HotS Protoss Build Orders

(Update: check out my updated guide for playing Protoss for the maintained version of this post)

I mentioned I was compiling a list of basic Heart of the Swarm (HotS) Protoss builds as a gift, and I think I have a decent set of them. They’re all safe, basic builds to explore how Protoss flows. They’re tested, but they aren’t completely optimized, so take this as a starting point for own play. Feel free to critique as well: I’m happy to maintain and update this post.

So the basic set of builds I think a Protoss player should have, from safest to riskiest, are:

  • 3 Gate Expand
  • 1 Gate Robo
  • 1 Gate Expand
  • Blink Stalker
  • Stargate
  • Forge Fast Expand (FFE)

If you’re unfamiliar with how build orders are usually written out, here’s a quick guide:

  1. Unless noted otherwise, you should be building probes continuously
  2. The numbers before the unit/building is what supply you should be at, not how many of those to build. For example, “9 Pylon” happens when you’re 9th probe is building, and it says “9/10” in the upper right
  3. Earlier pylons are noted in the build. Later pylon timings are left off and should be built maybe 4ish supply before you are supply blocked

Let’s start with a standard Protoss opening that is the starting point for almost builds:

Standard Protoss Opening

  • 9 Pylon (you won’t have enough minerals for your 10th probe immediately, but that’s okay)
  • 11 Chronoboost probes
  • 13 Chronoboost probes
  • 13 Gateway (scout around here)
  • 15 Assimilator (3 in gas)
  • 16 Pylon
  • 17 Cybernetics Core

From here, you can go 3 Gate, 4 Gate, Robo, etc. For example, your 3 Gate expand is the standard safe build, where you start with 3 Gateways, then take your natural expansion. This is maybe more useful for PvP, but in my mind, it’s strictly for team games. Everyone is obsessed with 6-7 minute attacks, so this should get you in a good spot to be ready for that, but also to set you up for the mid game.

3 Gate Expand

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Zealot
  • 21 Assimilator (you don’t have to put 6 probes in gas yet; use your judgment)
  • 23 Warpgate
  • 23 Stalker (Chronoboost)
  • 26 Mothership Core
  • 30 Stalker
  • 31 Gateway Gateway
  • 37ish Nexus

For the 1 Gate Robo, you can build the Robotics Facility just before the Mothership Core (MsC). The MsC builds quickly, especially with a Chronoboost. This build may be outdated because the Observer for scouting can be replaced with the MsC and free hallucinations, but the build is still useful in PvP against Blink Stalkers.

1 Gate Robo

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Zealot
  • 21 Assimilator
  • 22 Warpgate
  • 22 Stalker (Chronoboost)
  • 26 Robotics Facility
  • 28 Mothership Core
  • either another 2 Gateways or a Nexus, depending on the scout
  • 5:20ish Observer when the Robo is done

The 1 Gate Expand is from itsgosu and is used in PvT (and PvZ if you don’t want to FFE). You can 1 Gate Expand out of the same opening as the 3 Gate expand (up to the Msc), but the optimizations here are valuable and demonstrate how to refine a build. Note the very aggressive poke with the first 3 units: it’s a little odd but possibly valuable.

1 Gate Expand

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Zealot (rallied to enemy)
  • 22 Stalker (Chronoboost)
  • Mothership Core
  • 4:20 Nexus
  • Warpgate
  • Second Assimilator
  • Follow the guide (either air or Zealot/Archon)

Now things start to get real. The Blink Stalker and Stargate openings are both 1 base openings and mainly used in PvP. Admittedly, neither of these builds are perfectly optimized, but I wrote them up to be safe and easy. The Blink Stalker build starts out with a 3 Stalker rush and should get you ready for a 8-8:30 attack.

PvP Blink Stalker

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Assimilator (3 in gas)
  • 20 Gateway, Stalker, Warpgate
  • 25 Mothership Core
  • 26 Stalker Stalker (pressure with the Stalkers and MsC. Halt probe production around here if you’re all-in)
  • 30 Twilight Council, Stalker Stalker
  • 34 Gateway
  • 37 Blink

Remember when I said that these builds would be easy? Well, the Stargate build is identical, except you get a Stargate instead of a Twilight Council. From that, you can go into either Phoenix or Oracle. Either way, you can do it off of 1 Stargate and just chronoboost the units out.

PvP Stargate

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Assimilator (3 in gas)
  • 20 Gateway, Stalker, Warpgate
  • 25 Mothership Core
  • 26 Stalker Stalker (you can cut these for an earlier Stargate, too)
  • 30 Stargate

Finally, a Forge Fast Expand (FFE). This is exclusively for PvZ. To see how it works, I recommend you watch Apollo work through a FFE. Really, the only twist with HotS is that the MsC is an amazing defensive unit, so you should get that ASAP if youp’re worried about all-ins. (for a more efficient take on this build, see Gemini_19’s comment)

Forge Fast Expand

  • 9 Pylon at the low ground (after building, send the Probe to scout, then leave at natural to watch for an expo)
  • 11 Chronoboost
  • 13 Chronoboost
  • 14 Forge (wall)
  • 16 Nexus (halt probe production here)
  • 16 Cannon
  • 16 Gateway (wall; finish the wall with a probe on hold position)
  • 17 Pylon
  • 19 Assimilator, Assimilator
  • 20 Cybernetics Core, Zealot (Zealot first if you’re really scared)
  • 28 Mothership Core, Stalker, Warp Gate (when Core completes)

So overall, things should feel very similar to WoL, where we’re just tacking the MsC on after Warpgate and Stalker. Hopefully, this is a good starting point for your own builds, which you can optimize and refine to your own playstyle.

Again, I’m open to any feedback you have. Since this is targeted to newer players, I’m also happy to give more details about the motivations and goals of various builds.

17 thoughts on “HotS Protoss Build Orders

  1. Hey man, just wanted to thank you for the guide, just bought HotS yesterday and rerolled protoss so im feeling pretty clueless right now. But this should help me get the standards printed in.

    • No problem: I’m glad it was helpful for you! I’m actually amidst reworking some Protoss stuff since I already posted the Apollo build orders and am currently watching a lot of Artosis to get a 2nd opinion. I’ll mash up all of that content into a guide (linked from the nav bar above) that will hopefully explain things even more concisely and accurately.

      Let me know if you have any questions about the content or any changes you would like to to see. I’m open to adjusting and improving things as necessary.

      • To be honest i found that if i saw a terran, the FFE build works really well. I don’t know but i almost never use it on PvZ because the early lings crush my units. So i would say that the FFE build works on (not really aggressive) terrans too.

        • Interesting! Yeah, Terran usually isn’t as aggressive in the early game as Zerg is, so going for a fast expand can work. I myself am worried about FFE against Terran because it delays your tech, and in that window, Terran can do Widow Mine and Hellion drops that could do a lot of damage in your mineral lines. If you’re confident enough to FFE against Terran, perhaps you could just go Nexus-first? Since Terran has Marines/Marauders, the wall and cannon aren’t as handy anyways, so you might as well skip the Forge and effort of getting those buildings lined up.

          FFE in PvZ can be tricky to execute, but it’s intended to counter early Zergling pressure. I think the most important thing is early scouting and being able to react. You should watch Apollo’s tutorials for things you might need to do, but if you see the early Pool and lings coming your way, you might need to throw extra buildings up at your choke to do a complete walloff, then cancel them later when the pressure is done. And getting a unit in the gap is very important as well.

          Thanks for the feedback! My posts are limited to what I watch and the games I play, so it always helps to get perspectives from other players’ experiences.

  2. Hey, I was looking for toss hots build orders and yours was one of the first links on google. We went to school together, haha. Good job man! hope you’re doing well!

    • Thanks for the comment! I thought these guides would be helpful for getting through the relatively consistent early game, so I’m glad that this has helped out. Let me know if there’s anything in particular you would like to see!

    • I freely admit that I’m not a pro, though I think I understand the game well enough to be able to evaluate builds intended for lower level players, which was my intended audience for these builds.

      Furthermore, I’m actually pointing people to my updated guide at the top of this post since this post is pre-HotS release and pretty outdated. The builds in that post are pulled directly from other resources, being either pro players or at least high level analysts. If you have any critique for that post, I would be happy to hear it: I’m always looking to improve the content there.

  3. Nice guides, I play master zerg on EU and used this guide as it was the first thing that popped up on google.
    Went from silver to plat in 2 hours 17 games total 🙂

    • That’s awesome! Congrats on climbing the ladder so quickly. Let me know if there are any tweaks or notes or updates you think I should add based on your experience since it sounds like you have the right perspective for learning Protoss.

  4. This has helped me think about HotS differently. I am a Plat protoss for WoL; but having been having trouble adjusting to HotS. Do you have any suggestions for defending early game? It seems in HotS I get rushed often and don’t have enough to hold off the attack.

    • Thanks for the comment! My first advice would be to check out the updated guide:

      I think the key to avoid rushes is just to scout. The scout with the Probe building the Pylon on 9 should catch anything short of a well-positioned Proxy 2 Rax. Is there a particular matchup or rush that you’re having problems with? There are few enough rushes that you can just learn how to respond to each one by rote.

  5. Hi Kevin,

    Sorry I’m not familiar with all the technical lingo what exactly do you mean by
    9 Pylon (you won’t have enough minerals for your 10th probe immediately, but that’s okay)
    11 Chronoboost probes
    13 Chronoboost probes
    13 Gateway (scout around here)
    15 Assimilator (3 in gas)
    16 Pylon
    17 Cybernetics Core

    do the numbers all represent probes?

    Sorry I have been trying to follow other guides none I have found have been clear enough for me, this is nearly there I just got to work around all the SC2 Lingo haha…any help would be great

    And I apologize for the extremely Noob Question.


    • No worries! Happy to answer any questions.

      The number represents your current supply, which you can see in the upper right hand corner of the screen (something like 9/10). In the early game, it will represent Probes (since they’re each 1 supply, and that’s all you have), but in later steps, it will include other things.

      You can find a longer writeup about reading build orders at

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