TvZ: Overlord Hunting with Floating Barracks

Recently, Terran players are using their Barracks early in the game to hunt the Overlord at the natural. There are some interesting details and counter measures.

Background

There are two things you should know before I get into the main discussion.

First, it is normal for Zerg to place an Overlord on the “high ground” next to the natural of Terran. The Overlord provides vision at the natural, and this can open up some options. For example, when you see Hellions move out of the natural, you can send Zerglings in to kill Scvs. The high ground is a staple in current map design. See image below.

Second, Terran normally use 16 Refinery Reaper expand opening and follow up with Reactor Hellions:

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 mineral – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Marine
@100 gas – Factory
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Marine – Reactor
@100% Factory and Reactor – Starport, swap Factory onto Reactor for 2x Hellion

Hunting with Barracks

Execution

A Barracks obviously cannot “attack” an Overlord. When I say hunting an Overlord with a Barracks, I’m referring to the use of Barracks to spot the Overlord at the natural. Terran do not have vision of the Overlord on the high ground, and a Barracks can be lifted to provide vision for the Marines to hunt the Overlord. See vods below for examples.

The two Marines should sandwich the Overlord, so it cannot escape. The second vod above demonstrates this very well.

In that time frame, the Barracks is usually only used to build a Reactor for the Factory, and it is not active once the Reactor is done. The common builds would have a Tech Lab built by the Barracks, and you can research Stim or swap the Starport onto the Tech Lab. You can delay the Tech Lab for Stim, and you would still have the research ready for the two Medivacs of Marines timing with +1/+1. The Starport can build its own Tech Lab, and it is not a big deal. In sum, the Barracks does not provide much value at this time frame.

Build order

Since the Barracks does not provide much value, it is not a huge trade off to use it to hunt an Overlord. In the vods above, there are two Marines shooting the Overlord. However, as stated earlier, there is only one Marine when Terran uses a 16 Refinery Reaper expand opening. The second Marine is built for hunting the Overlord, because the Overlord could escape if there is only one Marine shooting at it. Players recently made an adjustment to their build order to produce one more Marine. I’ve seen two different build orders:

Maru and INnoVation

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 mineral – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Marine
@100 gas – Factory
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Marine – Marine
@100% Marine – Reactor
@100% Factory – Starport
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Reactor – Swap Factory on Reactor for 2x Hellions; lift Barracks to spot the Overlord
@100% Starport – Tech Lab

Bunny

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
@400 mineral – Command Centre (@100% – Orbital Command)
@100 mineral – Supply Depot
@100% Reaper – Marine
@100 gas – Factory
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Marine – Marine
@100% Marine – Lift Barracks to spot Overlord
@100% Factory – Tech Lab and Starport
After placing Barracks back at its original spot – Reactor
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Tech Lab – Lift Factory and place it next to Barrack, build a Hellion
@100% Starport – Swap it onto Tech Lab
@100% Reactor – Swap Factory onto Reactor

Both build orders aim to have three Command Centre and 1-1-1, whereby the Factory has a Reactor and the Starport has a Tech Lab. In short, while the build orders are different, they both converge to the same set up.

The 16 Refinery Reaper expand opening is well refined, so there is little room for adjustment. Squeezing in an additional Marine into the build order makes it extremely awkward. Normally, the Factory and the Reactor are completed at around the same time, so you can put the Factory onto the Reactor once they are ready. Maru’s and INnoVation’s build order simply sticks to the same build order but build a Reactor after the second Marine. Because the Reactor is delayed by one Marine production cycle, the Factory idles there for a while. In contrast, Bunny’s build order lifts the Barracks to hunt the Overlord right after the second Marine is out. Bunny’s Reactor is even more delayed than Maru’s and INnoVation’s, because it only starts building after it is used to hunt the Overlord. This would suggest that Bunny’s Factory would idle even longer than Maru’s and INnoVation’s. To circumvent this, Bunny builds a Tech Lab and a Hellion with the Factory, before he swaps the Factory onto the Reactor when it is ready.

In my opinion, neither is very refined. I think Maru’s and INnoVation’s build order is better than Bunny’s, because the huge delay on the Reactor does not appear to be a worthy trade off for the Overlord kill. I suggest following Maru’s and INnoVation’s build order, but build a Hellion or Tech Lab when the Factory is completed. This basically means “do something” with the Factory instead of having it there for nothing.

The delayed Reactor leads to delayed Reactor Hellion production, and this means the mineral spent on the two Hellions (and a Supply Depot) is pushed back. As a result, you bank up enough mineral to put down the third Command Centre early. This is based on the rationale that you eventually converge to three Command Centres with a 1-1-1 set up (one Reactor and one Tech Lab). This simply shuffles the sequence of the buildings, but the “build” itself does not change. You still can do whatever build you intend to do with the 1-1-1 structures.

Putting down the third Command Centre before the Starport even completes is interesting.  We all know that Terran go for two base 1-1-1 and then add the third Command Centre in TvZ. The most common build orders involve getting the second Refinery after you put down the Factory. The third Command Centre starts after the Starport started production. There is a more economical version that skips the second Refinery to put down the third Command Centre before Starport even starts. You can read about the details here. The build order I’m discussing in this article essentially pushes the limit of getting the third Command Centre as early as possible with two Refinery.

Metagame implications

Why do Terran hunt Overlord with Barracks now? The fundamental idea to use the Barracks for Overlord hunting is not new, so this is more of a metagame move than a new discovery. Then, what leads to this change?

A few interrelated metagame development may have led to this. First, Pneumatized Carapace upgrade is less common in TvZ now. That means, if Terran kill the Overlords near their base, then it is difficult for Zerg to replace them by moving another Overlord to those important locations. Zerg tend to scout with an Overlord at the time when Starport has just completed, as the add-ons and other additional buildings (e.g., Armory, Fusion Core) would give away Terran’s intention. Losing the Overlord to the Marines with floating Barracks limits Zerg’s options to scout at this critical time. From Terran’s perspective, the cost of lifting the Barracks remains the same, but the benefit has increased.

In line with the notion that Zerg would have a harder time to scout Terran’s build choice with 1-1-1, Terran players opt for builds that can best take advantage of this. Cloak Banshee is now a popular choice, and Terran players made an interesting adaptation to this old school Reactor Hellion and Cloak Banshee build. As you can see in the screenshots below, the first Banshee is parked in base, and the Banshees only attack when the second Banshee and Cloak research are ready.

Some may argue that, it is normal for Banshees to attack in pairs, because a Banshee two-shot a worker and Cloak research is completed at around the same time as the second Banshee. Both statements are true. However, Terran players usually send their first Banshee across the map first, and Cloak research will be ready soon by the time the Banshee travel to the other side. This choice is based on the assumption that Zerg knows Terran chose Cloak Banshee tech. If Zerg knows, the value of Banshee drops as time goes by. On the other hand, when Zerg does not know about the tech choice, Terran has potential to deal more damage with both Banshees attacking at the same time. Therefore, one could argue that the metagame factors related to the use of Barracks for Overlord hunting play a role in the Banshee tech choice and its subsequent tactical adjustment.

There is another metagame factor that led to sudden surge in Banshee. At the end of last year, Terran used a good mix of bio and mech against Zerg. Battlecruiser is the favorite tech choice with mech, while Viking and/or Liberator are the preferred option with bio (for reference). Given that Terran players almost solely use bio against Zerg now, Viking and/or Liberator are the most common tech choices along with Reactor Hellions. While this build choice is decent against a defensive Zerg, it is weak against Roaches and Ravagers. Banshee is the best tool against these Zerg units.

Zerg players are also adjusting to the trend of Overlord hunting by changing  their Overlord positions. I expect this metagame trick to cycle out once players figure out that they cannot gain an edge from this.

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


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14 thoughts on “TvZ: Overlord Hunting with Floating Barracks

  1. Max, I come to TerranCraft everyday just to check if you posted any new stuff. Your articles are so addicting. I hope you never stop! I’ve learned to play so much better with you. Thank you!

  2. I think the quicker 3rd from this build is the biggest highlight, and the overlord timing is just a small perk. It’s also easily counter-able with lings, as Dark showed later, but the 3rd is still going to get up even if it’s countered that way (and putting you even further ahead).

  3. Recently I’ve seen some games where terran players hunt the first overlord and then attack with 2 cloak banshees, sometimes zerg will assume a BC hellion harrassment and put down the 2nd and 3rd spore a little bit later. The metagame implications shed light on this tactic I think.

      1. Thanks for translating. I was wondering why an old trick becomes popular now, so I tried to connect the dots. Not sure if I’m overthinking though.

  4. The hellions are delayed. So there’s a small window where zerg can attack with zerglings. At that time, terran has only 1 reaper and maybe 1 hellion?

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