catch retreating armies in their grip. The Protoss need to have forcefields in the midgame, but a Protoss with good forcefield placement is the most terrifying thing there is.
Zerg forces rely on getting terrain advantages and getting armies out of position due to their speed. But because forcefield alters the terrain, you can't catch an army out of position without having that position altered heavily by the spell. That's why the Sentries are your key focus to deal with in gateway heavy armies.
In the early to midgame, you can do constant ling poke ins to try and force a forcefield out of the Sentries, like the Zergling poke or the Mass ling before a nexus finishes.
But in the midgame, it is a lot tougher to just get a couple of forcefields out of the Protoss. The Protoss will have two things on their minds, cutting the Zerg army in half or catching retreating Zerg units. That's why you have to keep a constant look out for your army, especially Zergling heavy ones. Zerglings caught in a forcefield 'net' will all be forfeit to Zealots and it will greatly harm your map presence and ability to flank.
Still, Zerglings are also the best units to feign attacks with. Because of their speed, they can get up to the Protoss army and retreat without many losses. If you have a large Zergling pack and you want to make them waste forcefields, you should wait until the Protoss moves out onto a relatively large open space. If you engage in a spot where one or two forcefields can cut off an army, one misstep can cost you all of your Zerglings. So try to attack from a side without walls on your flanks, this will give the Protoss the least amount of terrain to aid with forcefield placement. If the Protoss is crawling along the wall with their army, run in perpendicular to the wall. This often gives you the largest amount of open space, minimizing the amount of succesful forcefields.
Once you forced out a few forcefields, quickly retreat out with your Zerglings. If you give the Protoss any time to recuperate himself and place better forcefields, you WILL lose your Zerglings. Don't get greedy with them, and you should be fine.
This sort of forcefield baiting should always happen before a big engagement. And if you do get a couple of forces cut off, take your losses and retreat with the rest. You will just have to live with the fact that you have traded some forcefields for units. Engaging with all of your army into the army is a pretty terrible idea as Roaches won't be able to hit over the forcefields if the Stalkers and Sentries are away far enough, and the Zerglings will obviously have less surface area to surround. If he has cut off a significant portion of your army ( like 75 % ) , then you can engage with all of them.
That's why you should always have your army positioned in a way that you have the largest surface area. In the case that your army does get forcefielded off, you can use the other part of your army to attack from the back or side and force out more forcefields. If done correctly, you could even force him to forcefield off his retreat path. The more forcefields you can squeeze out of the Sentries, the better your final engagement will be.
Zerglings should always be on the move and never inside your natural, having them there is a sure way to get them forcefielded in where they cannot participate in the battle. The best spot for Zerglings to be is between the army and their retreat path, so if you notice the Protoss overextending you can net the Protoss in place and use your Roaches and other units to trap the Protoss and deal the damage. The Zerglings in the back also serve another purpose, that is the Stalkers. Stalkers will always be behind the Zealots if the Protoss engages correctly, otherwise the Zealots wouldn't participate in the battle. The Stalkers are rather weak against Zerglings and other mass amounts of units, and blink Stalkers often blink backwards if they are microed out of the battle. So not only do the Zerglings behind the Protoss give you a better way to flank, but they get to the squishier part of the army in that spot.
One thing you should ALWAYS protect is the choke leading from your main to your natural. This is your biggest weakness. The choke is often just small enough to place a single forcefield and disallow any movement coming through it. This means that if an army is inside the main, it is trapped inside, and all the other units are trapped outside. Easily cutting the army in half and leaving your main or natural vulnerable to the full force of the Protoss army. Never allow Sentries to come close to this terrain, just force an engagement before it or you will lose a rather one sided slaughterfest. Keep the ramp free at all costs. Another critical piece of information is that 4 Sentries can indefinitely forcefield a ramp. Which means that if the Protoss doesn't miss a beat, he will put a lock on that ramp forever.
Drops are hard execute for a newer player, especially doom drops. Doom drop is a term used for having a significant chunk of your army ferried into dropships or overlords to simply drop into a base to hollow it out.
The tough part about doom drops against Protoss is that the terrain is against you. The main is often littered with randomly placed buildings that form a lot of chokes around your dropping army. Which when combined with forcefields turn the Zerg army into a lot of managable chunks that can be swallowed by the Protoss ball. That's why the best units to put in a doom drop are Hydralisks and Roaches. These ranged units can kill off buildings in a rapid fashion and can form a concave to attack the incoming army running up the ramp.
The other unit that is amazing to be doom dropped into a main base is the Infestor. The fungal growth can be used to basically block off the ramp with the Protoss' own units, allowing the rest of your units to load back up into the overlords and move back.
Infestors or not, you should always try to retreat with a part of your army while one part keeps the Protoss busy. A large enough Protoss army will obliterate any army stuck in their base, so it's better to retreat with half an army and do less damage than to kill off one or two more Gateways and lose everything.
The highest priority targets in a doom drop are the nexus, Artosis pylons and tech buildings like the Cybernetics core and other non-gateways. Gateways are really easy to replace and only cost minerals. Not only that, but killing them does not really delay any incoming pushes in any way. Cybernetics cores however stop the production of Sentries and Stalkers for some time. Destroyed Robotics bays will delay the production of Collosi by over a minute. Production buildings like the Stargate and Robotics facility are harder to replace and cost gas to remake. Especially in the midgame a Protoss is unlikely to replace a Stargate because it won't help him in the midgame.
Artosis pylon is the term given to a pylon that powers a lot of structures. As you know, Protoss buildings rely on power that is given by the pylon. If the power is taken away, any production or upgrades will be paused until that is restored. But because there is no limit to the amount of structures a Protoss can power inside of a pylons range, that can result into the Protoss becoming lazy or careless and have most of their structures powered by a single pylon. Taking that one out will basically delay everything that those buildings make until the danger is gone and the pylon is remade.
Zergling Run by
Run by's are used to deal damage to Probes and expansions. While they aren't as strong as they were in broodwar, in the right hands they can tip the scales of the economics war into the Zergs favour.
The three targets you have in a run by is the pylon, the probes and the nexus. In a new expansion there will often be a single reinforcement pylon that is used for quick warp ins in case of an attack. Upon sight you should immediately focus this pylon down so that reinforcements will take longer to get there.
The probes are the main reason we are here. The Zerglings can maw through a worker line really quickly and deal significant economic damage to the Protoss. But you can't always just attack move to kill off the probes because of the attack priority. If there are any hostile units or structures around, the A.I will force the Zerglings to attack that instead of the probes. If there are cannons around, move your Zerglings in a line into the mineral line and when you cover most of the length, put them on hold position. That will make the Zerglings attack anything that is in their range rather than move towards the cannons. It is better to place the line closer to the minerals because the probes will stay at that spot the longest when they are mining. They only pass through the middle twice and near the nexus they only release their minerals and go back.
When the probes are retreating you have two options, move after the probes and kill some of them off or focus the nexus. The nexus will take a long time to die so you can only really kill this if you have a large group of Zerglings and you should immediately focus fire it when the probes retreat to give you the most time attacking the nexus. Killing off probes is great and all but with Chronoboost they can be replendished fairly quickly if the amount killed isn't over 10. Killing off the nexus however will not only cut the mineral income of the Protoss by a ton, but more importantly the gas income.
The Zerglings running by should be fairly expendable because you will pretty much always lose them all getting as much economic damage done as possible. And that should be your focus with this precision attack, damage done over damage prevented.
My favourite unit combination for Zerg, the overlord and the Baneling. With the +2 melee upgrade, these puppies will make blueflame Hellions look like mosquito bites compared to the devastation these can make in the Protoss mineral lines. Overlords to inexperienced Protosses will seem just like regular scouting tools and they can often get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of damage it can do quickly.
But to other more experienced Protosses, Baneling bombs are fairly easy to deal with by retreating the probes ahead of time. That's why you shouldn't just move in with a single Baneling bomb. If you want to damage the economy of the Protoss, you should always make sure that you are atleast attacking multiple bases when you are dropping.
If you can't have an upfront attack happening right away due to your opponents army size, just use multiple Baneling bombs and drop on multiple bases at the same time. The Protosses reaction time has to be really top notch to retreat all the probes from three bases at the same time, and frankly most of them can't pull it off.
You can use Baneling drops to aid your army too. They can be ferried over forcefields and barrage the army below, putting enormous splash damage onto the Protoss ball. Baneling bombs are amazing against midgame Gateway - Collosus based armies, because they ball up so nicely. The Banelings serve as a sort of reverse corruptor, where they just kill everything around the Collosus so the rest of your army can snipe off the Collosus.
The most valuable targets are the Sentries. Sentries are slow and expensive, and when you kill them the Protoss won't replace them quickly. This means that your largest enemy, the forcefield, will be taken from battle for some time. The second best targets are the Zealots, as they take additional damage and their quick deaths makes them unable to kill off sufficient Zerglings. Stalkers are great targets when they are balled up, and Collosus should only be targeted when they are walking over an army, otherwise you won't kill them cost-effectively.
Baneling bombs also have a few extra hidden tricks. Like blank overlords. These are simply empty overlords that are mixed within the Baneling holding overlords. Because the Protoss cannot see the difference, he cannot effectively focus down the correct overlords. You should always keep the empty overlords in the front so that the first shots will never shoot at a baneling overlord directly.
You can also control the overlords while they are dropping, allowing you to steer the overlords according to the army movement. That way the army cannot escape without the overlords on their tail. The trick is simple, you move the overlord and press D, then click on the overlord. This makes the overlord drop while they are moving, especially nice against probes and Sentries.
The second all the Banelings have been dropped, select all your overlords and send them home. You don't want them to get killed and get you supply blocked. Which is a very high possibility if you haven't killed off a majority of the army.
Once you have Baneling dropped a mineral line or shown it against the army, you can also fake him out by sending empty overlords over their mineral lines. With any luck they will just send away all their workers for no reason at all, putting all the more pressure onto the Protoss without spending more.
The most important upgrade for the Baneling bombs is the +2 melee upgrade. Personally I don't even upgrade drop without this upgrade, it just makes the Banelings so much more cost-effective. After this is on the way, start the ventral sacs upgrade ( overlord drop ), the upgrade takes a long time to research and you don't really need pneumatic carapace ( overlord speed ) all that fast if you are just using it for dropping Banelings. You can start the upgrades on two different hatcheries, you don't need to have a Lair upgrading them.
Dealing with Forge FE - Stargate play
This kind of opening is most common on maps where the Zerg wants to take a third quicker. The air units like the Voidray and Phoenix are excellent to snipe out the vulnerable third base that doesn't have Spore crawlers and Queens defending it yet. And if there are, the Phoenix simply lift them up.
But these expensive units have to do heavy damage to the third and the Queens there to get remotely even. The Protoss can take a quicker third with the map control that the air units give, but it is also a neccesity to keep the Protoss on a course to the lategame. Without the quicker third, he will have a hard time against a three base Zerg with all their production capabilities.
The best way of dealing with this kind of harass is to have a quicker third when you notice a Forge FE ( around 30 food give or take ) and put down a pair of Spore crawlers there when you notice the air units coming out. Your Queen cannot get there fast enough and the Phoenix would only lift and destroy it anyway. Spore crawlers have the benefit that Phoenixes can't hit them, and Voidrays don't do great against them.
If you haven't scouted the Stargates yet, you don't really know how many there are. But the units themselves can give you the information needed to see how many Stargates the Protoss has in his arsenal. The first part is to check whether or not the Phoenix is real. Hallucinated Phoenixes are often used for scouting purposes with Gateway heavy armies and you don't really want to prepare for Stargate play with Spore crawlers and get startled by a massive Gateway army trampling your natural. Fortunately for you there is a simple check if the Phoenix is real.
Because every Phoenix is trigger happy, it will always shoot at an overlord in his vicinity. When you have health bars on ( which you should, it helps so much with focusfiring and checking whether or not the engagement is good for you ) check the overlords health. If it is unscathed, the Phoenix is hallucinated. Hallucinations also take a lot more damage than regular versions of that unit. So checking how much health the Queen takes from a Phoenix is also a dead give away.
Checking the build time of the Phoenix, we can see that it finishes in 35 ingame seconds. Which translates to 25 ingame seconds when Chronoboosted once. Voidrays take one ingame minute to finish. Now we can clearly see if we count the amount of Stargate units at one given moment in time, and recount them oen minute later, how many Stargates the Protoss is committing too. Four Phoenixes extra or two extra Voidrays means he has two Stargates, while two Phoenixes or one Voidray means one Stargate play. With this we can see how much anti-air we should be getting and how dangerous the threat is.
Dealing with two base Collosus - Voidray
Back in early 2011 this was considered to be the worst thing a Protoss could possibly do to humanity. Because of their blatant abuse of the unit composition and the large amount of Voidray massers in team games, the flux vanes upgrade was cut from the game and the damage output has been altered by a ton. Still, this style is extremely strong and you need to know how to deal with it to destroy it.
First off, we have to analyze how this style operates. It opens up with a Forge FE into Voidrays that are used to defend Roach ling all ins and attack the third base of the Zerg. He builds up a little flock of 4 or 5 Voidrays and goes around attacking overlords and bases to try and force Hydralisks.
Then after having built the Voidrays he stops using the Stargate tech and builds a Robotics facility and bay and starts churning out Collosus with a minimum gateway army consisting mostly of a few Sentries and Zealots. When the Collosus have hit a mass of around 5 the Protoss goes back to Voidray production and moves through the map ready to incinerate everything in its path.
The best way to play against this style is to quickly get up to 4 bases and saturate the gasses while getting a large Roach force with an attack upgrade up. Then get out a Spire and engage the Protoss in the middle of the map with as much Roaches and perhaps Baneling drops. Trading with the Zealots and ground to air units as much as possible. While the Roaches are dying to the Collosus, you simply build a huge flock of Mutalisks.
When the Protoss attacks your bases, you can sacrifice a lot of them while you get up your enormous Mutalisk cloud. Engage when you think you have enough to roll through his small Stalker count. The Mutalisks will kill off the Voidrays easily and the Collosi will drop to the air to air attacks pretty easily.
After you hold off the push, you win the game. He has no way to get up a third and you have a large Mutalisk ball up and running. He can't come back unless you mess something up terribly and lose all of your Mutalisks.
A classic case of picking your poison. The style you choose also dictates the pressure you are putting onto the Protoss' third base or midgame push. I have dabbled around in a lot of different styles to find the perfect midgame army, but I have only found that there is no optimal midgame army. It is what tactics that you do in that style that will give you the edge in the final battle.
Zergling - Baneling drops
Morrow was known for some time for using this unit composition versus Protoss. I have also been doing this since I have restarted my Hatch firsting again. There are a couple of advantages in this style. You can take a really quick third and still be safe. You can support three bases with inject production with less drones and a fourth hatchery in the form of a macro hatchery is easily supported by a few extra drones. The Banelings and Zerglings also benefit from the same upgrades.
This style does amazingly well against Gateway armies, but Collosus - gateway armies are much tougher to deal with without the Infestor and the Roach. The Collosi simply blast through the Zerglings before they can kill off the remnants of the Protoss army post-baneling bombs. Against large Stargate plays the large amount of Zerglings will prevent a third easily.
But the very toughest army to face is the Zealot Archon composition. This is a style that is easily spotted by scouting the forge upgrading and the large amount of Zealots. You need to have Spine crawlers at your natural AND third to keep the damage low. And if you have drops finished, put the overlords over the Spine crawlers filled with Banelings. The Zealots will charge ahead of the Archons into the Spines, where the Baneling drops will devour the Zealots up. Allowing your Zerglings to flood in around the weakened army and take it out with the Spine crawler support.
Once you have a decent foothold on the map, you have to transition into Infestors or Roaches. Otherwise further Zealot heavy armies will defend the Protoss' third base which you then cannot pressure well.
Against a regular +1 or unupgraded 6 gate push, you can simply keep the Zerglings out on the map while erecting a Spine crawler wall in front of your natural. When the attack hits, attack the Gateway army from behind. This should kill or weaken it enough to be devoured by the second wave of your units.
Roach - Zergling - Baneling drops
A strategy I preferred to do, but more recently I have been steering towards Zergling Baneling again. This style is a heavy siege attack onto the Protoss forces, and is extremely deadly against a Gateway or Collosus - Gateway army that is trying to take a third base. The Baneling drops will deal with the Sentries while the Roachling army tears up the rest of the Protoss forces.
The weakness of this composition however is its reliance on the Banelings inside the overlords. Stargate openings as such are extremely devastating against this style because they can dismantle the overlord pack before it can deliver its payload. And just Roachling cannot breach a Protoss wall. You also cannot take a quick third because you have to invest a ton into your army to make it as deadly as possible. This will make this attack seem more all in as some of the other options.
In any other case though, you can engage the Protoss encampment where ever they are weak. When they have just invested in a third base, you attack them there. And when they are still camping in their natural, you attack that. You have to set up some things before you attack however.
When you have any sort of Baneling bombs under your belt, you should always have two ready to pounce onto a mineral line. So when you attack, you can do a triple pronged attack and deal damage in atleast one of the parts. When you engage, lead with your Baneling bombs first, then send in the overlords that are stationed near the mineral lines to move in. Drop the Banelings onto the army and try to hit the Sentries. Move the Roaches and the Zerglings in when the overlords are dropping and attack. Then hit the mineral lines with the acid bombs. When engaged correctly, you should have either crippled his economy or destroyed his army handily, allowing you to take out his vulnerable third or delay it for some time for you to transition to a higher tech route.
Infestor - Zergling
A strategy popularized by Destiny, a former ROOT player. The strategy relies on getting lots of upgrades for your Zerglings and get out a metric ton of Infestors to fungal, neural and terran up the whole map.
Infestor Zergling has the possibility to dismantle any midgame Protoss army unless it uses High templar for feedbacks. The neural parasite spell takes care of the Collosi while the fungal growth and masses of Zerglings chew through the rest of the army.
The strength of this army is that it can deal with any kind of 6 gate with remarkable easy with the aid of a couple of Spine crawlers. And with the burrow upgrade a Zergling can be used to slightly delay the Protoss' third before detection is at hand. Because of its strength, it can quickly explode by taking multiple bases across the map and teching to Hive tech to deal its strongest blow.
The weakness of this style however is the fact that it cannot take a third base quickly or it will get destroyed easily. You also require double evolution chamber to churn out the melee and carapace upgrades after you upgrade the hatchery to a Lair.
The second your Infestation pit finishes you have to start the pathogen glands. Getting out the Infestors after the upgrade reaches its 30 second mark should also be noted to get the quickest fungal-ready Infestors out. After this you should immediately start the neural parasite upgrade. This gives you the ability to deal with high health Collosus, Archons and Immortals.
Once your Infestors are out, you can start a third and build a lot of Zerglings while moving your Spine crawlers forward onto your creep. From here, you wait until the army engages you. If they don't you can easily start the Hive and Spire at the same time. This will make sure that they finish at the same time too, allowing for the quickest Greater spire possible.
If he does engage, there are a couple of high value targets for your Infestors to fungal. The Sentries are low health and get killed in three fungals, while the Zealots litterally cannot attack your Zerglings effectively when they are fungaled because of the ball formation they are forced into. Zealots die in 5 fungals and Stalkers die in 4. While the Stalkers take less fungals to die, they are also easily destroyed by the upgraded Zerglings. The Zealots are harder on your Zerglings, so taking them out of the action will give you a more cost-effective attack.
When you are up against a Forge FE, you can also do a timing with 6 Infestors where you spill a ton of Infested terrans over their wall to kill off the tech and economy inside. This type of timing attack is the strongest against a Stargate opening or other quick tech openings because they don't have much to deal with the Infested terrans. Later in the game, the Infestors can be used to harass bases with the large amount of Infested terrans they store inside them.
This style is the best if you want to get out a large amount of Broodlords in the lategame to crush him there.
Roach - Zergling - Infestor
This midgame has less strength at kicking down sturdy Protoss walls, but is immensely strong against any sort of push coming out. The Infestors will take longer to come out however, and you will have to rely on Zerglings, Roaches and Spine crawlers to defend earlier 5 gate attacks.
Unlike the Infestor Zergling play, you focus on a stronger midgame rather than a quicker lategame. You invest in Roaches early on and get the Infestation pit before you take a third. You use the Roaches and Zerglings to get you map control and take the third quicker. Then get out a lot of Infestors after you have a reasonable Roach force.
Against Stargate play this does a lot better than the Roachling play with Baneling drop support. Because of the Infestors being able to hit the air army, but the Phoenix having the ability to lift the Infestors up, this gives us a little dynamic in this otherwise quite stale match up from the Protoss' side. When you see Stargate play, upgrading burrow will allow you to move your Infestors over the map without having them picked up by Phoenixes. When you reach their wall off, spew out all of the Infested terrans and attack the wall with your Roaches. As long as you kill off the Sentries you should be able to work your way through the barricade or atleast maul the third with your superior ground forces.
When the Protoss moves out, make an enormous concave with multiple flanks. Attack from all sides and chain fungal the army. When done well, you should be able to crush a Gateway based army or Collosus - Gateway based army with a lot of Roaches left. These Roaches can be used to pressure the third, taking it out or doing major economic damage to the Protoss to prolong his two basing while you are on three bases with stronger tech.
Eventually you should be able to choke him out. Getting up Baneling bomb tech and blasting through any army the Protoss presents to you. Getting Broodlords takes too long with this style, so you should rather focus on the stronger midgame unit composition rather than a late strong Broodlords army.
Mutalisk - Zergling
A very mobile and harass heavy style, the Mutaling composition is great for fighting against Protoss that haven't made their builds as tight as possible yet. Often catching them completely off guard and having them lose probes left and right.
Before you go for this unit composition however, you need to know that it is really weak against a regular 5 or 6 gate push. Because it relies on Spine crawlers and as few Zerglings as possible so you can churn out as many Mutalisks as you can. The Mutalisks themselves don't do well against the large amount of Stalkers, especially with Guardian shield backing them up. It also needs to be transitioned out of when you face Stargate play due to the fact that Phoenixes kill Mutalisks so nicely.
You should only go for this style if the Cybernetics core is delayed like in a Forge FE situation or where the Protoss has put on a lot of pressure before getting the Cybernetics core. Otherwise you run the risk of getting overwhelmed by a quick 2 base Gateway push. You should take your third as the Spire finishes, and you can take it in pretty much any spot because of the mobility that Mutalisks give you. Infact, getting a base far away on your side of the map is probably better because you draw the army of the Protoss far away if they do want to take it out. Drawing it away from your natural and opening up counter attack paths at the same time.
The biggest strength of this style is the harassment possibilities. Mutalisks are the most mobile units the Zerg has and also the units that can retreat the easiest from a Protoss base. This makes the excellent raiders. The three things you should focus on killing are probes, Artosis pylons and Cybernetics cores. Probes are the weakest and most valuable unit the Protoss has, and with Mutalisks being able to dart from base to base, they are the easiest to pick off. A pack of 10 Mutalisks does 90 damage directly with each volley, 130 in total with the bouncing attack. This means that with each attack, you can be sure that you have killed around 3 probes on average. This means that you can quickly devastate the Protoss' income with just a few harassment units.
Artosis pylons are the next easiest targets to take out. With a pack of around 10 Mutalisks you can take out a pylon in 5 volleys, around 8 ingame seconds. A lot of production or upgrades delayed with the sniping of an Artosis pylon can set the Protoss back a bit in terms of unit count and strong timing pushes.
It takes around 130 shots from a Mutalisk to kill off a Cybernetics core, so with a pack of 13 or more you will kill it off in 10 volleys which comes down to around 15 ingame seconds. That is a long time to kill, but if you can kill it it will pay off its weight in gold. Killing the Cybernetics core delays further Stalker and Sentry production. And if you kill it off soon enough you develop a timing where mass Mutalisk will just overwhelm a base and kill off a ton of stuff before the Stalkers can deal with it.
When attacking some place with Mutalisks, you have to remember a couple of things. When you know the Stalkers have blink done, you should instantly move your Mutalisks the second you see a Stalker move in your vision. Because of the large distance the Stalkers can simply traverse by blinking in a second, you can't risk all of your Mutalisks sustaining heavy damage because you stayed in the base for too long. Just move away when you notice the Stalkers coming in your vision and you should be fine.
If you face Phoenixes, you should always ball your Mutalisks up as much as possible. While you can't engage a well microed Phoenix force with Mutalisks, you can put your Mutalisks in a big Muta clump so when the Phoenixes attack, they won't be able to focusfire low health Mutalisks as well. This also gives you the possibility to punish any mismicro of the Phoenixes better. Whenever the Phoenixes move too close to you, you can simply flick back and attack with all your Mutalisks at once. The stacked up Mutalisks will probably attack one specific target, instantly taking out a Phoenix and forcing them to retreat further, giving you time to get away.
Like Zergling run by's and other drops, these harassments will force the Protoss back if he was going for a push. Delaying his timing by a lot and generally messing with his control of the game. When you aren't quite ready to hold a push off yet, you can do a Mutalisk harassment do gain some more time to respond with Roaches or more Spine crawlers.
This style is the absolute strongest against a build that has recently cropped up from the Protoss. That particular build relies on getting out a warp prism and loading it up with four Sentries. He then drops the Sentries in the main and forcefields the ramp while the Blink Stalkers hollow out the main and all the tech. It is a fairly gimmicky strategy though, and greatly pivots on the warp prism. With the Mutalisks patrolling the map, you can easily scout the Warp prism and snipe it out, leaving him with just a lot of Blink Stalkers that you can take out with mass Zergling Mutalisk.
This style can easily be transitioned from after you have done some harassment. Roaches or Infestors have amazing synergy with Mutalisks both against Phoenixes and Stalker balls. The upgrades from the Spire can also be used for a lategame Broodlord tech switch.
Roach - Hydralisk
A style reminiscent of 2010, it uses the sheer brute force of the Roach Hydralisk composition to blast through any army that doesn't involve Archons and Collosus. It is also a style that faded away with a good reason, we were getting rolled by doing it. The Voidray - Collosus composition was a main factor in this development, it O-B-L-I-T-E-R-A-T-E-D our play and forced us into different play styles. Recently though, it has resurfaced into a bit of a renaissance moment. And although very situational, it does have its strengths.
When you are on three bases you still have a lot of options laid out for you. You can still transition into another style a bit and can respond to certain Protoss styles better. And if you want to go for this style you need the Protoss to be in a certain situation that has to do with Stargates.
You see, a Protoss that focusses heavily on Stargate units has a lot less gas to spend on tech. And a good Spored up base won't lose much drones at all to Phoenix and Voidray harass. Never the less, Protoss users do overcommit to these units from time to time, and it's your job to find out when that is.
On a two base economy the Protoss has a max gas income of around 500, and on two Stargates the Protoss spends a lot of that income into the units. Every Phoenix costs 100 gas and every Voidray costs 150. Which means that with two Stargates a Phoenix producing Protoss will spend 400 gas every minute on Phoenixes while a double Voidray will spend 300 gas every minute. This means that he really does not have much gas for Sentries and tech at the same time. The only way he can get Collosus out is to stop all Stargate and gateway production, which means Hydralisks become a viable option for once.
If you see him overcommitting like this for some time, get up a Hydralisk den and pump out a large amount of Hydralisks ( around 15 ) and after that start churning out Roaches. You need to have a +1 range upgrade to aid against the Protoss and once you are pushing you can get the Hydralisk range to help those. You need a lot of creep to get to the Protoss base quickly so overlord speed can help make a highway to your opponent. Pummel towards his third and lay waste to it while his army is weak.
This style also has the quickest possible doom drop that you can do, the Hydralisks and Roaches will be amazing against a mostly Gateway and Stargate army and you can expand a lot behind the enormous all-inish push. After that you can transition into any other style and you should so you can bust through Collosus or templar transitions more easily. Unless ofcourse you have withered his army or economy down enough that you can just Sauron Zerg him down with massed of Zerg units.
So you did it, you ignored all my advice on how to not get here yet you let it slip. Shame on you! More seriously, you might actually be facing a Protoss with skill that held off your attacks with a hard trade, but still standing. Your major attack should have done a lot of damage by now and you should atleast be on three bases while the Protoss is busy regaining economy.
There are two major final assaults that can finish off a Protoss aside from the large midgame styles, involving Ultralisks on one side and Broodlords on the other. But let's be prepared for lategame harass first.
Dark Templar harassThe bane of my existance, fricking DTS!
This is the story of my ZvP life. I get up to three bases, I inject perfectly, I get upgrades and my large attack force up and running. I then lose my main to DT's and curse at my monitor. I mean, this has happened to the best of us. Dark Templar are the only Protoss units that can slip by your defences and do good damage, and they obviously have a big weakness against anything that sees them.
The best way to prepare for this kind of harass is to have a Spore and a Spine crawler at each of your bases. Single DT's will be warded off by this and that should often times be enough to prevent them from slipping by and do economic damage. However, sometimes the Protoss wants to have a little more invested for a little more reward.
Dark templar do 45 damage with every slice and have 120 total health. Spine crawlers do 25 damage with each poke and aren't very quick at doing that, so two Dark templar can snipe off a Spore crawler while keeping one of their bretheren alive. Three DT's will do the damage so fast that none of them will die to a single Spine crawler poking at them. That's why in the late game you should have a multitude of Spine crawlers and an emergency overlord at each of your bases just in case.
At the same time, you can put a Queen at the Spore crawler. If an Observer flies over you will kill it before it can retreat unless the Protoss is microing it. It's a little extra that can help a lot in the mid and late game.
This kind of harass is more common in the midgame than in the lategame. It's strength is that Spore crawlers and Queens can't kill the Phoenixes fast enough to stop the drones from dying. A large group of more than 10 Phoenixes move in and lift most of your drones, killing them off quickly and getting away without any losses.
Hydralisks are terrible against this sort of harass because they are extremely slow and can get lifted. The Phoenixes actually also get a bonus damage against them, as if the Hydralisk didn't have enough things in this universe that just stomp right over it.
The only unit that can be any effective against this harass is the Infestor. A combination of fungal growth and Spore crawlers can pin the Phoenixes down effectively and force spores down their throats until they die. It won't kill the Phoenixes off, but they are forced to retreat immediately after. When you have casted your fungal, immediately burrow your Infestor so that it out of vision from the Phoenixes so it doesn't get graviton beamed up.
Keep your other Infestors burrowed too incase a large fleet of Phoenixes flies over and snipes them off. Phoenixes don't travel with detection and you can safe your precious Infestors this way.
Ultralisk styleIntelligence underwhelming
These mighty beasts are the only unit in the Zerg arsenal that can breach forcefields. And with its enormous health and armour it can take a lot of beating. However Ultralisks on their own are costly and weak, easily taken out by a single Archon and a couple of Zealots.
The Ultralisk should always have its chitinous plating upgrade out before it ever attacks the Protoss. By this point in the lategame the Protoss will have a lot of upgrades out and you should atleast have +2 carapace before you even consider going Ultralisks. Luckily they benefit from our melee upgrades too, giving them a better fighting chance against the Protoss.
The biggest enemy of the Ultralisk is not neccesarily the Immortal, but the Zealot. Zealots tank a lot of their damage and they pin the Ultralisk out of the way from the squishier Stalkers and Sentries within. That's why you should always have speed Banelings with your Ultralisk force. The Ultralisk will stop the forcefields from being effective and the Banelings will roll through the Zealots so the rest of the army can rampage through.
Infestors are also a neccesity, they allow us to neural parasite the Immortals and Archons so that they fight together with our Ultralisks rather than against them. Ultralisks against Archons will always be a terrible fight for the Zerg unless you have way more Ultralisks than the Protoss has Archons and Zealots. So neural parasite and Banelings are needed to make these beasts work well in your ZvP game.
Ultralisks are very fragile to building placement however. And if you see a narrow passage made by buildings you should always send the Roaches in front of the Ultralisks so that the A.I won't get confused and send the Ultralisk to Zerg hell.
Apart from that, Ultralisks are amazing counter attack units. They tank a lot of cannon shots and they allow the Zerglings to lay waste to the rest. High templars don't do well against Ultralisks and force them to become Archons ( this isn't a good thing, Archons are pretty damn good against everything Zerg ). The only unit that can really deal with an Ultralisk counter attack is the Dark Templar because of his high damage output and invisibility.
You should never go for an Ultralisk based composition if you see more than 2 Robotics facilities out on the map. The Immortals simply get churned out too quickly and handle the Ultralisks and Roaches amazingly well. Voidrays also do bonus damage against them and focusfire them down really quick as well as Broodlords. You really can't tech switch into Broodlords after investing a lot into this tech however, since the Protoss will start Stargate production by then and deal bonus damage to both your Ultralisks and Broodlords. If you want to transition out of this, I can really only reccommend mass Mutalisk styles where you hope the Protoss won't storm them all to death.
The Mutalisk tech switch will be amazing against Immortal responses and they can be used to counter attack all over the Protosses bases, giving you more time to build another trust fund for another major tech switch into anything else, depending on the Protosses army composition.
Broodlord styleCarriers that are actually used
The ultimate anti Protoss unit because it only gets hard countered by 3 units, the Voidray, Carrier and Mothership. The Broodlord is a hideously powerful unit that shoots out broodlings towards the Protoss forces below, pinning them in place and soaking up fire allowing your ground forces to deal with them more effectively. This is by far the strongest unit composition against the Protoss forces and gets exponentially stronger the larger the Broodlord fleet becomes.
Broodlords, however strong they may be, do have weaknesses, mainly their speed. Once a Broodlord decided to fly around the earth. By the time he finished his journey, the dinosaurs were extinct and creatures had engineered machines from which they could do battle behind a screen. It's just that slow. This makes units like the Blink Stalker and Warp prism a lot more difficult to deal with because they can move in to an expansion, snipe it and retreat before the Broodlords are there.
They are also fairly squishy with their 250 health, so they need support in the form of Infestors and Roaches or Spine crawlers below them. Otherwise Blink Stalkers will blink underneath them and focus them down with little losses.
Once you have Broodlords out, you simply get more Broodlords. That's the end of the story. The more Broodlords you have, the faster you kill their standing army and the more time you have to lay waste to their bases.
When you have the Broodlords out on the map, just make a Spine crawler wall below them. 15 Spine crawlers will delay the Protoss for a long time if they do counter attack into your bases and they simply stop Gateway based armies in their tracks.
The biggest target for your Broodlord fleet is the main. Once you get a critical mass of them going, you can just bombard their tech and sweep through their bases. The Protoss needs to have Stargate units to deal with them effectively otherwise his bases will get destroyed. When you are attacking over airspace, use your remaining ground forces to attack another base. This is the strongest multi pronged attack that you can perform and should cripple the Protoss beyond repair.
If he does hold, you will fall. Your final sigh will have to make way for a GG and you should come to the realisation that next game you will do a bit better.
This concludes the final guide of my Zerg knowledge. I have given all of you everything I know, and there is no doubt a lot more to learn for both you and I. Let's hope that the Heart of the Swarm brings us so many metagame changes that we will have to revamp all of the guides to be up to date.
I might have offended you if you are reading this as Protoss, if you have, I sincerely apoligise. It was all in good fun and it was just to put a pat on the shoulders of all the Zerg players that have to cry out their tears before they can improve their game. I also want to reach a hand out to those that has a hard time right now right now, Protoss players. Let's all hope that our differences can be settled in the upcoming expansions, and that your mirror match up as well as all the other match ups be exciting to broadcast and play on both sides.
I want to thank all of you supportive folk for the kind comments across reddit, teamliquid and other forums. I hope all of these tips and combined knowledge can help you out on your ladder play so that the Zerg as a race can move forward in unison.
I have but one request to you kind people that liked my three guides out here. If you have a TL account, go and look up the Strategy Forum Highlight Nomination thread on Website Feedback part of teamliquid. If you find the quality of my guides good enough, go and nominate me there. There are many other TL users out there that frequent the Strategy forum a lot and give the users there a lot of feedback, and you would help them greatly if you nominate the great ones on that thread. It is such a boost of confidence for those who genuinely help the new players there, and together we can improve the Strategy forum to its former glory.
As a Zerg player by heart, I salute all of you who want to improve. Keep working and eventually you will reach the next level. Who knows, perhaps you will be making guides for me some time.
Thank you for reading and best of luck!
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