2 Gate Fast Expand (vs. Protoss)
Protoss vs Protoss was one of the more controversial match-ups in Wings of Liberty. From the days of nothing but 4 Gating to the period of gigantic Colossus vs Colossus wars, many people scorned Protoss vs Protoss as the most boring, stale match-up in the game. However, in Heart of the Swarm it quickly became one of the more solid match-ups. With the addition of the Mothership Core and the viability of non-Robotics Facility builds, Protoss players are safer and more flexible than they have been in the past, allowing for a huge variety of openings and builds previously thought impossible. Among these builds, fast expands have emerged.
The 1 Gateway FE was originally the standard for Protoss vs. Protoss fast expands, but many of them started to get punished heavily by pressure builds and all-in timings. As a result, many Protoss players have begun to expand off of two Gateways instead. This variation allows a player to safely take a Nexus at a reasonable time while creating a catch-all, reactionary defense in order to transition into a stable mid-game.
This guide covers a variation of the 2 Gate Robo opening that gets a Nexus before Robo whilst still being safe from virtually all pressure through the use of Force Fields and Photon Overcharge. This guide will also cover how to scout and respond to common pressure and tech plays as well as how to transition into the mid-game safely.
Although less economical than some other fast expands, this build withstands all forms of pressure. The combination of a Sentry first and a Mothership Core allows you to get away with minimal scouting while still getting a safe expansion and transitioning into Robotics Facility play. For players who are just starting to get a grip on macro games, this build is a go-to for its ease and stability.
Basic Build Order
This particular build revolves around getting a Sentry first, followed by two Stalkers, followed by two Sentries. This order of units is safe against virtually any early pressure. The combination of an early Sentry and the Mothership Core gives you access to early Force Fields and Photon Overcharge, through which you can buy enough time to get a more proper response up against any early pressure. The follow up Stalkers and Sentries further reinforce your defensive strength and allow you to take an early Nexus while neglecting to scout your opponent's main base until 6:00 with a Hallucination.
This build is safe against most early pressure; as such, there is no need to scout the opponent's main base quickly. There are, however, certain precautions you do need to have. After you build your first Gateway, you need to scout around your main base and natural for proxies. If you scout a proxy 2 Gate Zealot Rush, a proxy 2 Gate Stalker Rush or a Photon Cannon Rush, drop the build immediately and defend appropriately.
When your Sentry pops out (~4:15), you want to send a Probe scout in the opposite direction of your Mothership Core to scout the outskirts of the map for proxies. It's important to keep this Probe hidden on the map after scouting in order to build proxy Pylons in case you get contained or plan on aggressively counter-attacking. This dual MSC/Probe scout should alert you to anything like a proxy Stargate or an early hidden Pylon and will allow you to react accordingly. During this time, your Sentry should be poised to get as much vision in front of your ramp as possible in order to spot early Zealots trying to run into your main.
During this time, you should be thinking about things like:
- Is my opponent going for some kind of Warpgate rush?
- Is my opponent trying to proxy a Stargate?
- Is my opponent trying to hide a Twilight Council/Dark Shrine?
- If I don't see anything, is my opponent fast expanding?
|Two Gate FE|
Early Forge Variation
If you scout - see Scouting below - your opponent going for an early expand with your Hallucinated Phoenix, you can opt to build a Forge instead of a third Gateway at 42 supply. You should also halt Robotics Facility production and spend all Chrono Boost on Probes, as this will allow you to power hard into the mid-game. Generally, players will follow up with very early natural gases (~7:30-8:00) followed by either Twilight tech or Colossus tech. Extra Gateways are added as soon as 2 base saturation is reached. Overall, this is an economic play that can set you up for a very powerful 2 base timing.
3 Gate Pressure Variation
If your opponent goes for an earlier Nexus (1 Gate FE or Nexus first), this build has a built in attack to punish it because of its emphasis on Gateway units. When you use a Hallucination scout at 6:00, you can get a good idea if your opponent expanded earlier than you and you can set up an attack by following this build order:
Move out at 7:30-8:00 with your Gateway units, leaving your Mothership Core and an Observer at home. The attack should hit around 8:30-9:00 with five Stalkers, three Sentries, and eight Zealots. You should be producing Probes constantly, using your MSC to defend from any kinds of Zealot/DT counterattacks. The primary purpose of this push is to allow you to saturate your natural more quickly than your opponent, but it is also possible to kill their natural. Unless you are doing critical damage, consider pulling back after one to two additional warp-ins. Add a Forge and either a Twilight Council or Robotics Bay as a transition while taking your natural gases. At this point you can transition into either Immortal/Archon/Chargelot or Colossus.
- You can attack through the Photon Overcharge with the high number of Gateway units you have.
- An optional tactic for this push is to Hallucinate a Warp Prism or Oracle to pull back some of your opponent's units from the natural, making your attack slightly more powerful.
- If your opponent moves his units onto the high ground, or you manage to draw some of their units to their main mineral line using the above tactic, you should Force Field the ramp and get a 100% guaranteed Nexus kill.
The Mothership Core scouts the cliff area outside of your main whilst a Probe scouts the outer edges on the other side of the map. With these units, the thing you're mostly looking for is a proxy Stargate, as this will require you to be in position to deflect early Oracle harassment. You should also be looking for any early proxy Pylons, as this might be an indication that the opponent wants to pressure you with a Warpgate timing.
At 6:00, the first Sentry should have enough energy for Hallucination so use it to scout your opponent's tech choice. Along with your earlier Mothership Core/Probe scouting, this should give you a clear image of what your opponent is doing. This scout timing will let you know if you should build an Immortal or an Observer first as well as whether or not you can skip the third Gateway in favor of a faster Forge.
This build stops Probe production at 38 supply to build a Nexus, Robotics Facility, and third Gateway. This timing also coincides with the 6:00 Hallucination scout and leaves you with 19 Probes on minerals, three on each gas, and one hiding on the map. If you scout pressure, you should delay your Nexus (but not your Robotics Facility!) until you've defended the pressure. If you do not scout pressure, you should resume worker production and expand.
Using this build, your Hallucination scout will arrive at your opponent's base a little bit before your Robotics Facility finishes, allowing you the choice of making an Immortal or an Observer first based on what you see. Generally, you want to make an Immortal first anytime you scout heavy Gateway pressure (i.e. 3 Gate pressure, Blink Stalkers, 3 Gate Stargate pressure, etc.) and an Observer first if you scout any type of expansion or DT play.
As mentioned earlier, Proxy-Gate(s) is dangerous to this build. PartinG vs MyuNgSiK shows one Proxy-Gate which hits between four and five minutes with two Zealots and one Stalker. Right from the start PartinG attacks MyuNgSiK with one Zealot.
On Belshir Vestige Welmu could only defend this with one Sentry and a Mothership Core. It is almost impossible to defend this kind of (Proxy) play without Probe losses. If you lose this first Sentry, the game probably is over.
This build relies heavily on scouting the telltale signs of aggression and making appropriate changes to react to it. Between your vision coverage in the early game and your Hallucination scout, you can get a fairly good idea of what your opponent is doing. This section will cover how to defend against several different types of common pressure builds.
10 Gate Into 3 Gate All-In
The sign of this build is an early Stalker/Zealot poke before 5:30. When the Zealot/Stalker poke up your ramp, simply Force Field them out to buy enough time for your additional Stalkers. Chrono Boost additional Sentries as Chrono Boost becomes available and start your Robotics Facility and third Gateway as soon as possible. A combination of Force Fields and Photon Overcharge should be able to delay the push indefinitely.
3 Gate Pressure
3 Gate pressure will generally get to your natural around 5:30 with three Stalkers and a Mothership Core; in this case, your Nexus will already be building and under fire. Feel free to poke at the Stalkers to push them back but don't stray too far from your ramp. Once you see additional reinforcements, make sure to stay back on your ramp and cancel the Nexus if necessary. If your Nexus manages to finish, use Photon Overcharge and push into your natural with what units you have. If the Nexus is canceled, build an additional Gateway (for a total of four) and start a Warp Prism as soon as possible to break out of the contain. If you can break out of the contain fairly early and/or get some Probe kills with Zealot harassment, you should end up about even economically with your opponent, but with better tech.
3 Gate/Oracle Pressure
While there are many variations on this, the general idea is that your opponent will pressure your front with Stalkers while sending an Oracle into your main mineral line. Between your Mothership Core/Probe scout and your Hallucination scout, you should be able to spot a Stargate by about 6:30. This build will generally hit your natural by 6:30 with ~5 Stalkers and an Oracle in your main mineral line. Against this you have to cancel the Nexus, build an Immortal and continually warp in additional Stalkers/Zealots. It's important to place three Stalkers in your main mineral line to deflect the Oracles and to keep the Sentries near your ramp to Force Field. To break out of the contain, build a Warp Prism asap and push down your ramp.
When you scout a proxy Stargate with your Mothership Core or Probe, immediately pull your Stalkers back to your mineral line and build two Stalkers in place of the two additional Sentries. The earliest an Oracle or a Void Ray can hit is ~5:15-5:30. While this is difficult to hold, and requires good micro or possibly a Probe pull, it's possible to defend using this build. Expand as soon as possible against an Oracle. Against Void Rays, continue making Stalkers until you have enough energy to use Photon Overcharge: This should buy you enough time to get up Warpgate. If you defend either one of these pressures well without losing more than four to five Probes, you should end up ahead of your opponent and in a good position to control the rest of the game.
Stalkers will generally walk across the map and hit you around 6:30, and Blink will finish around 7:10 at the earliest. Your Nexus should finish and you can use Photon Overcharge to push the Stalkers away. During the time that Photon Overcharge is active, Chrono Boost Immortals out and warp in Zealots. With Immortal/Zealot and good positioning, you should be able to defend this pressure. Make sure you get a followup scout on whether or not your opponent expanded; if he does not expand, you need to keep cutting Probes and continually make Gateway units. If you can hold off the Blink Stalker timing without losing a lot of units and/or Probes, you will be far ahead of your opponent in both tech and economy.
Dark Templar can hit you at 6:30-7:00, but the earliest you can get an Observer using this build is 7:20. While waiting for the Observer, hold position your units on the ramp (Stalkers in front) and Force Field out any Dark Templar that try to push up the ramp. Once your Observer is out, you're free to walk down your ramp. If you deflect Dark Templar with little to no Probe losses, you'll actually be about even with your opponent (in terms of tech and economy) but with a slightly earlier natural Nexus.
4 Gate Archon Bust
If your 6:00 Hallucination scout spots three or four Gateways and no expansion, beware of a potential Archon bust after deflecting Dark Templar. An Archon bust typically hits around 7:00-7:30. If your opponent lost a couple of Dark Templar without doing any damage, you can try to hold your natural by walling it off with extra Gateways. Walling off, of course, is map dependent, but good maps for this would be maps like Bel'Shir Vestige and Frost. If you choose to abandon your natural, you can hold this attack more easily with a three-Pylon wall at your ramp. During this time, you should be constantly warping in Stalkers/Zealots from your Gateways.
Phoenix all-ins generally don't hit until after 7:30 when there are three to four Phoenixes out. Phoenix all-ins are deadly if handled improperly by a fast expanding player, so you need to make sure you identify it as soon as possible. After you've spotted three to four Gateways, Phoenixes, and no Nexus from your opponent, cancel or sacrifice your own Nexus and build an additional Gateway for a total of four. In this scenario, place your units at the top of your ramp and continually warp in Gateway units. Use a proxy Pylon or a Warp Prism to warp in Zealots for harassment while you accumulate enough units to break out of the contain. In some cases, proxying a Twilight Council and a Dark Shrine with your hidden Probe can allow you a very powerful Stalker/Archon/Chargelot counter-attack as well as a more reliable way to break down your ramp.
Void Ray All-Ins
Void Ray all-ins can be difficult to beat if you can't get a good scout in, but between your Hallucination scouts and Observers, you should be able to scout Void Rays, extra Gateways, and no Nexus in time to get the proper defenses. Most Void Ray all-ins hit around 8:00 with four Void Rays. When you scout a Void Ray all-in, you should add an extra Gateway (for a total of four) and warp in as many Stalkers as possible. In some cases, Void Ray all-ins can be Zealot-heavy, in which case it's important to wall off your natural depending on the map. If you feel you can't hold your natural, sacrifice your Nexus, retreat to the high ground and start a Twilight Council for Blink.
Other One Base All-Ins
All other one base all-ins will generally hit after 7:30 and will feature tech units of choice including Immortals, Colossus, Warp Prisms, and Archons. To scout for these attacks, send a followup Hallucination scout or Probe scout to check for the Nexus. If there is no Nexus down by 7:00-7:30, you should prepare for a one-base all-in by adding one or two Gateways -- to a maximum of four -- and warping in as many Gateway units as possible.
Immortal/Archon/Chargelot is generally the most common transition out of this build because you already have most of the infrastructure and several Gateway units. It's also a very middle-of-the-road composition which does well against almost every other composition in the game, which furthers the safe theme of this build.
Most often players will get Immortals, Charge, +1 Attack, a Templar Archives, and 6-8 Gateways from their two bases. From here, attempt to pressure the opponent whilst taking a faster third and transitioning into the late game by adding Tempests if needed against Colossus.
Colossus transitions are becoming increasingly less popular as more players are using Immortal/Archon/Chargelot. However, Colossus mid-games are still quite strong and contain a very powerful two base timing with four to six Colossus. Alternatively, you can take a later (yet safer) third base. Colossus transitions have a glaring weakness to Stargate-based play due the ease at which the opponent can transition into Tempests, and should therefore be avoided against a player who opened with a Stargate in their main.
Most Colossus players will slowly transition back into Immortal/Archon/Chargelot as they lose Colossi in big battles. The end goal is to also add Tempests to deal with enemy Tempests/Colossi.
This is the least popular build transition as this particular composition is especially hard to smoothly transition into unless you opened Stargate. It is still possible, however, against other Robo-based expands. This strategy is purely defensive and attempts to get a strong deathball together early.
Add one or two Stargates after deflecting any pressure and start Void Ray production while getting ground and air upgrades. After a critical mass of Void Rays (6-8) is reached, you can take a third safely and gradually transition into Immortal/Void Ray/Chargelot.
What do I do if I scout a proxy 2 Gate? Will the Sentry be out in time?
If you scout a proxy 2 Gate, drop your Sentry first opening and defend appropriately.
How does this build fare against Zealot/Stalker pokes?
This build gets a Sentry and 2 Stalkers out at 5:30, the normal timing for a standard poke, so you should be able to deflect it without any trouble.
After early Gateway pressure, I get contained on one base and can't get out. What do I do?
The most common response is to make a Warp Prism from your Robo and drop a few Zealots while pushing down your ramp. If you managed to get a Pylon out on the map, you can also do a Zealot warp-in to harass the opponent's mineral line.
Is it possible to substitute a Stargate for the Robo? What about going Blink or Dark Templar?
These timings are a little less solid and Stargate play takes greater multi-tasking ability. You should not go Blink or Dark Templar to follow up this expand, primarily because you won't have detection and you don't get a solid scout until 6:00. If you try to skip detection with this build, you will 100% lose to early Dark Templar.
I keep dying to certain all-ins like 10 Gate Into 3 Gate, Void Ray All-Ins, proxy 2 Gate Stalker Rushes etc. Am I doing something wrong?
Honestly, these are all very difficult builds to stop even in the most ideal situations. Unless you're already opening with a 3 Stalker rush, these cheeses are very difficult to hold. Fortunately, this build is the closest thing to a 3 Stalker rush so it shouldn't be a build order loss; you just need to micro very well in order to win.
How is this build better than a 1 Gate FE?
This build gets a lot of Gateway units out early to deal with any potential threats while a 1 Gate FE focuses on getting a very early Nexus so that Photon Overcharge can be used to deflect early pressure. The 2 Gate expand therefore has a more mobile defense that provides a lot of flexibility to adapt to your opponent's build and react accordingly, allowing you to play more safely compared to a 1 Gate expand. This build, for instance, can blindly hold proxy Stargates and Blink Stalker all-ins and doesn't have to blindly build an Immortal after expanding. The keyword here is safety.
Of course, the heavy Gateway count and later Nexus of a 2 Gate expand result in a less economic opening with a later Nexus and later tech. However, the focus on heavy Gateway units and good flow on information allows you to compete with the more economic 1 Gate FE by using 3 Gate timing-attacks and faster Forges to pull ahead.
While 1 Gate FEs can deflect 3 Gate pressure with a finished Nexus and Photon Overcharge, the 2 Gate expand has weaknesses to 3 Gate pressure builds before the Nexus has finished (~7:30). In these situations, it's usually mandatory to cancel the Nexus, defend on one base, and play from behind. However, the emphasis on early Gateway units allows you to harass and push down your ramp fairly early to break even again. During this time, you can generally get a strong read on your opponent through Hallucination and Observers.
The point of this build is to develop a stable defense while taking an early non-committal expansion. Simply put, in situations where 1 Gate FEs would die, this build would only be playing from behind. Because of this, the 2 Gate expand is a great ladder build because of it's ability to defend almost anything with only minor adjustments.
Is this build map dependent?
This build has the potential to do well on any map, but works best on maps with small chokes at the natural and manageable cliffs such as Frost or Habitation Station. This is primarily due to the build's reliance on Force Fields and wall-offs to deal with certain all-ins. This build does not do well on maps with large surface areas to Blink into the main such as Yeonsu or Heavy Rain.
I'm learning builds for a BoX series. Would you say this is a good build to add?
Not particularly. While this build is safe and stable, it isn't greedy or aggressive enough to put you far ahead of your opponent compared to other builds like 4 Gate Blink or 1 Gate FE. However, it works well in Bo1 matches and ladder games because of its safety. If you wanted to open up with a very stable macro build in a BoX series, this could potentially work well as an opening build, but not much better than a Dark Templar expand or a more standard Robotics Facility expand.
Replays and VODs
|Welmu||Set Three. From WCS Europe, Ro16. Welmu uses the 2 Gate FE vs. Duckdeok's 3 Gate Pressure.|
|State||Set Two. From WCS America, Challenger League, Group E. 2 Gate FE vs. 3 Gate Pressure.|
|Oz||Set One. From WCS America Ro32. 2 Gate FE vs. 3 Gate Pressure.|
|Welmu||Set Two. From WCS Europe, Ro16. 2 Gate FE vs. 3 Gate/Oracle Pressure. Welmu executes this build perfectly, throwing his Nexus at 5:31. He does not lose his Nexus against a big push by duckdeok, but he loses too many Probes to the Oracle. This Replay is a good example of how to defend early pressure.|
|Oz||Set Two. From WCS America, Ro32. 2 Gate FE vs. Blink Stalkers.|
|MaNa||Set One. From WCS Europe, Ro16. 2 Gate FE vs. Dark Templar.|
|Sage||Set one. From WCS America, Ro16. 2 Gate FE vs. Dark Templar.|
|Rain||Rain almost executes this build as perfectly as Welmu does, throwing his Nexus at 5:35. He scouts the Dark Shrine with his hallucinated Phoenix, reacting with two Observers to defend against Dark Templar.|