It is generally accepted among high level Starcraft 2 players that the best way to improve is to use the same build every game. The idea of this is the same as when people tell random players that they will improve most quickly by using the same race every game: “a jack of all trades is a master of none”. By narrowing down the possibilities of what can happen in a game, you reduce the amount of learning it takes to increase your skill level. In the time it takes you to answer the question “how should I play each of these 10 different builds against 2 rax expand?”, you could instead answer the question “how should I play my one build against 10 different builds that Terran can do?” When working on a single build at a time, you learn all the nuances of it. You know what to do vs standard play, cheesy play, etc. You know what your build is weak against, and figure out a way to scout it coming. You know exactly how to adjust your build in response to scouting, and thus eliminate its weaknesses. You have an idea of what to do at every stage of the game.
But most importantly, you will know the build so well that you don’t have to think about it when playing. And it is at this point when mechanics start to improve: as you no longer have to make decisions on the fly, your mind is free to think about making workers constantly, keeping your minerals low, avoiding supply blocks, and watching the minimap. This is how you increase your APM without spamming.
If you don’t believe me, read the following thread by Artosis: http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=78677
Unfortunately, the strategy forum in its current state is not conducive for this method of practicing. A quick search for [G] reveals that almost every Protoss build order guide is either outdated or gimmicky! In the Standard Play series, I am not attempting to create anything new or get something named after myself. My goal is to give players an up-to-date, comprehensive, and standard gameplan that can be done in every game against every opponent, with explanations of why it works well enough to be standard play. These are builds where you go in the game thinking “I can win if I execute well”, not “I can win if my opponent doesn’t scout this” or “I can win if my opponent has never seen this before”. You will not have to worry about whether you need to change your build completely when you lose, because there is no hard counter.
Why EGiNcontroL’s build?
Picture, thousand words, etc...
Are you convinced yet?
Incontrol is known to have one of the best PvZ on the planet, having beaten all of the top Zergs on the Korean ladder. In other words, you will never have to worry about reaching a level of play where this strategy no longer works.
The plan is to open up with many sentries to secure an expansion, and then pressure by constantly poking around the map to discourage or punish mass drones. Upgrades are emphasized in order to make a strong push with colossi off three bases, at which point the sentries from earlier have accumulated enough energy to always have forcefields ready when you need them. This is very much a death-ball focused strategy.
There is no need to be especially rigid in things like 14 assimilator vs 15 assimilator, etc. We are assuming normal play here, so you have to abandon the build when scouting things like 6 pool or roach/speedling off 1 base. Assume constant probe production and chrono boost mostly on probes:
- 9 Pylon
- Send the pylon probe to scout
- 13 Gateway
- 15 Assimilator
- 16 Pylon
- @100% Gateway Cybernetics Core
- @100 minerals Zealot
- @75 minerals Assimilator
- @100% Cybernetics Core Sentry, Warpgate
- 22 Pylon
- Sentry and 2 gateways when you have minerals
- @100% gateways produce 2 or 3 sentries depending on resources/supply
- Pylons as needed
- @100% Warpgate convert gateaways and expand
- @150 minerals (constant probe/pylon/sentries) Forge
- @150 minerals (constant probe/pylon/sentries) Gateway
- Assimilator as the nexus finishes
- @100% Forge Photon Cannon at expo, +1 weapons
- @8 sentries begin warping in stalkers
- @100% Photon Cannon begin “Shark Mode”
With the scouting probe, you want to first see if they are 14 hatching, scout for any 1 base all-in, and then focus on blocking the expansion hatchery. Use your judgment to decide whether or not to build the 16 pylon to block vs 14 pool 16 hatch, or the 22 pylon to block vs speedling openings. The cannon next to the expo nexus to serve multiple purposes: detection vs burrowed roaches, defense vs roach/speedling aggression, and guarding your mineral line in case of speedling harass. The last part is what allows you to begin pressuring.
Note the sentry count: your army as your expansion finishes should look something like a zealot and 8 sentries. This unit composition is the most late-game oriented way of defending your expansion from speedlings, as you build up a ton of forcefields for your future army.
3/14/2011 update: After placing the 4th gateway, put your probe a bit in front of your expo. Bring it back to your expo to place a cannon when your forge finishes, but then send it in front again. There are certain mass speedling or roach/speedling timing attacks that hit before you have any stalkers, which your probe should see. Seeing it coming before it gets to your expo gives you time to react and place the perfect force fields that you need to survive this.
If your gas is stolen, you can either switch to a 4 gate or get a few more zealots early on and take a faster 4th gas in the midgame.
Once you have a few stalkers and your cannon is done, it’s time to start moving around. You want to clear out scouting lings and overlords, trying to darken the Zerg’s vision of the map. Every time you warp in another round of units though, your army should return to your base, add those to your army, and then move out again. The overall effect of this army movement is to create an atmosphere of uncertainty for the Zerg; when you challenge them for map control, they need to build units instead of drones in case they get attacked. This form of pressure is called “Shark Mode” because your army is like a shark: if you stop moving, you die. If you do not do this, the Zerg player will be free to drone and crush you with his macro. While sharking, make sure your army is always hugging a wall in case of a surprise ambush.
4/16/11 update: Always bring a probe and make a proxy pylon while sharking around. If you don't bring one, the Zerg player feels much less pressure and will make a higher drone to unit ratio.
During this time, you should also be trying to figure out which midgame tech your opponent will focus on: muta, roach, or banelings? A general rule is that if you see many speedlings, expect muta or banelings, and expect roach otherwise. In any situation other than close ground positions, many spine crawlers also indicates muta. On close positions, they indicate a “giraffe migration” push.
Muta midgame: if you’re getting harassed by a ton of speedlings, you can guess muta and go for a 6 gate push. If you guessed wrong, you can go back to playing vs roaches since the speedlings slow him down as much as 6 gates slow you down. If you didn’t figure out that he went for muta until you made a robo already, then you can use observers to help defend vs harassment while teching to blink. Incontrol likes to get DT’s to harass and divert gas away from mutas, and then make use of the tech later when doing a huge push with blink stalkers, sentries, zealots, and archons. There are no strict timings other than starting the twilight council when you know they went muta (assuming you missed the timing to skip the robo and go 6 gate) and trying to push before the Zerg player can fully switch to roaches.
My variation – I like to research hallucination in the early game just so that I can always scout the Zerg’s tech before I build the robo. Once I see the spire or baneling nest, I make 2 more gateways for a total of 6, cut probes on 38 and stop mining from my 3rd assimilator. For the cost of hallucination research, you will always have the option to 6 gate against muta or baneling builds.
Zergling/baneling midgame: you need to turtle very hard while following the same general road map as outlined below in Roach midgame. Against this style of play you will never be able to leave your base until maxed, so just keep expanding defensively until you have the perfect death ball with colossus, archons, and blink stalkers. As long as you place any extra gateways in sim city setups somewhere, you should be pretty much immune to ground-based counter attacks so all you need to do is react to drops properly.
Roach midgame: this is the standard Zerg midgame play, so it will be the focus for the rest of this guide. The timings are mapped out well enough that we can return to the build order format. Starting from the beginning of shark mode, now assuming both constant probes and pylons:
- Robotics Facility after a few stalkers
- Assimilator (4th) while Robotics Facility is building
- @100% +1 Weapons +1 Armor
- @100% Robotics Facility Observer, Robotics Bay
- @100% Observer Immortal
- (Optional) @100% Immortal 2nd Immortal
- @100% Robotics Bay Colossus (constant production from now on, always chrono boost), Extended Thermal Lance
- 1 Colossus Nexus (make sure to place pylons and cannons for defense)
- 5th and 6th Assimilators while Nexus is building
- When gas permits it, Twilight Council
- @100% Twilight Council Blink or +2 Weapons, get the other one when gas permits
- @100% Nexus 4 Gateways and get ready to push
While all of this is happening, shark mode continues. Your army never stops moving and growing in size, except if the Zerg has a huge army moving around. In that case it’s okay to stay home and turtle behind forcefields since you know he’s not pulling ahead in drones. You warp in constant stalkers for the most part but at some point you will run low on gas so you will spend some time warping in zealots instead. Gas expenses need to be balanced around constant chrono-boosted colossus production.
Once you have 3-4 colossi, it’s time to begin pushing. This is around the time when the income from your third base kicks in.
Note – in the pre-colossus period, you need to avoid the “cut his army in half, kill the closer half” strategy that you might use against Terran. Because sentries are so easily sniped, it’s better to place forcefields so that you are never fighting more than a quarter of the roach ball, as any more than that can quickly focus down your sentries if the Zerg player is paying attention. The strategy can easily fall apart if you have to rebuild more than a couple of sentries, so the main focus should be keeping the most sentries alive rather than killing the most roaches.
The Colossus Push
With 3 bases, you have to infrastructure necessary to sustain a colossus push into Zerg territory. Your army becomes strong enough to take on the roach/hydra/corruptor force directly, so begin moving toward the nearest Zerg base. Set up proxy pylons at strategic positions so that you can always retreat behind forcefields and warp in another round of units. Blink and +2 weapons will finish shortly to further strengthen your forces.
To engage the Zerg army:
1. Make 1 or 2 guardian shields just before the battle starts.
2. Wall off the ground units with forcefields.
3. If you’re still in range of too many ground units, take a step back and continue to attack.
4. If corruptors are coming from a different angle from the ground army, pick them off with blink.
5. As soon as the Zerg begins to retreat, blink forward and try to pick off more corruptors.
iNc likes to add a Dark Shrine as soon as gas permits it, and then send DTs to multiple different expos at once to kill drones, or all to the same expo to kill a hatchery. You’re also looking to secure a 4th base with cannons, at which point you have resources to splurge: 2nd Robotics Facility for more colossi, 2nd forge for faster 3/3 upgrades, archons for hive-proofing, Charge to sustain a push when gas is low, more warpgates… whatever you want. If you can spare the resources, the logical next step when you have archons is to get a mothership and attempt to pull off an archon toilet.
Note: making DTs is a stylistic decision iNc uses to tax the Zerg’s multitasking abilities. Making void rays is just as good for hive-proofing (and possibly imbalanced if you listen to Idra and Artosis), unless the Zerg player is going overkill on corruptors. I prefer DTs myself as they are cheaper and make it that much harder for Zerg to harass with drops or nydus.
Once you reach the point of 4-5 bases, your army is practically invincible so keep pushing and win the game!
I couldn’t find any replays of iNcontroL so here’s some of myself.
From Idra's perspective, starting at 1 hour 16 minutes: http://mrbitter.blip.tv/file/4773241/
Void ray transition:
I learned the build by watching these VODs of iNc coaching his students:
I also watched his stream to hear him talk through his thought processes in ladder games and another coaching session. Check it out when you have the chance!
Part 2 will cover Colossus pushing off of 2 Gate Robo in PvT.