Lesson from SHOUTcraft II (Part 2: TvZ)

This is the second part of “Lesson from SHOUTcraft II”, and I will discuss about the current understanding of TvZ.

This post will follow the same structure as the TvP post (Part 1), so the similar questions are asked.

 

  • What are the current compositions?
  • What roles do the new units play?
  • What are the common openings and builds?
  • What are some of the basic timings?

There are three TvZ games

  • Bomber vs. Solar
  • TY vs. Rogue
  • TY vs. Solar

Current compositions and new units

There is no mech.

If I have to rank the feasibility of mech in the three match ups, it will be TvT, TvZ then TvP. One of the reasons for bio being the dominant composition is the relative ease to plan the build order of bio. The main composition of bio is well figured out, and the only room for composition experiment is the support unit. In contrast, mech requires more specific unit production alignment based on the understanding of the metagame, and it is a difficult thing to do when the current state of the game is still in the infant stage. Therefore, it is not exactly surprising to see bio being the preferred choice. With that being said, it is possible that the Ravagers and Vipers may be quite discouraging for mech, but I believe mech will definitely be viable in this match up as the players get better.

The core bio composition in TvZ is Marine, Marauder, Medivac and an aoe support, which can be Tank, Widow Mine and Hellbat. Widow Mine was the top choice in Heart of the Swarm, and Hellbat was preferred in certain strategy that focuses on mech upgrade (usually Thor heavy) or rally pushes. Apart from early game reaction, Tank was only used against Roach Hydralisk composition in Heart of the Swarm. Interestingly, based on the Legacy of the Void games, Tank seems to have regained its place as the choice of aoe support in the bio composition. However, it is unclear whether Tank would still be the top choice when Zerg’s main composition is Zergling, Baneling and Mutalisk, because most games played in the tournament were Roach oriented (at least for the early and mid game). Nevertheless, the Terran players still continue to make Tanks after the early Roach attack stage.

Can Liberator be used as the needed aoe support? This is a very difficult question. In a straight up battle, Liberator is inferior to other choices, because its range and rate of fire are too weak to provide cover for the bio against Zerglings and Banelings. It works alright against Roach and Ravager, but Tank seems to be a better choice. In fact, the Liberator’s ground attack is not exactly aoe. Liberator may not fit well in the aoe role against ground units for the match up, but its anti-air ability may replace Thor’s position in TvZ. The standard bio composition at the end of Heart of the Swarm was Marine, Marauder, Medivac, Widow Mine and Thor. I believe that Liberator’s aoe anti-air damage is stronger than Thor’s, if there are at least four Liberators, and it is easy to produce with Reactor. Further, Liberator provides other offensive flexibility that Thor cannot, as this is demonstrated by TY in game 3 against Solar (time stamp). TY dropped several Medivacs in Solar’s main, and used the Liberators’ ground zoning at the path which Solar’s units will travel back to his main. Although the execution was far from good, the idea appears to be worth experimenting. This actually resembles his TvP playstyle of catching units moving back to the base to defend against the mass drop.

As for Zerg, Roach has taken the front seat now, and it’s like Reactor Hellion for Terran. Roach is used in almost every game, and it is just a matter of whether you hit a timing and whether you transit out of it in the mid game or not. It is easy to tell if Zerg plan to use Roach in the main army composition beyond the early game by looking at the upgrade in the Evolution Chamber, but this information is not available for the opponent. Thus, this may also explain why Terran just keep making Tanks in the mid game because they aren’t sure whether they will be playing against a Roach composition.

I doubt Zergling and Baneling will ever die off in this match up, but that doesn’t seem to be applicable to Mutalisk. Mutalisk is a key unit in TvZ for both Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm, because it goes well with Zergling and Baneling. However, Mutalisk is definitely underused in comparison to the two previous games, and this may mainly due to the introduction of Liberator. There are quite a number of games that Zergling, Baneling, Roach and Ravager are the core units, and Mutalisk just has occasional guest appearance with no notable impact. Without Mutalisk, Zerg will have a hard time to deal with drop, and TY seems to have understood and adapted to this as the series goes by. In game 4 against Solar, his decision to have the Tanks and Liberators at home to defend, and use drop for offence won him that game. I also noticed that Corruptor was used to fill the Lair tech void, before Zerg tech up to Hive for Ultralisk. Ultralisk is a monster now, so it is not stupid to tech straight to it. The Zerg players just make around six Corruptors, and the results were mixed. This worked decently well in Bomber versus Solar game 1, but not in TY versus Rogue game 2. In the latter, TY just punched through the Zerg before Hive was up, but it is hard to say whether making Mutalisks like a normal Zerg will make a difference.

Openings and builds

There are three main openings: (1) Command Centre first, (2) Reaper expand and (3) one Barracks Marine expand

The opening itself is not that interesting, because they converge quickly to the same infrastructure set up (quicker than Heart of the Swarm because of starting workers). Similar to what happens in Heart of the swarm, Reactor Hellions are the early to mid game transition staples. While Roaches are becoming popular, Hellions still have a place. The build choices diverge after Hellion production, whereby you can put down the Starport, third Command Centre or two more Barracks. In Legacy of the Void, Starport is the more common choice than additional Barracks if you opt for an early third Command Centre build. This is because the Starport provides the key defensive tools to cover the early third Command Centre, so it works like the defensive Banshee build in Heart of the Swarm. Therefore, when I say you go for one of the three build order paths, the Starport and additional Barracks put you in the offensive front, and the third Command Centre requires you to be defensive with the support of Starport or three Barracks. They are not mutually exclusive, but I categorise them in terms of building priority and intention.

I spent three days on this post, and the vod for TY versus Solar is removed on the second day. Thus, I can’t use those builds as examples below. I have no idea why it is removed.

Two more Barracks

This is a two base timing attack that hits with more units than usual because of the additional Barracks. Bomber did a Hellbat Combat Shield timing twice against Solar and failed miserably. This is because it is very weak against Roaches, which are staples in the match up.

Bomber vs. Solar game 1

He did not open up with Command Centre first or Reaper expand, because he wants to get more Marines out to utilise the Combat Shield early on.

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
17 (it can be 16) – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Orbital Command and Marine
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Marine – Reactor on Barracks and Supply Depot
@100 gas – Factory
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (two round of production)
@300 mineral – 2x Barracks
@100% Command  Centre – Orbital Command
@100% Factory – Swap onto Reactor for Hellions, Tech Lab on Barracks and Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% Tech Lab – Combat Shield
Constant Marine and Hellion production. During the production of third pair of Hellions, put down Armory when you can afford it.

Move out with everything when Combat Shield is about to complete, and attack when it has completed. Transform into Hellbat.

This is ideal against Zergling composition, and that also means it’s not that great in the current metagame. I must also point out that Bomber plays his own style in TvZ, and his games don’t capture the mainstream builds well.

Starport (offensive)

Starport is perhaps the most common variation now. If you are not getting an early third Command Centre, and tech straight up to Starport, you usually take a relatively early second gas.

The interesting thing is you can produce Banshee or Liberator from the Starport because you have the gas to do so. If you want to do a Hellbat timing, you can put down the Armory after the first air unit has started production. The one I am showing below is just one of the variations.

TY vs. Rogue game 2

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
18 – Command Centre
@100% Barracks – Orbital Command
19 – 2x Refinery and Supply Depot
@100 gas – Factory
@100% 3rd Marine – Reactor on Barracks
@100% Command Centre – Orbital Command
@100% Factory – Starport and swap Factory onto Reactor for Hellions
Continue Marine production
35 – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% Starport – Liberator then Armory, and Tech Lab on Barracks

Attack with Liberator, Hellbat and Marine.

You can do a standard Banshee Hellbat with this, by building a Tech Lab with the Barracks instead of making Marines when the Starport is constructing. More importantly, I want to point this out to newer players, you can do this build with other openings as well, for example Reaper expand based on the building block concept. It will look something like this.

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Orbital Command and Reaper
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 mineral – Supply Depot then Refinery (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% Reaper – Reaper (double Reaper is stronger than single Reaper in TvZ)
@100 gas – Factory
@100% Reaper – Reactor
@100% Factory – Starport and swap Factory on Reactor for Hellions
Continue Marine production
@100% Starport – Liberator then Armory, and Tech Lab on Barracks

If you want to hit a timing with a Starport unit, it is better to go with Hellbat because it balances the mineral and gas ratio better for the double Refinery. The Starport unit can also be a Medivac, and it becomes a Marine, Hellbat and Medivac attack that has been used in Heart of the Swarm. ForGG has been using this on stream, but it is an inferior build for the similar reasons I mentioned regarding Combat Shield and Hellbat timing. In short, if you want to hit a Hellbat timing, make sure you have something that can hit Roaches effectively.

Early three Command Centre

TY used double Reaper expand into three Command Centre against Rogue for game 1 and 3. The key difference with the offensive Stargate build is the delayed timing of the second Refinery, as you want to put down the third Command Centre first.

TY vs. Rogue game 3

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Orbital Command and Reaper
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 mineral – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% Reaper – Reaper (double Reaper is stronger than single Reaper in TvZ)
@100 gas – Factory
@100% Reaper – Reactor
@400 mineral – Command Centre then Refinery
@100% Factory – Starport and swap Factory on Reactor for Hellions, Tech LAb on Barracks
@100% Starport – Swap it on Tech Lab for Cloak Banshee

There is a marginal difference between single and double Reaper expand into three Command Centre and Starport. With double Reaper opening, you don’t have enough gas to put down the Starport immediately after Factory is completed. In contrast, with single Reaper opening, you do. So it is a bit of give and take.

In Heart of the Swarm, if you want to get an early third Command Centre, you cannot get cloak for the Banshee because of resource constraint. This is not the case in Legacy of the Void since you have more workers to begin with.

Basic timings

It is hard to be precise with Zerg’s timing because of the larva system. Nevertheless, we can still get a rough gauge of the key timings from the limited games we have watched.

There wasn’t any one base play in the tournament, and I doubt there will be. This is because Zerg have no where to spend the mineral other than a Hatchery, and the number of larva also restrict what you can do with one base. There are two main openings from Solar, one is three Hatchery, and the other is Hatchery-Gas-Pool. While Rogue had used Hatchery-Pool-Gas, he didn’t seem to have the perfect timing down as he sort of varied it in another game. All in all, I think Solar’s openings and builds are the benchmark right now.

There are several timings to look for against Zerg

  • Speed upgrade
  • Third Hatchery
  • Lair
  • Common attacks

If it’s Hatchery-Gas-Pool, the speed upgrade finishes before 3:30. It is around 3:20 to 3:30. If it’s early three Hatchery, the speed upgrade finishes at 4:00.

The third Hatchery for Hatchery-Gas-Pool is usually around 3:00, but it can be different depending on how many Drones are made. For example, in Bomber versus Solar game 2, the third Hatchery was down only at 4:00 because Solar was forced to make Zerglings to defend against two Barracks Reapers. Whether Drones are taken off the gas after 100 is mined also affects the timing.

The Lair timing varies too much in these games, but a general range is around 5:00 to 6:00.

There two main streams of attack timing: (1) two base and (2) three base

There are two popular two base timing with Roaches and Ravagers. One doesn’t get speed upgrade, and goes straight into Roach Warren. So the obvious sign is the continuous mining of gas after 100 gas, and the Spawning Pool doesn’t move to show that Speed is upgrading. Another sign is the relatively early second gas. The timing hits at 4:00 with Roaches and Ravagers, but no Zerglings. Watch Bomber versus Solar game 4.

The other two base timing is Zerglings heavy, and relies on early Ravagers to break the defence before rallying Zerglings across the map. Watch TY versus Solar game 5 (it’s removed on youtube!) Solar got Speed upgrade as usual, and put down the Roach Warren later. This also hits at 4:00.

It is harder to be conclusive on the timing with three bases, as there is more room for flexibility in larva management. Anyway, if it is a Zergling, Roach and Ravager attack, it should hit at around 5:15. A Nydus Worm with three base can hit at 6:00 (TY versus Solar game 1).

Discussion

There are two things I want to discuss separately.

Roach and Ravager

One of the common questions asked is how to defend against Roach and Ravager attack. The first is of course to know whether it is coming, and it is relatively easy if it’s a two base attack. There are three unit choices: Tank, Liberator and Banshee. I prefer Banshee and Tank. Banshee is straight forward, but you need to dodge the Corrosive Bile. The micro difficulty is lower than moving your Liberator against Corrosive Bile, because you have more reaction time. It takes four Corrosive Bile to kill a Liberator (correct me if I am wrong). In my opinion, despite the general concern about Tank’s vulnerability to Corrosive Bile, Tank is an important unit against Ravager and Roach. Corrosive Bile’s range without upgrade is 9, and Tank’s siege range is 13. Thus, it is crucial to zone the Ravagers out of Corrosive Bile cast range on Tanks using Marines. In fact, as counter intuitive as it sounds, Marine is quite effective against Ravager as you can focus fire it down fine (e.g., Bomber versus Solar game 4). Ravagers actually have lower health than Roaches (and they are not armored units), even though they’re an upgrade. My opinion is that it is not effective to use Medivac to micro Tank against Roach and Ravager, and the Starport should produce Banshee and not Medivac.

Nydus Worm

I think Nydus Worm is borderline broken at its current state.

Unlike in Heart of the Swarm, Nydus Worm is invulnerable when it is morphing in Legacy of the Void. It is no longer a game of taking it down as quickly as possible before it pops out, but it is now a game of making sure you get every unit you have back in time to attack it when it pops out. While both old and new Nydus Worms punish the receiver for the lack of map awareness, it seems to me that there is a much lower chance of survival even if you notice it right away in Legacy of the Void. Take TY versus Solar game 1 for example, the Nydus Worm was cast right in the middle of TY’s main, and TY reacted immediately by pulling everything to it. He actually died horribly. The same thing happened to FanTaSy in another tournament on the same day, FanTaSy immediately gg-out once Solar’s units pop out of the Nydus Worm. What FanTaSy gg timing?

It is not as simple as target down the Nydus Worm when it’s attackable, because the Queens pop out and transfuse the Nydus Worm too quickly. After I have watched it again and again, I notice that there is a short time frame when the first Queen was not out yet but the Nydus Worm was attackable.  In other words, it is theoretically possible to focus fire it down before the Queens can transfuse it. Thus, I decided to test it with a friend and see how much firing power do I need to bring it down.

Please keep in mind that I didn’t do a controlled experiment, and I just have the units surrounding the Nydus Worm, and focus it down asap. At the same time, Zerg will ensure Queens are out first, and keep transfusing the Nydus Worm as quickly as possible.

I started testing with 6 Hellions, 4 Marines and 2 Banshees (I didn’t analyse deeply to line it up with Terran’s builds and what exactly can be produced at that point of time), and Terran got rekt. I then increased the Terran units slowly. To my surprise, Terran still got rekt when I used 8 Hellions, 4 Marines and 1 Banshee. It only worked when I used 8 Hellions, 4 Marines and 2 Banshees. Of course, many Zerg units still get out, but the number didn’t go over the tipping point that Terran just lost everything.

Next I tried to mix in Tanks, as it is likely to be produced when Zerg use Roaches anyway. Tank worked better than Hellions, as I can take down the Nydus Worm with 2 Tanks, 6 Marines and 2 Banshees at ease. It got me thinking that it is the damage per attack that is critical, and not the dps itself. I then tested with Marauder, as it can be produced as a hypothetical counter unit against potential Nydus Worm. It actually worked pretty well, as I can out dps the transfusion and focus down the Nydus Worm with 4 Hellions, 4 Marines and 2 Marauders. If you compare this to 8 Hellions, 4 Marines and 1 Banshee (which got rekt), two Marauders actually do better than 4 Hellions and 1 Banshee. Therefore, I conclude that Tanks and Marauders are the units to get if you want to take down the Nydus Worm.

With that being said, it is not that simple in practice, because you have your units elsewhere and they may not be at the epicentre right away.Furthermore, if the Nydus Worm is cast between the buildings, it is hard to have the Terran units positioned well enough to attack the Nydus Worm because the buildings are blocking the units.

Now let’s take a step back and think of other ways to deal with Nydus Worm instead of head on. Is it possible to prevent Zerg to have no vision in your base? It’s impossible to completely prevent an Overseer to fly in from any angle. Is it possible to build Supply Depot in a way to ensure the Nydus Worm can’t be planted? It is not realistic. Is it possible to prevent the use of Nydus Network itself? It is only possible if you can attack and trade well enough that Zerg do not have units to put in the Nydus Network. Or you keep Zerg so busy at their own base, that the units cannot be put into the Nydus Network. Both don’t seem too feasible, because this implies that Terran can potentially kill Zerg with an attack at that time frame. Is it possible to prevent the transfusion from Queens? Technically no. At best you force the Queens to use the energy on other things before the Nydus Worm timing, but it still doesn’t sound realistic.

I look forward to see this build being used more often by the pros.

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6 thoughts on “Lesson from SHOUTcraft II (Part 2: TvZ)

  1. I just discovered your blog. Thanks for your great work on playing Terran and getting me back into Starcraft which i didn’t play for at least half a year. I’m looking forward to your transition guides to lotv!

  2. Hi, I am a GM terran player on the NA laddar, and I am having no difficulty besides the TvZ matchup. I just straight up lost to ultra transition if i do not kill my enemy before the hive tech. I am just wondering if it is a good idea to keep attacking zerg with +1/+1, as opposed to the +2/+2 constant push in HotS. Thank you for your valuable input!

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