After playing a decent amount of Brood War over the summer, I decided to try writing my first-ever strategic guide for Protoss warriors out there. I wanted to find a way to contribute a little - which I haven't done in too long - and eventually realized it would be best to utilize my skill and knowledge of the game to assist other members improve. I will do my best to cover as many scenarios and possibilities as possible. To say a bit about myself: I have been a competitive player for a long time, having reached B/B+ on iCCup (DerivAtives and Ytech.Frozen) and playing for the USA B National Team since around 3/4 years ago. I think I have a solid understanding of the game, and well-suited to answer whatever question you may have. I also know that this particular build/strategy can work anywhere from the novice to advanced level, as I have had notable success with it even in the higher ranks.
In this guide, I am going to explain one of my favorite recent builds in the Protoss vs Protoss match-up: fast double Nexus. A majority of people believe that the match-up has turned stale and boring, with luck of the draw often determining the result of the game. I wholeheartedly disagree. PvP is in fact an incredibly dynamic match-up that requires surgical precision in mechanics and a wide array of necessary understanding to become a solid player. This fast expand build can help you achieve that.
I feel that this build is very underrated and underused, with a potential yet to be discovered. Hopefully I can help you add a versatile tool in your arsenal for this mirror match-up. As a bonus, it's also an extremely entertaining style to play.
Any three or four player map - the larger the better. Personally, I love doing this build on maps like Fighting Spirit or Tau Cross. It can work really well on two-player maps, but it's just more vulnerable to hardcore cheeses like in-base two gate proxy. You can do it pretty much on any map though, especially if you know your opponent's playstyle.
Basic Premise of the Strategy:
Now, many of you know that fast expanding as Protoss has become a common trend in both PvT and PvZ; 12 Nexus in PvT has become almost standard on four-player maps, and double Nexus PvZ has been the staple build for many years e.g. the "Bisu Build." In PvP, however, you rarely see a player fast expand. I am not sure why, because it's one of the strongest builds I have ever worked with. Without further due, here's the basic early-game build order:
15 Pylon by the second Nexus
*Build five zealots non-stop, fitting in probe anytime you can. Zealots take priority.
(Build gas-core-forge in a flexible order to adjust to your opponent's build. I prefer gas-core-forge though)
*Note about the five zealots: Always make these zealots. Why? Because it allows you to do these critical things in the early game:
1) Forcing him to cut probes to match your gateway/zealot count
2) Getting in his base to scout what he's doing if he one gate teched
3) Fending off any aggressive or proxy zealot builds
4) Afflicting economical damage.
No matter what happens, get those five zealots. You may have to cut a probe here and there, but trust me, it's worth it. The most vulnerable aspect of the fast expand is the lack of information/intel on your opponent. These zealots will help you solve that problem. They will tell your how many units he has, and you can tell if he two-gated or one gate teched early on. About half the time, I can actually break his ramp with these zealots because he will usually have two zealots and a goon, assuming he went for the very popular Zealot-Core-Zealot build. I will later discuss how to react to whatever counter your opponent have opted for.
You can probably tell the early game build is not complicated at all. But the most difficult part about this build is adjustment, and that's why I urge you to learn this build. It can help you become a better player in multiple ways. To be good with this build, you must be able to read what your opponent is doing and adapt quickly, and correctly. The failure to do so can result in a short, disappointing loss.
How to React to Specific Early/Mid-game Counters
In perhaps the most important section, I will explain how to react to the most common counters to this fast expand build. There are, of course, variations in everything because it all just depends on the situation. That's what makes StarCraft great. But follow these general guidelines and you will find some success:
A) Variations of Early Game Zealot Attack
I find this to be the most common counter in the lower ranks (D to C-) Not many people fast expand in PvP, thus when your opponent sees you expanding, he will more or less panic and try to do some damage early game. There are many different variations to this. There is the two gateway non-stop zealot attack with a shield battery in your natural, a three gateway pressure, or even a four gateway attack with two of them proxied somewhere near. You can beat every one of them with solid micro and a calm head. The latter might actually be the most important element in defeating these types of early game attacks. Stay calm. Do not freak out. That will only lead to silly micro mistakes, which are crucial at this stage of the game. Believe it or not, it's not even hard to defend these.
If he builds a shield battery in your natural (with two gates in his base), just mirror his action and build a shield battery next to your expansion. This is why you need to build your second pylon at 15 by your second Nexus. But if he's far away in a diagonal position, you don't even need to build the battery. Instead, get another zealot or probe. The key to defeating this attack is having three probes fighting with your zealots. Do not ever attack until you feel confident doing so. Based on prior experience, there is about a fifteen second timing window where you and your opponent both have seven zealots, assuming nobody lost any before that. This is when you fight together with those three probes. If you get a good surround, his shield battery won't matter at all. Ideally yours is nearby so you can use the battery during battle. Every type of early game variation - three and four gateways - follows the same procedure, except you just have to match his gateway count. Scout him well. See if he's cutting probes, and if he is, you must do the same. You have an extra Nexus, you just need to survive. Be patient and wait for the right moment to strike.
B) DT Drop
While you were reading this, you were probably thinking "wouldn't I die to a quick DT drop?" And that is exactly what many of your opponents will be thinking. This is simply the most common counter your opponent will opt for if he did not do an early-game pressure. After all, it makes sense - your tech is relatively late and your main base remains vulnerable since photon cannons will most likely be placed at your natural. But there are some pretty simple things you can do to fend this off:
1) The Five Zealots: yes, this is why they are so important. If your opponent techs to robotics facility and templar archives after one gate, your initial five Zealots will almost always get into his main base. This will allow you to either scout the tech or even kill some probes. DT drop is a dead build once scouted. Build cannons at natural and main base, and you should be set.
2) Build a pylon on the path his Shuttle would fly over, and always leave a probe somewhere between his base and yours. This is absolutely critical, because unless you know for sure that he's attacking your front, you need to leave three to four Dragoons at your main base. These Dragoons, on top of one cannon at main base, will nullify any sort of cheesy DT drop. Without them, your cannon will get sliced by DTs in a couple seconds. Do not forget this.
3) Scouting matters. Occasionally send a probe to his base to see how many Zealots/Dragoons he has. While there's no magical number, if you believe that he has fewer units than he should, then build that cannon in your main base and leave some more Dragoons. I choose to build the cannon almost 80 percent of the time.
C) Variation of Dragoon or Dragoon/Reaver Attack
So your opponent decided to either break your front with three gates or go for a two gate/robo attack. This isn't too difficult to scout, mainly because you can tell what he's doing by his Dragoon count and whether or not he has range.(Pro Tip: learning how to tell if Dragoons have range or not will be a tremendous asset in PvP) You send a Probe, and see that he has five Dragoons? Well, he's not doing anything cheesy. So prepare for a strong mid-game attack. To do so, you need to cut a decent number of Probes to get three more gateways as soon as possible. Build three cannons, four if you feel he's skipping a massive number of Probes for an earlier four gate break. Do not take your second gas at natural until the first battle's over. There's no trick around this one. Once five gateways are up, build Dragoons non-stop from them. Fit in Probes wherever you can, but don't forget - Dragoons always take priority at this point. Remember, you can build Probes at twice his rate once you fend off his attack.
D) Some Uncommon Stuff
I have ran into a handful of unorthodox counters, such as fast double-robotics, Dragoon/DT attack (Dragoons snipe cannons, DTs come in), proxy robo somewhere near my natural to crawl a fast Reaver with Dragoons, and etc. I am not going to explain any specifics about those because they are so dependent on the situation. Two things are certain: scouting and adjusting properly will always defeat them. If you have detailed questions on how to fend off any them, I'd be happy to talk more about them.
E) Fast Expand vs Fast Expand
FE vs FE should be played like a standard game on maps like Blue Storm where you usually go up to three/four gates into robotics/citadel at the same time. Get a cannon only if you feel that he's doing some sort of fast DT rush. Otherwise, just position your goons well along the choke and you should be fine. To be able to maximize your advantage, it's important that you scout well to figure out how many units he's exactly getting so you can pump out as many probes as possible while getting the necessary units and tech. Again, it becomes an adjustment game. If you are opponent is doing some early push (and you need to scout this), you will obviously need to add more cannons. If not, push the advantage. I know this is easier said than done, but it will take some practice and experience. Players skip reavers most of the time and opt straight for templar tech, using the robo only for observers. This is usually a solid play. Then it becomes the regular map control/templar drops/expanding battle in the center. Please do not hesitate to upload a replay if you would like more specific advice.
Transition Into Late-game
Once you successfully defend any of those early-mid/mid game attacks, you should have a significant advantage unless you lost a large sum of Probes. As the game progresses, play it like how you would play any other PvP. I like to put down my robotics (for obs and shuttle) and citadel of adun almost at the same time once I have my natural gas fully running - after approximately four or five gates pumping out goons/zeals. Upgrade speed for Zealots, get attack upgrade, and transition to Templars. Reavers are not necessary in most cases. (I don't think I have ever gotten them for this build) Some things to keep in mind:
a) Watch out for speed Shuttles
Probably the most common way to make a comeback in PvP is to use the Shuttle. It can consist of Reavers, DTs, High Templars, or any combination of the above. Since you are at a lead, you must keep your head up for these harass tactics. Build pylons at key locations to spot Shuttles. Have observers over your natural cliff, and on the path towards your main base mineral line. On Fighting Spirit, have two groups of six Dragoons at the two regular Shuttle flight paths. It's essential that you shut down any opportunity for him to come back in the game. Being aware of the mini-map and having a good map presence takes some experience and skill, but you can only improve by practicing that.
b) Go harass!
A successful harass is the final dagger. Do not ever lose patience and do an unnecessary attack just because you think you have the lead. Instead, especially on a map like FS, take a second base and go for a High Templar drop. Don't forget to get that shuttle. If you kill ten Probes, which isn't too difficult to do with storm drops, the game is pretty much over. I know that this takes multitasking and that can be hard for a lot of players. Force yourself to do it. Don't do the "ah, screw it" lazy stuff. Storm drops are so good!
c) Maintain map control.
Map control is crucial in PvP. It means more room to harass, and vice versa - it's much harder for your opponent to harass when you have Dragoons all over the map. Around mid-game, your fast expand macro should kick in and you will gain map control. Scout for hidden expos and always get in a good formation when engaging him. (This means you need to have Probes/Obs to keep track of where his army is) This build is so great because once you gain a macro lead in PvP, it's hard to lose that unless you lose a massive number of Probes. Your subsequent expansions will be faster, your gateway count will be higher, and even your upgrades will be better.
I challenge you to try this build the next time you log on iCCup. It's such an underused build that is actually so powerful. If you lose, watch the replay and study how you could have done better. How you could have defend that attack. Lastly, please feel free PM me for help or message me on iCCup under sMi.Frozen. Don't be afraid to bring up questions or criticisms in the thread. Cheers!
vs ShoX (B/B- level Protoss)
+ Show Spoiler +
How to deal with DT drop
vs ilovezil (B level Protoss)
+ Show Spoiler +
Good and unique game. Recommended
vs kanyewest (two gate robo)
+ Show Spoiler +
Decent example of how to handle two gate robo
vs Grobyc (handling early zealots)
+ Show Spoiler +
A pretty good example of how to beat early-game zealot builds.
+ Show Spoiler +