Be sure to check out the /r/allthingsprotoss guide for tons of extra VOD examples from the pros themselves!
Well, that was a bit of a break.
I'm not exactly happy with my lapse of coverage in the history of Protoss build order development over the last year, but it was just difficult to get myself to take the time to do it. Generally it's just hard for me to work all week and then take out a lot of the free time I have on the weekend to also "work" on writing a guide instead of just relaxing.
I don't know why but I just kinda felt like writing one up again today, so here we are :) Hopefully I'll be more regular with this again, but no promises on anything consistent.
I'll just start by doing a general overview of what you should be doing with the build and some little things to think of/remember while executing it. Then I'm going to go over the goal of the Cyber first opening in the next section to update you all on some of the options that you can take with that, since the objective with Cyber first has changed a bit since I was last doing BotW guides.
So the build itself does start with a Cyber first opener, which is a bit different since you don't normally go for that with Stargate openings. However they have been becoming more popular in the last half year or so. This build also goes for the fast Shield Battery in your mineral line to keep it safe vs Reapers. I'll be more detailed about that in the next section, but just know that it's totally optional if you don't want to get it, but it's a great safety measure that can also save you later on vs other potential harassment.
After getting a few Adepts for early game scouting/pressure/defense then you'll get your Stargate. It's very important to not forget to start Warp Gate with this build. Since you're going Cyber first and getting some early units before the Stargate, you'll need to skip Warp Gate for a bit so as to not delay your Stargate too much. It's very easy to then forget to start Warp Gate since most every PvT build just gets it right when the Cyber finishes, so your muscle memory can easily forget. So pretty please remember to get that. Trap goes for three Adepts with this build but I prefer making the 3rd unit as a Stalker. It just makes the build feel a little better for me and I also just like having at least one ground unit that can still shoot up just in case the Phoenix aren't there.
You'll get five phoenix at the beginning to start as your drop defense. You're really going to be using these phoenix to shut down hellion runbys, widow mine drops, liberator harass (pretty uncommon), or whatever else Terran might be trying to throw at you early on. You have two options with the initial 1-2 phoenix:
Bank the Phoenix until 5 to keep them as a surprise and try to super punish any Terran aggression. Trap usually banks his Phoenix to be as punishing as possible.
Scout with the first Phoenix, thus ruining the surprise and limiting their punishing power, but offsetting that by obtaining basically a perfect read on your opponent's opening build order. You'll very easily be able to identify if they opened 3 rax, 1/1/1 for a Mine drop, 1/1/1 for Cyclone/Raven, reactored Hellions, proxy Starport, fast 3CC, or whatever other strange opener they might be trying for.
After a couple Phoenix you'll then be going into your Robo transition to setup the Colossus portion of the build. Since this is such a gas heavy build you'll need to get the natural gasses a little earlier than 4:00 like most other styles get them. Trap optimizes it by going for the 3rd gas at 3:50 coupled with the 2nd Gateway, and then the 4th gas at 4:00 with the Robo. To make this a little easier you can just remember the 3:50 time and then once the 1st gas finishes you can get the 2nd one and the Robo.
Around the time the Robo is finishing is when you'll be getting to that five Phoenix count, so you can pause the Stargate production at this point. Around 5:00 is when the 3rd Nexus and Robo Bay will be going down at the completion of the Robo, so if you want to just remember that indicator instead of getting the 3rd Nexus as early as possible at 4:50, then that's also fine. Something that's pretty important at this stage that might be overlooked is what you should get after your Robo finishes and you're waiting for the Robo Bay to finish. Since you already went for Phoenix, which give you a lot of good map vision, you only need to get one Observer for the extra vision and detection. So while you're waiting for the Robo Bay to finish you can actually sneak in an Immortal out. Getting an Immortal before the Colossus is really nice since you're going to be pretty light on ground units anyway since you're putting so many resources into Phoenix to start. The Immortal is just super beefy and can dish out a lot of damage to help defend any weird early tank/marine or marine/cyclone/viking pushes and such.
After that you'll want to get at least one Sentry to start banking energy for Guardian Shield since that's super important and then you can start to go into Colossus once the Robo Bay finishes. At this point you might start banking a bit of gas again and you'll be able to afford a few more Sentries to help round out your ground composition with more Force Fields and Guardian Shield energy.
At this point you'll likely have had some sort of engagement with the Terran in one way or another which will change exactly how you'd be entering the mid game, but you'll generally be transitioning into Forge/Twilight and resuming Phoenix production while going up to ~3 Colossi after you know you're not getting pushed in immediately.
For now though let's back track a bit and look at the Cyber first opening itself and talk about a few more things in detail.
Cyber First Openings/Early Phoenix Usage
In the past there was a clear goal when opening for Cyber first in PvT and that was to get it across the map quick enough to kill the SCV building the Command Center to delay it as much as possible. Nowadays that's not as much of a possibility since Terrans are much better at dealing with that and the maps aren't as suited for it. You definitely can still get the CC delay if you're quick or want to put your Gate on the low ground to shorten the rush distance, but it's less likely now.
Regardless, you can still choose to pressure with the early Cyber opening with the first few units. Or you can just use the fast Adept to defend the Reaper that will come across. Some lower league players express difficulty with defending the early Reaper when going for Nexus first (even though if you do it properly you'll only have to micro some Probes for a second or so before the Adept spawns, and that's only if they bum rush the Reaper straight down mid), so going for Cyber first is just a simple way to guarantee that Reaper won't do damage.
Now let's break down some other changes you can make to the Cyber first opening to best abuse what your opponent has opened with. Depending on if your opponent went with a Marine first opener or a Reaper first opener, you can change what you do a little bit. The best way to get a scout to know if they did Marine or Reaper is to leave your scouting Probe at their natural until around 1:50. If you don't see any unit pop out around that time, then you know it's a Reaper opener. A Marine would finish at 1:50 and a Reaper finishes at 2:00.
If your opponent opens for a Reaper then you have a few options. You should be going for Adept first and then going into a second Adept as well. Adepts deal with Reapers the easiest and then can shade across the map to quickly get a scout on the opponent. What you can choose to do though is get a Shield Battery. The build notes mention getting a Battery in case you want to include it, otherwise just ignore it. What the Battery allows you to do is immediately send your first Adept across the map. If they open Reaper and send it right across then it'll get to your base right after your Adept spawns, so if you send the Adept across you'll be left with a big gap before the next Adept spawns. Getting a Battery in your mineral line makes it so that gap doesn't mean anything since the Battery will just heal any Probes the reaper attempts to kill. The 2nd Adept will spawn and then you're good to go. Your first Adept will then be on their side of the map without the Reaper home and you have some chances for damage.
If your opponent opens for a Reaper and you did not get a Battery, then you need to be careful with your first Adept. If you don't go for the Battery then I highly suggest you don't risk sending it across right away assuming the Terran will take time to scout around the map with the Reaper. You should instead patrol the Adept by the Reaper cliff on whichever map you're on and then wait for the 2nd Chronoboosted Adept to be nearly spawned and then you can complete the shade across the map. I like to patrol in the main by the cliff and then constantly send out the shade to the natural to check if the Reaper is poking there and then have the shade potential follow the Reaper if it would be beneficial.
If your opponent opens for a Marine then you have the option for a pretty cute play. You'll see an example of this in the provided VOD below. If they open for a Marine first then you can go for a Stalker first out of the Gateway to immediately run across the map. You'll then Chrono out an Adept as the second unit and immediately shade that across as well. Since there's no Reaper threat you won't have to worry about defending your Probes at home. The early Stalker can take advantage of its superior range to pick away at the Marines (if they didn't make a Bunker then you can sometimes just win the game here), and the Adept will meet up with the Stalker soon afterwards. It's as if you're hitting with two units in the time it takes to get one across the map since the Adept shade can catch up for lost time to rendezvous with the Stalker. It can be a very punishing move. If they did make a Bunker though you won't be able to do game ending damage with this, so it's better to be more cautious with the units.
No matter the initial unit choices and interactions, at this point you should find yourself with at least two Adepts outside their natural (and maybe a Stalker if you did that reaction), in which case you can then threaten shades to the back of their mineral line. If they went for 1/1/1 then their marine count will not be super high this early (especially if you were able to shave a few off with the initial poke) and you can force their SCVs off the minerals and possibly even kill one or two if you have good focus fire. You should not be trying to use these as suicide units though, and you're looking to get out with the Adepts. So if the opportunity doesn't look good to let yourself get back out, then don't go for it.
With that said, if you notice they're going for a Hellion opener then it can be a very good choice to sac the Adepts if you know you're going to kill a lot of the Marines or Hellions they're opening with. Doing so will heavily stunt their growth and disrupt the build they were attempting to use. Combined with follow up Phoenix harassment, this can be a very deadly move. Any time you can shave off Marine numbers early when going for a Phoenix opener is huge as it will open a bigger window for your Phoenix to get more damage done. But losing two Adepts for a Marine is never going to be worth it, so pick your battles.
If you don't see any potential opportunities to dive on the mineral line or early units, then you should still be constantly shading the Adepts up the ramp to try and get a scout off on what's going on, or to the back of the mineral line to threaten the fact that you might commit. You might even get lucky and get into the main if they aren't paying attention. The early Adept shades up the ramp can help you confirm if they're going for a fast Hellion play (The Factory will likely be there on the reactor) or if they're going for a Mine drop or Raven opener (The Barracks will be there on the reactor). This information can help you more quickly identify what they might be going for and let you decide how you want to use your first few phoenix like I mentioned earlier.
If they're going for a Hellion opener it would be good to keep the Phoenix back and let them commit so that you can punish by lifting everything. Similarly, keeping them back to punish Mine drops is a good move. Sometimes you'll be able to kill the Medivac entirely before they can get close enough. Otherwise, you can just chase it down and then use your Lifts to pick up the Mines as they drop out of the Medivac. This micro interaction might take a little practice to get used to if you're not familiar with using Phoenix, but it's incredibly strong once you can get that down.
Here's some examples of how you can pull that off:
Pulling Probes away.
Not pulling Probes away.
Use the speed arrows on the bottom left of gfycat to slow down the gif to see the individual actions if needed.
Basically all you need to do is move the Phoenix over and lift each mine as they get dropped. You can choose to pull the Probes or not. If you know you'll get the lifts then it's unnecessary to pull them, but if you just want to be safe or you miss one of the mines, you'll need to pull them. It's important to also make sure your Gateway units are also attacking contribute to any mines that might get by. You'll generally get 3-4 Phoenix out by the time a Mine drop is coming. If they're committing to a full four Mine drop then the goal is to get all four of them lifted, but if you can calculate it properly then you should lift 3 of them so that one of your Phoenix is still shooting, and then the Gateway units kill the 4th one. The 2nd example shows that, but it's not always possible, and lifting them all is still the most preferable to make sure there's definitely no connections. Also, remember that Phoenix don't die to one Mine hit, so if needed you can always soak one shot with a Phoenix to reveal the mine. Just make sure there's nothing under it to get hit by the splash or that you have any other Phoenix clumped next to it.
Otherwise, if you can sniff out that they might be going for a Raven opener or fast 3CC (pretty hard to be honest without a lucky shade into the main) then it's better to start harassing with the Phoenix as soon as you can. If they went for a Raven you can also easily try to hunt that down once you have three or four Phoenix since Ravens are light armor and Phoenix deal bonus damage to light. Even trading out a Phoenix for the Raven divebomb is super worth it due to how much utility the Raven provides, especially vs Colossus openings.
Now that we've got the early game covered we can go over the general mid-game transition you should be looking for and you'll be all set to take this to ladder.
After you've established a 3rd base and defended the initial Terran push if they were trying for one, the transition into the mid-game is really quite straight forward. The problems that may arise come from your fairly delayed Twilight tech. If you're used to more standard fast Twilight opener builds, or even normal Stargate into Twilight, then relying purely on unupgraded Gateway units supported by Phoenix and Colossi might feel a bit uncomfortable.
There's generally just a few steps/things to keep in mind when transitioning with this style:
Get into Charge ASAP! It might be obvious for a lot of you, but just in case you weren't sure, you should be going Charge first with the Twilight Council in this build. You've gone for Phoenix which are your dedicated anti-air and drop defense, so you don't really need a lot of Stalkers and you definitely don't need Blink this early. What you need is more frontal pushing power and Charge does exactly that.
Get Gateways slowly as you have the money. Unlike other styles, this build doesn't have one giant 5-6 Gateway explosion while cutting Probes. You should be kind of slowly getting more Gateways going up to 8 in total whenever you have the money. Sometimes that'll be with only one, sometimes two or three. The period is any time between 6:50 and 7:30 so there's lot's of free room to fit them in. You can even get a few earlier than normal, before the Twilight/Forge even, if you think the Terran is going to be really aggressive and you just want a ton of units out. But you should still be going up to 8 eventually.
Get a Templar Archives for Archons. Since you're going for a really big power ground army that can punish any army you fight against, you also want to go for Archons to round out the composition as the mass Chargelot floods start to use up your minerals. When you're in the mid-game you really should be looking to hit a power spike timing as you get your full three Colossis, Charge finishes up, and a few Archons. This army can be very deadly and can punch a hole right through a lot of Terran mid-game armies, especially if you already traded favorably earlier in the game. You'll see an excellent example of this in the provided VOD below.
Don't forget to eventually get Blink. Even though you'll rely on Phoenix earlier on for your anti-air, that doesn't mean you should completely neglect Blink. You're eventually going to lose some of the Phoenix and they'll get outscaled, so you'll still want Blink to chase down medivacs and vikings and to reposition when needed. You're eventually going to just move into a totally normal mid-late game PvT composition of Blink/Charge and splash damage.
Transition into your preferred 2nd source of splash damage. You can choose to go either Storm or Disruptors, it's mostly dependent on your own personal preference. Since you went for a Chargelot/Archon follow-up, then going for Storm can be a very natural follow-up. Likewise, your opponent might already be making a transition into Ghosts and/or Vikings, in which case Disruptors become extremely lethal. I personally prefer going into Disruptors since I am just more comfortable with them, and because I think it's a much harder unit to punish from the Terran once it gets to that stage in the game. Regardless, you shouldn't be sticking on just Phoenix/Colossus/Chargelot/Archon for too long. You will eventually get outscaled if you can't hit your power spike, so don't get caught with your fingers still in the windowsill.
From there the normalities of late game PvT will come into effect and you should be well on your way to a phat W if you haven't cliched it already.
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