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Brotip: How not to play Protoss Mirrors

Ok, so I set out to make “Brotips” into a segment where I analyzed my strengths and weaknesses as a Protoss player. Thus far, I have not done this at all.

So, for the first real segment of Brotips, I will feature on my Protoss versus Protoss game. This is a very important matchup in my mind: the Protoss race focuses strongly on efficiency, making the Protoss mirror match a contest of build timings and unit micromanagement, where the Zerg mirror is somewhat more chaotic (in my mind) due to the speed of Zerglings, and the Rock/Paper/Scissors nature of the Zerg’s early units: banelings destroy Zerglings, Roaches are effective against both.

I guess that’s not really “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Oh well. Moving on.

My point is simply this: the Protoss mirror is a more measured and calculated matchup than the Zerg mirror, partially due to the much slower movement speed of the typical Protoss army. As in any mirror, mistakes are supremely punishable: Zealot-only pushes stand no chance against Stalkers, let alone the Stalker/Sentry combo. Gateway armies tend to fare poorly when put up against armies containing even 1 Immortal, owing to the damage these units do to Stalkers (it’s like Immortals vs Roaches all over again). I know firsthand that if your opponent goes Colossus, and you forget, it also doesn’t go well for you.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

Protoss Mirrors: An Overview

First off, I’m a Gold league player. I barely know anything about the metagame, and am still learning about strats that aren’t on TeamLiquid yet. For instance, apparently, there is a PvP build featuring Phoenixes which I have come across that seems pretty effective (I certainly didn’t know what to do about it). Also Artosis on his blog details a Void Ray pressure build that is being tested by The Pros.

I like this though. Now, the PvP matchup seems to be evolving from the “Only 4gate” standard of several months ago. It sounds like the options are opening up. This is positive, as it reflects one of the main reasons I’m playing Protoss now: more options than I felt were viable as Zerg.

And I’m not saying that Zerg don’t have options. They do: I’ve seen videos featuring Zergling Drops, for crying out loud (linked below). However, I feel that my mindset in Zerg was locked into a fairly old-school gasless fast-expand mode (people who like Spanishiwa will remember his Ice Fisher Build). As a Zerg player, I was afraid. I wanted to win, not learn. This is not a limitation of the Zerg race, but of my mindset as a player.

That was pretty cool, right? It’s awesome seeing progamers learn new things about the game, which then we newbs can appropriate and perform poorly, then complain about on forums. Anyways, back to Protoss mirrors. I’ve already said that I both enjoy that the matchup is expanding, and that I don’t understand it as well as I could. Though I feel like I already get it better than I understand the Zerg mirror matchup.

Brotip! If you play Protoss like you are a Zerg player, you will lose. Every game.

Yes, when I first started playing Protoss, I was still in the Zerg mindset. In some ways, I still am, though the more I play, the more appropriate my play is to the Protoss race. What do I mean by “Zerg Mindset,” you ask? Well, I had some subconscious expectations for play which are counterproductive to winning as Protoss.

First, I tried to expand my production capability at the same time as I expanded. As a Zerg player, when you expand, you are improving production at the same time. Protoss, it turns out, need to take their time and plan when they need to expand their economy, tech, or add to their unit production. Doing this at the wrong time is akin to making a wave of drones during an enemy push. As in, you die.

As a Protoss, I have found that some consideration should be taken when a you add to production, when you focus on economy, and when you tech. Doing the wrong thing at the wrong time is the difference between an unstoppable army and a pathetic loss. The other part of this is scouting. The Protoss have the least flexible tech tree, and choosing poorly (as in, without seeing what your opponent is doing) again results in an apparently weak force.

So, how does PvP figure in? Surely it’s obvious. Since Protoss mirrors are all about production efficiency and micro, the Protoss mirror is an excellent litmus test for sheer mechanical skill in play. Ergo, this is my first topic.

I Am Doing Everything Wrong

Well, not quite any more. I feel like I’m learning the basics of unit management and economy. But this is largely due, in my opinion, to Protoss mirrors. For one thing, after you lose a Protoss mirror, watching the replay gives a very clear indication of what you were doing wrong.

Speaking of which! Enjoy this, my flagship PvP game.

Obviously, I play incredibly poorly. That’s sort of the point. Let’s look at the gross details first:

  • Due to better resource management, he gets his Cybernetics core out before me. Ergo, he gets Warpage faster. This is a big one, but not the main failing on my part
  • He gets a second Asssimilator far before I do.
  • He gets an early Robo, seeing that I’m not going to pressure him immediately
  • I build a proxy pylon with no clear intention of abusing it. This is a big one! Also, I attempt several forward pylons without clear intentions of defending or using them.
  • I get 2 gates and then a Robotics, while his robotics comes after the first gate. I still don’t know the matchup well enough to know if this is bad on my part, but his Immortal numbers do come into play.
  • Interestingly enough, I do have more workers than my opponent.
  • I focus on Gateway units, underutilizing my Robotics Facility. This is perhaps one of my larger failings.
  • I let myself accumulate a large number of excess resources. This is another really big one, and probably what lost me the game.
  • In the major engagements of the game, I allow him to split my army 2 or 3 times, and allow him to engage on his terms. I also do not appropriately react to his Immortals by either focusing him or getting extra Zealots.

Interestingly, in the end it looks like the battles were closer than I had anticipated. It looks like, if I had paid more attention to not missing warp-in cycles, I could have won. I also attempted to threaten him either at bad timings or with bad compositions, and left pylons in places where they could easily be wasted.

Take-Aways and Lessons Learned

  • In Protoss mirror matches, production parity is key. If one player falls behind in production of attacking units, they will likely use. Unless!
  • In Protoss mirror matches, unit composition is key. Zealots counter Immortals, which counter Stalkers. Stalkers, in turn, counter Zealots (without charge). Sentries can turn the tide against Zealots as well. Ergo, crafting a superior composition is essential. Which leads me to….
  • Scouting is key. Producing an observer early and not losing it provides priceless intel. And scouting leads to…
  • Proper positioning is key. Getting Zealots to the front line, making sure that Stalkers can attack important targets etc. Which makes it worth mentioning…
  • Micro! Getting that Stalker or Immortal out of enemy range for a second keeps their DPS in the fight longer.
  • Also, don’t place proxy pylons unless and until you need them. They can be a sad waste of resources (as evidenced by the 1 useless proxy and 1 killed proxy I built in this game)
  • I’m not saying he played well, we both obviously made a lot of mistakes. But even evaluating the differences in our play allows us to see how we are able to improve.
  • I didn’t build a forge, despite floating enough resources to afford upgrades in addition to my army. Upgrades, if tucked properly into unit production, can really turn the tide of a mirror matchup.

Note though! All of these basic points help Protoss in all matchups. Unit composition is very important versus Terran and Zerg as well, as is positioning.

Well, these are probably Bronze-level tips, but hopefully I’ve provided some interesting reading.

End rant.

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