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As protoss, in a 'normal' - with no early rushes- I like to go 3 gate Robo and push out, with an immortal or two (if I see Roaches), or just gateway units otherwise. This normally works well and I expand behind the push, sometimes just before, and can often do a lot of damage to a Zerg's base. However not always and if I do not do sufficient damage I end up losing.

When I hit the zerg base - say with his natural expansion up and running - what should I target as a priority to deal the most damage? I normally only have small window of opportunity before mutas pop or he gets enough zerglings to surround me.

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In the situation you described above: Target drones.

The reasoning is because that is guaranteed damage. The drones will die; if you target the hatch, it might live and his drones can happily go back to mining after your army is killed/driven out.

Killing drones also gives you an economic advantage. With the zerg race, the player has to actively make the decision of, "Am I going to spend this larva to make a drone, or an attacking/defending unit". By killing the drone you slow down his economy, force him to spend the larva to keep up with you economically (assuming you keep making harvesters/expanding), and weaken his attacking/defending force because he used the larva to produce a drone instead of a zergling, roach, muta, etc.

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Thanks for the help but you have me wondering: In what situation would you target something other than drones? –  gbsod Apr 28 '11 at 5:40
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Most of the time you wouldn't target drones if you have a choice between drone and a hatch. However, later in the game when you know that his main/expos are getting close to being mined out denying expansions becomes more important because you deny him the ability to mine from that location efficiently. This in turn becomes an economic advantage because his drones are then forced to long distance mine lowering his income which means you get more of an economic advantage again. And also forces him to spend 300 on a new hatch, if he's already low, that 300 is going to hurt a lot more. –  Sorean Apr 28 '11 at 5:50
    
Also his long distance mining drones are more exposed to being killed. Or you force his army to protect those drones that are mining while you easily take another base for yourself to get even more ahead because they will be hesitant to move with that army so you won't get any pressure while expanding. –  Sorean Apr 28 '11 at 5:51
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Now I want to ladder and find me some drones. –  gbsod Apr 28 '11 at 6:02
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@gbsod Basically the only time you target the hatch over drones is if you are very confident you can kill it before being repelled. Killing the hatchery forces him to spend another 300 + a drone to re-expand, and cripples his income and production, so it is a big hit if you can get it. But, it is much better to kill 5 drones than to get the hatchery down to the red but fail to kill it. –  en1gmatic325 Apr 28 '11 at 23:15
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Not only in this situation, not for Protoss only, not versus Zerg only.

I would recommend to target harvesters in 1st turn almost always due to following reasons:

  1. That is guaranteed damage (doesn't matter if that is Zerg or any other race, opponent will have lesser amount of harvesters, lesser income, need to spend money (and larva for Zerg, ChronoBoost for Protoss) to get new harvesters.
  2. If opponent pool harvesters back (to safety) - you will still be able to kill gas-structures/or "main" building (Nexus, CC, Hatchery, etc). Potentially, you could harass harvesters with quick units (hellions, bannelings, etc), but keep main army close to the 'exit';
  3. If opponent bring some defenders, you can switch your army to shoot opponent army... or retreat without been caught.

The only case when it makes sense to focus on Nexus/CC/Hatchery is when you have SOLID army, but need to retreat quickly. In this case if you hunt for harvesters - you will kill 5-10 - not a big deal... (250-500 minerals). But been able to destroy those building - means 300-400 minerals and 100 seconds with no harvesting, that is yet more 1k minerals 200-300 gas (on fully saturated base). In the same time, I would not recommend to change you army on that building only. If you see significant forces are approaching and you need to kill more then 1/4 building health (300-500 HP) you would better retreat and keep your opponent defending those base. After that - try to attack from other side.

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