There’s only two weeks to go until BlizzCon arrives to drown us in colourful Blizzard fandom and hard-fought esports in equal measure. All’s quiet on the StarCraft front, given that all of the WCS point-awarding action finished last month and our 16 league-toppers have secured their place in this year’s World Championship. Until then, we’re treated to exhibition matches as the era of Legacy of the Void draws closer.
The European Road to BlizzCon event played host to one such match, pitting the French duo of Lilbow and Marinelord against Team Liquid’s TLO and Snute. The Archon mode match-up gave us a glimpse of what to expect in competitive games once the Legacy of the Void becomes the battleground of choice for Blizzard’s RTS. Here are five things we learned from the 2v2 scrap.
What’s your KD8?
The most exciting changes in StarCraft 2’s third and final incarnation are unit abilities. Sure, fancy new units may take all the headlines, but finding new ways to use the grunts we’ve seen thousands of times before is something special. Once nothing more than a useful harassment or scouting drone, Terran Reapers now appear to be far more versatile—in the right hands. With Team Liquid on Zerg and the Frenchmen on Terran (the wisdom of which we’ll move onto in a moment) we got to see how the Reaper’s new KD8 Charges can be useful in battle. Dropping a medium-damage mine at the feet of your enemy is one thing, but also causing knockback makes for some fancy footwork in early battles. In this particular match, two Reapers used the charges to knock Team Liquid’s Hydralisks off Creep, helping separate and disadvantage a unit they would not otherwise usually be able to take on. Deploy that sort of scatter potential in a larger fight, where two armies posture against each other, or on the side of a cliff, and picking a straggler from the herd could provide a crucial advantage.
Viper’s Viking vanishing trick
Other units that excel at these herd-splitting tactics are Vipers. The Zerg flying unit likes dipping into an army, snatching up a unit and dragging it back for short-range ground troops to feast on. Now that role has been expanded to include some devastating anti-air offensive capability, with the addition of Parasitic Bomb. Lobbing a green ball of goo into a formation of flying units, in last weekend’s case a flock of Vikings, will deal 90 damage over seven seconds in an AOE around the original target. Using this, Snute and TLO were able to turn a fight where the Terrans had air superiority into an equal ground battle, which becomes a bit less equal once the Vipers start abducting your deployed Siege Tanks. But there’s a way to save them, too.
More than meets the eye
Medivacs in Legacy of the Void may be built on the same technology as the Tardis. Now, not only can they stuff eight bulky space marines inside, but you can pick up and reposition any deployed Siege Tanks you may have scattered around. Though you can only drag one around per trip, this does mean you don’t need to worry about sending Marines in without armoured support. Tank drops will be the most effective surprise siege tactic in a Terran’s arsenal, if the showmatch is anything to go by. In StarCraft’s current state, Marine drops are annoying enough, drawing away attention and army resources to deal with some pesky humans murdering your innocent working class drones. If a few fully-loaded Medivacs get in behind your base defenses now, the least you have to worry about is a few workers going down as sieged-up tanks could do some serious damage to your buildings.
No more Mr. Hide Guy
As if in direct answer to the new building harassment abilities afforded to their human prey, the Zerg have also been handed a new star quarterback in the shape of an old linebacker. The Lurker, as its name, abilities, behaviour and even that creepy glint in its eye suggests, was always one for staying in the shadows. Burrowing beneath the ground and laying in wait for attackers who got a bit too aggressive, Lurkers worked well with Banelings and basically every other defensive Zerg. But now, given their extended attack range, they find themselves on the other end of the front lines. As their burrowed spike attacks now hit further than enemy building attack ranges, they make perfect siege units, like a tall man putting his hand on the forehead of a much, much shorter man. It’s a comedy sketch waiting for that touch of Blizzard Machinimagic.
LILBOW SHOULD NOT PLAY TERRAN
Given that Archon mode only lets each pair pick one race, Team Liquid’s Zerg players had a slight advantage over the French. Lilbow, a Protoss master, and Marinelord, representing our human cousins the Terrans, had a much harder time of things. Opting for the latter, Lilbow tested his hand on the Terran wheel, possibly as a show of bravado from EU’s best and only hope in the World Championship. Basically, it didn’t go well, even though the 2-0 scoreline masks a close second game. And, of course, Archon mode is nothing like the Real Deal of mano-y-mano combat he’ll be facing at BlizzCon. But, just in case he got a feel for some of that Terran technology, play it safe, Lilbow. Go Protoss, or go home.
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