#SavetheDisruptor

Playing Protoss in Starcraft 2 has always felt like an abusive relationship. For months we’ll be on top of the world. One day we’ll be skipping through a meadow with our trusty ‘Ruptors, then wake up tomorrow to find a Tier 3 water balloon. At the beginning of Legacy of the Void, we were given a shiny new toy: The Disruptor. This unit almost immediately became my favorite. It had enormous potential to change the course of the fight, while at the same time running the risk of whiffing completely or dying before detonation, costing you a hefty 150/150 for no damage whatsoever. It was a difficult unit to use, especially in conjunction with the Blink Stalker force that it most commonly complemented.

More games than I can count my Disruptor-based Army would get surrounded by Speedlings or out-muscled by a skilled Terran’s Marauder splits; but still I would try. That tantalizing memory of that juicy center-mass detonation on  Roach/Hydra five games ago… would always keep me coming back.

 

And then Blizz just went and did this…

 

Essentially what this means is that your purification nova, instead of detonating after a timed fuse, will explode as soon as the center of the ball touches an enemy unit. It splashes against the first thing it hits, utilizing AT MOST half of the ball’s overall area. The “new” Disruptor is terribly unsatisfying and even causes a fair bit of friendly fire when triggered by units like Zerglings or Zealots.

Anyone who has played the test server knows how ridiculous and disappointing this change is.

To explain better than I ever could, one of the great pioneers of the all mighty ‘Ruptor…

Ladies and Gentlemen, MCanning:

Why?

This change is not meant to “revitalize” the Unit and make it more common in the Korean scene where it is all but absent. It’s not about balance or counterplay, this change is primarily about Silver league armies blowing up in the blink of an eye. It’s about “game-ending potential” versus poorly controlled armies. Really? Not only are there dozens and dozens of ways to lose a game in the blink of an eye, but many of them are far more lethal than a good ‘Ruptor hit. Should we get rid of Storm too? Doom drops? Cloaked units? Proxies?

This is not Hello Kitty Island Adventure, this is Starcraft 2. Mistakes have consequences. When you suddenly lose a game to any number of units and strategies, you LEARN! The Disruptor is one of the easiest units to adjust to: split, pick up or go air. Maybe don’t have your army standing still and clumped without vision of what’s near it.

Of course, I want players of all skill levels to enjoy Starcraft 2 and to be able to ladder without anxiety. But removing one of the most entertaining units to use and one of the most exciting mechanics to spectate is not helping anyone out, it’s nerfing the game.

 

This change will kill the Disruptor

Say goodbye to game changing, crowd cheering booms. The Disruptor will vanish, never to appear in professional play again.

Removing the Mothership core and adding Shield battery seem like very promising ideas, but please… don’t take the Disruptor.

 

 

 

Photos Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Video Courtesy of McanningSC2

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Is there a new G.O.A.T. in Starcraft 2?

Last week we had one of the most anticipated finals in Starcraft 2 history – and my goodness did it come through. Before we get into just how significant of a win this was for Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, let’s recap this incredible series.

Game 1

Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin would start out the series with a quick scout on Innovation’s tank push. Pumping immortal Sentry while a Warp Prism backstabbed with Adepts, sOs gained a sizable economic lead.

Minutes later when sOs forced the base trade, Innovation’s 4-medivak drop would only be able to wipe the Protoss main, while forcefields and overcharges protected the natural until sOs’s fearsome ground army could return home.

 

Game 2

“IS THAT THE STRAT?” Shouted Artosis as four Oracles razed not only every add-on in Innovation’s main but denied stim and combat shields as well. No big deal, just sOs revolutionizing the way we see PvT forever.

After a void ray picked off Inno’s forward Tanks by the skin of its teeth, sOs decided to go for a kill move, shading into the main and igniting his four green lazers. Despite inflicting heavy worker losses, widow mine hits and marines would eventually clean it up. The situation still looked great for the 3-base Protoss, but the feisty Terran would finagle his way into another base trade – but this time with an impenetrable Liberator force at his front door – gg.

 

Game 3

In Game 3 we got to witness everyone’s favorite strat – the Cyclone rush. Oh boy, how I enjoy spectating Cyclone rushes. Over and over, sOs dove on the “pew-pew vacuum cleaners” and over and over they melted. Nexus falls – gg. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

 

Game 4

sOs said “Two can play that game,” in Game 4 – he made Adepts and murdered Terran. Not much else to say.

 

Game 5

My god Game 5 was cool.

“Hey Innovation remember when I killed you with that Adept all-in 5 minutes ago – this is that I promise.”

“It sure looks like it, sOs, I’ll be ready this time .”

 

 

sOs appeared to be going for a gold base all-in on Odyssey – something he has done many times. Whether a double-gold Oracle/50 Chargelot bust or a quick Adept bust, sOs is quite well known for these type of builds. sOs knew this and knew that Innovation knew this, so while appearing to go for a complete Adept All-in, he was actually double-expanding and building a Pheonix fleet.

When Innovation would march across the map to murder the post-cheese Adept army, he would have his mind blown open by a well-rounded and well-funded Protoss Army.

 

 

“HE JUST WENT ‘WHAT’ WITH HIS MOUTH – HE DOESN’T EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH – SOS MAKIN’ THIS KID SPEAK IN TONGUES TASTELESS”

The rest of the game would be a strategic dance of army positioning. Innovation for most of the game had an untouchable Air-Force of ranged Liberators, while sOs’s stalker force was minuscule.

Still, however, sOs managed to circumnavigate the Freedom Zones to kill bases and Blink on lone Liberators. Eventually, sOs’s commanding economy, with the help of a VERY crucial hidden base, would be able to force a base trade and kill Innovation’s Orbitals while a horde of Blink DTs turned Inno’s bio to shredded cheese.

 

Game 6

“It’s almost better to not even scout him” -Artosis

With his eye on his first ever GSL title, sOs chose Nightmare’s signature Charge/DT Blink bust. Unscouted, Innovation dropped a clutch early scan that allowed his first volley to turn the tides, wiping out the expensive Dark Templar. A few more attempts would prove increasingly wasteful, until sOs was forced to tap out.

 

 

Game 7

Oh please, anything but death by tank push – noooo not a tank push. I’m completely impartial by the way – no dog in this race.

Innovation set up a Seige Tank/Bunker line outside of sOs’s third against Colossus/Stalker. If you’ve played five games of TvP in your life you know how that ends. Innovation crushes the third. sOs tried for a hail mary recall to a newly built hidden base, got quickly overwhelmed by Vikings, Bio and SCVs at Inno’s 3rd, GG. I’m definitely not crying at all did I mention how impartial I am?

This win marks the 3rd GSL Code S title for INnoVation – tying him with Jung “Mvp” Jong Hyun… which begs the question…

 

Greatest of all Time?

 

                                 Mvp                                          INnoVation

  • GSL Code S x3
  • Blizzcon 2011
  • GSL World Championship 2011
  • WCG 2011
  • WCS Europe 2013
  • 2013 MLG Winter
  • IEM Season VII Cologne
  • 2011 MLG Anaheim
  • 2011 WC Seoul
  • Total earnings: $408,891.73
  • GSL Code S x3
  • WCS Korea 2014
  • WCS 2013
  • GSL vs the World 2017
  • IEM Gyeonggi
  • 201 Star league S1
  • IEM Gamescom
  • Total earnings: $445,354.79

 

MVP was, until very recently, the undisputed greatest player of all time. Only one young Zerg ever came close, he who shall not be named- screw that noise his name was Life and he was unbelievable. He’d surely be in the running for GOAT had he not made a terrible, unforgivable mistake two years ago. But that’s Life – badum tsss.

What does it mean to be the greatest?  I’d say there’s a bit more to it than results. Sure – you can’t even be in the conversation without winning 3 GSL Code S titles – but the GOAT of any sport didn’t just enter, dominate, and leave the sport how they found it – to be the GOAT you have to change the game forever.  MVP did that.  His finals against Squirtle changed the way we look at Best of 7s.  Not only was Game 6’s Archon Toilet arguably the most bad-ass moment in any Starcraft 2 game ever – he managed to top that by following up a Battlecruiser/Mass Planetary build with a freaking proxy 2 Rax SCV pull. MVP taught us that a best of 7 isn’t 7 separate games but a single series and ongoing mental game – and that sometimes you have to risk it all to achieve greatness.

 

So here’s the question: did INnoVation… innovate? He didn’t re-evaluate the way his race was played from the ground up like a Stephano. He didn’t revolutionize micromanagement like MarineKingPrime or Byun. He didn’t push the limits of strategical complexity like sOs… he crushed all of that with rock hard consistency.  What INnoVation brings to the table is unparalleled precision and mechanics, and an ability to do what he does every single time against any player.  Innovation accomplished what MVP did and he did it in the modern day, in a game that’s is harder than it’s ever been and one where there are more ways to suddenly die than ever before.  INnoVation knows when to cheese like MVP did, but more often than not he has no secrets – no tricks up his sleeve – just overwhelming numbers, perfect crisis management, and the cold calculating intelligence of a T-800 Terminator.

 

“1010110001” -INnoVation

For these reasons, INnoVation, in my humble opinion, is now…

The Greatest Player of All Time.

Good luck DeepMind.


Photos courtesy of AfreecaTV and The Terminator
Featured Image courtesy of HBO’s Game of Thrones

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GSL Finals: The Genius and The Machine

It’s finally nearing the climax of this Season’s GSL and we start out the Semifinals with a showdown between the two best Protoss players on planet Earth. Representing opposing sides of the Protoss coin, we have GSL Champion Kim “Stats” Dae Yeob, the rock of Protoss – the immovable Macro Giant that represents the pinnacle of standard Protoss play in Legacy of the Void.

In the other corner we have Kim “sOs” Yoo Jin – the Cucaracha himself, two-time Blizzcon Champion and the most feared man in all of Starcraft 2 – a man who is smarter than everyone he plays and a cold-blooded killer with a bottomless bag of tricks.

 

Stats vs sOs

 

Game 1 set the stage appropriately, a fitting introduction to these two very different Protoss players. The bloodthirsty sOs opened with four Adepts looking for probe kills while Stats went with a standard Oracle expand. Stats managed to kill an initial 10 workers with great control while never missing a shade block on sOs’s Adepts.

Hopelessly behind in economy, sOs chose to shove all his chips in the pot with a Glaive Adept all in. Stats smartly sacked his third Nexus with his almost 20 Probe lead and after a few attempted Shade-bys, Stats had an overwhelming Adept advantage and forced GG.

 

In Game 2 Stats seemed to get a bit overconfident. After crushing sOs’s two Stalkers with his four, Stats got an easy kill on the natural Nexus while his own was comfortably mining – an almost impossible position to lose from. Instead of asking himself “but how COULD I still lose” Stats built a Twilight council instead of a Robotics, a move Tasteless called a “Win-more move”. The mistake would cost him the game, as two Dark Templar would descend on both his Stalker Army and main base, neither of which had detection. Checkmate.

 

 

The Cucaracha would come out swinging in Game 3, proxying a Stargate and killing eight Probes with his first Oracle. His second Oracle would accomplish nothing and die to the Phoenix of Stats. Thinking he had air supremacy, Stats went to kill the proxied Stargate. Seeing that it wasn’t producing, he had every reason to believe his Phoenix couldn’t be defeated… wrong. SOs had made TWO MORE Stargates at home and now has the Phoenix lead. Hitting with Phoenix Range a few minutes later would send the air battle snowballing into sOs’s favor and force Stats to tap out.

 

 

If there was ANY doubt at all that sOs is the smartest human to ever play Starcraft 2, Game 4 put an end to that nonsense. The brilliance, creativity and poker-like psychological deception displayed in this game was truly remarkable.

SOs appeared to open up with an extraordinarily standard build and one of the safest in all of PvP: a two Gate expand into Robo. Stats poked with four Stalkers to find no damage. Soon sOs was chasing Stats across the map, picking off a stalker and appearing to be making a committed push – allowing Stats to assume a Warp Prism was in play and an all-in was immanent. SOs then showed that Warp Prism – a hallucinated Warp Prism – push was a complete ruse.

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Any player in Stats’ shoes would think “Ok that push was entirely fake, he must be getting me on the defensive while he does the opposite – he probably has a third nexus finishing up and is taking a commanding economic lead. I have to take my own third Nexus and research +1 attack to catch up.” In other words, why would you want to make your opponent THINK you are going all in… RIGHT BEFORE YOU ALL IN?


 

But sOs is playing Starcraft 2 in the year 3017 – he’s not expanding at all he’s adding five gateways, Charge and a Templar Archives on two bases, a COMPLETE all in.

 

Right before attacking, sOs finds Stats’ FULL energy Mothership Core with a REAL warp prism, drops out one High Templar, feedbacks it to death, and turns that baby into a Forcefield-crushing energy ball. Blasting into Stats’ natural base with a superior Charge/Archon force with Guardian shield support against no overcharges whatsoever, Stats had only a line of forcefields to keep from getting swarmed by Psi Blades. It works for only a second before sOs dropped a single Archon on them, opening the floodgates and winning one of the coolest games all year.

 

 

 

 

This is why sOs has been my personal favorite player of all time. He’s always thinking levels deeper than his opponents. He’s not only keeping information from you – he’s feeding you a false narrative that makes you think you’ve figured him out right up until you’re dead.

Sickest nerd chills all over my body Tasteless.

 

By Game 5 the Cucaracha already knew he was going to the GSL finals, so he just built a Robo and Warp Gate in spitting distance from Stats’ base, walked in and killed him.

 

One of the most talented and full rounded players in the whole game – bludgeoned to death before he even had a chance. As Tastless put it, “You just never get to play the PvP you practiced for.”

 

Innovation vs Dark

Next up we’d get another world class showdown. Playing for Terran, two-time GSL Champion and contender for G.O.A.T., Lee “INnoVation” Shin Hyung, a.k.a. the Machine. Trying to bring him down, Park “Dark” Shin Hyung, the best Zerg in the world, the man who just slaughtered TY 3-0. Despite being one of the world’s best for years now, he has yet to win a GSL title.

 

Game 1 we saw Innovation showcase his new favorite Mech Build: two Port Speed-banshee into Tank-heavy Mech.

It wouldn’t find much damage beyond some Ravager snipes, however, and a devastating Roach/Hydra push would dismantle Innovation’s aggressively postured Mech army with the help of some choice Vipers spells.

 

Innovation didn’t lose hope in his practiced Mech just yet, opening the exact same in Game 2.

 

 

Some ling harassment and mutli-pronged burrowed-roach attacks would slow down the booming Terran economy somewhat, but Innovation’s mech would have no problem cleaning up Dark’s Broodlord army and taking the map.

 

 

 

Game 3 was one of those one-in-a-million type games. Innovation started the game by proxying a reactored barracks, a tech lab Factory and a Starport. Before long the Pool and the main Hatchery were dead and it looked like Dark would follow soon.

 

In a brilliant hail-mary of a play, Dark put not only his entire army but also a whole base of Drones into his Nydus Worm. Innovation evacuated his buildings and floated them across the map to meet his army, and Dark began mining from Terran’s former main base.

 

Behind in mining against a now 3-base Zerg, Innovation attacked. A baneling landmine and some well placed Biles would knock Inno’s cheesy army off the map and secure a very bizarre win for the Zerg.

 

Innovation kept the cheese wheel rollin in Game 4 with a Proxy Two-Rax. Despite just barely not killing the natural hatch with Marines, the follow up Hellbat/Banshee push would kill the Zerg.

In Game 5 Innovation went for a Macro mech style, building Tanks and early double mech upgrades at home while Hellions and a Raven patrolled the map. Dark’s Vipers managed to pick off a few Tanks but Innovation’s first push would take only minimal losses before sieging the Zerg natural and smothering him.

 

Innovation wasn’t done with the cheddar in Game 6, and went for a double Proxy Rax on Mech Depot. It didn’t go much better than Game 3 however, as a Dark Nydus counter attack would land the KO.

Game 7

Dark and Innovation would go to the rubber match. Innovation returned to his 2-Port banshee build with mild success. His Hellion hit-squads wouldn’t do much better. The map began quickly to look like Game 2 – Vipers pulling Vikings into Hydra, and Roaches killing SCV from underground. Broodlords would fall to Vikings and Thor, while small groups of Mech units sniped satellite bases. Innovation would march his menacing Mech force onto a pressure point of the Zerg – between the fourth and fifth bases – and crush Dark’s hopes of a GSL title.

 

HOLD ME TASTELESS

Innovation and sOs are two of the most legendary names in SC2 History. They have not faced in a Grand Finals of any kind since 2013, when Innovation swept 4-0. Will we see cunning mad-scientist builds from sOs to take down the raw macro power of Innovation’s mechanics? Will we see the robotic Terran out-cheese the cheese master himself? Maybe we’ll get 40-minute Tier-3 Air showdowns or some down and dirty scrap-fests. Either way, pray to Nestea it goes to a Game 7.

 

 

The Grand Finals between sOs and Innovation will be on Saturday September 16th – see you there!

 

Photos courtesy of AfreecaTV

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PvT: The Guillotine Build

Are you SICK and TIRED of losing games to players that are better, smarter, or more handsome than you are? Have you had ENOUGH of all those Trisha-Tryhards out there thinking they are entitled to the win just because they “played and studied the game diligently for years”?

                     “Ooooooh look at me I can make supply depots on time, give me money”

 

Well then try the Guillotine build – the best way to cut that smarty-pants head right off before they can even play the game!

The Guillotine build is a fast and easy way to plop down 16 supply of Protoss magic right into your opponent’s Main at just past 4 minutes! Inspired by the original cheeser himself, Mr. Maximilien Robespierre, the Guillotine build is the best choice for squelching counter-revolutionaries or Macro Terrans.

       “Lmao uninstall”

               -Maximilien Robespierre

The Build:

13 – Pylon – Send Probe to Proxy location – somewhere close but avoid normal Reaper-scout locations

14 – Gateway

16 – Gas

18 – Cybernetics Core

19 – Gas

20 – Mainbase Pylon (for an SCV scout to see)

20 – Proxy Pylon (for Robotics Facility)

21 – Robotics at Proxy

23 – Adept (chronoboost)

23 – Warp Gate (chronoboost)

25 – Gate at Proxy

25 – 30 MINDGAMES ALERT: This is Roughly when a Reaper will arrive, build a cheeky Stargate right in his face.

After you’ve zoned out or killed that aristocratic piece-a crap with your Adept, cancel the Stargate – this will throw them off your rancid cheesy scent.

 

 

 

25 – Start an Immortal (chronoboost)

31 – Adept #2 (chronoboost)

33 – Warp Prism (chronoboost) – Shade both Adepts to Proxy location

33 – 3rd Gateway

When the Warp Prism is done drop the two Adepts and one Immortal on the edge of Terran main and warp in three Stalkers.

Unleash your inner Puck and Micro your damn heart out

Step 1: Speed and Secrecy

You want to find a balance between #1: Hitting as fast as possible and #2: Not being discovered.

The second Main-Base pylon will slightly slow down the drop, but a decent player will notice its absence.

The Stargate fake will slightly slow down the drop, but will also disguise your all in.

Step 2: Ready the Blade

Make sure the Adepts arrive at the proxy location on time. Make sure your three Gateways and Warp Gate research are done before your Prism reaches their base and that you have plenty of available Supply to work with. Rally the Prism to the Terran main and hop in from its flight path with your Immortal/Adepts for maximum speed.

Step 3: Off with his head!

Drop on and Warp in at the edge of Terran’s main

Move command towards the production and try to engage any Bio or Cyclones they have before the SCV pull arrives – focus down any Viking or Liberator with Stalkers and protect the Prism.

If they withdraw patiently, kill add ons (Rax or Factory reactors, Stim) first and then Production structures in order of tech (ie Stargate first then Factory).

Pick up and drop injured units as efficiently as you can, only warp in when the Prism is safe.

Rally additional Immortals to the main base Cliff and elevator them up.

Keeping both Immortals and the Warp prism alive at the end of the first scrap is your top priority – with some fancy micro they can defeat small packs of units or stray Tanks indefinitely.

Note: you often won’t outright win with the first drop and will have to lift the surviving 8 Supply after killing 10-12 SCVs and a chunk of Terran units – it’s sometimes the 2nd or 3rd drop/warp and the 3rd or 4th Immortal that forces checkmate.

The Warp Prism must not die:

Vikings and Cyclones are the greatest threat to your Warp Prism until the Marines have stim – watch for Widow Mines.

Your three Stalkers need to always be in between any Vikings and your Warp Prism – Stay very far away from Multiple Cyclones.

Multiple Cyclones:

Chronoboost Immortals.

Stay a screen length away with the Prism and focus-fire them down with all available units.

Siege Tank:

Warp in only Adepts – Shade on Tanks/Drop Immortals.

All Bio:

Keep close with Prism and juggle hurt units.

Elevator/Warp Trick:

The fastest way to move an army from the low ground to the high ground is to drop two Immortals on the edge of the Terran main and enter “Phasing Mode” so that it can Elevator low ground units and warp in new units at the same time.

 

 

 

 

                                                      This is what Terran nightmares are made of

 

Viva la France and Enjoy!

                                                             “Get out of my Game, Claude” [Warning: May induce salt/democracy]

Replay for Reference:

http://drop.sc/replay/5224189


Featured Image Courtesy of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Unity

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Protoss Harass

Protoss Insight – Introduction to Multitasking

Very often when learning a new skill, your win rate will plummet for a while before you can come out stronger. This is a consistent phenomena, even if you’re attempting to learn a build that is supposedly stronger. This is a seldom stated fact of StarCraft II that sometimes catches newer players off-guard. It leaves you with a feeling of starting over from square one each time you attempt to pick up a new skill and is one of the key reasons the game’s learning curve is known to be infamously treacherous.

Multitasking is just one of these skills but especially in Legacy of the Void, it is a pivotal part of the learning process. Harassment has never been more important in StarCraft’s history as it is in Legacy of the Void. A player’s ability to multitask their production behind harassment is a determining factor in their efficiency.

Today I’d like to talk about a simple harassment tactic new Protoss players can use to soften the learning curve.

 

Basic Concepts

Under most conditions, the harassment game consists of three layers: production upkeep, harassment micro-control, frontline micro-control. What we’re going to do is eliminate one of these layers. Or at the very least, greatly soften it.

Adepts, Oracles, Dark Templar into double Archon drops, Disruptor drops, Storm drops. If you ask about Protoss harassment tools, these are the tactics that immediately come to mind. While they’re all powerful forms of harassment, they also require a decent level of micro-control to use.

Zealots, the Protoss baseline unit, rarely enters the conversation. Perhaps for good reason, Zealots (or more specifically Chargelots) aren’t the best units for hitting specific targets. While they do hit hard enough, their design is the opposite of control. A fact we are going to exploit to create a harassment style for players with low actions per minute (APM).

Protoss Harass

 

Scouting

This is a decent general purpose tactic but does not match-up well against an aerial all in. Against Zerg and Terran you’ll want to do an early scout on their gas geysers. If both are taken there’s a good chance the enemy is taking the fight to the skies. Protoss is far more gas dependent so you’ll want to monitor their Gateway count instead.

 

The Art of War

“Never argue with an idiot. They’ll bring you down to their level and proceed to beat you through experience.” – George Carlin

 

As a beginner, you don’t have much APM to spare, that’s something you can’t help in that moment. Instead of fighting on their terms, you can try to bring them down to your level.

The general idea here is by warping rounds of chargelots into your opponent’s mineral line, you are forcing them to split more APM holding your attack than you are spending on harassment.

Of course this style isn’t completely free of micro-control. As with all Protoss drop tactics, keeping your Warp Prism alive is imperative to keep your opponent on the defensive. In that respect, this is why this tactic works as an excellent harassment introduction. The basics are the same as the core drop tactics but the execution is far less APM intensive.

 

Notes and Limitations

For what you gain in APM you give up in control and consistency. Setting a horde of Zealots loose on your enemy mineral line generally gets work done, but you don’t know for sure that someone’s not going to get distracted by that shiny Command Center just inches away.

Furthermore, for the most part you are resigning to letting these Zealots die. As your baseline unit, Zealots are very inexpensive. If they can get some solid economic damage done (ie. if they do kill out a decent amount of workers) it’s generally very worth it. But it’s important not to overindulge. Investing too heavily into units you’re not getting back can result in your opponent proceeding to just walk over you, even if you do get your money’s worth in economic damage.Protoss Harass

As you get more comfortable with the ability to control multiple fronts, you can start moving into more APM intensive drop styles. Dark Templar into double Archon is my harassment style of choice and is a good step up from this introductory level.

Alternatively, you can attempt to mix Chargelot warp-ins with other forms of harassment. Trap notably mixed this style with his pristine Oracle control against Solar in the GSL 2017, Season I.

 

Featured images courtesy AfreecaTV and Blizzard Entertainment.

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The Sledgehammer Build

Today I am doing something outrageous. Something very ill-advised. Something I may come to regret…

Today, I am unveiling to the world… my greatest cheese.   The culmination of thousands of games, years of experimenting, and countless in-class hours spent devilishly theory crafting. Ladies and gentlemen…

The Sledgehammer Build

Inspired by game one in the round of 32 at Dreamhack Open Valencia in July of 2015 between American-Protoss Arium and Korean-Zerg Symbol, the Sledgehammer Build is a one-two punch of robotic power that is terrifyingly difficult to hold – EVEN if they know it’s coming. I’ve used this build hundreds of times, beat many a salty Masters player, and I can count the times it’s been held on one hand.

 

Step 1: Get the fastest possible Robotics Facility

To accomplish this you are going to want to make your first Pylon at 13, then a Gateway as fast as possible, then the Cybernetics Core as fast as possible. Gasses should be taken at 14 and 18 supply.

Step 2: Mind games

Before your Robo finishes, make a Stalker, then a Sentry. The Sentry should hold the door at the ramp (which you walled of course), and the Stalker should patrol the edge of your base to deny the Overlord Scout. After your first Immortal, make a Mothership Core and send it to your natural along with a probe to make a Pylon. This will make your opponent think you are expanding. Start three additional Gateways whenever you can afford them without slowing down your Immortal drop.  You will naturally float 400 minerals at about the time your prism leaves so take a natural Nexus.  This is meant to be scouted and hint at a macro game. In other words: “Make drones please!”

 

Step 3: The Golden Boys

Beeline your two Immortals and Warp Prism to the enemy base – I usually hit the third first. Send your Mothership Core a screen length ahead to spot Overlords. Timing is key, so rally your Prism straight to their base and have your Immortals ready in its flight path to hop in. Your primary goals are to kill Queens and to force out and kill Roaches and Zerglings. If possible, make your opponent THINK that this is your big plan – your ace in the hole. I will often warp in a wave of Zealots to force more units, but killing Queens and army units is the priority – killing Drones is not necessary.

 

 

Micro tips!

This build works exponentially better if you are good at juggling units in a Warp Prism. Arium demonstrates this brilliantly in his game against Symbol. Picking up the damaged Immortal and dropping it behind the healthy one is incredibly effective – and it’s fun! Use surfaces like mineral patches and buildings to your advantage, and be VERY careful of Queens focusing down your Prism – this will result in an instant loss.

Step 4: The Sledgehammer

During this Immortal pressure, you have been doing two things: making as many Sentries as you possibly can, and making another two Immortals. When your fourth Immortal is finished (or earlier if you smell blood), send everything across the map. Right before attacking, warp in a wave of Stalkers if Roaches, and Zealots if Zerglings.  Hallucinate three Archons and move them to the front, pop a Guardian Shield, and charge in like Braveheart. Odds are good your opponent will have nowhere near enough to defend. If they do, throw down some choice Forcefields and Time Warps and micro your heart out. The prism should be used to pick up Immortals close to death and warp in additional Gateway units. Congratulations – you just pissed off a Zerg player.

 

 

Ways it can be held:

I’ve seen this build held two ways: fastest possible Mutalisks or a perfect engagement with Zergling Ravager. As soon as Mutalisks are spotted, all warp ins should, of course, be pure Stalker. Maybe even hallucinate a fourth Archon to tank some additional damage (provided you still have a guardian shield). For Zergling Ravager, make sure your Immortals are shooting Ravagers instead of lings, warp in a few waves of Adepts or Zealots to cover your soft Sentry/Stalker underbelly, and most importantly: DO NOT LET CORROSIVE BILE HIT YOUR SENTRIES. This can wipe out your Sentries incredibly fast, leaving the rest of your army very exposed.

Transitions:

Let’s say your opponent sees it coming and spines up his natural base. You pick off his third but decide it unwise to attack further. You should have a superior army if he turtles up, so double expand! Make some more Immortals and Gateway units, and keep that nerd contained on two bases! From there you can go into Blink, Glaives, Disruptors, you name it.

Play around with variations. Try different timings on when you shove with your main army, different Gateway compositions, and different Sentry-Energy usage.

A match for Reference:

http://drop.sc/replay/4924369


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Sound Structure – Intriguing Designs That Hit The Mark

A week ago I wrote an article discussing the most stressful units in StarCraft II. Here’s the followup to that piece, a discussion of some of the most interesting designs StarCraft has given us. Here are units that prove that it is possible to create gameplay that is satisfying for the player without causing your opponent’s blood pressure to spike.

 

Stalker

Perhaps a trigger warning is necessary here for victims of the Blink-Stalker era. Either way, I do maintain my point from last week. Aesthetically speaking, my honest opinion is that Stalker is the Little Nicky of StarCraft designs. The Stalker’s gameplay, however, is another story, and in a way, distinct.

Among all core units in the game, the Stalker is by far the weakest in terms of raw dps. For its lacking offensive ability, the Stalker boasts superior mobility. Once its ability Blink is unlocked, the Stalker becomes unrivaled in its ability to pick-off priority targets.

Stalkers can’t survive prolonged engagements without the support of units higher up in the Protoss tech tree. Instead, as its name implies, the Stalker functions as a sniper unit for both cutting off units attempting to retreat, and giving the Protoss the ability to dictate the terms of engagement. The latter is usually achieved by using blink to hard engage a dangerous target before it can react, or up to higher ground to secure a tactical advantage.

Like most standard Gateway units, the Stalker functions as reinforcements in long engagements; they will eventually fall-off without actual heavy firepower at the rear, so focus fire is imperative.

The idea of taking a mobile low damage unit and making it a race’s core is a tough sell but the Stalker carved its own niche with its distinct and satisfying play-style. Now if only it didn’t look like a concept reject for Genesect.

 

Ghost

Conceptually, the Ghost seems like what you would get if you told a 10 year old boy to make a StarCraft unit. To start, it’s a spellcaster built to counter other spell casters. It can stealth and has massive burst that can shred even the tankiest units; if need be, it can call in a Nuclear strike, which, appropriately enough, is nowhere near as broken as it sounds.

That’s pretty much the theme of the Ghost. It’s a unit that, on paper, sounds like it should be all kinds of busted, but isn’t. The fact that it’s on one of the furthest ends of the Terran tech tree has a lot to do with this. Furthermore, its more outlandish abilities either require additional research or further investments to prepare.

Design

The Tactical Nuke is worth particular note for being the first supply pit in StarCraft. Ironically,  it is the best example of a supply pit done right. In both StarCraft and StarCraft II, each Tactical Nuke requires further investment to build. Usually only one could be prepared at a time. Although in StarCraft II, both the direct and opportunity cost is significantly lower than its predecessor.

The significant investment that goes into preparing even a single Nuke makes it a rare sight. But it’s still an exceptionally powerful tool that can be devastating in the right situations regardless. The rarity of the event just makes it that much more of a spectacle for both players when it actually does happen.

 

Arbiter

My personal favourite unit from StarCraft I, and possibly just StarCraft in general. The Arbiter is the unit at the furthest end of the Protoss tech tree in Brood War. Furthermore, even despite its heavy cost and even heavier build time (longest in the game, yes even longer than the Carrier), it has three further upgrades to research that collectively take close to 4.5 minutes, and 450 minerals/450 gas to complete.

In that way, it’s very unique. Most notably, for a unit at the furthest end of the tech tree, its direct offensive ability is almost non-existent. It has an attack, but it’s mostly negligible. Rather, the value of the Arbiter comes entirely from its spells and abilities. Of its three abilities/spells, the Arbiter starts with one, its Cloaking Field. Cloaking Field, as you can guess, cloaks (grants stealth) to every unit in an area beneath it.

Design

Its only two spells, both of which need to be researched, are Recall and Stasis Field. They both feature their own respective strategies for which they act as the focal points. Stasis Field freezes any unit caught within the spell’s area of effect. Under stasis, units are completely immobile and cannot be attacked for its duration. It’s a particularly powerful tool against Terran and Protoss for shutting down Siege Tanks and Reavers, respectively.

Recall is a global spell that teleports all units under a 5×5 spell area directly to the Arbiter. The Mass Recall strategy centered on this ability usually involves flying an Arbiter directly into an enemy base and using recall to teleport an army onto the enemy’s production facilities.

The Arbiter is unique as the only final tier support unit gated behind massive investments and research upgrades like none other, but somehow ends up being undeniably worth it.

Side Note: You’ve probably noticed from the Ghost to the Arbiter that there’s a reoccurring design principle here that StarCraft II ignored. That principle being – if you’re going to give a unit some seriously busted-ass spells, stick it at the furthest end of the tech tree and lock its potential behind a million upgrades.

 

Viper

I didn’t mean to order this list but it happened anyway, I guess this would be the number one spot. As much as I love the Arbiter, the Viper just wins on so many levels.

I’ll start with Parasitic Bomb, which proves it’s possible to create a spell for punishing mass-air deathballs without being a spell that instagibs mass-air deathballs. Furthermore, while Parasitic Bomb will significantly slow, if not stop, the advancement of a mass-air army, its effect can be significantly mitigated with practiced micro control that feels very satisfying to outplay.

This is a very rare mechanic in StarCraft where a punishing spell can actually feel somewhat rewarding on the receiving end for having successfully mitigated the full effect.

But by far, Viper’s most intriguing ability is Consume. It’s an ability that uniquely allows the Viper to replenish energy by sucking the life from (damaging) your own Structures. Not only is the spell absolutely ominous to watch, particularly when watching a swarm of Vipers kill their own Hatchery, but it adds a distinct depth to the Viper. After exhausting its energy, Vipers can be pulled from the front-line back to the Zerg’s base to replenish their energy at the cost of damage to their own structures, after which it can return to the field.

The Viper has its own synergy between its abilities, spells, and the battlefield itself. An intriguing novelty unlike anything else in StarCraft that I can only describe as an absolutely beautiful model of sound game design.

Design

 

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ASL Season 3: Round of 16 Preview

The second round of ASL is just days away. While my bae Stork may have made an early exit, the lineup is packed with legends and shows you absolutely don’t want to miss. Here’s your guide to the Round of 16.

 

Group A

Lee “Flash” Young Ho

Ko “HyuN” Seok Hyun

Lee “Shine” Young Han

Kim “ggaemo” Kyung Mo

 

Welcome to the battle for second place. Flash straight up got a free pass to the Quarters here. The second slot is a bit more tricky. Neither Hyun nor Shine have particularly stood out, both advancing second from relatively unremarkable groups.

Ggaemo is another story, but has yet to be tested in any matchup other than ZvP. To advance, he’ll have to prove himself against the best Terran to ever touch StarCraft, and at least one ZvZ.

 

Predictions: Flash, HyuN.

Airs: April 30th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group B

Yum “Sea” Bo Sung

Kim “EffOrt” Jung Woo

Kim “Bisu” Taek Yong

Kim “Soulkey” Min Chul

 

Despite sSak’s efforts, Group B somehow became the Group of Death. Without question, this is the group to watch. It says everything that not even Bisu can be considered safe here. Quite the contrary when you consider Bisu and Sea’s recent history. In the ASL Season 2 Quarterfinals, it was Sea that knocked Bisu out in a 3-0 shutout. With Protoss in general struggling under the current ASL map pool, we’re looking at a real possibility of Bisu making an early exit.

EffOrt looks like a genuine contender at the moment, steamrolling his way through Group B and Soulkey. He proved himself after knocking out the Season 1 ASL Champion on his way out of the Round of 24.

Literally every player in this group has a case to make for the Quarterfinals, and competition for the two available slots will be like nothing we’ve seen yet.

 

Predictions: None. But I’d put the odds ever so slightly on Sea.

Airs: May 2nd, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group C

Doh “BeSt” Jae Wook

Yoon “Mong” Chan

Kim “IamMang” Seung Hyun

Kim “Jaehoon” Jae Hoon

 

With Protoss’ struggles in the current Season of ASL, it seems harsh that three of the four remaining ended up in one group. In reality, this actually ended up being the best case scenario for Protoss, guaranteeing at least one Protoss in the Quarterfinals, and a strong probability for a second.

Group C is another interesting one. BeSt got seeded in from his semifinal run in the last ASL where he took Sea to a Game 5 series. With this in mind, he’s a player that cannot be ruled out. Mong got into the Round of 16 at the top of his group, defeating Shuttle on the route out. We know he can hold his own in high level PvT, and in this group that makes him a genuine threat.

Meanwhile, IamMang advanced to the Round of 16 through two PvP wins, dropping Stork on his way out. His PvP is in proven form. In a group with three Protoss, he absolutely cannot be underestimated.

As for Jaehoon. He made it out of his group by 2-0’ing Light. If he can somehow make it past IamMang, and ends up against Mong in the Winner’s Match, I can see him possibly advancing. Of course, making it past IamMang’s PvP is no easy feat. Jaehoon does have a route out, but it’s undeniably a long shot.

 

Predictions: IamMang, BeSt

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

Group D

Lee “Jaedong” Jae Dong

Choi “sSak” Ho Seon

Kim “Last” Sung Hyun

Jo “hero” Il Jang

 

With Zerg dominating Season 3 so far, Jaedong would be a given. But a wrist injury in February does put his current form into question. He did participate in the I love StarCraft showmatch in March, so it’s likely not still an issue.

Last made it into the Round of 16 at the top of Group F. However, the level of competition he faces here is a steep climb from Group F. Despite an impressive performance, he’s yet to be truly tested which makes him a bit of an unknown.

This brings me sSak. For those of you lucky enough to read Naruto before it went downhill to its comically slow and painful death, you’ll remember Jiraiya. Jiraiya’s character carries a lesson: don’t judge someone’s capability based on their interests. The comparison to Jiraiya becomes even more relevant when you consider sSak’s apparent love for female Broadcast Jockeys and drinking streams. Unlike Jaedong, don’t let this distract you from the fact that sSak advanced from the Round of 24 at the top of a stacked group. sSak is more of a threat than he lets on.

 

Predictions: sSak makes a surprise advancement in first place, Jaedong advances in final match.

Airs: May 9th, 3am PST/6am EST

 

 

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Protoss vs Terran in 2017 – A Historic Low

 

I am very unhappy with Protoss vs Terran right now. This has been a really popular subject lately. Although I am neither a professional game designer nor Artosis, I do adore Starcraft 2 and want it to be as good as it can be. With the departure of David Kim (peace be upon him) from the Starcraft 2 team, I’d expect some rather large changes coming in the near future.

 

Anyone who’s been watching top Starcraft 2 this year knows that Protoss vs Terran has been almost entirely Phoenix/Adept. There are exceptions, like Warp Prism Adept all ins, Cyclone all ins, and Stats, who seems to be the only Protoss alive to play defensively without it. Phoenix Adept games CAN blossom into interesting late game slug fests, but most of the time they end when either the Bio ball or the Adept ball snowballs into an unkillable mass of hitpoints. I’m talking 25 Adepts losing the game and 28 Adepts winning it.

 

Although Adept Phoenix isn’t overpowered, it isn’t abundantly easy to play either. However, it is boring to play, and even more boring to watch. The game is often decided by one big Adept shade onto the Terran army. Either there are enough Adepts and the Phoenix kill everything else, or there are not enough Adepts, the Phoenix drop like flies, and the game is over.

 

If you are forgetting how awesome PvT in Legacy of the Void can be, watch TY vs Parting at Dreamhack Roccat from back in late 2015.

 

 

The games had nonstop action all over the map, nail-biting micro battles, creative strategies, and climactic GG timings. Now compare that to a 2017 Phoenix Adept game. Every game looks more or less the same; the endings are dull, and evenly matched players will take quick and empty wins off each other.

 

Solutions

Now, the hard part. Let’s talk solutions. When I dissect PvT, it seems to be the fragility of the Blink Stalker opener that forces Protoss down the Phoenix/Adept route. Without a mobile anti air force to shut down Medivacs and Liberators, harass can become overwhelming very fast. This problem began when the “Tankivak” combo was removed in favor of more damage, and Blink Stalkers’ openers became nearly obsolete over night. With only Phoenix to handle air units and Tank/Liberator contains, Protoss had to choose a cheap unit that could close the distance to tanks instantly – the Adept of course. Due to the vital importance of the Adept ball’s cumulative HP, it became detrimental for the Protoss to diversify their composition at all.

I’m not suggesting an outright buff to the Stalker. Although I believe they are the root of the issues with PvT, Blink Stalkers have of course gone through meta swings of immense power and killing potential. In addition, Stalkers seem to be in a perfectly good place versus Zerg and Protoss. So what can be done?

Idea #1: Buff the Sentry

The Sentry was one of the coolest units in Wings of Liberty, and one with a very high skill ceiling. Watching players like MC and Parting use force-fields masterfully to control the battle was incredibly interesting to watch. I’d argue that PvZ was at its most interesting when the Protoss army was Sentry based. That is, after all, core to the design of Protoss. Expensive power units designed to control the battlefield and keep enemies at bay – not to Yolo masses of Adepts onto Bio in an outcome I could work out on a calculator.

Protoss has very few early-game options for scouting. With more Utility out of the Sentry (a simple energy cost reduction would do), Protoss would have an easier time scouting and handling Multi-Rax pressure, bringing back a more complex unit composition for the mid-game. An extra Hallucinated Archon or two could be invaluable in breaking a Siege Tank contain, and some extra force-fields could help your Stalkers survive the aggressive stims that make Colossus so unattractive.

The Sentry is all but gone from the game. You’ll see one per army for Guardian Shield, and an occasional Force-field/Recall Hatch snipe, but there are no more Parting Force-field Donuts.

 

 

Idea #2: Nerf the Adept

This has been thrown around a lot lately, and it would certainly hurt. The 3.8 patch was one of the most frustrating times for Protoss players in years, and a further nerf to the unit could make our collective win rates plummet. An HP nerf to the Adept might relegate them to a harass-only role.  This solves our Phoenix Adept problem but leaves Protoss high and dry against Tank pushes, which leads me to…

Idea #3: Reduce the Cost of Zealot Charge to 150/150

With a more accessible Zealot Charge, Protoss players could survive against Tank Pushes without Phoenix Adept.

 

These are just ideas. I’m sure there are a dozen reasons why each one would be disastrous, but thus is the impossible task of balancing this game.

 

When all is said and done, it’s the Strategy and Micro that keeps me coming back to Starcaft 2. It’s the Poker and the Chess, it’s taking that perfect fight and microing your heart out. I like seeing two armies clash and not knowing who will come out ahead. I like watching Byun win a fight with inferior numbers, and I like watching sOs mind-game someone into the dirt. Protoss versus Terran has no individuality right now. Whether you open like Hero, Classic, or Dear, all that skill, knowledge, and experience only stand to give you a few extra Adepts for when the “Big Shade” happens. The only actual choices the Protoss have during the fight are, Shade or Don’t Shade, and What to Shoot/Pickup with the Phoenix.

The Protoss players we have right now are so clever and talented. It really makes you wonder when they all decided that this is the only way to reliably beat Terran. While I’ll confess this piece is certainly more criticism than solutions, we as a community need to make it clear to the new balance and design team that Protoss vs Terran is in need of a change.

 

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Featured Image Courtesy of BumbleBee of TeamLiquid

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Adept

Unit in Review: The Adept

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.

 

Psionic Transfer

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.

Adept

Now this commitment went badly for Stats but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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.

Adept

The 3 tank, Liberator timing. The Liberator sieges from the sky while the Tanks zone out from the ground.

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.

 

The trade-off

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.

Damage Point

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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