One of the cheesiest strategies in Starcraft II is the cannon rush, which is basically early proxy cannons in or near your opponent’s base. At 9 supply, send a probe to your opponent’s base and place your pylon, then a forge. Once they finish, you should have enough minerals to start placing cannons and terrorizing your opponent. While the build order is that simple, the variables and constants to the whole equation is more complicated. You can encounter a lot of players using this to the frustration of those in the receiving end. Whether you’re someone who really wants to get some easy wins or just someone who wants to learn how to counter it, this guide should give you a clear picture of it.
First of all, you can’t really cannon rush Zerg players. Overlords will immediately spot your pylons and even if they don’t, you can’t build them in their base due to the creep. That is why scouting is important, especially if your opponent is playing random race. Perhaps you can build them outside their choke point, but that’s as far as you can go. Even if having proxy cannons there that early could be a good idea, it may not work out too well if your opponent builds his army fast enough to destroy the cannons, then attack your base easily since you won’t have that big of an army after having blown your minerals on cannons.
With this cheese, you won’t have time to do the “cannon hop” since you want a win in less that a few minutes. It will take time before your pylons become protected by the cannons, so you’ll have to build it in a hidden part of your opponent’s base and hope that you won’t get spotted. You may also want to have more than one pylon once your cannons come up so that your opponent won’t just attack the lone pylon to take all your cannons down at once.
Perhaps the easiest to cannon rush is another Protoss player since he’d take time before he can build units to destroy your cannons, especially if he’s using more standard openings. Comparing the Zealot’s 100 minerals to a Marine’s 50 minerals, it does take more time for a Protoss player to fight back if you do a cannon rush right. Of course, that’s not always the case. Also, Terrans can lift off their buildings and move to a different spot.
Considering these variables, it is best to decide on cannon rushing only if you see on the loading screen that your opponent picked a specific race, preferably Protoss. Once you start the game, you have to scout and see what your opponent is about to do. He might even be planning to cannon rush you or use other cheesy strategies to take you out. You must watch out for whatever he might do so that you don’t fall flat on the mud.
The key to successful cannon rushing is surprise. Players usually don’t expect a cannon rush and it becomes more effective if he doesn’t know that you’re Protoss. Therefore, players who pick random tend to have a higher success rate with the cannon rush. It’s even more fun to do in 2v2 and 3v3 games, when you get an opportunity to eliminate an opponent early. If you have one or two Protoss opponents and you randomly pick Protoss too, that’s a good time to cannon rush. Of course, you have to experiment to see if this is within your style of play.
The cannon rush works well in maps where pylons can be built on the low ground near the enemy’s mineral line so that it’s hidden from view for the time being, along with your probe. Once they are actually seen, you should already be placing cannons to kill enemy probes along the mineral line. If it doesn’t elicit a “GG” from your opponent, his economy should be ruined.
You can take advantage of cliffs since power fields can go up them. By building the cannons up the cliffs, you can protect them while having the elevation to see further, making it very good for taking potshots at your opponent. At this point, it would be too late for him and you’ll have successfully cannon rushed. You have to keep building pylons and cannons to cope with them being destroyed. If your first one gets nicked by some enemy units, then your second cannon should take them out and continue decimating their base.
In terms of placement, you have three major choices. You can start far from your enemy’s view and “cannon walk” your way to his Nexus or Command Center. The second choice is to place them close enough to attack the Nexus or Command Center right off the bat. The third and most difficult choice is to place it along his mineral line and hope that you can finish fast enough to pick off his probes and get that quick GG. The first choice is more ideal for 1v1. The second is good for 2v2 or more, while the third one is the cheesiest one of all and works well for those who have never encountered cannon rushes before. In 2v2 or so, you can cannon rush one enemy, then build up 10 zealots or so then rush the remaining opponents with your allies.
This can be very useful in Bronze League, where most players are clueless in more advanced gameplay, so cannon rushes can help you rise in rank quickly. But once you get to Diamond or even just Gold, there would be more players who know of the cannon rush, so you can’t pull it off quite as easily.
Here is a video for more information.
Also included is a video explaining how you can stop cannon rushes.