Starcraft 2 Protoss Zealot Rush Build Order
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The Zealot rush is a classic Starcraft 2 build order. This
build involves getting out a couple Zealots out as soon as possible and attacking right away.
Zealots are very strong versus workers, and if you cut Probe production early, it is possible to get out a
Zealot or two before the opponent has any sort of offensive unit. The end result is a decisive win for the rushing
Players love the Zealot rush because it is one of the easiest builds in Starcraft 2 to master. New players that
get crushed against regular opponents can take wins off more skilled opponents if the rushing player can surprise
the more skilled player with early Zealots.
Of course, such ease of use comes at a high price. Namely, many popular openers can completely counter the
Zealot rush, resulting in an instant loss for the rushing player. Additionally, if scouted early, the Zealot rush
may be over before it even starts if the opponent can get down enough structures.
The Zealot rush works best against Protoss players. Zealot rushes are weak versus Terran and Zerg.
Terran players can take down any number of Zealots with a single Reaper, while Zerg players can drop a few Spine
Crawlers, add on Queens, and use Larva on Zerglings to stop the attack.
Early aggression is effective against Terran and Zerg players, but with the introduction of Heart of the Swarm,
the most effective Protoss rushes against the Terran and Zerg tend to hit a little later and almost always
involve the Mothership Core and at least a Stalker or two.
While there are many ways to go about performing the Zealot rush, these rushes can generally be split into two
categories: those that are "all in" and those that are not. We will discuss both of these strategies and provide
builds for each in the section below.
Proxy Gateway Zealot Rush - The All In Variant
When a build is said to be "all in" it means that the Protoss player is going for the knockout punch. All in
attacks are by default a gamble - you either win or lose the game in a single attack. If your attack works well,
you will win the game. If your attack fails, you will almost assuredly lose the game.
Since the risk of loss is so high, top players only opt for all-in attacks if they think their opponent is being
overly greedy (such as the opposing Protoss going Nexus first multiple times in a series of games) or when the
Protoss feels their opponent is much better than them in PvP and is hoping to sneak out a win.
The 8/8/8 Build Order
14/18: Zealot x2
18/18: Zealot x2
From here, you will cut Probe production and continue to add on Zealots and Probes as needed. Chrono Boost
should be used on the Gateways to help speed up the production of the first set of Zealots. You should go in
immediately after the first round of Zealots finishes.
For best results, send a Probe out at the start of the game. Use this Probe to build a proxy Pylon outside of
the Protoss opponent's base. This Probe will stay here and will be used to add on the Gateways as soon as the Pylon
finishes. This way, when the Gateways finish and the Zealots are produced, the Zealots will already be across the
map, significantly reducing the time it takes for your Zealots to reach the enemy base.
You will not have time to scout the opponent's starting location to pull off an effective 8/8/8 rush. You will
need to do this on 2 player maps so that you know your opponent's exact spawn location. This allows you to know
exactly where to put down your proxy Pylon.
The problem with this build is that if the opponent scouts it and starts adding on units, it is not too
difficult to stop. A Mothership Core or a well-microed Stalker can take down any number of Zealots. Make sure you
hide your Gateways to help prevent them from being scouted.
Zealot Rushing Without Going All-In
You can perform a Zealot rush without going all in. However, players do not typically go all-in with this
strategy but rather go this way when they see their opponent doing something unusual, particularly
Imagine you are playing Protoss vs Protoss. You go for a standard opener with a Gateway at 13 supplies. Your
Gateway is about halfway down when your Probe gets to the opponent's base. Your scouting worker notices that the
opponent has not even started a Gateway yet and instead just started a Nexus.
What do you do? Whether you continue with a standard opener or expand for yourself, either way you will be
behind if you do not deal any early economic damage. One good option here is to Zealot rush.
Immediately stop what you are doing and save up resources for two more Gateways, going up to three Gates. As
soon as the first Gateway finishes, start boosting out Zealots. You will have some extra minerals - you can use
these to continue Probe production and get some gas out. Ultimately this will lead to a Cybernetics Core.
The idea here is to send the Zealots in and delay the enemy as much as possible. The key is to prevent the enemy
from getting Vespene gas. If you produce a steady stream of Zealots, the enemy may try to counter with Zealots of
their own or Photon Cannons, but if you can delay their tech long enough, when you come in with Stalkers, the game
will be yours.
Here is an example of how this build might play out:
9/10 - Pylon
13/18 - Gateway
14/18 - Enemy's Nexus-first build scouted
14/18 - Gateway
14/18 - Gateway
14/18 - Assimilator
17/18 - Zealot
17/18 - Pylon
23/26 - Zealot x3
23/26 - Cybernetics Core
24/26 - Pylon
30/34 - Zealot x3
The build may vary slightly since this a reactionary strategy rather than a dedicated opener. However, having
this in your arsenal is beneficial as it allows you to counter the Nexus-first expansion. The best part is half of
the time you pull this off, you will get hate messages from your opponent calling you a newbie and a dirty rotten
cheeser for going for the Zealot rush. Little do they know you never intended to go for this rush but only switched
over once you saw that the opponent was expanding so quickly.
While the 8/8/8 Zealot rush is not the most reliable strategy in Starcraft 2, it can be a fun alternate strategy
to use in PvP matches. If you see top level players do it in games, it is likely because they know their opponent
has a penchant for economic openers or because they are playing a more skilled opponent and doubt their chances of
winning in a long game.