When Protoss goes for a fast expand, he may just build the nexus right off the bat. However, the question of defense may be left unanswered by doing so, possibly leading to a premature loss. If you seek to play a heavy macro game as Protoss, you have to make sure that you have your bases covered before going for that natural or ninja expo. There are two major ways to do this — building a gateway or a forge. This guide shall focus on the Forge Fast Expand and the dynamics behind this macro build.
The FFE is sacrificing an early army for a stronger economy to let the player build units of higher tech during the mid-game, while using cannons, wall-ins, and some units to fend off Zergling harass and pressure. By building an early forge, you can build multiple cannons at the front to stop early attacks from your opponent. Take note that this works best against a macro race, so that makes it the Zerg. Perhaps you can do this build against the other two matchups, but it’s more recommended to do a 1gate-expand against them since you’ll need units. Due to how fragile zerglings can be, cannons can definitely handle them if given the proper wall-in. It’s advisable to practice this build primarily against Zerg and do 1gate-expand builds against everybody else.
There is history behind this build, going back to Brood War when Bisu made use of this seemingly hypermodern build to defeat sAviOr, the Zerg bonjwa, during the latter’s prime. This build has been tested as well in Starcraft II, so it should serve you well when used right. There are various routes to take after getting the expand, whether you go for a quick tech to a Stargate for Void Rays or Phoenix harass/pressure, Robotics Bay for Colossi to support a sizeable gateway army, or Twilight Council for blink/charge upgrades and templars.
- 9 Pylon at choke point of natural expansion
- 13 Forge at choke point
- 17 Nexus
- 17 Photon Cannon
- 17 Gateway at choke point
- Zealot to finish off wall-in
- 9 Pylon at choke point of natural expansion
- 15 Nexus
- 15 Forge at choke point
- 15 Keep making Probes
- 18 Gateway at choke point
- 18 Photon Cannon at choke point
- 18 Pylon at your main base
Scouting is crucial with the FFA as it dictates how you will transition. With Zerg, it depends on your opponent’s position to whether go for a six gateway timing attack or an early Stargate after your expand. You may also go for a double early expand if you’re confident that there’s enough defense and distance between you and the Zerg forces. This is most likely if you scout out an early third hatchery, which should give you enough time to establish your third and pressure him later with either air units or a sizeable gateway army.
The 9-scout is very crucial since you wouldn’t want to get hit by a 6/7 pool, which can be disastrous for you if you ignorantly went for a Nexus-first. When you do see an early pool, immediately build your forge and a pylon near your main mineral line. Once the forge is done, build a cannon in the middle of the minerals and micro your probes to get rid of those little beasties. You should then transition to a gateway and cybernetics core with gas for standard play or cheese him back with proxy 3-gates or something. Either way, you’ll have a sufficient enough economy to crush him.
In maps like Tal’Darim Altar or Shakuras Plateau, you can actually wall off your natural quickly before the 6-pool zerglings come, but you’ll need to have it scouted first before you do that. You’ll be destroying one of your pylons or other buildings in order to attack with your units later, so be careful with building placements.
If you scout a Roach Warren on 1 base or if he continues to mine gas after starting his zergling speed research, an all-in attack by the Zerg is likely. You may then transition to a 6/7-gate timing attack, which is the most common response as it gives you a lot of gateway units to work with. When the economy starts kicking in, you can put up as many as six gateways and go for an aggressive timing attack with at least two assimilators to give you a sufficient supply of stalkers and enough to start ground weapons +1.
From here, you may put down a Twilight Council for either blink research or a Templar Archives to get high templars and archons. You may also get a Robotics Facility instead to use immortals to counter roaches, and you can also use warp prisms to make storm drops behind the opponent’s natural. These are the more commonly used transitions from FFE as they offer a good amount of versatility.
You can also go for an early Stargate and get Phoenixes to take out your opponent’s overlords and queens to slow down his production. This will also force him to go hydralisk, especially when he can’t really afford it yet. Take note that you may need a minimum critical mass of phoenixes, perhaps around 5, in order to carry out this harassment. Nothing looks more stupid than two phoenixes picking up two queens, then putting them back down again.
You can also mix in void rays to kill or force cancel the early third hatchery to keep him from building up that dreaded Zerg economy. When it’s early, creep spread should not have yet been established at the target third base, so queens and hydralisks won’t really make it in time yet. So all in all, you may have one void ray and three to four phoenixes to harass everything in the mid game, which should do nicely with some well-handled micro.
The first pylon and forge should be built just below the ramp to wall off the natural expansion. In maps like Xel’Naga Caverns where naturals are wide open, the forge must be built right next to the ramp, then place the other buildings towards the nexus, making a big wall that guards the ramp to the main.
As already mentioned, the build order depends on the scouting information. The variations in between the basic build order and the nexus first version may be modified according to the situation, but without sacrificing the purpose of the whole strategy in the first place. Keep cannons flush to the wall to hit attacking Roaches so you can protect your buildings better.