General PvZ Strategy
It is common to wall off at the natural expansion to deter early Zerglings and other aggression, setting yourself up for a Forge Fast Expansion or a Gateway Fast Expansion, and defending any attacks with Cannons and the Mothership Core, respectively. Walls completed with Zealots are generally preferred to complete building wall-ins as you do not have to destroy your own building to exit your base.[note 1]
The Zerg player has several types of openings available, from an Aggressive Pool First, to an Economic Pool First, to the borderline-greedy Hatchery First. Against an economic pool, continue to macro unless the Zerg has placed down a Roach Warren or Baneling Nest, or is continuing to mine gas after researching Metabolic Boost. These signal the Zerg wants to be aggressive, thus you must respond properly to defend yourself (Sentries, Cannons, Gateway units, etc. can all be used in combination as defenses). If the Zerg goes for an aggressive pool, defend yourself with your staple Protoss defenses (again... Sentries, Cannons, Gateway units, and even Probes) and you will be ahead economically. An aggressive pool always sacrifices economy, so as long as you defend yourself properly, without over making defenses, you will be ahead in macro. If the Zerg goes Hatchery first, you must either stay with him economically (Forge Fast Expand), or pressure your opponent. Going Nexus First is also an option, since you can have your choice of wall done in the time it takes for the Zerg to build a Spawning Pool and Zerglings; a 15 or 17 Nexus will always allow you to finish your wall (without cutting probes after the Nexus is built) before Zerglings arrive if the Zerg builds his Pool at 14 supply or later.
- Forge Fast Expansion (more commonly known as FFE)
- Gateway Nexus Fast Expand (more commonly known as YufFE)
- Nexus First
- Robotics Facility units are a safe bet and allow for a variety of transitions, including Immortal/Sentry pushes, Warp Prism drops, and teching to Colossus in order to deal with Roach/Hydralisk attacks off of three bases, or a Zerg transition to Swarm Hosts.
- Warp Prism pressure (especially with Sentries to forcefield the ramp after being dropped in the Zerg's main base) can often prove effective.
- Various Stargate strategies have become more popular with the release of the expansion. Notable is the set of Void Ray/Chargelot/Templar openings where a Phoenix is made for scouting and harassing overlords (or sometimes more, in order to pick up Queenss and unprotected Drones), and then a transition into Void Rays is made to both defend and harass the enemy.
- Blink Stalker attacks can be used to pressure the Zerg player, and work well if used in multiple areas at once to force the Zerg to multitask. This is also a way to punish the immobility of the Swarm Host, as the Zerg will be unable to quickly respond to harassment across his or her expansions.
- The most important defensive tool is the Sentry. Force Field allows you to defend early ling/Roach attacks or all-ins.
- Cannons are vital for early game defence if the Protoss player opened with an FFE. Positioned well, they prevent many types of Zerg pressure.
- Defense of the third base can be accomplished with a simcity (that is, a combination of Pylons, Cannons, and other buildings such as Gateways that prevent or interfere with attacks on the Nexus or mineral line).
- Lategame, you want to have answers to the Zerg player's choice of Hive tech. Crucial in any lategame composition are the High Templar for Psionic Storm as well as Feedback against Vipers or Infestors, and the Void Ray which deals very high DPS to armored units like the Ultralisk, and protects the Colossi and Tempests in your army from being quickly dispatched by enemy Corruptors. Having a few Tempests is also important to quickly pick off Brood Lords one by one.
- Do not let the Zerg drone too much. You can be passive if you want, but the constant threat of aggression from a Protoss induces the Zerg to stop droning. This does not mean you have to attack - moving out with your forces and killing a Zergling guarding a Xel'Naga Watchtower can be enough to trigger the Zerg to build fighting units rather than drones.
- The ground weapon upgrade is important for Zealots as it allows them to kill a Zergling in two attacks rather than three. You must stay 1 weapon upgrade ahead of Zerg's armor upgrade to maintain this advantage.
- Stalker blink can be important as it allows your Stalkers to escape if they get surrounded by Speedlings to a position better protected by Zealots or force fields. Stalkers are very strong versus Roaches off of creep and if you have blink you can rotate Stalkers to the back of the line while keeping them in range of Roaches. Numbers will have to be less than a dozen normally to manage the blink micro. You should aim to blink a Stalker to the back of the group when its shields have been depleted, to prevent it taking permanent hull damage.
- If there is a lot of pressure from an early Zergling rush or all-in, you can build a structure like a Forge or additional Gateway simply to wall yourself completely in to buy time.
- Dark Templar can often be very strong against a Zerg player who has invested heavily into Mutalisks or has 3 or more expansions. Producing several Dark Templars and sending a single Templar to each location will reduce exposure of your Templars to detection. It is a good idea to hold back Dark Templar to replace ones lost while the detector moves to other locations. Beware that in addition to being detected from Spore Crawlers and Overseers, Banelings can be manually detonated to kill Dark Templars and Infestors can fungal growth to reveal them.
- When your opponent is getting mass Mutalisks, getting defensive upgrades(primarily Ground Armor, secondarily Shields) is vital for the survival of your Stalkers. Mutalisk Glaive Wurms bounce twice after hitting the primary target, and each hit is fully affected by defensive upgrades.
- When making an expansion, it is often a good idea to surround your Nexus with buildings, delaying possible Zergling trying to snipe your Nexus. Cannons are also extremely effective at defending expansions against all possible harassment units: Zerglings, Mutalisks, burrowed Infestors, and Roaches. They can also be used to spot possible Nydus Worms.
- Proper force field control is essential to this match up. Small gaps in a force field at your ramp will allow Zergling run-bys, and in large engagements, force fields must be used to effective split and isolate the Zerg army.
- If your opponent goes Hatchery before pool with delayed gas, Stalkers can be effective harassment units even without blink. Stalkers are the same speed as Zerglings without speed off creep. Kiting the Zerglings off creep will whittle away their army. The pressure from early Stalkers will also force the Zerg to stop droning.
- In the late game, Zerg players tend to plant down whole fields of Spine Crawlers, both for defensive purposes, as well as to dump excess minerals and free up supply. If you cannot harass his expansions directly, circumvent his defenses using blink Stalkers and Warp Prisms.
- Destroy Creep Tumors as often as you can - in practical terms, this often means having an Observer with your army at all times when you move out. This has the additional advantage of providing high ground vision for ranged units, and preventing the Zerg from using Burrow to its fullest potential.
Unit Roles and Counters
- Zealot : Zealots act as a wall to keep Zerglings away from Stalkers. They are all around very good against Zerglings. With a +1 attack upgrade lead over Zergling armor upgrades, Zealots can kill Zerglings in 2 shots.
- Stalker : Blink Stalkers are useful against Mutalisks and Roaches.
- Sentry : Force Field is very good against Zerg, since Zerglings and Banelings are melee units and Roaches have less range than either Sentries or Stalkers. Later in the game they can be used to separate Roaches from the Hydralisk complement that deals the heavy damage, and then later clearing the Hydralisks once they are no longer protected. Hallucinated Phoenixes make excellent scouts and have become a mainstay with Hallucination now given to Sentries by default rather than having to be researched in a Cybernetics Core.
- Dark Templar : Dark Templar can harass mineral lines extremely effectively and are a great way to pressure a Zerg lategame.
- High Templar : Psionic Storm is great AOE damage against Roach / Hydralisk armies, and Feedback is great against Infestor heavy armies so they cannot cast Fungal Growth on the Stalkers, which prevents Blink, as well as Vipers which can otherwise quickly Abduct high-value Protoss targets like Colossi or Tempests.
- Archon : The Archon's bonus damage to biological applies to every unit and building in the Zerg arsenal, making them very potent. Also useful against defending against Mutalisks and Zerglings.
- Mothership Core: Useful earlygame to defend against Zerglings and Roaches, which cannot attack. Also an aid to Void Ray harassment, since they can do damage and quickly Mass Recall before trapped by Mutalisks (which are much faster) or Infestors (which can ensnare them before they escape).
- Warp Prism : In lategame compositions which tend to be gas-heavy, a Warp Prism allows you to make use of your excess minerals by warping rounds of Zealots for harassment, either to pick off a Hatchery and the Drones mining there, or to snipe key tech structures such as the Hive or Spire to reduce the threat of the opposing army.
- Immortal : Immortals do high damage against Roaches, but need to be protected by Zealots or Force Fields against Zerglings.
- Colossus : Colossus are very good at dealing with Zerglings and Hydralisks, and in large numbers can handle Roaches extremely well. They are almost necessary for dealing with Swarm Hosts head on, usually with some Force Fields to keep Locusts from dealing too much damage to your other units.
- Phoenix : Phoenixes, with perfect micro, can infinitely kite Mutalisks, making them a great counter. Now with the +2 range weapon in patch 1.4.3 it's easier to kite the Mutalisks. They can also harass Overlords, or lift Drones/Queens to disrupt mining and injects, respectively.
- Oracle : Although not seen as much as the Phoenix due to its susceptibility to Queens and Spore Crawlers, an Oracle can still inflict damage to mineral lines while also functioning as a scout, and can use Revelation to track the rapidly-moving Zerg armies or to mark targets for Tempests.
- Void Ray : Void Rays deal high damage against Roaches and can be used effectively in the early game, while the Zerg anti-air is limited to Queens and static Spore Crawlers. They also make great defensive units against Zerg attacks and deal lots of damage against otherwise powerful Ultralisks.
- Tempest : A necessity lategame against Brood Lord play. Also very useful against Swarm Hosts. Usually they must be protected by other anti-air since they are very vulnerable to Mutalisks and Corruptors.
- Mothership : The cloaking field helps mitigate damage against Protoss air armies to what a Zerg player can spot with Overseers. This is particularly useful at protecting Tempests, as the other air units will stop Overseers from spotting the Tempests in order for Corruptors to pick them off.