The new 15/16 Reaper expand Cyclone opening is the new standard macro opening in the Terran mirror match up. I will discuss how the metagame shapes this opening, and why it goes against the conventional knowledge of TvT.
14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 gas – Factory
@100% Reaper – Reactor (@100% – Marine production)
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100 mineral – Supply Depot
@100% Factory – Cyclone
@100 gas – Starport
In the vods below, both players are using this opening.
The double Reaper expand with Cyclone opening has received much attention since the last balance patch, and it has been cited on various forum as the “go-to build”. Its defining strength is its ability to have unrivalled early game control by getting the quickest Cyclone possible to partner with the two Reapers. This is by no mean an unorthodox opening that is specifically planned for an all-in or a map, and I have shown that it can highly flexible for other build order variations for a standard macro game. When I first posted about this build, I had shown my concern about how the strength of Cyclone in the early game may affect other options. I even drew comparison with the Hellbat mirror build in early days of Heart of the Swarm TvT, because the most effective way to deal with the Hellbat drop was to match it with your own Hellbat drop. Consequently, I concluded that it could mean that a more macro-oriented opening like a standard 15/16 Reaper expand opening may get pushed out of the metagame, and my followed up post on the observed TvT trends was also consistent with this conclusion. However, I was only half right as demonstrated by the opening I am discussing in this post.
This opening is an adaptation of the 15/16 Reaper expand opening and nothing changes until the Factory completes. When the Factory is done, you get a Cyclone immediately. The addition of Cyclone to this opening is an acknowledgement to the unrivalled early game strength of the unit, as it comes with a critical opportunity cost: delayed Starport. Starport is a match up defining building in TvT, and the fact that you would rather delay it in favour of a Cyclone speaks volume of its influence in the metagame (I will discuss about the Starport later). The Cyclone addition allows the 15/16 Reaper expand to be playable against the meta-defining double Reaper with Cyclone opening. A more economic build in the current metagame must be able to defend against the two Reaper and one Cyclone timing to be considered an option now, and I will explain how these two openings line up.
The above two vods are examples of how these two openings match up.
Without taking a second Refinery at 17 supply, you do not have enough gas to get a Reaper and a Factory when the Barracks is completed. The 15/16 Reaper expand that only has one Refinery taken early on put down the Factory later than the double Refinery opening. As a result, when both sides get a Cyclone immediately after the Factory is done, 15/16 Reaper expand’s Cyclone is always later than the double Refinery’s Cyclone as the latter has the earlier Factory. However, most importantly, when the Cyclone of the double Refinery opening player moves the Cyclone across the map to apply pressure, the relatively later Cyclone of the 15/16 Reaper expand is out in time to match up opponent’s timing. This essentially mitigates the strength of the double Refinery Reaper Cyclone opening, and the earlier Command Centre put you ahead economically.
With the 15/16 Reaper expand opening, You have 125 gas when the Factory completes, so you do not have enough gas for both Starport and Cyclone. In other words, you have to delay the Starport if you want to produce a Cyclone straightaway. The Starport is already later than the Starport of a double Refinery opening because of the later Factory, and the further delayed Starport put you in a very passive position. The relative timing of the Starport is one of the most defining factors of how builds interact in the Terran mirror match up, because it dictates who has the initiative. The player who has the initiative has the choice to be the offender in the early game, and this indirectly forces the other player to be on the reactive end. Therefore, the further delayed Starport of this opening is surrendering the initiative to the opponent in favour of being economically ahead.
Although it is normal to trade initiative for economical advantage, it is extremely uncommon to not tech up straight from Factory to Starport in TvT. This goes against the conventional knowledge of the match up. However, when you look deeper into the timings that the current double Refinery openings have, you will notice that the key threatening timings do not line up with the timing of the Starport like most TvT builds. Most TvT “offender” build involves getting a Medivac or a Banshee as the first Starport unit, and the first attack timing hits when that air unit reaches opponent’s base. The first timing of the current double Refinery opening hits when the Cyclone reaches the opponent side. There is no real second timing lined up with the Starport unless the player tech straight to Banshee when the Starport is done.
The updated 15/16 Reaper expand with Cyclone aligns the necessary defensive tools against these timings well. Like I have already discussed, the travel distance of the Cyclone allows you to have your own Cyclone in time to defend the first timing. The delayed Starport is not that late to the extent a Viking cannot match opponent’s air unit threat. In short, this is the defensive macro TvT build now.
Interestingly, despite the new Cyclone changes the TvT early game, the two before-the-patch standard macro openings simply add in a Cyclone or two in the current patch. There is no real big change. The previous 15/16 Reaper expand has become the one that I am discussing now, and the previous double Refinery Reaper Hellion has become the double Refinery Reaper Cyclone by replacing the Hellion with Cyclone. These two are the mainstream defensive and offensive macro openings respectively in the match up, and other builds like proxy or multiple Barraacks Reaper are still around.