I was a victim of a cannon rush in my last Starcraft 2 game. I was playing Zerg and my opponent was playing Protoss. About four minutes into the match, cannons and pylons started going up in front of the only entrance to my base.

What is the best strategy for handling such a tactic? Massed banelings seemed to be pretty effective, but I couldn't get enough of them to break through.

Am I better off attacking the cannon cluster directly, or should I ignore it, push to mutalisks/brood lords and attack my opponent's base?

  • I did this yesterday :)
    – Strawberry
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 2:15

7 Answers 7


If he's got cannons + gateways just outside your ramp, chances are he has minimal forces at his main base. Get a few mutalisks and/or Nydus worms to harass.

You might want to build a second hatchery to facilitate unit production. The reason a contain (not a 'cannon rush', as you labeled it) works so well against Zerg is because they typically need that second hatchery to keep up with (or surpass, usually) their opponent's unit production.

If you can, use your overlords to scout -- a protoss cannon contain might be annoying, but until he expands, you're just as well off economically as him.

  • 3
    +1 for the use of Nydus Worm. Another alternative is researching the Overlord's ability to load up units. Load up Roaches and Zerglings, and drop them off to your opponent's base. It should do the trick.
    – happy_soil
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 12:31
  • 1
    Here's a video of exceptional nydus worm use. This Korean player in fact did get cannon rushed and dealt with it quite well, nabbing an unexpected victory. youtube.com/watch?v=tew8s9hMNV0 Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 17:20
  • Hell, that guy might be fast, but two third of his actions seem to be unneccessary because he just revokes orders given 2 clicks ago without any reason (i.e. he sends the same drone 3 times to a different mineral patch before it even has spawned). Anyways, on-topic: That looks like a good solution to getting blocked by cannons.
    – user1978
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 17:56
  • I saw one match (it was during beta) where LiquidTLO used Nydus worms to respond to a protoss contain. I think it was TLO vs. WhiteRa, but I'm not certain. It was a pretty epic game though. Maybe I should try and find it. Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 22:26
  • You mean that Check v NexGenius match? Anyway, here's a very good example: youtube.com/watch?v=-Vm3Zb7vZbo
    – happy_soil
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 19:05

Idra did a fairly good counter to Tester's cannon rush in the Razor King of the Beta. He ultimately failed as Tester planned for a Zergling bust, but I think its a fairly good strategy:

  • Build a second hatchery
  • Push 25-35 Zerglings (possibly banelings if you think you have time)
  • Bust out and hit his main

The key thing is that a 2 Hatch can produce a ton of Zerglings very quickly (with a queen), and because he is so delayed from his cannon rush you should be able to have a great effect.

Its worth noting that Tester's success was his ability to stop this Zergling counter with amazing micro and forcefields.


Get a Spinecrawler, it outreaches the Photon Cannon (and has bonus to armored which photon cannons are); thus will destroy them all.

Using a Queen to expand your creep, will prevent him from getting too close to your minerals and the rest of your base.

I learned this the hard way...

  • I thought both spine crawlers and cannons have the same range of 7?
    – Oak
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 7:07
  • Not in my experience, though it's enough to kill the Pylon off course (if it's closer)
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 7:39
  • 1
    If the choke to your main is up a ramp, you're in luck - because your spine crawlers will have vision and range while the cannons will not
    – Matt
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 14:47
  • Can I build crawlers on a ramp? I thought that wasn't allowed.
    – peaches
    Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 16:53
  • 1
    You build them at the top of the ramp. the pylons/cannons are at the bottom of the ramp. the ramp itself is empty. Commented Aug 13, 2010 at 18:51

I was victim of a cannon rusher once but he failed at it, so my solution is untested:

I think the best way is to just ignore the cannons and get at least one - if possible more - workers out of the base, if necessary by using an overlord or nydus tunnel (or use your scouting probe, whatever gets you out). The creep will keep the cannons out of range of your hatchery so you can build a few spine crawlers to defend if he tries to attack with zealots or similar. Try to keep the enemy busy in the main base, distract him and let him think it's all you have. Suiciding a few Zerglings, Hydralisks or Banelings should be enough, just don't let him think his main base is in danger by getting too much through the cannons (unless you can kill all of his cannons in which case you've won anyways).

As soon as your worker managed to escape, build a full base at any expansion (if possible one only reachable by air) and go straight to broodlords with mutalisk support. If your main base requires defense (and is still worth defending) you can send in support via a nydus tunnel but usually it's better to just build up, the enemy will propably spend a lot of resources sieging your main base.

As soon as you have a few broodlords and some mutalisks you have the choice of freeing your main base or going straight to his (probably undefended) bases and expansions. I think killing his unit production centers is the best choice.


Watch this video:


It's in Korean, but you don't need the commentary to follow. The toss player blocks the zerg players ramp with pylons and cannons. You can squeeze drones out before the block finishes (if you're paying attention), and do as this player did - built an expansion elsewhere.

Meanwhile, he used spinecrawlers to takeout the block - since he had the high ground, his spine crawlers had vision while the cannons did not.

And, finally, he used the Nydus worm to get his units out of the base (and back) effectively.


The best way to counter this would be to expand early (zerg players do this anyways). Expanding away from your base (somewhere much more obscure, not directly next to your base) with Zerg combined with a nydus is possibly one of the best solutions as you're effectively able to migrate your units from one place to the next.

There are also a few other ways worth mentioning to counter this:

  1. Spec overlords with loading abilities. Then just move units in and micro the pylons, effectively cutting off the cannon's power supply. There is a high chance the player built the pylons far behind the cannons in order to prevent you from just massing in and destroying them.
  2. Build brood lords, they're out of range (8, I believe) from the cannons and the broodlings will overwhelm them.
  3. Aggro the cannons with ultralisks and aim for the pylons with lings or hydras (requires lord with loading or nydus). Usually the AI controls the cannons, most users don't try and focus-fire with them.
  4. Tumor early below your ramp. Even if the probe was to destroy the tumor, you'd have approx 10 seconds to move your units down before the creep is completely dissolved.

These are just a few off the top of my head. Good luck!

  • Most of these ideas would only work vs a very poor cannon rush. a "good" cannon rush happens before a zerg would normally be expanding past their natural. it also happens way before ultras or brood lords, which both involve teching up to a hive, and then morphing another building. the cannons would also be in place well before you can get creep tumours to cover your ramp. Commented Aug 22, 2010 at 4:57
  • Agreed. I was just listing possible outcomes to how you could get around this. A better idea is to just scout early and then use that drone to expand from natural. Nydus canals come in handy as well as overlords.
    – jeek
    Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 20:33

In very few situations would you be able to use nydus/ultralisks/brood-lords/upgraded overlords etc in a cannon rush situation.

I have barely beaten a good protoss cannon rush in the past as a zerg, as zerg are more vunerable to this strategy. I have found swarm hosts in use of defense, along with swarms of banelings and zerglings, (and hydralisks if the protoss is sending in air units as well) is the most effective strategy for me, especially if you have around 5 swarm hosts at the top of the base burrowed and spawning.

Spine crawlers and other isolated/distant hatcheries compliment this strategy well. This may not always defeat all of the cannons/pylons in the area, but will normally hold the opponent from attacking while you build your forces/another base.

Nydus worms, brood lords, and ultralisks can be effective if the cannon rush is continuing into late game, but a late game cannon rush is rare, because either the opponent will build up an army rather than cannons, or they will have rushed you/they have been rushed by you by then. Preferably the latter.

If you can somehow sneak out a large number of zerglings, do so as putting pressure on their base either slows the production of units or the production of cannons.

All the late game strategies on this page do work, but only on the rare opportunity of a continuing cannon rush in late game. Remember most strategies compliment other strategies so mix and match some of them.


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