The latest community feedback update has shown Blizzard’s intention to ensure mech works. But is it justified?
Before I begin, please remember that the changes mentioned in the feedback is merely a proposal, and they may not get through. Most importantly, it is the area that Blizzard are looking at and the direction they want to progress we should be scrutinising. Thus, I won’t drill into the details, but focus on the intention in the discussion.
Proposed mech changes
Medivacs can’t pick up Siege Tanks in Siege Mode
Although sieged pickup has increased micro and early aggression, as many of you point out, removing this ability seems good for three reasons:
- This ability takes away from the cool factor of Siege Tanks having a clear weakness vs. strength compared to other units in the game.
- The advantages/disadvantages of mech vs. bio are lessened due to this change
- This change will give us some room to increase the damage of Siege Tanks, which we agree could have positive effects in terms of Siege Tanks really fulfilling their fantasy.
Siege Tank damage increased from 35 (50 vs. armored) to 40 (60 vs. armored)
We wanted to locate numbers that would specifically buff the Siege Tank heavily vs. certain units and not others. For example:
- Siege Tanks’ relationship against Marines won’t be changed too significantly, but Marauders that just used Stim Pack to close in on Tanks will be heavily nerfed by this change.
- Roaches and Ravagers won’t be affected heavily, but once global upgrades start coming into play these changes will begin favoring Siege Tanks.
- Against Protoss, this will change the Siege Tanks’ relationship against most ground units, but we wonder if this is a good thing since Protoss is already the most resistant to Siege Tank attacks.
In short, reduce the mobility of Tank, and improve the damage of it.
What is mech?
I believe this is an important question. What exactly is mech? How do you categorise a composition mech instead of bio?
I have written about the mech and bio composition in TvZ two years ago, and I think my conceptualisation of “bio” and “mech” back then still stands. The core idea I brought forward is that “bio” and “mech” can be seen as two ends of a continuum, and they should not be seen as categorical in a mutually exclusive sense. This is because most of the common compositions that we see nowadays are a mix of both bio and mech, as illustrated by the image below.
The plotting is not done to scale obviously, but it is enough to get the idea across. Also, you can mix in other counter units accordingly in any composition, but the above ones represent the usual core of a Terran army.
To keep things clean, perhaps it is best to simply say whether the composition is bio-oriented or mech-oriented, and this should avoid unnecessary dispute. There are two ways to tell which side it is leaning to.
- Production building
- As more production buildings are added in the mid game, we can tell what army composition the player is going into. If the number of Barracks is higher than the number of Factory, it is bio-oriented. If the number of Factory is higher than the number of Barracks, it is mech-oriented.
- Upgrade is a heavy investment, and it is generally not cost efficient to get both bio and mech upgrade. With that being said, you can get upgrade for both, but prioritise one of them. For example, for bio, you get attack and armor for bio, and either attack or armor for mech (two Engineering Bay and one Armory).
The mech that is referred in the community feedback update is basically a mech-oriented army with Tank as the core.
Potential results of the changes
Terran is the only race that has the “either this or that composition” issue, because of the racial asymmetry design. Clearly, Zerg’s larva system eliminates this problem altogether. However, Protoss always have Gateway units as the core, while the Robotic and Stargate units as support (unless it is very late game). You can actually draw comparison with Terran’s bio composition. Then, why is there no discussion on Gateway versus Robotic composition? I think this goes down to two main reasons. The first is that Robotic units are not strong enough by themselves, and this more or less means Gateway is the way to go. The second is that the upgrade is shared, and this means no decision making is required. When you combine these two reasons, the result is obvious.
These two reasons can also be applied to Terran, but in a different manner. Based on the latest community feedback update, it appears that Blizzard intend to fix the first issue which is to ensure the Factory units are capable of being the core of the army. However, if the upgrades of bio and mech remain separate, which is the second issue, this may result in players moving from bio to mech exclusively. That is, rather than making both mech and bio viable, mech may just outshine bio completely in a certain match up.
If the changes get through, mech may be the preferred composition in Terran mirror. As I have mentioned before, I didn’t think the mobility of Tank and Medivac is the main reason for the absence of mech. But let just say it is true, and Blizzard are spot on. Then, the removal of Tank and Medivac pick up combination alone should make mech more common. After all, the new Legacy of the Void additions to the Terran arsenal should not change the bio versus mech dynamics in Heart of the Swarm that much. I understand that Liberator plays an important part in mass air battle, but it should not make mech not viable. In fact, the introduction of Liberator may even be in mech’s favor. Therefore, if the Tank and Medivac pick up combination is removed and Tank becomes much stronger in against Marauder with the damage buff, players may just shift to mech from bio. We have to also consider the fact that mech generally requires more time to figure out, and this requires the metagame to stable down first. In sum, the changes are unlikely to achieve the initial intention, which is to make both bio and mech playable.
Let’s move these changes to other match ups. Do we seriously think mech will be playable against Protoss (haha)? How about the match up against Zerg?
In Heart of the Swarm, the most common aoe cover for bio is the Widow Mine, and Tank is only used against Roach and Hydralisk. The reason why Tank is back in favor in Legacy of the Void is mainly due to the popularity of Ravager, and the Medivac pick up. It is hard to predict how the interaction will play out because there are too many changes to it (Liberator range, Corrosive Bile damage, Tank damage and Tank Medivac pick up). Taken together, the changes definitely make mech stronger in TvZ.
Why must mech be viable?
This is a question that I have been thinking. Clearly, Blizzard don’t think Protoss’ Gateway-oriented composition an issue and the race requires another composition. If they do, they would have added new Robotic units in this expansion. Further, Protoss’ reliance on Gateway units now is actually stronger than in the previous expansions. It really gets me wondering why Blizzard cannot accept the fact that bio units play the main role and mech units play the support role. I am not saying it is wrong, but just why?
If you think about it, the approaches to make mech viable may actually be a nerf to Terran collectively because you are forced to pick one of the two sides.
Bio is stronger than mech currently and hence players pick bio. Blizzard’s intention is to ensure bio is not the obvious superior choice of the two, and the players have an option. While the intention is good, it is extremely hard to achieve. This is because bio or bio-oriented compositions mix in mech units. If you buff mech units in order to promote mech, bio actually also get stronger because of the mix of mech support units. Therefore, the bio has to be nerfed at the same time, or else Terran will be buff collectively because players can just stick to bio and receive a buff in the mech support units. Then, if bio is nerfed, and both bio and mech are of comparable strength for players to choose, does that mean Terran is nerfed as a whole? The image above shows what I am putting forward.
Therefore, if both bio and mech are to be playable options without drastic changes (e.g., make it hard for Terran to mix in mech to bio), the buff to mech should have minimal impact on the current bio composition. However, given how easy it is for mech units to be mixed into a bio-oriented composition, I am not quite sure how this can be done elegantly. This is also why a certain composition tends to be acknowledged as the better composition of the two in each match up. Perhaps map variation is the key to this bio and mech balance problem.
With all these being said, I am not that pessimistic about the viability of both, because we have done it at the end of Heart of the Swarm. Interestingly though, since Blizzard emphasize on giving players tools to have harassment options and encourage battle on multiple places in Legacy of the Void, the fundamental immobility of mech may be the very reason for players to pick bio as the main choice. If that is true, buffing the “strength” of Tank may not be a good direction.
At times I wonder whether the persistence to make mech work is down to the influence of Brood War. I have been quite vocal that we should not be caught in what we presume is the way to play based on the play style of Brood War, and it is what I call the dilemma of change that is hindering the improvement of the game.