Protoss vs Zerg (PvZ) is currently a bit of an oddity in terms of balance. On the one hand, Skytoss generally has the advantage in the late-game. Conversely, the ability to handle early Zerg all-ins as Protoss is a skill that favors the informed.
One of the first rites of passage for Protoss is learning to handle early Zergling aggression. For new players still struggling with this concept, the repeat series between Han “Byul” Ji Won and Kim “Stats” Dae Yob in Group A of the GSL Round of 16 was a treasure-filled gold mine of study material.
There’s a lot to get into, so let’s dive in.
Before we get into what we should do, let’s start with what not to do. And conveniently enough, that’s exactly how this series started.
Stats opted for a greedy opening, not even bothering to scout. All things considered, it wasn’t that bad of a gamble. By the time the “baneling bust” hit his wall he already had a Zealot and a Stalker out. Against light zergling harassment this build could have held out and Stats would have been in a favorable position due to his heavy tech investment.
Stats was essentially gambling on Byul going for literally anything other than an all-in. This really speaks to the biggest difference between playing in a tournament rather than playing on ladder. In a tournament, sometimes you’ll want to opt to play the odds rather than the other player. Particularly if you have games to spare. This is also something to keep in mind when studying builds from pros.
Usually hard greed builds don’t translate well into ladder, always remember to scout. If Zerg has made no attempt at taking a second base, cancel whatever tech you don’t need and start chronoing units out of your Gateway/Warpgates immediately.
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Onto the game, this was the first real gemstone of the night. Another Baneling Bust, Protoss was a bit better prepared this time. Although his Mothership Core still came up late, he was able to get out Warpgates around the same time the Banelings hit. Once his base was breached, Stats immediately rebuilt his wall, cutting off potential reinforcements and giving him space to deal with the immediate threat. This would prove invaluable as the wall would delay the second Zerg push; just long enough to get enough energy for a second Photon Overcharge.
The Zerglings within the base were dealt with for minimal damage just by kiting his workers around enough for a couple warp-ins of Adepts to start getting damage done while his Oracle cleared the pack. It’s worth noting most early game gas investments can deal with Baneling, Zergling rushes fairly well: Sentries, Immortals, Oracles, Void Rays. Assuming you aren’t building full greed, holding a baneling rush really comes down to how you use the more complex units you have available at that point.
If you do go for a greedy build however, there’s nothing that will really help you and similar to Stats’ loss on Newkirk, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Respecting what your opponent can do in the early game is the first step in making it to the late-game.
Another game, more zerglings. Nothing surprising here. This is the first push Stats was actually able to scout and what followed was intriguing to say the least.
Massive credit to Dan “Artosis” Stemkoski and Nicolas “Tasteless” Plott, the StarCraft communty’s own real-life Archon, for pointing this out. Stats opened up the gap to let the first small wave of Zerglings in and attempted to hold them with a small handful of Probes for the Zealot to get work down. He then followed up by closing off the gap with a pylon, cancelling it only when he got the second Zealot out of the Gateway. By letting the first wave through he was able to cut the Zerglings away from each other.
The thing about Zerglings is that they depend heavily on strength of numbers. Eight Zerglings can easily get a full surround on two Zealots and that’s a problem. But four by four Zerglings cut off from each other can be taken out by a pair of Zealots with some micro control and much more easily with a bit of Probe support.
From here, Stats’ position in the game was pretty sturdy. Commenting quickly on the third Nexus, at this point once you’ve held a strong push for little to no economic loss, you usually just want to go for the kill. Stats already had his Robotics Facility out at this point. Instead of investing into another Nexus, he could have gone for a smaller Warp Gate explosion of 2-3 with a Prism and just proceeded to drop the guillotine on zerg with a steady stream of units.
Even with this mistake, however, the game was still ended fairly quickly from this point.
Newkirk Precinct Revisited
Back on Newkirk again. No all-in this time, but there was one last gemstone Stats had left to show off.
Stats didn’t even bother to complete his wall-off here. Instead, he pulled a small handful of Probes to provide a makeshift wall that would prevent Zerglings from getting a full surround on his Zealot. It’s a cute but surprisingly simple little trick that greatly simplifies the micro control and positional chess game that goes into dealing with Zerglings with a Zealot.
For a more insight on holding Zerg all-ins as Protoss, Jared “PiG” Krensel recently did an in-depth video on the subject.
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