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Welcome to the first StarCraft: Legacy Strategy Briefing! We have gathered a team of thinkers, strategists, and ladder junkies to bring you helpful tips and methods that could enhance your StarCraft II multiplayer gameplay. In the upcoming nine editions (1 through 9), we’ll analyze a single, different match-up, and we’ll provide you with video highlights, tips, build orders, and strategies. The first edition covers a somewhat unexplored and fun match-up: Protoss vs. Zerg!

Protoss vs. Zerg: A Match-up Overview by Siraz

Introduction

Protoss vs Zerg (PvZ) is probably one of the most interesting match ups currently in StarCraft II. Almost every single unit has a use in this fight. There are also a variety of strategies and tactics that can be employed by both sides. This article will highlight some of the most common tactics encountered when playing Protoss fighting against a Zerg, and it will explain how to effectively counter these tactics.

Overview

Zergling Run-By
Roach Build
Baneling Bust
Muta Harass
Mass Hydra

Speedling Run By

The Strategy

Ever have 10-15 Zerglings with upgraded speed in your main base? If so, you know it’s probably one of the most annoying things to deal with when fighting Zerg as a Protoss player. It seems that no matter how hard your forces try, they can never catch the Speedlings as they rampage throughout your base picking of Probes and Pylons until your economy is crippled.

How to Scout

Assume the Zerg player will get Speedlings.

How to Counter

Make a wall with buildings and a Zealot. Also, if you don't plan on expanding early, you can just completely wall-off with buildings.

Example of a building wall.

Example of a wall using a Zealot.

Roach Build

The Strategy

This is a timing push where the Zerg player puts down an early Roach Warren at around 16 food. Usually, the Zerg player will do this build on only one base. Once the Zerg player has 5-6 Roaches and a few Zerglings, he or she will attack.

How to Scout

Send in a probe to look for the Roach Warren. The hardest part is getting past any Zerglings. If you’re unable to sneak a probe past the Zerg player's Zerglings, look for an expansion. If an expansion is up, the Zerg Player is probably not going to try a Roach timing attack.

How to Counter

The key to beating a Roach timing attack is to not have too many Zealots. Make sure to have a few Stalkers and at least one Sentry to cut the Roach force in half at the ramp.

Cutting a Roach army in half with a well timed Forcefield.

Baneling Bust

The Strategy

A Baneling Bust is an attack where the Zerg player makes 5-6 Banelings and a large number of Zerglings. The Zerg player then uses the Banelings to break a hole in any sort of wall that the Protoss player has made. The Zerg player then sends in the Zerglings to rampage through the Protoss player’s base.

How to Scout

Use a Probe to find a Baneling nest. This will usually go down at around 16-20 food for the Zerg player. Like scouting the Roach Warren, this search can be difficult at times, for the Zerg player will have a few Zerglings out to kill any scouts. Try hugging walls to sneak past Zerglings.

How to Counter

There are two ways to counter a Baneling bust. The first is to get a Sentry and place a well timed force field on the base ramp. The other way is to not tech and have a large enough army of Gateway units to fight off the Zerg force. The trick here is getting the right mix of Sentries/Stalkers/Zealots. If you have too many Sentries and Zealots, the Banelings will deal too much damage. If you have too few zealots, the Zerglings will kill off the Sentries and Stalkers.

Example of using Forcefields to stop a Baneling Bust. Notice how two Forcefields can trap the Banelings so your ranged units can kill them off.

Mutalisk Harass

The Strategy

The Zerg player will use roughly 6 Mutalisks to harass the Protoss player's probes and buildings. At best, this type of attack can be frustrating if expected and, at worst, game ending if the Protoss player does not have sufficient anti-air.

How to Scout

Mutalisk are tier two units, so they come out late enough that the Protoss player should be able to have either a Phoenix or Observer out in time to scout the Zerg base and find a Spire.

How to Counter

The Protoss army has a couple of options to deal with Mutalisk harass. The first is Stalkers. The Protoss player wants to have roughly an equal Stalker-to-Mutalisk ratio to effectively fight off this harass. If the Stalker count is too low, the Mutalisk will be able to just kill the Stalkers. Also, the blink upgrade for Stalkers can be very useful to help combat Mutalisk as it allows Stalkers to chase down fleeing Mutalisk. If you have extra gas adding a few sentries for gaurdian sheild can greatly reduce Mutalisk damage. The other unit that is very strong against Mutalisk is the Phoenix. However, like Stalkers, Phoenixes need to have equal numbers to combat Mutalisk. One pitfall a lot of newer players fall into when fighting Mutalisk is thinking that one Phoenix will be able to kill off a force of Mutalisks. This is not the case. If you do not already have a Stargate, do not try and transition into Phoenix. Just stick with Stalkers to fight off the Mutalisk harass.

Defending against Mutalisks using Stalkers and Sentries.

Mass Hydra

The Strategy

This strategy is where the Zerg player transitions from Speedlings into a very large number of Hydralisks. This can be hard to deal with because Hydralisks kill all tier one Gateway units.

How to Scout

Scout the Hydralisk Den with an Observer. Also note that Hydralisks are a staple of most Zerg armies. It’s rare that a Zerg player will not transition to Hydralisks in a game.

How to Counter

There are two units that can effectively combat a large Hydralisk force. They are the Colossus and the High Templar. It’s imperative that a Protoss player gets one of these units before Hydralisk overrun him/her. When choosing whether to get High Templar or Colossus, consider the strength and weaknesses of each. Going for Colossus is usually the safest choice in most situations. Make sure to get the range upgrade when using Colossus. This helps keep Colossus safe from return fire. The main reason for this is because Hydralisks can’t dodge the Colossus laser beams like they can dodge storms. However, Colossi are vulnerable to air units. So, if the Zerg player already has a few air units, such as a few Mutalisk, choosing High Templar might be the better option. The biggest weakness of High Templar is that, when fighting on creep, it’s very hard to hit moving Hydralisk. The other thing to consider is that storm takes more micro (read: unit control) than Colossi to use effectively. When using either Colossi or High Templar remember to continue to build gateway units to act as a meat shield as both Colossi and High Templar are pretty fragile.

Colossus roasting Hydralisks with pew pew lazer beams.

Conclusion

I hope this guide will help some budding Protoss players avoid some of the most common pitfalls in the PvZ match up. If you found this guide helpful, look out for similar guides covering different match-ups to be released in the future. Also, we've included a video, by SaharaDrac, below that highlights the essentials of a general PvZ match:


 

Build Order Analysis by Dejai

Terran Build Order: TheLittleOne Fast Expansion

This build was popularized by TLO during the beta and involves a heavy economic focus. TLO’s build has shown to be able to fend off rushes. However, it does require very good micro on the part of the Terran player, and it should only be attempted by platinum- to diamond-level players who have solid fundamentals in the game. This build sets you up for a really strong mid-game, and it gives you a great economic advantage at the cost of map control and early game aggression. I have also seen this defeated by well-timed 4-Gate builds. However, I have seen it go both ways, so it may just be worth the risk especially if you are cross positional on a large map. It also seems to be quite popular against Protoss. I have not seen it used as much against Zerg and Terran.

The Build

10/11 Supply Depot
12/19 Barracks
15/19 SCV scout
16/19 Marine
17/19 Command Center
18/19 Orbital Command
19/19 Supply Drop from Command Center
20/27 Barracks (2)
21/27 Refinery
23/27 Barracks (3)

Where to Go From Here

Continue to pump Marines. Generally, a bunker is required to defend off aggression as you expand. You now have the economic advantage which will allow you to build a larger army as you move into the mid game.

 

Professional Match Examples

"WhiteRa v TheLittleOne Honor Rematch!" game one with commentary from HDStarcraft here.

Zerg Build Order: 14 Pool, 16 Hatchery

This is a very common build which has proven to be quite safe against almost all races and builds if executed properly. This will give you an economic advantage as you move into the mid-game, and it will allow you to keep your options open. We see this build being used quite frequently by IdrA, the master of Zerg macro, and a lot of variations exist on this build. I will be going through each in detail in posts later.

The Build

9/10 Overlord
14/18 Spawning Pool
16/18 Hatchery (at natural expansion)
17/18 Extractor
16/18 Queen
18/18 Overlord

Where to Go From Here

From here you have a lot of options, but I generally prefer to get 3 Queens on the map and Zergling speed upgrades. You can use one Queen to constantly spread the creep, which is really important against mech-using Terran or if you decide you are going to go Hydra. It also provides vision around the map and allows you to surround enemy opponents more easily.

References

If you feel you are going to get 4-Gated by Protoss, you can counter it by morphing an Evolution Chamber and 2 Spine Crawlers behind it, which is explained very well in this tutorial by HDStarcraft. You can also see this build explained by StrategyGameCasts here.

Professional Match Examples

IdrA vs LzGamer Steppes of War ZvT
HDH Finals Idra vs WhiteRa ZvP Game 2 (He doesn’t fast expand, but he reacts to the pressure correctly.)
HDH Finals Idra vs WhiteRa Game 3

Protoss Build Order: 4-Gate

The 4 Warp Gate build order is an extremely aggressive build that gets you a lot of early game map control. It can be used against Terran, Protoss and Zerg fairly effectively. You can also transition quite well out of the build if the game diverges. It is generally weak against one base Roaches, but it’s very strong against a fast expanding Zerg player. You need to deny scouting for this build to be effective.

The Build

9/10 Pylon (Chronoboost Probes constantly)
12/18 Gateway
16/18 Pylon
16/18 Cybernetics Core (begin the Warp Gate as soon as possible)
17/18 Assimilator (assign three Probes to gas as soon as possible)
21/26 Gateway
24/26 Pylon
24/26 Gateway
26/34 Assimilator
26/34 Gateway
30/34 Pylon
34/42 Proxy Pylon and Morph Gateways into Warp Gates
34/42 Warp in 6 Stalkers and Sentries (2 or 3) and push at the 8 minute mark (game time).

Where to Go From Here

You need to make use of these early-game units by maximising damage against your opponent and make sure to use the map control to your advantage. This build is not optimal against one base Roach compared to a typical Zerg fast expansion.

References

HDStarcraft video tutorial on it here.

Professional Match Examples

HDH Invitational WhiteRa vs Taseless here.

We're excited to provide you with ongoing coverage of the briefing! The Strategy Briefing will be released every two weeks, and we hope that you'll be looking forward to the next edition!

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