As intended, the Adept patch made a positive impact to the match up. Since TvP no longer revolves heavily around early and mid game Adept, it should result in a different metagame.
Before the patch, Terran’s builds were generally defensive. This is mainly due to the fact that a typical Adept attack or drop may end the game, and Terran’s choices are dependent on how well it deals with the various Adept attacks. Thus, an early Cyclone was seen as a staple in the match up, as it was pivotal in defending against Adept drop. Interestingly though, an early Cyclone is still a popular choice among the progamers in the recent TvP matches. In fact, the general build is not that different, and it looks like this.
14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
21 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Reactor (@100% – Marine production)
@100 gas – Factory
23 – Refinery
@100% Factory – Tech Lab, Starport and Supply Depot
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter
@100% Tech Lab – Cyclone
@100% Starport – Liberator
The above build order uses a Reaper opening, and it is also popular to skip the Reaper and put down the Reactor immediately. Assuming nothing happens in the first three production cycle of the Barracks, the only trade off is a Reaper for a pair of Marines. Previously, I was suggesting that the Reactor first opening is because you have already scouted the necessary information with the Scv, but it seems that it is a popular opening for 1-1-1 if you do not want to get a Reaper (quicker Factory since 50 gas is saved from Reaper). This makes me wonder if a 18 supply Refinery is better than 16 if you don’t want to make a Reaper first. It basically allows you to put down the Command Centre first, and put down the Reactor after two Marines. It is like the old school 15 gas build in Heart of the Swarm.
More importantly, the build order signals that Terran is still prioritising a defensive stance in the early to mid game. In the earlier patch discussion post, I was discussing how TY got even more defensive than his earlier popular three Command Centre defensive build. It appears that it is still happening after the patch. As shown in the vod below, Maru made Tanks and Viking after the above build order.
While other players do not commit as much defensively, their general game plan is to be defensive in the early game with Marines, Cyclone, Liberator and Tank. The positioning of the units of Taeja and INnoVation in the vods below show just that (it happens in many other games too).
With that being said, it makes me wonder if Liberator is a better choice than Viking if you choose to be defensive. Before the patch, TY has opted for Viking for his defensive build. After analysing more games, it occurs to me that Liberator provides an important counter attack option that Viking cannot. In the above vod, INnoVation sent his Liberator to Stork’s mineral line to counter attack as it is not needed in base (which failed miserably). The counter attack plan is actually quite prominent recently, as you can see in the three games below.
After Terran have deduced that Protoss are not attacking, they will launch a counter attack with Marines, Cyclone and Liberator (bring other units you have made – Tank and Medivac). As you can see from the above vods, Protoss often do not have enough units prepared for the counter attack. This is the new metagame, whereby Protoss invest in other areas such as an early third base. This brings us to the next discussion point.
Early third Nexus
Many of you should have noticed that Protoss are taking the third base quicker than Terran. Based on the Protoss’ build knowledge from Heart of the Swarm, I previously mentioned that it is important to scout Protoss’ natural for their gas timing at 4:30. This is because if Protoss do not invest in gas, they probably invested the mineral elsewhere and it is usually more Gateways for all-in. However, the current metagame is to spend the resource on an early third Nexus. Depending on how Protoss shuffle the build, the third Nexus is down between 4:00 to 4:30. This is a good metagame choice against the defensive game plan of Terran right now.
If you look at the vod I linked above (Taeja vs. Blaze game 5), Taeja shifted from being defensive to being offensive and attack Protoss’ early third with his units. Interestingly, Polt had used the classic one Barracks gasless expand in several of his games against sOs recently, and sent the bio to attack the third Nexus at the 5:00 timing.
This is a good mix in the current metagame. Of course, you can do the same thing with a Command Centre first into three Barracks. The key is to get three Barracks instead of tech up if you want to attack with a bio ball early. In the vod below, Taeja opened with Command Centre first, and attempted to attack the third with the bio ball.
From a Terran’s perspective, it is important to identify whether Protoss are taking an early third. While it is possible to tech up on two bases, it appears to be more common that Protoss are actually committing to an attack. The vod above (Zest vs. Maru game 2) and the vod below show Protoss perform two base all-in.
Since the current metagame involves Protoss taking an early third and Terran being defensive, we may see a metagame shift if Terran find out that it is not necessary to be too defensive after the patch. The vod below shows INnoVation opened up in a 1-1-1 fashion like the build order I stated earlier, but he chose to be on the offensive end by making Widow Mines for a drop instead of a Cyclone. Similar attacking moves should get more common in the near future.
Based on the recent games, it appears that Protoss have found out that aoe is no longer a staple in TvP mid game. When Legacy of the Void was just released, Protoss players were still making adjustment to their games based on the knowledge of Heart of Swarm. That is, Protoss need to have aoe damage against Terran bio units, and Colossus, Disruptor and High Templar have been experimented in different games. Contrary to previous assumptions, Protoss Gateway units (or should I say Adept) can actually do decently well against bio. The main composition includes Adept, Stalker, Sentry and Immortal. The actual staples are Adept and Stalker, while Immortal is simply produced to not have an idle Robotics Facility when no additional Observer is needed at that point. Of course, as the game progress, High Templar will be added into the composition.
There are also changes on the Terran side. The bio composition is usually Marine, Marauder and Medivac, then mixes in whatever is necessary to counter the opponent’s composition and also to follow one’s game plan. Despite this has not really changed in Legacy of the Void, the ratio of Marine to Marauder has changed in the early game. The Tech Lab to Reactor ratio for the three (2T1R), five (3T2R) and eight (5T3R) Barracks convergent point is done in such a way that the Marine to Marauder ratio is close to 1:1. The ratio for the three Barracks convergent point has now changed to one Tech Lab and two Reactor. In other words, the bio army is more Marine focused than before. This is mainly due to the fact that Marine is better than Marauder against Adept, which has replaced the role of Stalker in the early game (unless it is Blink build). Even the old school one Stalker outside Terran’s natural is now an Adept.
INnoVation actually tried to diverge from the standard bio norm, and used Marine, Tank and Medivac as the core composition against Protoss. He had used it and failed against Stork in game 1 (already linked above) and game 2 (below). I have also read on forums that people have reported they have good results with this composition. On paper, it is plausible that it works better than standard bio against Stalker and Adept, but the inferior mobility may be a problem. Moreover, Adept’s Psionic Transfer can be an effective distance closer on the Tank, and the friendly fire from the Tank on the Marine is not going to be pretty. I am not convinced just yet.
Apart from the Marine Tank composition, INnoVation had also showed us another approach to the match up. He basically sat back with bio and Liberators, and drop with some units. Conversely, Stork was trying to move around the map and to find a weak spot to attack. This is essentially a role swap between Terran and Protoss! In Heart of the Swarm, Protoss usually try to turtle up to build up a deathball (only counter attack if Terran throw away too many units), and send Warp Prism to harass with Zealots and Dark Templars.
It is quite interesting that Stork’s answer to INnoVation’s style is to get Colossus in game 5. The Liberator army is not mobile, and hence, Terran have to engage face on with the Colossus. Since Liberators took up lots of supply and Starport production, it is difficult to produce Vikings as a counter to the Colossus. Alternatively, Zest had also shown that Tempest is a good counter against Liberator in his match against Maru.
Many things are still not figured out yet in this match up. Even the core composition is being experimented. Thus, I expect to see many innovations in the near future. Oh, but we won’t see much of INnoVation until next season since he is out of both GSL and SSL. I think the new directions will revolve around the metagame of early third Nexus, and how the mid to late game should be played out.
As discussed earlier, I will not be surprised if Terran become less defensive in the early game with a completely different direction in build order choices. With that being said, Protoss have shown that they have many early harassment choices, like Oracle, Disruptor drop, Dark Templar and Adept drop, so the new builds should take these into consideration. Perhaps the transition from early to mid game can occur earlier than what it is now by cutting units like Tank and Viking. It can be a tweak like switching the Barracks onto Tech Lab of the Factory after the Cyclone is out for Stim upgrade. INnoVation actually skipped Tank production in game 3 and 5 against Stork, and this allows him to have a quicker transition.
Of course, one can look at it from another angle by getting an earlier third than Protoss, and this aligns well to the passive late game approach that INnoVation had shown us.
All in all, the effect of the Adept patch seems very positive at the moment.