TvZ 3CC Defensive Banshee


I’m very busy with study and work, so I haven’t been blogging. Anyway, the build I’m discussing in this post allows Terran to take an early third with Banshee. It is the best macro build now in my opinion.

Let’s start with the background of the basic Banshee openings in TvZ before I discuss about this build.


The history of Banshee in TvZ goes a long way back to Wings of Liberty, and it is still a variable option in Heart of the swarm. Together with Hellion, the composition is arguably the best you can possibly get for early map control. Banshee can give you more than just map control when it is combined with Hellbats, as it can hit a timing to kill the third.

The basic build order goes something like this,

10 – Supply Depot
12 – Barracks
12 – Refinery
15 – Orbital Command and Reaper
17 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – 2nd Reaper
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% Orbital Command)
@100 gas – Factory
@50 gas – Reactor
@75 mineral (around 50% Factory) – Refinery
@100% Factory and Reactor – Swap Factory on Reactor to produce Hellions. Starport and build Tech Lab with Barracks next to it.
@100% Command Centre – Supply Depot
@100% Starport – Swap Starport onto Tech Lab for Banshee and Cloak research

The above uses a double Reaper expand, but this can be done with 14CC or any other one Barracks expand. The build order follows the TvZ convergent point to have two Command Centres and Reactor Hellions. A Starport is then put down after the Factory has completed. There are two key aspects of the build. First, the second Refinery is taken early in order to have gas for Cloak research. Second, there is no early third Command Centre. The build I’m going to discuss does the opposite by not getting an early second Refinery and put down an early third.

Build order

In order to have a clearer comparison with the standard Banshee build, I use double Reaper expand similar to the one above.

10 – Supply Depot
12 – Barracks
12 – Refinery
15 – Orbital Command and Reaper
17 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – 2nd Reaper
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% Orbital Command)
@100 gas – Factory
@50 gas – Reactor
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Factory – Swap Factory on Reactor for Hellions. Starport and Tech Lab on Barracks. Refinery, then Supply Depot.
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter
@100% Starport – Swap Starport onto Tech Lab for Banshee

Shape up to a standard macro game by going towards the next convergent point.

Double Reaper expand is less common in the metagame now. The vods for this build usually open with triple Reaper or 14CC. The timing of the Supply Depot and Refinery varies according to openings, but the general idea is clear.


Triple Reaper

Rationale behind the build

This build basically is an improvement from the standard Banshee build, which emphasizes control and picks units off if opportunity appears. Previously I posted that the standard Banshee build is a good reaction against Roach timing attack in the metagame, and it is based on the rationale that Terran can scout the Roach all-in early since it does not take any gas early on. However, there are other all-ins that are not known until much later when the Terran has already decided to put down the third Command Centre. Thus, it is not feasible to rely on scouting to reactively goes for the standard Banshee build against all-ins. Later, I chose to go straight into the standard Banshee build right from the start, as it is a good build anyway. While the build is good against all-in, it is relatively weaker against macro-oriented Zerg, as the third Command Centre is late and it does not have the cutting edge of Hellbat Banshee attack. This is the background thinking that pushes me to think of the build in this post.

I took a step back and rethink the whole TvZ build option, and notice that I had made an assumption that 3CC and Banshee are mutually exclusive. They are actually not. I used Taeja’s 3CC with Viking build as the framework, because it gets the third Command Centre early with a Starport. Rather than going into the standard Stim upgrade, I spend the gas on Banshee like the standard Banshee build. This becomes the backbone of the build.

As much as I want to say I came up with this build, I’ve seen progamers use this several times (vods above).


How the third Command Centre and the Starport line up in this build is quite counter intuitive if you are familiar with the pool of standard TvZ builds. Just to reinforce this point, watch the second vod above (Taeja vs. Dark game 2 in IEM), and pay attention to what the casters said about the Starport. Apollo made a call that the timing of the Starport is later than the usual, so Dark should know about the third Command Centre. That is actually not true! The Starport is down immediately after the Factory has completed, so it is the same as the normal Starport timing. Then, where does the 400 mineral for the third Command Centre come from? The difference lies with the second Refinery in the standard Banshee build for the Cloak research. Without the early second Refinery, Cloak research and Scvs mining gas from the second Refinery, you can put down the third Command Centre early. If you pause the game at the point when the third Command Centre is down, it looks exactly like a standard 3CC build. Thus, this build can be seen as a 3CC build variation instead of a Banshee opening variation.

Without the second Refinery, there is no gas to research Cloak at the same time with the first Banshee production. However, Cloak is not needed if the purpose of the Banshee is to defend against an all-in. Like I’ve said, the timing of the Starport is the same, and hence, the timing of the Banshee is not delayed. If the standard Banshee build is good against all-ins, then this is equally effective. Although the Banshee is meant to be defensive, it should go across the map and attempt to kill a Drone or two. The purpose is to make it look like a standard Banshee and the opponent may not know if you are doing a Hellbat timing. This forces Spore Crawlers to be built, which is dealing damage indirectly. The Hellion and Banshee can just do their things to move around the edge of the creep to control the map. When you put everything together, the game plan of this build is very clear. It opens up normally for a TvZ build by going into the two base Reactor Hellion, and then focuses on the economy by putting down an early third Command Centre. The Banshee and Hellions are meant to control the map and defend against all-in, which is the weakness of an early third Command Centre in general.

The next point is how to utilise the Starport after the first Banshee. If opponent is not going for an all-in or some sort of a timing, get a Viking after the Banshee. While this is happening, put down additional Barracks and Engineering Bay to shape up to a standard macro game. Viking is used for Overlord hunting, simple and straightforward. When the Viking is out, lift the Starport and build a Reactor. Then, get two Medivacs when it’s completed, and this should shape back to the standard Marine with Stim move out timing. If opponent is going for an all-in, just keep making Banshee and not a Viking. Hellion and Banshee can probably hold most all-ins in normal circumstances.

The benefit of getting a Banshee and a Viking in a 3CC build comes with a cost. The Stim research is delayed, and the Marine count is lower than normal during the move out with the first two Medivacs. If it’s a standard game set up, the trade off is fine. But if opponent goes for two base Mutalisk, there isn’t enough Marines at the 11th minute. It can snowball out of control from there.

Other variations

There are other variations that get a quick third and Banshee, but the game plan is very different. The Banshees and Hellions are not meant to be defensive. Cloak gets researched, and Armory is put down for Hellbats. The bio transition is much delayed in order to get more units from the Factory and Starport.

14 thoughts on “TvZ 3CC Defensive Banshee

  1. Is this the build that Polt kept using during the recent WCS? I think he alternated between a hellbat push and the banshee.

        1. on the same note, polt did an interesting cheese against hydra twice that finals. he went cc first into hellions, but didn’t cut hellion production and instead produced marine marauder from 3 barracks (2 tech labs) to hit a 9:00 stim shield hellion timing, when zerg generally wants to be droning their third and baneling speed isn’t yet complete.

  2. Hi Max.

    I find that if I go CC first instead of opening with reapers, the extra gas that would have been invested into these reapers would be able to devote to cloak for banshee without taking both gases. You still have 3CC very quickly opening this way, only the banshee is able to have cloak and potentially kill more drones if the zerg is not early all-in.

    However personally I have instead opted to start the armory rather than get cloak and make an extra cycle or two of hellions. Especially so if the zerg overlord scouts the 3rd CC after the CC first, and feels fairly safe vs cloakshee enough to start droning up again.

    Then you hit the 3rd at 9:00 with 8-10 hellbats and 2 banshees. Difficult to defend for zerg if they didn’t open blind roaches.

    1. Dream loves CC first for 3CC banshee like what you are saying. Even the number of reapers affects how well the resource line up for the build. 9:00 hellbat and banshee is quite late. You can attack earlier without waiting for the second banshee.

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