The new patch of hope for TvP has just kicked in. Perhaps the most unexplored changes of the patch is the Widow Mine buff. I will discuss about its implication.
Here is the details for the change,
- Sentinel Missiles now deal bonus splash damage to units with Shields, based on their distance from the target. Splash damage is now dealt as follows:
- 40 + 40 vs. Shields within 1.25 radius.
- 20 + 20 vs. Shields from 1.25 to 1.5.
- 10 + 10 vs. Shields from 1.5 to 1.75.
I was quite surprised by this change when it was initially proposed in the forum. You can follow the train of thoughts for other proposed changes easily if you have been up to date with the metagame discussion. The Widow Mine change was a surprise, and it seems like a pleasant one. I had previously discussed about my initial thoughts on the change, and I will elaborate on it in this post.
Before I begin, I must stress that this change is plainly for TvP. It does not affect other match up because only Protoss have shields. To my amusement, I have read some comments that suggest shield is actually a weakness of Protoss now. Shield is a unique feature of the Protoss race. From a game design perspective, shield is arguably the best way to address Protoss specific match up problems. Using this Widow Mine change has an example, the shield bonus damage buff could be added to the basic damage if Widow Mine needs a buff overall. By simply adding bonus damage to shield only, it adjusts the TvP match up specifically.
First of all, do I like the buff?
Yes. It has the potential to be a great change. I doubt anyone will argue against the fact that TvP is Protoss favored now, or at least before this patch. The thing is, what to change? I never thought of buffing the Widow Mine like it is now. Perhaps that was down to the fact that I removed the unit from my train of thoughts while I was thinking about TvP. Indeed, Widow Mine has a strange place in TvP. Despite Widow Mine being used occasionally in the opening stage, it was not utilized in the main army composition as the game goes by. Basically, it does not exactly fit into a specific role in the army composition. However, Widow Mine could be extremely effective in the early game, as we have seen it being the pivot of various tech oriented openings. With that being said, the variance of its early game impact is huge. On one end, all it takes is a good splash on the Probes to put Terran ahead. On the other end, Protoss could react accordingly to take close to no damage while Terran’s key upgrades are delayed for the mid game window. This leads to my next point, how this patch affects the early game.
Many argued that Widow Mine opening will be more popular after the patch. I agree with the statement at face value (simply call it the immediate-post-patch effect), but the patch does not directly make Widow Mine opening much stronger in TvP. Widow Mine still one shot any Protoss unit except Mothership Core in the early game, as it is only the splash damage that has changed. The splash bonus may have a smaller impact than what most people assume it would have. Perhaps the most affected interaction of the splash bonus in the early game is Widow Mine drop at the mineral line.
Probe has 20 health and 20 shield. Before the patch, the splash damage was as followed,
- 40 damage within 1.25 radius.
- 20 damage from 1.25 to 1.5.
- 10 damage from 1.5 to 1.75.
Another words, only Probes within the 1.25 radius would get killed by the splash damage. Now, with the bonus shield damage, Probes within the 1.5 radius will get killed by the splash damage. Personally, I don’t think it makes a notable difference. If Protoss react right by pulling Probes accordingly, the splash damage buff would not make a difference. What if Protoss did not react right, or not react at all? That is where it is hard to justify if more Probes would be killed because of the buff. When Protoss do not react, a normal Widow Mine shot usually kills two to four Probes depending on saturation and target fire. How many more Probes are there in the 1.25 to 1.5 radius range? I don’t know. But the bottom line is that the single Widow Mine shot should still have the similar impact in the game before and after patch.
Will the bonus splash damage help against early rush? Maybe. The most notable early to mid game rush in the current metagame is blink Stalkers. The splash damage bonus certainly helps when all else being equal. However, does that make a tech before additional barracks build better than three barracks standard build against blink Stalkers? I doubt so. The primary reason is that if you go for a 1-1-1 expand opening, Tanks may be a better answer than Widow Mine. Moreover, along with the Mothership Core vision nerf, it is even harder to justify whether the variance in the success rate of blink Stalkers in post patch is due to the splash damage bonus.
Moving on to the mid and late game, this is where the splash damage bonus may shine. Widow Mine could potentially be the answer to mass charge Zealots. In fact, Terran players had tried to implement it before the patch.
In the above video, Bbyong literally used 4M as the main composition against sOs in Proleague. Before we get hyped about the hope of Widow Mine being the savior of the match up, it is important to evaluate whether Widow Mine can accomplish what Hellbat could not. If you have been following my blog, you will definitely know that I don’t hide my displease of mass charge Zealots in TvP. I had previously mentioned that Hellbat was Terran’s answer against Zealots and the potential of the upgrade merge in the earlier patch for Hellbat transition. As time passed, Hellbat did not live up to the expectation after the upgrade merge patch. Although it is difficult to pin point a specific reason why Hellbat did not work out, transition difficulties and strategic synergy are the likely reasons. The upgrade merge patch did ease the transition, but it seems like it isn’t enough. Strategically, Hellbat restricts the way you play out the game. Hellbats are effective if you go face-to-face with Protoss, but at the same time you have to face the power of aoe to take on a Protoss army directly. Thus, it is extremely important to evaluate whether Widow Mine offers something different to the Zealot problem.
One thing for sure is that Widow Mine has a much easier transition than Hellbat, since it is less reliant on upgrades. That is already a big plus. Also, widow Mine is relatively less direct than Hellbat, but more “zonal”. Theoretically, Protoss cannot just A-move the Zealots blindly with the Widow Mines burrowed. At the same time, the Widow Mines may fire after the Zealots charged to the target, and this may result in friendly fire splash damage. Observers may be even more important in the match up if Widow Mines become a standard. If Terran do not clear the Observer, the Widow Mines are not going to achieve much. In line with this thought, Dark Templar could be used to force scans more often than before.
I cannot wait to see some 4M games in TvP. On a side note, hopefully, the Mothership Core vision range nerf makes blink Stalkers more playable.