Hello and welcome to a guide on how to beat late game Protoss! I have seen many, many complaints on how late game ZvP is impossible, so this guide will attempt to show Zerg players how to play the late game correctly and win. I am a Grandmaster Zerg player on the NA server with a 70% win ratio in ZvP. In addition, I am high masters on the Korean server with a ZvP win ratio of 66%. I rarely lose in the late game even when Protoss gets voidray/colossi, voidray/templar/colossi, or any other composition of their choosing.
This guide will be going over how to engage the late game and what composition Zerg players should be going for. At the end of the guide, I will be putting up a few replays from the Korean server that go in late game showcasing how to engage.
This guide is only going to be about late game ZvP. If you are looking for a guide that features all around ZvP, check out my previous guide here.
The Unit Compositions
First off, we should identify the types of armies a late-game Protoss can make. Each type of army will have a different unit composition response from a Zerg player. Late game Protoss deathball compositions fall into three categories.
- Pure ground army (colossi/templar/archon/immortal/chargelot without any air units)
- Response: ultralisk/hydralisk/swarm host/brood lord/viper
The Zerg should start out with this base composition, adding in brood lords when resources allow. Infestors are also an option you may want to mix in.
- Sky-toss (carrier/tempest/voidray with a templar transition)
- Response: hydralisk/swarm host/viper
Once templar are out, add in 3-5 ultralisks. Make sure to have 12-14 swarm hosts, but keep in mind that no more than 14 are needed. Making more will just be wasted supply that you could have used for hydras or ultras.
- Air/ground mix (voidray/templar, voidray/colossi or voidray/colossi/templar)
- Response: hydralisk/ultralisk/swarm host/viper
The Zerg player should also be adding in infestors later on once he can afford it, especially when the Protoss adds in templar. An ideal mix is about 12-14 swarm hosts, 3-5 ultra, 3-4 vipers, rest hydralisks.
Why these units?
- The purpose of the ultralisk is to tank damage from colossi and templar. This makes it so that hydralisks aren’t as vulnerable to storms or colossi splash damage. The ultralisk also dishes out a lot of damage and will kill colossi/templar quickly, which makes hydralisks and vipers even stronger. With the splash damage mitigated by the ultralisks, it will be very hard for a Protoss army to kill ultra/hydra/viper/swarm host.
- The swarm host fills the same role as the ultra, but also used as a way of when to engage. What I mean by this, is that you can get free vision with the locusts so that zerg can see where the protoss army is and what it composes of. You should be timing your attacks with the locust waves. The swarm hosts let loose locusts so the Zerg can always know where the army is and how it is set up. The locusts also both dish out and tank quite a bit of damage. This makes them very useful in the engagement against templar/colossi as they tank and dish out the damage needed to get rid of the splash. They are also free units, so doing minimal damage with them is fine as you will gain information on how the Protoss is positioned as they die.
- The role of the hydralisk is to clean up air forces. If they survive a fight, they can also help clean out stalker/archon/immortals.
- Vipers will be used to abduct colossi and throw down blinding clouds. This unit makes it much easier to deal with colossi. If the Zerg is facing voidray/colossi without templar, this unit is a must.
- The infestor's role is really simple: to lock down the army. With HotS, infested terrans are useless in the late game and fungals will be the only purpose of the infestor.
How To Engage
The late game scenario really comes down to engagements. How you engage the late game army matters just as much as the unit composition you choose. A Zerg who is engaging the late game Protoss army voidray/templar, voidray/colossi, voidray/colossi/templar should not be engaging in a small choke. Engaging in a small choke will favor the Protoss and will result in your army not doing anywhere near as much damage as it should to the Protoss.
The more open ground there is, the better, so try to engage in as much open space as possible. Make sure that ultralisks and the locusts from swarm hosts engage the Protoss army first. Do not lead the charge with your hydralisks or vipers. If you make this mistake, colossi/templar will be able to kill the hydralisks while your ultralisks and locusts are stuck behind. The result is that you will lose the fight very badly.
The Zerg should always be leading with ultralisks and locusts with hydras and vipers following behind. This makes it a lot harder for a Protoss player to kill the hydralisks because ultralisks and locusts are in the way. If the Protoss has his templar in the front, he’s going to lose them while the Zerg will have his hydralisks in the back, safe and sound as the splash from Protoss dies. Blinding cloud and abduct are great spells to use here to yank the colossi and to reduce immortals/stalkers/colossi to melee range with blinding cloud.
Depending on how you engage the army, the Zerg player has a good chance to win the ground fight. However, depending on how many storms/colossi were hitting hydralisks, will probably lose every hydralisk and the Protoss will have void rays left over. This is normal and not a big concern. As long as the Zerg player retreats surviving ultralisks and swarm hosts, a remax of hydralisks will clean the rest of the void rays. The Zerg should then be able to simply attack and win, because that Protoss deathball will take too much time to remake. The key point to take from this is that less splash that hits the hydralisks, the better the fight will go for the Zerg player.
Zerg players can put down static defense to help when engaging the main Protoss army, but this isn’t a requirement. For example, I don’t put any static defense in locations to engage the Protoss army. However, putting some spore crawlers at a common attack location isn’t a bad idea because if the Zerg has to pull back, he can pull back into a secure location while waiting for reinforcements. Again, this is not necessary to engage the Protoss army and should be used as more of a falling back point rather than an engagement necessity.
If the Protoss player is going pure ground with no air units, engaging in a small choke isn’t going to favor the Protoss as long as the Zerg has brood lords, which the Zerg should have once he notices there is no air. You only require around six broodlords, which should be supported by swarm host/ultra/viper/hydra support. However, more brood lords are also acceptable. This combination of units makes it really hard for the Protoss to ever engage the Zerg army, similar to how it was in WoL. This is the only situation where engaging in a small choke will be better for the Zerg than the Protoss.
Note: These replays are all from the Korean server and all of them showcase some late game engagements against Protoss. In a lot of these games, I started off economically behind, but was still able to kill the Protoss deathball in the late game. In total, there are ten replays and I will add more as I get them.
A huge shoutout to Monk for editing this and fixing some of my awful grammar!