Starcraft 2 Protoss Phoenix Strategy
Starcraft 2 Protoss Units --> Starcraft 2 Protoss Air Units --> Phoenix (you are
Since the buff which decreased Phoenix build time, I have seen the
Phoenix used in the vast majority of professional-level Zerg vs Protoss matches.
While I doubt anyone reading this is a professional player (I most certainly am not), there are certainly some
great things Protoss players can take away from this trend.
In this article, I will be going over how to effectively utilize this unit (and air rushes versus Zerg in
general) and when the best times to opt for this build are.
Since Phoenix require lots of micro, I am not suggesting massing Phoenixes, picking up all ground units, and
supply capping the Zerg. Unless you are in the Master's league you just do not have the APM for this. Instead, I am
going to suggest an alternative strategy that, if the conditions are met, will win you every match-up versus Zerg
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When to Use the Phoenix vs Zerg
The Phoenix is most effective versus Zerg players early in the game, catching them before they can get access to
Lair technology. Once the Zerg player can get out about 6 or more Hydralisks, the Phoenix quickly becomes less
Prior to the Lair, Queens and Spore Crawlers are the only defense options. These are far superior to face off
against as an army of Queens and Spore Crawlers is not going to match into your base and kill you, unlike
Note: You do not want to do this build on maps with backdoor rocks as it leaves you vulnerable
to a counter attack.
Catching the Zerg Early
Fortunately, Zerg players love putting off getting Lair technology whenever they think they can grab a fast
expansion and build drones. As a result, this is a great strategy to use whenever you scout a fast expansion (and
you must scout before going this build) and also especially on "macro" maps.
In other words, on maps like Metalopolis, the distance between player's bases is so great, Zerg players love to
skip out on technology and defense in order to mass Drones. You can take advantage of this with a well-timed air
units. Phoenix are also great reinforcing units on large maps since they fly so fast.
Killing the Scouting Drone
In order to make this build work, the Zerg player absolutely cannot have an idea you are going for this.
As a result, you cannot drop your Stargate until you kill off any Overlords and the scouting Drone (which may or
may not be in your base).
You have to wall off your base to make this work. On any small-ramp map you can use your Gateway, Cybernetics
Core, and a single Zealot to block off the entrance. Once you have the ramp secured, Chrono Boost out a Stalker
which you can then use to kill off the scouting drone or any Overlords.
As soon as the Zerg's scout is removed, you can put down your Stargate. Place the Stargate in the center of your
base and place pylons around the perimeter of your base. If you see any Overlords lumbering in for a scout, use the
Stalker to take them out (or at least chase them off).
Void Rays and Phoenix
You need to decide how many Void Rays versus how many Phoenix you want to produce and when you want to attack.
This depends on what your overall intentions are.
If you are simply trying to harass the Zerg player and grab your expansion, you can go in as soon as you get 1
or 2 Phoenix and skip the Void Rays altogether. If you want to actually take out your opponent with the attack,
Void Rays need to be added to the mix.
Phoenix are a really micro intensive unit. I think that most players reading this would be better off going for
the Void Ray + Phoenix combo and trying to take out the opponent with the attack (or at least severely hampering
them) as most players simply cannot pull off a pure Phoenix harass effectively due to not enough APM.
Regardless, you really need to do some heavy scouting before deciding for sure. You will have to sacrifice a
Probe or two but you need to investigate the following factors:
- Is there a fast expansion? (this should be researched before even throwing down the Stargate - no fast
expansion, no air rush)
- Number of Queens? - 1 queen per base = move in with 1 Void Ray + 1 Phoenix; an extra Queen requires an
extra Void Ray and Phoenix.
- Is there an Evolution Chamber present? If so, get 2 Void Rays regardless before moving in so you can take
out Spore Crawlers plus Queens.
- Does Lair tech exist or is it being researched? If so, go for just 1-2 Phoenix to snipe Overlords, grab an
expansion, cut your losses and tech into other units.
As you can see above, there are a few ideal scenarios. In perfect conditions, you will find a greedy Zerg who
has gone for 1 Queen at each base, has a fast expansion, a lot of Drones, and (optional) ground defense (Zerglings,
Spine Crawlers, Roaches) and no technology.
In this situation I recommend going for the win. Chrono Boost out 1 Void Ray and 1 Phoenix and then move in. Do
not move in with a single unit as you do not want to give away the surprise; keep your ships hidden. Continue to
pump out Phoenix. Go right for the natural expansion's Queen; use the Phoenix to lift it up and let the Void Ray
take it out.
Reinforce with 2 more Phoenix (to lift up incoming Queens) and your single Void Ray can take out the Hatchery.
Let your spare Phoenix snipe Overlords. Once you push the Zerg player back into 1 base, you can grab an expansion
yourself and easily win the game (if they have not yet left already).
If a less-than-ideal scenario, such as an Evolution Chamber or multiple Queens are out, you will want 2 Void
Rays and a Phoenix before going in. A Phoenix plus 2 Void Rays can easily take out 2 Queens and then can snipe out
Spore Crawlers faster than they can be built. Reinforce with more Phoenix to lift off Queens as they come out of
Do Not Force It
Many players will mess up with this build by trying to force the air rush. Wait for the matches where you run
into a Zerg who went for a fast expansion and neglects to tech up. This way, you will get a lot more mileage out of
your Phoenix if the only micro you have to do is to pick up Queens for your Void Rays to nuke.
If you decide to go air but realize it was a mistake, build 2 Phoenix to fly around the map and snipe out
Overlords. Lift up any scouts at the Xel'Naga towers so the Zerg has no idea what is going on around the map.
Expand during this time when the Zerg has no vision and tech into a typical Colossus/Void
Ray/Gateway unit mix.
Are you still struggling to get into the Diamond
If you answer the above question with a yes, then I urge you to pick up the
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