Protoss vs. Zerg: The Guide
We, members of the TL and the Starcraft community, present to you the following guide that is yet unmatched in quality and depth. Although the strategy section of Teamliquid contains many great guides, there has never been an attempt to completely cover a single match-up as in-depth as what we have done here. The following is a culmination of nine months of work, nine months of writing, formatting, referencing, editing, and reviewing. The resulting product follows, a reference guide of the PvZ match-up that spans approximately 100 pages. We’ve written this guide with the entire community in mind, as all Starcraft enthusiasts will benefit from either a thorough reading, a cursory glance, or an occasional reference.
With this guide, low-level Protoss players can learn basic builds and concepts of the match-up, including how to open, how to transition, scouting, and unit counters. Each of the main builds will have detailed benchmarks so you may compare your results to optimal ones by professional players. Mid-level Protoss players in the diamond to high masters range will benefit the most as they will be able to fill in certain strategical holes in their play. Professional-level players can use this guide as a reference as it contains a small library of vods and replays with regards to every aspect of PvZ. Zerg players will see a Protoss perspective on the match-up as well as have a clean layout of all the options Protoss have against them. Casters will learn what to expect in this match-up and be able to make better calls and predictions while casting. I know many casters legitimately want to learn more about the game but don’t have the time necessary to grind out games to learn. Casual observers of the game will receive insight into players’ actions. After all, it’s always more interesting to watch something when you know what is going on in the players’ minds. In addition to the content of the guide, we have taken extreme care in its organization. Even from a cursory read, a casual observer will be able to get a much better understanding of the structure of PvZ.
For those with more general interests, other notable features of this guide include map analyses and a history of the match-up.
In addition, all topics and assertions will be backed up with in-depth analysis and also evidence in the form of by recent top level replays, vods, or both if available. All vods will be linked while all replays will be provided in a replay pack at the end of the guide (vod links that are accompanied by (PW) in parentheses indicate that the vod is behind a paywall, and subscription access (or equivalent) is needed to view them). The replay pack also contains replays from the vast majority of builds listed in this guide, which are not listed in the description of the build. There are over 350 vods and 150 replays included in this guide. Finally, we have additionally included a PDF version of this guide for your convenience and ease of reference, which can be found via the link above. So what are you waiting for? Have fun reading!
Introduction to PvZ
Protoss versus Zerg is a very dynamic and asymmetrical match-up in which both sides have a myriad of strategies to pick from and their own unique racial advantages. At different points of the game, one race will be driving the direction of the game while the other has to react. A typical modern PvZ has the following major stages:
- Protoss opens with an expansion build, usually a FFE while the Zerg opens with a three Hatchery build.
- Protoss can either two base all-in or take a third base.
- In reaction to a Protoss third, Zerg will either pressure the third, harass, or stay passive, teching to Brood Lords. If the Zerg pressures or harasses, Protoss will respond defensively. If the Zerg techs to Brood Lords, Protoss can either choose to hit a pre-Hive timing or play passively with a Mothership.
- Both players will build up their ideal armies, usually involving Infestor/Brood Lord/Corruptor versus Mothership/Carrier/Templar/Archon or Mothership/Colossi/Stalker/Archon/Templar and the game will culminate in one big fight.
Because of the structure of this match-up, we have decided to organize our guide into these main sections:
- This section will address the standard openings for Protoss, either Forge fast expand (FFE), Gateway Nexus expands, Gateway Core expands, or other one base builds. It will touch upon the advantages and disadvantages of each opening and how to survive various all-ins against any opening. The opening portion early game PvZ usually lasts from the beginning of the game to around 6 minutes.
- Early Game: Transitions
- This section will address the various transitions Protoss has after a FFE, the most common Protoss opening. Both macro and all-in builds will be covered here. The transition portion of early game PvZ usually lasts from around 6 minutes to 10 minutes. It is divided into three major sub-sections
- This section will address how to play once you’ve chosen a macro route. It will identify the most common Zerg mid-game strategies and discuss how to appropriately respond to each of them. The mid game of PvZ usually starts at 10 minutes, and can end as early as 15 minutes. It is divided into two major sub-sections
- Finally, this section will address the PvZ endgame, once Zerg has reached Hive tech and chosen either Brood Lords or Ultralisks. Both pre-Hive pushes and macro based play will be considered. Late game begins when Hive tech is reached, at the very earliest, 15 minutes.