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Nexus First (vs. Terran)

From Liquipedia StarCraft 2 Wiki
This strategy has been validated to work for patch 1.5.3.
[e][h] Nexus First (vs. Terran)
ST.Squirtle using the build in the GSTL finals against IMMvp
Strategy Information
From Brood War
Popularized by:


Best used on larger maps where early scouting is unlikely. On maps where close-positions are a possibility, early scouting should be used to check whether or not the opponent is in close-positions before choosing to follow this build. This build is an economic counter to any Barracks First fast-expand builds that a Terran player can use, equaled only in economy by Command Center First openings.

This opening is incredibly reactive after the Nexus has been placed down, which means that you have to be confident in your ability to read what the Terran player is doing with limited scouting information. For this reason, this build is not suitable for lower-level players.

Basic Build Order[edit]

As already mentioned, this build is incredibly reactive. Beyond the point where you have placed down a Nexus, a Gateway and an Assimilator, there are a whole range of transitions that need to be made dependant on what the Terran is doing. These transitions will be discussed in the Scouting section of this article.

For now, here is the basic opening you will use whenever you do this build:

Basic Build
  1. Stop Probe production at 16 supply.
  2. Resume Probe production.


  • Build your first Pylon on the high ground near your expansion. Then build your Gateway either the low-ground by your expansion or on the high-ground near your ramp. This is to ensure that unit reinforcement is as fast as possible.
  • It is possible to get your second Pylon before your first Gateway, but only do that if you are sure of your opponent's opening (for example, you know they will go 1 Rax FE).
  • After placing down the Nexus, have a Probe patrol around it. This will enable you to spot Bunker rush strategies very early; if you see an SCV enter your expansion, attack it with your Probe to ensure that a Bunker cannot be placed down or completed.
  • If you are confident in your ability to stop rushes, or if you are playing on a very large map, it is possible to scout after the Nexus, instead of after the Pylon, in that case you build your Nexus and Gateway at 15 supply instead of 16. If you choose this option than you need to send the probe that builds the pylon to patrol near your Nexus.
  • If the Terran player decides to build a bunker despite your probe being there you can use a trick to kill it more easily, simply spam shift click on the SCV that builds the bunker and when it moves around while it builds, the probe will follow it and keep attacking.


As already noted, you will be doing a range of different builds dependent on what you scout the opponent doing.

Gas Timings[edit]

First and foremost, if you get to your opponents base during the time when there is only 1 Marine at the ramp (or before the first Marine is finished), it is always worth it to sacrifice the Probe in order to see what buildings they have placed down and whether or not they have taken their gas. If you scout after your first Pylon then you have a better chance of seeing their gas timing, and seeing their gas timing can be crucial to your subsequent response.

Scenario 1: 1-2 Marines In The Natural With A Bunker Building[edit]

This is most likely a gasless expansion. In this case, spend all your Chrono Boost on Probes and get a Cybernetics Core before building a second Gateway and a second gas. Build the second Gateway when the Cybernetics Core is approximately 50% complete and squeeze out Zealot/Sentry production from your two Gateways as affordable.

Keep in mind that it is always possible for the Terran to be doing an elaborate fake by building a Bunker at their Natural Expansion and hoping that you assume that they are going for a gasless expansion. Always be diligent about checking their Marine count and always look for potential opportunities to sneak in your Probe and confirm that an expansion is being built. The worst-case scenario is that they are faking a fast-expansion and instead going for a 1/1/1 all-in because you may not have detection in time to defend against Cloaked Banshees; if they do not have an expansion present by 6:00, get detection as soon as possible.

Scenario 2: 1 Marine With A Tech-Lab Building On A Barracks[edit]

This can be one of a number of different things, all of which have similar responses. It can be a Tech-Lab first 2rax Reactor/Tech-Lab push (which is uncommon), some kind of Marauder-only 2 Rax opening (also unlikely), a 3rax Stim-Timing all-in (somewhat likely as a response to the Nexus First opening) or a 1rax Tech-Lab expand (most likely). Most of the time it will be a 1rax Tech-Lab expand with an early Reaper. It is extremely important to diligently check for Bunkers building near your natural when a Tech-Lab is scouted. If a Reaper can get in range of the Nexus or workers with Bunker support then it can almost instantly lose you the game.

On his stream, Axslav makes it very clear that vs. Tech-Lab openings he stays on 1gate a little longer and Chronoboosts units out of that single Gateway. He does so in the following sequence: Zealot, Zealot, Stalker, Stalker and then gets his second Gateway ~5:30. He also says that vs. a Reaper-first build that the first Zealot out of the Gateway is pretty useless defensively and so opts to send this Zealot out onto the map to scout whether or not the Terran player has chosen to expand.

If you scout a 2rax Reactor/Tech-Lab push coming your way or scout them staying on one-base then Chronoboost units out of your 2 Gateways and get ready to pull Probes if they have pulled SCVs. Understand that even if you lose Probes, your earlier second base will leave you ahead economically as long as you manage to keep your Nexus alive. If you scout them expanding then Chronoboost nothing but Probes from the point that you scout until around the 7minute mark.

Scenario 3: 1 Marine With A Reactor Building On A Barracks[edit]

At this point, just assume it is a 2rax Reactor/Tech-Lab push. There are of course other possibilities, but none of them are dangerous to a Nexus First economy. The other possibility is that it is a 1/1/1 all-in, but the 2 Rax response does not prevent you from holding this all-in as your economy will be plenty good enough to hold a 1/1/1 all-in.

On his stream, Axslav makes it clear that it is very important to chrono your first Zealot out before your Cybernetics Core. The build will be: Gateway, Assimilator, Gateway, Zealot, Cybernetics Core. You should Chronoboost out 2 Zealots from the first Gateway, with the Cybernetics Core and the second Gateway finishing as the second Zealot comes out. At this point, you should Chronoboost out 2 Stalkers. Continuously build Stalkers and squeeze in Probes when you can afford them. If they pull SCVs with their push then you should match their SCV count with Probes. Ensure that you target fire Marauders first because if you eliminate the Marauders then it becomes a case of Marines vs. Stalkers and this is a fight that is easy to win with proper micro.

If no push has arrived after the first two Stalkers have been out for about 10 seconds then send a Probe along the path that the Terran push is most likely to take. This will result in two scenarios:

  • If the Probe arrives at their natural and scouts a Bunker then assume they've gone for a 2 Rax expansion and go on the offensive. You should be able to just outright kill them by going up to 4/5 Gateways and chronoboosting out Warpgate Research.
  • If the Probe arrives at an empty natural, send it up the ramp and scout whether or not they have a Marauder. If you see a Marauder then this is likely a 3rax Stim-Timing all-in that your economy should give you an incredible advantage against. If you do not see a Marauder (or you see a Bunker full of Marines), you can assume it is some kind of 1/1/1 all-in and instantly throw down a Robotics Facility so that you can get detection ready for Cloaked Banshees. Regardless of whether or not they are going for a 3rax Stim-Timing or a 1/1/1 all-in, your goal should be to chronoboost out 38 Probes as quickly as possible, cut Probe production, go up to 5 Gatesways and a Robotics Facility, Chronoboost out Immortals (to fight Marauders/tanks) and make nothing but units to defend against the incoming all-in.

Scenario 4: Nothing In Natural, Unable To Sneak Into Terran Base[edit]

This is the hardest scenario as it makes it very unlikely that you're going to be able to scout the add-on that the Terran player throws down. On his stream, Axslav has stated that getting perfect scouting information vs. Terran at this stage is very hard. However, he has a system that he uses to get as good of a read as you possibly can.

  • When you scout where they are, leave your Probe outside of their base to see if they are moving out at all. If they move out with 1 Marine, try to circle around and sneak in your Probe behind the Marine to get additional information in your opponent's base.
  • If nothing pushes out, re-scout up the ramp at ~3:45. If you only see only one Marine, it most likely means that they are building some kind of add-on as two Marines would otherwise be ready. In this case, prepare for 2 Rax aggression as with Scenario 3 (above).
  • If you poke up the ramp at ~3.45 and see two Marines, then it is unlikely they are going for a build involving an early add-on. In this case, continue as if Scenario 1 (above) is occurring as they are likely going for a 1rax FE with a high-ground Command Centre. However, build Stalkers instead of Sentries as you cannot rule out the possibility of a Marine/SCV all-in.


After you have managed to fend off any early-game pressure or managed to see that they are going for a fast-expansion of their own, transition into your favourite Protoss mid-game strategy. Two of the most common transitions are shown below:

Double Forge Colossus[edit]

On his stream, Axslav will usually transition into the Robotics Tech-tree for fast Colossi whilst also getting two Forges for fast upgrades. This is a powerful transition as splash-damage from the Colossi allows you to defend against mid-game Medivac-timing attacks from the Terran, whereas the fast upgrades allow you to have a large upgrade advantage throughout the course of the game. After your first Colossus is out you can take your third base, as the Colossus will give you the fire-power to stop most pushes by the Terran player at this timing. After securing a third base while having an upgrade lead you should see to get Templar Archives, while stopping any timing attack and push by the Terran. After you have storm you can take a fourth base and attack when you have 3-3 upgrades and are maxed.

As long as you can survive any push by the Terran you will win since you got the economic lead from the start of the game. This is why this transition is the most reliable, as long as you don't die to drop harass you will have a perfect timing where you got the stronger army.

Gateway All-In[edit]

Another possibility is to use your faster economy to hit an incredibly early 6, 7 or 8gate timing-attack. The idea here is to quickly build up a large number of Gateways and to use the large influx of units to crush the Terran player's expansion before he or she gets a high amount of units and tech. The number of Gateways built will depend on the timing you want to hit and how many Probes you plan to build. For example, ~30 Probes can effective support 6 Gateways worth of production, whereas more are required for larger numbers of Gateways. What you will essentially be doing is this:

  • Build your ideal number of Probes.
  • Add extra Gateways as desired.
  • Push out to build a proxy Pylon.
  • Warp-in your first set of units from your full complement of Gateways.

If you plan on going for this type of all-in then Zealot/Sentry production is ideal as Guardian Shield and Force Fields will allow Zealots to trade incredibly cost-effectively with Marines and Marauders: Stalkers are less desirable as they are not able to trade cost-effectively in these scenarios, although they may be useful if the Terran has a low Marauder count.

The reason why this kind of all-in works is because after an economic opening the Terran player will not expect a timing attack. In-case the Terran does expect it and build a decent amount of bunkers you can still continue with the push, as long as you don't lose hear and continue building units, you can overwhelm the defenses using a mix of Gateway units. Do note that you do not want to delay with the attack too much, since when the Terran players finishes his or hers Stimpack research your attack will lose a lot of strength.

While attacking, don't forget to Force-Field around the Bunkers so the workers can not repair. After the Bunkers are down, as long as you Macro did not fail, you will be able to at least force a lift off to the main, if not a surrender.


Pro features[edit]

Maps with a long rush-distance are great for this build, since it gives you more time to prepare versus the rush the opponent might preform. Another positive feature is if a map has more than one spawning location, that way a proxy will either be very far from your main, or it will be later because of having to scout you first. Having one of these two features is good, having both is great, but not having any will make it very hard for you to survive versus any kind of all in or pressure. Here are the maps that are good for this build on the Ladder:

Con features[edit]

Small maps make this build very risky as the Terran player can abuse the short rush-distance to put on heavy early-game pressure. Right now there are no maps from the Ladder with very short rush distance, therefore it is possible to preform this build on any map. As it is mentioned at the previous paragraph, some maps are better than others for this kind of opening.


South Korea  HerO HerO goes for a Nexus First opening and responds to the Terran player's double-expand with a fast third Nexus.
South Korea  Ryung
Date: 2012-06-26
Patch: 1.4.3 VOD
United States  Axslav Axslav playing this build against a gasless FE.
Serbia  Beastyqt
Date: 2011-11-10
Patch: 1.4.2 Replay
United States  Axslav Axslav responding to a Tech-lab opening.
Serbia  Beastyqt
Date: 2011-11-09
Patch: 1.4.2 Replay