TvZ: (Mis)understanding the Different Types of Fast 3CC

People often use the “fast 3CC” label as an umbrella term to capture a wide range of TvZ builds. This simplification, or perhaps lack of understanding, overlooks important nuances.

This article is voted on Twitter.

I had written an article five years ago explaining how over-scrutinising  and under-comparing builds led to misunderstanding of builds and strategies. This article is an extension of that and specifically examines how we (mis)understand fast 3CC in TvZ.

Players and commentators often label a build fast 3CC when they think/feel the third Command Centre is constructed at an early timing. Speed is relative. How early is early enough for it to be considered a fast 3CC?

The dominant perspective

The intuitive and dominant perspective is to compare the timing of the third Command Centre in a build with the timing of the “standard” builds. If the timing of the third Command Centre is earlier than the average timing of the “standard” builds, it is considered a fast 3CC build.

Logically, we need to have a consensus what is considered the “standard” builds. An easy-to-agree-upon “standard” build is the Reaper expand into 1-1-1. It has many variations, and all move to a convergent point of 3-1-1 (or 1-3-1) on three bases. Even before Legacy of the Void, players would generally put down the third Command Centre before the second and third Barracks (or Factory) in TvZ. These common builds look something like this:

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 – Starport; Swap Factory on Reactor for 2x Hellion

You follow up by producing units based on your build choice. For example, you put down a Tech Lab with Barracks, and then swap the Starport onto the Tech Lab for Cloak Banshee. Alternatively, if you want to do a Liberator and Hellion attack, you can get a Liberator from Starport. You will bank up 400 mineral while doing your build using a 1-1-1 set up, and that is the time you put down the third Command Centre. The timing of the third Command Centre is usually around 4:15~4:30. Below vods are some examples:

The dominant perspective would use the game clock of 4:15~4:30 as the threshold to decide whether a build is a fast 3CC build. If the timing of the third Command Centre is before 4:15~4:30, then it is a fast 3CC build. While this seems logical and easy to apply to examine builds, this method would lead us to misunderstand some fast 3CC builds. In the next section, I’m going to introduce an alternative perspective and explain how it can offer better insights than the dominant perspective.

The strategy perspective

I propose we use a strategy perspective to determine whether a build is a fast 3CC. The rationale behind taking a fast third Command Centre is to favor economy advantage. Logically, the earlier you put down the third Command Centre, the more you favor economy over other aspects of development (e.g., tech). As mentioned earlier, the “standard” builds focus on getting the 1-1-1 set up for the tech units required for the build, and only then the third Command Centre is constructed when there is enough mineral. The strategy perspective would determine whether the build intends to construct the third Command Centre earlier by sacrificing other development.

Basic comparison of the two perspectives

Let’s use the two builds below to compare how these two perspectives affect how we evaluate fast 3CC.

The build in the first vod is a one Refinery Reaper expand 1-1-1 build, and it is a popular build for quite some time. Because the build does not take the second Refinery when the Factory is constructing, it has sufficient mineral to put down the third Command Centre before the Starport has started construction. I had explained the rationale behind this build order in this article and its variations here and here.

The timing of the third Command Centre is at 2:40. Thus, the dominant perspective would categorise this build as a fast 3CC, because 2:40 is much earlier than 4:15. In contrast, the strategy perspective does not compare 2:40 with 4:15. Rather, it compares whether the build intends to favor economy more than the “standard” builds.  The “standard” builds I mentioned earlier focus on getting the tech units with 1-1-1 first. The build in the first vod constructs the third Command Centre before having access to tech units with 1-1-1. Hence, in comparison to the “standard”, this build shifts its strategic focus from getting the tech units to bettering the economy. Thus, it is also considered a fast 3CC from the strategy perspective.

However, the two perspectives arrive at different conclusions for the build in the second vod. The build is the one I discussed in the hunting Overlord with Barracks article two months ago. The timing of the third Command Centre is at around 3:15, which is about one minute faster than the standard timing. The dominant perspective would consider this a fast 3CC build.

The strategy perspective would not be bothered by the 3:15 timing, as it is concerned if the build favors economy more than the “standard” in terms of development priority. When you scrutinise the build, it in fact still favors tech like the “standard” builds mentioned earlier. The difference is that this build delays Reactor Hellion production to hunt an Overlord, but it does not delay the construction timing of Factory and Starport. The second Refinery is also built at the same time as the “standard” builds, so this build does not sacrifice tech for an earlier third. The third Command Centre is down earlier because the delay of Hellion production banks up mineral. The choice to put down the third Command Centre is simply to follow the general guideline of getting the third Command Centre before additional Barracks (or Factory) in TvZ. That is, the build does not aim to take an economy advantage, but the timing of the third got pushed forward to accommodate the tactical choice of Overlord hunting. Therefore, this build does not truly take a fast third from a strategy perspective.

Generalisability and insights

I believe the strategy perspective in comparison to the dominant perspective is more generalisable and provides better insights for understanding builds. These merits can be illustrated with the proxy two Barracks opening. As most of you know, you can proxy two Barracks for a Marine Bunker rush, while you transition to the standard macro game with a second Command Centre and 1-1-1 in your main base. The two vods below are some examples.

The dominant perspective would compare the timing of the third Command Centre in the builds in these two vods with the “standard” timing of 4:15~4:30. Since the timing of the third Command Centre in the two builds is around 6:00, they would not be considered fast 3CC. In fact, applying the same logic, one should even label them as delayed 3CC. Simply applying the same “standard” threshold across all openings and builds is too heavy-handed for meaningful comparisons. The proxy two Barracks opening essentially pushes back the timing of the general development we see in “standard” builds. For instance, the third Hatchery of Zerg is delayed too.

This highlights two flaws of the dominant perspective. First, you cannot apply a universal timing threshold to all openings. Second, if you apply a different timing threshold for a different opening, you would have virtually countless timing thresholds to accommodate the wide range of openings and builds. That is not meaningful nor practical.

One may argue that builds that use the proxy two Barracks opening should never be considered a fast 3CC, because the timing of the third Command Centre is generally too late anyway. That is not true, as demonstrated by the vod below.

In the above vod, TY used a proxy two Barracks Bunker rush opening, and he adapted by making Reapers instead of Marines after the initial attack attempt. Specifically, the timing of the third Command Centre is at 3:40, which should be considered a fast 3CC build based on the 4:15 threshold. Thus, the dominant perspective is too rigid of a framework to accommodate the wide range of build variations.

The strategy perspective could explain this phenomenon better. The Reapers consume gas and require a rather long time to build. This results in delayed Factory and banked up mineral. The seemingly fast third Command Centre is merely a way to spend the mineral, as there is no where else to spend that. That means, it is not a strategic choice to be more economical, but rather it is an accommodation of a tactical choice that banks up mineral. The idea is comparable to the Overlord hunting build I mentioned earlier.

I hope this article shed light on why fixating on a general timing is a poor way to determine whether a build is fast 3CC. I decided to write this article after I came across commentators labeling different builds as fast 3CC, even though the builds should not be considered fast 3CC. Using a strategy perspective allows us to make more generalisable and insightful conclusion whether a build should be considered a fast 3CC.


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