Lesson from SHOUTcraft II (Part 3: TvT)

This is the last part of the “Lesson fron SHOUTcraft II” series, and it is about Terran mirror.

The structure will follow the two previous posts on TvZ and TvP, and the same important 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 two TvT games

  • ByuN vs. TY
  • ByuN vs. Bomber

Current compositions and new units

It’s bio. In TvT, bio is basically Marine and Tank. The mirror match up is arguably the most mech-able match up, but none used mech in the tournament. Many ask me whether I think mech is viable. My answer is a simple yes. Then why didn’t we see that in games played by the pros? Like I have said before in the last post, it is easier to figure out the balance of the core composition for bio than for mech. It is just a matter of time that mech will get more explored and used in the tournaments. By then, since people have less practice against it, I am sure many will ask whether is bio still viable.

While the introduction of Liberator has an obvious impact on both TvZ and TvP, Cyclone has been left in the cold for much of the last two posts. Fortunately, I am happy to say that Cyclone has found itself a place in the mirror match up. In fact, it changes the conventional thinking that “you must tech to Starport right after your Factory completes”, which defines the early game of the match up in Heart of the Swarm. Cyclone works as an excellent defensive single targeting unit, that allows you to defend against offensive Starport units like Medivac and Banshee. The video below sums it up pretty well.

Its lock on activation range is 7, which out ranges most units including Banshee. Its lock on attack range after the lock on is 12, which is quite ridiculous when you combine it with its speed of 4.72. Theoretically, it can take down most units in the early game safely. Therefore, Cyclone expand is a solid macro build now in TvT, and I will discuss the build below later in the post. Even though it requires vision of the target, Cyclone is still one of the best (if not the best) options to counter early game Banshee.

The downside of it is the cost of 150/150. 150 gas is a heavy investment, as it basically doesn’t allow you to go straight to Starport unit and expand at the same time. In order to get Starport unit and Cyclone without any hiccup, you must get a rather early double gas and it will not give you enough mineral to have a Command Centre. While you can delay the Command Centre for the Starport tech, it doesn’t line up well with the purpose of a Cyclone, which is to defend against almost anything. If you defend, you should get ahead in economy. Bomber versus ByuN game 2 shows how effect Cyclone is in defending against early TvT threats.

Let’s move away from the Cyclone, and look at how Liberator changes the match up. Liberator does not really play a part in the match up unless it goes into a late game air Terran battle. The ground attack ability is inferior to Tank in almost every single way. As for its anti-air purpose, Viking does the job battle unless it is a mass air units battle. With that being said, things may change as we explore and understand the game better to understand the magic number of early-mid game Vikings for air control, and how the Liberator may fit in there. Last but no least, Medivac is so insane in this match up now because of the new siege mode Tank load and drop change that you don’t want Liberator to eat up the Starport production.

Openings and builds

The openings in TvT have always been the most diverse of all three Terran match ups in Heart of the Swarm, and it has not changed in Legacy of the Void. In Heart of the Swarm, you can go for proxy Reaper, proxy Marauder, and take gas at all sort various timings that you don’t see in other match ups (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 all work). Ironically, Command Centre first is deemed as unplayable as it just cannot hold against many popular openings because of the delayed Starport.

Anyway, I will point out several builds that stood out in this section.

Reaper

16/16 expand – Bomber vs. ByuN game 5

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre
21 – Supply Depot

This is the basic Reaper expand opening. There are two main things to look out for at this point of time: (1) the timing of second Refinery and (2) the number of Reapers.

The timing of the second Refinery varies a lot. It can be as early as before the second Supply Depot at 20, or it can be as late as the Factory is about to finish. Of course, you can put it down even later after you put down say a third Command Centre, but I will consider those as “single” gas builds. The way I see it is that there is so much mineral at the time frame between 20 supply and completion of Factory that you have room to put down the Refinery at a difference of around 2 supply, and you still can do the same build with enough mineral and gas. Of course, as the players optimise the openings, there will be several more defined timings to put the second Refinery down for various follow ups. In this game, ByuN took it at 20, while Bomber took it at 23. The game ended before we can see what builds they are going, but I suppose anything goes after that.

I think the logic behind the number of Reapers in Heart of the Swarm is still applicable in Legacy of the Void, whereby you need to match up with opponent’s Reaper count. From the games I had watched so far, the default number is two. Interestingly though, in game 3, ByuN opened up with 16/16 Reaper and did not get a second Reaper or a Reactor, but spent the next 100 gas on Factory while getting a Marine from the Barracks at the same time. This is the way to get the quickest tech with a 16/16 Reaper opening, and this should follow up with an offensive path.

Two Barracks – Bomber vs. ByuN game 4

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
17 – Barracks
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
20 – Supply Depot

This is not new and it had been done in Heart of the Swarm too. Most importantly, it is strongly dependent on the map.

Gas first Reaper – ByuN vs. TY – game 1 and 2

14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
17 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper, Orbital Command and Factory
20 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Reaper
@100% – Factory – Hellion and Starport
26 – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% Reaper – Tech Lab
@100% Hellion – Hellion
Constant Hellion production
@100% Starport – Swap Starport onto Tech Lab for Cloak Banshee or Raven, and Reactor on Barracks

This is essentially the popular gas first Reaper opening that is used in Heart of the Swarm, and it was one of the two most common mech openings. This resembles the previous 11 gas opening more than the 12 gas opening (you can read both articles to understand the difference).

In the two posts I just linked, I emphasized on the build’s reactive positioning as it is meant to be defensive. However, in ByuN’s games, he was the offender and not the defender in the early stage, because he knew that he had the initiative based on the timing of TY’s Command Centre. If you haven’t read the article on the concept of offender versus defender for TvT, you really should. This is because much of what I discuss in this post is based on it.

ByuN identified that he was the offender, so he decided to go for Cloaked Banshee instead of a Raven. What is more interesting is that he did not swap the Factory onto the Reactor, which is meant for mech transition, but he simply decided to go for a bio tank transition. I believe that this opening can be used for mech, and it should be one of the common openings for mech in the future unless Cyclone is seen as a great unit for mech openings.

However, while this build is almost identical to the Heart of the Swarm one, there is one critical difference. It is the timing of the Reapers. The timing of the Barracks for this build is similar to a Barracks then gas (16/16) Reaper opening, and hence, the Reaper count and timing matches up against other Reaper openings. In Heart of the Swarm, a 12/12 Baracks then gas Reaper expand and gas first Reaper openings swap the timing of the Refinery and the Barracks. In contrast, in Legacy of the Void, the timing of the Barracks for both 16/16 Barracks then gas Reaper expand and this gas first Reaper opening are the same, and it is only the timing of the Refinery that is different. This is due to the mineral available at the early stage of the Legacy of the Void. Therefore, the earlier Refinery allows you to get the Factory earlier, and the Reaper timing remains the same.

This apparently minor difference has huge implications on how this gas first Reaper build interacts with other builds. Many of the decisions made in the early game are based on the understanding of offender versus defender, and this means that gas first Reaper usually takes on the defender role because its Starport is later than other gas first builds in Heart of the Swarm. Given that Legacy of the Void’s new economy system allows the second Refinery to go down much earlier, the Starport is not delayed at all. Consequently, the Reapers provide information advantage that other gas first builds don’t, and this means the gas first Reaper player can make the better choice in terms of identifying who has the initiative based on the offender versus defender concept.

Similar to the fact that the Starport is not delayed and is able to match other gas first openings, its non-delayed Barracks timing also changes how it interacts with other Barracks before Refinery Reaper openings. What I am going to discuss next is a little advance, and may require understanding of specific build interaction between 11/13 gas first Reaper and 12/12 Reaper. There are three specific timings in this build interaction that have swing the momentum of the game. First, it is when the 12/12 player has his/her first Reaper, and the 11/13 player does not. Assuming the 12/12 player scouted with a worker to identify the build, s/he can choose to either send the Reaper straight to opponent’s base or position it on the high ground along the usual movement path of the two bases to get the first shot if opponent’s Reaper dares to move across the map. If the 12/12 player decides to make a second Reaper, there will be a small time frame that it is a two versus one Reaper situation. If the 12/12 player kills that one Reaper of the 11/13 player, this snowballs down badly as the 11/13 player’s second Reaper will also face a two versus one situation. Scvs definitely needed to be pulled. Second, when 11/13 player’s first Hellion appears, the initiative swings back to the 11/13 player. If no unit died before this, 11/13 has two Reapers and one Hellion, while 12/12 has one or two Reaper (depending on whether it is one or two Reaper expand). If the 12/12 player doesn’t move the Reaper back in base before this happens and s/he is in trouble when 11/13 gets across the map with his or her units. Third, when the 11/13 player has two Reapers and two Hellions, the 12/12 player must position at the ramp to defend with good micro or the game may be over right away. If 12/12 player goes for single Reaper expand, s/he will have one Reaper and two Marine, so it is hard to hold against two Reapers and two Hellions. It is not any easier if it is a two Reaper expand, because s/he only has two Reapers at that point. These interactions are much simpler in Legacy of the Void because the timing of the Reapers for both sides is the same. The only notable timing is when gas first player has the first Hellion.

Cyclone

Bomber vs. ByuN game 2

14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
@100% Barracks – Marin, Orbital Command and Factory
20 – Supply Depot
21 – Refinery
@100% Factory – Tech Lab
@100% third Marine – Reactor on Barracks (delay this if you worry that opponent is going to double Barracks Reaper)
@100% Tech Lab – Cyclone
24 – Supply Depot
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100 gas – Starport

I won’t continue any further because what you produce from the Starport, and how you swap your add ons depend on the situation.

This is a straight forward Cyclone expand build, and it is arguably one of the safest builds out there right now. I have been thinking what is the optimum number of Cyclones to make in the opening, and the games I have watched from Shoutcraft and other online tournaments suggest that two is the most common. Based on the game between Bomber and ByuN, if he didn’t make the second Cyclone, he would have 200 gas when the Starport finishes. Thus, this means that there is flexibility in whether you make one or two Cyclone. If you make one, you can swap the Starport onto the Tech Lab and make a Cloaked Banshee or Raven. If you make two, you only have gas for either a Viking or Medivac.

There are other builds that are similar to Heart of the Swarm, and you just have to line up the same build orders in Legacy of the Void. For example, Cloaked Banshee, which ByuN used against TY in game 2.

Basic timings

There really isn’t any specific timing that you should remember. The match up is all about relativity. The timing of your Barracks, Refinery, Factory, Starport and Command Centre versus those of opponent’s.

Discussion

I only have one thing to discuss here, and it is the siege mode Tank and Medivac.

In case you aren’t aware, you can load up a Tank in sieged mode into the Medivac, and drop it in sieged mode in Legacy of the Void.

This changes the whole dynamic of Marine Tank battle. I was taught a lesson in my first few games online when both players move around the map and try to find the right positioning and place to attack. My opponent moved around the map with the sieged up Tanks in the Medivacs, and he got so many shots on my Marines by immediately dropping them when we were in each other’s vision. In Heart of the Swarm, it is usually Stim A move forward or backward, and siege up the Tanks at the same time. Then both players back off from each other’s siege range. Now, it is too late to siege up on the spot.

I won’t say it is broken right now, but it definitely changes how Marine Tank plays out. Does it make it more interesting? May be. But I must say it is much more intense than before. Nevertheless, apart from balance, I don’t like this change as Tank is just too mobile and its role of providing positional advantage is deeply affected.

Interestingly though, if you pre-load up the Tanks in the Medivacs, you cannot immediately load everything and drop in opponent’s base if you notice s/he is out of position.

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