Opening phoenix in PvZ

This is a guide about opening stargate with phoenix in PvZ. I want to go over why I think opening stargate is the best if you want to go to a macro game in PvZ. I will also go over 2 build orders, explain how to use phoenix, what to scout for and how to get a 3rd base up and running. For this guide I will be focusing on FFE only because the timings are much easier. I will also only cover opening with 4-5 phoenix into adding a robo and going for the 3rd. Because this guide is purely about how to play a macro from a phoenix opener, I will follow it up with 3 more guides where you open very similar but do a powerful all-in.

Build overview

First I want to write a bit on why I think stargate openers (phoenix openers specifically) are the best.

A very important part of it is denying zergs from having map vision. At least map vision with overlords. Once the zerg scouts you going for phoenix, they will immediately rally all their overlords to somewhere in their own base. This makes it impossible for them to scout you until they get a overseer or overlord speed, you will also get to kill all the overlord they've already sent out. With the infestor being out of the meta-game to counter phoenix, you will have a much easier time keeping your phoenix alive. This also means you can scout much easier without having to worry about (burrowed) infestors chain-fungaling your phoenix. When you open phoenix you are safe against all early/mid-game muta openers. Having 4-5 phoenix out when your opponent spawns 15 mutas is incredibly useful and will give you the time you need to get proper anti-muta tech out. Next on the list of why phoenix are awesome is harassment. When you open phoenix you already force 6 spores (assuming your opponent has 3 bases). If they get any less, you can pick off drones very easily.

I want to answer the first questions many of you may have. How much damage should I strive towards doing with my phoenix. The answer is my opinion is doing 1k resources worth of damage is the bare minimum. Of course if you're in some of the lower leagues this may be difficult to pull off and could cause problems with your macro. Don't worry, once you get the hang of using phoenix you will find time in between macro cycles to control the phoenix.

When you scout your opponent's base first with the phoenix there's a couple of things you have to look for. Firstly, check his lair timing. A normal zerg opener vs FFE would be double gas at 6:00. This would allow the zerg to have his lair done at 8:20 if he would go lair with his first 100 gas. Something more common would be to get ling speed first (sometimes even an upgrade too), this would result in the lair being done around 8:50. So if you see a lair being complete (or near completion) around 8:20 or earlier, you know you're dealing with early tech. In the current meta-game this mean either fast hydra's to be aggressive or fast muta's. You may encounter unorthodox builds like fast swarmhost pushes or fast roach speed. So don't count those out. The timing of the robo will deal very well with all of this, I will discuss that later. If the lair is going to complete at 8:50 or later you have to do more scouting. First thing you want to know is if the zerg is getting any upgrades. If it's a single evo chamber it's probably missile attack. This can either be for hydra's or locust (swarm hosts). A zerg having more than 4 queens (assuming he's still on 3 bases) is a good indicator that it may be swarmhost play. Make sure you check with he
phoenix if swarmhosts are actually being made, it could also be fast ultras.

Looking at the lair timing, gas timings and the amount of queens is one thing, but actually seeing the tech units is another. Zerg can fool you by putting down multiple lair tech building but only build one of them. This is why it's important to always keep your phoenix around your opponent's base. Even when he has hydra's out, you will have to try and scout more. If you would retreat with your phoenix, you wouldn't find out if the zerg is making more hydra's to attack or just making drones behind it. Keeping phoenix around your opponent's base is even more important when the zerg is going mutas or is only making speedlings and you're unsure what tech he's going for.

I'm sorry if the paragraph written above doesn't explain exactly how you should deal with swarmhost play or fast ultra's. This guide is about getting your 3rd up after opening with phoenix. I'm not going over late-game unit compositions either, I will however include many replays of macro games where you can take a look at. If you have any specific questions , please ask them.

The most important part is knowing if there's an attack coming and what units will be in the attack. Against a roach heavy (or normal roach/hydra) composition, I recommend getting 1 or 2 immortals before starting colossus production. I don't recommend making a single voidray to deal with roaches since hydras are so common in the current meta-game. You can of course go for a voidray heavy composition, players like MacSed like adding in lots of voidrays to their colossus/zealot army. But going for a single voidray to defend your 3rd against roaches, which was very common in WoL, is not worth is anymore unless you're 100% sure the zerg isn't following his push up with hydras. Heavy roach/ling pressure into mutas is something that can happen. This is another reason to keep your phoenix alive and actively scout with them.

Playing vs a passive zerg

This is something that can be annoying, especially if the zerg is just making drones and you aren't quite sure what tech he may throw at you. Even with phoenix out, a zerg suddenly making 20 mutas can cost you the game. Fortunately we have the msc now. Use this unit to put aggression on your opponent if you see him not having a lot of units. Then just recall after you've done damage.

You can also use the robo to make a warp prism while you wait for your robo bay to finish.

Build order

Now the build order for this build is quite simple but getting everything in time is very important.

Standard macro opener

(open with a normal FFE)
26 zealot (optional)
31 pylon
35 stargate
35 sentry
37 2x gas
39 pylon 43 pylon
47 1st phoenix (then just continue making them till you have 4-5)
49 sentry
51 robo (6:50)
59 sentry
59 3x gateway & +1 attack

Here is where you scout your opponent and decide if it's necessary to make immortals, get a quick robo bay and figure out how fast you can take your 3rd. Normally you want your 3rd in-between 10 and 11 minutes. On maps where it's hard to take a 3rd (like star station) it can be as late as 12 minutes, but on maps like akilon wastes you really want it at 10:00. With both build orders you want to get the msc after your 4th phoenix.

Opener with 4gate pressure

(open with a normal FFE)
26 pylon (mandatory this time, you want to use this to sneak out a probe for proxy pylons. I also recommend trying to keep your scouting probe somewhere on the map.)
36 3rd gas
36 stargate
41 sentry
43 pylon
46 4th gas
46 +1 attack
48 1st phoenix (then just continue making them till you have 4-5)
54 3x gates
60 robo (7:55)

I don't recommend using chronoboost on the warpgate or +1 attack. This makes the pressure too obvious and will probably result in the zerg being more cautious about proxy pylons. Note the difference in robo timings. If we go back to the zerg timings now, we can see that a fast lair would finish at 8:20. This would allow the zerg to have hydras out at 9:33. With the standard macro opener you would have a colossus out at 9:45 (with 3 chronoboosts on the robo), this would be well before any hydras can reach your base. But with the 4gate pressure you will only be able to get a colossus out at 10:50. This is quite a difference. You may run into trouble if your opponent holds your 4gate pressure with some roaches or lings, then adds hydras to his army and attacks you. So try scouting a bit earlier with the phoenix you're going for the 4gate pressure. Don't forget not to over commit to the pressure, you will have to warp in units to take your 3rd base too.

Tips & comments on the build

- If a queen injects, the hold position on it is lost and you can lure it out of spore crawler range again.
- Make sure to target the queen once you lift it up with the phoenix if there are overlords nearby. You donít want to waste any phoenix shots on the overlords causing you to use 2 lifts to kill 1 queen.
- If you have to defend your 3rd against speedling heavy army compositions, make sure to place your army in between your nexus and the minerals.

Sending phoenix out right away vs pooling up to 4-5

One isn't necessarily better than the other, both have their advantages.

Advantages of sending phoenix out right away
- Can kill overlords right away and prevent your next tech path to be scouted
- You will arrive at your opponent's base quicker with 2-3 phoenix and can start killing drones faster
- Can scout earlier with phoenix
- The zerg may put up spores quicker

Advantages of pooling up to 4-5 phoenix
- May be able to get one or multiple queens
- Your opponent will have anticipated the possibility of other builds for a longer time
- The chances that the zerg's overlords aren't rallied properly is pretty significant.

Video guide


My opponent wanted to open mutas but after he saw my spire he decided to get some corruptors first to protect his mutas while they would do harassment. The delay on the mutas caused the zerg to make his build very inefficient because he had to add lots of spines. This gave me a pretty good lead. This game shows the importance of using warp prisms vs a zerg that uses static defense in the front of his base and the importance of having cannons vs muta/corruptor harassment.

Nothing particularly special happens in this game when it comes to opening phoenix. I still thought it would be a good replay to include since I deal with mass swarmhost turtle style very well.

In this game my opponent went for a pretty weird opener. He made a bunch of corruptors to deal with the phoenix and tried putting on some aggression with a ton of roaches. I went immortal heavy, skipped colossus and headed up towards storm in responds. This game shows well how important scouting with the phoenix all game long is.

In this game my opponent went for mutas even though I opened phoenix. I didn't see the spire (well I did scout it but I didn't actually see it). If my phoenix weren't at his base to scout the mutas the game would've been over very fast. Instead the game went on and I got my anti-muta tech eventually.

This is a game where the zerg went for a hydra push which wasn't the best on this map. The game turned out to be a pretty cool macro game.

This is just a replays of a phoenix opener into 2 immortal / 2 colossus allin.

Liquid.HerO doing the standard macro opener vs Scarlett. He chose to be aggressive vs the swarmhost heavy style from scarlett. Even the fake nexus was a bit late in my opinion, but I think HerO was a bit thrown off by what scarlett was doing since he was playing so aggressive.

Opener with 4gate pressure

Liquid.HerO vs Suppy

Liquid.HerO vs Revival

Unfortunately in both games the zerg chose to be aggressive and the potential of the pressure wasn't shown.

If you have any questions, please post them in the TeamLiquid thread:

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