TvP: A Shift in Mid Game Goals

There is a shift in how Terran players approach the mid game in TvP.

You folks voted for a TvP on the Facebook poll, so here it is. Occasionally, I do a poll to ask readers to vote which article they want me to post next. You can like my Facebook page to participate.

Current state

The current state of TvP is heavily debated in the community. I think Blizzard’s most recent community feedback is pretty spot on. The Disruptor change is huge, and the current mid game is a lot more playable than the last patch. I don’t have a strong opinion about the Tempest now.  In this discussion, I want to focus on the early game. Blizzard highlighted two points about the early game, and I quote:

  • Some Protoss players have commented that it can be difficult to discern between the various all-ins and fake all-ins.
  • Some Terrans have indicated that proxy play feels like the safest option to secure a low ground expansion against fast Adepts.

Proxy is uncommon now. I’m not surprised Terran move away from proxy strategies, because the new Cyclone does not create as many varieties as the old Cyclone. Most current proxy builds are in fact fake proxy, which means they basically tech up first then expand. Consistent with this assessment, the two proxy builds that I previously discussed both fall under the fake proxy category (read this and this). The only notable all-in that is based on proxy is Cyclone and Widow Mine push, to the best of my knowledge (for reference). Overall, as shown in the recent TvP games (see vods below), Terran players generally opt to not proxy and go back to typical one Barracks expand openings.

The second point Blizzard brought up is about Terran stabilising on two bases in the early game. Many points brought up in this reddit thread specifically mention about the early game. I don’t agree with some of the things mentioned, but here is a summary of the key concerns:

  • Macro versus macro is in Protoss’ favour.
  • Protoss have many options in the early game.
  • Terran do not have a reliable way to scout after Reaper.
  • Protoss have better late game with Tempest and High Templar.
  • Mules are inferior to Chronoboost.

Let’s be honest. If things are truly as bad as many suggested, the game is completely unplayable. That is obviously not true. Nevertheless, there are several points worth discussing.

Right before patch 4.7.1, Terran’s most popular option was proxy. I argued that, proxy as the mainstream strategy is a sign that Terran players perceive they are at a disadvantage to begin with. This is because, proxy is a high risk high reward choice, and this implies Terran rather roll the dice than to play at a handicap. I concluded that proxy is simply the outcome of a lopsided macro game script, and Blizzard should focus on the cause instead of the symptom. There are multiple reasons why Terran think they are at a disadvantage in a standard macro game (I discussed this briefly in the past). I just want to talk about a few specific point.

As mentioned in Blizzard’s feedback, Terran pro players find it difficult to secure the low ground. Protoss have two aggressive options to attack Terran’s natural while the Command Centre is building. One is to proxy a second Gateway, and the other is to put down the Cybernetics Core before the Nexus. The former is a semi-cheese, so it is only fair that Terran take certain amount of damage for Protoss’ investment. The latter is an economic opening, which can be scouted by Scv. I talked to different people about Protoss’ Cybernetics Core first opening versus Reaper expand, and the answers I got range from “very tough for Terran” to “playable”. Interestingly, how the pro players played recently seems to fall nicely within this range too (I also watched their streams). They experimented with different openings to deal with various forms of early aggression, and sometime they just fell apart and struggled to expand.

I had mentioned multiple times in the past that the old Cyclone played an extremely important role in securing the low ground, and the change could make it even harder for Terran to play a macro game. While the Cyclone change is overall a positive one, it makes it harder for Terran in this specific stage of the game against Protoss. It appears that my concern is justified.

The other issue with the current TvP is the limitation of attacking options. I know you maybe nodding your head and think that, TvP late game is good for Protoss (Tempest and High Templar), so Terran must attack early. This is actually different to my understanding, as I think the late game is playable for Terran. However, while this sounds like I’m echoing Gemini’s sentiment that Terran need not to attack, I do not believe not attacking is a realistic option. If each race is left alone to do what they want, Terran is the worst race. This is because Terran’s linear production design cannot match up with the larva system and Chronoboost, so Terran by design are forced to be the proactive side. We see Terran players insist on executing a standard mid game attack with Stim, Medivac, and Siege Tank, even though they get shut down hard time after time. Since Terran have no choice but to attack, what can Terran do? This leads to my next discussion point.

What Terran pros are doing now

Terran pro players still attack, but they shift their mid game goals. The old school mid game goal is always to move out with with Stim and Medivac. In Legacy of the Void, Terran usually hit a timing at the third. This is well countered by the mass Gateway units mid game style, which has become even more popular after Protoss players witnessed its success in the Global Finals 2018. The common follow up to this Gateway heavy mid game is High Templar and Storm.

Early timing

Recently, Terran players come up with two different timings against this Protoss heavy Gateway style. The first one is to hit a timing before Protoss’ Gateway spike with Twilight Council upgrades. The attack is essentially a two base timing with Marines, Siege Tanks, and Banshees. See vod below for an example.

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% – Constant Marine production)
22 – Supply Depot, then Refinery
@100% Factory – Tech Lab and Starport
@100% Tech Lab – Siege Tank
@100% Starport – Tech Lab and Refinery
38 – Supply Depot
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter.
@100% Tech Lab – Banshee
@100% Siege Tank – Siege Tank (when you can afford it)
@100% Banshee – Banshee
@100% Siege Tank – Siege Tank

Commence attack when the second Banshee appears. Pull some workers. Rally Siege Tank, Banshee, and Marine across the map for the push.

The build itself is simple, but some adjustments are needed based on Protoss’ tech choice. A Cyclone is necessary against Stargate opening. This is like the old school 1-1-1 push in Wings of Liberty.

Delayed timing

The other option is to delay the usual push timing but attack before Psi Storm is ready. Since you do not go for the standard mid game Stim timing, the third Command Centre is built before the second and third Barracks. See vod below.

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% – Constant Marine production)
22 – Supply Depot, then Refinery
@100% Factory – Tech Lab and Starport
@100% Tech Lab – Cyclone
@100% Starport – Tech Lab
38 – Supply Depot
Build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter.
@100% Tech Lab – Raven
@125 gas – Siege Tank
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100% Siege Tank – Siege Tank (@100% – Lift up Factory)
@300 mineral – Lift up Starport and place Barracks on Tech Lab (research Stim); 2x Barracks (one on Reactor; lift the other onto Tech Lab used by Factory)
@150 mineral – 2x Refinery
When you can afford – Engineering Bay (@100% – +1 Infantry attack) and 2x Barracks
Converge to a 5-1-1 with the standard three Tech Lab Barracks (research Combat Shield and Concussive Shell), two Reactor Barracks, Reactor Factory, and Reactor Starport. Produce the usual bio, Widow Mine, and Medivac.

Attack with everything you have when +1 Infantry attack is about to complete, which should be around 7:30. Again, some adjustments have to be made early on depending on Protoss’ build and decisions. For example, you can change Cyclone for Widow Mine.

I have not put this build up on Spawning Tool, because it is too much work I want to leave it for the January Metagame Build Orders entry.

Looking forward

I don’t think TvP is as bad as many say, but the early game can definitely improve. Specifically, regarding the two points brought up by Blizzard, they are “considering attacking this issue from two angles, both by weakening proxy openers and making macro openers more robust.” I doubt proxy is an issue, as its popularity is at its lowest since its rise to prominence last year. Then, what can Blizzard do to make macro openings more robust?

The fact that the identified issue occurs in the early game makes it extremely difficult to address. The certainty of our claims about an identified problem should decrease according to how late the problem occurs. That is, we should have higher certainty in our argument about a problem in the early game than a problem in the late game. This is because there are fewer variables interacting with each other, and it is relatively easy to conclude the results of certain decisions made in the early game. Thus, if Blizzard and many of us identify that there are issues in the early game, it is very unlikely we misunderstood the situation. However, while we have high certainty, the number of things that can be considered “changeable” is very limited. For example, we cannot increase the attack of Marine by one or decrease the build time of Adept. Any minor change to basic units can break the game. I do not have an answer myself, and I won’t be surprised that Blizzard do not make a change about the early game due to the potential risks.

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3 thoughts on “TvP: A Shift in Mid Game Goals

  1. Thanks for these posts, I’m a recently returning player and have been planning to copy some of these builds I’ve been seeing on these players’ streams. TvP feels tough for me and a coinflip of a matchup, but these should help a lot for a player of my level. I guess I’m not used to the new metagame of the matchup even though I only stopped playing 1-2 seasons ago.

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