Check out the /r/allthingsprotoss guide for more VODs and easier to read build order notes.
We're back :)
Getting back into things with school has been rough. I don't want to say I'll never have any more hiccups in consistency going forward, however I don't want to miss an entire month like I did this month. I apologize for the slight absence.
Part of what also was taking so long to get me to write a new guide was the lack of inspiring builds happening in the pro scene. PvP became quite stale and it was just a flurry of the same two or three one-base pressure builds that I had already written guides on or didn't allow the games to go long enough for me to write anything substantial about. Luckily for us, the GSL Super Tournament #2 finished this last weekend and had some excellent PvP series for a change.
In honor of the victor himself, it would be a disservice not to feature another one of Classic's builds! Also having just signed with The Gosu Crew a few months ago, it's great to see him showing good results for them so quickly.
Classic showcased some great PvP this tournament, including a reverse 4-0 against sOs in the finals, that all revolved around this one standard and flexible style that he used continuously.
Of the two PvP series Classic played this tournament, he used this same opening six times. Three out of five games vs Creator and three out of seven games vs sOs.
This explanation is going to be cut up in a few parts. Due to the flexible nature of this build, which I'll get into shortly, I don't want to spend too long talking about the simple execution of the build. Since I have so many example games to go off of, I want to talk more about the decision making in the early parts of the build instead of, "This goes here, that goes there."
With that said, there are some small nuances that are worth pointing out that have changed compared to PvP from a month or so ago. Just like normal, the build starts out with a two Gate opening into double gas. You'll want to spend a Chrono right when your Pylon finishes and also after your make your 2nd Gateway. Unless you're planning on doing some super early aggression, it has become pretty standard to always see players use that 2nd Chrono on their Nexus. Some players will do it even earlier than that (right when they have the 50 energy), however if they were getting cannon rushed then they wouldn't have that Chrono for the first Zealot. That's why I prefer to scout around my natural with the Probe that would make the 2nd Gateway first, make the 2nd Gateway, and then Chrono. This still gets your Probes out a bit faster without having any of the Chrono be wasted on an idle Nexus. There's also the issue sometimes where if you Chrono right at 50 energy, you'll either have to wait a second or two to put your Cyber down when the Gate finishes, or you'll need to cut Probes for a second while you get the Cyber down immediately. This alleviates that problem.
Having done a 2nd Chrono, you'll be making a 22 Pylon instead of a 21 Pylon. Once the Cyber is finished, this build goes into a Stalker/Sentry opening. It is VERY important that you do a Stalker/Sentry opening with this build as the Hallucination scout that comes with it plays a critical role in why this build is so flexible and why Classic used it six times in two series in the same tournament.
Before we get to that, I'll first note that in the past if a player was planning on doing a macro opener in PvP, they would make their 3rd Pylon on the low ground so that they could easily put down a Shield Battery to defend the Nexus if they were being attacked. Recently, with the rise in popularity of 6 Adept openers and the stark increase of various iterations of the 3Gate Warp Prism all-in, it has been quite difficult to safely take an expansion with a low ground Pylon. As a result, almost every Protoss has been making their 3rd Pylon in their main base now instead of at the natural. Until Zest debuted the 6 Adept opening (which featured the 3rd Pylon in his main base) no one else was doing this. Even once 6 Adept came out, the only times you'd see this was when someone was using a 6 Adept opening. Since that build has so much potential to get into the main (it can still bust down a Pylon/Battery that's made to block the gap) and because the Adept user could simply shade on top of the units in your natural, it has become more reliable to defend the 6 Adept pressure with a Shield Battery at the top of your ramp instead of trying to stay in your natural the whole time. Coincidentally, this is also the more effective method to defend the early 3Gate Prism all-ins. You won't have an exposed Pylon at the natural, your Battery will be on the high ground, and you don't need to risk staying on the low ground to be supported by the early Battery. Instead of killing yourself by trying to save the structures on the low ground, you can just cancel the Nexus and have everything be safe inside your main.
Since we are still opening with a Stargate, there remains a vulnerability to very early all-ins like 4Gates and whatnot. You can't be too greedy with your Nexus like some previous Stargate builds I've made guides on. The safest way to play this style nowadays is to delay your Nexus until after you have started your Stargate and your extra Stalkers after the initial Stalker/Sentry. Classic executes his build in a little bit more lean fashion by only making one extra Stalker before the Stargate and Nexus, and then getting the third Stalker once the second one finishes. He essentially gets a slightly faster Stargate at the cost of a very slightly delayed third Stalker (you can't make two Stalkers together at once after the Stalker/Sentry finishes anyway). This is still relatively safe since he always puts a blind Battery on the high ground anyway. If you want to be SUPER safe about it, you can get both the second and third Stalker before expanding.
Once the third Stalker and Battery are in production, you can resume Probes again, Chrono out your first Oracle when the Stargate finishes, and get your 36 Pylon (which also still stays in the main by the way. Pros aren't making a Pylon at their natural until their 58 Pylon usually). The 36 Pylon can either be used to reinforce the Gateways at the front so that you don't have an Artosis Pylon vs early all-ins or it can be spread out along your main base for some extra vision.
Now that our early Nexus is (hopefully) nice and secure and our tech choice is on it's way to fruition, it's time to look at the most important part of this entire build: The Hallucination scout.
To Phoenix or not to Phoenix?
That is the real question when it comes to Oracle openers in PvP. The reason why I haven't done an Oracle opener BotW before this one was because they can be a pretty big gamble gamble. If you open Oracle and your opponent opens Phoenix, the game can sometimes end right there in astonishing fashion leaving you with no other option but to ask yourself, "Well...should I go Phoenix anyway? I kinda need them to not die to my opponent's Phoenix..."
The way that Classic goes about this particular Oracle opener though makes this scenario not as foreboding. In all six of the games that Classic used this opener in this tournament, all six of them showed him starting a Phoenix in production after his first Oracle finished. This very conveniently times up with hallucinated Phoenix that is sent out at 3:33, as it will scout the enemy Protoss base before your building Phoenix is completed. This allows you to then make a decision to either complete or cancel the Phoenix based on whether or not your opponent has also made a Stargate.
If you scout and see that your opponent did not make a Stargate, cancel the Phoenix and make a second Oracle. If you scout and see your opponent did make a Stargate, let the Phoenix finish.
You'll still be going into this build in hopes of seeing a non-Stargate opener since that leaves you in a better situation. You want to be able to make two Oracles because two Oracles has the chance of either ending the game or dealing catastrophic early game damage. Even if an opponent is somewhat well prepared with a Battery in their mineral line and some Stalkers, a two Oracle hit squad can lay waste to half a Probe line or more if microed properly. Unlike in PvZ where your early Oracle isn't meant to do much more than scout what's going on, these Oracles are meant to do a good amount of damage. It is definitely worth putting a decent amount of focus on being sure that these Oracles can get some Probe kills; even to the extent of sacrificing them if it means you're going to get an extra 5-6 kills off of them. However, that is still only advised for certain scenarios (Classic does it once vs Creator to get multiple Sentries and multiple Probes) as you should still put a lot of focus on keeping them alive for Revelation or return harassments. It's better to kill four Probes and escape with both Oracles so that you have the potential to do more damage a little bit later.
But then there's the situation where your hallucinated Phoenix sees that the opponent also opened Stargate. What do you do in this situation? As I alluded to earlier, it's kind of difficult to begin Phoenix production only after scouting that your opponent went Phoenix first. That's why Classic starts the Phoenix immediately after the Oracle finishes. Will you be in the perfect spot against someone who already opened Phoenix first? No. Will you be in a much more manageable position with room to maneuver? Absolutely. This move isn't meant to make it so that you magically win vs Phoenix first openers, it's just a clever way to make the best out of a potentially bad scenario.
You'll still end up down a Phoenix, but it's something that you can work with. Generally, not many players have been opening Sentry first into Phoenix so they won't have that early hallucination scout to check your Stargate. This means you could end up in a situation with the faster intel, allowing you to react to the Phoenix vs Phoenix situation quicker. It also means that the opponent will eventually have to scout you with their Phoenix, which gives you the opportunity to use defenders advantage in the form of engaging them while unsuspected and above a Shield Battery, and also your newest Phoenix will be spawning directly into the engagement instead of having to be rallied across the map.
In addition to letting your Phoenix finish production, you also have to decide what you want to do with that first Oracle you made. Luckily for us, game four of Classic vs Creator is the perfect example of the two options that you get to choose from. Both players opened for an Oracle first build but did so ever so slightly differently. Creator decided to send his first Oracle across the map and suicide it for as many kills as possible upon seeing that Classic had also gone for a Stargate. Since he didn't open with Sentry first, he wasn't aware of this until his Oracle was in Classic's base. Creator was able to kill four Probes with the Oracle, which is pretty decent this early in the game.
What Classic decided to do instead was a bit different. Since he has the faster intel on the Stargate vs Stargate match-up due to the early hallucination scout, he keeps the first Oracle back and instead uses it slightly later with a small frontal poke to net himself eight kills. In game one vs Creator it was another Stargate vs Stargate match-up and Classic also kept the Oracle back that game and sent it around a bit later to get four Probe kills. If he had sent it right away it would have simply died to the Phoenixes. Since there's no real timing to when this Oracle could be sent, it catches your opponent off guard as they won't expect an Oracle to come in at that time, or sometimes they won't even realize that an Oracle was made at all. This could lead to you gaining a significant Probe advantage at a time early enough to propel your Phoenix production and catch up to or surpass your opponent's Phoenix production.
If you want you can also try what Classic did in game one which is stop at that one Phoenix to make it look like you'll commit to more, but then go straight into a Twilight Council and rush out Blink in hopes of catching them off guard. Since Creator bungled his attack early on in that game, Classic was able to eventually win with that style as he went into the standard PvP convergence point that he also used in many of his other PvPs this tournament.
The +2 CIA PvP Convergence Point
I've mentioned this convergence point in some of my previous PvP BotWs but I've never fully explained it or broken it down in detail before. For those of you who are unaware of what a convergence point is, it's a point in the game where you are converging towards with your opening build. No matter what style you opened with or how the game started, you can transition to this convergence point to go into the mid-game. For PvP the convergence point is to reach a +2 Immortal/Chargelot/Archon composition.
To do this you can basically break down an entire PvP match into different phases. Since you can do this off of any opener, the exact timings will vary, but so long as you follow the phases you will end up in the right place. That's the beauty of a convergence point.
The phases of PvP essentially boil down to the following:
This is where the most variation is happening. You're picking what you want to do and you're unsure of what is going to happen afterwards. This is O.K. Like I said just before, the magic of a convergence point is that you can do it after essentially any opening.
This is the preliminary phase of the convergence point. At this part of PvP you'll have scouted or been attacked by their tech choice and you'll have had to make some sort of response. Once you make that immediate response (whether it be canceling the Phoenix in this build, or chronoing an observer in a Robo vs DT opener etc.) you then need to drop your Forge immediately upon seeing that the game will enter a macro state. The earlier you have your Forge the faster you can start your upgrades which means the larger the timing window you'll have to abuse your upgrade advantage. Upgrades are much more important in mirror match-ups since you're both fighting with the same units. You also should make a Robo as soon as money allows (in this build it goes down before the Forge to be safe vs Blink openers. If you scout no Blink then you can feel free to get the Forge before the Robo) and start going into Immortal production.
The convergence point has a lot of things that are all happening at once, but once you remember what all those things are it becomes very easy. Everything that's going on in Phase 2 is working up to Phase 3 as you should be making Probes constantly to get to two base saturation as quickly as you can. Once you're there, you stop Probing so that you can afford to get a Gateway explosion of four or six (depending on how aggressive/safe you want to be), you make a Twilight Council that lines up with +1 finishing (usually when +1 is ~70% done), and then you go into your Templar Archives and +2 right when the Twilight finishes. This gets you all the production you'll need to either do a large attack, or defend a large attack, with the right set of units and a fast enough upgrade.
The convergence point 2: electric boogaloo is basically to take your third Nexus and go up to eight Gates if you have't already. There's two variations where you can go up to six Gates on two bases, then expand, then make the extra two or you can just go up to eight on two bases and then expand. Classic, Creator, and sOs all seemed to favor going up to eight on two bases this tournament but in the past it was common to see the other variant. In the end, it doesn't really matter all that much since if you're going to do the +2 timing you're not actually probing this third base. It's just there as a back up plan and to fake that you're playing macro. There's some situations where your push won't be able to kill them, but can either kill their third or scare them into cutting Probes. In which case you then still have the third of your own to saturate and get ahead. Regardless though, I can guarantee in all of your games that if you nail this +2 timing, you will win the vast majority of your PvPs. It is extremely strong and most lower league players don't even know that it exists so you'll catch players just trying to macro on three bases with barely any units. It also leaves you with a very well rounded and bulky army to defend with in case you're playing someone who is attacking earlier than you.
If you don't want to do that then you can just play macro and enjoy the cotton ball stalemate if you want.
For anyone that's curious, I also made a comment detailing why exactly +2 makes such a big difference in PvP fights.
All of this considered, Classic has shown us why opening Stargate in PvP is generally considered the safest option. With some small tweaks to how the early game is played in coordination with the first hallucination scout, we get an extremely flexible and safe build that also has the potential to deal crippling damage.
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