TvZ Build Order: Hellbat Drop Opening into Mech (Terran vs Zerg)
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Build Order
- 3. Scouting and Adjustments
- 4. Executing the Hellbat attack.
- 5. Conclusion
- 6. Changelog
Hellbat openings have been a valid TvZ opening since the unit was first introduced in Heart of the Swarm. Their strength comes from the tendency of Terran players to open with Hellions in the match-up naturally, to take early map control, for safety against early Zergling attacks and for potential run-bys. With the ability to hide the Armory away behind a mineral line, it can be difficult for a Zerg to identify a Hellbat attack is coming.
There have been endless variations of Hellbat builds over the years and this one takes it one step further: by introducing the Medivac without building Marines you can split your Hellbats into two locations, making it difficult for the Zerg to defend in their usual manner of just bringing all of their Queens together to support their unit production. The multi-pronged aspect of the attack also makes it difficult to kite the Hellbats and hence causes more losses than the straight up frontal attack.
As with all of our build orders, constant worker production is assumed unless mentioned otherwise and so all builds are based on supply count timings. Rough in-game timer points have been added at points of the build.
We start with a standard gas-first Reaper expansion:
- 14 — Build Supply Depot as part of wall (rally first worker made from Command Center to the ramp).
- 16 — Build Barracks #1.
- 16 — Build Refinery.
- 17 — Worker scout - this is optional but we suggest scouting to see whether it is a Hatchery or Spawning Pool first build. If it is the latter, you can then keep your Reaper at home or hunt the early Zerglings down.
- 19 — Upgrade your Command Center to Orbital Command.
- 19 — Recruit Reaper.
- 20 — Build Command Center (generally on low ground).
The build then continues from this Reaper expansion:
- 21 — Supply Depot built to complete the wall off at the ramp.
- 21 — Recruit Marine.
- 23 — Build Factory close to Barracks for add-on swapping.
- 23 — Build Refinery.
- 24 — Build Reactor on Barracks.
- 26 — Upgrade Command Center to Orbital Command.
- 26 — Build Starport.
- 27 — Factory swaps onto the Reactor while the Barracks moves away and is no longer used apart from to build add-ons.
- 27 — Hellion production begins on the Factory.
- 32 — Tech Lab built near Starport.
- 38 — Supply Depot - further depots should be built as required and are no longer mentioned in the build order.
- 38 — Viking which will hunter Overlords.
- 50 — Recruit Medivac.
- 52 — Build Armory.
- At this stage (~4:30 game time) you should have 8 Hellions and a Medivac (as well as the Viking and ~34 SCVs for reference). Use the Medivac to lift the four Hellions at home and move them across the map. Continue Hellion production on the Factory and rally them across to the third base (discussed later).
- 62 — Build Command Center in base to float to third location later.
- 70 — Start the Terran Vehicle Weapons Level 1 research on the Armory.
- 70 — Build Armory #2.
- 70 — Build Refinery #3 and #4.
You should now be executing your Hellbat attack, meaning the initial build order is completed! At this point you can make your choice of how you transition, either into Mech or Bio (the build order assumed a Mech follow-up, hence the Vehicle Weapons research and additional Armory. Most Hellbat attacks can transition into either of the compositions easily, so if you want to play Bio instead you can start to research Stimpack on the Tech Lab which was built earlier - however, this build in particular works better for a Mech transition as you have skipped all Marine production up until this point. We will continue to explain a Mech follow-up.
Continuing into a double Thor drop (supply numbers omitted as at this point you are expected to be fighting and losing units):
- You should continue Hellion production, unless you see the need for Cyclones due to Roaches.
- Add Factory #2 and #3 while building another Tech Lab on the Barracks. One Factory can build on the already existing Tech Lab, while the other can build next to the Barracks for a quick swap.
- Add a Reactor on the Starport.
- Start the Terran Vehicle And Ship Plating Level 1 research on the second Armory.
- As the two Factories complete start 2 x Thor and 2 x Medivacs when the Starport is ready with a Reactor.
- As the Thors finish, you can harass with them using the Medivacs.
This build has now set you up into a solid Mech mid-game where you can add extra production and play as usual. Because you have two Tech Labs you can start Siege Tank production earlier instead of the Thors if your opponent is looking to counter attack with Roaches and Ravagers.
Scouting and Adjustments
There is not a lot of special scouting to be done with this build. The most important thing to be aware of is Roach-based attacks early in the game as when you are making pure Hellions you do not have any units which can fight effectively. In this scenario you can start Cyclone production on the Factory instead of extra Hellions and you can also put the Starport onto the early Tech Lab which otherwise isn't used to rush a Banshee to help defend.
The best way to identify early aggression is to keep your Hellions out on the map at the front of the Zerg player's creep spread. By doing this you will see any units leaving the base and moving across the map - but make sure to be careful as you want to keep the Hellions alive for the attack. Losing them will significantly hurt your chances of success, so keep a sharp eye on them.
When you are attacking with the Hellions you will also get a decent scout of the Zerg base, so you can check for a Lair timing as well as to see what composition of units is going to be used (either through the built structures or the units being used to defend. If a Zerg has a lot of Roaches and your attack starts to be cleaned up quickly, you should look to start Cyclone production as soon as possible or a Banshee - you may even want to produce two Siege Tanks instead of the Thors when the extra factories are finished producing to keep you extra safe.
Executing the Hellbat attack.
Early game you should have your first four Hellions on the map with the Reaper to slow down creep spread as well as watching for incoming Zerg units early in the game. The 5th-8th Hellions should be kept at home, so that when the Medivac is finished producing you can instantly lift the Hellions up and move across the map. Generally you want to hit the two bases of the Zerg (assuming they are on three Hatcheries at this stage. If they are only on two, something crazy is happening) which are furthest apart, which on most maps will be the main base and the third base. The idea behind this is that you want to make it difficult for the Zerg player to defend both sets of units effectively, and one of their main defensive units early the Queen is not going to be able to move between bases very fast.
This means you should be sending the four Hellions on the map towards the third base and dropping the main base with the other four. Make sure to sync the attacks so that they come in at the same time to maximize chaos (this will catch a lot of Zerg players off guard). You will want to run the Hellions as close to third as possible before being seen by units, then morph them into Hellbats. With the dropped Hellbats in the main you will want to drop behind a mineral line or on the edge of the base before moving forwards, so that you can either morph them into Hellbats together or position them between mineral lines to reduce surface area while they morph. If your Viking is still around on the map after it has been Overlord hunting, you can even land it and use it in the engagement!
You can play around and see what works best, you might find that hitting the main first and then running into the third works well as you might be able to get the Hellions at the third all the way into the mineral line before the Zerg responds, allowing for some guaranteed Drone kills before morphing the Hellbats. Try it out and play around and see what the most effective way of using these units is for you! Remember that with the Medivac in the main base you are able to micro the Hellbats a significant amount - you should be able to lift damaged Hellbats and move them to the back for healing or lift them away from full surrounds to keep them alive for longer in general.
As the attack is ongoing the new Hellions which you are building at home should be rallying across the map towards the third base to reinforce that location (reinforcing into the main base isn't really possible). Against Zergling-based defenses these continuous rallies can sometimes win the game straight up if the Zerg was caught underprepared. Against Roach defenses you want to be a bit more careful to not throw the units away without finding value - you still need to be able to justify this commitment and sometimes it is better to back away before fighting and to take the fight a later point (losing too many units too quickly is an easy way to die to a follow-up counterattack). Make sure to keep that macro up at home while attacking as well for the same reason!
This build is a great way to add a bit more complexity to an early Hellbat attack, allowing you to deal some more damage and to reap the rewards from better multi-tasking. It sets you up to deal damage early and to slow down the Zerg economy, while picking up great scouting information about what the Zerg is looking to follow up with. We have covered a mech-based follow-up in this guide, looking towards a Thor drop to open up the mid-game, but the build can definitely be adapted to suit a bio style as well, if that is how you prefer to play.
So don't wait any longer, go give them Zerg players hell on the ladder by putting Hellbats all over their bases and mineral lines! Good luck!
- 21 Feb. 2018: Another TvZ build, this time looking at a Hellbat opening with a Mech follow-up.
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