Starcraft 2: How to defend against a Cannon Rush

One of the oldest and dirtiest strategies in Starcraft. It dates all the way back to the 2000's soon after the game was released. Althought very strong against newer players it doesn't lack weaknesses and we're going to explore them in this article.

Imagine wanting to play a long satisfactory game of Starcraft and there it comes this player with those innocent looking Probes. It is infuriating.

Cannon Rush SaltI hope you enjoyed that salt, now let's see what is it all about.


What is a Cannon Rush?

A Cannon Rush is a Protoss Cheese that consists of warping Photon Cannons in an opponent's base. It is specially effective in the lower elos as it rellies heavily on an incorrect response from the opponent. If it fails it can be impossible to recover as the Protoss player performing it will have no economy, building or military.

Against Zerg players the objective is to deny any attemp from the Zerg to expand. Against Protoss and Terran players the goal is to not even let them mine their resources.

Stacraft 2 Cannon Rush


How to defend against a Cannon Rush as Protoss

defending vs cannon rush as protoss

The best way to defend against a Cannon Rush is to scout early in order to react immediately. The big problem for Protoss in this istuation is that they don't have early range units to kill enemy Probes (Stalkers need a Cybernetics core). Once the enemy Probe is in your base or close to it there are 2 mains of defending against it.

First way - Defending with Photo Cannons:

This is the easier way of executing a Cannon rush defense, usually seen in lower play. Works only if your opponent didn't warp Photo Cannons in range of your Nexus or resources.

  1. Build a Forge immediately when you see the enemy Probe.
  2. Warp Photo Cannons defensively out of your opponent's range.
  3. Check for flanks or sneaky probes.
  4. Build at least the same or more Cannons than your opponent.
  5. After successfully defending (without necessarily destroying enemy Cannons) keep teching up.

In case the opponent player already started warping Photo Cannon in range of important structures of resources then you should attack them with 3 Probes or 1 Zealot immediately.


Second way - Defending with units:

This option is harder to perform, but most effective as your opponent will simply have no way back into the game if you do it correctly. You should do this when the enemy player warped Pylons or Cannons close to your resources.

Defending against a cannon rush

  1. Send 3 or 4 Probes to attack each Pylon or Cannon. 3 is enough is you send them them moment they start warping.
  2. You probably have a Gateway before your opponent's first Photo Cannon. Make Zealots.
  3. Don't forget to warp a Cybernetics Core.
  4. Don't forget to have 1 or 2 Probes extrating gas.
  5. Make Stalkers and additional Stargates if you have the resources.
  6. Try and kill the enemy Probes with your Stalkers.
  7. Tech up, be careful when atacking with your Stalkers, make sure of having numbers advantage and performing good blinks.

If you used your Probes correctly to destroy the enemies Pylons and Cannons, and also you were able to make Stalkers to kill the enemy Probes, then your opponent will be in a serious economic and tech disadvantage, consequently you won the game.


Important notes:

  • 3 Probes kill an enemy Cannon or Pylon when it starts warping, if you notice the warping a bit late then send 4 Probes.
  • 1 Zealot kills a warping Cannon or Pylon.
  • Don't follow the enemy Probe with yours, this is extremely inefficient as you won't be able to reach them, but if you do so (either because it is enclosed or low hp) do it with at most 2 Probes.
  • Put your groups of 3 Probes in Control groups for easier handling.


How to defend against a Cannon Rush as Terran

Terrans are great against Cannon rushes as buildings can be lifted away from Protoss range and Marines are very goot at taking out Probes or Pylons that are being constructed.

Terran defending against cannon rush

  • 3 SCVs or 2 Marines are enough to kill a Photo Cannon that is spawning.
  • Don't forget to extract vespene gas as this will allow you to make tanks.
  • If you get to the point of making tanks you probably won.
  • Lifting your whole base to another place if things get too bad is an option. This will render your opponent's cannons useless.


How to defend against a Cannon Rush as Zerg

Zergs are great against Cannon rushes because creep will prevent the Protoss player from warping structures within range of the Zerg Hatchery. There are 2 types of Cannon rushes you have to defend against as Zerg.


Cannon Rush denied your second Hatchery:

Protoss cannon rush against zerg

The Protoss player is trying to deny you from resources and a second Hatchery. The steps you must take to repeal it:

  1. If you started the second Hatchery and it is in danger, cancel it.
  2. Start extracting gas immediately as you see a Cannon rush comming.
  3. Assuming you already have a Spawning Pool build a Roach Warren too.
  4. Spawn Queens and Roaches. Zerlings are good too while your Roach Warren is not ready.
  5. Get arround 6 Roaches and 2 Queens, with this force you can push back already.
  6. Don't play with 1 Hatchery, expand as soon as you pushed back.
  7. Use your Queens and Roaches to attack the Protoss and force him to make some defensive Cannons.

From there if you play correctly you pretty much win the game as you're up in tech, economy and military.


Cannon Rush didn't deny your second Hatchery but it's denying resources:

Cannon rush vs zerg2

  1. Spawn Zerlings and send them to attack immeditelty.
  2. Send Drones to attack.

With a second hatchery repealing this type of attack is easier as you can quickly spawn Zerlings to destroy enemy Pylons or Photo Cannons.

Important notes:

  • A Queen is enough to kill a Photo Cannon that is being warped in if you send it immeditely.
  • Likewise 2 Zerlings or 3 Drones are enough too.
  • Don't close yourself into one base, expand.
  • If you're sending Roaches, send them in groups of at least 6 or supply them with Queens and Zerlings.


Final thoughts

Performing a Cannon rush is easy, while defending against it is not so much, that's why this strategy is commonly seen at lower levels of play. It's not enough knowing what to do agains a Cannon Rush, you have to also be fast at it. In order to get better you should play Cannon Rush offense and defense with a friend, practice makes perfect.