HotS Protoss Preview: Part 2
Tue 12th Mar 2013 - 7:27pm: Starcraft II
Hello again, and welcome to Part 2 of my Protoss Heart of the Swarm Preview! If you haven’t read the first part I suggest you take a look at it here. It contains descriptions of many of the new Protoss units such as the: Mothership Core and the Oracle. I went into a good amount of detail in terms of the new abilities these units have and even some brief discussion about some strategies they could bring to the Protoss metagame.
In this article however, I will be talking about only 1 new unit, the Tempest and other changes which have been made to the Void Ray and the Dark Templar and Carrier.
The best place to kick this off here is with the Tempest. During the lifespan of Wings of Liberty, after things like the removal of Flux Vanes for the Void Ray and with the SC2 Carrier not living up to the standard set by its Brood War predecessor, it became quickly apparent that Protoss air was not going to be the race’s strength. While it is certainly true that later on, Phoenix builds began popping up and had great success in both PvP and PvZ, it was pretty obvious that the core of Protoss was centered around the Gateway and the Robotics Facility.
Blizzard, it seems, with Heart of the Swarm, have gone out of their way to make sure this was not the case. With the changes to AirToss, it appears that Blizzard was trying to make Stargrate openings just as viable as Robotics openings and based on results so far, I’d say they have achieved that goal. This was done with the addition of the Oracle, however, with the Tempest, Protoss will be able to retain air strength throughout the game.
The Tempest is a relatively expensive siege air unit. By that I mean that it was a massive range, 15, greater than any other unit in the game and does pretty significant damage especially to massive air units where it gets a bonus +30 damage. One thing that is really important to note about the Tempest is that the period between shots is actually quite long, 3.3 seconds to be exact which makes it immensely vulnerable to units like Vikings or Corruptors.
While its cost is somewhat high at 300/200/60/4 the unit can easily pay for itself in dealing with other expensive units. The Tempest performs beautifully in eliminating late game Zerg threats such as Brood Lords or even Infestors and when it comes to Terran, the Tempest can crush Battlecruisers without too much trouble.
An interesting aspect about the Tempest is that, like the Siege Tank, it can actually shoot farther than it can see. Therefore, in order for it to fully take advantage of its immense range, it needs a spotter. Typically, a spotter could be your actual army, an Observer a Warp Prism or anything that can be placed in something of an “aggressive” position. Enter the Oracle. In my previous article, I discussed the new abilities of the Oracle which includes a new spell called “Revelation” which grants you vision of enemy units regardless of their position on the map for a full minute.
This Revelation ability, in conjunction with the Tempest’s range can be used to great effect an actually deal some significant harassment damage. It kind of goes without question that the APM and multitasking abilities required to perform this maneuver are both quite high. I feel that strategies using these two units in combination with each other, at the highest levels, can yield incredible results.
Ah yes, the Void Ray, the favored unit of FFA players everywhere. In Heart of the Swarm, the unit is receiving a pretty substantial upgrade which many have been quick to deem overpowered. In Wings of Liberty, the Void Ray did not see too much use with the exception of a few all-ins in the early stages and as a general harassment/tank unit used in conjunction with Phoenix in PvZ. In coordination with Blizzard’s attempt at making the Stargate a more versatile and useful structure, the Void Ray is also receiving quite a hefty buff which greatly increases its damage output.
Rather than a beam which got progressively stronger (the Wings Void Ray), the Void Ray in HotS has a new ability called “Prismatic Alignment” which gives it an additional +6 damage to Armored units which stacks on top of the base 6, +4 to Armored it already deals. Prismatic Alignment is a castable ability based on a cooldown timer rather than energy and lasts for 20 seconds but can be cast only once every 60 seconds. The uses for this ability are pretty immense. Not only is the Void Ray still a relatively sturdy unit, but now it can deal with its armored foes with greater ease. Typical early counters to Void Rays were Stalkers and Queens, both being armored, the Void Ray can now quickly dispatch of these.
It should also be worth noting that it also received a minor supply increase from 3 to 4 which essentially means that in an FFA you will only be seeing 50 Void Rays instead of 66.
Besides the minor base +1 range upgrade the Phoenix got in HotS, the final Stargate unit to receive a buff is the Carrier. Interestingly, it isn’t so much a buff as it is a rehash of the Brood War Carrier. Many complained that in Wings of Liberty Carriers were useless because there was no micro to be had with them. You’d simply 1A them into battle and hope for the best. The micro improvement that everyone was asking for has been added. Rather than do a terrible job of trying to explain the change, I will simply link you to a video by Liquid Nony on the subject.
Another change to the Protoss race is the Dark Templar. Except this change does not come to the unit itself but to the structure which allows for their creation, the Dark Shrine. Formerly, the cost of a Dark Shrine was 150/250, however, now the cost is 150/150. This simple gas reduction of 100 actually has a significant effect on the game. Dark Templar rushes are no longer super all in as there is an element of safety to them. Needing so much less gas allows for the creation of an additional Sentry or even 2 Stalkers which makes the Protoss player much safer when going for DTs. Furthermore, it allows for things like Blink to be researched during Dark Shrine production allowing you to tech while being aggressive. Simply put, the change to the Dark Shrine cost allows for much more flexibility in Protoss openings which had become very stagnant for a long time.
(Hopefully the above situation can be alleviated :P)
At the end of the day, I truly feel that Blizzard has done in excellent job in improving the diversity of the Protoss race. Without being forced down the Robotics tech path, the player feels much more open and free to experiment with new and exciting builds to hopefully shift the metagame. With the addition of new units and tweaks of old favorites, I feel that in Heart of the Swarm, Protoss is a much stronger and well-rounded race.