Disclaimer: I haven’t previously written an in depth article on responding to certain all ins such as Photon Cannon rush or proxy Barracks because there are so many different ways to respond depending countless factors. Keep in mind, the response detailed in this guide will not work in every cannon rush scenario.
With that being said, specific, detailed responses to weird scenarios are integral to having solid defenses. Even if you don’t execute the ‘ideal’ response based on what your opponent is doing, being confident and executing a specific response can be good enough to win the game.
Overview and Response Strengths
This response is meant as a reaction to the cannon rush into proxy Immortal Shield Battery 1 base Protoss all in. The general goal is to defend your main base ramp with Queens and Ravagers while quickly getting a Nydus Network, Metabolic Boost and Zerglings to shut down the Protoss economy.
Ravagers and Queens are good units to defend you ramp since Corrosive Bile makes it difficult for units to move up your ramp and the Queens long anti-air range can push back Warp Prisms. Additionally Queens, Ravagers and Zerglings are not armored units so they take less damage from Immortals and Stalkers.
Scouting Cannon Rush and Cannon Rush Types
The first thing that needs to happen to defend Cannon rushes is scouting the Cannon rush and the type of Cannon rush. There are many types of Cannon rushes, however they can be generalized under two umbrellas. The first are macro Cannon rushes where the Protoss will wall off their natural base with their Forge. The main goal being placing a couple of Cannons to force a cancel on the Zerg natural base. The other type of Cannon rush is the proxy all in variant. This is when the Protoss walls off their main ramp with a Forge and Cybernetics Core and then places some combination of unit producing structures after your natural base has been cancelled.
- Macro Cannon Rush
- Protoss generally wall natural (scout with first overlord)
- Often only sends 1 probe across the map
- 1 Base Proxy Cannon Rush
- Protoss wall main base (scout with first overlord)
- Protoss proxy production structures (can scout with vision from units from your main base or your second overlord)
- Will generally send two probes across to Cannon rush (can scout with either Overlord)
Again, I would like to reiterate, this guide is for a 1 base reaction which is meant to beat the 1 base proxy Cannon rush from Protoss. While it may still work vs the Macro Cannon rush, it is far from ideal and will put you in an unwinnable position if they are able to deny the Nydus Worm.
Cannon Rush Types
The two main types of 1 base Cannon rushes are 2 Gate Stalker and Robotics Facility based attacks. This response works best vs Robotics Facility builds, as they produce units slower. This response isn’t ideal vs 2 Gate Stalker since they have units sooner meaning your Nydus won’t be up in time against a cleanly executed 2 Gate build. With this being said, a well known response is key to defending all ins, so if you do not currently have a specific response, this can work if properly executed against imperfect 2 Gate execution.
To Scout: pay attention to the location of the Cannon rush. If the Protoss builds on the high ground (in your main base) they are most likely going 2 Gate Stalker. If the Protoss builds outside of your natural (distance proxy) and moves in, they are most likely playing Robotics Facility (although they may also be playing something weird like Stargate or fast Warp Gate). Lastly, proxying behind your natural most likely means a macro cannon rush or a Robotics Facility, however if they try to get high ground vision / pylons in your main after Cannon rushing the natural, they can also do a sub-optimal 2 Gate variant.
The 2 Gate style will proxy 2 Gateways and aim to kill the Zerg on the high ground with mass Stalker / Shield Battery.
There are two types of Robotics Facility rushes. First, 2 Robotics Facility mass Immortal / Prism which attempts to constantly fight and trade efficiently, eventually snowballing into a victory. Second, 3 Gate Robotics aims to identify the Zergs response and properly react to it. Eventually winning the game by cutting off the Zergs resources.
1 Base Reaction
The standard Protoss opening is:
13 – Overlord //send to natural to scout for Cannon rushes
16 – Hatchery
18 – Extractor
17 – Spawning Pool
20 – Overlord//Once the Cannon rush has been scouted, send this Overlord to a base on the map to take a hidden hatchery with your Nydus after the Nydus in their main base
Once you know that you are being Cannon rushed:
@First Pylon Starts – Send 1-2 Drones to pressure the Probe and force extra Pylons/structures to wall off the Cannons
– Send your second Overlord out to the Protoss main base so there are multiple Overlords giving vision for the Nydus Worm
@~80% Natural – Cancel your natural Hatchery
20 – Macro Hatchery in your main base //This if for more Queens and Zerglings
20 – Extractor // Rally Drones to this gas (keep 15 on minerals, 14 if you make the Spine Crawler)
@100% spawning pool – Queen in your main base
22 – Spine crawler //Versus 2 Gate proxy (if Protoss is trying to get high ground vision)
22 – Metabolic Boost
23 – Roach Warren
@100% Queen – Lair
@100% Macro Hatchery – Queen
27 – Overlord
27 – 10 Zerglings for the Nydus Worm
Benchmark 3:10: 23 drones, 1 Queen, (1 Spine crawler), 10 Zerglings and 1 Queen in Production. Completed Roach Warren with Metabolic Boost and Lair in production.
@100% Lair – Nydus Network + 2 Queens //Second Queen will be late if you build the Spine Crawler
35 – 10 More Zerglings
38 – Overlord //in-between Zergling production
40 – Ravager Production to spend gas and defend while sending Lings across in the Nydus //Alternatively you can also start a Spire and go Muta to spend your gas
@100% Nydus Network – Nydus Worm //In the Protoss main base to cripple the Protoss economy with Zerglings
@100% Nydus Worm – Start a Nydus Worm to take a hidden Hatchery somewhere on the map
Depending on the game state at this point, you have many options including expanding out on the map through the Nydus starting Drone production. Transferring to your new base(s) if the Protoss has too much for you to defend your main. In that situation you can also go Spire (ideally at your hidden base) for map control and to contest the Prism / Immortals. If you deal critical damage to the Protoss through your Nydus, you can just build Queen/Ravager/Ling and defend your main base and then win the game.
You will want to be Injecting your Hatcheries as you are building Zerglings since they require a lot of Larva, however after your Zerglings continued Injects with 2 Hatcheries will often result in floating a lot of Larva (if you are building Ravager Queen). Once you have reached this part of the build order, you can reduce your Injects to save energy for Transfuse.
Additionally, the Queens are best at pushing back and zoning the Warp Prism. Target the Prism with your Queens to keep the Protoss from pushing up far.
Once the Nydus is up, the Protoss has two options, 1) Recall units and try to save their base or 2) push up your ramp and try to kill you right away.
In situation 1 you have two options. First you can send your Zerglings home and then push down your ramp and kill all of the Protoss production/Batteries/Cannons effectively ending the game. Alternatively you can send everything you have into the Nydus and fight the Protoss army (you should be able to win since they won’t have a ton of Cannons / Shield Batteries to help win the fight). Choose which based on how many units the Protoss player recalls. If they only recall a few units, send enough through the Nydus to kill their army and defend the ramp and then shut down their economy. If they recall their entire army you can easily push down the ramp and kill their proxy structures, as they have no units on your side of the map.
In situation 2 your main goal is to just shut down the economy of the Protoss player and defend your ramp with Queen Ravager. If they have too many units in this case, you can send everything through your Nydus and build a new base somewhere else with a bunch of Drones while setting their economy to 0. In which case, they are forced to cross the map and try to end the game without Shield Batteries and Cannons.
printf is a top level (6K+ MMR) Grandmaster Cannon rush expert. Below you can find links to the content he creates including his Twitch stream, YouTube channel and Discord server. To receive coaching from the Cannon rush master himself, you can message him on Twitch or through discord.