A look at end game focused TvT (my application)

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A look at end game focused TvT (my application)

Post  Vader7 on Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:30 pm

A look at end game focused TvT (specifically on Xel’Naga Caverns).

The point of this post is less a build order guide and more a late game theory guide. I all too often will teach a lesson to a masters level terran player I will see him do some kind of attack. They tell me they get frustrated with the whole tank wars idea and that they felt like they were ahead so they could win. I would say 7 out of 10 times, when a player is ahead and he then attacks he comes out behind. I would like to point a fundamental mentality that everyone should be approaching TvT with when they are going for a tank and bio composition. I will present a build order that I have used to open with and examples of the decision making it allows but I will not be going in depth into the build I present as that is not the focus of this guide.


Terran vs Terran is a matchup that I find dominated by a couple of key focal ideas. I have been designing my play lately based on answers to these ideas (which I present in the form of questions). Who expands first? Who takes a 3rd base first? What is the pattern of expansions and attack paths on the map? What weakness is there in his position that I can exploit with a small investment, and, what weakness do I have in my position that he can exploit through a small investment? Which player, if any, will have access to more minerals and gas by the time the map is mined out?

All of these questions or ideas reduce themselves to, “Who has the largest economy?” which is something that is awkward to use as your focus for approach so I have broken in up into the above questions.

First I will outline a build order in its basic form and then I will address how to use this build to answer each of this questions in a way that leaves you as the player that answers the question, “Who has the largest economy?”

Example Build Order:

10: Supply (Use SCV that makes Supply to scout)
12: Barracks
13: Gas
15: Orbital Command
When Barracks Done: Make Marines (stop at 2nd marine done for 2 total marines)
18: Factory (Make Tech Lab and then 1 Tank ASAP)
18 (ASAP after Factory): Supply
18 (ASAP after Supply): Gas
**very very short supply block delays start of 20th SCV**
At 50 Gas: Reactor on Barracks (Make 2 Marines and 2 Marines ONLY when this is done)
At 400 Minerals: Command Center (you should have 1 Tank and 4 Marines
**At 50 Energy on Orbital Command (should be around 6:30): Scan the Enemy Main
At 100 Gas: Siege Mode and Begin Constant Marine Production
At 125 Gas: Tank
At 100 Gas: Starport
When Possible: Add 2 barracks, Give Them Tech Labs, Get Stim and Shields
When Possible and in no Certain Order: Add another Command Center, 2 Factorys with Techlabs, and 2 more Barracks and an Engineering Bay

This build is designed to expand quickly while giving you enough to hold vs various early aggressions and allowing options of aggression vs those players that do get an expansion up before you. You gain the infrastructure needed to move into the mid game very quickly.

Now let’s use the questions from the start of my post to determine a goal for every stage of the game that leads to the desired end game:

The very first question that matters in the, “Who has the largest economy?” question is, “Who expands first?” Our scouting SCV should be able to determine this. If we are on our way to a faster expansion then all that we need to do is ensure that we get their safely and all of our in game decisions should reflect this. If, however, the enemy is on their way to a faster expansion then we need to put pressure on them. The key early game timing with our build is the completion of siege mode. With the completion of siege mode we are able to be aggressive or defensive. If we need to be aggressive, move out and contain him on one base (assuming he built his Command Center in base) or force him to lift and flee, or, if the game really goes you way, cancel the Command Center. If you need be defensive, your scan at 6:30 will give you an idea of his tech choice and you can position your 2 tanks and marines in key spots to defend whatever he might have ready for you. At the very most defensive, you can begin SCV production on your 2nd Command Center (which should be an orbital by now of course) inside your main base and expand out when it is safe. As long as you are expanding before him you have done well to ensure that you have the larger economy.

The next question is very similar to the first in both question and answer: “Who takes a 3rd base first?” This is, of course, dependent upon the decisions we made in regards to the first question. If we were in the aggressive mode to keep him from expanding before us then we should contain the enemy as long as possible and begin our 3rd base before he has succeeded in securing his natural. If we were defensive then we need to accurately pinpoint when he begins to invest his economy in a way that makes his harass or aggression a non threat to our 2 base stage. This means that we might expand as he takes his natural or we might expand when we no longer fear his cloak banshees or medivak harass. Either way, the ideal situation is for our side to be taking a 3rd before he has completely transitioned into a 2 base phase and is looking to take his own 3rd.

The next question is a bit more abstract in its nature and requires us to be more specific in terms of the given information that the question relates to. This question also is less of direct decision making question and more of a question that must be asked in order to properly and intelligently answer the last two questions. Let us look at Xel’Naga Caverns. What is the pattern of expansions and attack paths on Xel’Naga Caverns? Each player has 2 obvious bases that fall into his expansion pattern: the gold bases and the “natural” 3rd base that is accessed through the rocks in each player’s natural. Many players assume that the two side bases fall into an obvious player’s expansion pattern but in actuality the two side bases come into play so late into a normal or sensible expansion pattern that positioning and initiative allow for either player to claim either side expansion. Army composition can come into play in determining a player’s options for taking a specific side, bio players being more flexible and mech heavy players being a bit more pigeon holed into taking the side closest to their natural 3rd. There are many different paths that armies can move on.

At this stage of the game, the 3 base stage, we need to ask all of the questions remaining at the same time in order to properly come up with a plan of action that accounts for the information we gained in the last question. Where is each player able to exploit a weakness that allows a small investment on his part to cause large damage to the other player and which player will have access to more minerals and gas as the map mines out. Positioning of your army becomes extremely important. One basic way to look at is your army needs to be either pressuring or blocking. If you are pressuring, you have your army in a location that if left unchecked by the enemy will threaten a key location of his. A good example of this is having a siege tank line that if moved forward around 2-3 range units would begin to hit a base of his. This forces him to use his army in the other basic way an army is used, blocking. A block use of the army is having a siege line that if he moves forward at all will begin to destroy his army. It is important to be aware at all times of where you are able to pressure and where you need to block. If you are not pressuring or blocking you are most likely letting him get into a position that will directly threaten a base of yours and possibly force your hand into attacking into a sieged up position. Unless there is an overwhelming difference in skill between the players, it is very likely that the first player to attack with his army into the other players sieged up army will lose the game quite suddenly. Block his pressure so that you are never forced to do this and pressure him so that you invite this mistake out of him. At this stage of the game harass begins to play a large role as well. Map control via Xel’Naga Towers, Sensor Towers, and cleverly placed Turrets (place them on the edges of the map or other common travel spots of drops and banshee; take note that there is no rule stating that a turret must be placed within a base) will help you to spot his attempts to harass. Use scans and single marines to scout every base as often is as feasible. Newly built bases are often open to harass or signal a redistribution of his forces which might mean a new opening in another location. Useful types of harass that can have very large returns on your investment include marine drops, blueflame hellion drops, banshee harass (you can pick of SCVs or Tanks and be highly effective with these), and bio attacks on unguarded paths. The key to harass is to make sure you are not spending too much food or money on it while still doing some damage.

Now the whole goal of the mid game phase is divide the map in half while ensuring you do not die. Notice that there is no goal whatsoever of killing the enemy. If you win in the midgame, it will be because you have a sieged up position that the enemy attacks into. As you divide the map, it is to your advantage to be the player that is pressuring. If you are forced into a blocking position you should try to harass in order to motivate him to ease up on the pressure. As the last bases are taken, the player that is pressuring will have more leeway in taking an extra base.

As an example, lets say you are the Terran on the south side of Xel’Naga Caverns. In the mid game you have your gold, your natural and your main. The northern Terran has mirrored your expansion pattern. During the mid game you take the right most Xel’Naga Tower as you notice his army is out of position and you siege up. Your army is now fairly close to his gold base (a pressuring position). He moves his siege line into a blocking position. Now there might be small fights to jocky for position involving moving a tank a bit forward and then spotting a tank and a few shots get fired but neither player is willing to risk an assault. At this point you should be thinking of the very late game and how you can end the game with access to more money than the enemy. It would be a very good move to take the LEFT side base (the enemys “natural” 4th) with a Plantary Fortress, 3-4 tanks, and a few turrets. If you are able to do this, the positioning of your army will prevent him from taking your natural 4th and both players natural 3rds will go to the respective players. The key of this is that even if you don’t hold his 4th forever you will have mined it out a bit and gained an end game advantage this way. If you mine 1500 minerals and 1250 gas that is 10 tanks that you can make and he can’t. That translates to a 20 tanks(!) advantage in the endgame. The effect of this stratagey is to use Pressure in the midgame that translate into a very effective blocking in the late game that allows for the taking of a base that would not normally be safe to take.

As another example, lets you are the Terran on the north side of Xel’Naga Caverns. As the mid game has progressed each player is on 4 bases (Main, Natural, 2nd Natural, and Gold). Both players have been unable to put real pressure on the other’s bases and harass has been mildy successful on both ends. You notice that the enemy Terran has started a command center in his 2nd Natural, he obviously wants to float it to his 3rd natural and complete his side of the divide. His army is in a fairly defensive position at the right side Xel’Naga Tower which gives him a strong defense of his gold and of his soon to be 3rd natural. A strong move by you is too, while taking your own 4th natural, take a small group of 3-4 tanks, a small bit of bio, and a small air presence down the left most attack path in the center and siege up north of his main and spot into his main to cause some damage with your tanks on the low ground. Continue to spot his army at the Xel’Naga Tower and to spot at the location of the base he intends to take. If he leaves an opening for you to press to the tower take it. If he take a bit of his forces away from the tower then back off your harass of his main and send some tanks to the right most path in the center and siege up in a position that threatens where his 4th will want to go. The entire late game goal you are committing to is using varying positions that he must react to in order make his strong position fluctuate until a hole appears that allows you pressure his next economic goal. It can be just as effective to deny a base over and over as it is to take an extra base over your normal allotment. Both ideas amount to you being a base up over the enemy.

Let’s now make a short and concise game plan based on the sample build I include. Let us assume it is on Xel’Naga Caverns and that we spawned in the southern location. I will expand fairly quickly with a build that is able to hold vs more aggressive openings and punish greedier openings which should result in my expansion being up and running before the enemies. In the mid game, I will quickly take a 3rd at my gold and add production while I establish a strong position at the right side Xel’Naga Tower. As the gold goes up, I will send a marine to every expo on the map and add two sensor towers and a few turrets to key locations. If he takes his gold as his 3rd I will place heavy pressure onto his position in order to force him into a defensive blocking position. I will, from there, move to take his natural 4th base in order to deny him access to its full allotment of gas/minerals. If he takes his 2nd natural as his 3rd I will ensure that I deny which ever base location he wants to take his 4th at and I will expand to my last two bases fairly quickly. In both situations, as the map mines out I will have access to more resources and the natural attrition of forces will leave me in the upper hand.

I encourage you to think of TvT as an extremely econ oriented matchup instead of long stalemate where patience is what wins. Saying patience wins TvT is only half of the story and it is a really deep matchup with so much more going on. Approach the end game with a CLEAR goal that relates to economy and you will find that most of your games that go that long become easier and easier. Keep in mind that TvT is often more about decision making than timing attacks or fancy build orders. No matter the build you use (for the most part), you can apply this question style of thinking in order to find the correct next move in your game plan.

About me:
You can find me on NA battle net at sTkVADERvii.459 (sc2/en/profile/551040/1/sTkVADERvii/). I ended the last season at 3100 Masters with around 400 bonus. I apologize but I will post replays after April 16th as I am attending a LAN and several Terrans that go to this LAN will be searching for my replays in order to be able to blind counter me. My guide is less of a build order and more of a game theory article on TvT.

Let me know if this is too “general” as I do enjoy making build order guides as well. I just felt that this was a widely misunderstood matchup that is rather easy to understand when you pick it apart with an eye on economy through each and every step.

Feedback is welcome!



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Re: A look at end game focused TvT (my application)

Post  Hot Hands on Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:11 pm

Do you have any thoughts on attacking when both armies are maxed? How do drops and other such tactics factor in to it? Does composition really matter in the late game?

On a side note, I like that you gave the reason why many people are frustrated with TvT. Almost every other matchup rewards you for attacking when you're ahead, but TvT usually doesn't. Although your answer to that is just to accept that as reality, which is still just as frustrating even if it is usually correct.
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Re: A look at end game focused TvT (my application)

Post  Vader7 on Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:33 pm

On a side note, I like that you gave the reason why many people are frustrated with TvT. Almost every other matchup rewards you for attacking when you're ahead, but TvT usually doesn't. Although your answer to that is just to accept that as reality, which is still just as frustrating even if it is usually correct.

I feel like people are frustrated with TvT because they are not playing for the late game in way that works. If you are banging your head against a wall it really sucks. I suggest that people instead begin to see the real art that lays underneath the positioning wars and the goals that it allows you to have. I feel if people approached the matchup with these goals in mind that would REALLY enjoy it. Its by far my favorite matchup currently!

Do you have any thoughts on attacking when both armies are maxed? How do drops and other such tactics factor in to it? Does composition really matter in the late game?

Let me answer in reverse order.

Composition matters in all stages of the game because it gives us the tools in which to interact with the enemy. Tanks allow us to block and pressure. Vikings give air control. Thors provide us with HP (was going to say tank but that would be confusing as Tanks are units as well) and help vs vikings. Battlecruisers handle thors and provide us with HP. Marines take opening shots in tank fights and provide burst DPS. The list goes on. Know what your late game goal is, what he composition will likely be, what compositions you CAN make, and then make a decision as to what tools will best help you. Its hard to be specific in the terms of generalizations like my guide. If I post a TvT guide that is more in depth to one build I would be addressing this kind of thing in relation to various scenarios.

Drops and other tactics are extensions of your unit composition, your position, and his position. Tactics allow you to use your composition to interact with his composition and his position. If he is weak in one spot and a drop can reach it use it! If he has very heavy on siege tanks and you have a nuke ready and a large bio force then you might try to force an unsiege and move in. Tactics and harass are something that comes into every TvT that lasts more than an opening phase but they are always very dependent upon your production capabilities and unit comp. As a general rule, the more behind you are the more you might end up relying on items such as drops to come back into the game.

As far as the 200/200 stage. The 200/200 stage matters little in comparison to the all the bases are claimed stage. As far as attacking when you are 200/200? Assuming the enemy has any strength in his position then I would say it sounds like a bad idea to throw units at him. You should always still hit the enemy where he is weak be it a badly positioned army that isn’t sieged up or a base that is just begging to be dropped. This is a question that effects a player hat enters the end game from behind more than anything. If you enter the late game and are down a base and feel behind then you need to make something happen. Don’t look to a frontal assault to be the key to winning. It might be the final step, but the key will be using harass ideas and good positioning in order to get him out of position.

Really you are asking how and when can I be aggressive I think. The answer is the whole game! Just don’t feel like you can go win with a simple frontal assault ever. Its more about controlling the flow of econ and attack paths through positioning and exploitation of the map and his position with harass.

See my guide's examples above to see ideas for what I mean by positioning.


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Re: A look at end game focused TvT (my application)

Post  Vader7 on Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:39 pm

I wish I could edit, I somehow didn't get one line in that I wanted.

The comparions of TvT to chess has been made many times. Think of your main army as your queen. It is a positional unit because of its power and range. Your army (of course we assume with tanks) is the same way. Just like in chess where it is often a poor idea to use your queen to go kill an enemy piece that is out side of your sphere of influence, it is a bad move to use your army as a frontal assualt item.


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Re: A look at end game focused TvT (my application)

Post  qxc on Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:50 pm

Your enthusiasm has not gone unnoticed. We would like you to continue contributing in posts other than your own. If possible - try to make your posts a little more concise (not a book) but as long as you continue to make meaningful contributions you should be accepted within the next week.

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