Ever since lead balance designer David Kim announced at 2016’s Blizzcon that Dark Templars, Starcraft’s invisible psi-blade wielding saboteurs, would be getting the ability to “blink” or teleport short-range in the next patch, reactions have ranged from anger and fear to apathetic eye rolls.
On the one side, the Dark Templar (or DT) is already one of the more rage inducing units in the game – more so at lower levels of play, but still lethal at the very top. Watching one’s army or economy disappear in seconds to a faint blur without any way of seeing or attacking said blur can be incredibly maddening, and now you want to give them teleportation?!? David please!!!
On the opposite side of the spectrum were people, myself included, who thought DT blink was a useless gimmick that would never see the light of pro play. The two reasons for this are 1. That the quick and six-ranged-pickup warp prisms already fill the roll of evacuating DTs after they’ve been spotted, and 2. That unlike their more combat suited brethren the Stalkers, who have been using blink to jump damaged units behind fresh ones to increase army survivability since the Beta of Starcraft 2, DTs do not have the health points or range to pull this off. I watched GSL, IEM, and a bevy of Protoss streams, and not a once did I see someone even research DT blink (aka “Shadowstride”).
I assumed, along with the majority of the more experienced Protoss players in the community, that DT blink would never exist past Gold league, and we should just keep experimenting with the other balance changes we received.
That is, until I watched game 2 of Nightmare vs Gumiho.
After repelling some drops and harassing with a few Dark Templar, the appropriately named Jang “Nightmare” Wook completely demolished Koh “Guhimo” Byung Jae’s defense of three siege tanks and a healthy ball of marines with only seven blink DTs and eight charge zealots. He charged the Terran’s natural expansion with his small group of melee units, blinked his Dark Templar BEHIND Guhimo’s tanks, and in a matter of seconds Guhimo’s entire army was nothing but blood and scrap metal.
Nearly all of Nightmare’s units remained standing to finish the game. The crowd went wild, caster legends Tasteless and Artosis started shouting in excitement – even exclaiming “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen” and “I didn’t think you can use them like that”.
This is the reason I love Starcraft 2. With enough time and creativity, anything is possible. As someone who is always looking for new and outside-the-box ways of tearing my opponent to shreds, it always blows me away when a player creates something truly new. It happened when Ke “Has” Yu Feng showed the world that mass oracle can work against Zerg, it happened when “Byun” Hyun Woo taught us how to force a surrender with just a pair of full medivacs, and now we have Nightmare, a fairly unknown Protoss player from Korea, bravely carrying the Protoss torch into the darkness.
Inspired as ever, I took to the ladder with one goal: Go DT blink every game. After that ladder session I can say quite confidently that it can work consistently at higher levels of play.
Blink Dark Templar are incredibly useful for breaking Siege Tank lines – send in about three Blink DTs per tank and they will often get the kill before a scan is even dropped to reveal them – meanwhile the rest of your army can be already closing in.
I found that in the later stages of a Protoss vs Zerg, a pack of seven or eight DTs can often slip into the main base of a zerg (with a minor distraction), snipe the Hive and maybe even more tech, and depending on the map, blink safely to the low ground. When I tried rushing to DT blink against Zerg I found it significantly easier to pounce on lone spore crawlers and quickly eliminate detection, giving me enough time to kill drones or even the hatchery before making my escape.
I still haven’t found a game-changing use for DT blink in the Protoss vs Protoss matchup that normal DTs can’t fulfill, but considering Shadow Stride costs 100/100 and one Dark Templar costs 125/125, the upgrade has paid for itself with just one saved DT.
It makes me very excited for the future of the game when I am wrong about first impressions such as this. Whether DT blink becomes a consistent late game tool, an occasional tank-busting all-in weapon, or whether it just fades away as the cool trick we saw Nightmare use that one time – only time will tell. What we do know, however, is that whether you’re a first day Bronzie or GSL Blizzcon Champion Byun, none of us understand this game completely, and hopefully we never will.