It seems that there is a “resurgence” of mass Widow Mine drop in TvP recently. The build could be a good option for the standard 1-1-1 paradigm in the metagame.
History of Widow Mine drop in TvP
I am going to summarise the history of Widow Mine drop in TvP, as it lays the foundation to understand and appreciate the build I’m discussing.
Widow Mine was introduced in Heart of the Swarm, and it quickly became part of the mainstream TvP one Barracks expand into 1-1-1 Widow Mine build. The build is very straight forward. You simply load up two Widow Mine and four Marine to drop, then put down two more Barracks to transition into 3-1-1. It was the most used build in the first notable Heart of the Swarm tournament (MLG Winter Championship in 2013). Many Terran players were using this build in almost every TvP for several months that Protoss players just blindly (and effectively) countered it. The series between INnoVation and NaNiwa below is a great example of Protoss were countering this build.
Multiple Barracks era
This build slowly got replaced by the one Barracks (usually Reaper) expand into three Barracks builds (e.g., standard Medivac move out and early timing variations). This trend persisted into 2014 as TvP was mainly about dealing with Blink Stalkers for majority of the year. The two main builds at that time were the three Barracks variations and the early upgrade build, because Terran need more units against Blink Stalkers. While the 1-1-1 variations did not make a come back, there were 3-1-0 builds that mix in Widow Mines to defend.
As the Blink Stalker get nerfed directly and indirectly (maps) at the second half of 2014 , the metagame slowly shifted when Terran players start to utilise 1-1-1 more to mix things up. You read about the trend at that time in this article. TaeJa even popularised the unorthodox gas first Widow Mine drop with late expansion build back then (Part 1 and Part 2).
From the Protoss perspective, the key is to scout whether Terran pull Scvs off gas after the Reaper expand opening. Generally, if Terran pull Scvs off gas, it is usually three Barracks variation. Of course, occasionally, Terran put down the third Command Centre for the mind game. If Terran did not pull Scvs off gas, Protoss knew it is 1-1-1 and they had to prepare for potential drop. After Protoss had defended against the drop, the game slowed down both sides would macro up until Terran moved out at around 10:00~11:00 with bio and Medivac.
The new Widow Mine drop era arrived in December 2014 when the CJ Entus Terran found the gap of the above metagame pattern. They went for the old school 1-1-1 Widow Mine drop build I mentioned at the start of this post. Importantly, however, they made a twist to the subsequent build order, which later became the metagame build. They did not stop at one drop, but they continuously dropped Widow Mines and Marines at the two mineral lines by constantly producing Medivacs, Widow Mines, and Marines. Protoss players did not expect subsequent drop as it was the norm to only make one drop and transition since the start of Heart of the Swarm. This revolutionalised the match up! The below vod was the first time this build was televised, and you could tell the Protoss players were surprised.
This quickly became the TvP build in early 2015. The build was so influential that I wrote three articles about how it evolved in the first half of 2015. In part 1, I explain the basics of the build, and how to execute it in a sequential manner by forcing Photon Overcharge before the first drop hits. In part 2, the interactions with the various mainstream Protoss builds were discussed. Finally, in part 3, I talked about how Protoss players adapt to the Widow Mine drop build. There was a wide range of builds from both Terran and Protoss to keep the match up interesting. Nevertheless, Stargate build into Phoenixes was considered the best counter for the Widow Mine drop build.
At the end of the third article, I highlighted that there was specific a “mass Widow Mine drop” build that diverged from the “standard” build. The standard build produces Marines from a Reactor Barracks, and Widow Mines from Factory without add-on. The “mass” version has the Reactor on the Factory instead, and it focuses on dropping a high number of Widow Mines. As counter intuitive as it sounds, this is arguably a response to the Phoenix trend. The vod below is the famous game between Maru and MyuNgSiK. I suggest reading the third article of Widow Mine drop to understand the rationale behind the build variations and interactions better.
Legacy of the Void
At the beginning of Legacy of the Void, the talk of the match up was Adept. There was no room for Widow Mine drop, as it was all about surviving the Adept which two-shot Scvs and Marines. After the nerf to Adept, the Widow Mine build was one of the many things that Terran experimented in the development of the “new standard build”. After much trial and error for months, ByuN popularised the 1-1-1 Widow Mine drop into mid-game Tank push meta, and that was arguably the first time Widow Mine drop was really considered the metagame build in Legacy of the Void.
However, the Widow Mine build was not exactly the gem of the build, as the focus was the subsequent Tank push which was the talk of the match up. Nevertheless, it was the best build to set up the Tank push, and it also served scouting purposes indirectly. The other important function of the Widow Mine drop was to force Protoss to react by pulling their Oracle home to reveal the Widow Mine, and this build interaction sets the foundation of TvP early game.
Everything changed when Blizzard made Widow Mine visible when it was under cooldown in the redesign patch at the end of 2017. Widow Mine drop lost much of its indirect power to hinder Protoss, and the new Stalkers basically sealed the fate of this build.
TvP is in a weird place now. It is considered a Protoss favored match up (yes, I say it). The thing is, again, there is no “standard” build in TvP. The 1-1-1 Widow Mine drop is always an option though, but it does not match up well to the common Protoss builds. The below vod is a game between INnoVation and herO in the recent tournament in China. You can see how the standard Widow Mine drop just plays into Protoss’ hands. This leads to the current mass Widow Mine drop build (good job in surviving the history lesson).
Mass Widow Mine drop
Standard vs. mass
I believe it is important to clarify on what is considered “mass” Widow Mine drop. To me at least, mass Widow Mine drop is when Widow Mines are produced with Reactor, while the “standard” version is to have the Reactor on the Marine.
The implication of having the Reactor on Barracks versus Factory is huge. The Marines are very important in defending all sort of small pokes from Protoss (e.g., Adept, and Oracle) in the early game. Let say the opponent uses a Stargate opening, you have to sit the Widow Mines in base to defend. This makes it hard to make the best out of the investment in Widow Mines as you want to use them offensively instead. In the vods I am going to show below, the Widow Mines are successful in catching the Oracle most of the time, so that makes the build looks even better. The “light on bio units” issue is most glaring when the Widow Mines make their one way trips to the Protoss base, and Protoss send a few Gateway units to your natural.
In the vod below (timestamped at the exact moment), Maru appeared to have defended the small attack perfectly. However, the situation could have been very different if Dear executed it better to target the Bunker down before the Scvs could even make it there to repair it. Also, the Widow Mine drop on the units was a little bit “lucky”, the Medivac could be else where if the attack hit at a slightly different timing.
From a build order and production perspective, mass Widow Mine drop was less smooth before the recent rework patch that reduces the unit’s build time to compensate the detection change. It basically turned Widow Mine into a spam-and-one-time-use unit. In the past, Widow Mine (29 sec) and Medivac (30 sec) have more or less the same build speed, so a Medivac is produced for every two Widow Mines produced (with Reactor on Factory). A 1:2 ratio is not ideal as you want to load four Widow Mine into a Medivac (i.e., 1:4). The improved production speed of the current Widow Mine (21 sec) makes this a 1:3 ratio, which is significantly closer to the ideal 1:4. In fact, the old mass Widow Mine drop made some minor changes to the build order to pause the Medivac production occasionally in order to balance the production ratio (read the articles I linked earlier).
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 mineral – Supply Depot
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Factory – Swap Factory onto Reactor (produce a pair of Hellion), Starport
@100 % 2x Hellion – 2x Widow Mine (continuous production)
@100% Starport – Medivac (continuous production), Tech Lab on Barracks, Supply Depot
This is the basic build order. Add two more Barracks and start Stim (after second Medivac) when you can afford to. Put down a Bunker at the natural, as it helps with the counter attack I mentioned earlier. Then, transition to a standard 3-1-1.
The two vods below are some recent examples from INnoVation.
First, I want to add that the build order was used occasionally earlier this year (I can’t find the vods), but the players only did a one time drop. Recently, however, Terran players started to commit with more Widow Mine drops by continuing to produce more Widow Mines (Reactor) and Medivacs. If you did not skip the history section I have written above, you would notice that the similar pattern occurred in December 2014. Terran change things up by having more drops to follow up from the first one, and this seemingly simple move often catches Protoss players by surprise. They do not expect the subsequent drops, so they put their attention elsewhere. The other worth noting point on why this build is easy to catch Protoss off guard is the audio warning (or the lack of it). A “standard” Widow Mine drop usually load up some Marines too, and the attack from the Marines usually triggers audio warning to alert the Protoss player to pull the Probes away. The mass Widow Mine drop build does not drop Marines, so there is no audio warning until the Widow Mines have already fired.
The surprise element is best demonstrated in the vod below. Dear defended the first drop, but he did not react at all to the second. Ka-boom.
The execution is newbie friendly. Just drop and burrow.
Of course, if you have the micro skill, you can delay mining for as long as possible by using tricks like unburrow-reburrow or retarget. You can also pick up the Widow Mines if the situation allows you to do that. In short, you should just treat the Widow Mines as expendable, and everything else is bonus. If you can have the Widow Mines hit the Stalkers, that is already profit.
The two Hellions could be timed to attack together with the first drop. You can use the Hellions to draw Protoss’ attention to the natural, while you plant your Widow Mines in the main. However, the Hellions may not have the opportunity to run in before showing the Medivac, because the Protoss players wall off with buildings and units. Thus, alternatively, you can drop in the main to draw the units away from the natural, then move your Hellions in to the natural. You can make the choice to move the Hellions to the main too, as the pulled-away Probes usually group together for nice Hellion shots.
Also, I think it is better to commit to more drops than to transition earlier to 3-1-1. Terran is very vulnerable in the transition phase with this build. The drops are necessary to pin Protoss in their base while you transition. In the vod below, Bunny transitions too early, and he also starts the Stim before the second Medivac. Thus, he could not pile up the pressure for the build to shine.
Why use this build in the current metagame? As of now (before the upcoming patch), Terran are struggling against Protoss in the early-mid game (which obviously affects late game), as Protoss can get away with a much earlier third than Terran (before 4:00) and also with double Forge. This can be attributed to the lack of good attack timings in this time frame. This mass Widow Mine drop forces Protoss to make more units than they would like, and this helps to slow Protoss down. It also forces macro mistakes, as Protoss have to pull workers away and micro accordingly.
A little bit side track, INnoVation played his series well against DoKyung in GSL. After using this build multiple times, he opened up with the same Reactor on Factory build. But he changed things up by making two Cyclones instead. DoKyung saw the add-on set up, and subsequently prepared for the potential Hellion run-by by positioning the Adepts at the entrance of the natural. Then, the two Cyclones caught him off guard and that more or less ended the game. See the vod below.
I will end this post by saying that, as I was writing the history of Widow Mine drop in TvP, I realised I have unintentionally documented the metagame history of all three Terran match ups in TerranCraft. It is nice to walk down the memory lane and see how things have evolved over time as I read my old articles. Six years!
Oh, I almost forget to mention. I wrote this post because you voted TvP when I asked which match up I should write. You guys really love this match up, don’t you.