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i got wiped 3 times in a row yesterday by a simple, stupid zealot rush. Although it wasn't really a full rush as i had time to build some units, all my defenders got wiped by 4-5 zealots and more and more zealots kept pouring in and eventually killed me.

The first two games i was zerg. I scouted both times and saw them build an assimilator, cybernetics core and 2 (or more) stargates, so i expected them both times to go zealots+stalkers, but shortly after i started building units i got attacked both times by zealots gated in from a pylon hidden close to my base. The first game i tried to defend with zerglings and 2 spore crawlers and my queen but without success, the second game i used zerglings, roaches, a spore crawler and my queen but again without success, eventhough i killed 2 zealots more.

My third game was as terran (i play random) but the few (5-6) marines i had didn't survive much longer.

What is the best way to defend against many early zealots without focussing too much on it?
I'd prefer anything else than "wall in" simply because i don't like to wall in (which might be stupid, but well, ...) and it doesn't really work as zerg anyways.

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4 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Before we discuss counter builds, let's talk about what an early Zealot rush is:

"my defenders got wiped by 4-5 zealots and more and more zealots kept pouring in and eventually killed me"

This is the dreaded 2 Gate rush.

Your first goal is going to be identifying it. Luckily this is fairly easy to do. If you scout with your 12-13th drone/probe/scv you should get to your opponents base while his first Gateway is still building, worst case while his second is. All 2 Gate rushes start the same: Pylon, Gateway, Gateway, Pylon. This makes them very easy to pin down. If you see that second Gateway go up before the Cybernetics Core you know he's playing some sort of rush (pro tip: you can click on a Protoss building warping in to see what it will be). If he does a delayed rush, chances are you'll already be in a better position to defend, so you really want to watch out for this early rush.

The attack that will come should be 5 Zealots with 2 more in route (obviously he may wait for more or less, but this is the best time for him to attack).

As Zerg a 2 Gate opening is one of the scariest things to deal with (right after Hellion harass into Mech). If you fast expanded, use the expo as a damage soak and cancel it before it gets killed (if you can). Ideally you'll want to keep that expansion alive as his economy will already be devastated. When you scout a 2 Gate, you'll want to build a Spine Crawler almost immediately. Additionally, a Roach Warren is also recommended. Roaches are very strong vs Zealots (slow attack and starting armor vs a unit with fast attack) and if you can position some by your ramp or other choke you can cut the surface area of your Roaches in half. If you're already into a more speedling based build, then you're going to want to wait for him to surround your Hatchery or engage your Spine Crawler. This will naturally give you a very nice surround on his units as they will spread out. I also recommend bringing your Queen along for ranged dps (and to infuse the Spine Crawler).

The key thing for Zerg about repelling a 2 Gate play is the recovery. Early 2 Gate is so effective that even though he is putting himself at an economic disadvantage, he may do enough damage to your economy to win. You'll want to do the following: Put an Zergling outside his based (this is a scout for his next move); Tech to Roach or Hydra or Muta, as 2 Gate will likely lead into 3 Gate, 3 Gate + Robo or 4 Gate; Power drones, this one is key as he's making a huge economic sacrifice to push with 2 Gate and you need to exploit this for victory.

Terran traditionally have less problems with 2 Gate as they can usually wall off before the Zealots get there. If you already have Vespean Gas then its ok to go for Marauders with Concussive Shell, however, if your strategy didn't include that, you're going to want to skip add-ons and throw down a second Barracks when you scout the second Gateway. With Marines faster build time, you can create a tough Marine force behind your wall well before his Zealots arrive. This ruins the fact that he made an early sacrifice to go for a Zealot push and should give you command of the match. From here is very easy to transition into an MMM or even BioMech which should give you a quick victory.

As Protoss you're going to also want to wall, stick a Zealot or two in the opening and push for Stalkers. If you can have enough 1 Stalker out and your opening plugged before he gets there, chances are you've already won. It is not unusual, upon seeing a 2 Gate, to throw down a second gateway yourself. As defender you'll naturally have the advantage as his troops have a longer rally distance, and you can control the choke. If you push out an early Sentry, he'll probably Rage Quit and call you a cheater.

Now if you're dealing with a Proxy Gate (which is different than a 2 Gate) you have slightly different things to watch for. Lack of Assimilators and Pylons in his base are your best clue. At this point you'll want to start taking your scout and covering all the corners of the map. Additionally move a scout to outside your natural or the nearest Xel Naga tower.

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Is there any post on starcraft 2 where your answer was not accepted? :) Good and very complete answer, eventhough i still don't like the wall-in part and still get a 50% win ratio without it, sometimes even beating platin league players. –  dbemerlin Aug 19 '10 at 15:39
    
@dbemerlin there are a number of posts where people like other answers better than mine (eg question 5738). I don't always agree with them, but I do my best to try and live up to "the Jon Skeet of Starcraft." Thank you Grace –  tzenes Aug 19 '10 at 16:34
    
No problem, tzenes~ –  Grace Note Aug 19 '10 at 16:43
    
Gate, Gas, Core, Sentry, Stalker, Sentry, Stalker, Stalker, Gate, Gas, Sentry, Stalker, Stalker, Stargate, Void Ray? Why directly wall-in if you could use Sentries instead and have mobility added? –  daemonfire300 Sep 29 '10 at 20:14
    
@camino they're alternate solutions. I mention 3 different solutions in that paragraph: 1) Zealot wall into Sentry, 2) 2 Gate response, 3) Sentry. Any of them work. –  tzenes Sep 29 '10 at 21:00
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Zealot is the first available Protoss ground combat unit so while scouting is important, at least having some early vision to see when they are coming will help. Either way it's not unrealistic to just build as if you're expecting the Zealots to come. After all the early part of the builds to block them are just as standard as the ones that bring the early Zealot rush because they are early stepping stone tech buildings.

1) Protoss: Well if they are Protoss and you are Protoss you just need to have a nice smooth fast opening so you can have a defense on par with his attack. You guys are on even ground here, get some Stalkers for range and Zealots to tank for them.

2) Zerg: You'd be surprised at the power of the amount of Zerglings you can get in the amount of time he can make a Zealot rush that is early enough to be any trouble. If it's a little later get a second Queen and some Spine Crawlers. You can then move the Queen to your expansion later. Properly controlled Roaches are also good for Zealots but keep in mind they will be in trouble against many of the other Protoss units.

3) Terran: Wall off, Marines. Also note: Marauder micro with stun shell upgrade can own Zealots. Just spam move click away from them and then every 3 clicks hold 'A' (or whatever your attack move key is), the Raud will turn around and fire on your attack move command and then the subsequent move command will keep him running after that, the grenades will slow them down allowing you to double back and repeat if they flee.

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I'm not good with Zerg, but I can answer for both Toss and Terran:

Terran: wall in your ramp. If you can see the rush coming, go reapers. Reapers are faster than un-upgraded zealots, so you can "kite" them and micro them without losing any reapers. Works effectively too against a zergling rush.

Also, with the Reapers bonus against light units, the wall in will be extra effective.

Protoss: Wall in and get a few stalkers. Kite the zealots with your stalkers. Just keep dancing while continuing to pump out more stalkers. While his zealots are running around trying to get your stalkers, your stalker army will grow... eventually just wiping them all out.

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The problem is seeing the rush coming. The build seems to starts exactly like most other protoss builds, 2 gates, core and assimilator, tech to gateways and then they gate the units to a location close to the enemy base (it's nearly impossible to check every spot for a hidden pylon) so even with the watchtowers manned you can't see the attack coming unless you have a drone in his base (which is usually killed by 1-2 zealots in his base that he built while teching gates) and then it's too late to switch to reapers. Wall-in will propably work but as mentioned i'm not a fan of it. –  dbemerlin Aug 19 '10 at 12:58
    
ew, wall in as protoss? –  ioSamurai Aug 19 '10 at 13:10
    
@Shogun Yes, wall in as protoss. You can wall in while leaving a single space, wide enough for one unit. You block that space with a single zealot. As long as that zealot is backed up with some stalkers and another zealot, it can effectively hold off a larger zealot force. This prevents your units from getting swarmed, or his zealots walking right into your nexus/mineral line. –  LeeMobile Aug 19 '10 at 13:24
    
Ok, I thought you meant entirely with buildings. I personally wouldn't call it walling in otherwise. –  ioSamurai Aug 19 '10 at 13:29
    
@Shogun: I think it's an acceptable term to use. Many replay casters use it, such as HD and Husky. However, I should have been more clear to what that meant with protoss. –  LeeMobile Aug 19 '10 at 17:08
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First, I suggest you go choose a race first that you're comfortable with. People usually only go random when they're far up the ladder and they know they can defend/win using any race.

Second, is your opponent a human or ai? Well in any case, it looks like you just need to churn out units faster, meaning you have to train more on your macro. If you want, you can also train your micro(when using your 5 marines, fire(focus) then run away so the zealots wont catch up)

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I'm gold league and i'm comfortable with all races, i go random because i think always one race is too boring. The enemy was of course human and i usually have a decent macro, eventhough of course it could be improved. I tried running circles and killing them one by one but for every one i killed 2 more entered my base and started killing my workers and the marines i was building all the time. In a later game i had success with 3 barracks, but that seemed like a solution focussed too much on countering this single build. –  dbemerlin Aug 19 '10 at 11:57
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