TvZ: Reaction Toward Early Two-Base Roaches

After I posted a vod on the Facebook page about how to deal with early two-base Roaches, some asked me to explain the rationale behind the moves. I thought, why not just share it here.

There are several early Roaches timing attacks. I wrote about the different reactions toward different types of early Roach builds two and half years ago. To simplify things, there are two main early timings:

  1. One base Roach Warren (all-in)
  2. Two base Roach Warren (economical)

The one I’m discussing here is the second one. You can read about the first one in the linked article above.

There are different build orders for the economical version:

  • Spawning Pool – Extractor – Hatchery – Roach Warren
  • Extractor – Spawning Pool – Hatchery – Roach Warren

The exact supply to put down the specific buildings can vary a little across the variations. Without getting into the marginal details, I want to highlight it is the Pool-Hatch-Roach build that I’m discussing here. The vod below shows how TY reacted to it, and this is the best reaction in my opinion.

Scouting

Like they say, knowing is half the battle. A Scv scout informs you that this is a Pool-before-Hatch opening. If you send a Scv across the map at 18 supply, you may not see the Roach Warren. This is the timing when the Roach Warren goes down, and Zerg may use the Zerglings to kill the Scv before they put down the Roach Warren. If you send a Scv across the map at 20 supply (quite common in TvZ), you may see the Roach Warren if the Zerglings do not kill it.

The Pool-before-Hatch opening suggests Zerg may have Zerglings attempting to harass the building Command Centre on the low ground. A common reaction is to position the Reaper near the natural to defend against this move. While this makes sense, Terran do not get to scout with the Reaper. Hence, if the Scv scout does not inform you there is a Roach Warren, you may not expect Roaches.

Defending

What do you do if you know Roaches are coming?

Unlike the one-base Roach attack, this two-base version allows you to complete the Command Centre on the low ground. However, one should not attempt to defend the low ground. The main objective is to defend the main ramp. Consistent with this goal, a Bunker should be built in the main base next to the main ramp. In the meantime, if you have the apm, you can use your Reaper to delay the Roaches a little.

When the Roaches arrive, a few Scvs can be pulled to ensure the wall on the main ramp does not go down. The Marines in the Bunker are sufficient in holding the attack. The Orbital Command can be lifted up when the Roaches are attacking it.

The next challenge is to secure the natural. Cyclone is the best choice for this purpose. Almost every non-proxy opening in TvZ now tech to Factory quickly (i.e., 1-1-1), so I assume you have access to Cyclone early on. What about Siege Tank? In comparison to Cyclone, Siege Tank is superior in defending the main ramp but inferior in securing the natural. In the vod above, TY forced his way down the ramp with all his units once the Cyclone appeared. You can do the same thing with a Siege Tank, but it is clearly less effective than Cyclone due to the Lock On ability. If you siege the Tank at the edge of the ramp, it is likely to get pick off the Roaches and Ravagers (Overlord provides vision). Even if you successfully siege the Tank in that position, all Zerg has to do is move the Roaches away from the ramp. The Zerg units are still there to deny mining at the natural.

Follow up

What is the plan after you secure the natural? The original plan is probably Reactor Hellions (usually go along with a Starport tech), but the Roach attack diverges you away from that. Do you go back to Hellions? You can, but the value of the Hellions at this point is mainly for scouting. Typically, the Hellions in the early game provides map control and scouting, and they have the potential to trade for Drones. However, the Roaches make them less effective. This is a time frame when Terran wants to have some sort of map presence, because it is very dangerous to just sit back and macro up. Zerg could follow up with a Roach all-in, a two-base Mutalisk, or a more standard third Hatchery. Each requires a different response from Terran.

If Hellion is not a good choice, then what can Terran do to have map presence? TY used a Medivac of two Cyclones to harass and scout at the same time. In my opinion, this is a very smooth follow up that fits the purpose. You can then transition by putting down the third Command Centre and additional Barracks/Factories.

Just to clarify on the build order details. Build a Tech Lab once the Factory is completed, but do not build a Starport even though you can afford it. You need the gas for the Cyclone when the Tech Lab is completed. Put down the Starport when you have the next 100 gas. Build a second Cyclone after the first is completed, and build a Medivac once Starport is done.

This is it. The reaction is simple and well thought out.

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6 thoughts on “TvZ: Reaction Toward Early Two-Base Roaches

  1. Thanks really good guide. I always went for siege tank after seeing this kind of oppening from zerg but after reading the reasonings behind getting a cyclone I definitely think it is a better answer would you suggest getting the cyclone upgrade if gas allows it ? (I am thinking of gas first opener)

    1. The upgrade doesn’t add value in the early game in TvZ. If you want to go for mech, you can get the upgrade after you’ve two or three Factories.

  2. The cyclone response is so elegant, it ticks all the boxes and is quite easy to execute. Thanks for the fantastic write-up Max!

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