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HOTS Strategy - Protoss - General Play

Updated on March 18, 2013
Mining is useful too!
Mining is useful too! | Source

How to play as Protoss in Sc2 HOTS

This hub outlines all of the things you need to be thinking about when playing as protoss throughout the game. It is paying attention to these important elements of the game that make the difference between a good and a bad protoss player.

Be sure to leave your comments in the end section and maybe have your views added to the hub itself!

1. Upgrades

Protoss has the most upgrades of all races and nothing has changed in Heart of the Swarm to make them any less important.

In the late game, by making sure that you have +3 attack, +3 armour and +3 shields and a maxed out ground army, you can be sure that you have a huge advantage.

Many players go double forge and research +1 attack and +1 armour simultaneously because keeping at least 1 upgrade ahead of a Terran or Zerg opponent is key to protoss success.

Your Opponent's Upgrades

  • Stalkers only gain +1 damage per +1 attack upgrade whilst roaches gain +2 damage per upgrade, this means that as the game progresses, roaches become a more and more economical way of countering stalkers. Unless you are incredibly confident with the blink ability, you need to tech to either immortals or collosi when your zerg opponent starts to tech.
  • Mutalisks have an attack that bounces twice on to other units. Luckily, a unit's armour upgrade applies to all three of the mutalisk's damages (so does the sentry's guardian shield's -2 damage effect). A mutalisk does 9 damage initially, 3 damage on its first bounce and then 1 damage on its last (9,3,1). By having just +1 armour on a stalker, you reduce the mutalisks' damage output to 8,2,0, preventing 3 damage. Incorporate an armour advantage with the guardian shield ability, and you reduce a mutalisk's damage output to a measly 6 damage, making the 100 minerals 100 gas investment to make that mutalisk very uneconomical.

Critical Upgrades

Your Upgrades

These are upgrades that make unusually large differences in the game. Players should be mindful of their upgrades in relation to their opponents before engaging in a battle.

  • By having +1 more attack than a Zerg army's armour upgrade, your zealots will two shot zerglings instead of taking 3 shots (apply this to a large battle and this difference is game-changing).
  • By having +2 attack more than a Zerg has armour, a colossus will fry a zergling in just one shot.
  • In fact, if Protoss has +2 attack and Zerg have +1 armour, collosi will still fry them up in one shot. This is a very realistic situation that you can put yourself in and make an excellent timing attack that will obliterate a Zerg opponent.
  • By having +1 more attack than a Terran player has armour, a stalker will kill a marine with combat shield in 5 shots instead of 6.

To summarise, as Protoss, it is incredibly important to keep +1 attack of a Terran or Zerg opponent, especially if they are going marine or zergling heavy.

2. Sentries

As already touched upon in the upgrades section, guardian shields are incredibly useful to a protoss player in any match up. This has become even more true now with the new swarm host unit in the Zerg arsenal in HOTS.

Force Fields
Back in Wings of Liberty, some players thought forcefields were so good for the Protoss that it made them overpowered. Nothing's changed. Learning how to forcefield is one of the most important skills for a successful protoss player. Force-fielding ramps is just as important as it always has been to keep your opponent out when you don't want them in. Force-fielding half of your opponents argument out of a battle so that you can mop up the other is still an important element of Starcraft 2; lastly, force-fielding an enemy's army so that it can't pursue yours (because you've seen that they have an upgrade or technological advantage) is still vital for success.

Guardian Shield
The guardian shield is such a simple yet useful ability that as such it is completely ignored by many players, not excluding myself. It is very easy when focussing on other things like macro and countering your opponent's army composition to forget the all round - useful units like the sentry. However, guardian shield reduces the damage of all incoming non-melee attacks to your army by 2. This means that if 50 marines are shooting at you, your sentry is saving 100 hp every round of fire (which is very fast for marines) that would have otherwise been damaged. This makes the sentry useful and economical in almost any situation.

One (mostly ignored by the community) huge difference that HOTS made is that hallucination no longer needs to be researched! This means that hallucinations can be used at almost any time in the game without extra cost. Just before entering a big battle, hallucinating 2-4 collosi will make it that much more difficult for your opponent to snipe them down with corruptors or, and this is always a good feeling, when your opponent uses vipers to drag the fake collosi into their army.

To Conclude,
There's no need to even go into the math of when buying a sentry is more useful than buying another unit with that gas - it's almost always going to favour the sentry so make sure you always have one! Part of being Terran or Zerg is learning how to snipe sentries, so make sure to keep your sentries behind your main army and not trying to do damage (they're pretty bad at that).

Learn how to use sentries with this video by ForceSc2

4. Tier 3 Units

Of course, you won't go very far maxing out an army of zealots. The reason Protoss have such stronger 200/200 armies is because of their superior T3 units.

As a general rule of thumb:

Protoss T1 and T2 units < Zerg and Terran T1 and T2.

Protoss T3 units > Terran and Zerg T1,T2 and T3 units.

Having a massed army of stalkers will simply get crushed by an army of roaches or marines/marauders. Even the counter to roaches - immortals - get countered by roaches. What Protoss aims to achieve from the outset of the game is to get to T3 because anything less and he stands no chance of winning a fair fight (you can always win with superior micro and harass/cheese).

As soon as Colossus or High Templar production starts the protoss player can begin to feel safe, up until that point you should have the uncomfortable sensation that your opponent will crush you with basic units.

5. Understanding the Flow of the Game

If Starcraft 2 was Tango, then Protoss would be the leading male - deciding how both players dance. The protoss tech path decides how the game is going to go.

As Protoss, it is less important to scout than it is for the opponent (still very important though). You know that you will need either high templars or collosi by the end of the game. What your opponent doesn't know is whether he should be producing vast amounts of vikings or ghosts or corruptors or ultralisks.

So use this to your advantage. Make it very difficult for your opponent to scout you, hide your tech in the corner of your base, prevent zerglings from scooting into your main and getting a full scout; prevent overlords entering. Additionally, it's very common in pro games for a player to put down tech, get scouted and then cancel that tech to do something else. These mind games could force an opponent to produce a lot of units he won't ever need and benefit you greatly.

6. Scouting and Compositions

Although you know what you will expect vs a Terran or a Zerg, it's still incredibly important to scout their army composition and counter them with your own. What army composition is best is a very complicated and debated topic and opinions on the matter will undoubtedly change constantly. However, there are obvious counters to units (immortals counter sieged tanks and thors) and you must utilise these when possible.

If you scout your Terran opponent's army and he has thors and tanks then you must have at least 2 robotics' facilities pumping out those immortals. There's not much dispute to be had there.

It's also very important to ensure battles occur when you have the upgrades advantage. If you feel like your opponent is going to attack you whilst your upgrades are not done, try to buy time with harassment or dropping forcefields - even sacrificing 1000 minerals to buy time for an upgrade will be worth it if the tide of the battle will turn in your favour (very likely).

As for how to scout - use observers in well placed areas near your opponent's army (not in places where your opponent is likely to notice them) to keep an eye on the composition and in their production facilities to see what is there and what is being added.

7. Army Positioning

This is even more important in HotS than it was in WoL because of new units like swarm hosts, battle hellions and vipers which you must be wary about.

  • As a Protoss, you want your army fighting at a choke point so that you can forcefield your opponent.
  • Usually your opponent will not be stupid enough to let this happen and so you must try to engage a battle near a wall of some kind (so you can forcefield easier).
  • Against Zerg who have gone swarm hosts or terran who have gone tanks and thors, it's advisable to keep your army as close as possible to your opponent's base so that if he wants to push out against you he will have to burrow/un-burrow swarm hosts or siege/un-siege tanks, giving you more time to prepare a counter, harass (since he's out of his base) or go around his slow army and crush his base before he gets to yours, then use recall on the mothership core to get back to your base and defend.

8. PvP Stalker Blink Micro

This is important in all Protoss match ups but more important in PvP. Being able to blink micro is key to success because you can effectively nullify an opponent's army simply by blink back just after your opponent's stalker army shoots. This results in all of the shots being wasted as if they had never shot at all. Due to the high range (6) of the stalker, most of the stalkers shoot at the same time making it easy to dodge and waste a lot of your opponent's stalker fire.

Against the Zerg it is important to blink stalkers out of fire range after their shield damage has been lost so that they can replenish them. Without proper blink micro, zerglings with speed will destroy mass stalkers and so it is vital that you are comfortable with this micro'ing technique.

Learn how to Blink Micro

Something Very Useful to All Starcraft Players

Below is a link to software that allows you to play around with build orders and optimise using all the necessary features.

It's pretty awesome in the fact that you can know how much resources you would have e.g. if you had trained 15 probes (and so built 1 pylon) you would have ~755 minerals at 3:00.

Check it out, it's free and requires no download:


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    • Philanthropy2012 profile image

      DK 4 years ago from London

      Ahah, glad to help OrangeBlob! It's the fact that even with +1 armor +2 collosi will still kill fry em in one - very useful since a lot of zerg rely so heavily on the ling.

      GL HF!

    • OrangeBlobOValor profile image

      OrangeBlobOValor 4 years ago from California

      Very informative! I had no idea having +2 attack over Zerg would cause my collosi to one-shot lings...someone needs to look into a timing attack utilizing this