HotS Protoss Preview: Part 1
Thu 21st Feb 2013 - 2:15pm: Starcraft II
As the release of the first expansion for StarCraft II, Heart of the Swarm, is just around the corner, I thought it would be a good idea to start shifting some analysis and strategy guides to the new game. I’m sure a lot of people have already been playing the beta or have seen a lot of streams, but I just wanted to give people who might not be too familiar with the new game a taste of what they can expect after they install it. I’m going to break this down into separate articles for each race starting with Protoss then Zerg and finally Terran. This article will also be written in 2 parts as there is a lot to say about the new Protoss units and abilities!
The goal of this article will be to familiarize new players to the series or just HotS with the new units the Protoss race has in its arsenal and some potential strategies to improve their utility in game. Obviously, this is not directed toward players who know a lot about the game already.
So where should we begin? Logically, the first new accessible unit for the Protoss, which is: the Mothership Core. Anyone who played Wings of Liberty should both familiar and frustrated with the Mothership. It became an all-or-nothing spell caster essentially only using its “Vortex” ability to minimize an army’s size to make large end game battles manageable from the Protoss perspective. Luckily, that ability has been removed from the game and the unit itself has been entirely reworked.
The Mothership Core becomes available once a Cybernetics Core has been built. The unit is constructed at the Nexus and costs 100 minerals, 100 gas, takes 30 seconds and costs 2 supply. The shorthand for this for the rest of the article will be 100/100/30/2. It is a relatively large gas sink for the early game and generally players of favored getting it over an extra Sentry as the gas cost is the same. The timing on when players get their Mothership Core varies from player to player and from matchup to matchup. Seeing as HotS is still in beta and not everyone has been playing it, the builds are still uncertain at the moment. Suffice it to say, the Mothership Core does function as a great defensive unit in the early game and can be used in conjunction with a small Gateway force to allow for some harassment.
The Mothership Core has 3 main abilities and 1 upgrade. Its abilities are Photon Overcharge, Mass Recall and Time Warp. Furthermore, the Mothership Core can be upgraded into the standard Mothership at the cost of 300/300/100/8, more on that later. The Photon Overcharge ability is a very strong defensive one for Protoss and helps immensely in the early game. It is an ability which is cast on a Nexus and turns it into a powerful cannon giving the Nexus an attack of 20 damage and 13 range. Another point to note about the Photon Overcharge ability is that it costs 100 energy and lasts 60 seconds. A 60 second cannon attached to a Nexus can be the perfect thing a player needs to buy time to get some units out quickly to be able to defend an early push. A minute in game can be a really long time which makes this ability invaluable. Players should be wary of casting it so that it simply isn’t wasted and your opponent just runs around your Nexus! Also, costing 100 energy means that the Mothership Core cannot store up two Photon Overcharges since the Mothership Core has a maximum energy of 150. Keep this in mind.
The second ability, players will remember from Wings of Liberty, however, I feel that since the tech required for it has been greatly reduced, it receives much more utility. This ability is Mass Recall. It is cast from the Mothership Core in a radius around itself and sends friendly units within that radius back to a targeted Nexus. This can give Protoss a lot of maneuverability when making a push for an enemy’s base, or to simply get out once appropriate damage has been done!
The third ability available from the Mothership Core is called “Time Warp”. Some players might recall that this spell was originally on the Oracle, however, was moved to the Mothership Core for balance reasons and I personally believe it was the right choice. It is a pretty simple concept. It casts a “dome” on the ground with a radius of 3.5 and any units within it have their movement speed slowed by 50%. It affects both air and ground units. This ability can be used to great effect in conjunction with Force Fields to ensure the enemy does not retreat or to slow down a Medivac exit. It can also be used on mineral lines to slow an economy for some light harassment.
The final ability is to actually transform into the Mothership. This actually causes it to lose the Photon Overcharge ability. However, the unit is much beefier and stronger and brings back to massive cloaking field players remember from Wings of Liberty. All things considered, I think the Mothership and the Mothership Core bring a lot to the Protoss army!
The second new unit is the Oracle. For players watching the development process of the HotS beta, you will be aware that Blizzard had a bit of a hard time finding the place for the Oracle. The original “Entomb” ability was removed in favor of others which kept getting removed or changed in some way. However, over time, it seems they have finally figured the unit out. Essentially it makes for an immensely powerful harassment unit and an army support unit. The Oracle is a fairly expensive unit at 150/150/50/3, however, I certainly feel it is worth it!
The Oracle also has 3 abilities: Envision, Revelation and Pulsar Beam. Envision is incredibly straight forward but also very useful. It grants detection within the sight range of the Oracle which is within 10 yards. The goal of this is to give Protoss some detection capabilities without being forced to go down a Robotics tech route.
The Oracle’s Revelation ability is what I find to be the most intriguing of all. This ability can be cast on enemy units or structures and grants vision of them for a full minute. Think about this. Regularly casting Revelation on your opponent’s army can allow you to see it for essentially the entire game. This makes engagements significantly easier since you always have vision. Furthermore it can make attacking units such as Brood Lords or Siege Tanks with Tempests significantly easier! It doesn’t matter where the army goes, you always have vision. I feel like at the professional levels, there is an incredible amount of potential with the Revelation spell.
The final ability for the Oracle is Pulsar Beam. Most players are already familiar with this so I won’t dwell on it too much. Oracles are fast and they can get into an economy line before anyone really notices. Casting this ability costs 25 and then 2 every second it is active. While doing this it releases a beam which does 15 damage +10 to light per second. This damage output can kill a Drone in 1.6 seconds. At the cost of energy… that’s staggering! Stacking a few Oracles up can decimate a worker line in seconds. The tradeoff is that the unit is quite fragile and does not survive too many hits from Missile Turrets or Spore Crawlers.
I realize that I have just touched on a few of the new units and abilities Heart of the Swarm Protoss players will have at their clutches, but it’s getting a tad on the long side and I don’t want to bore players too much with great walls of text! In the follow up article which can be expected very shortly, I will finish up the Protoss units by discussing the Tempest as well as changes to both the Void Ray and Dark Templar.