General PvZ Strategy
|This article is outdated. On November 23rd, 2012, Team Liquid released a complete guide to the matchup. The guide offers a much more complete and in depth look at strategy than the information contained here.|
It is important to keep Zergling rushes out of the main base by starting with a wall-in against Zerg. On most maps, this can be completed at the top of the ramp using a Gateway, Cybernetics Core, and Zealot. An important thing to note is that with proper probe micro, a 6 pool is easier to hold off without a wall. However, the wall eventually needs to be completed.
It is more common to wall off at the natural expansion, setting yourself up for a Forge Fast Expansion. 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. Keep in mind if you Forge Fast Expanded against a Hatchery First, Cannon Rushing his natural expansion is actually a viable strategy. On the other hand, if you didn't Forge Fast Expand and if you're not pressuring him, then your opponent will skyrocket ahead economically. Ways to pressure the Zerg include going Stargate After Cybernetics Core, or you can try a 4/5 gate cheese (which can be quite difficult to hold on maps with wide expansions such as Xel'Naga Caverns and Metalopolis).
- 3 Gate Expand
- Forge Fast Expansion (more commonly known as FFE)
- Gateway Nexus Fast Expand (more commonly known as YufFE)
- Stargate units can be great offensive tools. In the early game, 1 Void Ray and 2-5 Phoenix can be used to force Spore Crawlers and pick off any straggling drones or Queens. This transitions well to either more air units and an all-in, or robo play.
- Warp Prism pressure (especially with Sentries to forcefield the ramp after being dropped in the Zerg's main base) can often prove effective.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 forcefields. 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 forcefield control is essential to this match up. Small gaps in a forcefield at your ramp will allow Zergling run-bys, and in large engagements, forcefields 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. Hallucinated Phoenixes make excellent scouts, but have fallen out of favor with pros.
- 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.
- Immortal : Immortals do high damage against Roaches, but need to be protected by Zealots or Force Fields against Zerglings.
- 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.
- Colossus : Colossus are very good at dealing with Zerglings and Hydralisks, and in large numbers can handle Roaches extremely well.
- 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.
- 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 early game Zerg rushes.
Plexa authored an guide on PvZ on November 2010, but the information is somewhat dated, especially with the introduction of the official PvZ guide.