Protoss vs. Protoss Guide
- 1 Branch I: 2 Gateways
- 1.1 Initial Build Order
- 1.2 Intermediate Goals
- 1.3 1 Gate Core
- 1.4 Transition I: Citadel first
- 1.5 Transition II: Robotics Facility first
- 1.6 Transition III: Nexus first
- 1.7 Notable Maps
- 2 Branch II: 1 Gateway into Cybernetics Core
- 2.1 Initial Build Order
- 2.2 Intermediate Goals
- 2.3 Transition 1: Gate First
- 2.4 Transition 2: Nexus First
- 2.5 Transition 3: Citadel First
- 2.6 Transition 4: Robotics Facility First
- 3 Branch III: Cheeses
Branch I: 2 Gateways
This build allows for early game aggression, and has been a staple build in this match-up for years. While a relatively safe strategy it is important to note that not dealing damage against a 1 Gateway tech build will cause you to fall behind.
- Short paths between the bases, so that the zealots can punish a 1 gate cyber build.
- Different distances for different size units. For example, this build is very powerful on Shin Peaks of Baekdu as well as Blue Storm, as small units can take the shorter path, whereas dragoons and other larger units are required to take the longer path.
Initial Build Order
The initial build order listed here is the most common 2 gate build order (10/12 gate). For others, see 2 Gate Openings also listed in this section.
- 8 - Pylon near the entrance to your main, or wherever you would like to place both of your gates
- 10 – Gateway next to pylon
- 12 – Gateway next to pylon
- 16 – Pylon
From here on, continually build Zealots, probes, and add pylons as needed (remember, 2 zeals is 4 supply, and a pylon only gives you another 8. If you don’t lose any zeals, then you will approximately need a pylon for every round of zeals).
- In this order and as soon as possible:
- Cybernetics Core
The whole point of the two gate is it allows you to be aggressive in the early game, and try to punish any tech heavy build. It allows you to take initiative, and at the very least be in a strong position if your opponent went 1 gate tech. If your opponent also went 2 gate, you can take the lead with better micro, or you can back off and try to tech faster.
The next steps in the game are:
- Punish your opponent if he did a tech build
- Use high zeal numbers to play aggressively and gain map control
- Choose the next transition
- Scout your opponent
After this point in the game, there are an almost infinite number of variations that can occur. Picking your tech and transitioning correctly into it, choosing when to expand, and scouting your opponent correctly is what separates players who are D level, and those who are B+. All of the builds below assume that you are collecting gas, and that you have your cybernetics core up and you’re building goons out of both of your gates to deflect any sort of early game attack from your opponent (such as Four gate Dragoon and One Gateway Reaver. Deciding if you get range or not out of your cybernetics core depends on what tech path you’re choosing, and how fast you would like to tech.
1 Gate Core
Opening 1 gate core is the most common opening for PvP. It is the most stable form of teching right to mid-game and to late game. If you choose not to go for a citadel first, then there will exist subtle timing difference on when you plant down your robotics and second gateway.
The primary importance of PvP that goes for 1 gate core is the dragoon count. Since your scouting probe is likely to be taken out when his first goon is out and before you can scout for a tier 2 building(robo first or citadel), the most important tell-tale sign of his tech path is the goon count. In addition, zealot-core-zealot is also the safest form of a 1 gate core because assuming if you scouted him last try on a 4 player map, then you can easily match a 3 to 3 zealot count just enough to delay him for your second gateway to be up. So unless you are absolutely sure that there is no 2 gate opening, then you can afford to go for a core-zealot-goon.
Coming back to second gateway and robotics timing, altering either can give you a slightly higher or lower goon count that will have respective consequences. The most standard is usually getting your robo after goon range and when second goon is building. This will give you the safest possible opening into reavers with observers to spot DTs.
If you manage to scout his initial zeal goon force with yours and it matches(2 zealots and 3 goons to the same number), then you can skip observers and go for reaver then observer. This will give you a nice timing of one shuttle, one reaver along with 10 goons and 2 zealots. Using this force, you can kill off a guy who had gone for a fast double gate into nexus or a standard gate robo gate nexus guy. However, either cases require good reaver micro.
Transition I: Citadel first
Going citadel first allows you to build Dark Templar and High Templar faster than your opponent, and can punish your opponent if they do not scout and/or tech correctly. It also allows you to transition straight into 3 Gate Speedzeal, though it is usually considered cheese, as any good player should be able to deflect it fairly easily. The builds listed below are much more common than 3 gate speedzeal, and tend to be more effective as well.
Transitioning into dt from 2 gate zeal is fairly easy, and could allow you to get an easy early advantage. 2 gate zeal into DT is a risky build however, because if your opponent is good he will pressure you and be able to deal damage to you before your dt manage to get out.
Assuming that you get dark templar inside their base, start scouting their tech, and killing probes. Probes die in one hit, and if your dark templar gets 3 probes they’ve basically paid for themselves. If your dark templar cannot get inside their base (probably because of cannons), then scout for extra expansions (a possible third) and keep them contained inside of their base. However, if you cannot do damage, then it will be very difficult to get yourself back into the game.
Since you already have Templar tech after you try to dt harass, you can then transition into high templar with psistorm and expand so that you can defend against any attack from the other player.
The DT harass after the two gate is very susceptible to being countered by either cannons or observers. In general, safer play deflects dt rush, such as 2 gate goon into obs, or 1 gate cyber into obs. More weaknesses of DT (and of this build in general) are listed in 2 Gate DT rush
Transition II: Robotics Facility first
Usually, teching to the Robotics Facility first is considered the safer tech route, because of the ability to get observers much sooner when the Robotics Facility is up. Moreover, reaver harass in combination with goons can be very powerful, and reavers can easily change the tide of a goon battle. There are three units that can come out of a Robotics Facility: The observer, the reaver, and the shuttle. The units and which combination of units come out depends on how aggressive or defensive that you want to play, and what sort of information you have on your opponent.
Having the observer come out first is easily the safest play. Not only will it shut down a Dark Templar rush (as observers are the only mobile unit for Protoss that can see other cloaked units), but it will also provide scouting information, and allow you to choose your next step with much more information than you previously had. This is uncommon as a followup after 2 gate however, because it’s not very aggressive. The two gate build order is meant to keep up the aggression throughout the game, and is not usually used to defend. However, if you know that your opponent is going a tech heavy build with a low unit count, this could be the way to go.
This is seen more commonly, as it allows a protoss who two gated into reaver to defend against a ramp break, as well as allow for later aggression once the shuttle pops after the reaver. However, the time it takes for the robotics facility to build is not small, so for timing purposes, you usually see the shuttle come out of the robo before the reaver.
This is also seen fairly commonly, as it allows for a fast expansion to an island. After an aggressive opener like a two gate, your opponent can take advantage of his possible early higher goon count to expand, or to extend his tech lead. If you are behind, expanding to an island early can make sense, as it may allow you to get back into the game without being too far behind. However, island expansions are a double edged sword, and not being able to get there easily works both ways.
Knowing When To Go What First
Now that you've read the advantages and disadvantages of going either reavers or observers, you also need to know when you can afford to skip observers for reavers first or the other way. As mentioned, going observers gives you the safest route because you can shut down DTs if they are in play. However, if you can scout and interpret earlier on that they are not coming into play, then you can afford to skip observers and go reavers first.
The advantage of going reavers first is primarily for an aggressive style of play where you either move in to destroy his natural or to contain him. If you can contain him up at his ramp or behind the safety of his main, then forming a superior concave from the outside can cause him many problems. This is even against a higher unit count.
A common misconception is that if you can stop his natural expansion(he cancels the nexus), then you will be ahead if you can expand earlier. While this is true in the long run, he can over-run you easily by adding 1-2 extra gateways and attack you before you can match his gateway count. Therefore, it is always wise to move in for contain so that he cannot have a good setup.
If he goes for fast DTs then you will note an anomaly in his aggressiveness and goon count. Usually, he will stay on 2 goons for quite a long time even though he may have gotten a second gateway. In any case, it is always wise to get 2 observers before getting your reaver so that you can apply pressure on his nat and to defend your choke against any DT backstab.
A 3 Gate Goon or a Four gate Dragoon
Anyone got any examples of 2 gate zeal into robo? (I’m guessing on neo req, but I’m too lazy to look right now).
Transition III: Nexus first
Placing a nexus after a two gate rush is usually very risky, except when playing on certain maps. All of the things that work for a two gate rush on certain maps (short pathing distances, 2 player maps) tend to work against a nexus after 2 gate.
However, depending on the map, you can expand after building one or 2 goons. The best examples of these maps are ones that have differential pathing for large units vs small units. Another reason to expand is if you see your opponent expanding, and you have no inclination to try to use a tech advantage to win the game.
There should be examples of this happening cleanly, but I can’t think of any occurring after a 2 gate. Possibly Blue storm, sin peaks, or loki, but I have no idea.
This build tends to be very strong on maps with short pathing distances, as well as being popular on maps that have different pathing distances for large and small units.
Branch II: 1 Gateway into Cybernetics Core
The one gateway into Cybernetics core build is standard for high-level PvP, and has three distinct variations. Below is the build that is the most common (1 zeal before core); the other variations are listed under 1 gate cyber Opening.
Initial Build Order
- 8 Pylon
- 10 Gateway
- 12 Assimilator (possibly Pylon)
- 13 Zealot
- 16 Pylon (possibly Assimilator)
- 18 Cybernetics Core
As soon as possible, transition into one of the tech trees available in the "transition" section off of this branch.
The Intermediate goals of this build are to make sure that you can scout the opponent, and to choose what you want to transition into. The reason why most people choose to go zeal first after core is to be safe and get scouting information, to be able to easily defend the two gate build orders, and then have many many different options depending on what your opponent does. It also allows you to tech quickly, and defend against any sort of tech rushes that the other protoss might try. The most standard game flow of PvP, assuming both players do identical builds is: 1 gate cyber into robo into obs, then Shuttle+Reaver, and expand after Reaver. This build would be used on a map such as python, and there are several different variations on this build as described below.
Transition 1: Gate First
The nice thing about adding a gate (usually right after core finishes) is it allows you to keep your unit count up, and follows naturally after your core. It also deflects a Four gate Dragoon rush, and allows you to tech and defend fairly quickly. This branch is one of the builds that can be considered standard in this match-up. However, since this build isn't very aggressive or defensive, you need to move on to transition build 2, 3, or 4 as soon as possible.
This build is fairly safe, but can be countered by a tech rush, such as a dt rush, or it can be countered by a large mass of units, such as 4 gate dragoon rush.
Transition 2: Nexus First
After 1 gate dragoon with range, it's possible that you might want to expand. This build is very risky,and it is also map dependent. To be able to pull off this build safely, you need a map with a very narrow choke into the natural, so that you can't get pushed over easily with 2 gate dragoon range, and you need to be able to have a high enough Dragoon count after to defend against any harassment attempts. Ideally this build works best if you scout your opponent doing the same thing, or otherwise going 2 gate goon range.
After your opponent scouts you going 1 gate goon into expo, he will probably continue to go along whichever tech path he chose; either Templar tech or Robotics tech. In either case, you need to make sure that you defend successfully against the attack. If you fail to defend the attack, you will lose the game.
Being able to defend this build is more of a matter of how the map is laid out than it is of a function of what build the other person goes.
Transition 3: Citadel First
By putting a Citadel with only one gate, the build is basically identical to the PvP Dt rush. See the article 2 Gate DT Rush for more on this build.
See Article DT rush
See article DT rush
See what happens if two DT rushers face off, in BackHo vs. Much. 
Transition 4: Robotics Facility First
One gate cyber into robotics facility is considered the safest build, especially if you choose to go straight into observers. This will allow you to defend the DT rush easily, and see what your opponent is choosing to go, and react. This also allows you to transition into shuttle+reaver to harass, and attack with reaver+shuttle and dragoons.
Since this is the safest build, it is unlikely that you will be able to gain an advantage by going this route. An expected variation on this build is to go nexus before robotics facility, which would put your opponent ahead. 3 gateway dragoon can also be timed specifically against this build. See Protoss vs. Protoss Timings
Branch III: Cheeses
In this match-up, it is very difficult to cheese, have the cheese fail, and then come back to win the game. On the other hand, Cheeses can be very powerful, and can lead to victory easily if your opponent does not scout correctly. Cheeses are defined as builds that are preplanned, and that have a high probability of winning if not scouted, but are easily defended if they are. There are also a huge number of cheeses that your opponent can try in a pvp match-up. See each article listed below for more articles about some of the more common cheeses.