TvZ: Sky Terran Composition

Recently, sky Terran has been used in top level TvZ games. While sky Terran is not a new composition, it is rare to see it being used as the core composition instead of a late game transition.

Not a transition

What makes these two games stand out is not just the composition itself, but also the approach to get to the composition. Sky Terran is considered a viable option if you get into the very late game with many bases, and this happens occasionally in TvT and TvZ. I still remember Mvp once said back in Wings of Liberty about TvT that, it doesn’t matter whether you go bio or mech because you eventually just go for sky composition. More specifically to TvZ, the transition from mech to sky is a popular strategy at the end of Heart of the Swarm. INnoVation is perhaps the most successful player with this style.

Sky Terran transition has also been used in Legacy of the Void recently. The vod below shows Maru played out the game with a standard bio composition in the mid game. Later in the late game, he switched to Sky Terran.

In these two new games, both Maru and TY went for the sky composition straightaway and did not use it as a late game transition composition. If you ask me what I think of such build before I actually see it myself, I would have probably tell you it is unlikely to work. This is because, based on conventional knowledge, it is a composition that does not work well unless you reach a certain mass (like mech), but it is much more vulnerable than mech in the build up stage.

Untitled-1 Untitled-2

However, as shown in these games, the playstyle employed takes this weakness into consideration. The Terran do not sit back as much as mech do in general, but they use the mobility of Liberator and Banshee to keep themselves safe from a big frontal attack. Although one may draw parallel with the standard mech harassment with Hellion and Hellbat drop, Zerg require specific units to counter Liberator and Banshee. They cannot just make Roach and Ravager to defend drops and counter attack. The combination of the defensive Liberator and the offensive Hyperflight Rotors upgraded Banshee makes it difficult for Zerg to launch an effective attack straight up.


Maru and TY have shown us different playstyles based on their slightly different compositions. Apart from Liberator and Banshee, Maru added in Viking with the goal of getting the ultimate late game sky Terran composition. This may not be the initial intention of Maru, because it can be a reaction to Solar’s composition choice. Solar was focusing on getting the anti-air composition with Corruptor and Viper after he was aware of Maru’s air composition, this may have prompted Maru to get Viking for the air battle.

In contrast, TY mixed in a good number of Hellion (and Hellbat) against ByuL’s Hydralisk. Consistent with the unit composition, TY’s approach is more proactive than Maru’s. His Liberator, Banshee and Hellbat would move around the map to attack Zerg’s bases. Another reason to mix in Hellion/Hellbat is to mineral dump for a gas heavy composition. Maru actually did the same thing, but he spent it on Missile Turrets which are more in line with his game plan.

Based on the results, it seems fair to make a preemptive conclusion that Hydralisk is a better answer than pure air units. This is because Liberator’s anti-air splash damage is effective against Corruptors. However, one may also make the counter argument that the outcome of the battle could be different if Solar had more Viper than Corruptor for more Parasitic Bomb. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Hydralisk is cost effective against Liberator and Banshee, and Terran may need to get Tank to counter that. This then will become a more traditional mech composition.

Is this mech?

The answer to this question depends on the definition of mech itself. My definition is more mainstream, which is based on the composition of units. Others have also defined it based on the playstyle, which usually involves wearing down the opponent in a long game.

Perhaps this may sort of replace mech as the non-bio alternative.

Build order

Both players used different build orders. Unlike Maru, TY put down an Armory for a Hellbat attack before he put down the Starports. With that being said, the general build order is clear.

I will use a simplified build sequence to illustrate this instead of an actual build order. You can read more about the rationale here.

  • Reaper expand (you can do other expand openings)
  • into a standard 1-1-1 set up
    • Reactor Hellion
    • Focus on Liberator at this stage
  • Third Command Centre
  • Two Starport
    • Convergent point of 1-1-3 on three bases
    • Two Tech Lab and one Reactor for the Starport
    • Get cloak
  • Fusion Core (for Banshee upgrade)
  • Two Armory

This is the basic set up, and you can make changes accordingly like how TY mixed in an early Armory. The key is the convergent point of 1-1-3 on three bases. Subsequently, you just add more bases and more Starports like how you normally play out for any composition.

Ending words

I am skeptical whether this will become more mainstream because ByuL had shown that Hydralisk works really well. The testing with different composition based on this Sky Terran set up may actually bring mech back into the picture.

Moreover, the recent proposed changes to Banshee’s speed upgrade may encourage further experiment with this composition.

Banshee’s Hyperflight Rotors has changed:

  • Requirement changed from Fusion Core to Armory
  • Cost reduced from 200/200 to 100/100

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2 thoughts on “TvZ: Sky Terran Composition

  1. Grandiose article again. Especially your hint to the __may__ upcoming change to the Banshee speed upgrade. Btw Thors and Tanks (Medanks are off the table it seems) are getting a change too. Mech is back² fmpov. gg wp

    1. Liberator fills several roles that Sky Terran is actually playable now. Assuming the proposed changes do go through, I doubt it is going to have THAT much of an impact to this build and composition though.

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