With Serral crowned as the best StarCraft II player of 2018 at Blizzcon, the community’s attention shifts to the upcoming patch. Blizzard have finalised the changes in the next big balance patch, so I have a conversation with Gemini about what we can expect in TvP when the patch kicks in.
I have to start the discussion with proxy. The current metagame revolves heavily around proxy and how to react against it. Terran’s proxy strategies were shutted down hard by Protoss at Blizzcon, and Maru’s quick demise against sOs is perhaps the pivotal point of the existing metagame. Questions about whether proxy still works surfaced immediately, and more importantly, whether proxy is in fact a viable strategy after the patch is heavily debated.
The biggest relevant change that is going to affect the proxy strategies is reverting Cyclone back to pre-3.8. Cyclone is the centerpiece of the different proxy variations, because the plausibility of having multiple Cyclones showing up at the Protoss’ doorstep requires immediate reaction. With the change, Cyclone is much weaker in a frontal battle, and this drastically weakens its effectiveness in proxy strategies. The fact that Cyclone requires a Tech Lab makes me more pessimistic about proxy strategies after the patch.
The Cyclone definitely is the key part of the proxy meta right now and I’m glad Blizzard addressed the core aspect. Something that people may not realize is that the Cyclone’s offensive capabilities isn’t its only strength, but it’s the Cyclone’s defensive capabilities that really make this proxy meta run wild. Terran basically has the luxury of falling back at home due to the Cyclone being such a good unit defensively. It’s very difficult to break into multiple Cyclones with a low-tech ground army, and air units can also be shut down with multiple Cyclones. It’s the Cyclone’s ability to defend at home after proxying a barracks that then allows the multitude of other types of proxies to work as well. Behind that safety a Terran can go straight into proxy cloaked banshees, widow mines for a fast mine drop, hellions for a hellion drop, a liberator to harass the main while the Cyclones poke the front. Bringing back pre-3.8 Cyclones will definitely help in limiting the number of options a Terran has after the initial proxy barracks. It should also help limit the flexibility and recoverability of Terran proxies if they happen to get shut down.
That is an excellent point. Indeed, few have discussed about the defensive capability of Cyclone in the proxy strategy. It fills the gap when Terran have to fly their buildings back in the base.
I was watching TaeJa’s stream recently, and he was using fake proxy with the new patch. He uses the new Cyclone to pick off the Gateway units that are trying to abuse the fact that Terran do not have units at home when they proxy. It seems awkward though, as the Cyclone does not allow him to counter attack after picking off the units. I wonder if the Cyclone is limited to a defensive role in the new patch. In 2016, we had witnessed that the Cyclone was the key defensive tool in the match up, but it is unclear if that remains the case more than two years later.
Overall, I believe the proxy strategy is dead in the new patch, and I hope I’m wrong. The main strength of the proxy strategy lies with the variety of plausible builds. With the change, it seems to me that Protoss are a lot safer to expand and defend, as there would not be a potential immediate game ending threat. I will like to get your view about this. How will Protoss feel when they know that there are proxies in the new patch?
Proxies can still be quite strong if a Protoss under reacts or does not fully see what is coming to them. The new Cyclone, if not dealt with properly with a Prism or Phoenixes to break the lock-on, can still be quite deadly especially with the upgrade. TY tried doing a proxy cyclone/marauder build with the Cyclone upgrade, but it was stopped in its tracks before it took full effect. Even still, the upgrade finished and it still kept Trap in his base for a bit even after the game went so much in his favor. I’ll be curious to see how those types of strategies work when they don’t get spotted early and get delayed.
However, the risk will definitely be much lower than it is now. There will likely need to be some other changes since macro PvT seems to be a bit Protoss favored. Stargate openers are very well rounded and can deal with basically anything the Terran can open with. They offer an easy way to transition into +1 and Blink with 8 gates of production to defend bio pushes attempting to deny the Protoss 3rd. That has been the standard for a while now in PvT and I don’t expect that to change with the new patch. Disruptors are being nerfed which means there’s less reason for them to be made earlier on as a switch up to opening Stargate (Even though I think it’ll totally be fine, but pros have different opinions) and we definitely won’t be seeing them as a transition after the blink/charge phase is over.
Perhaps the widow mine upgrade change might affect something in the mid game to abuse the fact that a Protoss will be relying mostly on Oracles for detection, but I honestly doubt it.
I have not thought about the Mag-Field Accelerator upgrade. Since the new Cyclone requires Tech Lab, it seems getting the upgrade on the Tech Lab is not too inconvenient.
I was quite vocal about the current state of “standard” macro openings that Terran players perceive it as Protoss favored. The nerf to Cyclone, which a nerf to proxy, worries me a little. However, as you have mentioned, the Factory upgrades may open up new options, and in turn shift the scale.
The change to Drilling Claw upgrade is familiar to most of us, as the after-upgrade Widow Mine is the same as what we had before patch 4.0. Drilling Claw upgrade was rarely used in TvP pre-patch 4.0, and it was sort of a cheese to catch Protoss off-guard. The investment and delay to get the Armory and then the upgrade are not appealing. I hasten to point out the new Widow Mine has a shorter production time than the pre-patch 4.0 one, and this may make a difference.
I foresee Terran use Reaper expand into a 1-1-1 with a Tech Lab on the Factory. The Cyclone appears to be a good all-rounded answer in the early game to various Protoss attacking options, so there is little harm in getting it. The Tech Lab then opens up options for Siege Tank and Drilling Claw upgrade. KeeN recently put down a Tech Lab instead of a Reactor with the Barracks in a Reaper expand opening, and this shows how much he favors Cyclone in the early game of the match up (see vod below). We may see this Tech Lab on Factory set up as the new bread and butter of TvP. This links back to your comment that the current Stargate opening is very well rounded, and I wonder whether this default set up with a defensive Cyclone could shift the metagame.
Obviously we can’t know until it happens, however it would be nice to see a changeup of the Stargate meta without nerfing any aspect of it. I don’t really see that happening though unless something like the widow mine nerf being completely reverted happens. Right now, dealing with 1-1-1 with Stargate is the most preferred situation from the Protoss. There’s a lot of small aggression in the form of medivac drops or cloaked banshees, however it’s totally manageable aggression that puts the Terran far behind if it can’t find damage. Then a Terran’s stim and bio numbers are delayed and they have to rely on Tanks to stay alive which can easily be nullified if Protoss went for a Phoenix follow up or Charge after Blink.
I was even going to mention how the early Oracles don’t have to get damage done and are mostly just for scouting/detection, but some more early Phoenix openers could actually find a shift in the meta. They could be used as a way to break the Cyclone lock-on and give free reign to the Oracles to wipe a mineral line if a Terran thinks they can rely just on Cyclones to defend.
I share your sentiment about the utility of Stargate. As you mentioned, Stargate is good against various aggressive options Terran have, and this makes one wonders whether Terran still have reasonable early game aggressive options any more. Cyclone will not be the aggressive option it is now. Cloak Banshee is relatively easy to counter. Widow Mine drop often is not worth its investment. In a recent article, I talked about how the match up is too one dimensional in its relative roles for attacker versus defender in the early game, and the lack of attacking options for Terran is at the core of the problem.
The other less discussed issue with early game attacking option is the importance of information gathering in the process. For example, a Widow Mine drop allows Terran to glance at the buildings in Protoss’ base, and the units Protoss have to defend against it also provides information. After I read that Blizzard have no intention to improve Widow Mine drop in a recent interview, I don’t want to get my hope high.
If the early game is in Protoss’ favor, then what about mid game? Terran traditionally have a power spike when Stim is ready. I always thought it may just be my Terran bias thinking that Protoss have control with Stargate opening and then take an early third Nexus, and then Protoss have enough to hold against the mid game attack because of the unopposed early third. It sounds like you believe the Blink and +1 with eight Gateways can neutralise the main mid game threat. Do you think Terran need to do something different in the mid game? If so, what should Terran do?
My personal opinion is that Terrans need to not attack. I’m sure many Terrans reading this will hate me for that and say that I’m a brainless Protoss player, but I think it’s true. We saw Terran’s stubbornness in the Phoenix/Adept meta when they constantly would try to drop and out harass a composition that’s designed to shut down harassment. Then when they found themselves dying to a counter push after throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the Protoss, they cried imbalance. Then a few Terran players started playing defensively and sat back behind mines and liberators until they had a much larger army and went for a big push once the Phoenix/Adept composition lost its power spike.
While I don’t believe the current meta of Stargate into +1/Blink/Charge has such a clear power spike, I still don’t think it’s necessary for Terrans to be pushing into a Protoss so heavily. The games that I have the most trouble with in PvT are when Terrans are extremely defensive and I can’t crack them. They draw the game out and get to large ghost/liberator counts and make the late game very difficult to play. Many Terrans are extremely apprehensive to go into the late game vs Protoss because they believe it’s too difficult to play. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not difficult, however there is merit to playing defensively instead of trying to attack at every chance possible. I was trying to do the same in PvZ but eventually came to the realization that the mid-game was the Zerg’s power spike and that I had to simply sit back and absorb as much as possible until I got the right composition and efficiency.
I agree with you on Terran players’ tendency to be the attacker. This is comparable to the concept of “functional fixedness”, whereby people have a cognitive bias that limits how they perceive the function of things. Terran players are so accustomed since Wings of Liberty to be the attacker that they are fixated on that particular approach. Adept and Phoenix are indeed the perfect example to showcase this bias.
With this in mind, I think there will be a decrease in traditional 1-1-1 builds. A Starport seems unnecessary in the early game. If Terran do not attack, there is no reason to get a Medivac or a Liberator. Viking’s anti-air utility against Oracle is replaced by Cyclone. Raven may just be the unorthodox option. Terran should put down additional Barracks after the Factory instead of a Starport.
Many Terran players, myself included, are not confident in controlling Ghost, Liberator, and bio in the late game. I believe Ghost having a higher unit selection priority than Marine and Marauder is a key contributor to this issue. Adjusting the unit selection priority to move Marine and Marauder up the priority list can potentially change how Terran approach the late game.
We have witnessed Protoss go for a mineral heavy composition mid game against Terran in Blizzcon recently. This is a metagame move to counter Terran’s mid game aggression, and it is in line with what we have discussed. If Terran were to be less aggressive in the mid game, I wonder whether this playstyle sticks. If Protoss were to tech up quicker, do you expect a change in the tech path? In the current metagame, Disruptor is a key tech unit in the mid-to-late game, and sometimes I feel it is unplayable against Disruptors. The change to Disruptor is likely to shake up the mid game options too.
Yeah, so Disruptors are going to be nerfed next patch. At the moment they simply allow too much bang for their buck. It’s a bit too easy to get shots off with the activation on contact as it leaves little room for a Terran to react and there’s just not enough counter play. For myself, I’ll still be using Disruptors since I was using them before they were changed in patch 4.0 anyway, so I’ll feel comfortable. However, I doubt we’ll be seeing it in pro play anymore. At least not in the way we are right now.
As it is now we see it mostly as a transition out of a standard Blink/Charge style to give some extra burst to a fight and force the Terran to micro. When it’s combined with Charge already in play it sort of prolongs the Disruptor’s power spike a little bit since it’ll take some time for the Terran to react with the right tools. In addition, since the cool down is so low and the on-hit activation nearly guarantees at least some kills with every shot, it makes the transition actually give value. You don’t need as many Disruptors for them to be effective. When the old/new Disruptor comes back the cool down will be higher and you won’t be guaranteed hits anymore. You’ll also need to micro the Disruptor Nova more and the Terran has more counter play to the Nova. This makes transitioning INTO Disruptors a poor move as late as Protoss have been recently. They’ll be coming into play after their power spike has passed as you’ll need more of them to be effective in engagements.
That said, I still think going for them early and using them in the correct way can still yield good results. Will it be as consistently effective as we are seeing them now? I doubt it. However I can see early Disruptor builds being a nice pocket pick.
I must say the current Disruptor will not be missed by Terran. Hopefully, the changes to Disruptor open up opportunities for Colossus to be used more in the match up.
Let’s talk about the late game. Unlike in PvZ, Protoss do not often go for Mothership and Carriers in the late game against Terran, and the preferred composition mainly consists of aoe units like High Templar. However, with Carrier, Tempest, and Battlecruiser all received some changes in the new patch, it makes me wonder if we will actually see a different late game in the match up. I doubt Carrier will be used much, but Tempest’s utility to counter range Liberators improved with the changes. Tempests are often too expensive and take too long to build as a counter to range Liberators, and I think the changes make Tempest more accessible than before. It seems hard to rate the new Battlecruiser. Monk of Blizzard had recently mentioned in an interview about Terran’s late game, and I quote:
“Just throughout the history of StarCraft, Terran has been seen as disfavored [in the late-game] in some matchups. So we’re trying to make it, maybe not 100% balanced or 50/50 balanced, but make it so that all races feel like they have a decent chance in the late-game depending on how they play. Our goal isn’t to ensure that each of the race’s final compositions can butt heads into each other and win 50% of the time.”
It appears that improving Battlecruiser and hoping that it becomes viable in TvP late game may be one of the reasons behind the changes. I am optimistic and skeptical about this direction. I doubt Terran have the luxury to build an army of fully upgrade Battlecruisers in the TvP late game. However, mixing in a Battlecruiser into the typical composition is not completely out of the picture. Terran army becomes less mobile and more of a deathball when range Liberators are part of the composition. Having one to two Battlecruiser can add complexity to how Protoss choose to engage.
I personally don’t feel like there’s going to be much of a change to late game PvT. If anything it’s only going to get a little easier for Protoss with the change to the Tempest. Previously, Tempest were used as a way to deal with mass ranged liberator armies like you said, so this is a straight buff to that. It’ll be much easier to get the Tempest to the front lines quicker and to get them out of range of any supporting Vikings after they take a shot at the Liberator line.
The transition into Tempest is usually a bit clunky however, so I’m not fully sure on how the changes will affect that transition time but it does also make my adored Blink/Ruptor style more viable still. Since the ultimate counter play to full on Blink/Ruptor is a defensive Terran using ranged Liberators and Tanks behind a bio ball, the natural progression after Blink/Ruptor is to go straight into Stargates for Tempest. This extra mobility will only benefit the Blink/Ruptor style as it already is a composition that relies on map control and map movement, especially when its power starts to fall off and you need to find other ways to get damage done.
On the point of Battlecruisers: Perhaps TY’s style of late game TvP with Battlecruiser transitions will become strong, however it’s so difficult to get to that situation safely that I can’t say that will become standard TvP late game with a straight face. I also believe that BCs will never be good unless massed. You have to get to that supreme late game situation where you have 10+ of them for the style to ever be effective since they just aren’t good units by themselves. The Tempest buff makes it even easier to kite vs the BCs now. You can even get out of range of Yamato before it fires when a BC warps on top of a Tempest, provided you react nearly immediately. It’s not impossible to do however, and is easily replicated. With these ideas in mind, I really don’t expect to see many changes to the interactions of late game PvT but I would gladly be surprised to see some new scenarios develop.
Thank you Max for inviting me to discuss the new patch with you! If anyone reading would like to see more of my stuff or support me in anyway then be sure to check out these links: https://twitter.com/GGemini19 | https://www.patreon.com/GGemini19 | https://www.twitch.tv/geminisc2 | https://old.reddit.com/r/allthingsprotoss/
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