TvT: Double Refinery Reaper Cyclone

The Reaper Cyclone opening is considered to be the meta-defining opening in patch 3.8 TvT now with INnoVation having an absurd win rate using it. I will break down the opening and discuss INnoVation’s follow up build.

Patch 3.8 Cyclone in TvT

Blizzard made it clear that they want mech to be a viable option in every match up, and Cyclone is redesigned with that in mind. If there is a match up that mech excels, it has to be the Terran mirror match. While it is unclear how the new Cyclone will fit in the mech composition with the limited games played in such a short period of time, it has definitely changed the dynamic of the early game.

The Cyclone is unrivalled in terms of its health, dps and production requirement (no Tech Lab) in the early game. It is strong enough that it reminds me of Hellbat in the early days of Heart of the Swarm, whereby the early game is dominated by the Hellbat drop build. It is so superior over other alternatives that you were shortchanging yourself if you did not use it.

I am not saying the Cyclone is as overpowered as the old Hellbat, as I think this opening is not that unplayable for other alternatives. Most importantly, since the impact is in the early game, it is a lot easier to be conclusive on whether the unit is healthy for the match up. In comparison to the old Hellbat, Cyclone does not transition as smoothly into the main army composition beyond the early game, and this may change when players figure out how to play mech in TvT. Other expansion oriented openings can play against this by being more cautious, and I will discuss that later.


This is essentially the double Refinery Reaper Hellion opening, and you simply replace the Hellion with the new Cyclone. I will not discuss in detail about the game plan and rationale again here, so I recommend you to read about the opening in the original article.

14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
17 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper, Orbital Command and Factory
20 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Reaper
@100% Factory – Cyclone and Starport

I know I am repeating myself, but again it is important to differentiate openings from builds, and this is an opening. The reason I highlight this again is that, I predict this opening will stay in the metagame, but the subsequent follow up variations will evolve. Thus, the opening will be the same, but the build will be different. Of course, it is possible that Blizzard will make changes to the unit, but it is going to be a tough job as it affects other match ups too.

Execution and build interaction

The execution is simple: attack with two Reapers and a Cyclone when you have the units at 3:00. As of current understanding, this matches up against the mainstream 15/16 Reaper expand better than the two Reapers and a Hellion opening. The vod below shows how these two openings interact when the two Reapers and a Cyclone opening player attacks (timestamped).

It is important to note that, the attack in the above vod is delayed due to the map size and spawn distance, so the outcome could have been different. If the attack hits at around 3:00 to 3:15 for a more typical spawn distance, the 15/16 Reaper expand player will only have one production cycle after the Reactor and Factory are completed. Depending on whether the Reactor is switched onto the Factory, the player will have either one Reaper, two Marines and one Hellion, or one Reaper and two Hellions, and the battle is definitely in favor of the Cyclone player. The only option for the defending 15/16 Reaper expand player is to use the advantage of the ramp, so it is important to position the units correctly as shown on INnoVation’s stream (cropped). You can watch the full game here.

Build variation

INnoVation’s build variation is the most discussed, and we may see other variations this weekend in IEM Gyeonggi. Before I discuss INnoVation’s build, I want to highlight one key feature of this opening, which limits its subsequent build options.

In the double Refinery Reaper Hellion opening post (link it here again), I mentioned that there are two main follow up build paths. One is to continue to be aggressive, and the other is to prioritise economy. The latter requires you to remove workers from the Refineries in order to have the mineral for a Command Centre, and this is not an option for this two Reapers and a Cyclone opening. Unlike a Hellion, a Cyclone requires gas, so you cannot pull Scv out of the Refinery early. Thus, this key feature of this build delays the Command Centre for early aggression, and it does not have the ambiguity advantage of the two Reapers and a Hellion opening.

INnoVation’s core build is as followed,

14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
17 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper, Orbital Command and Factory
20 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Reaper
@100% – Factory – Cyclone and Starport
27 – Supply Depot
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter
@100% Reaper – Tech Lab
@100% Cyclone – Hellion
@100% Tech Lab – Swap Starport on Tech Lab for a Raven
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command), then Reactor on Barracks
@100% Hellion – Tech Lab (@100% – Tank)
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine
@100% Raven – Viking
@100% Viking – Swap Starport on Reactor for Vikings, and swap Barracks on Tech Lab

He keeps producing Vikings with the Reactor, and goes for a timing with two Tanks, six Vikings, one Raven, and all other units. Assault mode Vikings’ attack is now +8 against mechanical units after the patch, and hence, this timing is very strong against Hellion heavy build which is often used by mech. The Auto Turret damage buff should not be underestimated in this timing too. Below is another vod of this build (different timestamp from the above one),

This opening is definitely viable for both bio and mech, and INnoVation’s build can also easily transition into either bio or mech. As I have stated early on, I think this opening will remain an option, but the follow up build variations will be shaped based on the metagame. This is definitely something to look out for in IEM this weekend.

If you enjoyed this article, I’d love you to share it with one friend. You can follow me on Twitter and Facebook. If you really like my work, you can help to sustain the site by contributing via PayPal and Patreon. See you in the next article!

2 thoughts on “TvT: Double Refinery Reaper Cyclone

  1. In the Jjakji video they don’t even spot the early reaper battle where Innovation kills Jjakji’s only reaper. That made Innovation’s build so much more effective.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s