Glon's Guide to Zerg vs. Protoss
Playing against a Protoss opponent is a unique challenge that requires a different skill set than when playing against the other two races. ZvP heavily emphasizes the importance of macro, and while micro and positioning are definitely important, they aren't as essential in this match-up as they are in ZvZ and ZvT, since your Protoss opponent has Force Fields and Vortex at their disposition. If you follow the builds and tips in this article you will be better able to respond to many of the strategies your Protoss opponent can throw at you.
To start, send your first two Overlords across the map. Your first Overlord needs to check your opponents natural to confirm whether your opponent is going for a Gateway into Cybernetics Core build or a Forge Fast Expand. Your first Overlord should then move into the main base, moving to a place of safety immediately if your opponent is going for a quick Stalker or just hanging out near the main Nexus if your opponent does not. Your second Overlord needs to go to some place near the natural (the point is to have vision of the natural gasses, or otherwise move in your Overlord later to see them at a specific point in time), to check whether your Protoss will expand or instead opt for a one base all-in. In general, if a Nexus has not been planted by 4:30, it usually indicates the latter.
In general, when scouting, you should remember two timings: 6:30 and ~10:00. At 6:30, the Zerg player needs to scout the Protoss with their 2 Overlords; the first Overlord moving into the main to attempt to see any tech buildings the Protoss player has warped in and the second Overlord moving into the Protoss natural to see how many gasses the Protoss player has taken.
- If the Protoss player has taken only 1 gas at their natural, play like they only have 2 total gases. The Protoss player is likely going for a fast third base or for a Gateway all-in.
- If the Protoss player has taken 2 gases at their natural, play like they have 4 total gases. This could be any range of possibilities: a Sentry-heavy three base (not very common), double Stargates, a Blink all-in, or the ever common Immortal Sentry All-In.
- For specific strategy on how to defeat the Immortal Sentry All-In, read: Mavvie's guide to defend Immortal Sentry (TL.net)
The next timing is at ~10:00, which is important to remember. At this timing most 2-base Protoss all-ins will hit. If your opponent is on two bases and you have 60 Drones, you should only be making units (this should be at around the 8:30-9:00 for a professional, however it may be later if your macro is not spot on. That's ok - learn what 60 Drones looks like spread out across 3 bases and learn to estimate while in game). As a general rule, do not stop making units until your opponent takes a third - yes, professionals do sometimes Drone, however as a GENERAL rule continue to produce units.
Finally, always have a Zergling behind your opponent's third base. Get in the habit of doing this; it will let you know if/when your opponent takes a third base, in which case you can stop making units, and proceed into a macro game.
The Early Game
Basic Build Order
|vs. Gateway Core
- In both of these scenarios - assuming that your Protoss opponent is on 2 bases - you should be taking your first two gases at the 6-minute mark. At 100 gas, begin Lair, a Roach Warren, and an Evolution Chamber. When your Lair is ~50% done, add two more gases (bringing you up to a total of four). With your next 100 gas, begin researching Metabolic Boost. When your Lair is done, you should have Glial Reconstitution and the +1 ranged attack upgrade researching as well. Don't forget to throw down a macro Hatchery when money permits, which is usually planted in the main.
- Remember to watch out for any kind of 4-Gate scenarios - if your Overlord (it will be your second one on 90% of maps) sees no natural expansion at the 5:30 mark, you're being 4 gated. Spine and ling up - don't be afraid to spend energy on transfuses if need be. If you can defend you will usually win the game (you can pull Drones off gas after starting Metabolic Boost in this situation as well: it's all you will need to continue defending, and any extra gas mined is just wasted time that could be used on mining minerals instead).
The Macro Game
So now you've scouted that your opponent is taking a third base. First thing's first, assuming that your opponent does not have a Warp Prism harassing you, take any units you may have built in the case of a 2 base all-in and move them into an aggressive position outside of your opponent's 3 bases. As you get better, you will figure out how to poke and harass your opponent without losing units to forcefield traps, etc.
In the meanwhile, at home, you should be taking a fourth base, adding a second Evolution Chamber (preferably researching missile and melee upgrades, leaving armor until Hive, when you take a third Evolution Chamber), and droning up. Generally, you want to OVER-drone your fourth base a tad, in order to be able to place down a Spine Crawler wall eventually while still mining adequately. Tech to Infestors, and build units to defend any pushes that may come while you're teching to Hive. Usually, most players start their Hives at around the 12:00-12:30 mark in order to have Brood Lords out at a reasonable time. Taking a Hive sooner than this point is discouraged as it can leave you vulnerable to certain 3 base all-ins while taking it too late can get you stuck in a low tech late game that simply does not work versus the monstrous Protoss death ball.
Creep spreading in ZvP can only help you - some Zerg players choose not to focus on it, but they are making a critical mistake. Not only does creep give you a huge amount of vision, but creep also can delay all-ins/pressure from the opponent, forcing them to wait for the creep to dissipate before moving out. Therefore, it is suggested that you follow these creep-spreading tips in ZvP:
- With your first Queen, inject Larva at your main Hatchery before moving it down to your natural (assuming a 14 Pool 15 Hatch opener). I like to place a Creep Tumor at my natural immediately with my next 25 energy - skipping inject #2 on that Queen. The extra creep spread means that you can spread creep out to around the middle of the map by the time any kind of 2 base all-in would hit and all the way to your opponent's fourth by the time a 3 base all-in would hit.
- It is worthwhile to get one extra Queen as you are taking your fourth base to spread creep. Try to have at least four active tumors down. This will assure that your creep spread will at least cover your half of the map, making spotting Warp Prisms and army movements much easier.
Late Game Engagements
Assuming that your Protoss opponent is not going air-toss (i.e. Carriers, Mothership, Void Rays, in which case have six Brood Lords to focus High Templar, with the rest of your army consisting of Queen/Infestor/Corruptor), your army should consist of:
- 5-6 Queens
- 8-12 Infestors
- ~15-20 Brood Lords
- ~5-10 Corruptors
At this point there is no need for you to take any unwanted fights. During any battles that you decide to fight your army needs to be presplit, with Infestors and Queens under or slightly behind the Brood Lord wall to avoid Feedbacks. When the Protoss army approaches, throw down a thin(ish) wall of Infested Terrans - remember you don't want to spend too much energy on this, only enough to take away some fire - and make sure that everything is attacking. In these fights, the Zerg player is forced to manually select units and micro them away or forward for specific spells. This is what the professionals do in late game engagement; you can try to copy as much of it as possible, however don't overwhelm yourself. When fighting these late game engagements, it is imperative to keep an eye on the position of your opponent's Mothership. A single, well-placed Vortex can capture your all your Infestors, Corruptors, and/or Brood Lords, instantly swinging the fight into the Protoss player's favor. The presplit minimizes the probability that your opponent will be able to land a good Archon Toilet on your Brood Lords, and always make sure to position your Infestors as far away from the Mothership as possible or keep it rooted far away via Fungal Growth. As long as your units are pre-split and you're spamming Fungal Growth and Infested Terrans along with some Transfuse, you should win the fight. If you're feeling particularly bold, you can try to land a few Neurals on your opponent's Colossus or Mothership.
Late Game Micro
- Keeping 1-2 Burrowed Infestors behind or beside your opponent's army at all times, dodging detection while also looking for an opportunity to land a neural on the Mothership.
- Selecting forward Infestors to throw down Infested Terrans, then moving them to the back of your army to conserve for later engagements.
- Kiting back with Brood Lords. Get into a rhythm, but only kiting back Brood Lords that are under threat of Stalkers and Storms. Generally, with good Fungals, Stalkers will only have one good opportunity to Blink forward.
- Keeping Corruptors focused on Colossus. Generally, the Mothership will be neuralled or can be chased down after the fight anyways, Colossi are more important since they are the biggest component of the Protoss army's DPS.
- Constantly selecting one Infestor and attempting a neural on the Mothership. If you get it, instantly use its energy to Vortex your opponent's army. If you can pull this off, you will likely win the game.
- Whenever High Templar come forward, pulling back Queens/Infestors and focusing the closest 3-5 Brood Lords on the Templar.
- Remembering to chain your Fungal Growths, specifically on the Stalkers. These are the most important part of the standard Protoss late game that must be killed.
For complete tips in ZvP, read through the Offense and Defense sections in: General ZvP Strategy
- If a Vortex is landed on your Brood Lords, attempt to Fungal Growth Archons to prevent them from reaching the Vortex and creating an Archon Toilet.
- If you do happen to get a large amount of your Brood Lords sucked into an enemy's Archon Toilet, throw Infested Terran Eggs into the Vortex. This spreads out the Archons when the Vortex effect ends, minimizing the splash damage to your Brood Lords.
- Don't forget to expand during the late game: the biggest strength of the Zerg late game is its ability to remax the quickest out of the three races. Hatcheries allow you to accumulate a bank and Larva to do just this.
- Spread Creep aggressively to prevent the building of proxy Pylons. Be sure to scout out where your creep hasn't spread.
- During an attack on your Natural Expansion, Sentries will often Force Field your ramp to prevent reinforcements from your main from arriving. This makes Sentries a high priority target.
- Build a set of one Spine Crawler and one Spore Crawler at each of your bases if the game goes on longer. This largely nullifies any potential late-game Dark Templar harass.
Replays & VODS
|Iron Squid 2. Very standard ZvP game. Roach/Ling/Infestor without Greater Spire vs standard Protoss late game army.
|Patch: 1.5.3 BU
|Iron Squid 2. Standard ZvP, Zerg with 15 Pool into 3 base, into a 12min max Roach/Ling push. Protoss with Nexus first into 3 base.
|Patch: 1.5.3 BU
|Iron Squid 2. Dealing with a 3 base Colossus attack with Ling/Infestor/Broodlord.
|Patch: 1.5.3 BU