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[e][h]Protoss Protoss vs. Terran Guide
The Protoss vs. Terran Matchup
Strategy Information

The following article lists a general introduction to Protoss vs. Terran

To read more about Protoss strategies in general, see also Protoss Strategy


Protoss vs. Terran (PvT) is one of the more static match ups in terms of strategic variance on first glimpse. The overall patterns and army compilation did not change much but slightly over the past years. In modern PvT the Protoss usually dictates the early stages of the game and switches to the role of a passive aggressive player in the later stages. Even though PvT is one of the easier match ups for beginners, it does need more knowledge before a Protoss can really master it perfectly against experienced Terrans.

Units and Army Composition[edit]

Generally speaking, Protoss units are in most cases stronger than their direct pendants, their training cost is about even, but their mobility is, in most cases, higher. However, fully upgraded Terran units are more cost efficient and deal greater damage in greater numbers.

The following list describes the roles of units during the game, as well as the ordinary combinations of units over time in the actual games. If read carefully, the compilation helps to understand the specific Build Orders.


  • Zealot: directly counter its pendant the Marine. However, in greater numbers Marines can easily out-micro Zealots without speed upgrade. Additionally Vultures trained early on hard counter any number of Zealots. Therefore Zealots are usually trained in later stages of the game. They are being used to soak up damage of Vultures, their Spider Mines and volleys from Siege Tanks.
  • Dragoon: the key unit in Protoss vs. Terran. They are efficient against Vultures and Siege Tanks. In smaller numbers they can out-micro a combination of Tanks and Vultures. Dragoons with the Range Upgrade being researched are usually the most important damage dealer throughout all stages of PvT.
  • Dark Templar: they used as harassment unit in PvT. Multitude of different openings utilize this unit to force Terran to spend resources on detection and therefore stall any early Terran aggression. In later stages Dark Templar are usually not trained or only in small numbers, as their cost/benefit ratio isn't high in an open battle.
  • High Templar: they are often built in the mid game. Their spell Psionic Storm (Psi Storm or Storm for short) deals great damage against clumped units. However, in contrast to Protoss vs. Zerg, the spell's efficiency is limited, as Siege Tanks survive more than one single Storm.
  • Reavers: are used as harassment unit in combination with a Shuttle in the earlier stages of PvT. They lose their importance in later stages, as their cost/benefit ratio isn't high in an open battle or for defense.
  • Observers: are one of the most important support units in PvT. Usually Protoss always has more than two or three Observers keeping map vision and helping to detect and clear Spider Mines.
  • Arbiter: the most powerful spell caster in PvT. Its spells Stasis and Recall can turn around a game within seconds. Stasis is used to neutralize a great part of a Terran army within seconds, while Recall helps Protoss to bypass a Terran's static defense.
  • Carrier: it is another end game unit in PvT. Fully upgraded, carriers are a great unit to attack a Terran on any point of the map. However, their use is limited, as they're harder to obtain without giving up map control.
  • Shuttle: often used to harass opponents with reaver, high templar or dark templar drops. They can also be used to keep high templars safe from being sniped by vultures.

Army Composition[edit]

Since every unit has a direct counter, a mix of several units are used to optimize the Protoss damage output. The following mixes are the most popular ones and are being ordered by their appearance, starting from the later early games to the late game.

To fully understand the unit combinations, see also: Push Breaking
  • Dragoon/Observer. The combination of Dragoons with range upgrade and Observers are usually the most common opening army compilation of Protoss. Dragoons can out-micro smaller attacks of Terran easily and Observers help to clear out Spider Mines.
  • Dragoon/Zealot. Once Terran is able to produce greater numbers of Siege Tanks and Vultures Dragoons only are not effective anymore. Spider Mines will keep them out of range of the Tanks, while the Tanks can take out the Dragoons. Therefore Zealots with speed upgrade are added to the mix. They soak up the first volley of Siege Tanks in fights and clear out Spider Mines by literally walking over them; in ideal scenarios the mines are dragged into the Terran army to cause additional damage.
  • Death Ball. Similar to Protoss vs. Zerg, Protoss uses a so-called "Death Ball" in the later stages of PvT. A Death Ball features mainly Dragoons and Speedzealots, as well as a smaller number of High Templar and Arbiters. The spell casters usually storm clumps of a Terran attack or freeze them with Stasis.


Compared to other match ups Protoss doesn't need to obtain much information, nor is obtaining information particularly hard to do in the earlier stages of a game.

Early Game[edit]

  • Probe scout - typically at 8 supply after warping in a pylon.


  • Opponent's Spawning Position
  • Vespene Gas mining behaviour[1]
  • Number of initial Factories
  • Possible early Command Center at the Natural Expansion
  • Possible movement of a first Push (FD Push)

Mid Game[edit]

Observers positioned in vision of:

  • Factories;
  • Terran Choke Point;
  • third base;
  • opponent's army[2];
  • own army.


  • Factory Count[3]
  • Upgrade Status of the Terran Army (Vulture Mines, Speed, Ground Weapons)
  • Possible attack timing
  • Possible timing of a third base
  • enemy army movement
  • location of Spider Mine fields[4]

Late Game[edit]

The Late Game scouting is done the same way it is done for the mid game. However, Observers might be reproduced constantly, since Terran can snipe Observers once he obtained a Vessel tech. Protoss additionally checks for bases being taken and how they're defended (Number of Turrets, Siege Tanks guarding, Spider Mine fields).

Important Upgrades[edit]

  • Leg_Enhancements: the speed upgrade for Zealots is an important upgrade. If Protoss is being attacked by a Siege Tank / Vulture combination, slow Zealots or Dragoons is often not enough to defend.
  • Stasis: it is needed to engage a large Terran army. A Protoss army can not possibly mess with a large Terran army in terms of damage output. Stasis is a pivotal spell to decrease the damage output of a Terran attack. Furthermore, Arbiters force Terran to either save enough energy for ComSat Scan Sweeps or training Vessels.
  • Recall: allows Protoss to change their strategy from directly attacking a Terran army to passive aggressively bypass Terran aggression by mass dropping units into undefended Terran bases.

Generic PvT[edit]

In contrast to PvZ the strategical variance in PvT is less dynamic and a somewhat general overview can be given. However, this does not mean that every game has to follow a standard pattern!

In most games both Protoss and Terran will not focus on their first attack units, the Marine or the Zealot respectively. Both units can be countered (out-microed) relatively easy by higher tech units like Dragoons and Vultures respectively. Consequently both players will harvest Vespene Gas early on in a game and open with Dragoons and Siege Tanks.

Usually Protoss stays on one base slightly longer than he would against a Zerg player and expand a few minutes later. Both players will expand slightly delayed around the same time, defending their newly build expansion with as little units as possible to be safe from aggressive builds. In the early game Protoss and Terran won't engage in open fights; they might tease each other, but want to avoid to trade armies. A Protoss army consisting of Dragoons only can not break a Terran's static defense, as sieged Tanks and Spider Mines are usually a solid enough defense. At the same time Terran can not hope to challenge Dragoons in the open battle field if he can only reinforce his troops from one or two Factories. A very general rule of thumb suggests, that Protoss should never try to break a Terran's defense if he does not need to, as Terran is always favoured.

Both players will now build more structures, Gateways and Factories respectively, while researching important upgrades. Terran aims to equip his Vultures with Speed and Spider Mines and add ComSat stations to his Command Centers, while Protoss adds Observers, Dragoon range early and Speed Upgrade for Zealots later on. While both tech, Terran or Protoss can try to harass one another with Speedvulture raids and Reaver drops respectively.

The mid game depends on the Terran's goals. Terran can either aim to raise an early third expansion with a lower unit count or try to launch a timed attack of four up to six Factories. Protoss decides to either expand himself or to defend against the push. More general rules suggest, that Protoss needs at least two Gateways more than the Terran has Factories to be able to fight a greater attack and its reinforcements. The second rule suggests that a Protoss needs one mining base more than Terran to keep up in terms of economical strength.

On a more abstract level, Terran will always try to attack in time frames in which Protoss can not really reinforce his troops. This is the case shortly after Protoss took his third base for instance. Due to the Probe slide and the newly build Nexus, Protoss has to delay training units for half a minute - this would be a time frame in which Terran can neutralize the Protoss army. Terran also often tries to keep Protoss from moving around the map by placing Spider Mines on alternate routes to his base. These must be cleared by Protoss whenever he has the opportunity to do so.

The ability to attack with stronger unit matters for Protoss in the mid game. Being able to send Speedzealots against a Siege Tank / Vulture attack supports the decision to fight Terran in the open; Arbiters without Stasis work just as well against a smaller attack. The ability to move around large attacks is key, as the general logic for Protoss will slowly change. Smaller attacks by Terran can be defeated, while larger scaled attacks can only be neutralized. If Protoss has to trade his entire army against a Terran army, he does need to be one expansion ahead. Once Terran has an army of roughly over 160 supply, Protoss usually tries to backstab Terran expansions instead of trying to engage in open battles, if both are economically equal.

Therefore, Arbiters, Recall, Stasis and their direct counter the EMP Shockwave are of greater importance. Once the late stages of a game is entered, Protoss won't be able to completely avoid greater battles. Instead, he will recall armies into Terran expansions or the Terran's main base, to force Terran to react, rather than to attack own expansions. Protoss will try to out-expand a Terran and try to avoid a stale mate situation.

See also[edit]

Techniques that can be used in PvT:

Mine Defusing without Observers - Describes a technique to defuse Mines without Observers in earlier stages of the game
Push Breaking - Describes the logic of a Terran Siege Tank / Vulture attack and how it can be fought efficiently
Zealot Bombing - Explains how a Shuttle and Zealots can be used to deal great damage against Terran
Mine Dragging - Explains how Spider Mines can be used against Terran
Recall - Explains the decision making behind recalling units

External links[edit]

PvT Guide by Crescendo Explains the basics of PvT, guide is from 2007.


  1. done by counting SCVs still mining after the first Factory is being built; One SCV indicates a Fast Expansion, constant mining indicates a Two Factory or Drop opening (aggressive builds)
  2. only if the Terran moved out of his base
  3. Theoretically speaking, Protoss should always have at least two Gateways more than the Terran has Factories
  4. only if Vulture harassment started and could not be denied