TvP: Widow Mine drop standard game

widow mine Previously, I have mentioned that there was a subtle metagame shift in TvP opening in November-December 2014, whereby Terran opt for tech before additional Barracks early on. It has become the norm in the current metagame. This post discusses the most standard Widow Mine drop opening in TvP.

Background

For most of 2014, the standard TvP opening involves some kind of expand into additional Barracks. Perhaps the most common of them all is the Reaper expand into three Barracks, which has been replaced by the build I am discussing in this post. What makes these two builds the “standard” is that they can be done on any map and are not particularly weak against a specific build. While both builds open up with a Reaper expand, the early to mid game plan are different. Let’s start off with the build order.

Basic build order

10 – Supply Depot
12 – Barracks
12 – Refinery
15 – Orbital Command and Reaper
@400 – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100% Reaper – Reactor
@100 mineral – Supply Depot (Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100 gas – Factory
@100% Reactor – Constant Marine production
@100% Factory – Starport and Widow Mine
32 – Supply Depot
@100% Starport – Medivac and Supply Depot.
Constant Marine, Widow Mine and Medivac production. Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter. Attack with drop when the first Medivac is out.

Early to mid game plan

Unlike the three Barracks build, this build does not exactly have an upgrade timing with Combat Shield or Concussive Shell, nor it plays a defensive early to mid game transition. The game plan is to constantly drop at the mineral line of the opponent to disrupt opponent’s mining and game plan, while you macro up at home. Perhaps you have seen Widow Mine drop destroying the Probe line in some games or on Reddit, but that is not supposed to happen most of the time. The usual situation is Protoss pulling all his Probes away and the Widow Mine hits just one Probe. Thus, the game plan is to disrupt opponent’s mining, which indirectly disrupts his or her game plan. So it is important to be clear that this is not about getting good Widow Mine shots. If you can get a good number of Probes killed, great! If not, no worry, it isn’t meant to happen anyway. Another important feature of this build is that it continues to produce Widow Mine and Medivac for more follow up drops. This makes it hard for Protoss to defend because it is harder to stop subsequent attacks when Photon Overcharge had already been used for earlier attacks. The Marines and Medivac also make it difficult for Protoss to simply get the Probes back to mining duty after the Widow Mine had used its charge. The other part of the plan is to macro up at your end. This is not easy. The drops require much attention and on the fly decision making based on opponent’s reaction, so it is hard to macro well at the same time.

Execution

It is not as straight forward as simply just dropping into the mineral line one after another. Like all early game attack in TvP, the Terran have to force the first Photon Overcharge to set up for the attack. INnoVation showcases the textbook style of this build in the vod below against Terminator in the GSL.

The goal of the first attack is to force the Photon Overcharge at the natural. INnoVation pushed out once he had six Marines. Just these six Marines are not enough to force an Photon Overcharge against the Mothership Core and two to three Stalkers. Thus, When you attack with the six Marines at the natural, the Reaper should force its way to the main to pull some Protoss units back into the main. Then, the leftover units at the natural won’t be enough to defend against the six Marines, and hence, Protoss are forced to use Photon Overcharge. In GSL Ro32, INnoVation did this against Super on Catallena (it’s game 2, so there is no free vod), and Super defended this first attack really well by not using a Photon Overcharge. He sent one Stalker to deal with the Reaper in the main, while the rest of the units fend off the Marines. Anyway, in the above vod, INnoVation did force the Photon Overcharge. Terminator left only one Stalker in the natural, while the rest of his units go into the main to catch the Reaper. The six Marines killed the Stalker and forced the Photon Overcharge. Good trade. There is a reason why the number of Marines is six. It is not about what this magic number does in the attack, but rather it is what is left behind in the base. When the first Medivac is out, there will be ten Marines, two Widow Mines and one Medivac. If you load up two Widow Mines and four Marines, you have six Marines left. Therefore, when you push out with six Marines, you will have the right number of units to load into the Medivac.

The second attack is the drop in the main with the first Medivac. The main is more vulnerable than the natural because the Mothership Core should not have enough energy to cast a Photon Overcharge at the main after the energy was spent at the natural for the first attack. The third attack is the second drop, which is usually dropped at the natural after the Photon Overcharge had expired. Depending on the situation, there can be a third drop. What I have mentioned so far is only one execution variation of this build. The Jin Air Terran prefer to combine the first and second attack into one. The vods below show the Proleague Round 1 semi-final games of Maru and Cure versus herO.

Their first attack is to drop two Widow Mines and two Marines into the main, while attacking the natural with eight Marines. There are a number of differences compared to what INnoVation does in the vod above against Terminator. First, the number of Marines attacking the natural is eight and not six. Second, the first drop in the main and the attack in the natural happen at the same time, whereby INnoVation did it one by one. Third, the goal of the attack is different. What the Jin Air Terran do has more potential to kill Probes at the natural. If you look closely at the Maru game, he does not walk in with eight Marines to force an Photon Overcharge at the natural, then drop in the main. He drops in the main first to force herO to look at the main, then he tried to kill the Mothership Core at the natural before it can use Photon Overcharge as the Protoss player is likely to be looking at the main. In the game, herO did react well to use the Photon Overcharge before the Marines killed it. If herO did not manage to do it in time, the eight Marines will be able to kill quite a number of Probes in the natural. Therefore, the attack plan is different from the INnoVation approach.

In contrast, Cure did not execute it as well as Maru. The eight Marines went into the natural too early to force the Photon Overcharge, while the drop in the main was lagging behind. One key thing is not to loss the Medivac. The Marines and Widow Mines are basically making a one way trip, but the Medivac is important to line up for the mid game when Stim is done. If possible, do not leave more than one Widow Mine at the mineral line once they have fired. You want to have one Widow Mine there to force the Observer and Stalkers to do the job, but the second Widow Mine is an unnecessary sacrifice. There is little I can comment about the subsequent drops, as it really depends on how Protoss position the units and so on. The player has to make the decision on the go. Interestingly, Dream executed this build differently in today’s NSSL game against Super in game 2 and 3 (vod below). He attacked the natural with the first Widow Mine and Marines, then drop in the main with only Widow Mines. The good thing about just dropping with Widow Mine is that it does not alert the Protoss player about the drop since there is no attack until the Widow Mine shoots. If Marines are dropped as well, the Protoss will be alarmed by the Marine attack. Therefore, this build allows you to be creative in terms of how you plan to “deal damage” to Protoss.

Protoss’s perspective

Clearly, I know less about Protoss. But in my opinion, the best build against this is to go for Robotic Facility after a one Gateway expand. The first Observer can go to Terran’s base to confirm the build and variation, and the second Observer can be out in time for the first drop. The popular PvT build now is one Gateway expand into Robotic Facility then Twilight Council for Blink. It deals with this build well and transition into Colossus for mid game. What if Protoss go for other tech path and not Robotic Facility? This is usually either Oracle or quick Blink upgrade. Both do not deal with this build as well as what the early Robotic Facility in general. But like I said, I am less familiar with Protoss, so I may be wrong. In the Dream versus Super games shown above, Super went for the early Twilight Council tech and had a hard time getting the Probes to mine with the Widow Mines buried at the mineral line. I did not have time to catch much of the recent games, so I do not know how does the Oracle variation interacts with this build. Assuming the Reaper scouted it, the first Widow Mine should be used defensively against the Oracle. If by any chance the Widow Mine caught the Oracle, the second Oracle is likely to be used for detection against the first drop.

A more detailed discuss about how Protoss’ builds interact with this build is covered in part 2.

Transition

The build order shown above is the core of this build, and the subsequent build order depends on the choice of transition. Nevertheless, just like any other build, it should reach the three base convergent point with the following buildings,

– 3x Command Centre
– 5x Barracks (+3 later)
– 1x Factory
– 1x Staport (+1 later)

The vods above more or less show all of the mainstream transition. INnoVation went for two more Barracks, then a third Command Centre. Cure went for a quick third Command Centre. Maru went for two more Barracks and then another two more to make it five. Basically, the decision is make when the first Medivac moves across the map. No matter whether you put down two more Barracks or the third Command Centre, the second Refinery should be build right after that. I will elaborate more on INnoVation’s transition as it resembles the classic three Barracks build the most.

Continue from above basic build order,

@100% Medivac – 2x Barracks, Refinery and Medivac (in this order)
Constant Marine, Widow Mine and Medivac production. Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter.
@200 mineral – Refinery and Engineering Bay A Bunker is optional at this point. This is an insurance against Protoss moving his units to your side, while you have yours at his side.
@100% 2x Barracks – 2x Tech Lab (@ 100% – Stim and Marauder production)
@100% Engineering Bay – +1 Infantry Attack (alternatively, this can be spent on Combat Shield)
@100% Medivac – 3rd Medivac and Reactor on Factory
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Reactor – Swap Starport onto the Reactor

This basically sets up for the standard TvP mid game.

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