Topic PvZ Overview REPOST
This is a repost from TL.net (http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=167992) It's an great guide explaining PvZ in detail. I hope it helps some of you who are having problems, it sure helped me.
Creds to Plexa from Teamliquid who had no problems with me reposting this.
From a Protoss perspective, PvZ was drasitcally altered by patch 1.1.2. Many players found themselves struggling with this matchup, despite being fine pre-patch. What caused this change isn't entirely clear - did Zerg's learn how to play properly? Or was the +1 Roach range really that significant? Arguably, it was a mix of both, but that isn't important. What is important is that now many Protoss players do not understand this matchup and, without doubt, Protoss do not understand the lategame of this matchup in the least.
This thread hopefully will change that. I would hope that any high level players would read this and agree with what is written here while lesser players might learn a thing or two from it. At the very least it can be cut and converted into something useful for liquipedia. The purpose of this thread is to educate, not cause a balance riot, nor to give the latest build orders for the matchup. Hopefully it will explain the concepts and themes running through the early, mid and late game of this matchup. It's unlikely that if you are 2k+ Diamond that you will gain anything from this thread, except maybe the comments about upgrades and the late game.
Maybe I'll add some pictures to this tomorrow, this turned into quite a wall of text!
For the purposes of this thread, early game refers to the period of the game where Zerg is trying to establish his economy while the Protoss is trying to respond to that. This is characterised by the Zerg taking his natural expansion, beginning his tech, and building up a large number of drones (or trying to). Once this foundation is established, the Zerg player is able to begin army production. While Zergs can 7RR, 5RR, baneling all-in, 6pool etc. these builds are not being considered here. On the whole these builds are shut down fairly easily by Sentries and appropriate cannon use. Further, macro games are where the strengths of Zerg shine so many Zergs are eager to play the economy game.
The Protoss early game is primarily concerned with not falling behind. Just leaving the Zerg to his own devices while taking a slow expansion off of 3 gateways is a sure fire way to lose to any competent Zerg (your economy will be too weak to compete, and he will eventually overpower you). Before the game begins you should have decided how you want to respond to the inevitable Zerg expansion - either 15 Nexus or Pressure.
The 15 Nexus option pretty much eliminates the early game phase of the game. Both you and the Zerg will be focusing on economy and neither player should be able to break the other (assuming you're responding correctly to any all ins). The only important thing to remember about this build is that scouting is essential - either via 2 Stargate Phoenix or Hallucination. Hallucination favours a ground based army follow up while Phoenix gives you the option of harass. The information you want to get from scouting is whether or not he has taken a really fast third and what his lair tech choice is (spire vs hydra den). This will be dealt with in the mid game section.
If you do not 15 Nex, then you must pressure the Zerg. The reason is simple, 15 Nex allows you to keep your probe production matched with his drone production. If you don't expand at 15, then he will have more drones since he will be powering all those larvae into drones. Pressuring the Zerg prevents that - he has to use those extra larvae on units, and not drones, which keeps his drone production in check and means you aren't falling behind. Of course, you are expanding behind your pressure (generally) and this allows you to transition into the midgame on even footing.
There are two key units in the Protoss early game - the Stalker and the Sentry. While these units are the most important, Zealots also have their place. I will devote the next few paragraphs to them and their role in this phase of the game before expanding on the types of pressure builds you can implement.
The Stalker is the strongest early game unit in this matchup - on either side. It's speed is unparalleled, until lings get speed. As such Stalkers are able to kite Zerg units very effectively and thus will be the core of any pressure attempts. (Zealot pressure is obsolete now due to Roaches). Their effectiveness peaks when you are able to get blink and pressure the Zerg with 3-4 gateways - ala Liquid`Nazgul. If you don't get Blink, then simply using hit and run micro (like Dragoons from Brood War) will generally be very effective. The most important thing to remember when pressuring with Stalkers is that you CANNOT lose them.
Sure, you can lose one or two here or there, but if you lose the lot - that's it, game over. Stalkers are only a threat in numbers and at this stage of the game you cannot afford to rebuild an army (this will become a common theme...).
On November 11 2010 01:05 sleepingdog wrote:
I can't stress enough how CRITICAL it is to get the timings right. NEXGenius lost a game vs Leenock on Metalopolis (into ragequit lol) because he started retreating his 2 initial stalkers just a few seconds too late. I think the user "Friend23" or sth like that posted the timings some days ago, if you scout the gas you have about 3:15 ingame until you are up against speedlings.
To extend my thoughts from there: I think you should emphazise more that the scouting of the gas early on is THE most aspect in the whole PvZ early game matchup. Of course you will scout for early expo..duh..that's standard. But many fail to realize how important it is to scout how early zerg goes for gas.
Because if he does NOT go for early gas this means he intends to play economicly greedy and you HAVE to do "something" or get outmacroed like roflwhat.
Opposed to this, if you see early gas you can play it more safe (zealot/sentry-expand) because zerg sacrifices mineral-mining in order to get "something" that isn't a drone. Be it speedlings, be it roach, it won't matter much because it means that you can now play it more safely. A 3 gate sentry-expand should do fine if zerg goes for fast(er) speedlings and also does very fine vs any sort of standard 2 hatch roach play (as seen from Nony vs Idra, where Nony stomped over Idra's roach-push-attempt close positions on lost temple).
The main objective with Stalker pressure is to make them spend larvae on things other than drones. From the Zerg side the best response is speedlings/ Even though Roaches got that extra range, they still get eaten by Stalker mobs. Speedlings, however, are able to shut down Stalker pressure by surrounding the Stalker mob and removing their mobility from them. Without their mobility - Stalkers are useless. It is imperative that you don't let your Stalkers get surrounded by speedlings and it takes some practice to gauge how many speedlings your mob of stalkers can take - e.g. quick 2 stalker pressure should retreat as soon as speed is finished but a 14 stalker timing attack can micro against a decent number of speedlings. Another important aspect of Stalker control is keeping the mob together - having gaps in the mob allows Stalkers to become isolated, surrounded and picked off.
In brief, you always want to keep your Stalkers moving in a mob and you want to retreat before they have enough speedlings to surround you. Being able to pick off overlords, drones and queens is a massive bonus. Being able to kill them outright is brilliant, but you shouldn't expect this in most cases.
The Sentry, conversely, is the greatest defensive unit in the early game. Further it is essential to build a decent number of these guys the moment you start your expansion (unless you are able to kill them with more Stalkers). Pure sentry with cannon support can hold off almost any type of all in with proper forcefield use. The forcefield ability is incredibly powerful and makes your defences unbreakable. While you are chronoboosting probes from two bases and building up gateways/tech it's usually a good idea to spam pure sentry since they cost so few minerals and their use won't diminish for a long time. Obviously, add Stalkers if you see them prepare drops/worms - sentries are too immobile to deal with these threats.
In general, you can't attack with Sentries in the early game. It is true that they augment your attack power, but the issue is that they are very slow and have limited mana at this stage in the game. Further, they are a significant investment which means that if you lose them - game over. It is much better just to sit back, play passive and gear up for the midgame.
Let's briefly talk about the role of Zealots. Zealots have amazing DPS and soak hits better than Stalkers and thus can be employed in a few timing attacks to combat Spine Crawler heavy Zerg users. Also, if the Zerg is playing speedling heavy then you will want a few Zealots - either on offence or defence. Stalkers don't really kill lings fast enough and will often be left floundering around, having a few Zealots can alleviate most problems Speedlings will give you. This remains true for most of the rest of the game as well - Zealots are an effective way of nullifying speedling heavy unit compositions.
If you are taking a reasonably fast expansion (e.g. after 2 stalkers) then Hallucination is essential to get immediately after Warp Gate. If you are playing a more pressure based approach (i.e. 4gate blink stalker) then you might be able to skip Hallucination since you can probably guess what tech he's going - nevertheless it's a useful upgrade.
You want to get this upgrade because it allows you a 100 mana maphack. If you have 6+ sentries, this is essentially a free maphack. Knowing what the Zerg is doing is absolutely critical thoughout the game and having Hallucination allows you to see what he is up to whenever you like. In this stage of the game, in particular, Hallucination is great for determining whether he is teching mutalisk, hydra or roach or if he's going fast hive, fast expand etc. He can't keep any secrets from you with Hallucination!
To summarise the flow of the early game it goes something like this;
- pressure with stalkers
- expand behind pressure
- add sentries to avoid being over run by all ins
- get hallucination to scout what he's up to
- get +1 weapons when you have the gas for it
I'll explain why you want +1 in the midgame section, since it's more relevant there.
So let's have a look at the metagame of pressure builds. The cold hard truth is that every single pressure build by the Protoss can be countered by Zerg if he knows it's coming. Ample hidden speedlings crush any Stalker pressure builds, period. Even Nazgul's blink stalker build will die to ample speedlings. So then why bother pressuring at all? It's simple, if he's building that many lings to counter you he isn't building drones, and that means you end up at least equal in the midgame! The key to these builds is being unexpected. If he over drones, he dies to a well executed pressure build - i.e. Idra at Dalas over the weekend. Thus the trick is to be be using timing pushes which are not trendy in the metagame (i.e. Blink Stalkers are getting weaker because more and more Zergs are expecting it). Thus it is important to have a vast repertoire of openings so that you are able to keep the Zerg on his toes - he should be forced to have to read your build, rather than rely on the metagame, to counter what you are doing.
Here comes in the Sentry expand build. Earlier I said that late expansions without pressure make you end up behind - and generally that is true. But if the metagame is such that all Zergs are preparing for Blink Stalkers, simply feinting a Blink Stalker opening and going into a sentry expand build instead tends to fool the Zerg into running his "counter blink stalker.bat" file and cease droning - i.e. mission accomplished without risking your army. Thus, in my opinion, if you are playing a Sentry/Expand opening you should mimic whatever pressure build is trendy at the moment for maximum effectiveness.
This should be sufficient to give you an outline of the basics of the PvZ Early game. I have obviously made omissions, for instance I haven't discussed the hugely popular gate/forge opening with the double pylon block. It would be impossible to give a complete account of the early game, which is rather unfortunate, but this should be enough to give you an idea about what is "standard" in this matchup. At the end of the early game you should have a comparable probe-drone count, both of you should have an expansion and decided on your tech path - and generally you will have had at least one hallu phoenix scout pass over his base. And now, we arrive at the midgame.
UPDATE: as of right now on the ladder, on the whole I think Zergs are making a lot more units before pumping drones. In particular speedlings seem to be gaining popularity - as such most Stalker based pressure builds are becoming weaker. Zealot/Stalker based pressure will likely be more effective than pure Stalker (albeit, less mobile). Just make sure you're only trading Zealots and not Stalkers since not wasting gas units is critical.
Your alternative to mixing in Zealots into pressure is to Sentry expand which should put you on even footing or ahead if he commits to lings too hard.
As stated above, the beginning of the midgame is where you choose your tech and commit to an army. This is where the real war begins. Towards the end of the early game, good Zergs will plant either one or two evo chambers and begin upgrading - one evo chamber tends to correlate to muta/ling play while 2 evos is usually hydra/roach. Upgrades are going to be incredible important during the midgame - more so than 99% of people realise. You should have started +1 Attack during the early game as well, you will need this so you do not fall behind. I would say the midgame ends when the Zerg maxes (it shouldn't take too long). By this time he will usually have the following
- A third, looking for a fourth
- 2-2 or 2-1 Upgrades
- Hive started, or completed
Your goal during the midgame is to keep his expansions in check while securing your third and fourth and keeping up (if not leading) in upgrades. If you are able to do this you will avoid being overrun by wave upon wave of maxed Zerg armies. Yay.
You have two main army composition choices - Stalker/Sentry/Colossus or Immortal/Stalker/Templar. Each has its pros and cons. It is possible to play a third style - 2stargate phoenix but on the whole those styles are more difficult to execute well.
Stalker/Sentry/Colossus (SSC) is the standard go-to army for Protoss against most things. Primarily you will want to use this against Hydra/Roach based armies. While not entirely horrible, Muta/Ling tends to do better against this army composition since there is no way to keep the mutalisk numbers in check once they grow past 12-14. Nevertheless, 8-10~ Sentries pack a huge punch against Mutalisks and guardian shield is invaluable so you can still fight a muta transition, but I would never willingly fight a muta/ling build with this.
Against Hydra/Roach however, this is the army you want to use. Typically they will mix in Corruptors to counter the Colossus. When microing these battles, your goal is to wall off half of the Zerg army, retreat a little bit then attack. This way the forces trapped behind the FFs won't be able to reach your SSC ball and you can safely pick off half of his army. Indeed, haivng a large sentry count is essential for this composition to work - if you lose sentries be sure to replace them!! Your forcefielding skills will, essentially, determine the success of your battles. Further, being able to ff, retreat, snipe corruptors all before your colossi die will often turn the game drastically in your favour.
Guardian Shield, or Gshield, is an incredibly important part of this unit composition.Using Gshield when engaging the Zerg; you would be surprised at how often Protoss don't do this! Gshield actually is incredibly important as it makes +2 Roaches do their base damage once again (assuming equal upgrades) and that makes mass Roach armies beatable. It is also invaluable against Muta armies since it drastically reduces their damage output.
If you notice that the Zerg is committing a lot of resources to Corruptors (i.e. in excess of 10) then make sure you slap down a Templar Archives and transition into a IST composition. It's essentially impossible to stop your Colossus from being killed by the Corruptors and once that happens he will have established air control and succeeded in controlling your Colossus count (analogous to how Zergs needed to control Science Vessel count in SC1). You shouldn't be able to get a Colossus ball going again in the game, that's why it's important to be able to transition into templar! That way you won't lose to the next round of Hydralisks that the Zerg produces.
As the game creeps on, this unit composition becomes worse, and worse and then down right terrible. This is because of upgrades. Indeed, understanding this is absolutely essential to understanding the last half of this matchup. Stalkers scale terribly with upgrades. Their measily +1 damage and lack of shield upgrades simply doesn't compare to the +2 for Roaches and the insane DPS of Hydras. +1 armor from the Zerg completely mitigates the +1 from Protoss on the Stalker and Sentry meaning their effectiveness, damage wise, against Roaches doesn't change throughout the game with equal upgrades. Meanwhile, a +2 Raoch has +4 damage, meaning they are dealing 4 more damage to shield and 2 more damage to HP (6 to shield/3 to HP at +3!). Thus, Stalker balls get crushed by Roach balls - particularly when burrow is thrown into the mix. So despite being the king of the early game, the Stalker becomes progressively worse throughout the game. Indeed for the most part, you will want to avoid stalkers in the late game, but we'll get to that later.
The Immortal/Stalker/Templar (IST) unit composition fares a lot better against Muta/Ling than the CSS composition. However, it does slightly worse against Hydra/Roach since Storm comes out so late - but it's still playable (as Mana points out time and time again). Invariably, your Stalkers will have blink to deal with Mutalisks. The above point about upgrades still holds for this composition - particularly against a full Roach switch. While Immortals are great at killing them, you really need to pump them out to be competitive against them (which 99% of the time isn't the case). Storm is good against Hydra, not against Roaches. And as discussed, Stalkers get worse against Roaches as more and more upgrades kick in. If using IST, it is important to realise when Roach switches occur so you can add another Robo and pump more immortals because without them, you will die. Zealots can be useful in this composition if the Zerg is building a number of Speedlings as they are they are much better at killing Zerglings than Stalkers/Immortals.
Playing IST against a Roach/Hydra composition is all about stalling for Storm while using forcefield/gshield and Immortals to fend off any Roach/Hydra pushes and punish any quick expansions. Immortals are surprisingly durable against small numbers of Hydralisks so don't be too afraid! When Hydras start getting scary you should have storm ready and be able to mince them up no problem. While you still have sentries in your army it I find it useful to keep Templar in a separate control group to my Sentries so that I can quickly cast forcefield then spam storm.
Don't be afraid to merge Templar into Archons, they are incredibly strong in this matchup. If Protoss weren't so strapped for gas we would make armies of pure archons, but unfortunately that's not possible. However the supplement both the CSS and IST armies exceptionally well, and are also can be key units in the late game. So don't forget them!
In either case, both unit compositions get progressively weaker as Zerg upgrades come into play. If you are lucky enough to be playing a Zerg who isn't upgrading (while you are) then you can stick with these unit compositions and still be incredibly successful. If a Zerg is upgrading, you will need to transition into a suitable late game army. Part of the reason Protoss is struggling so much in this matchup is that they don't understand just how effective upgrades are and continue to make these unit compositions and consequently get destroyed. I haven't see a Protoss defeat a Zerg post-patch in a long game where the Zerg has been religious with his upgrades - in all cases where a Protoss is able to win with these compositions are cases where the Zerg has failed to upgrade. Just check any replay site for verification of this.
I'll give a brief mention to the 2gate Phoenix builds. Generally, the idea behind this is to take control of the air and punish any Zerg going Mutalisk. Generally you want to get up to around 8-10 Phoenix for them to peak in effectiveness. Once you get to this count, you should be able to dominate his Mutalisk count. Just remember not to lose Phoenix and use "swoop micro" - i.e. swoop in with your Phoenix, pick off one or two mutalisks, then retreat. This way you should minimise losses while keeping his Mutalisk count in check.
If the Zerg is playing Hydra/Roach you need to firstly punish any stray overlords, and secondly make sure he doesn't get a base up on you. Most of the time a Protoss will lose against the Zerg when using 2gate Phoenix against Hydra/Roach because he lets the Zerg establish 3 bases and just sits there. Use Phoenix to harass drone lines and switch into dual robo Colossus once your economy is strong. If the Zerg does get a quick third you either need to get an expansion yourself, or punish it with a well timed Colossus timing attack - most Protoss prefer the latter. It is possible to expand since you can be confident that he will be committing most of his forces to dealing with your Phoenix - just make sure you've got an eye on him at all times!
As hinted at, the Zerg also have two key unit compositions - Hydra/Roach and Muta/Ling - both have their pros and cons. I won't go into these, but I will give an outline to the counter for each style.
Against Hydra/Roach they will be looking to play an economic game and thus will likely be expanding and mostly playing passive with solid creep spread. Of course they can timing attack you and whatnot, but generally that shouldn't be an issue since Sentries are a really good deterrent. Given the mobility issues of this composition, you can usually take your third around the same time he takes his. This feels really unnatural as a Protoss since in BW this was NEVER the case. However, in SC2 I'm fairly confident that this timing is sound. If he hasn't taken his expansion by the time you have 100 food, chances are he's noob, so take your expansion then of course keep an eye on his with hallucination just to make sure he's not going for a timing attack.
It is often a good idea to pressure similar to the early game while expanding (alternatively, you can forego expanding and timing attack off of two base). The same principles to this pressure apply as before - don't lose units, your objective is to force units, not drones and if you can end the game, great. Again, using Hallucination is an excellent way of determining the best course of action (ie. you see he is really massing drones and has no army, then you can eaily walk in an win righ there). I can't stress this enough, using many many hallucinations to completely understand what the Zerg is doing is one of the most effective ways of winning PvZs. Not only do they tell you what he is doing in the game you are playing, but it also helps build up your intuition of what to expect in the matchup - meaning you will use less and less Hallucinations as you improve and understand the matchup more. So yes, plese use hallucination and base your play off of that.
The unit composition of choice against this is the CSS composition, but it's very likely you will begin to stockpile minerals towards the end of the midgame. That's okay! That's completely normal. Sadly enough, you are completely reliant on gas units and will always be limited by your gas collection as opposed to your mineral collection. It's not worth pumping a mass of Zealots - they get minced by Roaches/Hydra. So you have two options - cannons or expand. Cannons are useful, because they do good damage and cost no gas even though they're stationary. Expanding can be risky, but what else are you going to do with those minerals. It's possible that you can get your 4th before he does, although usually they will also be around the same time.
It is imperative that you catch when he transitions into Hive tech - you will need to be prepared for that. If he is able to discretely tech to hive and get ultras or BL then the game is over since the CSS composition dies to both of them really really hard. Ultras render Sentries useless and BLs require a very specific counter. Exactly what to do when you scout the transition will be discussed in the late game section.
In summary, playing against Hydra/Roach retains a lot of the key themes from the early game. Either expand when he does, or pressure him with your ground forces to force units and not drones while expanding yourself.
Muta/Ling is the complete opposite of Hydra/Roach - it focussed on mobility and swarming you with many weak units abusing the fact that Stalkers fire so goddam slow. The most effective way to deal with this style is to timing push before it is ready - typically they will be low on units, or only have speedlings to defend. Thus a well timed push off of 5-6 gates often can end the game then and there. I cannot stress enough just how important putting pressure on a Zerg right before his Mutas are ready is. If you can kill any amount of drones with this pressure it gives you the breathing room you need to transition into your mutalisk counter of choice. However, if you can't finish him or simply would prefer to defend the Muta harass then you're definitely going to need blink. You shouldn't be able to get a third until you move out, which is really annoying but is just something you'll have to deal with.
Your objective with blink is to kill Mutalisks. The strength of Mutalisks is that they are able to come in and pick off a stalker while only suffering damage - i.e. not losing mutalisks in the process. This means that the mutalisk death ball never decreases in size while your Stalkers do. So the moral of the story is don't let Stalkers get killed stupidly (i.e. to lings) and use Blink to kill off hurt mutalisks (easier said than done). Don't use Blink to engage Mutalisks as this will just lead to them being hurt, and not killed.
Using Phoenix to counter Mutalisks can be very good, or it can be very bad. If you opened with Phoenix, great! You should be able to keep the Mutalisk death ball under control or even force him into a ground army. If you scout the spire and then start building your two stargates it will be very difficult to keep up with his mutalisk production. The key to making this successful is applying pressure with your ground forces which either will kill drones or force spinecrawlers (which also reduces his drone count) - that way he spends a few rounds of larvae on drones and not mutas allowing your phoenix count to catch up.
I would definitely opt for the IST unit composition against this for a few reasons. Firstly, it naturally provides you with Blink for your stalkers. Secondly, Immortals are great for taking out Roaches (which usually get tossed into the mix these days) and provide a good counter for Ultras later on. But most importantly, it gives you access to Storm. Storm is the key part in countering this style. While it seems that Mutalisks can just move out of the Storm and avoid most of the damage, in practice this is not the case. Typically storms can do up to 40 damage to a clump of mutalisks (thats 33% of their health). 3-4 Storms over cloud of mutalisks will put most of them in the red - and if he's got 24 red mutalisks he isn't going to come harassing you in fear of losing them all. This allows you to move out etc and win.
The moment you are able to move out you should expand, and consider expanding again. If the Zerg has 4 bases by the time you move out the game should be over, unless you are able to kill him right there. Otherwise, do what damage you can (kill as many of those blasted mutalisks!) and secure bases and map control. Further, prepare for the lategame tech transition than will undoubtedly come. As with CSS vs Hydra/Roach, you will likely become gas starved and mineral heavy - so as before either cannon, expand or maybe dump some money into Zealots - since they aren't terrible against Zerglings.
Regardless of what the Zerg does, you should add a second forge and upgrade armour. If you fall behind in upgrades you should lose, particularly if he is upgrading. Since most Zergs dual evo, the second forge becomes crucial in keeping up. Further, since you have Chronoboost (and probably aren't spending it... be honest!!) you can dump your CB onto the upgrades. I strongly believe that the difficulties Protoss have in the latter half of the game are directly attributed to the strength of Zerg upgrades and the lack of Protoss upgrades, so please, upgrade religiously, you won't regret it!
A small tip is to make sure you keep a diligent eye on when he takes his third. This isn't BW, Zergs being a base up on you means you are behind (unless you get a base up yourself soon after). It also means that generally if he's taking a really quick expansion you can move out and force a cancel or even kill it since he won't have the units to defend. I would advise thinking about Zerg and expanding in the following way - treat a Zerg expansion like you would an expansion in any other matchup! If they get it up and get it fully saturated before you have an expansion fully saturated then you are behind - pressure and all ins keep Zergs and their expansions honest. The same applies to the Zergs 3rd and 4th etc. Moral of the story - don't fall behind in bases and punish Zergs for being greedy!
Oh and one last piece of advice that is true no matter what unit composition you run with:
On November 13 2010 08:42 adrift wrote:
I like the post. I think you should put in bold somewhere that you can not under any circumstances lose your army (or any non-minimal amount of it) without doing economic damage to them. You kind of mentioned it in some parts but I think that is one of the most important things in PvZ.
Do not push out later mid-game/late-game unless you think you can kill their army and have enough left over to actually damage their economy. If you lose your expensive gas units and don't hurt their economy you are probably dead.
Okay, you've exchanged some severe blows and survived. You're both on multiple bases and haev approximately half the map each. Upgrades are almost 3-3 on both sides and the Zerg has his Hive up. Ladies and Gentles, we are in the late game.
This section is probably going to sound like a massive balance whine - well, it is and it isn't. Neither the CSS or IST unit compositions are cost effective in this stage of the game mostly because Stalkers suck incredible hard now. If Protoss had any other easily massable ranged unit we would make them, but we dont, and we absolutely need those ranged attacks (i.e. against broods) so we are stuck with these garbage units. So in this respect, Stalkers are really under powered now. Further, Sentries are obsolete - Ultras trample through forcefields and Broodlords just lol at them. The only thing they are good for are a few last minute hallucinations to soak damage.
So basically, once you hit lategame you need to change up your unit composition. That's fine, us Protoss players will just have to cope with a core unit of ours being terrible but necessary. Bleh.
Okay so once you scout that he's going hive you need to decide on what Late game unit composition you want to strive for. Really, there are only two options - Void Rays or Immortals. Immortals hard counter Ultralisks so if you know your Zerg opponent is going to go Ultralisks, slap down 3 robos and pump immortals, research charge, and mass Zealots. If you were using the IST unit composition keep making Templar and cease Stalker production. If you were using the CSS unit composition, try not to lose Colossus and cease Stalker/Sentry production - consider mixing in DTs if possible. Ultimately though, I feel that Immortals are not flexible enough for the late game since a good Zerg should switch back to Mutalisks or Hydralisks and roflstomp your late game army - plus immortals suck against Broodlords for obvious reasons.
2 Stargate VoidRay, however, is the future of PvZ late game in my humble opinion. Hasuobs was the first to really use this in high pressure situations, as far as I can recall. Of course I am referring to his Go4SC2 Final against Haypro, in particular his game on Lost Temple. Void Rays, or rather, Speed Rays are incredible late game units for the following reasons
- Zerg has nothing good to kill them with (muta expensive, corruptor lol, hydras die to everything)
- They do full damage to Ultra and Broods
- Are really useful against both Broods and Ultras
- Speedrays are amazing harass tools (can shut down expos, kill drones, tech etc)
- They force hydras/mutas which are both gas intensive, the zerg wants to be spending that gas on ultra or BL
To top it all off, they complement a CSS or IST army really well independently of late game so around 150 food you can slap down two stargates and pump Voids without worrying about whether they will be countered by something (because there isn't an excellent counter to them!). If the Zerg is going Ultra, cut Stalkers and add Zealots and if he's going Broods continue the Stalker production. Also, getting speed unlocks the mighty Mothership. Laugh all you want at how useless you think it is, but getting a Mothership forces the Zerg to either
a) target fire the Mothership before killing your army (i.e. a 400/400 PDD which has vortex)
b) Get overseers (which is annoying)
In either case the Mothership augments the power of your Zealot/Colossus/Stalker/Void Ray or Zealot/Stalker/Immortal/Templar/Void Ray ball tenfold. It can make all the difference in a 200/200 fight, trust me.
If the Zerg is able to crush your army, chances are the game is over since he will likely be able to replenish very quickly. So make sure you are moving out with either a maxed or near maxed army or that you can see a clear window of opportunity to attack. Otherwise, use speedrays to harass the Zerg while making sure you have the last few bases secured and mining. Once you reach 200/200 (ideally with Mothership) you should be able to crush any army that the Zerg throws at you with minimal losses - and from there the game should be yours.
You can be confident that without Hive tech, a 160 Supply Protoss army should crush anything the Zerg can throw at it. With Hive tech this isn't necessarily true! Unfortunately there isn't much more to add to this other than play cleverly, the late game is so poorly understood by Protoss at the moment that it's difficult to give better advice. However, this should serve as a good grounding for your own experimentation in the matchup.
Hopefully you understand the basics of PvZ now, obviously there are a number of areas which I have neglected since this is meant to serve as a basis for standard PvZ. If you have any questions, this is a good thread to ask them in and hopefully other good Protoss players will be able to help out as well This is the best matchup in SC2 as far as I am concerned, and every Protoss should be able to appreciate the beauty of it.
UPDATE: I've included a few really good replays that I think demonstrate these points well below:
Sorrow vs Orz (http://sc2rep.com/replays/download?id=2841)
- Excellent example of a number of these principles - hallu scouting, pressure, good FF use etc.
inNirvana vs bly (http://sc2rep.net/sites/all/modules/pubdlcnt/pubdlcnt.php?file=http://sc2rep.net/files/replays/(P)inNirvana_vs_(Z)Bly_LT_2010-11-10_2751.sc2replay&nid=2751)
- Despite the dubious P opening (it would crumble to roach pressure) he moves out at an unorthodox time and is able to pressure the Zerg
- Zerg builds a lot of spines which delay muta and is a massive tell that he is going muta
- P's pressure tells him that mutas are coming (without using hallu) and double stargates and forces the zerg to commit drones to static defense
- As a result, the Zerg isn't able to get a decent muta count up and the Phoenix overpower him
- The Protoss isn't afraid to expand - the expansion to 12 was perfect seeing as he knew the Zerg wouldn't be able to pressure him any time soon
Idra vs Minigun (http://tools.duowan.com/sc2/rep/download.php?id=3762)
- Unconventional timings on Miniguns attacks really put a macro zerg off his game!
Macseed vs Some Zerg (http://rep.sc2.com.cn/detail-3291.html)
- One thing to note about this game is that the Taiwanese metagame is such that Zerg like to play really aggressive openings. This means, automatically, that they are not droning as hard as NA/EU/KR Zergs are. Pressure as a Protoss on this server is often not necessary. As long as you're not losing units to his Zerglings (or roaches) - you're okay.
- This replay demonstrates perfect use of sentries. He uses Hallucination religiously to get complete information about the Zergs strategy. And his forcefield and micro during the major fight south of the Zergs gold is sublime - he traps half the army, moves back with his army, then engages again - exactly as described in this guide. It really makes the sentry look broken to be honest!
mOOnGlade vs Lotze (http://rep.sc2.com.cn/detail-3398.html)
- This replay isn't an example of a Protoss playing well. Lotze, despite being a top 64 GSL Protoss, plays this game completely wrong. Glade on the other hand, does everything right.
- Lotze opens with forge/gateway pressure which is a fair good opening, but isn't able to end the game there so expands (so far so good)
- Lotze doesn't apply pressure and literally just sits there while Glade drones up on three bases
- Lotze doesn't get his third nearly fast enough
- Lotze doesn't focus on upgrades, Glade gets a quick 2-2 and the difference shows
- Lotze's unit composition is completely wrong - you can't counter Roaches with blink stalkers. His VR switch comes far too late.
- Zergs, play like Glade does. Protoss, don't play like lotze.
Some Korean Protoss vs etdrevtime (http://sc2rep.com/replays/download?id=2753)
- This is a perfect game from the Protoss.
- He opens with one of my favourite builds, the double stalker pressure. He's clever about it though. He uses the Stalkers to snipe off wandering overlords while the Zerg sees this and spends larvae on lings/overlords to defend. However, he never actually sends the Stalkers and instead expands safely.
- Zerg tries to get greedy taking the gold, and the Protoss pressures with a good number of sentry and stalker, the zerg has no units, and the expo dies
- The zerg takes a reasonably fast third after that but is unable to saturate it because the Protoss pressure forces him to make units and not drones
- The Protoss expands a little bit after the zerg does meaning he's going to be miles ahead in economy (since he's well saturated at this point)
- He also has great army composition (stalker/immortal/sentry) and has great forcefield micro
- The protoss does exactly what he needs to do, when he needs to do it, and never lets the Zerg play the game he wants to play. It's beautiful.
There is another thing I started to think about and that is Overlord placement. As of now in any pro PvZ the Zerg just happily splits his Overlords all over the map with complete impunity. Zerg knows when Protoss expands, Zerg knows when Protoss walks the less obvious routes and they get their 100 mineral scouting whenever they want.
It is starting to bother me that all the people I watch playing, simply let the Zerg have that kind of map control in addition to creep spread.
Edited by mannequiN on 24/11/10 00:12 (GMT)
There is another thing I started to think about and that is Overlord placement. As of now in any pro PvZ the Zerg just happily splits his Overlords all over the map with complete impunity. Zerg knows when Protoss expands, Zerg knows when Protoss walks the less obvious routes and they get their 100 mineral scouting whenever they want.
Indeed, Overlord placement is important as Zerg, so should not be left unpunished if there are lots of them on the map spread like crazy.
Awesome OP post btw.