StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm beta patch: Warhound gets the boot, Carrier welcomed back

T.J. Hafer at

The largest balance update to the StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm beta so far has hit. And it hit hard. The anti-mech Terran Warhound walker? Gone. And the Protoss Carrier, originally meant to be replaced by the new Tempest unit, is back in! Read on for more details, as I break down where everything stands.

Zerg


Swarm Host

  • The locust’s attack range has decreased from 3 to 2.

This is the second Swarm Host nerf, after a damage downgrade in a previous, smaller patch. I might be showing my bias as zerg is my off-off race, but I think this is definitely warranted. Swarm Hosts were just way too good by themselves in any stand-up fight involving ground units. I've had huge mech armies stopped dead in their tracks by three or four of the bastards, completely unsupported. I love the idea of them as a siege/attrition/map control unit, they just need to not be quite so deadly against superior numbers.

Overall Zerg Impression: Minor, justifiable nerf.

Protoss


Oracle


  • We have removed the oracle’s Preordain ability.
  • We have added a new area of effect ability for the oracle called Phase Shield. Targeted friendly units are shielded from harmful effects for 5 seconds. Fungal Growth, Corruption, Contaminate, Graviton Beam, Concussive Shells, Abduct, Revelation, Vortex, and 250mm Strike Cannons – Phase Shield removes the effect and prevents units from being affected. EMP – Phase Shield removes the anti-cloaking effect but not the damage dealt. Neural Parasite – Phase Shield will not remove this effect but it will prevent units from being affected.
  • The energy upgrade has been removed.
  • Entomb’s duration has been reduced to 25 sec, but the health per Entomb has increased to 100.The cost per unit has changed from 150/200 to 150/150.

All in all, I think the Oracle's new ability adds a lot more unique utility to the Protoss arsenal than the one that they lost. Being able to block fungal growth, alone, will shake up the PvZ match up a lot, and I look forward to seeing what kinds of mid- and late-game unit compositions it creates. The new Entomb, likewise, will be more useful beyond the early game than the older version, as it was pretty rare to keep a mineral node locked longer than 25 seconds once a Terran player had a decent number of units in-base.

Granted, it might lose some of its effectiveness at hitting smaller mining outposts with minimal defenders.

Tempest

  • The attack range has been reduced from 22 to 15.
  • The basic damage has changed from 30 to 30 + massive.
  • The ranged upgrade has been removed.

Wow, that's pretty huge. So it looks like the role of the Tempest is changing very much from the all-around distance sniper it was previously to more of a shorter-ranged, super hard counter to things like Thors and Ultralisks. So what is the Protoss army to do when it needs to bring air power into the fight against a lot of smaller units?

Carrier

  • This unit has returned to the game.

En Taro Khala! Glad to see the old girl won't be fading from the skies with the expansion. The Protoss, for me, have always been about overwhelming air power since Brood War, and I think the carrier could finally come into its own with the added support of the new Heart of the Swarm units.

Overall Protoss Impression: With all this, plus some changes to the Mothership Core, it's a little harder to say. I'd call it a buff overall, even though the range decrease on the Tempest is pretty devastating.

Terran


Warhound

  • This unit has been removed from the game.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, what? Okay, to be fair, it has been a running joke that a Terran player's chances of success in the HotS beta is directly proportional to how many Warhounds he builds. It's a really powerful unit. But yanking it out entirely? Seems a bit on the extreme side. I'd maybe opt to keep its anti-air utility, and make the mech-destroying missiles an upgrade that requires Armory tech, or something along those lines. I'll be interested to see what they come up with to replace it, assuming we don't go back to having cumbersome Thors serve a de facto role as moving anti-air turrets.

Reaper

  • We have added a new passive ability called Combat Awareness. This allows reapers to see up cliffs.

Ah, another float in the "Try to make Reapers relevant" parade. Honestly, I don't want to jinx it, but I could see this being the right direction to go to make it happen, finally. Granted, it seems like something the usefulness of which will be strongly map dependent. I'm looking forward to trying out some fresh shenanigans with this new toy.

Hellion

  • Battle hellions can now be built from the Factory. It has an Armory requirement.
  • There is a new upgrade at the Armory that will allow transformation between Battle Mode and Normal Mode.

So, Battle Hellions are moving further down the tech tree a bit. In combination with the removal of Warhounds, I feel like this is going to turn Terran (or at least TvT) early game into something fairly identical to what it is in Wings of Liberty. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though. Terran has always had a lot of options, and adding too many more risks bloating out their arsenal.

Overall Terran Impression: Looks like a nerf, folks. Feels like the Wings of Liberty beta all over again, eh? I suppose this new Reaper upgrade and the removal of the Armory tech requirement from Widow Mines could prove me wrong. If you happen to be in the beta yourself, check out the changes and share your observations!

Check out the full patch notes here.