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Pool First, Double Expand (vs. Protoss)

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[e][h]3 Hatch Speedling Before Lair
Strategy Information
Popularized by:


The standard response to the Protoss Forge Fast Expand (FFE) is the Pool First, Double Expand (also known as 3 Hatch Lair). This build, popularized by Incredible Miracles Zerg Nestea, revolves around "countering" the Protoss Fast Expand --> Gateway pressure with an unusually fast Metabolic Boost, coinciding with the standard double expand after Spawning Pool. This build is an excellent way to catch opponents that rely on Gateway pressure out of a FFE with their pants down, because you are able to get surrounds on Zealot/Stalker pressures, deny fast third bases, and if you're lucky, can even force extra cannons from the Protoss player, who might think you are doing an all-in build, since your speed is so much earlier than usual.


Currently, the standard response against Protoss fast expand builds is to take a faster than usual third base (for mining purposes). Your goal is to have 3 Hatcheries, 3-4 gases, a Roach Warren, 1-2 Evolution Chambers, 3-4 Queens, and anywhere from 58-70 Drones at the 8 minute mark, while maintaining proper ling scouting for hidden Pylons, and Overlord scouting the Protoss main and natural.

Basic Build Order[edit]

3 Hatch Before Gas vs. FFE
  • 9 - Overlord
  • 15 - Spawning Pool
  • 14 - Drone
  • 15 - Overlord
  • 16 - Queen (1) + Zerglings (to 4)
  • 19 - Hatchery (2)[1]
  • 20 - Drone to 22
  • 22 - Hatchery (3)
    • Take gas at main immediately upon start of third Hatchery
    • First 100 gas is Metabolic Boost, 2nd 100 gas goes to Lair or +1 range upgrade depending on scouting.
  1. This is assuming the Protoss delays/Pylon blocks your natural Hatchery with his Probe. If he does not, feel free to take your Hatchery at any time after your 15 Overlord.


  • Any initial scouting Zerglings must be replaced immediately if killed. If you feel that your defence is inadequate against an incoming push, make a Baneling Nest and as many Zergling/Baneling units as needed to attempt to fend off the opposing army.


  • Upon scouting an early expansion, you can choose to take a third base or build a macro-Hatchery to create a ton of Drones for economy and then attack with 3 bases worth of Larvae.
  • Before Hatchery (3) has started, you should attempt to scout for a Stargate, Dark Shrine, 6 gate, or any other timing attack as these are extremely common responses to this build.


  • Assuming you do not choose to go for a fast Roach/Zergling attack and that your opponent has expanded, you should start building your 3rd Hatchery around 5:30 in-game time. In the Moon vs HuK game referenced below, Moon opens with Speedling Expand starts his 3rd Hatchery at 5:23, right before his second Larvae Injection pops.
  • This build requires the most attention and scouting after your 3rd Hatchery has completed, and while you are trying to make enough Drones to saturate it.
  • It is important to see what Tech route the Protoss is going for after expanding, because this will decide how you will spend your gas (see the footnotes in the build above). The Adaptation section explains this in more detail.

You do not always have to make a large number of Drones early in the game. Many players like to do a Roach/Zergling pressure attack on their opponent in order to kill their Sentries (or at least deplete their energy by forcing some Force Fields) when they do a 3-Gate Sentry Expand or a similar Sentry focused build. In those cases, the Zerg will often start making the 3rd Hatchery as they begin their attack, and will resume making Drones once the attack has finished.


Staying on Hatchery Tech for a long period of time requires you to spot what Tech Protoss is getting and be able to immediately respond. Protoss has a few different builds and attacks that they can prepare, so being able to scout and respond to all possibilities is key in letting you defend with the minimum number of units required to and to keep up an economic advantage.


Pro features[edit]

The most important map feature for this build to work is a nearby 3rd base that does not have Destructible Rocks blocking it. This includes maps such as:

This allows the Zerg to take a 3rd base as fast as possible, without requiring the use of attacking units to break any rocks.

Con features[edit]

Xel'Naga Caverns does not fit easily into either category. The Destructible Rocks near the 3rd base does not need to be broken in order to place your Hatchery, but it does need to be broken in order to defend it.


Replays & VODs[edit]

South Korea Zerg Moon HuK tries to take a fast 3rd base himself, but Moon makes a large Roach/Zergling army once he has 3 saturated bases and simply overpowers HuK with a large Roach/Zergling army using a superior economy
Canada Protoss HuK
Patch: 1.4.3 Replay
Ukraine Zerg DIMAGA DIMAGA uses this build all throughout the Assembly Summer '11 Finals. Excellent showcase of how this build responds to various forms of pressure and what you can transition into using this build.
Poland Protoss MaNa
Patch: 1.4.3 Replay