Starcraft 2 Terran vs Protoss Strategy - Updated for HotS

Starcraft 2 Guide --> Starcraft 2 Terran Guide --> Terran Strategy --> TvP (you are here)

Click Here to Get The Osiris MethodThe Terran vs Protoss match-up is the source of most of the balance complaints from Terran players. Stopping the Oracle in the early game and then defeating dreaded Protoss deathball can seem quite difficult to the Terran player.

Fortunately, if you are ready to go from whiner to winner, this guide provides Terran players with all the strategies they need to defeat any Protoss strategy or unit composition.

There are multiple strategies that can be used to take down Protoss players as Terran in Starcraft 2. In this TvP guide, we will discuss how to safely get out of the early game as well as discuss all the possible transitions and strategies that work against Protoss and how to execute those strategies perfectly.

Table of Contents

Fighting Protoss in the Early Game as Terran
Playing as Bio vs Protoss
Playing as Mech vs Protoss
SkyTerran vs Protoss in the Late Game

Click any of the links above to jump to one of the sections of our TvP strategy page.

Fighting Protoss in the Early Game

One of the most dangerous portions of the Terran vs Protoss match-up is the early game. There are several forms of Protoss aggression which can be very deadly in the first 6-7 minutes of the game.

Countering the Oracle

One form of early aggression that players most commonly see in TvP is early Oracles. In this situation, the Protoss player will race to getting out a fast Stargate, skipping a Mothership Core and using all of their gas (aside from 1-2 Stalkers and Warp Gate tech) to go right up to a fast Oracle. The Protoss player may even build the Stargate in a proxy location, reducing the travel time it takes for the Oracle to reach the Terran base.

There are three viable methods for dealing with fast Oracles: Missile Turrets, Marines, and Widow Mines.

Missile Turrets are a very effective solution to Oracles. Oracles are very weak against Missile Turrets due to the high HP total of the Missile Turret combined with its high DPS output. The problem with the Missile Turret is that it comes at a price. In order to get turrets, you need to first build a very early Engineering Bay and then invest additional building time and resources in the Missile Turrets. Even if you build the Missile Turret right in your mineral line, you still need to get 1 Turret for both your main and your natural expansion.

In the early game, building an Engineering Bay and Missile Turrets is a huge resource investment that will significantly slow down your ability to macro as well as produce units that can actually hit ground units. Top players rarely go straight for Missile Turrets and instead try to defend via Marines or Widow Mines.

The relative cost of adding on Missile Turrets goes down as the game continues. Investing a few hundred minerals in an Engineering Bay and a few Missile Turrets is significant at the 5:00 mark, modest at the 7:30 mark, and inconsequential by the 10:00 mark. Good Protoss players will try to sneak Oracles in whenever there is an engagement. Missile Turrets can help prevent you from losing a huge number of workers from these sneaky attacks. As the game goes on and you start to build up your economy, it can be very beneficial to add on a few turrets to protect yourself from Oracles.

Marines can also be used against the Oracle, but they do require excellent micro (and large numbers). You need 6 Marines to comfortably take down 1 Oracle. Any less and the Oracle can pick them off if you are not careful. Losing a few Marines to kill an Oracle is a great trade since Oracles are very expensive. Many top pros prefer to use this approach, since Marines can also be used to protect the front door from any ground-based attacks that often follow up Oracle attacks.

The problem with Marines is that Oracles are fast and more mobile than Marines. If the Oracle bounces between your main and your natural expansion, it requires perfect Marine and SCV micro to limit losses. You need to control your Marines as well as be able to move the workers at your expansion to your Marines. This does require practice, but it can work.

Perhaps the cheapest and easiest (from a micro perspective) method for handling the Oracle is through the Widow Mine. Widow Mines can 1 shot an Oracle. You just need two per expansion - one by each vespene geyser, slightly central and just to the back of the mineral line. As soon as the enemy's Widow Mine flies over your mineral line, the Widow Mines will proc and destroy it before the Oracle has a chance to kill a single worker. Since SCVs have 45 HP, they will not die due to the splash damage from the Widow Mine's explosion.

Should you successfully destroy an Oracle in this manner, be sure to take an SCV or Medivac and repair injured workers so that you do not lose a bunch of SCVs to splash damage should a second Oracle appear. Additionally, plan to eventually add on a few Missile Turrets so you can use the supplies tied up in those Widow Mines on something more useful (or at least so you can move the Widow Mines to a forward position).

Your strategy versus a proxy Stargate may vary. If you scout the proxy Stargate going up, your initial impression might be to go try and kill it with Marines. This does not work well, because a good Protoss player is going to send a Stalker out to kill off any Marines. In the open field like this, Marines without Stimpack stand no chance versus a well-microed Stalker. Not only will you not kill the Stargate, but you will have less Marines to defend against the Oracle that comes out of the Stargate!

Instead, players should build a Bunker beside the Stargate. Once complete, a few Marines can hop in the Bunker. From inside the Bunker, the Marines can kill the Stargate safely. Stalkers or the Oracle that spawns from the Stargate will be unable to destroy the bunker. Once the Stargate is destroyed, the Bunker can be salvaged.

Defending Against Early Stalkers and Mothership Core

Another form of early aggression that Terran players must defend against is early aggression from Stalkers and the Mothership Core. In the very early portions of the game, an attack with just 1-2 Zealots and 1-2 Stalkers in conjunction with the Mothership Core is deadly. It is particularly strong now thanks to the Mothership Core, as this unit can provide the Stalkers with vision of the high ground, take out Reapers and Marauders, and use Time Warp on your Marines.

The key to stopping this attack is to secure a bunker on the low ground in front of the natural expansion. Once your units are inside a bunker, Stalkers can no longer outrange them or kite them. The Mothership Core also is weak against Marines inside a Bunker. In order to secure this Bunker, you may need to build up a certain number of Marines or even a Widow Mine or two before you can safely push down on the low ground. If the Protoss is blocking you inside your main base, you can build your second Orbital Command inside your main and then lift it off and place it on the low ground once you get that all-important Bunker up.

Terran Early Aggression vs Protoss: Proxy Widow Mines

One way Terran players can put the Protoss on the defensive in the early game is via proxy Widow Mines. It only requires 125 total vespene gas to get out a Factory and a single Widow Mine. If you rush for it, a Widow Mine can be produced at around the 5:00 mark, if not earlier. If you proxy the Factory (i.e. build it just outside of the Protoss player's base), you can have the Widow Mine in their base well before an Oracle or Observer is ever going to finish!

While often not a game-ending strategy, it is a good way to take control of the game in TvP. While the Protoss player is working on fending off your Widow Mine proxy, you can secure your natural expansion and grab a bunker and a few Missile Turrets, preventing early Oracle or Stalker/Mothership Core action from being effective.

This strategy works particularly well if you are going for primarily bio forces. You can leave your Factory out in its proxy location without worrying about add-ons because at home you can start producing off your Barracks and add on a few Starports, getting out the important tech and production facilities for your bio army without any delay.

Playing as Bio vs Protoss

Bio is the most popular unit composition to use against Protoss players. Marines, Marauders, and Medivacs are strong versus the bulk of the Protoss army. There are a couple ways that Protoss players counter the bio forces, but these can be worked around via research and using support units. We will discuss the top strategies for using bio forces against Protoss below. 

Getting Upgrades

One important and often overlooked aspect of using a bio army is making sure you do not fall behind in upgrades. Marines only deal 6 damage per shot, and this is reduced to 4 damage via the Sentry's Guardian Shield ability. When you consider that most Protoss units like the Zealot and Stalker have a default armor rating of 1, the Marine's damage is reduced by another point. With Guardian Shield, this means that the Marine's damage is cut in half, from 6 to 3 per shot.

Protoss players are very aggressive about getting out +armor upgrades versus Terran players, and for good reason. If the Protoss player has a +1 armor advantage versus the Terran's Infantry Weapons, the Marine's damage is cut to a measly 2 damage per shot while Guardian Shield is active. If the Protoss player has a +2 armor advantage, the game is a lost cause, as the Terran player is worthless when they can only deal 1 damage per shot to Marines.

Due to the strength of armor upgrades versus Infantry, you need to be very diligent about getting out your upgrades if you are going bio. Build two Engineering Bays once you get your natural expansion up and running and work on getting out Infantry Weapons and Armor at the same time.

The Enemies of the Bio Build

While Marines, Marauders, and Medivacs with equal upgrades can handle most Protoss units, there are 5 units which the Terran player has to watch out for: the Zealot, the Archon, the High Templar, the Colossus, and the Carrier.

Handling Zealots as Bio

Prior to charge, Zealots are very easy for Terran players to handle. Between Concussive Shells and Stimpack, bio forces can stim, shoot the Zealots for a second, move, shoot again, and so on, stutter-stepping their way to a flawless victory. However, once Zealots get charge, they are a bit more difficult to avoid.

Even with Charge, good stutter-step micro can significantly reduce Zealot damage output. However, a good Protoss player will try to use Force Field to prevent you from stutter-stepping against their Zealots. Additionally, kiting Zealots becomes less appealing once the Protoss player has out High Templar, Archons, or Colossi. Once these Protoss units appear on the field, kiting Zealots may not be at the top of your priority list as you try to control your Ghosts and Vikings to counter higher threat units.

One easy way to counter large quantities of Zealots with your bio forces is by introducing a few Hellbats to your army. You only need to use 3-4 Hellbats and you can significantly reduce the effectiveness of any number of Zealots. Even with 0/0 upgrades, Hellbats perform well versus 3/3/3 Zealots!

Handling Archons and High Templar as Bio

There is only one unit as bio that can handle the Archon and High Templar - the Ghost. Failure to add on Ghosts as a bio Terran versus a good Protoss that is making use of Archons and High Templar will result in a swift death for your army. Players resist adding on Ghosts since it is a pain to build a Ghost Academy and research cloaking, but this laziness may result in many painful losses to Archon and High Templar builds.

The Ghost's EMP ability drains 100 Protoss shields from all enemy units in the targeted area. Since an Archon has mostly shields, an Archon hit with 4 EMPs will be drained down to virtually no health. The key is casting EMP multiple times on the same Archon to continue the drain. To get a few Ghosts to fire off several EMPs at the same target area, select your Ghosts, hold Shift, press the "E" hotkey for EMP, then click several times in the area of the Archons you want to hit. The Ghosts will fire off multiple EMPs virtually simultaneously (provided they have energy for the cast). Your Marines or Marauders will take out these weakened Archons in a few hits.

While EMP is able to drain High Templar energy, it is usually easier to use Snipe to deal with High Templar. High Templar are biological and Psionic units, which means they can be hit by Snipe and take bonus damage from this ability. Two Snipes can take out a single High Templar for the low cost of 50 energy (25 per Snipe). To get the same Ghost to use Snipe twice on a High Templar quickly, you can use the same hotkey controls you used for EMP - select the Ghost, hold shift, press "R" for Snipe, then double click quickly on the High Templar you want to take down. Repeat this process for all the enemy's High Templar.

Ideally, you want to take out High Templar before they have a chance to use Feedback or Psionic Storm on your units. Cloaking a few Ghosts and sneaking them into the Protoss' army can help immensely if you can take out the enemy's High Templar and then follow it up with a major attack. Even if the Protoss player warps in new High Templar, these new High Templar will be low on energy and not able to use Psionic Storm right away.

How to Stop Colossi as Bio

Once the Protoss researches Extended Thermal Lance, the only logical unit to add to your bio army for support is the Viking. Colossi are considered an air unit, so Vikings can hit them with their anti-air attack. Vikings do bonus damaged to armored units, so they deal bonus damage to the Colossus. The Colossus of course can only attack ground units, making the Viking immune to its attacks. The Viking is the natural counter to the Colossus.

The most important thing about using Vikings against the Colossus is producing the perfect amount of Vikings. If you build too few Vikings, the Protoss player may try to use Blink Stalkers or Psionic Storm to kill off your Vikings before you can kill their Colossus. If you get too many Vikings, the Protoss player may cut Colossus production and switch into heavy Archon or Blink Stalker play. If you have too many supplies tied up in Vikings, your army may suffer against a larger force of Zealots, Blink Stalkers, Sentries, Immortals, and Archons.

A good number of Vikings to shoot for is 3 Vikings per Protoss Colossus. It is better to err slightly on the safe side by overproducing Vikings than it is to not get enough Vikings. A smaller Terran MMM ball will do very well against a Protoss army without Colossi, whereas a larger MMM ball will not do well if all the Vikings die before taking down the final Colossus.

Stopping Carriers as Bio

Carriers are a real pain for the Terran army no matter what unit type you get. You need to overproduce Vikings if the Protoss player gets out Carriers. Carriers are slow and expensive and can be kited by well-microed Vikings. Do not even try to expose your MMM ball to Carriers. Carriers destroy Marines and Ghosts while Marauders and Medivacs cannot even fight back.

If you get surprised by Carriers and need time to build up Vikings, it is best to load up your Marines and Marauders into a Medivac and try to perform a large drop in the enemy's base. You can get a lot of damage done before the Carriers finally get back in defensive position. Once the Carriers get close, you can just scoop up all your units and use Ignite Afterburners to get to safety. Carriers are very slow, so drop play becomes very effective against Protoss players who are opting for this technology route.

Playing as Mech vs Protoss

While not as popular as bio, the release of Heart of the Swarm has made full mech strategies viable against Protoss players.

The Hellbat and Thor alone can take down most Protoss ground combinations. Hellbats are great against Zealots and fair okay versus Sentries, Stalkers, and Immortals. Thors on the other hand are strong versus Sentries, Stalkers, Colossi (if they can get in range), Archons, and High Templar. Siege Tanks are great versus everything on the ground except Immortals, Archons, and Zealots.

When playing as full mech, you can use Hellbats to take down the Zealots, Thors to take out Archons, and Siege Tanks to provide support for everything else on the ground. Hellbat drops should also be performed regularly to keep the pressure up on the Protoss player.

As a result, a balanced combination of Thors, Siege Tanks, and Hellbats works well against most Protoss combinations. The most dangerous Protoss ground unit for mech players is the Immortal, while mech also has a general weakness against air units.

Stopping the Immortal as Mech

The biggest danger to mech players on the ground is the Immortal. Due to its ability to absorb powerful attacks, the Immortal is very good versus both the Thor and the Siege Tank. The Hellbat does okay versus the Immortal, but it can be hard for the Hellbat to get in range. In these situations, you need a ranged method for countering the Immortal's hardened shield ability.

It can be tempting to add on Ghosts for EMP in order to get rid of the Immortal's shields. While this can work, Ghosts are not a great fit for mech. Ghosts also do not offer much protection against Protoss air, another weakness of Terran mech builds (discussed below).

Widow Mines can be used to drain Immortal energy, but in large army vs large army battles, it can be hard to successfully use Widow Mines, particularly as mech. While bio players can kite over Widow Mines, baiting the Protoss army into the explosion, mech is too slow to pull off this strategy. Additionally, usually Zealots end up triggering the Widow Mines, leaving the mines on cooldown when the Immortals get into range. Immortals also outrange Widow Mines, making Widow Mines ineffective against Immortals when the Protoss player has detection.

The most natural way for full mech Terran players to stop the Immortal is via the Raven. Seeker Missile ignores the Immortal's Hardened Shields ability. The Immortal is also too slow and clunky to dodge Seeker Missile. Two Seeker Missiles will kill an Immortal, while one will completely drain its shields and deal some permanent damage. Just add 1 Raven for each enemy Immortal and you can do very well with Seeker Missile. Ravens also are great support against Terran air, another weakness of mech.

Handling Protoss Air Units as Mech

The biggest weakness of the Mech build is Protoss air. A few Void Rays can shred through Thors and Siege Tanks in no time at all while Hellbats and Hellions cannot fight back with air units. Void Rays can also outrange Widow Mines. Bio Terran players do not see Void Rays much since Marines are so strong versus them, but Mech players can expect to run into Void Rays quite frequently.

Vikings are a good way to deal with Void Rays, Tempests, and Carriers. The Viking is strong versus these units and can use the Thors for additional damage. Vikings are great versus Void Rays, especially with a little micro. The Viking is decent versus the Tempest and the Carrier, so a little support from the Raven may be necessary to help boost the effectiveness of your Vikings.

The Raven's Point Defense Drone completely negates the Tempest and can do so for a very long period of time. The PDD absorbs Tempest attacks for just 10 energy and the Tempest attacks very slow, making a single Raven capable of killing a Tempest with 1 PDD and 1 Auto Turret. The Tempest is strong versus all Terran units, so using PDD to counter Tempests is something all Terran players should be comfortable using.

Seeker Missile is actually a decent skill to use versus Carriers, especially if you have multiple Ravens. Carriers tend to clump up and are way too slow to escape from Seeker Missile once targeted. If you have 3 Ravens and use Seeker Missile 3x on 3 nearby Carriers, the splash damage can really weaken the Protoss fleet, allowing your Vikings and Thors to clean up the remaining Carriers with ease.

Note that the PDD is weak against the Void Ray. PDD does not absorb Void Ray attacks and only has 50 health, so Void Rays can easily take down PDDs if the Void Rays focus fire the PDDs. Vikings are a first priority add-on against Void Rays for full mech players. Auto Turrets and Seeker Missiles are a good use of Raven energy should you run into Void Rays.

SkyTerran vs Protoss in the Late Game

If your game of Starcraft 2 progresses into the late game and you get a lot of resources in TvP, you may want to consider transitioning into SkyTerran. Using mass air as Terran is an excellent strategy. However, SkyTerran is not something you simply "start out" with using. It costs way too much money and takes too much time to build Battlecruisers, Ravens, and Vikings for players to get it until the very late game.

The idea here is to use an army primarily of Battlecruisers with 6+ Ravens as units support. Vikings can be added on to deal with enemy Protoss air units, while more Battlecruisers are added to deal with swelling ground armies.

In order to successfully use SkyTerran, you really need ship weapon and armor upgrades. This is easier to pull off as a mech player, since vehicle armor upgrades share with ship armor upgrades, so you will only have to add on ship weapons. A lot of players research ship weapons anyway in TvP since Vikings are great versus Colossi and Air units, making the transition into SkyTerran easier.

The reason SkyTerran is so good is that there is only one Protoss unit in the game that is strong versus the Battlecruiser - the Tempest. If you can get out a lot of Battlecruisers, the only way for the Protoss player to stop you is to get out a bunch of Tempests. If you have Yamato Cannon, the Battlecruiser can take down Archons and Void Rays with ease.

Fortunately, there is a very simple way to take down the Tempest: via the Raven's Point Defense Drone. The PDD absorbs Tempests attacks so easily and from such a long range. The PDD absorbs any missile that attacks one of your units that is within 8 range units of the PDD. So if the PDD is 5 yards behind your Battlecruiser and the enemy's Tempest is attacking the Battlecruiser from max range (15), the PDD will absorb the Tempest's shots from 20 in-game units away!

Another option for taking down the Tempest is just surprising the Protoss player before they can get Tempests. If you can sneak out about 6 Battlecruisers, you may be able to attack and surprise the Protoss player before they can get out any Tempests to stop you. Tempests require a Stargate and a Fleet Beacon. If your enemy does not have a Fleet Beacon and has to build one, it will be about 2 minutes or so before the first Tempest appears on the field. One Tempest is not enough to handle 6 Battlecruisers, and it will be even longer before multiple Tempests appear on the field.

When you are trying to surprise the enemy with Battlecruisers, make sure you add on units like Hellbats to provide extra bulk to your army. Just 6 Battlecruisers alone may die against a large Stalker and Sentry army, but with Hellbat support, the Stalkers and Sentries will be too busy dealing with your Hellbats to try to focus down the high HP Battlecruiser.

TvP Strategy Summary

Terran players have multiple strategies available to them versus the Protoss, no matter whether you play as bio, mech, or air. The key to beating Protoss as bio is to use Ghosts to stop Archons and High Templar as well as Vikings to stop Colossi. As a mech player, you need to use Seeker Missile to handle any Immortals and add on Vikings and Ravens for anti-air support. In the late game, Battlecruisers are amazing units to use against Protoss players, but only if you have ship weapons and armor upgrades and have some Ravens to help defend against the Tempest.

Osiris Guide