Balance Update - April 28, 2020
Update on May 6, 2020
- Fixed an issue where burrowed Widow Mines were always revealed before an Armory was built.
- Fixed an issue where an overcharged Shield Battery would only restore 3 shields per point of energy instead of the intended 6.
- Baneling’s anti structure damage will no longer be affected by armor.
Update on April 30, 2020
- Fixed an issue where multiple Shield Batteries could target the same unit.
- A range indicator for the Battery Overcharge ability will now always display when a Nexus is selected.
First and foremost, we hope everyone is staying safe in these unprecedented times. While we’ve been hunkered down and large-scale live events have been temporarily halted, we’ve been very fortunate that the community's content creators have stepped up to provide us with a seemingly endless amount of StarCraft. We're always thankful for your passion and creativity. With that said, we wanted to take the time to provide an update on our current thoughts about the state of the game as well as our plans for the next Balance Test Mod.
Though we had concerns with TvZ in last season’s map pool, considering the current maps, the matchup looks healthy both from a gameplay and a balance perspective. After last year’s big patch, we saw a steep rise in Mech strategies followed by a steep decline. Though Bio is still the most prominent strategy for Terran, we’re seeing a slight resurgence in Mech in recent months, possibly inspired by some of the new maps. From the Zerg side, mid-game strategies seem very diverse as well. But perhaps most notably, end game seems to have improved drastically, with Brood Lord turtling seeming like a thing of the past, and scenarios where both sides fight tooth and nail for small pieces of territory commonplace.
While we view TvP to be relatively even, and games tend to end less abruptly than last year, we still believe there’s room for improvement for this matchup in terms of design. For instance, even though we’re seeing fewer games that end abruptly with two-base tank pushes, a lot of the mid game gameplay still centers around the threat of this type of push, which tends to lead to one-dimensional mid games. Any significant changes we’d want to make to impact this matchup would primarily have the goal of opening it up, rather trying to balance it.
First, the good news. We’re seeing a ton of diversity from both sides in the early and mid-game stages of the matchup. From the Protoss side, we’re seeing many varied openers and small refinements to those openers. And from the Zerg side, we’re seeing greater diversity in mid-game unit composition than we’ve possibly ever seen in the history of StarCraft II.
However, we do view this matchup as favoring Zerg, especially in the late game, as evidenced by the lack of late game PvZ play in recent months. And after talking to professional-level Protoss players, we’ve identified the most common threads in their complaints about the matchup as a whole:
- The effectiveness of the Queen in defending early game pressure.
- The efficiency of the Baneling, both as a combat unit and in a harassment role.
- The inability of clearing Creep throughout the mid/late game without necessitating the presence of the entire Protoss army.
- The difficulty of late game with a focus on the risk versus reward of the Abduct/Feedback interaction.
TvT and ZvZ
We view both these matchups to be in a good place, with TvT especially notable for having slightly more dynamic games compared to last year.
We believe PvP has two core issues:
- The volatility of early game and resulting difficulty of holding a natural expansion.
- The difficulty of holding a third.
Ever since the removal of the Mothership Core and its replacement with the Shield Battery, we’ve run into some stability issues with PvP. From what we gather, the current general understanding of early game seems to be that proxy Robotics Facility builds are extremely strong in the matchup, to the point of overcentralizing the metagame. This build is also a large part of why holding a natural expansion is so difficult and the resulting games seem to be so volatile.
Another prevalent concern is the ability for Protoss to hold three bases. In the past, when the key heavy hitters in PvP were Colossi or Disruptors, the defender had a significant advantage in that they would generally have one or two additional Colossi or Disruptors in their defense due to travel distance. But now that Zealots and Archons are primary mid-game units (with Immortals being much less potent than either Colossi or Disruptors), this travel distance is negated, and the defender often can’t make up this difference when slightly behind.
With all these thoughts in mind, here are some changes we’ll be featuring in the next Balance Test Mod to be potentially added to the live game in a future patch.
- Drilling Claws upgrade no longer grants Widow Mines invisibility. Instead, the existence of an Armory will grant Widow Mines invisibility.
- The red laser attachment for Widow Mines will now communicate the existence of an Armory instead of the existence of the Drilling Claws upgrade.
Terran players often talk about feeling economically behind, especially in the TvP matchup. While we are open to making changes to Terran economy, a blanket buff is not something we're currently looking at considering the state of TvZ, as well as planned changes for Zerg. Though TvP economy is a complicated issue, we believe the primary reasons for Terrans feeling behind in this matchup are changes made in the transition from HotS to LotV. Some key ones include changes to Chrono Boost/MULEs and Widow Mines revealing themselves after detonating, thus reducing the importance of early-game detection, which allows Protoss players to take a third earlier and more easily. With that line of thinking and TvP in mind, we're looking to make this change for the following reasons:
- To encourage more dynamic gameplay in TvP. First, we believe Widow Mines naturally lend themselves to more multiprong tactics and drop play over their Siege Tank counterparts. In addition, because of the increased strain placed on Observer placement, we believe this change will create more openings for Terrans to drop in general.
- To put indirect economic pressure on Protoss by increasing the number of potential Terran openers and putting strain on their defenses across multiple bases. We believe this change could encourage more thoughtful positioning of Stalkers as well as force earlier Photon Cannons, both of which detract from the power of the Protoss' primary army.
- To help ease the transition to 2-2 Infantry upgrades.
- Anti-air weapon range decreased from 8 to 7.
The Queen's increased anti-air range was introduced at a point in the game when defending both Liberators and range-upgraded Liberators were a concern in early-game. But with both map design tightening up to account for Liberators and range-upgraded Liberators receiving -1 range, now might be a good time to revert this change to more empower early-game air harassment from other races.
Our biggest concern is how instrumental large numbers of Queens typically are at dealing with Battlecruiser openers, which did not exist in the past. However, if this becomes an issue, our current thinking is that we’d prefer to address it from the Battlecruiser side than the Queen side.
- Centrifugal Hooks no longer grants Banelings +5 HP.
- Centrifugal Hooks cost decreased from 150/150 to 100/100.
Similarly, Banelings originally gained +5 HP at a time when Zergs were struggling in mid game. Fast forward to today, where the most common piece of feedback we receive from both Terran and Protoss players is the strength of the Baneling in a variety of roles. Internally, we considered a variety of options to adjust either the Baneling or the units that interact with the Baneling in more targeted ways, but because the feedback that we received was that the Baneling was so generally strong, we decided to take a more generalized approach.
In initial feedback from professional players, a concern brought up was the difficulty of holding onto fourth bases against a three-base Terran bio push with this change. As the feedback surrounding Banelings centers around their strength over the course of a long game rather than an initial power spike, we’d like to try decreasing Centrifugal Hooks’ cost to mitigate this concern.
- Microbial Shroud no longer requires an upgrade.
In general, when trying to craft novel abilities, we try to tune them towards being powerful. However, with the perception of Zerg last year, we tried to be more careful. This change is one further step we’d like to take towards un-gating the power behind Microbial Shroud, and we’re open to future alterations should we see the need.
- “Armored” tag removed.
- “Light” tag added.
This experimental change is intended to promote interactivity with creep. It targets Adepts, Oracles, and Hellions, and puts greater importance on the Zerg to defend their Creep Tumors. This is one of the changes we're more interested in feedback for, and we’re especially curious as to how much it would impact the Creep-clearing minigame of Terran and Protoss.
- New ability: “Battery Overcharge”
- Effect: Overcharges a target Shield Battery, increasing its shield restoration rate by 100% and causing it to regenerate 100 energy over 21 seconds.
- Cost: 75 Energy.
- Cooldown: 0 seconds.
- Range: 8.
This addition is intended to generally reinforce Protoss' defender's advantage and help Protoss players stabilize in PvP, both on two bases and on three bases.
The initial numbers for this ability were specifically designed with PvP and Proxy Robotics builds in mind; as a testament to the strength of this ability, a Stalker being restored by an “overcharged” Battery will often survive over seven volleys from a typical 4-Stalker, 1-Immortal poke off of Proxy Robotics, up from two when compared to a uncharged Shield Battery. This allows a defending player with two Nexuses to leverage their Nexus energy as a key resource to defend against aggressive attacks, granting them the leeway to build fewer Shield Batteries, and providing them with time to reposition their units while the opponent bounces back and forth between their main and natural.
Against typical two/three base aggression in PvP, we see this ability as a powerful form of defender’s advantage, effectively quadrupling the effectiveness of a Shield Battery, allowing it to restore 1200 shields.
However, this ability still has counterplay in the form of:
- Bursting down the targeted Shield Battery, such as with Corrosive Biles, Banelings, or simple focus fire (if it is insufficiently protected).
- Sieging the Protoss base, such as with Siege Tanks, Lurkers, or Disruptors.
- Backing off until the effects of the Battery Overcharge are over.
- EMP Round.
We view this addition as having the most impact on PvP, because options 1, 2, and 4 are generally not as valid for the current typical mid-game PvP army. At the same time, we also expect effective use of this ability especially against Zerg all-ins, typical mid game Zerg attacks, and Terran attacks when Tanks and Ghosts aren’t involved.
We’re also aware that this new ability will draw some obvious comparisons with Pylon Overcharge, but we believe there are two keys differences. First, unless you get extremely creative, you will not be able to offensively Battery Overcharge rush your opponents. Second, defending harass (especially Terran drops) will require additional commitment, both in the form of units in position to help support the Battery and the investment of building the Battery itself.
Of all the changes in this update, this is the one we’re looking for the most testing and feedback about, both regarding its effectiveness in each matchup (especially PvP), and how we should tune the numbers.
- Revelation energy cost decreased from 50 to 25.
- Revelation cooldown increased from 2 seconds to 10 seconds.
- Revelation duration decreased from 30 seconds to 15 seconds.
This redesign of the Revelation ability is intended to grant it improved utility for clearing Creep Tumors. There are many subtle implications with this redesign, but a key one we’ll be looking out for is how much more effective Revelation will be at detecting Widow Mines, Banshees, and Dark Templar. As a precaution, we’ve preemptively increased the cooldown of this ability to make it more difficult for a single Oracle detect multiple spread-out cloaked units.
This change also interacts directly with our proposed Widow Mine changes, and we’re hoping the net result falls in favor of the Widow Mine.
Finally, we’ll be flagging this change as another one we’re especially looking for feedback on and one we’re likely to tweak before it hits live.
- Feedback range increased from 9 to 10.
When we ask professional-level Protoss players why they’re reluctant to go into late-game, the most common response is that the Feedback/Abduct interaction currently favors Zerg. We believe increasing Feedback range to 10 is the healthiest way to balance out this interaction, as it would allow High Templar to more effectively zone out Vipers, whose Abduct range is 9. In the past, we would have been cautious about bringing Feedback range closer to EMP Round range, but with the new Enhanced Shockwaves upgrade, we feel more comfortable making this change.
When this post goes live, the Balance Test Mod will have been updated with these changes. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and watching the resulting games that are played. As always, keep in mind that these changes are subject to change before they hit the ladder.