Be sure to check out the /r/allthingsprotoss guide for tons of extra replay examples from the pros themselves!

Build of the Year continues with its first edition of 2020! I hope to be a bit more consistent in the next few weeks now that IEM has finished and we have plenty of replays to look at, but I'm not promising anything since work is always random. I haven't been working the last 2 weeks though due to the corona virus concerns, but there wasn't really much material to write stuff on. So I figured it would be best to wait for IEM to finish. I'll do my best to keep content churning out though!

Also thanks Artosis and Jake for letting me showcase this build on an episode of In-Depth this time! I'll update with the link once the VOD is posted!

This is a build that has been creeping up a bit over the last few months. I've seen a couple different Protoss players pull it out in various online cups and such, but Zest brought it out swinging at IEM in combination with his non-DT version as well. The fun part about this build is that it's essentially two builds in one. The opening for this build is what he uses for the non-DT version which was just a Gladept push that he used far more frequently. So all you have to do is get rid of the DT follow-up in this build if you want to do that build instead!

Versatility is the name of the game here as this high-tempo early pressure build looks to knock the zerg down before they have a chance to get to full pace. The build is rather tight though and requires some good timing to make work, and it also relies a bit on the Zerg knowing how to scout/react by having them not make blind Spores vs a non-Stargate opener. Hopefully that won't be that much of an issue though and you'll be able to still find some good wins with the build, as it still is a pretty unique and fun build to take to the ladder with.

Please be sure to check the Build Explanation below the Build Order Notes to see some important notes about how to properly execute this build at lower levels of play.

Replay - Ephemeron LE (200)

Build Order

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  12  0:00  Probe  
  13  0:13  Probe  
  14  0:17  Pylon  
  14  0:25  Probe (Chrono Boost)  
  16  0:37  Probe (Chrono Boost)  
  16  0:38  Gateway  
  17  0:44  Probe (Chrono Boost)  
  17  0:48  Assimilator  
  17  0:52  Probe  
  18  1:04  Probe  
  19  1:21  Nexus  
  19  1:28  Probe  
  20  1:35  Cybernetics Core  
  20  1:40  Probe  
  20  1:45  Assimilator  
  21  1:52  Probe  
  22  1:54  Pylon  
  23  2:09  Adept (Chrono Boost)  
  23  2:12  Warp Gate  
  27  2:30  Twilight Council  
  28  2:38  Stalker  
  33  2:53  Robotics Facility  
  35  3:07  Resonating Glaives  
  37  3:17  Gateway x2  
  37  3:25  Gateway  
  37  3:33  Pylon  
  39  3:39  Warp Prism (Chrono Boost)  
  39  3:47  Assimilator  
  43  3:56  Dark Shrine  
  43  3:58  Pylon  
  45  4:12  Adept x3  
  51  4:28  Pylon  
  51  4:35  Adept x4  
  59  4:57  Adept x2  
  65  5:17  Dark Templar x2  
  69  5:23  Dark Templar  
  69  5:24  Zealot  
  75  5:36  Assimilator  
  77  5:52  Immortal (Chrono Boost)  
  81  6:01  Nexus  
  83  6:10  Gateway x3  
  86  6:22  Forge  
  85  6:28  Sentry x3  
  91  6:42  Protoss Ground Weapons Level 1 (Chrono Boost), Charge (Chrono Boost)  
  91  6:53  Immortal (Chrono Boost)  
  93  6:58  Dark Templar x2  
  101  7:07  Archon x2  
  103  7:14  Dark Templar  
  107  7:15  Zealot x2  
  107  7:18  Gateway  
  107  7:21  Archon  
  114  7:30  Immortal  
  120  7:44  Dark Templar, Sentry  
  123  7:48  Assimilator x2  
  128  7:54  Dark Templar  
  128  7:55  Zealot  
  133  7:58  Archon  
  133  8:20  Immortal  
  137  8:28  Zealot x4  
  145  8:37  Zealot x2  
  165  9:03  Nexus  
Spawning Tool Build Advisor. Get it on Overwolf


Build Explanation

Before we get into everything let me first mention some things about how this build functions at different levels of play. As I mentioned in the intro, this build is very tight and requires some sharp timings to get it to work. That alone will make it a bit more difficult to perform at leagues below Diamond. Anyone below that is still welcome to try it though since early Adept pushes can still be very strong in the Bronze-Platinum range, and randomly timed DTs surely can find damage no matter what league you're in. Don't worry too much about the Probe cuts if you can't keep track of them since it's likely you won't be hitting the macro hard enough for that to matter anyway. Just use the build as a guideline for what you should get in which order to perform the push.

Most importantly if you see any italicized parts in the Build Notes, feel free to ignore them. Zest uses some fancy Probe saturation tricks to best optimize the build to hit as early as possible. I was able to still do essentially the same thing but just hitting a few seconds later. You won't see a difference if you don't want to incorporate that.

The build itself starts off just like any other normal PvZ opener with a 20 Nexus (19 NEXUS IS STILL FOR SWAG POINTS) and a Chrono'd Adept first to scout across the map and a Stalker afterwards to deny Overlords. Since we're not going Stargate for a Phoenix, we need something to kill off any Sloverlords that try to see what tech we're choosing. If they go for Speedlords though there's not really much you can do to hide anything (although there is a cutesy trick you can do that I'll mention later in the Variations section). You can get the Twilight Council at 27 supply, which is notably not the absolute earliest you can get it. It doesn't really matter if you get it as early as possible at 26 supply since it'll still be finished in time with two Chronos. Zest prefers to just make it with the rallied 27th Probe while it's going down to the natural to not disrupt any mining time by pulling a Probe. You then get the Robo at 33 supply quite quickly after the natural Nexus finishes up. Note that it's going to be at the end of 33 supply and not right at the start of it. You might have to cut your next probe for just a second to get the Robo down early enough. This timing IS important to nail though since you don't want your Warp Prism to be delayed.

Next we have the first optimization to the build that isn't necessary, but if you can do it then it helps out a bit. When the Twilight finishes you'll start Glaives as well as move one Probe from each gas in your main to your natural. This will give you a small boost in mineral income to help the build flow around when you need to do the Adept warp-in. You also then cut probes at 31 to afford three Gateways at 3:15. This Probe cut is necessary otherwise all your gates will be super late. In lower leagues, it's more important to just get the three Gates down all together so that they finish together around when Warp Gate is finishing. It doesn't need to be exact. To further optimize this, Zest takes one more Probe from his main gas to make the extra Gates in his main, and then sends that Probe down to the natural to mine minerals as well.

You then get your Pylon at 37 supply and start Probe production back up again for a bit. Once the Robo finishes you'll Chrono out a Warp Prism. It's ok if this doesn't start immediately after the Robo finishes. You'll also get the 3rd Gas at your natural around 3:40 to help with the DTs later on. This is also where you can start dropping some Chronos on the Twilight. You'll only need two for Glaives to be done in time though.

At 4:00 is when the Dark Shrine goes down, which is right before Warp Gate is finishing. Zest has also gotten it a little later at 4:10, so don't worry if you don't nail that timing perfectly. Then, once Warp Gate finishes you'll warp-in three more Adepts to join up with your first one from the beginning of the game (warp-in a 4th if you accidentally lost it for whatever reason) and load them into the Prism that should be finishing at the same time and head across the map. If you did the little optimization earlier in the game to take Probes off gas, then this is also the time for you to fill the gasses back up. You can just use the Probes in the main even though it leaves you with less than 16. Chrono Glaives one last time as the Warp Prism is heading across the map and you'll be all good to go.

Once the Warp Prism is part way across the map, drop the Adepts down and get your 2nd warp-in of Adepts at 4:37 (I've seen Zest nail it as early as 4:32. 4:34 was the earliest I could get). Behind the Adept pressure it'd be good to drop down a few extra Pylons to be sure you're not getting supply blocked. Generally you'll be able to do another Adept warp-in provided you're doing good damage. If they're totally 100% prepared then just wait for the DTs. But you should generally always do the next warp-in to keep the pressure on the Zerg and also continue to sell the fact that you're not doing the DT follow-up. Then at 5:10 you'll have the DT warp-in ready to go. However, if you did the optimized version of the build, the gas that you sacrificed earlier for minerals to get the Prism out in time and the Pylons down in time to not get supply blocked on the 2nd Adept warp-in will make it so that you can only warp-in two DTs at 5:10. It's better to just wait a little bit to get all three DTs at once and a Zealot to help out too if you want. If you do the non-optimized version then your initial Adept pressure will be delayed just a few seconds, but you'll have enough gas for three DTs earlier. So you can choose which you'd rather have.

From there you'll have started getting your 4th gas back at home and started Probing again. But I'll go into more detail with that in a bit. First let's talk a little bit about what you're hoping to achieve with this Gladept/DT one-two-punch and how to pull it off most effectively.

The Gladept/DT One-Two-Punch

The biggest strength of this build is the fact that really stretches the Zerg's limitations quite early into the game. It's opening with Glaives, which requires a certain dedicated response and a lot of attention from Zerg to defend properly as the shades will be going back and forth between their bases killing as many drones as possible. The last thing on a Zerg's mind when dealing with that, especially after not seeing a Stargate, is that DTs would be coming and that they need spores up in time to defend as well. If the Zerg slips up just a little bit, catastrophic damage will result.

Goal of the push: Kill stuff. You want to be killing as much as possible when going for this build since you're cutting a lot of corners early to get this many Gladepts out at this time. You'll need to do some damage to make it worth the investment and simply losing all your Gladepts for free won't cut it. Unless your DTs end up pulling their weight instead. But ideally both phases of the attack should be contributing a decent amount.

Executing the push: Generally what you should be doing is just causing as much chaos as possible. It is technically harder for Zerg to defend a mass amount of shades going back and forth between bases than it is for a Protoss to send the shades back and forth. Granted, that doesn't mean it's easy on our part either as you have to be making a lot of quick snap decisions as to where the shades should be going, if they should be canceled or not, and what the best things to target are. Usually you just want to be killing as many Drones as possible, but going for Queens is also good and sometimes even targetting individual Roaches is also fine if you have enough Gladepts together. Something important to remember is that you don't always need to finish your shades. Simply threatening your shades to force the Zerg back to respect them can still be very effective. If you notice that your opponent is quite well prepared with enough units in position to follow your shades, simply take a good stance at another point and constantly send out shades and cancel them while dealing damage at the spot that your Adepts are at. You'd be surprised at how quickly you can actually kill a 3rd Hatch with a large group of Gladepts.

Ninja Cape Bois: One the DTs come into play you want to obviously go where there's no detection. Hopefully the Zerg didn't make any since there's no reason for them to, and you'll be able to go wherever you want. Drones are the first priority once again, with Queens being next. You can also just have them fight their units to help the Gladepts snowball in certain situations. Also, if you feel they will have 0 detection then you can snipe a Hatch as well. It all depends on the situation. If you can, save the DTs with the Warp Prism so that you can use them later for Archons or continued harass later on. If the Zerg is fully prepared for the DTs as well, you also can save your card until later. Warp the DTs in and wait for a while until the dust has settled to catch the Zerg off guard with them coming in when they least expect.

With all of this in mind you should be well prepared to deal solid economic damage to the Zerg and be able to transition into the macro game afterwards.

Mid-game Transition

The transition out of this build is a little bit strange compared to other early pressure builds and seems to vary wildly depending on who's playing it and what the situation in the game is. I'll try my best to explain some of the things that go into the transition and what your win condition is supposed to look like if the initial pressure didn't cut it.

Since you're cutting workers during this build and sitting on less than two base saturation during the actual attack itself, the transition isn't as seamless as other pressure builds. Generally you just take a 3rd base behind the push, start Immortals, get a Forge and five more Gates and you're all fine. This build you still need to Probe up a bit again before you can start affording all of the extra steps. Since you're also doing a bit of a suicide mission with your units in certain situations, I've seen some games where Zest or Trap start an Immortal first while Probing up prior to taking their 3rd base and extra tech/production. But basically you can follow the general order I listed in the Build Notes and be fine:

  • 5:10 DT Warp-In
  • Obs
  • ~5:40 3rd Nexus
  • Start Immortal Production
  • 6:00 Forge + 3-4x Gate (Get up to 8 total when affordable)
  • Charge or Blink ASAP - Charge when ahead, Blink if muta
  • Use DT's as Archons

The timings for these are more approximations than exact times, since it varies a lot for each game. I tried to average out the times between the games that were played.

Charge or Blink?: The biggest question with this build is whether or not one should be going into Charge or Blink after the initial attack is done. Historically, it would make complete sense for Charge to be the correct move in 100% of situations. However, in this tournament we saw multiple situations where players went Blink first instead of Charge. Why is this the case? The very simple answer: Mutas. I talked with Trap about this, since he was one of the players that went Blink afterwards, and was confused why both him and Zest went for that in some of their games. Even though neither of them scouted any indication that their opponent was going Mutas, they went for Blink first anyway. But there were other games they played the same build and didn't go Blink before Charge, so surely there had to be a reason? Basically Trap said that if you're unsure of their tech, you should go Blink for the sole case of Mutas. "You can't exclude mutas" were his exact words. The build is setup in a way that if Mutas blindside you, you're almost guaranteed to lose the game. You have no way to properly deal with them and a good player will be able to snowball that to a victory fairly easily. He also mentioned that if you are sure that you're ahead, and you can continue to play aggressively and in the Zerg's face (assuming with a very fast follow-up Chargelot/Immortal/Archon push with a scarcely saturated 3rd base after doing extra DT or Archon drop harass) then going Charge can still be fine against Mutas. It's when you're 100% certain you'd otherwise die to a Muta transition that you should go Blink. Charge is the ideal situation to transition into.

Assuming that you have gone into Charge as the follow up to the push, you can play it like any normal mid-game PvZ. If you did near game ending damage, you can probably follow up with a very quick Chargelot/Immortal/Archon push off of a 3rd base and ~55 Probes. Or you could even just do a quicker Gladept/Sentry/Immortal/Archon push with the two Archons from the initial pressure. If you don't feel you can end with any follow up pushes, then just Probe up your 3rd while getting your upgrades and rounding out a nice CIA composition. The kicker here though is that because you're not mining as much gas early on, you won't be able to fully scale up to Templar tech quickly with this build. So it's totally fine to just stick on the Dark Shrine as your source of Archons and go for a brute force army with heavier emphasis on the Archons to bulldoze through most ground armies. Zest vs Reynor is a great example of this mid-game situation in action. Storm isn't a necessity if you just have such a massive army that can soak up a ton of banelings. Having some Sentries to help constrict movement is also great so this is a great way to practice using them with this type of army. This army also has a lot more snowball punishing power if you win a few engagements. You're not relying on Storm to deal the brunt of the damage, so you can really counter-push hard and kill Zerg in the mid-game before needing to deal with Hive tech.

However, just because you CAN kill them before Hive tech, doesn't mean that players don't prepare for it. You'll see in some games the Protoss will go into a late Blink around when +2 is starting. This is for any potential Brood Lord transitions that could pop out at you. It's also just a generally decent tool to have if you're going against a Roach/Ravager based composition. Stalkers actually deal decent damage from behind a big frontline of CIA and Blink allows them to continue dishing it out on the chase if they're retreating from the fight as well. Also, don't forget that you started with DT tech! Try to use them constantly throughout the game as base harassment! Sometimes as little as one DT in a mineral line while a fight is happening is enough to totally swing the game in your favor.

Generally speaking though, this is absolutely an early and mid game centered build/style. The power spike of Gladepts plus DTs early on is very large, but quickly falls off. Then it's up to you to continue the momentum to snowball that into a second power spike of a large brute force CIA composition to power down the Zerg while keeping up counter harass with DTs/Chargelots.


I mentioned earlier that this build is quite flexible in the early stages and there's a couple cool alterations you can make to it to fit your needs. There's not much to talk about with these as a whole, but I'll quickly list some things you could try out yourself if you want to mix it up or try some other things out.

4 Gate Gladept Pressure: Like I said, this build is exactly the same with and without the DTs in them. If you really enjoyed Zest's games that used just the initial 4 Gate Gladept, then you absolutely can still do this! The transition to this build is a bit easier to pull off since you're not committing as much with the extra resources into DTs. So you can get a quicker 3rd base, extra Gates, Forge, etc. Zest vs Serral on Nightshade is a great example of this.

5 Gate Gladept Pressure with or without DTs: Trap likes to do his own style of this build a lot where he goes a bit harder on the Gladept push with five Gates instead of four and a slightly later Dark Shrine. It simply has more kill potential with the extra Gate's worth of production and can be a nice thing to mix in if you'd like something more aggressive. You can also hide the Dark Shrine on the map for added trickery. He tried this vs Lambo on Eternal Empire, and while he got completely scouted and Lambo defended very well, the potential to crawl back into the game with continued DT harass is very evident in this game. He's also used this build in the IEM Qualifiers and Olimoleagues in the past before to great effect. Trap vs soO on Simulacrum from the IEM Asia Qualifier is a great example of this, and also a great example of when going Blink instead of Charge is necessary when Mutas are the only thing that could have killed him. This was also the first time I had seen this build used so you're all lucky I'm not naming this one after Trap xd

Fake Gladept into DT Drop: This was the thing I had mentioned earlier as a cute improvisation you can do with the build if it gets scouted with an Overlord. Zest one game against Armani on Ephemeron had his Twilight scouted by a Speedlord, so Zest quickly canceled Glaives, but still Chronod the Twilight to make it look like he was committing to it, while just making a Dark Shrine and extra Gasses and continuing as a totally normally timed DT drop that caught Armani off guard.

Mass Blink Follow Up: Zest did this on Simulacrum vs Rogue during the group stage and it worked extremely well. Going Blink so as to not exclude the possibility of Mutas, he had dealt enough damage with the initial pressure and defended the Mutas with ease, that he was able to just do a mass Blink follow up push that crushed through Rogue's Roach/Ravager defense.

Blink 2 Robo Disruptor/Colossus Follow Up: Trap tried this vs Lambo in the same game I mentioned above but it ultimately didn't work out in the end. Trap even told me he thinks it's not good to do but he felt like he was forced into it due to how well Lambo deflected his initial build. However, I think it honestly has some value since Trap had a vastly superior army to Lambo's during the ending engagement. He simply postured too far out and left all his Disruptors exposed and botched his Force Fields. It's worth toying with if you're interested in some different mid-game PvZ compositions.

Regardless of which variant you choose, there should be something here for you to toy with that suits your style. Let me know if there's any concerns about the difficulty of the build, since it is a bit more involved than other builds I've been featuring lately. I hope there will still be a good amount of people that find some use from this one!

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  • Created by: Gemini_19    
  • Published on: Mar 09, 2020
  • Modified on: Mar 09, 2020
  • Patch: 4.11.0
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Comments (1)

On May 24, 2020, 10:05 a.m., Lypsa  said:

Thanks! Awesome details, will try it out to train my adepts!

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