Starcraft 2 Protoss Build Orders - HotS Updated

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One of the most effective ways to improve your rank and win rate in Starcraft 2 is by mastering effective build orders. This refers to the order in which you train new units and build your structures.

Rather than try to reinvent the wheel and create your own build orders, it is much easier to watch pro replays and "borrow" the pro-level build orders. If a build is great even against pro level competition, you can be sure it will work wonders against the average opponent!

Many of the best Starcraft 2 Protoss build orders are specific to the given race match up. As a result, the specific build orders below are separated into Protoss vs Protoss, Protoss vs Terran, and Protoss vs Zerg categories. Below the section on specific build orders, you will find information on general openers and builds that work great versus all races or serve as templates for creating your own build order.

Match Specific Protoss Build Orders

All the Protoss build orders below have been vetted and updated for Heart of the Swarm, so you do not have to worry about them being out of date. Some builds work for multiple race match-ups.

Protoss vs Protoss Build Orders

  • Dark Templar Rush: Details the build and tactics for the popular Dark Templar rush. Includes additional strategies for using Dark Templar against Terran and Zerg players.
  • Zealot Rush: The Zealot Rush is one of the classic Protoss vs Protoss builds. While the 8/8/8 rush is looked down upon for the high chance of failure (and subsequent loss), there is one scenario where rushing with Zealots is a wise move. Discover what that scenario in this article.
  • 3-Gate Blink Stalker: Getting out Stalkers with early Blink off of three Warpgates makes for a great opener in PvP. Does not have to be used to attack the enemy directly.
  • 4-Gate, HotS Edition: The classic 4-Gate with a Heart of the Swarm Twist. A little extra gas intake slows down the build by a few seconds, but it lets us get out a Mothership Core to use with the 4-Gate forces. A bit weak versus Dark Templar rushes, but a very fun build to play.
  • Nexus First: Coming Soon

Protoss vs Terran Build Orders

  • 1-Gate Robo Safe Expand: Getting out a single Gateway with Warp Gate Research and starting a Robotics Bay before grabbing the natural expansion is a very safe yet economical in PvT. Learn about the build here.
  • 1-Gate Fast Expand: This build is a bit more economical but a bit more risky than the 1-Gate Robo Safe Expand. This build involves delaying a second Assimilator in order to get out Nexus before the Robotics Bay. Also, Gateway unit production is cut to allow for a faster Nexus.
  • Proxy Oracle Rush: The proxy Oracle rush is one of the most popular HotS Protoss builds in Starcraft 2. This involves rushing and hiding a Pylon and Stargate near the Terran base, and using the Oracle's strength versus low HP light units to pick off Marines and SCVs in the early game.
  • Proxy 2 Gate Rush: Proxying Gateways and pumping Zealots and Stalkers is surprisingly effective against Terran players in the current state of the game. The reason is many Terran players now go Command Center first or Marine heavy builds.
  • Nexus First: Coming Soon

Protoss vs Zerg Build Orders

  • Forge Fast Expand: Probably the most popular opener in all of Starcraft 2. Getting up a quick Forge and Photon Cannon allows the Protoss player to safely grab their natural expansion early in PvZ. Includes builds for the Nexus-first variant and Zergling Rush Defense variant.
  • Immortal / Sentry All-In: Going for a 2-base timing attack that involves a handful of Immortals and as many Sentries and Zealots you can afford is a great way to crush the Zerg opponent.
  • 1-Gate 2-Gas Expand vs Zerg: Going up to Cybernetics Core with 2 quick Assimilators before expanding is a good alternative to the Forge Fast Expand build. The Mothership Core is used to protect the natural expansion from Zerglings, while the early gas and tech allows the Protoss to pursue an early tech-oriented attack like Stargate play.
  • 1-Gate No Gas Expand vs Zerg: Similar to the 1-Gate 2-Gas Expand, some players like to go with adding on a Nexus right after their Gateway. Getting the Nexus earlier is more economical, but your ability to transition into air units is diminished due to the delayed vespene intake and Cybernetics Core.

Protoss Build Order Nomenclature

Starcraft 2 Protoss build orders are commonly given a number followed by the word "Gate", such as "2 Gate", "4 Gate", or "9 Gate". This refers to the number of Warp Gates or Gateways constructed as part of the build order. Rushes off of one base will typically max out at 4 Warp Gates where as many as 9 Warp Gates can be used off of two fully saturated bases.

General Protoss Openers and Strategies

The links provided in the previous section will take you to the specific full Protoss build order that suits your needs. Below, you will find the basic build Protoss openers you can use if you want to make your own build order, but it is generally best to stick to the builds already worked out for you in the previous section.

Standard 1 Base Opener

The standard way to open up for the Protoss player on 1 base is as follows:

9/10: Pylon
13/18: Gateway
15/18: Assimilator x2
17/18: Pylon
18/18: Cybernetics Core

From here, there are three popular routes: Gateway aggression, tech, or expanding. Gateway aggression is as simple as adding on 2-3 more Gateways and pumping out units. Teching involves adding on a Twilight Council, a Robotics Facility, or a Stargate. On one early base, you really cannot afford more than 1 tech tree. For example, when a player opens with a quick Twilight Council or Stargate, they are by default saying that their Robotics Facility (and hence detection) will be delayed.

Sometimes, the Gateway will come down at 12/18 instead of 13/18. This depends on whether or not Chrono Boost was used. Sometimes Protoss players will save Chrono Boost to speed up Warp Gate Tech research or to speed the production of Gateway units.

Expansion-First Opener

Some players like to go for getting a Nexus right after their first Pylon before adding on a Gateway or Forge. By default, you are opening yourself up to losing to an early attack if you go with a Nexus, but if the opponent does not rush, you will gain an advantage by default. Since players only rush once in awhile, some Protoss believe that it is okay to risk the occasional loss to gain an advantage in the majority of your games.

There are two ways to do this: with a Gateway and a Forge follow-up.

Here is the Gateway version:

9/10: Pylon
16/18: Nexus
17/18: Gateway
17/18: Pylon
18/18: Assimilator x2

Here is the Forge version:

9/10: Pylon
16/18: Nexus
17/18: Forge
17/18: Pylon
17/18: Gateway

With these openers, the possibilities are endless. Both are about equally economical. The Nexus into Gateway opener is used against Protoss and Terran, while the Forge opener is used against Zerg. Both builds are about equal from an economic perspective. The Forge version is a tiny bit safer, but it also does not allow the Protoss to attack as quickly as if they went for a Gateway first.

The Mothership Core - When to Get It

One thing all Protoss players have to decide upon is when to get the Mothership Core. Many of the popular builds linked to in this page can be delayed to get the Mothership Core out sooner or even shortened to get the Mothership Core out later.

I am not going to argue for the strength of the Mothership Core in this section. It is good, and you should get it. Instead, I am going to argue that some players may want to delay their Mothership Core if the build allows for it. In particular, the Mothership Core costs 100 vespene gas, and sometimes this gas is the limiting factor in an early rush. If you are going for a rush that is delayed by gas, such as the proxy Oracle rush, it is in your best interest to delay getting out the Mothership Core.

Getting out the Mothership Core before the first Oracle when performing the Oracle rush is going to delay the timing of your first Oracle. This changes if you use the Mothership Core and a Stalker on offense to delay the Terran and actually get some use of the core.

To keep things concise, if you get an early Mothership Core, plan on using it, either on offense or for Photon Overcharge on defense. If you do not need the Mothership Core in the very early game, it is often wise to get out your first tier 2 structure before getting out the Mothership Core.

Fast Robotics Facility and Observer

Against Protoss and Terran players, rushes that rely on surprising you before you have detection are common. If you scout proxy Widow Mines or Dark Templar, you will want to get up to a Robotics Facility quickly so you can get an early Observer. Here is the best way to do it off of one base:

9/10: Pylon
13/18: Gateway
15/18: Assimilator x2
17/18: Pylon
18/18: Cybernetics Core
21/26: Zealot
24/26: Robotics Bay
24/26: Warp Gate Tech
25/26: Pylon*
29/34: Observer

*After adding on this Pylon, you are free to change this opener to suit your needs. You will have extra resources to spare before the Robotics Facility finishes to start the Observer. You can add on units or other buildings as needed. A good choice might be to add on a few more Gateways if the opponent is being aggressive or to grab your expansion if the opponent has no intentions of attacking. You can also train a Stalker or Sentry out of your first Gateway and add on a Mothership Core if you want units.

The 4 Gate

Full Guide: Protoss 4 Gate Build Order

The 4 Gate is a standard Starcraft 2 Protoss build order that is meant to put pressure on the enemy with a combination of Gateway units. It was extremely popular in Wings of Liberty, but other builds became predominate in Heart of the Swarm. By tweaking the build for Heart of the Swarm, it can still be quite effective. Here is a sample build order:

9/10: Pylon (scout with this Probe)
12/18: Gateway (Chrono-Boost Probes upon building - do not Chrono Boost before dropping Gateway)
14/18: Assimilator x2 (2 Probes at each Geyser)
17/18: Cybernetics Core
17/18: Pylon
21/26: Zealot
21/26: Pylon
22/26: Warp Gate Research
24/26: Mothership Core
26/26: Stalker
28/34: Send out Probes to start dropping proxy Pylons
29/34: Gateway x3

Compared to the traditional 4-Gate, I added on a second Assimilator with 2 Probes at each geyser (4 gas harvesters total instead of 3). This allows us to get out a quick Mothership Core and focus more heavily on Stalkers rather than Zealots. A lot of Stalkers plus a Mothership Core is a very effective fighting force in the first 6-7 minutes of Protoss versus Protoss.

The Best Protoss Build Order

It is hard to say what build order is the "best Protoss build order". All of the builds linked to on this page are among the best builds. It just comes down to picking one of these builds and practicing the same one until you are good with it. You will however want to use the right build for your opponent's race match up.

If I had to pick 1 easy to yet effective build for each race match-up, I would recommend the Immortal/Sentry All In for PvZ, the proxy Oracle rush for PvT, and the Dark Templar Rush for PvP. I am not saying these are the absolute best build orders, but they are easy to learn. More importantly, when well-executed, these builds can be used to win games even at the professional level of Starcraft 2.


Learn the appropriate usage and timing of each of these Starcraft 2 Protoss build orders and you will find yourself winning a lot more games of Starcraft 2!

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