TvP: Widow Mine Drop with Armory

Patch 4.12 has gone live for a month. This post discusses the influence of the Widow Mine change in TvP.

The specific change to Widow Mine:

Drilling Claws upgrade no longer grants Widow Mines invisibility. Instead, the existence of an Armory will grant Widow Mines invisibility.

I had already discussed what I think about this change here. With this in mind, I’m interested in reviewing the following questions:

  1. How often do players build an Armory for the standard Widow Mine drop?
  2. How does Protoss react to the invisible Widow Mines?
  3. Does mass Widow Mine drop become more popular?
  4. What are the implications to builds and strategies?

The StayAtHomeStory Cup 2 was the first major tournament after the patch went live, so the games gave us a good gauge for the post-patch metagame. A total of 75 TvP games were played, and 13 of them involved getting an early Armory for Widow Mines. That is about 17%. In many of these 75 games, Terran players still use the common Widow Mine drops without building the Armory. Hence, it appears that Terran players do not perceive the cost-benefit trade off for invisibility of Widow Mines too positively.

What difference does having invisible Widow Mines make? Having invisibility does not make Widow Mines “do more damage” per se, but it affects how Protoss players have to react. Protoss players need detection at home to clear the Widow Mines at their mineral lines. This indirectly forces Protoss to not cut corners on detection, and more importantly, they need to position Observers and Oracles defensively.

For example, in the first vod below, Protoss has to send the Observer back to the main base to deal with the burrowed Widow Mines, and one of the three had a second shot off because the Observer was out of position. All three could have fired the second time if the Observer went back two seconds later than it did. I have also seen Protoss recall an Observer to deal with the invisible Widow Mines (I couldn’t find the vod link). In the second vod below, Protoss is positioning the Oracle and Phoenix defensively in their base. Even when these air units move out of the Protoss’ bases, they do not cross the middle of the map. In the third vod below, Protoss even built a Photon Cannon in the mineral line as a response.

The overarching pattern is that Protoss has to position its units defensively. This means the Protoss air units which would otherwise be harassing at Terran’s base and having map control are used defensively against the Widow Mines. Similarly, with a “mandatory” defensive Observer, Protoss has to either give up some vision on the map or produces more Observers. If Protoss does not have the vision on the map, Terran’s push out may go unnoticed.

There are two main variations for the Widow Mine drop with Armory. The first is simply adding an Armory to the standard Widow Mine drop. The timing of the Armory can vary a little, but it works as long as you have it completed when the Medivac reaches the other side of the map. In my opinion, the best timing is building the Armory after you have started the Medivac. Based on the games I have reviewed, the typical follow up to the initial drop is to place the Factory onto the Reactor for more Widow Mines in the subsequent drops. That is a way to get a better return on investment of the early Armory. The build order is as followed (see vod below):

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
@100% Supply Depot – Bunker
@100% Marine – Reactor
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Factory – Starport; Hellion
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (constant Marine production)
@100% Hellion – Widow Mine
@100% Starport – Medivac, Armory, and Supply Depot
@100% Widow Mine – Widow Mine
@100% Widow Mine – Swap Factory onto Reactor for 2x Widow Mines; Build a Tech Lab with Barracks

I adjusted timing of the Armory in the notation above by replacing the second Barracks timing with the Armory. Most of you are familiar with the standard 3-1-1 with Widow Mine drop, so you should know that the second Barracks is down right after the Starport. Simply replacing one building with another makes it easier to learn a new build.

The second one uses the Reactor Hellion then mass Widow Mine drop build. I had written about this build and the history of Widow Mine drop in this article. The defining feature of this build is to swap the Factory onto the Reactor before producing any unit from it. You don’t produce Widow Mines straightaway, as that doesn’t line up with the timing of first Medivac. Hence, you produce a pair of Hellions first, and these units can scout and potentially kill some Probes. The build order is as followed (see vod below):

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
@100% Supply Depot – Bunker
@100% Marine – Reactor
@75 mineral – Refinery
@100% Factory – Starport; Swap Factory onto Reactor for 2x Hellion
@100% 2x Hellion – 2x Widow Mine, Supply Depot
@100% Starport – Medivac, Armory
@2x Widow Mine – 2x Widow Mine

I kept both build order notations short, as the subsequent choices vary according to the situations in the games. There are two key points worth noting. First, both builds would make at least two Medivacs for two to three Widow Mine drops. That is, when you invest in Armory, you want to do more Widow Mine drops to make the investment worth it. You are essentially using Widow Mine drops to pin Protoss in their base, while you macro up. Second, it is generally better to put down the third Command Centre before the second and third Barracks for Armory Widow Mine drop builds. Your bio army count is relatively low, because your production focus is on the Widow Mines and the subsequent Barracks are later than normal. You don’t have a nice window with a sizable bio when Stim is completed, so it is better to put down the third Command Centre first.

I wonder if it is better to go for a 15 Refinery 16 Barracks opening instead of a 16 Barracks 16 Refinery opening for the second build. The difference is not having the Marine and Bunker, but you get the two Hellions and subsequent tech earlier. The pair of Hellions with an earlier Factory is sufficient in defending against the Adept without a Bunker.

I wanted to post this article two weeks ago, but I was busy getting married. In the last two weeks, I don’t see an increase in the usage of Armory Widow Mine drop, so it seems like it is simply considered one of the options now. Since the use of Cloak Banshee only went up in TvP after the invisibility nerf of Widow Mine a few years ago, I wonder if this new Armory Widow Mine change is going to reduce the use of Cloak Banshee in the match up. After all, they have a big overlap in function as to forcing Protoss to have detection in their base. We will see.

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


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