Please check out the /r/allthingsprotoss guide for multiple source replays of the professional players.
We're back :) Thank you all for being so patient with me as I went through the most difficult and important semester of my college career. I'm all set to graduate later in May now and I'm even more prepared to get back to doing what I truly love the most <3 I still have one more week of student teaching left to go with some short papers that I still need to write as well, but once May 3rd comes you have me back for good! I'm on Spring Break now and through next week so hopefully I'll be able to get another guide out before I go back for my last week (no promises though).
I left off not doing a PvP build back when all that was happening in the meta was Phoenix vs Phoenix and so PvP is where we'll resume today. So much has changed since the end of last year which has made PvP (and the other match-ups as well) much more interesting and fun, so I'm excited to get back into breaking some of these new styles down for you all!
First up is going to be an introduction to one of the most safe and solid ways to play in PvP in the recent meta featuring Stats' amazing run from IEM Katowice last month. Despite it being a month ago, the styles shown at IEM still are being used heavily today and are a good framework for how the professional meta has developed. After asking both PartinG and PtitDrogo, they testified to the build's solid place in the matchup and the frequency of its use by them and many other Protoss. This build specifically that Stats and some other Protoss used that tournament is a modernized version of a previous style that is designed to be as safe as possible while still smartly cutting corners to give yourself a strong lead in tech and upgrades while going into the mid-game.
The concept for this build is by no means new, however it has had plenty of success at IEM and continues to be a staple of macro play in the match-up that it deserves an updated version of it. The build notes were created by combining aspects of a game from Stats and also a game from herO who did a similar build. Since there were alterations in the early game forcing some delays in the build, I then based the rest of the timings off of uninterrupted standard play to serve as a baseline.
It starts off with nothing too fancy, just a regular 2gate PvP opening that goes into Stalker/Sentry as many of you should be familiar with. The way in which you saturate your gasses isn't the MOST important thing in the world, however the way I suggested it in the build notes is the way to maximize your mineral and gas income to let the build flow as seamlessly as possible. Putting three Probes in each gas right away could result in too much gas early on and disrupt some of the buildings you'll need to make. On the other hand, waiting too long to rally all of your Probes into the gasses could result in not enough gas to start the first Stalker/Sentry/WG when the Cyber finishes.
One important development in PvP since the changes earlier this year has been the use of proxied Pylons. Due to the speed in which the first Hallucination scout comes across the map due to it now costing less energy, it became very easy for players to scout exactly what tech structure the other was going for without making a strong commitment in tech on their side. Due to this, players started proxying their 2nd Pylon more often as a way to hide which tech they were going from the Hallucination scout. The development from this was then to just proxy the 2nd Pylon even if you weren't planning on putting your tech structure there. This fakes an aggressive or sneaky play, but in reality you're just putting your 2nd Pylon on the map somewhere and then expanding like normal. Stats chose to take this route in the example game by sending his scouting Probe to the bottom of the map to put a proxied Pylon there and then sent his Probe to the back of Creator's natural. This makes it so Creator still thinks it's a dedicated proxy (since he hasn't seen a 2nd Pylon in Stats' base and never saw a scouting Probe) but also allows Stats to confirm if Creator has expanded or not. Stats uses this same technique vs Patience and, upon seeing no natural Nexus, sends the Probe up to the main and scouts a 3rd Gateway and is able to prepare a defense. You can choose to use these little mindgames if you'd like, or just make it in your base. It really shouldn't be that important for you to try to mindgame in lower leagues since most people won't know what they're supposed to scout for anyway.
Anyway, back to the outline of the actual build. After your 2nd Pylon, the Cyber should be finishing up so that you can make a Stalker and Sentry along with Warp Gate. You'll pause Probe production at 24 Probes so that you can expand in a timely manner while also making more units out of the Gateway. Put a 28 Pylon down somewhere in your base so that it doesn't get killed by any potential super early aggression that might come at you. After the Stalker/Sentry is finished then you'll make TWO more Sentries. There will be a short gap in production as you wait for the 2nd 100 gas to come in.
At this point you might be wondering why we're making two extra Sentries this early and what the overall purpose of this build is at all. There's two main reasons for why getting so many early Sentries can be beneficial in the early game:
Scouting potential: Especially with how cheap Hallucination is, you'll be able to spam out Hallucinated Phoenix nonstop to always be on top of scouting and knowing what the opponent is building and where their army movements are.
Defensive versatility: With so many early Sentries you have access to a lot of early forcefields. This can be extremely beneficial to stopping early Gateway aggression as you can cut up the army and trap any early units that aren't positioned well. The additional Sentries means you can also use a Guardian Shield with those forcefields instead of having to choose which to use. Since you also already sent your Hallucination scout, you don't need to worry about wasting energy to defend instead of to scout. It also allows you to use your resources effectively. Since Sentries are so cheap on minerals, you can afford to get a total of six units out of the Gateway in a very efficient manner. This build will have a total of three Sentries and three Stalkers and a Shield Battery to defend a fast Nexus. There's very little early aggression that can punch through that type of defense unless it is a very dedicated all-in.
After you have the next two Sentries in production you can throw down a 32 Nexus and start to resume Probe production and put a Pylon down on the low ground as well. You'll place a Shield Battery as soon as the Pylon is finished to help defend the low ground. You can also fit a Chronoboost onto Warp Gate sometime in here to help get that finished a little faster in case you need it.
Remember as well that the NEW TIME to send a Hallucinated Phoenix with a Sentry first opener is 3:00 even. It's been like this since the Hallucination patch but this is the first time I'm writing a guide with the updated time in it so just be sure you're aware of that. This should line up to around when the 33 Pylon goes down.
Afterwards, you'll make two more Stalkers when the extra Sentries complete to round out your early game defense. You can also get a 2nd Shield Battery in the main mineral line to be safe if you want. You should absolutely do this if your Hallucination scouts a Stargate as well. Then, once Warp Gate finishes you have a few options:
Make two Adepts at the proxied Pylon: Other than being a cute mindgame, that early proxied Pylon can be useful at this stage in the game to send out two Adepts to shade into the opponent's base and suicide onto some Probes. This can give yourself a massive early economic advantage as the Adepts will be hitting at a very strange time.
Make two early Stalkers at home: For extra defense you can warp-in some extra Stalkers at home to be super safe. This is absolutely what you should do if you scout any potential early aggression from the opponent.
Don't warp-in anything: Save the resources instead to get out faster tech and upgrades and more Probes if you see that the opponent is being defensive as well.
After you make your first warp-in decision is when you'll also need to be starting your tech transition into the mid-game, which I haven't mentioned at all yet. Currently we only have a fast Nexus and a bunch of Gateway units to help defend it, but we haven't made a tech decision yet. With this build we're going to be doing a transition that goes against the grain of the extensive and aggressive PvP history.
The Forge First Transition
If you've watched any amount of PvP throughout the years you would know that choosing a Forge as your first "Tech" option is a bit of a rarity. It's extremely vulnerable to aggression and doesn't leave you with many options for aggression yourself. However, the reasoning for doing it in this build is a great way to cut corners and set yourself up with a strong upgrade timing in the mid-game.
I was able to talk with PtitDrogo, resident WCS EU professional player, and get some of his insights for the strengths, weaknesses, and general tips for using the Forge transition. His responses will be paraphrased within this section of the guide.
1. Why Forge First?
The first question you might be asking is, "Why would you bother going for a Forge so quickly in PvP?" The best answer to this is, "Because you can." With how fast a Hallucination scout can see what your opponent is doing, you can assure yourself that you'll be relatively safe with this opening to go into a fast Forge. Drogo mentioned that anytime you see a Nexus with your Hallucination or Probe scout, you can feel safe putting the 3:30-3:45 Forge down. With the Nexus placed down it's very unlikely that you'll be playing against any heavy aggression that could easily break your defensive position while going for a Forge. Your early units (8 in total if you use a defensive warp-in) and Shield Battery is sufficient to defend most non-committal early aggression. In the example game of Stats vs Creator, Stats was able to defend Creator's attempted early Gateway/Stargate pressure and then safely get a Forge knowing that there was nothing else that could threaten him at the time. This fast Forge allows you to start your upgrades much faster than your opponent does which will help you later on. For a long time now, the most influential part of mid-game PvP has been the +2 timing that I've talked about in previous builds. Getting a fast Forge the moment you realize the game is going to go macro has been a theme for a while, but this style takes that to the extreme to get it as quickly as possible. Here you can see a breakdown of why +2 is so significant in PvP fights and why that is where a lot of the focus of the matchup has been.
2. Potential Weaknesses
While the fast upgrade timings do help in the long run to have a very noticeable upgrade timing window to hit, this does come at the cost of the rest of your tech being delayed. Around 4:45 is when you'll be getting your Robo and Twilight Council with your extra gasses at the natural, which is much later than any other macro PvP build. This can leave you fairly vulnerable to specific styles of play that are meant to abuse this lack of tech. Drogo reinforced this point by mentioning that Robo expand builds that get out a Warp Prism first to stage Adept harassment is very difficult to deal with when opening for fast Forge. Due to the fact that you have no reliable means of shutting the Warp Prism down, (no Phoenix or Blink) you have to rely on your Stalkers being well positioned and the opponent messing up with their Warp Prism. The constant two Adept shades into the mineral lines can really hinder your economy to the point where your fast upgrade lead means nothing compared to the number of units that your opponent can produce with their uninterrupted resource collection.
Additionally, Stalker/Sentry openers are not void of weaknesses either. While they do provide great scouting potential, and the opening build does provide you with plenty of units to defend, certain types of early aggression can still be difficult to hold. Heavy Adept/Oracle pressure, specifically a proxied Oracle, can prove difficult to hold with a Stalker/Sentry opener. Drogo had said that the initial proxied Oracle is not a problem, since you'll easily have a Battery up in time, however the combination of the Adepts and Oracles is extremely threatening to your early setup. You have to be very on top of your wall blocks to keep the Adept shades from getting into your main base and be sure that the Oracles are not one-shotting your Probes once a second one arrives. If you play well, it is definitely still defendable, however it does prove difficult enough that we don't see every single Protoss player opening Stalker/Sentry every game.
Lastly, there are also some situations where you won't want to build an early Forge due to the early aggression being too threatening. I mentioned earlier that Stats had scouted an early 3rd Gateway from Patience in one game which influenced him to stay on one base and make an early Robo instead of a Forge to help defend. This is definitely something you'll want to keep in mind as you're playing your ladder games. Remember that the Hallucination scout is meant to help influence your decisions going into the mid-game. If you see an aggressive one-base play then don't be afraid to deviate from the plan. Drogo even mentioned that notorious builds such as the Warp Prism 3gate Stalker all-in are no match for this style if you react safely with a Robo of your own and some Shield Batteries on the high ground. This build definitely has the flexibility to defend almost any early push, but you need to be aware that it's coming in order to alter your plan accordingly.
4. Transitioning into the mid-game
Regardless of how the early-game goes, the overall goal of this build is to get to your +2 Chargelot, Immortal, Archon push as soon as possible. The rest of the build notes help to outline how to do that most effectively. As you have the money and as your tech structures finish you want to quickly scale up the tech by going into a Templar Archives and research Charge once the Twilight is finished. You also want to pause Probe production once you reach two base saturation so that you can put down your Gateway explosion. If you want to all-in, then you should be making six extra Gateways for a total of eight. If you are planning on being a little greedier to expand to a 3rd base, then you get four for a total of six and then the extra two a little bit later. However, I personally think it's always safer to go for the eight in total before expanding just because the +2 timings are so popular. You're almost always going to find people trying to make some sort of mid-game push. Then you make sure you have a Warp Prism lining up with your +2 attack (which you should have been dumping ALL of your Chrono into) and hit at around 8:00 with a solid CIA composition.
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