Tuesday, February 8, 2011

[Guide] iEchoic's 2fact2port TvT

I'm not one who likes using siege tanks in TvT. About a month ago, I began brainstorming a tank-less build & composition with the following properties:

- Must be able to react to all TvT openings
- Must be very mobile (and gain map control as a result)
- Must be able to do economic damage faster than other mobile builds (such as cloaked banshee)

The result is a 2fact2port opening that relies on a hellion + air composition. I've found that all Terran compositions can be beaten with only these units:

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As of me writing this, I am a top 50 US player, and I estimate that I win 80-90% of my TvTs. This build has proven to be effective at a high level.

I have to mention that this build is very difficult to execute. This is not the type of build you read about, try, and immediately win all your games with. It took me several days to get the basics down, and even now I feel that it could be executed better by players better than I. The mechanics and game sense requirement to execute this is high - lower-level players will find it a good test of their mechanics, and players better than I can probably make it stronger than I can. However, if you have the patience and mechanics to learn it, I guarantee that it will give you a rich payoff. The road to shunning tanks is not an easy one, but it is a rewarding one.

This build utilizes two fast factories and then two fast starports. Infernal pre-igniter is researched as soon as possible. Fast 2 factories gives you a powerful early aggression-stopper (vs marines and hellions), and gives you map control.

A fast medivac is created to give a counter-attack and economic damage threat. This is a hard-counter to rushed cloaked banshees + bunker at front.

The 2 starports give you tremendous flexibility in countering terran openings. Banshees can be countered by simultaneously creating a raven and a viking, while dropping hellions. Reactored starport openings can be countered by actually creating 3 vikings at once instead of two. Marine/tank openings can be countered by creating vikings and banshees simultaneously.

Analogy to ZvT

The composition basically works the same as muta/ling/bling, and has a similar playstyle.

- Blue flame hellions act as the banelings (they kill marines, and are disposable)
- Banshees act as the muta air-to-ground attack (cleaning up ground units after banelings hit)
- Vikings act as the muta air-to-air attack (holding air superiority).
- Should it get to that point, battlecruisers can act as broodlords, countering thors (although BCs are much easier to get and are also quite good vs marines)

This build works for the same reasons muta/ling/bling does, and as a result, it has the same properties as typical ZvT. This means that:

- This build is more powerful on longer rush distances due to the mobility advantage
- Keeping map awareness and map control is very important
- Losing air control is bad (similar to how losing all your mutas results in you being vulnerable to drops and banshees)

TL;DR: Play like a zerg player. Keep that mentality in mind.

Build Order

NOTE: this build order is very weird. You must watch the replays in order to understand how it functions correctly.

10 supply
12 rax
13 ref
15 OC
15 make one marine, then queue another (only make 2 marines)
16 supply
17 ref
(supply counts discontinued from here - keep making scvs nonstop)
tech lab on rax
swap first factory onto rax
make 1 hellion & get preigniter
make 1 hellion on second factory
>> clear xelnagas with hellion
supply drop (see faq)
>> poke up ramp with a hellion, try to scout composition
>> build order discontinued here, starport production is dependent on opponent's composition

Why it Works

1) Map control

This build gains early map control over all terran compositions I am aware of. This allows you easy counter attacks (because you see when they leave their base), advance warning, and easy dropship counters. Your viking superiority + hellion mobility renders all enemy drops actually beneficial for you, because everything in the dropship will simply die and the dropship will get shot down, similar to how dropping vs a zerg player who has good map awareness generally ends with mutas killing your drop quickly.

2) Terran Symmetry

Terran units have a lot of symmetry.

Units that shoot air units
Marine (countered by hellions)
Thor (countered by battlecruiser)
Viking (countered by having more vikings, which is easy when you have 2ports)
Ghosts (are terrible)

Only four good terran units actually shoot up (discounting the battlecruiser, because BC is only viable after vikings). These units are all countered by either hellions or air units. Creating air units necessitates the use of one of these three units, and each of these three units must be built in a mass such that they do not die before killing off all air units.

From there, notice:

Air attacks by units that attack air units
Marine (very fast attack speed, low damage)
Thor (fires multiple low-damage rockets)
Viking (fires multiple low-medium-damage rockets)

What does this mean for us? In a late-game composition, upgrading air armor is very strong, due to the low-damage attacks of these units. In addition, these three units are infantry, mech, and air, which makes upgrading all three of them incredibly inefficient. Any one to two of these can be hard-countered with ease.

What else? Two of the three of these attacks (thor, viking) are mitigated by PDD. Since we are using ravens for detection instead of turrets, we have a natural synergy here, and create little inefficiency.

3) Economic Damage

Hellion drops are the most economically damaging harassment in the game. This necessitates leaving defenses in-base at all times.

4) Forcing responses

Banshees necessitate your opponent getting detection. This is either a raven (which is not efficient for him, because we're going to be controlling the air, and his raven will be dying), or an ebay + turrets, which creates inefficiency.

Hellions necessitate your opponent leaving defenses (non-turrets) in his base at all times. This creates additional inefficiency or economic death.

Mass air necessitates mass marine, viking or thor. We are not forced into anything. We do not build turrets, we build a raven. Our raven, should we need to build one, has synergy against two of the three AA options for our opponent.

Reacting to Terran Openings

This is a reactive build. You must counter your opponent's openings. Your reaction to your opponent's style will take place in the form of changing the output of your two starports. Your factories will always produce hellions.

Think of your factories as your 'core buildings' and your starports as your 'reaction buildings'.

While there are more specific instructions below, here's some basic principles:
1) You must always have more vikings than your opponent at all times. This is priority #1.
2) All ground units except thors can be combated with banshees. If your opponent gets thors, you must get battlecruisers.
3) Do not build engineering bays or turrets, ever. You don't need them for air control, and you have a raven for detection.
4) Because your composition is reactive and your composition more mobile, you need to hold map control until your opponent pushes out at all times. As soon as your hellions pop, you need to control the xel'naga towers. This is crucial in fighting off certain pushes.

Marine/Tank opening

Tells: no bunker at front, marines only, should see tank on subsequent pokes

Your starports should open 1banshee1viking after your intial medivac. The viking is incase your opponent gets a viking or banshee, and the one banshee is to clean up the remaining marines and then the tanks. This is where controlling the xel'naga towers is very important. If your opponent moves out with his marines and tanks, you need to burn off a majority of the marines with hellions. The xel'naga gives you the vision to see what side of the unit ball the marines are on and get a good attack angle.

Once the marines are dead, roll in with your banshee and clean up, force a retreat.

Banshee opening

Tells: bunker at front, no tanks or marauders on subsequent pokes up ramp

Your starports should open 1raven1viking after your intitial medivac (swap with factory once preigniter is done). Your hellion drop will likely do huge damage, and dropping fast is a high priority. If the banshee arrives before your viking/raven pop, run your scvs away. You will do much more damage with your hellions than he will with his banshees.

Bio or possible FE

Tells: no bunker, but marauders produced.

Your starports should open 2x banshee after your initial medivac. Mass banshee + blue flame hellion mops up bio relatively easily. Research cloak ASAP. In the event of a FE, you need to be very proactive about banshee harass and hellion drops.

Thor opening

Tells: usually bunker at the front - can be hard to scout for.

This is the hardest opening for this build, but it is also the most rare. Several other openings like cloaked banshee opening is countered by the Thor opening, so I sometimes consider Thor a 'counter' build instead of a legitimate TvT opener.

You're going to have to go for an economy trade if your opponent attacks. As soon as his thor leaves his base, drop hellions and rack up kills. Open 1banshee/1viking. You really need to go all-in on this thor and do more economic damage to win. Send your SCVs on it, land your vikings if there is no air to shoot, attack with your banshees and hellions. If you execute it right, you should have done more economic damage than your opponent, although it's usually close.

Viking-heavy (reactored port) opening

Tells: hard to scout for, check starport upon hellion drop. Usually opens with one tank, no bunker

This build relies upon holding air superiority. If your opponent makes 2 vikings at once, make 3. Create reactors on your rax while creating vikings. You should not have a problem holding air superiority as long as you're proactive about scouting for it.

Lategame Compositions

I'll just use a flowchart here:

Link to high-res

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Tips and Tricks

- Your barracks, even though not producing, can be incredibly useful. Use it to create reactors and techlabs nonstop, continually lifting to produce more for your factories and starports.
- Your barracks can also be used to lift and scout your opponent's base on scrap and close-air metal/LT.
- Air armor is your #1 priority for upgrades


Q: Why the supply drop?
A: The supply drop gives you an instant benefit of 100 minerals, and a benefit of 50 additional minerals from the opportunity cost of not building a supply depot over the course of a supply depot build time. A MULE gives you 270 minerals over the course of 90 seconds. The supply drop is placed in the build at a key point where minerals are very tight. Saving 100 immediate minerals allows you to produce a second starport while continuing hellions - something not possible using a MULE.

Q: What are the expo timings?
A: I play this by ear. If your opponent is turtling, it's generally safe to keep expanding. If your opponent is being aggressive, keep producing. Think of it like a zerg player would. See replay vs ThisIsJimmy to see a quick 3rd base vs a turtling opponent or my game vs Sixto to see a more 1-base play.

Q: Why 2facts? Why not just make a reactor?
A: 2facts allows you to create 2x hellions while researching preigniter. It removes the inherent danger that comes with using only one factory to produce hellions. 2factories makes you much safer vs 2rax openings and early cheese, and gives you infrastructure for later down the road.

Q: Do you get cloak?
A: I only get cloak if I know my opponent will not have mobile detection soon (FE, bio), and sometimes not even then. Banshees are more of a combat unit than a stealth unit for me, although you can play around with this.

More will be added here as questions come in.


At the bottom of this section is the option to download a small replay pack of 7 replays. I've picked out a couple choice replays though, below.

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This demonstrates a response to a heavy bio/FE play. Note how much my macro slips, going 1k/1k resources at one point. Also notice the quick 3rd base in response to his heavy turtling. Still a relatively easy win, despite getting minimal damage with the initial hellion drop.

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This replay demonstrates a game vs an aggressive marine + hellion attack. Blue flame does a very easy job repelling enemy drops and punishing aggressive openers by killing SCVs.

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The first question I always get is 'don't you just die to a tank/marine push'? This demonstrates the proper response. It is cleaned up with ease, and an easy win ensues.

Download entire replay pack (7 replays): link
Also see: vileDeathRow vs Drewbie (by PsyStarcraft): link


Shelby Fox said...

It appears that hot linking images is not allowed!

That's a shame, there's a lot of good content here. Looking forward to the next post =)

Kyle said...

starcraft is one of my favorite games out right now. following

Ion762 said...

Man Starcraft is such an insanely complicated game if you don't know what you are doing lol. Guides like this always help out newbies and vetrans alike thanks.

Bob said...

Very well thought out guides. Thanks for the information and replays.