TvT Innovation’s Marine/Hellion Expand

General Overview

This fast expansion build created by Innovation uses Hellions to stay safe against Reapers, Banshees, and Hellbats–all while taking map control.

Build Order

  • 10 – Supply Depot
  • 12 – Barracks
  • 15 – Refinery
  • 16 – Marine (up to 2)
  • 17 – Orbital Command
  • 17 – Supply Depot
  • 20 – @100% 2nd Marine, start Reactor on Barracks
  • 20 – @400 Mins, start 2nd Command Center
  • 21 – @100 Gas, start Factory
  • @100% Reactor, start constant Marine production
  • @100% 3rd/4th Marines, start 3rd Supply Depot
  • @100 Gas, start Starport and swap off Reactor onto Factory
    • Start constant Hellion production – up to 6
  • @100% Starport, start Medivac
  • Benchmark: When your first Medivac pops (@6:50ish), you should have 29 SCVs, 6 Marines, 4 Hellions, and 1 Medivac


Scouting with this build until you get your first Hellions out is not necessary.  However if you want to SCV scout, checking your opponent’s gas timing clues you in on what they could possibly be doing.

If your SCV sees that your opponent has mined more gas than you have, the most likely are opening with Reapers.  However, even if you do not get into your opponent’s base, you can still tell a Reaper is coming by leaving your scout next to your opponent’s Barracks to spot whether it dies to a Marine or a Reaper.  Your first 2 Marines positioned in your main at a Reaper jump-up spot, followed up by the Reactor for extra Marine production should crush any aggressive Reaper play if you react with and position your initial Marines well. With the Reactored Hellion follow-up you can seize map control and spot if there are any other pushes coming.

When your second Orbital Command finishes and you are still worried about a 1 base play, consider scanning your opponent’s main base.  Against 1 base play, be sure to have good vision around your base to prevent elevators and to defend your front with a Bunker.  Also, a Missile Turret per mineral line with one Viking will shut down any Widow Mine Drops into Cloak Banshee openers.  Lastly, if your opponent is going for Hellbat drops, then producing more than 6 Hellions and starting a Viking can be really helpful for your defense–normal Hellions do quite well against Hellbats, and Vikings do quite well at deterring Medivacs.


If your opponent invested more than 2 Reapers before expanding into bio play, then this is your cue to do heavy damage.  If he played greedy and didn’t build a bunker at his natural, you can go in with your 4 Hellions, 6 Marines and your first Medivac and kill his un-upgraded Marines.  If there is a Bunker at the natural, then simply elevator your Marines and then Hellions into your opponent’s main and kill as many units as you can.

Against Mech play you might have to play a bit more conservative with your aggression because in Hellion vs Hellion fights, the player who was positioned correctly before the fight usually has the advantage. Instead of committing to an attack or elevator, pulling your army back and placing down a quick 3rd Command Center is a safer way to play.

Against standard Bio play, you can attempt to hit a Marine/Hellion timing at his front with your first 4 Hellions, 6 Marines, and a Medivac.  Or, if your opponent is too well defended at the front, perform a 4 Hellion drop and harass his SCVs instead.  Getting your 2nd Barracks and starting Stimpack before taking your 3rd Command Center is crucial to staying safe against 10 minute Bio timings and drop play.  Alternatively, going Mech and producing Widow Mines/Siege Tanks as you take your third base is a strong way to stay safe as well.


Because this build opens with every tech building, this build transitions quite strongly into anything: Marine/Tank or Mech play.  Note that as stated in the Execution section above, the follow-up you can do after you get your initial Marine/Hellion/Medivac army is completely dependent on your own preference and the play style of your opponent.

When transitioning into Bio play, against Mech and 3CC builds you can get away with starting your 3rd CC right away and following-up with 2 Barracks with Tech labs (to start Stimpack/Combat Shields), 3 Refineries, and 2 Engineering bays.  Against more traditional Bio play it is necessary to start a Tech lab on your initial Barracks for a quicker Stimpack.  Then, after taking a 2nd Refinery, you can build a 2nd Barracks onto the naked Reactor and start Siege Tank production to take yourself into the midgame. This is followed up by a 3rd Command Center (between 8:00-8:30), 1 more Barracks, both Refineries at your natural expansion, and 2 Engineering bays.  Not having Stimpack completed in time for the inevitable 10ish minute drop play can be a game changer because with the new Medivacs boosting around your main and natural, it is very easy to get caught out of position and take a lot of damage for free.

ForGG does an interesting follow-up where he simply constantly produces Hellions – sometimes going up to 20+ Hellions – and overwhelms his opponents before they have Stimpack or enough Siege Tanks to deal with this attack.  Mass Hellions are surprisingly good against opponents who make Hellbats or try drop play without a perfect follow-up.

Another possible follow-up is going for Mech play. This is easily achieved by keeping the Factory onto the Reactor for more Hellions, getting all 4 Refineries while starting more Factories, and starting your 3rd Command Center very quickly.  Building some Vikings for drop defense will definitely come in handy as well.

Game 2 between Innovation and Flash (the Neo Planet S game linked below in the Replay section) is a great VOD to study if you want to learn possible transitions for this build because Flash does a Mech follow-up while Innovation goes for a Bio follow-up.

Pros and Cons

This build defends early pressure quite easily, while getting a quick expansion and going into the midgame.  Also, once your first Medivac is out, you hit your opponent with lots of pressure early on to kick start an aggressive game.  Finally, this build is quite versatile when it comes to transitions, for opening with a 1/1/1 grants you the freedom to go into nearly anything.

However, this build sacrifices upgrades in favor of tech, as you will often be behind in the Stimpack research or Engibay/Armory upgrades.  Also, if your opponent defends this build with a 1rax FE without taking any damage, then you will have a tough time trying to deal with midgame bio timings and drops.

Favorable Maps

This build is very strong on maps with smaller cliff ranges that Reapers can jump up, encouraging non-Reaper builds and 1rax FEs.  Also it is stronger on maps with large mains so that there are more potential elevator locations.

  • King Sejong Station
  • Nimbus
  • Catallena
  • Foxtrot Labs


TaeJa beating Innovation with this build in the finals of DreamHack Bucharest 2013

Innovation and Flash both performing this build at MLG Dallas 2013

Innovation again performing this build against Flash at MLG Dallas 2013 – one of the best games of the tournament

Innovation once again performing this build against Flash in Proleague

Innovation’s Marine/Hellion Expand Tutorial Replay vs a Very Easy AI


Thanks to Friet Mayo for helping write-up this build