StarCraft II HotS Zerg vs Protoss Guide

StarCraft II HotS Zerg vs Protoss Guide by Nasreth

Update: 2/26/2013 : Updated text to be true for heart of the swarm. Still working on replays. Going to try and get a protoss player who is experienced with stargate (or just ladder til I find a few) so that I can use this style against them, but I already have some robo replays for hots that I will add soon.

Hello all, I think it’s due time that I made up a guide focused on my favorite way to play ZvP, since I’m always on this forum harping about hydras this, drops that, blah blah, and I’ve never really posted anything substantial to back it up!

Let me begin by saying that this is by no means going to be an incredibly in depth guide. The thing about my style that makes it so great is the amount of versatility and choices you can make in the game. You don’t have to choose my style in particular, I just want to emphasize the power of drops in both the mid and late game in ZvP.

The theory:

Protoss cannot take a third against a Zerg player who gets drop tech until they put a substantial amount of defenses in their main. The reason for this is that our mobility combined with our ability to easily doom drop with overlords can allow us to ALWAYS do damage to a Protoss player who takes his third before seriously cannoning up the edges of his main.

Protoss cannot outright attack zerg until he gets colossi or storm templar on the field, otherwise he will simply be overrun by ling roach and eventually banelings and hydralisk.

The process:

It’s a simple opening, one I’m sure many of you are familiar with. However, I prefer to take a slightly delayed third. The reason for this is that it allows me to get gas about 15 seconds sooner than a standard fast-3-hatch build. I feel this opening is better for defending against immortal/sentry timings and it lets me get to drop tech a tiny bit faster as well.

15 pool
16 hatch (this varies based on his probe blocking abilities and however you generally open up following a pylon block)
15 overlord
15 queen
24 overlord
35/36 overlord (yeah, you haven’t made this overlord yet)
35/36 hatchery

The reason that this hatch timing works is because you will be getting double gas at 5:45 instead of 6:00. You will also be getting your third and 4th extractors at about 7:00, after you’ve dropped your roach warren and evo chamber at around the 6:45 mark. At 7:00 when you create these 2 additional extractors, you should be overlord scouting your opponent.

Here are the possible things you might see at this time:

2 gas
3 gas
4 gas

-From these gas numbers at 7:00 you can figure a lot of stuff out. Unfortunately, you can’t be sure unless you see his tech, but here is a short list of possible options he has depending on his gas count.

2 gas –
1. very fast 3rd base. You could have punished this with some speedlings, but unless you made these ahead of time you can’t.
2. Crazy all-in warp gate timing. Probably 6 gates with a lot of zealots. Defend this with mostly roaches, but your overlord needs to scout his main and (hopefully) see his gates or you’ll pretty much die to this every time.

3 gas –
1. Somewhat fast third. A lot of protoss like to grab blink and take their third afterwards. This is (in my opinion) protoss’ strongest opening in the matchup currently, and this build defends what we’re going to be doing better than any other opening. That said, you can still punish him for awhile until his stalker count gets very high since he’s going to be low on sentries and you can hit his third hard because of it.
2. Blink all in. Again, your overlord is looking for gates. If you see 7 or more it’s probably coming soon.
3. Immortal/sentry. Yeah, this happens sometimes with 3 gas, adding the 4th as he pushes for stalker production. Look for his robo and count the number of immortals. If the robo is building and he has 1 immortal already then it’s going to be this.
4. DTs, any variation of DTs, and possibly some more DTs. 3 Gas is enough to afford a DT shrine and expand quickly afterwards. Another possibility is that he will get DTs AND a robo and try some multi pronged harassment. This is pretty difficult to defend, but if you put a few roaches and a spore or overseer at each base you should be fine. (DT + warp prism timings can hit at 9:00 at the absolute earliest, by the way)

4 gas –
1. Immortal sentry expand. Comes a little later than a 2 or 3 gas variant, but not uncommon for Protoss when he sees a delayed third coming from you. The nice thing about Protoss who go to 4 gas by the 7 minute mark is that they’ve given up any chance of aggression for another minute or so, so you can drone up your third to max, start your 4th, and bank resources until he either moves out (cancel your fourth, make units) or takes his own third base (drone your 4th, get drop tech).
2. Immortal sentry all in – Probably a little delayed with more stalkers and/or sentries than the 3 gas variant. Roach/ling, overwhelm him and try to focus the warp prism with any queens you have nearby.
3. Other tech play – DTs, stargate. Just get a spore at each base when you scout the stargate or dt shrine and you should be fine. Your lair will finish and then you just go to your original plan since he shouldn’t do any damage with this.


So, you’ve gotten to the midgame. Your lair JUST finished and you scouted the Protoss. He ISN’T hitting you with a 6 gate or a 7 gate blink timing (if he is, then just make roaches and lings and kill him). So following that, here are your scenarios:

Scenario 1: Passive toss (this one is the fun one)

He sits in his base, he takes a third at a reasonable time, and then he continues to sit in his base. Wut doez I doooo?!

So your lair finishes, you get roach speed immediately, you continue hitting your upgrades (+1 ranged followed triple upgrades is my preference, you can opt for +2 ranged, +1 melee, double upgrades, whatever floats your boat if he isn’t all inning you).

When he takes his third base, you start your drop tech. That’s your timing right there, plain and simple.

You don’t need the drop tech until he takes the third with 1 exception.
Exception: He starts producing colossi on 2 bases. With 4 colossi on 2 bases he can do a pretty nasty timing to you if you aren’t prepared. Most pros don’t do this anymore since spine + infestor or swarm hosts stop this push pretty hard from 2 bases, but since we aren’t making infestors or swarm hosts yet you’re going to need drop tech and a baneling nest. When he attacks, you wait for him to get in a choke point (he’s going to do this himself anyways, Protoss players love chokes) and then you just a-move him with your army (preferrably in a surround) and then bring in a ton of banelings loaded in overlords and go BOOM. If you don’t know what bane rain is, then I recommend that you youtube it. It’s central to this style of play.

So, assuming the exception isn’t met, you get drop tech, you go up to 6 gas, you start your 4th base, and you make about 8-12 drones for your 4th base. I usually just let them long distance mine until it’s done, but you can try to be gosu with the timing if you want. Once you’ve done all this, you start unit production. Mass roaches first. Once you’ve hit about 150 supply start making zerglings, drop your baneling nest, and drop your infestation pit.

So you rally a ton of overlords and enough units to fill them near his main (bring extra overlords, you can drop creep and it gives him less chance of sniping the unit filled ones with stalkers or cannons). You send the rest of your army to rally at the front of his third base. When drop tech finishes, you drop in his main and start poking at his third with your main army. Watch your drop, if he has a few units in his main you can just drop on top of them. You can actually send an overseer in to peek at his army beforehand if you want. Check his army count and add units to your drop if you really want to pulverize him! Anyways, this timing is brutal. He’s generally going to lose something. Here are some tips:

*If he has no army in his main, focus the nexus after he runs the probes. If you kill the nexus, put an overlord on hold position where it used to be. This delays his nexus by a full minute while the creep recedes!

*Focus pylons powering his essential buildings. If you unpower them, put overlords spewing creep there too. He can’t power his buildings if there’s creep in the way!

*Constantly poke at his third. If he doesn’t have enough army there, kill everything. If he has too much army there, try to keep it occupied while your drop owns his face.

Scenario 2: Aggressive Toss
Probably an immortal sentry all in. Just get roaches on 3 bases with 3-4 extractors and dump the rest of your minerals into lings, an extra queen or 2, and a macro hatch. The macro hatch generally won’t kick in until after the battle is over, but it lets you instantly drone up a 4th base, keep him from taking a third, and it’s important for production just in case he somehow manages to kill your third.

After you defend the push, you get your 4th, get drop tech, and proceed as usual. If he retreats without attacking, you get drop tech, get your 4th, and you get the baneling nest a little bit sooner. Proceed as normal but try to keep your units alive as best you can. You don’t want to remake the roaches if you don’t have to, but if you lose them all immediately for free (from a bad drop or rally) you will have to remake them to make sure he doesn’t just kill you with a 3 base immortal timing.

The Transition (My Transition):
So you get to do whatever the heck you want. That’s the best part of this style. Go spire, go infestors and turtle, whatever. If you have no idea what you want to do at this point, here’s my suggestion:

“So… I delayed my hive too much. Now I die to a colossus timing, right?”
Baneling gud unit. I have had multiple HIGH MASTERS and GM players exclaim “omg baneling OP” after playing against me. Seriously, baneling drops will kill some really scary armies. You will be astounded at some of the colossus balls you kill with just roaches and baneling rain! So right about the time you’re loading up for the drop, you’re also making a baneling nest. Boom. Done. You no longer require any further tech to beat this Protoss player. Roach/ling/baneling can kill nearly any protoss army until he gets a mothership and a ton of archons and colossi (which he won’t get since you’re being extremely aggressive with drops and constantly army trading).

Okay, I lied. I said you don’t need any more tech, but you should probably get a hive so you can upgrade, and you should probably get a spire just in case he makes a mothership (you’ll want like 5 corruptors to make sure it dies after the battle. That said, just sprinkle in some hydras to your army if he rushes the mothership without a significant colossus count, they’ll help a lot. Once you get to the super late game, he might start getting good at defending your drops, but you can still do baneling drops. Bane drops require very little APM – just send them on a path to his mineral lines and let them go. +2 banelings will 1 shot probes. Sometimes they hit, sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t matter, it costs him a lot more effort to defend than it costs you to set up.

So now all that’s left is some replays. Easier said than done, right?
Wrong. It’s actually easier to do than it is to say >=]


vs. Immortal Sentry All in

vs. Immortal Sentry All… wait he retreated and made Colossi!?

vs. Macro Toss (Gateway First, timings are weird but execution the same) (very close game – I botched the drop timing – watch for mothership battles!)

PS: “Ben” is a rank 3 masters protoss and a practice buddy of mine. In every game in the above replays he knows what I’m going to do, but he still can’t stop it. He claims it’s a beatable strategy with the current metagame and that he’s just bad, but I feel that players of equal skill will always end with similar results (zerg winning >=])

*Some things you might notice about my gameplay:
I don’t always do everything that I say in this guide. It’s not because I decided not to, it’s because I’m bad and I don’t practice. Sometimes I get supply blocked, sometimes I forget to get my drop tech, sometimes I miss too many injects and I straight up die. Sometimes I forget to bring an overseer with my hydras and my drop gets denied. That said, even with these mistakes I win a LOT of games. This strategy is not “all in,” this strategy is not a gimmick. This style is much like a Terran who decides to go for pure bio against Protoss, except instead of stim and medivacs we get bane rain.


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