Gas first openings are the norm in current TvT and cloaked Banshee is arguably the most bread and butter build of them. Since I’ve not covered this before, I should.
What is it?
A cloaked Banshee basically focuses on getting a Cloaked Banshee out asap. It can open up with a 12 Barracks 13 gas or 12 gas 13 Barracks. This article mainly discusses about the latter. A cloaked Banshee build can transit into either bio or mech.
It can shape up to a standard macro game by expanding or a one base Tank push.
Why do it?
Whenever someone asks for help regarding “being completely lost in TvT” on, say r/allthingsterran, cloaked Banshee is often cited as a solution along with 15 gas builds. The rationale behind this is to provide the help-requester a go-to build order, which makes sense. However, the metagame has moved on, and gas first build is more go-to than 15 gas. In my opinion, gas first is probably easier, because the game plan is relatively less reactive in the opening build order stage. Thus, you can focus on executing the build order.
It is less dependent on map in general, unless another build is obviously stronger. For example, certain maps have a wide area for the Reapers to enter the base from various angles, then two Barracks Reaper build is more superior than Cloaked Banshee. In short, it does not require a certain feature on the map for this build to work. Therefore, it is a good build to keep in your build order arsenal.
The following build order is what I consider the standard for a macro game.
12 – Refinery
13 – Barracks
16 – Orbital Command, Marine and Factory
17 – Supply Depot
Standard gas first opening. Constant Marine production.
19 – Refinery (Get it asap without cutting Scv and Marine)
@100% Factory – Starport and build a Tech Lab with Factory
23 – Supply Depot
@100% Starport – Swap Starport on Factory and get Banshee and Cloak upgrade. Build Reactor with Factory
@100 mineral – Supply Depot (Build accordingly hereafter)
Cut Marine production at 6 because you want to swap the Barracks onto the Reactor. If you don’t cut production, the 7th Marine will be building while the Reactor is done. Another reason is to have a quicker Command Centre.
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Reactor – Swap Barracks onto Reactor and continue Marine production
@100% Banshee – Raven and build Tech Lab with Factory
@100% Raven – Viking
The basic build order ends here. Marine and Tank production for standard bio game. Add additional buildings accordingly to reach the next convergent point which consists of,
– 2x Command Centre
– 3x Barracks
– 1x Factory
– 1x Starport
The vod below shows two different Cloaked Banshee build order. The one I just listed is the one that Neeb (blue) did.
The build gets you an early Cloaked Banshee which should reach opponent’s base around 6:45 depending on map size and path taken. The purpose of the Banshee is to scout and control your opponent. The scouting part is straight forward as there is almost no way to stop a Banshee from flying in at that time frame to do a reasonable scout. The control part is the most important purpose of the Banshee, yet it has often been misunderstood. The primary purpose is to control the opponent and not to deal damage to the opponent. To put it more simply, the priority should be on microing your Banshee in a way that it does not die instead of maximising its damage output. This is extremely important. The reason is that the very presence and knowledge of a Cloaked Banshee circling around your base forces you to react by investing in defence, and that itself is damage. Although it is normal for a Banshee to pick off some Marines or Scvs here and there, never endanger your Banshee in a way that you are trading it with opponent’s units. By doing this, it is difficult for opponent to leave his/her base, and that gives you control. It is important to note that by losing the Banshee sloppily early on to a Scan, Missile Turret or Widow Mine, you put yourself behind.
The second part of the plan is to macro safely. This is where the Raven comes into play. If opponent does the exact same build, the Cloak upgrade should complete before the Raven is out. Nevertheless, it comes out in time to defend against Cloaked Banshee. With the Raven and subsequent Vikings and Tanks, the build is safe against most attacks. Control and macro is the general goal of this build.
Like I have mentioned earlier, this build can shape up to a one base Tank push. This can be done after the Banshee and Cloak research have started. At the point, you should have 5 Marines. Build a Reactor on the Barracks and Tech Lab on the Factory. Constant Marine, Tank and Banshee production. This is risky if opponent is doing a Banshee opening too. There is nothing at base to defend against the Banshee.
If you know that opponent is not going to do a quick Banshee build, a second Banshee instead of a Raven is an option. For example, opponent sent a Reaper to your base, which tells you that no matter what he/she does after that can never have a Banshee as early as yours. Another words, your first Banshee forces the opponent to be defensive against your Banshee, and at the same time unable to match your Banshee with his/her own. Further, build order wise, a defensive Viking follow up is common after the Reaper scouted your Banshee opening.
The vod shown above has also displayed another key variation of gas first Cloaked Banshee (Heart – Red Terran). The Tech Lab is built by the Barracks, and a Hellion is produced early instead of Marines. The Hellion is used to weaken opponent’s Marines, and this allows the Banshee to one shot the injured Marines later (usually two shot). Look at how Bbyong did it against Flash in the vod below.
Another interesting build order variation worth noting is to build a Reactor with the Factory. This maximises the number of Marines you can produce within that time frame. An alternative build order is to build the Reactor on the Barracks and produce a Widow Mine from the Factory. Essentially, you are trading your Marine count for a Widow Mine. In comparison to the build order listed above, the Widow Mine variation is relatively high risk high profit. If the Widow Mine is positioned right to anticipate opponent’s attack, it’s stronger at that short time frame. But if it does not, you have less units to defend.
The variations I have mentioned are not exhaustive, but they generally cover the main stream variations.