TvT: An Update on the Current Trends

There were many top level Terran matches recently. These games provide a good snapshot of the current trends.

I observed quite a number of small changes in the past few months, but each doesn’t warrant a post of its own. Here is a summary of the interesting bits I had observed.


I had discussed previously that there are three main kinds of opening in TvT:

  • One Barracks Reaper expand (15 or 16 Refinery)
  • Double Refinery expand
  • Proxy Reapers

There was a soft rock-paper-scissors advantage. One Barracks expand >Double Refinery > Proxy Reapers. Notably, the popularity of proxy Reapers has dropped, and I mainly see the other two openings.

Players now are very familiar with the opening match up, and they come up with better small adjustments than before. There is one specific adjustment that I see repeatedly in double Refinery expand mirror. Building on game theory, I had previously explained how players have to make decisions about positioning and cutting corners with production. To sum up the key points, the main decision is often whether to produce three Reapers and two Hellions, and whether to attack with them. If you produce only two Reapers and one Hellion in a mirror opening match, you could get overrun by three Reapers and two Hellions. However, if you attack with three Reapers and two Hellions, you would get destroyed if opponent also produced the same five units. If both players position these five units defensively, you are better off just getting only two Reapers and one Hellion to put down the add-ons earlier. I see top pros making an interesting adjustment based on this dilemma. See the two vods below.

In both vods, Clem adopted the more conventional approach to attack with three Reapers and two Hellions. Maru instead opt for two Reapers, one Hellion, and one Widow Mine. The Widow Mine is a great choice when you want to position defensively, because you can win the battle with two Reapers and one Hellion (maybe two more Marines) once the Widow Mine hits. The opponent would have four heavily damaged units against your three full health ones. When you compare the production closely, you actually skipped one Reaper for an earlier Reactor. You simply replace the Hellion with the Widow Mine. I had seen a comparable set up with three Reapers, one Hellion, and one Widow Mine. In my opinion, this is inferior to just have two Reapers, because the third Reaper is not needed to win the battle.

Early game

Players normally prefer to be defensive with earlier Raven production. Recently, players like to be aggressive with Medivac in the early game. This comes in different forms. For example, when you use the Widow Mine opening I mentioned above, you can drop the Marines and Widow Mine at opponent’s mineral line to delay mining (see below vod).

The more mainstream options tend to load up four Marines and a Cyclone or Siege Tank. This is a build that I had discussed last year. Below vods are some examples.

Mid game

The mid game is still mainly dominated by the standard transition to Ravens, Vikings, and Siege Tanks (with bio):

  1. A Cyclone and two Ravens (sometimes it could be one or three Ravens)
  2. Swap Starport on Reactor for Vikings and get a third Command Centre
  3. Transition to standard macro game by building four Barracks and two Engineering Bay

Players often make a push once they have four to six Vikings. The defending player usually has the advantage, unless the attacking player is able to siege up at a good location. The defending player would have more Vikings due to shorter reinforcement distance. Thus, the decision to make a push is usually a result of earlier exchanges (e.g., opponent threw away some units with the early attack).

I like Maru’s style the most. He would just keep getting more Vikings and stay defensive, even though players usually would start producing Medivacs when Stim is ready. The reason for not producing Medivac is that Vikings simply are superior when you just want to defend. After deflecting opponent’s attack, he would usually have more Vikings. He would then make some Medivacs, and simply use them with some Marines to hit and run. His style power spikes after he had mixed in some Ravens into his main army. I will discuss this below.

I was hoping to see more of double Factory Cyclones mech, which was popular for a period of time. It seems to be map dependent.

Late game

There are generally two main styles in bio versus bio. One is more control oriented, whereby you attempt to take air control with Vikings. The other is more aggressive with multi-pronged attacks, whereby you produce mainly Marines, Siege Tanks, and Medivacs. While there is little changes to the aggressive style, there are some interesting development for the control style. Specifically, there are three sub-styles developed:

  • Mass Vikings
  • Mass Vikings + Liberators
  • Mass Vikings + Ravens

Getting Vikings is the basic. Players often get two Liberators once they have dominated the air battle, and the Liberators force the opponent to unsiege their Tanks. In the last few months, mixing in Ravens is becoming popular. Ravens provide tremendous value, and they can turn the tide of battle. Interference Matrix can be used on Siege Tanks, and Anti-Armor Missiles can be used on Marines and Vikings. Below vod is an example of Raven late game mirror match.

Maru, in my opinion, is the best player with this Raven late game style. In fact, I would credit him as the first player to use Ravens as the support units the way they are used now in late game. This could be traced back to his game against Bunny last year in GSL (see vod below).

The power of the Ravens is evident when you see the other player simply goes for the vanilla Marines, Siege Tanks, and Medivacs (see vod below). Of course, it is much more hard to play a control style with Ravens.

An alternative way is simply to mass Reactor Starport for lots of Vikings and Liberators. This composition is slightly easier to control than the one with Ravens. There were many example games with this contrast in style recently (see vods below).

I think the Raven style is the strongest but the hardest to use. Maru usually goes for 5-2-1 on four bases, then he would put down two more Starports with Tech Lab for the transition (get Corvid Reactor). Maru is known to be (relatively) weak in his TvT, but his recent performance is suggesting otherwise. His new defensive control style is dominating the match up now. I have concern over this style, because the air advantage snowball down really hard. Getting Thors usually isn’t that effective. In most of the vods I linked above, there is this pattern that one player would get air control due to one good battle, and the opponent dies a slow death. This could be an issue at the highest level when the best players rarely compromise their air advantage.

Shout out to Cavan for the new Patreon support! I didn’t post an article for more than two weeks because I had some issues with WordPress.

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