A Snapshot of Patch 4.11 Early Metagame Development

The annual balance revamp patch has gone live for two to three weeks. There are some noteworthy points in the new metagame development.

Vs. Protoss

Among all the changes to Terran and Protoss, the Zealot change is likely to have the greatest influence on the match up.

  • The Charge upgrade no longer provides Zealots with +8 damage on impact. Instead, it increases Zealot movement speed from 3.15 to 4.72, up from 4.13.

But how is it going to affect the match up? Intuitively, Protoss would be have lower damage output in sizable battles. Each Zealot’s damage output is lowered by 8 damage at face value, and this is a big deal when you have multiple Zealots. The improved Zealot movement speed doesn’t do much in a sizable battle, even though those reinforcing Zealots that got just warp-in could join the battle quicker. Thus, the changes result in a net nerf for a sizable battle, and this is reflected in the latest metagame changes.

One notable change is the later third Nexus. Protoss taking the third Nexus early was at the centre of the TvP debate in 2019, as it shapes how the match up is played in the early and mid game. When you watch the pre-patch standard TvP games, you can see Terran almost always do a two-base 3-1-1 push with Stim, +1 attack, and Medivacs (often with a Raven). The result of the exchange at the third Nexus is pivotal to the subsequent tempo of the mid game. Terran used to mix in Siege Tanks in the attack, but they were later replaced by Widow Mines. This is because Protoss would have Charge research completed the match with Terran’s power spike for the attack at the third Nexus, and Widow Mines are more effective than Siege Tanks against Zealots. In other words, Chargelots’ damage output is a major part of the early third Nexus build path. With the nerf to Chargelots’ damage output, can Protoss still hold the early third Nexus? It appears that Protoss players are experimenting two-base Colossus with a later third Nexus. Hence, the train of thought is not about how Protoss can defend the early third Nexus, but it is about taking the third Nexus when it is safe. The nerf to Raven’s Interference Matrix is also an indirect buff to Colossus.

There are two key variations for this build. One gets the Robotic Facility before Twilight Council, and the other gets the Twilight Council before Robotic Facility. Gemini wrote about the former here. Recently, Trap used the latter against INnoVation a few times recently (see vod; I can’t get the embedded AfreecaTV vod to work on WordPress here, please let me know in the comment if you’ve a solution). I want to highlight game 2 of the series between these two players. INnoVation put down a second Starport for a two base 5-1-2 all-in with Vikings, and this supposedly a counter to Trap’s build. However, Trap responded by getting Disruptors instead after the first Colossus; see first image below (see production tab; he even taunted INnoVation with the “?” in chat after he scouted it). Trap even put down a second Robotic Facility for more Disruptors to defend against the two-base push (see second image), and INnoVation’s investment in two Reactor Starports is essentially wasted at that time.

Although this specific game is a little extreme with two-base all-in and double Robotic Facility, it shows the basic frameworks of the respective strategies. Protoss does not have to take the risk and tech switch to High Templars when Terran goes for double Reactor Starport, as Disruptors are a more accessible tech switch. In fact, Trap had been showing this tech switch against Terran this year before this patch kicks in. His control of a complex composition is impressive.

From Terran’s perspective, if Protoss is going to tech up on two bases with a relatively later third Nexus, getting an early third Command Centre could be a fruitful metagame response. But my friend, Laura, pointed out to me that Protoss could then in response to attack Terran with the Colossus army, and it is difficult for Terran to hold.

Importantly, I want to highlight that this two-base Colossus before third Nexus build is not the dominating build, because there are many examples of Protoss taking the third Nexus at the “usual” time. The metagame is very refreshing with a range of builds from both sides now.

Vs. Terran

All eyes are on the changes to Raven.

  • Interference Matrix energy cost increased from 50 energy to 75 energy.
  • Interference Matrix duration increased from 8 seconds to 11 seconds.
  • Raven movement speed increased from 3.85 to 4.13.
  • Fixed an issue where splash damage will not properly apply to units affected by Anti-Armor missile.

In April 2019, I wrote an article about how Raven’s Interference Matrix forces Terran players to get multiple Ravens in the early game. The trend lasted until the end of the last patch. We all hope the Raven’s Interference Matrix nerf could shake things up for the mirror match up. Before the patch is live, I was thinking getting just one Raven may be a good idea. The second Raven may not have time to gain enough energy before the first big engagement to put down two Interference Matrix. The rest of the build is likely to remain the same, whereby you get the third Command Centre, more Tanks, and more Vikings (then transition to bio with Stim upgrade). I could be completely wrong though.

Sadly, there are very few Terran mirror matches available online, so I cannot generate much insight. Simply based on the series below, it seems to me Raven and Vikings should still be the mainstream option. Consistent with my previous article on metagame shift in TvT openings, players appear to favor one Barracks expand over other openings.

Vs. Zerg

My recent analysis of Maru’s TvZ play style can be taken as a summary of the metagame before the patch. I can sum it up in these few points:

  • Both bio and mech are competitive.
  • Battlecruiser goes well with mech.
  • Difficult to go against Zerg in the late game.
  • Nuke is the key late game option.

Both bio and mech are still competitive, and that’s a good thing. However, Battlecruiser is the mainstream build option for both bio and mech now. The 2018 balance revamp (patch 4.7.1) resulted in the new battle mech and the inclusion of Battlecruiser in 1-1-1 builds. When I first wrote about this style in January, the focus was on the then new battle mech. Battle mech later combined with the “classic” mech to become the contemporary mech style. Terran would focus on Cyclone and Hellion production first for the map control, but they would later transition to Siege Tanks and Thors in the mid to late game. Now, Battlecruisers remain a popular option for mech, and they are added to the main composition (i.e., continuous production). The two vods below demonstrates this style well.

The weakness of the Battlecruiser build is early Roach and Ravager attack. Traditionally, a Tech Lab Starport and a Reactor Factory mean Terran is getting Hellions and Banshees, and this combination shuts down Roach and Ravager attacks. But a Battlecruiser takes much longer to build than a Banshee (additional time required for Fusion Core), and it is difficult for Terran to hold against Roaches and Ravagers with only Hellions. The vod below is an example. I’ve seen better examples on stream before, but I cannot find the vods =(

This Roach and Ravager versus Battlecruiser plays a big role in the current metagame. Terran would do a bluff to get Banshees instead of Battlecruisers, as Banshee is the counter to Zerg’s counter to Battlecruiser. Hellions with Banshees build is considered outdated in TvZ as of current understanding, because Terran rarely can gain enough value to justify the cost of the Banshees. The two exceptions are Hellbat timing with Banshees and double Starport Banshees with Hyperflight Rotors research. Thus, a classic 1-1-1 with Hellions and Banshees now is arguably a metagame move. Conversely, Zerg could fake a Roach and Ravager attack by putting down a Roach Warren but do not commit to an attack.

Transitioning to bio from a Battlecruiser build is also common now.  A bio transition usually only has one or two Battlecruisers. The most noteworthy thing about the bio transition is whether Terran goes for a two base attack with 3-1-1. Even before Legacy of the Void, Terran usually gets the third Command Centre before the second and third Barracks in TvZ. If Terran goes for 3-1-1 before the third Command Centre, it is usually a timing attack build. It was quite popular in Heart of the Swarm for a period of time (for reference). It is increasingly common for Terran to go for a two base 3-1-1 attack after producing just one Battlecruiser (for reference). This can be effective if Zerg plans out his or her build to counter Battlecruisers, as there wouldn’t be sufficient Zerg ground force to deal with the timing attack. The vod below is a good example of this build. Dark scouted the build early, so he was well prepared.

Another notable difference in this patch is Thor’s effectiveness in the late game. Thors are good against Broodlords, because Broodlords’ range is nerfed. It is so good that players using bio get Thors against Broodlords in the late game (see below vod for an example). I’m not sure if Thor is too effective against Broodlord though. But I hope the late game in this patch is much more interesting and balance than the one in last patch.

Housekeeping

First of all, thank you for the recent contribution to this site. Special mention to Filemon and Johannes. Your contribution keeps this site going!

I didn’t post as frequently last month for a variety of reasons. It is now a break for competitive StarCraft, so there are few things to analyse. I’m also very busy with work and wedding planning! Planning a wedding is like playing StarCraft, whereby you need to both macro (planning) and micro (attention to details). Budgeting is an immerse challenge! Oh, nothing is more op and imba than my wife changing her mind on something.

Before I sign off, I want to talk about plagiarism. I welcome you to share, quote, and translate my work, as long as proper references are included. For example, my convergent point article was translated and posted on a Chinese StarCraft website recently with references back to this site and me. I’ve no issue with this example. In fact, I want to thank him/her for spending so much effort on the translation. I love that s/he even has a foreword and an afterword for the translated article. But there are others who use my content as if they are the original creators. Please respect me and other content creators by indicating the source.

This article is translated and posted on scboy.com by 知識と日陰の少女.


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4 thoughts on “A Snapshot of Patch 4.11 Early Metagame Development

  1. Great read as usual. I have now started learning about Protoss and the first section on the article was just what I needed :) Thank you!

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