The Terran versus Terran mirror match-up has always had a wide range of potential openings and early-game play styles, from gas first aggression to fast expansions, a lot of things can work out in TvT. The Reaper-Hellion opening was initially a Wings of Liberty build which involved an early Medivac to attack from inside your opponents main base. In Heart of the Swarm the build saw some use as well as a way to open with strong map control and pressure, with a later command center.
The build is still similar in LotV as it was in HotS - but with the Reaper's new grenade ability it has become even stronger once again. The build has strong map presence in the early game and sets you up with a classic 1-1-1 set-up which allows you to play both aggressively and defensively depending on the unit composition you want to build into. Off of the 1-1-1 you can go into your natural command center before deciding whether you want to build up from two bases and play an aggressive mid-game or you can add a fast third command center and play defensively off of a stronger economy.
14 Supply Depot
19 Orbital Command
19 Reaper x 3 - generally cutting at 3 reapers is best to allow you to start transitioning.
20 Supply Depot
25 Hellion x 3 - generally cutting at 3 hellions is best to allow you to start transitioning.
@100% Starport add a Tech Lab
34 Cloaking Field for Banshee
After 3 Hellions add a Tech Lab to the Factory and build a Cyclone.
Potentially add an Engineering Bay for a turret if you suspect a banshee, or save scans.
~4:00 Command Center
~5:00 Third Command Center or Extra Barracks. Continue into standard TvT mid-game set-up. (Upgrades, etc.)
This is really a generic opening so you can go into a lot of different units after the first Reapers and Hellions. You can go for a defensive Raven and Viking to help defensively or you can go for a Medivac if you want to turn up the aggression. The one unit I think is very important is the Cyclone - as it will keep you safe defensively from most aggression while you are out on the map with your own aggression.
The choice to go for a Third Command Center or extra Barracks is also dependent on how you want to play your follow-up. Obviously the Third Command Center will give you a much stronger economy faster, but you will be very limited with your movement onto the map as you will be delaying your upgrades. You can still harass with a Medivac of marines, but you won't be able to move out with your entire army to pressure your opponent as you would if you added on the extra Barracks first. For the most part this is a choice of preference and of experience as to what works best in certain situations in the games.
Pros & Cons of this Build
- Strong map control early-game and ability to harass.
- Strong follow-up harassment or defensive set-up.
- Safe against early aggression such as 3 Rax Reaper.
- Sets you up with a standard 1-1-1 set-up so you can followup into whichever early-game composition and units you are comfortable playing with.
- On maps with no in-base natural you have some contain power over your opponent and also the chance to delay their units from moving across the map to harass you.
- Choice to go into a fast third Command Center or into two base production.
- Multi-task heavy in the early game.
- Sometimes difficult to take the right engagements in the early game. Over committing can lead to quick losses.
- Delays your natural command center, meaning against an early expansion of your opponent you are required to get some damage done with the build.
Using the early Reaper-Hellion to gain an advantage
Obviously a big part of this build comes down to how you utilize the early Reaper-Hellion which you are producing. There are a few different ways you can use these units to your advantage in the early game, which will help you to get the most out of this opening.
It all starts with the first Reaper. Personally I like to SCV scout on 17 supply when doing this build as it allows me to change what I do with my Reaper. If I scout a Reaper coming out from my opponent I will generally keep my own Reaper back at home or on a high ground to intercept my opponents Reaper. Getting the first couple of hits onto your opponents Reaper can immediately swing things into your favor. Remember to watch out for Reaper grenades though - walking into one of those is a fast way for the tides to change.
If my opponent doesn't go for a Reaper opening then it's time to send that Reaper across to their base. The more damage you can do the better - even if it's just working down the hit points of some Marines or SCVs. If the first Marines take too much damage then when your second Reaper arrives it becomes much easier to start making your opponent lose control of the game, if they are losing Marines and having to pull SCVs.
As the first Hellion comes out it is time to move across the map if you didn't already. Hellions can chase down Reapers, but not very well as they are only slightly faster. When your first Hellion is across the map most players will be completely walled with Depot-Barracks-Depot or they will have Depot-Bunker-Depot. Against a Barracks wall-in, you should position on the ramp and start to pick away at your opponents Depots. Have your Reapers in front to tank damage, as they will heal by themselves, and use their grenades to push your opponents early Marines away or to push repairing SCVs back. If your opponent isn't walled off at all you should go into the base and trade units - it will make your Banshee follow-up much more powerful. Generally unless they have opened very similarly to you, you are going to have the stronger set of units early in the game.
Assuming you go for a Banshee follow-up, then the main idea is to distract and do slight damage at the front while your Banshee heads in towards the mineral lines. If your opponent is prepared defensively then it can sometimes be better to use the Banshee as high ground vision and pick away at Depots in the wall at a distance with the Reaper-Hellion & now Banshee.
These are just a few ways to utilize these early units. The number one factor is going to be that you should always aim to keep your units alive, as you will essentially set up a soft contain on your opponent if they are alive. It's very hard to move down a ramp against Hellions without a Cyclone or a Banshee. Losing your units is generally okay as long as you trade well against your opponents - you will generally be looking to kill a combination of units and workers for it to be worthwhile to have lost your early map control.
This is a great build to have in your repertoire of TvT openings as it is a safe, reliable opening which can transition into multiple styles of play in the early and mid-game. You could effectively open with this multiple times in a series while still playing very different games. If executed well it's always possible to just pick up a win from the opening, if your opponent loses too many units and you kill a depot and get in their base or if the Banshee arrives and they have been too distracted to prepare for it.
With all of the advantages combined (early map control and pressure, harassment based follow-up, ability to go into heavy economy or production) this is definitely a build you should at least be aware of. It's fairly common on the ladder right now and it's always good to know what you are playing against!
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