Protoss Fast Expand Build

Starcraft 2 Strategy Guide --> SC2 Replays --> Protoss Fast Expand

When playing in a Protoss vs Zerg match-up, countering a Zerg fast expand build can be very tough. One of the best ways to keep up with Zerg macro is by opting for a Protoss fast expand build yourself!

The typical Protoss fast expand build order is 14 Forge and 15-16 Nexus. This way, you can get an early Photon Cannon or two in case the Zerg player sends in a few early Zerglings.

However, the major downside to the traditional Protoss fast expand approach is that it is downright slower than the Zerg fast expand build. As a result, the Protoss player is vulnerable in the period after the Zerg has saturated both expansions and the time the Protoss player is able to do this himself.

In other words, the Protoss player who opts for a Protoss fast expand ends up still in the "macroing up" stage (i.e. building Probes and structures), whereas the Zerg player finishes building Drones for his first two bases and has already started pumping units, taking a third base, or both.

In the replay below, the Protoss player comes up with a very unusual build that allows him to circumvent this Protoss weakness. Here is the video (see below for relevant strategy and comments):



In this replay, the Protoss player decides to "fight fire with fire" and goes for an unusual fast expansion build himself, grabbing the Nexus extremely early (even earlier than the Zerg player) and thus avoids the mid-game vulnerability period that typifies a normal Protoss fast expand build.

Protoss Fast Expand Build Order

 From the Replay

 Traditional Build Order 

 9/10: Pylon

 9/10: Pylon

 14/19: Nexus

 12/19: Forge

 15/19: Forge

 ~14/19: Gateway

 16/19: Gateway

 ~16/19: Nexus

17/19: Photon Cannon

17/19: Photon Cannon

Note: Some players prefer to get their Nexus prior to the first Gateway.

As you can see, the Protoss player opts for a Nexus as his second building, which is unheard of in high-level matches of Starcraft 2. The Protoss fast expand build on the right is more typical of typical Protoss vs Zerg play; with the player getting a Forge early in case he detects early Zerg pressure.

With the build on the right, if the player scouts and sees the Zerg is going to rush with Zerglings, he can easily build his earlier in the build order Photon Cannon at 14 supplies rather than waiting until after the Nexus goes down.

Dealing with Zerg Rushes

The ability to be reactive to the rush is lost with the risky build order shown in this video. However, if you scout early and detect that the Zerg player is indeed going for a fast expansion, you can opt for the build order on the left yourself.

The Zerg player in the video, IdrA, always goes for a fast expand build, and the Protoss player as well aware of it, allowing him to opt for the risky build order without worrying about an early reprisal. If you try this build on the live servers, you cannot bank on the Zerg player making a quick expansion, so be sure to scout accordingly.


The map in this video features a natural expansion that is very close to the main base. There are also no back-door entrances on this map. This is the only type of map you can use the Protoss fast expand build on. If the natural expansion is open and wide (Kulas Ravine), you can forget about picking up a fast expansion as it is too hard to defend.

On maps with back-doors, the Zerg player can easily pump out Roaches, break down the rocks, and march into your main for an easy win. Do not attempt this strategy on maps with wide chokes

Relevant Times in the Video:

Looking back on specific instances in replays is a good way to pick up different ways to deal with situations you will be faced with in-game. This is in no way a knock on the players, because games are often hectic and it is not always easy to think clearly.

With that said, here are some key points in the video that highlight the strengths and mistakes of the competitors:

@2:34 - Note the placement of the Photon Cannon. It is in the perfect position so that it can still defend its powering Pylon, expansion mineral line, and the main ramp to the base from Zerglings. The player will have to build a Photon Cannon closer to the Pylon though later in the game to prevent Roaches from sniping it.

@3:50 - The Protoss player finishes walls off the entire space between his Nexus and the ramp to his main base. This eliminates the Zerg players ability to rush Zerglings into the Protoss players main base. Walling off entrances is a key part of the Protoss fast expand build.

@5:00-5:23 - The Zerg player makes a major mistake in trying to kill the second Photon Cannon. It was completely pointless; the Zerg player could have done so much more damage by picking off the Assimilators and then parking his Roaches back in the mineral line.

Even if the Zerg player only killed a few Probes, the time spent interrupting the Protoss player's economy would put him way ahead.

@8:14 - Nice placement of a proxy Pylon, allowing the Protoss player to warp units in close to the Zerg player's base.

@9:12 - The force-fields demonstrate the weakness of mass Roaches versus Protoss in the late-game. While Roaches are great versus early Protoss, eventually when the Protoss player gets enough Sentries for Force Fields combined with mass Stalkers, Roaches become very weak.

I agree with the announcer that the Zerg player needed more Zerglings in that competition. Zerglings are great versus Stalkers and Immortals, especially with a few Infestors in the mix (now that Fungal Growth prevents Blink). The Zerg player had a lot of unspent gas at the end of the game, so there was certainly enough for a gas-dump such as the Infestor.


The Protoss fast expand build featured in this replay can be great when performed at a map with a close natural expansion against a Zerg player that is opting for a fast expansion himself. Be careful of rushing Zerglings and do not attempt this strategy on maps with multiple entrances!