State on StarCraft: Stardust’s Upgrade-Centric Protoss Vs. Zerg


  1. Introduction
  2. Opening
  3. Timing and Followup


Around the time your third is warping in, your first observer should be arriving at your opponent’s main base. If the Zerg is opening spire, begin producing stalkers and researching Blink. Otherwise, continue producing zealots, sentries, and immortals exclusively.

After you’ve reached about six sentries, an immortal, and zealots, begin moving across the map to feign pressure. Don’t commit to anything just yet — your army’s not big enough to win a battle decisively. Having a presence on the map forces the Zerg to build units reactively, weakening his economy and making him more vulnerable to a later timing. Pull back, regroup with the rest of your forces, and prepare for the timing attack.

At around 10:00, warp in three more sentries (nine total) and spend the rest of your warp-ins on zealots. Once you’ve regrouped, begin moving crossmap again, warping in proxy pylons as you go. By 11:00, your upgrades should be finishing, proxy pylons secure, and you should have an army of about two immortals, nine sentries, and six-to-ten zealots. Stardust does this push without a mothership core, but I highly recommend building one — if things go badly, recall can be a lifesaver.

Once your upgrades complete, move in to attack. On most maps, the best location to hit is the Zerg’s third, but any major choke point you can catch the Zerg’s army in is an excellent place to fight. Whittle down the Zerg’s army as best you can, being careful not to lose any sentries or immortals. Keep in mind that if you catch enough units out of position, you might be able to end the game outright with this first attack. If you can’t break the opponent’s defenses, retreat and transition. Use a hallucinated phoenix or observer to scout the opponent’s tech and adjust to his composition towards the late-game:

  • Mutalisks—Against mutalisks, you’re going to want a blink-stalker heavy composition and cannons covering your mineral lines. There are two different ways to play it out: hit a timing with blink-stalkers, archons, and other gateway units, or tech to storm and try to take a fourth base. Mutalisks can be frustrating, but with good decision-making you can win in the late-game even with a purely ground-based composition. Here’s an example of Stardust doing just that.
  • Roach/Hydra—Though your initial timing with zealots, sentries, and immortals still hits hard, it’s unlikely to do too much damage to a Zerg opening roach/hydra. Researching blink, continuing immortal production, and teching to storm is the best way to navigate your unit composition. Hit a three-base timing or take a fourth , just be sure to keep up on upgrades.
  • Roach/Ling—With good control, Stardust’s opening destroys this composition. The first timing has the potential to do significant damage and might even win the game outright. Many players, Jaedong included, like to use roach/ling compositions to transition into higher tech, so be ready to adjust to whichever tech they choose.
  • Swarm Hosts—It’s unlikely Zerg will have swarm hosts ready for the first timing, but it’s a common transition in the current metagame. Multi-pronged harass and warp prism play allows you to damage the Zerg’s economy even if your army can’t win a head-on engagement. Use your attacks to buy time for colossus or templar tech, either of which provides the area-of-effect damage necessary for breaking swarm hosts.

Hopefully this guide will help you Protoss players emulate Stardust’s unique style in PvZ. Again, DreamHack’s official replay pack — which includes the strategy we’ve analyzed — is hosted here. I’m looking into working with other players to bring you guys some Zerg and Terran guides in the next few weeks. Someone also commented that they’d like to see an article detailing how to best improve at the game, and I plan to write about that as well. I’ve been busy the past few weeks, but will begin streaming again at Twitch.TV/StateSC2 on Monday, July 8th. Thanks for reading!

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3 Comments on State on StarCraft: Stardust’s Upgrade-Centric Protoss Vs. Zerg


On July 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm

another amazingly in-depth guide to playing protoss at top tier level!


On October 28, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Hey State how do you hold off early pools using FFE?

Ryan Visbeck

On October 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Hey Makuly,

Make sure that you probe scout right after your first pylon. On 2-player maps, you should be able to scout even a 6-pool in time to react perfectly.

Build a Pylon in your main base, a cannon in your mineral line, and try your best not to lose any probes. From here on out, play as if you’re going gateway expand—build a gateway, an assimilator (make sure it’s protected by the cannon), and then start a zealot, cybernetics core, and then later a mothership core. Once you have enough units (you can use your mothership core to see how many zerglings are near your natural), move out and take the expansion. Start producing sentries and be careful with your unit positioning.

Sometimes Zerg players will hide a bunch of zerglings and then rush in with speed once you start taking your natural. In that case, forcefield off your ramp, hold your main base, throw down two additional gateways and expand when safe.

You have to make a lot of judgement calls and have good reaction times, but when you execute your defense perfectly it puts you really far ahead. On 4-player maps, you might get especially unlucky and scout them last when they’re going 6-Pool, and sometimes you can’t get the cannon in your mineral line up in time. Those losses suck, but they’re few and far between.

Remember that ladder isn’t about winning, it’s about getting better. Try not to get frustrated if you mess up your defense on your first few tries, just do your best to learn from your mistakes so that they don’t happen again.

Best of luck!