State on StarCraft: July 11 SC2 Balance Patch Analysis
State on StarCraft is a weekly column on Game Front by Ryan “State” Visbeck, a pro StarCraft 2 player. Each week State brings you his unique perspective on all things StarCraft, including tips, tricks and stories from the front line of competitive play.
NOTE: “State” is officially sponsored by Game Front.
Last week, Blizzard released the following balance patch to StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm.
- Attack damage decreased from 18 + 12 vs. light to 18.
- The Infernal Pre-Igniter upgrade now increases attack damage to 18 + 12 vs. light.
- Cloaking research cost decreased from 200/200 to 100/100.
The balance changes addresse Blizzard’s concerns with the strength of Hellbat drops while encouraging Terran’s other aggressive options. As a result, we’ll likely see much more diverse openings from Terran players as they adjust to the weaker Hellbat and more versatile Banshee. Though the patch specifically targets Terran vs. Terran, it may have more far-reaching effects. This week we will analyze how the balance changes impact each match-up.
Terran vs. Terran
In TvT, we’re much less likely to see Hellbat drop openings exclusively in the early-game. Don’t get me wrong—Hellbat openings are still really, really strong—but I doubt they’ll snowball the way they have in the past. Without the Infernal Pre-Igniter, Hellbats now three-shot marines and SCVs instead of two-shotting them, making Hellbat drops much more survivable in the early stages of the game.
Terran players are already developing unique new ways of countering Hellbat-heavy openings. In the OSL, StarTale’s Bomber prepared non-hellbat builds for his series against KTFlash after being told that the patch would go live before his match. The patch didn’t go live and Flash opened Hellbats, but Bomber’s creative Hellion/Viking play won anyway.
The lowered cost of the Banshee’s cloaking research mixes things up as well. Players have already begun experimenting with Banshees in TvT—forcing out scans with Widow Mines and then following up with cloaked Banshees—and similar openings are only going to get stronger with the new balance patch.
Terran vs. Terran is the match-up most effected by the balance changes and, I think, in a really positive way. It seems as though the boring same-old of Hellbat vs. Hellbat will soon be a thing of the past as innovative new strategies work their way into the meta.
Terran vs. Protoss
With no upgrades, it takes Hellbats one more shot to kill Probes and two more shots to kill Sentries. The result? Early-game Hellbat drops are now much more forgiving.
Hellbat compositions in the mid-game are considerably weaker as well. Terrans that choose to mix in Hellbats with their regular Bio force must invest in the Infernal Pre-Igniter Upgrade (150/150) for their composition to pack the punch it had just a few days ago. Because the upgrade requires a tech lab, players researching the Pre-Igniter early will have about two to three fewer Hellbats overall.
Though the decreased cost of Cloaking research makes Banshees a viable opening again, I don’t see this change having much effect in TvP. Protoss players opening Robotics to defend against Widow Mines have the detection out to deflect any sort of cloaked Banshee harass and Stargate openings shut them down hard.
We might see players try some hyper-aggressive Widow Mine/cloaked Banshee openings in the next few weeks, but this change is unlikely to have any real effect on the TvP meta.
Terran vs. Zerg
Though they were popular early on in Heart of the Swarm, Zerg players have become really, really good at shutting down early Hellbat play. As a result, almost all Terran players at the pro-level open with some variant of Bio/Mine.
The Banshee buff might be a different story. Towards the end of Wings of Liberty, Hellion/Banshee became a relatively popular build that fell off the radar when Terran players began to experiment with the newer Hellbats and Widow Mines. With the lower cost of Cloak research, we might see Terran players begin to mix in Hellion/Banshee openings in an increasingly predictable meta.
Overall, Terran vs. Zerg is the matchup most unchanged by the recent balance patch.
Though I enjoyed how cutthroat TvT had become, I’m really looking forward to seeing the match-up develop beyond Hellbat vs. Hellbat. The Pre-Igniter change should make PvT a lot more fun to play, and I like that Hellion/Banshee might get a bit more playtime in TvZ as well.
Special thanks to Cody “Domorin” Lutzel for helping me out with the Terran analysis! Below is a link to this week’s replay pack which features post-patch play on the North American ladder. The pack includes games against: HuK, DeMusliM, iNcontrol, Kane, and the infamous barcode.
Check back every week for a new State on StarCraft post from Ryan “State” Visbeck!