Update – Additional changes to our original balance updates can be found here:
Last year, we released an update containing design changes aimed at improving StarCraft II multiplayer. This year, we plan to release another design patch soon after the WCS Global Finals at BlizzCon. Our main goals for this patch include balancing the late-game power of each race while discouraging turtle play, ensuring upgrades present non-trivial decisions, and broadening the unit composition options in a number of matchups. This includes looking at each race’s massive units and making improvements to give them a clearer role or to make them more interesting to play with.
The mighty Battlecruiser has always occupied a strange place in StarCraft II. With very high damage per second, but slow speed and a medium attack range, it can deal a ton of damage—but only if its target allows it to. It also has some odd unit relationships. At maximum upgrades, few units can stand up to a Battlecruiser, but when first produced without upgrades, basic ground units like Marines and Hydralisks can effectively counter it. Air units like Void Rays and Corruptors can also counter Battlecruisers, but they’re in turn vulnerable to being one-shot by the Yamato Cannon.
Removing the random delay on Battlecruiser auto attacks is perhaps the most unusual change we’ve implemented here. While virtually all units in StarCraft II have a random delay, the Battlecruiser’s high random delay ratio to the auto-attack cooldown could cause moments where the Battlecruiser would do less damage than expected. By removing it, we’re increasing Battlecruiser damage per second by roughly 20% and making its damage consistent. However, while we want the Battlecruiser to be stronger against ground targets, we don’t want to make it the best all-around unit, so we’re reducing its anti-air attack by 1, which maintains its current vulnerability to airborne threats.
Lowering Yamato Cannon damage to 240 is actually a throwback to its Brood War damage value. This mainly affects Void Rays, as it will now heavily damage them rather than outright destroy them in a single shot, while still keeping it at a similar power level versus Corruptors and Carriers.
Moving while shooting is an experimental and often requested change. While Battlecruisers are slow, being able to pursue targets that have to stop to fire back makes the Battlecruiser much more maneuverable in combat and dangerous to kite unless you use units that greatly outrange it, such as Tempests or Vikings. Thus, this change mitigates the medium range weakness of the Battlecruiser without changing its relation to static defenses and long-range units.
This change restores the Widow Mine, post-upgrade, to its state prior to patch 4.0. This aligns with our previous goal of making early game Widow Mines feel fairer to both attacker and defender, while also improving the value of the Widow Mine upgrade. This should allow Terrans to utilize Widow Mines late-game more effectively in TvZ against Zergling/Baneling packs and achieve better passive scouting and zone control through well-placed mines.
Currently in TvT, Cyclones can trade very efficiently against most other early-game options. Removing 1 armor makes Reapers and Marines much stronger against Cyclones while not affecting Cyclone strength against units like Marauders and Siege Tanks. This should make them less effective to mass early on, but they’ll still have value if mixed with other units. Cyclone effectiveness versus Zerglings and Queens will also move in the Zerg player’s favor, so we’ll be watching closely.
Our goal with the Thor is to push its role away from being strong all-around and into being a giant that slays other giants. In turn, it should be weak when swarmed by smaller units. Changing its armor allows units with fast attack speed but low damage like Marines and Zerglings to have an easier time against Thors. The reduction in anti-air radius is to address feedback that it heavily contributed towards making Mutalisks weak in the mid-to-late game against Terran. Since we want to promote more Mutalisk play, we’re reducing the power of this counter.
Increasing its attack rate against massive targets makes the Thor very dangerous to units like as the new Tempest and Carrier in straight-up fights. Additionally, Brood Lords can be killed much more quickly, so Terrans opting to use multiple Thors pose a greater threat in head-on fights by denying Broodlings from being created. This should make the Thor a strong option when fighting massive air units, and reduce overlap with Vikings when it comes to fighting armored air in general.
This keeps the uptime of Ignite Afterburners the same as before, but now players will have greater control over when they want to trigger it. Additionally, reducing cooldown makes it easier to move between multiple attack locations rather than having a longer duration, which encourages one-way attacks into a base. Overall, this should make the upgrade more attractive to players who value micro control for their Medivacs.
The change to Medivac Heal makes it consistent with our change to Shield Batteries.
While speedy Banshees are very threatening, this upgrade is quite rare at high-level play. We wanted to give this Banshee upgrade a slight boost by reducing the price to make it more attractive to get in the mid or late game.
While we have reduced the Raven’s damage on the Anti-Armor Missile a few times now, it still sees use as a strong area-of-effect damage ability in the late-game during TvT matchups. Since the intent is for Anti-Armor missile to be used as a debuff and not for its damage, we want to emphasize this purity of purpose. Thus, we’re removing the damage and making it affect all types of armor upgrades in the game. Other changes might be required to make this spell sharper in its purpose, so we’ll be monitoring how things go during testing.
Neosteel Frame improvements are often requested by various Neosteel enthusiasts in the community. This change aims to make it more attractive by combining it with an existing structure upgrade.
Increasing Unburrow speed should allow for more tactical and sneaky Zerg plays—for example, using Hydralisks to catch Warp Prisms or Medivacs unaware as they fly towards a mineral line, or using Zerglings to ambush reinforcements as they walk across the map.
In the past, we set out to make the Hydralisk more of a core unit. This has perhaps been too successful, to the point where it crowds out other strategies. Altering the Hydralisks’ health reduces their ability to be massed by making them more vulnerable to area-of-effect damage. Since altering the health of core units is always a big change, we will be watching to make sure Zerg still has the Hydralisk as an option, although perhaps not the best option for every matchup.
At 8 range, Infestors will be better able to cast Infested Terrans outside the range of static defenses and further away from enemy armies, allowing them to more effectively break siege lines or threaten massed enemy forces.
This makes the Ultralisk a much stronger and more responsive option off-creep without support. Due to their previous speed off-creep, they were sometimes a questionable choice against Terran Bio, with high-level players being able to defeat them with Marauders. Post-upgrade, they can better pressure Terran Bio forces, as their new speed is very close to Stim Marine/Marauder speed. Against Protoss, they can also be used to better pressure Carrier/High Templar compositions by quickly engaging the High Templars while shrugging off Carrier Interceptor damage.
Nydus Worms have been used historically for all-in strategies. We want to encourage more late game usage as a transport/harass tool. We’ve heard consistent high-level feedback to the effect that their lack of use late-game was due to the cost of the Worms themselves. Additionally, we wanted to increase the counterplay of Nydus Worms being placed directly in front of an opponent’s units, so we’re removing their invincibility during their emerging phase. However, its armor will be increased while emerging, so stopping a Nydus Worm will require more commitment than just swarming it with worker units or attacking with a few basic units.
This is a more experimental change. We have gotten requests over the years to separate the Burrow and Unburrow buttons for Zerg to give greater control over units, similar to how Terran controls the transforming of their Siege Tanks or Liberators. We are looking for feedback on how this feature feels in players’ hands, as it requires a bit of getting used to.
We want to make Mass Recall a more useful tool for Protoss players to be able to attack early on with small groups of units without necessarily committing to an all-in attack. The greatly lowered radius makes it much less attractive for bringing back large armies, thus making positioning more important when moving with lots of units.
Currently, Protoss players often rely on Stargate units or Adepts to scout their opponents. Hallucination was more heavily used in the past, before Adepts existed, due to the opening phases of the game being faster and the window to build up energy on a Sentry being much lower. Therefore, decreasing the energy cost for Hallucination should help make it a more attractive scouting option.
Increasing the radius of Guardian Shield is aimed at supporting more modern playstyles. Zealots are a more popular choice now as a core unit, but their Charge often places them outside of a Sentry’s Guardian Shield. This aims to slightly reduce that gap so they more effectively cover larger Gateway-centric armies.
When the Ghost’s Snipe ability was changed to Steady Shot, the Ghost lost the ability to instantly kill a High Templar, but Templars remained very lethal to Ghosts. This change should move this relationship to focus more on energy denial/casting rather than outright lethality. Reducing Feedback’s damage also means that Medivacs will also no longer be instantly destroyed, which promotes more multipronged play in late-game scenarios. Against Zerg, this makes Vipers slightly less fragile, which should allow Zerg a few more chances to try and pull apart a Protoss player’s late-game armies.
Ideally, this change will reduce the strain on Robotics Facility unit build time. Currently, their cost and position in the Protoss tech tree makes it tricky to afford two of them early on, which is an issue since the four units it can produce are all very important to Protoss mid-game strategies. Since Robotics Facilities are sometimes used in proxy strategies, we will be monitoring this change to see if it makes holding proxies improbable.
Units with turret tracking functionality continue to face their targets even when not firing. The Siege Tank and Immortal are two examples of units that demonstrate this behavior. With turret tracking, microing a Colossus in battle should feel more rewarding for players and increase the unit’s skill ceiling.
Last year, we made a change to the Disruptor to see if it could work better at chipping away at armies over time. The change created a new way to use Purification Nova, but the new Disruptor was less effective at dealing damage to backline units such as Lurkers, as the ability would detonate on melee units screening for them. In some ways, the Disruptor became harder to use, since the possibility of friendly fire was very high once combat with either Zealots or Zerglings was underway. For these reasons, we are reverting to the older version of the Disruptor.
We are also adding one change—the “your units are under attack” signal will happen after Purification Nova detonates on units instead of when it’s deployed. Before, this signal would cause units to immediately attack the Disruptor, which made it appear that your units were walking towards the undetonated Purification Nova, and their own death. This change also brings Purification Nova more in line with other splash effects like Siege Tank attacks and Psionic Storm.
We want to keep the Tempest’s identity as a mobile long range weapons platform but give it a number of changes to make it both more interesting to fight against as well as more desirable in maxed-out army situations. At 450 total health, the previous Tempest had one of the highest health-to-cost ratios of all air units. By reducing its overall health, we can emphasize the weakness of the Tempest—overrunning it with numerous smaller units—as well as freeing up design space to make its strengths more interesting.
Increasing speed without reducing damage or range will allow Tempest players to better position their units. This is designed around the idea that the Tempest is a large warship that trades durability for range and speed. Reduction of cost and supply is aimed at feedback we have gotten over time that in late-game scenarios against Zerg, Tempests are not desirable due to their supply and low effectiveness for cost versus targets other than Brood Lords. Against Terrans, Tempests already have a place fighting Battlecruisers, or more commonly, Liberators. After these changes, Tempests will match up well against these targets but will have to be extra careful around Vikings and Thors due to their decreased health pool.
For the Carrier, we want to make changes that allow players to show their skill in controlling this powerful capital ship. One of the main pain points with Carrier power is that it is very front-loaded in terms of burst damage. Currently, the Graviton Catapult upgrade allows the Carrier to deploy Interceptors to easily overwhelm the sorts of rapid-firing units that could soft counter it, like Hydralisks and Marines. This makes the interaction between Carrier groups and opponents highly lethal—either kill the Carriers quickly, or be quickly destroyed. By removing the Graviton Catapult upgrade, reducing Interceptor damage, and increasing Carrier hit points, we hope to reduce how immediately lethal Carrier encounters are for both sides.
Increasing Interceptor build time is aimed at making one of the soft counters to Carriers, killing their Interceptors, more reliable. We’re also reducing the Carrier’s build time, partly to offset the increased time it takes for them to come up to full power, since Carriers will still start with four out of eight Interceptors available. Also, since the burst damage of the Carrier is reduced, we have more room to allow them to be produced faster as opponents should be under less pressure to quickly amass their counters.
Time Warp has remained unchanged since the removal of the Mothership Core. Since the old Time Warp was balanced around being on an early game unit, we wanted to increase the power of this ability to make it better fitting for a high-tech unit. By reducing attack speed this reinforces the ability’s zoning potential. It can also be especially effective against entrenched enemy positions by weakening static defenses without outright killing them.
This will allow Shield Batteries to be more effective against low numbers of Phoenix harass. As a result, Phoenix play will need to be more of a commitment if the opponent builds Shield Batteries.
Lowering the overall life of the Assimilator brings it more in line with Refineries and Extractors.
Ideally, once Warp Gate research is done, newly built Gateways are always transformed into Warp Gates. This isn’t the most strategic or mechanics-intensive decision, so we are testing out making it automated.
We’ve received feedback that players would like to test the addition of a countdown timer at the beginning of matches. This could help players have a smoother transition from the loading screen to the start of a match by reducing uncertainty about when the game starts. Thus, we’ll be feeling out this change in the Testing Tab.
This is our first pass of changes for our post-BlizzCon update coming in November. As with previous design updates, these changes are balanced towards being more noticeable, with new changes being added or some being removed over the testing period—but that’s where you come in! Starting on Tuesday, you’ll be able to hop into the Testing Matchmaking queue, try out the changes, and let us know what you think. Good luck and have fun!
We are working with ESL and DreamHack for the next three years of StarCraft II Esports.
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