This is the first of a two-part article on the midgame game plan in TvP. I mainly cover the general thinking and game plan, so other aspects will be left out for parsimony reasons.
I received some messages about covering midgame, so here it is. It is difficult to discuss about topics beyond openings and build orders, as there are too many variables to consider. Nevertheless, it is possible to discuss about the general plan in midgame, and it is something that few discuss about.
No specific build order, scouting and reaction will be discussed. The emphasis is on how to be tactically consistent with the midgame game plan. Part 1 covers the background of TvP midgame, and part 2 will cover two mainstream midgame game plans: Scv pull and multi pronged attack.
People always talk about early, mid and late game all the time, but there really isn’t any consensus. These are general categorisations of different time frames of the game. If you ask someone, the person will probably use a time stamp range (e.g., 10:00 to 15:00) to decide the time frame. However, it varies according to match ups and openings. So what exactly is considered “midgame” in TvP? I do not want to use a time stamp as the categorisation, but rather use the state of the game as the foundation to justify my decision.
The state of the game that defines midgame in TvP is when Terran moves out in the map to be on the offensive side, while Protoss takes on the defensive side. This occurs when Terran have the first pair of Medivac and Stim completed. This is something that has not changed since Wings of Liberty. Although the exact time varies according to builds, they still converge to the same Medivac and Stim move out timing. For example, the midgame timing of a Widow Mine drop build starts later than a classic 3 rax build. The game state before this general move out timing varies depending on how the builds interact with each other. If Protoss plans an early timing, Terran almost always have to defend. The game plan of Terran is to move toward the midgame by taking minimum damage, or deal as much damage as possible if Terran use an offensive build. No matter what the opening is, Terran will always move towards the Medivac and Stim move out timing. Of course, there can be exceptions like mech. Another reason for using this threshold is that it basically means Protoss aren’t aiming to do a timing and attempt to build on a three base or more economy.
The next question is, when does midgame end? It is relatively hard to pin point the end of midgame. But it is safe to argue that the late game starts when Protoss have at least three bases and the major tech paths completed (both Colossus and High Templar).
Therefore, the focus of this piece on what Terran do after Terran have the Medivacs and Stim in the midgame.
What both sides have
At the point of time, Terran usually have
– 2x Command Centre
– 3x Barracks
– 1x Factory
– 1x Starport
– 1x Engineering Bay
and will add either another two Barracks or a third Command Centre. Terran should also have Stim, Combat Shield, Concussive Shell and +1 Infantry Attack.
On the other hand, it is harder to state what Protoss have at that point. It depends on the tech path that Protoss choose, and how many Forges they have. Nevertheless, they are usually on two bases.
What the key tactical factors are
During the midgame, it is hard for Protoss to be out on the map, because they do not have enough to fight Terran MMM in the open. Gateway units only cannot beat MMM in normal circumstances. On top of that Protoss do not have enough aoe either in the early-midgame, and hence, they are generally defensive in this time frame. This basically is the most important factor of TvP midgame. However, while Protoss are in defensive position, it does not mean that Terran have to be all out offensive and attack. Many have the misconception that, Protoss are OP in late game, and Terran have to kill them in early or midgame. While this may be debatable to a certain extent, there is more depth to simply “do or die” in the midgame.
The other key factors that Terran need to constantly consider are Protoss’ third base and army position.
The third base of Protoss is the contention point in the midgame of TvP. This is different compared to the fourth base of Zerg in TvZ, whereby Terran’s aim is to continuously attack and try to take it down. Whether the third base of Protoss is placed down affects what you can do and cannot do. In general, you do not commit to an attack against a Protoss sitting on two bases, as the attack may do more harm to Terran than to Protoss. A two pronged attack with a drop in the main and a frontal attack at the natural usually achieve little to nothing. Consequently, when you combine both “Terran cannot attack” and “Protoss cannot move out”, the right plan is often to delay the third of Protoss for as long as possible. Protoss cannot move out to take the third until the army is of a certain value relative to the Terran army moving around outside the base.
The area to defend for Protoss will be stretched once the third is placed. This is the trigger for Terran to find the right spot to deal damage by attacking the places where the Protoss army is not stationed. This leads to the last factor of the midgame: army position. Although it may seem intuitive to drop in the main and attack at the third at the same time, Protoss often split up the army to cover the main and the third. The Mothership Core in the middle of the main and the natural covers the natural and the main fairly well. While it is important to keep tab on the army position of Protoss, Terran should also prevent Protoss from knowing their army position. It is almost impossible to deal damage if Protoss know where the Terran army is, and hence, it is critical to make Protoss uncomfortable by removing the Observers in key locations. This set up basically happens in almost every macro TvP games, and the decisions Terran need to make at this point depend on the player’s game plan. More will be covered in part 2.
The classic style
The classic style is basically “no style”. Terran get the standard MMM, and mix in Widow Mine, Viking and Ghost according to opponent’s composition. This style has long been adopted since Wings of Liberty, and it is slowly dying out in Heart of the Swarm. The vod below is a Wings of Liberty game between Mvp and Squirtle in GSL final, and it shows how the classic style is played out.
The classic style does not do anything fanciful, and emphasizes on taking engagement when you think you can win. It just keeps up with the upgrades and expansions, then gets the right army composition as it moves to late game. The style is basically saying: alright, I’ll be patient, and I don’t mind going into late game with you.
It is hard to find vod of this style from the recent games, and the one below is the closest I can find.
I will cover the two mainstream play styles in part 2.
– Scv pull
– Multi pronged attack
The game plans of these two styles are different in several ways, for example, what buildings to get after the convergent point, what units to get, and how aggressive the movement should be.