Strategies for first transport?

On maps like Point of Reach or Pizza, losing that first transport is devastating. This got me thinking about the trade-offs of quick transport expansion, versus attempting to deny your opponent’s expansion with inties or a bomber targeting the landed engies. So, how do higher-rated players (say above 1600 ladder) think about this:

  1. How do you protect against your opponent building a few inties first and shooting down your transport?

  2. Conversely, is it not a viable strategy among pros to delay your first transport and instead build say 4-5 inties first to target the opponent’s transport?

  3. If you can kill your opponent’s engies with a bomber just as they land and then land some engies yourself, you’re way ahead. But I rarely see players really commit to this strategy. They might build one bomber after their first transport and try their luck, but that’s not a reliable approach. Do pros not consider it viable to e.g. build 2 bombers first and really ensure the opponent’s expansion gets denied?

You can make a custom search in the replay vault to show only high-rated ladder games on a single map, such as Point of Reach or Roanoke Abyss. Just pick a minimum rating like 1600 or 1800.

If you want to watch older replays, you may need to disable your UI mods.

If you look over this you should see how often these players switch between different openings like transport first vs. making scouts and interceptors first vs. trying to use 1 or more bombers before making a transport. Another opening that you haven't mentioned is to make just a very small amount of scouts + interceptors first, like 1 scout + 2 interceptors, before the transport. The scout can look at their base, and you can see either there is a transport being made OR there are barely any engineers (meaning a transport already took them) OR they're spamming interceptors OR they're making bombers. Whatever you see, you can use that to decide what to do next.

Making 2 bombers does not ensure that an expansion is denied. Engineers can try to dodge, bombers can be shot down, and higher-rated players usually split engineers so that a bomber will need multiple passes.

It is something like "rock paper scissors." If you always make bombers, your opponent can counter that (two simple counters: 1 spam interceptors to win air and then use that to deny your transports, or 2 just have some interceptors with the transport to protect it, if they suicide to kill the bomber, they save the drop). So you need to be unpredictable. For the same reason, you don't always send a transport to the right (or to the left).

A drop doesn't need to survive very long to be safe from bombers. If you drop 4 engies, they can split (3 seconds), make a factory (15 seconds), and the factory can make a mobile aa (15 seconds). So basically 33 seconds after your drop happens, there is a factory + an aa, which means it would take a lot of bombers to kill the drop. Bombers might get good work done (kill 3 engineers, that would slow you down) but you have a factory to make more, so the drop itself is safe.

Another thing to consider is, if you're going to lose the transport, have it drop engineers before it gets shot down. Often they can walk the rest of the way, or make navy factories, or do something for you.

Also, if there is going to be an air fight around your transport, there are tricks you can use to keep it alive longer. If you pull it back in the opposite direction, enemy interceptors can fly past it and need a long time to loop around to shoot it again. That can give your interceptors more time to try to kill enemy interceptors.

Edit: also, when you are choosing replays to watch, a short replay indicates that one player's opening got crushed by the other player. A longer replay indicates that there was no crush. I think you would want to watch BOTH types of replays (at least, the first 7 minutes of them) in order to get a full picture of what typically happens.

@treos All the options vialbe.
1 you simply try to do transport as fast as you can.
2 its called airlock and used pretty often
3 airlock is almost always followed by a bomber and ive seen a lot of times such bomber win the game in first 5 mins of the game
4 but usually taking over the island happens with a transport with a lab or tank onboard so it could kill the engis.

@rottenbanana said in Strategies for first transport?:

a transport with a lab or tank onboard

I forgot all about that variant. And you can even use the transport as a ghetto gunship depending on whether you have air control over the drop site. Or you can pick up the tank/LAB and drop it on another island if you don't think you need that unit at your own drop site.

And in general you can decide whether you want to drop away from your opponent's drop, which is less aggressive, and turns the game into something of a race to see who can develop the fastest, OR if you want to drop on the same island as your opponent, which is very aggressive and whoever wins on that island is probably going to win the match.

On maps like Roanoke, there is also the issue of ACU walking. So even if you steal one of the islands close to your opponent, if his ACU walks up out of the water, he might take that island back that way.

And something else to think about: often you can drop the engineers in multiple places. So you have to decide if you want to put them all in one place (which helps you to get a factory up quickly so the drop is secured) or spread them out (so they can build mexes faster)

I've even seen people drop all the engineers in one place, build a factory to secure the drop site, then pick up the engies with the transport and move them somewhere else to get a second drop in. So there is a lot of value in killing your opponent's transport, even after they get the drop off.