Starcraft 2 Protoss vs Zerg Strategy
Protoss Guide --> Protoss Strategy --> PvT Strategy (you are here)
In this guide to PvZ strategy, you will discover the best
openers, timing attacks, and late-game tactics to use against Zerg players in Starcraft 2.
Additionally, in each of the sections of this strategy page, you will find additional tips and pointers that you
can use as a Protoss player to gain an advantage in a tight game of Starcraft 2.
Opening Strategies in PvZ
The best part about playing versus Zerg as a Protoss player is that you have a very safe and reliable method for
grabbing your natural expansion on literally any map you choose, the Forge Fast Expand.
Forge Fast Expand Opener
As a Protoss player, the Forge Fast Expand allows you to reliable establish your natural expansion very early in
the game without the Zerg player being able to do anything about it. By walling off the entrance to your natural
expansion with buildings and placing a Photon Cannon or two behind those buildings, the Zerg player will be at a
complete loss to break through this wall early in the game.
In the early game, Zerg players only get access to Zerglings, Banelings, and Roaches. In order to hit distant
Photon Cannons behind a wall of buildings, Zerg players will first have to destroy the buildings protecting the
cannons. This makes it easy for the Protoss to take on much larger forces with just a few Photon Cannons.
The Zerg must get out Hydralisks to outrange the cannons, Mutalisks to go around the cannons, or Overlords with
Ventral Sacs (a Lair-level research option) in order to get around the cannons.
Gateway First Opener
One alternative to the Forge Fast Expand is for the Protoss player to open up with a Gateway first build,
getting out a few units, and then grabbing the Nexus. The Gateway-first build is definitely slower from an economy
perspective, but it also provides the Protoss player access to higher tier tech quicker and also gives the Protoss
player option for early aggression if the Zerg gets a fast third base running.
This build is a top tier Protoss response to the Zerg's tendency to expand aggressively against Protoss in the
early game. This build can be used to get out just a couple of Gateway units which can be used to destroy or force
the cancel on the Zerg third, particularly when the Zerg has very few defensive units.
Making an attack like this work in the early game requires the Protoss to use the Mothership Core, a Zealot or
two, and primarily Stalkers. The initial Zealot or two is used to kill the Queen at the third expansion. With no
Queen, the Mothership Core can attack any reinforcing Zerglings. Stalkers can kite Zerglings off the creep, while
the Zealots can provide DPS on the Hatchery.
Avoid Gateway and Warp Gate Rushes
Avoid 1-base Gateway or Warp Gate rushes as Protoss in PvZ. They do not work well since Zerg players have a very
high production capacity for unit production. Early in the game, Zerg players can use their Larva on Zerglings plus
each Hatchery can start training a Queen. Drones can be converted into Spine Crawlers and then uprooted and moved
into the most advantageous position.
It is either better to get your second expansion up and running and work on a Gateway-based timing attack if
your goal is to end the game early.
The Timing Attack in Protoss vs Zerg
Protoss shines in Protoss vs Zerg through timing attacks. These are pre-planned builds based on two bases that
focus on maximizing the strength of the Protoss army at a particular time. These timing attacks use unit
combinations and/or unit upgrades that are strong against typical Zerg forces. These builds try to use Gateway
units backed up by Immortals in order to catch the Zerg before they can get out Hydralisks or Swarm Hosts, which
tend to be strong against early Protoss timings.
Immortal / Sentry
The most popular Protoss timing attack is the Immortal and Sentry timing. The Protoss player will open with a
Forge Fast expand and quickly get up to a Robotics Facility. A lot of Warp Gates are constructed and primarily
Sentries are build from these Warp Gates. Immortals are produced from the Robotics Facility.
By the 9:00-11:00 mark, the Protoss player will start to accrue extra minerals. These can be dumped into proxy
Pylons and extra Zealots to round out the army. The idea is to attack the Zerg before the Zerg gets a meaningful
number of Hydralisks, leaving the Zerg with only Zerglings and Roaches to defend themselves. Since Immortals
outrange Roaches by 2, you can block the Roaches from hitting the Immortals with Force Field, giving the Immortals
free reign on the Zerg forces.
The Roaches could theoretically pull back and avoid your Immortals during this time, but if you attack within
range of a Zerg expansion, if the Roaches pull back, the enemy's expansion will be destroyed. Drones can be
blocked from escaping with Force Field as well.
Gateway with Upgrades
Another good timing is to focus on upgrades rather than tech. Getting up to a quick +1 or +2 weapons and armor
can really be beneficial in PvZ. Zerglings in particular suffer significantly when at a weapon and armor
disadvantage. A Zealot with +1 Weapons and +1 Armor can take on 4 Zerglings by itself, whereas 4 Zerglings will
defeat 1 Zealot if upgrades are equal.
These timings typically involve 7 to 9 Warp Gates and use armies primarily consisting of Zealots and Sentries.
Upgrades are necessary to make this work. These timings tend to hit a little earlier than the Immortal / Sentry
all-ins and are a little easier to use since there is less macroing and perfect Force Fields are not mandatory for
Going for Air
Another good timing is to go for air units. Adding on 2-3 Stargates for a steady stream of Phoenix production is
a great opener for Protoss. Phoenix can fly around the map, constantly picking off Overlords, lone Queens, and
Phoenix are also a great counter for enemy Mutalisks. Mutalisks can help the Zerg player gain map control and
dictate the pace of the game (if the Zerg gets a lot of Mutalisks, you must get Phoenix), so being comfortable
using Phoenix is useful when you run into a Mutalisk-using Zerg.
These Stargates then serve as production facilities a late game transition into full SkyTerran, discussed in the
Late Game Protoss vs Zerg Strategies
In the late game, Protoss players stick to two primary strategies: the Protoss Deathball and SkyToss.
The Protoss Deathball
The Protoss Deathball involves making an army with a little bit of everything. This army starts with a backbone
of Gateway units. Sentries, Zealots, and Stalkers are all incorporated. For support, a few Archons, High Templar
with Psionic Storm, and Colossi can be added. Archons are great versus Zerglings, Roaches, Ultralisks, and
Mutalisks, while High Templar help against Vipers and Hydralisks. Colossi melt all Zerg ground forces (aside from
perhaps Ultralisks) but are vulnerable to Zerg air.
With the right balance, the Protoss Deathball can take . There are three primary threats to the Deathball:
Vipers, Brood Lords, and Swarm Hosts. Vipers disrupt the Deathball by pulling your Colossi out from their safe spot
in the back. Without Colossi support, the Deathball is not nearly as strong. Using Feedback with High Templar on
Vipers is a quick way to put this to an end.
Brood Lords and Swarm Hosts on the other hand have the disadvantage of not being able to attack air units. If
your Zerg opponent is making heavy use of these units, sprinkle in some Void Rays and/or Tempests. Tempests are
incredibly strong versus Void Rays and perform okay versus Swarm Hosts, while Void Rays are incredibly strong
versus Swarm Hosts and do well versus Brood Lords.
If you do mix all these units together, focus on Ground Weapons, Plasma Shields, and Ground Armor as a priority.
Most of your supply will be tied up in ground units, so air upgrades are the least payoff. Void Rays and Tempests
still do big damage even when they are at +0 weapons versus enemy units with +3 armor.
Perhaps an even more effective strategy for Protoss players is using SkyToss, the popular term for a primarily
flying Protoss army. An army with Phoenix (for enemy Mutalisks), Void Rays (for Corruptors), Tempests (for
Hydralisks and Infestors), and Carriers (for everything else) is a very effective army composition. You can easily
"attack move" with this army composition and defeat most Zergs without any strategy at all!
The hardest part about SkyToss is setting up the build. It requires large quantities of gas and you are very
vulnerable to attack while building up the sky fleet. As a result, Protoss players do not typically rush for
SkyToss but instead open with a build like early Phoenix or a Deathball that uses a lot of air support. Over the
course of a long game, as Gateway units are destroyed, they are replaced by new air units. This process repeats
until the Protoss has a large sky-based army.
While air upgrades are not hugely important for adding on a couple Void Rays or Tempests to the Deathball, you
need to focus on air upgrades if you want to go full SkyToss. The reason is that while the Void Ray and Tempest can
still deal damage even when weapons upgrades are behind, the Phoenix and Carrier do not. The Phoenix and Carrier
have multiple attacks in their damage calculation, so their attacks get mitigated twice (two lasers per "hit" means
each hit gets armor reduction applied). If you have +0 air weapons and the opponent has +3 armor, your Phoenix and
Carriers will deal almost no damage.
If you want to have success against Zerg players as a Protoss, I recommend getting used to the Forge Fast Expand
opener. From here, you are set up for going right into some two-base timing attacks. If this timing attack results
in a win, great, hopefully you did enough damage to secure your third base, giving you the economy to work towards
a deathball or air-based late game army.