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The Ro16 is underway for the GSL Code S Season 2 and we're already getting some exciting games and some new stuff to try out. The build that stood out the most so far has been Zest's double stargate phoenix build that he used twice vs Solar. It's a refreshing revival of an old style that was popular back in the beginning of 2017. It's also yet another variation of the standard stargate opener that we have now that has included a lot of phoenix first to deny vision, which I will also talk about in the write-up. This is an extremely multitask intensive style so it is not suggested for everyone, however if you'd like to train you multitasking skills this would be a great build to try doing to do that. It focuses heavily on map control and scouting while having the potential to snowball if the Zerg is not ready to deal with the mass phoenix production.
(For consistencies sake, from now on if I abbreviate chargelot/immortal/archon it's going to be CIA)
Before I get into how this build works I want to briefly talk about the recent meta changes towards the top of the ladder and in pro play. Right now in PvZ there are a lot of different variations of the normal Stargate opening that has become so standard since 4.0, and as a way to mask those variations many pro players have been opening phoenix first. Pros have gotten very good at detecting early all-ins with their first adept which allows them to skip the oracle early to allow them to deny the overlord scouting with a faster phoenix. This has brought rise to many variations of chargelot all-ins, archon drops, archon drop chargelot pressures, and now Zest has brought back another style that can be done off of it which is double stargate phoenix. As I said, he did this twice to Solar in Group A, one game where it did work and one where it didn't. In the post group interview, Zest said he was not playing well in his first series and that his hands weren't doing what his brain told them to, and I can see a lot of the sluggishness of the build comparatively to the second time he used it. Therefore, I'll be ripping the build from the second game.
So you all know how this next part goes. We open adepts. We send one across the map. We make a Stargate. We send the shade of the adept into the natural or main base to scout drone counts and potential tech structures. We respond to an all-in if it's coming, or we go about our build. Once the Stargate is done, you chrono out a phoenix to deny overlord scouts to allow yourself to put down your first follow up tech structure at around 50 supply or so. For Zest's build it comes a bit earlier, at around 3:40, but it's still after you've cleared out the overlords. You don't want the 2nd stargate to be scouted early, and preferably not at all.
Also be sure to get your natural gasses nice and early at around 3:25 to be able to afford the constant phoenix production. You also only sit on two gateways for a while to be able to afford everything. It's just to complete the wall and keep you safe vs early busts. Another cool part about it is that if you warp in two zealots with those warp gates as you go to take your 3rd, it will look like an archon drop opening from the outside and can screw with the Zerg. You then keep with continued phoenix production after an oracle is sent across. The phoenix should be banked up at home and revealed all at once (except for the initial one that should be clearing overlords/scouting) once you have 6-8 of them, which ends up being at around 5:30.
Your 3rd will have gone down during this at 5:15 and once the phoenix harass starts you need to be using them also as a scouting tool. It's important to get kills with the phoenix on stray queens/overlords and a bunch of drones, but it's also important to take note of what the zerg is doing as their tech of choice impacts what you should do as a result. I'll go into more detail on what that entails in the next section, but as a baseline Zest went into double robo for immortal production vs the high roach count Solar was making. He stopped phoenix production at twelve since that's the amount that deals very well with individual units early and poses a strong threat to the drone lines without too heavily delaying your own tech at home. He basically get's gateways as he has money for them, and the forge is just after the double robo. Something that confuses me is that he goes for +1 Air Weapons in game two vs Solar. I even asked Harstem as to why he thinks he goes for it and he's not too sure either. +1 doesn't finish in time to help vs early attacks (in fact it seems to really finish AFTER the big power spike of the phoenix harass is completely gone), and the amount of damage that it gives you seems marginal at best. It seems like just something he got because, "Hey, I made a lot of units that are supposed to benefit from it." If anyone would like to contribute in the number crunching of how that upgrade helps with 12 phoenixes at 8 minutes into the game, then that would be appreciated.
Once the robos have finished then you'll go right into a few observers (if you aren't under any pressure) or immortals (if you are under pressure) and go right into twilight tech. You'll want to get charge and archons/storm up ASAP so just get that all one after the other. If all goes well, you should end up in a nice position with all your phoenix doing some good drone harassment and backing it up with a strong immortal/chargelot/archon composition as you look to take your 4th base.
Scouting/Reactions to different tech choices
For this build to work properly you need to be very active with the phoenix that you've invested in not only for harassment, but for scouting as well. Zest brought this build out because it is strong against roach openers, which have become the prime flavor of PvZ as of late. At first I thought larger scale roach all ins would dump all over this build, but after some extra testing I remember now how quickly large numbers of phoenix kill roaches. So when you are harassing with your phoenix you want to be looking for if the Zerg went for roaches or if they went hydras.
If they went for roaches: You'll want to commit to a double robo follow up after the 3rd base is taken. Be prepared for any attempted roach counter-attacks as they could very easily be on the way. You'll want to check for drone saturation at the 3rd, how many gasses he's taking if any, if any roaches start to stream across the map etc. If you see any roaches moving across you should immediately follow them and pick them up one by one as they try to run across the map while you warp in a few more units at home and get a few shield batteries set up. If you micro well and keep up with your phoenix you shouldn't have any problem holding. If they do a really committed all-in with a ling follow up after seeing the roaches then it can be trickier, and you'll need to double pump more oracles out as well. Once you hold, you should be in a great position since you have a large number of phoenix to immediately do counter-pressure with and kill off entire worker lines worth of drones.
If they just use the roaches defensively because they thought you were doing an archon drop or something similar, then great! Use the phoenix to harass and kill drones, queens, and overlords. You'll still want the double robo since he will most likely be going into roach/hydra and then later lurkers. Double pumped immortals deals very well with this obviously and it will be your prime damage dealing force. Getting storm immediately isn't as important vs high roach counts however you will still want to get it eventually, especially if it's a passive game. If they tried to do some mid game pressure vs you and you trade efficiently, you may be able to go and kill them with a large archon flood.
If they went for hydras (or ling/bane): Not so great! You only want to get a single robo vs ling/bane/hydra styles. I was talking with Harstem and he made the valid point that immortals are not what will be giving you value vs this composition, instead you'll want as many archons as possible. Even though immortals are still strong and a great backbone to any PvZ composition, the timings for how the transitions work off of a double stargate phoenix build makes it so you need to put more emphasis on archons. For a while many pros were getting two robo immortal during the mass hydra/ling/bane days of old but since we go into templar tech so late with this style, it needs to be emphasized more once it does come out. Due to that fact, it would be suggested to get a slightly earlier Twilight than what is listed i nthe build notes.
Generally, if they're playing defensively with the hydra tech then it will be difficult to find damage. however phoenix are still extremely strong vs hydras due to their bonus vs light, so it can still be hard for them to push you. If you notice they're staying very defensive then get greedier with your 4th base timing and use the map control to your advantage. If they're being aggressive with it (which is often the case) then you'll really need to put some extra shield batteries down and use some stasis traps as well to help out. It can be tough to hold early hydra/ling or hydra/bane all-ins without archons and storm. If you have a solid defensive position and are good with your lifts then you should still find yourself in a good spot to defend.
Once you are stable on a chargelot/immortal/archon/storm composition with some phoenix still left over and a 4th base being secured, the game should progress just like any other PvZ. You'll get a fleet beacon and go right into a Mothership for the cloaking field (SUPER useful if the opponent is staying committed on lurkers. You can snipe overseers and roll over them. I highly suggest going fleet beacon just for Mothership vs heavy lurker players) and eventually carriers. If they've gone for super fast brood lords, then you'll need to react with tempest as usual. And remember to send out constant waves of chargelot hit squads to knock out bases and split the Zerg's attention!
Once again: This style is definitely more difficult than others and requires a lot of attention and multitasking given to the phoenix. It may not be the best for everyone, but it sure is an excellent way to practice these types of styles.
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