TvP: Standard 3-1-1 Framework

Powering up on two bases with a 3-1-1 set up and moving out with Stim and two Medivacs is the most common build up in TvP for a long time. This article answers some questions I received and discusses some lesser known details.

This post is voted by the readers here.

Background

The build options used by pros for TvP are very limited. Every TvP build I wrote in 2019 for the Metagame Build Orders series uses a Reaper expand into 1-1-1 except one. The standard is to put down two more Barracks (i.e., 3-1-1 convergent point) and get bio upgrades (i.e., Stim, Combat Shield, and Concussive Shell). This then lines up with a move out when the first pair of Medivacs pops, and the target of the attack is usually Protoss’ third Nexus. Subsequently, the third Command Centres and more Barracks are placed to transition to a standard macro game. This 3-1-1 set up is so fundamental that I used it as a baseline to compare other TvP builds.

The process can be broken down into several parts:

  1. Reaper expand
  2. 1-1-1
  3. 3-1-1
  4. Move out

There are countless details to discuss, so I’m going to only mention some that I think are relevant to the current metagame state. You can combine the notations below using the concept of build order blocks to get a complete build order.

Reaper expand

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 mineral – Supply Depot

The above notation is a 16 Refinery Reaper expand opening, and it is the most commonly used opening for 3-1-1 TvP builds. Why is 16 Refinery Reaper expand more popular than 15 Refinery Reaper expand in TvP? Focusing only on factors that are related to the discussion, 16 Refinery does better in securing the expansion when you are not using Reactor Hellion. 16 Refinery also lines up resource slightly better than 15 Refinery for the transition to 3-1-1.

Assuming nothing extreme like cannon rush happens, the main aim at this stage is to secure the expansion. It starts with the Scv scout at 18 or 19 supply. The aim is to identify the opening used by Protoss, so you can make adjustments and expand effectively. This topic was discussed extensively in this article. In it, I also explained why 16 Refinery is better than 15 Refinery unless Reactor Hellion is used.

If opponent is expanding normally, the default notation should be this:

@100% Reaper – Marine
@100 gas – Factory
@100% Supply Depot – Bunker
@100% Marine – Reactor
@75 mineral – Refinery

The Bunker is still a good investment when the opponent is not going for an aggressive opening. It is useful when Protoss want to poke at the front later with Gateway units.

1-1-1

Flexibility is the greatest strength of 1-1-1, but it is a concern for less experienced players. Pros use different builds with the 1-1-1 set up, and it is important to identify whether the selected options are pre-planned or reactions against Protoss’ builds. The current trend is as followed:

  • Twilight Council: Widow Mine drop
  • Robotic Facility: Lack of data – Widow Mine drop as default
  • Stargate: Cyclone and Viking

It is vital to know the tech path of Protoss using the Reaper. Widow Mine drop is the default option now, as it serves two main purposes:

  • Scouting
  • Harassment

Protoss usually has the map control in this stage of the game, so it is relatively difficult for Terran to stay active on the map and get information. Widow Mine drop is one of the best options for scouting under this condition, and you can read more about it in this article. Just to clarify, Widow Mine drop in this article refers to the “standard” one and not the mass Widow Mines drop with the Reactor on Factory.

If your Reaper is dead, the Medivac has to scout whether Protoss took a third Nexus. The next thing is how many gas geysers are taken. These are the things that Protoss cannot hide as their locations are fixed.

You can produce three Widow Mines by the time the Medivac is out. This is the basic version, and there are two other versions that vary a little by replacing the one of the three Widow Mines with something else.

Basic Widow Mine drop

@100% Factory – Starport; Widow Mine
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (constant Marine production)
@100% Widow Mine – Widow Mine
@100% Starport – Barracks (second), Medivac, and Supply Depot
@100% Widow Mine – Widow Mine

See vod below for an example.

Hellion first

@100% Factory – Starport; Hellion
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (constant Marine production)
@100% Hellion – Widow Mine
@100% Starport – Barracks (second), Medivac, and Supply Depot
@100% Widow Mine – Widow Mine

This version replaces the first Widow Mine with a Hellion. I personally prefer this to the above default version, because it provides three benefits. The first is its slight advantage to deal with the early Adept. You can take the fight against the Adept with Marines and Hellion better than with the Widow Mine. The second is Hellion’s scouting potential, and the first vod below shows just that. The third is to create multiple plausible attacking builds in Protoss’ mind. Terran can replace the three Widow Mines with three Hellions for a run-by or drop. Another option is to use two Hellions for a run-by and drop a Widow Mine with Marines in the main. Widow Mine and Hellion have the same production time, and Terran can mix and match what they want with the three production cycles before Medivac is out. If you produce a Widow Mine first, it is a telling sign that it is likely to be a Widow Mine drop. The second vod below shows the three Hellions version.

The benefit of dropping three Widow Mines instead of two Widow Mines is not good enough to give up the above three benefits.

Earlier Tech Lab

@100% Factory – Starport; Widow Mine
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (constant Marine production)
@100% Widow Mine – Widow Mine
@100% Starport – Barracks (second), Medivac, and Supply Depot
@100% Widow Mine – Tech Lab

This version skips the third Widow Mine and builds the Tech Lab earlier. The difference is the transition to 3-1-1, and I’ll discuss that later. Below vod is an example.

Cyclone and Viking

@100% Factory – Starport; Tech Lab on Factory
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (constant Marine production)
@100% Tech Lab – Cyclone
@100% Starport – Barracks (second), Viking, and Supply Depot

Although Widow Mine drop is considered the default 1-1-1 TvP build, it is not effective against Stargate tech. Widow Mines and Marines are fine defending against the initial Oracle attack, but loading the Widow Mines into the Medivac for the drop leaves you vulnerable against Oracles. More importantly, Phoenix shut down a Widow Mine drop hard, so it is a net loss if you attempt to drop. Thus, Widow Mine drop is usually replaced with a Cyclone and a Viking, as these two units are good defensive units against the first Oracle and potential multiple Oracles later on. This can potentially become a Mag-Field Accelerator push which is a build catered for Stargate tech. Pros now prefer to do a similar multiple Cyclones with Marines attack but without the Mag-Field Accelerator upgrade. See vods below.

3-1-1

The next stage is to transition to a 3-1-1 with the aim to move out with Stim, Combat Shield, +1 Infantry attack, and two Medivacs. Nowadays, adding one Raven into the mix is the norm, as it provides much value in a wide range of scenarios (read more about it here). The goal at this stage is to get all these things as efficiently as possible.

All four notations above already has the 1-1-1 set up with the second Barracks building. The buildings we then need to add are the third Barracks, one Engineering Bay, and additional Refineries. The notations vary according to the option you picked in the 1-1-1 stage. The below notations assume you build Supply Depot accordingly.

Produced three Factory units

@100% Widow Mine (3rd Factory unit) – Tech Lab
@100% Medivac – Tech Lab; Engineering Bay
@150 mineral – third Barracks
@100% Tech Lab (Starport) – Raven; Refinery
@100% Engineering Bay – +1 Infantry attack
@100% second Barracks – Lift the Factory and place the Barracks onto the Tech Lab; research Stim
Constant Marauder and Marine production
@100% third Barracks – Lift the Starport and place the Barracks onto the Tech Lab; research Combat Shield; Reactors on both Factory and Starport
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% 2x Reactor – 2x Medivac and 2x Widow Mine
@400 mineral – Command Centre

Earlier Tech Lab

@100% Medivac – Lift the Factory and place the Starport onto the Tech Lab; Raven
When you can afford (in sequence) – Engineering Bay, third Barracks, Tech Lab on Factory, Refinery
@100% Engineering Bay – +1 Infantry attack
@100% second Barracks – Lift the Factory and place the Barracks onto the Tech Lab; research Stim
Constant Marauder and Marine production
@100% third Barracks – Lift the Starport and place the Barracks onto the Tech Lab; research Combat Shield; Reactors on both Factory and Starport
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% 2x Reactor – 2x Medivac and 2x Widow Mine
@400 mineral – Command Centre

As you can see, the notations are very similar, whereby the only difference is whether the Starport build its own Tech Lab. The sequence of the buildings is the same. It is worth noting that it is better to have the Engineering Bay before the third Barracks, so you can complete +1 Infantry attack (114 seconds), Stim (100 seconds), and Combat Shield (79 seconds) at around the same time. You start with the one that takes the longest first. Some pros don’t do this sequence (e.g., INnoVation and Cure in the above vods), but it is the most efficient way to the best of my knowledge (refer to the Maru vs. Trap vod above).

Move out

You can move out when the pair of Medivacs is about to complete (boost them to join the main army). This should line up with the 400 mineral for the third Command Centre, so you expand while you move out. If your first Medivac from the earlier Widow Mine drop is still alive, you can drop the Widow Mines again as the opponent is likely to focus on your main threat. Consistent with this idea of forcing the opponent to defend more than one location, you can drop a single Medivac of Marines in Protoss’ main, while you attack the third Nexus with the rest of the army (see vods below).

I want to highlight a particularly common scenario in the current metagame, whereby Protoss goes for a two base Colossus then expand build. You should know this is what the opponent is doing using the Widow Mine drop. As mentioned in this article, the rationale of the build is to secure a later third Nexus with a good army. Given that taking the third Nexus safely is the key strength of the build, it is unlikely you can take a good fight with your push. You cannot take advantage of getting an earlier third Command Centre with 1-1-1, because you have already committed to the 3-1-1 then expand build. What can you do?

You don’t want to sit back with your army when you have the power spike, but you also don’t want to take a big battle at the third Nexus. One way is to create openings in other places by having your main force threatening the third Nexus. Protoss cannot rely on Observers to have vision of Terran’s army movement (because Raven), so they would usually position the units between the natural and third base. At the same time, they would use Stalkers to poke at the Terran army to keep track of its positioning. This opens up an opportunity to attack else where when Protoss’ main force is following Terran’s army. In the vod below, Maru didn’t commit to a battle against the Protoss army at the third Nexus, but he dragged the opponent’s army to the third location and attacked Protoss’ natural with a Raven. He continued to position the army near the third Nexus to keep Protoss away from other locations, while he attacked those less defended locations with his freshly produced units.

This article should give you a good idea how to use the 3-1-1 in TvP. You can combine the notations above to create a build order suitable for the situation.

I have something special prepared for the next post. Stay tuned.

This article is translated and posted on scboy.com and Baidu by Sprite and 绝迹


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7 thoughts on “TvP: Standard 3-1-1 Framework

  1. Hi Max, I think it’s probably me just not macroing correctly, but I’ve noticed that on these builds that I’m trying out in Custom, I always get supply blocked if I wait until my Viking or medivac before starting a depot, if I have constant production on my marines and SCVs. I have been getting my depot on 38 supply right before the starport finishes to work around this. Am I doing something wrong? Am I supposed to cut some sort of production at some point in order to take the depot at the specified timing?

    1. When Starport is down, build a second barracks, medivac or viking, supply depot together. Don’t wait for the air unit to complete to build the depot.

  2. Really liked the article. I think doing these more specialized articles that goes deeper is great when there isn’t major shifts in meta to talk about. It helps reader understand and appreciate the nuances of slight variations like 15 vs 16 gas, 2 or 3 mines, or when to get the tech lab, etc… They can then hope to notice these variations when watching games and when they seem them recognize the skill in decision making of the pros.

    Also, really liked the part where you talked about different reactions based on twilight, robo, or stargate. Think that is missing component in my games at likely many others. Hope you keep up the work and are pumped for all the games coming out of ESL.

    1. Thanks. There are times when I want to discuss certain details, but I couldn’t find pro games to show the comparisons. Your feedback is important, as I always wonder whether people appreciate the attention to details. Some may find those mentioned are too obvious and not worth discussing.

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