HotS Terran Strategy

NOTE: This guide is no longer up-to-date with Legacy of the Void. Instead, I recommend you visit the Terran Build Orders section on Spawning Tool for strategies contributed by the community!

In science fiction and fantasy, humans are always the most versatile race. While Dwarves are all taciturn and the Ferengi are all greedy, humans have great ambition and ingenuity that allow them to do anything. Well, Terran in StarCraft is the same: the key to success is doing some of everything, and with the ambition to work on the mechanics and ingenuity to react quickly, Terran is really, really strong.

So playing Terran is about orchestrating everything. Bio armies (Marine, Marauder, primarily) and Medivac drops aren’t as fast as Mutalisks and Zerglings, but you stretch your influence with multiple attacks and drops. The Protoss deathball is stronger, but Terran can diversify their unit composition and exploit various situations. In short, Terran requires both constant multitasking for harass and very reactive play to deal with different strategies.

Here’s the starting point for Terran builds:

Standard Terran Opening

  • 10 Supply Depot (at ramp)
  • 12 Barracks (at ramp)
  • 12 Refinery (delay next SCV slightly)
  • 15 Orbital Command, Supply Depot (at ramp), Reaper (scout)
  • 18 Reactor
  • 19 Command Center (in-base)
  • 19 Factory (possibly missing in some builds)
  • 21 Marine x2

Off the bat, this build is far more difficult to execute than either standard Zerg or Protoss  builds, but it is standard and probably good for you. Reaper openings force you to micro 4 minutes into the game, and if you can do that while staying on top of the builds below, your mechanics will be amazing.

Terran Versus Protoss

Standard TvP is bio, so get your Barracks ready. HotS has brought new mech units, and you can drop Widow Mines and Hellbats, and incorporate Hellbats into your main army to tank Zealots.

Build Orders

Apollo’s standard TvP is a good, safe build. After the scouting Reaper, he gets up extra Barracks and gets upgrades on 2 bases until a post 10:00 attack.

Apollo’s standard TvP

  • 10 Supply Depot (at ramp)
  • 12 Barracks (at ramp)
  • 12 Refinery (delay next SCV slightly)
  • 15 Orbital Command, Supply Depot (at ramp), Reaper (scout)
  • 18 Reactor
  • 19 Command Center (in-base)
  • 21 Marine x2 (continuous)
  • 24 Barracks x2
  • 27 Bunker (at natural)
  • 30 Orbital Command
  • 30 Supply Depot
  • 33 Tech Lab x2
  • 35 Stimpack, Marauder x2 (continuous)
  • 53 7:30 Refinery x2, Factory (reactor), Engineering Bay
  • 8:00 Combat Shields
  • 8:30 +1 attack
  • 9:00 Turret at front, Starport
  • 9:45 Concussive Shells
  • 10:00 Swap Factory Reactor, Medivac x2 (continuous)
  • 10:15 Refinery
  • 10:30 Command Center (in-base)
  • 11:30 Barracks x3
  • 12:30 Engineering Bay, Armory, push out to attack

Some notes:

  1. Always wall-in at your ramp with your Supply Depot-Barracks-Supply Depot. It’s safe and denies scouting. Behind it, you could be doing anything as far as your opponent knows.
  2. The Reaper is mostly for scouting, so preserve it for as long as you can. If the Protoss player plays standard, they will have a Stalker out soon after your Reaper arrives, so leave, heal up, and scout again later. If they don’t, micro and kill Probes.
  3. The Bunker is timed for a Zealot-Stalker poke.
  4. The Turret is for Dark Templars and occasional stray Observers.
  5. The 3rd base is pretty important. Terran should take their 3rd slightly before Protoss, around 11:00.

If you’re looking for a more aggressive opening, Widow Mine drops are awesome. Here’s roughly what that looks like, based off some builds from Polt.

TvP Widow Mine drops

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 12 Refinery
  • 15 Supply Depot, Orbital Command, Reaper
  • 18 Reactor, Command Center
  • 20 Factory
  • 21 Marine x2
  • 23 Barracks
  • 5:30 Starport, Swap Reactor onto Factory, Widow Mine x2

Notes

  1. The Medivac starts as soon as the Starport finishes. The Mine drops should start around 7:30.
  2. Feel free to follow up with whatever suits you. If you want to focus on more drops, do that. Otherwise, you can fall back towards Apollo’s build. Play around with the build order to see what you like.

Some of what you’re up against

  1. Oracle harass/Skytoss. Oracles can kill workers very quickly, but they are easy to deflect. The quick Reactor on the Barracks should be enough, so leave Marines in your main base if you suspect Oracles. You will need 6 to defeat an Oracle.
  2. Colossi. Because Terran are attacking later (favoring harass instead), Protoss has gotten greedier, including very early Colossi (before 8 minutes). You will need to use Vikings to pick off as many Colossi as possible before attacking with the rest of your bio army.
  3. High Templar. Don’t eat storms. To avoid that, only take engagements that you can get out of, and always retreat because they will run out eventually. Mix Ghosts in to Snipe and EMP High Templars. High Templar may appear as early as 11:00.
  4. Zealot/Archon. I’m always surprised by how good upgraded Zealots are against bio, so don’t be like me. Hellbats are your friends, and EMP the Archons if you have Ghosts.

What you can do

It’s all about bio. Marine/Marauder/Medivac is going to be the core of your army, and you can mix in Widow Mines for early harass, Vikings for Colossi, Ghosts for utility, and Hellbats to take damage. Scout to make sure that you always have the right composition.

Because you need to be so reactive, it’s important that you try to keep pressure on the Protoss with drops. Despite Warp-ins and the Nexus Cannon, you can still do a lot of damage. If you don’t stay active on the map (with your main army, too), then the Protoss will eventually just get their perfect 200 supply army and roll you with reinforcing warp-ins. Don’t let the game get to that stage.

For the brave, you can go mech, and you will definitely catch Protoss players off-guard. I can’t say I recommend it since bio is standard, but if you want to try it, listen to someone who knows far more about it: Day[9] in Day[9] Daily #575.

Terran Versus Zerg

TvZ is currently my least favorite matchup, probably because there are a lot of Zerg players in my league. Zerg can put pressure on with their speed, but good positioning and map awareness should help defend. The good news is that you have many choices in TvZ and can move fluidly between them.

Build Orders

The first, easiest build to execute is a classic Marine/Tank/Medivac style. In fact, it’s so classic, it’s even adapted from a WoL build.

TvZ Marine/Tank/Medivac

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 12 Refinery
  • 15 Supply Depot, Orbital Command, Reaper
  • 18 Reactor, Command Center
  • 20 Factory
  • 21 Marine x2
  • 23 Supply Depot
  • 25 Swap Reactor, Hellion x2 (up to 6 total), Orbital Command
  • 30 Bunker, Tech Lab on Factory, Refinery
  • 6:30-7:00 Command Center (in base)
  • 7:30 Stimpack
  • 7:45 Engineering Bay x2
  • 8:30 +1/+1 upgrades
  • 9:00 Barracks x4
  • 9:45 Factory (for Siege Tanks), Tech Lab on existing Factory, Starport on Reactor
  • 9:50 Refinery x2
  • 10:00 Combat Shields, Armory
  • 10:30 Armory
  • 11:00 attack, move 3rd CC to 3rd base
  • 11:05 +2/+2 upgrades, +1 vehicle weapons

Some notes:

  1. The Hellions should pressure and punish your opponent for being greedy. They can push back creep spread and take out roving Zerglings. And if they’re sloppy, you can run into their base and pick off workers.
  2. I said this was a Siege Tank build, and yet, the Tanks come very late. The Hellions are supposed to keep things stable in-between, though if you see a big push coming, don’t be afraid to get Tanks sooner

The next build is what I consider standard nowadays: the M4 Carbine. It’s M4 for Marine-Marauder-Medivac-(Widow) Mine. This particular build comes from Polt:

Polt TvZ M4 Carbine

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 12 Refinery (delay SCV slightly)
  • 15 Reaper, Orbital command
  • 16 Supply Depot
  • 18 Reaper (attack with both when done
  • 20 Command Center
  • 21 4:20 Factory
  • 22 4:30 Reactor
  • 23 Supply Depot
  • 25 5:40 Swap, Bunker, Hellion x2 (to 6, then Widow Mines), Tech Lab
  • 5:55 Refinery
  • 30 6:05 Starport
  • 7:00 Viking
  • 7:10 Stimpack
  • 8:00 Medivac, harassing with Hellions and Reaper
  • 8:20 Command Center
  • 8:30 Drop leaving with Medivac and 2 Mines
  • 8:50 Engineering Bay x2, Refinery x2
  • 9:10 Barracks x2
  • 9:50 Barracks x2
  • 11:00 Tech Lab x2, Armory, Barracks x4, moves out to 3rd base
  • 12:00 Factory

Some notes:

  1. An early split from our other builds is that Polt goes for a 2nd Reaper. He forgoes the 2 Marines from an earlier Reactor, it’s okay because Zerg doesn’t have Oracles. With 2 Reapers, you should kill Drones and Zerglings as well as scout.
  2. This build also incorporates Widow Mine drops. I heartily endorse that choice.
  3. Put Widow Mines everywhere! In your base to defend against Mutas! At every ramp into your bases! Around the map for vision and map control! With your main army! They’re so good, and Zerg play is so dependent on masses of units.

Finally, if you’re interested in playing mech, check out this post. I don’t recommend playing mech, but it is a viable strategy.

Some of what you’re up against:

  1. Roach/Baneling all-ins. These have recently become popular. It’s not very expensive for Zerg to get a Roach Warren, but if you see one, preserve your Hellions and scout hard for anything coming. If it isn’t a fake (which it probably isn’t), you should start Siege Tank production immediately and Bunker up.
  2. Mutalisk/Zergling/Baneling. This is the most standard style. Fortunately, all 3 builds above can handle it. Mutalisks can be fended off with Widow Mines, Thors, and Marines (preferably in that order), and Banelings can be killed by Widow Mines, Siege Tanks, and good Marine splits (preferably in that order). I recommend an excessive number of Widow Mines and Turrets in your minerals lines to deal with the Mutas until you’re comfortable defending it.
  3. Roach/Hydra/Viper. This has become less popular recently, but it still happens. The Vipers will Abduct Siege Tanks and Blinding Cloud your army, so siege wisely and only fight where you can afford to backup.
  4. Ultralisks. Good micro, Widow Mines, and Marauders.

What you can do

I think I outlined the general compositions in the builds above, so I guess this is just more tips.

Again, I want to emphasize how important drops and Hellion run-bys are. Zerg is mobile and can get map control with Mutas and creep spread, but they’re not omnipresent, and you must pressure them, or they will take the entire map and overwhelm you.

2 keys to TvZ. First, Marines. These guys kill EVERYTHING. Use them generously. Two, splash damage. Either Widow Mines or Siege Tanks are key to killing large amounts of whatever Zerg has, so keep them in all of your engagements.

Terran Versus Terran

And finally, TvT. The good news is that TvT builds are basically what you see above.

Build Orders

TvT builds are very similar to TvZ. The primary difference is that Hellions are less effective since the map control isn’t as relevant. Instead, you can use more drops

Polt’s TvT Mine drops

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 11 Barracks (I think this was a mistake)
  • 12 Refinery
  • 15 Orbital Command, Reaper
  • 16 Supply Depot
  • 16 Reaper (lost a worker, sees no gas)
  • 19 4:10 Command Center
  • 4:25 20 Factory
  • 4:40 Reactor
  • 21 Supply Depot
  • 22 5:05 Barracks (poke in with Reapers)
  • 5:25 Starport (start Marine production), Widow Mine
  • 6:15 tech lab on Barracks, Refinery
  • 6:50 Medivac
  • 7:00 Barracks, Refinery
  • 7:30 tech on Stim
  • 7:40 1 Widow Mine drop (other Mine at opponenemt’s ramp)
  • 8:00 Engineering Bay
  • 8:30 Mine drop, sees mech, Siege Tanks
  • 9:30 push out with army, drop in back
  • 10:30 Command Center
  • Marine/Marauder/Tank/Medivac
  • 14:00 4th base

Notes:

  1. To be honest, I don’t really like Widow Mine drops against Terran because SCVs have too many hit points, but Hellion and Hellbat drops can work.

The other major style is pure Mech.

Flash’s TvT Mech
(v. Reality on Whirlwind) (Twitch, Youtube)

  • 10 Supply Depot
  • 12 Barracks
  • 15 Refinery
  • 16 Marine, Orbital Command
  • 17 Supply Depot
  • 17 Marine
  • 19 Marine
  • 20 Command Center, Reactor
  • 22 4:20 Factory, Supply Depot
  • 23 4:50 Marine x2
  • 5:20 Starport, Refinery, Swap Reactor, Hellion x2 (continuous)
  • Orbital Command
  • 6:10 Viking (defend drops)
  • 6:50 Tech Lab (Barracks)
  • 7:20 swap onto Starport, Raven
  • 7:50 fends off a drop and run-by (takes some damage)
  • ? 9:00 Hellion pressure
  • 8:30 Command Center
  • 9:00 Armory x2
  • 9:45 Refinery x2
  • 9:50 Factory x2
  • 10:30 +1/+1 vehicle
  • 11:00 Siege Tanks x2, Hellbats x2 start
  • 11:20 Engineering Bay
  • 12:00 Medivacs, Missile Turrets

Notes:

  1. The general strategy here is to defend a lot until you can push for the win. Mech armies are stronger than bio, but they’re significantly less mobile. If you can hold off the drops and get up to 3 bases, you should be in good shape.
  2. For fun times against Marine/Marauder/Medivac/Tank, drop Hellbats on top of their Tanks.
  3. Don’t forget that Medivacs can heal Hellbats.

Some of what you’re up against/What you can do

  1. Marine/Marauder/Medivac/Tank
  2. M4 Carbine
  3. Mech

I don’t have strong feelings between these different styles. Use what you like.

Conclusion

Terran, in my opinion, has the most flexibility out of all of the races. Army compositions from Zerg usually have no more than 3 units, and Protoss is basically just trying to transition into all of their most powerful units in a deathball at the end. Terran, however, uses a lot of different units at all different times in the game. That would normally lead to reactive play, but drops and bio mobility allow Terran to also be incredibly aggressive to guide the game as well.

Anyways, I hope you can embrace the mindset that Terran can do just about anything at any time, and more is better. Keep it up: “Matchmaking”, then “Play”.

Other Helpful Posts

References

  • Polt’s YouTube – he hasn’t updated in awhile, but it’s a good archive of standard games and tips from Polt

11 thoughts on “HotS Terran Strategy

  1. “…Siege Tanks and Thors still don’t have a place in TvP.” <— I disagree on this statement. Mech is viable in TvP, it's just undiscovered yet. But for my experience, I'm a Mech player against Protoss in Mid-Masters NA and Low Masters-High Diamond in KR, and what I say… it works definitely strong than bio.

    • Fair enough. Perhaps the statement I made in my writeup was too strong; my experience in playing and watching StarCraft suggested that Siege Tanks and Thors weren’t a part of standard play. Now that I think back, I do remember a long Ghost Mech strategy post on TL, and Sea loved his Siege Tanks in TvP.

      Even so, it was perhaps too hasty for me to dismiss it: you success is definitely a testament to that! Given that, this is far outside of my knowledge, though I did find a Day9 Daily about it. I’ll revise my comments here and add a link to that Daily for anyone who’s interested. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Mech in TVP is totally discovered and quite successfully so. I recommend to watch some youtube replays of HTO Mario. This guy goes mech almost every time and he makes it work as well.

    Another terran player to watch is Demuslim, not for mech, but for his splits, which are insane.

    • Thanks for the reference. I’m planning to revisit this guide after I do some cleanup on the Protoss page, so I’ll be sure to keep this in mind. Given that this is intended for newer players, I’m still not sure whether I have seen enough mech in the meta-game to advise it as a top 2, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t look into it.

      I’ll definitely look at HTOMario’s games (I happen to have a replay pack of them uploaded to consider). Of course there’s always Goody, too.

  3. Thanks for your always prompt replies. Indeed, for newer players it is way easier to just go Marine, Marauder and Medivac. After a while though it might pay off to mix in the occasional hellbat.

    The transition to Mech is easier though than it used to be. Whether you are adding armor for air or mech, you automatically upgrade the other as well.

    In my humble experience the problem that a lot of newer players experience is that they lag in terms of macro, which in term gives them less resources to micro with. There are certain equalizers you can use which can deal a crippling blow to the opponents army which can even the odds. I’d like to list 3 such low-cost, high return game changers.

    1. Seeker missile; usually players tend to group their army on a rally point before pushing out. This makes it ideal to send a few or even several seeker missiles into the group. You retreat the raven immediately after you place the seeker missile so revenge is out of the question. you only spend energy and you can deal a ton of damage. Since most rally points are situated in a bottleneck, outrunning the seeker missile is usually a futile attempt. Anti-air blocking your path? Place a point-intercept drone and your ravens are free to pass by.

    2. The nuclear missile; either you have to find the map-specific sweet spot in which your ghost is hard to scout, or you simply create a diversion. Dropping a nuke at the start of or even before the “major engagement” could very well see the lines of the enemy decimated before the end of it. The message ‘nuclear launch detected’ is quite stressful for your opponent as he/she must act quickly to find your ghost. It is a good way to mess with their head.

    3. The third option is a good old minefield; you flee from the battlefield, your opponent moves in for the kill, chasing your forces…exactly where you want them to be. With the burrowing claws upgrade, mines can even be used offensively. They deal out so much damage.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to your revisions as I am sure you’ll have lots of other new insights to offer us in the game. Your work is much appreciated, keep it up!

    • Hmm, I had never thought much on unorthodox strategies, but you’re definitely right about the effectiveness of those strategies. I have painfully run tons of Zerglings back and across random mines on the map. I’ll keep your comments in mind if I write a post along those; otherwise, hopefully people scroll down into the comments section!

  4. Thanks man this is quite useful, ive got a mate who im trying to teach starcraft to, but i main protoss then zerg and he’s (being the bastard he is) to choose terren, this help him get going much faster and give him a fighting chance

    • No problem! Hopefully these builds and explanations stand up to the test of time: I tried to pick builds that aren’t too meta-game sensitive. And think of it this way: if Terran is your third race, you can work up your Terran along with him. Let me know if you notice any holes or problems with the builds or content above

  5. thankyou for all that info, im just getting into the world that is starcraft2 so im really happy to see such dedicated players. ill keep visiting this forum often for future info and tips. thanks guys

Leave a Reply to jonni Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.