Lynching the entire Protoss player base has been the hot topic of discussion in the StarCraft II community recently, as is the norm following any major Protoss win. That said, it seems wrong to waste the opportunity to talk about one of the most controversial units in the game while everyone is yelling about it. Of course, I’m referring to the Adept.
Even amongst the unfiltered hatred there are very valid criticisms about the Adept, let’s not be mistaken. It’s a unit without a clear method of counter-play which is never healthy design. To Blizzard’s credit, they have tried interesting, but ultimately unsuccessful, ways of providing workarounds. It’s a delicate subject because there’s really no statistical evidence to show the Adept is imbalanced. However, it is undeniably a frustrating unit to play against which has always been the core issue.
What makes the Adept so frustrating, why have previous design changes failed and what can and should be done? These are the topics of today’s discussion. So let’s get into it.
For the unfamiliar, Psionic Transfer is the Adept’s ability to project un-targetable shades of itself. After 7 seconds, the Adept teleports directly to the location of its shades. Now, what makes the Adept frustrating isn’t its ability to teleport. Rather, it’s the Adept’s ability to cancel it.
If it were not possible to cancel Psionic Transfer, the solution becomes obvious: just follow the shades. Instead what we have is a mind game, for which there is no clear solution. Attempting to follow the shades will only result in the Protoss canceling them. If you stick with the main body, then the shade goes through. Attempting to split your army creates the worst possible scenario where the Protoss can potentially prey on the divided force whether they decide to commit to the shades or not.
The solution becomes obvious then, why not just take away the ability to cancel the shades?
Indeed, this is hardly a unique idea. In fact, it’s been brought up for as long as the Adept was available for testing in the Legacy of the Void beta. And since then, the balance team’s stance on the matter has been to avoid creating overlap with the Stalker. Now, this is a frustrating response for many reasons, which I’ll get into in the next section. And given that Blizzard has gone to great lengths to dance around this idea despite how often it comes up, it indicates their stance on this hasn’t changed.
Blizzard’s solution for shades was admittedly clever. They cut the vision of the shades, effectively making them blind, making it much riskier for Protoss to commit to shades, and giving opposing players the ability to counterplay by dodging the shades. This worked in the short-term, but eventually players learned to gauge the amount of resistance they should expect at certain timings. Giving rise to the YOLO strategy. Accepting that you don’t 100% know whether it’s safe to teleport in, but you have the statistics on your side, so YOLO.
Stalker-Adept Overlap – The Design Dilemma
To start, the Adept and Stalker are functionally different in too many ways. The Stalker with its ability Blink, which allows the Stalker to immediately teleport a short distance, functions as an assassination unit. Blink allows the Stalker to pick off priority targets before they’re able to respond. Alternatively, it’s a precise tool for picking off an enemy unit, particularly transport units, attempting to retreat.
Unlike the Stalker, which can attack both ground and aerial units, the Adept can only attack units on the ground. Furthermore, the timed delay on the transfer limits the Adept’s ability to make decisive assassinations, even more-so when you consider shades are restricted by terrain.
The design overlap explanations become even shakier when you consider Liberators and Siege Tanks. The Liberator is another unit that was added to StarCraft II with Legacy of the Void. And much like the Adept, the Liberator has been cause for more much frustration. Particularly, the Siege Tank and Liberators both fulfill very similar roles. They are both stationary units that excel at zoning control. This overlap between Liberators and Siege Tanks has been cause for some of the most oppressive strategies over the last season, most notably, the 3 Tank-Liberator timing which has been largely responsible for the Phoenix-Adept meta of PvT.
This sends a very confusing message that design overlap is fine when it comes to creating oppressive gameplay but when it comes to solving oppressive interactions, then it becomes an issue.
It’s just not a valid concern. Even if there was an overlap, which there isn’t, there is no argument to be made between whether toxic design should be upheld to avoid creating redundant design.
As I mentioned before, the balance of the Adept really isn’t in question, only the design is. So removing the Adept’s ability to cancel shades will have to be compensated somehow.
One of the more elegant possibilities is reducing the Adept’s damage point in exchange for the shade nerf. Damage point is the initial delay period between an attack command and the attack execution. This does not directly affect a units damage per second but has a large effect on a unit’s micro control. Units with a lower damage point are able to stutter step with better efficiency. This means, for the nerf the Adept could be given better potential for micro control.
Smoother Power Curve
Another possible solution is creating a small percentage splash damage buff as a tier upgrade above the Adept’s research upgrade, Resonating Glaives. The net result of this will be a direct nerf to the Adept’s early game survive-ability but creates more utility for the Adept in the late game. The Adept, traditionally a unit that becomes useless in the late end of the game. This change would effectively soften the Adept’s power curve, trading out its early game dominance for longevity.
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