TvT: 3CC Mass Cyclone

The mass Cyclone three Command Centre build is now one of the most common builds in the Terran mirror match up.

In my last article, I had discussed how influential Cyclone is in TvT. I briefly mentioned the mass Cyclone three Command Centre build in that article, and I want to dedicate a separate article for it.

In my opinion, uThermal’s version of the build is easiest to understand, so it is a good starting point for learning.

Build order

Opening: 15 gas Reaper expand

14 – Supply Depot
15 – Refinery
16 – Barracks
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 gas – Factory
@100 mineral – Supply Depot
@75 gas – Refinery
@100% Reaper – Reaper
@100% Factory – Cyclone
@50 gas – Reactor on Barracks

Build choice: early 3CC and mass Cyclone

@100% Reactor – Swap Factory onto Reactor for 2x Cyclone
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% Orbital Command), then Tech Lab on Barracks
39 – Supply Depot
@100% 2x Cyclone – 2x Cyclone
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter
Constant Marine production

Transition: Bio

@100 gas – Stim
@100% 2x Cyclone – Lift up Factory to build a Reactor; 2x Barracks: one on the unused Reactor and the other next to the Factory
@250 mineral – 2x Engineering Bay (@100% – +1/+1 Infantry upgrade)
@150 mineral – 2x Refinery
@100% 2x Barracks – Lift Factory to build a Reactor; Starport (next to Factory); Swap the Barracks with no add-on onto the unused Reactor
@100% Starport – Swap Starport onto Reactor for 2x Medivac; Tech Lab on Factory

This is the core of the build without any specific reaction to the opponent’s build. See vod below.

I made some minor adjustments to the notations so as to highlight the main build order. You need to make adjustments accordingly, for example, build an Engineering Bay early for Missile Turret against potential Banshee. I intentionally break down the above notation into three parts to demonstrate the build order block concept. This does not only make build order easier to understand, it also helps players to implement changes accordingly. For example, you can use the same build, and go for a mech transition instead by replacing the transition block with the one below.

Transition: mech

@150 mineral – 2x Refinery (3rd and 4th)
@100% 2x Cyclone – 2x Cyclone (6th and 7th)
@150 mineral – Factory (next to Barracks)
@150 mineral – Starport; Lift Barracks to build a Reactor next to Starport
@100% Factory – Swap it onto the unused Tech Lab for Siege Tank
@100% Starport – Swap it onto the new Reactor built by the Barracks for 2x Medivac

See vod below for an example of mech transition.

Discussion

I had already gone through the metagame of mass Cyclone in my last article, so I am just going to simply mention the selective things about the build per se.

The above build order uses the conventional 15 gas Reaper expand instead of the contemporary double Refinery Reaper expand. You can still go for a 3CC with mass Cyclone using the double Refinery Reaper expand, and I had somewhat covered it in the June 2018 MBO.

This 15 gas Reaper expand opening gets a second Reaper, which is common in TvT for this opening. You do not want to lose the early Reaper fight.

The transition to bio is interesting. The notation is comparable to the Reactor Hellion into three Command Centre in TvZ. You have the Factory on Reactor and the Barracks on Tech Lab (researching Stim) when the third Command Centre is building. Then, you build two more Barracks to have two on Reactor and one on Tech Lab. Lastly, you get a pair of Medivac from the Reactor Starport. This transition focuses on bio production to align with the Stim research timing. It allows players to move out with a group of Marines with Medivac and Stim (i.e., a power spike).

While the transition is smooth, it does not produce any Siege Tank in the process. This is a notable trade off of this build, because Siege Tank is a crucial unit in the mid game. The lack of Siege Tank in the build up to the mid game signals vulnerability against opponent’s Siege Tank push with Stim and Medivac. The below vod (timestamped) illustrates this very well.

This weakness can be circumvented by intelligent tactical choices based on the relative role of the two players in TvT. Fundamentally, the player who produced more Cyclone in the early game has the initiative. However, the role is swapped once the other player has produced enough Siege Tank to make a push in the early stage of the mid game. The player who invested heavily on Cyclone has to delay and weaken the Siege Tank push (watch the vods in the relative role article). This can be done by:

  • Positioning the Cyclones and Marines aggressively to force the opponent to siege up defensively. And,
  • Threaten to force an engagement when the push is moving out. This forces Tanks to be siege (you have to retreat when they do – repeat when they unsiege), and this buys time for your own Siege Tank to nullify the push.

This is a good build for bio, but it is a great build for mech. The mech transition has the same weakness in the mid game transition phase. In the vod below (timestamped), uThermal used the mobility of Medivac to drop Cyclone to hinder the move out push. The rationale is analogous to the one of the two Medivacs with two Thors drop in TvZ mech. Overall, this build allows you to get the early third Command Centre needed for mech, and it has arguably the best early game composition.

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6 thoughts on “TvT: 3CC Mass Cyclone

  1. Delaying tanks seems a bit risky in my Plat level mindset, although the value of cyclones early can be gamebreaking. TvT (and I believe other mirror matches too) seems to be a MU in which a well executed and agressive build could mean straight up wins or straight up losses, depending on execution quality.

    My last TvT to-go build was Air Superiority (PiG), but im really curious to try this one and check how a good agressive cyclone opening transitions with a 3CC. Specially because it seems almost as an opposite to having early tanks and vikings.

    BTW, I’ve been away from SC for a month or so. Your articles are always interesting enough to keep me reading and interested in the game, even when I’m not active in SC2. Thank you!

    Cheers from Brazil

    Kojak

    1. The cyclone heavy early game is completely different to the tank and viking style. You should give this a try. Quite often the best defence is good offence. Opponents often just build bunker and turtle up when they see you make multiple cyclone.

      I was told recently that terrancraft.com is often cited among the Brazil community. I’m really happy that the articles reach different places in the world.

  2. Hi Max,
    Finally feels like I can say something halfway accurate so here we go.
    The series between uthermal and heromarine was one of the most interesting TvT’s I have watched since coming back to the game. It was the first time that I got to see the heavy cyclone opener in professional play. At the time I was trying to figure out TvT. A week earlier a lot of people had mentioned that this was the best opener. There are even players that like to get +1 vehicle weapons with this and go up to 11+ cyclones.
    In game 1 I got scared for heromarine and uthermal seemed really strong. However during the series Heromarine adapted very well and eventually showed us precisely how to counter this style of playing:
    1) really early tech lab on barracks (this is usually considered greedy but gives you faster stim)
    2) he also went for a quick third cc
    3) push out when stim finishes with superior tank count

    My initial assumption was that this build is bad. Let’s just consider this as my hypothesis as I will try to explain.
    Why do we build Cyclones in TvT? They are simply put a necessity. The only unit that they are not good against are reapers but that is not the point here. So naturally you will build cyclones to be safe.
    If your opponent has fewer cyclones than you or does not have any cyclones at all you get to be the aggressor. Being the aggressor does usually not mean that you get to win the game with one attack. It means usually that you can deny the expansion for a bit or manage to force a worker pull at the natural.
    Okay from what I just said we can conclude that Cyclones are amazing at 3:00 to about 5:30. You might ask why they would only be good for 2 minutes. 5:30 is about the time where an early stim could finish or where there might the 2 sieged tanks instead of just one. Simply put when marines have stim cyclones become supply inefficient.
    Cyclones are also very expensive 150 minerals and 100 gas each. And they are built very early on in this build which does slow the bio/mech transition down. Because of the combined weight of the above-mentioned reasons I conclude that one should build as few cyclones as possible.
    I think the sweet spot is at around 3 to 5.

    Recently I’ve been watching Clem quite a bit. He plays a style which is very similar to how MMA plays. He will always get a medivac and tries to get maximal value out of his cyclones that way. That allows for fancy pick up micro drops and so on.
    To sum this up: I think mass cyclones is not really a thing. Yes a proxy 1 base cyclone build is scary but every 2 base cyclone timing will not outright kill the opponent. Cyclones are only as good as you control them. I like Cyclones drops and runbys to the natural while you drop the main.

    My final argument to my hypothesis is that there are simply much better ways to play quick 3 ccs. You can put a Reactor on the Barracks keep pumping out marines and get a quick Raven. Follow this up with a Viking and swap the Techlab on the Factory for an early tank.

    1. Yeah, the turtling on two bases with Tanks and move out with Stim and Medivac is the way to play against mass Cyclone. However, The Cyclone player also cuts Cyclone production to transition earlier to Marine and Tank as a response.

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