Arnaud was discussing with me about Pylon Overcharge rushes in the early game, and I thought it is an interesting topic to post. This post is about identifying the attack and defending it.
There are several main types of Pylon Overcharge rush, and the ideal reactions to them are quite different. The first is the early one-base attack with a Nexus behind, and the second one is to follow up with a Stargate. The third one is a proxy Stargate into Pylon Overcharge, and the fourth one is a post-expansion rush. Below image is an easy way to visualise the differences.
The first two spend the resource on Pylon Overcharge first with the attempt of getting a good trade, and then they transition out to usually either a Nexus or a Stargate. Since they spend the resource on the rush first, the requirement is for the rush distance to be short in order for the attack to be effective. These were popular on Dasan Station last year. Thus, these two versions are uncommon in the current metagame as there is no map that has a short rush distance. You can look at the number of geysers taken to identify the follow up option: one geyser is for expansion, and two geysers generally mean it is a tech to Stargate. Below vod is an example of utilising short distance to have an early Pylon Overcharge attack.
The third and fourth versions are more common on standard size maps, and I will discuss more about them in this post.
Proxy Stargate then Overcharge
There are two phases to this attack. The first is the Pylon Overcharge itself, and the second is the Oracle. The timing of the Pylon Overcharge is strongly dependent on map distance, and a rough estimate of the timing is around 3:00.
As illustrated in the image earlier, the resource is first spent on a proxy Stargate, and hence, the first telling sign of this build is similar to an early proxy build. The second Pylon is the proxy Pylon, and you can get this piece of information with a normal Scv scout (read this TvP scouting article if you have not). The Oracle should hit at around 3:15~3:30, so it is slightly behind the timing of the Pylon Overcharge. It is important to note that a proxy Stargate does not necessarily mean that it is a Pylon Overcharge attack, so the other piece of information is to look at the main Nexus to see if a Mothership Core is being produced on one base.
It takes six Marines to beat an Oracle, and there are only four Marines (two more in production) if you go for any form of Reaper expand build (Reaper –> Reactor –> Marines). Protoss will try to pick away a Marine (or more) with Mothership Core and Adepts before the Oracle arrives to battle the small group of Marines (fewer than six). Given that Terran usually wall off the main ramp with two Supply Depots and the first Barracks with Reactor, it is ideal for Protoss to pick off a Marine when a pair just pops out of the Barracks using Pylon Overcharge and Mothership Core.
The other synergy between a proxy Oracle and the Pylon Overcharge is that they can hit at two locations. If Terran position the Marines just outside of the Pylon Overcharge zone, the mineral line is exposed to the Oracle. Alternatively, the Reactor and two Supply Depots will be destroyed unopposed if the Terran units are positioned at the mineral line, and that is a good trade for Protoss. Apart from the obvious damage, it is difficult for Terran to mine from the natural as Terran do not have the units to zone off one to two Oracles since the Reactor is destroyed.
If Terran use a Reaper expand opening, the Reaper should be sent to opponent’s side to harass the Probes. There are several reasons for this. First, Reaper does not contribute to the defence in Terran’s base, as it cannot shoot up. Second, you want to know if Protoss will follow up with more Gateways for a Voidray all-in, and you should see the Nexus at the natural by 3:15~3:30. Third, you want to force the Adepts to stay in Protoss’ base, as the additional Adepts can tip the battle in Terran’s base toward Protoss’ favour.
Obviously, you don’t attempt to attack the Mothership Core, as that means your Marines are in range of the Pylon Overcharge. Then, the focus should be on how to deal with the Oracle while the Pylon Overcharge is doing work. If it is a Reaper expand into tech (1-1-1), the key is to get a Cyclone as it is the best Factory anti-air option you can have at that point. The common situation is to have four Marines and one Cyclone to fend off the Oracle.
It is optional to build Engineering Bay and Missile Turrets at that point. However, the minerals should be spent on additional Supply Depots, because the two Supply Depots at the ramp are bound to be destroyed. The Missile Turrets definitely help, but they should have a lower priority than Supply Depots. The reason behind Missile Turrets is to cover the ground that your limited number of units cannot when the second Oracle comes in. Therefore, you can have one Missile Turret in one mineral line, while you have the units in the other for the time being.
In my opinion, the Barracks should have moved away from the ramp once you have completed the last production cycle of Marines when the Pylon Overcharge attack is activated. I cannot think of a benefit to leave it there.
See vods below. Cyclone is the standard response.
Expand then Overcharge
It is hard to tell whether a Pylon Overcharge is coming after a standard one Gateway expand opening. One sign is to have the Reaper to scout the Protoss’ base as per normal, and check if the Mothership Core is in the base after you have figured out that Protoss were making a Mothership Core. The timing hits at around 3:15~3:30.
A simplified way to look at this attack is that Protoss aim to get a favourable trade with the Pylons. A Reactor is worth a lot more than a Pylon.
Although an Oracle follow up is common for this build in the current Phoenix Adept metagame, it is not the main concern. Terran’s priority is to ensure Protoss do not get a good trade. A way to look at the trade is that it is in Terran’s favour when one Supply Depot is destroyed, it is about even if two Supply Depots get destroyed, and it is in Protoss’ favour is Reactor is destroyed. Therefore, the main goal is to protect the Reactor, and this can be done by having Scvs to repair it (micro required). You rather lose two to three Scvs than a Reactor (see aLive versus herO below).
Wall at ramp in general
This is slightly beyond the topic of interest. The current metagame got me thinking whether walling off the main ramp with a Barracks and two Supply Depots is a good option, and this is something I have posted on Facebook three weeks ago.
I suggest not walling off as per normal, but rather only build the first Supply Depot at the ramp. It is still important to have vision of the ramp even if you don’t wall off early.
I understand that you want to wall the ramp against Adepts run by, but that is only a concern when we are already in the mid game. You can always wall the main ramp off later, after you know that Protoss do not Pylon Overcharge rush you. This reduces the damage taken from the Pylon Overcharge if you only have a Supply Depot at the ramp. If it is a Pylon Overcharge with proxy Oracle, you want the Barrack to be nearer to the mineral line. This prevents Marines from being picked off when they walk out of the Barracks.
The only drawback is against a single Adept shade to scout your main base early on, and it is actually getting less common now with the shade vision nerf.
Walling off the main ramp at the start of the game is almost irrelevant in the match up.
Wall off is arguably the most important in the TvZ match up. There is no such thing as 6-pool now, and all Spawning Pool before Hatchery Zergling builds now can be scouted in time to wall off as a response. Not walling off early on has its merits against the popular early Ravager attack, as it allows you to set up the defend by building the second Supply Depot and Bunker to complete the wall off.
I am still working on the mechanics article for the Elementary Series. I already have more than 3000 words when I have only written about 50% of what I want to say, so I need more time to draft. Also, I was working on another article about Phoenix Adept for the past week, but Artosis’ recent article basically echos everything I wanted to say. Therefore, I decided to scrap that and post this instead.