Hey guys, my name is Gemini and I'm a Grandmaster Protoss player who has been making guides since 2011 on various sites. The Build of the Week is my most popular series of build order guides that I've been making for about three years now on /r/allthingsprotoss. With the help of TeamLiquid.net and Spawning Tool I'm now bringing my guides over to TL as well!
Each write-up includes build order notes, an explanation/analysis of how the build works, and a VOD section so you can check out the source game and how it should go. I'll also include the Spawning Tool link so that you can practice it in game yourself and download the replay of me doing it. I hope you enjoy and be sure to read the whole write-up before asking any questions as I'm sure some of them will be answered in here!
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[PvZ]Zest's Double Stargate PhoenixGSL Code S is often the place where top players unveil strategic innovations that are copied around the world. The build that has stood out the most this season is Zest's Double-Stargate Phoenix build. He pulled it out twice against Solar in the RO16, and since then Protoss players of all skill levels have become fascinated with the retro opener. It's a refreshing revival of an old style that was popular back in the beginning of 2017. It's also yet another variation of the current standard Stargate opener, which opens with a Phoenix to deny vision.
This is an extremely multitask intensive style so it is not suggested for everyone. However, if you'd like to train your multitasking skills, this is a great build for that purpose. It focuses heavily on map control and scouting, and has the potential to snowball a small advantage out of control if Zerg is not ready to deal with mass Phoenix.
Double Stargate phoenix into CIA
|14||Pylon [@100% --> Chrono]|
|16||Gate [Chrono Nexus]|
|17||Gas --> Rally in|
|@100% Cyber --> Adept [Chrono]|
|@50 Gas --> WG|
|@100% Adept --> 2nd Adept|
|@100% Stargate --> Phoenix [Chrono] --> Oracle|
|3:25 2x Gas|
|3:50 2nd Stargate|
|@100% Oracle --> Phoenix (Continued production)|
|@100% 2nd Stargate --> 2x Phoenix production (Constant)|
|5:15 3rd Nexus + Shield Battery|
|5:30 @8x Phoenix --> Reveal and start harassment|
|6:00 2x Robo|
|Stop @12 Phoenix|
|6:10 +1 Air Weapons (Optional) + Forge|
|6:30 2x Gate|
|@100% 2x Robo --> 2x Obs (--> Constant 2x Immortal production) + Twilight Council|
|7:00 2x Gate|
|@100% Twilight --> Charge + Templar Archives|
Zest vs Solar - GSL Code S: Zest won this game, and it's the game this build explanation is based on. Another example game/VOD where Zest loses is included at the bottom of the article.
[For convenience, 'Chargelot-Immortal-Archon' is abbreviated as 'CIA']
Before I get into how this build works I want to briefly talk about the recent meta changes towards the top of the ladder and in pro play. Right now in PvZ, there are a lot of different variations of the normal Stargate opening that has become so standard since 4.0. In order to hide which variation they're going for, many pro players have been opening Phoenix-first (pros have become very good at detecting early all-ins with their first Adept, which allows them to delay their Oracle and go Phoenix-first). This has enabled many variations of Chargelot all-ins, Archon-drops, and Archon-drop + Chargelot pressure builds.
Zest has revived another follow-up in Double-Stargate Phoenix. As I said, he did this twice to Solar in the GSL RO16, winning one game and losing the other. In the post-group interview, Zest said he was not playing well in his first series and that his hands weren't doing what his brain told them to, which is pretty evident in his sluggish execution during the losing game. Therefore, I'll be basing this guide around the second, winning game.
If you've been reading PBTOW, you all know how this next part goes. Open Adepts. Send one across the map. Make a Stargate. Send the Adept-Shade into the natural or main base to count Drones and scout tech structures. If there's an all-in coming, scramble to defend. Otherwise, go about your build as normal.
Once the Stargate is done, Chrono-Boost out a Phoenix to deny Overlord scouts, which allows you to put down your first follow-up tech structure at around 50 supply or so. For Zest's build it comes a bit earlier, at around 3:40, but it's still after you've cleared out the Overlords. You don't want the 2nd Stargate to be scouted early (preferably, you want it not scouted at all).
Also, be sure to get your expansion Assimilators nice and early at around 3:25 to be able to afford constant Phoenix production. You also only sit on two Gateways for a while—they're mostly there to complete your wall and keep you safe vs early busts. [A cool detail is that if you warp in two Zealots as you go to take your third base, this build looks just like an Archon drop opening, which can screw with your opponent.] After making a single Oracle to keep things looking normal, keep up with continued Phoenix production back at home. Besides your initial, Overlord-killing Phoenix, your extra Phoenixes should be hidden at home until you have 6-8 of them (around 5:30).
Your should be warping your third Nexus in at around 5:15. Once you reveal your Phoenixes, you need to focus on scouting just as much as harassing. While it's important to kill Drones, Queens, and Overlords, it's just as important to take note of Zerg's tech choices as it dictates your own follow-up tech. I'll go into more detail on what that entails in the next section, but as a baseline, Zest went into double Robotics Facilities for Immortal production vs Solar's heavy Roach production. He stopped Phoenix production at twelve, since that's enough to pick off isolated units quickly while not delaying follow-up tech. Zest adds extra Gateways as he gets the money for them, and puts down a Forge just after the double Robos.
[Something that confused me was that Zest went for +1 Air Weapons in one of his games against Solar. +1 doesn't finish in time to help vs early attacks (in fact it finishes AFTER the big power spike of Phoenix harass is over), and the damage increase is marginal at best. I asked pro-player Harstem as to why Zest might do this, but he wasn't sure either.]
Once the Robotics Facilities have finished, go straight into Observer (if you aren't under any pressure) or Immortal (if you are under pressure) production, and right into Twilight Council tech. You'll want to get Charge and Archons/Storm ASAP, so just start all of that research one after the other. If all goes well, you should end up in a nice position with all your Phoenixes doing some good Drone harassment and backing it up with a strong CIA composition as you look to take your 4th base.
Scouting and Reacting to Tech
For this build to work properly you need to be very active with the Phoenixes that you've invested a ton of money into. Not only do they need to apply pressure and do damage, but they have to gather information as well. Zest brought this build out because it is strong against Roach openers, which have become trendy in ZvP as of late. At first I thought mass-Roach all-ins would crush this build, but testing made me realize how quickly mass-Phoenix can kill Roaches in the early stages of the game. In any case, you want to keep an eye out for whether the Zerg went for Roaches or Hydras.
If your opponent went for Roaches, you want to commit to a double Robotics follow-up after you take your third base. Be prepared for any attempted Roach counter-attacks as they could very easily be on the way. You'll want to check for Drone saturation at the enemy third, how many gasses are being taken (if any), and if any Roaches are headed toward your side of the map. If you catch any Roaches moving out and away from the safety of anti-air, you should immediately pick them up one by one as they try to skitter across the map. Back at home, warp in a few more units and get a few Shield Batteries set up. If you micro well, you shouldn't have any problem holding Roach-based attacks. However, if Zerg commits to an all-in with Zerglings following the Roaches, then things can get tricky. You'll need to double-pump Oracles out as well. If you hold, you should be in a great position since you have a large number of Phoenixes to immediately do counter-pressure with and kill off entire worker lines worth of Drones.
If your opponent just uses the Roaches defensively because they thought you were going for an Archon drop or something similar, then great! Use your Phoenixes to harass and kill Drones, Queens, and Overlords. You'll still want the double Robos since your opponent will most likely be going into Roach-Hydra and then later Lurkers. Double-Robo Immortals deals very well with this, and they'll form the backbone of your force. Getting Storm immediately isn't as important vs high Roach counts, but you still want Storm eventually, especially in a passive game. If your opponent tries to do some mid-game pressure against you and you trade efficiently, you may be able to go and kill them with a large CIA force.
If Zerg goes for Hydra (or ling-bane): Not so great! You only want to get a single Robotics facility vs ling/bane/hydra styles. Pro-player Harstem advised me that Immortals don't provide value against this composition, and instead you'll want as many Archons as possible. Even though Immortals are a great backbone to any PvZ composition, the timing of transitioning from a double Stargate build makes it so you need to put more emphasis on Archons. For a while, many pros were getting two-Robo Immortals against mass hydra/ling/bane. However, double-Stargate gets Templar very late, so once you DO get Templar tech, it needs to be your primary focus. It may be advisable to get even earlier Twilight tech than is listed in the build notes.
Generally, if the opponent is playing defensively with Hydra tech, it will be difficult to do damage. However Phoenixes are still extremely strong against small numbers of Hydras due to their bonus damage vs light armor, so they can't just casually move out. If you notice Zerg is staying very defensive, then get greedier with your 4th base timing and use the map control to your advantage. If your opponent is being aggressive with Hydras (which is often the case), then you'll really need to put some extra Shield Batteries down and place Stasis Traps to help on defense. It can be tough to hold early hydra/ling or hydra/bane all-ins without Archons and Storm. If you have a solid defensive position and are good with your Phoenix lifts, then you should still find yourself in a good spot to defend.
Once you have stabilized with a fourth base, CIA + Storm army, and some Phoenixes left over, the game should progress just like any other PvZ. Tech up to Fleet Beacon and go right into a Mothership for the cloaking field (SUPER useful if the opponent is staying committed on Lurkers. Phoenixes can take down Overseers and your army can roll through unopposed. I highly suggest going fleet beacon just for Mothership vs heavy lurker play) and eventually Carriers. If your opponent went for super-fast Brood Lords, then you'll need to counter with Tempests. And of course, remember to send out Zealots for constant back-door attacks to knock out bases and divert the Zerg's attention.
Once again: This style is definitely more difficult than others and requires you spend a lot of attention on Phoenix multitasking. It may not be the best for everyone, but it sure is an excellent way to practice.
Example game #2: Zest vs Solar - GSL Code S
Zest loses this game. The opening is a bit sloppier but he still ends up with a strong position. He over-commits in the late-game, giving up his position and causing him to lose the game.
Thank you all for reading and if you have any questions/comments please leave them below and I'll try to get to all of them!
Brought to you by the TL Strategy Team in collaboration with Overwolf and Spawning Tool.
Brought to you by the TL Strategy Team in collaboration with Overwolf and Spawning Tool.