To start with the obvious, late game Skytoss vs Zerg has been a community concern for a while now. The balance team has been attempting to address this, but a large part of the community has felt they’ve been consistently missing the mark up to this point. As of the latest fix, Terran has now officially been dragged into a Protoss/Zerg feud.
As such, I think it is a good time to look at the road up to this point so we can try to figure out where we have to go from here.
The Carrier-Corruptor Conundrum
Naturally, we need to to first talk about Corruptors. The current answer to the Carrier problem. At first, the balance team focused on nerfing the cost of Interceptors before it became clear it did nothing to solve the core issue. Now, Corruptors have always been a hard-counter to Carriers. The latest update which buffed their ability to hunt, just makes them more efficient at doing so.
Corruptors still get zoned out by Archons and PsiStorm though. Attempting to chase Carriers with Corruptors behind an Archon frontline is effectively suicide. This has always been the core problem, and this update does very little to change this.
Interestingly, while this update was meant to help ZvP, it actually has a much more profound impact on ZvT. Corruptors were already very effective against many Mech-Terran and Starport unit compositions. Even before the buff. As it is now, Corruptors can out-micro or out-damage every Terran air unit, making them the undisputed kings of the sky in ZvT.
So it raises the question, if buffing Corruptors isn’t the answer to Carriers, then what is? Well, I think a good starting point is looking at units that aren’t already great at doing their jobs. Rather than ones that already are.
Now, understandably, when you think of a unit for countering Skytoss, the Swarm Host usually doesn’t come to mind. For starters, it doesn’t even attack air. But when you consider the defensive nature of Carrier strategies, the value of Swarm Hosts become more apparent. Teching into Carriers is a massive investment for Protoss which provides a window for Zerg to attack. The problem is currently, Zerg still struggles to break a Protoss turtle, even during this window of “vulnerability.”
If Zerg is unable to break Protoss’ defense, then the obvious answer is buffing the Zerg unit designed around breaking fortified positions. A shield damage upgrade seems the safest option as it entirely avoids interfering with ZvT and ZvZ. Naturally a concern would be Swarm Hosts becoming too oppressive against Protoss in the mid-game. For this reason, gating this buff behind an expensive upgrade with a short research time seems apt. An expensive investment makes the upgrade an actual decision rather than a go-to; but a short research time ensures that it can still be used as an immediate response to scouting a Carrier turtle.
The investment behind Carrier strategies means Protoss is supposed to be vulnerable during their production. If Zerg scouts a Protoss walled in and vulnerable for an extended period, then logically the Swarm Host should be able to break Protoss during that time.
Patch 3.8 rebalanced the armor of the Ultralisk, resulting in a net of -1 after Chitinous Plating. But as of how the meta has played out since then, perhaps that nerf is no longer necessary. The obvious effect this would have is Ultralisks can more easily drive back Archons. Since Ultralisks have never batted an eye in the direction of a PsiStorm, the only real issue would be Void Rays. But Zerg does have other means of dispersing Void Rays, as is, namely Parasitic Bomb.
Admittedly, this is the one I was hesitant about. Since I’m not entirely sure what the impact on ZvT would be like as a result. But given Terran’s main counter to Ultralisks are Ghost’s “Steady Targeting” which ignores armor anyway, I’m inclined to believe the impact will still be less than what Corruptors are currently doing.
Naturally, I had to save my favorite for last. Even as a Protoss player, Vipers are among my favorite units in the game. When it comes to picking off units, Vipers are the best in class. That’s really what the problem has always been here. Corruptors can kill Carriers. They’ve always been able to. But they need to actually get to them which is where Vipers have always excelled. The problem is, to get within range to “Abduct” a Carrier, the Viper has to risk entering the range of the Protoss’ High Templars, consequently getting Feedbacked to death.
It’s a bit of a tricky situation. Because Abduct and Feedback have the same range, you can’t buff the range of one, without becoming a hard-counter to the other.
One possibility is to temporarily increase the range of Abduct by increasing synergy between the Viper’s spells and abilities. I’m of course referring to “Consume.” Consume has always been intriguing, but for an ability with the occasional side-effect of killing your own structures, sometimes you could get a bit more value out of it.
Giving Vipers a temporary buff after using consume is one way to do that. A temporary range buff on Abduct would allow Vipers a home-field advantage against Carriers and High Templars. Most importantly, it makes engaging Zerg’s base with Skytoss a much less straightforward affair.
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