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Unit in Review – The Oracle

It’s never exactly been a well kept secret that relationships between the races have always been turbulent, even at the best of times. That said, for the first year of Legacy of the Void, parts of the Protoss and Terran communities were able to find some mutual level of respect. Largely because for a long time the match-up was considered fairly even.

Hard to believe given the current state of things. However, an amazing example of this came during the pre-season balance testing.

Blizzard balance designer David “Dayvie” Kim announced that the balance team were considering a sizable buff to Colossi damage against light units. The intention behind this change was to ease issues Protoss players were currently facing against Zerg’s Hydralisks. Following a 20% nerf to their damage, Colossi were virtually unseen in Zerg versus Protoss (ZvP). Against Terran however they were still considered viable units.

This change would have thrown the Protoss versus Terran (PvT) match-up into chaos and in a shocking show of solidarity between the races, Protoss players came out in numbers throwing their voices in support of Terran and against this change.

Two months later, here we are. The Protoss winrate against Terran has fallen to record lows. At times dropping as low as 39%. The PvT matchup is changing once again and this time Protoss and Terran have never been so divided.

The unit in question this time: the Widow Mine.

Bad Blood

For the unfamiliar, the Widow Mine is a splash-damage dealing stealth unit on a long cooldown that can one-shot every single unit produced out of a Protoss Gateway or Warpgate. With a tendency to occasionally devastate unsuspecting Gateway armies, it’s not hard to see why it’s not well-loved among Protoss players.

Hey, where’d your economy go?

The Widow Mine’s destructive power is actually completely justified however. This comes in no small part from the Oracle. The Oracle is another Protoss unit the Widow Mine is depended on to kill. While their mechanics couldn’t be more different, the Oracle and the Widow Mine are seen in very similar lights.

Similar to the Widow Mine, an Oracle has the annoying ability to devastate unprotected mineral lines in the time it takes for you to blink an eye. And just as the Widow Mine is a unit loathed by Zergs and Protoss alike, the Oracle is a unit that Zerg and Terran share a mutual hatred for.


Protoss players are staring down a potential nerf of a unit known to cause gateway armies to mysteriously vanish. Terran players now facing the threat of finding their economy missing after sneezing at the wrong time. The divided reaction from the community was only to be expected.

There has been a lot of heated debate regarding how Terran is expected to defend against Oracle rushes. However there is one question that has been seldom asked. That question being, is the Oracle’s ability to decimate mineral lines actually necessary in the current Protoss meta?

Pulsar Beam

The Oracle has three abilities: Pulsar Beam, Revelation and Stasis Ward. Pulsar Beam, it’s sole offensive ability and the ability it is most despised for, is used, predominantly in the early game. In the mid and late game, an efficient Protoss player will choose to save their energy for their other two abilities. Either for laying Stasis traps for slowing down incoming threats, or Revelation. A powerful tool for maintaining map control during prolonged engagements.

To address Pulsar Beam’s place in the meta, we need to go back to what made Pulsar Beam necessary in the first place. The Oracle actually went through multiple revisions before Pulsar Beam was added. The question is, why did Pulsar Beam stick? It addressed a few issues Protoss lacked at the time. Most notably, Protoss lacked means of reliable economic harassment in the early game.
Image courtesy Afreeca TV

The thing is, in Legacy of the Void this has actually been addressed by the Adept. The Adept has actually been the Protoss go-to unit for economic harassment for most of Legacy of the Void. And, at least as far as PvT is concerned, when Protoss isn’t harassing with Adepts, it’s likely because they’re harassing with Dark Templars.

So again, is Pulsar Beam still necessary?

This is a question the Protoss community needs to ask themselves right now. Because while the balance team is currently considering a nerf to the Widow Mine that change is not likely to stick. At least, not as long as Pulsar Beam is still a thing.

A world without Pulsar Beam

So what would removing Pulsar Beam mean for Protoss exactly?

Given the current state of Protoss, removing Pulsar Beam would not go without compensation. This could mean the cost of the Oracle will be significantly reduced. Or perhaps Blizzard could elect to keep the same cost but pursue buffs to existing abilities. Reducing the energy cost of either Revelation or Stasis Ward for example.

Most importantly, against Terran it means the Widow Mine can finally get the nerf to shield damage that Protoss players have been dreaming of for years.

This conversation is happening right now. The community has an opportunity to ask how important Pulsar Beam is to Protoss early game. If it is anything less than imperative, then perhaps the call should be made to let it go. Because the rewards that await in return actually be well worth it.

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