Lesson from SHOUTcraft II (Part 1: TvP)

SanDisk SHOUTcraft Invitational II is the first tournament after the official release of Legacy of the Void, and it is a good opportunity for us to learn more about the new expansion from the professionals. This will be broken down into three parts (three match-ups), and TvP is the first because not every TvT and TvZ vod from the tournament is available now.

There are two TvP matches played

  • Bomber vs. Zest
  • ByuN vs. PartinG

I will not be discussing the games one by one, as I think it’s not an effective way to learn from the professionals. Thus, I adopt a more general approach to analyse the games collectively, and learn the current understanding of the match up.

There are several questions in mind.

  1. What are the current compositions?
  2. What roles do the new units play?
  3. What are the common openings and builds?
  4. What are some of the basic timings?

Current compositions and new units

It is still bio.

I actually think that it’s even harder for mech to work in TvP because of the new Protoss addition. It’s really hard for mech to move across the map, when you don’t have a good answer against Adept drop as you move out. Further, the Disruptor is cost efficient against the low mobility of mech. No Cyclone was used in these games.

Liberator is the only new Terran unit added to the typical Marine, Marauder and Medivac composition. It is effective against Gateway units, when there are bio units around to provide support. Liberators will clearly be targeted down by Stalkers when the bio units are not well positioned, because Liberators do not have a good range without the upgrade from Fusion Core (I think this is a good balance touch at the end of the beta). They don’t do well against Colossus compared to Vikings because of their relative short range and single targeting damage.

Conversely, there are more changes to the Protoss army after the new units are added in Legacy of the Void. The main composition in Heart of the Swarm is Zealot, Stalkers and Colossus (Sentry plays a smaller role in general), before High Templars and Archons are added into the mix in later part of the game. It is essentially basic Gateway units plus AOE, and this fundamental understanding has not changed in Legacy of the Void. However, interestingly, Adept and Disruptor have replaced Zealot and Colossus respectively. The Adept-Zealot replacement is stunning, as I doubt this is Blizzard’s intention. The general philosophy is that every unit has its role, and every unit should be “usable”. Thus, it should not be surprising that either Adept or Zealot is mentioned in a patch, if Zealot is not used in the three Protoss match ups. In contrast to Adept’s obvious rise to prominence, Disruptor’s introduction to the core Protoss composition is still at the testing stage. As you can see from the vods, Protoss players are switching around between Disruptor and Colossus, and sometimes even use both. Time will tell which unit will take the main stage.

With Disruptor, Adept and Liberator added to the mix, the TvP engagement is quite different now. ByuN was using the Maru-style with multiple hit and runs in an attempt to pull Protoss out of position in the early mid game, but the actual mid to late game transition battle is rather “head-on” with less running around. This is consistent with what happens in Bomber’s game, whereby there will be a point in time that the battle is a “head-on” one. The difference with Bomber’s approach is that he  does not go for the Maru-style in the mid game and produce Liberators early, which pushes the “head-on” battle forward.

There is basically an imaginary line between the two armies. This is because the Liberators zone out Protoss’ Gateway units, and neither side can really take the initiative to step across that line to engage. It then turns into a battle of “peeling”, whereby both sides will attempt to take out opponent’s units little by little. Terran will stim some bio units to focus down some Protoss units, while Protoss will use Disruptor to take down some Terran units. This actually looks like the old school TvP late game, when both sides have access to their necessary units and try to find a good chance to have a favorable engagement. All in all, Disruptors and Liberators discourage the players to split up their main army, and only allows low risk commitment for harassment (e.g., Warp Prism).

Openings and builds

Reaper expand was the go-to opening for the match up in Heart of the Swarm, but it has not been used in the games (except a proxy Reaper). While players have been using an updated Reaper expand in Legacy of the Void beta, there is a consensus that it is an inferior opening. I have been watching the stream of Polt and ForGG, and ForGG was using Reaper expand in TvP. He always lost his Reaper very early on against Photon Overcharge, and it is clear that the investment is not justified. If Protoss goes for a standard one Gateway expand into Mothership Core, it will line up nicely to meet the Reaper (requires time to travel to Protoss’ base). The new Photon Overcharge is cast on Pylons for 25 energy, so it can deny Reaper without the need to wait for enough energy. Thus, the Pylon position is critical.

There are two main openings used now: (1) Command Centre first and (2) Barracks and early gas

Command Centre first

14 – Supply Depot
17 – Command Centre
18 – Barracks

There are two choices from here, which resemble the understanding of Heart of the Swarm TvP openings. You either go for a tech oriented build or a multiple Barracks build. Of course, there are middle of the road builds, that only tech up to Factory and put down more Barracks.

Multiple Barracks – Bomber game 2

19 – Barracks
21 – Barracks
23 – 2x Orbital Command
25 – 2x Refinery
29 – Supply Depot (Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@25 gas – Tech Lab and Bunker (Bunker is optional and it can be built earlier depending on situation)
@100% Tech Lab – Stim
@100 gas – Factory, Refinery and Engineering Bay
@100 gas – Tech Lab and Reactor
@100% Factory – Starport and Reactor on Factory
@100% Engineering Bay – +1 Infantry attack

It then plays out like Heart of the Swarm by adding necessary infrastructure to reach the next convergent point. The add-on timing on the second and third Barracks can be adjusted accordingly.

I see some players build the third Barracks after the two Orbital Command. While it seems rather minor, I tend to lean towards building the third Barracks before the two Orbital Command. This is because you can replace that third Barracks with an Engineering Bay if you deduce that there may be a proxy Stargate. You can still build the Engineering Bay early even if you plan to build the third Barracks after the two Orbital Command, but it is easier to plan your build when you simply replace something directly with another without shuffling the timing. Just my preference.

Tech oriented – ByuN game 2

19 – Refinery
20 – Refinery
23 – 2x Orbital Command
@100 gas – Factory
@100% first Marine – Reactor on Barracks
@100 mineral (23) – Bunker
@125 mineral (24) – Engineering Bay*
@100% Factory – Starport and Widow Mine

I will not go further with the build order. You can produce Medivac and do a Widow Mine drop. In the game, it seems obvious to me that ByuN was reacting to PartinG’s build. The Engineering Bay at that point of time seems a little bit out of place, because the mineral does not line up well for him to put down the Starport immediately after the Factory completes. Thus, I guess he’s reacting to the fact that he scouted two early gas from PartinG, and it may be Oracle. Further, ByuN’s Scv sneaked back into the base and saw the Robotic Facility and two more Gateways, which suggest that a Warp Prism Adept drop should be incoming. ByuN then reacts by getting a Viking instead of Medivac. Nevertheless, I think his intended build is a Widow Mine drop.

Barracks and early gas

The vods show two builds, one is a gas first Widow Mine drop, and the other is an early double gas after Barracks.

Gas first Widow Mine drop – Bomber game 1

14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
@100% Barracks – Factory, Orbital Command and Supply Depot
@100% Factory – Starport and Widow Mine
@400 mineral – Command Centre
25 – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
27 – Refinery
@100% Starport – Medivac

Barracks into two gas (1-1-1 all-in) – ByuN – game 4

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
17 – Refinery
19 – Orbital Command
@100% gas – Factory and Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% first Marine – Reactor on Barracks
@100% Factory – Starport and Tech Lab on Factory
@100% Tech Lab – Tank
@100% Starport – Liberator

This is like the old school Wings of Liberty 1-1-1, which uses Marine, Tank and Banshee. ByuN replaced it with Liberator in Legacy of the Void. Obviously, I cannot tell if this will be one of the builds that Terran will keep in the build arsenal in the future, but it is an interesting thought. This is because 1-1-1 push against Protoss is bounded to fail in Heart of the Swarm because of Photon Overcharge. However, since the Photon Overcharge has changed, the early game interaction is different now. Interestingly though, both of these tech heavy builds are used on Ulrena, which has a close travel distance to your opponent.

Basic timings

It is best not to be conclusive with the timing observed in these games, as everyone is still trying to innovate at this stage. With that being said, we still can learn from these games.

The old school two Medivac move out timing with three Barracks and two bases is at 6:00 (it was 9:30-10:00 in Heart of the Swarm), so it is a benchmark to meet.

Similar to what Protoss did in Heart of the Swarm, the general build path for Protoss is one Gateway expand into one tech and follow up with another. The first Protoss tech timing is at 2:30. There are two main economical openings, one involves one gas, and the other involves an earlier second gas (four Probes mining). The one gas expand is more typical, while the earlier two gas is usually Adept expand.

An Adept drop after expand is at 5:00.

The second tech timing should vary according to build, but it seems to be around 3:30 to 4:00 based on the vods. The third and fourth gas for Protoss seems to be at 4:30 (it was 7:00 in Heart of the Swarm), and it was an important sign of whether an all-in is likely to appear previously. There wasn’t any two base all-ins in the vods, and I am not sure if the third and fourth gas are still a good sign of Protoss’ intention.

Thinking ahead

There wasn’t any big surprise in terms of openings and builds, perhaps ByuN’s 1-1-1 was unexpected. More importantly, the talking point should be the usage of Liberator, and how the engagements play out.

Based on the current knowledge, Liberator has a role to play in the match up. My guess is that, Maru-style is still workable, but Liberator is a must-include in the late game. Does that mean that Vikings settle for a role on the bench? It depends a lot on whether Protoss use Colossus or not, as the opinion on Colossus is still mixed so far. There is no doubt that Viking is better against Colossus.

If you choose to produce Liberators early on (watch Bomber), you need to make a decision on when to cut Medivacs. Bomber was building Medivac and Liberator in an “interval” in pairs, with Medivac being produced first then Liberator, then Medivac, then Liberator and so on. Alternatively, you can keep producing Medivac until you’ve 6 to 8, and you should have your third base and second Starport by then, before you start Liberator production. I prefer the latter as I can be more aggressive in the early mid game time frame with more Medivacs. Perhaps TY’s approach in Heart of the Swarm may be something worth experimenting.

I must point out that I don’t like how Adept replaces Zealot for game design and lore reasons. It is now Adept and Stalker versus Marine and Marauder, which is range versus range, and it is less interesting. This also indirectly means that Widow Mine is weaker in the match up, because its main role (beyond the early game) was to provide a tool for Terran to deal with the previously long standing problem with Zealot in the main battle.

I wonder how the battle will play out as Protoss figure out the main composition, and perhaps the decisions will be based on what fit well in the “imaginary line” battle against bio and Liberators.

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