Basic TvP scouting and key timing

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You guys voted for this post on Facebook. This post covers the basic scouting and key timing in TvP.

Disclaimer: This is not perfect, but just my personal rule of thumb.

Feel free to comment and share your scouting knowledge. Correct me if I’m wrong. If I mention a certain timing below, take it as an approximation. Let say, I said 5:00, it probably ranges from 4:45 to 5:15, as it is hard to precise if you take into account of other variables such as map size etc. Also, the main focus of this post is about scouting, so I won’t discuss about how to react.

Phase 1 – Basic Scv scout

This is based on the assumption that you play standard and scout at 14 or 15 supply.

Gateway

The first thing you need to look for is the Gateway. This is so elementary that this is not being mentioned most of the time. There should be one Gateway in the Protoss base now. If there isn’t one, there can be two main possibilities,

  • Nexus before Gateway
  • Proxy Gateway

The first one is straight forward.

The second one puts you on red alert. Build bunker(s) immediately. I won’t go in depth about how to hold one, because that exceeds the scope of this piece. Going back to scouting, after you have deduced that there is no Gateway and Nexus at Protoss’ base, you need to check the gas. If there is no gas taken, it is likely to be two Gateway Zealots. If there is a gas taken, it is likely to be one Gateway Zealots with Stalkers.

If there is a Gateway, look at the gas.

Assimilator

Let say it is a normal game, and you scout a standard Gateway timing. Look at the gas.

There should be at least one gas taken, the question is one or two. It is possible that no gas is taken for a 17 supply Gateway expand, which is a safe form of “Nexus first” in case of proxy Barracks. But it is rare.

One

It is likely that it is a standard one Gateway expand. When you scouted that there is only one Assimilator, you can choose to do an Engineering Bay block at the natural immediately (Flash’s favorite). Nowadays, Protoss usually start making a Zealot against an Engineering Bay block, and cancel it if there is not one. If you just scout around the base, the Scv should see the Nexus by the time it leaves the base.

This can be a quick Zealot + Stalker + Mothership aggression into expand. The first sign is that the Zealot is not cancelled after he sees that you do not do an Engineering Bay block. The second sign is Chronoboost on Gateway. The third sign is the Zealot walking across the map.

Another possibility is a four Gateway rush with one gas, and it is very rare.

Those mentioned above are based on the normal Gateway timing, but it can be a 10 supply Gateway Zealot + Stalker + Mothership aggression to counter Reaper opening.

Two

This is where things get more tricky. Many people suggest that two Assimilators mean that you need to prepare for Oracle. That is not completely true. After you see that there are two Assimilators, you need to count the number of Probes in each Assimilator. Further, the timing of the second Assimilator is a tell too, but that is too advance for me.

Four in total (two each)

This usually means Mothership Core expand. Subsequently, the 5th and 6th Probes will be placed back in gas to become a normal game.

You can tell whether Protoss is making a Mothership Core based on the animation on the Nexus.

mscanimation

Six in total (three each)

This usually means one of the following early tech on one base,

Proxy Stargate build is likely to have the second Pylon at the proxy location. So if you see two Pylons and two gas, it is unlikely to be proxy Stargate. If the proxy Stargate is being built with the third Pylon, the first Oracle cannot hit at 5:00. Clearly, if you scout the Twilight Council, it is either Blink or Dark Templar. However, it may be hard to tell whether Blink is being researched or not judging from the animation, and hence, a good sign is whether there is an abnormal number of Stalkers.

Outside of these three mainstream builds, Four Gate is a possibility but it is uncommon.

Phase 2 – Tech path

Phase 1 is mainly about whether Protoss is expanding or not. Phase two only occurs if Protoss chose to expand between the standard timing of 4:00 to 4:30.

Phase 2.1

After Protoss have expanded, they will have to choose their first tech path at 5:00. These include

  • Twilight Council
  • Robotic Facility
  • Stargate

5:00 is a key scouting time in TvP. Usually a Reaper is sacrificed at 5:00~5:15 to look for the tech building, and Terran will have to make use of this information to react accordingly. For Twilight Council, it is either Blink or Dark Templar. Again, the number of Stalkers is the key sign if you are unable to tell whether Blink is researching or you don’t see the Dark Shrine. If it is Blink, you have to know whether it is an all-in or a macro build (discuss this in phase 3). The Blink attack hits at around 8:00, while the Dark Templar hits before 8:00.

The timing of the Stargate can be earlier than 5:00 if Protoss cut the first Stalker, and the first Oracle should hit at around 6:30. The Robotic Facility build is perhaps not a big tell of what Protoss plan to do immediately as it has quite a number of options such as Colossus, Warp Prism and Immortal all-in. The Colossus build is perhaps the most normal of them all whereby Protoss camp in two bases  for upgrades and Colossus. However, Colossus does not necessarily mean they are playing defensively as there is an all-in timing at around 10:00. Another interesting variation is the Colossus drop, and it hits at around 9:15. The Immortal all-in is less common, but it is still good to know that it hits at around 7:30. On top of these different Robotic Facility variation, the first Observer should reach Terran base at around 7:30, so keep an eye for a scan at that time.

Phase 2.2

Protoss usually go for one tech path at 5:00, and then another after that.

Let’s start with Stargate. The usual second tech after a Stargate tech is a Robotic Facility, and it will proceed to a normal game. This can shape up to a Colossus and Phoenix composition. Another less popular variation is the Twilight Council tech after Stargate for Zealot Templar.

The Twilight Council tech can be followed by a Dark Shrine after the Blink upgrade. The more common tech option is the Robotic Facility for Colossus, and this is perhaps the go-to build in the current meta. As I had discussed in the last post, Twilight Council into Robotic Facility is probably the best anti Widow Mine drop build.

Robotic Facility is usually followed by the Twilight Council path for Blink and Colossus, which is probably the standard build.

Phase 3 – All-in or macro

After you have scouted the tech path at 5:00, you are not sure if Protoss plan to do an all-in or macro. One way to tell is to check the gas at the natural at 7:00~7:15. If no gas is taken, it is likely to be all-in. You can watch any of the games I’ve linked above, and see for yourself. Whenever there is an all-in, the gas is not taken at the 7:00ish timing. Thus, it is normal for Terran to sacrifice the Reaper at 5:00 for the first piece of information, and scan at 7:00 for the second. The vod below shows INnoVation put down a scan at around 7:15.

Summary of key timings

Nexus at natural: 4:00~4:30
First tech: 5:00 (Stargate is at 4:30 if no Stalker)
All-in or macro: 7:00~7:15 gas at natural

One base Blink: 7:00
Proxy Oracle: 5:00
One base Dark Templar: 6:30

Two base Blink: 8:00
Two base Oracle: 6:30
Two base Dark Templar: 7:45
Two base Colossus drop: 9:15
Two base Colossus all-in: 10:00
Two base Immortal all-in: 7:30

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18 thoughts on “Basic TvP scouting and key timing

    1. If it’s a Nexus first, your scv should see the Nexus if you scout at the 15 supply. I didn’t state the number of stalkers because it sometimes depends on the metagame. For example, the stalker count early on is usually 1 or 2 previously, but it has increased to around 3-4 recently due to the popularity of widow mine drop. But in general, if you see 4 or more, it is likely that an attack is coming.

  1. i would also like to note that you should also click the gas when protoss is 1 gas. some protosses have been doing a 9 pylon 10 assimilator 13 gateway (cut probe) build, which gets gateway only a few seconds later than 1 gate fe. your reaper is able to scout natural nexus, 1 pylon + 1 pylon on way, gateway producing a stalker, and no msc or warpgate on way. At first, you think your opponent made a big mistake. Then, a proxy oracle hits your mineral line and you lose 8 SCVs T_T

  2. Max: nice article … Could u pleaee cover in future ine more specific early TvP thing ? I am talking about MSC + zealot/stalker + stalker poke. Problem is not to scout it though – u cn see chronoboost used on gate and/or zealot marching aong the map. The problem is (at least for player with skill like me around dia league) how to properly react and defend it. Hell, many times it won’t u just put behind but basocly kill u right away.

    When I always ask about this situation around forums etc., people tend to oversimplify the answer with something like: “Noob, just make bunker.”.

    Well, yeah ok. But this got two problems 1) on many maps reacting with making bunker is not enough because poke will arrive before its dobe 2) that means you would need to make a bunker every single time before some of the raxes, but this bunker wont be that much of use if toss wont go for the push 3) many pros / better players are able to deal with it ok with just marines and pulled scvs … And this is something I would love u to cover if possible :)

    1. To be honest, I don’t do too well against it myself because my micro is pretty bad. The main thing is whether it’s a normal gateway timing or something early like 10 supply gateway. The 10 supply gateway timing is more complicated because the units reach your base when your first pair of marines (assuming you go for reaper expand) just pop up or about to pop up (depending on map distance). You cannot engage with the first pair, you must rally back to the main CC. Then, you need to pull scv and try to protect your marines until you’ve the second pair to really fight against it. If a MSC can take down 2 marines by itself without dying, then it’s impossible to defend with only 2 marines against msc + zealot + stalker. Another thing is to see if you can surround his units, and remember to put down a second supply depot behind mineral line. As for the standard gateway timing, it really depends on where you position the marines. If you put them on top of the main ramp, the CC cannot complete. If you put them too far out, they may get picked off and you lose. So it’s best to again, build a supply depot immediately because the CC cannot finish in time. Then pull some scvs to defend, it’s pure micro. A bunker usually can’t work because it’s too late. if you put it in top ramp, you have to cancel the CC and rebuild in main, that’s what protoss want. In sum, try not to get supply block, and make sure you pay attention to the marine’s hp. losing a few scv is almost certain for an average casual player like myself.

  3. One thing you forgot to mention is the Oracle\Voidray\Stalker all in. Before when I met protoss players on the ladder who did a early proxy oracle against me and I defended it, I thought to myself, “ok cool, I defended that stuff, im in a good spot now”, and then , BOOM! Oracles, voidrays and stalkers at my front tearing up my base. What i learned from that is whenever you encounter a early oracle you need to confirm if he is expanding or not. If not then except some oracle\voidray\stalker all in.

    How to counter it? Lift your natural CC into your main. Build shitloads of marines, you don`t have time to prioritize tech labs\reactors\Stim Combat Shield on your racks over marine count, build additional straight rackses instead if economy allows it. Get get 2-3 bunkers at your front and have SCV`s on auto-repair ready next to your bunkers when you think it is about to hit. 2 Oracles+2-3-4 Voidrays and stalkers burn down bunker really really fast. When you feel you are holding it off, get Stim Combat Shield Medivacs and all the good stuff and counter attack=win.

    I`m just a diamond myself, so whatever I just said is based on pure experience so I might be wrong on some details but this is how I reflect this all in.

    1. Having played both sides of the situation, the worst thing you can ever do against a void ray stalker all in off 1 base is lift to main. A single sentry can deny your natural for the next 10 minutes, and even with stim and medivacs, there’s no escaping the contain.

      Grandmaster protoss MaximusBlack used to stalker void ray all in every PvT on stream. He says that if he can force a liftoff, he’s essentially won the game.

    2. You’re right about it not being there. I mainly list the main stream stuff, like I said it’s the basic. There are other variations for the proxy Oracle into all-in. I lost to Tempest follow up before. =(

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