Zerg versus Protoss: Fall of the First born
Broad guide about ZvP Early and Late game:
The last ZvP guide I made was recieved quite badly, and yes it was due to the imbalance talk and protoss bashing. It was a tough lesson to learn, seeing as even though I put the most info of any match up as I could into that guide people went on to rant about my stance of ZvP. Fear not, you will not see any of that kind of whining in here. Firstly because it really doesn't help anyone and secondly because I nailed the match up down so that I finally have a 60+% winrate so I don't rage as much anymore. Again I keep this site ad free because I don't believe in that kind of system for you guys, but if you do want to donate and help this grow you can use this paypal adress to do so: firstname.lastname@example.org
After David Kim slammed his mighty nerfhammer onto the Infestor, Zergs were quite shaken because the hinging unit in the match up was abrubtly taken out of its leading role. Many zergs including me have been experimenting a ton after that patch. I can safely say that using nydus worms to mine is quite hard and that you can't rely on them for retreating your Hydra-ling army as well. I went through a valley of losing for quite some time until I found the guide of one of TL's finest decaf, the thread is here: http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=277693 ( definitely a recommended read, was greatly inspired by it ). It opened up my midgame quite a bit and gave it a solid base which I expanded on. In this guide I will mainly talk about the midgame of Zerg versus Protoss and how to abuse Protoss' builds and play according to what you scout. But I'll start off with one of my favourite little cheeses out there.
Table of Contents
- Baneling bust against FFE
- Midgame - Setting up
- Midgame - Responding to Protoss builds
- Standard route
- Gateway push
- Robo route
- Stargate route
- Twilight route
Baneling bust against FFE
This is one of those openings that is great for punishing fast teching off of a forge fast expand. It isn't stable against all kinds of builds but it's great to throw in every now and then. The build starts off with a hatch first, which seems like quite a passive build from Protoss' point of view. This ofcourse is one of thise assumptions that will kill you brutally as Protoss if you cut corners like skipping that second sentry.
15 Spawning pool
17 Gas - Put 3 drones in gas when finished
Drones until around 25 - Lings after that
Start Baneling nest when you have enough gas
Start second Extractor when starting Baneling nest - Put 3 drones on gas.
So what abou...
Cannon rushes? Well here's the thing, if he does a cannon rush and you defend it with decent drone micro ( which you should have if you go for hatch first ) you can easily capitalize on the fact that his gateway and sentries are delayed. I've wrote a good bit about how to stop cannon rushes in my other ZvP guide http://raa-media.nl/blog/starcraft2/zvp-aiurs-armageddon.
Once you get speed and get the Baneling nest, you start the second gas and mine from both until you have 350 gas or so. You need 14 Banelings to kill off a Cybernetics core, which is the highest value target in this kind of rush. Not only will killing the Cybernetics core force him to rebuild it, it will stop him from making Sentries which are required to deal with Banelings and high amounts of Zerglings. If the Cybernetics core isn't in the wall you will want to go for the Forge and gateway. Make sure you hit between it to get the maximum efficiency. Both of these buildings have less health than the Cybernetics core, so you can lose a couple of Banelings and still be okay.
Make sure you never show your high amount of lings to him. If that does happen it might startle him into making a second Sentry in which case you just jepardized your whole gameplan, well done :). Morph the Banelings near his base but out of his vision. Make sure that you keep a couple of lings out of his base to kill scouting probes. Once you are ready, move in with your lings before the Banelings and attack a building you don't want to blow up with Banelings to try and lure out a forcefield.
The best possible time to attack is when warp gate finishes, so you can kill the cybercore before he can warp in Stalkers or Sentries. Which means he will be stuck on Zealots for a long long time, and you have Banelings to deal with those. Once Speedlings are in his base, you really shouldn't let him live and kill off anything you can while flooding in with more and more lings. You could just go for a macro game if you so desire, but your tech will be so very behind that you probably won't be able to defend against every option the Protoss has.
Midgame - Setting up
So you have decided that you like the gentle sound of his pulse resonating on the background for now. That's fine, we'll deal with that issue soon enough. For now, we have to decide on how to prepare our infrastructure for maximum flexibility.
All of my games open up with a 14 hatch first , 15 spawning pool into 17 gas. This will get speed up at a reasonable pace and allows me to practice against those ladder players that only cheese with cannon rushes and 4 gates. But in general the opening doesn't really matter all that much as long as you get your hatch up at a reasonable time and get some drones there so you can be relatively even on economy. 14 Pool 16 hatch is great if the Probe is at your natural on his first scout, because even with the best micro you will get pylon-blocked by the best players.
There are a couple of things that you really need in the midgame versus Protoss. One is a third base, the others are minimum tech, scouting information and lots of larvae. Your goal is to deny his third while luring out his army at all costs. The entire game pivots around the third base of the Protoss, not only on our side but on his side as well. It will literally decide who lives and who dies. Protoss in the lategame is so strong that they have multiple answers for every zerg composition aside from mass broodlord-infestor-spinecrawler. While in the midgame they lack the AoE to effectively deal with the enormous amount of units zerg can produce on 3 or 4 hatcheries and will easily get overwhelmed.
My third and fourth hatchery
If you are going for a hatch first, it is best to go for a third once you get around 30 supply. This is the time where you will have two queens injecting and a pair of overlords in production to unsupply block you. Once those overlords finish you can start putting down that third base safely. This means it will be in time to put down sporecrawlers in case of Stargate play while not impeding your drone production too much.
After that hatch gets put down, go for another round of drones and build the macro hatchery in your main. The biggest strength of Zerg is that if the Protoss decides to attack your third with a large gateway force, a macro hatch will be able to flood the map with Zerglings so that his army will get destroyed and his third delayed. It's okay to lose your third as long as his third doesn't go up.
Once the third is halfway done, you start a queen at your natural and once the macro hatchery is halfway you make an extra one at your main. The 4queen/4hatch production has so many larvae that you can literally flood the map with 50 Zerglings at a time quite quickly. The large amount of larvae also allows you to go for maximum droning quickly. With good macro you are able to make 28 larvae every minute ( this is taking into acount for a single inject finishing up, otherwise you can have 44 larvae finishing if two larva injects finish ). This absurd amount of Zerglings is incredibly hard to deal with if the Protoss doesn't have a good simcity, is out of position or does not have Collosus up.
You can switch the macro-hatch and third timing around, but generally the later you get the third the more you rely on him going for a gateway push and the more content he will feel to just sit back and take a sip from his martini behind simcity as he slowly crawls to his third.
In general you should always get a macro hatchery before you start your fourth because otherwise you will end up in situations where you are floating over 1000 minerals with all your larvae already building something without you being able to quickly reinforce with a ton of Zerglings or Roaches. It is dangerous and risky to not have a macro hatchery up, and it will allow you to make up for those imperfect injections a lot.
Tech choices in Chronological order
There are a couple of tech choices that you want to adhere to. One is obviously the Zergling speed. You do not have to rush for this upgrade, hell even I just get it with 2 drones in gas even with hatch first against FFE. Without Zergling speed you might aswell just spine up and hope he bangs his head against it. It is pivotal to have the possibility of a counter attack, be it to his third or his natural when he moves out. You might not even have this in your gameplan. But the threat alone will make the Protoss feel uncomfortable to move around on the map.
The second is your evolution chamber. I prefer to get this up before a lair because getting the lair up quickly usually won't unlock anything I need right then and there. Roach speed won't make kiting Zealots much easier since they already out manuoevre them and fast Infestors/Muta's won't allow me to keep the third up reliably.
Generally these are the rules I stick to when I make my decision what upgrade I will get:
Gateway first opening = Melee upgrade. When a Protoss is going for a Gateway first opening, his Forge will be delayed and his upgrades will stay behind for some time. In this case a melee upgrade will be best because you can rely on Zerglings more in the early game and it will be enough to kill off all one-base builds or a 5 gate without upgrades.
Forge Fast-Expand without an upgrading Forge = Range upgrade. The range attack upgrade is generally the upgrade that says 'Alright, I'm not sure what the hell you are up to, and I don't see a quick upgrading forge just yet. So I'll just take the safe option and go for +1 range'. Because you aren't sure what kind of unit composition the Protoss is going for, the general decision is to just get the safe upgrade and not rely a scouting-specific path such as Melee or Carapace.
Forge Fast-Expand WITH a quickly upgrading Forge = Carapace upgrade. The carapace upgrade will allow you to nullify a quick upgrade from the Protoss after a short timing so that your Zergling flood will still do reliable damage to his force. You are not trying to out upgrade your Protoss opponent if he is going Forge first because in most cases if he really wants to he will just chrono out his upgrades to get ahead. So it's better to keep your hatch tech units more viable than to make them more dangerous with attack upgrades. This is especially the case in Zealot-Zergling battles. While a Melee upgrade will help cost-efficiency immensely, a quick ground attack upgrade from the Protoss will nullify that advantage and once he starts the +2 attack your Zerglings will be forever unefficient because you can't catch up in carapace upgrades. Which means that the large waves of Zerglings won't be as threatening to the Protoss as they should be.
The Roach warren is a safety net and because it costs no gas it is ideal to get when you are powering drones like you should be, atleast for some time. Roaches will keep you safe from a style that is getting increasingly popular to execute. In this style a Protoss gets a quick +1 attack and warps in a ton of Zealots. He uses these to slaughter the Zerglings that he will face and beeline directly for the third to kill it off. With Roaches and proper kiting you can kill off these Kamika-Zealots without losing your third or a ton of Zerglings.
Roaches in general are a very beefy unit that is strong against anything but a lot of Stalkers and Immortals. If a Protoss has overproduced on Sentries and Zealots you can force out a ton of Forcefields with a group of Roaches without threatening your Zergling count which makes it a very good unit option to have in the early-midgame.
After you have put down the Roach warren, it is okay to start your Lair. If he decides to make a push out with Gateway units you will be able to stomp it with a round of Zerglings and good positioning without needing roaches. There is no need to delay your Lair if he makes a push out simply because he won't have enough units to deal with a large amount of Zerglings at that timing. Besides, it would have only gotten you 4 Roaches for the 100 gas, and that amount generally isn't game changing to get up that fast. Infact, it delays your Overseer and Roach speed a lot if you decide to get the Roaches instead of the Lair. So if he just pokes out and retreat with a small Gateway force, the tech-damage would have already been done to you.
Roaches in the front seat, Zerglings in the back seat. Gotta make my mind up, which gas will I take?
A common problem among players with bad macro is that they have way too much gas banked up in the mid or late game. This means that it will feel like you can't do much because you are out of minerals, but infact you just have too much gas and try to make gas heavy units to get that count down. Getting your minerals to gas ratio in good shape is the first step to showing you where you can macro up better.
You should be careful with how many drones you devote to mining gas instead of minerals. Having a high amount of minerals in the early game isn't a problem because with good injections you will be able to get it down to an acceptable level. While having too much gas might cause you to get your lair or upgrades too fast and put a wrench in your unit/drone production.
In the early game you should never have more than one extractor up. You can experiment a bit with drones in the gas to delay your tech or get it faster to your wishes. Getting it up later will get you more drones faster, but might cause you to lose valuable timings that you would be able to exploit if you had tech up faster. Personally I put 3 or 2 drones in gas, and once my speed is up I keep it on 2 drones for some time. This will get me enough gas to drone up a lot and slowly get my upgrade and lair. If you need to get the Carapace upgrade you might want to put 3 drones in gas to get the gas faster while not delaying your Lair a ton.
If you want to start Roach production soon, get your second and third gas up. This will give you enough gas to produce Roaches off of two bases while still having enough minerals for Zergling production. If you focus on full Roach production for some time you will build up larvae for a while. But you can't afford any other tech aside from Roach production off of 3 gasses.
For the case where your tech ever gets delayed, feel free to take an additional gas to catch back up again.
If you want to get your midgame tech going, like Roach speed and more upgrades you get the fourth gas. This will make sure you can keep up emergency Roach production should the Protoss push out while still giving you the leftover gas to get critical upgrades.
Once you get your Spire or Infestation pit building, you get your fifth and sixth gas. This will get you so much gas that you will be able to build it up quickly during Zergling production. Which allows you to flood the map with Mutalisks if that was the tech path you chose to go for.
Only when you get your hive tech rolling and you need Broodlords and Infestors will you need your seventh and eight gas. If you take it before you are ready to transition into this composition you will more than likely get too much gas compared to minerals.
Midgame - Responding to Protoss builds
Now that we have a reasonable baseline to aim for, we can start adding adjustments to deal with the various options a Protoss has to deal damage to you. Most of the people on the ladder will just take a build that is used to deny a third and just go all in with it which is good for you, since killing his army before he gets a third will close the noose around his neck. A quick tug by keeping his third offline for some time will make the game tip in your favour heavily.
The best set up to go for when you are in the dark is to go for that juicy Roach-Mutalisk-Zergling composition. Not only because it is so strong in a straight up fight against the bread and butter Stalker from the Protoss, but because it allows for easily set up multi-pronged attacks. Mutalisks heading over to the almost-always unprotected main to pull the Stalkers out of position, then have your Roach/Zergling force batter through the third. It's everything you would want in an in-your-face Zerg army.
There are a couple of things you should know about this style, how to be safe and such. First and foremost, you do not need a fully saturated third to support 4 hatcheries worth of Zergling production. Around 54-56 drones, which is quite paultry to most Zerg strategies, is the golden saturation point where you can churn out a ton of units fast to defend any quick push.
When you are at that 54-56 drone point and you haven't, for whatever reason, scouted his base or had harassment happen to you, you should start Roach production. Once you are at around 15 to 20 Roaches, you have to make sure an attack is coming or not. Usually the Protoss should be coming out of his shell by now if he is doing a 2 base attack which is what a lot of ladder Protoss do. It is at this point when you can decide to mass drone or mass Zergling or something in between.
What is important about this phase in your production is that you are only using minerals to sustain your army. This gives you the ability to collect gas income coming from 4 or 6 geysers, depending on if you took the ones at your third. This means that you have the ability to suddenly transition into Mutalisks once you have defended a push or pressured his third a lot. And after that, you just do your damn best to keep him on his toes with constant harassment, multi-pronged attacks and slowly spining up at your bases to get ready for the Broodlord tech switch. Obviously taking bases the longer you pin the Protoss in his base.
To be safe in the ZvP midgame you have to have a couple of things readily available to you. In chronological order of importance these are:
- Good positioning
- Decent unit count
- Decent drone count
The first two define who lives and who dies in this match up. Because the Zerg army relies so much on pre-battle positioning to get truly cost-efficient and you will be relying on just a pack of Roaches before your Zergling swarm picks up you need good scouting. Having lings spread out on the map in front of the Protoss' base, covering watch towers and the third of Protoss is essential.
What is perhaps the most critical thing in your scouting is an Overlord or two near the Protoss' bases for quick Overseer morphing and scouting. This gives you the ability to scout most of his base the instant your Lair finishes, and see if he is hiding Stargates and just massing up Voidrays, going Twilight or doing anything in the trend of a two base pressure build. If you don't have this possibility, you will still get caught with your pants down against certain herp-you-didn't-scout-my-build-derp builds.
If your near-base Overlord gets sniped out or your Lair is delayed, you almost have to make dual Sporecrawlers at your third just to make sure Voidrays don't come in and snipe it out, flinging the Protoss way into the lead. When you have scouted, you can decypher whether they go for a 7 gate all in, Robo tech, Twilight tech or Stargate tech and read about them below.
In general it is good practice to have some period in time where you just put down a Spine-Spore pair at your bases. Because eventually your expansions will get hit by DT's and you will lose a ton of games just from lacking detection at your bases. It's probably one of the most frustrating losses that you can ever encounter, and it's still incorporated in like half of my ZvP losses. To which I will say to Protoss, MAKE DT'S IN THE MID-LATE GAME TO PRESSURE FOURTH BASES, you will win more games because of that tiny bit of harass than you might think.
Personally I get up the Sporecrawler-Spinecrawler pair at each of my bases around the 10 minute mark against FFE. Because they will completely eliminate those frustrating losses altogether and will limit Observer movement. Besides, it makes your bases just a bit more safe against Voidray-Phoenix pairs.
Gateway pushes, one way or another, are a huge oppertunity for you. Whether they are just meant to prod at the Zerg or designed to go and kill you, they put the Protoss army in a vulnerable position that isn't clad with simcity and walls. The only hint of comfort they have is the limited Forcefields at their disposal to hold back the swarm.
Luckily for you, if you played it correctly, you should be able to take out this force. 5 Gate Zealot-Sentry? +1 6 Gate? 8 Gate all in? They all eventually fall to the might of the third base whether it is saturated or not. The only thing that really changes is the different timings they hit.
The main rule of playing against a Gateway push is to keep tabs on where his army is at all times. Keep a ling at the middle of the map, at the front of his base, at watch towers. Just keep reinforcing and keep them hidden. Because this reaction relies heavily on making units to survive, you better have supply ready to fill. If you are supply blocked at this moment in the game you will most likely lose way more than neccesairy. In general you shouldn't really get supply blocked at all, but if you picked this exact moment to be blocked, you should definitely clean up those mechanics or, you know, wake up.
Devouring the push
Knowing that you will absolutely crush his attack gives you a different mind set compared to when you are barely holding off and thinking of transitions. First and foremost, you will try to look as weak as possible. By hiding your Zergling mass out on the map or in your natural the Protoss will get overconfident in his attack, which will get the Protoss in unfavourable positions. A psychological trap if you will.
Secondly, you will be patient in your engagement. Swarming and destroying the push in one go is much better than withering it down, then killing it with a second wave. As such, if you aren't quite ready to obliterate his standing army, just wait for additional reinforcements. Perhaps set up another flank in the meantime or something. If that means losing your third, just take that hit.
What it doesn't mean is just giving up on your third the instant you see the push coming though. Generally there are three major engagement areas, the center of the map, the area in front of your third and the area in front of your natural. If you have an okay-ish army that will fare decently against his, you can position it in front of the area being attacked to threaten an engagement. You will never actually engage however, not even trying to eak out a Forcefield or two. You are just there to make the Protoss doubt his standing army and wait for his reinforcements to continue his advance. Unfortunately for him, that means his timing will be lost and your additional reinforcements will devour his army cold.
There is another type of Protoss that actually thinks on his feet. He will snipe out your third if at all possible and retreat to the safety of his wall or to protect his warping in third. Your mission is to intercept him with your Zerglings and pin his army in the center for your Roaches to slaughter. If anything it will slow the Protoss down and force out Forcefields from those sentry lemons. Make sure the Zerglings are out in front of his army, not just chasing and tagging them from behind. If he makes it to his wall he will have gained an okay-ish advantage, if he doesn't, the game is over for him.
There is one situation where the Protoss can force an engagement however, and that's when he is advancing directly towards your natural expansion. This is the spot where your ramp leading from your main is. You absolutely cannot let him get to that position without contest otherwise half of your production will be shut down with a well placed Forcefield. If you don't have enough units, just ram against the front and sprint back. If he has placed a couple of Forcefields you will have delayed his push just a little bit, and that extra time might be enough for reinforcements to pour out and be ready to kill off his push.
For the A-Movers
Roaches on one hotkey, Zerglings on the other. If anything, keep your Zerglings on a different hotkey so you can quickly retreat from the Zealot heavy side of the Protoss ball and move around to kill off the juicy Sentries and Stalkers in the back. Personally I get the Roaches and Lings on 1, then the Zerglings on 2, for easy attacking and retreating.
It will also open you up to the worlds of flanks, where you can attack from multiple angles to surround more easily. This might seem like a small thing, but seriously, do it. If you just want to mash two large balls together, you should pick up sumowrestling, not Zerg. This is more of a rant than advice, but there's just too many Zergs that play with a single control group for their army and it makes me cringe.
If you have kept up with injections and positioning, you will have won the battle. Well done!
Now you head directly over to his third and check if it is building. Kill it if it is and go towards his front to pressure it. If he commited too much you will be able to ram through his wall and win, if he has a couple of units here, just retreat and park over the third.
Right now you have the option to, pretty much do anything. His tech is delayed by a ton, you will continiously smash down his third with your Roach-Zergling force and his map control will be abysmal. Personally I go for the Mutalisk tech as it is most receptive to any tech out there, either by countering or out-manoeuvring it. But you could also take the map and tech to broodlords or even go Roach-Hydra-Corruptor.
In my opinion this is the most straightforward techpath a Protoss can go. Robo units used purely to reinforce the Gateway army and augment it in various ways. Immortals to help crash through Spinecrawlers. Warp prisms used to set up harass and reinforcepoints, or Collosus to do the general indiscriminate mass-murdering so the Zealots can dance on Hydralisk flesh. Luckily for Zerg, Protoss computers are so advanced that they literally deprecated the Z coordinate system. Or in laymans terms, none of them shoot up. Infact, some of them just beg to be taken out from the air.
Normally, you get the Spire when you want to start flooding with Zerglings because you will be getting a lot of gas saved up because of it. But some builds require a slightly faster Spire tech. In general, after a large push has been defended, having the ability to pump out Mutalisks for harassment will give you the oppertunity to pull that advantage all troughout the midgame and lategame. Let's look at the different responses and weaknesses of the Robotics route.
Any Immortal-Gateway composition has a critical flaw. It has no way to deal with metric tons of light units other than making a lot of Zealots and praying for good Forcefields. A good example is the 1-1-1 build from Terran which relies heavily on a large SCV-Marine count to buffer for the fragile Siege Tanks and Banshees. Glorious Protoss tears man... glorious tears. Anyway...
This fact makes a midgame Immortal-Gateway push very fragile outside of good simcity, especially against this style where you have 4 hatcheries injected at your disposal. Immortal-Gateway is meant to crash through a wall of Spinecrawlers or a mass Roaching player, and to be fair it does pretty well against those defenses.
But as with the default defense, you will get up Roaches before you start your Zergling waves. And bursts of 52 Zerglings every minute ( if you inject and spend well enough ) you can roll even the case where the Protoss goes for 7 gate robo pressure and chrono's out the Zealots as it will give him 14 Zealots.
Even if your main Roach-Zergling force can't take out his force, you can wither down the Zealot and Forcefield count by a ton. So that your reinforcing Zergling waves will crumble him cost-effectively. In general it doesn't even matter if he takes out your third, because if his force gets caught by the Zerglings and destroyed, he literally can't take a safe third in the following minutes while you can safely expand to your hearts content. An Immortal-Gateway army is great as long as it kills you off utterly, you can't really stick around the Zerg bases for too long because the reinforcements will take you out. If you are just trying to look for a way to pressure the Zerg's third, this is not the way. Atleast not against this style.
Warp Prism - Gateway armies
This is a very different style to play against than what we are used to dealing with. The Warp Prism offers Protoss a way to draw Zerg forces out of position so that it can do major damage to infrastructure and economy. While most Zerg defending happens at the third and natural entrance, against Warp Prisms the critical defense happens at your main where all your tech is. Your main base is something where Protoss can thrive, ramps to block off with forcefields. A simcity that can work against the Zerg surrounds and a general terrible defense. This is your soft underbelly. And you can't really put most of your units here because you will make your third vulnerable, which is much more important economy wise.
One thing I like to therefore is getting the macro-hatchery up in my main. This gives me the possibility to build a set of Queens in my main. If I get wind of his play fast enough ( which, with good overlord/overseer scouting you SHOULD ) you can build them ahead of time because the 50 second build time is rather lengthy to do reactionary. In the worst possible case you should still be able to send your natural Queen to have a 3 of them for defense in your main.
Warp Prism Sentry All in
There are two major styles of Warp Prism usage. The all in varient is nothing more than a Gateway force hellbent on forcefielding your ramp augmented with a way to elevator units up in the main. It is nothing more than the 7 gate all in with a sprinkle of technical engagements in it, AKA something other than the typical attack move all ins that they like to do. Still, like all all ins, they have one point where they are fragile as hell.
In this case the Warp Prism will be loaded full of Sentries and dropped near the ramp. If he starts dropping you literally can't stop him from putting a Forcefield on your ramp. What you can do is try to make that dropping seem inefficient by having the Queens there to kill off the Prism. And if that's not possible you can always put roughly 6 Roaches in your main to snipe off Sentries as they are dropped. Whatever it is you are doing, make sure that perpetual Forcefield won't get going because you will lose your main and perhaps part of your army as it gets blocked in your main.
It takes 4 Sentries to Forcefield your ramp FOREVER, so it is crucial that you snipe them off in that attack just so you are able to get in your main and defend against the Gateway units that are being elevatored, blinked or warped in there. DON'T park half your army in your main and half in your natural, because half your army will be fighting his whole army if he forcefields your units in and he will destroy everything where his army is able to go.
Zealot drop Warp in play
The other style is mass Zealot drop and warp ins while the main army attacks somewhere else. This is the safer and more sensible option, which means you will never see it on the ladder. A lot of Zealots can kill off tech and economy incredibly fast, which puts you at a dillema. Do you split your army and defend both locations? Or do I crush his main force so I can pressure his third. Obviously the latter option is better because you have an offensive follow up, but it simply isn't worth it if you lose all your Drones and tech at your main.
A Warp Prism has 200 health in total, while Queens do 9 damage per ingame second. These Queens are replacable because you will be teching to a Spire afterwards anyway.
|0 range upgrades||+1 range attack|
|3 Queens||8 attack volleys||7 attack volleys|
|4 Queens||6 attack volleys||5 attack volleys|
|5 Queens||5 attack volleys||4 attack volleys|
|6 Queens||4 attack volleys||4 attack volleys|
As you can see, 4 Queens should be more than sufficient to scare off a Zealot warp in, which limits the count to 4 Zealots from the drop. If the Prism goes into phasing mode and your Queens start attacking it, it will get sniped off before the warp in completes. You can let 4 Zealots party in your main and take some economic hits, but they won't be shredding up everything like 11 Zealots would. So you can safely deal with and crush the main force of the Protoss and cleaning up the Zealots in your main later.
Collosus - Gateway armies
If you are able to scout a robotics bay, or even a chronoed upgrading one, you can be quite sure that Collosus are on the way. Collosus is a unit that pretty much everyone likes to whine about. And yes it is pretty good in it's role of having a strong constant splash attack to tear up the ground forces below. But these guys effect the Protoss' playstyle and composition a lot off of two bases.
Collosus are fairly immobile, virtually unable to harass in any shape or form. Purely for defense and pushing, its very existance forces the Protoss to move in a large ball. Collosus also cost a hefty amount of resources, especially gas. Protoss off of two bases can't sustain constant Collosus production and tech at the same time. The Protoss either has to stop the Collosus production temporarily to get tech like a Twilight council with an upgrade up or the Protoss has to get a third.
Luckily for you, it takes quite a while before the Collosus get too out of control. In general a push timing happens around 3 Collosi, anything before that makes the push too flimsy, and a Protoss can't take a quick third safely because the tech takes so long to get to. It takes slightly less than a minute for a fully chronoboosted Collosus to finish up, add to that the 65 second build time for a Robotics bay and 140 seconds for the Thermal lance upgrade and you can guess quite easily when the large push is going to come.
Because a Collosus push should come much later than an Immortal push, you can prepare more by getting the Spire up before the push and produce some amount of Corruptors to help defend. The standing army of Protoss literally relies on the Collosi as a crutch for the low amount of splash damage. So taking even one out with a pack of Corruptors is a huge deal in terms of the armies strength. You could even get a large flock of Mutalisks if he takes it a bit too easy.
If the attack does come before he gets three Collosus, a large flood of Zerglings and Roaches should be able to overwhelm it. Or in the worst case scenario offer you a way to counter attack to pull the Protoss back. It is critical that you engage from multiple angles with your Zerglings, because even the most carapace-upgraded Zerglings won't withstand the splash damage of a Collosus duo. The same goes for a fast third taken by the Protoss of course. With sufficient numbers of units you should be able to take it down.
The biggest miscontrol that happens a LOT against these well timed Collosus pushes is the fact that Zergs tend to jump straight to the Protoss' throat and try to focusfire the Collosus down with a Roach pack. In the best case scenario you can snipe out the Collosus and wreck his push with reinforcements. But in the worst case scenario the Protoss simply moves the Collosus back while his entire army attacks your not-attacking Roach force. And I really don't need to tell you how that will pan out.
It takes about 20 Roaches to two shot a Collosus, give or take. And at that stage of the game, its pretty much all the Roaches you will probably have. If you use less Roaches you run the risk of having the Collosus being positioned back without actually sniping it in the end. It is better to spread out your Roaches a bit more compared to just moving in and trying to snipe out the Collosus. After all, once the Gateway army is withered down your huge reinforcement waves should be able to surround and eventually push back the Protoss army.
Now here's scouting info that requires you to alter your plan quickly. The push timing of roughly 3 Collosus arrives a LOT sooner when there is a second Robotics in play. And with that large investment you need to respond by taking the Spire as fast as you can. With a gas cost of 200, going double Collosus leaves the Protoss without the ability to make Stalkers off of two bases. Which means that the Stalker count will be a lot smaller than in the case of a one Robotics - Collusus push.
But you might be wondering, what if he is going for a huge Immortal-Gateway Timing? Or multi Warp Prism harass? Well neither of those deal all that well with the normal set up of some Roaches and enormous waves of Zerglings behind it. The only thing that is really precarious to your playstyle is a lot of Collosus, because they can negate your Roach-Zergling forces when there are enough on the field.
You should be patient with your engagement, if he attacks before the Corruptors are finished you need to pull back a bit and perhaps sack your third. Just taking your time so you can later snipe out the Collosus with some amount of Corruptors and a huge swell of Zerglings and Roaches from your main and natural. You should be able to kill the Collosi fast enough so that you can engage with your ground forces when there are around 2 Collosus left.
The things you have to take into account is that your ground engagement will have to be delayed while you pick away at the Collosus with your Corruptors. This will give you more time to do damage to the mainly Stalker-based Gateway force below. Once the push is forced back or destroyed, you have a nice setup for Roach-Mutalisk-Zergling to kill off the Stalkers. Your large unit swell should be big enough so you can deny his third for a long time while he desperately tries to get a different tech path up. But if he went for double Robotics he is so desperately pidgeonholed into Collosus that he will most likely never move out again.
If he pushes way later, like with 5 Collosus or so, you should be able to overwhelm him with a large Corruptor cloud so that the ground forces can maul him up. You obviously have to keep up on the scouting with Overseers so you can see what he is up to exactly. But overmaking Corruptors isn't that big of a deal if you are on three bases and he is on two.
Stargate play is very difficult to play against when you are underprepared. The main purpose of Stargate units is to take mapcontrol, harass, deny scouting and most importantly lure you into thinking that 'You know, perhaps Hydralisks would work in this situation'. Even in some rare cases deny thirds, which is about the worst thing that could happen to you.
It is never the Stargate units that kill you, it's the follow up attack or transition that does. Stargate units are great to force a specific composition out of the Zerg which the Protoss can abuse to the max in a second attack. Your job is to respond as spot on as possible, not overproducing Sporecrawlers and not underproducing them. Not diverging from your tech path and trying to build as few Hydralisks as possible. What the Protoss wants is for you to do anything but make Spire units, which turns it into our mission to make the Spire as viable as possible.
So why wouldn't you make Hydralisks right? They shoot up, come from a relatively easy to get tech path and they take up larva. Looks great on paper! They'll stop the Phoenix harass and Voidray poking and I'll just push afterwards while his tech hasn't adapted to my Hydralisks yet.
Except they won't stop Phoenix harass. It will simply create more targets for the Phoenix to kill. With a bonus against light units like the Hydralisk, it only takes 4 shots to lift up and kill it. While a Hydralisk takes 15 shots to kill a Phoenix. What this means is that should a pack of 5 Phoenixes could lift up a Hydra one at a time by each Phoenix and have the Hydra-pack vanish into thin air without much damage at all. Not only does this mean that you just lost 250 gas to the things you were trying to kill, but it means you have to remake those Hydra's to get your critical mass going again.
As you can see, once you go Hydra's and you take a few hits to that ball, you almost have to go for a large push to make up for your delayed tech because of their high gas cost. In that large, slightly delayed push you will probably face Collosus in a defended position. If you go Hydralisks, you are basically pidgeonholed into a cluster@#*; of misery, even against Stargate openings.
So what units do I make?
There are a couple of units that are really annoying for Stargate units to deal with. Not because they get hard-countered or anything, but because it feels like a total waste to do deal with them. Those units are the Zergling, Roach and the Corruptor.
Zerglings are the cheap unit that you can make en masse, and because there are so may of them and they are 25 minerals each, it makes no sense to lift them up with Phoenixes even if you have full energy on all of them. Even Voidrays have a tough time dealing with them, as the low health and manoeuvrability doesn't allow them to charge up to deal full damage.
Roaches are more of a Phoenix side-stepper than anything related to the Voidray. The Voidray will deal insane damage to a pack of Roaches, but because they don't deal splash they have a hard time trying to deal with them fast. You can withstand quite a bit of Voidray fire with Roaches if you have enough, and Phoenixes are almost unable to kill them with a single lift.
Because this team of units is great against Gateway units, we already have a solid base to deny a quick third or any extremely quick follow up from the Protoss. All we need now is to be able to hinder certain hard tech-paths like a Collosus switch, most common in the 2 stargate variant.
Mutalisks are obviously a bad choice considering the availability of Phoenixes for the Protoss player, but Corruptors are quite a different story. Corruptors, like Sporecrawlers, are actually capable of standing toe to toe with Phoenixes without losing too much health. They do tend to lose against lots of Voidrays, but if he just massed up Voidrays there is no reason to not go for Mutalisks instead. The Corruptor can be parked over Sporecrawlers to zone out any harass attempts from the Protoss. And at the same time will prevent a Collosus switch due to it being the counter against Collosi with their high damage capability. It puts a wrench in the Protoss tech which he really can't use at the time where he doesn't have a way to deal with mass amounts of ground units.
One Stargate or Two Stargates?
It can be a tough task to know how much the Protoss is committing or able to commit to a lot of air play. Because sometimes you can't fully scout the Protoss, he might be hiding a Stargate out of vision from your sacrificial Overlord or Overseer.
Luckily for you, we can use the power of mathematics ( yay.. ) to count from his increasing airforce just how much Stargates he has. A single unchronoboosted Voidray takes 1 minute to complete, while an unchronoboosted Phoenix takes slightly more than half a minute to complete. Even if you are not able to see the reinforcing units, you can still keep count of the Phoenix and Voidray count when you see them at one time and check the clock one minute later and count the amount then.
Your one and foremost goal is to keep your third alive, against any Stargate openings. Your best friend in this case is the Sporecrawler. Not only are these buildings able to uproot and tank a ton of damage, Phoenixes can't do jack against them. So it won't matter if he reinforces with a ton of Phoenixes, that Sporecrawler will not die. On top of that they give your Overlords and Queens a reliable defensive ground to pull back to.
Make no mistake however, building Sporecrawlers won't stop Phoenix harassment. If he has a high enough number he will still be able to do fly-by's and take out a ton of drones. That is why you get out other anti-air tech like the Infestor or the Corruptor to finally put a halt to the endless harassment.
The main target however, should be getting your Hatcheries secure with a Sporecrawler or two at each one of them to make sure Voidrays don't come in and kill it off. As long as your bases stay alive and your Spire is building happily, you will be fine in the long run. Since Protoss can't take a fast third, even if he has a higher probe count his income will be limited to two bases while yours is limited to three.
Collosus Follow up
Most common transition after a 2 Stargate opening, this transition captures the average ladder player's thoughts about strategy well ( I make voidray, he make hydra, I make collosus win herp derp ) but nevertheless it is hell to deal with if you have never faced it before. It was even THE imbalanced strat to use against Zerg a couple of months ago, with tears flowing en masse.
Luckily for you, this is also an all in. The Protoss cannot tech to Collosus and get a third going, meaning that if you hold off the brunt of his attack, you will win. His Gateway force will consist of mainly Zealots while the rest of his standing army will be filled with Collosus and Voidrays.
If you are unfortunate enough to go for Hydralisks, you have quite a slim chance of winning. Your Spire will be delayed and you will have no way to deal with Collosus effectively. If however you went for the Spire and built some Corruptors, you might have even stopped the Protoss from building the Collosi pre-emptively. If he does continiue to build them, you already have the best possible unit against an army like that.
If he delays his push, you can easily get up a large Mutalisk flock too. Voidray-Collosus has almost no way of dealing with a lot of Mutalisks so the longer he waits for his push, the easier it will be for you to defend it.
The Spire is there to prevent him from trying to do this deathball style, because if you don't focusfire with Corruptors onto the Collosi your army will still melt. When you engage, make sure your Corruptors or air force leads and tries to snipe out a Collosus or two before your ground army moves in. This will make sure you won't lose your entire ground army to the Collosus numbers which will give you the possibility to push right into his third or natural and kill it off cleanly.
Another common transition, but this time from a 1 Stargate opening. This is an army that can take a third more easily while having the possibility of crushing your third if you are under prepared. The Protoss won't commit to air a lot and mainly uses it to get your scouting low and scout your tech choices and unit count.
But again, this unit composition does not deal well with mass Zerglings and Roaches because there is no AoE or fast upgrades. This means that if you respond with a large Roach/Ling attack you can delay his third for some time while saturating your own. After that, a Spire seems like a natural transition as the quickest AoE a Protoss can get is the Collosus. High templar take a lot longer to tech to and will lack the firepower for an even larger maxed Roach/Ling army with good upgrades.
While this style is more difficult to defend against because you can't freely drone and spore up but have to defend and worry about his third at the same time, it is definitely managable. Infestors will work really well against this style as well because of the late detection. And they might actually be the most correct decision to make after a few games where I lost due to overcommitting to air. With mass Infested Terrans and the large ground force it should be easily possible to overwhelm the force of the Protoss. Be very wary though, Phoenixes deal very well against unprotected Infestors with their lifting ability.
Dark Templar transition
This is more of a cheesier variant, but will catch you off guard every now and then. Phoenixes are used to snipe out the Overseer while DT's and a Gateway army is used to deal with the rest. Obviously turtling up in your base with Sporecrawlers is nice, but you can't really move out that way.
Again, getting up Corruptors to deal with Phoenixes and getting 3 or 4 Overseers just in case will completely devastate his army because of it's flimsyness.
The Twilight council is a tech route that allows for a lot of different Protoss strategies. It opens up a whole realm of possibilities and strategies for the Protoss player that can really turn your game upside down. All in all, the Twilight-based builds are probably the most mobile compared to Stargate and Robo-based builds. Mostly because of the emphasis on Gateway units and upgrades, and thus Warp ins.
Because of the various options that this path provides, it is hard to make a general response to help against all of them. While Muta's would out-manoeuvre Chargelot-Archon builds, they wouldn't get the job done against Blink Stalkers. And while mass Roach builds would whoop a mainly Zealot force, it wouldn't have the power to smash through a large Blink Stalker ball with good enough micro. It does have some flaws though, as Gateway units in general lack the brute force required to mow through spined up positions.
Laid out below are the most common transitions and armies that you will see when a Protoss opens FFE into Twilight tech.
Dark Templar Threat
These things will wreck your day. Not because they will make you laugh when you are prepared, but because they will make you tear your hair out of you don't. The second you spot a Twilight council you should put down a Sporecrawler at each base, preferably with a Spinecrawler. The Spinecrawler won't kill off a lot of Dark templar, but it will stop any spreaded out DT harass where one Dark Templar is sent to each of your hatches to wreck your economy and production.
Make sure to make an Overseer or two once the Lair finishes, so you have mobile detection and you can grab a fourth base without getting it denied indefinitely. Once you spot these on the field, getting up a fourth is almost always the safest way to respond. Not because it will get you ahead even further, but because it will put the ball in the Protoss park to put a wrench in that monster economy. Which plays directly into our hands, because a panicking pushing Protoss is a losing Protoss.
This is one of those all in pushes that can really rattle you after a DT expand or FFE into DT. Archons deal and tank sick amounts of damage, effectively making them the Immortal of Zerglings. And to top that off, they aren't really bad against Roaches either. Dealing 35 damage to biological units will do that for you. Their small splash radius isn't good against Mutalisks, but when there are enough Archons on the field not even magic boxing can make enough of a difference to make the flock stay alive.
Chargelots are able to close the distance fast to both Zerglings and Roaches, allowing them to flank and force unfavourable engagements pretty easily. Normally the refilling of Roaches will be able to destroy the push. But because Chargelot-Archon does damage quite fast you can't really guarantee not losing your natural or third to this push. This makes relying on just Roaches and Zerglings very volatile against Chargelot-Archon. And I like to eliminate volatility from my match ups as much as possible.
The main weakness of Chargelot-Archon however is it's low range. While Zealots absolutely rip apart everything when they get to close in to your army, they still need to get there. And Archons have the same range as Roaches, which isn't really all that much. Spinecrawlers with their large range help a lot against this composition. Not only outranging the Archons but also funneling the Zealots as they run in to hit your Roaches.
Because the Protoss' composition basically has no follow up, there is no reason to go for harassment with Mutalisks. Instead, getting the Infestors will not only give you a faster Hive, but hard-counter any engagement the Protoss will want to make. They won't allow you to be aggressive aside from some burrow Infested Terran harass, but you don't need to. If he just decides to take a third with this composition and sit back, you can easily take a fourth and go straight for Broodlords. You can force out the engagement or easily squeeze out the game by your enormous tech advantage.
If he does engage, you can chain-fungal the Zealots and Archons as they get into Spinecrawler range and pick off chunks of the army with Roaches. Retreating won't be a possibility for him as Fungal forces engagements even if they might be unfavoured for the Protoss.
Similar to the Chargelot-Archon style, this is another follow up to a Dark Templar opening. This one however is a lot less based on a follow up push. Rather, it can still take a third and have a reasonably well standing army at the same time. Sure it might be slightly delayed. But with good Forcefields and the accompanying Archons ( and the possibility of your Overseer being sniped and Dark templar harassing your army ) it definitely has a good chance to deflect attacks.
The best reponse again is to take a fast fourth and get a Spinecrawler wall up and a lot of Infestors. While any engagements that he wants to make will have less Archons and thus will make your Zerglings a bit less terrible, it doesn't warrant the Mutalisk well. Just staying safe with a large defensive posture and just take any hits that he wants to deal and absorb them will get you ahead further.
There is no need to be sparing with Spinecrawlers either. Getting up 20 and replendishing the drones will make it so that if your army ever dies, he won't be able to directly go for the counter attack to do major damage. This safety allows you to tech to the Broodlord faster and with relative ease.
Burrow is a great upgrade to get here. Not only because it forces out Observers, but because you can deny the third if he hasn't taken it quick enough with a burrowed Zergling. On top of that, it allows your Infestors to retreat easily if an engagement goes awry. It's just a great upgrade to get against any Twilight opening, but especially against this variant.
This is the most common way that a Protoss will use his Twilight opening. Blink Stalkers allow for incredible flexibility unparralel to any other Protoss unit. And because of that they become similar to mutalisks as they can force basetrades quite well and are still able to retreat quickly if the army is strong enough. It also allows the Protoss to execute very technical multi-platform attacks that abuse the short range of Zerg units. Even in straight up engagements, players with good micro will be able to blink a hurt Stalker back, which gives the Protoss player 80 hit points that a Stalker can take before having to blink back., effectively taking no damage but still partaking in the battle. Which can make his upgrades and army seem unending.
What Blink Stalkers lack though is firepower. Stalkers do well against pure Roaches, but Zerglings and Infestors are absolutely amazing against them. While you could go for a large Roach/Zergling/Muta attack and just drill through the Stalker force due to their inherited weakness against both Zerglings and Mutalisks, but going for a slightly more defensive style knowing that his tech will be delayed is generally a bit safer.
Again erecting a large wall of Spinecrawlers and just relying on Zerglings and Roaches to deflect major Stalker attacks should make you almost impenetrable to everything but the largest drilling attack. Relying on fast Infestors instead of Mutalisks will give you a good way to pin the Stalkers down AND a faster path towards the Greater Spire, the ultimate goal in any macro-based ZvP.
If he does decide to go for a large attack with Blink Stalkers before you can get creep between your third and natural for your Spinecrawler wall, you can probably still overpower it with 4 hatcheries worth of Zergling production and a good standard base Roach force. Any standard 6 gate Blink Stalker build will be destroyed by well timed reinforcements of Zerglings and because of the slight delay in the push you can make even more units to prepare.
Once you crush an overcommitted attack, considering that his tech will be way delayed, you can just power through his third and take the game how you want it to go.
I know this guide is quite a bit smaller than my previous ones. But then again, this one only focusses on a certain time in the ZvP match up and you can use my previous Zerg versus Protoss guide combined with this one anyway. I wanted to put in a part about Broodlords and Infestor builds as well, but frankly I don't have that much experience with them yet. So I don't feel like an authority on the subject enough to warrent a guide, maybe in the future though!
I hope you can get inspired to use these tactics and transitions in your play and thanks for reading!
P.S. Sorry protoss :( let's hope HotS will give you some nice presents.
P.P.S Except you one or two base all iners. You deserve just what is coming at you >:(.
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