Hellions and Banshees were the key early game units in TvZ for a long period of time in Wings of Liberty, but this composition was almost inexistent in Heart of the Swarm. Interestingly, there has been a resurgence of Banshee openings in TvZ for the past two to three weeks.
I have previously wrote about MMA’s use of Banshee in his WCS EU run this season.
The general game plan is to have control with Hellions and Banshees (Reapers too). The opening can transit into either standard bio or mech play. In my opinion, this is the go-to-build for mech in TvZ.
I have mentioned about “build”, but what exactly is a TvZ banshee build? It is simply a small variation of the current 14CC or 12/12 Reaper builds. Everything else remains the same, until you start your factory.
Get a second refinery when the factory is building (when you can afford to).
@100% factory – start a starport. Swap the factory onto the reactor. Build a tech lab with the barracks (next to the starport). Get Hellions.
@100% starport – swap the starport onto the tech lab for Banshee. Research cloak.
It shapes up to a standard convergent point.
– 3rd command centre
– 2x barracks
– 2x engineering bay
You should have at least six Hellions. For bio, the number varies as it depends on how much you want to commit to it. For mech, just keep getting Hellions. Get second refinery when starport starts if you do not want cloak.
The attack focus should revolve around Zerg’s third base. The primary goal is to isolate the third base as much as possible, as this piles up for more aggressive options (MMA vs. Nerchio: Game 1). This leads me to think about the reasons for the recent resurgence of Banshee. The Banshee buff definitely has a strong impact, but the new maps may have encouraged such strategy too. This is because the third is generally more exposed than the older maps, and this indirectly makes an early third base the focus of the early game.
However, to my surprise, INnoVation used Banshee on Whirlwind against Hyvaa this week. Arguably, Whirlwind is the last map in the map pool that you want to do a Banshee opening on. Perhaps this is a counter against Hyvaa’s counter strategy. I suppose INnoVation wanted to change things up against his old teammate, as Hyvaa is very likely to do an all-in against INnoVation’s 14CC into three command centre on Whirlwind.
There is a primary weakness to this build. Its effectiveness is drastically weakened if it is scouted. Thus, positioning Marines to deny Overlord is crucial. But you do not have a Marine if you do a 12/12 Reaper into Banshee. TaeJa did just that against Sen.
I can think of two ways to minimise this small window of weakness. The first one, and the more direct one, is to build a Marine before a tech lab (when the starport is building). It does not really delay the Banshee to make a significant difference. The second one is more interesting. After the first Reaper is done, get a reactor instead of a second reaper (both cost 50 gas). When the reactor is done, get a Marine and a Reaper. This is not exactly new, Flash had done this in a TvP game in Proleague. The timing to swap the factory onto the reactor does not get delayed, but you get to squeeze out a Marine. The trade off is a much later second Reaper. This makes you more vulnerable for the two to four Zerglings counter attack on the Scv that is building the command centre. You can refer to Polt vs. ByuL game. ByuL killed Polt’s Scv that was building the command centre when the first Reaper was on the other side of the map. Usually, the second Reaper is stationed at the natural to prevent such counter attack.
Another important detail to hide this build from the opponent is the choice of the first refinery. You can show the first refinery to the Overlord, but not the second one. It is normal to get one refinery, but a second refinery at that timing indicates a starport tech. Thus, the first refinery should be built on the one that is more vulnerable to Overlord scout, and the second refinery is built on the “harder to scout” one.
In sum, Banshee opening is one of the current TvZ metagame openings. Hack even went for two starport cloak Banshee against JaeDong. I think this may get cycled out when the surprise factor is gone.