TvT: Maru’s Framework

Maru is going against TY in the upcoming GSL final. This post discusses the general framework Maru uses in the TvT match up.

This post is co-authored with Osiris and is based on my last post about TvT.

It is normal for progamers to use a range of openings and builds. Nevertheless, the players still have their go-to preferences, and this post examines Maru’s preferred options in the Terran mirror match up. Given that TvT is a less build driven match up, we focus on the decisions Maru consistently makes to adapt to certain common scenarios.

Opening

Despite Maru’s reputation, he does not use proxy Barracks as often as people think he does. He usually goes for 15 Refinery Reaper expand or double Refinery Reaper expand. His recent games suggest he leans toward the latter. Specifically, he likes to go for 16 Barracks 16 Refinery 17 Refinery instead of 15 Refinery 16 Barracks 17 Refinery. The build order looks like this:

14 – Supply Depot
16 – Barracks
16 – Refinery
17 – Refinery
@100% Barracks – Reaper and Orbital Command
20 – Supply Depot
@100 gas – Factory (then pull 3 Scvs off gas)
@100% Reaper – Reaper
@400 mineral – Command Centre
@100% Factory – Hellion (put Scvs back to gas)

This is currently the most popular opening that top Korean Terran players use. Although this opening delays the first Refinery, the general idea remains the same. You still get your Reapers and Hellion for an expansion. The notable difference is the delay in Factory. See below vod for comparison.

What does Maru do when he plays against the other three mainstream openings?

Proxy Barracks

There is little room for players to assert their own styles against proxy builds, because players have generally figured out the optimised reactions. You can read this post for the commonly used reaction. As stated in the linked post, double Refinery expand opening has an edge over proxy Reapers because of the early access to Hellions. The delayed Factory compared to the more commonly used double Refinery expand makes this opening slightly weaker to proxy Reapers for this reason. The tradeoff is that it is slightly better economically when you pitch this opening against non-proxy openings. Maru’s opening choice is consistent with my observation that I made regarding the decrease in proxy openings

Double Refinery

Building on game theory, I had previously explained how players have to make decisions about positioning and cutting corners with production. Maru previously adopted a more aggressive approach if the opponent is also using the same opening. However, the delayed first Refinery opening that Maru uses does not allow him to be the attacker in a mirror situation, as his tech is slightly behind the opponent’s. Hence, Maru chose to be the defender, and his preferred option is to get 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. 

Continue from the opening stated earlier:

@100% Reaper – Reactor
@100 mineral – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100 gas – Starport
@100% Hellion – Widow Mine
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (continue production)
@100% Widow Mine – Tech Lab (@100% – Cyclone)

See below vods for some examples.

One Refinery expand

Maru has shown two options. One is the typical two Reapers and one Hellion then put down add-ons. Additional Reaper and Hellion usually won’t make a difference against a fast expand opening due to the Bunker, so player tend to opt for quicker transition to tech (see first two vods below). The Widow Mine is not needed, because the fast expand player is unlikely to attack. With that being said, Maru has also used the Widow Mine option I mentioned earlier (see third vod below).

Continue from the opening stated earlier:

@100% Reaper – Reactor
@100 mineral – Supply Depot (build Supply Depot accordingly hereafter)
@100 gas – Starport
@100% Hellion – Tech Lab
@100% Reactor – 2x Marine (continue production)
@100% Tech Lab – Cyclone

Early game

Players mainly have to choose between attacking and defending at this stage of the game. Regardless of what you choose, you ultimately transition to Ravens, Vikings, and Siege Tanks. Those who choose to attack would delay this transition and invest in attacking options first, and Maru favors attacking. 

Medivac is his favorite choice. When he uses his two Reapers, one Hellion, and one Widow Mine build, he would drop the Widow Mine and six Marines. The two Reapers and Hellion would attack the natural. In contrast, when he skips the Widow Mine against fast expand opening, he would drop the Cyclone and four Marines. Regardless of the units used in the attack, the goal is to trade his early game units as value-efficient as possible in the transition phase. Reapers, Hellions, and Cyclones (unless you go for mass Cyclone) are not useful in the mid game. Refer to vods linked above.

Mid game

Maru uses the standard transition to Ravens, Vikings, and Siege Tanks (with bio):

  1. A Cyclone and two 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

The key battle of the mid game is securing the third mining location and dealing with Ravens, Vikings, and Siege Tanks push. Again, players have to choose between attacking and defending. Maru likes to be the defender in this stage of the game, and his main goal is not to let the opponent’s push get into a good position. He would keep producing Siege Tanks and Vikings, and the defender advantage would the rest. 

There is one particular thing that Maru does differently to many other Terran players. He would continuously produce Vikings even when he had the Stim research done.Terran players typically would start producing Medivacs and stop Viking production temporarily after getting six to eight Vikings. This means he would have more Vikings than the opponent, and that gives him the air control. The lack of Medivacs also suggests Maru does not have map control, and this is the tradeoff he makes. The vod below shows this contrast in style well.

Subsequently, Maru would continue to be defensive with his main army and focus on securing the fourth mining base. He would send out two Medivacs of Marines for harassment, but his focus is simply to secure the fourth base without taking damage. In sum, in the mid game, one player would be the attacker who has the map control, and this is decided by the production of Medivacs instead of Vikings. The other player would be the defender who usually has air control, and Maru favors being the defender in mid game.

Late game

Maru likes to transition to Raven in the late game. This is well aligned for his decision to sacrifice map control and mobility in the mid game, because air control is a prerequisite to Raven transition. Most Terran players would reach a convergent point of 5-2-1 on four bases as they transition from the mid game to the late game. There are two popular choices at this point:

  • 5-2-1 → 5-2-3 (add two Starports)
  • 5-2-1 → 8-2-1 (add three Barracks)

The player who has air control would usually add two more Starports to transition to Ravens and Vikings (mass Vikings and Liberators is also an option). Conversely, the player who does not have air control would put down more Barracks. This distinction in production buildings further polarises the attacker versus defender role dynamic already established in the mid game. Below screenshots illustrate this contrast in style (click to enlarge). The production tabs show that one player adds three Barracks and the other player (Maru) adds two Starports. Consistent with the attacker versus defender argument, the player adding three Barracks positions his army at the edge of the opponent’s sensor tower and is waiting for an opportunity to attack. In contrast, the player adding two Starports positions his army defensively.

The above screenshots are taken from the vods below.

The below vod demonstrates that adding two Starports instead of three Barracks is heavily influenced by establishing air control instead of Maru’s preference. Maru lost air control after his mid game push, so he added three Barracks in the late game.

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. A common response against Vikings and Ravens control is to mass Vikings and regain air control. Interestingly, once Maru loses air control in the late-late game, he still continues to produce Ravens. His army would largely consist of Marines, Medivacs, Ravens, and Siege Tanks. However, Maru would flip a switch and play completely differently. He would take on the attacker role and attack at multiple locations. The Ravens no longer serve as a “control” unit, rather they are now expendable, battle deciding, Swiss-Army knives. This is again consistent with the argument that the player with air control (i.e., higher Viking count) would by default play the defender role, because the Vikings are less mobile than other units.

During the late to late-late game stage, Maru can trade cost-inefficiently, especially to an opponent who has air control, as opposed to the mass Marine, Siege Tank, Medivac style shown by other players (e.g., ByuN and Bunny). Maru has the flexibility to look for one decisive engagement to end the game, as shown in the first vod below. In this game against Innovation, Maru faced a composition that tried to walk a fine line between a decent Tank count and a good Viking Liberator count. Against Clem’s composition in their game on Deathaura, in which Clem committed extremely heavily to Vikings and Liberators, Maru was able to eek out the win by taking inefficient fights the entire game, but forgo his Siege Tanks in favour of a higher Marine count and extreme mobility. Beginning with Clem’s siege of Maru’s eastern rich gas base (see second vod below), Maru chose to instead swing clockwise all the way to Clem’s rich gas base instead of defending, and with his extremely mobile force was able to burst down three bases while Clem managed to take out the base he initially sieged.

The compositional advantage of mass Marines and Ravens (with Vikings and Siege Tanks to support) is that it has a tremendous burst damage potential that is mobile. Clem’s army on the other hand, has its damage potential locked in siege units which need to become immobile to be effective. Clem’s Liberators couldn’t even damage buildings, unlike Maru’s Marines. 

It is worth noting that Maru’s composition was also more supply efficient than either a balanced ground air force like INnoVation’s or a air heavy force like Clem’s in the above noted games. This is because Ravens cost two supply, while Siege Tanks and Liberators cost three supply. The extra supply opened up by this difference enables Maru to have more Marines, or defensive Siege Tanks covering his flanks. 130 supply worth of Maru’s composition will generally be two to three thousand resources more expensive, another clue to its cost efficiency potential. 

What’s the catch? You have to play like Maru. All joking aside, Maru’s incredible control and confidence allow him to use this style more frequently than other players in high stakes matches. The required micro is nothing to scoff at. In this fight (see below vod), which was the only cost efficient fight that Maru took during his game against Clem on Deathaura, Maru casts the Anti-Armour spell, Stims his Marines while moving them and his Siege Tanks to attack under his air force, casts Interference Matrix on Clem’s Siege Tanks, casts Auto-Turrets, sieges his Siege Tanks, and moves his Ravens to the back in the span of a few seconds. The danger of Maru miss-casting his Interference Matrix on something other than the sieged Tanks, or not timing every element of the fight properly would mean potentially losing the fight. 

Another tactic that Maru employs using this style is to flank with his Ravens, in a move reminiscent of Templar Storm flanks. Maru often does this by moving his Ravens away from his Marines, sending them in to cast Interference Matrix on his opponent’s Siege Tanks from an angle that would minimize his opponent’s Viking threat, and moving in his Marines to combat his opponent’s Dorito-dusted (Anti-Armour Missile) Marines without their Siege Tank support. Below vod is an excellent example of this tactical approach. 

The beauty of Maru’s style is its flexibility. Maru can adjust his composition, based around the critical mass of ten Ravens, and either become light and mobile, striking like a butterfly (to use an old cliche) or remain defensive, looking to weather the storm of his opponent, while waiting for that one knock-out counter-punch (to use another). We expect Maru to showcase this style in the GSL Final against TY this weekend.


We had two different cover pictures in mind for this post. Osiris wanted this, while I wanted this. Osiris is part of the Atlantic Canadian StarCraft Society, which aims to grow the community and bring people in the Atlantic Canadian provinces together. They host LANs (when not covid) and online tournaments,  and they also field teams in team leagues.

There are many heroes in local communities. redgunnerguy is another one, who organises and casts tournaments for players in Singapore (and South East Asia). You can check out his YouTube and Twitch.

Last but not least, shout out to new Patreon supporter Magnus.


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6 thoughts on “TvT: Maru’s Framework

    1. Also, I appreciated the discussion of the different convergent points after 4 base. 8-2-1 vs 5-2-3. I didn’t realize that the role of the player (attacker vs. defender) determined this choice. Makes sense though!

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