The Terran versus Zerg match-up has always been my favorite throughout my time in Starcraft 2, so it only made sense for my first guide to be based on an opening which involves one of my new favorite units in the match-up : the Liberator! The Liberator brings a new way in which Terran players can play aggressively in the early-game of TvZ.
With Legacy of the Void we have already seen a decline in the number of reactored Hellion openings and a bundle of new openings becoming viable in TvZ. This build is an opening which looks to skip the usual early-game Hellions while still safely establishing an early third command center while pressuring the Zerg to bring you into a strong position in the mid-game. The build is very flexible and can easily be adapted to your liking and is also a great way to switch things up from your usual TvZ opening, without straying too far from what you know.
The build order used here is based on a game played by Apocalypse, you can find the replay here : http://ggtracker.com/matches/6253487
The build assumes constant SCV production unless noted otherwise. Supply depot timings have been emitted. The supply timings the build is based on assume no disruptions to the build and no units lost. It should be used as an outline.
19 Orbital Command
First Reaper should scout across map and harass. Second reaper should stay home if risk of Zerglings crossing map.
20 Command Center at natural
22 Refinery (Second)
Generally 3:30 is when you should have your Reapers back home or somewhere safe from Zerglings, due to Metabolic Boost finishing. (Hatch -> Gas -> Pool Timing)
25 Reactor on Barracks
26 Command Center in main(Third CC)
27 Orbital Command at natural
28 Reactor on Factory
Begin reactored Marine production
32 Bunker at natural - not needed on maps with an in-base natural expansion, unless scouting aggression from opponent.
37 @100% Starport, swap to Reactor built by Factory - Begin reactored Liberator production and continue constantly
47 Tech Lab on Factory
50 2 x Refinery (Third & Fourth) - slight adjustment to what is seen in replay. Allows for better timing to begin upgrades.
Move across map with first two Liberators and begin harassing when they finish building.
5:00 Expectations : 42 SCVs, 2 Reapers, 2 Liberators, 8 Marines. 1 Barracks (Reactor) , 1 Factory (Tech Lab) , 1 Starport (Reactor).
5:10 Begin tank production
5:15 Double engineering bay
5:30 Float third Command Center to third base
5:30 Second & Third Barracks
After first siege-tank swap first Barracks to tech-lab and begin stimpack
Begin +1/+1 on engineering-bays and add extra Barracks as required
Begin Medivac production after 4 or 6 Liberators
Begin whichever add-on you require on your Factory, either a Reactor for mines (vs Ling/Baneling/Mutalisk play) or a tech-lab for tanks (vs Roaches). These are general guidelines and are dependent on how you like to play mid-game TvZ.
Pros & Cons of this Opening
- A different way to open in TvZ, allowing you to keep your opponent on edge and for you to experiment with something new
- Strong defensive set-up early game with Liberators and a Siege Tank to help defend aggression
- Leaves you with all the pieces you need falling into place as you head into the mid-game
- An under-prepared Zerg can take game ending damage from the Liberators
- Very strong against fast mutalisk openings
- Strong against Nydus openings providing you have good scouting and can set up your Liberators defensively with Marine & SCV support
- Flexible and can be adjusted to your liking with an earlier stimpack and Medivacs or other adaptations.
- No early-game Hellions limits map control and reduction of creep spread
- Lack of early-game Hellions can make it difficult to defend early aggression with a lot of Zerglings, such as early Baneling busts
- Micro intensive when being aggressive with Liberators - important to keep them alive as long as possible which requires a lot of movement away from Queens and Spore Crawlers.
- Late stimpack and medivacs slows down initial pushes available in the game
- Countered by fast Ravager openings, can be difficult to defend counter-aggression with Ravagers
Using the Liberators
One of the ways in which Zergs can quickly fall apart when playing against this build is when the Terran uses their Liberators in very effective ways to deal damage to the economy and production of the Zerg. By having two Liberators hit at the same time you have a lot more options in how you can harass and utilize the units than if you just have a single Liberator. The two main differences in using the Liberators is to either split them up or to combine them to enhance the area which you can lock down. While there is no definitive answer as to what is best and it is best to just adapt to the situation as it goes, here are a couple of tips with some reasoning which should help you.
Splitting the Liberators across multiple bases is best done when there are spore crawlers on the map. Spore crawlers cannot be attacked by Liberators, which means that the only counter to a spore crawler is to move away from it. Liberators become vulnerable when moving as it allows the queens to come into range and to begin attacking, causing additional damage to the liberator and reducing the amount of use you can get out of it. By splitting the Liberators you will also force the queens to split up, meaning it is less likely that a single liberator will get targeted down when moving. Of course the weakness of splitting the Liberators up is that unless you are on a map with an abusive positioning, it is very easy for a single Queen to stay out of the radius of the Liberator siege and to find a position to attack the Liberator from.
Keeping the Liberators together can be very effective when there are not spore crawlers in position and ready to defend. By slightly overlapping the siege areas of the Liberators you can essentially stop Queens from being able to attack the Liberators. The only way to then deal with this is to build a spore crawler out of range and to move it into position, which makes an entire mineral line unusable for about thirty seconds, or to use ravagers to clear the Liberators. While you might not get as many kills with this, it does force lost mining time and once you are forced to move with the Liberators you can begin to split them up and head to multiple bases, or find another position where you can abuse the Liberators together.
When you first approach with your Liberators you should always try and target the Queen on the base. While at higher leagues players are likely to respond quickly and effectively to this and keep their Queen alive, at lower leagues there is a high possibility that they will not notice and respond until it is too late and their Queen is dead (especially if you attack into two separate fronts). From this point it is very easy for the game to snowball into your favor. Another great area to target with your liberators is the larvae spawn of a hatchery. Liberators one-shot larva and three-shot cocoons which are morphing units, meaning you can shut down an entire hatchery of production until the Liberators are cleared.
This is a great build order to mix into a multi-game series to catch your opponent off guard or to just use on the ladder if you don't like playing the same old openings every game, while still getting you into a position which you should be familiar with from other TvZ openings once you get to the mid-game. The build can very quickly snowball into an advantage from which you will struggle to lose if your opponent responds poorly to the early harassment.
I hope you guys enjoy my first guide! If you have any feedback or comments please feel free to let me know! I will be looking to make quite a few more guides and would love to know how they could be improved. Make sure you check out the YouTube video (linked at the top of the page) for some more information and a walk-through of the build and remember to subscribe and also check out our other social media!