Protoss Strategy Guide: Basic Openers and Tactics

Author: Sirix

So I'm going to try to consolidate the tactics that I've learned throughout beta as well as watching countless replays. I myself am no pro, but I feel I have a fairly diverse knowledge of the basic Protoss opening strategies, even if I cannot always perfectly replicate them. Below, I'll list a variety of opening builds, their builds orders, and a sentence or two of detail about the builds strengths and weaknesses. I'll try to follow it up with some 'what to watch for' in the opening builds of your opponents, so you can pick a viable tech tree to counter.

(Build Order is listed by supply, the number on the left being at what supply you should start building that structure/unit)



Before I begin, one last tactical note: Especially if you are facing zerg, and sometimes on T/P, you want to wall off your ramp. This can be done a variety of ways, if it is against Zerg you want to do it with a Pylon + Gateway + Zealot (practice against AI, place your hole for the Zealot between the two). If it is against Protoss or Terran (Emo's advice: walling off against Terran and Protoss may be unnecessary or even detrimental against Terran), you can wall off with Gateway + Cybernetics Core + Zealot with your Pylon behind them (so they cannot lose power to marines, you may also skip the Zealot in these instances). If it is a large ramp like Scrap Station, use Pylon + Gateway + Cybernetics Core + Zealot.

Also, CB = Chrono Boost. I’ve marked fairly subjective unit builds with an asterisk (*) meaning your decision depending on the opponent.

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Opening #1 - The Four Gate
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYURoBXkFeA

The Four Gate is the bread and butter of the Protoss starter package, every Protoss should know and master this as it can be used in almost all scenarios and provides you with an easy tech path to whatever you need to counter your opponent. It is strong against nearly every opening expect perhaps 6 pool (depending on when you get your Zealot), and neutral against a mass Marine/Marauder build (you will stalemate and take it into later game).

Build Order:

    9 - Pylon 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Gateway (at 150 minerals, may be before 12) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 13 - 1st Assimilator (3 probes on it immediately) 16 - 2nd Pylon * 16 - Zealot if playing Zerg, save for the Stalker if not 18 - Cybernetics Core (Spend further CB's on Warpgate, research as soon as Core finishes) 18/19 - 2nd Assimilator (I use 2 probes here for now, your call on unit composition)

Post 20 estimates (these are rough as you are leaving the rigid early phase):

    * 19/20 - Stalker (T or P) / Zealot (Zerg) 22 - 2nd Gateway 23 - 3rd & 4th Gateway 24/25 - 3rd Pylon 26 - Warpgate finishes, transform your Gateways and build a 4th and 5th Pylon, you will now be using up exactly 1 Pylons worth of supply each warp in (4 units x 2 supply = 8 supply) so it is important to be planning ahead with your Pylons. 26+ - Warp in your first set of 4 units (sentry, zealot, 2x stalkers is a good start). Mix your composition up, don't go sentry heavy, 2 is a good number.

The push: After your second warp in you should be at 42-45 supply (10-12 army units), take a probe with your army and start moving across the map. Create a proxy pylon near their base, if you are certain begin pushing before the pylon completes, if not, wait for wave 4 of units (wave 3 should have been created back at your base and should be moving to reinforce your army, do NOT WAIT to use your warpgate cooldowns).

Opening #2 – The Void Ray Rush
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaPfUx5ka0k

The Void Ray Rush (VRR) is a simple opener that has been getting a lot of attention lately because of how easy it is to perform. Every Protoss should have it in their arsenal if for no better reason than to scare their opponents out of an all-in ground army. This build is effective against Zerg especially, but Protoss as well. Despite some small amount of success, it is not that great against Terrans, because it is countered by 3-4 marines (a very common starting build for a Terran).

    9 - Pylon 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Gateway (at 150 minerals, may be before 12) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 13 - 1st Assimilator (3 probes on it immediately) 14/15 – 2nd Assimilator (2-3 probes) 16 - 2nd Pylon * 16 - Zealot if playing Zerg, save for the Stalker if not 18 - Cybernetics Core (Warpgate research when it is finished, don't CB it) 20 – Stargate 22 – 2nd Pylon (Voidrays are 3 supply, be PREPARED do not get supply blocked, it will significantly slow your rush) 23/24 – Voidray #1 (Push now if you can micro it well) (CB) 23/24 – Warpgate Technology, you aren’t always going to finish it with a VR. 27/28 – Voidray #2 (CB), push now if you waited. 29/30 – Gateway #2, when you can afford it, Gateway #3. 30+ - Gateway #4, Warpgate should be finishing, go ahead and transition into a mid game build.


Opening #3 – The Zealot Rush
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7v601g5fhAE
(video shows a proxy Zealot rush, your call on the proxy)

This is the Protoss zergling equivalent, a quick rush with a large force of Zealots that the opponent will not be expecting. This is good against Zerg as well as Terran, but weaker against Protoss, as 1 sentry at the ramp means a lot of Zealots standing around doing nothing. This build is also weak against common enemy rushes such as reapers and void rays, but is very strong against zerglings and even average against marines (and light marauders).

    9 - Pylon 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Gateway (at 150 minerals, may be before 12) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 13 – Gateway #2 16 - 2nd Pylon 16 – Zealot (CB) 18 – Gateway #3 (note: I go 3 gate for the Zealot push, as I find that is what I can afford to saturate up to ~50 supply) 18 – Zealot #2 20+ - Every gateway should be building a Zealot at all times, no exceptions. Every CB from here on out should be used on Zealots (use them wisely, the building that can take advantage of the full CB). When you have 50 spare minerals, build a probe. NO GAS. Remember, 3x Zealots = 6 supply, build Pylons frequently (Generally ~ 2 at 24, and one around 36-38). 30-35 – Early push, requires a little more micro to achieve and you will not break a Terran wall as quickly. 45 – 50 – Push out with your Zealots. When you leave your base, put up your Cybernetics Core and get your first gas, 3 probes on it. Research Warpgate when the Core finishes, and build another Gateway. You are now a standard 4 gate.

Opening #4 – Early Dark Templars

This build is similar to the Four Gate, but requires more tech at the cost of fewer units for a push. This build is very effective against all races, but depends on them not having detectors. This can also be a good defensive build against terran, as a few Dark Templars will slaughter an early Marine/Marauder ball, but at the cost of your surprise assault.
    9 - Pylon 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Gateway (at 150 minerals, may be before 12) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 13 - 1st Assimilator (3 probes on it immediately) 16 - 2nd Pylon * 16 - Zealot if playing Zerg, save for the Stalker if not 18 - Cybernetics Core (Spend further CB's on Warpgate, research as soon as Core finishes) 18/19 - 2nd Assimilator (I use 2 probes here for now, your call on unit composition)

Post 20 estimates (these are rough as you are leaving the rigid early phase):

    20 – Twilight Council * 19/20 - Stalker (T or P) / Zealot (Zerg) 22 - 2nd Gateway 23 - 3rd & 4th Gateway 24/25 - 3rd Pylon 25/26 – Dark Shrine 26 - Warpgate finishes, transform your Gateways and build a 4th Pylon. 26 - Warp in your first set of 4 units (sentry, zealot, 2x stalkers is a good start). Mix your composition up, don't go sentry heavy, 2 is a good number. This will give you a defense force, and your Dark Shrine won’t be ready yet. Go light on sentries, I often don’t get one this early for Dark Templars, you will need the gas. 34 – You should have about 6 units defending your base now, warp in a set of Dark Templars. I use 4, but the exact number is up to you (at least 2). Send them over to your enemy, if you warped in 4 you may want to leave 1 for defense. If they did not build detection, enjoy your victory.



Opening #5 – Quick Robotech
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeLlzeecUsc

Quick Robotech is a build that will forego some early gateway units in favor of faster Immortals, an Observer, and eventually Colossus. It is good against terrans, or Zergs going ground. Once you have your Observer out and scouting, you can decide whether you need the Colossus tech or whether you should try something else. Remember, you’re going to want an Observer nearly every game, so this is not a bad starting strat regardless. This build is strong against most things in the hands of a skilled player, but if you cannot hold your ramp with sentry force fields while your robotech finishes, you will have a hard time holding off an early push from any race (except a VR rush, you should have the stalkers to hold that off).

    9 - Pylon 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Gateway (at 150 minerals, may be before 12) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 13 - 1st Assimilator (3 probes on it immediately) 16 - 2nd Pylon * 16 - Zealot if playing Zerg, save for the Stalker if not 18 - Cybernetics Core (warpgate when it finishes) 18/19 - 2nd Assimilator, 3 probes 22/23 – Sentry (keep them out of your base) (* CB if pushed) 24 – 3rd Pylon 26 – Robotics Facility 26/27 – Stalker/Zealot #2 (*CB if pushed) 29/30 – Stalker/Zealot #3 (* CB if pushed) 31/32 – 4th Pylon 33/34 – Observer followed by 2x Immortal (CB)

Opening #6 – Nony’s Dual-Stargate Phoenix

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=or2HN7K_0Ik

Not a build I use a lot, but it is a build centered around harassing workers with the Graviton beam. The idea is you get 3-4 phoenix (more if you are less skilled with micro), pick up a worker with one phoenix, and shoot him down with the others. The phoenix move very quickly, so you are able to dart around to expansions and the main harassing for quite some time. I would recommend a new Protoss player cut their teeth on Void Rays before trying this build, as the counters are the same. It is good against Protoss and Zerg, weaker against Terran because of Marines, but even then fairly effective. It will not single handily end the game, but it will thin their economy significantly and give you a window to push with your Gateway units.

    9 - Pylon 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Gateway (at 150 minerals, may be before 12) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 13 - 1st Assimilator (3 probes on it immediately) 16 - 2nd Pylon * 16 - Zealot if playing Zerg, save for the Stalker if not 16 - 2nd Assimilator, 3 probes 18/19 - Cybernetics Core (research warpgate when it finishes) 20 – 2nd Zealot / Stalker 24 – 3rd Pylon 24 – 1st Stargate 25 – 2nd Stargate 27/28 – 4th Pylon 28 – 1st Phoenix (CB) 30 – 2nd Phoenix (CB)

Continue creating Phoenix (CB them) until you are comfortable leaving to harass their mineral line. Remember to take at least 3 to effectively kill ground units. Also remember to drop 2-3 more Gateways at your main in the mid 30, early 40 supply range so that you can actually finish winning the game.

Opening #7 - The Cannon Rush (Warning: Your opponent will complain)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8Wmu4n6Ffc

This is the dreaded cannon rush, ender of many a sub-5 minute game and causer of much drama. This is good against Terran and Protoss (harder to pull off on Zerg because of creep) and requires your opponent to be relatively bad at scouting or you to be AMAZING at placement. It also requires the right map and a bit of luck. I hesitate to even call it a core strategy, but it is a popular build so I will include it for educational purposes.

    9 - Pylon (at your ramp), send your probe to your enemies base and have him wait just under their minerals, preferably, or any other hidden spot. 10 - 2 probes (CB) 12 - Forge (at your ramp) 12 - 2 probes (CB) 15/16 - Drop a Pylon at the enemy base, out of sight or down on the low ground (remember, the warp diameter ignores terrain height) 16/17 - Drop a Pylon in your own base to finish your wall, walling you in tight. 17/18 - Cannon at the enemies base, when this is about 80% finished send your probe into their base to the high ground (if you are already in the base, wait till it finishes). * 18/19 - Cannon in your own base, if you are worried about a rush from your opponent. 19/20 - Drop 2 cannons in the enemies base simultaneously, make sure they are within range of your original cannon so you can support it. You do this so they cannot kill it with SCV's/probes, and if they down one the other will finish. 20/21 - Drop another cannon, and a pylon right behind it (near your 2nd finished cannon). This will allow you the diameter to put cannons basically at their base. 22/23+ - More cannons, add a second or third at your base for more protection, as you can see you do not make many probes here this is all about speed. 23 + - QQ, GG. You may feel a little dirty, but just remember it's no worse than a 6 pool.

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