Although patch 3.8 is still new, we can already observe several worth discussing trends in TvT.
Lack of mech
Blizzard made it clear that they want mech to be a viable option in every match up, and TvT is the most “mech-viable” match up. However, to my surprise, mech has revolutionalised the TvZ match up, but it is almost nonexistent in TvT in IEM recently. This phenomenon actually provides valuable insights for the consequence of the recent changes that is related to mech. In particular to TvZ, the redesign of Cyclone is at the core of the new mech style in TvZ as it fills an important void of the composition in the mid game. In contrast, Cyclone is rather awkward to include in the TvT mech composition, because it does not exactly have a role in the Tank-oriented battle. Tank is simply the alpha and omega of the match up, and it is hard to justify spending more or less the same amount of resource on Cyclone instead of Tank. Therefore, it begs the question: are the changes to the Tank alone enough to push mech to the front seat of the match up?
Here are the changes to the Tank.
- Health increased from 160 to 175*
- Sieged Siege Tanks can no longer be lifted by Medivacs
- Sieged Siege Tank Damage increased from 35 (+15 vs armored) to 40 (+30 vs armored)
- Crucio Shock Cannon attack speed decreased from one attack per 2 seconds to one attack per 2.14 seconds
In short, Tankivac is removed, and it is compensated by health and damage. Even though Tankivac has been cited as the reason for players to favor bio over mech, I have repeatedly said that I disagree with the reasoning. With that being said, I am in favor of removing Tankivac, as it contradicts the unit design of Tank by removing the weakness of immobility. Moreover, Tankivac defined the mirror match up so much that other options have no place in the early to mid game transition. Given that we have already seen a shift from bio to mech at the end of the last patch, it is logical to assume that the health and damage buff should further promote mech. Thus, it is very surprising that mech is taking a back seat in TvT. But why is that so?
There can be two reasons. First, mech is always a late bloomer in any patch, as it requires specific metagame considerations and counters. Mech is generally the defender in the mirror match up against bio, and it is difficult to mech when you don’t even know how the standard Marine Tank will play out in the new patch. Since the players have little time to practise and they have echoed that the metagame is at a very chaotic state, Marine Tank is simply the safer choice for the tournament. Indeed, it appears that players have not even figured out how to play against the newly developed opening in TvT, so it seems rather unreasonable to expect them to figure out how to mech. Second, the compensatory health and damage buff is basically a buff to bio, and the Tankivac removal does not really nerf bio. I have discussed previously how buffing mech units may indirectly buff the bio composition, because bio utilises mech units too. It is plausible, albeit highly debatable, that Marine Tank has become stronger because of the health and damage buff.
The first reason implies that we should all just wait and see, as mech will rise eventually. On the other hand, the second reason suggests that certain balance changes are required on Blizzard’s end. Judging from Blizzard’s latest community feedback post, they appear to be quite satisfied with the current state, so it is unlikely that there will be any major change upcoming. My opinion is that it is a combination of both, and I believe mech will become more popular than it is now in the near future once the metgame has stabilised.
Tech heavy builds
There were four main openings before patch 3.8.
The 15/16 Reaper expand is clearly an economic opening. The double Refinery Reaper Hellion has the flexibility of going for tech heavy or early expansion follow up, and the latter has become the norm in later part of the year. Multiple Barracks Reaper usually expands before tech up. Gas first fast tech was rarely seen.
However, this appears to have changed in patch 3.8, whereby players are delaying the expansion in favour of tech heavy options. Just to be clear, when I say tech heavy, I am referring to builds that get 1-1-1 before the second Command Centre is built. That usually means that the opening mines with two Refineries, and the trade off is not have enough mineral to put down a Command Centre until much later.
One of the main metagame openings is double Refinery Reaper Cyclone, and it does not take an early expansion. INnoVation’s version gets a Raven, then follow up with Viking production with Reactor. Based on the offender versus defender concept, the Raven can be swapped for cloak Banshee if opponent is using a build that has a later Starport than you. Maru was using this build against ByuN in the vod below (timestamped), while ByuN was using a two Barracks Reaper. Maru knew that he had the initiative as the offender since his Starport was down earlier than ByuN, he went for cloak Banshee instead of Raven.
Based on the same opening, ByuN has also came up with a variation by getting a Tech Lab instead of the second Reaper, this allows him to get a Banshee immediately after the Starport is completed (see vod below). The build order looks like this,
14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
17 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper, Orbital Command and Factory
20 – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Tech Lab
@100% – Factory – Cyclone, and Starport (build on the Tech Lab)
@50 gas – Reactor on Barracks, and Supply Depot
@100% Cyclone – Widow Mine
@100% Starport – Banshee and cloak upgrade
As I have explained in the other post, this opening tech up as quickly as a typical gas first fast tech opening, in other words, the timing of the Banshee with this build is as early as the gas first fast tech one. In fact, ByuN has also used a gas first fast tech Banshee build in game 1 of the same match (see vod below). Nevertheless, these converge to a trend of favoring tech heavy builds.
I went back to watch the qualifier games vod, and it is interesting to see how 15/16 Reaper expand was still the most common opening. INnoVation simply caught everyone off guard with the new build and destroyed them. Maru was using 15/16 Reaper expand in the qualifier and then caught up with metagame to use the new double Refinery Reaper Cyclone opening in the actual event. As you can see from the three vods above, he basically used the same build in all of them.
Also, I want to take this opportunity to update what I have mentioned in the post about this opening. In the vod below, TY pulled workers off gas to put down the Command Centre earlier, and that delayed the Starport by quite a bit. With the older version of this opening, you ensure you have more or less 100 gas for Starport after the Factory completes even when you pull workers off gas. In contrast, the 100 gas is spent on the Cyclone instead in this new version, and it is awkward to delay the Starport that much in TvT.
Defender advantage is generally strong in Terran mirror match because of Tanks, and this has become even stronger after Tank is being buff. I am sure you have experienced a situation in Marine Tank mirror that both sides siege up at a key location, and neither side wants to give that up for good reasons. Typically, players will load up small drops to harass the opponent’s mining bases while the big army is out there in the map. The defender advantage of Tank allows you to split up your army for drops, as it is disadvantageous for the opponent to attack into your Tank line even with a bigger army. Then, logically, you must not send too many supply for the drop and leave your Tank line too vulnerable as well.
In game 3 of ByuN versus Maru, the above scenario happened at one point, and something interesting happened (see vod below – timestamped). ByuN left his Tank line at the contested area, and moved a big chunk of his Marine and Medivac to attack Maru elsewhere. Normally, Maru could just swallow ByuN’s Tank line, and this will result in a base trade in favour of Maru. This is because Maru can siege up at ByuN’s production. However, in the actual game, ByuN’s Tank line was enough to hold off Maru’s attack.
I know that Maru did not execute the attack well, because he could have split up the Marine to form a better concave and the Raven’s Auto Turret timing could be improved. But I think ByuN should still have enough to defend that spot with a bit of reinforcement nevertheless. The main discussion point is ByuN’s choice to move that many supply of bio away so decisively, and it makes me wonder whether the stronger defender advantage may change how the match up will be played.
When you look closely to the transition into the mid game, the add on choices do support the argument that the patch 3.8 Tank strengthens the defender advantage enough to make a difference. Previously, the Barracks will have the Reactor on all the time during the transition period with 1-1-1 (although there can be minor variations), and Stim will only start when you have more than one Barracks. Now, in line with the tech heavy builds, Stim has started when there is only one Barracks, and the Reactor is often on the Starport for a period of time (see images below). This is a trend that I also observed when I watch the Korean pros stream recently. It implies that the Tank and Viking are capable to defend against the threats in the early game, and it supports the notion that defender advantage may have changed in the new patch.
Air control is an interesting thing in Marine Tank TvT. Medivac is always prioritised over Viking, because it simply complements the army composition better. Of course, Viking puts you in a better position when there is a Tank line battle scenario like the one I mentioned above, but this does not happen that often at higher level as players will try to out-manoeuvre each other instead. Generally, Viking is still an important unit in the early game, so that means its value generally diminishes as time goes by.
There is a trend started off at the end of last patch that you make the minimum number of Vikings for air control in the mid game and later. For instance, you only make a pair of Viking, and you use that to leap frog your Tanks. Usually, the opponent will try to counter that with two to four, but neither player really invests in Viking. This persisted for short period of time, and it did not become maintream. Interestingly, this trend continues in the current patch, and it is arguably more effective now since there is no Tankivac. This is because, you can mix in a Liberator to pick off Tank, which cannot be picked up in siege mode now. Below vods are some examples (all timestamped).
In the third vod, TY even made Thor to catch up on air control, because he lost all his Vikings early on. This shows that air control persists all game long in Marine Tank battle now. It got me asking myself why this only happens now when Marine Tank has been the main composition in TvT since Wings of Liberty. I think it is mainly due to the effectiveness of Liberator in siege line battle, as you don’t have to unsiege your Tank to do that. Also, Liberator does not require a Tech Lab, so it is a lot more convenient to adjust your production based on the situation to switch among Medivac (need a certain number), Viking (need for air superiority) and Liberator (to capitalise on air superiority). Such move is ineffective when Tankivac was still in the game, and this is the first time we have Liberator but no Tankivac.