TvP: Learning INnoVation’s Builds

Many asked me about the recent TvP builds INnoVation were using in GSL, after all he was the only Terran player in this GSL playoff. I will break down the key points and discuss the wider implications.

This article was voted over a piece about Warp Prism by the readers.

The build that received the most attention was the one INnoVation used against Stats multiple times in ro16. He did not use that build in his games against Trap in ro8. I will start off by discussing the build INnoVation used against Stats, then I discuss how and why things were different in the games against Trap.

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
21 – Bunker*
@100% Reaper – Reactor (@100% – constant Marine production)
22 – Supply Depot
@100 gas – Factory
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Factory – Starport and Widow Mine
@100% Widow Mine – Widow Mine
39 – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100% Starport – Medivac and Barracks; Tech Lab on Factory
@100% Tech Lab – Siege Tank and Refinery
@100% Medivac – Tech Lab
@100% Tech Lab – Raven and Barracks
@100% Siege Tank – Swap 2nd Barracks onto Factory’s Tech Lab and research Stim; Engineering Bay (@100% – +1 Infantry attack; build another Tech Lab with Factory
@100% Tech Lab – Siege Tank and Refinery
@100% Raven – Swap third Barracks onto Tech Lab of Starport (start Combat Shield upgrade); build a Reactor with Starport
@100% Siege Tank – Siege Tank
@100% Reactor – 2x Medivac

Hit a timing with Stim, Combat Shield, +1 attack, 3x Tank, 2-3x Medivac (depending on whether you lost the first Medivac for the drop), and a Raven.

The build starts with a 16 Refinery Reaper expand, and it goes into a 1-1-1 with a basic Widow Mine drop. It then transitions to a standard 3-1-1 with a Raven and multiple Siege Tanks. I put an asterisk on the Bunker in the build order, because the timing of the Bunker could be delayed if Protoss uses a more economical opening. You can read more about the details of the Bunker in this article.

Coincidentally, I was using this as my go-to build last month. After comparing INnoVation’s add-on switching order, I think his is better than mine. So what is so special about this build? Nothing. There is nothing special about the 16 Reaper opening, the choice to put down the Reactor immediately after the Reaper instead of getting is well explained in the article I linked in the last paragraph. Going for a 3-1-1 convergent point is again pretty standard. Perhaps the only two things worth discussing are the Widow Mine drop and Raven plus Siege Tank tech path.

After reading some analyses and discussion about this build on forums, I notice many overthink the Widow Mine drop. “Is it good again?” Let’s just say Widow Mine drop did not get better suddenly. Then why? I don’t know about INnoVation, but my reason is to scout and be sort of active on the map. One of the most common builds Protoss use is Twilight Council (Blink) with a Robotic Facility follow up. While this is extremely common, the different follow up options require different reactions. Did Protoss tech up?Did Protoss get a third? Ideally, you kept your Reaper alive even after you used it to spot the first tech building, so that you could use it to scout the third Nexus and the Assimilators at the natural (for reference: read about game 1 in this article). But most of the time you would have to sacrifice the Reaper to scout the tech building, and it is difficult to send a unit to get information when Protoss has the map control at that time. I would fly the Medivac past the likely third Nexus location and drop the Widow Mines at the natural (or main, depending on maps). INnoVation did something quite similar (see examples: 1, 2), but of course you can have different flight paths that allow you to get the necessary information.

Maru’s GSL final games against Classic inspired me to use Raven and Siege Tanks (see game 1 and 3). If you power up for a two-base 3-1-1 push out normally, Raven is considered a key unit for that as of current understanding. You can read more about the utility of Raven in this article. Siege Tanks are good against Blink Stalkers and other Warp Prism aggression in that time frame. When I first started adding the Widow Mine drop to my build, I made a Cyclone as my first Factory unit after the drop. I quickly learned that Siege Tank is a better follow up than a Cyclone. A Cyclone is useful in the earlier time frame, but not having an early Cyclone is the opportunity cost of producing Widow Mines. The early Cyclone could be used to catch a Gateway unit or an Oracle. By the time you make a Cyclone after the Widow Mine drop, a Cyclone is not needed for that purpose. The only good use is to defend against Warp Prism, but a Siege Tank is a more reliable choice for this purpose at that time.

What did INnoVation do differently against Trap? Why?

INnoVation used a Combat Shield Siege Tank early timing push in game 1. It is a smart choice, because this build spikes at a very different timing to the build discussed above which Trap had definitely studied before their match. INnoVation used mech (which is the in thing now) in game 2, which suggests to Trap that INnoVation had prepared multiple different builds and styles. The builds used in game 3, 4, and 5 are much more comparable to the one above.

INnoVation used the same build in game 3 and 4, and he made some minor changes in game 5. The build used a 16 Refinery Reaper expand opening and go for 1-1-1. He picked a more passive path to move toward the typical 3-1-1 convergent point move out with Stim and Medivac. Instead of going for a Widow Mine drop, he made a Cyclone and a Raven. Does skipping Widow Mine drop and Siege Tank production make this build hit the standard move out timing earlier? No. Both have the same Stim completion time at around 6:45. The three Siege Tanks definitely make a difference in the power of the push, but mobility is the trade off.

The builds INnoVation used against Trap seem so outdated. Four months ago in GSL, INnoVation used Reaper expand into 1-1-1, and he made no unit from the Factory or the Starport except a Raven in the standard power up process. I discussed the implications of his choice in this article. I was saying that the build implies how important Raven was, because INnoVation invested the whole tech path just to get a Raven. The other key takeaway was the need to have the 1-1-1 structures in case you need to react to certain Protoss builds, which would otherwise be difficult for a Barracks focused build order (e.g., 3-0-0). The fact that INnoVation went back to this idea with the additional Cyclone as a defensive unit further reinforces what I said months ago. Terran would love to not tech up first and focus on making a bigger bio force with earlier Barracks. But it appears that INnoVation strongly believes Terran cannot diverge much away from the 1-1-1 in TvP.

The other important implication from his games is that powering up on two bases with a move out using a 3-1-1 structure is a staple. I have explained how this standard approach is limited in the current TvP metagame three months ago. As of current understanding, the option Terran has is to open up with Reaper expand into 1-1-1 then 3-1-1 with a standard move out. The variance comes from what you do between 1-1-1 and 3-1-1.Using the builds discussed here as examples, you can go for a Widow Mine drop, or you can just get a Cyclone and Raven. When I watch INnoVation’s recent games, it is like he’s telling me “yeah, I know, but I can’t think of a better option.” That is a discouraging result after months of “research”.

Anyway, I recommend using the build order I listed, because it ticks almost every criteria for a good TvP build in the current metagame. Hopefully, Terran players bounce back in the next GSL, and we can have new builds to study.

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6 thoughts on “TvP: Learning INnoVation’s Builds

  1. Thanks for this.

    I really feel like the matchup desperately needs to change if the crux of variation in standard play is what you decide to do between 1-1-1 and 3-1-1.

    Im just puzzled by this statement: “The other key takeaway was the need to have the 1-1-1 structures in case you need to react to certain Protoss builds, which would otherwise be difficult for a Barracks focused build order (e.g., 3-0-0).”

    What exactly do you need to react to before reaching 3-1-1? I thought the only major drawback is not being able to threaten mineral lines as well as delayed tech.

    I also feel like it is very hard to justify the instant starport. It does give you options for stability or reactions, but also forces you into defensive tanks and really does not play into T strengths.

    1. The takeaway sentence was summarising what I wrote in the article I linked earlier.
      If you open up with just Barracks, it is relatively hard to deal with a number of things. The opponent can shave off the bio units to weaken the push out if you do not have tech units in place. The rationale is that, if the goal is to have a bio push out eventually with Stim and Medivac, getting a bigger bio ball with earlier Barracks is better. Then, why would you get 1-1-1 if that decreases the bio size? You can read more about this in that article.

      1. I’ve read that article along with the relevant /r/AllThingsTerran thread. For the sake of keeping it concise, I’ll ignore Protoss allins or gimmicky play.

        I agree on all of your points, especially:
        – 1-1-1 is a swiss army knife for defensive play
        – Early Starport feels like an awkward path and is ultimatively based on threat and defensive options rather than stable attacking choice

        I have not seen 3rax being played in GSL in ages, and surely that’s for a reason. Going 3 rax and waiting for stim+medivacs does not seem good, but what about going out before medivacs are out? To try to either punish/deny fast thirds.

        I still can’t see why it is not a good choice in standard play (shaving off health off of bio as it moves out comes up often as a reason), at least on some maps that don’t feature a super easy third off of a natural’s ramp.

        Wouldn’t that still mean that moving out at 5+ minutes with a large bio force, you:
        – Are guaranteed to hit before P splash is out
        – You have very good chances of cancelling fast thirds (ones between 4-5 minutes) or forcing the Protoss to make and trade Stalkers (gas)

        The whole idea being that if you’re hitting their fast third, you force the engagement and a trade so he cant simply kite you forever?

        In case you’re scouted and P decides to tech on 2 base, sure you cant do damage but you’ve delayed his third considerably and have almost a minute before map control swings back to the Protoss.
        (Im just guessing, since I have not seen it play out lately at all).

  2. Just to add about the mine drops. Artosis mentioned that it was being done to keep the stalkers at home. Some scenarios: If Protoss keeps all stalkers home, it secures your tank push uncontested. If he pushes with all stalkers, mines go uncontested at his mineral line. If he splits for defense on the front and at his mineral line, there is a danger of not having enough at the front to defend the tank push. That is why he does not force the mines to drop when he sees stalkers. He uses the minedrop as misdirection for the push.

    1. While it still put pressure on protoss to position their stalkers defensively, this would be more accurate if it was the old widow mine.

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