While the Widow Mine drop build has been the standard opening for the past few months, there have been some changes to how both Terran and Protoss play. This post is an update of the current Widow Mine drop metagame.
Core of Widow Mine drop
The Widow Mine drop build focuses on continuously dropping Marines and Widow Mines in the early to mid game to harass Protoss, while transitioning to a standard macro game at the same time. It generally involves an initial attack to force Photon Overcharge at the natural, and then drops in the main. It does not require good Widow Mine shot on the Probes to be effective, the lost mining time is damage itself. See the vod below have a feel of how it works.
More drop attacks will follow up after the initial one.
Widow Mine drop does not necessarily have to start from a Reaper opening, it is simply a continuation of any expand build. You can do it with a 15 gas expand, a Command Centre first or even a gas first opening. In general TvP, Terran basically can choose to go for either tech or additional Barracks, and tech is the more common path now. It is all about build order blocks. This is an example with a Command Centre first opening.
Adaptation of Protoss
Protoss have been adapting to Widow Mine drop well, and rarely falls apart to the aggression anymore. Widow Mine drop is so predictable that it is working against Terran to a certain extent. Protoss even go for an early Forge to build Cannon at mineral lines (and early upgrade) just to counter Widow Mine drop builds. In the vod below, INnoVation sacrificed his Reaper at 5:00~ish to look for the first tech building (phase 2.1), and he saw a Forge instead of a usual tech building. He knew there will be Cannons built at the mineral line, so he chose not to continuously drop and transited to a macro game earlier by building Tech Labs on the Factory and Starport. One strength of Widow Mine drop build is that it is hard for Protoss to know if there are more drops coming.
The more common adaptation of Protoss is to go for a Stargate as the first tech, and Robotic Facility as the the second. As I had mentioned before, the Oracle pins Terran in the base and it indirectly defends against the usual Widow Mine drop play. Terran will fall behind if they just sit back with the Widow Mines and Medivac without attempting to do damage. Further, a Stargate tech path allows Protoss to follow up with Phoenixes, which can counter Widow Mine drop well. The game below showed the most common response to deal with a Stargate opening, in which, INnoVation loaded up only the Widow Mine in the Medivac for a drop, while the Marines stay in base to defend against the Oracle. The Oracle will do good damage because there is no Missile Turrets at the mineral lines. Since the number of Marines is below 12 (minimum 6 to defend an Oracle), Terran can only station at one of the two mineral lines or in between the two bases. The Oracle can then outmaneuver the Marines to kill Scvs or at least force them to not mine.
The epic game between Maru and MyuNgSiK in Proleague is the best example of how Terran can react to a Stargate opening, and how strong Stargate opening is against Widow Mine opening in general.
Maru’s opening was the standard Reaper into Widow Mine drop build. After he had scouted the Stargate, he decided to go for mass Widow Mine drop. First, he built another Refinery as two Refineries are needed to support Reactor Widow Mine drops. Then, he positioned 6 Marines in one mineral line, and the first Widow Mine in the other. This set up is different from what INnoVation did above, as its first goal is to shut down the Oracle and not to attack.
After the Factory had produced two Widow Mines and one Medivac as usual, Maru swapped the Factory onto the Reactor to produce more Widow Mines. This mass Widow Mines drop style drops four Widow Mines at one goal, and it does not trigger any warning on the Protoss side as there is no Marine shooting. If Protoss do not react in time, the whole Probe line is gone. Moreover, there are minor details about how mass Widow Mine style squeeze in the resources to transit into a macro game, and I will discuss more later.
Protoss often assume Terran will go for a Widow Mine drop build, and blindly use counter builds. The game between INnoVation and Panic linked earlier is a good example of this, whereby Panic did not scout at the usual scout timing to determine whether the Terran player is going for tech (i.e., Factory into Widow Mine drop) or additional Barracks. Here is another example of blind counter between INnoVation and his Protoss opponent.
Let say the Protoss player did not assume Terran go for Widow Mine drop, and scouted at 4:30 by sneaking a Probe back into the Terran base. This is the time when the Reaper is on the Protoss’ side of the map or is scouting for proxy around the map, and there is no Marine in Terran base to deny the scout. Protoss can see if there are additional Barracks or there is a Factory. If there is a Factory, it is very likely to be a Widow Mine drop build. Sometimes Terran change things up by going for Reactor Hellions instead, and it could potentially catch Protoss off guard. Dream’s Hellion openings destroyed herO in the SSL semi final recently. Rather than saying Hellion build is strong, it is more of the surprise factor and how poorly herO was dealing with it against Dream. It has been around for a long time, and the Hellions usually manage just to scout Protoss’ base without dealing notable damage.
While you can do a Reaper opening into Hellion and Medivac (more commonly used in TvZ), the attack is stronger with a 15 gas opening because you have more units for the two-pronged attack as shown in game 1 of Dream vs. herO below. Anyway, the idea is not new, as Mvp had used it in Wings of Liberty against Squirtle in game 1 the famous GSL final.
Three Barracks timing
Now, Terran generally use either the classic three Barracks build or the mass Widow Mine drop. Before I discuss about the mass Widow Mine drop, which I think you may be more interested in, I want to mention the three Barracks variation that Terran now use. Although the standard three Barracks build usually lines up for a Stim, +1 upgrade and double Medivac move out timing at the 10th minute, the 9:00 Stim, Combat shield and Concussive Shell attack variation has become more popular. This build delays the usual Factory and focuses on bio upgrade and production for the timing. This build is strong against Protoss who blindly counter tech builds because the Protoss units are either not correctly positioned at the natural or the composition is too Stalker heavy. Protoss need Sentry and Photon Overcharge against the 9:00 timing, which is a surprise in the current metagame. Below are some examples of this build used in recent games.
Mass Widow Mine drop
I mentioned about how Maru used mass Widow Mine drop as a reaction against Stargate opening above, but the mass Widow Mine drop has actually become a mainstream TvP build now. I cannot find a vod for it, but FanTaSy and ForGG are using it on stream for TvP.
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, then Refinery
@100% Reactor – Constant Marine production
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter
@100% Factory – Swap Factory onto the Reactor for Widow Mine production, and Starport.
Continue Marine and Widow Mine production.
@100% Starport – Medivac
@100% Medivac – Load up 4 Widow Mines into Medivac for drop. Tech Lab on Starport, and continue Widow Mine production.
@100% Tech Lab – Swap Barracks onto Tech Lab and research Stim. Medivac production.
Subsequently transit into a standard macro game by putting down more Barracks (or a third Command Centre).
Mass Widow Mine drop has more potential to deal critical damage to Protoss, if the Protoss player is preparing for the usual Widow Mine drop or is playing passively. First of all, it does not trigger the “under attack” alert as I mentioned earlier, and this makes it harder for Protoss to react on time unless s/he happens to look at the place at that point. Second, it is harder to pull Probes away safely when the Medivac with boost is actually chasing the Probes and is dropping the Widow Mines at the same time. Third, Protoss may not be sure whether all the Widow Mines have been triggered, so it may mess things up badly. It is not without weakness though, this build has very few units at the base, because the Marine is not produced two at a time from the Reactor.
The reason why I argue that Maru was reacting against the Stargate opening instead of planning for a mass Widow Mine drop is the timing for swapping of Factory onto Reactor. The key difference for mass Widow Mine drop and the standard one is the building that is using the Reactor. The fact that Maru did not swap the Factory onto the Reactor once it is finished, it makes me wonder if he planned to do mass Widow Mine or not. Anyway, there are two things to pay attention to that are different to the standard Widow Mine drop.
First, you need two Refineries to produce Widow Mines on Reactor, and Medivac, and hence, a second Refinery is taken while the Factory is building. The way Maru took his second Refinery as a reaction against Stargate shows how much he understands the builds. Second, the production cycle is relatively awkward for mass Widow Mine drop, whereby you need two Factory production cycles and one Starport production cycle to have four Widow Mines and one Medivac for a drop. The production cycle is more streamlined in the standard build because you load Marines and Widow Mines, so you only focus on the one production cycle on the Starport. In contrast, for the mass Widow Mine drop build, it is not wise to constantly produce Medivac, as the ratio of Widow Mines to Medivac will not be aligned. Thus, as shown in the above build order, you can squeeze in a Tech Lab as a way to not over produce Medivac. The Tech Lab syncs well with the amount of gas you have too. I think this is a well thought out build order.
In contrary to the sentiment of “only three rax” and “Templar opening is dead”, the current TvP metagame is in a great spot with several different builds and tech paths to choose from for both sides. I believe Terran will still favor the tech over additional Barracks for the time being, and Protoss will continue to use Stargate openings.