Revolution of Cyclone

Cyclone is not the first unit to come to mind when you think about how the new Legacy of the Void units change the game, but this unit has been in the spotlight in some recent games. Incidentally, these new styles coincide with the announcement of the proposed balance changes, and I want discuss how that may revolutionalise the role of the unit.

I use the word “incidentally” and not “consequently” for a reason. The proposed changes are not imposed yet obviously, and it is extremely unlikely that players try things out in their important matches just because of a proposed change blog post.

Unit design

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The above image (taken from Liquipedia) shows the list of changes done to Cyclone so far. These changes show that Blizzard have a certain idea how the Cyclone should perform, and they try to fit that into the game. The first three changes were done before the expansion was officially released, and the fourth was the only one that happened as a patch after release. The rationale behind the reduced cost and increased supply was discussed in a blog post, see the quote below.

Goal here is to have them see more play in the early/mid games, but make sure mass Cyclone only strategy isn’t viable in the end game.

This quote shows that Blizzard intends to have Cyclone as a non-main composition unit. Two examples of such units are Swarm Host and Dark Templar. I think that is fine, as I generally agree with the thinking that units can have specific niche roles. The explanation in the recent proposed changes also suggests that Blizzard have no intention to move away from this direction, albeit they emphasise on a redesign (see below quote).

The unit will remain fragile for its cost, but will have a fast movement speed. This way, the Cyclone can combo well with the Hellion early-on in order to defend additional bases or to keep the opponent contained while playing a more aggressive style.

A few months ago, I would have said that they weren’t too successful in the design of the Cyclone based on what we had observed in the professional scene. The role of Cyclone did not change in TvT, and it remains a mobile defensive unit in the early game. However, the recent games have shown signs that Cyclone may actually revolutionalise both TvP and TvZ.

Terran vs. Protoss

Mech is usually considered noncompetitive in the TvP match up, but we still see players try to pull one off in professional games once in a while. More often than not, the Terran player will fail so miserably that you wonder what he planned to do anyway. Recently, INnoVation attempted to mech it work in an important TvP game against arch-rival KT Rolster in Proleague. The result was not surprising, but his approach was very refreshing (see vod below).

Although one can be more aggressive with mech in the early to mid game transition, the game plan is typically to sit back and get the “most cost effective” composition possible. Since INnoVation got dismantled by Stats’ Oracle harassment and Adept attack early on, it is not clear if INnoVation wanted to sit back and mech up in the mid game. However, it is clear that mass Cyclone is a big part of the plan, and it is plausible that Cyclone is planned to be used as a core unit in the composition.

INnoVation opened with a gas first Cyclone expand, which is quite popular recently, and I think it is fair to say GuMiho is the one who popularised it. Even if you don’t intend to play mech, the Cyclone opening is still considered a solid macro opening in TvP. In case you have missed my earlier posts, I have discussed how GuMiho was innovating the TvP openings, which had been considered a problem.

The vod above shows how INnoVation used the gas first Cyclone expand opening into a standard bio composition. He accidentally lost his Cyclone on the ramp (well played by Patience), so it is hard to evaluate how he intends to use his Cyclone. One thing is clear though, the Cyclone is an extremely important piece in his opening, as he delays his expansion to get the Cyclone out as early as possible. Generally, when a player goes tech heavy early at the expense of economy, the goal is to use the tech units to deal damage to opponent. Based on what we have seen in GuMiho’s Cyclone opening games, the unit is used as a control unit and not as a damage unit. An example of damage unit is an early Banshee, and you have to deal certain damage to justify the opportunity cost. The fact that INnoVation transitioned directly to three Barracks showed that he did not intend to be aggressive with the Cyclone early on.

In contrast, INnoVation used Cyclone to all-in against Trust the next day (see vod above). This is not the first time we see Cyclone being used early on for an all-in, but it is usually complemented by Tank and Marine (see vod below). As StriKE has highlighted, whether there is a ramp at the natural is critical to effectiveness of Cyclone, and hence, maps like Frozen Temple are more suitable for such all-in builds in general. This is because the lack of ramp at the natural reduces the defender’s vision advantage. INnoVation’s all-in with Cyclone and Widow Mine against Trust seem very awkward to me, and I am not sure why he thought this gave him a better chance to win the game than other more orthodox builds. When I look through INnoVation’s recent TvP games, it is evident to me that he understood something that many of us don’t, because he broke many presumptions we have about the match up.

INnoVation’s choice to get the Mag-Field Accelerator upgrade is exciting. Like me, you may not even know what this upgrade is, it is basically an upgrade that increases Cyclone’s Lock On damage against armored targets. When you look at the list of armored units, you will notice that Adept and Oracle are not labelled as armored. Thus, it does not appear that the upgrade is aimed for an early game advantage against these common Protoss units at that time frame. I understand that the upgrade makes the Lock On strong against Warp Prism and buildings, so it either is a “why-not” upgrade if you intend to use it as a core unit, or you plan to snipe buildings with Cyclones.

On paper, I can see how mass Cyclone can be used against Adept due to the superior speed (4.72 for Cyclone and 3.5 for Adept). If Cyclone and Adept are battling in an open area, Cyclone can Lock On and kite all day. However, as the Stats versus INnoVation game has shown us, Cyclone is not effective against Adept when there is no room to micro. Therefore, mass Cyclone is effective when you are being aggressive on opponent’s side of the map, and this allows you to maximise the value of Cyclone. A Nexus can easily be taken down with Lock On with Mag-Field Accelerator upgrade with a few Cyclone.

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All in all, I think there is still a long way to go before mass Cyclone mech can become a thing in TvP, but I am convinced that it is a strong control unit early on in small number. However, to my surprise, GuMiho preferred to use Command Centre first openings in his recent GSL games against MyuNgSiK (see vod below). Interestingly, TY picked that up and used the Cyclone opening in his GSL games last night against Dear (vod is not available on youtube yet). In game 4 on Frozen Temple, he followed it up with an early third Command Centre, then converged back to a bio composition. In game 2, TY used a build that resembles his classic defensive three Command Centre build with the Cyclone. The opening in game 4 is the same as the one INnoVation used against Stats, but he did not opt for something as adventurous as INnoVation did. I believe the core of the opening is solid.

Terran vs. Zerg

Cyclone was briefly used with Hellion in the early game when Legacy of the Void was just released, but it did not catch up because of Roach and Ravager attacks. As you can see from the quote I mentioned above, Blizzard want Cyclone and Hellion to complement each other. As it stands now, Cyclone is not a popular option in TvZ in general. However, the SKT Terran players seem to have discovered a new play style with Cyclone, and they converge to a mech composition. Interestingly though, the Sky Terran composition is more popular than the traditional mech composition in Legacy of the Void TvZ. Therefore, I was shocked to see both Dream and INnoVation pulled mech out against KT Rolster in the Proleague recently (see vods below).

If you told me that they went mech, I would expect the opening to be Hellion heavy with air support from Banshee or Liberator. Contrary to my expectation, both went for a gas first Cyclone opening, and moved on to a Hellion and Cyclone combo that Blizzard are advocating. Theoretically, the Hellions are used against Zerglings and Banelings, and the Cyclones Lock On to other units like Queens.

Not surprising, they quickly transit to Tank production, because Hellions and Cyclones just don’t scale well with army supply against Zerg. Limited to only these two games, the early game goal is to attack the third Hatchery, and the metagame Zergling and Queen heavy style is weak against the Hellion and Cyclone combo. Similar to the Cyclone versus Adept situation, this composition is rewarding when you are being aggressive on opponent’s side, as that allows you to fully utilise the mobility. This is consistent with the two games above, whereby the combo was more effective in INnoVation’s game when Losira was more passive than in Dream’s game when Leenock used an early Lair build.

I think the Cyclone and Hellion combo in TvZ early game has more potential than mass Cyclone in TvP. Tonight, INnoVation will play in the SHOUTcraft King of the Hill as the reigning king, so we may see more of these new styles soon.

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4 thoughts on “Revolution of Cyclone

    1. Maybe I should have waited for the shoutcraft games before I post this. The disruptors are so effective. I’m just as surprised as ryung was to see that many cyclones in TvT.

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