Metagame Shift in TvZ

vs zerg

Since the beginning of Heart of the Swarm, INnoVation’s triple command centre approach is the metagame for TvZ. Recently, the metagame has shifted towards two bases aggression. This post reviews the formation of this trend and how the Zerg players react differently.

Three command centres

Three command centre builds are considered the standard TvZ build since the patch Zerg era. It basically aims to be to on par with Zerg in terms of economy and hit a +2/+2 timing before the Broodlords appear. This approach was then carried over to Heart of the Swarm and was very successful in the early tournaments. For example, INnoVation dominated Leenock in MLG using the main stream three command centre builds with a 14 CC and a 12/12 Reaper opening. Although both builds open up differently, they still converge toward an early three command centres with two engineering bays. These two builds have then become the bread and butter for Terran in the match up.

While Terran have been fairly successful with the three command centre builds, Zerg counters this by mixing in all-ins. This is very effective as Terran often just have a few Marines, six Hellions and maybe a pair of Widow Mines, which are not enough to hold the push. Even INnoVation, the best TvZ player to execute these builds, looked more than vulnerable to the all-ins. He dropped two games each to Symbol in the semi final and Soulkey in the final. For a period of time, the state of the match up was simply about whether Zerg goes for an all-in. And as a counter to such all-ins, Terran improvised by getting a tank early for defense. Despite various innovative approaches from both Terran and Zerg, three command centre builds were undisputed the best build for the match up.

Moving away from quick three command centres

I will point to Flash’s game against effOrt in proleague as the beginning of the revolution.

The community was so hyped over the all-kill that the two base timing of Flash was given little attention. Instead of building the third command centre, Flash built two more barracks. He moved out with Marines, Marauders, Medivacs and Hellions at 9:00. The timing hits before lair tech kicks in with stim and +1 attack.

Apart from the timing attack, another advantage of the earlier barracks make you less vulnerable against early all-ins. Of course, the down side of it is the later third command centre.

Introduction of Hellbat

I have done a review about the revolution of Hellbat in a previous post. So I won’t elaborate more here.

In Mvp’s run to to his Season 1 WCS Europe title, he played against top Zerg players. TLO in the quarter final, Dimaga in the semi final and Stephano in the final. His usage of Hellbat and Marauder surely caught the eyes of the world. Although he mixed his builds around, but he tended to hit a two base Hellbat, Marauder and Medivac timing. Mvp would start with a Hellbat drop, and build two more barracks instead of a third command centre behind it. Subsequently, he produced Hellbats constantly and pushed out with bio, Medivac and Hellbat at around 9:00 – 9:30. The aim of this push is to kill the third base.

Mvp used this style and won TLO three times in a row.

More recently, TaeJa used Mvp’s approach against Snute in game 1 of Home Story Cup final. Interestingly, in game 2, although TaeJa did a Hellbat drop opening, he chose to build a third command centre instead of the two additional barracks. Such variation makes it hard for the opponent as s/he does not know if you are hitting a timing or going for a more economic approach after the Hellbat drops. This highlights the quality of Hellbat drop openings in a series.

Adaptation of the swarm

Zerg will build spore crawlers and spine crawlers when they scout Terran has a second refinery, which indicates Hellbat drops. Zerg is ahead if the Hellbat drops do not kill enough Drones. Soulkey was excellent against INnoVation’s Hellbat drop in WCS Korea final.

Zerg could also all-in against a Hellbat opening. As I have mentioned earlier, Zerg often all-in against Terran and punish them for being greedy. soO won Maru in a one sided game with his Roach, Baneling, Zergling all-in. However, it was hard to judge if all-in in general is strong against Hellbat opening since Maru was simply not playing well in that game. In my opinion, it is critical for Terran to deduce if the Zerg is going for an all-in, Terran is unlikely to hold off the all-in if the Hellbats move across the map in the Medivacs.

Tefel’s Roach timing against Mvp in WCS Europe is another example of all-in against the two base Hellbat style. In this game, Mvp did not push out, but instead Tefel attacked  Mvp at 10:00. Still, Mvp could not hold with the Marauders, Hellbats and Medivacs.

Life showed a different approach by going for two base Mutalisk tech against FanTaSy. FanTaSy went for the Hellbat drop into two more barracks build. The Mutalisks reached FanTaSy’s base before 10:00 and FanTaSy had nothing that can shoot air except the few Marines. It was proven to be effective. FanTaSy’s two base push was then delayed, which gave Life more time to prepare. The Hellbat drop and the main push were subsequently shut down. Although Life lost the game in the end, the two base Mutalisks approach seems like a plausible answer to the two base push of Terran.

Future trend

I expect more Hellbat drop into two base timing style in the future as long as Hellbat is not nerfed. Even if Hellbat does get nerfed, this style is definitely viable still. Flash mixed different two base approach builds against his Zerg opponents in recent WCS Ro32 matchs. He used Hellbat drop opening against Ragnarok and Hellbat-less against YugiOh. Day9 did a daily analysing these games, which made me appreciate Flash’s brilliance even more.

INnoVation would probably just stick to his three command centre style, and trample past any Zerg in his way.


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