PvZ NaNiwa’s Gate Expand Opener

General Overview

This build is a fast expand build that opens with a Mothership Core for defense, as opposed to the Forge and Cannon that the standard FFE build uses.  This Gate expand allows for potential early pressure with a faster Warpgate Research and also allows for faster tech with the faster Cybernetics Core.

Build Order

  • 9 – Pylon
  • 13 – Gateway
  • 14 – Assimilator
  • 16 – Pylon
  • 18 – @100% Gateway, start Cybernetics Core
  • 19 – Zealot (*)
  • 23 – @100% Cybernetics Core (@95% Zealot), cancel Zealot (*) and start Nexus
  • 21 – Mothership Core
  • 23 – Warpgate Research
  • Benchmark: When your Mothership Core finishes (@4:10ish), you should have 21 Probes, a Mothership Core, and Warpgate around 20 seconds into the research.

(*) This Zealot is started for defense against early Zerglings.  If you do not see any Zerglings going to your base when your Probe is about to build your natural Nexus, then cancel the Zealot.  If you do see Zerglings, then finish the Zealot, stay on one base, and get out the Mothership Core instantly for fast defense.

Note: If you are below Diamond league, I would suggest NOT making and then canceling this Zealot.  It is much better to be on time with your Nexus than to accidentally make an unnecessary Zealot that slows down your entire build.


This build is a very reactionary build, but instead of scouting with your Probe and getting information about what your opponent is doing, you scout with your Mothership Core and see what your opponent is sending towards your base.

Against early Zerglings, finish that 19 Zealot, stay on one base, and transition into either a Stargate or more Gateways.  Remember to only Planetary your Nexus when you need to, and not earlier.  Building placement (namely, walling around your main mineral line with Pylons and Gateways), Sentries for force fields, and Probe micro are key to defending any early Speedling all-ins.


Once you have started your natural expansion, you can fully wall-in the natural with buildings and go for a Gateway follow-up attack, drop a Robotics Facility and transition into a Zealot/Immortal all-in, or make a Stargate and go for tech play.  There are many potential follow-ups to the Gateway expand, so choose the one you feel most comfortable with.

Pros and Cons

This build opens with a Gateway and Cybernetics Core, so you start and finish Warpgate Research much faster than with a FFE.  Thus, Gateway attacks hit much earlier than opening with a Forge first.  Also, your Cybernetics Core finishes sooner, so you can go into a Robotics Facility or Stargate much faster than if you open FFE.

However, this build is significantly harder to perform than a FFE because it requires perfect building placement, a fast reaction time, and decent game sense when it comes to defending early game Zerglings.  Also you do not have a wall at your natural or the ability to build cannons, so mounting a defense against early Zerg all-ins is almost entirely dependent on your Mothership Core and building placement.

Favorable Maps

This build is strongest on larger maps so that Zerg is more likely to open with a macro build.  Also most follow-ups to this build rely on having a choke at your natural wall-off.

  • King Sejong Station
  • Overgrowth
  • Foxtrot Labs
  • Nimbus


NaNiwa beating TLO with this build at Dreamhack Stockholm 2013

NaNiwa beating YugiOh with this build at Dreamhack Stockholm 2013

Grandmaster AM Example Replay of this build in action

NaNiwa’s Gate Expand Opener Tutorial Replay vs a Very Easy AI