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.
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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