It's rare we get completely new PvP styles since pros usually just reshuffle the main few openings around with their own slight modifications to them, but Zest came out with something we've never really seen before. Using it twice in a row vs Dear in the GSL Ro8, Zest's SIX adept opening proved to be very difficult to deal with and seemingly made a fool out of Dear. Zest showcased how strong this opening style can be especially if the other player is unsure of how to properly deal with it. He follows it up with a Stargate transition that is smartly calculated based on what he scouts with the initial adepts. Zest's PvP has historically been one of his better match ups, and styles like this are a great indicator as to why that holds true today as well.


Replay - Catalyst LE (229)

Build Order

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  12  0:00  Probe  
  13  0:13  Probe  
  14  0:17  Pylon  
  14  0:24  Probe  
  15  0:32  Probe  
  16  0:38  Gateway  
  16  0:40  Probe  
  17  0:48  Assimilator  
  18  0:51  Probe  
  18  0:56  Assimilator  
  19  1:03  Probe  
  19  1:13  Gateway  
  19  1:15  Probe  
  20  1:26  Cybernetics Core  
  20  1:27  Probe  
  21  1:35  Pylon  
  21  1:39  Probe  
  23  1:54  Adept x2  
  23  2:03  Warp Gate  
  28  2:14  Pylon  
  28  2:22  Stargate  
  28  2:31  Adept x2  
  32  2:46  Pylon  
  32  2:55  Oracle  
  32  3:02  Adept x2  
  39  3:30  Nexus  
  39  3:40  Oracle  
  44  4:03  Robotics Facility  
  45  4:18  Pylon  
  45  4:30  Shield Battery  
  47  4:45  Stalker x2  
  50  4:49  Immortal  
  60  5:09  Sentry  
  62  5:20  Forge  
  66  5:28  Observer  
  66  5:33  Twilight Council  
  66  5:35  Assimilator x2  
  67  5:39  Protoss Ground Weapons Level 1  
  70  6:02  Immortal  
  76  6:14  Charge  
  77  6:20  Gateway x2  
  77  6:25  Gateway x2  
  77  6:35  Gateway  
  77  6:40  Gateway  
  77  6:42  Immortal  
  77  6:46  Templar Archives  
  81  7:11  Warp Prism  
  83  7:25  High Templar x4  
  91  7:31  Nexus, Archon x2  
  91  7:38  Zealot x4  
  99  8:03  High Templar x2  
  99  8:04  Zealot x3  
  109  8:07  Archon  
  109  8:21  Zealot x3  
Spawning Tool Build Advisor. Get it on Overwolf


Build Explanation

Similarly to any other standard PvP build, this one starts with a normal 2gate opener with double gas to get out early units to be aggressive with. The difference is that this build gets an abnormally high amount of early units. Normally the options a Protoss has in PvP are the following:

  • 4 Stalker: Moderate aggressive and defensive potential and moderate tech speed, but very low scouting potential
  • 6 Stalker: VERY high aggressive and defensive potential and late expansion timing, almost always indicative of an all in
  • 4 Adept: High aggressive potential and faster tech with moderate scouting potential
  • 2-3 Stalker/2-3 Sentry: Heavy defensive potential and faster expansion with high scouting potential
  • 2-3 Stalker/1 Sentry: Moderate defensive potential and faster tech with high scouting potential

However, now we have to add a new option to this list which is 6 Adept: VERY high aggressive potential with faster tech and high scouting potential. Zest uses these early six adepts to put on a large amount of pressure while going for a fast Stargate follow up to hit at the same time that the Adepts do. They're meant to trade with the early units that the opponent makes and bust down the block at the main ramp if possible.

Before we get to that point though there's some very important aspects that need to be covered first, namely with scouting. Zest only goes to scout with the first two adepts that he makes to check for an expansion timing. He's not trying to send these first adepts in for probe kills or even try to fake an intention to do so. He is purely using these to scout the expansion and keep them back so that they don't die. Two adepts by themselves don't hold up well in early trades. That's where the next four come into play. Zest keeps them back on his side of the map until they're all ready to meet up in the middle and be sent out at once. However, that expansion timing plays a very key roll in what unit is going to be meeting up with those early adepts. Is it an Oracle or is it a Phoenix? Luckily for us, Zest played this exact style twice in a row and we got to see both scenarios play out.

If your initial Adept shade scout sees no Nexus at ~3:00: You should go Phoenix. Generally this means that the player went for faster tech on one base similar to you. This often times is a Stargate of their own so you want to stay even or ahead in the Phoenix count from the very beginning. You don't want to send an Oracle in only to have it die to their Phoenix.

If your initial Adept shade scout sees a Nexus at ~3:00: You can (don't have to) go Oracle. Generally when a player goes for a faster Nexus it means they'll be following it up with a Robo, which means you don't have any threat to your own base going into the mid game. While going Phoenix would still put you in an advantageous position in this scenario (and is what Zest was going for a lot in general on his stream as well according to /u/verynsc2), going for Oracle into double Oracle can be even more punishing. When combod with the early six Adepts there is potential for massive damage as can be seen in the 2nd game of Zest vs Dear.

Something else that makes this type of early pressure so deadly is that usually the way to prevent Adepts from doing damage is to block the main ramp with a pylon or shield battery when the Adepts try to shade up. With six adepts you can easily power down the building made to block and get in anyway, which can really cause a lot of chaos and panic in the early stages of the game.

If we could also just go back a bit to talk about another small but cute move that Zest does in these two games, and that is building his 3rd pylon in his main. This is also something similar to what MaNa used to great effect vs Neeb in game three of in their series at WCS Austin, and when I talked to him afterwards about it it made a lot of sense. He explained how if you put a pylon hidden in your base (MaNa hid the 2nd pylon, not the 3rd) then it looks like you're proxying something out on the map. In most cases, that would be a Stargate, in which case going for a Stargate of your own with Phoenix to directly counter it is the best play. Baiting the other player into thinking you're doing this, while actually just going for fast Phoenix on one base, is a great way to ensure you will be ahead or even in the Phoenix battles and not end up behind with an Oracle or something. Dear believed this as well the first game and made a shield battery in his main mineral line expecting an Oracle to show up. This is just to put out a small mind game when it comes to this build, but for MaNa's 3gate Phoenix all in, it put him at a huge advantage since the Phoenix count was even but reinforced with more units on his side compared to Neeb's. Zest only uses this to gain a little extra vision in his main base and make it look like he's being more aggressive than he actually is.

Transitioning into the mid game

Around this point is also when you have to start reacting to what tech the other player has chosen. If the game did open to be a Phoenix vs Phoenix game then go ahead and look back to this guide that I wrote that explains how to play out Phoenix vs Phoenix. It still serves as a good framework for how the game should play out from there.

Otherwise there's a few ways this could go. If you went for Phoenix and they did not go for Phoenix, then you can go all the way up to five of them for continued harassment while having also gone into a Robotics back home to begin your transition into a more normal chargelot/immortal/achon composition. You may need to cut some Phoenix for a faster Robo in the case of playing vs early Blink or DTs (usually in standard Phoenix openers you would get the Robo after the 2nd Phoenix). Any time you're facing a Robo you can also get an earlier Forge since there's nearly nothing they could attack you with to punish it. With Oracles you can basically go into everything a bit faster. Zest delays some stuff a bit just because he was able to do damage for so long that he floated a bit of money. The timings I listed are approximations but if the game doesn't get as crazy as his then most likely you'll end up getting everything just a bit earlier.

Zest decided that he had done so much economic damage early that he could simply follow up his aggression with a large chargelot/immortal/archon push without getting a Forge. At first he got a shield battery and some Stalkers and Immortals at home just in case Dear decided to immediately counter attack, but once that was not an option he went straight into gasses and a Twilight and a total of eight gates to do a huge timing push off of two base saturation. He ended up building a 3rd Nexus as well just in case as a fall back plan.

However, it may not be the case where you deal such large economic damage every game to be able to do such a timing. In which case, going for a faster Forge upon keeping the opponent back would be a good decision, so long as you know he's not counter attacking. From there you should still get to the PvP convergence point of charge, immortals, templar tech, and 6-8 gateways with a Forge upgrading to +2 on 46 probes. From there you can expand to a 3rd and do a large +2 timing with only the 3rd's minerals saturated, or you can continue on to a longer style PvP.

Regardless of how you play it, this new style of PvP should give you an excellent opportunity to put on some heavy early aggression and snowball a lead directly into the mid game.

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