TvP: 4-Gate Blink Stalkers

PartinG has been using this 4-Gate Blink Stalkers for quite some time, but the buzz only kicked off when he defeated Maru with it in the recent GSL quarterfinal. This post lays out the basics of the build and how Terran can deal with it.

Build order

Opening

14 – Pylon
16 – Gateway
17 – Assimilator
20 – Cybernetics Core
20 – Nexus
21 – Pylon
22 – Assimilator

Build

@100% Cybernetics Core – Warpgate and Adept (Chronoboost)
@100% Adept – Stalker
@100 gas – Twilight Council
@100 gas – Robotic Facility
@300 mineral – 2x Gateway
@150 gas – Blink
@150 mineral – Gateway
@100% Robotic Facility – Observer
40 – Pylon
Build Pylon accordingly hereafter
@100% Observer – Warp Prism
@100% Pylon – Assimilator
@100% Warpgates – Stalkers (continue to produce Stalkers)
@100% Warp Prism – Observer

Comparison with standard 3-Gate Blink

This build looks very similar to the standard Twilight Council and Robotic Facility with three Gateways Blink build. The main difference is adding the fourth Gateway early. I read some comments saying that 3-Gate means standard macro play with three bases, while 4-Gate means aggressive Blink attack. That is not exactly accurate, as you can still do a comparable mass Stalkers with Warp Prism pressure using three Gateways (see below vod for an example). The key difference between three and four Gateways is that you have a higher confidence to conclude Protoss is attacking soon.

What about the opening? The build uses a Cybernetics Core before Nexus opening, which is one of the two common openings in this match up. Simply knowing it is a Cybernetic Core before Nexus does not allow you to deduce it is going to be an aggressive build follow up. You can also use this 4-Gate build with a Nexus before Core opening (see vod below for an example). This is a matter of mix-and-matching build order blocks.

Rather than asking why do Protoss use 4-Gate instead of 3-Gate, the initial question should be why do Protoss want to attack with mass Stalkers at 5:00? This comes at the opportunity cost of the third Nexus and tech. To understand its merit, we can look at what Terran have at 5:00 with the common 3-1-1 Stim build. Terran would have just dropped two to three Widow Mines at Protoss’ base about 15 seconds ago. The first round of Stalkers Warp in line up well to deal with the drop. At 5:00, Terran would have only Marines (maybe a Maruader or two) and a Raven that is about to complete. These units match up poorly against mass Blink Stalkers. The additional Gateway intends to enlarge the impact of the advantage these Stalkers can gain in that time frame.

Playing against it

How you can react to it depends on the build you are already using and when you figure out it is 4-Gate Blink. As mentioned earlier, it is difficult to figure it out until you see the four Gateways. You are likely to confirm this only when you executed the Widow Mine drop, as that is your main scouting tool in that time frame. You have already committed to a 1-1-1 and have decided whether you are putting down two Barracks or the third Command Centre. That means, you have little room to adjust your build order at that point. Building Siege Tanks, Maruaders, and/or Bunkers are the main options available. Of course, if you can, you should kill the Observers, and that would make it difficult for Protoss to know where is the weakness in your positioning.

There are two builds that do relatively well against 4-Gate Blink, and neither can be described as a “reaction”. One is three Barracks with Stim (no Medivac), which is the build Maru used in game 3 against PartinG (see vod below – timestamped). The timing hits just before the Blink attack, and Stalkers alone are bad against bio with Stim. This is a blind counter against the 4-Gate build, because you have to commit to three Barracks before Protoss even put down the four Gateways. Given that PartinG loves Blink Stalkers and showed the same build in the first two games, it is a fair gamble.

The other is to go for 2-1-0. There are different builds that utilise 2-1-0 (for example, Combat Shield Tank push). The defining feature is to delay the Starport for more bio and earlier bio research (e.g., Stim). In comparison to three Barracks without Factory, 2-1-0 has better defensive tools with the Factory. Siege Tanks and (more) bio are the units you want against 4-Gate Blink. In fact, the 2-1-0 set up against early Blink attack was developed in the Blink Stalker era back in 2014. Importantly, similar to three Barracks, this is not a reaction to 4-Gate Blink, because you have to commit to 2-1-0 before Protoss put down the four Gateways. You can refer to the Dear versus Cure vod I already linked earlier.

The position of the production buildings is pivotal to defending against the pressure. In the first image below (game 1), Maru has his production buildings far from the area where the Stalkers would blink up. While this helps you to hide information from Protoss, you cannot use the buildings as a wall to protect your Siege Tanks. Even when he built a Bunker near the edge, there is still much room for the Stalkers to maneuver around. In the second image below (game 2), it is relatively difficult for the Stalkers to kill the Siege Tanks behind the buildings.

I recommend using 2-1-0 if this build becomes popular on ladder.

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4 thoughts on “TvP: 4-Gate Blink Stalkers

  1. Splendid as always! GayPal Donation incoming!
    Especially your references to your own essentials/build order blocks are priceless for the few who are able to lift them.

    If I may, I would like to have a section for each article. Something like a last-resort guide to the respective topic.

    something like this: Xx Stalker vs 1 Bunker with Yy Martines needs at least 3 repairing SCVs to hold. For the amateurs among us (for the love of the game)!

    We know this from the tutorials for Canon-rushs: 2 SCVs follow every sample; the pylon is ignored; every cannon is attacked like 3 SCVs.

    But maybe this is more a series of its own.

    1. Thanks for donation!
      The “magic number” is an interesting topic. I will probably make a post when I’ve enough situations for the topic.

  2. As a protoss player, I’ve noticed a significant point you actually wrote down in the build order, but overlooked in the analysis – the robo timing.

    Standard blink typically gets 3 gateway units and a 3:30ish robo. PartinG’s opener gets only 2 gateway units in order to get his robo up before 3:00 without delaying blink. And I’m no expert at DT drops, but I think there’s a version of the build that looks extremely similar to PartinG’s 4 gate until you make the dark shrine.

    Can the protoss get a robo + twilight by 3:00 and still play standard? Yes, definitely. The difference is that the protoss will rely on observers to scout instead of hallucinations. I actually used to do that all the time last year. That said, it’s still a huge red flag.

    You’re absolutely right that the 4th gateway is definitely the biggest sign of them all. But the first deviation to watch out for is definitely the early robo. That should raise any terran’s eyebrows in the current meta imo.

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