Protoss versus Zerg Strategy updated

Wow, PvZ feels like it has changed a lot over the past few months. Primarily, Naniwa’s 1 Gate Expand has changed how we think about the matchup, but the HotS meta-game has also settled since I first wrote up this guide. Here’s the new version you will see on the Protoss Strategy page. As usual, let me know if you see any mistakes or have any questions or feedback.

Protoss versus Zerg

Of the 3 matchups, PvZ is the most dynamic. Whereas PvP is build order chaos and PvT generally plays out similarly, PvZ has safe economic openings into a variety of styles. You should watch this Apollo video for a solid way to play PvZ.

The Build Orders

For almost 3 years, we thought Protoss had to fast expand in PvZ to keep up. Well, Naniwa showed us in HotS that we could also 1 Gate Expand. I still recommend a Forge Fast Expand (FFE) as your default build; you should learn how to fast expand, andit’s safer than Nexus first.

Apollo’s PvZ Forge Fast Expand (FFE)

  • 9 Pylon at wall (Scout)
  • 11 Chronoboost
  • 13 Chronoboost
  • 14 Forge
  • 16 Nexus
  • 16 Cannon
  • 16 Pylon
  • 17 Gateway
  • 20 Assimilator x 2
  • Cybernetics Core

Notes on these builds:

  1. Send your 8th Probe down to the natural area to build the wall at 9 Supply. Look online to see how to wall on various maps
  2. You will probably see a lot of Zergling rushes, so definitely scout at 9. Build extra buildings and cannons to complete the wall and defend. If you don’t lose your Nexus or a lot of workers, you will be far ahead
  3. The followup for this looks roughly like Mana’s build below and is Apollo’s Colossus Double Forge strategy
  4. Tinker with the timings of buildings. The Nexus, Forge, and Gateway come in some order between 14 and 18 supply, so find what’s comfortable for you

An alternate build you can use is Naniwa’s 1 Gate Expand. Compared to the fast expand, your Nexus comes later, which is slightly less economic. On the other hand, you can’t threaten a cannon rush, so it’s less aggressive. But your tech comes faster, so you can cheese. You get the Gateway faster to pump out units, but you don’t have the Photon Cannon and wall to hide between. It’s just different, but it is more similar to the other match ups, so you may be more comfortable with it.

Adapted Naniwa’s PvZ 1 Gate Expand (from HasuObs)

  • 9 Pylon
  • 11 Chronoboost
  • 13 Chronoboost
  • 13 Gateway
  • 15 Assimilator x2
  • 17 Pylon
  • 18 Cybernetics Core, Zealot
  • 23 Warp Gate, Mothership Core
  • Nexus
  • Your secret tech

Notes on this build:

  1. The scout is optional in this build because your build doesn’t change with what you see
  2. Use the Pylon, Gateway, and Cybernetics Core to wall at your ramp. Put the Zealot on “hold position” in the gap
  3. Followup with Dark Shrine, Stargate, or whatever else you like

Once you feel comfortable dealing with Zergling rushes and cheese, I recommend that you try to go Nexus first. It’s greedy, but in StarCraft, you should always shoot to be greedy. Below is standard, if old; check out this replay as well

Adapted Mana’s PvZ Nexus First into Robo

  • 9 Pylon at wall (Scout)
  • 11 Chronoboost
  • 13 Chronoboost
  • 16 Nexus
  • 16 Forge
  • 16 Pylon
  • 18 Gateway
  • 20 Cannon
  • 21 Assimliator x2
  • 26 Cybernetics Core
  • 28 Zealot (everything after is the transition)
  • 32 +1 Attack upgrade (with first 100 gas)
  • Warpgate (next 50 gas)
  • Stalker (next 50 Gas)
  • Mothership Core (next 100 Gas)
  • 6:30 Assimilator x2
  • 7:30 Gateway x3
  • Robotics Facility

Some of what you’re up against

  1. Mutalisks. If they hit critical mass, they will bounce between your bases and slowly pick you apart. The best counter is Phoenixes, but if you didn’t open Stargate, Blink Stalkers into Psionic Storms and Archons also works
  2. Roach/Hydra with Vipers. The Vipers abduct your Colossi, and the rest of the army stomps on you.
  3. Zergling/Baneling/Roach all-ins. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Use Observers, hallucinated Phoenix, and Oracles to scout

What you can do

  1. The Colossi/Archon/Void Ray/High Templar Deathball. This is the dream. You should be up to 3 bases before you’re really putting it together, and you should harass in some way before then.
  2. Skytoss. This typically starts with Oracle or Phoenix harassment then transitions into a lot of Void Rays. Get Tempests if you see Brood Lords (replay 1) (replay 2)
  3. Sentry/Immortal all-in. This is an older build but still effective. Get a lot of early Sentries with a lot of energy, a few Immortals, and then just reinforce for a big attack off of 2 bases before the Zerg economy has completely taken over. You can just take out their 3rd and Recall back, or if it goes well, just end the game. (replay)

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