Bad News? A Scouting Guide to TvP

Commander! Welcome to Bombs’ guide to scouting in Terran vs. Protoss! In this article, you will learn both when to scout the enemy and how to make sense of the information that you uncover. If you didn’t read my previous article, take some time to check out What’s Going On? A Scouting Guide to TvT and master the mirror matchup! Let’s get started by framing the problem in a different way…

Sarge: Marine! Do you see these two Vespene Gas over there?

Marine: Yes sir! I see them, but I can’t understand them, sir!

Sarge: My God! How can you go into battle without studying your enemy before hand?!

Scouting your opponent might seem so straightforward it needs no explanation, yet many of my students encounter problems since they don’t know how to interpret enemy builds and timings. Sun Tzu once said: “To know your Enemy, you must become your Enemy.” Since I play all races, I have a good understanding of exactly how Protoss works, and will break down the most common openers for your benefit. Although it’s not strictly necessary, research has shown that you remember things better after writing them down: I’m gonna ask you to get paper and a pen and start taking notes on the most important points I mention here. It’s time to see the enemy through his own eyes!

When to Scout Banner

The most important aspect of early-game scouting is proper timing. You must always send the SCV out right after you start building your Barracks. This is the optimal time to send the SCV to scout Protoss, because it’s early enough to see what your opponent is up to and answer properly without sacrificing too much economy. If you wait to scout until after your Barracks is complete, and he’s doing 2 Proxy Gateway with Stalkers, it can be almost impossible to hold the resulting push!

Scouting SCV

Keep it standard in TvP to always scout right after you start your Barracks!

Understanding What You See Banner

The primary thing you must understand is that, in this matchup, Protoss wants to either “cheese” you out early with an unexpected attack or safely build up their 200 Supply “deathball” army and crush you with high-tech units like Colossi, High Templar, and Disruptors. While Terran can play a one-base strategy and force the enemy to respond, you generally can’t apply enough pressure to win outright without going 100% all-in. For this reason, TvP is a game of economy in which Protoss will tend towards Macro Openings.

The Macro Opening

A Protoss playing the standard economy game will build a Pylon, then his Gateway, then a Gas, then with the next 400 minerals he will build an expansion Nexus. If the Protoss is playing efficiently he should expand at exactly 1:20 game time, so if it reaches 1:30 – 1:50 with no expansion, something is up! Bear in mind that some Protoss start Cybernetics Core before Nexus, but this build still only requires one Gas and is not very common nowadays. Whenever you see that the Protoss opening diverges from this standard, particularly by taking both Gases early, play safe!

Since Protoss have few options in the Macro Opening, you must quickly identify if he opened Standard. If he didn’t, then what else is he doing? Let’s look at some examples together to see what we can learn!

Situation 1

Your SCV arrives at the enemy base and spots two Gases taken. You also notice he is building his Cybernetics Core: what does that mean? Two Gases indicates fast tech, and immediately shows that he’s not playing standard Macro Opening. Fast tech without an expansion is going to be aggressive, but countering can be tricky because the followup options are so diverse and include Proxy Robo and Stargate, or even Dark Templars. Play cautiously when you see this opening, and make it a priority to determine what tech path your opponent is pursuing!

Example Situation 1

Marine: But Bombs, sir! What about a proxy build? How can I know if there’s a Pylon hidden nearby?

There’s a pretty easy way to identify if your ‘Toss opponent is doing a proxy. He must have started building a second Pylon by 1:50, otherwise he’s going to get supply blocked. If you can’t find a second Pylon in the base by 2:00, it must logically be proxied somewhere closer to your base!

Situation 2

You reach the enemy base and see two Gateways, a Cybernetics Core, and two Gases: what does that mean? This level of commitment to aggression suggests Stalkers or Adepts right away, followed up by a Proxy Pylon at the bottom of your ramp, then using the Mothership Core to activate it with the support of Gateway units. This build is thankfully rare, but can still be common in certain leagues. If you find yourself in this situation, consider making a Bunker and play carefully!

Example Situation 2

Situation 3

Your SCV approaches the Protoss base and, as it passes the natural expansion, spots a Nexus warping in at about 1:20. That’s easy! This is the Macro Opening, and represents a green light for you to pursue your own expansion and midgame plans.

Example Situation 3

Protoss Followup Banner

Perhaps the trickiest aspect of this matchup is figuring out what build the Protoss will do when they lead with aggression. The reason is that Protoss have two viable types of Aggressive Opening. These are the One Base All-in (example: Proxy Oracle into Voidrays and Stalkers) and One Base Two Gas Aggression into Macro (example: Proxy Oracle into Expansion). Figuring out which of these two is crucial, so we’ll have to scout more intensively if the Protoss indicates they’re taking the offensive!

I’d like to suggest that, every time you scout and see no Nexus by 1:20, you scout the Protoss main immediately and try to stay there until 2:00 (that’s when the Mothership Core finishes and Stalkers or Adepts are about to pop from the Gateway). This lets you gather as much info as possible, then right after that you can move out and hide the SCV in a safe spot (at the 4th base for example). The reason is that you want to send that SCV back to Protoss natural around 3:00, to double-check if the opponent expanded or not.

We need to scout again at this time, around 3:00, to know if the opponent is doing the One Base All-in or One Base Two Gas Aggression into Macro. With that information, you will be able to determine how you should behave based on what your enemy is doing. For example, if he’s committing to the all-in there’s no way you can move out – stay in one base! If you lose your scouting SCV, just Scan Protoss natural to see if he expanded.

On the other hand, you definitely should open with Reaper in this matchup as long as your enemy is playing Macro. The Reaper is key here because it gives you the ability to check if Protoss is pursuing Stargate or Robotics tech. In order to figure out which, keep the Reaper safe up to 3:10, then send him into the Protoss main base to scout – this will help you determine if you need some Missile Turrets to defend against Oracles. If your Reaper dies, I suggest that you Scan Protoss main instead of calling a MULE whenever the Orbital on your expansion Command Center finishes.

After reading this guide I highly recommend that you start watching the replays of all the TvP games you play using what I explained to you here. Fully understanding the possibilities available to your opponent will speed up your scouting abilities vs. Protoss immensely!

That’s it, Commander! With this information, you should be able to interpret the intentions of your Protoss opponents and claim an advantage in the matchup! Those of you who took notes on this article will also better remember the most important details in the heat of battle. That wraps up my guide to TvP scouting! Thanks for reading and please share with your friends, and follow me on Twitter at @Bombscoach! Do you want to learn much more than just scouting Protoss? Then consider booking a coaching session, and if you have any questions feel free to contact me at bombatpc@hotmail.com!

Over and out!