Thursday, March 3, 2011

Starcraft 2 Patch 1.3.0 - l46kok's anticipated metagame changes from balance Part 1

Khassar'De Where's My Amulet B$!%H?

With the new patch en'route, there will be significant changes in the gameplay of Starcraft 2. For the good or bad, all races are getting their buffs and nerfs, probably except for Terran good, they finally get their punishment for playing that sorry ass race. In this post, I will do an analysis and give a personal input on my expectation of how the metagame will vary once the patch is out, so expect a lot of subjectivitiy in the post and I am always open for questions and criticisms, so always ask if you have something in mind.

This will also be a very long discussion so I will divide it into two parts

You can see the entire patch note here if you wish for Patch 1.3.0, but for the purposes of this post, I will only CTRL+C,V the portion that actually matters for the discussion

» Click to show Patch 1.3.0 balance changes

In general, I am in favor of what Blizzard is doing to balance the game. It should be apparent if you are a Starcraft 2 player that the most controversial change in this patchlog will be the removal of Khaydarin Amulet, increased research time on stim pack and removal of instant cast on fungal growth along with decrease in stun duration. I will nonetheless, talk about each of the balance changes in details.

■Players can no longer hide units by setting them in a close proximity patrol (Viking flower).

For those of you who doesn't know what viking flower is, watch this video.

TvT Balance. That is all there needs to be said about this removal. Along with the archon toilet (Related to Vortex damage immune change), viking flower is one of those tricks discovered by users that was not foreseen by Blizzard developers. Consider it a form of bug-play if you will. Now that is not to say that these unintentional development can be negative for the game- in fact, the most successful case of balance from unforeseen play was from Starcraft Brood War: Namely the mutalisk stacking.

JulyZerg gets a lot of credits for discovering this trick

It goes without saying that this trick when discovered by JulyZerg was considered a form of bug-play, that was totally not expected by Blizzard in any possible way. This trick eventually became one of greatest foundations of playing Zerg 
and is religiously practiced by Zerg users.

This discovery was revolutionary because as Zerg player, the strategies you could utilize against Terran before this discovery was severely limited. Because of the strength of Bioball, producing Lurkers for transition into mid-game was a must and should you have chosen to make Mutalisks for harassment, the mutalisks could not have been any weaker versus missile turrets and stimmed marines just loled at the mutalisks. More importantly, Zerg had virtually no way to defend from the push done with Terran's greatest artillery, Siege Tanks + Bioball during the Zerg's transition stage. Hence, to compensate for Terran's ridiculous firepower, the only card Zerg can really take out was going Lurkers as compared to many different strategies Terran can employ against Zerg.

Because of this, Blizzard officially acknowledged this bug-play as part of the balance of the game and never removed it. Taking credit for your own mistake, eh?

Now back to the discussion regarding Viking Flower- first, I thought Blizzard was removing these neat tricks discovered by the users just because it was not planned out by the Blizzard's developers, dismissing the fact that there were cases of success from this unforeseen bugs. However, after researching and thinking about how TvT worked today in Starcraft 2, I came to the conclusion that this was actually a necessary removal based on the following facts:

1)TvT is all about positioning. In Mid-Late game, becausae of the firepower provided by the Siege Tanks, the metagame basically comes out to be who has a better positioning in map, so that they can control the expansions in map with ease.

2)Siege Tanks have less sight range than their actual firing range. This makes it imperative for the Terran to have some sort of mechanism of keeping sight for their tanks.

3)The only possible way to maintain sight for the Tanks is reaching a critical mass of Vikings and retain much mana for scan from orbital command.

The above facts obviously does not take cheese or unorthodox plays such as Banshee/Hellion/Viking composition, so I'll leave those out for the purpose of current discussion.

The problem with viking flower given the above points is this: Once a terran player has better positioning than the opponent, it is nearly impossible for the opponent to comeback in the game. Because of the fact that Siege Tanks have such a high firepower, the only way to advance and break the containment is to either win the aerial fight, obtaining a superior sight than your opponent or to reach that critical mass of tanks, winning the ground fight without the sight.

Here's the problem for either case: If you choose the latter option, you will need approximately 1.6~2 times number of tanks than your opponent if you want to break the barricade. 10 tanks in siege mode that already have the concave positioning can easily break 17 siege tanks trying to advance and siege up in time. Question is, will your opponent allow this? Unless if he's braindead, absolutely not. A smart terran player, having the advantage in positioning will always keep scouting his opponent to count the number of tanks just in case of this scenario. So the only realistic answer is to win the aerial fight. Now here's the problem with the aerial case: Viking flower also makes it difficult for you to win the aerial fight if the opponent utilizes it properly. This is because the defender's vikings can immediately fire towards the enemy while the attacker's vikings will need to spread around, losing the opportunity to attack in time. I am not sure of the ratio in this case because it was never tested but if I were to take a bold guess, I'd say you would need at least 1.4~1.5 times more vikings than your opponent to break through the viking flower.

So there you have it: The defender, once he obtains a better position, makes it really impossible for the attacker to break through the containment. The advantage is too great for compensation. Medivac drop maybe a viable answer, but it's often nullified by good scouting + sensor towers. Plus in the case of containment, if you start to risk your gas for making medivacs other than vikings and tanks, it gives a window of opportunity for your opponent to just break through, effectively ending the game. This kind of unbeatable advantage, should always be discouraged in gameplay of any RTS.


    ■Units leaving the Mothership's Vortex are now un-targetable and immune to damage for 1.5 seconds.

This effectively removes the archon toilet. QQ. It was one of my favorite tricks but Blizzard decided to remove it. I believe it was a measure to balance PvZ and partially PvT, because protoss can be unreasonably strong in late game with the utilization of mothership, especially with the fact that archons are commonly seen in these match ups. Retrospectically, motherships weren't being commonly used but nowadays, more motherships are seen even in GSL, so Blizzard might've decided that it could've been too punishing for the enemies who gets their units in vortex and couple of archons completely destroying the enemy units once vortex is over so in that respect, I think this is a viable change as well. However, I still require further pondering + research on this matter to actually give more of a valuable claim so I will add more details on this change later.


  1. I disagree with the mothership change! First you require very good positioning with your mothership before you do the vortex in which the mothership may be snipped upon trying to vortex which isn't cost effective way of using mothership. Another thing is archon is...useless in most situations? :/ Most of the things counter archon >_>