StarCraft II Balance Update 2019
Each year, we take a step back to evaluate what improvements we could make to the game for a post-BlizzCon design patch. As we come closer and closer to stability with each passing year, for 2019, we’ll be focusing more on tweaks and refinements to existing units. Some themes in this year’s patch include:
- Introducing new upgrades designed to gate the full power of certain units and improve late-game usage for others.
- Strategically reducing ranges of key units and abilities to encourage greater interaction in late game.
Before we start, please bear in mind that this update contains many experimental changes that we’d like to try and test, and we’ll do our best at highlighting which ones we’re especially wary of.
- Infernal Pre-Igniter research cost decreased from 150/150 to 100/100.
In the summer of 2011, the legendary SlayerS Terrans unleashed a revolutionary “Blue Flame Hellion” build upon hapless Zerg players around the world, and the balance team had no choice but to act, cutting the bonus provided by the Infernal Pre-Igniter upgrade in half. Since then, the upgrade has acted more as a time-gate to the Hellion/Hellbat’s mid-game combat power rather than a core upgrade for matchup-defining openers. As such, we’d like to reduce the cost of this upgrade to encourage earlier and more meaningful Hellion/Hellbat power spikes.
- High Impact Payload damage decreased from 40 (+15 vs Massive) to 25 (+10 vs Massive).
- High Impact Payload weapon cooldown decreased from 1.7 to 0.9.
A common complaint we’ve heard regarding the Thor is its ability to be controlled in late-game fights. Because the Thor’s anti-ground and anti-air attacks have such drastically different cooldowns, it can often feel unresponsive in these engagements. Thus, we’d like to try an experimental change that brings the High Impact Payload’s cooldown to the same as that of its anti-ground weapon, Thor’s Hammer. The primary purpose of this change is neither to increase nor decrease the Thor’s power, but rather to improve the responsiveness without hurting its fantasy. Of course, there are tradeoffs to this change; while this new Thor has lower burst damage, it will tend to overkill its targets less frequently. Because we view the lower burst damage to be slightly more impactful than the lower overkill potential, we’ll also be slightly raising the DPS of this weapon to start off.
- Health increased from 135 to 150.
We’d like for the Viking to be a stronger counter to the units it’s intended to fight. After this change, Vikings will generally take additional shots to kill from Corruptors, Stalkers, and Tempests. Perhaps more importantly, it’ll be more resilient against area effects such as Fungal Growth, Parasitic Bomb, and Psionic Storm.
Some concerns we have for this change include the strength of individual Viking in the early game, the potency of timing pushes against Colossi in TvP, and its general power level in TvT. We’ll also be careful to evaluate how impactful this change will be considering other changes proposed, especially those involving the Infestor and Tempest.
- Moved the Rapid Re-Ignition System upgrade from the Starport Tech Lab to the Fusion Core.
- In addition to reducing the Medivac's Ignite Afterburners cooldown by 5 seconds, this upgrade will also increase the Medivac's base movement speed from 3.5 to 4.13. However, this upgrade will not affect Medivac’s movement speed during the Ignite Afterburners effect.
In the past, our goals with various Medivac upgrades has always been two-fold: first, to introduce an upgrade that improves mid- or late-game multipronged Medivac harassment. And secondly, to ensure this upgrade does not greatly improve potentially game-ending doom drops.
Previous Medivac upgrades have seen little use as they were viewed as unimpactful and at an awkward position on the Terran tech tree. We’d like to start off by introducing this new, more visibly impactful upgrade on the Fusion Core, a building that often finds itself idling. We believe this could be a potentially powerful upgrade either researched in the late game or from Battlecruiser openers.
- Advanced Ballistics upgrade moved from the Starport Tech Lab to the Fusion Core.
Likewise, the transition to ranged Liberators can also be awkward and, in more than one matchup, lead to a period of inactivity on the Terran’s part. We’d like to try to smooth this transition by transplanting the upgrade to the Fusion Core, and we feel confident we can safely do so with the following change:
- Advanced Ballistics upgrade now increases the range of Liberators in Defender Mode by 3, down from 4.
We’d like to reduce the range of a few key units and abilities, including fully upgraded Liberators, in order to promote more unit interaction in the late game. This range reduction is meant to be viewed as a package with the changes to Neural Parasite and the Tempest as they are two units/abilities that often interact with the Liberator.
- Interference Matrix energy cost increased from 50 energy to 75 energy.
- Interference Matrix duration increased from 8 seconds to 11 seconds.
We believe the Raven is slightly too powerful in early-game TvT, leading to a low level of diversity in this matchup’s openers. As Interference Matrix is key to the Raven’s strength in TvT, we’d like to make some adjustments to divert its power from disabling Siege Tanks. As early-game TvT engagements are characterized by quick exchanges of Tank volleys, we believe an energy cost increase in favor of increased duration would constitute a bigger change in TvT than the other matchups.
- Raven movement speed increased from 3.85 to 4.13.
We’d also like to place more of the Raven’s power into the unit's body. When the Raven was potentially lethal with previous iterations of Hunter-seeker missile and Anti-armor missile, the slower movement speed was a necessary counterbalance. Now that the Raven occupies more of a support role, we believe it’s no longer necessary to exercise such restraint, and a higher movement speed could allow it to be more useful at harassment and creep-clearing.
Our goals with these set of changes is to decrease the Raven’s early-game power in TvT while either maintaining or increasing its power in other matchups. If this set of changes fails to achieve either of these goals, we’ll be ready to make tweaks.
- Tactical Jump now stuns and puts the Battlecruiser into a 1 second vulnerability phase before it teleports.
While we enjoy the increased Battlecruiser usage over the last year, we think it’s a bit too easy for them to escape unfavorable situations, so we’d like to make this change to encourage Battlecruiser players to think twice before committing their fleets into risky predicaments. After this change, Interference Matrix, Fungal Growth, and Abduct will be able to cancel Tactical Jump and put it on cooldown during the Battlecruiser’s vulnerability phase.
- Tactical Jump cooldown increased from 71 seconds to 86 seconds.
An alternate potential change we’d like to try is simply to increase Tactical Jump’s cooldown, which would temper its ability to constantly harass and perform hit-and-run tactics on enemies, especially in the late game. When considering options to tweak the Battlecruiser, we’re interested in some combination of the above two changes, but perhaps not both.
- Yamato Cannon will no longer cancel itself if a target enters a transport or becomes cloaked/burrowed. Instead, the Yamato Cannon will miss, and the ability will go on cooldown.
In addition, we’d like to introduce some counter-play options against Yamato Cannon.
- Duration decreased from 64 seconds to 63 seconds.
After this change, Mules will still mine the same number of Minerals if left undisturbed. However, they will no longer expire while holding minerals from certain patches.
- Mules now always attempt to spawn on the side of minerals closest to a town hall.
This general quality of life change also helps ensure undisturbed Mules always mine their maximum potential.
- Infested Terran energy cost increased from 25 to 50.
- Infested Terran health increased from 50 to 75.
- Infested Swarm Egg health increased from 70 to 75.
- The Infested Terran’s Gauss Rifle damage increased from 6 to 12.
- The Infested Terran’s Infested Rockets damage increased from 14 to 24.
- Infested Rockets now gain +2 per ranged weapon upgrade, up from +1.
- Infested Rockets attack period decreased from 1.14 to 0.95.
We’d like to redesign the Infested Terran ability with the following goals in mind: First, to make each Infested Terran feel like more of a commitment. Secondly, we want to provide players with more clear counters-play options against Infested Terrans.
Our proposal is a more expensive and powerful Infested Terran that is still vulnerable to key Terran and Protoss units and abilities. With this redesign, while Infested Terrans will have higher damage density, they’ll be more vulnerable to Psionic Storm, Disruptors, and Liberators.
- Neural Parasite range decreased from 9 to 8.
On the theme of reducing the ranges of key late game-oriented units and abilities, we’d like to reduce the range of Neural Parasite in order to ensure that the Infestor must put itself in greater danger when casting this potentially game-ending ability.
- Removed the Research Neural Parasite upgrade. Infestors now come with Neural Parasite by default.
One piece of feedback we’ve heard regarding Battlecruiser openers in TvZ is that while they’re not necessarily too powerful, they often result in a few minutes of inaction on the part of the Zerg player due to the heavy investment required to punch through an army involving any number of Battlecruisers. On the Terran side, we’ve heard feedback that Battlecruiser openers are used so often because they are the best and most stable opener that can be used to transition into mech. This feedback is a bit concerning since we like that Battlecruiser openings are viable, but we nonetheless feel they might be crowding out other cool Terran openers.
This very experimental change could theoretically provide Zerg a more direct option to be aggressive against Battlecruiser openings and open them up to a potential weakness. For now, we believe this change is safe to try given both the Neural Parasite range decrease and the relative low importance of the upgrade’s research duration and time when considering late-game situations. We will also take care to note how the other proposed Battlecruiser changes, designed at changing Battlecruiser interactions in the mid-to-late game, interact with this change, designed at influencing early-game interactions.
- Lurker Den build time decreased from 86 seconds to 57 seconds.
- Lurker range decreased from 9 to 8.
- New Upgrade found on the Lurker Den: Seismic Spines
- Increases the Lurker’s range from 8 to 10.
- Requirement: Hive
- Research cost: 150/150.
- Research duration: 57 seconds.
- Increased research duration of Adaptive Talons from 54 seconds to 57 seconds.
We’d like to provide Zerg a strong, dynamic counter against Immortal/Templar-based armies that isn’t Brood Lords. We believe that unit should be the Lurker as it is already close to fulfilling that role. Our first try will attempt to do so in two ways. First, we’d like to smooth out the transition to Lurkers, while at the same time lowering their initial strength to smooth out their power curve as a concern for Lurker-based timings. We’d also like to add a late-game upgrade geared towards fighting Immortal/Templar-based Protoss ground armies.
Finally, increasing the research duration of Adaptive Talons brings it more in line with other upgrades in the game.
- Broodling leash range decreased from 12 to 9.
Without getting too deep in the weeds, the Broodling’s current 12 leash range allows the Broodlord to attack from 13 range with an attack-click order. By reducing leash range to 9, the Broodlord will always be limited to 10 range regardless of command.
- Nydus Network and Nydus Worm initial unload delay increased from 0.18 to 0.36.
- Nydus Network and Nydus Worm load period increased from 0.09 to 0.18.
- Nydus Network and Nydus Worm unload period increased from 0.18 to 0.36.
- New upgrade found on the Evolution Chamber: Secreted Coating
- Reduces the Nydus Network and Nydus Worm’s initial unload delay from 0.36 to 0.18.
- Reduces the Nydus Network and Nydus Worm’s load period from 0.18 to 0.09.
- Reduces the Nydus Network and Nydus Worm’s unload period from 0.36 to 0.18.
- Requirement: Hive.
- Research cost: 100/100.
- Research duration: 57 seconds.
While we love the experimentation with Nydus Networks and Worms over this past year, we think there are opportunities to temper its power in key situations. For one, we believe the early-game all-in potential is a bit too strong, so we’d like to take the opportunity to delay some of the Nydus’ early- and mid-game power to reapply it at the Hive level. In addition to reducing all-in strength, we’d also like to provide greater opportunity for players to punish Zergs who overcommit their units—for instance, in the case of retreating Swarm Hosts.
- Summon Nydus Worm ability cooldown increased from 0 to 14.
Currently, Nydus Networks are able to queue up Nydus Worms one after the other; if a Nydus Worm is destroyed during constructing, its corresponding Nydus Network can then immediately build a new Worm at another location on the map. This has led to situations where players defending against an early Nydus all-in would be hastily ping-ponged between bases. It also created strange instances where it was actually optimal to kill a building Nydus Worm at the very last second in order to delay the subsequent Nydus worm.
Therefore, we’d like to add a cooldown on the Summon Nydus Worm ability equal to the build time of the Nydus Worm. If your Worms finish construction, there’ll be virtually no difference in Network uptime. But if a Worm is killed in the middle of construction, its Network will go on cooldown equal to the remaining build time of the destroyed Worm. Another result of this change is that players will no longer be able to queue Worms back-to-back, meaning the onus of attention will shift more in favor of the defender.
Oracle, Sentry, Void Ray
- Fixed an issue where beam attacks could deal more damage than intended.
With this change, players will no longer be able to micro these units to deal unintended extra damage to a single target. However, these units will still retain their previous behavior in all other situations.
- The Charge upgrade no longer provides Zealots with +8 damage on impact.
- New upgrade found on the Twilight Council: Sundering Impact
- Grants Zealots the ability to deal +8 damage to enemies on Charge impact.
- Requirement: Charge researched.
- Research cost: 100/100.
- Research duration: 100 seconds.
We believe the power spike gained from researching the Charge upgrade could be a bit too high for its cost and comes a bit too early in the game, therefore crowding out other gateway options. With this change, we’d like to smooth out that power curve. After this change, we believe Protoss will have a more difficult time defending early third bases against Terran, as well as pursuing all-in strategies against Zerg and Terran mech with Chargelots.
- Adept health increased from 70 to 80.
- Adept shields decreased from 70 to 60.
- New upgrade found on the Twilight Council: Amplified Shielding
- Increases the Adept’s shields from 60 to 80.
- Research cost: 100/100.
- Research duration: 100 seconds.
In the recent past, we’ve been very careful at managing the strength of the Adept due to its historical potential when paired with Phoenixes in TvP. But now that Terrans have a clear and powerful counter to Adepts in the form of EMP, we feel more confident that we can safely scale this unit a little better into the mid-to-late game.
With the previous two changes, our goal is to bring the Zealot and Adept together as more comparable options for a core mid-game unit.
- Observer movement speed decreased from 3.01 to 2.63.
- Gravitic Boosters upgrade now increases movement speed by1.31, down from 1.51.
We’d like to revert this change we made earlier in the year, as we feel the frustration caused by barely not catching Observers did not make up for the benefits of the speed increase.
- New upgrade found on the Fleet Beacon: Flux Vanes
- Increases the Void Ray’s movement speed from 3.5 to 4.65.
- Increases the Void Ray’s acceleration from 2.8 to 3.76.
- After the upgrade, the Prismatic Alignment ability will still reduce the Void Ray’s movement speed to 2.625.
- Research cost: 100/100.
- Research duration: 57 seconds.
Early in Wings of Liberty, Flux Vanes was removed because it led to some undesirable game states, allowing Void Ray to easily maneuver into the opponents’ base where it could charge up and potentially camp indefinitely. The Void Ray was also disproportionately powerful at lower skill levels, and Flux Vanes compounded this issue.
Now that the Void Ray has an active Prismatic Alignment ability instead of the passive Prismatic Beams ability, we feel more comfortable reintroducing Flux Vanes in order to push the unit into a potentially new role.
- Kinetic Overload (anti-air) range decreased from 15 to 14.
This is another change designed to rein in the ranges of key late-game units. In combination with the Liberator change, we believe this set of changes will retain the relationship between Liberators and Tempests while allowing lower tier units such as Stalkers and Vikings to interact more easily.
- Health increased from 150 to 200.
- Shields decreased from 125 to 100.
We’d like to tweak the Tempest’s life stats, both to compensate for the range decrease and to be more resilient against EMP Round, which we believe is currently too effective against this capital ship due to its relatively low health-to-shields ratio.
- Time Warp now affects air units in addition to ground units and buildings.
- Time Warp delay reduces from 3.57 seconds to 1.79 seconds.
Even after last year’s changes, we still believe that Time Warp’s current power level is not suitable for such an imposing and awe-inspiring unit. We’d like to try some tweaks, but are especially wary that the delay reduction could be too oppressive.
Once again, this is our first pass of changes for our post-BlizzCon update coming in late November. As with previous design updates, these changes are balanced towards being more noticeable; expect new changes to be added or some being removed as we progress through the testing period. Starting on Tuesday, you’ll be able to hop into the Testing Matchmaking queue and try out the changes. Be sure to let us know what you think. Good luck and have fun!