In Starcraft 2, the cannon rush is one of the fastest ways to take down an enemy player. However, it only works if it is done perfectly and the conditions are just right.
First off, the way you cannon rush Zerg players is different from Protoss and Terran players. Zerg players will spot your Pylons with an Overlord, so the best way to pull this off is to actually build your pylon close to the creep.
You will not have time to “cannon hop” into their base, so you need to be ready right away to lay cannons down on the edge of the creep.
Against Protoss and Terran players, you want to hide your Pylon and then only reveal yourself once your cannons are going down.
Protoss players are the easiest to cannon rush, since Terran can lift off their command center and lay it down somewhere else, reducing the effectiveness of the rush.
As a result, I prefer to only cannon rush when the other player(s) have already selected their race on the loading screen.
The element of surprise is also very important. Players typically do not expect a cannon rush, so if the opponents do not know you are Protoss, it is more effective. The cannon rush is more effective if you select “random” as your race, and then elect to cannon rush after randomly getting Protoss as your race.
Combining these two factors, if I am playing 2v2 and one or two enemy players have pre-selected Protoss and I randomly get the Protoss race, I will usually cannon rush. If both players are Protoss, I will almost always cannon rush because I do not need to bother scouting.
The cannon rush works great on maps where you can build Pylons on the low ground near the enemy’s mineral line. This way, the enemy cannot see the pylon being built. By the time they first see your probe, you will already be placing cannons in their base.
Since the Pylon’s range extends up cliffs, you can build your Pylon below the cliff and then build cannons above the cliff (and in their minerals). By this point it is usually too late for the opposing player and you will successfully cannon rush.
At any rate, on to how to actually perform the cannon rush!
First, when you start off, you will be at 6/10 supplies (6 probes). Build 3 probes, and as your ninth probe is produced, place one pylon in your base and send that same probe off to the enemy’s base.
While that probe is making its way to your enemy’s base, build one more probe and have that new producer harvest minerals.
By the time your probe is getting in position, you should have enough minerals to build a forge and pylon. Build the forge first and shortly after place your first pylon.
In one-on-one play, you can place your pylon out of range of your opponent and slowly move the cannons in. However, in 2 versus 2 (or more players), you will need to place your pylon so that the first or second cannon you build can reach the enemy’s Nexus or Command Center.
Ideally, you will place your pylon below a cliff near the enemy’s harvesters. However, you can not do this at every map, so against the edge of a cliff just outside of the enemy’s field of view will work perfectly. Sometimes, you can place two pylons in plain view and the enemy will be unable to kill both.
Once your pylons are done, build two cannons as soon as possible within range of the opponent’s Nexus. If you only build one cannon, players will be able to kill it with their harvesters, so be sure to build two. Even if the enemy kills one cannon, the other one will make quick work of even 10 probes or SCVs.
Meanwhile, after successfully building two cannons, build one or two in your base so that the desperate player can not send his last few units after your main base. The last thing you want to do is ruin a perfect cannon rush by not protecting yourself.
Once you build one or two cannons for your own defense, the enemy’s Nexus should be dead. At this point, start pumping out probes and building gateways. Mass some units and go in and finish your enemy off. If you are playing a 2v2 game, your partner should have been massing units while you were taking out one of the opponents.
After a few more minutes of massing zealots, stalkers, and sentries, you two can both go in and easily defeat the remaining player(s). Enjoy your victory!