Uprising or Desperation

Although Protoss have received the most drastic changes, Terran appear to be the most discussed race since patch 4.0. One interesting trend is the prevalence of mech in the three match ups.

Background

Just to clarify for new players. Bio is the most popular compositions through out the Starcraft II history. Marine and Medivac are the core of the army, and other support units (e.g., Siege Tank, Marauder, Widow Mine) are added into the mix based on opponent’s army choice. While the definition of mech has been debated over the years, it can largely be considered a composition that focuses on Factory units. Siege Tank is often the core of the army. Mech was largely considered most viable in TvT, moderately viable in TvZ, and least viable in TvP in Wings of Liberty and Heart of the Swarm.

There are two less discussed macro trends about mech. The first one is how the development timeline seems to always work against mech. Mech usually takes some time to get figured out whenever there is a shift in meta. However, ironically, massive changes were often implemented whenever mech was making a splash in the pro scene. For example, turtle mech had a huge success in TvZ at the end of Heart of the Swarm, but the switch to Legacy of the Void came timely to reset everything. The second one is how hard Blizzard have been trying to have both bio and mech viable for Terran. While the intention is admirable, I am largely skeptical of the unintended negative implications which could result in a net nerf to Terran.

The current popularity of mech could be traced to these two trends but in a rather strange manner.

Terran versus Terran

TvT is the least affected match up of the three by patch 4.0. The mech related changes are not enough to make mech more playable than before against bio. Cyclone’s anti-air buff is negligible. Widow Mine nerf does not really matter. Smart servo is unlikely to make a difference. Raven’s redesign does not exactly improve mech, and Vikings and Liberators are definitely better air options for mech in TvT. With that being said, I think mech is a viable option, and maps have a strong influence on its popularity.

Terran versus Zerg

INnoVation and TY were using bio and mech interchangeably against Zerg in WCS Global Finals and GSL before patch 4.0 (see vods below).

However, right now, mech is more used than bio. This trend is moving in the opposite direction of the first macro trend I mentioned earlier, as it would have predicted that mech would take a back seat whenever a major patch hits. In my opinion, it is less of the rise of mech but more of the fall of bio. Many have attributed the decrease in popularity of bio to the Zerg composition shift to Zergling, Baneling, and Hydralisk, for example, TLO was suggesting ZBH is too effective against bio (see vod below).

While that is not wrong, the real underlying issue is the potential of bio in the mid game. ZBH is considered effective, because it is the best answer against bio attacks in mid game. Then, how does this result in the rise of mech? Broadly speaking, Terran have two strategic options in mid game TvZ. You either get a second Factory for a mid game Siege Tank heavy composition or tech early to the late game composition with mass Liberators. The former is considered the more orthodox option, but it is basically cancelled out by ZBH. In contrast, the latter acknowledges the ineffectiveness of a Siege Tank heavy mid game, and only uses bio and Widow Mine to bridge the transition to a late game army (see vod below). Then, since the game plan is to get a late game army, why not simply go for mech which has a better late game potential?

To further make mech an obvious choice, Terran now have very limited effective early game aggressive options. When I say early game options, I refer to macro-oriented attacking choices like a Widow Mine drop, so extreme cheese builds do not count. Previously, there were 2-1-1, Hellion + Banshee, Hellion + Liberator, Widow Mine drop, and Hellbat attacks. However, most of these options slowly die out as Queens are very effective for early game defence, and the anti-air attack range buff might have just tilted the scale too much. Hellbat attack is the only one used in the recent WCS Global Finals, and I think this is mainly due to its relatively low reliance on air unit support. As a result of not being able to benefit from attacking in the early and mid game with bio, mech becomes a clear choice.

Other recent changes like Widow Mine’s nerf and Raven’s redesign have also pushed bio away. Widow Mine’s nerf is self-explanatory. Raven’s Auto Turrets were effective against ZBH in the mid game, because Zerg do not have air units to kill off the Ravens hiding at the edge of the map (read the TvZ part). The removal of Auto Turret does not only limit Terran’s early game build options, it also decreases an important factor that help Terran out-multitask Zerg. This is linked to the second macro trend I mentioned earlier. Taken together, it is not a surprise that mech is the mainstream option for TvZ now.

Terran versus Protoss

I am going to start by saying Protoss are favored in the match up. Despite the most recent balance changes nerf Protoss (especially Oracle), there are still quite a number of unresolved issues. I know people have pointed out many different problems with the match up, and I think they all converge to the one thing that Terran do not trade well with Protoss. Stalkers’ stats and Shield Battery obviously have direct effect on how the two sides trade in a battle. Chronoboost ensures Protoss are always ahead in upgrades. All these have a negative impact on the usual mid game bio power spike.

But is mech better than bio? In my opinion, no. Protoss have good anti-mech units like Immortal and Carriers, and there are various mid and late game options against mech. The recent changes to mech are not enough to overturn the longstanding problem of mech in TvP. When you combine the history of TvP and the first macro trend I mentioned earlier, it is very surprising to see mech being the main option now.

INnoVation, TY, and other top Korean Terran have been using mech on stream recently. This is usually how it plays out.

  1. A Reaper expand into Reactor Cyclone.
  2. Transition into three Factories (2 Tech Labs and 1 Reactor) with three Command Centres.
  3. Attack with Cyclones and Tanks (mix in some Hellions).
  4. Stop Tank production and focus on Hellbat and Cyclone. Transition to sky Terran.
  5. Lose.

The Cyclone anti-air buff helps to deal with Oracle, and other aspect of Terran mech largely remains the same. The Cyclone and Tank push is good against a Stalker heavy army, but it is weak once Immortal and Achron become the main army. There are just so many ways Protoss can deal with mech. I must say I enjoy watching INnoVation laughing at himself when he got destroyed for using mass Widow Mine against Carriers. He also had lost to other more interesting approaches. Overall, it seems like the pros have given up on bio in TvP, but mech is not any better. TY went even further to use sky Terran in TvP (not as a transition). In case you think he is trolling around, he had actually pioneered sky Terran in TvZ in 2016. It did not work out well.

They are desperate.

Parting words

All in all, mech is not uprising, but players are desperate for an alternative to bio. That is another way of saying bio is in a bad place now.

We know Blizzard want mech to be more viable than it was. In a way, they have succeeded (yeah!). I am sure they are keeping a close look at the current situation, but I think they are unsure what changes are good for the current situation. I look forward to their next community update.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Uprising or Desperation

  1. Great read as always, I was already waiting for a TerranCraft article after the new balance update.

    I too think Blizzard is not quite sure what to do in the current situation. Yesterday I watched Innovation quit his stream because he lost 8 times in a row in TvP and then he lost against 5.3k MMR Protoss. Currently all the top Terrans seem to struggle heavily in TvP and something should be done. I think the main issue is the strong Stalker unit. Maybe they should consider (partly) reverting the Stalker change, Stalker will still be very strong when he is 3-3 against the 1-1 Terran army. Or maybe change the base damage increase to +1 instead of +2 per upgrade. IMO Terran has currently no good way to deal with 3-3 stalkers in this patch.

    I’m very curious what Blizzard will do next about the game balance!

    1. It is quite frustrating to play TvP now. I lost to diamond Protoss, but I won against master Terran and Zerg. Chronoboost needs to be adjusted too, it’s pretty crazy in PvZ too.

      1. It might be, but considering that majority of maps are heavily zerg favoured and it is harder to not lose to 2 base all-ins I would say it evens out.

        1. Queen is hard to fix. I like the direction the new stalkers are going, but the number may be too good as of now. This maybe partly due to the upgrade advantage of chronoboost.

  2. I have no idea how to play Terran in TvP atm.
    It feels like no matter what i do i’m always behind with no hope of catching up.

  3. Hey Max, great article. I wanted to bring up something that Special said on The Patch. If Terran was able to scout with reapers on every map, instead of Blackpink and Neon Violet being terrible Terran maps, then TvP would be a lot more balanced. But because Terran has to attempt to defend everything whether it’s Starport, Robo, DTs, etc. they will always fall behind unless they scout. Stalker pressure is a little bit too good in my opinion as well, especially on maps with no natural ramp such as Odyssey and Catalyst. If Blizzard reduced their damage by 1, then it would increase the number of shots it would take to kill a reaper, SCV, and marine by 1 (I haven’t tested it but it should be right, 60 health, 45 health, 45 health) and that would alleviate stalker pressure by a tremendous amount.

    1. Scouting is one thing. Protoss could say the same thing, as they couldn’t do much scouting early on. The time frame for scouting of build is very short in lotv. The map size isn’t in Terran favour too.

  4. Queen as a unit is just ridiculous for her cost, it just a terrible band aid for all Zerg’s early game problems (just as MSC was). Also I don’t like the idea of untagged (bio tag does not count) units with 1 armor such as Queen and Ravager.

    I have mixed feeling about TvP on my level at least:
    – I agree that upgrade advantage is not fair and it limits effectiveness of bio in early/mid game.
    – I don’t like the idea shield battery, I’m not even sure if it is any better than MSC. It does not seem to fit SC2,
    – I like that Protoss can have map presence now in early stages of the game. I like the new stalker, and it is one of the two thing that brought me back to playing Protoss.
    – I don’t like the new disruptor. Protoss does not need more AOE. Previous version of this unit at least was fun to watch in action (talking about streams, tournaments).
    – I like the new Chronoboost boost. You actually can have a lot more creativity with build orders now. Maybe it should be +50% for 20s instead, or it shouldn’t affect forge upgrades – I don’t know. I want game to be fun to play, and it does make it more interesting.
    – PvP is waaaay more fun to play that it ever were.

    I would say that on high level TvP is clearly Protoss favored, not so much in the lower leagues.

    So while I want TvP to be fair as I do play both races, I hope Blizzard will be careful with buffs/nerfs.

    And finally – new map set is disappointing. Maps seem to be too big, ramps to wide, and generally they are Zerg favored though Z is the only race I don’t play, so I may be biased.

    1. Queen is hard to fix. I like the direction the new stalkers are going, but the number may be too good as of now. This maybe partly due to the upgrade advantage of chronoboost.

  5. I started off with a fast factory -> expand CC.

    After the factory, I’ll build supply Depot and tech lab on the factory.

    Swap the tech lab and reactor.

    Build a 2nd refinery, 2nd barracks, and 1st starport after the swap.

    Making Marines and hellions. Then make a 2nd Starport. So, I’m going for a Raven, Banshee, Hellion, Marine push.

    Use the shredder missile and repair drones.

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s