HotS Protoss Strategy

NOTE: This guide is no longer up-to-date with Legacy of the Void. Instead, I recommend you visit the Protoss Build Orders section on Spawning Tool for strategies contributed by the community!

Protoss plays hard to get. On the one hand, Protoss has the strongest deathball, and that Void Ray/Tempest/Colossi/Archon mix is just so alluring to get to. Unfortunately, if you focus too much on the late game, you’ll end up tripping over yourself along the way as you let your opponent’s dominate the rest of the map. So you have to work, consistently, to harass all the way along the game, and sometimes mix in a crazy all-in.

But anyways, let’s get to the important bits. 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
  • 17/18 Cybernetics Core (immediately after the Gateway finishes)

From here, builds start to diverge, primarily depending on how quickly you want to get your gas. For a safe general purpose build, you can go for a 3 Gate Expand, though I recommend you graduate to a 1 Gate Robo for PvT and PvP and a FFE for PvZ as soon as you’re comfortable with them.

3 Gate Expand

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Zealot
  • 22 Pylon
  • 22 Warpgate, Stalker
  • 26 Gateway x2
  • 26 Mothership Core
  • 28 Assimilator
  • 30 Stalker
  • 32 Pylon
  • 33 Nexus

Protoss versus Protoss (updated: October 6, 2013)

PvP is volatile. It’s the only matchup where 1 base play is standard. Because of that, build orders and scouting are very important to ensure that you counter builds and attack effectively.

The Build Orders

First up is a 1 Gate Robo. This build allows you to transition smoothly into Colossi and counters Blink Stalkers. Depending on what your opponent does, you can get more Gateways to hold off aggression or get a Nexus.

1 Gate Robo

  • Standard opening
  • 19 Zealot
  • 22 Assimilator
  • 23 Warpgate
  • 22 Stalker (Chronoboost, kill Probe scout)
  • 25 Pylon
  • 26 Robotics Facility (after clearing the scout)
  • 28 Mothership Core (cut Probes until you get a 2nd base)
  • Gateway x2 OR Nexus (depending on the scout)
  • 5:20ish Observer when the Robo is done

Notes on this build:

  1. This is the easiest of the 3 builds here to execute and play safely. Get Stalkers against Stargate openings, extra Gateways and Photon Overcharge against Gateway all-ins, Observers against Dark Templar, and Immortals against Blink Stalkers.
  2. You can probably delay your scout unless you’re worried about a Proxy 2 Gate
  3. You can follow this up with Colossi by putting a Robotics Support Bay down before 10:00. Otherwise, just about any composition should work out of this opening as well

Speaking of which, here’s a Stargate opening if you want to harass.

PvP Stargate Opening

  • 9 Pylon
  • 11 Chronoboost
  • 13 Gateway
  • 13 Chronoboost
  • 15 Assimilator x2 (2 in each until Cybernetics Core)
  • 17 Pylon
  • 18 Cybernetics Core
  • 19 Zealot
  • 23 Warpgate, Mothership Core, Stargate
  • 25 Pylon
  • 4:40 Stargate units

Some notes:

  1. There are a lot of ways to go with an early Stargate, including Proxy OraclePhoenix, and Void Ray all-ins
  2. I don’t recommend you proxy to start, but if you do start proxying, watch a few pro games on that map to see where you should place them
  3. The hardest part about a Stargate opening is the transition. You can expand, tech (Blink), or go all-in. It just depends on what you scout and how the pressure goes

Finally, Blink Stalkers. Unlike the builds above, this build is best used as an all-in.

Squirtle’s Blink Stalkers

  • 9 Pylon
  • 11 Chronoboost
  • 13 Gateway
  • 13 Chronoboost
  • 15 Assimilator x2 (2 in each until Cybernetics Core)
  • 16 Chronoboost
  • 17 Pylon
  • 18 Cybernetics Core
  • 21 Stalker, Warpgate
  • 23 Mothership Core (Chronoboost)
  • 25 Pylon
  • 26 Twilight Council
  • 27 Stalker (cut Probes)
  • 29 Blink, Gateway x2, Stalker
  • 31 Gateway

Notes:

  1. Feel free to skip the scout. You’re all-in on this, so you probably won’t see anything that will change your mind
  2. If you’re really worried, start a Zealot on your Gateway and cancel it at the last second to get a Stalker instead
  3. It’s an all-in, so cut Probes when you’re saturated
  4. High ground vision is pretty important, so get your Mothership Core across with the Stalkers and Probe (for the proxy Pylon)
  5. Alternatively, you can go for Dark Templar by turning the Blink tech into a Dark Shrine

Some of what you’re up against and what you can do

  1. Dark Templar rush. Have an Oracle or a Observer on hand, and you should be okay. A common transition out of DTs is Archons, so watch out for Zealot/Archon followups. If you defend it, however, you can safely expand since usually DTs are just to stall
  2. Blink Stalkers. Immortals own Blink Stalkers, so don’t get caught off-guard
  3. Skytoss. Very popular nowadays. You can go for the Phoenix wars and just mass tons of those until you have air superiority, then switch into Void Rays. You can also just go ground and get to High Templar/Archon quickly
  4. Robo. This usually shifts into Colossi heavy builds, with High Templar and air for the late game

Protoss versus Terran (minor update: July 21, 2013)

Terran used to have 2 strategies: bio and mech, and mech was bad against Protoss. Nowadays, there’s some in-between because Hellbats and Widow Mines fit into bio, and you can use Reaper openings into mech. Be careful of Reapers, Widow Mines, and drops early game and keep lots of map vision and scouting.

The Build Orders

The 1 Gate Expand is standard in PvT (and PvZ if you don’t want to FFE). Here’s one from Mana.

Mana’s PvT 1 Gate Expand (ref)

  • Standard opening
  • 18 Zealot
  • 21 Assimilator
  • 22 Stalker, Warp Gate, Mothership Core
  • 26 4:30 Nexus
  • 26 Pylon, Robotics Facility (probably)

Some notes:

  1. The 9 Scout is key because Terran players will wall off and keep you out of their base. It’s very important to see if they have taken their gas and will 1 Rax gasless expand or whether you should consider anything else coming from them
  2. If you see early gas from Terran, keep your Stalker in your mineral line. There could be Reapers coming

There are a few ways to follow this up. You can either go into Skytoss or Double Forge Zealot/Archon (as described here), but the most stable follow-up is Colossi. See the Mana build for one version, and another from Artosis below.

Artosis PvT Robo followup for a 1 Gate Expand

  • 5:20 Robotic Facility
  • Assimilator
  • 6:30 Robotics Support Bay
  • Observer
  • 7:45 Colossi, Gateway x2

Some of what you’re up against

  1. Bioballs. You can go for Zealot/Archon or Robo. In the latter case, the midgame is Colossi while they’re Starports are cranking out Medivacs and not Vikings, and then you transition into a full deathball composition for the late game.
  2. Mech. Use Skytoss if you see it, but this isn’t very common

What you can do

I already kind of tackled this above, but in short

  1. Colossi into deathball. How this typically plays out is that you open Robo and get your Colossi out for any 10 minute-ish timings. Terran gets Vikings to counter it, and you divest and add High Templars, which aren’t affected by it.
  2. Zealot/Archon
  3. Skytoss

Protoss versus Zerg (updated: August 25, 2013)

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 ShrineStargate, 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)

Conclusion

Perhaps you figured this out, but Protoss is mostly about the Deathball. Using Warp Prisms, Oracles, and Phoenix, you can pick them apart from around the map, but you’re mainly looking to roll on with one big engagement.

Let me know if you see any changes I should make to the guide above, and feel free to recommend other builds for future posts. Until then, keep at the “Matchmaking” and “Play” buttons.

Other Helpful Posts

References

9 thoughts on “HotS Protoss Strategy

  1. Should put a link to Apollo’s tutorial vids up top. They help out so much due to his explaining what he is doing and why. They may be WOL, but hopefully he will continue into HOTS. Either way they still help out a lot as not much is different in what you should be doing and when you should be doing it between WOL and HOTS.

    -Never played WOL. Just bought HOTS and they helped a lot. Played SCBW for a few years though so that helped.

    • Good idea! I added a references section at the bottom of this page with a few of the links that I used for research. Hopefully that gives more context for the page.

  2. Just wanted to say thanks for all your work. That must have taken you some time. Very helpful for newbies like me. Well, been playing two years but still awful. Thank you very much

  3. Thanks for the time you took to make this. Helpful for me switching from terran to protoss. Nice to see people devoted like you are, also, you seem really humble and that’s something really appreciable. Don’t change anything, thank you again.

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad that the guide was helpful to your Protoss development, and I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. It’s a good reminder for me to go back and update the content to make sure I’m not leaving stale info here.

      Let me know if there were any gaps or if you hit any bumps in the road. If I’m going to be editing anyways, I would like the content to be as accessible and appropriate as possible.

  4. I play almost exclusively terran, but I can tell all you toss players out there that it is very frustrating to see entire armies being devoured by electric storms. Toss air is pretty intimidating as well. Stalkers are easy bait for marauders, don’t rely on them too much.

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